Addiction, dating, Distance, essays, Love, Sex, Writing

Comfortably Kinky? Plus: A Guest Post by Connecticut

FullSizeRender-27How long does it take to get really comfortable with your new lover? The sort of comfortable where you can stop hinting and just flat-out ask for a dog collar, or for the angle you like the anal at, or for the names you like to be called? The kind of comfortable where you text a reminder to bring zip-ties over the same way you’d request a gallon of milk? I would argue that it doesn’t take that long to build a routine around kinky, but it does a few months to stop feeling a little weird about it afterwards, to ease up on all the hyper-vigilant monitoring and just enjoy the good fortune of finding someone who likes the same shit you do.

Last week I wrote about insecurities, thick on my hull as fucking barnacles; maybe this is how long it takes to start to shrug them off, to pee with the bathroom door open because we’re in the middle of a conversation, to be OK with being an imperfect person in an imperfect shell and still want to tell Connecticut that he owns me.

So here we are, after three months of applying my wriggliness to this other human, and it seems like a milestone. Maybe because, inured as I am in 12-step culture, there is a mythos that surrounds the 90-day mark. The recovery rooms give you a token after 90 days of not drinking (one that I hear certain predatory bars will accept as drink-payment for falling face-first off the wagon). After 90 days, you get invited to go up to the podium and talk a whole bunch about yourself .  Three months has weight. It has significance.

Some of this is probably rooted in the folk-science of it taking 90 days to forge a new habit. Supposedly, it takes less time to break an old habit than to make a new one; I’m not so sure. It’s been eight years and I still want a cigarette.  But this week marks three months since Connecticut finally crossed the vast distances of the couch to put his talented hands on me, and he has written a guest post for WYSD to help mark the occasion. I feel it’s only fair that he gets a turn at the mic.  You can read my version of the same events here.  They say all stories have three sides: your version, my version, and what really happened; this doesn’t mean narratives have to compete, just that it’s nice to let someone speak for himself once in a while.

So, guys, meet Connecticut, telling his version of the first time he kissed me.

No need for introductions, I suppose.

I remember sitting on a couch, perched on the edge. My legs were spread wide, elbows planted firmly into the meat just above my knees. I had fashioned myself into a pyramid of bones. It was unconscious, but looking back, I was attempting to both take up space and offer no softness: a defensive position. 

If you ever catch yourself using the term “man-spreading,” know that you’re talking about the posture of fear.

Two or three feet away—easily within arm’s reach—she was lying, all curve and happy slackness, dress creeping up to reveal legs I was too frightened to touch. Those two or three feet could easily have been hundreds of yards of minefield and barbed wire, the way I was reacting to it.

I had had some bad experiences. I did what I had been trained to do when I was a child: constrict. Control. Clamp down, dig in and stubbornly refuse to do anything that might open myself to harm. There’s a decent amount of hurt in my life-story, both real and imagined.

Perched on the edge of the couch, I begin to try to explain. After chuckling at me and throwing me her beautiful, slightly skewed smile, she pointed out the ridiculousness of my posture, my sweatiness, and mostly my use of air-quotes. I tried to tell her how I put my heart on the shelf for safe-keeping. I hid it in the back of myself, where the seldom-used cans of spices go in a pantry. Perfect spot for my emotional core, right next to the Dillweed. She didn’t seem to get what a big deal this is. And that’s alright.

I couldn’t tell her what a big deal it is, because to do so would be to acknowledge that I a) have feelings and b) have them in her direction. It would mean breaking down a dam, and letting all this… stuff spill out.

This stuff, roughly speaking, was an amalgam of stolen glances and perceived understandings. Intimacies. Secrets. Seeing her across a crowded room a long time ago, bright blue eyes under an Annie Hall hat. I remarked to a friend at the time that I thought she was cute. Not that I’d dare do anything about it. Then, months later, hearing her talk, sharing that I sometimes feel like a werewolf and her saying she knew what I meant. I shook her hand and felt a warmth that went beyond mere physical contact. Not long after that, seeing her in her own neighborhood, on her own soil. Telling her about myself, indirectly, as I addressed a room full of people. Watching her—and mostly just her—out of the corner of my eye as she laughed at my self-deprecating remarks and nodded sagely at the best understanding of myself I could muster.

And then, friendship. Long and slow acquisition of knowledge about one another. We shared coffee and the giddy joy of discovery. We were—and still are—sometimes like two archeological digs that happen to be next to each other. “Look at this weird thing I found from the Teenage-zoic period!”

All of this was rumbling around behind me, as she told me to sit like a normal person. Not long after that, I said “Fuck it” and managed to cross the two or three feet that felt like miles of wasteland. Turns out it was just two or three feet after all.

There’s been much since there. Maybe I’ll write about that one day. For now I’m just enjoying my good fortune.

imgres-29

It’s really hard not to annotate, to add marginalia, to clarify with tiny cartoons.  But maybe 90 days is the right amount of time not to need to chime in every second with my own thoughts and opinions.  His side, my side, and we find a way to touch each other, in the middle.

Standard
Addiction, Bringing Yourself, Distance, essays, Men, Photography, Relationships, Sex, Teaching, Writing

Giving a Shit, And Other Things That Hurt

IMG_3581.JPGThe Eftilou guesthouse where we’re staying is surrounded by hordes of semi-feral cats, needy and squalling, their ears shredded, their tails bobbed, some of their eyes missing. Battle cats: they fight and fuck late into the night in the jasmine-scented darkness. It seems like it’s always quiet in Greece until the cats or the church bells raise a sudden commotion, or some men from the local village start shooting shotguns at an effigy of Judas Iscariot tied to a pine tree. It’s Greek Orthodox Easter, and my friend and I are looked after by an old Greek woman whom I want to jam into my suitcase so she will come back to New York with me and be my new grandmother. She bakes me cookies. She picks me some strawberries.   She enthusiastically wishes me good morning in her thick accent. I love her.

But mostly the first thing I want to do when I get back to the guesthouse is get on the wifi so that I can text Connecticut. It’s a jones, low-level but persistent and distracting, like wanting a cigarette or something with sugar in it. Back in New York it is lunchtime; he’ll be sitting out in Union Square Park, and I can usually talk him into taking a selfie to show me what color tie he is wearing. I don’t particularly care what tie he is wearing, but I love that there is a person who will photograph themselves at my demand, for my personal pleasure.

But the wifi is out in Eftilou; there was a storm earlier this week that chucked rocks up onto the esplanade and swallowed deck chairs whole. It was a day to be relieved that the Coast Guard is turning back the Syrian refugees that are trying to cross the Mediterranean out of nearby Turkey; they wouldn’t have survived the five-mile crossing today. I, meanwhile, am a person whose worst problem is that she does not have wifi, and I am losing my shit. Because I can not text Connecticut, and if I can not text him, I worry that maybe his attention will shift to something or someone else. After all, that is my modus operandi: code name Out Of Sight, Out of Mind.

And now I care, and it is hard, caring. I still remember the way he side-eyed me back in December when I told him, I find you riveting. I’m pretty sure the only way I was able to get this close to him was by being all casual and ambiguous, still ducking out to go crawl under my ex. I got close to him the way you get close to a shy cat: a careful display of disinterest. I think of the battle cats outside, who wind around your ankles, hoping for scraps; the second you make eye contact and extend your arms, they bolt.

And now I catch myself pursuing Connecticut with my arms outstretched, texting him that I want one of his old t-shirts to sleep in because I miss his smell, my stomach lurching when I see his name, wildly swinging my phone around in circles trying to catch a bar. A throbbing cliché. Next I will start drawing hearts in a notebook and checking out his horoscope in the newspaper.   It’s terrible. He has a hundred and ten percent of my attention and I’m worried I’m going to freak him out, because my full attention is scary, and what if he only likes me elusive and disinterested?

So maybe it’s good that there’s no wifi. It might save me from myself.  For all he knows, I’m down on the beach with some Greek fishermen, running my fingers through their beards. This is a country where, to appropriate a line from Bill Bryson, the hottest man you’ve ever seen is blocked from your view by the next hottest man you’ve ever seen. I walk around smiling at people I could easily fall in love with for a week or two, fists balled under my chin. I flirt, but halfheartedly.

All my attention is directed on Connecticut, sunlight intensified through the magnifying glass that is my addict brain. I wonder if he’s puzzled by the change. I’ve been gently nudging him away for weeks, only making plans with him at the last minute, trying to schedule him around Sketch, replying to his lengthy texts with a single, distracted emoji, getting naked with him in the afternoon on days when I know I have something to do in the evening. And then one day I just wake up in Greece and find myself wanting to be this man’s girl, and it’s fucked up. I’ve already told him that I don’t want to be his girlfriend, that I think monogamy is for suckers, that I am not a relationship person.   And this is why you should never make sweeping pronouncements about yourself; you will only need to walk them back later.

How do people handle it? All the feelings? It’s like some rock over my soul just got kicked over, and this is what is underneath. It’s gross, and scary.

There is a smoking hot yoga teacher I know who invited me to go to some sort of girl-on-girl party in Brooklyn. That is what I am supposed to be doing with my life, not this thing where I feel so needy, where I want constant reassurance, where I need to see what color tie the man is wearing just to breathe normally again.

But alas, my phone has no wifi. Also, a few days ago, my phone’s iMessage shit the bed, and now I can’t hear from anybody unless they get me through Facebook or What’sApp (the worst application name ever, by the way. I can’t say it without wanting to punch my own self in the face). So also Sketch doesn’t know what happened to me. For all he knows, the cats got me.

I can’t even begin to think about having the conversation with him about Connecticut, and how this changes things. Every time I try to bring up the subject with my brain, all my thoughts dart away into some bushes, startled and wild. I can’t shake the conviction that this is really it, this time. I’m not going to frame this departure as a date-stamped break, or claim I’m just going to see what it’s like to date other people. I love someone else, and I need to put him first now.

It is a phyllo dough comprised of flaky layers of guilt, oozing with grief and dried lust-fruits. That is exactly the Greek pastry that my relationship to my ex now is.   Something you would feed to the stray cats to get them to leave you alone.

IMG_3649.JPG

It’s not Greek Orthodox Easter without this horror show.

I’ve reached my last day in Greece; I’m typing this from the tiny balcony of a cut-rate hotel. Greek Orthodox church bells woke me up at seven, and I came out here to write for a bit, looking up at the Acropolis. You can see it from everywhere around here, it seems like.

Ten days without sex and I feel a little more leveled out. I dreamed about bondage last night and woke up unsure of who had me tied up, Connecticut or Sketch.   Maybe neither. Maybe it’s a symbol or something.

I didn’t do much here. My friend and I came to volunteer with the refugee crisis, but we spent most of our days aimlessly looking for people to tell us what to do in various overstaffed storage warehouses. We folded and labeled clothing donations from boxes where it had already been folded and labeled.  FullSizeRender-22.jpgWe went to the beach up by the lighthouse and climbed down with the environmental crew to help cut apart rubber dinghies caught on the rocks, allowing me to live out my lifelong fantasy of wearing a knife and work-gloves with a bikini, but the work could have been done in minutes with proper equipment.   Everyone here is just kind of waiting for the borders to reopen, and I feel embarrassed when my friend posts humble-brag photos on Facebook. We are tourists here, trying to blend in with the real humanitarians that have been in the camps for months.

We loiter around the gates at Kera Tepe, the refugee camp outside of Mitilini, still hoping to Do Something Good. There’s a power strip at our picnic table, so when a couple of Yazidi men come out to charge their phones and electric shavers, they have no choice but to talk to us.   That’s how we end up having English class with their children and their wives, twenty-five Yazidi in the adjacent olive grove. What words do you teach someone who has no English? (They do know the ABCs, however, everyone including the men singing the song right up to the next time won’t you sing with me part in a heavily Kurdish-accented English) Cherry-picking vocabulary to pass along, I go with members of the family, things that you wear, the names of the things on your face. They take careful notes, double-checking the letters, and teach me Kurdish for the same, but I forget it immediately. I would make a terrible refugee. I am a bad swimmer and my brain is like a fossil in a can.

What these people have been through, are going through, will go through as they petition for asylum in one of the few countries willing to take them, is a bigger and more important topic than I am willing to ham-fistedly tackle in my silly sex blog. But I can tell you that the only time I stopped thinking about Sketch and Connecticut and the whole mess was when a five-year-old refugee girl slipped up next to me as we walked back to camp, and put her tiny hand in my hand. She didn’t ask. She just trusted that I would take care of her. And the only time I stopped thinking about whether I really love Connecticut, and whether I should tell him, and whether I am capable of actually loving anyone because I only think about myself all of the fucking time, is when a Yazidi boy the age of my students at home, gorgeous with his hazel eyes and thick eyelashes, stopped me by our rental car to practice his new vocabulary: I love you.   I lost it for a moment, my throat almost too tight to return the English. I love you too. I mean it. In the moment I mean it.  For now, it’s the best I can do.

FullSizeRender-23.jpg

Come to Lesvos!  They supported the refugees and now they need support; tourism is down 85% here.  Also, there are no annoying tourists around being all annoying.  So it’s win-win.

Standard
Distance, Photography, Relationships, Travel, Writing

More People in Bed, Together

images-53Many imperiled couples want to add a third person to the mix: generally this third person is a baby.    Sketch and I, uncertain of what we are to one another, are talking about adding another, more adult person to our vortex of dysfunction while we try to make sense of things.   It’s not an unappealing idea– somebody else to mind the seats at the movie theater, someone to take some of the pressure off. Historically, I love threesomes, the way I love any opportunity to crowdsource my bottomless need for attention and affection. And I’ve always liked girls.   They represent this weird alternate reality of my sexuality: with boys, I will vie for attention and approval until my voice gives out and my eyes are burning from lash glue, but with girls, it’s more of a sexual smash-and-grab, simultaneously shady and liberating. Submissive with men, dominant with women: it bothers me to be participating in the patriarchal paradigm of aggression after just this very week I culled all the catchy hip hop songs with casual misogyny in them from my playlists. But some tunes are just hard not to sing along to.

My horrible college boyfriend Bummer was super annoying about threesomes; I was invested, but he was obsessed.   In college, I stopped bringing friends over, because he would just look at them like he was sizing them up for a hole in the backyard. It was senior year and he was getting creepier, and I knew I had to break up with him, but I kept guiltily putting it off. His family had practically adopted me, and he was so sad and needy and ill-prepared to take care of himself. Codependent bullshit, I know that, but I was twenty and Bummer had been telling me for years that this is how all men were anyway; I was just inexperienced enough to believe him. If it wasn’t for meeting Monster, I might never have left.

I was cheating on Bummer with this couple I had met; she had short, platinum blond hair and wore overalls with cropped tops, a look that put me right over the edge in 1995. Her boyfriend was hot in the regular way that most men in their early twenties are hot; today I am left with a vague suspicion of his name and oddly crisp recollection of the configuration of Green Day posters on his wall, and nothing more.

Bummer and I had that standard deal that has been boilerplate since man first sought to have his cake and eat it too: I was allowed to sleep with girls, but not with boys. My blond would come to pick me up with her boyfriend ducking down out of sight, and we would drive off to get fucked up on ecstasy and grind on each other on some dance floor until long after the sun came up.

It was a relationship, I guess, in that it went on for some time and there were rules and parameters.   Neither of them were supposed to hook up with me unless the other one was there, and they both did anyway. Her smooth, white body under her overalls smelled like the frosting on a sheet cake.

I hooked up with couples for years, and that is how it always went; there was always the codicil that it was supposed to be a triangle, and not a line, but that only prevailed until desire and convenience dictated some hastily justified exception. I have learned there are no equilateral triangles. There is always someone you are more excited to be with; someone is always out of the loop on a secret. One person always sort of ends sleeping up at the foot of the bed. Is this why we crave other people? So we can pick our favorite? People love to pick their favorites, which is why coffee shops all have two tip jars, one marked KITTENS and one marked PUPPIES. We like to get to choose.

And still, for all the complications and the limitations, I love threesomes. I can get down with a girl without a guy there, but it is vastly easier with a man. A man approaches sex with a very linear organization sense of organization: mouth, breasts, pussy. There is a tidy order of operations, like in math.  Women? Women are like art class, where you’re never really sure if you are done or if it was good.

So this is what Sketch and I have been talking about.

How are you going to feel about me writing about it? I ask him.

He tells me he would never tell me what to do with my writing.   This is not the same thing as telling me that it’s OK.

An open relationship. Sketch suggests I go and do a little research, but this is not the sort of thing Google is going to provide the answers to. I type into a search field anyway: What do I want?  All the top hits are about your career.  I don’t know what to do about that either. I wish I could quit my day job and run away to Nicaragua and eat avocados and write all day.

Avocado, from the Aztec word for testicle

Avocado, from the Aztec word for testicle

Deal, a gorgeous friend of mine who lives in Central America, texts me a proud photo of himself in bed with a gorgeous couple the other day.  He wants to Skype, but as most nights my hair is configured into two manky horns from hot yoga and I’m wearing my glasses, I make excuses. Still I like messaging him, and imagining the sweaty things I would do to him if he were nearby.

He’s dealing with some breakup shit himself, and I feel weirdly protective of him, partly because he’s so much younger than me and partly because he’s really a nice person, so nice in fact that when I tell him I’m feeling lonely and so hungry for sex I could chew through metal, he cyber-introduces me to a friend who lives in my neighborhood.   Of me, he writes, “She’s fun, athletic, and has a banging body.” He also says that I am the hottest girl at yoga, which is a bald lie, but one that has the power to cheer me up immensely.

I love a compliment. Maybe I am even more compliment-starved than I am sex-starved. And this is another thing that I love about women. A woman will never fail to tell you how much she likes looking at you.

Deal and I banter a bit on this thread, but I don’t hear from his friend.   It’s OK, though. Life is full of these attempts at threesomes, grappling attempts to include other people, to expand beyond the tight confines of a couple, before collapsing back down to two.   That’s what Sketch and I used to call it: World of Two.   He would cup his hands around the sides of his face the way you hold the sides of a coin-operated scenic telescope, and then he would bring his face down to mine, his fingers like parentheses that we could both fit inside, our eyes inches apart and shut to everything and everyone else.

We don’t have that anymore. World of Two fell into civil war, barbarism, cannibal orgies, flames.    Its government is in exile, its countryside scavenged by carrion birds. And yet I’m still sweeping the wreckage to see if there is something left, because I still believe there is a person under there tapping on the collapsed masonry, waiting for me.

Standard