Restriction

I had a friend over this weekend.  It was a great time, and I was glad to see him.  One of the odder things that happened, though, was that he “hooked up” with someone he met at a bar the first night he was in town.  This is fascinating to me, and I think I’m really envious of his freedom to do that.

Now, I don’t begrudge M his experience.  He’s a fine guy, and he’s been unlucky in love for a long time.  Nor would I want to trade romantic lives with him.  But that freedom to just find and connect with someone sexually is something I don’t feel like I’ve ever experienced, and would have liked to.

I don’t know that I realized, on getting into a nonmonogamous relationship (I’m sorry, I’m still not comfortable calling myself “poly”) just how restrictive it could be.  I’d had enough poly/open friends to have some clue–I knew my potential dating pool would be much smaller than when I was single.  But it didn’t occur to me what a burden it is on getting to know someone you’re interested in to have to discuss your relationship status up front lest they assume that you are single by default, and it certainly didn’t occur to me how many people who are explicitly interested in casual hookups would still be hostile to the idea of someone in a committed relationship who was still available.

I’m not saying that I’d have made different choices had I known. I don’t think we choose who we love, or at least I think I don’t.  But this has been perhaps the toughest part of the learning curve for me.  I have done two very large things in the past few years that affected my potential dating pool:

  1. I moved out of Indiana and to the east coast.
  2. I got into an open relationship

Had you asked me ahead of time, I would have thought that the former would have had by far the larger effect.  Now, I think the latter is more significant, although it’s actually pretty close. I’m going to avoid getting into actual numbers, but I will say that I connect romanticosexually (we’ve established that “date” is incorrect here) a little less often than I did in Indianapolis, in a town where there are certainly better attitudes toward this stuff and a lot more available people.

Which is fine, it is what it is.  But I reserve the right to be occasionally, irrationally envious.

Clarity

The cross-post of Toxicity over at OkBloggy dredged up a familiar phenomenon. Whenever I touch on the subjects I mentioned in that post, either here or in person, a lot of people seem to read it as my asking for a manual on precisely what steps to follow, like those ads that occasionally make it through my blocker on “How to get any woman to sleep with you in less than 60 seconds!”.  I assume I’m phrasing something poorly, because people think this often enough often enough that the only common factor here is me.

If anyone has gotten the same read from that post or other things that I’ve said, I’d appreciate if you could let me know what gave you that impression. I think this is a subject that could use more daylight than it gets, at least in the regions of cyberspace that are populated by the sane, the nontraditional, and the non-gender-normative.  It’s not so much that there should be more volume of discussion about dating, whoa nelly, there’s plenty going on.

What I’m really suggesting is that there should be a sort of pool of information like what one gets when one goes looking for job-hunting advice, or info on how to write well.  These are open-ended questions, and each article or interview is its own animal, just like a “date” is.  But there is useful general advice, and there is info on how to get started if you’ve never done it before.  There’s an understanding that it’s possible or even likely for someone to reach adulthood without knowing what to do, even if one could theoretically derive it all with sufficient application of sense.  And people are sympathetic to the idea that some of us need more help than others.

It just feels like there isn’t a similarly sympathetic and charitable place for advice about… whatever it is I’m asking for there to be advice about.  I’m not even sure “dating” is the word, or “advice”, and I’m not sure I’m asking for myself any more.  I’m just sure there are other folks in the situation that my 28-year-old self was in who could really, legitimately use some help.

There seems to be a sort of stigma attached to even admitting that you’d like to date more.  OkCupid is full of self-conscious statements like “I don’t know why I’m on here” or “I’m just looking for friends and we’ll see where things go from there”.  It feels of a piece with self-conscious assertions that polyamory is not about sex, although perhaps less reflexively sex-negative.  It still formulates the state of not currently seeing as many people as (or more people than) you’d really like to as if it were something you shouldn’t be in.  There’s something wrong with it.  It makes it into something you have to admit to, by demonstrating how unwilling people are to say so.

*shrug*

Hi, my name’s Nick, and I’d like to date more.

Logophilia

I often find myself with a need for words that mean “people who are attracted to men” or “people who are attracted to women”, and at a loss for anything but those awkward constructions. This shows up elsewhere, too: OkCupid has to list “Both (who are attracted to bi [guys/girls])” to solve a similar problem.  Of course, OkCupid has its own issues in dealing with gender and sexuality, but at least it’s years ahead of any reasonable competitors.

Quickly googling indicates that the words I want already exist, in basically the ways that I would construct them: androphilia and gynephilia. Although for symmetry’s sake I would think (andro/gyne)sexual would work better.  Obviously, there exist things like “omnisexual” or “pansexual” that would be supersets of these, but of course for my direct purposes I don’t really care if someone is bi or pan or omni or straight (mostly, although I’m probably more likely to get along with the first three).  I present fairly strongly as male, even if I reject a lot of masculine tropes, so “adrophiliac” or “androsexual” is all I’d really need to know.

Basically, I just find it odd and illogical that I have to be given someone’s sex and a word to describe their orientation and then work backward to determine whether they’re into people who are shaped like me.  It’s obviously not a huge burden, but it doesn’t make sense to me to define orientation primarily in reference to one’s own sex, rather than sex(es) to which one is attracted.

Getting there

It’s hard to post here, sometimes, when things aren’t going well.  I feel like I don’t want to air dirty laundry in public, especially when it’s not all my laundry.  So usually, when I go through these lack-of-update phases, it’s because there’s something I really ought to be talking about but don’t want to.

However, life being the pendulum that it is, things get better, and it’s easier to talk about the downswing after the upswing’s begun.

The hypothesis that Carrie and I are in an open relationship has actually been tested, and can be upgraded to theory now.  It’s been a difficult test, but not entirely for related reasons; Carrie was fairly miserable a couple of times, but that had more to do with life circumstances, I think, than her not wanting me to see other people. It’s been a rough year, and she was having a lot of trouble finding work, and feeling like she was contributing to the household.  It took a while for all of this to out, though, so I was worried that she was just depressed that I was seeing someone else, which in turn sort of soured the “oh, okay, so this can actually work” sensation that I had so needed.

We’ve had these discussions since, and things have turned upward for Carrie on the work front, so we’re in a better spot now all around.  She still seems uninterested in seeing anyone else, but at least we’re both clear that that’s not because what she really wants is monogamy.  Certainly, her shuddery reaction when I asked the question left that much clear.

Hasn’t affected my actually seeing someone else, though.  That’s gone very well.  L is fantastic, although out of town right now. She’s interning on the other coast.   She’s just been lovely and low-pressure and exactly what I needed to find–except that she found me, of course.  I’m still not so good at the “initiating contact with someone for purposes of dating” step, which is something that I need to work on.

I don’t know if other folks who are in non-monogamous situations feel the same need to occasionally attract new people that I do.  There’s a stigma associated with a need for “validation” these days, but I do think that need is… er… valid. We use the responses that other people have toward us to calibrate our sense of self, and our sense of position, and absent that feedback we lack a necessary calibrating method.  Someone who literally doesn’t care at all how other people react to them is as unbalanced as someone who puts too much emphasis on it.

I’ve wandered off point, though, which is to say that I feel like the sort of prelude to nonmonogamy is done, now that I’ve proven (to myself) that it can work (for myself). Now begins the work of actually crafting a lifestyle that feels right to me.

Stalgia

I’m sitting up later than I should be awake, mourning the loss of a hard drive. It had my music collection, which I hadn’t backed up recently. All of it is likely recoverable, but it means tracking down some amazingly obscure music.

I’m at our new kitchen table, having recently moved in with my love, and I’m listening to streaming versions of songs that remind me of that sense of newness, that incredible feeling of discover that comes with finding someone new and clicking with them hard. I’m realizing that this is one of the strongest reasons that I am non-monogamous. I cannot imagine living my life without experiencing that feeling again. As is, I experience it far less often that I’d want.

There are things on that hard drive that I may not recover, and many of them are the only remaining vestige of some brief experiment in sex and affection during the only period in which I was single in my adult life. There are sensations I’ve had that belong only to that period, and that, as far as I know, I’ll never recapture. I miss them. This is not to say that the trade-off is not worth what I’ve given up, but there’s a trade there.

I’ve had more success dating in the past few weeks than in the previous thirty years. This is a fine thing, but all such experiences are truncated in a way. I do miss that uncertainty, that sense that things could wander off in some direction wholly unexpected.

I wonder if I’m too old for adventure. Or too staid, or too taken. It seems like there’s very little room in my life for things to surprise me, unless, ironically, I plan on it somehow.

This is somewhat melancholy, but it’s really a sort of bittersweetness. In a sense, I’m really just letting go of something, and moving into a new stage. This marks the first time that I’ve consciously moved in with someone, the first time that I’ve consciously chosen to tie my living space to someone else’s. It’s happened before, but it was always because I was a minor, or out of necessity. I jumped into this with my eyes open.

I don’t know where things are going. I just know that they aren’t as exciting as I once hoped and are more comforting than I’d ever imagined. I don’t want to lionize that interstice; I was lonelier than I’ve ever been, and horribly, horribly unhappy. But it had its melancholy charm, and the thought that I can’t reach that minor key beauty again is a sad thing, even if the beauty itself was also a sad thing.

Eskimo Love

It’s not true that the Inuit have hundreds of words for snow (although I’m told that they give great hugs), but the phenomenon of focal vocabulary is very real. What we tend to deal with more than others develops its own, granulated lexicon that isn’t used by and isn’t useful to people who don’t have to describe a subject in great detail.

Artists have words for color that the rest of us don’t need. Programmers speak of multiple programming languages, multiple types of data, but a normal computer user just clicks an icon. Hobbyist gamers know of many more types of dice than the usual cubes. Writers have many types of character, poets many types of rhyme.

Why do lovers only have one word for love?

We love, all of us, every day. We swim in love, we live in love, we are propelled by and held back by love. We are lovers, every one of us. Why do we not have more words for it? Sure, a trip to a thesaurus turns up a list of synonyms, but none of them suit my purposes. Traveling back to ancient Greek gives us more roots, but still I need more grain in my descriptions. I find myself, lately, needing words that for some reason have never existed in any language, but I think surely they should.

I need a word that says “I love you like someone I’ve always known and never knew it. I’ve always loved you, I just had to meet you to find out.”

I need a word for, “I love you, not like I love her, but not like I love my good friend here, either.”

I need to say, “I love you, and I love him/her, and I’m terrified of one love harming the other.”

I need to be able to say, “I love the parts of you that I know, and I don’t know you very well, but I’d love to find out if I love the rest.”

“I love you like you were my parent.”

“Even though you are my parent, I love you like a brother. Sometimes, I think, I love you like I was your father.”

“I love you like a brother, but not like I love my brother”

“I love you, Z, because you’re my brother, but damn you’re exasperating sometimes.”

“I don’t even know you but I love you with all my heart and it hurts me so much when you hurt yourself.”

“I loved you. I love you. I wish I’d known you better”

I have twice needed to say, “I love you with all my heart, but it is destroying me to stay with you, and it will destroy me slightly less to leave, and I hate, I hate, I hate that I have to do what I have to do, and if you hate me for it that will make two of us.” I hope that I never need to say it again, but if I do it would be nice to have a word for it.

I need to say, “I love you for loving her the way that I couldn’t. Be better for her than I was.”

I have wanted to say, “I love you, not the way that you love me, but I love you. It is more/less/different than what you want, but please stay in my life and learn to accept what I have to give.”

I need to say, “I love you, fervently but quietly and always. It underpins everything I do, twining my life, and touching everything that I touch. You have moved and changed me in ways I will never more than barely realize, and I, as I am now, this gestalt Nick of the moment, would never have existed without you. I need you, not because I want you, but because I, this me that you see, could not else be. ”

I need a word for, “I love you and I want nothing more than for you to love me back.”

I love you.