Awkward Poly Moments

After my last post, I thought perhaps the blog could use a little levity. So! Awkward Poly Moments! Warning that this may be TMI for sex, though it is funny in retrospect.

I have a tendency to lose my clothing in my apartment–if I’m feeling warm, if I’ve just had sexy times, if I’m asleep, if I’m not feeling well, whatever. We joke I’m a partial nudist. It’s not unusual (when it’s just the polycule) for me to be in nothing but underwear, or just a T-shirt and panties and socks.

Several months ago, our apartments had some electrical updates done to bring them up to code. The electricians (many many of them) came in and did lots and lots of work–our apartment was the last one of the day, and they were here for a long time, and then finally they were done.

It wasn’t until after the fact that I realized our lovely Nib calendar was up with the illustration by Erika Moen re: men in lingerie enjoying themselves, prominently displayed on our wall.

That wasn’t the awkward part.

The awkward part happened a few months later, when the electrician came back–unannounced–with the fire chief. Apparently after all that time, the fire chief had to inspect each apartment to insure that everything was up to code.

Now, I’d had some pretty spectacular sexy times that involved toys. Eren and Zyn were home. My toys were out. I was asleep post-fun on the couch, mostly naked. (I have a tendency to fall asleep post-sex.)

Eren thoughtfully covered me…but not the toys.

One of them let the fire chief and electrician–who were by then charging up the stairs–into the apartment.

My eyes opened to two strange men stretching over me to reach an outlet near the couch. I quickly closed them, pretending not to notice.

I heard, “Is she sick?”

Eren and Zyn hemmed and hawed a little.

I mean, it had to look strange–sex toys and two clothed people and a presumably-naked woman on a couch? (And if they’d looked, another partner in a Skype call on my computer.)

I kept my eyes shut.

I heard Eren pick up my toys after the chief and electrician left the room briefly, and I muttered, “Now you think of that!!”

She whispered, “Sorry!!” and shuffled them out of sight.

The chief and electrician came back, finished their work, and left without saying anything about me, my partners, or the toys.

Lessons I should’ve learned: don’t fall asleep without putting toys away; don’t trust Eren and Zyn not to let people in when I’m naked on the couch.

I’ve learned at least one of those.

Content Warning: “Trans Jokes” Aren’t Funny, and Other ‘Micro’agressions

I’m going to be talking about some things I encountered on social media this week from two family members–one on each side of my family, both of whom I looked up to greatly as a child, one of whom supposedly supports my wife and I a great deal. Both of these things involve transgender people. I’ll be posting the images of what was posted, in order to deconstruct these things.

This is me, a cisgender person, talking to other cisgender people, about the things we’re doing to hurt transgender people. We need to stop.

I’m putting the rest below a cut, so that those who already have to deal with these aggressions on a daily basis (trans folks) do not need to be subjected to it one more time just so I can get my point out to other cisgender folks.

Continue reading

Permission and Danger

A few weeks ago, I read this blog post and then messaged my wife: “This seems so dangerous to me.”

She read it and then replied, “What about this seems dangerous to you?”

And indeed, it’s something that shouldn’t probably seem dangerous. For those who didn’t click through (though really, you should, the story is well worth the read), the story is (at its simplest) about a younger man learning from his older friend not to ask permission to do what he wants with his life.

To me, that screams DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

I realized, while reading that post, that I have spent my whole life asking permission to do everything. Often my ‘asking permission’ comes across as ‘just doing what I want,’ but in actuality I’m asking: is it okay? Is it okay if I go to grad school now? Is it okay if I go to this grad school? May I go to this program? What about this, or this, or this?

Some of the permission-asking makes some sense. I have a wife, and now a lover and a boyfriend, and so there are others whose considerations must be taken. My wife, in particular, bears legal and financial burdens with me. My wife and boyfriend, in particular, move with me. So if I am thinking about attending a school across the country, then I should be discussing that with them.

But that’s the crux, I think. I don’t merely discuss. I ask. I don’t ‘just do.’ I ask.

At various points in my life, I have found myself marveling at people who ‘just do’ things–from going to stores to moving across countries. How do they do that? I wonder. How do they just do that? Until reading that blog post, I never realized that my underlying question was, Whose permission do they have?

Likely, they only have their own permission, as adult human beings.

I could stand to give myself permission more often, I think. I wish I could figure out how to make it seem less dangerous.

Observation Bits

I want to write more–I always do–but pain and fatigue have kept me from doing much of anything this week, including attending a friend’s wedding. So instead, I’m posting some brief observations–things that I may at a later point delve into deeper, but for now will just comment on lightly.

It is always weird to get calls from people who call my spouse by her legal name. Then I have to think in my head, “Purposely misgender her to this person, because they possibly do not know.” Usually this is the case with doctors and the like, since we live in one of the states that doesn’t have workplace protections for transgender individuals. She’s not ‘out’ to her work yet because of this, and so we haven’t done legal name-change things yet.

One of the ways I know my spouse has a fantastic partner: if I say something on here that worries said partner, she comes to me and asks me about it. I am so incredibly grateful that we both have someone who communicates so well in our lives–that is key to successful polyamory, and is one of the markers of her beautiful personality.

Being in chronic pain/fatigue has me questioning my symptoms. I have ideas about what may be going on, that perhaps there’s something with A Name here–but I don’t know if that’s a wish to have a Named Thing so it’s easier to talk about, to tell doctors and family and friends about. On the one hand, it would suck to have a Named Thing, because no one really wants that. But on the other hand, it would really…help, if all of these things were part of a Named Thing. Ferrett Steinmetz has a fantastic essay about this.

I wish I had a better way to wrap this all up, but given that it’s a loose collection of observations, perhaps a loose wrap-up is okay. I will do better next week. Also, I am looking into moving into a domain soon, which may involve a bit of bumpiness as I transition my site–I’ll keep you all updated.

A brief note on sex

I don’t have a lot of time to write today, but I wanted to make sure to say: if you haven’t read this piece by Pervocracy, drop everything you’re doing and read it now.

It’s a couple of years old, but it’s still wonderful and accurate and perfect, I think. The points are spot-on. It discusses sex, consent, poly, kink, BDSM, and relationships. It’s well worth the time to read and ponder and store away and utilize.

Mental & Chronic Illness & Sex & Poly; Trigger Warnings should abound

Taking a cue from both TheBloggess and my own life currently, I will address mental and chronic illness and sex and love.

TheBloggess challenged:

HOW HAS MENTAL ILLNESS AFFECTED YOU PERSONALLY?  WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT THAT MIGHT HELP OTHERS?

My answers:

I didn’t start to define myself as chronically ill until a couple of months ago. The term floated in and out of my consciousness a few times–my migraines has been worsening over the last few years, to the point that I had more migraines than days without–but I resisted. I’ve done the same with terms like depression and anxiety–embracing them as descriptors sometimes and rejecting them at others.

I deal with depression and anxiety, with migraines, high blood pressure, and early-onset arthritis. Sometimes these things feed into one another. The migraines apparently caused the high blood pressure, which caused more migraines, and so on. Being made to stay in bed upped both my depression and anxiety. I think the arthritis wanted to come hang out with my early gray hair (that showed up in my teens!), but stuck around to pile on with the migraine party (it settled in my neck).

For me, depression has come in waves. There have been points in my life when I’ve been fine. There have been other points when I have been paralyzed, almost, from the inside out. I’m in one of those points now. I find it difficult to actually leave my apartment. I can think about it, I can make plans to do it–but the actual doing terrifies me sometimes. Depression and anxiety lie: they tell me that even my closest friends sneer at me, think terrible things of me, hate me–even though those same friends have never been anything but happy to see me, kind and loving and full of laughter and support.  And when I drop one thing, I often feel like I’ve dropped everything–even when that’s not true. It can lead to me dropping everything, though. And that can very easily, very quickly spiral into the deepest, darkest pit.

I’m fortunate that I have the community I do around me. I didn’t realize it when I started building it, but I have been working toward what polyamorous comic KimchiCuddles calls Kitchen Table Poly:

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I have a fantastic wife. I have a fantastic boyfriend/Daddy. I have a fantastic lover. My wife has a wonderful girlfriend, and another flirty friend who is dating one of our best friends–someone we consider part of our polycule as a chosen sibling, because we’ve been friends that long and that closely.

I have learned that when the darkest darkness shows up, I not only can but also should call my wife home from work. I have only done that once–but she came, and that was enough, and she held me. I have learned that a cat’s purr is magic, and that it can be recreated online for free. I have learned that crying can be healing, and that sitting in the sunlight–just sitting, even for 20 minutes, even if I’m in my pajamas with my hair unbrushed–really can help. I have learned to just walk away from Facebook, politics, e-mail when they start to overwhelm–and I’ve learned to say when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Every area of my life has been affected by both my mental and chronic illnesses. Where I used to deal with my depression and social anxiety by talking with people online/having lots of sex online, I have for the past year or two had almost zero energy for either. I’ve had very little social interaction with anyone not living with me, which has severely limited my world. I’m incredibly grateful to the few people who take the time out of their lives to reach out to me on social media or e-mail (though the phone ringing still scares the bejeezus out of me), even when I’m avoiding those platforms for other things. I’m grateful to the people who find me on Skype, who will come find me in my chosen MMO when I have the energy to get into it. I’m thankful for the days I can load the dishwasher, for the patience of my wife and boyfriend/Daddy as I find myself in a really disabled spot, and of my lover as he has to figure me out from a distance.

When I started to get some energy back, I found out that I couldn’t always have online sex with my long-distance lover–because of the arthritis in my neck. Or, more accurately, I could–but it would result in days of pain afterward in my shoulder. Using my dominant arm/hand means pain for days, even for masturbation. My wife, wonder that she is, offered to help in that department, but I pointed out that a) she’s not always home/awake when lover and I might want to play and b) it’s not necessarily fair to all involved to make her be involved in such a way–though it was very sweet of her to offer. This has been a huge adjustment for my lover and I to make. It can be very very frustrating to want and be unable.

I’ve had to learn that for me, right now, solid plans are nearly a no-go. I’ve got plans to get my grandma to see her nephew in another state–something that’s been in the works for years now and needs to happen before she dies (she was diagnosed as terminally ill with cancer a year ago and is somehow, miraculously less cancer-cell-ridden now than she was then, though not cured)–and that’s the most solid plan I have made right now. Everything else is soft, because even with medication, I don’t know when the next migraine will come. The preventative helps–but leaves me exhausted. I can take one that will help kill the pain in 2-4 hours as well once the first signs of migraine show up–but will also leave me nauseated. Choices, choices. Either way, not great for plans. I’m re-learning how to live my life.

I have dreams–dreams that involve being able to hold down a solid schedule. I don’t know if those dreams will have to change. I had hoped to create an interfaith center focused on sexuality and gender, but that seems ever more distant a dream right now. I may need to stick to research, to papers, to hinge on books and independent academia–dicey at best. But then, all academia is a dicey prospect, whether attached to an institution or not.

At the very least, I have options. And I do have hopes, dreams. If I cannot do what I first intended, perhaps I can inspire others in that path. And perhaps I can still do it. Perhaps I will become stronger, I will get out of this current low point, I will strengthen my neck and shoulder somehow, I will find a drug that doesn’t tire/nauseate me, I will find good therapy. My lover will move here, my kitchen table poly will be stronger, my sex life will get better, my boyfriend/Daddy’s arms will always be there, my wife will always hold me. These are the things I hold onto.

How I came to polyamory

I came to polyamory more slowly than I probably should have.

In undergrad, I took a Philosophy of Love course with my eventual spouse. Even before that course, I’d rejected the idea that there was only one true soul mate for each of us–because the world is large, because time is infinite (what if my true soul mate had been born in the 1500s? how screwed [or not] would I be?! and what about that poor sod?!), because there are so many ways to be happy with so many people…–and she had, too, for about the same reasons.

During the course, we talked, off and on, about what it would mean if she and I were to commit to one another forever, and whether we thought we’d always be monogamous and monamorous. We both agreed that we thought the idea unlikely, because neither of us could imagine one person fulfilling all our needs forever–because we would grow, because our selves would change, because of all those wonderful people out there.

Neither of us had ever heard of polyamory nor been really introduced to the concept of open marriages.

We got engaged anyway, happy that we were in agreement here and knowing that we’d always talk about these things whether such ever manifested in our lives.

Shortly after our engagement (or perhaps shortly before–I don’t remember the exact sequence), the chaplain fellow at my school took myself and another Theology-major classmate on a trip to visit the seminary from which she’d graduated. On the way there, she asked us very casually what we thought of ‘polyamory.’

I’d never heard the term, and I doubt my classmate had, either. I don’t remember what my classmate said in response. I remember thinking, Poly – many, amory – love, so that must mean many loves…. And then I said something like, “Well…it would take some pretty special people to be able to work out the jealousy factor, but I don’t see anything wrong with the idea.”

I don’t remember how the rest of the conversation went. In hindsight, I can see how I should have put together the word ‘polyamory’ with the concept my now-spouse and I had been discussing. I didn’t. Not for a couple of years anyway.

It wasn’t until after my spouse and I married (which was a full year after graduation, and that conversation had occurred during the January of my junior year) that I began to put that word together with our concept. And that happened because I met someone.

I wasn’t actively looking, and neither was my spouse. We were very happy with one another. But I did meet someone, and we talked and talked. He was funny and smart and kinky. I was in the beginning stages of exploring kink (and still am in a lot of ways, because I’m always exploring). And eventually, feelings developed.

So I talked about it with my spouse, and things developed, and though the relationship didn’t last long, it was fun and good.

There were a few more short-term partners and potential partners before I settled into another relationship. Around the same time, my spouse had also met someone. Both relationships lasted for a while–mine for three years, hers on and off for two–before we each found ourselves with only one another again.

There’s been a lot of ironing out of things for us–jealousy, rules, negotiations. At first, there were rules about talking about all partners, to help mitigate jealousy. But after a while we found less jealousy happening and more happiness for one another’s happiness (later we would learn the term ‘compersion’). We started out discussing every online flirtation, every online sexual encounter. Now we discuss those that seem more lasting, more likely to leave some sort of deep imprint, more likely to become real life sexual encounters.

Now, she has a long-distance long-term partner, and flirtations with others. Now, my long-term boyfriend/partner (who started out long-distance) lives with us, and I have another long-term, long-distance lover and a long-term, long-distance Dom. There have been some wrinkles to iron out with each of these–her partner wanting to tell me how to deal with my spouse’s depression issues, my boyfriend wanting me to commit to one penis policy, my lover and my Dom conflicting with one another in the beginning. But there have been so many more joys–my Dom guiding my explorations of Domminess with my lover; my lover and my spouse and my boyfriend and I gaming together; my spouse’s partner (my metamour–a new term I picked up recently) sending my spouse a gift card to buy feminine shoes to help with her transition and recommending excellent Indian recipes; my spouse and lover getting along so well that there’s at least slight attraction between them; my spouse and my boyfriend both kissing me at the same time on New Year’s.

I am so glad we listened to ourselves and explored together.

Previously posted on my FetLife profile.