Family Holidays for the Non-Anchor Partners

I run a group for “monocorns” – a word I coined to describe monoamorous people who are comfortable and happy in relationships with polyamorous people.

This morning one of my fellow monocorns posted something – and, though I don’t feel quite as strongly about it as she does, she is spot on about the struggle that certain “family holidays” like Thanksgiving and Christmas pose to those of us who aren’t the “visible” partners to our partners’ families.

It’s not a monocorn specific thing, either. Anybody out there who doesn’t hold “primary”, “anchor” or “nesting” status with their partner(s) might feel the struggle of a day like Thanksgiving.

I adapted. Thanksgiving isn’t a Thursday holiday anymore. Now it’s a Friday. Christmas happens several days later. Sometimes New Years eve is a day earlier or a day or two later, as well.

But, I won’t pretend that it’s not difficult on the day of.

If you are the nonmonogamous partner to someone you are not seeing today – it’s probably a good day to let them know that you wish you could. At the very least, it’s a good day to acknowledge that it might sting a little for them when they’re not sitting next to you at the table. Even if you wish YOU weren’t at the table because, hell yeah – families can be annoying. It’s having our partners there that makes some families more tolerable.

And for those of us who are spending these next few family holidays without our partners by our sides…

I guess all I can say is “I understand those feels.” I hope that for you, like for me, it’s not so much pain that it overshadows everything amazing you have with your person.

Wishing you all a pleasant evening, whether you spend it with your family, your friends, your pets, or with Netflix.

Roller Coasters and Trampolines

“How does one deal with the ups and downs of a poly relationship?”

My immediate thought upon reading this question is to wonder how one deals with the ups and downs of ANY relationship?

How do you deal with the problems in your monogamous relationship?  I spent more than 10 years in one.  We certainly had problems.  I believe the way we dealt with them was to identify them, communicate them, and attempt to adapt.

Now, I’m in a poly relationship.  We have a few ups and downs.  Not a huge number of them, but they exist all the same.

Does the poly part make a difference?

Seems to me that if it weren’t that, it’d be something else.  Relationships have ups and downs.  It is known.

But, are you on a roller coaster or a trampoline?

Do your ups and downs have forward motion — or do you keep revisiting the same spot over and over again?  Are there new twists and turns and challenges to overcome together, or are you trying to achieve some sort of flight stasis by pushing yourself into taking higher jumps?

Gravity is always going to bring you back down again. Trampolines are a fairly binary activity – your feet are either in the air, or on the mat – and there is a very short amount of time that you spend in either state as you travel back and forth between the two.

Roller coasters are different.  Roller coasters can be frightening, and disorienting, and for some people – completely off limits; BUT…

Roller coasters  have nuance.  And the amount of time spent soaring to new heights, or hurdling through a loop-de-loop varies.

My first roller coaster ride was Space Mountain at Disneyland. I had just gotten tall enough to ride, and everyone was always talking excitedly about it.  Already pretty geeky by then, I loved the futuristic feel and “story” that they’d created around the line to get onto the ride itself.  It looked and felt right up my alley.

I didn’t know it was a roller coaster, though.

I really didn’t know it was a roller coaster in the dark – where you couldn’t see the tracks.

I hated it.  I didn’t see one of the twists coming and by the time I walked out of the attraction, my neck had stiffened and I was in tears.

I was completely unprepared for the roller coaster and developed a fear of all roller coasters based on that experience.

My first poly relationships were a little bit like that.  I wasn’t well prepared – we hadn’t communicated effectively, and I was a little bit in the dark with what their expectations were.  I just knew that they didn’t give two flying craps about my expectations.  They were gonna do what they were gonna do, and if I got hurt – it was my own fault for wanting…what….light? a road map? A sense of where we were headed?

For years I swore up and down I would never date another polyamorous person again.

Years after my first Space Mountain experience, a friend convinced me to go on one of the kiddie rides at another theme park.  This was a short roller coaster that just rolled along with a couple of ups and downs, but no loops or quick turns.

I enjoyed it.  So she said, “If you like that, then you should try Colossus.  It’s basically just like that, but bigger.”

So, I agreed.  Colossus was a staple at this theme park. It was one of the oldest and largest wooden roller coasters, and it didn’t have any loops either.

I loved it!

“Well, if you like that….then you’ll LOVE Revolution! It’s the same thing, but with only one loop.  You won’t even feel it!”

By the end of that day at the theme park, I’d tried every roller coaster there was, including the newest one – Viper – which had multiple loops, corkscrews, and even one that went backwards.

 

Roller coasters still had ups and downs and even took me for a loop;  but, out in the light of day, I could see the tracks ahead of me, brace myself for the scary bits, and enjoy the rush of coming out the other side unscathed.

And the slow progression into the larger rides helped, too.  I was able to take small steps at a time.  Try it out and see if I liked it.  There was no pressure to get on any ride – just a suggestion that if I liked the last one, the next one would be just like that, but *more.*

Roller coasters have ups and downs, but (with the exception of Space Mountain) – you can kind of see them coming.  And you deal with them the way you deal with them.  Put your hands in the air, and scream…..

Okay, maybe not – but you anticipate, communicate, and adapt.

There was another attraction at the theme park a summer or two later.  By now, I was emboldened.  I fucking *love* roller coasters, I’m going to try them all!

This one was called “Free Fall.”  The car took you up like 30 stories high….and then just dropped you.  There was no warning.  No forward motion. No feeling of the track guiding the way.  You were just falling, trapped in a carriage, unable to even see the person beside you.

I never went on that thing again, nor any other attraction that featured anything like that.

If the ups and downs of your relationship are more like the free-fall than the roller coaster, then …yeah, I don’t know how I’d cope with that, other than to get off that ride and never get on it again.

And if your ups and downs are like being on a trampoline?  Well, some relationships are like that in the beginning.  The same fights, and an exhausting workout..  If there’s never any forward movement, my choice would be to slow down and climb off.  Eventually it’s time to rest.

But, if your ups and downs are more like a roller coaster…well, again.  Roller coasters have nuance.  Is it the peanuts coaster in the kiddie park – where your biggest fight is over the baseline status of the toilet seat?  Is it like Revolution, where you have a couple hangups that take you for a loop, but you get through them fairly quickly?

Or are you on Space Mountain, and coming out of the experience with a stiff neck and face full of tears?

Depending on your answer is how you deal with the ups and the downs.  Regardless, it’s important to remember that all relationships have ups and downs, and polyamory in and of itself isn’t the “villain” at the center of it.

Sometimes you’re just not compatible with the passenger in your carriage.

 

 

 

Taking Flight

In the past week I’ve successfully been suspended twice. By “successful” I mean I went up and I came down and there were no injuries. I lasted somewhere between 10 and 20 seconds up each time.

Have I suddenly learned to love suspension?

Naaaah. I wouldn’t say I love it. I still prefer being down on the ground, for the most part. Though I do love me a partial…

But I trust the two people who I’m allowing to practice their suspension skills on me, because they’ve invested a considerable amount of time learning from reputable and respected rope teachers in our community. And when I mean a considerable amount of time, I don’t mean a half-day class and some at-home practice.

I mean hours spent in monthly supervised instruction followed by practice followed by supervised approval that they’d picked up the appropriate skills and technique before moving forward.

I’ll say this: sitting through the class where they learned safety and technique for their first suspension (a side suspension) helped me a lot as one of the people putting my body on the line for this endeavor. I was able to understand with more clarity why certain things are positioned in certain ways or in certain places in order to maximize safety (and comfort…which is minimally maximized in a suspension to begin with) of the bottom.

I’ve sat through one-off rope instruction as a bottom before. They teach how to tie the knot, which I don’t pick up very easily. I’ve tried to follow the steps but I lose them as soon as it’s over. So, generally, when I’ve been the bottom in a class before this, I’ve not taken away much from it other than the wonderful sensation of being tied.

But, in these classes, I am learning too – especially from the instructor who teaches from the bottom position – on which ways to position my leg, for example, for the best results in a well-tensioned thigh cuff. I also was able to better understand what areas I should feel the pressure in, and whether or not there’s a need to panic if my fingers go tingly.

Little by little, I’m becoming more able to articulate what I think would work best for my body and my endurance level. I want the hip harness on first, for example, to limit the amount of time my body is in a stress position once the chest harness goes on. Or which leg goes up because one is stronger and more able to withstand carrying the weight of my body for the five or so minutes that the rest of the uplines are being secured.

It makes me feel like a true partner with the person I’m tying with. This isn’t only about them and their goals. It’s about our goals together.

The more I’m able to understand how to help my partners customize these ties to my body, the more comfortable I feel with the thought of taking flight. One-size-fits-all rope has never quite suited me.

Which brought me to this conversation the other night with my partner as we came home from our first successful suspension together.

“Maybe by my 40th birthday, I can be a piñata!”

I can see it now. By next July, I should totally be able to withstand spending …what, like a whole minute? Maybe two in suspension? Then he can beat me with, with something fun…like a hollow plastic bat. Big noise, but little pain. And I can hold handfuls of candy and fling them about the room!

It’s a fun thought. Who knows if it’s something that could happen or not? I don’t even know what’s happening tomorrow, much next be in a position to plan for next summer.

But, I like that I’m learning something and I like that I’m pushing myself a little out of my comfort zone with the help of two people that I trust will think no less of me if I feel like it’s too much and have to stop.

That trust alone is 60% of what gets me off the ground. The rest is just rope.

phi-is-me, too.

On National Coming Out day, I saw a lot of people coming out about a lot of things. Most of them came out about their gender identity or sexual orientation, which I have been informed is the focus and intent of the day’s existence. Some came out about their relationship orientation if they were non-monogamous, but most of those did so in conjunction with one of the gender or sexuality outings. Some came out about their mental health, and some came out about their STD status. Again, mostly in conjunction with one of the above.

A few people, unfortunately, came out as cis and straight and those people really just cannot seem to let something be not about them for once.

I didn’t come out about anything. When I saw someone out their polyamory I thought about it and opted not to. 1) because National Coming Out Day isn’t about me, and 2) because technically I still do not identify as polyamorous, even though my relationship is and coming out about my partner’s lovestyle isn’t what this is about. When I saw someone come out about having HSV2, I thought about it, but opted not to because 1) National Coming Out Day isn’t about me, and 2) National Coming Out Day isn’t about me.

But there was another thought that went through my head. It was about the repercussions of coming out on my “phi” account on FB or here on FetLife where all of these things I might have come out about (if it had been appropriate for me to do so) would have no effect on my life or livelihood.

Am I really “coming out” about anything when I’m on the account where I’m already open and out about everything?

And I realized just how accurate my FetLife handle turned out to be. See, originally I wanted to just be “phi” but that one was taken. I tried a few different options, but in the end, went with “phi-is-me” because…rhyming.

But after last week, I had this epiphany….it was the understanding that, in a way, phi really is me. The most authentic me. The me that can be completely honest about myself and not suffer the consequences of speaking out, so I’m free to do so without fear and without holding back.

Enter this week’s #MeToo campaign.

#MeToo, I posted on Facebook under my phi account.

But not on the account that bears my legal name. Not on the account that shares friendships with my boss and my coworkers and my parents and my grandparents.

Not there.

I realized that for every #MeToo we were looking at on social media, there were countless who were still hesitant to post.

Think about that, for a second.

For every #MeToo someone posted, there are countless who didn’t.

Why?

Maybe out of fear or shame. Maybe because once again, it’s a campaign aimed at raising the voices of the victims rather than a campaign aimed at exposing and shaming the actions of the perpetrators.

I’ve seen the backlash. I don’t disagree with it. I also don’t disagree with the campaign itself. The silencing of victims’ voices helps create the environment under which this epidemic continues to spread.

So I didn’t join the chorus on my main account. I don’t want to be questioned by my family, who don’t understand the concept of “boundaries.” I don’t want to have to “prove it” to my father who didn’t believe me when it happened in front of his face. I didn’t want to have to explain it to my mother, whose entry-level narcissism would make it about herself either why I didn’t tell her or how she could have not known.

I didn’t want to walk into work today and have my coworkers and colleagues treat me with pity or any differently than they ever have because suddenly they realized the magnitude of this epidemic.

So maybe I didn’t help. Or maybe I helped myself.

Either way, it doesn’t matter, because by now it shouldn’t surprise anybody to know how prevalent sexual harassment and assault are in our society.

I knew. It’s not news to me.

But, that was the point of the campaign, I guess. To open the eyes of the people who didn’t already know.

So, now they know.

What are they going to do about it?

My guess is nothing. My guess is absolutely nothing.

But their kids might. Or maybe their grandkids. And if this world lasts long enough for them to have great grandkids, ….maybe by then people like me won’t need to hide behind an alter ego.

But for now, there’s phi.

phi is me.

My Exhibitionism

Every once in a while, the fact that I’m an exhibitionist becomes a bit of a problem for me. See, it used to be easier to scratch that itch.

I wouldn’t say it was any safer, but I guess I just felt safer for a while. Then I had my very unsavory experience with a stalker and now I have to rein it in to protect my life and livelihood.

She’s itchy again. That exhibitionist inside me. She wants to come out and be seen.

I don’t know what I want this post to be, really. Partly it’s a way of venting my frustration at a system that doesn’t allow me to sexually express myself the way I want to without the inherent risks and consequences that I’m no longer willing to accept.

Partly it’s just ’cause I am feeling hidden when I want to be on display and the feeling of being hidden (even when it’s by circumstance and unintentional) doesn’t sit well with me.

Or maybe this is my weekly Sunday drop and what I need is some food and fresh air more than I want the validation of a thousand eyeballs on my flesh.

Probably all I want is attention, but the thing is – the type of attention I want is very specific, and the Fetizenry here doesn’t always interpret my requests for attention appropriately. I don’t want to be harrassed or cat-called or told in all the explicit ways that people fantasize about me. I want to feel safe and welcome in the expression of my sensuality.

I want to be respectfully and pleasantly admired and/or appreciated. Genuinely and honestly, but with enough restraint from those who see me so that I feel confident in allowing myself to continue that type of exposure. That’s what my exhibitionism is really about, when it’s all said and done. I relish the opportunity to be vulnerable because what I really get off on is trust.

I trust my audience to prioritize consent, decorum, and respect over their own personal desires.

After all, my inner exhibitionist…she’s doesn’t put herself on display for her audience’s enjoyment. That’s my intended reaction from a consenting audience, but it’s not really about pleasing them.

It’s about being me.

My Bookshelf Brings All the Boys to the Yard

This post was inspired by a couple of posts I saw on FetLife about being attracted to a person by the books on their bookcase.  Since I don’t want to link to someone’s blog there without permission, and he hasn’t yet posted them publicly – for now, that’s as much attribution as I’ll give for the inspiration.


Up until about a month ago (when I moved), my bookshelf was a farce.

Someone perusing my titles might have found me eclectic and interesting and imminently fuckable because of it.

Thing is, based on those books, they’d probably meant to fuck my late husband.
It’s too bad they weren’t around to meet him, because most of those books were his. He was a voracious reader. He had 52 years on this earth to collect – and collect he did – since he never threw a damned thing away. Ever.

No, I mean, like…ever.

I went through one purge shortly after he passed. I kept my books – (and I’ll get back to that) – but I also kept a lot of his. The ones I thought were cool. The ones that attracted me to him. Had an entire room in my house dedicated to books because they were precious and I had a difficult time letting them go.

But I never read them.

If you were to look at my bookshelf….the books that were placed there by me?

Well, you’d probably want to fuck the version of me that existed 20 years ago. That’s about how long it’s been since I’d have considered myself a “voracious reader.”

Then again, you might be turned on by the fact that after so many purges, those are the ones I’ve kept. Those are the titles I want serving as the ambassadors of what you might think is my intellect, but really? It’s my sentimentality.

That’s where you find my entire collection of Star Trek novels. I was in junior high when I started reading those. They take up a lot of real estate on that shelf. I’ll likely never read them again, but I love them. I just love them for my love of the franchise they represent and deeper insights and further stories about the characters I love.

I mean, I read all the Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books during that time, too, but even though I can remember exactly when Bruce took Jessica’s bikini top off in the ocean and the description of the water swirling up and chilling her breasts (the cornerstone of my early sexual fantasies for years) – I don’t actually HAVE any of those on my bookshelf anymore.

There’s one still on the shelf called Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, published in 1989. I read it when I was in elementary school. It was the first book of a serious nature I’d ever read – about two young girls during the Holocaust. It made an impact on me. I tried to get my parents to read it so that we could talk about it.

They didn’t. But I kept it. I still have it.

Ooh. And the Westing Game. I loved that book. Read it so many times. It had an effect on me – there was a character who was lauded for her beauty, but she quietly hated it. She wanted to be known for who she was as a person and not respected for how pleasant her face, hair, and body were. I related so strongly to her. I tried to get my parents to read that one too.

They didn’t.

I still remember exactly where I was when I read the big reveal. Oh my goodness, that feeling of all the pieces starting to fit together. I was in an after school program at the Jewish Community Center, ignoring all my peers and huddled into one of those plastic orange chairs leaning over a low table. I raced through the last few pages and went right back to the beginning and read the whole thing again in one sitting; now with the key piece of information in mind.

I think that’s the first book I ever read multiple times. I loved it so much!

I’d loaned it out to somebody and it never made it back to me; but some time in the last year, I found a copy in a giveaway pile. It’s back on my shelf again.

Any books that have found a place onto my shelf since then were either given to me by my husband, or compulsorily purchased for high school or college courses. After all, I was an English major with an emphasis on creative writing. I liked a few of those, so those are the ones granted intentional place on my shelf.

From him: Lolita. Don Quixote. Permanent Midnight.

From School: The Awakening. Metamorphosis. House of Mirth. Geek Love.

And, of course, there’s the entire Harry Potter collection. I started reading those right after book 4 was published – devouring my cousin’s first three during a week-long family houseboat trip on the Sacramento Delta. I read 4 – 6 electronically, and pre-ordered the final book in hardcover as it came out. I read that one from cover to cover on a flight from LA to New Jersey ten years ago. I then lent my physical copies to my stepdaughter when she came of age to read them. Being a child, she loved them to the point of destruction – so the hard-bound ones that now sit on my shelf with uncracked spines in the collectible trunk were a gift (like many of the Star Trek and Doctor Who coffee table books I do already have on display) from a loving husband who enjoyed my fanaticism.

That’s about what’s on my shelf that I’d say is mine. Except the ones in my kindle and audible accounts.

There aren’t many. And there are several that are in there that I haven’t read yet. But…unless you’re looking through my phone or tablet or laptop, you won’t see an accurate representation of what I’m into today.

But, as I wrote this out, I realized that the ones you might see in my house (or in a photo of me in my house) were a bit more than simply sentimental. In many ways, the ones I kept helped to influence who I am at my core.

So maybe taking a look at my bookshelf, now that the books there are mostly mine is an accurate representation after all – maybe not of the entirety of who I am and what I’m about, but certainly there are some key elements they helped form.

Ooh. That was a fun thing to write. It even surprised me at the end.

I’m gonna go back to the beginning and read it again.

The Consequences of Consequence Free Devotion

“My partner is extremely jealous. He cheats on me. He locks his phone but insists I keep mine unlocked and that he’s allowed to check it whenever he likes. I can’t be friends on facebook with any men who aren’t related to me, I can never talk to any of my exes, and he is very secretive about wherever he goes all the time with other women.”

Fifty people immediately respond:

“This is abusive.”

“Run.”

“Get out of this.”

“One million red flags here, you should reconsider your relationship with this person.”

And the OP is dumbfounded.

“I came here to get support. I don’t understand why everyone is telling me to leave. I will never leave him no matter what. I love him. So, what can I do?”

That’s when I tap out.

I used to be that person. The “I’ll never leave him no matter what,” person. That wasn’t even in a traditionally abusive situation. That was with a person with severe substance abuse and mental disorders who loved me very much, and trusted me implicitly.

But I was miserable. His illnesses were physically crowding me out of my own space. Our sex life was a distant memory. He became a recluse that would never leave the house, leaving me to fend for myself at holidays and family gatherings, and when he would come out? He was high, incoherent, and an embarrassment I felt I had to make apologies for.

I would complain to my friends and coworkers about the mess in the house, about his uncontrollable shopping habit, about his lack of sexual interest and they would suggest to me that I consider leaving.

I’ll never leave him.

He was terrified that I would. So many times, he’d break down sobbing and inconsolable, convinced that I would wake up one day and realize he was a failure and that I could do better (his words, not mine) and that I would leave him.

Which, of course, solidified my resolve to stay.

He never changed. He was never going to change.

My leaving wouldn’t have caused him to change.

My leaving would only have (potentially) improved my own quality of life, though I would certainly have felt guilty and miserable doing it.

The truth is, as I’m writing this I can remember being her. I can remember being that one who would never leave, and I know at the very depths of my soul that I absolutely never would have. Not that version of me, anyway. He passed away, and that’s the only reason I was able to get out. I was forced out.

I didn’t love myself enough to set boundaries. I loved him so much there were no consequences if he harmed me, even in the non-traditional ways that people tend to imagine harm.

There was no magic advice that could be given that would have changed my mind. There’s nothing I’m going to ever be able to write to anybody that is going to convince them that if they are willing to accept all manner of bad behavior from their partners without any consequences to their partners, their partners are unlikely to have any motivation to change. Ever.

Why should they?

You’ll never leave them no matter what.

So, that’s where I have to tap out. That’s where I have to shut down my empathy matrix, because…believe me. I can empathize. But I can’t help. I can’t be supportive of staying in a fucked up situation, and I can’t offer the “cure” for your partner’s toxic behavior.

You won’t like anything else I have to say, and it will only strengthen your resolve to stay in a bad situation indefinitely.

I wouldn’t wish my way out on anybody.