Sunday, December 21, 2014

On femininity and rebellion

I was painting my nails a sweet, delicate pink, one night and tweeting that I was going to pamper myself with a face mask and a bubble bath when someone made the comment that I could be so girly sometimes. The comment brought me up short because I realized that I had spent much of my life trying hard to not be perceived as “girly” and that this had obviously changed.

Now—I am quite aware of the fact that a man can enjoy the color pink, face masks, and bubble baths—this is not an exploration of gender preferences, but of the associations I made with femininity as a young girl and my reaction to those associations.

Disclaimer over.

The face mask and bubble bath part of this has no real meaning to me, but pink most definitely does. There was a time when I would have rather gone outside in a garbage bag than let someone see me wearing pink or, god forbid, anything with flowers, lace, or little sparklies.

Well, I stand by that last one to this day—I do not BeDazzle™.

I think that a large part of this was a reaction to my older sister. She was the girly-girl who was always in full make-up—oh-so pretty and ready to be seen. That, to me, and to the society around me, was femininity. I have never doubted my femaleness, but I did doubt my ability to fit into that mold of femininity—I was just bad at it. I knew from a very early age that I would not be pretty in the same way that she is pretty, so my response was to rebel against that and show that I didn’t care by being cool and edgy instead. In my experience, very few people, including myself, are as cool and edgy as they think they are, but I still tried and flirted with punk, and goth, and finally settled into a whole wardrobe of black, grey, and earth tones. A few colors made it in—a bit of blue, the occasional green, but no pink, never pink.

This didn’t begin to change until my late twenties— I blame it on BDSM.

Some people get involved with this lifestyle and dive headlong into black leather and latex, both of which I love—but I found that my inner submissive liked to be “feminine” in a way that I had never allowed before, and she really liked pink. Allowing her to indulge was a safe place for me to let that side of myself out without embarrassment. Slowly, as I became more comfortable with myself and the many, many aspects of my personality, it started to come out more—my own girly-girl went public. I am still pretty bad at the traditionally feminine ideal that I grew up with, but I also no longer feel as if a specific definition of femininity needs to be achieved.

Now I have no issue wearing pink--aside from the fact that it just really isn’t my color. Chances are you will never see me in some frilly little number that looks like it just came from a cotillion—I am still very choosy about my floral patterns, and lace only makes it to the dungeon where it is used to barely cover my sexy bra and panties—but at least now my fashion choices are based on taste, and style (and, apparently, general level of sluttiness) and not a need to rebel against some bullshit idea of what feminine looks like.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The crowded mirror (or, comparison as a poly-unfriendly act)

I spent my childhood being compared to my older sister and never feeling like I measured up. When we were young I was smart, but she was pretty, and the family was fond of telling her this at every opportunity. As a teenager, the straight-A student that I was gave way to a pot-smoking, sex-having, school-ditching party girl so the comparisons intensified. My sister was the one who did what she was supposed to do and found herself a man and married at 18, while I was the one who at 16 hitchhiked from Colorado to California with some friends and partied until they threw us in jail and sent us home. A year later I became the teen mother that everyone expected me to be, so, in their eyes, the giant L was pretty much tattooed on my forehead.

Fast-forward 25 years…

She and I have taken very different, but equally successful, paths--but those childhood demons aren’t easily banished, and I have realized that they have been fucking with my relationships. Okay, the idea that our past affects our future isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but, well, sometimes it takes awhile for these things to sink in.

My personal poly issue is comparing myself to the other women in my partner’s life and fearing that I will always come up short. I know that I am beautiful, intelligent, strong, capable, and, yes, I’ll say it—cool as hell. So why am I sometimes incapable of remembering that in my relationship?

Wait—it isn’t that I forget it—it is that I worry that my partner forgets it. Totally different. Or, more accurately, I worry that my partner is making the same comparisons I am—which is probably not true at all.

I think it is wonderful that I have realized that this is an issue, that I have found a reason for some of my behaviors—knowing is half the battle, after all—but this knowledge has really just made me start to understand how pervasive the human need to compare ourselves to others really is, and how destructive this need can be in a relationship. 

We are primed for comparisons by a society that is all about competition, and that teaches women that we must be better than others in order to land a job, man, whatever. It would be lovely to think that we leave all of that behind when we enter into non-monogamy, but it just isn’t that easy. I have seen many women take every opportunity to point out the ways in which the other woman in the relationship is somehow lacking. It is seldom a blatant act—just little comments made in an offhanded manner. The new partner does it in order to establish her place, and the current partner does it to solidify hers. Chances are that each woman is completely unaware that she is doing it, but of course she can easily recognize the behavior in the other woman and be hurt by it.  I have been the recipient of those psychologically devastating comparisons and, if I am honest, I have probably been guilty of them myself.

But, there are comparisons that come from people outside of the relationship that can be just as damaging. I have lost count of the number of times that friends have compared me to my partner’s other partner. This is usually done in a way that is flattering to me, but it is not helpful at all for the poly group because it encourages the culture of competition.

For example, I have been told in different relationships that I am prettier than the other woman (and I am certain that these women have been told the opposite from their friends). It has little to do with actual looks, but with people thinking that this kind of reassurance is needed.

I do like to be told that I am pretty, or smart, or funny—I am just realizing that I do not need to be told that I am prettier/smarter/funnier than anyone else.

Now what I need to do is take this new knowledge and figure out how to use this information to my advantage and stop all associated negativity. The only way to make this happen is for me to stop comparing myself, in any way, to anyone else. I can't control what other people say. I can't stop friends from making well-intended comments any more than I can keep those who aren't so friendly from making snarky ones. The only thing I have control over is my own thoughts and behaviors and how I let others affect me.

This doesn't mean that I have magically gotten over my tendency to negatively compare myself to others, but I am getting better--well, at least compared to some others I know.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My eyes are over here

Hello—you—yes, you, the person speaking to my boyfriend. You know, that guy standing right next to me—the guy you are asking about whether or not you can come into my personal space. Yes, my space—not his—mine. So why exactly are you not speaking directly to me?

We are at a kink event so we must be power exchange, right? Well, no—but I am totally okay with the assumption that we are because, really, who cares? What I am not okay with are the assumptions that 1. Because I am female I must be submissive and 2. Being submissive, I am unable to speak for myself.

I does not matter if I identify as submissive or dominant, or somewhere in between--I have never given up being a thinking human being who is quite capable of answering a question about my own damn body.

The default should not be to ignore the female and ask the male you assume speaks for her—doing so treats her as someone with no identity of her own who only exists through her relationship to someone else.

If you want to hug me, ask me—if you want to play with me, ask me. If I am in a relationship that requires you to speak with someone else, I will tell you—please do not think that just because I am female and in a relationship that I have given up the right to be treated as an adult.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mental vacation

There are times when my mind shuts down a bit—when I go inside myself as a direct result of the influence of other people. Sometimes this is a matter of self-protection, and sometimes it is a wonderful, meditative escape. It all depends on whose influence is being exerted.

There are really two types of other-people-induced mental vacation. The first is more of a shut-down than a vacation. I am a social person, but sometimes I just reach a point of mental over-stimulation and I need to go away and be where others are not, or at least where the bulk of others are not. This usually happens at a party when I have spent hours listening to people talk and adjusting to the music (dungeon parties are way too fond of Norwegian death metal). Eventually my brain can no longer deal with the noise and I either have to go off by myself or, preferably, have a person whose energy can absorb mine take me to a quiet corner and help me refocus. This doesn’t cure the over-stimulation—if we rejoin the party it still exists—but it makes it bearable for a time.

The other type of mental vacation is entirely about being completely engaged with the energy created by the person, or people, I am with--and about being content, and satisfied, and happy to just exist. In this case it is not about over-stimulation, but about balance, and energy that is stimulated just enough to calm me. I just reach a point when I no longer want to talk (though I am happy to listen to them talk). I don’t want to watch television, or listen to music, or do anything but sit and enjoy the peace that comes with this feeling. It is a sort of trance—a wee touch of subspace. It is the only time when my mind lets go of the insanity caused by the chaos that I surround myself with and lets go of its defenses.

That space is when I am at my most vulnerable. When I am in that space there is nothing but trust and the desire to be whatever I am meant to be in that moment.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I want

I want pain, but more than that I want connection--I want to feel the person topping me, to know them, to desire them, and to know that they desire me.

I want energy. I want my partner to be interested in the journey--not just the particular scene, but the combination of scenes that build on each other and create a comfortable, electrically charged space.

I want to look in her eyes and see the excitement she feels about what she is going to do to me. I want to know what it means when she presses against me, and when she is silent, and when her breathing becomes ragged and her fingers dig into me.

I want him to understand what it means when he is hitting me and I reach for any part of his body to grip. I want him to ride the orgasm with me and share in the laughter that always follows. And I want him to know this will happen, and how to make it happen, and to revel in it.

I want experience, and shared history, and the freedom to dive into my masochism--to let go. 

Friday, February 14, 2014


Every relationship I have had in the past 15 years has been poly in one form or another, and I don’t generally hide that fact, so I have had to answer my fair share of questions. When non-poly people find out I am in a poly relationship the most frequently asked question is always “don’t you want a man of your own?” The answer is yes, sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t want to work my schedule around another woman. Sometimes I just want to see my man when I want to see him. Sometimes I just want emotional and logistical simplicity.

But—there is always a but—the thing is that I don’t really want monogamy. I prefer poly. If I were in a monogamous relationship I would, at some point, want to turn it poly. I would feel completely stifled in a monogamous relationship—maybe not right away, but it would happen. I just do not see long-term monogamy as a viable relationship option.

I still have to deal with “sometimes.”

Friday, January 24, 2014


I have lived many places. I went to 17 different schools in 4 states (not including college), and as an adult have lived in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, California and Germany--and, in a few months I will be moving back to AZ with Danny. Because of this, I have a somewhat complicated relationship with the notion of "Home" in that it has to be both fluid enough and solid enough to satisfy me.
I have found this with Danny.
The fluid part is fairly easy--it is satisfied by his openness to new places and new adventures (though he himself has never lived anywhere but where we are now). He understands that home is not a place, but a state of mind.
The solid part is somewhat trickier, but much more important.
I love having the freedom to explore, to enjoy multiple relationships, to go out into the world and take my chances academically, professionally, and emotionally--but this only really works if I have a soft place to land and a strong home-base. I am capable of creating this base myself, and have done so for most of my life (I am not really good at the whole relying on others thing), but having someone who is part of that base, who strengthens it, who encourages my exploration by letting me know that I have that safe, loving, supportive, empowering space to come home to is pretty amazing. So amazing that I am still getting used to it--and I am really just starting to understand that it is real. That this is home.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Looking back, moving forward

I know, I know--January 1 is just another day on the calendar, but I have always liked the idea of a new year and the possibilities it holds. I don't really do resolutions, I do goals--but before I can decide where I am going, I need to look back at where I have been.

So--2013-in chronological order (I think):

SF switched to a job which required no travel.

We went to Winter Wickedness.

We went to Arizona for the wedding of a dear friend whom I have crushed on for years.

My son got married.

We traveled to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

I got into grad school.

I had a month long art show.

SF and I reached a new level in our non-monogamous life.

We went to Bonnaroo.

I traveled to Seattle to spend time with G and his awesome wife.

I restarted this blog.

I got a grad assistantship (free grad school, hooray!).

We went to Kamp Kink.

I was chosen to be one of the emerging artists at the Tremont Arts & Culture festival.

Started a play/social relationship with a woman which has been lovely and has allowed SF to spread his kink wings a bit more.

Traveled to DC for another wedding (and a fabulous house kink party in VA).

Traveled to Hocking Hills for a few days of hiking and sitting by the fire.

Had a piece chosen for a two-month long art show in Columbus.

Received all As in my first semester as a grad student.

Decided to move to Arizona when I finish my degree in the fall (SF accepted a great job offer).

In the midst of all of this I hiked many Metroparks, saw several fabulous Shakespeare productions, read a few good books, went sailing, watched a lot of Doctor Who, experimented with quite a few recipes, spent time with friends, family, and chosen family, and started to learn how to play bridge.

So, not really a busy year :-)

My goals for 2014 are pretty simple. I want to finish grad school with a 4.0. I want to finish my thesis without injuring someone (it is probably a good thing that SF will be in Arizona for most of the process!). I want to sell our house. I want to hike Camelback Mountain. I want to get my art in a gallery in Phoenix.

And I want, really, really want, to build a community in AZ without losing touch with the amazing community we have here in Cleveland.