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When Your Ex's Ex is Your Best Ally

I probably would have stayed if I hadn't talked to his ex girlfriend.

He was so good at making me feel uncertain of myself, like I was misremembering his words, my words, our actions and agreements. It got to a point where I insisted we write everything down, so that we didn't get tangled up in confusion. I didn't realize that he may have been pulling the strings on purpose to trip me up.

When I first met her, they were still dating. She seemed possessive- when she kissed him in front of me it felt like a pointed gesture, but I figured they had been dating for longer and it was fair for her to feel uncomfortable. I didn't think much of it. I may have said something about it to him, and he shrugged it off, so I did too.

I made a point of hanging out with her one on one to get to know her and to reassure her that I wasn't intending to steal him away. It took a few times, but a few beers in we were confessing some of the issues we had with him to each other, asking for support. We both quickly realized that we needed each other to know we were being heard, that we weren't crazy, that he WAS behaving poorly and it wasn't personal. It was a pattern.

It took months before she confessed to me that he had actively volunteered information on the sex we were having to her, sex acts that she didn't feel comfortable with and he was glowing about. He had told her that he would feel more sexual desire for her if she gained weight and dressed differently... more like me, in other words. I was gobsmacked. He so rarely complimented me, but here he was comparing his other lover to me as if she was being found wanting. No wonder she was so cagey around me at first!

I knew she was going to dump him months before he did. We would get together and rant, text each other "omg you'd never believe what just happened" until we both realized that yes, we could believe it. She texted me right after she dumped him so I would be prepared for the emotional fallout we both thought was inevitable. He didn't throw a tantrum or seem particularly upset. At least, I didn't notice.

But then, slowly, his behaviour with me got worse and worse. I began to see some of the same issues she had complained about, him ignoring me, gaslighting me, "forgetting" plans and not looking at me when we fucked. I cried on her shoulder, wishing I was strong enough to leave. She'd hug me and tell me I was strong for staying, if that's what I wanted. I began to realize that maybe this WASN'T what I wanted, not at all. That he was treating me badly, and this was a pattern, and it wasn't going to get better. Any grievance I brought to him was summarily dismissed as just my problem.

When I dumped him, it was his ex I sent the email to for proofreading. She guided me through the process, the negotiations and the flailing. When he threatened to call the police on me, it was her house I hid out at. She knew his ways, his words, how he would keep someone on edge trying to please him, and she gently but firmly told me when that was happening. It was with her holding my hand that i was able to leave him, to see what was happening as emotional abuse mixed with narcissism. We agreed it wasn't likely intentional, but it was still harmful, and the unconscious way in which he'd harm us was almost worse than if he was being malicious.

Through this process, I realized how it could've been if we had done that thing that women are encouraged to do when fucking the same guy. We could've been suspicious of each other, we could've competed, we could've been distant. But instead we had solidarity, and trust, and support, and through that we were both able to get out of a relationship with a man who wanted an audience, not a lover.

Sometimes your ex's ex is your best ally.

Categories: boundaries, breakups, communication, community, dating, femme, love is a dog from hell, nonmonogamy, personal

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Intimacy Level Up

WARNING: THIS IS A FUNNY, KINDA GROSS STORY ABOUT SEX AND YES I HAVE GOTTEN CONSENT TO SHARE

MOM AND DAD IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT MY SEX LIFE LEAVE NOW

Ok with that out of the way...

I have a funny story to tell, which will become a more complete piece at some point.

My ex was my primary sexual partner, and we maybe hooked up once a week. It's been a little while since I got laid and I've been hella stressed with all this bullshit going on. I was, perhaps, a little pent up.

Well I've been seeing this super cute couple (C & R) that I've been kind of falling for (we're taking it slow so the breakup doesn't fuck with our dynamic). I go on dates with them together and individually and they're just the sweetest. It's been an amazing counterpoint and reminder of what dating can be like. R is a hot fat femme who is both powerful and gentle and makes amazing art, and C is this adorable, eager to please nerd who likes shooting guns and riding motorcycles. They're amazing.

I had a date set up with C for last night and he asked what I wanted to do. Feeling a bit bold I was like "I really need to bang please" and he was down. So I brought over my hitachi and we put down a bunch of towels and went at it.

One of the things I knew I was going to mourn the most with my ex is how readily I felt safe losing control. He was a great fuck, even if he was often a poor romantic partner for me, and I didn't feel ashamed of relaxing enough that maybe I farted when I came or whatever. Bodies do gross things and he didn't make me feel bad or weird about it. That's astoundingly hard to find, especially alongside sex that makes me orgasm. My clit and my gspot are pretty finicky.

Well, C has whatever that thing is that works for me. And I came, multiple times, really hard.

Too hard.

We were cuddling and I got up to use the bathroom when I realized, to my horror, that I had orgasmed so hard I actually pooped. Not, like, tons, but enough to be noticeable and humiliating and oh my god. So I grabbed up the towel trying to be suave and ran to the bathroom downstairs where I realized with ever increasing embarrassment that I had poop all over my butt, and it was smeared all over the towel.

I washed the towel in the sink in a panic and tried to clean myself up as I tried to figure out what on earth you say to a relatively new lover when you've had intimacy suddenly level up, like, a lot. Had he noticed? Oh god oh god oh god what if he never wants to see me again omg I'm so gross whyyyyyyyyyyy

I faced him and blurted out "so, apparently I came so hard I shat myself. On the plus side no one has ever made that happen before. On the con side we should probably do laundry like now also I need a shower".

Thankfully we laughed and laughed and drank some scotch and I smoked a cigarette and tried not to blush for the rest of my LIVING DAYS. But you know what was awesome? It was ok. Everything was fine. It ended up being a hilarious story and not the source of neverending anxiety. And I kinda fell in love with him a bit more because of it.

I will say my second thought after "DID THIS ACTUALLY HAPPEN WHY OMG" was "I have got to write about this". So here we are. :)

Categories: body stuff, boys, communication, dating, fail at life, fake it til you make it, intimacy, love, mistakes were made, personal, sexyfuntime, silly

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Breakup Self Help Books Are the Devil

I’ve been reading some breakup self help books as I go through one that feels particularly heartbreaking and sad. Not as much one for watching sad chick flicks and eating pints of ice cream, I find these sorts of situations leave me navel gazing and obsessively checking and double checking my behaviour to figure out what I did wrong and what I should do better next time. During a breakup I am a creature of pain and regret and determination and evolution, and I like to reach out to as many sources as possible to figure out what steps to take next on my journey of self-discovery and learning how to heal my various traumas.

I had no idea how fucking toxic so many self help books are when it comes to breakups. Holy shit, people. I noticed books on this topic rarely acknowledge that you, the consumer, assumed female and heterosexual, may have initiated the breakup. I can attest that you can initiate a breakup, be very sure it was the right thing to do, have confirmation it was the right thing to do, and still have a lot of fucked up mixed up feelings about it.

There were a fair number of books I encountered that I felt crossed the line from a bit of playful angry fantasy to straight up joking about doing stuff that’s actively harmful. One suggested you make sure to talk to your ex’s family about the breakup first to “get them on your side so you can use them as spies”. Seriously? This is really not good advice (and how did they get a book deal while I’m still waiting? SIGH)

So I’m going to challenge of the most common advice things I uncovered, from my experience as someone who has both broken up with and been broken up with, and is friends with most of my exes. Not to say I’m perfect at breakups- far from it, I have been vengeful, self-destructive, depressed for months, carelessly promiscuous, all over the board. The fact that so many of my exes still talk to me I think is a reflection not only of my ability to take ownership but their ability to take the love we shared and adapt to something new. I’m really writing this to remind myself of this shit, and so I stop reading these damn books that sound a lot more like self harm than self help.

Do Not Set Your Ex’s House on Fire.

You would think this is really obvious, but I have read a lot of advice, in print, suggesting that you should somehow “get even” with your ex by acting out and destroying their stuff, their friendships, or their lives. This is intensely unhelpful. I’m all for women getting in touch with their anger, as I feel we’re so often told to silence and stifle it, but I do not feel that reacting to a hurtful situation by being abusive is appropriate, including when I have done it myself in moments of weakness and pain. Anger is not a root emotion, it is almost always a hard shell protecting us from fear or hurt. I think that rather than demonizing your ex and then spend all your energy summoning him over and over just to tell him off, it’s better to focus on yourself and your needs.

It’s OK To Grieve. And It Might Take A While.

I’ve read suggestions that you can only cry for 24 hours, or 48 hours, or maybe, MAYBE a week, but then you need to pick yourself up and drag yourself out. The death of a relationship and the heartache that follows is a real pain (one you can apparently take aspirin for, who knew) and it’s perfectly fine to give that time to heal. Pushing yourself to push those feelings away because the incredibly short amount of time is up can lead to more unhealthy and unreflective behaviour down the line. I feel like this suggestion of containing your grief is in line with a culture that doesn’t like people to take sick days, resents paid vacations and medicates in any way possible to continue to be a successful worker bee. Your pain will likely come in waves, and it’s ok to take some time out to hold space for it- in fact I feel like if you do make space for it, you’ll be better able to wipe your eyes and move on with your day than if you try to bury it.

Exes *Can* Be Friends.

I’ve read a lot of well-meaning advice that you can’t be friends with an ex. I can understand it. I’ve had lovers that, when the intimacy of sex was gone, accessing any other type of intimacy felt awkward, painful, less shiny. Breakups are often messy and feelings get hurt and you have to know your boundaries and be able to communicate really well in order to transition from being partners to being friends. But I also don’t understand the edict that you must banish an ex from your life, no matter what, that the only way to move on is to wipe all memories. When I’m close to someone, even when there’s been a lot of hurt, I still hold a desire to heal that hurt and retain some sense of community. I don’t let many people that close to me. I have personally often found that it’s worth the investment to keep the people I do let into my inner sanctum close, and that the pain of renegotiating our relationship is ultimately less painful than losing them forever in my life. Your mileage may vary, and it totally depends on the ex, why you broke up, whether everyone involved can own their shit. It’s possible though, and I just don’t believe it means you’re inevitably trying to win them back or at the very least fuck them again.

Staying Busy is Good, But Avoidance Isn’t.

One thing that a lot of people suggest you do is stay busy, and in some ways it makes a lot of sense. I know that sitting around dwelling overmuch on what could’ve gone differently isn’t usually helpful, so keeping your hands and mind busy is a good idea. However, I think that it can also be tempting to “stay busy” by becoming a workaholic, overexercising, going on nights out as a way of avoiding any real reflection on yourself or your needs. I think this is especially true for femmes, where relationship expectations often rely on our emotional labour for someone else. When the relationship is gone, we throw our time and energy into some other project, not giving ourselves a chance to mend, to breathe, to take up space. Self care is important. Sitting with your feelings? Also important. Don’t burn yourself out in an attempt to sidestep personal growth… and also remember that while sometimes personal growth is useful, sometimes it’s a form of self abuse. It’s ok to take some time out for indulgence and rest, too.

Don’t Use Other People- Get Informed Consent.

Finally, a piece of advice I came across multiple times suggested getting over one person by getting under someone else. While that’s absolutely useful for some folks, I also think it’s important to remember that the person you’re banging to get over your ex is a person, with their own needs, wants, dealbreakers. You really shouldn’t just use them as a stepping stone to your personal growth, not just for their sake, but for your own. At least, I would say don’t do this without informed consent. Some folks, if you tell them you’re looking for a rebound, and the expected parameters of that for you, will be happy to oblige, and great! But I don’t think it’s really ethical to heal your broken heart by breaking someone else’s. Don’t be mean, respect their boundaries and needs, even when it’s a one night stand.

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Categories: abuse, boundaries, breakups, communication, dating, loss, love is a dog from hell, mistakes were made, personal, pop culture

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Buying In And Selling Out: A Piece on Sexual and Social Capital

“I feel like you want to be seen with me at parties because I increase your sexual capital”.

He said it without any hint of irony or self awareness. My ex lover looked genuinely concerned that I only wanted him to come with me to events in order to make other people want to fuck me. Like he was bait.

Frankly, I was taken aback by this worry of his, that I was using him to make myself look more attractive. I wanted to laugh out loud incredulously. As a fat queer woman, moving in supposedly sex radical spaces with him by my side often felt like a detriment, a way to increase my invisibility. People never believed we were dating in the one and a half years we were together. People would flirt with him like I didn’t exist. On the rare occasions they did notice me, I was an afterthought, an oddity, a barrier.

He never introduced me as his girlfriend that I recall. Never posted a photo of us together. He said he was just very “private” but I wonder if he was ashamed of me subconsciously.

I often felt invisible in his company, not so much in his eyes, but in everyone else’s. I wondered if I had to choose between being seen as a queer femme and being seen as his partner. At best I felt guilty, like I was betraying my queer femmeness by dating, not only a guy, but someone who was pretty damn close to “The Man”.

At worst when we kissed in public, people looked at him with pity, like I had tricked him.

He was a well-educated, fit, white cis man who embodies the Bay Area ideal: a nerd, a techie, and a porn star wrapped into a smartly-dressed package. No tattoos, no piercings, just an All-American boy who even used to play sports back in the day.

He would have been a trophy boyfriend, I suppose, if I took up more space, if I was afforded more space with him next to me. But despite being sort of famous and a porn performer in my own right, when we were out at a party, the way people treated us made me feel small. If he was a trophy, he was a trophy that was used to repeatedly beat me down… and one I was often expected in these spaces to compete for. It’s not the kind of game I like to play.

There was a lot that went unsaid between us, about how interesting it is that it never occurred to him that I might be a trophy, too, a symbol of how openminded and progressive he is. Look, he’s dating a fat woman, how kind! How generous!

My friends tried to embrace him as one of their own, inviting him to events, chatting with him at parties. He shied away from them, seemed distant when he came to my readings or performances. I don’t doubt he was proud of me, but I wished he would be more enthusiastic about my work, the way I was about his interests and performances. I wonder if he ever really thought about the fact that in these spaces he often benefitted from my social capital as well as his own sexual capital. And I, the femme, was expected to bear the burden of that imbalance, as we so often are.

I guess I thought being queer and dating someone queer would aid in disrupting the cliches of heteronormativity, but that’s one big ol’ nope, folks!

Back then I joked, perhaps a bit sharply, that the grass was always greener. While good genetics afforded him the sexual capital, my writing, my performances, my art work and my activism has afforded me some social capital. I often struggled with jealousy at how little he had to work to be validated as a desirable person, while he was envious of how many social connections I had. What he didn’t seem to notice was that his sexual capital was awarded to him, not just by our local communities, but society at large, without him having to acknowledge it or work for it. My social capital, meanwhile, has always felt very reliant on the emotional labour I give away — I have to constantly maintain it or I will lose it. I am not enough on my own.

It’s hard to explain to a partner who has privilege over you just how much easier the world is for them to move through. There’s a lot of patience and tears and heartbreak involved in that, and it can bleed you dry until you have nothing left. But I tried again that day, because I loved him, and because I thought maybe if I phrased it differently, repeated it, this time it would sink in for real.

I tried to tell him that I didn’t care about being seen together at parties so much as I wanted him to acknowledge me as his partner in front of other people. I needed him to see me when other people didn’t, to prove to me that I wasn’t a secret, that I wasn’t invisible. I needed him to hold my hand in solidarity, not for the sake of my possessiveness. And I really, reallyneeded him to understand that partnership with him involved dealing with a lot of bullshit — that I did it because it was worth it to me, he was worth it, we were worth it, but it was still bullshit.

I explained all that, and he said he understood. I believed him, because it hurt less than to dig deeper to be sure.

In the days that passed, though, I found the more I reached for reassurance, the more distant he became, until he was like smoke between my fingertips.

So I picked up cigarettes instead, and I dumped him. I didn’t know what else to do.

When I broke up with him, he was shocked. He had “no idea”, he said, of how much this relationship was hurting me… even though I felt like we discussed it at least twice a month. The sacrifices he saw were all his, the only pain he seemed to witness his own, while I felt I was screaming for help. He talked about how his fears about our relationship were confirmed, while I felt like my fear at stating boundaries were similarly confirmed as being dealbreakers. It was all so familiar, how his hurts were something we tackled together, or were communicated so as to be laid on the table, but mine I was expected to manage alone, to keep quiet, to manage with other people. Our whole relationship had that dynamic. I was invisible even at the end, so I faded away into myself.

I used to think a lot about how maybe I was holding my ex back in these hedonist spaces, with my fatness and my queerness and my politics. We both made a lot of space for worrying about him and his needs. Now I’m beginning to realize just how much he held me back from who I am, who I could have been, who I could yet be. Whether he did it consciously or unconsciously, by being a narcissist or just being privileged, that’s not really my emotional labour to sift through.

My heart sank, in that moment when he asked me if I was using him to make myself look bigger, as I realized that he didn’t see me, not really, not the tender me, the raw me, the me that felt small.

He just saw his own reflection, his own pain. And that was that.

I expect he’s going to read this eventually. And his feelings will be hurt, he’ll resent me for it, feel like I’m attacking him. He will be defensive because that will be easier than admitting he caused me pain, and he will dismiss me because that’s easier than working through this shit together. It breaks my heart, because I know he’s not a bad guy, just a privileged one. I miss him terribly, but I couldn’t stay silent anymore. Something had to give- for too long, it had been me, and I had given everything.

I hope that maybe, one day, I can be more than just a broken mirror. That maybe one day, he, or someone else, will look into my eyes and see me, not just themselves.

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Categories: anxiety, assumptions, best of, body stuff, boys, breakups, dating, fake it til you make it, fat is fit, femme, loss, love is a dog from hell, male privilege, personal, queer, reflection, stigma

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Where Self Care Meets Escapism (And Balancing That With Responsibility)

Trigger warnings: drug use, sexual assault, take this advice with a grain of salt

Also want to note: comments on how this isn't an ok way to deal with my problems and I should meditate or go jogging instead or whatever are absolutely unwelcome unless you personally were one of the people helping me manage this situation. Thanks!

I learned something really important last week.

It was not a tidy revelation, by any means. I learned it while I was staring at my reflection in a mirror over a dirty sink, pupils so wide I thought maybe I could fall into them. People always compliment my eyes but I don't think when they say "I could lose myself in them" they mean "they're like an endless void oh god how did I get here how do I get back". That's ok, though.

Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself.

I am a terrible navel gazer. Not that I'm terrible at it. On the contrary, I'm very, very good at it. I reflect on myself and my behaviour and my trauma and my coping mechanisms. For a very long time now I thought that was one of the better things about myself, that I engage in constant self-critique and try hard to be open to others critique, taking it all in and weaving it into my understanding of myself and how I move through the world. And I do think it's valuable. Where others can process data with lightning speed, I process feelings, mine and the millions of possibilities of other peoples. It's led me to have a lot of compassion, patience, empathy, and a strong desire to help.

I'm beginning to realize that this fixation on self-analysis can also end up being my fashionable new method of cutting myself.

I take ownership the way other people take drugs. It's compulsive. Sometimes it's really healthy and it's a great way to uncover things about myself or unravel bad habits. But other times, it ends up being a way that I can anxiously pick at my self confidence the way I sometimes pick at my skin, leaving me afraid that every step is a misstep, that I'm on some competitive cultural ballroom floor and I'm tripping over my own feet, praying no one notices and that I don't fall on my face. The tension must show on my face, because all the other dancers on the floor keep giving me wider and wider berth. Failure is inevitable, and dreaded.

***

I was straight edge for my entire teenage life and pretty much so into my early twenties. Not for political reasons, but because I had been told for a long time that I was crazy, and crazy people should never, ever do drugs and risk losing control. The first time I was given shrooms, the guy who offered them to me, someone I trusted, someone the community I was with trusted, tried to get me into the back of his van for sex while I was high as a kite. Thankfully, some corner of my brain had my self-preservation intact, and I shrugged him off to roll around in the beach sand giggling for a couple of hours instead. Like many things happening at that time in my life, I just chalked it up to men "just being opportunistic" or "misread signals" and didn't think much else of it. Boundaries, as far as I could tell from many of my experiences in the kink scene, were meant to be tested, and men more often than not pushed them with the belief that if they went too far they could just apologize later and you'd have to be ok with that. The best way to protect against having those boundaries crossed was to be self-assessing, all the time. Don't lose control. Don't drop one spinning plate.

I enjoyed doing substances, and still do, but I would rarely lose myself in the moment to them. At any given moment I was able to sober up and take care of business, and so even when I was "having fun" I was on alert, just in case. It was a survival strategy that served me (and others) incredibly well. I didn't do things on drugs that I would regret sober. I was able to make sure people got on the right public transit. I could deal with the cops. I lauded myself for being responsible even when partying and didn't think too deeply about it.

When I did think about it, I pulled wariness around me like a thick winter coat, hoping it would protect me from male entitlement, from the world’s brutality, from the sting of people’s insults. The coat got larger and larger, until I felt smothered by it, so small inside.

***

When I go on vacation, I bring work with me. I don't know how to stop working. If it's not traditional work from a boss, I'm writing, or structuring future pieces I plan to write. If it's not that, I'm offering emotional support or advice to people who are struggling on a variety of topics. If it's not that, I'm trying to be patient educating people on Facebook or Twitter when they need calling in/out. I take joy in my work. I joke it's my primary relationship.

Sometimes it's difficult for me to remember to have boundaries with my primary.

I was asked what I wanted to do for fun, and I just looked blankly at him. I realized that I don't know how to have fun anymore. I've channeled a lot of my energy into the hustle, because writing is barely paying the bills and not being able to afford food is always nipping at my heels. So work has to be fun, because if it isn't, I have to look up from the keyboard and realize how little space is left over in my life to breathe and relax and enjoy myself. Even at parties I am often called upon to do emotional labour. I just rarely go to parties anymore. I might as well get paid for the work I'm doing, because money is some tangible form of recognition.

CAPITALISM IS FUN BUYING THINGS IS FUN WORK IS FUN

***

I took a moment, and I really looked at myself in the mirror, my hair a bit wild, my pupils dilated. You're always told not to do that on drugs, that it'll destabilize you or upset you or something. For me, it was grounding. I saw that my cheeks still had tear stains on them. My lips were a bit swollen from being bitten. My clothes were a bit rumpled. I hadn't worn makeup for days. I was kind of a mess.

I looked hard into my soul and saw that I would have a hell of a lot of time to think about accountability and hurt and trauma and responsible action plans. That in this exact moment, "doing the work" was not actually serving me. That I was taking far more than my share of the burden of the emotional labour, and that it was ok to put that burden down for a while.

I have never been one for escapism, always diving deeper into the places where it hurts or is tense rather than running away. I thought that was part of being an adult, staring your issues in the face, dealing with things head on. The problem with that is, there is always something else. And you never get a break from it. It drowns you in self-help buzzwords until you are absolutely certain that emotionally flaying yourself raw is actually super healthy.

***

I have a thing for Victorian medicine. One of the things that amazed me as I read more about the history of the medical industry of the time was that many Victorians were vehemently anti anesthesia because pain was from God, and to relieve pain was to defy God. Even though people had shown that with the use of nitrous oxide or ether, pain could be (relatively) safely relieved during surgery (meaning at the very least less flailing and distress of the patient) it was considered anathema.

I kind of wonder if I have a similar distrust. Like, I'm glad I don't automatically reach for the numbing agent, but it's ok, sometimes, to say "you know... I'm going to deal with this tomorrow." It was only through disassociation from my self and my grief that I was able to step back and put pieces together and begin to make a plan forward. By being outside of myself, I saw who I was, the beginning tendrils of the boundaries I needed. I saw where I began and ended without anyone else.

I had forgotten.

I'm writing this because I bet some of you out there have this feeling too, that the tireless fight is grim but necessary. While yes, I think it's possible to get carried away in escapism (obviously!) and yes, of course, you still have to be responsible about how you go about your escapism to make sure it doesn't become a habit... it's also ok to take a break sometimes. I'm telling you this as much as I'm reminding myself of this. And it might not be a substance for you. It might be lying in bed eating ice cream and watching cartoons. It might be having casual sex. It might be going to an animal shelter and petting animals for hours. It's ok. You're ok.

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Categories: anxiety, best of, boundaries, breakups, communication, dating, depression, fake it til you make it, growth, identity, loss, love is a dog from hell, musing, notes to self, personal, reflection, self care, self harm

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Look- Sometimes Drugs Are A Valid Coping Mechanism.

Trigger warnings: drug use, sexual assault, take this advice with a grain of salt

Also want to note: comments on how this isn’t an ok way to deal with my problems and I should meditate or go jogging instead or whatever are absolutely unwelcome unless you personally were one of the people helping me manage this situation. Thanks!

I learned something really important last week.

It was not a tidy revelation, by any means. I learned it while I was staring at my reflection in a mirror over a dirty sink, pupils so wide I thought maybe I could fall into them. People always compliment my eyes but I don’t think when they say “I could lose myself in them” they mean “they’re like an endless void oh god how did I get here how do I get back”. That’s ok, though.

Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself.

I am a terrible navel gazer. Not that I’m terrible at it. On the contrary, I’m very, very good at it. I reflect on myself and my behaviour and my trauma and my coping mechanisms. For a very long time now I thought that was one of the better things about myself, that I engage in constant self-critique and try hard to be open to others critique, taking it all in and weaving it into my understanding of myself and how I move through the world. And I do think it’s valuable. Where others can process data with lightning speed, I process feelings, mine and the millions of possibilities of other peoples. It’s led me to have a lot of compassion, patience, empathy, and a strong desire to help.

I’m beginning to realize that this fixation on self-analysis can also end up being my fashionable new method of cutting myself.

I take ownership the way other people take drugs.

It’s compulsive. Sometimes it’s really healthy and it’s a great way to uncover things about myself or unravel bad habits. But other times, it ends up being a way that I can anxiously pick at my self confidence the way I sometimes pick at my skin, leaving me afraid that every step is a misstep, that I’m on some competitive cultural ballroom floor and I’m tripping over my own feet, praying no one notices and that I don’t fall on my face. The tension must show on my face, because all the other dancers on the floor keep giving me wider and wider berth. Failure is inevitable, and dreaded.

***

I was straight edge for my entire teenage life and pretty much so into my early twenties. Not for political reasons, but because I had been told for a long time that I was crazy, and crazy people should never, ever do drugs and risk losing control. The first time I was given shrooms, the guy who offered them to me, someone I trusted, someone the community I was with trusted, tried to get me into the back of his van for sex while I was high as a kite. Thankfully, some corner of my brain had my self-preservation intact, and I shrugged him off to roll around in the beach sand giggling for a couple of hours instead. Like many things happening at that time in my life, I just chalked it up to men “just being opportunistic” or “misread signals” and didn’t think much else of it.

Boundaries, as far as I could tell from many of my experiences in the kink scene, were meant to be tested, and men more often than not pushed them with the belief that if they went too far they could just apologize later and you’d have to be ok with that. The best way to protect against having those boundaries crossed was to be self-assessing, all the time. Don’t lose control. Don’t drop one spinning plate.

I enjoyed doing substances, and still do, but I would rarely lose myself in the moment to them. At any given moment I was able to sober up and take care of business, and so even when I was “having fun” I was on alert, just in case. It was a survival strategy that served me (and others) incredibly well. I didn’t do things on drugs that I would regret sober. I was able to make sure people got on the right public transit. I could deal with the cops. I lauded myself for being responsible even when partying and didn’t think too deeply about it.

When I did think about it, I pulled wariness around me like a thick winter coat, hoping it would protect me from male entitlement, from the world’s brutality, from the sting of people’s insults. The coat got larger and larger, until I felt smothered by it, so small inside.

***

When I go on vacation, I bring work with me. I don’t know how to stop working. If it’s not traditional work from a boss, I’m writing, or structuring future pieces I plan to write. If it’s not that, I’m offering emotional support or advice to people who are struggling on a variety of topics. If it’s not that, I’m trying to be patient educating people on Facebook or Twitter when they need calling in/out. I take joy in my work. I joke it’s my primary relationship.

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember to have boundaries with my primary.

I was asked what I wanted to do for fun, and I just looked blankly at him. I realized that I don’t know how to have fun anymore. I’ve channeled a lot of my energy into the hustle, because writing is barely paying the bills and not being able to afford food is always nipping at my heels. So work has to be fun, because if it isn’t, I have to look up from the keyboard and realize how little space is left over in my life to breathe and relax and enjoy myself. Even at parties I am often called upon to do emotional labour. I just rarely go to parties anymore. I might as well get paid for the work I’m doing, because money is some tangible form of recognition.

CAPITALISM IS FUN BUYING THINGS IS FUN WORK IS FUN

***

I took a moment, and I really looked at myself in the mirror, my hair a bit wild, my pupils dilated. You’re always told not to do that on drugs, that it’ll destabilize you or upset you or something. For me, it was grounding. I saw that my cheeks still had tear stains on them. My lips were a bit swollen from being bitten. My clothes were a bit rumpled. I hadn’t worn makeup for days. I was kind of a mess.

I looked hard into my soul and saw that I would have a hell of a lot of time to think about accountability and hurt and trauma and responsible action plans. That in this exact moment, “doing the work” was not actually serving me. That I was taking far more than my share of the burden of the emotional labour, and that it was ok to put that burden down for a while.

I have never been one for escapism, always diving deeper into the places where it hurts or is tense rather than running away. I thought that was part of being an adult, staring your issues in the face, dealing with things head on.

The problem with that is, there is always something else. And you never get a break from it.

It drowns you in self-help buzzwords until you are absolutely certain that emotionally flaying yourself raw is actually super healthy.

***

I have a thing for Victorian medicine. One of the things that amazed me as I read more about the history of the medical industry of the time was that many Victorians were vehemently anti anesthesia because pain was from God, and to relieve pain was to defy God. Even though people had shown that with the use of nitrous oxide or ether, pain could be (relatively) safely relieved during surgery (meaning at the very least less flailing and distress of the patient) it was considered anathema.

I kind of wonder if I have a similar distrust. Like, I’m glad I don’t automatically reach for the numbing agent, but it’s ok, sometimes, to say “you know… I’m going to deal with this tomorrow.” It was only through disassociation from my self and my grief that I was able to step back and put pieces together and begin to make a plan forward.

By being outside of myself, I saw who I was, the beginning tendrils of the boundaries I needed. I saw where I began and ended without anyone else.

I had forgotten.

I’m writing this because I bet some of you out there have this feeling too, that the tireless fight is grim but necessary. While yes, I think it’s possible to get carried away in escapism (obviously!) and yes, of course, you still have to be responsible about how you go about your escapism to make sure it doesn’t become a habit… it’s also ok to take a break sometimes. I’m telling you this as much as I’m reminding myself of this. And it might not be a substance for you. It might be lying in bed eating ice cream and watching cartoons. It might be having casual sex. It might be going to an animal shelter and petting animals for hours. It’s ok. You’re ok.

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Categories: best of, breakups, fake it til you make it, loss, love is a dog from hell, personal, psa, psychology

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Mixtapes From My Exes: Part One

I wanted to write something about some of the songs my exes put on mixtapes for me, or introduced me to, as a way of describing them, and us, and why these songs still sting my heart a little every time I hear them. I hope this is an interesting peek into my relationship past, my musical tastes, and how I became the person I am today!

1. "Everything For Free" by K's Choice
"They think I'm crazy/But they don't know that I like it here/It's nice in here/I get everything for free"

She was beautiful, and young, and she was so filled with pain that sometimes she cut herself to let it spill out, over her skin, over my floor. We shared histories in and out of institutions, both of us haunted by what we had seen in those sterile halls. We wound our bodies together, two broken spirits trying to mend ourselves and comfort each other. This song was sad, and sweet, and resonated so much with my own feelings of desperation. I just wanted something to be easy.

2. "She's Got Issues" by The Offspring
"I don't know why you're messed up/I don't know why your whole life is a chore/Just do me a favor/And check your baggage at the door"

I remember being taken aback when I received this lover's mixtape, which had this song intermingled with romantic songs. He said, then, that he was teasing me, as I struggled with self harm and depression... but it stung a lot more deeply than I could admit to him or to myself. In some ways he helped me move past my issues, but in other ways he created one of the most toxic of all- a codependent need to please, especially sexually, as an apology for my mental health. I still struggle with that, worrying that my mental health is a chore, that I'm too much, too crazy, that the only thing I have to offer is sex. Crazy girls make the best lays, right?

3. "Subbacultcha" by The Pixies
"We did the clubs what ass/I was hoping to have her in the sack/I was looking handsome/She was looking like an erotic vulture"

I followed this one to California, listening to his mixtape over and over til I wore it out. He was a poet who wore skirts and eyeliner and wrote me little sonnets that made me swoon. I learned how to be a manic pixie from him, in many ways. My first experiment with being a dominant woman was with him, and we had some amazing kinky chemistry. But he was a drifter and I needed to put down roots, gain some stability. I have always been attracted, I think, to men who "can't be nailed down", men who want to sew their wild seed and have adventures. I envy them, love their intensity, their questing spirits. I just hate when, time and time again, they're happy to settle down... just, I wasn't good enough to settle for.

4. "The Dark of the Matinee" by Franz Ferdinand
"Find me and follow me through corridors, refectories and files/You must follow, leave this academic factory/You will find me in the matinee"

I don't really know if I loved him or just loved how he made me feel. He was the first man to balance pure lust and romantic gestures in a way that made them both feel genuine and impulsive. He was successful, and stable, and cool, able to fit into the halls of academia and into some tight vinyl pants equally easily. I remember when he brought me chocolate dipped strawberries on the morning of Valentine's Day, before making me an incredible meal that evening. He was the first person who made me feel really cared about, seen, like a girlfriend, the first to really volunteer romantic gestures. It was the best Valentine's Day I've ever had, even still.

5. "Manhole" by Ani Difranco
"But a lesson must be lived/In order to be learned/And the clarity to see and stop this now/That is what I've earned"

They were a couple, who introduced me to Ani Difranco while driving to the Winchester Mystery Mansion one afternoon. I hadn't listened to Ani because I felt it was a cliche to be a queer girl who did, but this couple helped me fall in love with her turns of phrase. I loved them both, though I suspect he was more into me than she was, and they brought me on all sorts of erotic adventures. When they broke up, though, I tried to stay dating him... and felt that he was taking out the breakup on me, so I broke it off. I didn't know then that I would lose him as a friend as well as a lover. I miss him.

 

Categories: boundaries, boys, breakups, dating, fake it til you make it, girls, growth, identity, love is a dog from hell, music, personal

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Fear Itself: Why I Hate Horror Movies, Haunted Houses, and Other "Fun" Scary Things

I was raised as a fighter, in multiple ways. I marched outside of abortion clinics with my dad, protesting the protesters so women could have some sense of solidarity going into their appointments. I took karate and Model Mugging, preparing myself by learning how to get out of holds, where to hit a man for the most impact, how to improvise a weapon. I wrote letters to the President about environmental issues and was furious when I got a form letter in response.

The other side of the coin of being a fighter, though, in my opinion, is fear. Fear of a loss of control. Fear of losing a conflict. Fear of the consequences if you lose.

Looking back, I see that while I was in many ways a seemingly fearless child, a lot of my behaviour came from a deep place of fear. I was afraid about the future of the world, afraid for my own future, afraid of my struggles in school and afraid of men, who I knew would, eventually, hurt me. I am still wrapped up in fear like a fucked up insecurity blanket.  I tuck my feet under my blankets because there is some deep inner part of me who still feels their heart turn to ice at the fear that something is under my bed, waiting to grab me and drag me under.

I think because of this, I kind of hate being scared. It's one of the things I really hate about Halloween, where people think it's "fun!" and "interactive!" to jump out from behind things to shock you. For some people, I'm sure these experiences make them feel more alive. For me, it can take hours to get my heart rate back to normal, the stiffness out of my body.  Movies that depend on jump scares leave me feeling traumatized, not excited. I once punched a poor haunted house actor who jumped out at me because that was just my trained instinct. I don't go in haunted houses, or mazes, or hayrides anymore.

Because the fact of the matter is - I spend a lot of my life on edge. I am so used to this feeling of fear that relaxation feels alarming and strange to me. I go to parties and walk down streets at night like I have no fear, because if people smell fear on you they'll attack, at least that's been my experience. I am never without some sort of weapon.

I would say that part of this is because I've experienced sexual assaults, but most of those were in private, with someone I thought I could trust. And frankly I acted this way long before I had anything concrete to fear from my own experiences. I think it's just part of being socialized as a woman, as much as my parents tried to shield me from it. Intimate partner violence only taught me that I wasn't safe then, either, that there was nowhere I was safe to let my guard down.

I mean, I have a lot of privilege, being white and cis. Part of me is angry at myself for being so fragile when other people are struggling much worse. But I can't shake out of my head that time a stranger grabbed me and refused to let me go until I kissed him, or the man a friend recommended should drive me home who then refused to leave until I gave him a blow job. The world is a coercive, scary place where I feel that lack of control often, and I personally don't understand seeking out that disempowerment for fun. But, hey, to each their own, right?

Sometimes I wish that I didn't jump when my partner touches me unexpectedly. I wish I didn't feel dread when I have to walk in the dark. I wish I could go to a horror movie and shriek an giggle and have a good time. Maybe someday I will. But this Halloween, I think I'll stick to the treats instead of the tricks, thanks.

Categories: abuse, anxiety, best of, boundaries, fake it til you make it, personal, rape culture

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The Manic Pixie Sidekick

I identify pretty strongly with the manic pixie dream girl archetype. I've always had a weird sense of style, for a start, and quirky interests that have made me interesting to talk to at parties. Throughout my life, I have often been the whimsical, kind of crazy, sexually adventurous, super supportive partner, friend, and coworker. I'm pretty good at helping people make their dreams turn into reality, translating concepts into a plan.

It rarely bothered me, honestly. I like being useful, and while I like getting acknowledged for my work, I don't really feel driven to perform in the spotlight. And I have a good mixture of ideas and practicality, which makes me an excellent person to have on hand when planning an event, or a set, or a costume. I genuinely love to help people uncover new things about themselves, or to see something from a different point of view. All of that gives me strength and hope and a sense of purpose.

I used to channel this energy into submission, I suspect. I genuinely thought I wanted to be a service submissive, someone who was so helpful and so good at anticipating my dominant's needs that I impressed them and made them proud. I looked into service training classes, read loads of books, took every sex tip workshop I could so I could be the best submissive I could be. I wanted to be like Jeeves, from P.G. Wodehouse's classic books. Jeeves is sort of a manic pixie dream butler, I guess, though he's a little more organized and less whimsical (and Wooster and Jeeves probably don't fuck, though, tbh, if they did I bet Jeeves would be the top).

His real job, however, is to be the companion that drives the main character along his path. And when I look back at the relationships in my life, I am so often that person. I'm not acting as the protagonist of my own story, but a sidekick for someone else.

I think about the big life shifts I've made - moving to California, moving to London, being involved with Mission Control, modeling for erotic photos, performing in porn, building a rocketship, becoming poly. So many of them were, yes, things I wanted to do, but I did them to be a companion to someone else, to help them or their project along. I was a support figure, not a main participant, and I went along with someone else's plan, because why not? I'm pretty flexible and generally up for an adventure. Sure, many of these things went relatively unacknowledged, and I would reassure myself that it was ok, because a Good Submissive is able to improve other people's lives without them even noticing, right?

There's a big problem with this though, I'm discovering. Or there's a couple of problems, really. One of them is that it's really hard for me to figure out what my needs actually are. It's so much easier to force myself into the mold of what a partner wants, to adapt to their desires, than it is to ask for what I desire. I've never really sat down and been proactive about what I want, just reactive about what I don't want, away from what doesn't feel right rather than towards what does. It's part of codependency, in a way - make yourself into the ideal lover and your lover won't leave, is the theory, though I don't know if that's even true. It hasn't been, certainly. And when do you compromise your needs and wants, versus sticking to your guns? What are my dealbreakers, really? I'm so used to navigating other people's boundaries and wants that it's difficult for me to name my own. But I forget that when I do that, I'm also serving my partner's unhealthy relationship patterns, because I'm giving them the expectation that it's fine to always get their way, that I won't ever say no, that the only compromises will be mine.

Another is that when you're never acknowledged, it's hard not to feel kind of resentful. Always the helper, never the artist or the muse, at least that's how I've felt.  I worry sometimes that my desire to be Seen is just my insecurity or my ego, but I think there's also just a wish to be acknowledged for who I am and what I do so it's not just invisible labour. I don't think that's a bad thing? I think that's a reaction to being a hidden girlfriend, an unseen volunteer, a forgotten backstage worker. I've had women flirt with lovers in front of me like I didn't exist... and lovers who responded to that, making me feel even less seen. I've worked on projects and come up with ideas only to have my name written out of them entirely. I don't want to be possessive, but I don't want to be completely ignored/deemed unimportant either. But I'm not entirely sure how to ask to be Seen without it seeming self-centered. I don't want to take up too much space, but I also feel like I've been trying to shrink myself so small I barely exist sometimes.

Lastly, I feel like when people expect you to be That Girl, the manic pixie that flies into their life as a happy secondary character, does magic in their messed up life, and then flits off... when you have any needs of your own, the people around you are surprised and a little dismissive. You've never needed that kind of thing before, after all! Maybe it's a phase. If it's not a phase, then the people who were happy to benefit from your emotional labour while giving the minimum in exchange are unpleasantly surprised that you're suddenly having expectations and limits and rules of your own, that you want it to be an even trade. It makes it difficult to decide whether it's worth it to be Seen, if that means that the people around you will begrudge you it.

I have had a sudden realization about how I have allowed things to happen in my life that feel at my expense. I have been so scared of being dramatic or volatile or selfish that I've just let these things happen. I want to be "GGG" after all, I'm terrified of being seen as needy and I try to communicate directly and ask for as little as I can. But that's part of my socialization as a woman and as a femme, that I should be the Giving Tree and give of myself and compromise myself until I am destroyed (which will then be my fault and responsibility to recover from). I need to stop being a secondary character and really figure out who I am and what I want, separate from the people in my life. It's good to consider other people in what you do, but I need to learn to consider myself and put on my own oxygen mask. I need to learn how to be the protagonist in my own story.

Categories: balance, boundaries, communication, fake it til you make it, intimacy, love is a dog from hell, male privilege, manic pixie dream domme

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New Paths, New Porns

Well, if you follow me on social media, you probably know I got fired from TROUBLEfilms a month after being promoted to Head of Production. I'm not going to publicly go into the reasoning, though suffice to say, I feel pretty hurt, used, and angry about it, even two weeks later.

HOWEVER!

Silver linings are everywhere, and this is no exception. I'm back to writing more, or at least I intend to be, and I've had some extra time to work on my site (bye steampunk, hello rococo!). I'm hoping to be in the running as one of the best sex bloggers (this will be especially meaningful as I go back to leaning on writing as my main profession, so it does make an impact! Kinkly is one you can vote for me for, and Between My Sheets is another. Thank you!) I have a somewhat damning piece I'm working on about the porn industry, questioning how radical sex work can ever be under capitalist patriarchy, and if the fact it's not radical inherently means we shouldn't support it (spoiler alert, it's complicated).

Also, with the split from TROUBLEfilms, I've found myself spending a lot of time developing my own vision and my own voice when it comes to coming up with porn ideas, editing video, and other stuff. It's exciting to sit down and figure out what *I* want to do, especially as I've never really defined myself as a visual artist before. I never thought I had that drive that artists needed to have, but here I am, making stuff and really enjoying it!

Currently I've been making porn music videos.

Everyone needs a hobby, after all, right? This is mine, at least for the time being. I've been loving mixing my porn work with the beautiful music of Unwoman  (who you should support on Patreon by the way).

I plan to work on a couple DVD projects once I figure out how to master the damn things when Apple doesn't support it anymore (or I cave in and learn Encore). "Here Kitty Kitty" will be out on DVD, and I have an idea how to make a fun, limited edition collectable. I'll be crowdfunding for another couple of ideas, and making clip content in the meantime, getting better at filming and editing. One plus side is that I'm not the only one who has been burned by my boss, and no longer working there has opened up a host of possibilities for collaboration that I didn't realize I was missing out on.

I'm still planning to go to AVN, both to hang out with performers and to film more stuff, and I have clips up at Clips4Sale and AmateurPorn. I'm also planning to make some custom clips, which you can email me about if you're interested! And when I make trailers and music videos, you can find them up at PornHub (please rate them!)

So, onwards and upwards, right? I'm not convinced I want to start a members site or anything, but I do love porn, and I want to make subversive, body positive porn with sex negative critiques firmly influencing what I do and how I do it. It's gonna be a bumpy ride, but I think it's going to be a fun one!

Categories: anxiety, best of, boundaries, capitalism, personal, porn