Monthly Archives: February 2013

Being the Best Version of Myself: Part Three

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Part Three: You Are Not a Special Snowflake, or You Are Special Just Like Everybody Else

We’d all like to think that our particular set of circumstances, challenges, disorders, strengths, whatever, make us a special case. And I won’t disagree with that.  I’ll take it a step further.  We are all bags of chemicals brought together by the forces of an entropic reality.  Literally.  The Big Bang happened and after millions of years some star stuff came together randomly and created carbon and voila, here we are as a species.  And each individual is unique in our molecular structure and our chemical requirements for health.  This is why I don’t say “Zoloft worked for me, so it will work for you.” That’s idiotic.  Sure, it might.  My brain is configured differently than your brain. It might be similar enough that the same dose of the same chemical might right the imbalance causing our ever present anxiety…but it might not.  The variety of deficiencies that there might be is vast and once we decide that our mood disorders have a chemical component (which I suppose they all do because that is all we are, including our emotions…chemical reactions and electrical storms)…a chemical component that we can’t control ourselves simply with water and a positive attitude…we have to approach it like we’re chemists.  What reactants result in what products?  I will admit that the fact that I am a chemist helped me immensely in weathering the first weeks of Zoloft.  I trusted in the scientific method, including the theory, hypothesis, and experiment.  For me, the results fit the hypothesis.  Lucky me.

But really, what I mean here is that we are all human and have to deal with our shit.  Just because our specific shit is different from other people’s doesn’t mean that we are exempt from dealing with it.  Just as we shouldn’t assume that we can solve other people’s problems by applying our own experience and personalities to them, we shouldn’t assume that our suffering or challenges are unique and beyond opinion.  Those outside of us can often have a lot to offer in terms of perspective and clutching to your belief that one can only have helpful insight if they too have suffered in the exact same way as you will leave you alone and dealing with things only through your own filter.  No, of course people who have not gone through the same things as you can fully understand the depth of your feelings.  This doesn’t mean they can’t understand them at all and it doesn’t mean that they mean to devalue your experience or insult you when they want to help.

Again, I will mention that trauma is a bit of a different story and while I think the same general idea stands, I understand that being open to outside opinion about feelings on a traumatic event is difficult and sometimes unwise.  I haven’t had a lot of severe trauma in my life, so I will be the first to say that I don’t know what it’s like to deal with that.

Another facet of this is that it is dangerous when we start to define ourselves by our faults.  It is important to accept our faults, but it should be an acceptance with the caveat that you don’t accept these faults as immoveable things.

I guess what I’m talking about here is that we all have to grow up.  To me, being an adult has never been defined by my career, my degree, giving up watching cartoons or playing with toys, not having fun, or my stock options.  For me, my sense of being an adult is connected deeply to my personal growth, my ability to take care of myself and others, being responsible about practical things and emotional things, being honest, having integrity, setting goals and coming up with feasible plans to attain those goals, and ultimately being an adult with this good life I have is about being happy and taking the steps I need to in order to maintain a general sense of fine.  Happiness is not a constant state of being.  It is a goal that colors my actions and my outlook.

When I hear people say “I don’t handle that approach well” or “I don’t respond well to that”, I don’t often hear “and this is why” as a follow-up.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to at least know yourself well enough to know the things that trigger negative responses from you, but I think that it’s important to then take the next step towards growing.  It’s not that I never say things like this, but I have trained myself to ask why I feel certain ways when certain approaches are used.  And usually, I find that my reasons for reacting poorly are based in an insecurity and I make the decision to work on reacting more positively in the future.  This is usually in response to someone trying to reach out to me when I am having an issue with something.  If I lash out because of the approach, it’s important that I stand back and acknowledge that I just lashed out at someone trying to help me.  Why did I lash out?  What did I read into what they said?  For me it has often been that I read in a gross error.

And yes, sometimes people are assholes and you should tell them so.  Most of what I’m saying here is how to deal with people who are being reasonable and earnest.  But yeah, a lot of time people are full of shit and you should call them out on it.  You have to question your own specialness, but you have to question everyone else’s claims of specialness too.  This has been a huge challenge for me.

I had to challenge myself to accept that I am special and not special all at the same time.  I am an individual but my individuality does not give me a pass on growing as a person.  It means that I have to apply the things I see and learn to my own circumstances and see how everything fits together.  It doesn’t mean that I can declare that I am not part of the world and everybody leave me alone and I get to be mad if I want to.  Sure, I have every right to be that way, but it wouldn’t make me happy.  Are the obstacles we put in our own way things that define us?  Some things are constants.  Most things are variables.  But are the things we call constants actually constants?  And if they are, how can we work with the variable to make the constants have less of an impact?  This is how I look at myself and my world.

Again, maybe being a scientist helps.

So there you have it.  This is how I do it.  This is my approach to the world.  I took on this world view and approach before I ever thought about taking anti-depressants.  The Zoloft just let me carry these philosophies out without so much fear and anxiety.  It took away the edge.  I am brazen in the face of my own bullshit and I am the best possible version of myself at this time.  Halle-fucking-juah!

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Being the Best Version of Myself: Part Two

Read Part One here.

Part Two: Be Honest With Yourself and Others

Really, this needs to be part of Step One.  You must be honest if you’re going to get anywhere.  But what I’m talking about here is being willing to admit things about yourself and say them out loud.  This is something that you have to do forever until you die, in every situation.  You must have humility when it comes to your own short comings.  And you must admit them if your outlook is ever to change.

You see, belief in something doesn’t make it true.  As we have heard these days, depression lies and, as Jessie said recently, it is an expert liar that tells you exactly the lies you are primed to believe.  If you refuse to say your fears and insecurities out loud, no one will be able to be the voice of reason that you so often need.

If you are depressed and miserable and insecure, you simply can’t trust yourself to be in touch with reality.  We look for evidence to back up our biggest fears and it’s everywhere because the filter you have colors it that way.  It creates a haze on the truth and makes it easy to fill in the gaps with what you know must be the case. “Nobody loves me.” “If they knew who I really was, they would leave.” “I am not worth anyone’s trouble.”

So you need to trust the people you have allowed to be close to you, because there will be times when you can’t trust yourself.  If you can’t trust them, they should not be close to you.  I am very lucky as I trust those close to me to tell me what’s what.  I have trusted untrustworthy people in the past to do the same and it was very harmful…of course, I learned a lot, but harmful it was.

Once you trust them, you must be willing to say the ridiculous things in your head out loud.  Sometimes hearing them articulated in the air is enough to make you aware of their ridiculousness.  Sometimes you need someone to tell you.  Eventually you will learn to hear this yourself most of the time.

And sometimes, your fears will not be ridiculous and people will be able to confirm that to help you.  But you must also be willing to fight back and delve deeper when you are not satisfied that your fears are unfounded.

The point here is to always be communicating and processing.  But communication and process are useless if they are based on false premises.  You might honestly believe something that is wrong.  Admit it, then think about and understand why it is wrong and figure out how to incorporate that into your world view.

I have had to do this SO MUCH.  I have had to challenge everything EVERYTHING I think is true about me and the rest of world in order to get anywhere.  I started with having to admit all the negative things that I thought.  But then I even had to question and analyze all the positive things about myself.  I labeled things as “good” that of course have downsides that take away from happiness if done to excess.

For instance, I am not particularly self absorbed.  I think of everyone else first before taking care of myself.  I am selfless.  This is generally considered a good thing because the word selfish has an inherent negative connotation. And yes, I also generally consider it a good thing.  I treat people well.  I am considerate of their needs and do what I can to accommodate people.  I am reliable.  All these things make me quite likeable.  However, I am “selfless” because it makes me happy to take care of people and because I worry that I think of myself first that people will love me less and ultimately leave me.  So, my motivations for selfless acts have a selfish side to them.  And I take this to a level that is sometimes harmful to me.  I ignore what is good for me in order to do what someone else wants, even if what they want is unreasonable.  So we need to be honest about these things.  Everyone is selfish all the time because the choices we make affect how we feel.  Sometimes we make choices that make us feel bad.  We do this because we have a warped view of ourselves and think we deserve to feel bad.  It’s an indulgence.  That might seem counter intuitive, but we, like molecules, yearn to be in our lowest energy state.  It is hard work to be happy and positive and to make healthy choices.  We make unhealthy choices because, even in a perverse way, they make us feel good or “right”.  You might freak out about something even though you could have made the choice to process it more calmly.  I used to do this because I wanted attention and took the negative attention route to get it.

We have to admit when we are making a choice.  Sometimes you have to just say, “I just want to be angry right now”.  For me, this is key, because being angry or upset is not often particularly helpful in finding a solution to the root cause.  My goal is to find solutions for the things that plague me, not to simply indulge in feeling bad.  That doesn’t mean that when I feel that my anger is justified I don’t desire the chance to indulge in feeling righteous.  I am human, after all, but I acknowledge that this is an indulgence…and that it ultimately does more harm than good.

It is true that we feel the way that we feel.  It’s just that it doesn’t end there and us feeling the way we feel does not require others to be responsible for these feelings.  Feelings are irrational in that people react differently to different stimuli based on their own set of circumstances and brain chemistry.  When you have a negative emotional reaction to a certain type of situation over and over again, you must be willing to ask yourself why.  Why do I always feel this way when this happens?  What am I afraid of?  What do I believe is going on here and why do I view it as something bad happening to me?

For those of you playing along, this is how I deal with jealousy.  That’s it, plain and simple.  When you are feeling jealous about your partner and another person, you’ve got to accept that you feel jealous (it’s likely nothing higher minded than that…I had to learn that too.  I have a reptilian brain like everyone else), and then ask these questions…and then say the answers out loud to your partner.  Do I manage to not ever feel jealous or have it manifest in a less than fortunate way? No.  It still happens.  It will be with me forever, but it is not who I am.  I deal with it when it comes up as productively as I can.  These days I am more often successful than not and that’s great.

I may have neglected one thing here: Sometimes your fears will be based on reality and you have to be prepared to hear that and process it.  The name of the game here is seeking the truth and making choices based on that truth.  It doesn’t mean that the truth is always pretty.

I dated someone for a while who always confirmed my fears and insecurities.  I would ask the questions about what I was worried about and would often find out that I was right about what was going on.  It sucked, but I was glad to at least know the score and not feel delusional.  This is a gift in its own rite.

I say this unequivocally: Honesty is the best policy.  Just because it hurts doesn’t mean that it isn’t the way you should live.  Life is suffering.  It is also joy.  Both should be experienced with knowledge of the truth.  Joy based on lies is ultimately suffering.  Suffering based on lies is suffering that didn’t need to be.

Life 101: Open up your god damn mouth and speak the truth you think you know.  It will be challenged.  Listen.  Accept or reject. Incorporate or fight until the truth is found.

You are not living fully if you refuse to do this. I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t want to waste my time anymore.

Being the Best Version of Myself: Part One

When I come out to people as polyamorous, I generally get the response, “I could never do that”.  After I reveal that I have suffered from severe jealousy issues and insecurity, I usually get the question, “How do you do it???”  I usually give a concise answer as no one has hours to listen to me articulate how I actually do it.  What I usually say is “Well, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, so I make it work and grow as a person.”  That is not a lie.  It’s just a really simple way of putting and maybe makes it sound like I’m some kind of Zen master who never had to work hard at anything.  This, my friends, could not be further from the truth (as you could probably guess).

As it turns out, I have a very particular approach to these things.  I have a very specific approach to my life and how to become the best I can in it.  I have kept a lot of this to myself and not out here in the blogosphere because I see it as somewhat controversial and I thought it might offend people.  It probably will.  I expect to be judged by everyone all the time.  Sometimes we are judged in a good light.  Sometimes we are judged badly.  Anyway, this ended up being quite long, so I will be posting it in three parts.

Introduction:

To put it simply, my philosophy about relationships, dealing with personal and practical issues, and life on Planet Earth in general is “Just Fucking Do It”.

Don’t tell Nike.  There might be some copyright infringement there.

Now, “Just Fucking Do It” is pretty simple, but do not assume that it lacks complexity.  Just getting over things and moving forward takes a tremendous amount of work and commitment.  AND YOU WILL FAIL OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  But the net gain is progress towards the person you want to be.

First, some preliminaries that are true about me:

FACT: My primary goal in life is to be happy.  I do not consider something a success if it does not result in increased happiness about my life in general.

FACT: Success to me is defined by my own happiness. The happiness of those around me adds immensely to my own happiness.

FACT: I give as much as I can and expect little in return.  All I expect from those close to me is honesty, respect, a willingness to take hard looks at themselves, and a commitment to self improvement.  OK, maybe I ask for a lot.  Whatever.  Everyone should expect these things from people close to them.

FACT: Trauma makes all of what I am about to say harder and adds another element to a person’s hierarchy of needs.  Some people need more help coming to terms with and learning to live productively with the things that have happened to them before they can be in truly healthy relationships and circumstances.  It is for this reason that I wish mental health services were as easy to get and as stigma-free as flu shots.

Part One: Who Do You Want to Be?

This is a hard question for a lot of people to answer and people conflate answering it with not being true to themselves. Incorrect.  You are not written in stone.  Your challenges in life are not immovable objects and you are not doomed to suffer from them for all eternity.  Some people have larger boulders to haul then others, but nothing is permanent.

That being said, you will never be rid of your challenges completely.  Elements of them, remnants of them will always be there.  However, if you commit to the idea that they do not have to rule you and that you have the power to attain tools with which to manage them, they do not have to define you.  You do not have to say “This is just who I am”.

For me answering this question was pretty easy.  There was a version of me that the “public” saw and a version of me that people saw in private.  I wanted to be the public version of me all the time.  She is confident, honest, outgoing, happy and calm. She doesn’t hide her struggles but deals with them head on.

And so it was that I was thrust into some things that brought out my issues in full force.  My choice was either to suffer with them and be miserable or to analyze their root causes and determine ways to live with them productively.  My choice was either to view myself as a victim of circumstance (in my case, being born with a docile and obedient personality, and then having my sense of value nurtured to revolve around how hard I work and what I can give to others), or view myself as someone empowered to change and take charge of myself and my future.

To me, the choice was clear.

So, you make a choice and you commit to that choice.  Commitment is key.  Commitment is the thing that keeps temporary failures from feeling like permanent ones.  Commitment means that every day is a new day to get back on track.

But it is very important that you are the person YOU want to be and not what you think other people want you to be.  You can not do this for other people.  The underlying goal must be for self improvement for your own happiness and well being.  This will, of course, benefit those close to you and I would be lying if this wasn’t a motivational factor for me.  I love very awesome people and they deserve the best I have to offer.  But it wasn’t THE motivational factor.

Full disclosure: I had been working on these things for years as I didn’t think it was right that I was so miserable as a teenager and young adult.  I made progress, but it was slow.  It was not until Wes and I decided to open up our relationship and I had to deal with the reality of what that meant and how I felt in the face of real practice that my need and desire for huge leaps in dealing productively with my personal issues became basically the most important thing in my life.  And this was not simply because I wanted to have the best possible relationship, but also because the skills and improvements needed to be happy in my relationship were skills and improvements I needed to be happy in all areas of my life.

For instance, I used to be a generally negative, jealous, envious person.  This may surprise some of the people who know me, but it is quite true.  I didn’t realize how far reaching these qualities were until I found myself jealous about things like people having days off when I didn’t or people having more money than I did.  I held people’s successes against them if they didn’t have to work hard for them.  I suffered regularly from “Grass is Greener” syndrome, always thinking that other people were living more interesting lives than I or thinking that “I would be happy if I was doing…something else.” I refused to acknowledge that it is valid to try to fix what’s wrong in your current situation before up and leaving everything and starting over.  My dad was famous for saying, “Who’s always there when you are upset? You.” And in my case, ultimately, it was in fact me that was the common link amongst all my issues.  My outlook was a cloudy filter that made everything I was and did look bad.  And so it became my goal to attain a new filter.

A Guy Walks into a Bar and Orders Twelve Bottles of Heineken…

I went to a convention this weekend.  Specifically, I went to Wicked Faire: A categorical hodgepodge of geekery that encompasses cosplay, gaming, Steampunk, Renn Faire, super heroes and villains, cartoons, horror movies…really just about anything you can think of.  There’s tons of music and arts and vendors galore.  It is a convention for misfits, where you stand out like a sore thumb if you look “normal”.

Because of the Steampunk/Renn Faire aspect of this thing, there’s also an abundance of well supported breasts.  Corsets abound as well as various other types of clothing that accentuate the female form (whether or not you happen to be female).

For instance, I spent the entirety of Saturday wearing this:

IMAG0182

I got it from Utopia Armory and while it’s a bit expensive(you get to pick the colors and it is made just for you.  Mine cost $175 which took me all year to pay off, haha), the work is worth every penny.

Now, I haven’t posted this picture out of vanity.  I posted it simply to show you what I felt comfortable wearing at this convention.  Yes, I have done burlesque routines. Yes, I have been known often to wear tight clothes and low cut shirts.  This has been an evolution, as I hid my body for a large part of my youth, either because I was embarrassed by my lack of development (I was a late bloomer) or because I bought into our victim blaming culture and didn’t want my clothing to get me raped.

Sigh…that is so depressing, but it’s hard to overcome that kind of programming.  The great thing about the people I surround myself with now, and with conventions like Wicked Faire, is that consent and boundaries are important.  People at Wicked Faire can feel free to walk around in whatever they want and nobody gets on their case about it.  I hardly hear any negative comments about what people are wearing, and the compliments flow…but the compliments are often without ulterior motive.  I got a few comments about how beautiful this outfit was and then the comment giver would walk away.  In fact, I didn’t get hit on at all the entire weekend…by convention goers.

Of course, on Saturday night, Wes and Jessie went to bed and I decided to stay up and go to the dance party going on.  It was taking some time to set up for the DJ, so I meandered around and decided to go get a glass of wine at the hotel bar.  There was a DJ in there too and there were several convention attendees there getting’ down.  It also looked like there were several people who were not part of the convention (I think the hotel bar doubles as a local pub for the area).

So I’m sitting at the bar minding my own business (and quite enjoying simply sipping wine and people watching…I felt completely pleasant not feeling compelled to talk to people), but wearing the outfit in the photo above.  This guy comes in and did not seem to be a conference guy.  He ordered 12 bottles of Heineken from the bartender, who starts loading them up in plastic bags and fist bumps the guy.  And then this happened.  Italicized portions my commentary on these events:

I’ll be honest, I was already judging the guy for getting a bunch of Heineken.  I hate Heineken.  I like saying Heineken, but that’s just because it’s fun to say German words.  Heineken, or rather “Heinekenz” is also part of a favorite bartending story of my sister wherein a guy came in an ordered a “Cabobby-ay and Yoo-Hoo and a Heinekenz fo’ ma lady.”  But beyond that, I was thinking, Heineken, really?  So, he was already losing.  Incidentally, Shaun ordered a PBR the first time we went to a bar together and I make fun of him for it to this day. Anyway, clearly the guy was not there to simply have me critique his beer choices.

The Dude sidles up closer to me and says, “Are you here alone?”

Me: The people I am with are milling around the convention.

Dude: So, you’re alone.

Me: At the moment, yes.

Please note that after every response I gave I would immediately turn away from him and not make eye contactMy answers were short and clearly disinterested…except for the fact that I was answering at all.  Women talking to you means they WANT you, don’t you know.

Dude: ‘Cause, if I was with you, I wouldn’t leave your side!

Awesome! I bet you also would punch any guy in the face who looked at me! That would mean you love me!!! Awwww! Also, I wasn’t too impressed with you when you first invaded my personal space and you’re looking worse by the second.

Me: Eh.

Dude: ‘Cause…you’re hot.  I mean, seriously, you are SMOKIN’.

Years ago I worked at a coffee shop, and there was this creepy guy that came in all the time and looked at me strangely and it made me uncomfortable.  Unfortunately, he also bought stuff for his boss, so I couldn’t just be like “Stop being creepy and get out”.  One day he silently crept over to where I was making a latte and appeared suddenly.  “HI!” he said.  “AHHHH!” I replied.  “Oh, I didn’t mean to scare you.  ‘Cause I think you’re all that and a bag of chips.” That is all I thought of when this guy said I was “smokin’”.

Me: (with visible facial scowl): Thanks.

Dude: Do you like girls?

What a segueway! Now, I knew that he was really asking because “girls making out is automatically hot” and probably wanted to know if I would entertain him that way.  Barf.  I decided to answer truthfully in the hopes he would think I was a lesbian and leave me alone.

Me: Yes.

Dude: What kind of girls you like?

Me: Nerds, obviously.

Dude: Do you like tits or ass?

I thought this was great.  I was dumbfounded and couldn’t bring myself to be like, “Oh, right, those are the only options for liking women.  Sorry…I forgot about that for a second.” I was angry, too.  What a ridiculous conversation.  I’m assuming the guy was drunk already, though no speech slurring or inability to stand or walk straight.  He might have just been an asshole.  Also, I don’t give people a pass if they’re drunk.  Being drunk is not a reason that I will accept your asshole behavior.  One time a while ago an ex-friend of mine had two MUDSLIDES and, upon hearing some news I relayed to her about a project we were working on, she called me a list of nasty things and said that I don’t care about anyone but myself. She then said, “Well, I’ve been drinking, but still fuck you.”  Two mudslides do not give you free reign to call people names and 12 Heinekens don’t make me be OK with you asking about I like to reduce women to their bodies best.

Me: (Infuriated scowl)

Dude: So who are you here with? Your boyfriend?

Um, did you miss the conversation we just had about me liking girls?  Way to be a heteronormative fuckwad.  I mean, yes, I was there with Wes, but he had no reason to assume that I was there with a male. Of course, at this point, I certainly wasn’t going to tell him that my husband was elsewhere with his girlfriend because I didn’t want this douche to think he had any chance with me at all.  So I did the best thing I could.

Me: I’m here with my HUSBAND (and I flashed the wedding ring).

Dude: OH! I’m sorry! Oh man! I’m sorry.  I’ll go.  Is it Ok?

Me: (scowl) Just go.

And he disappeared into the night.  There was so much to be annoyed about.  Firstly, even though I had not mentioned men (“the people I am with” “yes I like girls”) he assumed that I was there with “my man”.  Next, I love that it would have been OK if I had been there with my boyfriend (because that’s temporary, amirite?) but as soon as he found out that I was married, he had decided that he had committed an egregious faux pas and ran away.  I mean, sure, I am living a life which does not value exclusivity with partners, but I respect people’s relationships.  The idea that marriage is the only commitment that you can make that can be a kryptonite against douchebags (because they apparently respect the “sanctity of marriage” but not the agency of a woman sitting alone at a bar) sickens me.  It sickens me more than the fact that if you go to a club without a man, you get accosted like a piece of meat, but your friend who came with a dude gets to dance without worry…because of bro codes or someshit.  Or that a little lady’s not going to do anything to fuck you up, but her man will.  I can’t stand the assumption of ownership that is exhibited in exchanges like this.

Anyway, after he ran away with his plastic bags full of Heineken, I finished my wine quickly, now feeling completely uncomfortable being at the bar alone and went to the dance party.  Entering the dance party was like returning to the proper world.  I walked in a no one leered at me or touched me without consent or made assumptions about my sexuality or who “owned” me.  A lot of this is because the there is a lot of overlap between the geek community and the kink community.  Consent and acceptance are pillars of these communities, and while there are plenty in them who don’t get it right, there are many who do and my experience so far at Wicked Fair have shown me that I can feel safe there and that is a really unique and important thing for people to have at least in one place in their lives.

Yes, I used his bro code and misconceptions against him to get him away from me and I always feel a little weird about not being forthcoming with the truth about me and I probably should have just told him to leave me alone but that takes practice and courage that I don’t always have.

But I am reminded once again of what my dad said about how it would be nice if men didn’t feel entitled to possess whatever they looked at that they like because it makes women uncomfortable and then we want to hide.  At Wicked Faire, every attendee got to look at me walking around with my body out for people to ogle, just as I was able to look at all of them.  And I was fine to do it because no one seemed to think they could possess me just because I was there looking pretty.  And one thing that many people at these kinds of events understand is that consent is sexy and having it be important to you often leads to you getting to touch a lot of people, because a lot of times all you have to do is ask…but never just take. I like being touched and kissed and all those fun things, but it is my choice who I do that with and my relationship status is not the thing that should stop you from creeping me out.  My autonomy as a human being is what you should respect, Jackass at the Bar.

Incidentally, there was nothing I found attractive about this guy and would have likely said no to any proposition, but who knows had he not approached me like something less than him, something to be stared at, possessed and then protected from others.

And then, after left and I pondered all this, I thought, “Poor guy.  He probably didn’t know he was bothering a feminist blogger.  Sucks to be him.”

And then I thought, “I think I read too many blogs to deal with normal people anymore with anything other than disdain.  Shit.  Oh well, at least I’m a big weirdo.”

Poly isn’t Necessarily Egalitarian, but Egalitarian is Necessarily Open

Franklin Veaux, a popular (within the community anyway) writer and activist for polyamory, recently posted about polyamory and ownership:

On another forum I read, someone made a complaint that folks in the poly community tend to see monogamy in terms of ownership and control; that is, for many poly folks, monogamy is about owning your other partner, while polyamory is more egalitarian, treating other people as fully actualized human beings.

And, sadly, I’ve encountered poly folks who do believe that. The misguided notion that polyamory is “more evolved” than monogamy comes, in many cases, from the assumption that monogamy is inherently rooted in ownership and polyamory is inherently egalitarian.

This commits one of my cardinal sins of argument. It’s the same one that got Charlie Jane Anders in so much trouble with the atheist community. Namely – he’s arguing against a point that nobody is making. It’s a special kind of straw man where there is no argument in the first place. You’re just arguing against a vague “other,” in the form of “some people think [unfair paraphrase of argument], but they are all wrong.”

Veaux claims that “some people” think that monogamy is inherently rooted in ownership and polyamory is inherently egalitarian. I know a lot of polyamorous people, I’m on a lot of poly forums, and I read a lot of poly blogs & websites, and I’ve never encountered anyone who believes that. Veaux provided no links or examples of what he’s talking about, so we only have his word that he’s properly interpreted the attitudes of the people he’s met. Let’s just say I have my doubts.

What *I* believe, and what I think all reasonable people must believe, is that a relationship that lives up to Veaux’s definition of egalitarian must necessarily be polyamorous or accidentally monogamous. Veaux is quick to point out that polyamorous relationships can be just as controlling as monogamous relationships (a point with which nobody I know disagrees), but glosses over the fact that his “egalitarian paradigm” is incompatible with traditional monogamy.

The only monogamous egalitarian relationship would look like JT Eberhard’s:

So here’s something I want to throw out there: I don’t care if Michaelyn dates or sleeps with other people. Yet, we are monogamous.
How does that happen? Well, she ha the green light to do those things, but she doesn’t. One day she might. But what I want is to know that she is with me because she wants to be. If Michaelyn is with me exclusively because she wants to be, we don’t need rules binding her to me in that way. If she doesn’t want to be with me in that way, why would I demand she do so? Love, to me, means wanting someone else to be happy, not just happy in a way that caters to me.

While I wouldn’t call this a polyamorous relationship, at the very least it’s “open.” These are two people who truly respect one another and want each other to be happy. This is de facto monogamy, as opposed to de jure (by rule) monogamy, which is what is traditionally practiced.

Now, even a passing familiarity with the BDSM community will teach you that not everyone wants an egalitarian relationship, which is fine. People can want whatever they want, and if they find consenting partners, that’s fantastic. But Veaux’s argument – that poly relationships can by just as controlling as traditionally monogamous relationships – sort of misses the point, which is that de jure monogamous relationships cannot be egalitarian. ALL relationships that qualify as egalitarian under Veaux’s paradigm will be open relationships.

In other words, polyamory is not inherently egalitarian, but all egalitarian relationships must be polyamorous, or at least merely de facto monogamous (and open). This is what people mean when they describe polyamory as “more evolved,” as Veaux put it. It looks like this:

Poly Venn Diagram

I dislike posts like Veaux’s because I truly believe that if society were able to jettison a lot of the assumptions and expectations that lead to traditional monogamy, we would be much happier as a society. Posts like Veaux’s draw a false equivalence between polyamory and monogamy. It focuses on the purple part of the diagram, and ignores the blue part.

A Word About My Dad, For His Birthday

Last night I went to the supermarket for various things and nearly didn’t make it past the produce department at the entrance due to the Valentine’s Day Madness that was in progress.  The market had a ginormous display of flowers (flowers they always sell, but this time they were $10-$20 more expensive).  There were balloons EVERYWHERE and giant hanging cutouts of King and Queen playing cards with some stupid “Meant to Be” slogan next to them.  I can’t remember exactly what the slogan was, but you can fill in the blank.

For the record, I don’t hate Valentine’s Day.  I never have.  Being single on Valentine’s Day never bothered me.  Admittedly, I haven’t been single on Valentine’s Day in many years, but when I was a young, awkward teenager with one tale of unrequited infatuation after another, I still didn’t care if I had, specifically, a Valentine.  In the years since, I have enjoyed Valentine’s Day as an excuse to do something slightly more “special” than normal.  But I generally do that often regardless of Hallmark Sanctioned Celebration Days.  Wes and I have never particularly tried to get reservations anywhere.  We usually would have steaks or something at home (my official “celebrate anything” choice).  I like flowers, sure, but I buy them for myself…whenever…and think it’s stupid that prices go up just because significant others who don’t do much any other time of the year MUST do something on Valentine’s Day so that they aren’t given scathing reviews around the water cooler the next day.

Wes and I did do something in particular for our first Valentine’s Day together.  He made me coconut shrimp and then we went to see an opera about Nicola Tesla.  It was a “work in progress” and the music was written by some dude who had been part of Philip Glass’ orchestra or something.  It was…terrible.  However, it has given us years of amusement singing parts of it randomly.

“Myyyyyy TOWAAAAAAAAAH!” (Referencing his giant Tesla coil power generating tower thingy)

“Nicolaaaaa Teslaaaaaaaaaaaaa….” (This was sung no less than 100 times during the hour long show).

In conclusion, we use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to eat slightly fancier delicious things in the confines of our own home, play Wii Frisbee while drinking wine, and talking about how jewelry store commercials make me want to puke and that if Wes ever came home with their “meaningful diamond pendant of the year” I would laugh in his face.  Yes, I would probably wear it, but I would laugh at it because I hate them.  It would be wearing a piece of comedic jewelry for me and I would appreciate it for the same reasons that I appreciate Deathrace 2000 or Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.

This year, however, is a little different.  My dad’s birthday is this week, and with everyone’s schedules being as complicated and busy as they are, it worked out that my family could all get together tonight to celebrate.  My mom, sister, and I are cooking a nice dinner. I have a cake cooling at home that will hopefully come out of the pan when I get home tonight…and we’ll spend a nice time.

Growing up, I took a lot of things about family for granted.  For instance, it was rare that my parents and I would not have a sit down dinner together.  And we would actually talk at the table.  We had the television on usually, but it was mainly there for noise.  We talked about our days.  I didn’t realize that many people didn’t do that.  In the mornings, we would all sit on the couch listening to NPR and having a cup of coffee together (or whatever it was I was drinking when I was 15).  My dad and I usually left for work/school at the same time and I walked with him a lot, as he worked in Center City.  Spending time together was important, but it wasn’t a stated thing.  We just did it.

As it is my dad’s birthday, I have been thinking about the fact that I also took for granted that my dad has influenced me and been supportive of me over the years.  Firstly, when he and my mom were expecting, he stated that he really wanted a girl.  And he has never been that dad who is overprotective and willing to kill any man who so much as looks at me.  He has always encouraged me to be my own person and has trusted me to take care of myself and make my own decisions.  Hearing many women I know talk about their dads has made me realize again how unique my situation growing up was.

Additionally, I can blame my dad fully for my sense of humor and general peculiar outlook on the world.  You can file your complaints with him if you are so inclined.  My dad is hilarious and has sent me into hysterical, debilitating fits of laughter over small ridiculous comments.  I wish that I could outline some of these things here and have them make sense, but maybe it’s even better out of context.

  1. Well, that guacamole sucked.
  2. That guy thinks he’s the cat’s ass.
  3. The butler was hit by a falling gargoyle.
  4. Seriously? They have a book called The Unwritten Rules of Engineering?
  5. I’m glad that the Army Corps of Engineers uses the Liberty Bell as a simple of engineering excellence.

My dad likes to sing teenage death songs randomly, as well as terrible other girl group songs from that era.  If you mention anything close to the phrase “party lights” (which happens surprisingly often), he will sing, “I see the lights, I see the party lights.  They’re red and blue…aaaaand gree-eeeen!” in terrible falsetto.  I heard this song playing in a Rite Aid once and nearly died laughing because I can not hear it without hearing him in the woman’s place.  We also regularly like to sing “Torn Between Two Lovers” and figure out all the words that rhyme with “fool”, because the song makes just as much sense regardless of what you say.

I realize that none of that is particularly funny to anyone reading it, even though I am currently having trouble writing because I’m giggling so much.  My dad and I crack each other up with absurdity and ridiculousness and I have always really appreciated that.

My dad always encouraged me to embrace my strangeness.  He praised all my weird clothes and usually encouraged me to buy weirder clothes.  He bought me my first pair of granny glasses shades, after I had moved on from John Lennon round ones.  He took me to get my nose pierced.  He took the time to carefully paint my hair with emerald green Manic Panic with a paint brush so that it didn’t get on my skin.

My dad taught me how to play the guitar.  He buys me gadgets for rock music and loves to see Arcati Crisis rock out.  He introduced me to the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa.  When I graduated from 8th grade, he gave me greatest hits compilations for The Yardbirds and The Animals.  He gave me Cream, The Rolling Stones, Canned Heat, and The Doors.  Yeah, my music taste is his fault too.

He helped me with math and science homework, making fun of word problems as much as I did.  He never said there was anything I couldn’t do.  He never saw my gender as any kind of barrier to my success in life, so I never viewed it that way.

One day, when I was bitching about being harassed on the street by some asshole who has boundary issues and thinks that him hooting and hollering at me is a productive avenue of communication, my dad said, “You know, I don’t understand why men don’t understand that if they just shut the fuck up and respected women’s space that women would walk around freely wearing less in the summer and we’d get to look at them.  Now we can’t because men are assholes.”

And there you have it, folks.  This is why I don’t understand why these things are so difficult.  At an early age my dad talked to me about not understanding why street harassment happens, that the world is a better place when people can walk around the way they want to without fear of being bothered.  Sure, in this case he was talking specifically about wishing that women felt more comfortable so that everyone could enjoy looking at pretty ladies, but it applies to so much else.  My dad never encouraged me to walk around as anyone except who I am.  He never wanted to change me.  He simply wanted me to be exactly the thing I was.

So, happy birthday, Dad!  This is possibly a minor gift when compared to how much you have given me, but sometimes you just have to take some time to really thank someone.  Thank you for how you have helped me become the woman I am.  I am my father’s daughter and I would never have it any other way.

Being Honest About Loving More

“So…I figured I should just come in here and say something before I lost my nerve to say it…”

I sat down in the chair next to my boss’ desk, felt awkward for a second and then just bulldozed through it.

“Well, my family and I are going to be featured in a documentary next month about alternative lifestyles…namely, nonmonogamy.  Wes and I each have long term partners outside of our marriage.  They live with us.  My boyfriend’s wife also lives with us.  It doesn’t really have anything to do with work, but I figured it was about time that I came clean so that I didn’t have to hide my life anymore.”

He took it very well.  It didn’t particularly seem to faze him in the least.

“Cool!” he said, “Seriously, if it makes you happy and doesn’t cause a problem at work, it doesn’t matter to me at all.”

I chatted for a bit about the documentary and how hilarious and sometimes stressful the process was, and then we talked a bit about some work projects, and I went on back to my desk.

A few minutes later I came out to two more coworkers with whom I have worked for years.  The reception was similar.  One was pretty quiet about it, but ultimately seems to be OK.  The other had a ton of questions and I made it clear that no questions were off limits, that he could ask about whatever he wanted.

I went out to lunch today with another coworker and told her. She took it well too and was happy that I felt comfortable enough to open up to her about such things.

I live a charmed life.

***

 Due to lack of funds and some scheduling conflicts, I was unable to attend this year’s Poly Living Weekend, organized by Loving More.  I did go with Shaun for a little while to the closing ceremonies for it on Sunday though (and Wes and Jessie were there long enough to meet the organizer).  Unfortunately, I was having a really bad weekend anxiety and depression-wise.  There are very definite reasons for this…some less than ideal things occurred which threw me ultimately into a spiral.  There will likely be a new Adventure in Therapy post coming soon as well.  So, to anyone who met me and thought me cold and stand offish or an all around mess, I apologize and hope for future opportunities to meet you when I am in a better state of mind.

I would have completely regretted being there in my screwed up state, except one important thing happened: I was made aware how important being out is to a community such as this.

At one point, Robyn Trask, the head honcho over at Loving More, called Shaun and I out into the center of the room to tell everyone that we were some of the people who would be in the documentary (her family is also being featured).  We got a round of applause and some comments from people thanking us for being willing to be out like that…to have our lives put on display so that people can know the awesomeness that is poly family.  I hadn’t really realized what a relatively big deal the documentary might be and I hadn’t considered that it was somewhat special of us to agree to participate.  Perhaps it’s that I blog a lot about my personal life or perhaps because I have grown up being on stage that I don’t always remember how hard it is to put yourself out there.  Don’t get me wrong…I have been nervous about the documentary.  The idea of the world seeing me on television talking about my relationships filled me with a lot of anxiety…but that was mostly because part of my life was still be led dishonestly.  I knew that the airing of the show would out me here because I’m sure someone here will see it.  I felt terrified of having that out of my control.  My mind went to the worst places.  I began to fear that I would lose my job: Gina fired for being peculiar.  I don’t know why I thought that, but stranger things have happened I suppose.  I went through with it anyway though because I knew that it was important.  Visibility is important to movements and there is most certainly a polyamory movement in our midst…one that needs strong and confident voices and those who have the privilege to be able to share their lives with the public without fear.

 ***

Last November I went to a drug store to fill my first prescription for Zoloft.  The pharmacy was next door to a Hair Cuttery.  I looked at the Hair Cuttery and reflected on how long my hair was getting.  Then I realized that the prescription signified the start of a new era in my life.  I usually chop off my hair when such a bench mark is reached and this was no different.  Just like that, I went in and told them to chop off 8 inches of hair.  I went home and dyed it red and took my first pill, hoping for the best.

I make quick decisions like that sometimes.  This morning while waiting for my train in the rain for a Monday at work, I had a moment of calm and clarity and decided that I was going to come out to my boss and some close coworkers about my polyamorous lifestyle.  Nothing in particular happened to make me want to do this, though I expect that having a nasty bout with anxiety this weekend reminded me that things that are bad for my mental health, such as lying about the reality of my life at a place where I spend at least 40 hours a week, must be dealt with and discarded.  Being dishonest about things in your life causes stress, even if you are not fully conscious of it and though I feel a little anxious and exhausted from my disclosures today, I also feel a general weight is being lifted from my shoulders.

Next month our family will be heading down to Atlanta for the Atlanta Poly Weekend and I am looking really forward to it.  Not only will it be my birthday weekend (and we will likely be meeting a whole host of awesome fun people to celebrate my turning 32 with), but we might be semi-celebrities there, which might be pretty entertaining.  But most importantly, I will be able to enjoy it as a fully integrated member of the community, someone living honestly and out as a polyamorous person…a person who would be so much worse off if the support system a polyamorous life has offered me were not here.  I can speak knowing that I am not hiding anywhere anymore and that is a pretty nice birthday present to give myself.

 ***

It’s funny to think that being who you are takes such effort and so much courage.  I was lucky enough to be raised in an environment where individuality was always encouraged but everyone has their limits.  Everyone has things that they worry will bring negative judgment against them and it takes a lot to just say, “Oh fuck it. I know you’re going to judge me no matter what…you may as well judge me for the truth.”  It has seemed absurd to me for a while that something like being intimately committed to more than one person is something that people will judge you negatively for, but I think that about a lot of things that people feel the need to hide in their closets.  But I was scared here.  I had to give myself a pep talk in order to walk into my boss’ office this morning.  I had to give myself a bigger one to tell the next two people.  But what good would I be if I wanted to encourage others who felt capable of being out to do it if I was too afraid to do it myself.  I’ve never felt comfortable asking people to do something that I am not willing to do also…so, my activism had to start with my own behavior.

This won’t really change anything around here.  The only thing it changes is that when I walk around, I am walking around knowing that I’m not hiding this.  It has nothing to do with my job and won’t come into play often, but it matters that my steps will be a little lighter without all this weight making them heavy.  I have this weird feeling like I can start really living now, like completely.  I didn’t really realize that would be the result of this.  It certainly help that people received the news well and here we are.

May you have a good life changing day soon too!

Vote for Optimus!

The Pope is retiring. Paul Fidalgo is throwing his pointy hat into the ring:

Oh, and I’ll put an immediate end to the church’s tolerance and enabling of sexual assault; its treatment of women as second-class; its adherence to Bronze Age notions of morality; its hoarding of wealth for no purpose but its own aggrandizement (except for me, of course); its persecution of homosexuals; its intentional miseducation of developing nations ravaged by ignorance, overpopulation, superstition, starvation, and illness; and its utter failure to promote the ascension of robot-human hybrids.

Also, his Pope name will be Pope Optimus Prime I. I’m sold.