Bevin's Blog I'm blogging the relentless pursuit of my joy

2013-09-23

Learning to Not Stress Out About My Fertility

About a year ago, my weekend plans to go away were torn asunder by an emergency vet visit. I got home from the gym and my cat ALF was slumped against the wall, meowing at me. He couldn’t walk, he looked scared and confused. I scooped him up and paced around the apartment doing the math about whether we were going to go to the vet, was this an emergency. I realized pretty quickly that it was, called a couple of friends to get some support at the vet and was really grateful I had borrowed a car for my weekend away because I was able to get right over to the clinic.

The vet was very kind and expensive and I spent that weekend sitting next to ALF on the couch while he slowly recovered, which thankfully he did. He couldn’t really sleep and kept breathing laboriously until eventually he was drinking water and walking again.

On my way to the vet I was crying and sort of glad that ALF was a cat and not my child and so I didn’t have to be “brave” in front of him so he wouldn’t flip out. Being a single mom to pets is hard but not like being a single mom to kids.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

I think about having kids a lot. I’ve been wanting to write about this for the blog for a really long time. I want to preface what I have to say is that this is my journey and I don’t want to put my journey on anyone else.

I have a lot of privilege in that my body can bear a child, or at least that is what I know to be true based on regular GYN exams. Lots of folks who want kids don’t get the luxury of being able or willing to bake the baby themselves inside them, so I acknowledge this is my own experience of what is going on with my parts.

So about four years ago I started flipping out about my eggs. I was thirty. Everywhere in the media people talk about how as you age your fertility becomes non-existent. Suddenly I was aware of this ticking time bomb in my gut and I wondered if it mattered if I ever did anything about it. I had heard all those stories about Martha Stewart’s daughter trying to get knocked up and her foreboding warnings that women should not forget about their waning fertility. It was one of those worries that was at the back of my mind. Something I consider now recreational stress, but I used to partake in that kind of stuff a lot.

Then all of my old co-workers from the job I had for five years when I was first out of law school started getting pregnant. They were younger than me, but here they were, married and having kids. I wrote myself a note, “I want to have a baby but I am going to give birth to a talk show and a book first.” I realized I was putting my decision to change careers at thirty from lawyer to artist ahead of becoming a mom.

Then a bunch of my queer friends started making babies. And I’ve witnessed how time-consuming fertility is, and how complicated and expensive it is to create life or adopt life. It reminds me that I’m already fighting an uphill battle when I decide I’m ready to start walking up that hill.

The fertility stuff really started hitting home for me two years ago when I began to read Michelle Tea’s journey in xoJane about getting pregnant, aptly called “Getting Pregnant with Michelle Tea.” I adore Michelle so much as an artist and writer, so when she, a punk rock queer femme writer who I have been inspired by for over a decade, said she turned forty and realized she forgot to get pregnant I was like, “Oh shit!” It only added to my arsenal of recreational worry about the age of my eggs and whether I was going to be able to get pregnant when I wanted to. Seriously, every time a new installment of Michelle’s journey was published I would feel a panic about my own fertility.

I think about having kids all the time. So do a lot of women I know who are in their thirties. It’s a thing. It’s this decade in our lives where it feels like we have to make this decision or else!

But what this panic inspired in me was the knowledge that I had to do something about the panic. I couldn’t live like that. I have a lot of complicated feelings about my waning fertility, but I also knew it wouldn’t help me if I just got pregnant because I was scared that someday when I was more ready to do it I would fail. So rather than cook up a kid and become an intentional single mom to allay my panic about fertility, I decided to resolve the panic.

Holding mutliple conflicting emotions at once is an extremely human experience, so the first thing I did about the panic was just to recognize I have lots of feelings about becoming a mom and that’s okay.

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I feel so grateful to have friends who are like family and to get to watch my nieces grow up.

I want kids. I do. But I also don’t want to have a kid on my own. Sometimes I feel guilty about that; I don’t want it enough because I don’t want do it on my own. It feels kind of selfish to want to wait for a partner, someone I know I can rely on, who is invested in mutual growth and creating a family that is spiritual, smart, both independent and interdependent and most of all fun.

I grew up with a single mom. She left my dad when I was eighteen months old for lots of good reasons, including fears for my own safety in the home. She was a single mom with a really young child who was not a single mom on purpose but it was really hard.

I have such a wildly different understanding of her now than I did when I was younger. Once I turned thirty and I realized my mom was single, struggling to put herself through school and raise three and a half year old me when she was my age and I was blown away by her strength and resilience. Everything about being raised by a single mom has colored my entire life–growing up poor, worried about money, class passing–continues to affect my emotional and mental health on a daily basis.

Lots of people in my life have chosen to become single moms and I completely support them making those choices. I can’t do it. I know there’s nothing that prevents me becoming a single parent circumstantially but at this point i don’t want to do it by design. There’s too much I’ve had to overcome. My mom did an amazing job with what she had, but I want to give my kids a different life if I can.

Accepting without judgment that I want to find a good partnership with someone who wants to create a family with me was a big part of pulling the plug on my panic about my fertility.

I was once engaged to get married and we broke up six months before the wedding. We were getting set up to move away and get pregnant. We said it was an “eventually” but I know we would have jumped right into it and had kids. I thought I was happy but I was really living an inauthentic life and not serving my purpose on this earth. I was just doing what I thought other people wanted me to do and walking lock step into what I thought I needed to do to be happy.

Everything about me is different than it was six years ago and I feel really great about that. But for a long time I would think about that relationship ending and hurt myself by thinking, “I lost my shot at having kids.” Such an abusive thing to say to myself, but I’ve done a lot of work to learn how to crawl out of saying self abusive things!

Learning how to change the tapes that my brain plays was another thing that was essential to easing my stress about whether I was ever going to be a mom.

People get really caught up in the fear factors around fertility. Like obesity, people just link age and fertility as forever bad news. But sometimes it’s not bad news. My aunt started trying to get pregnant when she was thirty six. She went off the pill and poof, that month she got pregnant with her first daughter. She had two more pregnancies after that (one miscarried). I also know plenty of people who have had easy times with fertility at lots of different ages, and people who have had hard times with fertility at lots of different ages.

It’s interesting being a homosexual, too, if you’re cisgendered homosexuals. In a pairing where one partner can’t get the other one pregnant there are automatic fertility issues–for me I’ll always have a shortage of sperm unless I can get a friend to give me some, which is still a whole transportation logistics situation. Getting pregnant seems like it happens so easily when you grow up in a culture where 90% of people are opposite sex partnered and getting a kid is actually a lot trickier when you have non-procreative sex. No matter what if I want to become a mom, short of randomly being named in my friends’ wills as potential guardian of their kids, getting a kid will be A Thing.

Whenever a fat friend of mine who is getting married starts talking about going on Weight Watchers I know it’s because a doctor told her she should lose weight to get pregnant. I am always dubious of medical advice to lose weight because I am suspicious of the medical industrial complex that pathologizes weight.

I am also dubious of all the doom and gloom about how old you are and how your eggs wither. Sure, obesity is linked to lots of different things, but people can also be completely healthy and fat as well. Frankly, I think stress and anxiety seem to be the bigger preventions of fertility than fat. I know lots of fat people who have gotten knocked up (either intentionally or accidentally) and I know lots of stressed out people who have not gotten knocked up despite herculean efforts.

I choose what information I participate in by choosing my media. Media is so toxic about weight and my readers know that I choose to love my fat body in a cutlure that says that I shouldn’t. Well, I choose to have faith in my fertility in a cuture that says I’m practically barren at thirty four because old people can’t get pregnant. There’s a whole line of legal thought called the fertile octogenarian and I know that pregnancy is totally possible and I’m not buying it.

Being critical about the media I consume helps me to not buy into other people’s panic about fertility.

One of my favorite genres of reality television is the big family ones. I especially love Sister Wives. I like watching the experience of having a big family with lots of siblings. I also really love that show because I think it’s a genuine portrayal of people living an alternative lifestyle that is faith-based and grounded in a common spiritual purpose. I think about how I probably won’t be able to have four kids like I thought I wanted when I was in my twenties.

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I read a lot of mom blogs (my latest favorite is Michelle Tea’s new project Mutha Magazine). I love them. I know a lot about teething necklaces and cribs. I know I can celebrate and appreciate other people’s motherhood without stressing out about not having that in my life. It’s good detachment, learning how to separate my experience from other people’s experience. We’re all on different journeys with different struggles! Probably there are folks out there who are moms who experience my plus size party girl lifestyle similarly.

There are lots of ways to be a mom. There are lots of ways of getting a kid.

I made the decision to let go and let my faith lead me about how and when I’m going to get or brew a child. It helps me be less anxious about it and in the last six months I’ve really calmed down.

You know that saying that worrying is like a rocking chair? It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere. I’ve decided worrying about my fertility is optional and only serves to stress me out. Getting at the root of anxiety provoking behaviors, thought patterns and lifestyle choices and removing them is what I’ve been doing to be less stressed out. Maybe even these choices I make now about learning how to live an abundant, stress free life will help my body be primed to get pregnant if that is ever my decision.

I think I just want to know that when I have a kid it is going to be because that is the right next step for me. And right now it’s not the right next step for me. Right now the right next step is get my rent paid, continue doing the self care I need in order to finish my memoir, continue to produce really meaningful and fun art. Make good human connections. Do the spiritual and life work I need to do to be truly happy and love myself exactly where I’m at, which is mom to two squishy faced pets and mom to myself.

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ALF, Macy, Me and RIP Bear. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

2013-09-09

Making Changes: My Interview with Grace Chu on her Year of Celibacy

About a month ago I ran into my friend Grace Chu and she told me that she had been celibate for nearly a year and that it has been wildly successful in terms of grounding her and focusing on her photography. She popped open her smart phone to show me an email from a huge publication asking for her to photograph something.

Now, Grace Chu is all about internet anonymity of her photo, so just know that she’s a hot dyke–the kind that every gay girl I knew in college would have dropped to her knees for. She’s really social and has an endearing awkwardness. Also, I have totally noticed over the last year that she seems a lot more serene, grounded and happy.

I checked in again with her last week and I asked if I could interview her on the occasion of her official one year of celibacy and I hope you enjoy her insights!

Photo by Grace Chu
Photo of me by Grace Chu.

What inspired you to get celibate?

Around a year ago, my ex and I broke up, and like every other idiot after a breakup, I started looking around immediately. I’ve seen people fire up OK Cupid minutes after a breakup. (Like, gurl, really?) But it’s natural to want to maintain a level of closeness with another human being when you’ve become accustomed to it, and when you’re in an impaired emotional state, sometimes you don’t make the brightest of decisions. So right after I had a dumb fight with my ex over who could show up at what girl party, I was in a bad mood and decided that I was going to get into trouble, and you know “YOLO, so whateva!” I brought a girl home, and it turned out she’s so drunk and high I ended up having to peel her off the floor as soon as we got to my apartment. So I gave her some water, and after a few minutes of almost incoherent conversation, and without getting into identifying details, I discovered that this girl was in a dangerously bad place. And she’s in my house. And AH MAH GAH, nothing happened but was I really going to go there? Is this real life? I know she’s mental, but I’m also a factor in this situation, so egad – I must also be mental! Nothing good can come out of the pairing of two people in a bad place. Ever!

How long did you initially plan to be celibate? Did you have any parameters around your celibacy (for example, making out is okay but no sex/it doesn’t count as sex if it’s outside or something)?

It wasn’t really a plan. After the above-mentioned disaster, I decided that the best thing to do was take a break from all the madness of dating, focus on my work and nurture existing friendships. Clearly, my judgment was impaired due to physical and emotional neediness, so I figure I’d get back out into the dating scene when I was emotionally at 100%. The parameters you mentioned didn’t even cross my mind. I just shut out all unhealthy distractions or band-aid solutions, period. This also included cutting loose friends and associates that were toxic or gave me anxiety. It was more of a life-cleansing period of time. Simplifying my life. Cutting the fat. Celibacy just came with the package. I don’t really consider making out “hooking up” but I haven’t made out with anyone since last October. No one believes that, especially those who saw me make out with just about everyone during my 20s, but it’s true!

What was the first month like? What activities did you start out doing to fill up your previously used dating/cruising time?

I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg, but right around the time I decided I was going to focus on myself, my night job started gaining momentum. I was picking up new photography clients right and left, and people were offering me gigs outside of my comfort zone, and I really just didn’t have time to think about anything else. I still have a day job as well. At some points that first month I really missed having intimacy, and I wanted to claw my eyes out, but I just didn’t have the time to dwell. Photography is really competive in New York, and if you miss an opportunity, someone hungrier is quite willing to take your spot. Whatever little free time I had left I devoted to friends who have been with me for years. If, god forbid, everything in my life falls apart, those people are the ones who are going to be around, come hell or high water.

Dusty by Grace Chu
I love this photo of Dusty by Grace Chu!

Did you turn down any dates? Were girls pounding at your door now that you weren’t available?

I didn’t give myself opportunities to be approached, so I really have no idea if anyone intended to ask me out. When people complain that they’re being harassed for dates, a lot of times that’s bullshit. Some people who complain that they’re being holla-ed at all the time secretly want the attention and give out mixed signals. You have the power to let people in or not, by your words, by your body language. You can set boundaries immediately. Also, I’m generally aloof and not touchy feely or flirtatious to begin with, so no one really asks me out unless I’m on a dating site. It stinks when you’re looking, but since I wasn’t, my default demeanor was a blessing. I contemplated going back on Ok Cupid for a hot second but the thought of having to sit with a stranger and pretend to be interested became increasingly unappealing as time went by. During this time, I got into a better and better place financially, professionally and emotionally, so I didn’t want to mess with the formula. If your life ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Did celibacy get easier over time?

Yes, think of it like getting over a drug addiction. (Ok, I was never addicted to sex – I’ve actually been with only five people in the last ten years, with periods of down time – but this just happened to be the longest period. I’m just trying to make an analogy!) You’ve seen Trainspotting? At first heroin withdrawal gives you acute pain, but over time, the physical pain goes away. It’s all mental after that. And then you just stop thinking about it.

Did any new interests develop as you had more time to pursue them?

Photography and the day job take up 80+ hours a week now. The last two months have been especially rewarding and lucrative. I have some exciting projects coming up!

Latrell Johnson by Grace Chu
Photo of Latrell Johnson by Grace Chu.

What surprised you most about your year of celibacy?

Well I learned quite a bit. A lot of what drives people to pair up is a result of societal pressure, like you’re not a whole person if you’re single and not intimate with anyone. That’s ridiculous. You can find fulfillment in so many ways, and if you’re spending time chasing phantoms and trying to make the wrong people the right people, you’re taking away time and energy from other activities that could bring you happiness – and the people who you already have in your life that love you.

I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent now, and it’s going to be kind of heavy. My friend passed away from cancer this past year, but before she died, around fifty people from around the country showed up at her birthday party. She made such an impact and was such a decent, generous and kind hearted person that people recognized it dropped everything to come spend time with her. A week before she died she told me that she wished she had spent more time trying to find a boyfriend – or working on making her old relationship work. (That relationship, by the way, was unhealthy bordering on abusive, so I am happy she didn’t.) But in the last days of her life, she was surrounded by so much love and laughter, more than anyone could ever imagine. I guess you had to be there, but I was blown away. Sometimes all we need to do is take a step back and realize we are already loved and connected and to appreciate it.

Since I’m no longer in a fog, I’ve become more in tune with what works with me in terms of friends, and possible lovers. I reflected on what didn’t work for me in the past and what kind of emotional makeup in other people is healthy for me. Some people, as nice as they might be, just don’t work with me on a fundamental level, and that’s fine. I’m much more in tune with other people’s energies now, and I am aware of and I am assertive about my own boundaries. It’s like being fitted with glasses when you’ve been myopic.

Photo by Grace Chu
Photo by Grace Chu.

How does someone know they should adopt a period of celibacy? Would you recommend this to others? Any advice?

I mean, if something is causing more harm than good, cut it out of your life. This goes for everything, not just dating and sex.

What are your plans around breaking the vow? Do you have anything lined-up?

Yeah, I’ve got honeys on the speed dial ready to go! Just kidding. I don’t have any plans, really. I’m definitely back to 100% emotionally, so while I’m not actively looking, if something happens by chance, so be it. Many times, we use sex or intimacy as a way to heal ourselves or escape or fill some sort of emptiness, when it should really enhance your life. My life has become pretty damn sweet, so I guess if someone comes along who is also in a good place, and we end up clicking in that way, I suppose things could get sexy – but it has to happen organically or as a happy accident.

This past year, after taking the pursuit of sex and dating off the table, I’ve become closer to some people who had just been acquaintances, and some new fabulous people have come into my life. It was refreshing to get to know people as people in a leisurely manner without stress or expectations. I am also good friends with my ex now! Everything just becomes easier and lighter when you’re grounded and in a good place.

Photo by Grace Chu
A photo of me, Nicky and Jacqueline by Grace Chu.

I am super impressed with Grace’s ability to identify what wasn’t working in her life and take steps to change it and become more in tune with what makes her tick. The process of becoming real–shedding the layers that society puts on you or that you put on yourself to get the attention you think you want–is really hard. But I think once you get more in touch with who you really are you’re able to attract genuine, lasting partnerships (if that’s what you want) into your life.

If anyone out there has a story about changing something that didn’t work for you, please get in touch with me! I’d love to interview you!

2013-09-03

Five Ways I’ve Learned to Embrace the Velocity of Change

A few years ago a friend of mine suddenly got a girlfriend. We were besties and spent a lot of time together, so I wondered why I was feeling weird about it. I was definitely happy for her, I liked her new beau and I was excited for her to get laid. I sat with the feelings for awhile and I realized what I was feeling was fear—specifically fear of change. I knew that changes in our friendship were bound to happen. We were both single and had a lot of nights free that we spent together. Eventually that situation changes.

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For this post I’m using photos from my Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip. I went on that when I needed to shake up the energy in my life.

I parceled it out and realized that the changes were really triggering my fear of abandonment. My parents divorced when I was 18 months old and my dad was mostly out of the picture while I was growing up. That’s a pretty classic recipe for adult fear of abandonment.

Once I could label that it gave me something to do on my side of the street. I could address my fear of abandonment without blaming or getting mad at my friend just for being happy. I don’t ever want to be mad at my friends for following their hearts and being happy! I want them to be happy. This fear of abandonment is something I’ve worked diligently to remove over the last several years, and it involves a lot of embracing the velocity of change.

I’ve noticed my friends going through a ton of big changes lately. Huge new jobs—dream jobs. Sudden moves. Losses of many kinds. A lot of them have gotten into romances in the last few weeks–it reminds me so clearly of that time where I thought I was going to lose my friend. I’m still having to remind myself often that I’ve weathered these kinds of friendship changes before and it is going to be okay.

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Being a hipster in Austin, TX at their monthly Femme night.

I’m positive all of these big changes aren’t just isolated to my friends. Since this is probably relevant to my readers, too, I thought I would do a round-up of some of the things I’ve learned along the way about embracing the velocity of change.*

1.Accept that change is part of living.

I like to remind myself that when things are changing and tranforming that I’m really living. The only constant in life is change. When I get a little dizzy with the “too much too soons” about change (because sometimes the good and the bad changes seem to happen in a flash without warning) I remind myself of that Pearl Jam song titled Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town. For some reason, when I was a fourteen year old devout Pearl Jam fan I heard that song and I would get so afraid that would be me—changed by not changing at all. And given how resistant I was to change at that age (and for many, many years after) it is a miracle I have gotten as far as I have.

I’m also the kind of person who initially resists even the little changes (I have feelings when my roommate moves around the appliances on our countertops), so my square one about change is generally negative. Accepting change as a constant has helped me hop away from that negative box faster than I used to.

Since change in life is a constant, accepting that as true—we cannot grip the happy times just as we cannot escape all the hard times—is actually a relief. When I’m having a shitty feeling I like to chant to myself, “Everything is temporary.” That helps.

Re-envisioning change as a good thing, a sign that my life is dynamic and magical, works for me.

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Having my cards read by a roaming psychic.

2. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Similar to the sentiment above, sometimes seeking out change is a really good thing. I’ve made big changes in my life before—I moved across the country at age 21. That was the first big thing I ever chose to do that forever altered the direction of my life. And it wasn’t my first choice, I really wanted to go to law school at my alma mater but I didn’t get in. Rather than hang out another year in Davis and re-apply I just bit the bullet and moved to Camden, NJ.

This was absolutely the best thing I did for myself at that young age. Without friends, a sense of safety or comfort, I really had to learn who I was. And I found myself. The year after I moved I started identifying as queer, made peace with my body and learned that femme was a thing you could be and it was awesome. I don’t know how long those changes would have taken if I’d never moved. I don’t know if those changes would have ever happened! I had no idea how resilient I was until I had to be.

Me and Jessie Dress
Slow dancing with that dreamboat Jessie Dress.

3. Small changes are good practice for the big ones.

Despite my desire to see change as a good thing, I remain a contented, homebody earth sign. I am so comfortable with things I’m familiar with I have to consciously seek out the discomfort of change. I try to push myself once a month to go to an event that’s out of my scene, I encourage myself to do new stuff. The weird panic I feel even for something as small as taking an unfamiliar subway stop is actually great practice for the big changes I have no control over. The tiny panics are prep. And once I’ve done it once it expands my worldview just a little bit more.

I also like to instigate change just to shake up my energy. Moving things around in my room, doing a purge of a drawer, slightly changing my hair, getting a piercing or a tattoo, going on a trip, these all help me feel change energy in order to shift my perspective on my life.

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Macy interacting with some chickens.

4. Remember all the times I weathered change.

When I started getting that panic about, “OMG the summer is ending and all of my besties are in relationships and I am going to spend all of my Saturday nights alooooooone,” it was helpful to stop and remind myself I’ve been through this before. Some friends just bail when they start dating something. That’s not about me at all. (You know, when they become the “I have to check ‘our schedule’ friends.” And the friends I have now slipped in there for the friends who slipped away. It’s the ebb and flow of life. My closest friends, our relationships have weathered a ton of changes. Including long stretches of not talking or moving long distances. But those are the kinds of friendships where you can pick up the phone and it’s as though no time has passed at all.

I’ve realized I never know what a friendship is going to look like when it starts and it is only time that tells me whether it will endure the shifts in our lives.

Just like friendships, I’ve gone through a ton of other changes that, at first, felt like a huge crisis but eventually became great opportunities. The whole memoir I’m writing is basically about how I weathered some tremendous changes in my life. (My wedding was called off six months out, I lost my job of five years and six months later was forced out of my apartment.) The good thing about those changes was (spoiler alert) I learned how resilient I am.

When I got laid off again by a small business I worked at for a three years, I learned it definitely gets easier the second time around. Applying this even to unfamiliar change is really helpful to shift my perspective from fear to curiosity. I don’t know what life is bringing me with each new change, but I know I have a choice about how I look at it.

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We were in Louisiana long enough to stop for gas and this photo at a rest stop. Definitely need to get back there and do NOLA!

5. Use your shitty feelings to teach you about yourself.

As someone who likes to learn and grow, I’ve found that often my shitty feelings are trying to teach me something about myself. Like how my panic around my bestie getting booed up taught me about my fear of abandonment, often there’s a lesson in my resistance to change.

Leaning into the shitty feelings is something I learned from my life coach when I was being life coached by Lynnee Breedlove. He told me once that if you imagine shitty feelings like an ocean wave that going through them is the best way to get to the other side. (Rather than fight them or just get out of the ocean altogether.) He said he likes to send up a prayer of “Thanks” whenever he’s facing a yucky change, reminding him to stay in gratitude.

I’ve got a couple of book recommendations. One is by SARK, a thought leader I enjoy who writes playful and deep books. Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity is an amazing book! SARK details a year where she lost a partnership, the death of her mother and her beloved cat companion. She walks through the process of turning these losses into opportunities to grow. It’s playful and deep and taught me a lot about learning how to embrace changes as they come. There are a ton of questions to ask yourself, workbook style. But even the narrative alone, if you’re not ready for the work, is worth the read.

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At Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium in Atlanta.

For the spiritually inclined, I also really enjoy Transitions by Julia Cameron. She wrote the Artist’s Way, so when I saw this in a tiny twelve step bookstore I visited when I was traveling cross country I snatched it up. Lately I’ve been reading the bite size reflections on change before I go to bed. It’s really amazing perspective on the good elements of change that we often can’t see through our pain. I like it a lot. It’s non-denominational and talks about God in the Spirit/higher power sense.

The result of my friend getting booed up years ago? We drifted apart. But it wasn’t nearly as hurtful or catastrophic as my panic at the time acted like it would be. I weathered the changes in our friendship and I’m confident I’ll keep weathering all the new changes my friendships have to offer.

*I am borrowing this term from an affirmation in Badass Resilience: Black and Brown Femme Survivor Love and Desire Affirmations by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Keisha Williams.

2013-08-26

Getting a Rapid HIV Test at the LGBT Health Clinic

My straight BFF says she’s annoyed when she gets screened for STIs because it’s often as a result of a break-up and she thinks you should get banged after you get a clean bill of health, as a reward. Except you sometimes get this stuff taken care of at the end of the road because maybe you were cheated on or you realized you had some miscommunications with someone about fluid bonding and probably you should get tested for your own peace of mind. And then there’s no one to bang you when it comes back clear. Just maybe a little bit of relief and an iced coffee when you don’t get a call that anything is wrong.

Herstorically I have gotten my Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) tests as part of my annual pap smear. And I say annual but I really mean when-I-was-sure-it-had-been-over-a-year-and-I-got-around-to-scheduling-it. So probably ever 18-24 months, unless there was a risk factor situation like a break-up, cheating, etc… I haven’t had health insurance for almost two years and in these lean times I often regret all the time I had health insurance and I squandered it by not doing things as much as possible that at the time I had the financial ability to get done.

If you ask me I'll say yes please to you today. #anicat
My cat, ALF.

I’ve always had similar experiences. Small office, used to seeing straight people, who are monogamous/married/parents or otherwise not particularly sex positive in any way. I have had to explain why I wanted a full panel of STI tests many times. I don’t think you should have to explain why, if you’re at the doctor you should just be able to get tested for what you ask for. It’s mildly infuriating but I’m at a point in my life now where I don’t let it get to me. I just calmly say, “Because I’m a responsible sexually active adult, that’s why, now test me.”

So this time I needed to get screened, I took my uninsured responsible sexually activish* self to the local LGBT health clinic that I feel fortunate to have as a resource. I was curious what it would be like to get screened there, in an environment that is actually sex positive and won’t look shocked when I tell them I’m a lesbian. They even have all of the check boxes about sexual orientation on the intake form. I even felt free to check off both lesbian and queer.

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Me, in a Midwestern pharmacy!

After the intake I saw a counselor who asked me a lot of questions I didn’t expect. This was my first experience at a sex positive environment getting tested, I’ve barely ever talked about my safer sex practices in a doctor’s office, let alone at length with a counselor. It was kind of cool, because even if you know all the stuff you think you should know sometimes you wonder and it’s nice to have someone give you feedback.

She asked me some startling questions about what my support system was and whether or not I was suicidal. I didn’t expect it to get into my mental health. But that’s part of the risk factors when doing an HIV screening and they cover their bases at the health center. She asked me if I wanted to have a rapid HIV test, where the results are available that day or if I wanted to do a blood draw. The difference was that the rapid test would only cover me through April, not through present day and the blood draw would cover me through the week prior. I decided to do both, to “cover the spread.”

She pricked me on the finger for blood and it unexpectedly hurt pretty bad. I was bruised for a couple of days. I said, “Ow ow ow, sex hurts.” Because I make a lot of jokes when I am feeling awkward.

After my poke test, I went in to see a doctor for blood draws and urine for everything else.

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My dog, Macy.

I didn’t schedule a pap at the same time because I was afraid I couldn’t afford it and there’s a sliding scale that the clinic doesn’t determine until you go in. But the doctor suggested I come back to do a pap because I had an abnormal pap two years ago. Callen Lorde is now suggesting paps every five years based on the CDC’s recommendations about waiting up to five years for a pap smear, but not if you’ve had an abnormal screening.

I had to meet with the counselor again, once all of the blood was drawn, to go over the results of my rapid test. It was nice to get the results in person, since usually test results are “if you don’t hear from us it’s clear.”

I made another appointment to go in for the pap (now that I knew how much it was it was significantly less scary financially) so I scheduled my follow-up results appointment for the blood draw with the same counselor. The pap was interesting because the new doctor was a lot more brusque and not compassionate in any way. I have a lot of coping mechanisms around the medical industrial complex but times like that, when your doctor is kind of cold and not very nice about you not having prior medical test results with you (no one asked me to bring them in), it feels extra vulnerable when you’re doing a medical exam that is as personal as a pelvic.

Also at that visit I had a new weird interaction about weight at the doctor’s office. No one mentioned my weight at all except when the nurse asked me how much I weighed last time I weighed myself. I had a break-up (I usually can’t eat much when I’m devastated) and I’ve been doing this anti-candida eating so I’ve lost some weight and I’m at a pretty low number for me. I told him the number without the background and he looked me up and down and said, “I don’t see it.”

It was weird. Like a backhanded compliment of “Your number is high but you don’t look like you carry that much weight.” I used the moment to casually say, “Everyone carries weight really differently, it’s impossible to eyeball someone’s weight.” But still, so weird, that I’m at this low for various reasons that aren’t really by choice and he’s indicating the number is still high. But luckily he didn’t tell me I had to lose weight or die or anything. Just such a weird interaction. Can’t just getting my weight be the only conversation we have about it? Or can it be accompanied by the health practitioner asking, “Do you have any concerns about that number?”

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Me with my friends’ adorable baby wearing pants as a hat. Maybe when she’s older doctors will tret the whole patient and not just numbers on a scale. Photo by Suzanne.

I’m still waiting on those results and hoping the pap finds nothing abnormal. I hope that writing this up helps encourage other folks who need to get screened (or have been nagging themselves about getting screened) to call up wherever and make it happen. I find these things much less scary when I know what’s going to happen.

I also wanted to pass along this personal narrative from Scarleteen about safer sex practices amongst folks who have queer sex, it touches on a little how-to, barriers to talking about safer sex and advocating against the invisibilizing of STI risk amongst female assigned at birth folks who have sex with other female assigned at birth folks.

*When the nurse asked if I was sexually active I said “sorta.”

2013-07-23

Mind Diet: Ways I’m Tuning my Radio Dial to Joy

Years ago I started calling my blog a chronicle of the relentless pursuit of my joy. I’ve known from The Success Principles by Jack Canfield (I highly recommend reading it or listening to the abridged audio book) that joy is a compass that helps you find where you’re meant to go in this world. It’s amazing how you can hear something and believe something but putting it into practice is really difficult. One step at a time, definitely.

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Photo by Grace Chu from Yes Ma’am this weekend.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a spiritual advisor/friend about my businesses and how I’ve been struggling to make financial ends meet for the last year while still carving out time to finish my book. I am a part time attorney with my own firm as well as give workshops and produce events. These are all pursuits that bring me different levels of joy and connection. Her insight was, “Maybe you don’t believe you deserve this life? Maybe there’s something blocking it?” Something resonated deep and I’ve been working on the deserve part of it ever since.

A bit after that I had three big, weird, hard and hurtful things happen within twenty-four hours–culminating in this subway harassment. I was doing a lot of crying about these things and struggling. I am a faithful person who believes in the ultimate good in the universe but I had some moments of looking up into the sky going “Really?”

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Me and Leo at Prime. Photo by Drae.

My friend Drae throws this party for queers over thirty called Prime. (Next one is August 17th in Brooklyn.) One of the amazing things she has at the party is free “Woo Counseling.” An intuitive named Shaina sits with you, does a read on you or clears your chakras. I agreed to work the door at Prime as long as I got to see Shaina first before my shift. I told Shaina about the three events and she said, “You’re doing great! These things are just telling you you’re on the right path! What you need to do is change your radio frequency to joy and this stuff won’t affect you so hard.”

She explained that we vibrate on different frequencies. It’s very similar to how thoughts control your life (see Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life for a great primer on the law of attraction). If you’re on a dial where you think everything is against you, shift it up a few notches and vibrate on joy. Focus on happiness, silliness, playfulness, creativity. I do a lot of regular practices to keep my creative juices flowing and focusing on joy is definitely one I had been letting slip in my artistic hygiene. I’m a very positive person, but even when you believe in positivity it’s easy to slip and forget to revel.

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Tying Miss Mary Wanna’s corset. Just an average Saturday night in a Noxema commercial.

So I took Shaina’s advice. I got even more focused on grounding myself every day. I turn my phone to airplane mode when I go to bed and I don’t turn it back on until I’ve woken up, had iced lemon water, written my morning pages, done my affirmations, given ALF his pill and told my dog I love her. Morning pages are a practice from The Artist’s Way and they are a sort of meditative, tenth step inventory, prayerful, garbage dump of thoughts longhand on three pages every morning. Some people do 20 minutes but I need to fill the pages and sometimes the thoughts come fast or slow.

I have a bunch of affirmations I’ve written for myself but I also incorporate these Badass Resilience: Black and Brown Femme Survivor Love and Desire Affirmations By Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Keisha Williams every morning. Looking into a mirror and saying them into my eyes if I can.

I feel pretty awesome that I’ve done all of these grounding exercises (and even some yoga) every day for four weeks, which is remarkable consistency for me.

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I went to this party on Pride weekend that was definitely a remake of the U4EA episode of 90210. Photo by The Think Theater Queer Photography.

Shaina also suggested I have a “mind diet” and focus on my joy. Learn a song and perform it in a video, for no big deal other than to do it. I started learning a song but what I ended up doing with it was using the song whenever my mind was slipping to not joyful thoughts.

I also know that gratitude practice is really helpful for me to orient myself to joy. The idea is that if you focus on the abundance in your life it will attract more abundance.

Lately I have been taking note of these moments that feel like a Noxema commercial in my life. You know in the opening scene of Clueless where Cher narrates, “I know you’re going, is this like a Noxema commercial or what? But I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl.” Cher totally doesn’t have a normal life, and neither do I. I think the first moment I thought of that I was watching a bunch of my friends dance on a bench at WHAM BAM in the twilight while Hall and Oates was playing.

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Noxema Commercial moment happened really soon after this. Photo by Kelsy Chauvin.

Every time I have a Noxema commercial moment I stop and acknowledge it. Either to myself or to my friends specifically. At a midnight beach party on the third of July, my friend Quito spent three nights staking out the perfect illegal spot for folks to converge on a beach in the Rockaways. It was so dark you couldn’t see anyone but the folks you came with. It was intimate, adventurous and completely beautiful. Last week late night pool party swimming with a bunch of queer porn stars and sex workers at a conference in Vegas. I was in the pool commenting to someone, “This is my real life.”

I appreciate these crazy adventures, I appreciate all the living I do through even the rough spots that hurt. I think the hurt is sand paper that’s smoothing out the parts that need it so I can fit myself to the next adventure. Maybe if I wasn’t hurt so hard when my engagement ended nearly six years ago I wouldn’t have the alchemy needed to have these Noxema commercials in the summer of 2013?

I think this plays into the “do I deserve this” question which is that since I am given it and I work hard for it, I do deserve it. I get to enjoy it and revel in it. I should do those things.

My friends have also been amazing. I have had a hard time being open to romantic interludes but letting my friends woo me has been great practice at heart opening. Three weeks in a row I got flowers from a friend just because they wanted to be sweet to me. Even the amount of kind words has been incredible. Jacqueline in particular has been the most romantic friend I’ve ever had, last week in Vegas she woke me up by spooning me when she knew I needed it and drew me a bath after she saw me having a hard conversation–this bath also had bubbles, rose petals, Prince’s “Adore” on repeat (one of my favorite Prince songs) and hotel-brewed hibiscus iced tea. Her game is FIERCE.

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So I’ve been on this mind diet for a month and I have to say I had to suspend a little disbelief about it (as in thoughts of “I don’t know if this is really working”) because I’ve had this weirdo cloud over me for awhile. I know that I can hold multiple conflicting emotions at once, which is not something I realized I could do until a couple of years ago. For example, just because I have some sadness and hard feelings that creep around doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy other things and experience moments of joy. Conversely, just because I have the mind diet doesn’t mean that suddenly everything was great. Being joyful requires work, tons of self care and conscious orientation towards exuberant joy.

But I think it’s really working. It’s been one month exactly since I began it. Because I was doing such good work focusing on my feelings, I could parcel out things I might need some bigger help with. I emailed Katie at Empowering Astrology about it and she said it was work I could do on my own, but if I wanted to have a 30 or 60 minute session with her to work on it we’d see if Spirit wanted it and the money would come. And then, the very next week, I won a session with her in a raffle at a conference I went to. It was very random and serendipitous. The session I had with her yesterday helped me feel more empowered and lively than I have in months. Not since my break-up/extended break-up remix and my cat passed away.

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Perhaps just the presence of the divine Jacaueline Mary in my life makes it a Noxema commercial?

I might write up my session more in-depth when I figure out the words for the twists and turns of the universe lately, but today I’m just enjoying this simple joy, release and lightness of being. Here’s a write-up from my first session with Katie.

So, to summarize, this is how my mind diet tuning my radio dial to joy went down:

1. I ground myself every morning.
2. I focus on gratitude.
3. I do silly things.
4. I shift negative/hard thoughts towards joyful ones.
5. I pay attention to my feelings.
6. I ask for help.
7. I let love in.

For sure I am going to keep these practices up. I would love to hear in the comments how you tune your radio dial to joy!

2013-06-14

Untapped Cruising Territory: The Park Slope Food Coop

As a person who believes strongly in abundance, I know that out of 8 million New Yorkers there are plenty of pockets of queers I don’t know. They say life begins at the end of your comfort zone and I am on a journey to explore queers in the city from places outside of my comfort zone. Untapped cruising territory.

I’ve long postulated that the Park Slope Food Coop, a fairly legendary place in Brooklyn, is teeming with queers I don’t know. I mean, it’s teeming with people I do know since I can count thirty members who are friends of mine without really trying. But since most of those folks I know from social situations and everyone has to grocery shop, there’s probably a ton of members that are hot queers I wouldn’t otherwise run into.

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The event: My friend Victoria needed to get some grocery shopping done for a big party she was throwing and she knew I wanted to come check out the Food Coop. I already know about the strict membership work requirements (if you can’t get someone to cover your shift your penalty is two workshifts and it goes up exponentially from there), the abundance of cheaper organic groceries and how you can’t shop without being a member. But you can visit.

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Why this is untapped for me: I’ve been hearing about this place the entire decade I’ve lived in New York City but never stepped foot inside.

The outfit: Given that Victoria texted me as I was walking home from the gym I had about five minutes to get ready. One of my exes was a member of the Coop so I figured I’d play to my audience and wear something really “girl next door” since that’s what she liked. This is really how I think sometimes, playing to my audience in these sort of leaps of consciousness, My ex who shops there liked this kind of aesthetic so probably someone else will. No make-up, casual clothes, not typical cruising gear, but we work in the situations we have.

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The Wing Femme: Victoria is a perfect Wing Femme. She’s very friendly, outgoing, positive about the possibilities of me getting laid and knows the Coop well.

Before we went in she looked at me and said, “Bevin, remember, it’s not all twenty- and thirty-something queers in there.” I think she had low expectations for my cruising at the Coop theories.

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The scene: I had to bring a state-issued ID with me in order to be signed in as Victoria’s visitor. She also had to sign a form that I would not shop while I was there, and I got a neon yellow date-stamped visitor badge. We started our adventure upstairs, where Victoria returned a soda stream canister to receive a deposit. (Deep discounts on soda stream canisters is a big plus for the Coop.) She then checked for open workshifts as she is a free wheeling FTOP member and doesn’t have an assigned shift.

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I ran into many folks I knew while I was there, including upstairs. But we had a lot of grocery shopping to get done so Victoria and I hit the floor and got serious about some produce. Almost immediately a dude started a conversation with us while we were discussing tofu and tempeh. He piped up, “You know they also have a different kind of tempeh in the freezer section that doesn’t have preservatives. And these tamales!” He held up a frozen tempeh tamale triumphantly.

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I couldn’t believe the true Portlandia hilarity of having someone talk about tempeh so fervently at a food coop.

At first I was disappointed that the only cute people I saw were people I already knew, but then this hot forty something silver haired masculine of center person with good glasses arrived in the produce section while Victoria and I were discussing brussels sprouts quantities and I nudged Victoria. She raised her eyebrows at me.

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Victoria has told me about the recent Coop controversies, including whether or not they should discontinue providing plastic bags in the produce section. I guess your options are bring your own bag or free ball it. I noticed that the hot butch was bagging her produce in reusable organic cotton bags made for this purpose. Without thinking, I just asked her about the produce bag controversy. And then I was engaged in conversation with this hot person and I didn’t know where to go with it after we talked about produce storage in the refrigerator.

It was like going fishing and catching something by accident and fumbling to grab the net and dropping it in the lake.

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But the incident did tell me that shopping for groceries with people you work in cooperation with makes for easy and accessible conversation. No need for a pick-up line when you can just talk about reusable organic cotton produce bags, you know? It was like the twenty teens version of the beginning of the Tales of the City book where everyone goes to cruise in the grocery store in late 70s San Francisco.

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While we were there I spotted four more hot queers I would want to pick-up. It was great! I think that totally qualifies as “teeming” with hot queers. Also you learn a lot about someone by what they buy at the Coop.

I was also totally into the products sold at the Coop. I embarked on a new whole foods lifestyle with a cleanse eliminating seven of the most inflammatory foods a little over a month ago and there are tons of products I can eat. (Corn, sugar and soy are in, like, everything. But not so much at the Coop!) Also there’s a pretty baller bulk foods aisle with a ton of bulk loose teas and about one trillion tiny bags of nuts.

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It was crowded in my estimation, though people kept telling me it was a pretty light day crowd-wise. I couldn’t really imagine how it could be more crowded. There were so many people crawling all over the place, because member workers were doing shifts restocking things and being in the way, there were people shopping and big palettes of restocking stuff on the floor. As our time at the Coop continued I couldn’t really figure out where to be. If you lingered in front of a product someone would invariably ask you to move. There was nowhere to be that wasn’t in the way. I think this could have been easier if there weren’t so many people on the floor working at the same time. I don’t think this is a size thing, because even the smallest small child would be in the way, but situations like that are super obnoxious when you live in a society that’s always giving you shit for being too big. I was trying to wait in line with Victoria and her huge cart and I got asked to move so many times I thought I was doing a folk dance. This might be the single reason I wouldn’t join the Food Coop.

Most people were all business about shopping, but since I was there to cruise I was all smiles and most of my smiles were returned by people. I even caught some Femme visibility from this cutie twenty something queer wearing a pink shirt when I had to do a little awkward dance with them while trying to get to the bulk foods aisle to assess the tea varieties available (if I’m going to become a member this is an important thing for me to know). And then when I was done doing our awkward dance I winked at them.

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Checking out gave us the opportunity to chat up yet another worker member of the Coop, and I got to scramble to find enough boxes to put all of Victoria’s spoils of victory in. We had to go through the check-out line, stop in a different cashier line to pay and then stop by this other hot queer checking the number of parcels we had against our receipt. It was complicated, but I guess that’s cooperative grocery shopping.

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The verdict: Sold. There are so many cruising opportunities at the Food Coop. There should totally be mixers at the Coop for folks to meet each other. Also, working on your work shift totally gives folks the opportunity to chat with each other. I mean, there’s also a lot of potential awkwardness (shopping for groceries during a break-up sometimes means crying in public, what if your ex shows up, etc…) but I guess you could just go to the place down the street from you.

I don’t know if I’ll join the Coop myself. It costs $100 to buy in and it’s two busses away from my house which is not even a little convenient, but I like knowing I was right about the potential cruising hotbed sitting right there in the middle of Park Slope.

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FYI they sell the Diva Cup for basically half-off retail.

2013-06-10

Bevin Brandlandingham Guest Starring in the Lesbian Love Octagon on June 19th

A couple of years ago my friend Kim Kressal produced a run of the musical she wrote about dyke drama in the nineties called the Lesbian Love Octagon. I got a chance to see it during it’s brief tenure at the Kraine theater in the Lower East Side and was completely smitten. Whenever I tell folks about it, and I’ve told a lot of folks about it, I always reference my favorite song, the relevant lyric which is “Dyke drama and tofu scramble, that’s what we serve at the Lesbian cafe.” It’s a pivotal scene during which brunch is peppered with some serious ubiquitous ex-girlfriend messiness.

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This is one of the stars of the Lesbian Love Octagon in her go-go dancing alter ego at the first Yes Ma’am party.

The entire musical is so amazing because being a dyke in the nineties in New York City is so different! Back when our communities supported dedicated dyke coffee shops and bars and break-ups happened in person and not on Facebook. I often puzzle about how people made plans before we had texting and how people figured out how to get anywhere before google maps on our smart phones. Did they just carry subway maps and atlases around?

Kim (along with co-music writer Will Larche) wrote an incredible musical slightly based on her real-life group of friends. It’s clever, hilarious and tender. It’s also a real-deal production with actors appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity and awesome songs. I absolutely loved it when I saw it two years ago and was thrilled in a squeaky way when Kim told me it was being relaunched in June 2013, which is now. I’ve always thought this show should be a permanent off-broadway show for all visiting homosexuals to enjoy while in NYC. It makes a great date night!

Here’s the synopsis of the show:

Set in the late 90s on the Lower East Side of New York City, LESBIAN LOVE OCTAGON follows the journey of Sue, a less than butch dyke with a broken heart, as she tries to cope with losing her girlfriend to her ex-girlfriend. When Sue’s friends (a bevy of ex-girlfriends and ex-girlfriends’ ex-girlfriends) come rushing to her aid, they incite a tempest of lust and betrayal as they try to convince Sue that the answer to happiness exists in polyamory, pomade, and online personals. A riotous look at a righteous time in lesbian history, LESBIAN LOVE OCTAGON is a musical for anyone who has ever loved wimmin’s bookstores, tofu or cats.

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I was pretty thrilled when I fell into my first Lesbian Love Octagon in real life last year. I went on some dates briefly with someone (Dyke A) who later introduced me to someone else (Dyke E) I went on dates with and two other people (Dykes C & D) that Dyke A ended up going on dates with had a weird love entanglement. It was LLO realness and I was thrilled to have a word for it. The next time I saw Dykes C & D I said, “Hey, did you know we’re in a Lesbian Love Octagon?” I think you can understand why lesbian love entanglements are made for the musical format.

Kim asked me to guest star in the show, which means I play a small but meaty role of a performance artist from the 90s. I’ve written something very hilarious. I’ll be there on June 19th, you can buy tickets at this link.

But even if you can’t make it to my guest starring performance, I think you should absolutely get tickets for this on any of the days during its run because it will sell out. This is must-see lesbian entertainment.

Read more about the Lesbian Love Octagon!

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Me at a fundraiser date auction with one of the real life people in the friend group this musical is based on.

2013-06-07

Introducing Bandelettes, a Sexy New Way to Prevent Thigh Chafing

This blog post is brought to you in partnership with Bandelettes. Like me, Bandelettes agree that people of all sizes should get to enjoy as many fashion opportunities as possible free from chub rub. The words and opinions are all mine.

Ever since I learned there was something one could do to prevent chub rub while wearing dresses I have become somewhat of a magpie about remedies and prevention strategies. I have a whole round-up post about the causes and myriad prevention strategies for thigh chafing.

Bandelettes are a strategy that doesn’t involve creams, lotions or reapplication. They are bands of stretchy lace 6″ long and silicone grippers that fit on your thighs where the chafe is most egregious and prevent the rubbing.

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I was a bit dubious at first, having been wildly disappointed by thigh high stockings in the past where the silicone gripper was meant to keep them up and failed horribly. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how well Bandelettes performed!

You order Bandelettes based on the measurements of one thigh. You just take a tape measure and wrap it where your thighs are the chaffiest (where the Bandelettes will go) and send that into the wonderful women in Staten Island who captain this endeavor. Bands come in 5 sizes – A – 21-22″, B-23-24″, C – 25-26″, D-27-28″ and E – 29-30″. They also are ready to sell size F – 31-32″ but with different lace pattern not as shown on pictures.

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My thigh is about 29 inches. so technically I’m an E, though they sent me the D and that actually fit me really well. And everyone wears their fat differently (never forget the myriad of body diversity within size fat), and everyone, even skinny folks, can succumb to thigh chafing.

I got my test pair last weekend when we had a freak late Spring heat wave.

Bandelettes are light–like tiny pieces of lingerie for your thighs. And they are actually pretty sexy. The beige ones are only a slight bit darker than my very pale thighs, but I think the black ones would look like cute lingerie peeking out from under a mini skirt or short shorts.

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Imagine how hot this would look with a fat, round ass.

My tender, chafe free thighs are scared to try new things, so I started with just a trip to the store. I put them on and adjusted them to the biggest part of my thigh, using the fat at the top of my inner thigh to hold onto the lace. They fit snugly there and were really comfortable. It didn’t feel like “nothing,” I was always aware that they were on me, but it was kind of like underwear on my thighs and not uncomfortable.

It felt much more free than wearing bike shorts, thigh shapers or even leggings. After walking to the store, I hung out in them for the rest of my evening and they felt fine, they never bothered me.

The ultimate test was the next day when I wore them to the beach. They lasted the whole day, through sweat and walking a really long way and held up great. I was a little nervous at one point that they might shift around but they never did. I’m sold on Bandelettes!

The packaging warns against wearing them over lotions or other creams because it could degrade the silicone. Hand wash, etc…

Bandelettes are so tiny they could easily fold up and tuck into your purse. They weigh less than my tiny travel body glide (my go-to clear chub rub prevention cream) and don’t melt in hot weather, which is why I took them to the beach!

At $14.99 Bandelettes are a bargain. Literally a third of the cost of a good pair of thigh shapers, and just a bit more than a tube of body glide.

Bandelettes also rule because, if you’re in a sexy situation, having some pieces of lace on your thighs is a lot sexier for spontaneous sexy times than having to excuse yourself to wriggle out of a pair of compression thigh shapers (how many times have I hastily shoved those in the bathroom of a queer bar, praying we weren’t going to walk very far).

I only wish there was a more gender-neutral version of Bandelettes, because as we know, chub rub affects all gender presentations!

I highly recommend adding Bandelettes to your summer arsenal! I’ve added them to my tips for preventing thigh chafing post, along with a great new natural remedy I picked up from another fat femme friend!

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2013-05-20

The Forest of the Future: A Sanctuary at the Edge of the World

Back in March, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in an amazing sanctuary space amidst a temporary art installation in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It’s hard to explain what the Forest of the Future was, but for some background you can read the curator/producer Quito’s statement about it here. It really gives a good background of how they just wanted to make a magical space to bring together a bunch of the visionaries they’ve met in their world travels, see what connections and catalyzing could happen, and that space was a forest.

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Me, Quito, Sparkles and Dusty.

The Forest had a team of amazing artists who worked endlessly to make it happen. I first arrived on opening night to volunteer and everyone had clearly been missing sleep for days. No wonder, once you stepped inside the space was truly otherworldly. That doesn’t come without an intense about of labor, love and vision.

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This video by Ricardo Nelson is a treasure and gives an overview of what the Forest looked like that still photos can’t quite capture (I’m in the first few frames, fisting a tree).

Forest of the Future : A Sanctuary at the Edge of the World .. from Ricardo Nelson on Vimeo.

There were lots of events that happened at the Forest during its two-week run, but it was also open daily for hang outs pretty much whenever you knew someone was going to be there (or 3p-late if you didn’t know someone). Quito did a lot of sleeping at the Forest, so I did a lot of solo time because I could get in.

Here is a list of amazing things I did while in the womb of the Forest of the Future:

I slow danced to “The Golden Age of Hustlers” as recorded by Justin Vivian Bond, with my then sweetheart. It’s a song I love deeply and never hear, so it was serendipitous that it played at that right moment and filled me with such sweetness and connection, not just to my sweetheart but to the universe.*

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I made out in the button bog.

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I had a couple of deep fights in the button bog that have left buttons in so many surprising places in my room.

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I read my tarot cards in the tree house when no one was in the Forest but me and some girl sleeping on the mushroom pillows in the field below.

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I did queer punk yoga twice, lead by Lizxnn Disaster.

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I cried my eyes out as LeRoi Prince read an amazing piece invoking the struggles of our queer ancestors. It’s the kind of thing that I try to invoke appreciation for before every Rebel Cupcake, but in long form.

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I had a flirtation/romance/make-out with a hot foreigner.

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I sang sea shanties along with a crowd, lead by a performance artist.

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I sat in on a discussion about queer communities, discussed what we owe communities as leaders and “who are your people.”

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I had a long conversation with a different foreigner about love and relationship permutations, polyamory, nonmonogamy and why we have such limited words for all the different types of romantic relationships we can have in the English language.

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I brewed and served tea in great cauldrons as a volunteer shift.

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I ate melty rose butter on fresh bread baked as an art installation.

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I made some amazing connections with people I already knew. I met a lot of new people. I developed a better understanding of radical faeries.

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I went to a sexy party that was dedicated to giving healing energy to Kate Bornstein. We all signed a card before people went off to their various corners/trees/button bogs/home to have some privacy.

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After a performance, during a dance party, I literally lost three hours. I thought it was 11PM and it was 2AM. All concept of time was erased that night.

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I cuddled on mushroom pillows.

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I did yoga in a field of soft fake grass and confetti. I never thought I would be able to say that. It was messy and liberating.

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I knitted. A lot. Many times during those two weeks I just packed up my knitting and hopped the train to the Forest. Quito brought a chair up from the green room just for me knitting. One time I wore fairy wings while I knitted.

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I watched Quito read from their upcoming book about Brooklyn nightlife and saw a lot of amazing photos of me and my friens from 2009-2011.

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I laughed hysterically as a bunch of buttons clattered out of my bra on the floor of the bathroom.

I saw people get rope suspension in the trees. It was so beautiful.

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I got yelled at by security for loitering in the wrong part of the building but my companion sweet talked them into letting us look at the view of Manhattan at night anyway.

And so much more. The Forest of the Future was an extraordinary thing in which linear time didn’t exist and reminded me how all amazing things don’t have to exist forever to change you forever.

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*My friend Silas Howard and Justin Vivian Bond and others are fundraising to make a video of the “Golden Age of Hustlers.” The video is going to be an homage to queers, transfolks, sex workers and will be really beautiful. They need to meet their fundraising goal really soon and can use any help you can donate!

2013-05-10

The Healing Awesomness of Crygasms!

Three years ago someone I respect and love very much, a lesbian event producer who is a pretty big name in a certain set of lesbian circumstances, was shocked that I hadn’t watched any episodes of the Real L Word. I was baffled that she had even seen it and her advice to me was, “You should at least watch one episode and know what they’re putting out there and calling lesbian.”

I took it as a fair point and it so happened, days later I was in a hotel room with Showtime and the Real L Word was on. I watched the one requisite episode and was horrified that the episode began with interviews of the cast about girls crying during sex. One of them in particular stood out with her horror about girls crying during sex. It was so shaming and judgey, I felt so gross about it. I was unimpressed that a show about lesbians was so sex shaming.

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Look, it’s Fancy Feast in a big TV! Real Queer Word! (Even though Fancy is actually into boys, she’s real queer.) Photo by Courtney Trouble.

I wondered how many fresh or curious queer girls were watching the episode and felt ashamed or bad about crying when they were having sex. I felt sad for them. Crying during sex isn’t just “being a chick” or “being needy,” as was characterized in those interviews, it’s a great physiological reaction that often means different things for different people. And, if it happens when you’re having sex with someone, it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means!

Luckily, I feel pretty secure in my sexuality and I didn’t let that person’s judgement affect me. In fact, I feel like it says a lot more about her sex life than anyone else’s. But I want to make it clear to the world, to anyone who has felt like a weirdo about crying during sex that crygasms can be awesome, normal, magical and healing.

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More Real Queer Word shots by Courtney Trouble. Dreamboat Johnny Valentine manages a couple of awesome blogs, including a tumblr about vintage butches!

I’ve cried maybe a dozen times in my life during sex, with about maybe four of my sex partners, and they were all people who were lovers for some length of time. I’m not sure what the alchemy is but it’s got something to do with my overall life emotional state, the quality, vigor and angle in which I’m being penetrated and a certain level of intimacy that sends it over the edge. Sometimes it’s a weeping after it’s over, sometimes it’s just a straight up sobbing cry fest.

Since it doesn’t happen very often, I never thought about how or when to tell my lovers that it might happen and what they should do when it does. But then I was having such unsavory reactions sometimes that I thought it was a good idea to warn people. Not like, make a big deal out of it, but once I’m at the couple months with someone mark I mention casually what might happen and what I’d like them to do if it happens.

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The divine Courtney Trouble.

I went through a couple of times where the person sort of freaked out and stopped having sex. One time someone just stopped and then made the crying about them and it actually wasn’t about them at all and I was sort of annoyed and offended. That ended up with me comforting and reassuring them, while still feeling sort of bereft and emotional. (Which, also, helped me see a real disconnect in how we were relating and was one of the last times I slept with that person.)

What I ask of my lovers now, during a casual moment mentioning that hey I might cry sometime, is that they stay in the act and then later check-in about it. Usually I don’t want them to stop, and I’m the kind of person who is aware enough of my boundaries and am a good sex communicator if I need to stop. Probably I want a power cuddle after. The tears are cathartic in some way, and relate to the release I feel during sex anyway. Also, I reassure them it’s probably not about them.

Since it usually happens with someone I really know well, I was shocked when it happened to me once the second time I slept with someone. We were on like hour five and I thought to myself, “OMG I cannot cry in front of this person so soon,” and I willed it to stop. I still remember the song that was playing, I’m not sure if those Mumford & Sons had anything to do with it.

Crying is really good for you. It’s a good release emotionally, and it is a great activity to unblock the heart chakra. I’m not looking to crygasm every time but I’m not really afraid of it when it happens. I really like that quote, “The cure for anything is salt water, sweat, tears or the sea.” I think all of those could be well-intermingled with sex.

If a crygasm happens with you or a partner, pause and check-in about whether you want to continue, and know that the crying might not be a bad thing. It’s totally natural and happens sometimes! But also be ready for them not to want to continue. Maybe it’s a deep trigger for them and they just need to stop. Or maybe it’s just they’re so tired they can’t keep from crying (have you ever been so tired you can’t stop crying?)

Crygasms during sex are natural, normal and awesome and if I had the Real Queer Word I would make that explicit on that show.

ADDENDUM!

The night this was published I hosted Yes Ma’am and a bunch of people were talking about this blog post! My friend Jacqueline said the funniest thing, “If I ever cried during sex and someone stopped fucking me, I’d not only be a fat, crying person in their bed, I’d be a fat, crying, angry bitch in their bed!” I laughed for a long time. See why it’s good to check in with your partners?

2013-04-26

Untapped Cruising Territory: OK Cupid Mixers

Almost exactly three years ago I started this blog project where I was going to explore places to meet potential dates in New York City that were outside of my comfort zone. I wrote one post (and the adventure did get me a date and a hot make-out, after the fact). Almost exactly two years and fifty weeks ago I rekindled a romance with an ex in LA and stopped needing to cruise because I was back in a long distance thing. Secret monogamous* style.

But, it’s Springtime again! I am looking forward to expanding my horizon! And when a pal of mine who works for OkCupid** offered me a comp ticket to a Queer Women’s Mixer at the Dalloway bar (the newest lez bar in Manhattan) that was exactly one month to the day from my break-up, I thought it was a sign I should try something new. So welcome to post number two in my Untapped Cruising Territory series! Three years later.

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The Dalloway Bar is next door to a doggie day care that has a window for Peeping Lesbians.

Part of moving on is about dipping your toes in the water, finding that fine line between pushing yourself too fast and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone so you can grow.

The event: OKC has started to create a little Web 3.0*** action by facilitating events! They have beer tastings and book swaps and lots of other hipster nerd activities to partake in. This one was just a happy hour for folks. You had to preregister on the site and you could even preview people’s tiny photo icons on the website. Pre-cruising at events, like on Fet Life! This event was just a happy hour, with the intent to meet folks. Very low-key.

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Why this is untapped for me: The Dalloway is a bar I’ve only been to once for a friend’s fundraiser. It’s a sort of gaystream place and I hang out in queer gender weirdo crowds. In a big city like NYC we can self-segregate a bit and I am totally guilty of this. (Hence a blog project to not do that so much!) Also, though I am a total extrovert, I hate small talk! I like authentic, deep conversation with people and the whole “being socially lightweight with the questions I ask because you’re a stranger” thing is not my favorite. This is why I want to be a talk show host! I want to get the meat of the question. So happy hour/networking things are hard for me because it’s pretty surface and shallow.

The Outfit:

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You can’t really tell I’m wearing black leggings and hot black motorcycle style boots with studs on the straps.

I went with something casual but signature. I’m a big believer in wearing colors, especially amongst New Yorkers who tend towards greys, browns and blacks. Next time you’re out in Manhattan after work hours see what I’m talking about. I think when you’re doing a thing about meeting potential dates it’s important to look as true to yourself as possible. I mean, you want to be impressive but without compromising authenticity. I didn’t wear red lipstick until after the sun went down. This is not a hard and fast rule for me, this was just because I knew I wanted to sample the Dalloway’s happy hour truffle fries and didn’t want to worry about having to reapply.

The Wing Femme:

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Bridget. Who could basically teach a class on how to be a great Wing Femme. She knows exactly when to draw someone in and when to back quietly out of a conversation. She knows when to remind you the day of the event that you look like a babe, and when to follow-up the next day to remind you that you’re a babe and a great catch. (Hella important traits when making first forays into dating after a break-up.) Bridget’s pretty incredible.

The Scene:

Approximately fifty queers in a swanky basement happy hour space. Before we even got into the bar I ran into another friend whose break-up is about three weeks younger than mine and I commented, “Didn’t you just get your heart broken yesterday?” But sometimes your friends drag you out as soon as you become single to remind you of the vast pussy possibilities out there.

The Dalloway has their own singles night at 8PM every Tuesday, so they were creating this a combo event. You had to be on the pre-paid ticket list for OkCupid in order to get in, and the swanky door folks offered the glow stick tagging bracelets for anyone who wanted them. Options were Single, Taken or D.T.F.**** I selected D.T.F. Why not? It’s pretty representative of how casual I’m interested in being right now. Getting what you want is all about being clear with your desire.

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The thing to do with singles mixers, according to my bestie Victoria, is to make it your goals to meet as many people as possible and not expect to meet the love of your life. I mean, sure, I believe in love at first sight, but that’s for times like at a friend of a friend’s birthday party or over produce at the food co-op and not at a singles mixer. This is just about a numbers game.

What I liked about the happy hour was that everyone was there explicitly to meet people so folks were a lot bolder than they normally would be because there was a group understanding about interacting. So people seemed to free to just float up to a group of folks and start chatting.

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I stayed close to Bridget and let her do the fishing for us. It seemed that between me, Bridget, her friend Blakely and this other girl Jenny she knew, that we kind of group dated other new folks. “Oh, hey, tell us about yourself,” until somehow they hit it off with one or none of us.

I enjoyed some diet coke (I’m not drinking alcohol anymore as a lifestyle choice), truffle fries and a slider. It felt a little weird to be eating at a happy hour where not a lot of people got food, but I was really hungry and honestly if someone is going to be weird about me eating some truffle fries I just don’t think they’re a good match for me, friend or date.

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The slider was really good and so were the fries. But they totally were expensive even for happy hour pricing, at $5 for a mini burger and $7 for fries. Pricey place, that Dalloway.

The verdict: I spent two hours at the mixer and by the end was pretty done talking to new people. I enjoyed my time but small talk is, again, a lot of specific energy and I was excited to go back to talking to my bestie/wing femme. Also I saw a girl out of the corner of my eye that I swore was my ex’s ex (but maybe she just looked like her) and I freaked out a little.

However, I totally met two people I would absolutely go on a date with, so I think in a crowd of fifty that is a total win. I didn’t ask either of them out (or even flirt that much, I’m not that great at subtlety) because I know at this delicate stage I can’t handle even a little bit of rejection. But it is really reassuring and awesome to know that there are babely babes I want to chat up date-style and have hot make-outs with out there and it’s a small queer world, our paths will cross again.

As I left with my friend who is way more freshly broken-up with than I am, I lamented that no one else was flagging D.T.F. and she proudly lifted up her shirt cuff to reveal her yellow wristband. We had a great laugh.

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My friend Regan.

After the event I noticed that we can now see the actual profile listings of the other folks at the mixer, I guess to help facilitate follow-up!

Bridget says, “They call it ‘Okay’ Cupid not ‘Exceptional’ Cupid or ‘Extremely Effective’ Cupid.”

And my friend who works for OkCupid says this:

With OkC, your experience depends a TON on your priorities & expectations. It is great if: you want to meet a lot of people fast, if you’re pragmatic about casting a wide net and proactive about making the first move, if it’s important to you that the person you are meeting for drinks shares some values or interests with you, if your dating prefs are very specific or unusual in some notable but maybe not immediately apparent way (poly, kinky, looking for sex only, etc.) or if you feel like you are otherwise “not for everybody” and would prefer to get hit on by people who are ready for this jelly (see also Bevin’s note about fat strippers doing really well on OkC.) OkCupid is a BAD idea if: you’re sensitive to rejection or deeply bummed out by strangers ignoring you, if tend to assume it’s “me not them” when people aren’t into you, if you’re skeeved by people you don’t consider suitable checking out your profile or contacting you, if a ‘we met cute’ story is important to you, or if you have high expectations around the level of connection you’ll have with the people you meet.

I think that’s a pretty great nutshell for online dating in general, but especially the OkC situation.

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What’s next on the Untapped Cruising Territory for Bevin? I’m going to try my old ideas from 2010, lesbian softball game, the Park Slope Food Co-op, and A Brooklyn Meat-Up (though I don’t remember what this was). And my friends keep telling me about this Lesbian Herstory Archives speed dating thing for 30+, but I’m not so sure about that.

*Secret monogamous is where neither party has agreed to monogamy but both end up just defaulting to monogamy because they don’t want to do it to/date anyone else.

**For those of you who don’t know, OkCupid is a dating website. It’s good for urban queers and our pals. I know many people who have met their partners from it, especially fat burlesque performers who like cisgendered nerdy dudes. It’s a thing.

***Web 3.0 is where you use social media to meet people in real life! Damien Luxe brought this term unto me.

****D.T.F. I learned from watching Jersey Shore, means Down To Fuck. It’s a hilarious conversation starter.

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These people made out at the mixer, I believe they might call this a success.

2013-04-08

Lean into the Discomfort and Breathe: 10 Strategies for Moving Through Grief and Loss in the Wake of a Break-Up

I love to match make for my friends, and occasionally this comes in the form of me logging into someone’s OK Cupid account while we’re hanging out and soliciting people for them. It’s often a lot easier to hit on someone if your friend is doing it for you.

One of my besties let me loose on her iPad and OKC profile last Fall and reported that she ended up getting a few dates from my efforts. Ironically, one of these dates ended up talking random shit about me to my friend. This date said she didn’t like “Bevin or Sarah Jenny,” another party promoter friend of mine, because we “seem happier than normal,” in a way that was about maybe we didn’t deserve to be happy all the time. (My friend, of course, stood up for me and isn’t going out with this girl again. When the date was informed that Bevin was the reason they were even on the date the girl about died.)

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Me and Sarah Jenny in November. I want to point out that SJ and I are both fat femmes who promote parties but we’re really different people and don’t look much alike. I want to believe this girl didn’t say we’re “happier than normal” because we’re both fat and maybe don’t deserve to be happy because of that. I think being happy in a society that tells you that you should hate yourself is a radical act.

I take this (and most) criticism from people who don’t know me with a giant grain of salt. This statement says more about the person than it does about me.

I’m sure a lot of people perceive me to be very happy, perhaps event “happier than normal.” Most people who are not my close friends or even my acquaintances only have a really limited view of my experience. On my blog and in public I tend to focus on the positive, joyful things about my life. That’s a choice I make to live in a positive framework. But, please do not mistake that I am living a happy 24/7 lifestyle because that is far from the case.

Right now, for example, I feel like dead flowers in a vase. My resting state is sort of wilted and sad. The person I had been keeping company* with for a few months in an intensely connected, spiritual, sexual, emotional, intellectual powerhouse kind of way broke up with me two weeks ago. I am heartbroken and focused on healing. My creativity has been sapped and I’m back in a familiar yet different place of heartbreak.** I contain a lot of conflicting emotions at once, which is a hard place to be in because it can feel like a war is going on. I love her and want her to be following her path which, right now, excludes a relationship. I also love us and want to fight for us.

In helping other heartbroken and healing folks out there, I made a list of strategies I am using right now to get through when the only way out is through. My friend Elisabeth told me last week, on a particularly bad day when I listened to too much Taylor Swift (she helps until she hurts), “Lean into the discomfort and breathe.” Much easier said than done, but I know it can be done because I am actually doing it right now.

I am also using things that have been helpful from the Heartbreak MFA post I wrote in 2010 and from Zoe’s Break-up Survival Guide that she wrote in 2007. At least all of this collective pain is turning into a break-up survival treasure trove.

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At Rebel Cupcake/Sweet Fox Mariah Carey tribute last week. Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

1. Remind yourself that Feelings are temporary and Feelings aren’t facts.
I know feelings are temporary. I know this from a strong belief but also I know this because I am living Feelings on about a six hour cycle. If I feel really shitty right now probably in about six hours I’ll feel less shitty or differently shitty.

2. Be in the present moment.
When I can get into the present moment fully, I can sometimes distract myself. And sometimes I just really let loose and have a lot of fun, dance with my whole body or engage in a full gut laugh, or a full experience of art. But those in between times are a killer and the sadness seeps in.

I never knew how to “be in the present moment” (which sort of sounds like new age hooey, but it really works) until I practiced it. Here’s a beginner trick. Look around where you are and do an inventory of noticing things. Like when I’m walking/traveling my Feelings are the most dominant so I try to check in with my surroundings. “Look, there’s a cute bird,” “Look there’s a place where the wires look like they spell a lyric to a Bruce Springsteen song,” “OMG that sunset is painting the sky full pink and orange how beautiful.”

3. Stick to the plan even when you don’t feel like it.
Making sure I have plans outside the house with at least one other human and at least once a day has been crucial. I work for myself by myself, my beloved roommate has been on tour this whole time, so I can get really lonely, especially because of that void left by the person you used to talk to multiple times a day. Even though sometimes these plans outside the house involve a lot of internalized kicking and screaming, faking it till I make it often means I end up having a great time and usually/almost forget about my heartbreak for several minutes at a time.

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During the entire performance at Rebel Cupcake last week I felt elated. I realized during the second act, “Good lord I haven’t felt bummed out in over a half hour!”

4. Name your feelings.
I’ve learned that Feelings just need attention sometimes in order to move through them. Being okay if I can’t name them at the moment and maybe just getting into the quality of the feelings. “Sucky” and “bummed” totally suffice in this category.

5. Take excellent care of yourself.
Going to the gym, doing all of the regular self-care work I usually do but treating it like my job is crucial right now. I actually have a really hard time eating when I’m emotionally distraught and I’ve been scheduling meals out with friends a bunch so that I can distract myself enough to eat. And at home I make sure I have V8 and smoothies and vitamins so I can just get something in there even when I don’t feel like eating.

Have you ever written out a list of what it means to take excellent care of yourself? Maybe now is a good time to start.

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The genius of Shane Shane. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

6. Doing whatever spiritual work makes sense to you.
I’m a really spiritual person, so much of these things fall into my regular self care, but some are special things that might fall into “treat yo self.”

Here’s a list of spiritual activities that help me:

Prayer
Meditation
Tarot reading
Astrological reading
Past life reading
Yoga
Meeting with a spiritual group
Doing rituals by myself or with a group***
Attending or listening to services (I don’t belong to a religion but appreciate spiritual wisdom in many forms and listen to services via TV or podcast by folks who preach positivity)
Going out to sit in nature and watch birds, the ocean, the trees or whatever
Gratitude lists (there is so much to be grateful for)

Tarot reading with Jacqueline. #babestagram #lesbianteabasket
Jacqueline reached out to me upon hearing about my break-up to offer her tarot services. We met up at Teany and now are blossoming a new friendship! Also it really helped me sort through my stuff.

7. Feel your feelings right now. Be a liberated hot mess.
There’s a lot of empowerment from feeling your feelings as they come. I’ve been crying a lot, wherever whenever, just to let it out, and thus have added to my old lady chic by stuffing tissues in my bra, every pocket and keeping my fancy hankies in all my handbags. I already did that hanky thing, it’s just more diligent.)

I’ve been very honest about my feelings to everyone. Obviously I’m a social butterfly, but the thing about me is that I cannot stand small talk. I also know how empowering it is to be honest about how you are and so I just let people know. Sometimes I soften the blow by making a joke out of it. (“This is my lot in life as a lesbian.”) But even though I soften it being real about my experiences helps me get through it. Authenticity is a very important value to me.

I’ve learned stuffing my feelings as a coping mechanism, hiding from them or doing that classic escapism, rebounding, just makes me have to feel them worse later. Feeling shitty comes with a late penalty. I’d rather just get the grief over with.

Sometimes I feel a little bashful about how sad and needy I am right now, but I know I have people who are safe spaces for it. Spunky has done a lot of watching me cry on google video chat when there’s nothing more to say. (Also, though I am wary about being an energy suck, I actually got a great compliment from someone about how positive I am being in my grief.)

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I was sitting like this eating with my friend Bridget before the party started and Hana walked in and said, “All I can see is tits and barbeque.” Tits deep in BBQ is one of my favorite things to be.

Reaching out for help has been great for me, and letting people who have capacity to lend an ear, text, dinner out come to me has been really successful. Using facebook filters has been a great way to all-call for this. Also, it’s nice to get sympathy from people (and I got a lot of sweet, supportive comments on the “I’m going through a break-up I can’t stop crying” post). That first day when I couldn’t go more than a few minutes without crying, my eyes were so puffy I could barely see, I was supposed to go to a dinner party. I debated going (especially since my ex had been invited so there would be all those weird “She was supposed to be here” realizations) but then I realized that this group of people is part of a spiritual work group I’m in, they support me, and if I had to keep running to the bathroom during Seder to cry they would get it. It turned out that it was a perfect distraction, and I didn’t have to worry about “sparkling” with these women, I could just bring my sad self.

It’s incredibly amazing how, if you learn how to receive, times of heartbreak can really show you how loved you are.

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Moment of woo before Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

8. Doing new things with your appearance.
I rarely wear my hair “flat” to my head because I like big hair. But I’m just trying a new thing because new things while I’m feeling intense discomfort help me feel better. And also there’s a lot of empowerment in reclaiming your body after a break-up. I am vaguely considering going all the way blonde.

9. Proceeding with unconditional love.
I used to play the victim role big time in my break-ups. Learning to acknowledge my loss without vilifying a person in it is a new experience for me. I am hurting, that is my truth. She can’t be in a relationship, that is her truth. I learned a lot from this relationship, including what it is like to really experience unconditional love and conflict from a loving place. I want that to be our experience in a transition place from sweethearts to whatever we’re going to end up being, whether that’s friends or Boston Friends**** or just people who were very connected once but don’t really interact anymore.

This is very difficult work, unconditional love. Especially when that’s not always modeled well, in families, in past relationships, even in the media. How often do you see exes who remain friends in popular culture? How often is it complicated? (Also, as an aside, I think we can all agree that Rayna and Deacon on Nashville are totally Boston Friends.)

My friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha told me today, “I hope you are being sweet to yourself and opening your heart to transformation.” That’s what I’m intending to do with this break-up. Transforming myself through love. I think with love all things are possible, even hope from a really sad place.

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10. Throwing yourself into a big art project.
This was mentioned in a previous break-up post, but this time around I’m combining my love for traveling in the wake of a break-up (my last one had me heading out on a cross country road trip two weeks later) and my love for consumptive art projects to get through loss. My friends Sarah Jenny and Avory of Hey Queen asked me to produce the decor for the “Queens of the Road” themed party this weekend the day after my sweetheart broke up with me. I thought it was a very serendipitous call to action and I’m knee-deep in hot glue, maps and glitter getting ready for this upcoming weekend.

*Our actual relationship status. Our previous relationship status was “dating or whatever” after I said, less than a month into it, “If we’re still dating or whatever this summer I want to go…”

**It’s sort of crazy how much I can open myself up to loving even more after every heartbreak! And then I feel hurt again when it’s over in a new and different, yet somewhat familiar way. It is a comfort to remember I got over this before, in bigger and worse break-ups, therefore I know there will be gifts waiting for me on the other end.

***A ritual I did recently, after I pulled a tarot card that told me I needed to exfoliate, was to rub my skin with oil, soak during a long, meditative bath, then took great fist fulls of epsom salt and scrubbed my skin invoking newness into my life. I rinsed off and smoothed it all out with lotion.

****My new friend Jacqueline gave me that expression for “More than Friends.”

RB-42.jpg
This is my “Know Your Own Strength” tattoo. Photo by Kelsey Dickey. Tattoo by Jason June. New year’s intention by me.

***
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