Last week I bought a new car. For most adults this can be an exciting, anxiety-producing, exhilarating and potentially intimidating experience. At least that is my response. It is a moment when I’m reminded of both the responsibilities and the pleasures of being a grown up. But more than that I realized how much our things have the power to anchor us to our past.
Right before Labor Day in 2006, we bought a 2004 Honda Pilot. I was in the prime of my life (and what I likewise feel was my sexual peak as well). I had been polyamorous for just over 2 years. I had a significant and engaged presence on LiveJournal. I was working in my dream job as a nonprofit lobbyist. I was partnered to two other men in addition to Husband.
A month later I had been outed and lost my job. I can’t adequately convey just how devastating that event was for our family. It wasn’t just that I lost my job and was unemployed for 8 months. It was the media calling my house and office to harass me into a statement that I refused to give. It was the violation of my personal and private thoughts and the public mockery of those thoughts. It was the exposure of my lifestyle without my consent or readiness. It was the depression that descended over the house that infected everyone I loved. It was the anxiety of turning on the news (Husband still can’t watch the local news). It was the imposition of not just judgment but the suggestion that my lifestyle made me an unsafe parent to my kids and a danger to everyone else’s kids.
A few days before I had been outed I attended a GOP fundraiser (yuk!) that had a hula theme (double yuk) in a big, fancy corporate office. I had to go as part of my job in order to get some face time with the republican gubernatorial candidate. It culminated with a Focus on the Family type republicans treating this fundraiser as an extended spring break with a very conservative lawmaker declaring from the podium after many innuendos and drinks that “Everyone gets lei’d” (triple yuk). So smugly amused was I that I grabbed an extra two cheap ass leis to remind me that even the most staunchly “family values” republican will gravitate toward a dirty mind if he thinks he is among his own tribe. Disgusted with the event, I left early and hung the leis around my rear view mirror.
Those leis have hung around my rear view mirror ever since. Like an albatross around my neck.
Owning that Pilot has been an exercise in healing my broken self. It took my shocked and shamed self home after I had been outed. It was the vehicle I tried using to commit suicide within a few months and a year later. Originally bought because we wanted something bigger for the 3rd child we never had, it also accumulated my broken dreams. No new kids, just transporting the children who likewise suffered consequences from my shame and self-hatred. That car saw it all. All the tears and heartache of broken relationships. All the anxiety and regret of a broken family. Too much shame.
I didn’t realize how much I resented that car until it was time to clean it out to trade in. Getting totaled by hail was not just a freak Colorado accident, but a blessing: permission to release the old and embrace the new.
As I removed the leis – broken, dirty and filled with dust – it finally hit me how much these things, this simple, cheap and insignificant things had been anchoring me to my shame, my hurt and my disappointment.
In that moment I finally -felt- it. I finally believed I didn’t deserve the shame. I was finally able to see things clearly. I had been engaging in non-monogamous releationships far more ethically than the people who had been in the room in that fundraiser. A few had hit on me earlier in the year bragging about their “discretion” and offering to trade votes for sex (I declined). Others had been openly flirting and playing house on the weekends with their wife for campaign events. It’s an ugly, deceptive world that works hard to maintain an outward image of sober, chaste nobility. To have lost my job for being honest about myself when they get to rise higher and higher in the realm of the powerful and elite is a disappointing reality. Keeping those leis in my car was a constant reminder of how I would always be held to a different standard.
My new car represents my new life as an adult. It is exactly what I wanted. And more than that it is exactly what I needed. It will cost me, almost all of what my raise has given me, but it is representative of the new me. It is shameless, both in the features I want and the experiences attached to it. It isn’t attached to hopes of a bigger family, but in the happiness of the family we have. It isn’t laden with the sins of the past, but is directed at celebrating the present.
Overcoming shame is about owning our choices. It is about deciding that even if others disapprove of our choices that they are ours to make. My decision to be poly isn’t a source of shame, it’s a source of joy. My choice to write about my life isn’t a shameful plea for attention, but rooted in the hope that my life examples can serve a purpose for someone else. My choice to be a sexually free and spiritually liberated woman isn’t something to be ashamed of but something to be celebrated and honored.
This new car – I named it Phasma’s Rebel – represents where I am in this new chapter. It is permission to let go of the shames of the past and move forward with a determination to defy expectations, to rise above the shame and judgment imposed on me, and to move forward confident that this shame chapter of my life is finally complete and a new era is emerging.
I’m one of the newly named Xennial generation (1977 – 1983). I have been interacting with people online since adolescence. I grew up using chatrooms (Q-Link for the Commodore 128 and AOL with PC) with progressively increased private chats happening as the years went on. Back then we couldn’t (easily) send photos or use a cell phone to text, we arranged times to talk, often turning to phone sex after online chatting became more hot and personal. I was on this cusp generation that pioneered these emerging technologies, often at the mercy of the parents that allowed us access to them.
I’ve been doing this a long time–since 13 or 14 years old when we got our first equivalent of a modem. I had online access very early in my life that by the time everyone else was getting AOL, I was moving on to the next thing. And for as long as I’ve had access, I’ve had access to online flirting. So many sexual conversations, flirting online and over the phone. The currency of these exchanges relied on imagination. The more vivid descriptions, the more easily the sexual tension could build. I never kept track of how many of these conversations I had participated in over the years. How many men and the handful of women did I do this with? I’ll probably never know. But it was second nature to me. Witty, sexy, sultry banter was my thing.
The Shameful Barrier
I talk often about the accumulation of shame in my life and how inhibiting it can be. How intimidating it makes what was once second nature to me. I had stopped dating in 2009 for a variety of reasons: a new local relationship (Warrior) that took up much of my attention, a break-up with my Dallas poly husband where I felt like a failure at polyamory, residuals of being outed a few years before and a metamour whose insistence on one-way fluid bonding sent a clear judgment – that I’m somehow dirty. I was just so ashamed that I just cut off all possibilities, no matter how promising they were. No matter how much I wanted to progress with flirting and communication, it had been used against me so often that I always managed to sour the potential before it could ever take root.
This is what was originally meant to be in the Essential Bella Rosa page and probably will still make it there. But I thought I would add a cheat sheet to names, places, and concepts that I talk about frequently here:
I actually went through and updated some of my booking info which tells more about me as a professional educator, but you can probably get a good sense of who I am from the blog posts themselves.
But on a more personal level, I am:
- almost 40
- half Mexican/half Scottish -Irish? (who knows) – I pass for white, but identify more with my Mexican family
- bisexual+ (I am attracted to a wide variety of genders and gender expressions)
- Lawyer – although working in a more social work setting
- Spiritual seeker – and quite serious about it
- Geek: Browncoat, Whovian, Trekkie, SPNFamily, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., So Say We All (not in that order)
- Switchy edge player: Little Princess / Goddess
- Raised Catholic – many rituals still matter deeply to me, but the doctrine no longer fits me
- Homegrown in Colorado, daughter of Pride City
As for the name, Bella Rosa, it is a name that was given to me by one of my first poly husbands. I keep it to honor my roots even if the relationship has reached its end.
SharpSweetBella is an older name – Husband once wrote a poem for me where he called me his Jocasta, sharp and sweet. So when I resurrected from the ashes of being outed and I was searching for a new identity, I loved that image of sharp & sweet, apt descriptors who I am as a woman. So I added Bella to it and the rest is what you see here.
There’s honestly a lot of people in my life who really matter to me, but few of them that I’ll mention publicly because they have become important enough to be part of my life story. Here is a smattering of some of the current ones I might mention by name:
- Husband: You can find the Origin Story here – Married for 15 years, together for 18 years. Comic book writer (title forthcoming), father of my two teenage sons. Funniest impromptu lyricist I know.
- Warrior: My spiritual spouse. We don’t live together, but have always felt destined in our love for each other. Deep and passionate, we are like a tidal wave of fire when together.
- Blush: Local female partner who has primary relationships with two men and a kid of her own. We share a love of Kushiel’s Legacy, witchy spiritual things and lounging naked in the hot springs together in the fall.
- Navy Boy: Old lover from college that I fell in love with despite our No-Strings-Attached agreement. He went off to the Navy and couldn’t avoid me for long and is now pursuing his dreams of finishing his degree so he can travel the world helping people.
- The Priest: One of my oldest and most loyal of LiveJournal friends (turned long distance lover). He and I share a Catholic background that we’ve integrated into our entire dynamic that ranges from taboo lust to sharing Disney World geekery. But the most prominent dynamic we have is as Goddess and Priest. He guards my spiritual temple and helps me keep my boundaries as I grow in my own power.
- Leather Family: I could probably put a lot of the Denver Queer Leather community in this category, but when I mention it here I usually mean my two (now three) primary gay leather brothers, the team behind Exile Fetish Ball (which I helped with for a time). We’ve been through some shit together and through it all they have taken care of me, put their necks on the line for me and given me an abundance of support. And we have our arguments and have had a few major conflicts that have required us to hold each other accountable. But love is love and these men are my brothers no matter what.
- Pretty Boy: A local subby guy I’ve played with a few times who is moving away just as I am starting to get comfortable with my role as a Dominant.
- Trooper: a new potential partner from home. In all fairness, I was friends with his wife first. But through that connection I got to know him and find all the areas of commonality we share. A new exploration. I have no idea where it will go, but feeling surges of NRE again for the first time.
- Druid: Not a real person, but more of an archetypal figure from my life, from my earliest and oldest soul memories. It’s an image that has been a guide for me over the past several years. I hope someday to find a person that fits this influential type of energy in my life.
Most of the time I am not specific about who I’m talking about because I exist to offer the lesson from my exploits, not the gory and potentially invasive details. Unless I have consent from someone to discuss our intimacies here, I will only vaguely allude to or loosely describe a situation, especially the newer it is. And sadly, while I can be a flirt, I don’t often have availability or energy for active dating, so I don’t have many salacious stories to share.
A lot of who I am and what I discuss in this blog is a personal perspective of living at the crossroads of so many identities, communities and experiences. When I can be, I try to be clear about who I am, but more often than not, I’m floating midway between a ton of different identities, fluid and free. And following me, reading me and understanding me relies on a certain acceptance of the empty spanse between the exhale and inhale. The thrill of exploration that pushes past the fears of stepping past our comfort zone, where nothing is just black or white but is arrayed in a technicolor range of possibility.
I am not comfortable with doling out blind advice only because each dynamic is unique and powerful and I will not presume to know more about your life and experience than you.
All I can do is share where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, what I’ve noticed in myself and the lessons I’ve drawn from those experiences. I don’t expect everyone to resonate with that, and that’s perfectly fine.
Thank you for reading. I’m so very grateful!
For those who want to read about the adventures of a HotWife check out Juliet’s Busy Weekend at:
Check out Isabelle’s post about Sex Blogging Liberation
It’s been a super busy week for me finishing up my work and transitioning my career. I will be staying with work that allows me to serve those living in poverty by helping to navigate complex systems, but I will also be moving into more a supervisory role, which has good ol’ imposter syndrome in overdrive. My intention was to go on a brief hiatus while I get my shit together, but I can’t stay completely silent about a deliciously ignorant piece of nonsense posted by Mayim Bialik a couple of weeks ago that was titled “What I don’t get about open relationships“.
It’s not worth the effort for me to counter each point she makes because it’s just such a common set of misconceptions. I appreciate how others have already addressed these. I filled three pages with notes of all the ways in which she not just undermines LGBTQIA+ awareness, but is deliberate in her use of assumptions about both gender and sexuality. But in the end, it is her opinion. She doesn’t research polyamory, open relationships or consensual non-monogamy either as a neuroscientist, psychologist or sociologist. In the end, the video is a giant “here’s why I’m not into non-monogamy” explanation.
Awesome! We need more people who recognize when something isn’t for them. We want people to be self-aware and get out of the corners of the default. But of course, it’s not really awareness she’s creating or sharing; her interests is in projecting her seemingly self-aware conclusion both as a testament of her scientific knowledge and a snide judgment of those of us who have concluded differently about our lives. And it’s that projection that is harmful–declaring that because you can’t figure it out, that all the rest of us must be wrong. My issue is less with her and more with the thousands of people who will parrot her opinions as their own.
We all have our heroes. The people we look up to and who give us inspiration when times are tough. All of us have a mix of personal, professional, real & fictional heroes that are part of our lives. And this week one of my first heroes hits the big screen to fill the void of women’s voices in superhero fandom. In honor of Wonder Woman finally getting her own movie (and at that it appears a movie worthy of such an icon) consider this an ode, a love letter of all the reasons why this particular icon is my first and my favorite.
I’ve been a fan of Wonder Woman for as long as I can remember, dating back to at least 4 years old. Back then we had comics and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. I was too young back then to pay much attention to the story line, to know the patriarchal evils she was truly fighting. All I knew in those early years is that she was a woman who was beautiful, powerful, honest and looked a lot like me with her dark hair and light skin. She was the earliest pop culture example of the type of woman I wanted to grow up to be.
Wonder Woman also fits in to some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories.
I was raised by mostly the Mexican half of my family both in tradition and in frequency and depth of connection. Every summer I would usually spend a week with my grandparents in a small rural community north of Denver. During the day I’d go to my grandma’s prayer group with her or join my grandpa at the library. At night, I’d get to play dress up after dinner and the evening news. Sometimes grandma and I would play cops & robbers or I’d dress up like a queen and we’d have a tea party.
But the fondest memory i will always have is when my grandpa, a tough, well-read and witty state patrolman, made me a golden lasso, a crown and bracelets just like my beloved Wonder Woman. He had spent the day cutting out the forms from cardboard and painting them to match Wonder Woman’s costume from the TV show which I would watch religiously on syndication every afternoon. When dinner was over and the dishes had been done, he came upstairs and presented me with my very own Wonder Woman gear to wear for that night’s dress up. It is still one of the best gifts I have ever received and one I wish I had been able to keep to show my kids.
Dawning Awareness & Adolescence
It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I identify as a geek. I grew up on comic books, Star Trek and Star Wars. I was a child of the 80’s where our popular culture started moving from B-movie sci-fi to a more pronounced market for nerddom. Dungeons & Dragons, Goonies, Thundercats and Revenge of the Nerds gave us a language to start uniting our nerd culture. Technology was about to make it much easier to find our people, to find communities of people who enjoy the same things as we do.
This was also the time that I was just starting to wake up to sex. I was an early bloomer (I grew out of training bras by 5th grade). And as the boys teased me and girls started to exclude me and make me the butt of their jokes, I clung to my traditions of sci-fi, comics and fantasy. I hollowed out a place for myself locked between childhood and adulthood. A place where I acted out fantasies with my Jem dolls, where the Misfits were sly seductresses tempting our heroes into sin. A place where I imagined Q could make me do anything he wished.
But even here, Wonder Woman still had an influence. It only took a few comics to realize that there is a trend of her always getting tied up. One comic in particular, Issue 296 (“Mind Games”), features General Electric forcing Wonder Woman to play along with a mind control video game. And oh god, this image still gets to me. The force by which the villain is trying to control her and yet, she still overcomes and is able to reject his desire to enslave her to his will. And yet, that force, the bondage, the temporary overpowering of someone’s will was the first time I remember ever being turned on.
I may have just jumped off the deep end without thinking. Today marks the first day of the #Summer100 #Sexblogger challenge run by Victoria of Pretty Pink Lotus Bud as a means of connecting sex bloggers, providing insight, support and an increase in traffic. And in the Trump age, where threats to sexual freedom are more eminent than they ever were before, we need to be focused on building community and supporting one another.
I started blogging in December of 2003 on LiveJournal. I remember vividly it was just a month after giving birth to my son and I was fed up with the mixed messages of parenting advice. I had spent most of my pregnancy physically unable to have sex, relying on masturbation to take care of mine and my husband’s needs. We were still monogamous back then so the frustration I was trying to express wasn’t about multiple relationships, it was about being able to feel sexual at all. I still hadn’t been cleared for postpartum sex, but I was frustrated that none of the books, none of the articles I had read prepared me for how to balance my sexual feelings with the feelings inherent in motherhood. Most parenting advice assumed that you’d be madly in love with your kid and wouldn’t need any other affection to keep you going. And in the late night hours of yet another round of breastfeeding, I was fed up that people like me would never get good advice from mainstream moms. Apparently, children are supposed to be all we ever need.
LiveJournal was the place where I could allow that energy to be seen, where I could give voice to my frustrations and where I could interact with others who felt the same. Blogging was personal back then. I am nostalgic for the way relationships formed and how communities interacted in this pre-Facebook era. I was writing every day, multiple times a day. Maybe it was sharing memes or reacting to the latest drama that my poly husbands found themselves in, but I was writing damn near every day.
I talk a lot about being outed. That slut shaming event hurt my career, hurt my psyche and broke our momentum as a family. Ten years later and I think we’re all finally recovering. I kick myself for not being more resilient, for allowing that event to take my voice and my writing from me. I kick myself for not being a better example to other sex bloggers out there of how we can recover from the assumptions and the harm inflicted on us by slut-shaming. And in looking through the blog roll of the people participating in this challenge, I’m not surprised to see that it’s still happening.
Fourteen years I’ve been blogging about sex. Not regularly, not with any singular message. I no longer do scene reports or summarize my adventures because since the outing, I not only haven’t had many sexual adventures, but I have been reluctant to share them with a wider audience. Once you’ve been shamed publicly, it’s hard to feel safe to share publicly.
But this is my fear talking. I signed up for this challenge to get back to a more regular presence and voice for what I do, for the message I send, for the connections I value.
Part of the challenge is to link back to some of the other blogs on the list, to help promote each other and give each other a boost. And I’m so glad to see 1) so many people of color on the list and 2) so many people who are writing joyously and thoughtfully about their experiences. I’ve been scared to do that for so long that I hope being part of this challenge will help me push past that comfort zone, where I challenge myself to share more of my life with a growing audience and with the people who inspire me. My intention is to gain more confidence in my writing and to grow it into a ritual of release that benefits you, the reader.
Now, I can’t guarantee I’ll get to 100 posts because I’m in the middle of a major and immediate job transition. Not only do I worry about job prospects but I also am consumed with the business of wrapping up my contract. But the intention has been set, the commitment made and I have you all to help keep me motivated. I am doing what I can to re-educate the fear right out of me, to give me a new experience of success, of personal rewards that flow from transparency and authenticity.
So, welcome to the #Summer100 challenge, the Bella Rosa way:
vulnerable as fuck and ready as ever.
Back in February, I participated in a body positive challenge. I was needing to feel more confident and sensual in my body, needing to accept where it is now. I’ve grown so weary of my body wearing my trauma for me. I’ve grown so tired of trying to protect myself from the opinions of others by covering up and denying that my body can be beautiful and magical and downright amazing when I decide it is.
But like most women, I have a complicated relationship with my body. When someone compliments me on it, I react rather adversely and predictably. “Oh no, it’s not.” In my mind, I’m just echoing the ongoing opinion of larger, older women’s bodies. In my mind, I’m enforcing a truth universally acknowledged. But what I’m really doing is rejecting my own beauty, even if it’s a sliver of what I’d want it to be. I’m denying that to myself over and over again.
Taking a Risk for Myself
For the past year, I’ve been inching towards making my living as a sex, relationship educator, writer, consultant something or other. Basically, everything that I love to do that isn’t the practice of law. To do any of this, I needed to start curating more of an online presence. It means more writing (yay!). It means developing content for a more expansive website. And it is showing who I am as an educator and professional. And because I’m teaching about intimacy and sex, that includes representing who I am as a sexual woman.
The only professional photos I have are ones I got done about 4 years ago for my mediation practice. And while I love those photos, they aren’t the best representation of what I offer as a sex educator. So I contacted my friend, Anthony Graham, with Broken Glass Photography.
I have tried and failed to do boudoir photo shoots. It usually becomes a last minute cancellation because I’m curled up in a ball crying with the anxiety of it all. Most shoots I see with women of my size and with my belly don’t look comfortable or at ease. And each time I would see such little representation of either women my size or women of color, I felt more and more that I didn’t have any assets worth seeing once you know that women of my size aren’t usually celebrated or revered. Read the rest of this entry
So, I made the last Origin Story post more about how, positionally, we were primed and prepped to open our relationship, but this is the nitty-gritty mechanics of how it came about.
There were too many moments to count where my ability to stay “faithful” by society’s definition was tested not just in my marriage but in pretty much every relationship I ever had. And there were too many moments where I didn’t abide by those standards and others where I felt resentful and caged.
I remember, a week before our wedding, during law school finals, I confessed to Husband that I had done more than just kiss Navy Boy on a recent trip out to visit him. I didn’t want to start our marriage with a lie and I felt a strong urge to share the truth with him. “I know. I just wish you had told me about it at the time,” was Husband’s response.
He knew about the people I habitually flirted with and understood. He knew about my desire to revisit with old flames and understood. He knew about how I desperately wanted to explore my bisexuality (another Origin Story to add to the growing list) and understood. He’s always known me so well and always understood.
By the end of law school, a year after our wedding, I was pregnant with our son. We were buying a house and I was studying for the bar exam. Midway through the pregnancy, because of the physical impact on my old injuries, I could no longer have sex. There was no position where I didn’t feel pain or numbness. Those were a lot of lonely days and nights for us, especially since neither of us had thought about this side effect.
Once I had given birth, I was anxious to be able to get back to being able to have sex. It had been at least 6 months and I was ready.
I don’t want to go into a lot of detail here because I still hold shame about this part of my story: I cheated. It was March 2004 and because of the way the pregnancy affected my body, I wanted to feel desirable and beautiful still. Husband would probably say that he just couldn’t keep up with me, but that isn’t true. My sex drive wasn’t the issue, nor was his. The issue was a need for approval – from someone other than the person who just watched me birth his child. I needed to find myself sexy through someone else’s eyes.
When Needs Backfire
That need hit me like a ton of bricks. I had gained a significant amount of weight during the pregnancy. The doctors assured me that I had so much fluid and he had been such a big kid (9 lbs 1 oz at a month premature) that I would likely go back down to my normal size in no time. But I didn’t. I never did.
I went back to the flirting I had done before. But instead of staying safe and monogamous, I was actually entertaining meeting these men. I needed to feel desirable again, a vital slice of anyone’s self-worth that in carrying all this extra weight I didn’t know myself anymore.
In my younger days, I may not have been the prettiest girl on the block, but I could more than make up for that with charm and wit and intellectual intrigue. I relied on my adaptability to be valuable and thus desirable to others. I had insecurities about my body, like most women, but I never felt it was unfuckable or undesirable in some fashion.
They don’t tell you about how you’ll feel about your body after motherhood. You spend most of your life being told that you need to be attractive to find yourself a spouse. And once you have kids, you devote yourself to them but stay attractive and available enough so that your husband doesn’t stray. That’s the national romantic “happily ever after” narrative, right? But no one tells you how you will feel as a woman, as a sexual woman, once you’ve pushed a live being into the world. Or that there will be a thousand conflicting messages and judgments about your value. Or that the very act of being sexual is somehow dirty and wrong, but if you don’t bounce back to your pre-baby shape you’re somehow a failure of femininity.
Cheating wasn’t planned or deliberate. I sort of slid into it, driven by this need to prove myself. The men I eventually met up with, one was a yuppie banker type cheating on his wife, the other was a bulky personal trainer type who worked security at night. Both were not just disappointing, but downright insulting. Banker dude asked to see under my skirt and told me I was “good enough for a blowjob” but nothing more. Personal trainer dude got up to go to the bathroom during lunch and left me with the check. When I confronted him in the parking lot, he told me I must have sent him an old picture because I wasn’t at all hot or worth his time. Although neither situation involved intercourse, I had definitely broken the agreement that Husband and I had set with each other.
I was devastated and on the verge of suicide because these encounters had been so shaming and I had been deceiving Husband and not telling him the truth.
And I had no one to talk to.
Facing my truth
At the time, I had just started writing on LiveJournal and was becoming more and more active in the communities there. I carried a lot of shame and guilt over what I had done and I was passively reading others’ journals to gain some insight.
Our anniversary that year followed my first Mother’s Day after giving birth. Both days were marred by these feelings, the burden of the half-truths I had been hiding from Husband. We fought more, picked at each other more and had more difficulty seeing eye to eye.
I remember standing in our makeshift office in the basement, him asking me to tell him why I was crying all the time, what he could do to help. Eventually, I broke down and told him what had happened with both of those men–how each rejected me because of my body and how I was on the verge of killing myself over it.
Again, he forgave me–far more than I had deserved from him. And once again, he told me that all I needed to do was talk to him about what I was feeling and what I needed. That he didn’t object to me getting attention from others if that’s what I needed, but that those interactions would have an impact on me, and thus in our household and that he needed to be included in that, no matter how embarrassing it might feel.
Calling it by name
The more I was on LiveJournal (May 2004), the more I was exposed to others who were in or considering open relationships. It wasn’t a new concept per se, but at the time if you looked it up, all you’d find are swingers groups. Husband isn’t very flirtatious or outgoing, so swinging would never be something we could be comfortable doing together. I kept seeing allusions to the term “polyamory” but had trouble finding out more about it.
One of my newest followers at the time, a guy in Seattle, introduced me more fully to the idea through his blog. He and his wife were polyamorous and had been foIr at least a few years. Through our conversations, I started becoming more familiar with the term and heard some of the tales of people who actually lived this way.
It’s amazing how much your world opens up when you say find an identity that fits. This not just fit, but was focused on the love that I felt for so many people. While many people have floated in and out of my life, they have all mattered to me, contributed positively to my life and left me a better person. Polyamory seemed to welcome this–not just the sex, it was never just about the sex for me–it was about the connection.
Swing & a miss
Our very first foray was with a man on the east coast I had been talking to through LiveJournal. I had been given permission to play with him and would stay in contact with Husband about how it went. It wasn’t just the play that drew me in, it was the fact that this guy saw me like really saw who I am. I needed that. And I was falling for that now that the reins were cut loose and I could connect and lov and be who I truly am.
So, before a Sarah McLaughlin concert, between dinner and walking into the Pepsi Center, I had a conversation with Husband about this new guy on the east coast. I was falling for him. Talking to him multiple times a day and wanted to take things to an actual relationship. I told Husband about polyamory, about open marriages, about the fact that I felt we were solid and supportive of each other and we could make this work.
Jumping into the rocky end of the poly pool
Things never worked out with the guy on the east coast. The moment I confessed my feelings to him, when I bought a ticket to go out to DC to meet him a month later, he cooled off. (He also requested a full body photo of me and never responded to that, compounding how I already felt about my body). It was a shitty choice of a first try. I not only was rejected but felt I had been played and neglected once I wanted to take things into a less pixelated realm.
After that, Husband started instituting some rules and expectations. I don’t even remember those early rules anymore. At one point it was the “only girls” rule. While common for many who are just starting poly, it was a rule only because men were hurting my feelings so terribly by their rejection of my body (hence the body shame I still carry today). Husband thought that the women would be at least nicer and give me a chance to understand my bisexuality that I still hadn’t embraced. I wasn’t ready yet to fully embrace that part of my sexuality–so that rule went to the wayside.
Lots of rules came and went during those first few tenuous months as polyamorous. I went to DC to visit that guy–where he didn’t respond to my messages until the final day I was there. Guilted by our mutual followers he at least met up with me for a drink. But it was clear I had crossed a line by making our online interactions real and I was let down and dejected. Was this what polyamory was all about?
That was until I found Laz. In November of 2004, the day after the election, a smart, witty Texan found his way to my LiveJournal. He quickly moved into the role of a trusted friend and flirty confidante. And while he wasn’t the ideal partner (he was married with kids at the time), he was my first poly love and eventually, 6 months later, became my first poly husband.
Others would follow, but Laz will always hold a special place in my life for the role he played, for the support he gave and for the full realization that polyamory was right for us. I might not have ever stuck with polyamory had he not shown up in my life when he did.
To be continued…
At some point in the future, I’ll address Husband’s feeling about poly, how he manages his jealousy and all of the other little how-tos that people usually want to hear. But the how of it was more simple than people want to hear: He fully accepts me for who I am including the gift I have for connecting with multiple people and he gives me support and encouragement to be the best me that I can possibly be. And that…that’s why he is Husband.
This week I’ve been a very busy sex educator, but not a terribly prepared one. This always happens. I get word that I’ll be presenting. I have plenty of time to prepare. But I leave it until the last minute to get my notes together and to prepare a loose outline of what I want to cover. Then throw in packing, finishing up the taxes, my period and a heap of work pressure and I’m pretty primed to be stressed by the time I arrive at the hotel tomorrow and fully drained by Sunday.
This is how I sabotage myself and drive my perfectionism into overdrive mode. It’s a vicious and ugly cycle that keeps me running from one extreme to another. I spend most of my time so amped up and I don’t know what to do with myself when it’s calm. My stress, my guilt, this ugly pattern of high powered ambition matched with crippling fear of failure. Eventually, I stack so much on myself that I’m not fully present either as a partner or a presenter.
It’s just another way to make myself undeserving. My procrastination, my addiction to stress hormones, my anxiety and perfectionism, my insecurities are the manifestations of my fear that I am just not deserving of the success I want in this arena. Because…
If I’m successful, I have to show up.
If I’m successful, I’m responsible for being present within that recognition.
If I’m successful, I have to own it.
When I’m not successful I can avoid it–the responsibilty, the ownership, the risk, and the reward. But that avoidance, the wallowing in the seeming inevitability of failure, is what invites my inner shrew to take up residence and keep me stuck exactly where I am.
The shrill call of the inner shrew
I hate that term in general, but it’s the voice that lurks within all of us that tells us we’re not good enough. “No one is going to listen to you”. “You’re not an ‘expert’ and everyone will see you’re a fraud”. “If you’re not 100% careful, you will get disbarred.” It really never stops. That self-talk that says I’m not good enough or smart enough or gosh darn it, nobody likes me. It’s a relentless critical nagging in the back of my head.
This voice is at its strongest whenever I’m at my weakest. When I’m worn down by stress and anxiety already present in my life, it’s easier for that voice to beat my psyche to a bloody pulp with all its accusations, suppositions and assumptions. So highly critical of my own success, that voice gives me excuses to sabotage myself at every turn. To stay stuck where it’s safe.
Self-doubt accumulates and builds over time. It starts as just a slow drip. An occasional stray thought that goes through your head sounding plausible and rational and then it dissipates. But then the next drop falls and the next, each dissipating more slowly, like each new doubt gains power from the one before it. If I’m not careful, I’ll go from the very reasonable “You really need to double check those stats before the conference” to “Everyone is going to hate you and they’re never going to invite you back and you’ll never date again and die without ever feelings NRE ever again.”
I can go from a drop to deluge to drowning in 10 minutes flat.
As a sex educator, I talk a LOT about self-care. It’s a tool in dealing with the inevitable fuck-ups you’ll encounter along the way. We all make mistakes and have bad experiences in our relationships and sexual expression. Self-care is a great tool to recover and get yourself back out there again.
But it’s just as much about recovering from the moments where our own inner shrew seems hellbent on beating us down, especially in our thoughts and fears about our intimate relationships. She’ll criticize us for needing care. She’ll belittle our attempts to ask for what we need because she’ll convince us that we’re not deserving. She’ll wrap us in indecision and fear of rejection, causing us to stay silent about boundaries or unmet needs. She’ll convince us that we’re not smart, or pretty, or fun enough to be loved.
We steal our hope to protect us from success
It wasn’t until last night that I realized how insidious my own relationship with this voice is. My son was having trouble sleeping before a big day of testing. He was putting so much pressure on himself to succeed, to force himself to perform even if he was already giving his best. It was making him sick with worry and fear.
This is the curse of my family — growing up Latino, I was taught I had to prove myself by giving 110% all the time, every day. It was ingrained in my upbringing, rewarded but not always recognized. Stopping for something as silly as self-care was a luxury and indulgent. Vacations were few and far between. And don’t even get me started on massages, manicures or parties. The point was drilled into me, not just by my Mexican family but by the Catholic Church, that I am not worthy and nothing I could ever do will make me worthy in the eyes of either the mainstream or the divine.
What a depressing and utterly exhausting way to live. So undeserving I felt I was that I purposely threw some of my tests in high school just so others would get awards and not me. I don’t like the spotlight in general, but recognition was far beyond the scope of what I could hope for or want for myself. I just didn’t deserve such accolades. That voice told me that I had to be perfect in all things before I could be entitled to any rest.
To see that reflected in my son–beating himself up in the same sick way I’ve done it to myself, it really hit home.
It’s time to Tame the Shrew
Recently, I’ve had some remarkable experiences where I’ve had to accept that maybe, just maybe I’m deserving of my own success–if I would stop standing in my own way long enough to receive it. I’ve had to start coming to terms with the fact that it’s not the voice that is my problem, it’s the fact I keep listening to the voice and allowing it to lure me away from what I want to achieve. I have been giving my power away to a liar and the thief of my joy.
Back to the context of my current situation: I am 2 days away from a weekend of presentations, connections, debates, potentials, emotional enlightenment and not a small amount of consternation with my family about missing Easter dinner.
Freedom of Choice is my best method to taming this voice. I get to choose what I want for my life. I don’t have to be subject to the fears and victimization that this voice tries to impose. I can choose how to prepare myself and own that choice no matter what the outcome. Should I choose to prioritize self-care over researching that one last statistic, so be it. Own it. Should I choose to write an outline for the Poly Political Agenda but skip doing one for the self-care workshop, so be it. Own it. Should I choose to prioritize a hotel weekend with Warrior and Blush over mingling with new couples, so be it. This is my choice and I own it.
By keeping myself locked up in fear all the time all I do is make it harder for me to achieve the successes that I want. I allow my procrastination to accumulate, the self-doubt dripping down from on high to make it excusably sloppy so that I will never know what it feels like to truly shine in my element. But if I want to be the woman I have always wanted to be, I have to step into that right now and choose to live my life in such a way it drowns out the voice of that indidious, traitorous shrew.
It’s time for me to rule my life as the Queen.
Everyone comes at polyamory from their own background and series of choices. For some, it’s their “cure” to cheating. For others, it’s a slow slide away from swinging and into more romantic partnerships with others. Others start it out as an experiment with fantasies until suddenly you can’t imagine what your life would look like without sharing it openly with others. And whether I’m talking about my personal origin — how I, personally, knew I was poly–or how my Husband and I came to open up our marriage, these are the fundamentals of what led us to where we are now.
While ultimately the decision was made on a Wednesday in July 2004, right before a Sarah McLaughlan concert, there were a series of events and conditions that led us to that decision. Here’s a look back at the major components that led to our polyamory story.
We are individuals who choose to share our lives together
I’ve known Husband-Writer since 1996 when we went on a musical tour of Europe together. He was a musician and writer with a generous soul and a sharp wit. We got to know each other very well on that tour and he quickly endeared himself to me by being in my life. Our love is based on the friendship we developed at the time, the rapport that was built on a shared sense of humor and a passionate love of expression.