Thursday, March 19, 2015

Single For Life

I know I’m supposed to be writing about sex this week. And BDSM. I was supposed to have gotten myself into some epic kinky fantasy adventure so I could come back and report on it. That didn’t happen. Unfortunately, I find myself presently more celibate than I have been in quite some time. I’m not sure why. Probably because my focus of late is on other things besides cock, which I know is shocking and appalling to all of you. I even recently tried to get back into Tinder and the one guy I started chatting with turns out is good friends with the roommate of High School Lover, so I kind of had to put the kibosh on that one.

I’ve also been in a bit of a strange state because my dear friend Heidi is moving away to North Carolina with her husband and the baby boy I watched come out of her body nine months ago. On Sunday we had a little impromptu going away party for them at their house in the valley, and looking around the backyard, a melancholy rendition of Baby It’s Cold Outside playing out of my ex-boyfriend’s iPhone, I realized I was the only single person at this party. I found myself surrounded by five couples, one of which was my ex and his girlfriend. And I didn’t feel bad for myself or that I particularly wished to be part of a couple, but I did suddenly feel like an outsider. Like I didn’t belong. This was no longer my tribe. And that was an odd feeling.

Earlier in the day, we had all gone out to Barney’s Beanery for some goodbye nachos and beer. As we headed for the car, I was planning on riding with Heidi, her husband, and the baby. As I got to the car, I realized our friend Adrienne and her boyfriend had the same idea. Without missing a beat, I headed for Heidi’s brother’s car instead, asking if I could ride with him and his wife. I thought no one had noticed this small moment of single person awkwardness, but Heidi, being an ultra-sensitive observer, spoke up when we got to the restaurant.
“You just had one of those single moments. When we were back at the car. One of those moments of, I have nowhere to go,” she laughed compassionately, clearly feeling for me.
“It’s okay. I’m the leftovers,” I joked back.

Something strange is happening now that I’m in my late 20s. People are pairing off in a more serious way and it suddenly feels like the party is ending and everyone is trying to find someone to go home with so they don’t end up alone or paired off with the only other person that remains: everyone’s last choice. I found out today even Gaffer Guy is engaged. Fucking Gaffer Guy?! Truly the last man standing. Even Mr. Sociopathic alcoholic womanizing misogynist doesn’t want to go home alone.

Heidi and her husband moving away to build a cob house from scratch and start their real life as two adults with a child, that feels like a new chapter for all of us—a chapter that for me feels a million miles away. And I wonder what that means for these friendships. All of these people are going to start getting married and having children probably years before me—it’s already starting to happen. Where does that leave me in this group? Am I forever to be that single friend that is perpetually called out when a group of hot firemen walk by? Am I really going to be that cliché?

Sometimes I feel like the gals in Sex and the City when they go to their friend’s baby shower and they remember her as this wild single lady and find she’s now a stay-at-home mom living in a no-shoes-allowed house in the Hamptons with her husband and two kids. When Carrie arrives at the shower, the woman asks her to take off her Manolo Blahniks and Carrie’s like, “but this is an outfit.”  Sometimes being the kind of woman with screaming babies and toys lying around the house feels so foreign and far away, I wonder if that’ll ever be me.

Last year, one of my girlfriends had a birthday party for which her boyfriend organized a scavenger hunt and assigned each of her friends an hour to take her on a surprise adventure. I didn’t know about this. I was invited to the “after party” later that evening. I arrived at the apartment where a group of their friends sat around reminiscing about the fun they had had that day taking my friend through her various birthday activities. As I tried to laugh along with the general merriment of the group, I found myself instead feeling like a tourist and asking myself, why as one of her best friends, was I left out of the scavenger hunt component of the day? And then I realized that every single other guest at the party was part of a couple. I probably hadn't been left out on purpose as a punishment for being single, but it didn't matter--at that moment, I felt like the last girl in middle school to be picked for kickball teams. I sat there watching the couples ooh and aah as my friend unwrapped the giant set of luxury pots and pans her boyfriend had bought her for her birthday, and thought: this isn’t my world.

Less than a year ago, the six core members of our particular group were having a dinner party in the very dining room now filled with packing boxes. My ex and I were still in a rather undefined post-relationship stage in our friendship. His girlfriend was still a pretty new presence in his life, and he was resistant to even calling her that. Now they live together and I swear I can see marriage and kids on the not-so-distant horizon. Seeing how much has changed just this past year, I can’t imagine what this group will look like a year from now.

It’s interesting how defined we are by singlehood or coupledom. Lately I feel my identity is so entrenched in being single that I literally can’t picture myself in a relationship. And when I’m with other single people, I feel more connected, less alone. I can’t help it, surrounded by couples, I usually feel like the odd one out, no matter how close we all are. One of my girlfriends recently told me that if she’s invited to something, she just assumes her boyfriend is invited too. This drives me insane. The couple of times it's happened that I’ve had plans with a girlfriend and she’s showed up with her boyfriend, I become so irrationally angry. To me the time between friends, particularly girlfriends, is sacred and to assume you can invite your boyfriend is like admitting that you’re so codependent he’s essentially just another appendage and therefore barely counts as a separate person. It’s like when people become part of a couple, they have amnesia about what it was like when they were single. I guess I do too. I can remember back to a time when most of my decisions were made as part of a unit, but that time feels ever so long ago. I can’t imagine that for myself now.

There are so many seemingly inescapable qualities of coupled people that make me want to never be part of one again. Certain subtle freedoms that simply don’t exist, and as a single person I completely take for granted. Like the fact that if I want to leave a social gathering, I don’t have to quietly negotiate with my partner and decide in hushed tones when we want to leave and if we want to have another drink and who’s driving. I can just say goodbye and walk myself out of the house and drive my ass home. There are none of those awkward public disputes where you have to go off to the side to quietly fix whatever the issue is, or passive-aggressively pretend that everything’s fine when everyone in the room can tell by the shift in energy that something is up between you two. The fact that if there’s a hot single guy at the party, I can flirt with him openly and unabashedly without keeping an eye on where my partner is or feel his eyes watching me across the room, monitoring my behavior. The list goes on.

Things like this I remember about being in a relationship, and I see with my coupled friends, make me want to stay single forever. But the truth is that, obviously, I don’t want to be single forever. Who does? But I know myself, and my track record. I don’t date people casually. I fuck people casually, and then I meet someone I actually really like and I end up seriously dating them for four years. Although I would like to meet someone I like, I’m not in a big hurry to give up my hard-earned identity as an independent single woman. Being on my own has become so a part of who I am, and I’m proud of it. I think it’s made me a stronger, better person. I like that I can show up at a party by myself and find someone to talk to and I don’t need a familiar crutch to lean on. I like who I am when I’m single. I like not having to compromise or check in with anybody. I like that I can do what I want 100% of the time.

That said, I do get tired of making all of my decisions alone, and generating all of my own energy, and never having anyone to lean on. It does get tiresome, and lonely. I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I watch Heidi and her husband take this next step in their life and relationship.

When Heidi met Alex a couple years ago, she was already entrenched in a relationship with her first boyfriend and they lived together and seemed to be in it for the long haul. Then she met Alex and her world got turned upside down. Within a short time, she broke up with her longtime boyfriend, he moved out, and Alex moved in. Not long after that, they got pregnant and decided to have the baby. And then within a year they were making plans to leave LA and start a new sustainable lifestyle in North Carolina where they found they could fully commit to the living off the land model they had been trying to create in the backyard of their home in the valley. I think about if Heidi hadn’t met Alex, how her life would be different now. Meeting him changed her world and her priorities, allowed her to fully commit right now to a dream that felt very far in the future.

I feel like it is often the woman in a relationship who will adjust what she wants to compromise with what her partner wants in their life together. I guess one thing I love about Heidi’s relationship is that the opposite happened. She had this dream of building a cob house out of the ground and living a sustainable lifestyle, and Alex totally got on board with that dream, and it became their shared purpose. Now Alex is going to be the one doing the internship and learning how to build their house from scratch, as Heidi takes care of their baby.
“I had this idea, and I thought I would be the one doing it, and now he’s doing it instead,” she marveled. I could tell she had mixed feelings about this, part of her wanting to be the one to execute their dream. But I suppose that is constantly the balance and dilemma of motherhood: wanting to be with your baby all the time while they’re in those first precious couple years you’ll never get back, but also wanting to live your full life and continue feeding the passions you had before the baby came along. Mostly, Heidi seems in awe that she has found a man who shares her vision and wants to put his whole self into living it with her. She knows how rare that is.

I realize, watching them head off on this journey, that this is the kind of relationship I want. The kind of relationship that will inspire me into the next chapter of my life. Someone I can truly co-create with. Someone who supports my dreams and whose dreams I want to support. Or better yet, someone who has the same dream as me. I know now that at this moment in my life, I won’t settle for anything less. Until I find that, I’d rather be alone. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tie Me Up, Dammit!

I wanna be tied up. And fucked. And you might say that’s just because Fifty Shades of Grey just came out, and yes I did think that movie was hot as hell, but that’s not the only reason. It just seems to be something that keeps coming up in my world. I just started listening to an amazing podcast called Risk! hosted by Kevin Allison because my roommate told me I would love the episode where he goes to Kink Camp. And on this journey, Kevin finds that all his preconceptions about kinksters—that they’re a certain type of person, namely not super attractive people who got into kink because they couldn’t get laid rather than just, well, because they’re kinky—that these preconceptions were false. I too had similar misconceptions—that kinksters are all nerds or punks or some other fringe counter-culture group I don’t necessarily identify with. But what Kevin Allison found at Kink Camp was a huge variety of people—young and old, conventionally hot, fringe, and everything in between. Listening to his experience, I thought, maybe this world is for me after all.

Then I listened to another Risk! installment entitled “Slave,” in which self-described “Perverted Negress” Mollena Williams describes her experience with kink. Even though she’s a strong empowered black feminist, she found herself wanting to be dominated in a violent, racially-charged scene that really turned her on until it suddenly went too far and ended rather traumatically.

Although my only beef with Fifty Shades was their need to justify Christian’s kinkiness with a tortured past (rather than just allowing him to be kinky), I find myself posing the same question to myself: why is it that I, a self-proclaimed “angry feminist,” finds the idea of being tied up, called whore, and fucked hard, so fucking hot??

I think back to my long ago experience with BDSM Guy—truly my very own Christian Grey, complete with all-American Jon Hamm good lucks, sparkling blue eyes, crisp grey suit, the whole fucking package. I remember when, within minutes of our very first text conversation, he started calling me “whore” and “slave” and my feminist brain was pissed while my confounded body was wet and excited. And I remember feeling really conflicted about my angry thoughts v. my aroused feelings. And what did this mean for my identity as a feminist? Was I betraying my strong beliefs and the community of women I respected and admired so much? But the more I learned about BDSM, the more I realized that some of the most passionate kinksters are the most progressive, socially-conscious, un-hetero-normative, non-racist, un-gender-conforming, uber-feminist people. In fact, from Kevin Allison’s description of Kink Camp, they seem primarily like a bunch of fun-loving hippies. Perhaps because they have this extreme outlet for their deepest, darkest inclinations, they are more evolved people in their regular lives. Perhaps kink is like a form of exposure therapy.

I wonder how my feminist anger translates into hot sex in the bedroom. And I’ve come to the conclusion that anger and frustration and other strong, heat-inducing emotions are intrinsically linked to arousal. There’s a reason why the people that hate each other most in rom-coms always end up getting together. And maybe the angrier something or someone makes you in life, the hotter things can get in bed. I think about how arguments between couples sometimes end in fucking. And about how the jealous feelings inspired by seeing your significant other flirting with another woman or checking out someone else’s ass on the street can feel both crushing and totally arousing.

Amanda Hess puts her finger on the connection between humor and the erotic in her brilliant review of Fifty Shades for Slate: “Pairing the humorous with the erotic produces a sensation of nervous, off-kilter euphoria; laughter and sex both leave you flushed, tingly, a little out of control. I left the movie feeling like I’d just been on a first date with someone I’d secretly crushed on for a long time.” She also talks about how the haters have contributed to the success of that book as much if not more than its fans. People love to hate-fuck Fifty Shades of Grey. No one is neutral on this subject. And people’s response to the material, be it anger or excitement or frustration—these are powerful emotions full of heat, and I would argue, sexual energy. One of my coworkers called it “the smuttiest piece of filth [she’d] ever seen.” Her face flushed. She looked offended and pious and, dare I say, turned on?

I have to say, I loved this movie. I went by myself on a Thursday night, bought myself a seat in the last row, and sat back with a large popcorn and soda to enjoy. I loved the sheer camp of amazing lines like "I'm fifty shades of fucked up." I found myself turned on to the point that I considered rubbing one out in the movie theater. I felt the thrill of girlish delight as Christian takes Ana up in his helicopter and Ellie Goulding's Love Me Like You Do swells as they soar over the city. In fact, I loved the whole damn soundtrack. If it hadn't been for the asthmatic mouth breather sitting next to me, it would have been a totally perfect date with myself. A girlfriend of mine described going to see Fifty Shades with her boyfriend, and while she wanted to enjoy the campy pleasure of it all, he just laughed through the whole thing. My advice, ladies: See This Movie Alone. With lots of salty sweet things to put in your mouth while you're watching it.

In my life, I’m always in control. I work hard. I’m responsible. I take care of my shit. And all I want in the bedroom is for someone to take control. To render me powerless and truly dominate, to have their way with me. But I honestly don’t meet many men that I think are capable of dominating me. Because a lot of the men I meet or at least the ones I usually end up in bed with, I think tend to be a bit intimidated by me, or at least I find myself calling the shots more often than not. It’s hard to imagine a man who could really gain status over me in the bedroom. Perhaps the last person who did was BDSM Guy, and it was fucking hot and I wanted more.

When BDSM Guy first started rolling out the “slave” narrative, I asked why he knew I would be down for something like this. He said he “[knew] the type who [needed] it.” When I probed further, he shut down the line of inquiry. His slave was asking too many questions. I had requested that he “ease me into this BDSM shit.” Then, when we were having sex that he would later describe as “vanilla” and I thought was amazing, I told him “you can call me whore if you want.” He slapped my face and said, “I’ll ease you into that.” That was it. No more BDSM shit for me. The red ropes he had sent me a photo of earlier never came out. There was no more talk of master and slave. Apparently I had blown it with all my questions, and he had already concluded I would not make a good slave after all. A couple days after we had sex, I texted him that I wanted to be “tied up, blindfolded and fucked hard.” I never heard back from him, and I haven’t seen him since.

But how did he know that I even had it in me to want to be part of his slave narrative? Was it because his introduction to me was seeing a play in which I had the role of a young actress who used sex to manipulate situations in her favor but underneath it all was oozing insecurity? Was it the catfight at the end of the play in which the other actress straddled my back and yanked on my hair? Did he see something deep inside me that I didn’t even know was there? Or is it just that every woman secretly wants to be dominated? That might be true. Why else would Fifty Shades be so fucking popular? Maybe my coworker and all the other haters are really lying to themselves. That wouldn’t surprise me, considering how little we still know about female desire, and how much shame is still associated with what really turns us on.

Having blown the opportunity to have my very own Christian Grey, now here I find myself, dying to have all four limbs tied to the bedposts, rendered a helpless starfish, and where is he now?

I was listening to my other favorite podcast Guys We Fucked last week and, whaddaya know, Krystyna shared that for V-Day her boyfriend tied her to all four bedposts and she came harder than she ever has in her life. Meanwhile, my Best Guy Friend recently attached a permanent restraint system to his bed. Even my ex-boyfriend told me just the other day he was practicing Shibari—a Japanese form of bondage—on himself, getting ready for the scene he was planning to play out with his girlfriend that very night. So, literally everyone’s getting tied up but me.

The last time I wrote about BDSM Guy in my blog, a friend from college reached out with the name of a mutual friend of ours who has apparently mastered the intersection between BDSM and feminism. I didn’t reach out to her at the time. Probably because I wasn’t ready. My interest was purely intellectual. But now, it’s personal and I think it might be time to make that long-awaited phone call. What will be my first voluntary step into the BDSM world? We’ll have to just wait and see.