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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

How to craft a message on OkCupid

I wrote this as a comment on reddit in response to someone’s asking, and thought it might be useful here.  I don’t use this (or any) formula every time, but for someone who looks at a blank text-entry box and can’t come up with something, here’s an outline:

First, find something in the profile that is a mutual interest. If there is nothing, then don’t write to that person because you don’t actually want to date them, you just think they’re hot. Also, try to pick something that isn’t normal geek fare, because the fact that you’re both into Star Wars means nothing. Everyone is into Star Wars because Star Wars is good, if you pretend episodes I-III didn’t happen.

Now, write a paragraph and no more about the mutual interest. Describe why and how it’s an interest for you, and mention something specific about it. Maybe you like Michael Pollan’s writing but think he’s kind of a douche, or you’re into robotics specifically because you competed in a robotics competition in high school.

Consider repeating the above for a second mutual interest, but no more than that.

Now, ask a question about something interesting the other person said but didn’t expand on. Like, if they say they want to be a Mythbuster, ask what myth they’d bust first. Responding to this gives them an opening to reply and saves them from having to compose a message from nothing.

Now, proofread, and send.

Do not, in the first message:

  • compliment their appearance
  • give any off site contact info
  • suggest a meeting
  • make any sexual remarks whatsoever

Cast changes

Things have shaken up a bit in my love life.

L has moved away and entered a monogamous relationship, so we’re extra not seeing each other.  We still talk and I still owe her a box of her stuff, and I promise I’ll send it next week, sorry, you knew I forgetful when you left it with me.  Every time the Big!Andy plushie looks at me out of that box I feel a little guilty.

I’ve also relatively recently started seeing a couple of new folks. I’m going to have to come up with a new anonymizing scheme, though, because at this point there have been three different As mentioned here, and it’s only a matter of time before we double up on initials.  What I’ve decided to do is to use the official D&D Name Generator.

Eilella Glimmergaunt (neutral good Elven Loremaster, previously known as “E”) is a grad student at Brown to whom I owe a picnic that keeps either getting rained out or delayed because of my hectic schedule and/or terrible mood.  Eilella is lots of fun, but quite shy, which is an interesting contrast with my own boisterous nature. She is very physically affectionate, which is nice; I’m naturally very physical, but I tend to hold it back a little until I determine someone else’s comfort level.

Stoella Tumblebelly (chaotic neutral* Halfling Monk) is a comic artist, ertswhile roller girl, and kung fu nerd in the sense of knowing a lot of kung fu rather than being a huge fan of kung fu movies (the latter may also be true, we haven’t really discussed it).  Stoella got me out to my first roller derby match, which was excellent, as was the afterparty; I definitely intend to go to more of these.

I still occasionally see Aliella Serpenthelm (chaotic good human cleric of humanism), who is a good friend but is at least considering monogamy with her prime beau, so hanky panky is on hold and/or over.  We have a great time, but this doesn’t count as “seeing” as per my glossary post at this point.

And of course as always there is my soon-to-be-bride, your Other Protagonist, Carrie (Carella Chorster, neutral good human ranger with a feline animal companion, not that she needs the anonymity).  We are now two weeks out, scrambling to put the finishing touches on the wedding plan and get the guest list settled (yes, we’re still sort of working on that).  She’s also about to take a trip to Rome for the week before the wedding, which is awesome and also hilarious.

There are a few bit players out there who may drift in and out and will get character sheets as appropriate, but this is basically the people with whom I’m romanticosexally involved at the moment.  Your mileage may vary, not all ingredients listed, terms subject to change.

(Also, L will be known as Lady Lorasys Woodsoul, neutral half-elf wizard.  If you’ve been mentioned before and you want me to update you with a new character, let me know and I’ll add it.)

*Stoella has insisted that she is chaotic neutral, as opposed to the chaotic good that I originally had down.  I am not one to get on the bad side of a halfling monk, so I’ve made the requisite change.

What about STDs/STIs?

This was the question that I got asked the most when I solicited, and it comes up a lot when talking to monogamous folks. I put most of this down to internalized sex-negativity, honestly. Concurrent partners aren’t a greater risk than successive partners, and whether sex is protected or unprotected is a much greater risk factor, and all of my sex is protected.  Another important risk factor is the infection status of partners, and whether that’s known, and all of my partners get regular testing.

In fact, Carrie and I have all of two hard-and-fast rules for getting together with new people:

  • Always use a condom
  • Ask about STI health and testing

These two, very basic, rules are also in play in most of the other poly/open relationships whose rulesets I’m aware of.  Frankly, a monogamous person who doesn’t check with partners and isn’t strict about protection is at a much greater risk of infection than I am. When I was single, I was at greater risk, because I would have a similar number of partners in a year but wouldn’t check with them about their testing regimens (I still always used protection).  I would be at theoretically lower risk in a monogamous relationship only provided that it was a multi-year relationship.  I have approximately the third-lowest risk profile possible, only slightly above long term strict monogamy, which is slightly above, you know, virgin.

As I said, I think much of the hemming and hawwing about STD risk these days comes down to internalized sex negativity.  STDs come in two flavors, risk-wise (in the US, at least); there are your HPVs and Herpes simplexes, which if you’re at all sexually active you’ve almost certainly been exposed to regardless of your number of partners, and then there are STIs that show up in less than 1% of the population.  Aside from people who have unprotected sex with strangers–and if you do that, fucking quit it, because you’re raising the risk for all of us–STI risk is either essentially universal or wildly overblown.  Some studies show that the number of partners is almost irrelevant, and that rather it’s the number of unprotected sex acts that governs STI risk, although the marginal risk per partner is not well studied.

If you’re having sex, be it monogamously or not, you should be using protection and checking with your partners about their health.  Aside from abstinence or long term monogamy, those are the only ways to reduce your risk.

Novelty

There is really very little that compares to the jazzed-up thrill of connecting with someone new, of attracting someone.  Non-monogamy has a lot of benefits (and a lot of detriments), but the ability–and the permission–to keep chasing that spark is the one that would be a complete dealbreaker for me.  I couldn’t sign on to something that tried to circumscribe that ability; at least one potential secondary relationship ended quickly because that person needed me to make promises about meeting new people that I wasn’t willing to make.  Newness and excitement is important to me.

This is by way of saying that I had a great date last night.  One that I wasn’t actually sure was a “date” going in.

Dear attractive internet person

Hello there!

I find your pictures attractive and your profile non-repulsive.  I have therefore come to the conclusion that if I were to put my penis inside you, a good time would be had by all, and that we’d both find each other interesting enough to navigate the process.  I suspect that, on seeing my pictures and reading my profile, you will reach the same conclusion.

I propose the exchange of several internet messages during which neither of us brings this up.  After 3-6 messages on each side, we should meet in person and also not discuss these conclusions.  At the end of that meeting, I will make some sort of physical advance, without, of course, verbally acknowledging it ahead of time, and you will either accept that advance or clumsily reject it.  In the latter case, I will apologize, as will, for some reason, you, and we will laugh nervously and make plans to repeat the process.

If, instead, you accept the advance, we will begin another clumsy, non-verbal (of course) process of fits and starts where I will attempt to escalate the contact.  You know, of course, that my end goal is naked body rubbing, as do I, and you have already decided how far toward that we will progress this evening, but of course neither of us will discuss this because that would be weird.  If you do stop me, we will follow the laugh-nervously-and-reset process outlined previously.

Over the course of one or more evenings of this, assuming no major faults on either side (you’re not a juggalo/ette, right?), we will achieve the naked rubbing end goal that both of us have been planning on since we first saw each other’s photos.  It is at this point that we will find out if our sexual styles and abilities are in any way compatible with and enjoyable to one another.  If not, one or both of us will awkwardly avoid contacting the other one until one or both of us gives up.

Assuming that it works out, though, congratulations!  We may now discuss sex.  Also, you can let out that fart.

Sincerely, or as close to it as cultural restraints will allow,

–Nick

Dating site roundup

I’ve been trying to branch out a bit as far as dating sites are concerned.  OkCupid is fine, but it’s getting less fun as they’ve been successful in killing off the journals, and there aren’t a lot of folks in Providence on it.  My searches all end up sending me to Somerville and Cambridge, which are fine places and which don’t seem all that far until you start traveling there once or twice a week for dates.  I feel like that would be fine for someone I’m seeing, but for just the getting-to-know-you stage it’s a bit much.  Makes first and second dates logistically difficult, because I have to:

    1. Work out that I have an evening free.
    2. Contact one person to see if they’re available, because the last thing that one wants is to double book an evening (again).
    3. Wait for that person’s response, and:
      1. If they’re available, nail down scheduling
      2. If they’re not available, repeat steps 1-3 with someone else

It has proven easier not to deal with it, and just to contact friends if I’m going to be Bostonish of an evening.  Although “easier than dating” is, in general, a low bar.

So.  Dating sites.  I have decided to try some, and while it’s probably too early to tell, I can at least give you my preliminary assessment.  I try these things so that you don’t have to.

OkCupid is, of course, the premiere dating site for the geek/nerd continuum, and also for poly folks.  Thus, it is the premiere squared site for geeky poly folks.  Except that premiere is 1 and 1 squared is 1 and blah.  Anyway.  This is the place to start, and to put the most effort.  You probably already know all about this place.

PlentyOfFish is both the world’s largest free dating site and the world’s most hideous, with site design that rivals old Angelfire pages.  I’m convinced that it’s the “largest” primarily because they refuse to let you leave the site.  You can’t delete your profile, nor can you prevent them from emailing you afterward.  You can check out any time you blah blah eaglescakes.  Don’t sign up for this site. It is terrible and it will stay with you forever. It is the internet equivalent of having your friends force you to watch John Waters’s Pink Flamingoes and then never being able to wash the terrible out of your brain.

xdating is PlentyOfFish but worse and with more fake profiles.

Fetlife  isn’t a dating site per se, but is often used that way.  It’s probably second only to OkCupid among the poly set, and could be worth signing up for.  It’s worth noting that your profile on Fetlife is probably going to be way worse for your career prospects if an employer finds it than your profile anywhere else short of Adult FriendFinder.  It’s also way NSFW in general.  It’s also no use if you’re completely vanilla, but I honestly don’t believe such people exist.

Match.com, eHarmony, and basically all traditional, paid dating sites don’t allow for nonmonogamy at all.

Date Hookup is pretty bare-bones.  It’s got an okay philosophy, but not much functionality.  There’s little to sort users by except superficial characteristics.  If you really care whether your potential date is a 25-year-old atheist latina, it may be a good choice, if any such people are on it.

PolyMatchMaker has such potential, but it’s lightly populated and locks much of its functionality behind a paywall.  It’s okay.  There was one other interesting person in all of Rhode Island on it, and we went out a few times. Worth trying for free.

CasualKiss does so many things right.  It has a lot of features that I want OkCupid to incorporate.  You can have both a sexuality and a “looking for”, solving OkC’s eternal problem of bisexuals who are nevertheless only looking for one sex right now getting swamped with inappropriate messages.  It expands the possibilities into couples, as well.    It allows you to search distances more granular than 25 miles.  You can search by what type of relationship someone is looking for, like a fling, or just friendship.  And it is completely empty.  No one within 50 miles of me has been “online recently”.

So, I would say that if you’re poly/open, looking to date online, and don’t have any profiles yet, you should sign up for, in this order:

  1. OkCupid, and as a distant second:
  2. Fetlife, unless you’re one of the handful of truly vanilla people and then:
  3. PolyMatchMaker, and when you inevitably find no one there, go back to OkCupid for a while, then maybe
  4. CasualKiss for the novelty of it.