Revelations

I’ve been evolving my feelings about how and when to reveal that I’m not monogamous. My general principle has been to hold the information back, not because I want to hide it, but because I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. A corollary worry is that if I mention my open marriage, someone will think I’m hitting on them. I know this has happened a few times. However, as time goes by, I’m realizing that I’m overestimating three things:

  1. The extent to which the rest of the country’s (world’s?) attitudes mirror the ones I tended to encounter in Indiana.
  2. The extent to which people are uncomfortable with knowing about things that they disapprove of.
  3. The extent to which anyone cares even a little bit what I’m doing in my private life if they’re not involved.

That last one can’t be overemphasized. Folks in general really are just remarkably tolerant of whatever you’re doing, or at least whatever I’m doing.  I’m aware that for various other people that’s not always the case.

For a long time now, I wasn’t telling anyone if I hadn’t known them for a while, and even then only if it came up in conversation.  The latter is still important, it’s not like I blurt out that I sleep around to anyone I meet, but I’m relaxing on the former restriction. I’m not sure what the effects have been; I’m made many new friends in the meantime, but can’t be sure how many people were put off by knowing this about me.

I still try to avoid it in situations where I think it might come off as hitting on someone.  I mean, unless I’m intending to do that, but frankly as I’ve discussed here before, it’s incredibly uncommon for me to approach someone in person, partly because of the difficulty in navigating that piece of information but mostly just because asking people out is super weird and I’ll take any excuse not to do it.

Now, for some time now most of the people I’ve been meeting have been in the slam poetry and alt lit communities, and it’s more than possible that those people are much more open to being around someone open/poly than the baseline. But some number of people I work with now know, both in and out of the office, just as a result of incidental conversations or, ah, seeing me out and about with, say, Ravaella.

It’s analogous in interesting ways to being bi, although obviously a lot less marginalized (yes, straight poly folks, it is). It’s something that I don’t necessarily want to talk about all the time but that I have to tell people or they won’t know. Having an invisible identity means doing that balancing act an awful lot, and mine aren’t even that invisible. Straight people don’t have to talk about how they’re straight, monogamous people don’t have to talk about how they’re monogamous. I guess I could publicly make out with guys more often, maybe, kill both birds at once.

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Moving forward

I’ve been thinking of moving this site to my main writing site, NickSimmonds.com, to sort of consolidate everything in one place. I haven’t done so primarily because this site is sort of semi-secret; it’s not that anyone shouldn’t know anything here, it’s that I have friends and family who’d just rather not be confronted with my love life.  It probably wouldn’t be a huge problem, but I still feel a need for a little bit of separation. Like, if my mom goes looking and finds this site, then she’s welcome to read it, but that doesn’t mean that I want to put it in front of her face every time I write a new post.

It’s also, as I’ve pointed out before, no longer accurately named. At six years or so of writing on the subject–however intermittently–I’m no longer reasonably considered a novice in the world of open dating.

There some value, too, in having it more accessible. I’ve been seeing Ravaella Huntinghawk, half-elven monk, for a couple of months now, and she only recently stumbled across the thing (Hi, Ravaella).  I certainly could have sent her the link, but didn’t think to. I’ve often found as a writer that it’s useful to let new paramours find out about me through my writing, or at least find out that either all the stories I’ve been telling are true or I’m an incredibly prepared liar.

Things with Ravaella have gotten more intense more quickly than I was prepared for. I have found myself holding back a touch because it’s unclear how into the poly lifestyle she’s going to be, and that’s a recipe for a certain kind of hurt. You can see that in what happened previously with Ravamorel; I’m often someone’s one experiment in open relationships before they go back to monogamy, and it’s worth it, but there’s a melancholy to it. I’m sort of always gaining new and exciting people but I’m also sort of always just post breakup with someone.

I think I’m past the holding back, though, and now I’m just in the moment with everything. I’m really, really into her, and things are going well. If anything, I can’t manage to see her nearly as often as I want to.

Honestly, the one thing I’m sort of missing now is a local non-dating friend that I can go do arbitrary things with, rather than seeing each other at Events. I haven’t had, say, a “best friend” for a long time, and this is the sort of place that people seem to move away from a lot, as I mentioned here.

In any event, things are good. If you’re in Providence and free on Jan 15th, I’ll be performing in the semifinals slam at AS220. Hope to see you there.

Constant Contact

I have a not-date in about an hour with Ravamorel.  We haven’t seen each other in a while.  She met a new guy and I got… dumped, I guess?  I’m not sure what you call it when someone stops seeing you because the shape of their relationship no longer fits you.  I suppose this is somewhat similar to what happened with Eilella earlier, although Ravamorel and I had gotten considerably more serious.  Stage 13, I suppose, is what I’ve settled on here.

I pretty much always remain friends with someone after we stop seeing each other. I can imagine circumstances under which I wouldn’t, where one or both of us had done something awful and that ended things, but that’s just never been the case with me.  I’ve lost contact with a few people, which is always a little sad, but mostly the people who’ve been in my life remain in my life. I just don’t sleep with people if I wouldn’t otherwise want to spend time with them.  So, I am shortly going to do whatever you call it when you and an exish sort of person go to the zoo together.

That said, I know there are people who can’t manage to remain in contact after even an amicable breakup, and I don’t mean to sit in judgment of them. I probably do that, but I don’t mean to.

Anyway, she’s here.

Location, location, location

Been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you

Without a dope beat to step to

-Rakim

So I find myself these days seeing a number of people at various distances.  Carrie lives with me, of course, but there’s Ravamorel Shortankard (chaotic good gnome barbarian) in Watertown I see about weekly, Caarsadi Hollysword (neutral evil elf assassin) in Medford whom I manage to see something like monthly, and then Lorakhan Serpenthelm the Other (neutral good half-elf shadowdancer) who lives in Austin, and we seem to be on a “whenever we’re around each other” schedule.  And occasional walk-ons, various people I have seen and may see again but probably not on any even semi-regular basis.

What’s weird is that for some time now I haven’t been seeing anyone in Providence aside from Carrie.  Since Lorakhan moved away, no one else has popped up on my radar.  A couple of abortive conversations have happened on OkCupid, but have gone nowhere, and meeting people in person is as much a non-starter as ever with the poly info dump required before we even touch the let’s-get-a-drink-and-make-eyes-at-each-other stage.

What’s more, I am realizing I just don’t know a lot of local folks. I have made lots of friends in the area, but an awfully large swath of those keep moving to bigger cities. The kinds of folks I get along with seem to be more often than not the kind that want to live in NYC, SF, Seattle, or at least Boston.

I’m more than happy to travel to or host the folks that I’m seeing, and of course for local color one can’t do any better than my wife, but there’s a niche for someone local who can just duck out with me on a whim, and it’s an empty niche these days. There are occasions when I need to get out of the house with someone and Carrie isn’t around or isn’t interested, and some subset of those occasions it would be nice to end up making out at the end.  Maybe “booty call” is the term.

I’m going to try to get back into the swing of writing, so lets hope I don’t neglect this blog quite so horribly in the next few months. I started taking classes, and got a bit overwhelmed by the time requirements, but now that I’ve got my feet under me it’s not so bad. Plus I’m drinking coffee for the first time in my life, so I’ll probably have some extra hours and with any luck more focus.

Gracefully Performing the Splits

Relationships (both lower case and capital-R) end for a lot of reasons.  There are times when there’s a clear-cut breaking point: a betrayal, or a move, or someone new comes along, etc.  But sometimes they just… end.  One or both (or more) parties no longer feel a thing that they once felt.  It’s generally one-sided, but it feels like hell on both sides to have to admit what’s going on.

It’s in many ways worse than a sudden end to something, because the person who wants–needs–to move on (let us say the “splitter) still likes the other party (the “splittee”).  They don’t want that connection gone, but they can’t be in the relationship as it is.  It’s a tough row to hoe, because the splitter is going to have to hurt the splittee, but wants the splittee to remain part of their life.  It’s doable, but it’s going to be rocky.

Having been on both sides of this scenario, and made it work, I want to share some of what I’ve learned.  Some of my very best friends (Stoella included) are either splitters or splittees from past relationships.

Anyway, in ever popular list format:

Splitter:

  • Rip the fucking bandaid off.  This is the most important thing. You are doing no one any favors by endeavoring not to be the bad guy. Splitting with someone is hard, believe me, I know only too well. I think it’s harder than being split with, in my experience. You probably still like this person, maybe a great deal, but those positive feelings have changed and yet you have to, for the both of you, hurt them. But do it. Do it now. The longer you wait the worse the pain will get, for both of you. Let them get a head start on the hard work of letting you go.
  • Give space.  Back off.  Let them heal. If you are going to be friends again, or still, or anything else, you are going to have to let that person come to you.  They might not; that’s their choice.  But trying to keep them in their life when what they need is to scar over first is only going to ruin whatever you might have going forward. (Corollary: don’t live with your ex, at least not right after. I have made this mistake.)
  • Try not to date someone new first. This one is subject to the vagaries of hearts, but if you can hold off until the other party has found someone new, all involved will be better off.  There’s nothing that heals like new <insert preferred form of physical affection>. (For, ah, interested parties reading this, don’t sweat this one for my sake, and anyway you already know that I’ve been dating since)
  • Back off of the occasional social engagement. Don’t make it hard on the splittee; bow out of things you’re both invited to first. They need the social balm, and they also need not to seem petty.
  • Call it what it is.  Don’t be mealymouthed, don’t mince, it’s a breakup. A thing is ending, and that’s sad, but it isn’t a “break” and you’re not “taking some time”, unless you are, and then you’re not reading this.  Don’t tell them you need to take some time for yourself, or blame general circumstances; that’s going to backfire down the road when they see you with someone else and it is ten times worse than if you said what you meant.
  • Take care of yourself. Most resources like this talk about the feelings of the other party, but this is probably going to be a trauma for you, too. You are making a major change and you’re going to, for at least a little while, lose access to one of the most important people in your life.  If it’s really bad, other friends might stop spending time with you in deference to your erstwhile lover’s feelings.  This can all be really hard; know that it’s okay for you to hurt, too.

Splittee:

  • Let it fucking go. Do not cling. Do not try to hold on to someone who needs to move on. You don’t want to date someone who doesn’t want to date you. You don’t want to emotionally coerce continued affection out of someone who has to fake it. Let it be, move on, and you will be better sooner.
  • Take Space.  Walk away, do other things.  Do not see the object of your erstwhile affections. Avoid social engagements that you know they’re attending, even if it makes you seem like an ass.  You deserve it, and you need it.
  • Remove them from your social media.  Don’t unfriend them unless an outlet makes you, but remove them from chat lists, hide their Facebook updates, unfollow their Twitter, etc.  It is astonishing how hard it can be to see your splitter pop up several times a day in various places that you forgot you followed them.
  • Try to date. It might not feel right, and it might be hard, especially if you’re coming off as desperate.  It will be awkward, but there’s nothing that heals like new <insert preferred form of physical affection>.
  • Weep. Rage. Fucking feel it. Don’t hide it.  Walk away from things if you need to, lock yourself in the bathroom, but just let it out.  This isn’t just about catharsis; tears literally pull the stress hormone cortisol out of your system and pump it down your face. You are not above this, you are vulnerable, you are human, let it out.
  • Lean on your network. Don’t hold things in. Friends exist to help you through things like this. And to be helped through, so remember how they helped you when your time to reciprocate comes.
  • Throw yourself into hobbies. Distractions are good. You need to do some wallowing to heal but you also just need to take a certain amount of time.
  • Trust that it will be better. Every time you see the person who dropped you is like a new wound, but only for a while. Eventually, it’s like a bruise, and then it’s like a pinch, and eventually it’s just the same touch you feel with anyone who interacts with you. It will be fine. I promise.

To all my splitte*s out there reading this, whichever side you were on, know that you are damn fine people.  I wouldn’t have gotten together with you in the first place if I didn’t want you in my life.  I have nothing but devout, deep, true, and of course platonic love for you.

Stage 13

So, Stoella and I are no longer an item, which leads to two conclusions.

1. Apparently, we were sort of an item, and my claims of being slutty vs being poly were not entirely true
2. This is my first real poly break up

I mean, I have had experiences of relationships ending, or changing type (various encounters with Step 13), but I don’t think any of those people would disagree that those situations weren’t a particularly Big Deal.

Either those people had expiration dates after which they were moving away, or they were definitely casual partners. It, of course, sucks when someone you’re into moves away, but in none of those situations were any of us hurt, nor were we likely to. I doubt anyone could have been, in the way that a capital-R relationship can hurt. This time I got hurt, and in a way that wasn’t going to fix itself, and in a way that was clearly going to repeat.

I don’t think I’m going to go into details. It’s fresh pain right now, about five days old, and I don’t really want to rehash it. I don’t have enough perspective to be fair, also. And I’m not sure I ever want to go into it here; I’m clearly not a private person, but I think this runs up against what I’m willing to drag into public. That’s partly because it’s not fully my story.

I will say that nothing malicious was done on either side. If I admit to being a little angry at what’s gone on, and that when it was brought up we couldn’t fix it, I will also admit to knowing that isn’t really rational. I skipped trivia last week, but I think after taking a little time Stoella and I will be fine friends for the same reasons were excellent lovers. I don’t want her out of my life, and I believe that’s mutual. I just can’t be involved with her as seriously as we were, emotionally.

A large part of me just wants to go “this serious-but-secondary stuff is for the birds, back to slutting it up for me”, but I don’t think we get to make those decisions. I didn’t decide to invest in this pairing any more than I decided I wouldn’t with previous (and concurrent) non-primary relationships. Maybe some people have conscious control over that; I think I don’t. If I do, it’s in deciding whether or not to get invested at all, and not in deciding how much.

This also comes at the (hopeful) nadir of a series of emotional gut punches. I got stood up a couple of weeks ago, by someone I wasn’t sure I was into and wasn’t sure would show up to the date (that she arranged, damn it), but it’s an ego blow regardless. Kevros moved back to Europe for at least the summer, and we couldn’t manage to get together ahead of time due to dueling schedule conflicts. And life in general isn’t going well, with work stress and family health problems in the mix. I know I haven’t been my usual self lately with the folks who’ve seen me, and for that I’m sorry. I’ll get back there.

The dark side of polyamory is that one can have relationship troubles in multiple relationships at once. On the other hand, having partners and lovers in one’s support network is also nice when going through this sort of thing. Carrie is my rock; thank you, my love. The third side of this is that my normal support network isn’t necessarily much help, as complaining to, e.g., my mom about things that are happening with someone who isn’t Carrie is probably not going to go anywhere useful.

In any event, I appear to be for the moment “dual” again. I don’t think I want anyone in that spot in my life for a while, either. This serious-but-secondary stuff is for the birds. Back to slutting it up for me. For now.

Happy Accidents

Pursuant to previous discussions about approaching friends and the difficulty thereof, I appear to have done so at least once.  So I present to you Nick’s Foolproof* Guide to Hitting on the Hot Librarian Friend You’ve Been Eyeing:

  1. Wine
  2. An invitation to crash on the futon
  3. Possible mild sun stroke
  4. An assist from her roommate
  5. Facing the prospect of spending a whole night kicking yourself for not saying anything
  6. Ten to twenty minutes pacing between her kitchen and living room while working up the nerve to say something
  7. Saying something

In any event, said friend was previously known as K here, and will be referred to as Krisaga should she come up again. Krisaga Silvershaper the Baker, neutral good halfling Loremaster.

To be clear, I give people names as they come up, and not as we hook up.  Relatedly to both that and anxieties, my friend Ravaella (Laughshield, neutral gnome arcane trickster) recently apologized to me for having “objectified” me after a discussion that involved my talking about various cases of nerves that I have around dating and sex.  She had apparently thought of me as “hot Nick with all the ladies”, and thus not fully a real person.  For what it’s worth, I felt like she was treating me as people, but I do tend to develop a reputation as a Casanova of some sort with friends who don’t know me well.  And have done when I deserved it less than I have while Ravaella’s known me, for what that’s worth.  It’s been frustrating, but it’s also not impossible that I kind of cultivate that, if not entirely consciously.  It’s something I’ll try to keep an eye on.

Switching gears slightly, I seem to have stumbled into a sort of quad situation.  Stoella’s boyfriend Thoven Taletreader the Scribe, neutral evil  elven cleric of Kani, the god of knowledge and the trickery used to obtain it, came to one of the parties Carrie and I throw not often enough.  He’s fantastic, and I quite like him, and Carrie quite likes him.  She and Thoven hit it off and have been seeing each other, completing the geometry here.  We have formed a trivia team, but have only done middling well because the four of us have some similar blind spots. We’re getting better, though.  One of the four of us needs to start dating someone who knows sports.

* may or may not be foolproof.  Your mileage, social anxiety, and librarian may vary.

Party on

So I’m going to a party this weekend, at which most, if not all, of the guests will be poly or open to some extent.  Some of you know which party I’m talking about, I’m sure. This is, of course, not an unusual occurrence; many of the parties I go to (or throw) are mostly-to-all poly, although less than you might think.  They’re not usually recognizably different than other parties, barring a perhaps elevated chance of spontaneous makeouts between people who are married but not to the people they’re making out with.

In any event, this one has a sex party component (and now the people mentioned earlier know exactly which party I mean).  It’s a regular party until mid-evening, at which point the regular party continues but there will be designated naked areas with rules posted.

Anyway, if this were all normal party, I’d have no problem with it, and if it were all sex party, I’d have no problem with it but wouldn’t go.  Not out of some sort of prudishness, but because I have a tendency to get intensely, neurotically uncomfortable in three situations at a party:

  1. Someone I am not interested in is hitting on me.
  2. Someone I am interested in is hitting on me.
  3. People are clearly hitting on each other and no one is hitting on me.

The logically-minded among you have noticed that at least one of these is guaranteed to happen in this sort of situation.  2 is the least uncomfortable, for what are probably obvious reasons, but despite my relative success with online dating, when offline I’m nigh incapable of responding to (sincere) flirting from someone I haven’t already established mutual interest with.  It just induces an intense anxiety similar to what I feel when something triggers my OCD.  One of the great things about online dating is that we can get that part handled over email, and then in person I’m fine.

I know, everyone is anxious in these situations.  I don’t think that’s what I’m talking about, but then I’m not in your head and can’t tell you what you think.  This is a convoluted analogy, but imagine that you’re an arachnophobe who really likes lollipops.  Feel free to substitute some other irrational fear for the spider if you like.  Now imagine a box on its side in which there is a lollipop in the back but a spider in the front. You just have to reach past the spider.  You know the spider won’t attack you, because they don’t just spontaneously attack people. It’s probably even dead, or fake, or maybe it’s not there and it’s a trick of the light.  You know you should just go for it and nothing will happen except you’ll get to enjoy a lollipop and/or make out with someone you really want to make out with.  But there’s that damn spider, and you have enough lollipops even if that one is new and interesting and thrilling, and there are a bunch of these little spider-trap boxes at every party and bar and event in the world and you’ll figure out how to deal with them someday.  And also you’re looking at this paragraph and unsure if it makes any damn sense and whether it’s kind of objectifying to use a confection as a stand-in for heavy petting with someone you’re into.  Also you’re kind of thirsty and you’re about to go make some tea.

Okay, back now.

A lot of people can’t, or claim they can’t, tell when someone is really interested in them.  I used to make this claim a lot, actually.  What I really meant is “I can tell but the parts of my brain that do witty banter on autopilot have taken over while the rest of it goes into panic mode”.  I suspect I am not the only one who means this when we say we can’t tell when someone is hitting on us.

Sex/kink parties intrigue me, and if they didn’t I’d still be going to this one because of the people involved and because it’s a party-party as much as a sex party (or, at least, in addition to).  I have previously declined invitations to such parties due to foreknowledge of the kind of anxiety they’ll (probably) induce and the fact that lollipops are available through other, spiderless avenues.  But this is thrown by people I like and trust, and there are other reasons to be there so I won’t feel awkward and like a spoilsport if I get uncomfortable and feel the need to leave early, or if I decide to just continue to hang out in the kitchen all night. I’m looking forward to it.

Order of Operations

I think, before this recent bout of dating (which is to say, the last four years or so), I had a sort of platonic sequence in my head which I’d think one would follow when dating online.  Something like:

  1. Contact someone on a dating site
  2. Exchange a few messages
  3. Learn their real name
  4. Move to another venue, e.g., off-site email or Facebook
  5. Learn their last name
  6. Agree to meet
  7. Exchange phone numbers
  8. Meet in person
  9. Date
  10. Repeat steps 6,8, and 9 until hanky panky occurs
  11. You are now “dating”
  12. Repeat steps 9 and 10 until
  13. You stop seeing each other

I’m realizing lately that this is not at all, in fact, what happens.  E..g., with Stoella, things went more like 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 3, 5, 10, 11, and are currently on 12.  We were halfway through what ended up being probably a “date” when I said “Oh, by the way, what’s your name?”.  (NB: Stoella insists that she is actually chaotic neutral, so I’ll be updating the first post where I mentioned her)

With Kevros Glimmergaunt (new character, chaotic neutral elven rogue), it went 1, 3, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12.  We’ve actually skipped a few steps, and this reminds me to ask Kevros’s (real) last name the next time we get together, and I believe the word “dating” would probably cause an allergic reaction.  I know “boyfriend” has.

Zinnaella Homeforger (neutral good gnomish sorceror who I hope isn’t mad at me for deciding she’s a gnome because she’s definitely a gnome) ran through the steps mostly in order, although steps 4 and 5 came toward the end, just before 13*.  Although 13 is a wobbly 13, I think, and there remains the potential for a booty call down the line assuming she’s not upset about the gnome thing.

What I think this means is:

First, I need to let go of (and am letting go of) all a priori opinions about dating. Things just happen as they happen, and the process is individual to the people involved and not nearly as generalizable as I’d thought.  This is good and fine, but does throw something of a wrench into my plans to tell people who don’t know how to start dating.

Second, for some reason I don’t seem to care about surnames in real life.

*Yes, True Believers, I’m now at the stage where I sometimes start seeing someone new, run through the whole fling, and then stop seeing them before I mention it to you.  Which is something of another milestone for me, I guess; I no longer need to obsessively report every small change in my dating life.

Edited to add: I don’t remember the order with Carrie, but it was odd given the distance.  I think we spent a long time on 4ish, and then ran through steps 6 through 12 in about 24 hours.

Protection

I’ve finally moved to purchasing condoms online, just because it expands the options available.  I have particular needs, and the selection isn’t always available in brick-and-mortar stores.  In particular, drug stores tend to have small selections and inflated prices.

Protip: condoms at Target cost a third what they do at other US shops, and there are many more varieties than most.

In any event, I’ve been aware of Rip ‘n’ Roll for a long time, but hadn’t really used them.  The web design is a little irritating, as is the Maxim ad, but they have basic-but-thorough HTML navigation on the left through various brands and varieties.  Ordering twelve condoms gets you a free gift, one selection of which is twelve more condoms, so at ~$10 they’re competitive with Target’s pricing once shipping is added.  I thought I’d received the wrong order, and contacted their support, who explained that the packaging wasn’t quite what I saw online but we confirmed that I’d gotten the right order.  They’re also sending another bonus twelve because I can’t use the first pack.

I occasionally ponder more permanent forms of birth control, but haven’t gone for them yet.  The gel system and the male pill are still unconscionably far off, so my primary option here is a vasectomy, and despite the low risk of complications I’m still sufficiently squeamish about surgery on my junk to want to avoid that.  Condoms it is, and whatever measures my partners are willing to take.  These seem thus far to be sufficient, provided they’re used religiously, which they are.

I’m told there is such a thing as a “dental dam”, but I have never seen one in the wild.

Edit: I promise I’m not being paid by Rip ‘n’ Roll.

Edit2: I have been informed that at least one friend does use dental dams, so apparently they exist if he is to be trusted.