honesty

I wanna see you be brave

confront

“Say what you wanna say

And let the words fall out, honestly

I wanna see you be brave

– Sara Bareilles, Brave

The first time I heard that song, I was oh-so-smug.

I thought: “Now there’s something I’m really good at! Being BRAVE!

I thought about how often I’m the first to say “I love you.”

I thought about how brazenly I put myself out there in the public eye.

“Hey everybody! I’m bisexual! I’m polyamorous! I have herpes! I’m a survivor!”

I thought about all the little ways in which I make myself vulnerable in the realms of sex and romance. Brené Brown would be so proud,” I told myself.

And I gave myself an emotional pat on the back.

I thought about all the other people who really needed to hear, and heed this song. People who weren’t being honest with themselves, weren’t being honest with other people, weren’t being brave enough to confront the reality of their situation, let alone change it.

I wanted to send a benevolent, benignly supercilious singing telegram to every last one of them.

But as recent events in my personal life have proven, Sara was singing to me.

Because bravery isn’t just about telling people what you do want, it’s also about telling them what you don’t want. Or, even scarier, what you did want, but don’t anymore.

And now I’m thinking about all the ways in which I’ve failed to be brave in my relationships. Like how long it took me to be honest with that guy who was convinced I was “the one,” when I knew I wasn’t. Or how many times I said, “I love you” to that girl, knowing that I didn’t. Or how long it took me to leave my abusive first husband. Or all the times I’ve failed to speak up when I didn’t like what was happening, and then got resentful about it.

I’m thinking about all the myriad ways I’ve allowed my boundaries to be trampled, my integrity to be tarnished, my needs to go unmet.

Then again, in every case, I eventually did the right thing. The hard thing. Despite grave personal and emotional risk.

I gave that guy his ring back.

When that weeping woman asked me point-blank, “Do you love me?” I answered, “No. Not the way you need me to.”

Despite the death threats and blackmail, I left that abusive bastard for good (third time was the charm). And I’ve come clean about a lot of those harbored resentments after the fact, and done my best to make amends.

Because it’s never too late to be brave.

The longer you wait, though, the more bravery will be required.

Look, I’m willing to put money on the fact that you–yes, YOU–are not confronting some truth.

Yep, that thing you thought of just now. That’s the one.

And now you’re probably mentally listing off all the perfectly rational reasons why you’re absolutely justified in not confronting it.

But here’s the truth: that thing is screwing up your life, diminishing your joy, and sapping your resources in ways you aren’t even aware of. And you don’t have to settle for that.

So I’m lancing you an official challenge:

  • DO IT TODAY.

Not tomorrow, not next week, not after squandering another year, or ten years, of your life on living a lie.

I promise you’ll thank yourself for it. Not right away, of course. At first it’s gonna suck hairy, sweaty monkey nuts. But someday soon, you will.

  • There is never a good time to do the hard thing. The time is now. Go. Do it. Be brave.

Because nothing feels better than being true to yourself.

“Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is”

 

Fuckzoned

I’m sure you’ve all heard of The Friendzone by now.  But just in case you’ve been living under a blunt, heavy object, here’s the general narrative of The Friendzone:

Guy meets girl. Guy is into girl. Guy starts hanging out with girl, does all kinds of nice things for her, and hopes this will translate into a sexual relationship. Guy ultimately realizes that girl has no intention of sleeping with him, but rather is simply enjoying the fruits of his friendship, and goes online to angrily complain of having been “Friendzoned.”

A more specific example can be found in my post about “Nice Guys.”

I’ve dedicated a fair amount of blogspace to debunking the logic of the Friendzone and offering alternatives to the usual bitching and blaming (spoiler: she didn’t Friendzone you; you failed to effectively communicate your true desires and intentions).

But today I’m here to talk about the inverse phenomenon, bitched about primarily by straight women and gay men, and blamed upon fellas everywhere: The Fuckzone.

fuckzone

Here’s the general narrative of The Fuckzone:

Girl meets guy. Girl is into guy. Girl starts having sex with guy, and hopes this will translate into a long-term romantic relationship. Girl ultimately realizes that guy has no intention of settling down with her, but rather is simply enjoying the awesome sex, and goes online to angrily complain of having been played/used/heartbroken/betrayed, etc.

Now, these narratives don’t neatly correlate to gender. There are certainly men who feel they’ve been “Fuckzoned” by women, and women who feel they’ve been “Friendzoned” by men. Or other women. Or men by men. And so on. It’s an equal-opportunity mindfuck. But my personal example just happens to follow the girl-feels-fuckzoned-by-guy model.

Back in graduate school, there was this guy. I’ll call him Joe Schmo. Joe was a decently attractive dude who made himself more attractive by being super laid-back, to the point where if you wanted any contact with him, you had to make it happen. Even when he was teaching, he just sat in a chair, didn’t even lean forward, and spoke softly. Instead of putting the information out there and hoping they would absorb it, he made the students come to him. It was kind of a brilliant tactic and I envied him for it.

I also slept with him a few times because of it, at a time when I was mighty emotionally vulnerable (i.e. immediately following my messy divorce). The sex was pretty darn good, overall, but I was very clearly a booty call to him. We used to have these little text battles:

Joe: It’s 2 a.m. so I know you’re not busy.

Me: I’m busy sleeping.

Joe: Not anymore. 🙂 Come on over.

Me: Fuck off, Joe. I have to teach at 8 a.m.

Joe: You’re putting on your shoes, you’re getting in the car…

Me: I AM NOT.

Joe: Don’t bother getting dressed. 😉

Me: I hate you.

Joe: See you in five minutes.

At school, he would largely ignore/avoid me. Having been down that road before, I knew it could not end well. So I found a better option, stopped screwing him, and later seduced his girlfriend (a professional model/successful actress) for revenge. But this isn’t a story about me. It’s a story about a gal named… uh… Fancy.

Fancy was also in my graduate program. And she had also just gone through a divorce. AND at some point, she started sleeping with Joe. I know this because she started referring to him as her “boyfriend,” acting all giddy and love-struck, and telling all the gals she thought he was “the one.”

Now, I knew from my personal experience that this was crazy talk. But I didn’t want to come off like sour grapes by warning her against him. Instead I simply offered my services as a listening ear.

I listened to Fancy tell me how crazy she was about him. I listened to her fantasize about their future together. I listened to her tell me how convinced she was that he loved her, listened to her make excuses for all the ways in which he didn’t treat her with love, or even kindness. I listened to her complain that his “fear of intimacy” was keeping him from admitting his true feelings for her. And I listened when she came over in tears after he finally made it clear that he was just not that into her.

“How could he use me like that?” she asked me, her face streaked with mascara and tears.

I wanted to say,

“He didn’t. You used each other. You were his sex toy and he was your imagined Prince Charming.”

But I didn’t. Instead I simply pointed out that, while I was no fan of Joe Schmo, he hadn’t actually been dishonest with her. He told her she was hot and that he wanted to have sex with her. That was an accurate self-assessment.

Then I asked her if she had ever told him how she felt about him, or if she had shared any of her future plans with him.

“I couldn’t!” she protested, “It would have freaked him out!”

Right. Exactly. And why? Because he didn’t want a future with her. He wanted a present with her, and he was already getting it. She was in The Fuckzone.

And just like a guy who looks around and realizes to his horror that he has landed in The Friendzone, Fancy was quick to blame Joe for having Fuckzoned her. But in both cases, it comes down to the same failure on the part of the person who is feeling “-zoned.” They were either unclear, or simply dishonest, about their true desires and intentions in terms of the type of relationship they wanted to create with this other person. They failed to maintain their own boundaries, and then blamed the other person for crossing them. Not okay.

I know: it’s scary to be honest about what you want. And for good reason: putting yourself out there and showing interest in something you aren’t 100% sure the other person is interested in does make you more vulnerable. There is, indeed, an inverse relationship between passion and power. That, however, is not an excuse to be a coward. It is your responsibility to get your own needs met. It is up to you to decide what you will and won’t put up with.

Because, seriously, who’s going to turn down free favors? Who in their right mind is gonna be like,

“Please don’t help me move. I am not attracted to you and therefore it would be unethical of me to accept your help.”

And by the same token, what dude is gonna turn down NSA sex?

“Well, a blowjob does sound awesome, but since I’m not in love with you and don’t intend to create a life with you, I’d better pass.”

Um, no. If you’re offering, no apparent price tag attached, they have every right to accept. And you have no right to get resentful over it.

Happily, though, integrity is sexy. Once you start setting boundaries and making your needs and wants known, you may be surprised at the respect you start earning. What’s more, you’ll weed out the people who aren’t looking for what you’re looking for sooner rather than later, so you can move on to someone whose interests are in line with yours.

Better still, you can start simply enjoying friendships, and NSA sex, for what they are. Rather than feeling helpless to transform a friendship, or a fuckship, into what you really want (because, OF COURSE you are capable of creating whatever sort of relationship you want, RIGHT??), you’ll be able to relax and reap the benefits just like the other person in the equation. Because friendship is great, and sex is great, and there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t delight in them exactly as they are.

All that said, if you’re reading this, Joe Schmo (and I know you know who you are), you’re still an asshole. And I’m still not letting you in mine.

I <3 My Safe Word

safe-wordI think everyone should have a safe word. You know, a word you can say during sex that will call an immediate and unquestioned time out.

Now, that doesn’t mean I think everyone should get into BDSM, role playing, kink, or anything that may *require* the use of a safe word. It means that I think they’re wonderful, useful things to have, regardless of how kinky or vanilla your sex life is.

That’s because safe words don’t just provide an emergency exit, though that aspect does provide a good deal of comfort. It’s because it allows both parties to be fully honest with themselves and with each other at every moment of every encounter.

An example:

You’ve been sexual with X for a while. You’ve gotten to that point where you’re both a little more comfortable sharing your fantasies and trying new things together. X confides in you that s/he would really like to try Y with you. Maybe you’ve never tried Y, or maybe the last time you tried Y it didn’t go so well, so you’re a little hesitant. But you pride yourself on being GGG, so you decide to give it a go.

Now, let’s say that it’s a little awkward at first. Maybe even painful. Or perhaps it’s simply emotionally difficult because of your past experiences. X notices this and checks in with you.

“Do you like it?” X asks, or maybe, “Are you okay?”

The honest answer to both questions, at this point, is “No.” It’s not enjoyable for you. But you don’t actually want to stop. You want to keep working on Y and see where it leads, see if that pain turns into pleasure, if the awkwardness gives way to something wonderful, as so often happens when it comes to sex.

So now you have a dilemma on your hands: do I answer honestly and risk upsetting X and grinding this whole operation to a halt? Or do I say something non-committal like “Do YOU like it?” or “I’ll be fine.” Or do I fib and say I’m lovin’ it when clearly I am not?

The stress of having to decide how to respond, often compiled by the stress of having to fake your enjoyment, can augment the pain and awkwardness, sometimes to the point where you *do* want to stop.

But imagine for a moment that you have a safe word, and that you’ve both agreed that Y shall continue until said safe word has been uttered. Now you are free to say whatever you like, with no fear of ruining the mood or halting the proceedings.

Now, when X asks, “Do you like it?”, you can reply anything from

“Not yet, but I’m working on it!” to “Fuck no! It fucking hurts!” Or you can simply burst into tears.

All of this and more is perfectly acceptable when you’ve made an agreement not to stop unless/until the safe word is pronounced.

In fact, I kind of wish I had a safe word for everything. Don’t you?

A couple of handy tips on coming up with a safe word:

  • 1. Pick something that is NOT likely to come up in the course of a sexual encounter or scene. “ Scarlet” could reasonably be mistaken for the color you’d like your bottom, for example, but “Tangerine” would sound pretty out of place in the bedroom.
  • 2. Make sure it’s easy to remember and pronounce under stress. “Marsupial” fits the first rule to a tee, but it’s quite a mouthful to recall and spit out at a moment of panic. A better choice might be “Koala” or simply “Oz.”

Finally, make it easy on yourself, and on your partner(s): be consistent. Pick one safe word and stick with it. Changing safe words, particularly with the same partner, can be confusing and dangerous.

Yes, I have a safe word. No, I’m not gonna tell you what it is.

Unless, of course, you somehow manage to get it out of me…

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