Did a Bad Thing.

If you write about relationships, and especially if you give advice about relationships, you’d better be ready to admit your own screwups.

And boy, did I screw up.

The reason this column has been very quiet for many months is that I was trying to get my head screwed back on correctly after really blowing a budding relationship. And I mean big. So badly, in fact, that the other person asked that I not be in further contact with them.

Let me hasten to say that this was an error that arose in correspondence, not an issue of physical abuse or physical boundaries. But a boundary violation all the same, and one that was deeply meaningful to the other person.

For my part, it was not any kind of deliberate violation. It was, however, a matter of not recognizing when something being discussed was actually a boundary. And that’s going to look the same to the other person as if I had deliberately stepped over the line.

Without it getting into too many details, the other person wrote to the effect of “I can’t do X, because of Y.” I didn’t know that much about Y, but read it as “I would really like to do X, but Y gets in the way.“ Which sounded like a problem to solve. But in fact, what they were writing was, “I would really like to do X, but Y absolutely means I cannot, and so I am unhappy about not being able to do X, but It. Can’t. Happen. So please, let’s forget about X.”

So when I responded with an idea of how X might still be possible, they decided that I was a boundary pusher. Which is completely understandable, given how the circumstances looked from their end.

(I am not a boundary pusher, by the way; as part of coming to grips with this particular error, I talked to a number of people who know me well, especially in romantic contexts, and they unanimously agreed that my response to boundaries was to run headlong in the other direction. In this case, however, I just didn’t recognize a boundary was being set. I suppose there could be a whole other essay on the importance of seeing correctly, but perhaps this disquisition is lesson enough.)

Compounding the issue was the fact that this was a brand new, three-week or so, potential relationship. It had been carried on entirely in correspondence except for one in-person meeting in which all boundaries were scrupulously observed. Because it was a new relationship, though, we hadn’t dealt with communication errors or issues before, and the first time one arose, it was a doozy. So there wasn’t the experience of trust, built-up relationship credits, or established discussion patterns to fall back on. Again, lots more lessons to write about someday.

A sidenote – I had actually known the other person for a long time, but had not had much interaction. Once the possibility of a different kind of relationship arose, though, I was interested and hopeful, and it is possible that that interest may have helped blind me to the raised boundary. But I’m not going to chalk it off to that, or minimize it in any way. I blew it.

And in fact, having known the person for a long time meant that when they decided I was not a fit kind of person to have as a potential partner or even a correspondent, the impact was much harder. Because having spent a lot of time seeming like one kind of person, I had managed to convince them very quickly that I was a very different kind. Which is another part of why you’re hearing about this many months after the occurrence; it was the catalyst for a pretty heavy-duty emotional tailspin that has only recently settled out.

(And yes, I know that if you’re still reading this — I’m not sure why you are, it’s somebody going on and on about their personal life. I don’t tend to do this, but believe that if I am going to resume writing about relationships, I need to be very plain about reasons you might not want to listen to anything I have to say.)

Anyway, the final frustration is that having gone over and over and over what happened and trying to learn everything I can from it, there is no way to communicate to the other person that I have learned. I have to accept that this is broken and over, with no hope of a fix. Can’t make it better. But knowing that and having to live with it keeps the motivation fresh to always do better the next time. In this case, that won’t be difficult. I have never screwed up a relationship so quickly or so thoroughly, and that’s a record I really don’t care to attempt breaking.

So the writing about relationships may resume. On the other hand, maybe I should just keep it to easy topics like the polyphonic motets of Lassus or chicken soup recipes. We’ll see.

For now, though, it’s sadder and wiser. And, I hope, smart enough not to make the same mistake again. Certainly not when there are so many new mistakes to make.

And, for what it’s worth, I’m learning absolutely everything I can about Y, and donating and raising funds to help prevent it from affecting other people. So perhaps some good, at least, can come of all this.

The Monkeypox Vaccine Experience

A very tiny needle in the forearm, brief burning sensation, then you sit for 15 minutes to make sure that you don’t spontaneously combust. A day later, a bit of swelling at the injection site and some itching. A day after that, just a little tenderness and redness, which has persisted several days. That’s all so far.

State eligibility policies vary widely, even just in my local area. DC and Virginia have some of the most enlightened policies on MPX vaccine eligibility, including residents (or, in DC, people who work in the District) in these categories:

● People, of any sexual orientation or gender, who have had anonymous or more than one sexual partners in the past two weeks; or

● Sex workers of any sexual orientation or gender; or

● Staff, of any sexual orientation or gender, at establishments where sexual activity occurs.

Maryland eligibility is currently county-by-county. In New Jersey, anyone who attests to having multiple sex partners or attending an event where monkeypox exposure took place in the last 14 days is eligible for vaccination. Delaware, anyone on PrEP or people known or presumed to be exposed to someone with monkeypox in the last 14 days, as well as people who have sex with men and who have had multiple sex partners within the past 14 days.

(I am trying to assemble a document with all state eligibility policies.)

But if you have multiple partners and/or attend kink, swing, or other sexy events, Let’s be careful out there.

No Soup for You! (But dinner’s okay.)

Communication matters.

I had dinner recently with a new friend. We had met online, enjoyed a real-life meeting, and wound up subsequently getting thrown together again by circumstance. More recently, we had tried a little bit of physical intimacy, unexpected and very experimental. Two people who didn’t know what each other liked, poking at the sampler platter.

They called the morning of dinner day to give me an opportunity to back out, because they had decided that we were not sexually compatible, and wanted me to know that that was not on the menu for the evening.

It’s certainly not fun hearing that someone has decided things don’t work in that way, especially since it wasn’t the most thorough or planned of tryouts. (No, really, I can do better!)

But I realize that the person was actually doing a great favor. By saying that in advance, rather than letting their date for the evening have expectations (I didn’t, but many might), they were being gracious. Some would call it being friend-zoned. I don’t; I call it being honest and communicating well. And dinner was pretty good.

(Oh, and much – so much – better this than that they went through with some further activities they thought were “expected” and maybe even pretended to like them but didn’t. That’s never the right answer.)

A Kink Too Far

A woman recently struck up a conversation with me on a dating app. She wanted me, a stranger, to know all about her sexual history, which had been aggressively and even spectacularly promiscuous. And she wanted me, no, expected me to denigrate her for it, and make her feel bad about it. Because, as she explained, feeling like she was a bad girl was actually a reward to her.

And that was farther than my sex positivity would let me go. I was all for her having a great time, as often and in as many configurations as she cared to. And I love beyond anything helping people’s fantasies come true. I’ve done plenty of things that were out of character just for a partner’s satisfaction.

But when your fantasy is to be degraded for something that is I find morally neutral or even laudable, that’s too far.

The concern, of course, is that it’s a case of turning a bug into a feature — that she was so accustomed to men belittling her for having a sexual history that she tried to find a way to make it a positive. Which is, I suppose, to be commended. But I can’t abet that. Sorry.

Your kink is not my kink, and that’s OK.

Ranting Time

Understand, I’m a pretty conflict-averse guy. I believe what I believe; I don’t often need feel the need to respond to others’ beliefs or their view of mine, at least in part because I find it unlikely their mind is going to change.

But I had to take somebody to school today.

I changed my Facebook avatar to a rainbow mosaic. That led someone to respond:

“Why do we need to make so much publicity for alternative lifestyles?”

For whatever reason, that got my goat. So I mansplained it to him:

Because they are not ‘alternative’ lifestyles, but just the way many people live. Yet they are denigrated, bullied, etc. for it. Besides, why should anyone not celebrate who they are and what they enjoy?

I should also note that a rainbow doesn’t automatically mean ‘alternative lifestyles’; it’s about diversity and inclusion, whether that’s of ethnicity, skin color, heritage, orientation, or whatever. We are stronger because we are not all alike. And a lot less boring.

Finally, it’s personal. In just the three living generations of my immediate family, there are folks who are Caucasian, Black, Cherokee, Asian-American, native-born, immigrant, first-generation through 11th (or more)-generation American-born, straight, bi, gay, Christian, Jewish, atheist, male, female, whole- and half-siblings, monogamous, and polyamorous. And that’s before we get to friends, who expand the list of adjectives considerably.

So yes, a graphic representation of that diversity is just fine by me.”

His response was that the colors of the mosaic were not in chromatic order, so I think this conversation is pretty much over.

Life as a Man

Dating app: Someone has liked you! (Shows very attractive person half my age who lives at some distance, dressed revealingly.)

Inner voice: Must be a bot. Or a pro looking for clients, NTTAWWT. Couldn’t possibly be interested in me. Do not click “yes.”

Inner id monster: If you don’t click yes, there is zero chance you will ever get dem tiddies all up in your face!

Inner voice: If I click yes, the chance is at best .00001%. This person cannot possibly find me attractive, even if they are real. It’s a scam.

Inner id monster: BUT DEM TIDDIES!

…and that, dear reader, is what it is like to be a cis male. What changes over time is the relative volume of the voices.

Happy Other’s Day!

Not everybody has (or wants) a mother in their life. Whether that’s because of alienation from family of origin or other reasons, holidays celebrating parents can sometimes be a challenge.

So why not celebrate the family you have chosen to make, the people nearest and dearest to you? Today can be a day to celebrate that confidant, that trusted figure who occupies the role in your life traditionally reserved for a mother. Or for anyone else who makes your life better just by being there.

Of course, once you take out the M and decide to celebrate those significant others, your brunch waiting list can get rather long. Fortunately, nothing says it all has to be caught up in one day. Celebrate whomever you wish, whenever you can!

Happy Polyamory… Day?

Today is apparently Polyamory Day, although I’m unaware of any official proclamation to that effect. But this seems a curious way to celebrate.

Because isn’t having only *one* day sort of counter to the idea of polyamory? We should have as many polyamory days as are comfortable and to which we can do justice. For some, that would be one polyamory day; for others, many more. I hope you celebrate as few or as many as you consent to and enjoy!

It’s Not Easy Being Green…

…especially when it’s green with envy. (A tough color to accessorize.)

Jealousy happens in all kinds of relationships. People often seem to feel guilty about feeling it, and attach value judgements that they may not apply to other emotions. But jealousy happens. The question is, how do you respond to it?

When I feel jealousy, I take it as a sign to ask myself two questions:

The first is, “Am I feeling this way because the other partner is getting something I’m not?”

Sometimes, I realize the answer is no — that I actually am getting the same thing the other partner is getting. If we’re both getting it, and I’m getting enough of it, then it doesn’t matter how much they get. And if I’m not getting enough of it, then it’s time for a discussion with my partner.

The second question is the more important one. “Is the thing they are getting something I actually want?”

And when the answer is no, I don’t want that, jealousy often falls away right there, because the fact that they’re getting something I’m not getting is irrelevant if I don’t want it. They can have all they want! Being given the thing I don’t want in the name of fairness would be worse. (Especially if it’s liver and onions.)

But what I don’t do is tell myself I shouldn’t feel jealous. The feeling is natural; it’s what you do with it, and how objectively you look at the situation, that can make a difference in whether it lasts — and how it affects those around you.

On the Trail

Went on an all – polyamorist hike recently, courtesy of a local meetup group. It turns out that when polyamorists hike, the discussion is something like this: 

Tight shoes, low hanging tree, ethical non-monogamy, consensual non-monogamy, watch out for that rock, tree, tree, where is the next blaze?, solo poly, nice hat, how to talk to your partner who is mono, look out for the poison ivy, poly while married, poly while dating, mud!, when’s the next hike?

Those Heavenly Bodies

I have several “comet” relationships, in which we see each other and spend time together when we are in the same city or occasionally go out of our way to make closeness happen, but the rest of the time it’s occasional correspondence and supportive but not deep involvement in each other’s lives. Comet relationships can certainly work, particularly if (as discussed repeatedly in this space) those involved have common expectations of what the relationships are about.

But you have to have a different set of expectations for those relationships than you do with partners. There’s a lot more volatility, in part because you aren’t in such regular contact, so you may not see things coming quite as far in advance. For example, in the last year, several of my comets have gotten engaged or married, or otherwise nested, and it’s not clear that their relationships with me will be able to continue in their current form. That’s wonderful for them.

But when a comet relationship comes to that kind of point, it’s a test: Do you try to grab on and resist the change, effectively pretending that the relationship was deeper than it was, or do you cheer them on their course, even if it means that your relationship with them changes or is at an end? 

With partners, there would be fewer surprises and a lot more communication and processing. With comets, it works best if you hold on loosely and accept that, as with the planetary bodies they’re named for, they may blaze brightly in your sky for a while and then continue on their journey. Wherever they are in their orbit, wherever they go next, you will always have that brilliant image.