Non Sequitur – A Birthday Request

My birthday is coming this week. I’ll be 39.

Save the date for next year. There will be a celebration.

But for this year, it’s pretty low key. Back in my 20s I set the standard that I only celebrate the Zeros and the Fives with parties, but the rest of the birthdays pass by with small-scale celebrations.

It’s been a really strange week. On Thursday night I got an email from a coworker whose recently former ex boyfriend had been found dead in his apartment. He’d been battling addiction and losing, which had prompted their breakup – but she was torn up about ending their romantic relationship and trying to remain his friend. Over the past year, she’s come to me for counsel more than once because she knows I’ve been in a similar situation.

And now her experience is that much more similar.

Then I found a couple of new podcasts for my commute. One is RISK! – a storytelling podcast. The other is the Savage Lovecast which people have been telling me about for years.

Both of the episodes I listened to this week featured a story about a young widow and the struggle to reconnect with your sexuality – stories that resonated with me deeply. Then I read a post in one of the facebook groups I participate in and another young widow shared her story, which also had similarities to mine.

And then yesterday, I saw the article from a young widow who wrote an open letter to the people criticizing Patton Oswalt for announcing his engagement so “soon” after his beloved wife passed away (like, nearly 2 years ago).

It just seems like that subject keeps trying to pound its way into my head, and all in the course of the six days after I signed escrow papers to begin the process of transferring ownership of my home, where my own widowing took place.

I’m not like, devastated. In fact, I have found all of the stories I’ve heard this week to be uplifting and generally comforting. It does feel nice when we realize we’re not alone, even three and a half years after it happened.

Hearing their stories doesn’t just remind me of what I’ve lost. It shines a great big light on what I have gained, as well as makes apparent what I’d had all along. It reminds me to appreciate everything I have every day that I have it.

Well. That wasn’t the post I was planning to write.

Honestly, I thought this was going to be the post where I asked people to donate $3, $9, or $39 to one or more of a list of charitable organizations I would like to benefit from my 39th birthday.

I guess that post got away from me.

A few weeks ago, I asked my friends to share with me some of the charitable organizations that they feel are doing good work in marginalized communities – specifically for LGBTQ+ and POC. I wanted the recommendations to come from those who have, or continue to benefit from the services these organizations provide. As someone who works in the nonprofit sector, I know better than to trust the website or the PR….

….I trust the people that are being helped.

In addition, yesterday someone had posted a video to an IndieGogo campaign that I thought was worth funding, and doesn’t have much time left.

So below are the links to the organizations that were recommended to me by the very people these groups exist to support. And if you are the type of person that is inclined to give gifts for people’s birthdays, then I would ask that you consider making a contribution to one or more of these organizations for my birthday.

You don’t have to tell me if you did or didn’t – but if you do, I would love to share my appreciation publicly in a future post.

The Relational Center The Relational Center exists to promote the essential importance of relationships. When we value our connections with others and with the environment, we create the necessary conditions for health and sustainability. So our work promotes personal, interpersonal, and social practices that help people build strong, resilient relationships. Our programs provide healing support, a space for community building, and tools for leadership.

Los Angeles LGBT Center Since 1969 the Los Angeles LGBT Center has cared for, championed, and celebrated LGBT individuals and families in Los Angeles and beyond.

Lambda Legal Lambda Legal, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

Trevor Project The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

And the IndieGoGo Campaign that only has a few days left:
Woke Girls Woke Girls is a new line of fashion dolls and chapter books that celebrate the power of today’s American girls. Through empowering representation of girls from marginalized identities and stories which finally portray them as the magical heroes that they are- Woke Girls shows girls that even when the world is unfair, they have the power to love themselves, stand up for what is right, and build a better world.

I will be making a personal contribution to each of these causes myself. I hope you will consider joining me.

The Exhibit

Is there a better museum for rare and priceless experiences than words on a page?

I could try to preserve all the details – how we began, how many strikes from which implements, how he moved me about the room, how taut the rope felt on my skin, and the way my thighs ached as I squirmed in the stress position in which he’d restrained me.

Those details may convey my surrender, but won’t capture my emotion.

I could record the hearing of footfalls and whispers, soft murmurs of interest or (possibly) admiration lingering in the hallway, and my vague awareness of some shadows in the door frame as the intensity of a final powerful orgasm ripped through my soul.

Those details may convey my vulnerability, but won’t capture our connection.

It’s just three words I’ll keep in this museum of intangible artifacts. The three words I whispered when, toward the end of our scene, he leaned down for a kiss, and warm tears escaped the outside corners of my eyes:

I missed this.

Your Kink is Not My Kink, but Your Words Fucking Matter

Imagine if I were to ask if anybody else out there has a kink of “playing poly.”  When asked to explain what I mean by “playing at poly,” I described it as “you know, like when you pretend to sleep with everyone indiscriminately and not give a shit about what your partners think.”

I’ll just wait here for those fumes to settle down.

If I were to have asked that question in earnest, then I imagine that the fumes would still not have settled down.  I imagine this because yesterday, someone asked the question regarding “playing at monogamy” and when asked to clarify what they meant by that, they said, “You know, like, when you pretend to get really jealous over a text your partner receives and then have a big fight and then great make up sex.”

Now, I get it. I get that in dominant culture, polyamory is put down, oppressed, and those who practice any form of ethical non-monogamy are frequently met with disdain and derision (unless they’re Hugh Hefner, then they get a TV deal).

So I do get that when you’re in a closed group of mostly people who, like you, practice some form of ethical non-monogamy, it’s really easy to point fingers and laugh at those unenlightened monogamists.  Those poor, pitiful, one-on-one relationship having neanderthals.

Yeah. Except some of us are in relationships with some of y’all.

And even if we weren’t, the implication that “monogamy” is interchangeable with the concepts of jealousy and toxicity in a relationship is about as insulting and offensive as the implication that anybody who identifies as polyamorous is into selfish promiscuity.

But you know what?  It’s not so much that someone asked this question in an offensive manner that really bothered me. I mean, it bothered me, but I probably could have just rolled my eyes and let it go as the myopic word-vomit of an insignificant person.  In fact, many of the other group members, including those who are actively polyamorous, stepped in and made comments supporting the premise that the choice of the word “monogamy” to describe what amounted to a “cheating” fetish was problematic.

(Nobody was questioning the validity of the fetish itself, just the language used to describe it).

What *really* bothered me is that the group admins allowed it, and continues to allow that language to stand. They agreed that the OP was flippant, dismissive, and condescending to those of us who questioned their word choice, but made no request for OP to modify their post. What *really* bothered me is that the third rule in this group’s list of rules includes language against “Comments that deride any relationship structure, including monogamy or polygamy.”

I waited 24 hours, fuming, before I made the decision to leave that group.   I kept hoping the admins would step in and address the issue, to (as I’d seen them do in many posts with problematic language) request that the OP modify their question to remove the implication that monogamy equals jealousy and fighting.

But instead, they defended it.

And so, they won’t see me there any longer.

On Leadership

Whether or not this pans out, something extraordinary has happened….

I sat in a room yesterday being interviewed for a position for which three weeks ago, I don’t think I’d have had the cojones to apply.

Three weeks ago I was questioning if I even want to stay in this sector. I was questioning if I needed to make what I’m making, and figuring out how significantly I could reduce my cost of living so that I could get out of an unhealthy work environment.

Three weeks ago, I went prepared to a conference for my profession. Having already made the decision that I need to find my next job, I had some business cards printed with my personal contact info and my LinkedIn profile address. I went knowing that I had to network. For reals, this time. Not just find the one person in the room that I was comfortable with and spend the whole time talking to them – but to jump around, meet a lot of people, and let the world know that I exist.

I also attended a two-day leadership workshop in advance of the conference. I’d mistakenly assumed it was going to be a workshop to teach leadership skills, but instead it was a horizon-broadening two day conversation about the qualities and characteristics of leadership, what the role of leadership is – not only within an organizational structure – but in the profession as a whole.

I learned something really important during that workshop: I am a leader.

Now, I’ve known some of this already. Perhaps I’d not have used the word “leader,” and opted for “influencer” or “person whose opinions are sought.” I always said I never wanted to be the boss, but I wanted to be the person that the boss would turn to for advice.

That, in and of itself, is a form of leadership. What I was shying away from or hesitant to accept was the responsibility for that leadership. I didn’t want to be the person who pushed the button. I wanted to be the person that said, “here are three potential buttons. Push one.”

I didn’t believe that I was qualified to be the button-pusher. I thought I still had way too much to learn.

But I think I’ve come to understand now that a leader isn’t someone who knows all the answers. A leader is someone who asks questions. And, a leader is someone who knows how to ask those questions (and the followup questions) of the people who can help determine the answers.

A leader is a convener – someone who can bring together the right team of people who have the capacity to achieve a goal. A good leader is someone who has the respect and support of that team.

I didn’t say loyalty. Loyalty is different. Loyalty has positive connotations, but I think loyalty can also lead someone down the wrong path. If a leader has loyalty to the mission, then their team will likely be safe in having continued loyalty to their leader. But if a team comes to realize that, as much as they respect and support or appreciate their leader, that the mission or goal is compromised – they should speak up. I think sometimes “loyalty” to a person can be detrimental to the cause (whether it be a tangible cause like “manufacturing of widget” or an intangible one like “be happy.”) Mostly because people are fallible. People are sometimes driven by altruism, but at some point greed and self-preservation can kick in and you don’t even see it coming.

Another thing I think I’ve come to realize is that that the person who pushes that button has never been solely responsible for the win or the fallout. The credit for the wins is shared by all. And the opportunity to learn from and overcome the fallout is equally shared by all.

The type of leader I am is the type that shares credit where credit is due. It was important to me when I was part of the team – and now that I’m in the leadership position at work, it’s important to me that I give my team that same due.

So, three weeks ago – I went through all of that. It’s been percolating since. But here’s what else happened.

During one of the lunchtime networking sessions, I sat at a table with one of our vendors. I explained my work sistuation and he suggested I give him my contact info. In his job, he is frequently presented with the information that his former contact at an organizaiton has either moved on or is planning to move on – and he might be able to put me in contact with the right people at the right time the next time that happens. I happily passed him one of my bright black and yellow business cards.

The following week, he copied me on an email to a recruiter friend of his that he’d met along the way. “I met this incredible person at the conference and she is discretely looking for her next move.”

I followed up with a thank you to the vendor and a message of introduction to the recruiter. The recruiter responded, asking for my resume.

I sent that over.

Two phone calls and four days later, I’m sitting is his office during a pre-interview to determine if i’m the right fit for a C-Level position in an established and well-funded organization. At the end of our interview, they seemed pretty certain that I would be a great fit for the job – and had these parting words to say:

“The only thing you lack is enough confidence to see that you have ALREADY been doing this job for the past three years. The title is throwing you off – don’t worry about the job title. It means nothing. It is about the work – and you’re more than qualified to do this work.”

Four days after that, I’m driving downtown to meet with the current CEO of the organization and some of her colleagues. That was yesterday.

By the end of that interview, they assured me I would be contacted soon for a followup – to come in and more formally meet the rest of the staff and perhaps some of the Board.

The possibility of getting this job is, right now, a VERY real possibility.

Whether or not this pans out, something extraordinary has happened.

I have embraced myself as a leader.

And, as such – I want to give the credit everywhere it’s due.

I called the recruiters and thanked them profusely for the pep-talk and the opportunity. I sent a handwritten thank you note to the woman who ran the leadership workshop in advance of the conference. I have sent an email to the vendor that put me in touch with this recruiter letting him know how grateful I am (and if I get this job, I’m sending his entire office a fruit basket).

And you.

Yeah. You.

All of this started about three years ago when I was a heartbroken, mourning mess of a woman – and I started writing.

You read what I had to say and you were supportive. You remembered me from one post to the next and some of you started to see the change in me before I did. The confidence I had to sit in front of the CEO of a $10M organization and ask her just as many questions as she asked me during the course of a 2+ hour interview….that all started here.

So thank you.

If I get this job – fantastic. The work will be hard and my time will be limited for a while as I acclimate to a very different professional climate. If I don’t? I’ll get the next one.

I have no doubt of it.

I got to play last night

Visits to the dungeon are rare these days.

I like them. The public aspect of playing in a dungeon pushes me to endure just a little bit more than I tend to at home. People are watching, after all…

And that’s how my exhibitionism works.

I got to play last night.

Thank goodness I didn’t find out until this morning that someone entered our room during our scene. My partner ushered him out without me being the wiser.

I got to play last night.

But at one point, while trying desperately to hold on to the edge of an orgasm, I growled “Please tell the people in the hallway to shut the fuck up.”

I got to play last night.

But I couldn’t wait to get home. Being in public certainly pushes me.

…But public play when the others in attendance aren’t well-versed in dungeon etiquette is pushing all the wrong buttons.

Rules are Condoms: An Imperfect Metaphor

I used to love rules. Rules, when my life was very completely out of my control, helped me make sense of things. I had rules for who I’d date and what I’d do with them and when. I had rules for who could do what to me and under which circumstances. I had rules about rules, and I was really great about closing loopholes in rules so that I would know exactly what to expect from whom and when.

I clung to the fantasy of a 24/7 D/s relationship. The idea of someone else making the decisions for me and absolving me of the need to willingly take care of myself appealed to me in the wake of my husband’s unexpected death and the realization that I’d lost my entire identity in that relationship.

And you know what? I don’t fault myself for that. It was my coping mechanism, and it worked for a while.

I didn’t know who I was, or who I wanted to be. All I knew was that there was too much stuff for me to carry by myself. I felt I would never be unearthed from beneath its heavy burden. As such, I was attracted to the “fixer” types. The “daddy” types of nurturers who wanted to help me get better. The ones who would set the rules down with the intention of moving me past my hangups and phobias.

And over time, they started having results.

I stopped being afraid of making decisions for myself, and graduated to just not liking it. I started to realize that I was entrusting some pretty important (and some not so important) decisions into the hands of people who weren’t particularly good at taking care of themselves, much less others. I began to understand that our dynamics had shifted – because I’d gone from the bird with a broken wing who needed a cage to be transported safely from point A to point B, to a fully-healed bird ready to take flight – were it not for the owner who kept clipping my wings.

The rules no longer felt like they were being set to help me. They felt like they were being set to control me, and I no longer wanted to be under that 24/7 type of control.

The rules were condoms.

The rules I put on myself and those I allowed to be put on me were an imperfect attempt to protect myself from ….whatever was out there. Just like condoms, the only way to truly be safe is abstinence; and I wasn’t willing to be kink-abstinent anymore.

Now I’m in a relationship with only one rule: Honesty. Everything else between us is more of a request. We’ve got a 24/7 love and trust dynamic. The D/s part is significantly more fluid.

I see people talk about setting “rules” for their partners to follow …especially when they’re opening up to some form of non-monogamy for the first time. Things like “My partner can sleep with whomever, but no emotions,” or “no sleepovers,” or “not in our home,” or “anything goes but kink is only with me,” or “I’m the only one they can use this term of endearment with.”

It’s a condom. These rules are meant to control your exposure to potential harm, but they’re not foolproof. Try to make a rule that your partner will never develop feelings for a sexual partner and be prepared to find yourself on the business end of a Klingon pain stick.

If you want to feel the full spectrum of sensation in your relationship once adequate trust has been established, then it might be time to assess the value of loosening up some of the rigidity of those relationship rules.

It might be time to explore the flexibility of allowing your partner to take flight, and see how they still come back to you – again, and again.

And if they don’t?

If you’d be happy with the bird in the cage whose wings you gotta keep clipping, then you do you.

I wouldn’t be, neither as owner nor bird.

The Play Partner Manifesto

When I started thinking about writing this post, I had strong feelings that I would not mind connecting with another person as a regular (non-sexual) rope-specific play partner.

And now, I finally have a few moments to write it and….

The notion doesn’t seem so shiny.

It’s an inconclusive state – do I want this, or don’t I?

And I think that the answer is that on some level, I do – but what’s lacking is the sense that the type of person I’d want to do that with is someone already known to me. So, without having someone in mind specifically, it’s hard to really imagine how it would work.

Type of person – that’s not exactly right. The person doesn’t meet a type – it’s the supposed connection we’d have that is a type.

But, allow me for a moment to process a couple finer points on this desire. Words like “benefit” and “exploration” and “free time” come up. Like, “I believe I could benefit from the exploration of a connection with another rope top during my free time on weekends.”

There are things about that statement that bother me.

I don’t want to use a person as a distraction. To connect with someone on the level that I like to connect in rope, they have to be more to me than “something to do on Saturday night.” This type of connection I’m envisioning would be one of friendship, trust, and mutual enjoyment that goes beyond “I don’t have anything better to do tonight, wanna tie??” The idea that this relationship would “benefit” me feels selfish. A vibrator benefits me because it gives me orgasms when my partner is unable to give them to me. I do not want the “vibrator” equivalence of a person to just give me what I want when my partner isn’t around. I don’t like the idea of treating people like tools.

And yet –

I wouldn’t (probably) mind more rope in my life, but I come back to that question of connection.

After I fell in love, my connection with the other people who used to tie me on occasion changed. I became strikingly aware of the difference between the connection with someone who actively wanted to tie me – who would reach out days or even a week in advance to ask if I’d be interested in a rope date; and the connection with those who would show up at the same party I happened to be attending and think “Hey, I’ve got a spare hour. You’ll do.”

That’s not really what I think they were thinking, but …that’s how it felt.

So I shifted a little – to avoid feeling that. I set a “new rule” that I would avoid last minute/pickup play scenes. That if someone wanted to tie me, they’d ask in advance.

And …well, those proposals were few and far between. Until they were so rare and sometimes felt like “Yeah, couldn’t find anybody else. Is your body available?”

It still felt like it lacked connection.

This is no judgement on anybody I’ve played with past or present, or those who do pickup play or have asked me recently if I could bottom for them. In fact, both people who have asked me recently – I’d have said yes if I legitimately didn’t have other things going on those evenings.

Bottoming for demo or practice isn’t the same as a play partner.

A play partner (to me) is something more. It’s a friendship that exists outside the confines of rope. It means meals together or movies and laughter and conversation that has nothing to do with rope . It’s connectivity on multiple levels. There’s a level of care, consideration, and enjoyment of time spent together.

There’s a tenderness to it. There has to be, because I like mean rope – so there has to be tenderness on the other side of that.

It’s a relationship.

Minus the sex.

You know, like marriage.

See, the right type of person – the right type of connection – would have laughed at that joke.

Anyway, this isn’t a statement of intention to go out in search of this connection. This is a public declaration of my motives for considering it. Much like my state of being prior to meeting the man I now love – I am in a good place in my life where not much is needed.

But if someone who happens to connect well with me were to come into my life and have an interest in pursuing this….I’d probably, carefully and slowly, give it a chance.


Rope and Photo by @mister_bacon_, my first ropey play partner. 🙂