19 May, 2018

The May Long - Life Update

I'm off today, work tomorrow from 6:00 a.m-2:30 p.m., and am then off Monday and Tuesday. Nice schedule. It's as if they said "you're going to get bored in the middle of your long weekend, so why not come to work for eight hours?"

Sigh.

The sermon I'm writing is tough. I've scrapped it twice, and am sitting on a rough third attempt that needs polish. This is not how I normally write.

The introduction came off quickly and easily and then I hit the fork in the road beyond which I had to decide what, EXACTLY, about "the doctrine of love" I was going to write. And what I found, rather predictably, was that I had about six sermons' worth of material swirling in my head. At least. Parts of other sermons kept creeping their way into this one, and the whole thing was growing horribly unwieldy only two pages in.

As a writer, this process can be physically painful. You've got this beautifully crafted few paragraphs that, you suddenly realize, add nothing to your overall theme. Can I work this in somewhere, somehow? No. Shit.  I can almost hear the letters screaming as I bracket and brace them, turning them an ominous blue colour, marking them for extinction.  The click of my mouse pistol being cocked, and -- CUT --  they wink out of existence.

I'm a serial worderer. 

There is so much I want to write, so many things I can say about love.

 I know better than to talk about polyamory. It's been mentioned a few times from the pulpit, and covered more extensively in smaller study groups. The place is friendly and welcoming to absolutely everyone, and there are numerous polyamorous people in the congregation...but I didn't need to be told that they were "probably not ready for the stretch of a full press pulpit polyamory discussion".

I really didn't need to be told this. "Freedom of the Pulpit" is a Unitarian Universalist value and tradition (hence my being welcome to speak my piece, whatever it may be)...and with that power comes responsibility. I view that as a responsibility not to offend, and I'm all too aware of how people who don't understand take offence. In short, those attending need not worry about that topic coming up.

In the end, I decided to write about how to meet hatred with love. This is something I struggle with, but "you teach what you have to learn". 

I've always given people one chance to explain their racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, or what have you. One chance to clarify, and if they double down on it, click "unfriend".  That's not the right approach, and I know it, but often I just don't have the energy to combat such unthinking dehumanization of people.

I can do better. And will.

____________________

Work has been boring of late. I'm on light duty due to the torn tendon in my shoulder, which means I'm mostly zoning instead of stocking.

Zoning, or if you want to go full Walmartian, "practicing zone defense" (gag) is what's called "facing" or "fronting" everywhere else. Walmart considers themselves a cut above, and so they are continually inventing, if not the wheel, new ways to say "wheel". Shelves in the back room are not shelves, they are "bins". Head Office is there called "home office", and I refuse to call it that because home offices are in basements and spare rooms. The powerjack is a "walkie" and planograms are called "modulars" and the flyers are called "tabs" for no reason anyone has ever been able to explain to me. And if someone calls in on the phone, instead of saying "dairy department, line 605" like a normal person, you say "dairy department, you have a parked call on line 605". It was over a year before I figured out they were saying "parked call" and not "part call" (what the hell is a part call?)

Anyway, zoning.

I actually take some pride in this. There's something very satisfying about taking a mess of a section -- goddamnit, but it doesn't take long for chaos to set in and yield something that looks like a few hurricanes had an orgy -- and making it pristine. My signature zone flourish is that everything is English side forward. This, to me, is common sense (our store manager is Québécois, but German would be a better way to reach our customers, to be honest). But none of our associates (that's another Walmartism for "employees") seem to care. Same thing with displays: I make sure like is with like, and ONLY with like.

But eight hours of zoning is TEDIOUS.  And tomorrow it's going to be even more tedious, because after work I'm headed to see Kathy and Jade.

One of my friends comes home from a Utah hiking trip tomorrow. Another is in Florida. Nothing so exotic this year for me. One short vacation with Eva, another with Kathy, and Eva and Mark have one as well, and that will be just lovely.

The weather is muggy and overcast today, but the rest of the weekend is supposed to be ideal. Bring on summer...just let's not make it TOO hot, please?




12 May, 2018

Mother's Day

The average stay-at-home mother works 94 hours a week.

I will source that.

That's stay-at-home. A mom who works full time puts in 58 hours a week just doing household chores, in addition to her week at her paid job. It's pretty clear just from this that moms are the most overworked, underpaid people in the known universe.

Even so, the woman who created Mother's Day soon disowned it and tried to kill it, asking people

 "WHAT WILL YOU DO to rout charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations?"

Charming. Reminds me of Christmas. And Valentine's Day. And nearly every other holiday in this hyper-capitalist world. If you can't make money out of it, what good is it?

__________

I was not a very good son. At least not in my teens. I can't defend it; I can't even explain it. Selfishness doesn't even begin to cover it, really: for a while there, other people didn't even exist except insofar as what they could do for me. It gives me great shame to admit this. The people who were closest to me, namely my mother and stepfather, were nonplussed at their son's waywardness.

Normally so good with words, I was at a total loss to explain myself...but of course, what teenager ever feels the need?  Now, it's hardly easier. There was a hole in my soul. I see that now, but back then...how do you explain nothingness? The adolescent's delusion of superiority warred infinitely with a very well-developed inferiority complex, and so I veered wildly between grandiose gestures and a round-and-round jaded pointlessness. The grandiosity went towards people I was trying to impress, the pointlessness was most often directed at the people who loved me. And my mom got a heaping helping. It's fair to say, as much as it hurts now, that I detested my mom. I loved her, yes, but I hated her too. She did nothing to earn my hatred except be a loving mother to an unloving son who knew she didn't understand him because he didn't understand himself.

Mother's Day was a flashpoint in my house for many years running. To my mother, it was a Big Deal. I always felt under supreme pressure to meet expectations, and what I did with pressure in that time and place was chuck it in the fuck it bucket and move along, nothing to see here.

So she was bitterly disappointed by my gifts. I remember one year I bought her a set of Barbra Streisand cassettes in a nice booklet. (That should tell you how long ago this was...would have been '91, I think.) I got to thinking I wanted some of the songs for myself, and so without a thought or care I ripped open the box and dubbed what I wanted and then gave it to her, obviously used.

Selfish. And what's even worse, I never apologized for it. Eva came into my life, my relationship with my mother boiled over, she did not attend our wedding, there were five years of no contact...and when we re-established relations on a solid, if distant footing, I was petrified to rip open old wounds. I issued one blanket apology for years of shitty behaviour (to be fair to me, it was a conversation, not a single sentence from me)...it was accepted....and we moved on.

And she's dead now, and I can never apologize properly.

I loved my mom. Often I didn't like her, but I never stopped loving her. Love and dislike cause some awfully complicated swirls of emotion trying to coexist, especially when I add in a deep deep guilt knowing now that much of what I disliked about my mother stemmed from her mental illness.

And so I approach the word "mother" with trepidation, the way one might enter a field full of lovely flowers and loaded land mines. I've seen mother after mother both succeed and fail with their children. Their successes are spectacular, their failures even more so. I see daughter after daughter pressed to become carbon copies of their mothers. I see grown adults who seem never to have been nurtured and who thus lack the ability to be nurturers themselves. (And yes, I am aware that gender roles are sexist and that fathers can nurture and mothers don't have to). Still, I see child after child struggling to be heard and understood, and I reflexively blame the mothers (and fathers) before I stop to consider that most children don't understand themselves and antagonize their parents much like I did.

Every mother...every parent...is simply doing the best they can with what they have. Same as the rest of us. Except mothers are usually charged with so, so much to do, and often what they do goes unappreciated. In purely practical terms, there's that 94+ hours of work a week, encompassing a hugely diverse array of fields that would net Mom a pretty paycheque if we deigned to pay Mom what she's worth.

In my teen years, my mom wanted a Mother's Day gift I never gave her: the knowledge that her son both loved her and VALUED her. It wasn't about the expense of the gift (and in my teens, I couldn't see that)...it was about the thought behind it. I daresay the writer of the article I linked above is correct: most mothers don't want brunch in a crowd of strangers or some gaudy bauble for Mother's Day. I think that many would most appreciate a reversal of roles: a day where their children 'mothered' them, so to speak, by doing most of all of the housework...when they sat down with their moms and had a heart to heart talk about life and love and pain and joy....where their children said, tenderly and without artifice...Mom, I love you.




Mom...I love you.




Words

Hoo, boy, did I step in it yesterday. And having stepped in it, I wiped it off my shoe and carried on...but it still stinks.

George Carlin, in his famous Seven Words You Can't Say On Television bit, said there are "no bad words. Bad thoughts, bad intentions...and words." I have lived by that my whole life long.

I do have some vestiges of prude in me, which I of course consider good taste. Eddie Murphy in his Delirious stage is profoundly unfunny to me: saying "fuck" seventeen times in a minute does not constitute a joke. Likewise, there are a number of comedians of colour in competition to see who can say the words "nigger" and "motherfucker" most frequently. Oooh, how edgy. It's like the douchebag with the micropenis in his souped up Honda Civic, revving his engine. Oh, buddy, you have so much talent. Look at you, PRESSING A PEDAL WITH YOUR FOOT, you paragon of manliness. You get me warm in the secret spots, you do.

Douchebag.

But profanity has a rich history, and there are times when it is absolutely mandatory. Who among us has slammed a hammer down on his finger and screamed "oh, fiddesticks!"? You don't say "fiddlesticks", you say "fuck", and you say it loud and with vigour. And it's the velar plosive "ck" in "fuck" that does the work. Don't believe me? Next time you hit your finger with a hammer, try screaming "fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu"....and notice how unsatisfied you are.

I'm not here to talk about profanity today, though. I'm here to talk about something worse.

What's worse than profanity, Ken?

These days, there are many words much worse than fuck. Or nigger, or even the absolute foulest English word (outside Australia, anyway), which is cunt. Want an example of a word worse than any of these?

Poly.

No, not because it refers to "polyamory", and never you worry, this is NOT about polyamory in any way shape or form today. "Poly", you see, has been claimed by the Polynesians. Using the word in any other way, to refer to anything else, is "disrespectful". And it somehow "erases" people.

My jaw dropped at that, I don't mind saying. And I said something that REALLY pissed people off: "if you can be erased by a mere word, maybe you weren't really there in the first place."

I'm a white male. I'm not supposed to say things like this. My job, I was told, is to listen, apologize, and correct.

In the face of commands like that -- gee, in my whiteness and maleness I've been foolishly doing other things like singing love songs and building people up and wow, I use words in so many other ways, almost always positive,  when my JOB is to listen, and say the only word available to white males like me...sorry? FUCK OFF -- I can`sympathize with the right-wing backlash against political correctness.

Carlin was right when he said there are no bad words, only bad thoughts and bad intentions. He's right no longer. Words themselves are now toxic, regardless of how they're used, regardless of multiple meanings they might have. Take "poly".  It's a prefix from ancient Greek meaning "many", and it shows up in words like polygon (many angles), polysyllabic (many syllables) and politics (many blood-sucking insects...okay, that's not true).

Or take another word a poly friend of mine got in MAJOR shit for using to refer to her polycule. "Tribe". Oh, the horror of using a word that the dictionary defines as a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest. (But hey, we must remember that dictionaries were written by white males whose only JOB is to listen and apologize and correct, so there isn't a word in a single one of them, except "sorry",  that isn't suspect.)

People are now so quick to assume that if you use a word, any word, it's said with malicious intent.

I know about malicious words. I've had more than my share thrown at me over the years, always with maximum venom: all the gay slurs, of course, as well as things like spazz (for 'spastic') and quad (for 'quadriplegic'), both the latter because of my piss-poor coordination. Nerd and geek used to be ugly words; they've been almost totally reclaimed now. More recently, I get cuck and beta VERY frequently, and the hatred level is just as high as it was with the invective in my childhood.

What makes those words malicious? The intent behind them. Try as I might, I can't see how "poly" is a "bad word".

As for Polynesians demanding that "poly" refer only to them: people have every right to use whatever term they want to describe themselves. Persons of colour seem to change their preferred group name every ten years or so: it's gone from "Negro" through "Colored" and "Black" and "African American". Now it's "persons of colour" or POC. That's fine, until 2025 or so when "melatoninally enhanced" becomes de rigueur. I'll call you whatever you want to be called; that's basic respect. I'll use your chosen pronoun without blinking.

Kindly do the same for me.

Upon reflection, I could sort of understand where the "erasure" comment came from. If you search "poly" online,  you'll have to scroll through MANY pages of results to find a single reference to "Polynesian". (Of course, only a tiny subset of those results refer to polyamory, because as noted above, "poly-" just means "many", Pacific Islanders must be a little ticked to discover that the term they've adopted is already so common in English. They're more than welcome to use it, but they risk a kind of abstract, online erasure if they do.

Even so, using "poly" to mean many does not erase someone. Not in the reality that matters.   People can tell me I don't exist and holy shit, I'm still here. People can call me cuck, fuck, suck and again...still here.

Words can and do have multiple meanings. "Many" in Samoan (which is the official language of Polynesia) is tele...which is, kind of oddly, another extremely common English prefix from Greek meaning "from a distance".

There's a solution that doesn't involve abolishing an ancient, common prefix.

"I am Samoan" in Samoan is i te Samoa.

Do you see "Poly" there? I don't.

________________

There's definitely truth in "woke" sayings like "the oppressor does not get to determine what constitutes harm". There are times, though, when people's harm detectors are turned way the fuck up. They're hyper-alert for any perceived, as opposed to, you know, ACTUAL, slight. And what's worse is that as a white, straight cis-male, my words are automatically suspect (at least) three ways. I must be misogynist, because that's a trait common to males; I must be homophobic, because that's a trait common to straights, and I must be racist, because that's a trait common to...well, pretty much every racial group on earth. (Go to Japan and count the ""Japanese Only" signs and tell me how they differ from these).

I may belong to the classes called "white", "straight" and "born male". They do not define me.

I am more willing than most to respect others. People who know me know this. I do wish the same courtesy could be extended in return.


.

29 April, 2018

Be Longing



I always, always come out of the Sunday service at GRU feeling revitalized. Stronger. More in tune with myself, where I've come from, and where I'm going. Feeling more compassion for the world.  And often, inspired to write.

Today's service, "Braving the Wilderness of Belonging", was no different. In fact, it resonated particularly strongly for me. I'm going to be writing what will essentially be a very long, hopefully compelling Breadbin entry and presenting it in less than three months; taking and interpreting Rev. Jess's amazing sermons is good practice. 

I've said more than once that for a long time I existed on the outside of every inside there ever was.  I longed to belong...but I felt that I couldn't, possibly, because belonging, to me, was a gift bestowed by others. 

It has to be, doesn't it? The absence of it feels so much like a deliberate withholding, after all. 

What I didn't realize back then was that image above. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

I didn't accept myself for a long, long time. I took all my validation (or lack of it) from my parents, first, and then my peers. I never even thought to look for it within myself. 

My parents did their best, all of them (biological and step)...and I'm not going to say their best wasn't enough, because it isn't a parent's job to validate their child.  

That appears to contradict a whole lot of parental philosophy and practice. So let me add to it:

It isn't a parent's job to validate their child. Rather, it is a parent's job to provide a safe, loving environment in which children can validate themselves. 

That is also a friend and partner's job, as I understand it and try to live it. 

The first five years of my life...I was poisoned. Not intentionally; far from intentionally. But I lived in a house riven by hatred, and being a bystander to hatred has lasting, profound repercussions. When you're a child,  it's hard, often impossible, to distinguish what's happening around you from what's happening TO you. And a child's conception of fault is much more simple. If bad things are happening around (to) you...they must be your fault. 

My parents, both of them, tried hard to dispel that with words. Their actions, focussed on each other, though, spoke a different language, a more direct, brutal one. I didn't speak that language. It was a dialect of dark energy, an idiom of intolerance,  and it was utterly incomprehensible to me. In other words, I didn't belong.

I went to school. For five years--junior kindergarten through grade three--I was surrounded by kids too young to have absorbed more than token resistance to The Other, and so I was mostly accepted. But longtime readers know what came next: I moved to London, got glasses, and from then on my external appearance more closely matched The Other that I was. 

And I really was. I've always been hypersensitive. I'm an empath's empath. Energies that seem to be entirely or mostly unsensed by many can affect me to the point of physical illness. I feel rather than see large crowds, and the feeling is psychically akin to being buffeted by a gale at sea. I've never been able to hold back tears if I felt like crying, and I often did feel like crying. Violence utterly repulsed me. I was and am almost completely unaffected by physical appearances. It seemed as if nobody could understand me, let alone relate to me.

They put me in a gifted program for grades seven and eight, thinking I would find a home among kids whose gifts, as it turned out, ran much more towards the mathematical and scientific than the literary and emotional. And I'm here to tell you this: nobody shuns half as well as people who are shunned themselves. I didn't belong among the 'gifties' and I sure as hell didn't belong among the "(mun)danes", either.  

Then I went to high school. Grade nine, Oakridge Secondary. For the first time in my life I experienced the kind of shaming that most terrified my mother: people actually asked me what my parents did for a living on my first day, and the answer clearly wasn't satisfactory. From then on, to all but the teachers, I was a non-entity. People would scatter to the four winds when I sat down for lunch. You get used to that kind of thing -- a human can get used to damn near anything, I've found -- but it's beastly hard to overcome the effect of such concentrated neglect. 

I didn't belong. 

I couldn't.

I went to Westminster Secondary after that. My mom and stepdad  kept moving around, driven sometimes my economic necessity, sometimes by ambition, and sometimes seemingly by pure whim. At Westminster, I started the long, long process of coming into my own. 
Westminster at the time was practically devoid of cliques. I was left alone, not out of malice but simply because everybody was left alone to be who they were. 

I didn't know who I was.

I had some ideas, of course, but most of them were heavily inflected by the perceptions of bullies. Shedding those was gruelling work, but every tentative step seemed to gain me more and more of a semblance of acceptance. Leaving Westminster for Ingersoll District C.I. two years later was the most difficult move yet..and by the end of that single year at I.D.C.I, I didn't want to leave it, either.

I thought I had accepted myself then. I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong. 

University. Wilfrid Laurier. Frosh week felt like the worst excesses of high school all over again, and after a single day of that, my room-mate Jason and I went off to make our own fun. Outside our room on Mac 2 West, though, I found myself emphatically NOT belonging once again. That was a rude, rude shock. I'd thought this acceptance and belonging thing was some kind of linear process. Not even close.

I still couldn't seem to make friends; the friends I did have had all selected me, by some process and for some reasons I was ignorant of. Alcohol didn't interest me, and most of my dorm-mates were majoring in Alcoholism, with a concentration in Projectile Vomiting. And soon, of course, I lost interest in the classroom altogether and got ensnared in the World Wide Web, where the illusion of belonging is particularly powerful, but where, in the end, you're alone looking at a screen. 

I met Eva in 1999. She was a turning point for me. Here was a woman who accepted me as I was, validating me at every turn, but even more importantly gifted me with that safe, loving environment necessary for me to validate myself. For the first time in my life. 


This is how Eva lives her life: a part and apart, knowing who she is and what she stands for, yet deeply respectful of who others are and what they stand for. Judgment doesn't often faze her; in fact, she really is the sort of woman who can be thrown to the wolves and come back leading the pack. She does not fit in; she's far too multifaceted to need to. And as was referenced in today's sermon, she will bend, she will be flexible, but she shall not be moved

I owe this woman a debt I can never repay. She has given me not just permission to be myself, but the understanding that belonging was inside me all along. 

More and more people have come along, people with whom I belong. because more and more I accept myself as I am. More and more I'm able to extend that gift of belonging. I can gift Kathy with what Eva first gave to me: unconditional love and acceptance, something I'm not sure she'd experienced in her adult life either. And in the manner of all things, you can't truly realize you have it except by experiencing yourself giving it. 

I belong. I belong to me, to you, to her, to GRU.

I BELONG.





28 April, 2018

"Trying Poly"....

Administrivia: For those who wish to mark their calendars, on Sunday July 15 I will be giving a sermon at Grand River Unitarian Congregation, 299 Sydney Street South, Kitchener, Ontario. I will be writing it; the topic I have selected is "The Doctrine Of Love". Further details...well, you'll have to be there for them. Although I hope to be picking the music.
Big, heartfelt thanks to Rev. Jessica Purple Rodela for the vote of confidence.
_________________________________________

I'm grateful that polyamory is getting more and more visible, at a rate I hadn't imagined in my most optimistic projections. Alan M's excellent blog, Poly In The Media, tracks notable mentions of abundant love in newspapers, magazines and television, and it seems like both the quantity of articles and the quality of their sources has been increasing rapidly.  This kind of exposure will certainly help to reduce stigma. And it may encourage more people to "try poly".

Something about the formulation of that phrase feels just a wee bit 'off' to me. My inner Yoda is saying "do or do not, there is no try". I think it's because I'm really sick unto death of, well, guys especially, not having the slightest clue what they're actually 'trying'.

Poly women, you've seen it on dating sites, haven't you? I mean, rejecting a guy on Plenty of Fish or OKCupid is already pretty much guaranteed to come with a heaping helping of "you stuck up bitch, why won't you fuck me" (see previous 'incel' post!)...but if you're ethically non-monogamous,  you get the added bonus "you're poly, which means you'll fuck anything, and you STILL won't fuck me? (Cue tirade).

Or, what's arguably worse, you meet someone, you click, you explain what you're about in terms of ethical non-monogamy, they appear to get it, and subsequent actions and behaviours reveal they only appeared to get it because it might have got them into your pants.

Now, it's fair to say right off that there can be a vast difference between what you think you're going to feel, confronted with polyamory in practice, and what you find yourself actually feeling. You think you're okay with the concept of metamours and the fact you're sharing someone's time, attention and possibly body...and then an actual metamour actualizes out of the actual blue and you're actually jealous as hell. Even experienced poly people can be confounded by jealousies with one partner they never experience with another.

But that's not what's, ahem, actually going on in many many cases. The guy -- it's usually a guy, though it can just as easily be a girl -- focusses on the time, attention and body when it's theirs...and never even stops to consider what happens when it isn't.

That's because almost all of us have been raised in a devoutly monogamous culture, and the only lens most of us can view "more than two" through is cheating. So often the person new to polyamory will cast themselves (unconsciously) in the role of cheater or cheatee. Both roles dictate emotional reactions to a wide range of common poly situations and both are 100% dead wrong.

POLY IS NOT CHEATING. POLY IS A DIFFERENT RELATIONSHIP MODEL, no more valid than monogamy but no less, either. It works for lots of people, and can work wonders for people new to it, but only if those people have a solid grasp of what it is they're embracing. I have introduced two people to polyamory, and both of them are at least as accomplished at it as I am...probably more so.

"Try" it? Nobody would say that about a monogamous relationship. "Hey...I've got this hankering to be with you and only you for the rest of my life. I want to invest in you every expectation I have for a relationship! Let's....let's TRY MONOGAMY!"

The thing that people refuse to get is that there's commitment here. Instead of committing to one person, you're committing to two or more. I've seen that assertion endlessly disparaged -- only one of the relationships can be "real", right? -- and I immediately ask which among the disparager's friends is the only real one.

As I've repeatedly said, poly people themselves don't help this cause overmuch because many of them make no distinction between no-strings-attached sex and, well, more-than-just-strings-attached relationships. I have no problem if you want to engage in casual sex, so long as you're doing it ethically...but don't call it polyamory, okay? This is another thread linking back to my previous post. Because so many asshole men feel entitled to sex, but not near as many feel entitled to relationships. Stress the relationship at every turn and you'll turn the assholes off much more reliably. Even doing that consistently won't shield you from people determined to misread you...but it will help. 

So on the other end: you still want to "try" polyamory? Here's a little not-cheat sheet to determine if you stand any chance of success. Test yourself against it; test any prospective partner against it.

1) ARE YOU LGBTQ+ (and the biggest plus I'm highlighting here, in case you ruler-straight folks are nervous at this,  is ALLIED)?

There is a very strong strain of gay conservatism, but on the whole, LGBTQ people--who already violate heteronormativity by their very existence--are more open to violating other norms that don't serve them. And those who are allied are more likely to be open to polyamory, which does defy a societal norm.

2) CAN YOU VISUALIZE YOURSELF FEELING COMPERSION?

It's not a critical emotion, but the capacity for it is highly suggestive of a poly mindset. It's also something very easy to spot early in someone: the ability to feel joy unadulterated by self-interest is something I personally find highly attractive.

3) ARE YOU A COMMUNICATOR?

Because you're going to have to be. We all have stuff to learn--I've discovered I'm not quite the level I thought I was--but your inclination has to be towards solving problems through calm, reasoned talk. It's not that polyamory is inherently problematic, before you get that idea: it's that situations come up in polyamory that a lifetime of monogamy can't prepare you for. What do you say or do when your metamour wants more time with your partner than you're willing to give? What about if you want more time with a partner than another partner is willing to allow? And how do you react when your partner comes at you with an insecurity you find, frankly, stupid? (Hint on that last one: don't say "that's stupid...")

4) WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR JEALOUSY?

We polytypes DO get jealous. The difference between us and others is what we do with it. We don't pin-the-blame-on-the-partner (unless it's a very special kind of justified jealousy where we're very deliberately being abused or neglected...and if we've done our job and picked our partners with the proper care, that kind of jealousy is very rare.) Instead, we look within ourselves to see what insecurity is driving the jealousy. If you find that alien, if you're the kind of person who is suspicious of your partner's "gender-inappropriate" friends, please do us a favour and forget you ever heard of polyamory.

In short: if you are excited by the prospect of abundant love not just for yourself, but also for your partners, you might have what it takes. If you recognize that people are PEOPLE, with feelings and desires and above all BOUNDARIES of their own, you might have what it takes. Are you getting it? This is no light undertaking, any more than a serious monogamous relationship is. Do or do not: there is no try.


27 April, 2018

Incels

So the men who can't get laid are calling themselves "incel" — which stands for involuntarily celibate.

Nah.

They're celibate by popular demand.
--David Gerrold

____________
In case you haven't been paying attention, the van attack in Toronto was perpetrated by a "man" calling himself an incel. That's short for 'involuntary celibate', and it's a term (ironically enough originally coined by a queer female) that has come to describe men who (a) aren't getting the sex they feel they are owed and who (b) blame women for that. There are more than 40,000 subscribers to r/incel on Reddit alone, and almost 200,000 who read r/theredpill, a related forum. These people exist. In great numbers. And the mindset they share is different only in degree, not in kind, from the mindset most, nearly all, men share. Don't believe me? Read on.
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I could have been an incel.

That's hard to admit, but it's true. I had many of the makings of one. Most of my teenage years were spent (a) alone and (b) yearning not to be. I had endless fantasies about countless girls, precisely none of whom  would spare me the time of day. I was 'friendzoned'  before that became a popular term, and yes, it spawned self-loathing that's typical of incels, no matter how hotly they try to overcompensate for it. (The Toronto criminal repeatedly demanded Officer Ken Lam shoot him and tried to provoke that response).
In a Facebook post made minutes before the terrorist attack -- and yes, that's exactly what this was -- the perpetrator stated "we will overthrow the Chads and Stacys!"

"Chads" (short for "Chad Thundercock") are stereotypically masculine men. I've referred to them more than once as "Muscles O' Greasestain": men with sex appeal out the ass and as often as not little in the way of brains. "Stacys" are the women who lust after the Chads and don't spare a glance towards the nerdy Kens incels.

I get their pain. I've felt it. Sex with me brought up as a dirty joke, a situation to which death was preferable. Every overture rejected, often cruelly. Attendant self-hatred and a conviction I would be forever alone.

I don't know if Sandy even remembers me as anything other than the prick who ruined her prom. She was more than that to me--as hard as that might be to believe from reading about how I ruined her prom.
Sandy was my first real girlfriend. My first real kiss since grade three. She had me in a state...I was perpetually horny, but also possessed of what I have been told is an inhuman amount of self-restraint, coupled with the ironclad belief that sex was out of the question for the likes of me. No amount of frantic kissing would quite overturn that conviction; even her inviting me back to her place on a shared spare didn't quite do it (although to be fair, that may have had more to do with her father arriving home most unexpectedly as the party was, shall we say, about to commence).

The horny teenager in me was ecstatic to get to second base. The inhumanly restrained (not to mention ashamed; I was going through a Christian phase and didn't like those 'base urges') teenager recognized pressing further would have been a mistake. Sandy trusted me, and said many times what attracted her was that I wasn't like other men. The last thing I would do, then, is act like those other men.

Maybe that saved me. Maybe she did. I can't say for certain what might have happened had she not come along--and of course if the online culture had existed to today's degree in 1990). But I do know this: like any cult, the incels are expert at taking alienated, lonely people and radicalizing them. You start gently, by expressing sympathy and what seems like a genuine understanding of the recruit's pain. Then you provide a scapegoat. In the case of incels, that's obviously women themselves. You learn that your failings with women aren't actually your fault: that supposedly women are programmed to seek out the men with status and power and those genetics that gift them with muscles instead of brains. The incels know all this. They've studied it, see, and they're brainy. Like you. You're one of them!
Your 'victimhood' thus becomes a source of empowerment, and as you go further and further down the rabbit hole, you further and further objectify the women who have supposedly caused you all this grief. They become Stacys. Or, even worse, "femoids": women are now subhuman.

I probably wouldn't have succumbed. I have too much empathy, and I have cared about women, plural, going back to earliest childhood. I never even had a 'girls are icky' stage.
But...there's no denying I might have. Because Sandy aside, I was rejected at every turn. In favour of guys who had looks and to my mind not much else. And mostly because, you know...I was...

A NICE GUY!

"Any man who must say 'I am the king' is no true king." -- Tywin Lannister, Game of Thrones

Ah, Tywin. You were a ruthless son of a bitch and I miss you.

Likewise, any "nice guy" who has to say he is one...isn't.`

It took me an embarrassingly long time to truly grasp this. In fact, you can read a post right here, from barely two years ago, where I still hadn't 'got it'.

It seems monstrous to state out loud that women owe men sex. Outside of incels, few men would be so baldfaced about it. But ask yourself, men: is there some number of dates, some level of material gift, or anything else you can imagine after which you 'reasonably' expect sex to occur? I think most men, if they're being honest with themselves, would say yes to that.

That's a toxic attitude, you know. It's distressingly common, and it's toxic. Women do not owe men anything: not their time, not their attention, and most definitely not their bodies. No matter what men do. Because sex is not transactional. No matter what incels may believe, women are not machines that you put tokens into and sex spills out.

Sex is a gift. If you're "giving to get", you're not really giving at all. And you're on the road that eventually leads to incelhood if you think sex is something you should be getting. "Nice guy" or no.

By the way: the 'Chads' that women tend to go for? The guys with looks and not much else? They do have something else. It might be something their looks have largely given them, but they do have it...and others can have it too. Even nerdy Kens. It's this:

Confidence

I think some women may mistake bravado for confidence, but confidence is attractive. Self-pity isn't. And blaming the very person you want to attract for their not being attracted to you...well, you know, for such supposedly brainy people, you'd think incels would spot the hole in that. Especially since holes seem to be their entire mode of thought.

Here's a thought, incels: you want sex? Try wanting a lot more than that. Then try thinking -- I know this is hard -- that maybe, just maybe, your wanting something isn't a guarantee you'll get it. Finally, try understanding that whatever you might think, women do care about more than looks. I have two partners and several very close female friends who choose to be seen with me despite mine. Q.E.D.

15 April, 2018

My Calling

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

No question ever put me on edge quite as quickly as this one. Because you're supposed to know, right?  You either know it from an early, early age, or you learn it as time goes on. 

I never did. I still don't.

Chronologically, I'm sure at some point I wanted to do what Daddy did: be a police officer.  As a young child, the appeal is obvious. Police officers are the Good Guys. Superheroes, in the flesh, fighting all manner of evil.  It's only as I grew that I realized I could never be one myself. Clark Kent has the thick glasses; Superman has no need of them. Moreover, between the purposeful evil out there and the random purposeless peril that even better exemplifies life on the wall between peace and chaos...I could never exist on that border for long. Call me a chicken if you wish; I've been called worse just this morning and will be called even worse later today, I'm sure. As much as I despise Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men, he had a point. In the manner of every bully, he took his point far too far, but he did have a point. A society without people willing to stand on that wall will not last long against those willing to climb it from the other side.

I started playing keyboards when I was three, and composed my first piece at four. Called "A Trip Down Main Street" -- after a common Price Is Right showcase at the time -- well, in my adult opinion, it was and is actually pretty good, if simple. It has a real boogie-woogie vibe I never managed to recapture in anything else I've written since 

Piano soured on me -- not coincidentally -- right around the time it stopped being sheer play and started demanding serious effort, particularly effort at conformity. Fuck it all, I would have said, if that phrase had even been THINKABLE in a home with my mom and stepdad in it. I hit the right note, didn't I? Why do I have to use a specific FINGER to do it? HERE'S a specific finger! (The answer to this, of course, is that beyond a certain level, if you're going to hit the right next note, you'd BETTER be using the correct fingering. 

Still, I composed. Still, music was (and is) a passion. And when I started playing baritone in grade seven, I discovered an instrument I was willing to sink effort and discipline into. 

I was good. Not great -- my friend Craig was great, and he makes a living off his trumpet now -- but good, and with the potential to be great myself. Not just potential, but some level of desire. 

With the best of intentions, my mom quashed that. She didn't outright forbid me from pursuing it, but she certainly expressed her grave reservations. I'd starve, she said. I'd eventually tire of it, she said, and then what would I have to fall back on?  

And she, too, had a point. I can look at Craig and say that's what I could have been...but while I had more willingness to put in skullsweat on brass than I had on piano, I've never put in anything like the effort that Craig has to get where he is. The guy was practicing five hours a day in high school. That's passion. Have I ever had the like?

Well...

I wrote my first stories in second grade. They were painfully derivative haunted house tales that still managed to chill some of my classmates. One of them, 'Dressed to Kill', spanned something like 27 ruled-line notebook pages, and that's all I remember about it. 

All my life people have been telling me I'm a born writer. I have the same problems with writing that confound me with piano. Staying on one topic for any serious length of time turns joy into drudgery. I've been published something like a dozen times...and all of those were letters to the editor that I dashed off in seconds to minutes. This blog has been published 1,746 times as of this entry...and the most intense blog I've ever written took mere hours.  A novel, or even a short story? Days. Weeks. Months. Years. In the same place. 

How do people sustain that? How?

I still recall writing an essay in university Media Studies. The topic was Jurassic Park and whether or not it was suitable for children. That essay read very much like what a good Breadbin entry does today. I made it intensely personal, I wrote in a rambling style, mixing humorous asides in with my very serious points, and I gathered in seemingly irrelevant information and made it relevant. 

I got a 95 and a written question: "Have you ever considered writing for the media?" Why, yes, yes, I have. 

So I went to talk to that prof. And she gave me a roadmap showing how to get from where I was to a career doing just that, writing for the media. And again, I was dismayed, disillusioned, and dissuaded...because of my disinclination towards hard work. 

Look, I get the concept of paying dues. I admire my wife's determination to start at the bottom of every ladder and rapidly ascend them (her argument is "how can I effectively be a manager in a given environment if I haven't both been managed and managed myself in that same environment?"

But ugh. Reporting. That's writing precisely the kind of cookie-cutter 'stories' I'm LEAST suited to write. It's using the correct finger  on the correct note all over again, with the stark difference that I know I'm beyond that. It's interviewing people, asking them questions I already know the answers to, and most of all it's taking as gospel something I completely disagree with: there is nothing that is none of my business. Bullshit, there isn't. Moreover, most of what's published as news...isn't. It disturbs me mightily that people have an insatiable appetite for whatever the latest Kardashian is up to. Or that a man, only of renown because of a bloodline, is marrying a C-level actress. Or, for that matter, the idiocy that is Donald Trump. Have we not figured out yet that the President of the United States is a prima donna who thrives on media attention?

What I want to do is be a columnist. That's what these Breadbin entries are, right? But you can't get there from here, or rather, you can't jump over the mountain between here and there. 

What else? The only other A-level passion I have is for love, and love doesn't make much of a career. Broadly speaking, I certainly have the mental makeup to be a therapist...but for one problem. I've already lost one woman of the eight who have come to me talking of suicide. I live with that loss every day. It's a burden of a type that makes other like burdens impossible to carry. Putting that aside and stipulating family therapy...I'm 46. I should have got on this 28 years ago.  

Then we have the lesser loves of my life. Talking. My dad christened me Macaw when I was two because "all I ever did was squawk and shit"--I haven't stopped doing either. In fact, I'm told the one often sounds a lot like the other....

Spirituality. I have some pretty deep convictions, continually reinforced, that there is a dearth of empathy in the world, and that it's getting worse, not better. I do what I can to rectify that.

Or do I?

How can I best combine my gifts and interests:

  • Music
  • Writing
  • Love
  • Helping people, especially emotionally
  • Spirituality
  • Speaking/Storytelling

What might combine all of this into one endlessly changing, never boring package?

My blog from last week has been shared on Grand River Unitarian's Facebook page. A friend of mine, who was in fact the catalyst who finally got me off my ass and into GRU in the first place, asked me

Any chance ministry might be your calling?

Until I discovered UUism, I would have responded with an absolute hard no to that question, talents and interests be damned. I will not presume to inflict doctrine on people. Except...


Love is the doctrine of this church,
The quest for truth is its sacrament, 
And service its prayer. 
To dwell together in peace,
To seek knowledge in freedom, 
To serve humanity in harmony with the earth, 
Thus do we covenant together.

Love stands in place of doctrine in a Unitarian Universalist church. And they mean that. It is not important what your conception of the divine is, or if you have one. What matters is how you treat other humans, animals, and the planet we share.

That's the kind of philosophy I can embody. I think I've been searching for permission to search my whole life.

Roadblocks, since my mind loves to throw those up like so much chaff.

One, I'm 46. It's too late to become a minister like Rev. Jess...far, far too late. Counter: there are many other ways to use my gifts in this context, and I did just get finished saying I'm a follower, not a leader.

Two, social anxiety. I don't have this to the extent many do, but I do have it, and it impairs me. Especially in crowds, and sometimes interacting one on one with strangers. Counter: It's improving. Slowly, but it is improving.

Three, that glacial speed. Well, now, isn't this tautological. I can't have it both ways: I can't deliberately slow myself down out of fear and then announce I won't ever get anywhere because I'm moving too slowly. 

At some point, I've got to plunge.

Why not now?




14 April, 2018

Sexual Fantasies

"A fantasy is not even a wish, much less an act. There is no such thing as a culpable or shameful fantasy".  --Spider Robinson

This blog is deeply personal. It's teeming with sexual content. If you don't want to read about sexual fantasies, you best bug out now.


We're headed into firmly adult territory today, folks. You have been warned.


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So much of what passes for "sex education" today mirrors what passes for education in other areas. What information you do get is clinical, impersonal, and hard to relate to life as you actually live it. In the hands of all but the best teachers, history is a a dry and dusty recitation of dates; English is an endless search for subtext (talk about missing the forest for the trees!); math (beyond kitchen-table arithmetic)  is pointless torture that couldn't be more irrelevant to anyone aspiring to be other than an engineer or an algebra teacher. And sex ed? Is nearly always presented timidly, awkwardly, as if sex itself is some kind of bomb that might go off at any moment, showering the classroom in sticky secretions.

(You winced, didn't you? Sure you did. Now ask yourself if you winced only because "secretions" and "classroom" don't belong in the same sentence.)

Let me be clear. I am NOT arguing that sex ed needs a lab component in which you start with masturbation and work your way up to orgies. For one thing, how would you grade it?

No, in all seriousness, I'm NOT suggestion any sex act be performed in a classroom setting. But I do think our children are spectacularly ill served by a curriculum which, even now, fails to put sex into any kind of context.

I do believe there is merit in viewing porn in class. Parents will recoil in terror, but trust me, your kids have seen porn by the time they get to high school. Quite possibly a whole hell of a lot of it. And they take that knowledge of porn into their first sexual relationships, and wonder why, for instance, the pizza delivery guy doesn't actually show up ten seconds after he's called. Kidding, kidding...they wonder why they can't bring a girl to orgasm as easily as they've been led to believe; they wonder why foreplay is necessary (Groucho Marx, leering: "and the AFTplay was pretty good, too!"); they don't realize the extent to which both women and men are degraded in porn. Contrary to what pornography portrays, many to most women don't enjoy facials...they often find them humiliating.  And not every woman is a HotBiBabe (TM) eager to engage in MFF threesomes.

 (And you don't believe men are degraded? Watch a steady diet of porn and count the number of male faces you see.)

To say nothing of what gay people must wonder, because their sexuality is all but ignored entirely. Or non-binary people, struggling with reconciling what they're hearing what what's going on in their heads. For anyone belonging to any sexual or gender minority, sex ed is even more of minefield than it is for the rest of us.

"What's going on in their heads" is what is utterly ignored in class. And it's critical.  Just to give one example: fantasies.

They start early--often before you're even aware of what sex is. For me, I got a completely inexplicable (and to this day unexplainable) thrill every time I watched Cookie Monster on Sesame Street eat something that clearly wasn't edible. You tell me why that should provoke stirrings in a part of my body I thought, at the time, was just a spigot to pee out of.

Nobody ever made sense of that one for me, but I've had to make sense of all the myriad of fantasies I have had since. And Spider Robinson's quote, above, was an epiphany and a liberation in that regard.

You run down the list of common male fantasies and I don't share many of them. I have no interest in dominating a woman. It's just not part of who I am, to "dominate" anyone or anything. This little quirk of mine has caused me no end of insecurity and grief, because as it turns out many bordering on most women of my acquaintance want to be dominated. It's a hard-on block for me, double entendre intentional. You can't write about this stuff without the in-you-end-oh's getting thick on the ground, can you?
But domination seems to tip so easily into humiliation and degradation, and even if that appeals to some women, it most certainly doesn't to me.
The flip side, submission? I'm not really that either. I mean, I prefer to let my partner take charge...if she's initiating, then it's a pretty safe bet she wants to do what we're doing. But I'm no more into being degraded, humiliated or in pain than I am into inflicting any of that.

I look at the rationale given for the extremely common male fantasy of threesomes and orgies:

Men fantasize about having threesomes, foursomes and more because they want the purely sexual experience that is more animal than it is relational. There’s implied monogamy in most relationships, but threesomes and orgies open up that monogamous relationship to allow sex with others and at the same time, close out the personal feelings you have about a long-term partner. Feelings about the future and commitment aren’t usually present in these sexual fantasies, or the real life culminations of them. It’s really all about the sex with multiple partners, simultaneously. In real life, sometimes men feel that they want a threesome rather than foursome or more, because they can control the relationships outside of the bedroom after the sex act is completed. I hear from my readers who go beyond their threesome fantasies into real life threesomes that the relationships that derive from threesomes often lead to breakups of the original couple. This is one fantasy that doesn’t usually work in real life, long term; it's a great fantasy, but a not-so-great experience if you’re married or in a committed relationship.

...I'm going to come back to this one. Because if I'm honest this one does crop up. But not in a way I'm at all comfortable with.
Sex for me DOES mean commitment. And yes, I am capable of multiple commitments, but ABOVE ALL I keep them separate. The potential for drama and heartache is just too great, otherwise.
That talk about "purely sexual experience"? I wouldn't begin to know what that is. I don't get it. How can someone want me without knowing who I am?  I'm finally coming around to the rather intoxicating thought that "who I am" can be somebody desired--but I will never, and I mean NEVER, be able to convince myself a random hottie could take one look at me and want to try me out. It can't be me she wants; it must be my "equipment". There are few more equipment-killing thoughts than to realize you're no longer a human, but just....a dick. And yeah, two women at once? That both want to be in the same room as each other, AND me, doing sexual things? There's a little circuit breaker that cuts in and goes BZZZT NOT POSSIBLE NOT POSSIBLE ABORT THOUGHT BZZZT.

Flip it, make it two men and a woman. Okay, this is possible. In fact it almost happened to me back in university, and was kiboshed after the clothes came off. This one by turns excites me (because I love to give pleasure) and terrifies me (because I can sustain self-confidence in my limited prowess alone, but another man is surely more accomplished and I feel like I'd be redundant very quickly).  And sexual triads are NEVER stable unless at least one member is bisexual. That doesn't describe anyone I know well enough to tumble into bed with. (There you go  again: stability. Commitment. Apparently I'm bizarre. Like you didn't know that already.)

What I have imagined on occasion is two couples, in a loving atmosphere, having fun together.  But that's winning a sexual lottery.

Moving on. "Experienced women". Not so much a fantasy as a...well, not a requirement, but a preferred choice. I've done the 'teaching' role....twice. The first woman left me for the partner she should have been with in the first place and the second never quite got over her Christian guilt at enjoying sex. I'd rather be with a partner who knows what she's doing, relishes what she's doing, and can teach me some things.

"Unattainable" women -- are unattainable for a reason. Leave them alone. The description here doesn't actually scream rape, but the insinuation does. And that doesn't just turn me off but completely disgusts me.

Voyeurism. "Men like to watch", it says here, and ... I don't. Part of it is that my eyes are shite; with some exceptions, I am much more turned on by literally every other sense than I am by anything those eyes pick out. Hearing and, well, taste, especially.

Sex in public, the last of these common male fantasies...again, not high on my list of turn-ons. I think, again, this is related to that 'desire' thing. It's hard for me to imagine somebody wanting me so badly in that way that she'd risk being caught in public with me.
___________

Years and years ago, I read My Secret Garden to try to get a handle on what women fantasized about. This tome, written by Nancy Friday in 1973, is supposedly still relevant today.  It was deeply, deeply shocking, because the fantasies recounted therein made my wildest ones look tame indeed. Animals. Golden showers. Not just domination, but outright rape. I had to read a lot to even begin to understand the merest trifle of the complexities in that last one, and for damn sure I'm not touching it here. Let's just say it's more common that I'd thought; the strangest, strongest female fantasies are all a lot more common that I'd thought. I would simply reiterate the quote above, that a fantasy is not even a wish, much less an act.

_________

And that brings me to my classes of fantasies. I do have a few things I occasionally look at that I have NO LEAST INTEREST in making real, but which reliably turn me on. Nothing illegal, so don't go that route, okay? Just things that are...out there. And if somebody offered to make them real, I'd as like run away.
There's a set of fantasies I am deeply, deeply ambivalent about that center around casual sex. I really struggle with what I'm about to relate here.

Most porn is not watchable for me. There are many reasons for this, but most of them boil down to female enjoyment, or lack of same. In about 80% of porn I've seen, the woman is clearly acting. There's a significant overlap where the woman is degraded and that leaves maybe three percent  of porn that genuinely works on me. And in that porn, the more uninhibited the woman is (or women are), the more she's loving everything, and I do mean everything...the more I'm into it. The completely insatiable fantasy, with the caveat that this can not be acted.
Oh, man. Yeah. Gimme some of that.

In theory.

('In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.')


Two possible scenarios, equally disturbing. One, a woman I don't know, surrounded by myself and men I don't know, and she can't get enough of us, and maybe she really does love it, but I'm COMPLETELY interchangeable with LITERALLY ANY OTHER PENIS in that scenario, and further, I have no basis for attraction here. Not in reality. I'm just a pole, she's just a hole, and I refuse to look at another human being that way.
The second scenario is a woman I do know and love enjoying the almighty hell out of herself with us...and again I'm reduced to a dick. At my most insecure I'm apt to think I was just a dick all along. And not even a particularly TALENTED dick.

Oh, a shrink would have a field day with this, I suspect.

This is why if I'm ever going to actually indulge in one of those group fantasies that (sigh) I do have on occasion,  it absolutely has to be the right people. In a loving atmosphere, not a fuckfest.

It bothers me immensely that I'm turned on so much by something that I feel things from fear through actual revulsion for in real life. I mean, I can tell myself over and over again that a fantasy is not a wish, much less an act...but is it a wish? Is it? Maybe? And what does it even say about me, when I've railed against objectifying people all my life and my favourite porn is TOTALLY about objectification (with the ironclad understanding that the people WANT to be objectified and are loving it...)

Ugh. I'm no closer to unravelling this than I was when I started. But now that I've, ahem, bared it all, I do feel like there's at least an answer to this that makes sense to SOMEONE.

The final set of fantasies are the ones I unabashedly want to make real. Those tend to be things that, for one reason or another, I've yet to experience. or have experienced only once or twice in my life, and yet, as fantasies go, they're tame, tame, tame. No shame or guilt attaches to these, only a lustful longing. And once one is fulfilled, can you still say you have it? Because it seems like I do.

Here I am, 46 years old, and still pretty ignorant of how this stuff works. I'm learning. And I'm trying. But sometimes I still feel like I'm adrift on an ocean of orange soda.

A Fanta sea, if you will.