Relation-ships

The last year has been an experiment in the pursuit of my own relationship truths.  In the process I’ve had the opportunity to engage others in conversations about dating, sex, secret identities and ideal relationships.  While other’s perspectives have been helpful in clarifying my own, I have learned that looking to friends who appear to have successful relationships as a model of my own happiness is one piece of the puzzle.  The other and perhaps more challenging piece is acknowledging how limiting our commonly held beliefs about relationships can be.  Thinking about this more and more has challenged my ideas of what I want and even declared whole-heartedly in this blog.

I think that revisions based on experience and new knowledge are important so I will end this post with an explanation I gave to someone recently of my most recent view of romantic relationships.  I used to see people I dated as the answer to my question of who and how I would love. I don’t think I’m alone in falling into this trap.  Now, I see each person that sparks my passion as an opportunity to explore different levels of intimacy.  Rather than beating a square peg into a round hole as I have done in the past, I see relationships as a constructive, ongoing process built from the people that comprise it who are ever-changing and growing beings themselves. What is true of the relationship or level of intimacy today is not necessarily how it will be tomorrow.  While this flies in the face of the very reasons we seek relationships in the first place: commitment, stability, predictability, etc., I see it as crucial to my understanding of what people in my life can mean to me at various times in my life.  The concept of a relationship as something that is truly relational has allowed me to maintain a level of humility, openness and curiosity in the search for love, to accept the various forms in which it arrives in my life, and to persevere in expressing love freely regardless of how much it is returned.  

Beaver

Last Tuesday night I attended a mixed media event in Williamsburg called Beaver.  The event, whose description was forwarded via text to me by a friend with the line “this looks right up your alley”, aimed to draw attention to and critique representations of female sexuality through art.  Of course I was intrigued because not only was it right up my alley, it was also practically in my backyard.  

Two works stood out to me as exemplary in their confrontation of assumptions about contemporary feminism and female sexuality.  The first is a video collaboration between Audrey Chan and Elana Mann called “Chan & Mann’s New Fantasy”.  In this piece, they discuss changes in the feminist movement and provide personal perspectives on the intersection of ethnicity and culture with feminist theory and thought (Chan is Chinese-American and Mann is Jewish).  Around the 12:35 minute mark the video takes a turn to feature slam poet Frank Sanchez.  I am not a spoken word enthusiast by any stretch, but Sanchez’s words are beautifully poignant as he craftily outlines the new face of feminism: one of inclusion, diversity and a far-reaching quest for equality unparalleled in previous feminist waves.  Of course, we couldn’t dream to reach as far without the the hard work of our predecessors. 

The second piece that I was impressed by was Naomi Elena Ramirez’s titular dance performance, “Beaver”.  Ramirez uses steady, repetitive movements that reference common female sexual positions in pornography.  Through this she comments on the submissive and objectifying images of female bodies in porn that perpetuate the idea that female sexuality equates to lack of sexual agency.  The audience is faced with the task of enduring the repetition while simultaneously confronting the erotic feelings that are conjured by these very familiar postures and movements.  Ramirez at times appears bored but continues on with the repetition, often punctuating movement from one pose to another with a knowing smile and steady glare at her audience.

After the performance, there was a panel discussion that I felt lacked focus and did little to allow each of the contributing artists to explain their intentions and process of producing art that carried such widely varied messages about female sexuality.  This only further encourages me that there is a need for these types of discussions and I’m quite inspired by the work that is being done now to bring these topics to light.

The Sex Salon

At the end of October I co-hosted the first ever Sex Salon with a classmate of mine.  The idea was sparked a few months ago when a friend of mine and I were talking very candidly about sex and she suggested that there should be a forum for people to explore issues of sexuality and learn from the sexual experiences of others in an open and frank way.  As someone who finds herself engaged in these types of conversations frequently in small groups of friends or one-on-one, I wanted to be the one to provide that forum.  The first Sex Salon theme, “Feminism and Dating”, sparked incredible conversation about gendered expectations that still exist and have the potential to cause dating and sexual woes for e’rybody.

For me, the most interesting aspect of planning the Sex Salon and getting a group of people together to actually do this is that in the beginning there was really strong interest with loads of people saying they were on board to come, but the day of the discussion a few people jumped ship.  I should mention that I attempted to get a group of women together to discuss the topic of female orgasm back in August and everyone who RSVPed to that Sex Salon backed out the day of.  I decided I should tame the topic for the next go-round and broaden my reach.  This drop-out rate is interesting to me because I think it goes beyond last-minute obligations and health-related absences.  I think the reason that these types of discussions are so valuable is because so many of us want to be open about our sexual selves, but the reality of doing so is frightening.  I believe that the more we normalize these discussions the more comfortable we will be with communicating openly, especially our partners, about our own sexual wants and needs.

After the Salon, a few of the people who couldn’t make it asked how it went and I recapped some of the key ideas that came out of the conversation: who is expected to pay on dates? does masculinity have a place within a feminist dating landscape?  what is the value of having space for the masculine-feminine spectrum to play out between two dating partners in more fluid ways?  Immediately, whatever group of friends were there at that time began offering up their perspectives and the conversation became a mini version of the discussion that we had at the Salon. The fact that the dialogue can continue in this way makes me super proud.

Part of what I hope to achieve through facilitating these group discussions is the awareness that we are all on some level interested in talking about our own sexuality. Some of us may need the space or encouragement to do so but the desire seems to be universal.  The resounding positivity of the responses I’ve gotten so far is very inspiring and I hope to continue to host as long as there are topics to discuss and people willing to participate.

Time is fleeting

We only have a short time to do meaningful things with our lives, make thoughtful choices, follow our hearts to a potentially crushing end and show the people around us how valuable they are to our happiness. Also, maybe a little taste of something great is better than wondering what it would have been like.

"Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend.  What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here…"

- Ann Lamott, bird by bird

Take it easy!

With finals done, I can start blogging again. Yay! Here are some quick updates:

  • Went on a second date with someone I like.

  • Started eating oysters and I feel great about it.

  • Using one of those e-cigs to cut back on my smoking habit that exploded last semester.


One thing I have been giving a lot of thought to lately is self-compassion. I’m a critical person, of myself and of others, and it gets overwhelming at times. I have been told that laying off of others can in turn allow you to be a bit easier on yourself. This is something that I want to happen, but it definitely takes practice. When I notice that I have an instant negative or harsh judgement about someone on the train or who I just met, I take a moment to reassess that thought. How could this stranger mean to do me harm? If it’s a friend or loved one, it’s a bit more complicated but I think you’d be amazed at how much unnecessary negativity gets generated by strangers in our daily lives. This tactic also helps when going into new social situations where I might feel that I’m being judged. Who knows? Maybe I am, but it helps ease the expectation I put on myself to care if they are judging.


With dating, this is a particularly useful strategy to break through the awkward and sometimes terror-inducing practice of spending time with someone who you’re supposed to be judging as a potential partner. With friends and family telling us all not to settle, it’s hard to avoid sizing up someone’s every move. Are they good/smart/hot/funny enough for me? Do they like me? Why did they say that? In these situations, everyone is vulnerable. I think this is super important to realize: that for all the courage it takes for me to invite someone new into my life they go through a similar experience when letting me in. Not a bad thing to remind myself.

Mother’s Day

image

Upon receiving this necklace I bought for my mom for Mother’s Day she said “I will wear it everyday.  I have always wanted to belong to someone.”  The apple sure don’t fall far from the tree.

The List

I see a therapist sometimes.  I went pretty regularly a few years ago and now I see her on an as-needed basis.  My visits these days relate to personal crisis or times of stress.  As I have been experiencing both of these things recently, I went in on Friday.  We talked about what’s been happening (or not happening) in my dating life and I’ll spare you the details because they are things I’ve already written about.  She suggested that as I’m evaluating potential men in my life I should have a list of qualities that I’m looking for.  I cringed the moment she said this because it felt so limiting.  It also hit me that thinking about the qualities I would ideally want in a partner is a challenge for me because my past relationships have consisted of me trying really hard to make do with what the other person has to give/offer in the relationship. I kinda feel like that’s how it should be, but maybe I’m wrong. As I am a good patient, I decided to try the list thing out and here’s what I came up with:


  • Open and honest with himself and others

  • Passionate about something, anything… preferably something that he already does

  • Sensual, as in enjoys life with all five senses

  • Intelligent and hilarious, duh

  • Wants kids eventually

  • Incredibly complimentary in a genuine way as words are my kryptonite

  • Ambitious and self-motivated

  • Positive with a side of cynical, not the other way around

  • Equally comfortable with making solid pans or doing nothing at all

  • Excellent in bed.  I’d settle for just below my skill level though.  People can always improve.

Missing Meat

Oysters and charcuterie are the two things I have been craving since giving up meat over four months ago.  You don’t have to read too far into that to know where I’m going with it.  There are plenty of meat substitutes out there, but nothing compares to a nice, hard salami. Ladies, you feel me?

Happy Spring!

I started fucking with seitan

Quick Update: three and a half months without meat.  I made a fake beef stew the other night which was wonderful because it hit the spot in this cold weather, is super hearty and took a fraction of the time that making real beef stew would have. Boom.
Cigarettes are an ongoing struggle but I have had very few recently.  I bought a pack last week and had one.  The rest are in my freezer for a stressful rainy day.  
Also, I started flirting with someone on Instagram (yes, it’s a thing: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/01/how-i-turned-instagram-into-a-dating-service.html).  No dates on the horizon, only lots of school work about sexuality and how we remember shit.  With all the stress I’ve been dealing with these are two areas I need to focus more on in my own life.  Spring break is around the corner though.  I hope it’s like the new Harmony Korine movie.  I need some excitement.

image

nitsirknerual:

a sign I saw tonight

March 2013

(via svenghali)

Working through it.

I thought I would share a recent chat I had with a friend of mine about my latest dating conundrum.  I just don’t think I could write anything better than what took place.  My friend asked to remain anonymous, so for the purpose of this, she’ll be known as Beyonce or “B”.
Enjoy!

me:  so…I am having a little crisis in terms of if I should or should not be pursuing men.  I have been connecting some dots lately with a few interactions with dudes and it makes me feel like I need to go back to the drawing board re-evaluate this strategy I’ve been using
B:  oh yeah? what have you been figuring out?
me:  so, guys don’t talk to me when I’m out right?  I’ve told you that and they didn’t really message me on OKC either
B:  really?
me:  (I got off of it again)
B:  this is surprising, as you are a total catch
me:  I know! ha
B:  hahaha
me:  BUT… here are the threads I’m pulling together
the guy who I made out with said “you’ve clearly got your shit together”
and the guys who have talked to me when I’m out open with something insulting
B:  really?!
me:  it has happened a few times now!
B:  gross
me:  and it happened on OKC recently. that’s why I got off
B:  I am horrified
idiots
me:  I think I come across as confident
first impression for men
and they wanna like take me down a notch
B:  ah, I see…
me:  or they’re too scared to talk to me at all
B:  interesting. they like to spar
but!
you like to spar too!
me:  what do you think about that?
B:  right?
me:  yeah, but not when they say things to make me feel bad
B:  maybe you engage with them on that tip a little yourself?
me:  no
B:  right totally
me:  this is right out of the gate, “you pronounced that beer wrong”
B:  ug
me:  ”you’re a lighweight”
B:  horrible!
me:  ”your hair is crazy”, these types of things
B:  Do you want me to say something that’s very not feminist?  But I don’t know if it’s good advice or not - just a disclaimer

me:  the guy on OKC said that I’m cute, but that my profile was too perfect and he was now in a $20 bet with a friend that I was actually a man!
tell me
B:  (funny OKC thing - though ridic)
Ok, well…
me:  ridic
B:  if you want to be less intimidating, because you have your shit together and are badass and great
this is horrible
I almost can’t type it
but…
me:  do it
B:  ug
you could try to smile more
maybe that would put them at ease
not that you have to be all cutesy
me:  here’s the thing…
B:  but, eh?
me:  I think I smile a lot
B:  you do!
me:  I’m a happy person nowadays
B:  haha
me:  if I’m out with friends I’m having a good time
my question here is this
if I am (generally speaking) more together than most guys around and maybe even more confident…
should I be the one making moves?
should I be giving in to that part of me and taking a more proactive role in making things happen?
it’s the opposite of your advice really.  it’s like, I’m not gonna make myself more approachable. I’m gonna fucking dominate you!
ha
B:  hahahha
it’s true
me:  I’ll dominate you out here and you can dominate me when we get home
B:  hahahahahha
that’s amazing
me:  what do you think?
B:  hmmmm
Well
I wonder what sort of man that would attract (if it would attract one type in particular) and if you would be into that?
me:  well, I’m not an aggressor in terms of starting conversations really so it would be an adjustment for me
I don’t know who it would attract or repulse

embroiderypoems:

“Emotional Mollusks.”

Their soft, unsegmented bodies (hearts) covered by a shell.

2013. Embroidery on antique fabric.

Openness

No one will ever be able to tell me “but, you’ve never had (insert meat here)” because when I ate meat, I ate things that most people wouldn’t have.  I have been the exact same way with dating.  I can say with absolute honesty that I have been embracing singledom with all my might.  I’ve been on dates, made out at parties, hooked up with randoms and explored feelings with friends.  I have done all of this with the hope of staying true to my desires, myself and in doing so I have gained a better understanding of what I want in my life.  I have made mistakes and will probably continue to do so.  I have come to terms with the notion that not all of us will have a perfect ending to our relationship story.  

Things are different now.  In my recent endeavors with men, I have come to realize how shielded I was from the messiness of getting to know other people.  In relationships, I tend to focus my attention on the other person (which is only natural) and I escape overly-complicated interactions with other men.  Single, I am open to the emotions and desires of others whether or not they are open to mine.  It is part of the process of genuinely trying to get to know a whole other human being, and it’s a process I am willing to endure many times over for love.  I feel a sense of power in this vulnerability and in my exhaustion.  

Btw, this is day 72 without meat and day 8 without a cigarette.

Kindness

It is sad that it has become true that I no longer expect genuine kindness from strangers, especially men and especially in New York City.  That is why when I am shown a courtesy I am thrilled to my core!  It is also why I must thank the very handsome man who let me in front of him in line at C-Town tonight in order to buy Liquid Smoke.  Your thoughtful gesture has allowed me to get a jump start on my marinated tofu.