New Year, Old Habits

A year ago, I was writing about being celibate and ringing in the new year sober. I saw a wide range of reactions as 2014 drew to a close, including romance, ambivalence and desperation. I watched, alone, as people clutched to their loves and lovers, as others desperately turned in circles trying to find a physical connection as the clock wound down, as others contententedly gulped their drinks, finishing off the year with the same liquid courage that got them through most of it.

A month later, I wrote at length about my views on sex and sexuality, on promiscuity, on having fun on a physical  level. It was a post that carried over from New Year’s Day, one that touched back on the reasons I stopped sleeping around and why I was cutting back on drinking: because as much fun as casual sex was and is, I’m starting to reach an age where finding a genuine connection was more important to me. I even tried – briefly and hardly enthusiastically – trying online dating. It didn’t really pan out.

I went through the most of the year is this perpetual state of “lonely but determined” up through May. When I went to Montana to visit my grandparent’s old home and began clearing through their old things and began reliving old memories, it began to trigger a manic break. Which of course meant it was perfect timing to come back and use that break to help ruin a relationship and friendship with someone I trusted implicitly and had been close with the better part of two years.

And if 2014 taught me that I was finding solace in sex in an emotionally unhealthy way, I guess 2015 taught me I’m just emotionally unhealthy in general. I feel things in extremes and I’ve barely managed to figure out a way to manage it. I can actively choose not to engage with someone! That’s the fucking easy part. I can walk away from anyone and just not give a shit about the conversation. Or the friendship, really. I’m close with a very select few people that have really weathered a lot of intense periods of my life, things that most people would or even have run away from.

Even when it comes to sex, though I’d say 95% of the women I’ve been with I’ve cared about, that affection is usually limited to a friendly minimum. Don’t get me wrong: I would bend over backwards and do tricks and do anything for any friend that needed something or someone. I do my best to be strong for someone when they can’t be strong for themselves. And sometimes that means a physical connection. And sometimes a physical connection is just born of it. But for the most part, as much as I care and/or worry about them, however the sex turns out, I can still just write it off as one of those nights. You know? Maybe not. I mean, it’s an intimate act. More intimate than pretty much anything. But there’s an understanding going in that the act is limited to physicality involving two people who trust each other but don’t necessarily need to rely on each other. There’s no need for real attachment.

And that’s good for me, I thought, because when I find someone I want to attach myself to, it typically goes poorly, for any number of reasons. In 2015, I ended my whole “save yourself, find a healthy connection” at a time when I was – albeit mostly unaware – at my unhealthiest. I was in the middle of a manic break. It ruined that friendship and it left me hurt and feeling damaged and pathetic. And there were deeper, unrelated, more intensive and intimate reasons for all of that, but I still felt low.

So I got into my head that I just genuinely cannot make a relationship work. I’m not good enough to take a chance on or not to cheat on or to take seriously. And if I am good enough for those things, I find a way to screw it up somewhere down the line just by being myself. That wouldn’t be a problem if I just didn’t give a shit, but I do.

Here’s the thing: I can detach myself from people. I can avoid investing large chunks of myself in people. But it isn’t because I want to, it’s because I’m used to being used and being left and being hurt, and I’m used to being disappointing and to letting people down and to hurting others unintentionally. I always try to keep a shoulder open to lean on and an ear to talk to, but there are days when I can hardly keep myself going, much less anyone else.

I am a hard person to be a close friend to, and I’m even harder to be in a relationship with. I’m a lot of work and that embarrasses me, especially in light of what I learned about myself. So I shut a good part of myself away and keep it out of harm’s distance from people, and I thought that was a good idea. And when I start catching feelings for someone, I tend to just ignore it or turn away from it, and let it pass me by.

And when I don’t ignore it, I’m fucked. Because everything I’ve refused to let myself fear gives way to hope and love and an enjoyment of affection and romance and feeling valued, and I let myself feel it so intensely because I feel it so rarely. I soak up every bit of it because I never know how long it will last and I put stock in every. Single. Second of it.

It bleeds into every aspect of things. The sex is more passionate, the dates more romantic, my writing is better, my patience is higher. And because I’m a writer and because I’m in love with love, I make huge, sweeping gestures. I don’t give a little. I give it all. I pour my heart all over the table and let it spill onto the floor.

And when it doesn’t work out, I’m crushed. All those old insecurities come back to gnaw on my tired bones. And if I’m the one responsible, I hate myself as passionately as I’ve loved the other person. And if there is a goodbye, it has to be another sweeping gesture. As memorable and (hopefully) positive and (hopefully) passionate a moment as any other during the relationship. I have to get all of my feeeelings and wooorrrds out there because there will never be another chance, and if she thinks of me, I want her to think of those good moments and those last thoughts because the same things will fucking haunt my entire life.

Of course, it never works out that way. I have plans and I imagine conversations, the final things I want to say, the way a conversation or encounter may pan out. That’s delusional. I am literally mentally ill.

And the funny thing about it all, if there is something that can be quantified as funny, is that when it comes to the things I’m passionate about outside of writing – love, romance, sex, intimacy – I am completely ineffective as a writer. When I’m disengaged, I can speak smoothly, act confidently. I can charm. When I’m really interested, when I’m nervous, when I’m in love, I overthink everything. I run something over in my mind so many times that whatever I actually say or write is usually a mangled mess of the original intent and comes out as something horrible and easily misinterpreted. I am easily overwhelmed and become tremendously overwhelming.

I sat in a bar last night packed with happy revelers, cavorting about, kissing and touching each other. A former passionate love of mine (one of the handful that I didn’t screw up) was around. We were able to have a conversation in person for the first time in three years. I saw new relationships and new passion around me. I sat, alone again, with a glowing blue tiara I stole from a different bar crowned upon my brow. I didn’t feel like drinking but someone was buying shots and I don’t like to turn down free things and that always leads to trouble quickly.

And I’m sitting. And I’m thinking. And I’m lonely. And I’m stressing. What did I do? Did I say something wrong? Why couldn’t I just have let everything ride? Why do I always fucking feel so much? Why can’t I stop wishing for more? And I’m drinking. And it’s 2016.

I don’t start my new year on the first of January. I start my new year on my birthday. Those are my years of life in which to consider the things I’ve accomplished during 12 more months of being here. But January 1st is at least an event that reminds me I have five more months before my year is over.

In those five months, I need to seriously begin to evaluate my emotions and reactions and try to find a healthy method of regulating them. I don’t know how to do that. I have a hard time asking for help. But I’ll figure it out. Right? Of course I will.

I’m always okay, even when I’m not.

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The Bedroom Is a Powerful Place

A powerful place is the bedroom.

There is a space where your most valued possessions lie; the things you can’t forget in the morning and want to remember before shutting your eyes for the final time that day. It’s a place of comfort. A place where you can shed your clothes and any masks you may have used to brave the world through morning and afternoon.

The bedroom is where the rest of the world ends and you convalesce. Where you can get the silence you’ve wanted all day. Where you can scream at the walls and blast music that shakes the window looking out to the patch of yard you share with the neighbor you never talk to. Or it’s a place soft notes coax the tears that have been fighting their way out for hours, letting them free, finally, to find a home in the pillowcase softly caressing your cheek.

The bedroom was a place one could feel vulnerable or powerful or free. There was a release in a bedroom. There was an intimacy there.

He was all too familiar with intimacy, release, and soft caresses. He was all too familiar with bedrooms.

And vulnerability.

He traced the rim of the shot glass with his index finger and stared into the amber liquid within. It didn’t reflect as well as he, and he saw nothing in it but the worn wood of the bar beneath it. He was a man so familiar with cold that he had fallen in love with the fire for the way it danced in his chest and made him feel… something. Finally. When it wasnt women, it was whiskey. There hadn’t been a woman in a while.

But he thought of them, often, every one. He thought about how each person he had taken to bed had taught him something about himself he never would have discovered otherwise. Most of those things were good. Not all of them, but most.

Despite all odds, he recalled vividly the drunken nights of stumbling down stairs, one arm wrapped around a woman, their hands running over clothes, craving intimacy and too impatient to wait for the articles to be discarded. A careless hand pushes into a pocket, the apartment key is dropped, picked up, fumbled around the lock until it finds purchase. The door falls open and the lovers fall in and the door slams closed and the lovers bob and weave to the bedroom. Shirts are tossed, pants are kicked away. A sock or two might stay on and the next morning they would both thing too much about it and roll their eyes.

The sex would be frantic and desperate, both eager to please and eager to feel something. Both primed to be vulnerable and be wanted in the midst of it. There were nights when it meant nothing but sharing a moment with someone who needed him as much as he needed them, and that was okay.

That was okay. And it was nice. And it was soft pecks in the morning and an agreement to get lunch soon and six months of sporadic texts and an occasional short, happy conversation when they ran into each other in a restaurant or a bar.

Comfort.
Companionship.
Release.
Acceptance.

Sometimes it worked better than others. There were always other things in play. The mind is distracted. The body doesn’t cooperate. Both participants had their distinct ways to communicate. Even when it meant nothing in the grander scheme, it was an intimate arrangement, an exposure of body and interest, a reveal of arousal and preferences. But it was temporary, an act of validation, an acknowledgement that one could be desired in this world, that one could cause pleasure or serve as an escape from worse things.

It doesn’t always work like that, does it?

He recalls a woman he had had his eye on for some years. A chance meeting. The first kiss. Rhythmic sex interrupted by a call into work and texts that promised repeats of a performance she “couldn’t stop thinking about”. But he had provided nothing special and there was no second encounter and she began dating someone a scant few weeks later. She was married now, years after, and happy.

He recalled a passionate affair. Neither of them could keep their hands off of each other the minute the door snapped shut. There was a desperate craving, a need to be wrapped around each other an irresistible urge to be as close as possible. They were flint and tinder and together created a wildfire.

That wasn’t how it started. It started in a quiet bedroom lit by a tiny lamp in the corner. It started with sitting next to each other and asking if each little touch was alright, assuring each other that nothing was crossing the line. Innocence was found among the guilty and it released a flood upon good judgment.

He remembered being on the phone with his brother when a t-shirt fell into his lap. He remembered looking up to see a naked back retreating to the bedroom. There wasn’t even a cheeky glance back. There didn’t need to be; that call had ended with a quickness.

He remembered an ex-lover that he had reconnected with while mourning the loss of his mother. They had a need for each other that transcended the physical, and they felt comfort in being weak with each other, and they took turns keeping their souls in, holding each other when the world threatened to break them down to ash.

That relationship hadn’t ended well, but it had ended with as much raw emotion as had breathed life into it.

There was a woman who was everything right and everything wrong for him all at once. When they clicked, the world was wide open. They loved each other and took every moment in every place to express it. The sex came easily, naturally, two parts to a whole. They knew what the other wanted and gave it and afterwards collapsed together contentedly.

And when they argued, they were brutal and scathing and cut to the core. They wept for each other, for the mislaid lines and frayed edges. They were perfect and terrible.

He remembered a woman he never expected to love. He remembered the first night together and the panic attack he had because he was so terrified to let her down, and how she patiently worked him through it. He remembered laying next to her, on their sides, looking at each other and forgetting there were lives outside of the sheets he had bought just to impress her. He remembered hours spent, naked, beside her, both reading, both touching enough to reassure reassure the other that they were still there.

He remembered desperately clinging to her because he knew she would slip away. And with a long, lingering kiss, she did. He found her hair on his pillow the next morning. He could trace his hands over the silhouette her body haunted his bed with. Of all of them, he thought he might miss her the most, for her patience, for her passion.

He traced that goddamn shot glass with his finger. He searched for answers in the liquor he knew would light his belly. He longed for connection and recalled fondly every one, every drunk, desperate, passionate, awkward, loving, awful, perfect one.

The bedroom is a powerful place.

La Petite Mort

With a soft moan
The door
Opens
Like a lover and
With a breath,
The breadth of distance
Closes
She is there like warm smoke
Filling my lungs, clinging to my clothes
Bright and bare as the moon
Searing as the sun, hot to the touch
We become cartographers
Mapping trails across each other’s skin
Hands grip and knead
Unraveling knots
Caught up in the moment, we
Fall
For the moment
For the other
To the floor
Tightly wound, bound around one another
Pressed lips slip, drift
Across and down
The sounds of fire’s desire cut through the room
A knife and
Life thrums under every inch of skin
Crackles down every vein
Thunders in each chamber of the heart
We find our places, begin our paces
The walls around us become a temple
Cries to God sanctify it
Nails dig scripture into flesh and
Breath comes quick and heavy
Heavenly
Our coils twist and tighten
Senses heightened and
When release comes, it is as
A flash of light in a storm

No one ever told me a little death would taste so sweet

Ex Machina

Every now and then I’ll post about a film or a book or something else that catches my attention enough I want to write about it. I did it with Fury, sort of, back when I wrote about my love of ensemble pieces, and now I’m doing the same for Ex Machina, the Alex Garland-directed science fiction film starring Alicia Vikander, Domnhall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac, who is fast becoming one of my favorite actors.

At first glance, it looks like a tightly constructed, lightly cast sci-fi flick that grows into a horror film fraught with suspense. In fact, on the surface, that’s likely exactly what it is. The concept, however, approaches some much more complex ideas, things that are more appropriate now with the growth of artificial intelligence and the movement of non-traditional sexualities.

To take a step back, look at the movie Her with Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson’s voice+ about an introvert with a broken heart and inability to handle a traditional romance. He starts a – at first – platonic relationship with a companion A.I. named Samantha. Over the course of the film, Samantha grows as she absorbs knowledge into an intellectual. The information she gleans through her conversations with Theodore (Phoenix) allow her to talk with him like a friend.

Because it begins as a conversation between a man and a program, he confesses things to her that he is unable to get out with other people. He tells her his fears, his aspirations, his irritations, and she responds to them as a friend does. As a person. As Samantha grows, so does her personality. She develops a mentality with opinions and emotions of her own, and though (for the most part) physicality is completely out of the occasion, a romantic relationship develops between them.

It strikes a very curious question in terms of what defines a human. Is it the physical body, or is it a more emotional connection, one that comes from comprehension, critical thinking, and empathy, and if it is this latter thing and artificial empathy is developed, does that mean that an A.I.’s consciousness is on par with one that develops biologically?

There has been a lot of discussion lately among esteemed scientists about the potential dangers and life-changing implications that come from the growth and development of artificial intelligence. It’s something that has been explored in movies like The Terminator (eradication of the human race), A.I., Short Circuit, and more recently Transcendence, and Chappie.

Still, Ex Machina stands out in the same kind of way that Her did. The primary focus seems to be on a small cast of characters (Isaac’s Nathan, Gleeson’s Caleb, and Vikander’s Ava) much like the bulk of Her was Theodore and Samantha.

This allows for a tighter focus, a more personal story, one that explores relationships, the strength and equal fragility of them. It (hopefully) doesn’t lose itself in a sprawling plot of explosive set pieces. It explores what can be considered human sentience.

This interview with the director is an excellent read, and it’s encouraging in that he seems to have an understanding of what science fiction, good science fiction should be doing: asking difficult questions. Hard questions. Questions about things we don’t understand, and that includes what makes us, us. It’s a familiar question (if we lose a leg, or an eye, or our heart and get a cybernetic replacement, at what point do we stop being human? If it’s our personality, or mind that makes us human, and something similar can be replicated perfectly, does that not make them human also?).

Garland is going a step further in bringing sexuality into it. And man, I’m fascinated by sex. As I’ve stated before, I tend to have a pretty liberal view on sex and sexuality, so any time something is explored in pop culture in a way that is new and intriguing, it immediately piques my interest. My knee-jerk reaction is to say that I’d never have sex with a robot. But then you take a look at films like Blade Runner with its replicants, the Terminator series, or even the Pretenders from the Transformers series, and it’s hard to say. If they look, sound, act, think, and feel (physically and emotionally) like a human, would you even know if no one told you? Or would a real relationship develop, in the same way that meet communication brought Theodore and Samantha together?

Ex Machina may not explore those themes as deeply as I’d like or would benefit it. It may wind up being a sexual body-horror film in the same way the Species series was, and I can’t say that won’t be entertaining in its own right. But the interview with Alex Garland seems to imply that it’s something he’s at least thought a lot about, and I hope it carries through.

Ex Machina is rated R and hits theaters in the United States this Friday (April 10th, 2015).

Sex and Online Dating

I’ve been on a self-imposed celibacy kick for a few months now, starting right around the time I decided I seriously needed to stop drinking less.  It’s not that I regret being promiscuous or that I’m going to, I don’t know, save myself for marriage from here on out (I don’t and I’m not respectively), it’s just that I’ve reached a point where just fucking around has put a strain on me mentally to where it’s affected my ability to pursue a healthy relationship.

Not that sex isn’t healthy! Not that even casual sex isn’t healthy! Thing is, though, the last committed relationship I’ve been in was four and a half years ago. Oh, I’ve dated a few women since and been exclusive to them and still even care deeply about them as friends, but I was exclusive out of choice, not an expected arrangement. I don’t know if they were loyal to me; I didn’t care, I didn’t expect them to be. But boundaries set and established monogamy for both parties? It’s been a long,  long time since I’ve had a girlfriend. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been anyone’s boyfriend.

Anyway, to understand where I’m at with this celibacy thing, it’s probably best to understand where I am in terms of how I view sex and sexuality.

I grew up in a modest household with a Christian grandmother and a mellpw grandfather, but I had addict parents and a step-father who owned and ran strip clubs. My mom was a dancer, and my dad was sort of a player when he was young. There was a very liberal mindset on the fringe areas of my youth that fascinated me. I was never taught to body-shame. I was never taught to be ashamed of myself or my sexuality. I was always taught to be respectful of people in general, but especially women.

Anyway, at some point growing older, it all seemed simple to me: if you’re being safe, if you’re being honest with your situations and everything is consensual, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Your sex life is none of anyone’s business, nor is theirs yours. Feel free to save yourself for marriage or for a select few or however many you want. As long as you’re safe, honest, and clearly consenting.

Now, I’ve never been good with women. Romantically, I mean. Our relationships either failed due to infidelity (theirs), depression (mine), differing plans for the future (ours) and probably countless other things that I never even noticed.  I’m a great friend (or I try to be) and I’m a romantic at heart, but I’m terrible at picking up on hints from interested women and I constantly (or have in the past) feel like they’re going to wake up one day and realize they could be doing so much better.

Anyway, sex. Because sex has seldom been a problem over the last 8 years and yet, AND YET when it all began, there were all the indicators that I would be fucking miserable at mixing sex and relationships.

I lost my virginity when I was 15 to a girl my age who was not a virgin and who I liked very much until she cheated on me a week later and wound up with three kids before she was legally allowed to drink. I was distraught, temporarily, as teenagers are wont to be, but found solace in the arms of someone else not long after, albeit briefly. This woman I loved deeply and her family was close to me.

But this isn’t about love, silly, it’s about sex, and I didn’t have much of it. Like, count on one hand the times total in the three or four months between when I lost my virginity (it was an early February) to the last instance (late May? June? Shit, it might have been an October, this was over ten years ago) and then I didn’t have that kind of contact again for years.

I had opportunities, don’t get me wrong. I partied a lot, a lot, and people get frisky at parties, but the only two people I had slept with I cared deeply about, I was super-duper depressed in general,  and so – back then – I WAS saving myself. I just didn’t know for who or what.

I was really into this girl when I turned 18. She introduced me to a bunch of weird music that I liked but would never have discovered otherwise, and we would end up at each other’s houses fooling around but never go all the way. I liked her a lot, man, and I constantly asked her out but she wanted an open relationship (the other guy’s name was Kenny. My first name is Kenneth; this pissed me off to no end). I didn’t want an open relationship – she was the only woman I wanted – but I was willing to make an exception if it was the only way I could get her. Then she FLIPPED OUT on me when I went on a friend date with a friend-girl.

You see? Healthy relationships. I told her that I couldn’t handle the double-standard, especially when I was being yelled at for a non-romantic relationship with a friend who had been there for me through some heavy shit. I broke it off. I was headed to Europe in three weeks and while I would have been faithful had we been in a relationship,  I wasn’t about to start one just to leave right away.

Here’s the thing, though: 18 and single or not, I still knew jack shit about talking to women. A few email addresses and drunk kisses aside, my trip abroad was sexless. This did nothing to detract from the incredible experience I had, and I was more concerned with the hand I paralyzed and spent two months fixing, but my hormones were out of control and I grew frustrated.

When I finally had sex again, it was terrible. I was so bad. I felt so bad for her for agreeing to that. Holy shit, let me tell you, I’m astonished that word of that didn’t spread, that I wasn’t mocked in the streets, that I ever regained the confidence to give it another shot.

I ended up in a relationship not long after that, though, and she was a lot more patient with my inexperience. It helped that there was an actual relationship involved, too. There is strength in an emotional connection to support a physical relationship.

That relationship did end, eventually, though. Not prettily. I’ve found break-ups are seldom neat and romantic notions don’t help for shit when someone tells you they don’t love you anymore.

A strange thing happened then, and I’m not sure how or when: where I failed in relationships I began to excel in flings and one-night stands. Now, I have never misled a woman for sex. I’ve never lied about myself or the situation. If I wasn’t interested in a relationship, I would make that clear and if she was uncomfortable with that arrangement, it didn’t happen.

There were a myriad of reasons for the experiences. Mutual attractions. Mutual emotional desperation. The need for release or just to have fun. Though I’m not friends with most of them now, the reason why has almost never been because of that.

I mean, I love women in general. I love the first time a woman and I come together because there it’s incredibly intimate. Even if, in the large scheme of things, it means nothing, there’s an intimacy to the whole experience. You discover each other’s likes and dislikes, the erogenous zonez, everyone kisses differently, wears their hair differently, puts on a different perfume. It’s exciting, it’s fun. That’s the point.

Then it stopped being fun for me. Not because of the sex or the women,  but because all of these other aspects of my life were falling apart and I felt like a piece of shit. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically, I was withdrawing from all of my friends, I wasn’t writing hardly at all and I hadn’t been for months. My life lacked substance beyond the day-to-day and I started realizing you can only live in the moment for so long when you’re not doing anything good for yourself.

I decided to be celibate while I figured myself out. This is weird for me for two major reasons:
1. It’s difficult for a guy who was super shy and awkward and didn’t have sex through 99% of high school to pretty much always having options to go back to not having sex at all. I realize that it had reached a point where I was doing it less because it was thrilling and more because I was desperate for companionship, but, again, I was pretty honest about that up front and it took me a long time to see that as a problem.

2. People really want to have sex with you when you really don’t and some of them will get offended when you turn them down. If you’re reading this and you’re one of them: I’m terrible in bed. Just ask anyone.

Anyway, this focusing on myself shit has been really good. I’m drinking a lot less, saving a little more money, and writing a LOT more. I’ll be putting another book out at the beginning of next month. I’ve been waking up rested after having been more productive and I would say 9/10 mornings I wake up generally happy. I’ve been focusing a lot more on trying to make time for friends, online and over the phone if I can’t do it in person.

I’ve started trying to date again, too. Like,  seriously date. Dinner or coffee or a movie or fucking anything that involves me spending time with someone I like and find interesting, and it’s nice because I can go into it with a clear mind, a better understanding of myself and my goals, and comfortable in trying to develop a relationship of real substance.

It hasn’t gone well so far.

Soooo on a lark, I signed up for OKCupid. I’m not even mad about it. I’m not embarrassed. Shit, I dished out $50 bucks so if anyone likes my profile, I can see who it was because I am genuinely bad at noticing.

So it works like this, this online dating shit: you fill out your profile. What do you like? Your favorite foods/tv/books/movies, what are you working on, etc. Message me if: this and that and here or there. Then you can answer from this endless stream of questions. It asks you a question,  what you’ll accept out of someone else’s responses,  and how much it means to you (a little, somewhat, very).

The more questions you answer,  the more it can tell you who matches your interests, likes and dislikes, and whose interests and opinions oppose yours. I’ve had it for a week or two now, and I have to say: it’s ridiculously accurate. I’ll see a profile with a 90% match and they’ll list off a dozen books, films and shows I like, list hobbies that line up with my own and so on and so forth. It’s exciting and frightening all the same.

Things I’ve learned so far:

1. My best matches seem to be in Los Angeles and New York and looking for people in their general area only. This seems to confirm things I already know.

2. Women who match me 55% or less locally have been blowing up my profile.  I can’t imagine why.

3. I’m hesitant to reach out to someone locally because Anchorage is a place where mouths like to run and I seem to have cultivated a much more negative opinion about me than positive, some of which is justified, some of which is from years ago, and some of which is completely false.

But there has been some rumblings of interest and that’s refreshing and a bit encouraging for me. So we’ll see how it goes, and maybe I’ll meet someone at a bookstore or something, if not online. Maybe the woman of my dreams will send me a private message.

Anyway, I’m not sorry for having been sexually active or for being open about my sexuality, and with one exception (an incident which was not my fault), I have zero regrets about that part of my life.

And I’m no saint now. My libido is high and I doubt that will change. Growing up requires introspection in every part of one’s life, though, and I’ve seen that mine lacks a good amount of healthy, supportive, communicative relationships. It so happens that certain aspects need to change in order for me to change that,  and I’m happy to have made those changes.

My relationships with my friends have improved dramatically over the last few months because I finally had enough courage to ask for help, to ask for someone to talk to, and to ask for a few encouraging words when I’ve needed them.

I want to be able to share the love for life and art and this world and so much else with someone, too, and I want to do it without these knee-jerk thoughts and impulses and feelings I’ve had for strangers that catch my eye. I’ve had a pretty shitty track record with that.

Will OKCupid work in the long run? Who knows? I have a couple friends who got married off of it. I’ve had two other friends get married after meeting online in other ways. Right now, I’m taking it a day at a time without the pressure of sex or awkward silences, and with a good amount of information about me (and her) already up front to parse through.

Worst case scenario, nothing happens and I just made you read about my sex life.

Six Reasons Why 50 Shades of Grey Sucks, and Why It Doesn’t

A couple years ago, I tried to write an article for Cracked about a SUPER HOT TOPIC at the time. They weren’t biting and I dropped it. But with the release of the 50 Shades of Grey trailer and the fact I have a blog now, I thought I’d resurrect it. Here’s the original article:

Straight up: before writing this article I read both Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, I did it sober, and holy shit was that the worst idea I’ve ever had. But once the migraines subsided, I tucked back my man-bits, took some Midol and pretended these books were marketed towards me. This is how I came to my conclusions. Note there are spoilers to follow:

1) It’s Fan-Fiction!

For those wondering why I bothered to read Stephanie Meyer’s abortion of literature for a 50 Shades article, let me enlighten you: 50 Shades of Grey started its rags-to-riches fairy-tale life as a rip-off of someone else’s fairy-tale life. Because of that, it’s impossible not to draw a few comparisons. They’ll pop up. I had to be educated.

The fact remains, 50 Shades of Grey was once a humble, smutty, Twilight fan fiction titled Masters of the Universe and I can’t begin to tell you how pissed I was when searching for He-Man/Fisto slash stories and coming across this bullshit.

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Fuck with the universe, the universe fucks back.

Now fan fiction is not a new thing. If you don’t believe me, Google it! Actually, maybe don’t. There’s a lot of dark shit on the Internet. But while it’s not uncommon, the attention this one got was insane.  What’s more surprising is that it hasn’t happened before. There have been thousands of stories at least of Harry Potter getting Bunghole Expanidicus’d and none of them have come close to drilling the oil of Hell and making the author a veritable tycoon.

But it happened with this. 50 Shades of Grey got kick-started by Edward dark-fucking Bella and thousands of people liking it. It’s like a porn parody that doesn’t know it’s a parody.

But it’s not so bad because…
           
Once Stephanie Meyer’s people started shoving Cease and Desists so far up E.L. James’ ass that her off-brand Wheaties tasted like law, she took down Masters, took a second to reflect, and overhauled the whole damn thing.

Seriously. 50 Shades is almost completely different. All you need to do is read them both to see. There are some similarities. Edward and Christian both get their Elton John on with their own pianos and serenades. They’re both abrasive, distant and thrumming with danger. They both rescue their loves from a speeding vehicle (Anastasia’s was an eager cyclist; Bella only had to worry about a truck).

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I vampired the shit out of that truck with my glitter-pecs.

And that’s about it. The relationship is different, save for the “I’m not right for you, so pick someone else, but I won’t really let you” cliché that exists in every romance with a “bad boy”. But in Twilight, you have Edward, a 107-year old vampire who’s been hanging out in high schools because… who the fuck knows? He’s like the Van Wilder of statuatory rape. On the other hand: Christian Grey, a mid-twenties ridiculously rich entrepreneur who has equally questionable tastes but is far from an undead confessed murderer. Their relationship is not predator-prey, but master-servant. There’s no real danger, unlike Edward’s overt threat that he will murder his lady friend and ditch her body in a different state. (Page 214. And 255. Romance!)

And unlike Bella’s repeated carelessness and indifference in the face of danger, Ana feels, recognizes and addresses her fear. There’s no super-nature, there is thinking characters, and a mostly private romance with a public figure as opposed to a public relationship with a mostly private figure. At most, it’s close to a total opposite, like a picture negative. The same, but different, and that’s no worse than anything already being vomited and re-digested in all forms of media.

2) The Pacing

The cadence of this book is more bi-polar than a sexually confused penguin. It starts out at a pretty speedy pace, devolves into sexy hijinks that are… dubious… and then it fucking draaags for a good third of the book. My god, once you get to the banging, how can you just write a hundred pages of, uh, not banging?

The most egregious example of Rapidash-level plot advancement is our opening. After Anastasia Steel interviews Christian Grey, we’re met with a “the rest of the week” style fast-forward. Using context clues, we can deduce that, at the earliest, Ana interviewed Grey on a Sunday. Assuming that’s the case and following the narrative from there, it is twelve days at the most before 21-year old Anastasia- who has never wanted to kiss a man before in her life – lets Grey be her first sexual partner.

What?!

The only things that could drop a virgin’s panties faster than Christian Grey are gamma hydroxybutyric and the Rapture. Maybe the Flash, but he’s a real hero… and the friction burn would be terrible.

But it’s not so bad because…

E. L. James wanted to leave her mushroom print on literature, so she introduced us to naïve but willful Anastaia and cold-but-sexy-hot boner owner Christian quickly, a little faster than we’re used to. It felt wrong at first, but… so, so right. Then she blew our minds, hard and enthusiastically, with the sex. Then sure, it went slower, but we knew it’s because she was going deeper.

See, the pacing is a little jarring at first only because James hooked us by jumping right into the deep end with no floaties. We got our characters, our basic set-up, our hard sex, all at once. We’re not used to it happening so quickly with anything that doesn’t have “co-ed” or “turkey baster” in the title. But once it’s out of the way, we can slow our thudding hearts, take our hands away from our parts and get to the juicy meat of the story.

3) The Story

But the story fucking sucks. We’re not just talking about the plot, though we doubt the verisimilitude behind a prudish virgin rocketing towards nymphomania at a speed so fast Mr. Fahrenheit would finally let someone stop him. The book is essentially the film Eros zip-tying Never Been Kissed and taking her to Pound Town.

But more than that, the writing style is atrocious. It just hammered home phrases like “Don’t bite your lip”, “inner goddess” and “baby. Oh, baby.” I haven’t seen so many unconvincing usages of the word ‘baby’ since Little Man, most memorably after he romantically removes her tampon, slips it in and says, “That’s right, baby.”

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No it’s not ‘right’, baby.

I haven’t swooned so hard since The Notebook. And by “swooned”, I mean “recoiled” and by “The Notebook”, I mean “Ichi the Killer”.

The crowning achievement of this masterpiece comes after Grey gives Anastasia Steele a laptop so they can e-mail each other and she’s flustered when the first one arrives. “I got an e-mail from Christian Grey.” Gasp. First off: Lady, you deep-throated the man in his bathtub after less than two weeks of knowing him, you can stop being surprised. Secondly, here are what some of those e-mails entail:

CG: I do hope you had a good day at work.
AS: I had a very good day at work.
CG: Delighted you had a good day.

Fuck you, E.L. James!

But it’s not so bad because…

Like a Rubik’s Cube with Asperger’s, the characters and underlying plot are surprisingly complex. Christian Grey’s disposition and predilection for rough sex are a result of his being seduced (read: statuatory raped/dominated) by an older person at the ripe age of fifteen. No, it wasn’t Edward Cullen.

A big chunk of the book focuses on Anastasia’s sexual curiosity, the chances she takes and her growing experience all while wrestling with the commanding nature of aggressive sex and Christian’s mood swings. They talk to each other, a lot, and in those conversations, they learn about each other and begin to build a connection that starts the crumbling of Christian’s walls. Ultimately, the book even closes on a downer, which is a little unconventional, even for the first book in a trilogy.
 
And yeah, some lines are groaners, but let’s look at some other romance novels:

Lora Leigh’s Nauti Deceptions: “…sent a shard of sensation tugging at the forbidden entrance to her lower body.”

Roxanne St. Claire’s Barefoot In the Sand: “Still looking up, still holding him with her eyes and her mouth… and her heart.”

Laurell K. Hamilton’s Narcissus In Chains: “It was tight, thick, like he plugged a hole with his body…”

ROMANTIC.

Compared to Twilight, which reads like a blind spastic was flailing frantically at a keyboard, 50 Shades is fucking Shakespeare. Plus it has the term “just-fucked pigtails” and the sentences, “I don’t remember reading about nipple clamps in the Bible. Perhaps you were taught from a modern translation,” and that shit is gold.

4) The Misogyny

Do a search in any engine asking if 50 Shades of Grey is misogynistic and the results will come back as an overwhelming “Fucking Duh”.

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Christian Grey’s whole thing, his schtick, is that he likes to dominate and control women. He orders them around, refers to them as his property and physically abuses them. He wants to make Anastasia sign a strict contract on what she can and can’t do with her own body, including her diet, sleep regiment and masturabatory practices, like the Hitler of handjobs.

He makes Anastasia cry on multiple occasions, spanks her – one time with a belt! – chastises and demeans her. And she takes it. And she doesn’t tell anyone about it because he made her sign a non-disclosure agreement, meaning she has to ask permission before she can ask her best friend all the new sex questions she’s got running through her mind. Anastasia is Reverse Rosie the Riveter, a stunning sample of alliteration that will stir the loins of any chauvinist readers.

But it’s not so bad because…

Misogyny: noun: hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.

Hatred is a… pretty harsh word. And while Christian Grey mistrusts women, he mistrusts everybody, but there is little in the book to support a claim that he hates Anastaia or even dislikes her or even likes her discomfort and distress.

And as far as the distrust goes, the entire book is about how he learns to love and trust her while she trusts in him as he frees her of her sexual inhibitions. So it’s more about the removal of misogyny, if anything.

Shit, if we’re definining misogyny as being wary around people or making them cry, any man who’s ever hurt his girlfriend’s feelings (or vice-versa, you femisogynists) is guilty!

If it’s about the fact that he likes to control and smack her around… I can see how that can be taken the wrong way. But while I would never condone domestic abuse (except in the case of the Muppets and the Flintstones), that’s not what’s going on here. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s analyze the book a bit.

Christian Grey’s got the personality of sexy sandpaper, probably because his mom was a crackhead and he was burned by cigarettes as a kid. But beneath that uncaring visage is something more humane, something that makes him protect Ana from her would-be date-rapist/friend Jose, take care of her when she’s black-out, Exorcist-expulsion drunk, bends over backwards to provide for her, frets for her safety, showers her with gifts, confides in her and makes exceptions with his lifestyle that he’s never made with anyone. Hell, I want to have sex with him now.

The abusive stuff, the debasement and bondage and spanking? The only things that happen outside of her contract signing are asked for and verbally encouraged. The non-disclosure agreement was only to protect Christian Grey’s image, probably because – for some reason – he doesn’t want everyone to know he’s got Marquis de Sade’s wet dream in his penthouse.

The sex contract on the other hand is detailed in pages 165-175. Ten pages. The thing reads like a dissertation and outlines their relationship, the length (a three month trial period) and everything else that will be involved. Anything she doesn’t like or feel comfortable with, she negotiates away. And the debasement and abuse she’s agreeing to? Here’s a list: spanking, whipping, biting, genital clamps, hot wax, paddling, caning, nipple clamps, ice.

Now, while the genital and nipple clamps seem rough (she denies them and he agrees), the rest of that is pretty fucking tame…. wait a second…..

Ice?!

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You sick bastard.

5) The Sex

Here it is. The most talked-about aspect of the book. That’s because when it comes, it is graphic. Believe it or not, that’s partly why it sucks. It’s not a book so much as literotica (from the ancient Celtic phrase “book porn”). And while it’s detailed, it stays just vague enough to be kind of bad.

There are a whole lot of “down there’s” that make it almost sound like she’s getting her ankles fucked, and the “babys” and “inner goddess” references keep on coming and kill the joy faster than John Wayne Gacy. That fucking inner goddess… she grates like Fran Drescher.

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Imagine sex with her voice. You’re welcome.

And it’s all so… weird. Hell, Grey’s completely indifferent to de-flowering his new toy. He approaches taking Anastasia’s virginity in the same manner one would use when scraping the ice off of their windshield before sticking their dick in the car.

The bondage aspects are talked about but only weakly explored. Zip-tied, for God’s sakes? The guy who shoplifted a box of lamb-skin condoms got that far when security fucked the center of his back with a knee.

Dispassionate and unambitious, it’s a watered down Penthouse letter with a plot written by an angsty ninth-grader who sees it as the only way to get the senior prom king to fall for her… and she still imaginary-begs for it.

But it’s not so bad because…

Clumsy sex is still sex. That old phrase, “It’s like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s still good”? It’s true here, too, if you’ve got the imagination for it. And there’s a reason soap operas have been around for decades. They’re addictive because there’s that dramatic relationship, and in 50 Shades, that same relationship makes each new sexual encounter more passionate, more exciting, especially as Ana’s inhibitions lessen. It’s “Shades of Our Lives”.

That’s actually why this book is so great with sex. Remember when we said earlier that it wasn’t misogyny but something else? That something is the BDSM fetish. It’s been around for a long, long time, and it stands for “bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism” and you should be able to gather from that it’s all about the master-slave thought process. And guess what? It goes both ways; plenty of men like to be “punished” as well.

BDSM has already been portrayed in plenty of movies (Pulp Fiction, Eurotrip, Secretary, to name a few), but the book has done tons for exposing the fetish on  a mass scale simply by virtue of the millions of copies sold. And for those who like being spanked, choked, cuffed, scratched, bit or called filthy things (whore, shitheel, Tila Tequila) during sex… this is part of that. 50 Shades lets those people know, if they didn’t already, that it’s okay to have a fetish and it lets the inexperienced live a fantasy vicariously through Anastasia Steele.

Just don’t get carried away and kill someone.

6) The Lack of Vampires

Do you know why everyone’s writing about sexy vampires who learn to love? Because who doesn’t want that? Vampires are handsome, charismatic, dangerous, mysterious, like to bite and are powerful. Despite that last thing being the only quality separating vampires from Jeffrey Dahmer, the not-quite Draculas just open the goddamn flood gates. Hell, Anne Rice made a kajillion dollars off of it.

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Lestat de Lioncourt. Edward Cullen. Eric Northman. Angelus. Jerry….you know, from Fright Night. What the fuck kind of vampire name is Jerry?

Whatever. The point is that they’re alluring. They’re surreal, something more than the average Jerry, er, Joe, and when they so gently nibble on your neck, it’s easy to forget they’re capturing your heart in a more literal sense as well.

50 Shades, despite being a Twilight rip-off, has no vampires. It’s just a handsome, mysterious, powerful, dangerous, charismatic guy who likes to bite but is ultimately just a man.

But it’s really okay, because…

Yeah, just a handsome, mysterious, powe… look, you get it. He’s all the great qualities that make vampires appealing, but his “danger” comes from his aggressive sex acts and not the fact that he’s trying to EAT you.

Romanticized vampires are done to death. Twilight was the worst offender when Stephanie Meyer wrote out the vulnerability to sunlight and added diamond sprinkles. That’s not even a fucking vampire! That’s a, a… a glampire!

Even having sex with them has grown stale. Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake has been slutting up literature for ten years to the point that she’s not so much a vampire investigator anymore, or even a “fang-banger” as True Blooders would say, but a depository for the supernatural as a whole.

What happened to Nosferatu? Dracula? Dhampir? Do you remember the last movie that made vampires terrifying? No. No one does. Not even Josh Hartnett’s abs could save that movie from flopping so hard it snapped its own spine.

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“’I can smell your blood.’-sexy when Edward says it, apparently.

By keeping Christian Grey human and giving him a whole different and completely regular fucked up mental issues, the story is more relatable and all-around better for it. And as a planet, we can start trying to inject some fear back into our kids with real monsters.

So does 50 Shades of Grey suck or not? I don’t know. I thought I did at first, and it’s certainly better than Twilight, and there is this:

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A Christian Grey rendering, apparently. “Don’t bite your lip.”

But comparing the two is like comparing paraplegia to quadraplegia: you’re still not walking anywhere. What do I know, though? I’m fifty shades of fucked up.

FIVE OH: A Recap

Until recently, it had been a long time, years, since I had been on a legitimate date (as in, they even showed up). Longer still since it had gone well. It’s been a long time since I’ve met a woman who made me fire on all cylinders. I have dated and I have loved, in a way, since the woman who broke me almost irreparably, but I’ve closed a lot of myself off since then.

It’s a different experience to meet a creative person who brings words to me and sparks an inspiration and drive that I lost somewhere amidst a lot of funerals and broken promises. Somewhere along the line, I had stopped believing that trying was good enough because even my best friend of 15 years won’t see or speak to me. It’s a bit different to have someone invested in my writing and my words after most people I cared about left.

So it’s difficult to let that go after a few months of really trying to build it up and make it work. Emotionally, I mean. When everything about a woman, from shared familial experiences, to creative endeavors, to aspirations and personality and lord, I find her gorgeous…It’s difficult to not cling to that, to not ignore all the signs that, bro, she’s just not that into you. No matter your words, or your humor, or your beard.

And it hurts to finally find a muse, one whom I can attribute a few posts for inspiring and more than one poem and realize that that aspect isn’t going to happen. Call it a night, pull the cards.

I don’t regret it. The inspiration isn’t minimalized by the revelation. It hasn’t vanished. I still want to write and be better and keep getting people hooked on nothing more than the way I phrase things. There are posts I never would have written otherwise. I suppose that’s the point: these emotions that will never find a home somewhere else should mold themselves into something that can benefit a reader who needs them. I just don’t need to put myself in a position again where wishing on a star leaves me stung.

This is my 50th post and it’s a big whine. A little self pitying, but here’s the best place of any to vent it, my word whiskey. I’ve had 49 other posts of various genres and topics,  so whether you’re new to my blog or you missed some posts or you want to share with your friends, I’ve organized the bastards by type. Here you go:

The Post That Started It All:

The Begending Of The Inn

About Writing:

Jered’s 3 1/2 Magic Rules For Writing
Behind The Curtain: Why I Write
Fucks Given: Sex and Swearing In Writing
Create a Horror Icon In Six Steps
Against “Against YA”
Care Needed: Remakes
Care Needed: Reboots
Care Needed: Sequels

Life and Personal Experiences:

Love Is a Bowl Of Pho
The Swim
The Darker Side of Karaoke
Life Is a Decoy Duck
Life Was Simpler When I Was Dying
My First Porn Star
The Importance of Talking About Suicide
Orphan Tears

About Family:

Bompa: A Grand Father
Tutu: A Grand Mother
Santa Wears a Black Hat
Daddy Issues

Short Fiction:

In a Pinch
Something Sweet Part 1: Goodbye, Horses
Something Sweet Part 2: With a Kiss In the Wind
Something Sweet Part 3: Something In The Water
Something Odd Part 1: Beer Run
Something Odd Part 2: An Unexpected Invitation

Personalized Flash Fiction Birthday Gifts:

Birthday Notes I
Birthday Notes II
Birthday Notes III
Birthday Notes IV

Poetry:

Passion
A Toast
Heat
4AM
The Anatomy Of a Kiss
What A Muse Meant

Assorted Other Musings and Updates:

Testing Doesn’t Equal Teaching
What If Godzilla Was One Of Us
Rooftop Music
The Liebster Award and Me and You
The Goddamn Facts
Bloghopper
A Memorium
The Last Few Days
Checking In
Three Tens of Sober

Reblogged Posts From Other Bloggers:

My Opinion and My Advice and Listen To It: Paranormal and Supernatural Stuff
Life From First Person POV

And there you have it. My first 49 blog posts, two of which are from other talented folks. I hope something here can make you feel some kind of way: love, laughter, anger, sadness,  happiness, inspiration. I started this blog to let some of myself out and to share projects and opinions and (hopefully helpful) advice and it has been an absolute blast so far. Thank you for sticking with me! I look forward to th next 50.