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Putting A Deadline on Grief

I feel like there’s this idea that, once a funeral is over, once you’ve taken your bereavement days from work (provided you even get those), that the grieving process is over. Nobody talks about the person anymore. Nobody asks after their loved ones. You’re supposed to just move on and act like this hole in your life doesn’t exist.

I mean, I can see people’s eyes rolling into the backs of their heads when I mention how difficult it still is to visit the West Side Market. And you know, I get it. After almost a year, it gets repetitive.

There are days at work where I stare wistfully into what was my previous attorney’s office. Recent changes at work have had me wishing I could tell her so we could laugh about it. I hate that I’ll never laugh with her again. 

But like so much in life, I think we need balance here. We need to acknowledge that grieving takes time. And it’s not a day. It’s not a week. It may not even be a year. My grandmother died almost five years ago and when Abuela dies in In The Heights, or the grandma dies in Moana, I’m still a mess.

I’m getting defensive. Probably more than I need to be.

But the older I get, the more people I’ve lost. And the more I realize the importance of being gentle with people, especially yourself. Because memories hit at weird times. Awkward times. Times you don’t expect. And it’s okay to take a minute and just be sad.

I know that doesn’t sound deep, but it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with. Mostly because there are very few people who I will let see me cry.

But do it.

Take your time.

Take your moment when you need it.

It’s okay to cry. I don’t care how long it’s been.

 

 

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That’s Just How They Are

How many times have you heard someone excuse someone else’s actions by saying, “that’s just their personality”? Or “that’s just how they are. They don’t mean anything by it.”

How many times have you done it?

How many times have I?

And when it comes to personal preferences – whether to wash dishes immediately or wait until morning, which way to hang the toilet paper, etc – I have no problem with it. But when we start using these phrases on people who are hurting or assaulting other people, it has to stop.

An example of the former – my grandmother had met my best friend a couple of times. My best friend is a light skinned black woman. For years afterward, grandma would occasionally ask after that “nice colored girl.” I would sigh, tell her my friend was fine, and call my friend on the way home so we could laugh about it.

My grandmother was born in 1915. In her day, “colored” was the nice word for people of color. She hurt no one by saying this – not me, not my friend, nobody – and absolutely thought she was being considerate. And at her age, nobody was going to change her. I didn’t even try.

A couple of weekends ago, I was out of state for a wedding and heard my girlfriend’s sister relay stories of a man who used to live in their neighborhood who would walk up and down their streets verbally and physically assaulting women. When the police were called, their response was, “That’s just how he is.”

They did nothing.

And because he knew nobody was going to do anything about it, he continued. He felt safe to act with immunity. And why wouldn’t he?

I’ve seen the same thing repeatedly. Mostly in kink communities, but it’s no less prevalent among geeks or pagan communities.

Unfortunately, there really are people who are just awkward, don’t know any better, and simply need to be talked to. Taking the steps to educate them, keeping an eye on them to make sure they understand proper etiquette, is not the same as ignoring the problem.

But there are others. Others who have been talked to, know exactly what they’re doing, and simply don’t care. They’re the kinksters who have been around for years, but interrupt scenes or make lewd jokes to people they don’t know and have no relationship with. They’re the ones at geek cons leering and hitting on those wearing skimpy cosplay, or hitting on the vendors because the vendor has no way to easily escape.

It’s everywhere, and we excuse it. Every day.

Stop it. These people need confronted. If you’re not willing to help rid your community of them, at least warn others. Rob them of the pool they swim in.

Because we can’t plead ignorance. And we need to stop making excuses for the wrong people.

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Give Kink A Chance

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about how kink is not a competition. You don’t have to live up to what other people consider extreme, and it’s okay to pass on play partners whose interests aren’t compatible with yours.

In other words, play to your edge, not someone else’s.

Unfortunately, the example I used was of a man I saw play once. He was playing in a way that didn’t interest me, and I walked away.

Since that writing, I’ve had more than one person caution against such an approach. People can have more than one play style, I was informed, be skilled in many types of play. If you get to know them, you might find you’re compatible after all.

It’s an equally important point and one that I learned over time. From the beginning, my m.o. was to get to know people, watch them play a few times, and then decide whether I wanted to play with them. Which is why I made the snap judgment on someone I only saw once. Maybe if we had gotten to know each other, we could have found common ground.

Maybe not. I’m not really interested in arguing hypotheticals.

Further, interests evolve over time. What’s a limit today may not be a limit a year from now. Which is not to say that you should be pressured to do something you don’t want to do. Some limits don’t change, and that’s okay too. I for one will never want to play with electricity. Other people love it and that’s great for them. But it’s not something I’m ever going to consent to.

Having said that, there are types of play I never could have imaging wanting to participate in when I first started. Hell, all I was sure of was that I wanted to be tied up. Had I stopped there, and decided that was all I wanted to do, I would have missed out on the joys of fire, knives, and impact play.

Few people are static in their approach to kink. I dare say that’s the way it should be. There are so many possibilities, I would encourage everyone to explore as many as you can. With as many people as you like.

You never know what you might learn.

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Dirty Little Secret

Or, how I came to understand LGBT people through my kink.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be tied up. Before it was sexual, before I even knew it was weird, I knew the restriction felt good and that I wanted more of it. I watched television and movies and figured out early why some ties were problematic. I mean, it’s no fun if you can just squirm out of it, right? And that gag in Indiana Jones? Pfft. Way too easy to talk or scream through.

Boring.

When I was caught tying myself up outside – god only knows what my mother thought of me that day – I retreated to my bedroom and did it in secret. Mom might not have said much about my activities, but it was clear that what I was doing was a Bad Thing.

I didn’t speak of it again for years.

In the meantime, I would often see gay people on television defending themselves by saying things like, “I was born like this – I didn’t choose to be gay.” It was the era of the emerging AIDS crisis so there were plenty of people attempting to dispel the myth that being gay was a sin.

That didn’t go over so well in our Regular Baptist household.

But in the deepest recesses of my mind, I knew I understood. I couldn’t tell anyone. Admitting to such thoughts would be tantamount to coming out about my own desires and I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t even put proper words to the connection. “It’s like those things that I want,” I told myself.

Those things. Those very vague things.

At least being gay was something you got to talk about on television, I reasoned. No one got on the news to defend being kinky. The things I wanted were more likely to be associated with heinous crimes like murder, kidnapping, and sexual violation.

Nope. Best to keep such very vague things to myself.

And yet, I grew up understanding what it was like to have a desire you had no control over. I understood not having a choice in what I wanted or what turned me on. I understood not being able to change it no matter how hard I tried.

Disclaimer – I know now that not every gay person goes through this period of self loathing. The lucky ones are able to embrace it early and I think that’s wonderful. Same with kinky people – I greatly admire people who come into the community in their 20s who have fully come to terms with themselves. I wish I had.

But that wasn’t my experience. So when I met really real gay people in really real life, especially those who had taken some time to discover their real selves, I found myself empathizing more easily than I might have otherwise. I heard my own feelings echoed in their words.

I’m not sure what the point is here. Maybe it’s that you can’t run from who you are. Maybe it’s that who you are is okay. Maybe it’s that you aren’t alone, no matter how much you may feel like you are. Maybe it’s about the importance of speaking our truths because you never know whose life you will touch.

Maybe it’s all of these things.

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I’m Still Listening

My first reaction when hearing any anecdotal evidence of inequality and prejudice, whether it’s based on race, gender, or anything else, is to be incredulous. Not, “But I would never do such a thing,” or “Not all white people.” Pure and simple shock.

If it’s particularly egregious, I completely lose the ability to form words. What were they thinking? How on earth could they think that was okay? What do you mean you adopted children of color and refer to them as brownies? How does that even occur to you?

Yes, that happened.

Other times, I am simply stunned that such acts still occur. Maybe I wonder if the person telling the story misinterpreted what happened because surely, no one actually still holds those attitudes. Right?

And this is how I learned to listen. Because every person of color I know has these stories. They can’t all be making them up.

Two people in particular have been key for me in this process. One is a woman I have met maybe twice. She is something of a Big Name is certain circles and we are friends on social media more because of her status than anything else.

She posts a lot about her experience and does not mince words. In the past, I have thought of her as militant. I’m no longer sure that’s fair – I think she’s a human seeking to be treated as such.

For a long time, many of her anecdotes sounded like overreactions to me. I had the same reaction many do – are you sure that was really about race? Maybe that other person didn’t mean it the way you took it.

But I couldn’t say anything. I’m not going to start that fight with someone I barely know, on their page, or invalidate their experiences that way. Fine, I decided. If she wants to rant, let her. I don’t have to agree with all of it.

As if it were up to me to interpret her experiences. Me. A white woman who has no clue what it’s like to be black and poor. Because that makes perfect sense.
So I listened instead. And I noted the patterns. I came to see things from her perspective and trust that what she said was real. This should not have been as long a process as it was. And yet.

I met the second person who has been instrumental to me through my best friend. Ze is a queer, gender nonconforming person of color who I happen to be in awe of. Ze has related plenty of similar experiences to the person above, only from a place of academia.
Without fail, and whatever the topic, ze shows me another perspective every time we’re together. It is endlessly illuminating and thought provoking.

And now ze is moving across the country. We were able to get together this past weekend for some laughs and hanging out time, and, as usual, I came away seeing things in a different way than I did before.

Sure, there’s social media. I will continue to follow them on the sites we share and even have a renewed purpose for being on them more often.
But ze won’t be two hours away anymore.

And I hate goodbyes. I suck at them.

One person suggested that it is not goodbye so much as a see you later. But it feels like goodbye. Watching the people who gathered over the weekend, I know it felt like goodbye to them too.

But I will continue to listen. To seek out those voices that do not sound like mine. And to try to pass on what I have learned. It’s the least I can do.

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What I Mean When I Say Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Your Kink Is Okay

It doesn’t mean that I condone acts against those who are underage. Or those who do not, or are unable to consent to what is happening to them. Don’t try to mask the wrongness of these acts by covering it in kink.

I mean that you consent to activities I might not. Maybe you like watersports. Maybe you’re a furry or a little.

It probably means that I’m curious though. I want to know why those things work for you. But I’m also aware that the reasons behind what we do aren’t always easy. Sometimes, it’s just what feels good. And that’s okay.

I can’t explain why I like pain. Or rope. What I can do is describe the catharsis that comes from a heavy pain scene. Or how rope gives me something physical to fight against instead of depression, anxiety, or other frustrations.

And I can empathize. Because who am I to say that the things that work for me are the things that should work for everyone?

I don’t have to like your kink – I legit don’t understand the fascination some people have with feet, for example. But how can I judge while I’m sitting over here hoping you don’t judge me for liking fire play or knife play?

All I’m interested in is consent.

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Surprised by Boundaries

“If you guys want to play, fuck, whatever, go for it. I’m going to bed,” she told us.

The three of us had just gotten home from a birthday party for a mutual friend. We were all tired. But her husband and I had been flirting for a month solid, and he’d invited me home with them to play.

So he and I retreated to the pull-out couch across the room and made out quietly while she slept. That is, we assumed she slept. Meanwhile, we explored each other’s bodies and began the process of learning how to make each other moan and sigh.

In the morning, she admitted she hadn’t been as okay with what had happened as she thought she would be. We talked about it. We talked about what to do differently in the future. We listened to each other.

And while the communication was important, and set a tone for our relationship,  it’s not the only thing I remember about that day. See, until then, I wasn’t really aware that you could think you would be okay with a thing, and then not be okay with that thing. I might have been aware of the concept, but I certainly had not seen it play out in such a way.

I think it’s an important concept to keep in mind, however, when negotiating anything – poly relationships, play partnerships, or power exchange dynamics.

The brain is a tricky place. This isn’t news, but it is easy to forget when starting something new. And if you’re starting a type of relationship that you’ve never been in before, it’s almost impossible to know for sure what you will and will not be okay with.

You can make an educated guess. You can know what you want to be okay with. But it’s not always that easy. And issues you didn’t know you had can come up and bite you in the ass.

In those times, it may be necessary to renegotiate the boundaries you already set. It will absolutely be necessary to communicate your needs. Like most things in life, ignoring what is wrong will only make it worse.

Discovering a new boundary doesn’t mean everything has to end. It  may mean you have to explore more slowly. You may have to develop patience with yourself. I’m not good at this – I want to be the perfect partner now. I want to figure out all my issues instantly.

Life doesn’t work that way either, unfortunately.

So take your time. There’s no reason to dive into the deep end of poly, kink, or anything else before you’re ready.

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The Sex Trap

x-posted from Poly-Land – find the entire entry here – https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/53057088/posts/1505955683

To monogamous people, polyamory must look like it’s all about sex. I mean, surely having multiple romantic relationships translates into constant sex.

Right?

Why else would we bother if we weren’t getting laid all the time

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But They’ve Always Been Nice To Me!

Inevitably, when someone reports a predator, manipulator, or otherwise toxic person, there are hordes of people just waiting to pounce and assure everyone of the accused person’s innocence.

“But they’ve never done anything to me,” they’ll exclaim. Or, “They always seemed so nice – I can’t believe it!”

As if their experiences trump those of the people who have been hurt. As if someone’s good deeds makes up for their rotten ones.

It doesn’t work that way. Or, at the very least, it shouldn’t.

But acknowledging that a person can be both awful to one person and kind to another is to acknowledge that people are complicated. That we do not live in a black and white world. It’s much easier to place people in the “good guy” or”bad guy” categories and never think about why they are there or whether they belong.

For me, most people exist in both categories at once. There are very few people I consider wholly good or wholly bad. I can disagree with something they do and still like them. I can love one side of them and not another.

And while that may sound as if I’m constantly keeping score on everyone in my life, I promise I’m not. But I do notice patterns and these patterns have helped me change my mind about people – for good and bad.

Recently, at work, I came up against this situation first hand. An attorney who I’ve always gotten along with, lost his assistant and I volunteered to take her over her job. It didn’t come to pass, but there were people who were surprised that anyone would want to work for him.

Turns out, he’s not well liked by most of the office. And while I knew some of the reasons, I hadn’t been aware of all of them or their extent. Now, I look at him more objectively. I see the cracks in his façade.

Just because I’ve never had a problem working with him doesn’t mean he’s not a problem.

Do I need to repeat that for those in the back? Did you hear me? Your experiences are not the end of the story. Neither are mine. We need to be willing to listen to each other and believe each other.

Sure, we all know people who have made up stories and gotten away with it. But the majority of people do not. And when you choose to invalidate another person’s experience, just because it is different from yours, it makes it that much harder for someone else to trust you or feel safe with you.

And it makes it nearly impossible for the someone else to speak up.

If we’re going to think of ourselves as a safe community – and this applies to all communities, not just kink ones  – we have to be a community where people are allowed to speak up.

We have to listen.

We have to avoid victim blaming and gaslighting.

We all – each of us – has to do better.

 

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Dying for Kink

“Are you ready to die tonight?” she whispered. I could feel her breath on my neck. Her tone was pleasant, calm, almost musical. If not for the actual words, she would have sounded like she was asking me what I wanted for dinner.

From my third book. Find it here – An Offsuited Pair (The Gambler Series) (Volume 3) https://www.amazon.com/dp/154551092X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_8cMszbFGS823W

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