The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Gremlins

Fellow Mind Gremlins! Now, during the peak plaguing season, you may be wondering how to improve your professional skills. There is much doubt to sow, unease to rouse, and people to be kept needlessly awake. Follow these tips and you’re sure to succeed. Learn from your forebears!

1. 3 AM is party time.

  • At 10:30 in the morning, your person is getting ready for meetings or studying for their next class. It’s going to be hard to get their attention. 3 to 4:30, you have their undivided brain. Your person is asleep, relaxed, suggestible, and easy to tip over into despair. This is Gremlin Disco Time. Get them half awake and have at it! (Double points if you get them to wake their partner up for solace.)

2. Always carry a hammer.

  • The bigger your person‘s achievement, the thinner the glass it’s made out of. One good tap and suddenly the big publisher buying their manuscript that day is gone and they’re dwelling for an hour on how they once chipped a Hello Kitty mug their mother gave them.

3. Use success as a fulcrum.

  • When things are bad, your person is on guard and fighting to get better. But when things are good, their guard is down. Then it’s easy to tip them into a tailspin. And the higher they are, the farther they will fall. (Gremlins live for that little puff of dust when the coyote hits the desert floor!)

4. Use their natural cycles against them.

  • People – especially women people – have chemistry that varies on a fairly predictable basis for much of their lives. Watch for the right week. If they are already feeling like their face is puffy and their ankles are fat, you’re halfway to getting them to believe that nothing about their life is any good anyway.

5. Winter is the hap-happiest time of the year.

  • Gremlins do their best work in the dark. That back half of the year, between the equinoxes? Extra dark, extra opportunities for mayhem. And if your person has eaten half a box of holiday peppermint bark? See number 4.

6. Nothing’s right until everything’s wrong.

  • Sure, you could get them to obsess about whether they misspelled their client’s name in the day’s last email. But why waste a perfectly good gaslighting opportunity on little stuff? Go for their looks, their competence, their self-worth, their parents’ health, whether The Ellen Show is going to be renewed for another season. Never settle for the airline-bottle -sized despair when a Costco pallet is available.

7. Never acknowledge the truth.

  • Sure, some gremlins will get assigned to people who are smart, attractive, all kinds of competent. In fact, the more skilled a gremlin you are, the more likely it is you’ll get someone like that. If they took a moment to look at themselves objectively, they would realize that you are making all this bad stuff up. So don’t give them that opportunity. After all, if you can get them to deny everything that’s good about themselves, you can take the rest of the night off – your work is done! So lie, lie, lie — and watch them believe you.

Now go forth, fellow gremlins, and lead humanity to unsubstantiated despair!

“Serve” is an Anagram for “Verse”

When your Domme’s outside your bubble
And you’re the serving type
A foot massage and scrub’ll
Translate poorly over Skype.

The shoulder rubs, the leather care
The perfect cup of tea
Can’t be conveyed. They’re just not there
When connected virtually

When your Domme’s outside your bubble
Can’t be in the same room…
When you give Her any trouble
Your butt gets whipped on Zoom.

It doesn’t hurt as much, for sure
You don’t get quite as red
But there isn’t any aftercare
Or snuggling in her bed.

When your Domme’s outside your bubble
Although you may not touch
That’s reason to redouble
Your fealty, and as such

Make sure She knows your devotion
Stays strong and true and large,
For when your Domme’s outside your bubble
You know She’s still in charge.

Let Our Years Make Yours Easier!

Almost four years ago, I sat with relationship education rockstar Kitty Chambliss to record an episode of her Loving Without Boundaries podcast. That interview, described here, covered my polyamorous journey to that point, along with some lessons learned.

Recently, it occurred to me that combined, Kitty and I now have 50 years(!) of experience in ethically non-monogamous relationships. We have both noticed that more and more people are trying such relationships for the first time — and that a common question is whether they can endure for the long term.

So we thought we’d put those decades of experience to use showing that long-term poly is real and achievable, while sharing some tips on how to make it easier. The result is here, and I hope you have as much fun listening to it as we clearly did making it! (And yes, please do post your questions — in the comments below, or in Kitty’s Facebook group, or by e-mail at PSV (at) (yes, that’s a real address.)

Sure, we’re older, but you’re all welcome on our lawn!

A Note to Readers

You may have noticed that this blog is not being updated with the usual frequency. Five weeks into isolation, I have discovered that it is difficult to be creative, especially when writing about relationships that are particularly challenging to maintain during a period of enforced separation.

I expect that this will pass before too long, and that you will again be subject to a regular stream of more or less pithy content from this source.

Please stay safe and be well.

— Pour


I regularly serve (as today) as medical guardian for partners undergoing procedures (when one has partners of a certain age, one winds up going to a lot of colonoscopies, for example.) Usually, there is an assumption, often expressed, that I am their husband. (“We’ll call your husband when you’re in the recovery room.”) Preop seems a poor time to get into a disquisition to the contrary, and we didn’t bring the Basic Polyamory Flannel Board, so everyone nods and rolls along.

‘Tis the Season

On Christmas morning, there might be one big present under the tree. Or there might be several presents of various sizes.

And that’s one way of explaining monogamy and polyamory.

(Or maybe monogamy is Christmas and polyamory is Chanukah, but that still needs a little thinking through.)

Touch Quest

For many years – indeed, well into my adulthood – I was very modest about my body. I did (and do) not particularly care for it, but I especially did not like showing it, even in venues like locker rooms where it was odder to keep it covered than exposed.

That changed gradually, beginning in my late 30s/early 40s, for a few reasons – not least that I began to regularly get professional massages. The massage thing and the departure of modesty were really chicken and egg; it’s hard to tell which was the cause and which the effect.

But I was very fortunate in finding, very early on, a tremendously talented massage therapist who combined grace with skill, experience, and a warm, communicative touch. We were together for a couple of years, until she moved, making my loss the people of Indiana’s gain.

That began a Diogenes–like search for a similarly skilled and rewarding therapist. During this quest, I received the attentions of a couple of dozen therapists, and it is the diversity which I found most remarkable. Not just the diversity in ethnicity, national origin, race, and such, although that is itself fascinating. Instead, the most surprising part was the diversity of approaches to a common goal. These weren’t technicians of different schools or using different techniques; no reiki or sports massage here. All were supposed to be, at least, your basic Swedish relaxation massage. But the range of touch, of method, of speed and attitude is little short of wild.

Touch ranged from caring to clinical to almost hostile. Technique included graceful, nigh-balletic integrative movements – but, from others, a checklist approach to individual body parts and a near-brutal blitzkrieg against knots appearing anywhere on the body that, while presumably therapeutic, was anything but relaxing.

Attitudes toward modesty (particularly of the gluteal region) were just as varied, from methodically moving sheets to continuously cover all but a few square inches of the body and scrupulously avoiding even the outer suburbs of what might be considered sensitive territory to a massage that I think I might be able to claim with Blue Cross as at least two kinds of examination. And I understand that people who work with bodies all day may have relaxed attitudes about their own boundaries, yet I was fairly surprised with the therapist who would restrain my wrists and elbows with thighs in such a way that left me absolutely no doubt about the configuration of their nethers.

The search has been idle for a couple of years, but it’s beginning again. I hope it is relatively brief, but that the learning along the way will be just as fascinating.

An Act of Congress

Let’s be clear about something. There are two separate issues regarding Representative Katie Hill’s resignation.

One is the allegation of having an ongoing affair with a member of her congressional staff. She denies this. But if it is true, it is improper for a supervisor to have that kind of relationship with an employee. (Even by the rules of the House of Representatives, yes.)

But the other part is the public release of photos of, and allegations regarding, her private life as an openly bisexual person in a consensual polyamorous relationship. Which is only the business of the people involved. And with which there is nothing wrong.

Don’t conflate the two. The latter may be more sensational, but only the former is relevant. Outside of her professional life, she — and we all — should get to live and love however we best see fit.

(I am also bemused by the commentators saying that her private life left her open to blackmail. Apparently, they don’t understand what “living openly“ means. You can’t be blackmailed for something you’ve already told the world about.)

Where to Find Protection (anti-HPV for older folks)

So after some persuading, my MD agreed to write a scrip for Gardasil-9, the HPV vaccine, even though I am well beyond the recommended age. (Because, well, high-risk group. She doesn’t approve, but she takes good professional care.)

What I didn’t expect is that a whole series of pharmacies would refuse to fill the prescription. Apparently, because I was outside the recommended age, they were afraid of liability were there adverse consequences.

Understand, the recommended age group a) was recently greatly expanded, and b) reflects the ages the vaccine has been tested on. There is nothing inherent in the vaccine that is more hazardous depending on someone’s years; they just haven’t tried it on as many people my age. But the upshot is that many chain pharmacies have policies restricting dispensing prescriptions to only the recommended groups.

A friend in the business suggested approaching non-chain local pharmacies, but I found they did not carry the vaccine as a matter of course, and were similarly chary about dispensing. And the MD said she couldn’t administer it, because their management didn’t give that vaccine to anyone due to cost.

Then I wandered into a Wegmans grocery store. And there on the front door was a sign advertising Gardasil shots. So I grabbed the scrip and gave it a try. And sure enough, I finally got my first shot there today.

(I know, that’s not much help if you aren’t in the northeastern US, but at least there’s hope for some. And if you’re a first-time pharmacy customer there, you get a $10 coupon for store merchandise!)

I also have to say how cool it is that they post a sign like that on the front door. So many folks and businesses are uptight about anything that might be seen as sex-related, and HPV shots for youth are not uncontroversial among those who think it eases the path to “promiscuity.” So, yay Wegmans!

Does Couplehood Require Hierarchy?

In any range of relationships, some will be more intense, more closely bonded than others.  This can lead to placing some relationships ahead of others in priority for time, attention, and resources.  Depending upon what agreements one has with other partners, that can be fine — or deeply troublesome.  But is it inevitable?

That often seems to differ based on how people began their polyamorous journey. Those who began with a steady existing coupled relationship that they later “opened up” often see a need to defend that relationship and its emotional primacy. They practice hierarchical poly whether they are aware of it or not. Others started from a more egalitarian perspective.

It is possible to begin as an established couple, understanding that there are financial, family, and other entanglements but without decreeing that no other relationship will be allowed to reach that same level. Given how most of us were raised, that’s a much harder ideal to achieve.

Those who began as solo poly or relationship anarchists, or who started as a group dating situation rather than a couple, seem to be less susceptible to ranking relationships based on longevity.

Anytime one joins a relationship, there will be pre-existing conditions. The new partner will have other relationships, family and work commitments, among others. The question is how strongly partners defend their existing commitments as their preferred reality versus allowing the new partner to change that reality.

Happy is Not Just an Ending

Orgasm isn’t a necessary part of the sexual experience for everyone.

Ejaculation isn’t a necessary part of orgasm for everyone.

I have found that my most rewarding sex is when, for both/all partners, it is about the journey and not the destination. Sometimes orgasm can be the whole sundae; sometimes it is just the cherry on top. And sometimes, you don’t need it at all – it’s the dessert that the appetizer and entrée left you too full for.  

But no matter what, if you had a good time and they had a good time, there’s no reason to have a checklist tell you that it couldn’t have been a good time because one of the tick-boxes is still empty.

Needs are Needs

People need food to live. It’s essential.

So we learned to cook for each other, and people built grocery stores, and then came restaurants, and the restaurants became chains, and people were fed and providers prospered. And nonprofits were started to provide food to people who couldn’t afford it or had challenges getting to it, because it’s a basic need, and everyone recognizes that.

People need water in order to live. It’s essential.

So we learned how to run pipes into people’s houses so water could be easy to get. And whole industries sprang up to purify water and to sell water. And people had access to hydration and providers prospered. And charities were created to help get clean water to people and places that didn’t have it. Because it’s a basic need, and everyone recognizes that.

People need shelter in order to live. It’s essential.

So we learned to build houses, and learned to heat and cool them and created a variety of dwellings in a variety of sizes and built sidewalks and roads to connect those houses to the other things we needed. And people got housed and providers prospered. And nonprofits were started to provide homes to many who could not otherwise afford them. Because it’s a basic need, and everyone recognizes that.

People need sex and human touch. It’s essential.

So we created rules that forbade the sharing of touch, or the selling of sexual comfort, and told people they were awful for wanting this unless it was with one specific provider for the rest of their life, and even then you really shouldn’t do it unless you have to. We told people not to educate each other about it. And we sent people to jail for daring to offer this basic, essential human service.

One of these things is not like the others.

That isn’t right.



Who’s Playing?

Sex-positivity is a wonderful, liberating thing. It can also be a little vague.

Back in the day, ABC’s Wide World of Sports was appointment television in our house. Downhill skiing from Kitzbuhel, Austria; the world wrist-wrestling championships from Petaluma, California; figure-8 races from Islip, New York. The program skimmed from one to the next; after all, it was all sports, right?

“I like sex” is like “I like sports.” Cricket? Australian rules football? NASCAR? You like them all?

Some people do, and more power to them. And you may not want to start (or look for) a relationship by posting a detailed list of what’s in and what’’s out (although the rise of personal user manuals is a fascinating phenomenon that will be written about here eventually.) But being too general can invite misinterpretation and accidental (or deliberate) misunderstanding. “What do you mean, you don’t like having your ears tickled with boar bristles! You said you like sex!”

“I like some kinds of kink.” “I enjoy multiple-partner sex, but only with people I know well.” “I don’t have experience with a certain gender, but am eager to try.” A certain level of detail can start conversations and, perhaps more importantly, defuse others’ assumptions. It’s hard enough finding good matches without everyone thinking they’re in the game.

May and December are Both Good Months

Society is full of “rules” about whom one can love. They attempt to define appropriate genders, structures, and even adult partners’ ages. All based on history, and all of which seem silly today.

People are attracted to who they are attracted to, he said tautologically. Once legally mature, chronological age really doesn’t enter into it.

The taboo on age difference between adults appears rooted in the idea that sex is for procreation, so people who are fertile should be with other people who are fertile. That doesn’t have much to do with romantic partnerships or recreational intimacy.

Young people can be attracted to older people and vice versa. As long as each side follows basic rules of respect and consent, and accept a “no“ when they hear one, there’s no problem.

Some other thoughts on the issue:

“I need you.”

The songs celebrate it, the romance novels are full of it. A passion so intense it becomes a need.

But is it a good thing to need someone else? For you or for them?

A need is involuntary. You can decide to want something, but a need doesn’t emerge from a rational process. We don’t choose to need oxygen, or water, or touch. They are hard-wired requirements.

So if you say you need me, I don’t know if you even like me. You have a need. Today it’s me. Tomorrow it could be for a vodka gimlet or an Eames chair, I don’t know. But that expression of need doesn’t tell me anything about how you feel about me.

It doesn’t even say what you really need. My compassion? My reddish hair? My collection of Flintstones jelly jars? What part of me do you need, because it would be very improbable to need all of someone — or even to like everything about them.

Moreover, it sounds like a trap. If you tell me you need oxygen, it would be cruel of me to withhold it from you. “Need” implies a requirement for survival. So saying you need me puts an obligation on me to meet that need. That may not be your intention, but it can be a very real effect of the language.

If, on the other hand, you want me, I know that you have made a choice. That you find me appealing. That what you want is me, and not just whatever can fill your need. Want is personal; need is objectifying. Want comes from the head and the heart. It says that you could do fine without me, but you have decided things would be better with me around.

That’s warm. That’s flattering. And that’s not an ultimatum. It is the beginning of a conversation, not a demand.

Hey, You! You’re Polyamorous!

No, I’m not trying to convince you. You may be perfectly delighted with your long-term monogamous partner.  That’s wonderful!

But you’re still polyamorous.

No, it’s not that there was a 2-for-1 offer at OKCupid.  Or a Tinder Groupon (Grope-on?) 

But polyamory is the willingness to have more than one significant relationship at a time.  And you do.

The moment you’re in a relationship, you’re with two partners.
(Were you forgetting to count yourself?)

Yes, you count. In fact, you are your own #1 relationship.  You will be with you forever.  So meeting your own needs legitimately comes first. 

There’s a reason the airlines tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before seeing to the needs of others.  If you are incapacitated or not where you need to be physically, emotionally, and/or mentally, it becomes somewhere between harder and impossible to take care of a partner or relationship.

So treat yourself as you would a partner. Schedule time for yourself to see to your own needs, to do things you like to do.

After all, that partner (or partners) fell in love with you. Don’t let that you get lost in being they — for your own good and for your partnership.

Happiness in Your Ear

I sat down recently for a chat with Laurie Handlers on her Sex and Happiness webshow. And yes, we talked (surprise!) polyamory and the joy it can bring! It was a fun time. Thanks to Laurie!

You can hear it here.

What/Who is a Partner (continued)

Last month, we posited an initial answer to one of the most provocative questions in relationships: Who is a partner, and what makes them different from a friend, lover, comet, etc.?

(It was here:

Well, the earth has continued to turn on its axis, and the synapses have continued to communicate in their curious way. Herewith, some more thoughts on the unique aspects of partnership:

Part of the variety in our various descriptions of partnership may come from differences in the unsaid word that comes before “partner.” As our English teachers tried to tell us, modifiers matter. Romantic partners, sexual partners, and life partners may have different roles in our lives. When I speak of partners, it’s life partners; others’ partners’ roles may differ.

A partner, to me, is someone who I include in my life planning and decisions. For example, I might move to another city regardless of where friends, lovers, or comets live, but I would carefully consider the effect of a move on partners, and tailor it to minimize those effects. Other feelings — sexual, romantic, warm — can be present across different categories of acquaintance, but partners are included in the long view, and consulted as part of significant decisions. They are involved in my life beyond my heart.

I have no doubt that this will not be the last word on this subject.