Tag Archives: couples

Recalibration

I wonder if this is what Peter Parker feels like when he goes home to MJ and finally takes off his mask.  

After a sincere, year-long attempt at a relationship, I’m actually pleased to be returning to single life.  Breakups always suck, and this one is hardly an exception, but singledom feels so natural to me– truly being the master of my own life, my schedule, my activities and, perhaps most importantly, with whom I spend my time.

I’ve never understood how some of my friends could hop quickly from one relationship to the next with barely any time in between to find themselves again.  I always find myself needing more alone time than usual after a breakup, time I often refer to as “recalibration.”  It’s not only that you need to figure out who you are independent of the relationship, but you need to figure out who you are after the relationship.  Every relationship we have, no matter how short, changes us.  Some teach us what not to do, some inspire us, but either way we are changed, even if in only subtle ways.  

I’ve learned a lot of what not to do this time around, but I also feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself, and that, being the “free spirit” I am, maybe the standard courtship mold doesn’t work for me.  After all, I really love living on my own, I don’t know that I want to move in with someone else, get married and start a family.  Maybe down the road, but right now I want to just meet interesting people and have great connections.  I don’t need a marriage end game, even though it’s a lot less illegal for me now.  (Bye, bye DOMA!) 

Anyhow, it’s good to be back.  I’ve missed blogging a lot, and I felt so out of place not being my single self, even though it was nice to feel a little bit “normal” for a hot minute.  And I can’t forget the love I’ve shared, even though things were hardly perfect most of the time.  I try to hold on to the good and let the rest fall away, but it takes time. 

Cheers to Single Life! 

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Our Job

I know what you’re thinking.  “Hey, Jade, where’s the bitter Valentine’s Day post?”  After all, what else do us singles do on V-Day beside grumble? Truth be told, I was earnestly trying to ignore Singles Awareness Day this year.  And I thought I was going to get away with it, too!  But then the sun came up.  I rolled out of bed, got myself to work and had the misfortune of witnessing this encounter:

Coworker1: “Hey, why aren’t you wearing red today?”
Coworker2: “Oooh, I don’t have a Valentine.  I’m a rejected Valentine!”
CW1: “What?? Noooo, we love you!! We all love you!!”
CW2: “No, no, it’s OK, you don’t have to cheer me up.”

This was around the time I vomited all over everyone and promptly put a stop to the conversation.  No?  OK, that didn’t happen, but I wish it had!  Because all this Valentine’s self-pity makes me nauseous.

Listen, I agree that V-Day mostly blows.  It glorifies couples (heterosexual couples, in particular) and shames single people into hiding.  It’s a dumb holiday created for profit– and as such greeting card companies, chocolate makers, florists and restaurants alike rejoice.  But if you do not own one of these establishments and you’re single, Valentine’s Day probably sucks.  Because it’s not just about “celebrating Love,” that I could get behind!  No, it’s about flaunting your coupled privilege if you have it. (Which is pretty rich considering how we constantly talk about gay people “flaunting” their relationships with hand-holding .. Can you imagine what hell would break loose if we behaved like straight couples do on V-Day? Kissing– in public?! Why I NEVER!)

I’m sure there are plenty of couples out there who celebrate V-Day quietly.  And for every one of them, there are pairs that have to have the BIGGEST Teddy Bear, the MOST flowers, the FANCIEST dinner and overall the most adoration poured over themselves.  In high school, I remember the popular girls would compete over who got the most flowers/gifts/admirers on Valentine’s Day.  Sadly, life after high school isn’t much different in this respect, except some of us have figured out how trivial it all is.  So you’re pretty and someone brought you flowers.  BIG DEAL.  What have you done to contribute to society besides look pretty?  No, seriously.  Looking pretty isn’t in and of itself something commendable, yet there is nothing we commend more (in women in particular).  No wonder this holiday has turned into a kind of pissing contest.  It’s all about being superior!

And the whole thing just makes me sad.  It seems like if you’re not busy feeling superior to the singles, then you’re busy throwing yourself a pity party.  JEEZEUS, Stop!  Seriously, stop competing with one another for the titles of Most and Least Loved of the Year.  Can’t we just Love? Can’t we just be grateful for the people in our lives who Love us and those whom we Love? Can’t we just see this as an opportunity to remind them that we care?

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.
-Thomas Merton

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Normalcy

I’ve been thinking a lot about normalcy lately, and the fleeting desire for it.

Let’s get this straight (pun intended)–I’ve never felt normal.  And I’ve probably never been “normal” by anyone else’s standards either.  I’m part hardcore, bibliophile introvert, more likely to be seen with a book than a buddy, and part “Dyke Diva”– with the right genderbending attire, I’ve been known to strut and even swagger.  But none of it makes me normal, except insofar as my proclivity for emotions is just as human as anyone else’s.  But let’s face it, there is a difference between human and “normal.”  After all, we made up the latter.  Social construct–it’s all relative, yadda yadda yadda.  You know the drill.

So what IS “normal,” anyway? Is it routine? Is it commonality or majority? Or is it simply whatever is familiar? We like to talk about “normal” as though it’s some fixed, universal principal, but in reality whatever seems “normal” to us only seems that way because it is familiar to us.  What’s “normal” in the West is unlikely to be the “normal” in the East (though, globalization is quickly chipping away at that via television, business and the internet).  Leviticus, which people so love to cite to bash gays, is really just a list of normal practices for Jewish tribes back in the day.  Leviticus is the rules that separated them from outsiders.  Nowadays, though, eating dairy with your meat and getting haircuts are commonplace.  “Normal” is anything but fixed and universal.

So why worry so much about being normal?  Well, I must say friends, there is some comfort in normalcy.  There is comfort in being able to fly under the radar unmolested.  And as someone who’s spent much of her life as a painfully confused wallflower, normal seems pretty appealing. It’s the chance to not have an entire room stare at you and not having to pretend you don’t hear them talking under their breath about you.  (Though, I’ve taken to inventing my own dialogue when I hear people talking about me– “Oh Jade, she’s so cool! I’m so jealous of her cool, collected nature.”  It works better than you’d think.)

The “normal fallacy,” as it were, can be quite tempting.  Heck, I even fell prey to the assumption that I was normal during puberty.  As a queer person, I get asked about my coming out quite often.  And, frankly, it’s a little embarrassing.  When did I know I was gay? Well, it’s a bit murky.  I knew that I was attracted to women by the time I was 15, but I didn’t make the connection that said fact meant I could date women or that, heck, I might be gay, until I was 20!  Ridiculous, right? But it truly never occurred to me that (1) my attraction to women was out of the ordinary or (2) that it said anything about my sexuality.  After all, we’re all born straight! Right? Right..? Wait…

I even went so far as to date boys (rather, a boy) for nearly four years before I finally had to admit to the world that I was a raging dyke (and so many other parts of my life suddenly made sense).  I could not have been more oblivious at the time.  “Well, yeah, of course girls are sexy! Have you met my boyfriend? He’s pretty, isn’t he?”  The desire for normalcy is powerful and blind.

And so it is with relationships too.  That is, sometimes I wonder if my occasional longing for a relationship isn’t just a longing for the path more traveled.  In some ways, being a part of a couple is like getting into a special club.  You can go on double dates with other coupled friends, you get a plus one at weddings and special events, heck you have built in company for just about any event, and you can even bring your partner to a class reunion as a big middle finger to those asshats who said you’d always be alone.  Especially as you get older, others expect you to pair off, and reality becomes ever starker as your friends gradually pair off and you remain the ever-vigilant quirkyalone, who receives pitiful offers from friends to “live with me and my husband and kids someday,” as though all I ever wanted was to be a gay, glorified nanny for my straight friends.

None of this even mentions the financial or emotional benefits of being in a couple, just the social ones.  Sometimes it just seems like it would be easier to be part of a couple (which is ironic since any worthwhile relationship actually requires a lot of work and commitment!).

But there’s some trouble with normal… The Trouble with Normal… I kept  uttering this phrase to myself this morning until it hit me– I have a book with that title! (As a bibliophile, I often go on book-buying-binges when I’m depressed, and hence have a lot of books I adore, but have yet to read.)  I ran to my bookshelf and yes! There it was! The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life by Michael Warner.  I just started reading it, obviously, but I am so excited about this book.  Mr. Warner promises to present some seemingly radical ideas–like that marriage is itself unethical and there’s a principled defense for pornography–and I’m really quite giddy about the concept of dismantling sexual shame.

The culture has thousands of ways for people to govern the sex of others–and not just harmful or coercise sex, like rape, but the most personal dimensions of pleasure, identity, and practice.  We do this directly, though prohibition and regulation, and indirectly, by embracing one identity or one set of tastes as though they were universally shared, or should be.

And who says they should be?  I’ve felt like a total weirdo, sore-thumb sticking out, my whole life.  Or, almost my whole life.  Times when I didn’t feel weird? At NYC Pride.  At a drag show.  At queer dance parties.  I don’t feel like such a freak of nature when surrounded by my LGBTQ friends and allies.  In these queer safe spaces, I’m not constantly hearing about what an abomination against God I am, how I’m flaunting my sexuality just by being true to myself, or how the way I Love is “unnatural.”  And that makes all the difference.  We are what we fill our heads with– and when our heads are constantly filled with damaging messages about how we’re freaky, or weird, or flat out immoral just by being who we are… it’s easy to see why we sometimes feel like “normal” is right and we are “wrong.”  Pile this on top of all the other messages we’re bombarded with–about gender, about race, about creed, about body size and type–it’s perhaps a wonder that we aren’t all huddled in a corner in the fetal position.  There are so many qualifications to be “normal,” and none of them guarantee you happiness.  Just ask Ashley Riggitano.

Friends, I end this entry with a call to action:  Do not be satisfied with normal! Do not be satisfied with what you already see in the world (especially on television/in movies)! Go out, create, be true to yourself, be what you feel in your heart, and confidence and happiness will eventually find you.  I commit to this, too.  That I will embrace my “Dyke Diva” side instead of my social anxiety, and I bet you that “normal” will quickly lose it’s shine.  More reviews of The Trouble with Normal to come.

Oh, and I’ve said the phrase “Dyke Diva” enough times that I’m now required to show this:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrUqgXHzXao&w=640&h=360%5D

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Great Expectations

(Cheesy title, I know, but it’s my favorite Dickens novel and it fits the topic perfectly!)

As much as we all know we shouldn’t be held to anyone’s expectations in our pursuit of happiness, except perhaps those we impose on ourselves, the expectations exist nonetheless.  I had a wonderful, impromptu conversation with a coworker the other day who shared with me some of the pressure she regularly gets from friends and family about the progression of her relationship.  In anything new this usually happens: the people who care about us want to know every last detail and sometimes they do more harm than good in their relentless quest for details and updates.   And in relationships, there’s even an expected timeline for relationship progression.

Don’t believe me? You must be under 18.  Otherwise, you’ve lived long enough to notice that even if you don’t jump on this timeline personally, your friends will, and they’ll do it in waves.  Between 18 and 25 you will attend more weddings than you knew you had friends and relatives.  From 25-40 you’ll be invited to so many baby showers that you’ll take up knitting just to cut costs.  And after 40? The divorce wave cometh.

My aforementioned coworker is married, and she and her husband have been together for nearly 8 years.  However, they’ve only been formally married for a little over a year.  Despite never having been married, I know what this means, at least in terms of expectations.  The public likes hot romances and fast families.  That is, we consider it fairly normal to marry someone if you’ve been dating for anywhere from 3 months to 2 years.  Beyond that? “What are you waiting for?” “When are you getting married?” “When is he going to propose??”  Personally, I have a much more conservative timeline.  I wouldn’t marry anyone I hadn’t lived with, and I wouldn’t move in with someone who I haven’t been dating at least a year (I know, I’m shattering all your lesbian=Uhaul stereotypes!).  Then after you get married, you have exactly ONE year to get yourself knocked-up or family and friends give themselves the liberty to comment on your reproductive choices and lack of reproductive promptness.  Think of the children! Literally.

We laughed as she went through a sampling of the torrent of comments she receives: “When are you going to start your family?” “Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?” “Are you trying very hard? You know the longer you wait…” “Tick, tick, tick! That’s your biological clock!” “You should try [insert sexual position or type of medical intervention here, along with a personal anecdote]!”

Do you see it? How there’s also an assumption with the expectation?  Never has my coworker been asked if she even wants to have children, that is just assumed, but people have no problem asking if she’d prefer a boy or a girl before she’s even pregnant! Audacious doesn’t begin to cover it.  But the truth is, our friends and family absolutely think this is not just their business, but their sworn duty to ask.  Without pressure from our social circles, I’d wager some of us would never get married or have children.

The other thing that strikes me about this is how incredibly sexist it is.  My coworker noted that while she receives these kinds of burning inquiries on a weekly basis, her husband has received them… never.   Some questions are absurdly offensive, like “When are you going to start a family?” as though two people who love each other do not make a family already!  And some of the questions, like “When is he going to propose?” just make no sense.  Who says he’s going to be the one to propose?  If he is proposing, isn’t it likely a surprise?  What if they haven’t discussed marriage yet?  For some a lack of interest in getting married is viewed as an unwillingness to commit and a dealbreaker, but to others it’s just not that big of a deal.  I could go on.  Even still, these are the questions women receive and men do not.  In the case of lesbians, I’ve found that when one partner is more masculine (like me!), they’re often treated like the man in the relationship (which, ironically, is rarely the case in my experience; butches are like Cadbury Eggs, we’re tough and chocolately on the outside, and soft and gooey on the inside!).  Or, to quote a friend of mine, “There is no man in the relationship! That’s why we’re lesbians!” For gay men… I have no idea.  (Twinks, Bears, Gay men of all varieties– Enlighten me!)

All in all, these are intensely personal decisions that, for some reason, people feel entitled to inquire about.  Obviously, it depends on the relationship, but there are some friends with whom I truly have no desire to discuss my relationship plans.  But the sad truth is we do have an established structure in our society.  It approximately goes: Go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, send your kids to school (cycle starts over with them), then work until your dead or can afford to retire.   Nowhere is it written that this is how you have to lead your life, but people will expect that this is what you want and eventually what you’ll settle on, if you haven’t already.

Gosh, it almost seems bleak.   But let me say what I said to my coworker:  “You’re allowed to not want children.”  Likewise, you’re allowed to not want to get married, you’re allowed to not actually get married, you’re allowed to not have children, you’re allowed to forgo a “regular” job for one of your own creation, you’re allowed to buy a boat or a hot air balloon instead of a house, heck, you’re allowed to run away to the nearest island and eat papayas all day.  It’s all about what makes you happy.  You are not required to live up to ANYONE’s expectations, no matter whose they are or how great they may seem.

As for single people, we have expectations too.  But the question we get is the same every time… So what’s new in your love life?!” 

Of course, I assume when I hit 40, it’ll change to, “When are you going to adopt another cat?” or “Have you purchased your grave-site yet?”

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The Dangers of Being a Single Queer

I’ve come to notice over time that in some ways, being LGBTQ and single carries some additional stigma to it than if you’re a single heterosexual.  I don’t mean to say that we don’t all experience loneliness equally, or that women whatever their orientation don’t get a bad rap (“spinster,” “old maid,” etc.), but we still have some very pervasive cultural myths about gay people, and when you’re single, this makes you a suspicious gay person.  Allow me to elaborate.

In the 40+ years since the Stonewall Riots, gays and lesbians in America have made leaps and bounds towards equality.  The last four years in particular have been very fruitful: We saw “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed, the Obama administration stopped defending the dreaded “Defense of Marriage Act,” and last November at the ballot box we gained 3 more states that have marriage equality (bringing us up to 9 nationwide!) and saw an attempt to ban same-sex marriage shot down.  The wheels of change have been put in motion, and we are not going back!

But, amidst all this excitement and progress, it’s easy to forget that we were demonized as deviants and pedophiles not that long ago and, alas, in some parts of the world still are.  One need look no further than Uganda, and the continual push there for a “Kill the Gays” bill, to know that we are NOT out of the woods yet.  I mean, heck, look at the Civil Rights Movement and Feminism– how many years have they been at it? And black men are still arrested at an astronomical rate in comparison to the number actually committing crimes, and women are still raped with impunity while her rapists feel free to post pictures and video of the assault all over the Internet.  It would be fair to say that none of us are out of the woods– unless you happen to be a wealthy, white, straight guy (sorry wealthy, white, straight guy allies– I believe you exist!).

And, of course, I do not believe the fight for queer rights is anywhere near over until we get things done for our trans* brothers and sisters.  I mean, if you’re trans* in America, you aren’t even guaranteed the right to employment or shelter.  In fact, for many years I’ve been frustrated how hard the queer community has been pushing for marriage equality in particular.  Don’t get me wrong– I think marriage equality IS a civil right and both should and will happen eventually… but I can’t help thinking we’re pushing too hard and too early.  Too hard, considering how many other basics LGBTQ peoples are denied and, no offense, but marriage equality doesn’t do much to help the single gay guy who got evicted for the horrendous crime of being himself.  Too early, because it feels like we’re trying to get rights by coming in the back door (no pun intended).  If the general public doesn’t yet accept queer people as being a naturally occurring part of humanity, if we don’t have the right to live, work and serve unmolested, then going for marriage equality seems like jumping the gun, doesn’t it?

There are few things in this world that make me as livid as seeing someone denied the right to see their spouse/partner in the hospital, or having their children taken away because their partner died and their relationship was not recognized under the law in that state, but I can’t help worrying that pushing this hard for marriage equality is going to eventually lead to a hierarchy of gay relationships.  Oh yes.  There may one day soon become the “good gays”– you know, the ones who get married at “act straight”– and the “bad gays” who are unmarried and by virtue of being unmarried take up the mantel of negative stereotypes against gays, like that we’re inherently promiscuous.  Suddenly, being a single queer person isn’t just stigmatized the same ways we stigmatize all single people, but all the negative stereotypes we’ve ever held about gays get dumped on the “bad” single gays.

Take this fabulously dated PSA, circa 1950s, about homosexuals “on the prowl”–Boys Beware!

in “Louis Theroux – A Place for Pedophiles (FULL)” on Youtube, so all you FUCKS who deny the idea can listen to your fellows ADMIT IT FULLY and WITHOUT GUILT….”

I have no doubt that some pedophiles are gay.  Just like I have no doubt that some murderers, rapists and thieves are gay, female, of color, etc.  Every group has its rotten apples, it’s the nature of humanity, unfortunately.  But it’s NOT the other way around.  Just because one, or many, young white men take up arms and become mass murderers, I don’t see anyone condemning all young, white men.  Granted, this is largely because of the privilege of the patriarchy, but it’s correct in that NOT all young, white men are mass murderers and we can’t just condemn them all because of a few bad apples.  Likewise, you can’t condemn all minorities for the actions of a few within the group, but this happens every damn day.

Oh, and regarding pedophiles, what does the evidence say?

“Using phallometric test sensitivities to calculate the proportion of true pedophiles among various groups of sex offenders against children, and taking into consideration previously reported mean numbers of victims per offender group, the ratio of heterosexual to homosexual pedophiles was calculated to be approximately 11:1.” -From The proportions of heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles among sex offenders against children: An exploratory study

So don’t tell me how most pedophiles are gay, regardless how many acts of pedophilia may be “homosexual acts,” many of those men readily identify as heterosexual.

But this is the kind of crap you get to look forward to being gay and single.  You will be seen as a predator, a pedophile, as promiscuous and incapable of having a long-term relationship.  People will always think you’re trying to recruit them or hit on them.  And heaven forbid you enjoy genderbending or drag– that’s a whole new level of perverted!  (For the record as a Drag King, I don’t want a penis– I love the pearly, pink detachable one I already have, thanks.)  Sure, some kinksters are gay.  But the vast majority of the population is straight, and likewise, the vast majority of kinksters are straight.  Maybe a higher percentage of queers are kinky, but I think that has a lot more to do with the fact that, at some point, you had to explore your sexuality because you figured out you weren’t straight, and I think this can lead to more open-mindedness about kink, for example.

I digress.  But my point is simple: Different strokes for different folks, you can’t paint us all with the same brush because of that one experience you had that one time.  $50 says that guy wasn’t even hitting on you, but kudos on being incredibly vain.  99% of gay people have no interested in “turning” straight people, the same way you would likely not be interested in someone of the opposite sex who was in no way attracted to you.

So I dedicate this post to all my single queers out there, who deal with an extra mountain of bullshit just because of who you happen to Love.  Kudos to you, and keep on doing what you’re doing; living your life to the fullest despite all the haters.  We’ll need your strength for the coming battles.

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The Trouble with Closeness

I’m starting to wonder if the trouble with relationships isn’t simply, well, relationships.  Or, to put it another way, becoming too comfortable with another person.

Right now I’m learning a new language, and even in just the first three class sessions we’ve spent a considerable amount of time talking about the difference between addressing someone formally versus informally.  All languages and societies that I’m aware of have these rules of decorum and politeness.  When you meet someone for the first time, you’re suppose to speak formally to them, usually until they give you permission to do otherwise or you two become close.

But it feels like once we get close to someone, that’s when we start taking them for granted.

Think about how you act when you’re in a brand new relationship.  I don’t mean the butterflies and the almost constant sex, there’s that too, but I mean how you treat the other person.  In the beginning, you’re much more likely to do thoughtful things for them, go out of your way just to make them smile, and even send them little notes to let them know you’re thinking about them.  Now, I’m not saying these things disappear as the relationship ages, but they become much fewer and far between or are reserved for special occasions (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.).

Emotionally speaking, I think we become more careless as time goes on.  A new couple hangs on each other’s every word, frequently wants to know what the other person is thinking, and is highly aware of the other’s emotional state and, perhaps more to the point, how your actions affect your partner.  But with time, we seem to become less aware of how our behavior impacts the relationship.  And, sadly, in some cases we outright start to abuse one another.

I can’t help thinking of my best friend.  For years, we were as close as partners without the sexual element.  We lived together, commuted together, took vacations together; at one point, we even started discussing what it might be like for two very close friends to raise a family together.  Weird, maybe, but we loved each other dearly.  For those years, there was no one in the world I trusted more, and the verse was true for him as well.  We knew each other’s deepest, darkest secrets and had seen each other at our best and our worst.  In other words, nothing was sacred anymore.

I never thought much about how we interacted, until he fell madly in love with someone.  Sure, he suddenly didn’t have much time for me anymore, but that’s predictable new-relationship behavior.  He didn’t have time for anybody but his girl.  But people began to approach me and comment on how he spoke to me–namely, that he was rude and even talked down to me like a parent might to a child.  I thought folks were exaggerating  that they just didn’t understand our relationship, until I saw him with this girl he was nuts about.

Goodness.  He hung on her every word, practically licking the ground she walked upon.  It was almost embarrassing to witness.  Things he would politely ask her, “Sweetie, can you bring in the dishes from the living room?” he would simply command me, “Jade, pick up your shit already!”  He was softer with her, kinder, and a hell of a lot more tactful.

Familiarity, I suppose, is a double-edged sword.  On the upside, you get to know someone and that can be really cool! But on the downside, we take each other for granted and sometimes forget to even be kind to one another.

Now, granted, the example I give is a friendship versus a potential relationship, and you definitely suck up to folks you want to fuck.  In that way, I may be comparing apples and oranges, but I’ve had the same exact experience within romantic relationships, the example of my best friend is simply the starkest.

My current relationship is no different.  In the beginning, we were careful with each other, kind and considerate.  Now we seem to bulldoze each other’s emotions like it’s going out of style.  No concern for how our actions might affect one another, it seems we’ve retreated into concern for our own needs and nothing more.  I know we both frequently feel disrespected, and I certainly feel belittled on a regular basis.  Is this how we treat people we Love? It makes no sense…

But, what my experience with my best friend taught me is something I think is true of all types of relationships, friendships, romances, family, etc..  What I learned there was that it’s often the people we Love the most that we take the most for granted.  We just expect them to be there, like they always have been, with no effort on our part.  But if the people we Love feel unappreciated, disrespected or, heck, even obsolete… then they won’t stick around for very long.

In all fairness, I’m basing this on personal experiences  which means it could just be me.   Maybe I’m just the kind of person people talk down to.  Even most closest friends tell me I have a tendency to be a doormat, often for the sake of niceness, in my mind.  I’m trying to usher some of that crap out of my life, but I have a hard time refusing to help someone when they ask for it I don’t have a “good” reason to turn them down.  Perhaps this is why I feel taken for granted so often.

So I’d love some more anecdotal data on this one.  What have been your experiences, dear reader?  Does familiarity breed carelessness? Or are people only as careless as you let them be?

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Forever

Let’s be transparent about it: I’m wary of relationships.  Anyone who’s been alive more then 3 years probably is.  After all, people hurt each other.  And, as my best friend says, “A big front has a big back.”  In the case relationships or love, the more you invest and the more pleasure you get from the whole experience, the greater devastation you’re risking yourself should it come to an end.

Or when it comes to end, I should say.  All relationships end.  Some do make it “till death do [they] part,” but most relationships will end much sooner than that for any number of reasons. Some ends are amicable, others complete blood baths.  I’ve had my share of both.  Nothing I’m saying here is remarkable, we all know it, right? Then why are we risking our hearts? Assuming we put heart into it– which is frankly the one way that seems at all worthwhile to me. But we do it anyway.  Time after time, failure after failure, we keep looking and trying and, more than likely, losing.  And it was never entirely our fault or entirely the fault of the other person.  Though, more than likely, we underestimated our power to change the relationship. Some are just bad ideas from the get-go.

But why? What, exactly, are we looking for? It’s not the risk of heartache that makes me wary of relationships.  Pain doesn’t scare me.  It’s that many of us are looking for “forever.”  Which is asking A LOT.  I’ve promised forever to some people.  I love them still, that’s true, but it sure as hell didn’t last forever.  I don’t really see it in the nature of relationships to last “forever.”  Even if it’s death that has to part you.  The Earth will still be spinning long after humans are extinct and all traces of our existence erased (save fossils), so what kind of absurd thing is it to say “forever” to someone, regarding your feelings and your relationships? Humans aren’t known for their stability of emotions, for one. But I guess “right now” or “as long as it lasts” isn’t quite as romantic as “forever.”

We turn again to Facebook.  Now, I know I talk about Facebook a lot, and it’s because I think Facebook is a fascinating place to study relationships.  I have my relationship status turned off because I hate that everyone has something to say when/if it changes… but it’s intriguing to watch how it plays out on other people’s profiles.  This image is just brilliant to me.  I couldn’t have made up something better:

So, the person who’s toasting to his “forever love of forever” has been dating this gal for about 18 months.  Year and a half… forever, same difference, right? It’s why we let 18-month-old’s drive cars.  But the string of responses just amused the hell out of me.  The first couple of responses are folks chiming in with their own relationship fodder–anything to talk about ourselves, right? But then my kindred spirits come out of the woodwork, and I’m comforted by the few folks gagging and making “Your Mom” jokes to combat the 40+ likes this post already got.

Oh well.  I hope this friend isn’t disappointed down the road of whatever is to become of his “forever love of forever.”  But I’m going to do my best to focus on what’s right here, right now.  I have to let my Love fuel me.  Whether I’ve convinced myself it’s the mystical “forever love” or any of the other, equally as worthy forms of showing Love towards another person, I’ve got to give all I can now and not worry about who I’ll have to Love later.

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Please don’t ask…

The other night I was hanging out at the local studio and gallery I volunteer for.  It’s a multifaceted space, but most of the crew is composed of queers.  I was sitting working on some paperwork when two friends came in.  Dykes, both of ’em; one a regular crew member and the other is dating our artistic director.  (The two lovebirds have really been at it lately–twitterpated to the max–which would normally bug the shit out of me, to be honest, but I’m actually really happy for them, so it kind of negates the weird inferiority feelings.)

Anyhow, the gals are shooting the breeze, and suddenly I hear it–the question single people dread more than any other: “So what’s new in your love life?”  The other girl started talking about this lady she’s interested in and how that’s been progressing.  No big deal, nothing shocking.  But I was only sitting a few feet away, trying my best to be inconspicuous.  I could feel my stomach tying itself into hideous knots as I prayed and prayed that they wouldn’t turn to me and ask me the same question.

It’s as though I can literally feel the thorn in my side everytime someone asks me this question.  Close friends of mine have been known to ask me multiple time a week, which just feels like rubbing salt in the wound.  Really? You think my single status has been updated since yesterday? Or have we just truly run out of things to talk about?

Fortunately, the ladies moved on their conversation without dropping the question on me.  But it’s still baffling me how visceral my reaction to the sheer thought of being asked that question was.  I was getting activated the same way someone does when they have to fight, flight or freeze in the face of an immediate threat.  Somehow this looming question seemed like an immediate threat.

But really, how ridiculous is that? How have we gotten to that point? I’m sure there are single people out there who are not fazed by this question, but I know there are many others that fear it just like I do.  It should just be a query about one’s life, not much different than asking someone “So how’s work going?” Instead, though, it feels like a misplaced victory lap.  Maybe it’s just that most of my friends are coupled, but this is not a question single people ever ask me.  Only coupled friends ask about my love life, and even though I (assume) they don’t mean it that way, it feels condescending.  “How’s your love life? Oh right! You don’t have one! Haha!”

And all I can ask myself is, “When did we become enemies?” We’re all human beings and it shouldn’t matter if we’re with someone romantically or we’re not, but it does.  Somewhere along the line we made it matter, made it mean something, when it reality it’s a value-neutral fact.  You’re single or you’re not, so what?  The same way that the word “fat” is value-neutral.  I’m fat.  I have fat on my body.  That’s not me putting myself down.  But we think someone is putting themselves down when they say they’re fat because we’ve stigmatized fatness.  We’ve made fat mean that you’re also lazy, unhealthy and unattractive.  None of those things are inherently true.  None of them.  Fat is fat, body size is body size, health is health.  There’s no causal link between them.  But when people take it upon themselves to moo at fat people on the street, give them unsolicited health advice, or even tell them they should go kill themselves, then we’ve made it mean something else.

And single is no different.  By itself, single is just single.  There are pros and cons, just like pros and cons to being in a couple, but it doesn’t say anything about you inherently.  But we’ve made it mean something.  We’ve made it mean that you’re lacking, broken, unlovable, too picky, stuck-up or a loner.  And in this context, suddenly it’s not so hard to see why a question like “So what’s new in your love life?” feels like a very real threat.

So my question to you, dear reader, is how can we end this war? How do we stop seeing each other as single or coupled, fat or skinny, gay or straight, and just see each other as human beings with thoughts and feelings just like everyone else?  How do we see past the labels and start loving each other instead of all this comparing we do?

What if we stopped thinking of “love life” as meaning romantic love? What if “love life” meant all the love you give to other people, romantic or otherwise (which, thanks to English, we forget there are many, MANY other kinds of love besides sexual or romantic love)? If we thought of it that way, and all made a point of making sure our love lives were active–that we’re giving our love to someone, somewhere–I think the world would be a much more hopefully place.

So go and give your love away.

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Casualties of Love

Love is a many splendored thing.  Love lifts us up where we belong.  All you need is love!

…Right?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Love is a wonderful thing, and I truly believe that only ideas and actions based in Love can be truthful.  But somewhere along the line, especially for us English speakers, it seems that we all forgot there’s more than one type of Love.  It’s not just Love is what you feel for that person who gives you a raging boner– after all, that could just be infatuation.  No, there are so many different kinds of Love.  Love for your country, Love for your family, Love for an animal, Love for Ingrid Michaelson (or any musician– but how can you not love her?).  The list goes on and on and on and on.

But we get particularly caught up in this idea of romantic Love.  And I get why.  Who doesn’t love that new relationship energy, when everything is puppy dogs and kitten rainbows? And, as someone who’s libido is straight up going to waste at the moment, I get the sex part too.  But Sex is NOT Love.  I think sex can be super, extra special if it’s with someone you Love, but sex is just sex.  You don’t have to fuck someone to Love them, and you don’t have to Love them to fuck ’em.

But, hey, if we’re all consenting adults, what’s the big deal?

Perhaps there isn’t one.  But this entry is dedicated to all my fallen comrades.  To the once ostentatious dreamers, who have  given it all up for the chance at domestic bliss.

I first started to realize I was actually losing friends to Love back in college.  I moved in with a new roommate, and one of my close friends quickly fell for her.  It was messy, their get together, since she was in a long distance relationship at the time, but after a lot of angst they became a couple.  And suddenly I only saw my roommate every other morning, when she came by to pick up clean clothes.  This phenomenon, the first way in which we lose people to Love, is something my friends and I have coined “Girlfriend/Boyfriend Island:” that period of time when a relationship is new and you can’t get a hold of your twitterpated friend, by phone or any other method, and they literally seem to have run away to an island somewhere.

Fortunately, this stage usually wears off, but it can take up to a year and for some, it doesn’t seem to wear off ever.  But once you’ve gotten your friend back from the Island, you start to notice that they spend more time hanging out with other couples than they do their single friends and, as a result, you’re seeing a lot less of them.  This is where you actually start to wonder if your friend has been body-snatched, because something just isn’t right.

The length of this Couples-centric stage depends on the person.  For some, it’s transitional like the Couples Island, but for others it’s a lifelong shift into the world of coupledom and coupled privilege.

But none of this scares me.  None of this is why I think there are true “casualties” in Love.  Remember the couple I mentioned before that got together when I was in college?  Well, they’re still together, got married last year, actually.  I went; it was a lovely ceremony and I was genuinely happy for them.  But it was a mournful day, too, because of what they both gave up in being together.

A few years after they’d gotten together, after college graduation, we were all living in the same city and the lovely couple invited me over for dinner.  We had a nice time, but I noticed something… off, about them both.  Namely, neither of them had anything to talk about.  I must’ve gotten asked 10 times over the course of three hours, “So what’s new with you?” I was confused.  Sure, they’re both responsible people, working to save money and, in her case, working towards her doctorate.  But something was missing in both of them.  A certain spark I didn’t see anymore.

He used to be the biggest dreamer of them all.  The stage, the lights, the audience– he was going to be a star.  Now he’s content to sell furniture to snobs downtown.  Her love of school was always legendary, but being a foreign language student, she once had plans to travel all over, live in different parts of the world, soak up the culture.  She’s abandoned all of that now, because her husband doesn’t speak anything besides English.

I was torn.  Here were two people who I cared about very deeply, and they seemed to be truly happy together, just being domestic.  Yet, I could still see the tattered dreams under their feet, and I sincerely am not sure whether to be joyful for them or to mourn was has been lost, possibly forever.  Both of these once vibrant people had become mellow, predictable and, at times, kind of boring, as a couple.

I know Love comes at a cost.  I know because I’ve had to make that kind of choice before: Marriage or my future?  Before I came out, I was dating a straight guy.  It was long distance, and we were together for four years, but I ended things towards the close of my freshman year in college.  It wasn’t for lack of Love.  It was because I saw my future shriveling up before my eyes.  He wanted me to move to another country and marry him as soon as I was finished with undergraduate school.  And while I Loved him, and wanted nothing more than to be near him, I couldn’t make that leap.  I couldn’t throw away all my possibilities.  Without him in the picture, I could do anything after graduation! I could join the Peace Corps, or go to graduate school, or travel the country making money as a street musician– anything was possible.  But with him? My destiny was set.  I would get married, be a mother, and settle down.  No changing the world, no Jules Verne type adventures, just predictability.

To this day, I still Love him, but I chose Possibility.

I say this all with one of my best friend’s weddings looming before me.  In a few short months, I’m supposed to give a fabulous toast to their Love.  But what do I say when I feel like I lost my friend to the relationship he’s in?  Back in the day, when it was just him and I, we were going to take on the world together– and change it.  We sat on the subway talking about every grand thing we were going to do, and there was no ceiling as far as our dreams were concerned.  He was exuberant and opinionated, to the point of being bossy at times,  but I loved that he was just unabashedly him, and no one could stop it.

Or so I thought… Then, one day, he disappeared to Girlfriend Island.  Two years later, he still hasn’t come back.  What kills me, though, is that he is not the same person.  Where he was once loud and proud and in charge, now he’s meek and accommodating.  I’d call him a house-husband, since he does all the cleaning and the cooking and caring for the house, but he’s also supporting his fiancee with his full-time job while she dicks around in graduate school.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he’s been house broken.  Where he once spoke of changing the world, now all he can think of are linen colors for the wedding and babies for afterwards.

And then they went a got matching tattoos.  Not little ones, either.  Enormous, colorful, sure as hell expensive, matching tattoos.  I mean, for one, this is but one way to guarantee it won’t work out.  Relationship tatts are generally a terrible idea.  But I think what got me is that, once upon a time, my BFF and I said that after we’ve known each other for 10 years, we’ll get some kind of inside-joke, correlating tattoos.  We’ve known each other for 8 years.  He and his fiancee? Not quite 2.  Suddenly, I don’t want that tattoo anymore.

So on the surface, my friend seems happy.  And if he’s happy, I’m happy for him.  It’s just a little hard to swallow that he’s happy and everything is utterly perfect when, for one, all his friends are her friends and he doesn’t have any of his own where they’re living now, and, more the point, he is literally a vastly different person since they got together.  I mean, he went from extrovert, always being the center-of-attention, to being some kind of doting, lovesick wallflower.

And so I take this moment, to pause from the seemingly endless celebration of coupledom, to mourn our fallen comrades.  To mourn the opportunities lost, the dreams abandoned, and the personalities forever altered in pursuit of “The One,” a fictional concept there to push the idea that you’re not perfect just the way you are.

Well let me tell you–you’re perfect and complete, exactly as you are.   Whether you’re single or in a couple, don’t give up on yourself for another person.

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