Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2015-01-09

Five Ways I Shake Off Body Oppressive Rhetoric During the New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon

Having spent the last three weeks traveling, between a road trip for a meeting at Dollywood and a family trip to Seattle, I’ve been really off my game. I find it so challenging to travel and meet my self-care needs.

I manage a chronic digestive disorder (Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the Western diagnosis, but I know it’s more complicated than that) with food restrictions and I can feel when my digestion isn’t working. I can get away with not eating in alignment with my body for a little while but eventually it adds up and I’ll pay a price with intense flares and body pain. It’s hard to not want to eat all the amazing food you’re exposed to when traveling. Moderation works for me until it doesn’t.

I also manage my mental and emotional health with exercise. I am still not sure what alchemy I need to carve out time for more than walking the dog when I travel, but more often than not if I pack my gym clothes and shoes I won’t use them. I’ll end up cranky and spiraling by the end of a trip from not getting my angst out on the elliptical. I know that setting better boundaries and time management when I travel is a growth area for me.

15889385960_a7632fe2fa_zWe already had the Seattle trip booked when we got a meeting with the Dollywood Foundation to partner with them for silent auction prizes for Dollypalooza in September… We decided to just go for it and took a road trip, and fulfilled my bucket list dream to see Dollywood at Christmastime. It did not disappoint.

As I was preparing to leave Seattle I found myself really excited to go to the gym and drink green juice, smoothies and detox from sugar. And as I heard the same kind of “drink all the green juice!!!” and “get a new gym membership!!!” trumpets from the anti-fat mainstream media and billion dollar weight loss industry in conjunction with the new year’s resolution influx of people working to lose weight for the umpteenth time, I felt gross about it. Like, here I was wanting to participate in something that is also being used as weapons against bodies like mine.

I thought a lot about what was going on in my head about this stuff and how it was that I have herstorically dealt with the new year’s uptick in relentless weight loss commercials, before and after I began eating in alignment with my body and going to the gym. I came up with some ways that I’ve used to make sense of the complex and seemingly contradictory relationship I have with loving my fat body, hating the sizeist media and making choices that help my body feel its best. I share them below.

1. Run your own race

I like to remember that everyone has their own life and their own life challenges. It’s really difficult to live in a society that literally has a war on body types like yours. In my case, the war on obesity hits home, but other bodies are under attack–people of color, disabled folks, transfolks, aging people. It’s also true that oppression of any body affects all, so the fear of becoming fat, or old, or disabled affects the narrative and creates a society where no body is safe.

So that said, people who need to focus on diet and exercise to lose weight, I just let them do their own stuff. That’s their life path, not mine. I am very self aware and know that my choice to go to the gym doesn’t mean I think my fat body is bad. I also don’t expect some kind of wild body transformation. I do expect that as I keep going back I’m going to feel calmer and more at peace with my surroundings and the onset of Winter and the Winter Blah Blah Blahs (aka Seasonal Depression). (P.S. I’m writing this blog post while sitting under my NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy LampUV Happy Light.)

16085137075_a651db95c4_zSpeaking of lights, that’s a hologram of Dolly Parton playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Dollywood production of A Christmas Carol.

2. You are worthy of love exactly as you are.

All of the “NEW YEAR NEW YOU” rhetoric (actual graphic I saw on the itunes store app center thingy this morning) is basically shorthand for you’re not good enough. Remember there are multiple billion dollar industries that require you to feel insecure in order to sell you products. It is not in their best interest that you feel good about yourself.

But here’s the thing. Today, right now, you sitting right there. You are actually good enough because you are human and you are worthy. That’s something you can choose to believe.

There’s a myth that losing weight and modifying yourself is going to make you feel worthy, but self-acceptance is actually the surest way to make yourself feel that way. I know a lot of people who have lost weight in a myriad of ways, and the thing that seems the most common among them is that people who started out hating their bodies had a lot of self hate left once the weight was gone. Wild insecurities pop up when you lose weight and haven’t lost the hate for your body.

It’s not like we don’t all have ways we want to grow and change, change is the only constant in life. I’m a lifelong learner and self-developer. But I know even as I have “areas for growth” (I’m always working on improving my language to be more gentle with myself) I’m worthy right now. It’s just choosing to shift your perspective to believe that you’re worthy and accept yourself as you are. Maybe that’s a change you can work on for the NEW YEAR NEW YOU.

15897718658_474ccf4ff1_zThis kettle corn that I watched get made in front of me was very inflammatory and very delicious. Moderation in all things, including moderation, said Maya Angelou.

2. Be critical of the media you consume

When I was first getting involved in size acceptance I went on a complete media diet. I focused only on size positive or size neutral things. I obsessively collected pictures of cute fat people and put them around my house so I could see them. I trained myself to see fat as positive.

Now I’m able to employ lots of techniques for consuming mass media (that’s probably a whole other blog post). I work to be very critical of what I consume.

I was in the airport and saw the new Self magazine with a big headline of “Love Your Body.” I didn’t have the chance to read it because I was too busy being paranoid because I was accidentally high, but I went onto the website to find out if they were really joining the bandwagon of loving your body as it is. And I saw that the Love Your Body headline right where every other month has weight loss tips, and I looked through their website and saw all of their weight loss articles, so I realized they were just co-opting language to sell weight loss! Real classy Self magazine!

This time of year especially, I work my hardest to remind myself that mass media is not the boss of me and try not to get defensive or mad every time I see something that advertises quick weight loss or uses headless fatties to scare folks about fat. Getting defensive or mad is totally a valid response, though, and my rage does flow through, but rolling my eyes is better for my stress level. I remind myself that lots of fat people are really healthy. Health at Every Size is all about people at all sizes having access to activities that are good for your health. And that is an inconvenient truth for magazines that rely on fear of weight gain in order to sell copies.

I know that choosing to go to the gym is all about me loving my body and not about me losing weight in order to love my body, a complexity that seems contradictory but is actually not at all to me. I worked really hard to make peace with that.

I also know that people who are fat and don’t choose to go to the gym or restrict their eating are totally worthy of love, too! There is no “good” or “bad” way to have a body, it’s just a body!

16076930595_5d2229e69f_zMe and my fat friend Santa just hanging out on a porch in front of the Christmas buffet. I actually found the buffet meals to be full of food options for lots of dietary restrictions. In addition to a mac and cheese station.

4. Replace should with could

This is a wonderful strategy for treating yourself with kindness. I used to be the kind of person whose resting thoughts were always on the ways in which I needed to improve myself. “I should learn Spanish. I should eat better. I should be working on my book. I should get back into working on neurolinguistic programming.” That’s an actual transcript of my inner self abuser that I just tapped into. I can go DEEP into self-shaming with shoulds.

Because I’m still a work in progress and I believe language is so powerful, I have been working for about a year on replacing my shoulds with coulds. “I could learn Spanish. I could be working on my book…” It’s so much gentler. This constant New Year’s chatter of all the ways you should change keeps reminding me of the ways I want to change. But instead of hearing “You should go to the gym” I am hearing, “I could go to the gym.” I am hearing, “I could organize my room.”

5. Every BODY is different

Dr. Phil is full of complexities and I don’t love all of his messages, but he said one thing that really hit home for me when I was early in my fat activist days. I was in a place of “I’ll eat a cupcake whenever I want” as a way to express fat rage. (That’s still a totally valid place to be, of course, but I like to be strategic about my fuck yous and eating a cupcake more than once in awhile will cause me a lot of pain so I don’t.)

Dr. Phil said something on his show specifically about sweet tea that I haven’t ever forgotten. It’s that, basically, all bodies are different and he drinks a glass of sweet tea and gains weight and lots of folks drink a glass of sweet tea and stay thin.

His point was that he had no control over the type of body he has and he had to accept it. And that’s just kind of how things are. Like, it feels really shitty that I got this amazing huge gift basket from a professional colleague for the holidays and pretty much everything in it, wine, crackers, pretzels, caramel corn, hot cocoa, is all food that will make me sick. That fucking sucks. But I’m at a place where I am choosing to accept and love myself for who I am and that means cherishing the complex body I was given.

And I would love to eat a fuck you mass media cupcake, and I probably will eventually. But in the meantime I’m going to accept my body and do the work it needs to do to feel good, so that I can do the work I want to be doing in the world to change it. To create media that helps people feel good in the bodies they have and become the people they want to become by cheering them on instead of shaming them.

15890219499_633f4fb47f_zHow about a fuck you 25 pound apple pie from Dollywood?

Do you have additional ways you choose to shake off the body oppressive media this time of year and/or manage to strike a balance with your own personal wellness goals?

2014-08-02

August Astrological Forecast and Self Development Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

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August is here and it’s time for some more planetary shifts to bring us in alignment with the next round of ways we can improve ourselves. I agree with Katie from Empowering Astrology, rough astrology is either our chance to get knocked around or it’s our chance to use the energy to be our best selves. Saturn is making some difficult conjunctions this month, anyone who has gone through their Saturn Return knows it’s rough to get real about what is going on in your life. But it’s also a great way to grow.

As always, I’ve written exercises working in conjunction with this month’s astrology to create self improvement with some celestial oomph. The activities include learning how to respond instead of react (good strategy no matter what’s happening in the stars), a full moon ritual about getting real with yourself, and incorporating health at every size into your new moon intentions.

Click here to download this month’s report.

Enjoy!!

2014-04-18

Six Strategies to Not Care When People Stare at You

When my girlfriend started to go through chemotherapy, she shaved her head. She didn’t want to start losing her rock star style shaggy hair in great clumps so she figured she’d go bald on her own. She doesn’t shy away from flamboyance, so she did a whole head shaving party and got our buddy Khane Kutzwell from Camera Ready Kutz to do a whole fancy design, that you can see in the below video.

Shortly thereafter, folks started staring at her more than they used to. Especially as her hair thinned and she slowly went bald. She worried, when it got really obvious that she was balding, about what other people were thinking about her.

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I could relate to how she was feeling. I used to constantly stress out about what people thought about me, even when I was a more run of the mill fat girl when I was a late teenager and in my early twenties. (I did my best to blend in, but it’s hard when you’re 5’7” and fat.) As I started to come more into my own, I started dressing more flamboyantly and now I get noticed a lot. It’s actually kind of a relief in New York City because you get less stares when you look like a weirdo than you do outside of the city. I often forget how conspicuous I am until I travel.

13513393314_3d9cd2f604_zPhoto I took in a bathroom on a road trip through small towns when I realized people were staring at me and I remembered that I usually stick out.

A lot of folks do the long look to try to decide what’s going on with someone when they look unusual. And that’s way more noticeable when you’re not used to it. It feels weird. And when Dara started to notice it, she felt uncomfortable and insecure about it.

I surprised myself by rattling off a bunch of strategies she could use to get more comfortable with being conspicuous. So here, dear readers, is a cheat sheet for how to stop caring about what strangers think about you.

This is, of course, just strategies for your perceptions of people looking at you. This list doesn’t address the real danger of homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, femmephobic, ageist, sizist, antisemetic, racist, anti-erotic street harassers and jerks out there. For my readers out there blooming as the gorgeous weirdo flowers you are I send a lot of love and protective energy to you.

1. It’s not about you.

I like to remember that everyone in the world is running their own race. What that means is that everyone is on their own journey and you don’t actually know what’s going on in their mind. We’re all living in a beligerent society that commodifies insecurity. It teaches us to hate ourselves and our bodies. When I was at my most insecure, I rarely paid attention to anyone else except if it was in a way that I would put my own self down.

I would hazard to guess that most folks who you think are looking at you aren’t actually noticing you. And if they are noticing you and passing judgment or having thoughts about you, it doesn’t affect your value one bit.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to work on your own value internally. How much you are worth isn’t decided by the woman standing behind you at Starbucks who won’t stop looking at you. Even if she is judging you, which she might not be, her scowl could just be about how she’s not sure she can actually afford to pay her light bill and she’s wondering if this latte is a good idea.

If you’re familiar with the Four Agreements, I like to remember the second agreement in times like this. “Don’t take anything personally.”

2. Pretend they are thinking you are beautiful.

I read a tweet from Our Lady J that changed my life. She said something to the effect of pretending like the people staring at her were thinking she was beautiful. So many people might be looking at you because you’re beautiful but you might not have the ability to agree with them so you’re assuming it’s a negative judgment when it might actually be something positive.

I really like the call to assuming people’s best intentions and an affirmation of your own beauty if you can go there. And also, sometimes negative body comments are a way of masking folks’ own discomfort at finding nonconformative bodies attractive. That is really complicated for people.

Our_Lady_J_8Photo of Our Lady J by Santiago Felipe.

3. Remove your judgments about other people.

I believe true change on a global level starts from the personal. If you can transform the way you think it will help transform the world. I think this is true for how you feel about other people.

I used to comment internally on people’s bodies. I grew up wildly focused on my own body. Now I work hard to be really neutral with myself about my own body, but I had to stop my internal chatter about other people’s bodies before I could apply it to myself. When I found myself saying, “That person is thin, I wish I was more like that,” I would stop myself and remind myself of my core value: All bodies are good bodies.

We live in a society that teaches us that it is okay to pass judgment and value other bodies in hierarchical ways. The media is constantly critiquing people’s bodies and appearance–it’s so difficult to step away from that programming!

If you can replace criticism with compassion for other people it will transform the way you feel about yourself. Once I started learning more about how to apply compassion in my own life (I talk about this in the April write-up with Empowering Astrology) I mellowed out a lot and cared much less about what other people were thinking about me.

13416539085_5c6b735962_zDara’s alien as it started to fade.

4. Work on your own perception of yourself.

From about age 8-13 I was bullied relentlessly. I absorbed those terrible things kids and adults said about me and my body. I became the worst bully of myself and started a constant internal chatter of criticism. I believed those things. It took years and years of choosing to rearrange my thoughts to not berate myself.

Accepting and then eventually loving myself took a lot of time and intention on how to think about my body and then eventually my own self worth. There are a million strategies for this (I offer body liberation coaching to help folks work on loving their bodies), but one of my favorites is below.

Piggybacking on removing judgment about other people in number 3 above, is removing your own judgment. Often we look for things to reinforce the thoughts we already have. Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. When you walk around thinking about how awful your body is, that is what you reinforce with your thoughts about what other people are thinking about you–a toxic feedback loop!

Instead, try replacing your negative thoughts with positive affirmations. The deal with affirmations is that they are statements that may not be true in the present but that you will eventually begin to believe the truth of. (See Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life.)

Some good affirmations that you can splice into your thoughts when you get caught up berating your own body or worrying about what other people think of you are:

I approve of myself.
All bodies are good bodies.
I love myself.
My body is wonderful.
I am beautiful and smart and that is how everyone sees me.

5. Wear sunglasses.

As a nightlife performer in New York City–where venues with proper dressing rooms are a luxury–I have had to learn how to not worry about people openly staring at me because I’m wearing a weird costume and a lot of make-up. Once, on the way to the Dyke March wearing a Wonder Woman costume I put on a pair of sunglasses and I decided that if I couldn’t really see other people they couldn’t really see me. It worked, I stopped caring that much about whether people were looking at me.

6. Fake it till you make it.

This is also a great strategy for learning to love your body. It’s just acting like it doesn’t bother you when people look at you. Maybe it still does but if you pretend to yourself and maybe to other people that it doesn’t bother you, you’ll start to believe it.

13133225584_0696c9b086_zDoing Chemo karaoke.

It’s taken me many years to get over people’s perceptions of me. Ultimately, I know if what I am doing, wearing, writing about, living is in alignment with my core values, I know I approve of myself. And that’s the most important thing to me, being a person who knows who I am and lives that life authentically–no matter how people judge my body or my lifestyle.

2014-03-04

Seven Strategies to Curb Anxiety

Towards the end of January I had a little bit of a break-down. I just felt completely overwhelmed and anxious. I wasn’t sure why. I had spent most of the weekend doing self care activities and was walking home from the gym on the phone with Jacqueline saying, “I just don’t know why out of nowhere I feel so anxious and it won’t go away!” And Jacqueline wisely told me that sometimes when she does self care like yoga or something very relaxing she ends up with more anxiety. That resonated with me. It feels like when I don’t acknowledge my feelings of anxiety and overwhelm, it’s like a cork that releases all this pent up stuff I haven’t been looking at and poof! I can’t get away from it.

As a result of this little mini-breakdown, I am obsessed with self care right now. I’m talking to people about their self care regimens, being more methodical about what I need from myself in order to be the person I want to be in the world. I now acknowledge that when it comes to taking care of others, the more I have the more I can give. My well has to be 100% full in order for me to give water to anyone else, and I’m in the role of primary caregiver to my girlfriend (yeah, we went there) who is going through chemo treatment for breast cancer right now.

12417512173_a30b444fb5_zI went away for a birthday retreat with my friends in February and it was all about finding a place with a hot tub. I love to meditate in a hot tub when it’s cold outside.

I am going to do a mini-blog series about self care and in this first post I detail what I do to handle anxiety when it comes. There are lots of ways to deal with anxiety, of course, but this is what has worked for me and what works for some of my pals. Obviously, there are varying degrees of anxiety and some folks should consider seeing a mental health professional, but for those who have kind of spotty occurring anxiety like me, hopefully these tips will help.

1. Pay attention and course correct.

I treat feelings of anxiety and overwhelm as warning signs. They’re my own personal “check engine light,” some kind of acknowledgement my body, mind and/or spirit needs attention. If I’m having anxiety come up more often than usual than I know something is wrong and I need to do the work to assess what’s going on in my life and where the imbalance is. If I were on Car Talk and talking about running a diagnostic, I would do the things I know to do when I need to diagnose what’s going on with me. Journal, phone a trusted friend, stop and look at what’s going on in my life. In the January example, I knew what was going on–I had three friends and one of my cats pass away in a three week span in December on top of being primary caregiver for someone with cancer. Any one of those things is a lot! I needed to be gentle with myself and take care of myself and the check engine light came on!

When I’m feeling anxiety, it’s hard to know in the moment that I need to do something differently, in the moment all I can do is think “Fuck, how can I make this stop?” Then I turn to more immediate solutions.

2. Drink stress relieving tea.

Over my Christmas trip to visit my mom and grandmother I woke up feeling intense anxiety one morning. (I think this was another moment where I was relaxing and the cork popped out and all the grief and anxiety I was feeling came out.) I didn’t have anything that could cut the anxiety in the moment, so I went rummaging through Grandmother’s tea cabinet to see if she had any chamomile. Lo and behold, she still had the tea sampler I created as a hostess gift for my cross country road trip two years ago. Fully intact, it held in it four kinds of loose tea including “Stressed Out Tea.” It was like a gift to myself from the past. I drank that tea like I was chain smoking, one cup after another and within a couple of hours it started to work.

I bought the Stressed Out Tea from PS Coffee and Tea in Park Slope, but here are the ingredients if you want to create it yourself. Stressed Out Tea (blend of lots of herbs to calm down including rosemary, peppermint, chamomile, lady slipper, catnip, violet, feverfew, wood bettany herb, blessed thistle herb, white willow bark, stevia herb, raspberry leaf and flavored with peppermint oil).

841322_156802627802561_896072570_oPhoto by Katrina Del Mar.

3. Treat self care like a job.

Self care is a really important aspect of my anti-anxiety routine. The best thing I can do for my anxiety is to prevent it from happening. I like to say self care is a full time job, which it kind of can be, especially in the Winter when we have all the Winter Feelings and seasonal depression.

The other day I was staying with friends and they told me, “We go to bed at 9:30.” Which is an amazing example of prioritizing getting the sleep they need and having a mellow, unrushed morning. I have so much admiration for people who prioritize their self care.

Since my breakdown in January I have been very strict about doing all the core self care things I do every single day. I knew I hadn’t been doing the things I usually do every day, I was skipping some. I was in love jail, snuggled up with my sweetie in Winter and mistaking those temporary good feelings with the things I need to do for my own sanity in the long run.

4. Cut the caffeine.

Eliminating caffeine from my diet has been great for keeping my anxiety at bay. Some days I have none, some days I have a little, but I keep it in check as much as possible. I started the Lesbian Tea Basket web series when I gave up coffee for digestive reasons. Replacing my passion for coffee with tea wasn’t exactly a substitute (I still dearly, desperately, love coffee) but I do now feel very passionately for tea in a way I didn’t expect. I think the herbal aspects of tea are medicinally great but I also think the ritual of brewing and consuming a hot beverage is very soothing.

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5. Exercise.

It’s such a hassle sometimes, but exercise is so crucial to my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It soothes everything for me. If I can keep it up at least twice a week it’s great to keep me from getting depressed or anxious.

6. Medicate.

There are a lot of people I know who medicate for anxiety. I’ve never gotten a prescription for anything mental health related, but haven’t ruled out the possibility. There’s so much stigma associated with mental health prescriptions but honestly, I think stigmas around what people need to do for their mental health are bullshit. If you have a headache you take an advil, if you have anxiety and a pill will help, maybe take the pill? I’m definitely a follower of the Kate Bornstein philosophy of living:

Do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. Anything at all. It can be illegal, immoral, unethical, self-destructive… anything at all if it makes your life more worth living. There’s only one rule to follow to make that kind of blanket permission work: Don’t be mean.

I just got some Rescue Remedy to see if an herb tincture (they also have pastilles/candy and gum) could help me in those moments where in emergency I need to break glass. So far it seems to work though I’ve only done it a couple of times when I was mildly stressed and haven’t had a major anxiety bout since I got the tincture.

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I have some friends who medicate with klonipin (one of them just nibbles a little on a pill to take the edge off an anxiety episode), ativan, and xanax. Obviously you’ll go see a mental health professional or general practitioner who can advise about prescription meds.

Other friends I know with chronic anxiety use medical marijuana. For those who don’t know there are like a billion kinds of marijuana and there are lots of different ways to use it. Depending on your body chemistry there are kinds that just take the edge off the anxiety and you can still function (“cleaning the kitchen” weed) or others that make you want to sit on the couch. I am into watching documentaries about the medical marijuana dispensaries on Netflix and what it can do for folks. Again, this is totally something to go talk to a professional about if you’re in a jurisdiction that has the medical marijuana.

7. Meditation.

I am a shitty, inconsistent meditator. However, if I can take a minute to stare at some birds and ponder what they are up to, look up at the sky for thirty seconds, or close my eyes and just notice what sounds I hear, that will do me as much good as sitting in a chair with my eyes closed trying really hard to think about nothing. It’s really not much more for me than a way to ground myself in the present and remind myself that I am safe. When I’m feeling anxious I am not feeling safe.

12919812773_f0c6e5949d_zThis bird feeder was right next to the hot tub at the house we stayed at!

I hope this not comprehensive list helps out when folks are feeling frustrated by bouts of anxiety. Leave your tips in the comments!

2014-02-13

My Second Session of Relationship Coaching with the Lesbian Love Guru

This is the second entry in a series about my experience Relationship Coaching with Christine Dunn-Cunningham, the Lesbian Love Guru. Follow the lesbian love guru tag on the blog to catch all the entries!

My not-yet girlfriend and I had our second session of relationship coaching the week after we began. Christine suggested we continue our coaching separately. It’s counterintuitive to how I pictured this coaching would occur; I imagined we’d both be together on skype with Christine, but instead we each take thirty minute separate calls with her. Since we tend to be together when it happens, the other hangs out in the living room with music playing.

Being out of earshot enables real talk with Christine about what’s happening. Often if you explained a problem in your relationship to a third party, you would use really different language than if you were together. I find it a relief not to think about Dara’s feelings when I’m explaining something. I feel like I can get right to the solution without spending extra time sugar coating an issue.
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Prior to the second session we had each filled out intake forms for coaching and sent them to her as well as one another. The intake form reinforces Christine’s confidentiality agreement.

The issue of confidentiality is paramount to this [coaching] relationship. My understanding is that nothing in this [coaching] relationship is to be discussed outside of our conversations. There are times when references to others may be helpful, however I would not ever mention a name or person that would lead someone to infer the discussion was about you as a client.

The rest of the intake forms were about our future visioning, setting out goals and what we think is limiting us. I liked that we shared them with each other because sometimes it’s good to see what the your sweetie is expressing in terms of goals for an ideal love life and how they see their future. What if your big goals are really incompatible? That’s important to talk about!

In my one-on-one session with Christine we focused on what was going on for me at that moment. This had a little less to do with my relationship and more to do with how I was feeling with my own time management. One of my goals this year is to get more structured about how I use my time. I am also really worried about caregiver fatigue because Dara has breast cancer and I’m her primary caregiver. Time management is important because I need to make sure I prioritize my self-care, which is easy to let fall by the wayside when you’re only dealing with things that are “bleeding.”

20140213_124617At her first chemo appointment, as the awesome nurse Erin at Sloan-Kettering was “pushing” the first dose of chemo poison, Dara sang Alice Cooper’s “Poison.” I would have gone with Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” which might do more to explain our communication issues than anything else.

Even though caregiving isn’t all that taxing (yet), it is a lot of time. After her surgeries was a lot of letting her rest and heal while I took on the lion’s share of the housework. Making sure we’re eating whole, healthy foods is another thing I’ve taken on 90% of the time. Her cancer diet is pretty restrictive, which means most of what I make is from scratch. Add to that we both work to only eat humane meats, which requires special trips to the butcher. I feel extremely grateful for my work from home lifestyle because when I plan well I can be cooking while working. But my time management can really use some improvement so that the planning part of that intention actually happens!

20140212_203059I highly suggest this infinitely customizable pizza casserole recipe, passed along to me by my dear friend JLV.

Christine suggested a Tony Robbins tool called “Rapid Planning,” which helps to ensure what you’re doing is in line with your priorities. I’ve begun implementing it in stages and so far it is helping me be mindful of my priorities. Just because something is urgent (bleeding) doesn’t mean it’s important and I need to remember that.

She also taught me a grounding exercise. When I got on the phone I told her I was feeling really spazzy and she did a meditation with me that was really quick and powerful. She’s offering an MP3 of the grounding meditation on her website for free if you click the link. I love a guided meditation and am totally keeping this on my phone for when I need a 30 second reminder that I’m right here, right now, one with the universe.

Dara and I usually talk about our sessions afterward–highlights and tools. She got a tool to work on for homework about how she responds to my emotions. I have really Big Feelings sometimes* and my face is a billboard–I usually don’t want to express myself right away but I can’t help it! Often what I feel immediately isn’t what I feel ultimately once I’ve had time to digest my reaction. My emotional reactions have historically been very difficult for Dara to handle, as she hates disappointing me or hurting my feelings. This has been difficult for many of my past loves.

20140213_111246I thought it was important to wear something cute to chemo.

Christine suggested a tool she calls “Holding the Bucket” where Dara doesn’t actually have to do anything but witness and recognize my feelings. She doesn’t need to take them on or feel bad for hurting me. I actually love this tool because it gives me a chance to have my Big Feelings and later apply the tools I have to respond instead of react and engage in my process without worrying about her reaction.

“Holding the Bucket” helped Dara prepare for a difficult conversation she wanted to have with me that we did some more work on getting geared up for during our third session. Dara said it helped her see that she didn’t have to take my feelings so personally, since they were about me and my process not necessarily about Dara.

Dara also told me she had been triggered by something that happened between us the night before this session. It was a relief to be able to talk to someone who was such an impartial party and a great listener.

I am really enjoying my experience working on my relationship with Christine’s help. I was pleasantly surprised at how skilled she is at working with folks on an individual level. She works with singles, couples and poly permutations. Experiencing how she is able to guide me one-on-one, though it’s centered on things coming up in my relationship, definitely enforces how awesome she is with singles looking to break down their limitations on finding and experiencing the love relationships they want.

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Christine offers a limited number of free introductory thirty minute calls every month. Twelve of you signed up last month. If you want to try her out, click here and sign-up! You’ll get to know Christine and find out if she’s a good fit for you, as a single, couple or poly permutation! (Even though she’s a “Lesbian” Love Guru she actually works with all gendered folks on all parts of the gender and sexuality continuums.)

*In my natal chart I have a Scorpio Moon.

2014-02-06

How to Gracefully Survive Mercury Retrograde and February Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

Today begins another round of Mercury Retrograde. (February 6th-28th.) If you’re not familiar with the concept, the best metaphor I’ve ever heard of to describe what it does is from my bestie Rachael. Imagine you go to the mall to get a black skirt. In Mercury Direct times, you’ll just get the skirt. In a Retrograde (when Mercury goes backward) you will go to the mall and never find the black skirt. But you will find something else completely amazing you never realized you might find. There are some amazing serendipities. Mercury screws up communication, contracts, technology, etc… and people are constantly stressing out about it.

IMG_5868 Me and Rachael in Atlanta in December.

Even if you’re not of the woo mind, the same “survival strategies” work to lead a balanced life. Learning how to go with the flow and respond with good humor when stuff isn’t working out as planned or communication gets all screwy are fantastic skills!

Katie, my astrologer from Empowering Astrology, has some incredible insights, which I’m posting below. (Also, if you’re ever wondering about other astrological concepts her blog is really great.)

Let’s talk nuts and bolts Mercury Retrograde. When I gave you all the heads up recently, there more than a little anxiety. I got a lot of nervous questions about signing things and starting this or that during the retrograde. So here’s my spiel:

* Life goes on during Mercury Retrograde. You just may have to retrace your steps.

* The retrograde is about review.

* Traditionally Mercury Retrograde is not a time to sign a contract, buy a car, or a computer — all Mercury ruled things. If you can wait to sign or make an important purchase or make an important decision, wait.

* My belief about Mercury Retrograde is that if you cannot afford to have something not work out, wait.

* Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of waiting till after the retrograde. If you must move forward with something, double and triple check the fine print. Be prepared to make adjustments once Mercury turns direct.

* Above all, don’t fear Mercury Retrograde. Fear is the lowest energy to create from and you are an aspect of the Creator made physical. Work with Mercury Retrograde. Go back to something that’s been on the back burner. Revise a manuscript. Try a different path. Meditate and reflect.

* Trust your own intuition. If you’re not sure if now is a good time to do something, ask yourself how it feels. Can you afford to wait?

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This month Katie and I partnered once again to create a worksheet about using the astrological climate to propel self-development. We put it all together for the full month as a pdf download.

It includes journaling work, ritual and play–including a really fun Valentine’s Day date you can do solo, with a friend or with a sweetie. My Valentine’s Day date now completely involves construction paper and modeling clay. It’s also got some really simple activities to help you hone your intuition. Have you ever wondered how to trust your gut more?

Click here to download the worksheet!

2014-01-23

I Got Back Together with My Ex and Started Relationship Coaching with the Lesbian Love Guru

This is the first entry in a series about my experience with Relationship Coaching with Christine Dunn-Cunningham, the Lesbian Love Guru. Follow the lesbian love guru tag on the blog to catch all the entries!

In November of 2012 I started dating someone who I thought was just going to be a friend with benefits. That turned into a super deep connection I wasn’t expecting. Neither of us did. I went with it and we fell into a “thing” we were calling “keeping company,” a delightfully old fashioned term she picked up from her uncle’s description of his courtship of her aunt thirty plus years ago. We had a lot of fun together but ran into a lot of static around a few areas, including communication. It took me until months after it ended to realize that how disparate our semantics often were. She would be saying one thing, using the same words I would use, but mean something completely differently than I was understanding. Like we’re both calling something an apple but really I mean a peach.

8868390850_f762dea0b1_oLast May. Photo by Grace Chu.

Things ended at the end of March when the fact that she didn’t want to be in a relationship, and hadn’t wanted to be in one in the first place, meant we needed to break-up. In our first iteration, things were just always so hard for us together emotionally, and when you don’t want to be in a relationship you don’t want to do the work to be together. She was also preparing for an epic, possibly forever, road trip. Selling all of her possessions, getting some part time consulting she could do remotely, and staying with loved ones a few weeks at a time. A life in an RV I’ve been visioning for a long time, a tiny version of which I took in 2011, but she was going solo.

I had thought we could eventually transition to long distance in some way, and we fell back into an “ambiguous” relationship status within three weeks of breaking up. Eventually that fell apart, too, she left town and I thought I’d never talk to her again. By the end of that ambiguous period I had my own reasons for not wanting to be in a relationship with her. Our mutual frustration lapsed into a long period of radio silence.

I recognized that the grief I was feeling about the break-up was incommensurate with the loss. I started doing some spiritual work through the help of Katie at Empowering Astrology. She helped me cut emotional cords and end what she described as a karmic cycle Dara and I were in.

Cut to October, when we had a pretty organic reconnection. She was back in NYC for a couple of weeks and we met-up and made peace. I thought maybe we could try “benefits without friends,” as a way to just focus on what always worked with us. (Sex.) I could slot her into my life the way a few treasured friends have; when we’re in the same town we sleep together if our relationship statuses allow for it and the rest of the time we’re just casual friends that text every now and again. This was a mildly complicated idea for me because I knew I was still in love with her I just couldn’t be in a relationship with her.

8867777135_1606770681_bPhoto by Grace Chu.

Life threw us a giant curve ball because when Dara was in town she happened to visit her GYN for her annual exam and they found a lump. She was diagnosed with breast cancer after she had gone back to LA (where she was at the time) from her NYC visit. (She’s been video blogging her experience with cancer.)

What does it mean when your ex gets diagnosed with breast cancer? I didn’t know. I knew I was still in love with her, that had never changed. I knew I didn’t want her to be my girlfriend because I’m really dedicated to loving unconditionally and to want her to be my girlfriend would mean I would require her to change… and I didn’t want to do that. So I resolved myself to just be there for her as much as I could be. “Open heart and good boundaries,” became my mantra. A witchy friend even prescribed a tincture of Ocitillo which I serendipitously found in a South Brooklyn apothecary.

We hung out when she got back to NYC to start treatment. It was really great and really easy. We hung out again. And then another time. The quality of conversation, the ease at which we were able to tread topics that would have been hard or hurty before was surprising. I was able to do the things that I liked to do to support her–cooking nourishing meals, being sweet to her, giving massages. As well as encouraging her to relax and do self-care, two things she is now learning how to do post-diagnosis that she’s never prioritized before. The ways in which I thought I needed her to change kind of melted away, and somehow I was different, too.

I was a little confused. I mean, when does your ex become your lover again? She has breast cancer and sex is life affirming. And all the in between moments were so magical. I kept telling my friends I felt like Dara and I were in a different dimension.

There was other stuff, too. I kind of thought I could be there for her but there’s no way she could show up for me, having cancer. And then my December 2013 took hold, three friends passed away in the span of two weeks and the week before Christmas I unexpectedly and quickly had to put my beloved cat ALF to sleep just six months after his brother Bear passed. And through it all Dara was a champion–supporting me, handling logistics, making sure I could bring Macy with me to the vet when I had to rush ALF to the kitty ER for his final moment. After my fiance and I broke up I swore I wouldn’t get serious about someone again until we had gone through a crisis together. Being with Dara in this iteration feels like we’re running a gauntlet–except we’re laughing, holding hands and getting through it in this hopeful and happy way I never knew was possible. Like if we can be this good in a crisis how nice will life be when we can just work and travel together?

1497957_10201768063297968_397615989_oAfter her first lumpectomy surgery (she had to go back in for a reexcision lumpectomy two and a half weeks later) I was in the recovery room with her and we made a game about how silly of a photo we could create with found hospital objects. Together we conceived her Rudolph look.

With the heady mix of old intimacy and new relationship energy, I suggested we might want to get relationship coaching. In fact, neither of us is willing to call each other “girlfriend” yet because we want to eliminate fears of slipping back into old communication patterns and the stuff that was so hard before. It hasn’t happened yet, we’ve done a great job of communicating through rough spots; often we just stop a conversation that feels like it could get sticky and awkwardly back out of it. But it could happen, and a professional might help us set the kind of foundation we never had before.

Enter Christine Dunn-Cunningham, the Lesbian Love Guru, who I met over the summer. I was thinking of working with her as a single person who wanted to open myself up to finding the future Mx. Branlandingham. When Dara and I were starting to become a “thing” again, I read some of the Lesbian Love Guru blog entries (full of incredible tips) and this one about High Quality Quality Time totally helped me. In the entry she suggested having a conversation where you figure out which activities create the deepest sense of connection between both of you. So I had that conversation with Dara one day cuddled up in bed. Thinking about what I needed in a connected moment helped me ask for that the next time we were both having a rough day. (The connected activity for me was praying together, by the way.)

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Hanging out in this week’s blizzard.

The success I had with applying the tips from the blog entry definitely told me that Christine would make a great coach for us. And there’s a huge difference from following advice in a blog and working directly with someone to create a program for you. That’s why I love coaching!

We corresponded via email and she offered me one of her free introductory sessions.

I talked to her on the phone during the session and she explained that her coaching can take different forms. Sometimes she works just with one of the people in a relationship, who then takes the work back and applies it to the relationship. Sometimes she works with both partners separately and sometimes she works with them together. I had originally envisioned the two of us on Skype with Christine building capacity for our communication, but she said she would want to start with a session where the two of us spoke to her on our own to get our perspectives.

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Christine also has experience coaching folks in polyamory, which was great for us because some of our stickiness is around establishing a foundation where we can create some kind of non-monogamy or polyamory that works for both of us. I’ve never successfully done non-monogamy in a primary relationship and Dara has been practicing polyamory for twenty years.

Even though she’s called the “lesbian” love guru, Christine actually coaches folks of all genders, on the trans spectrum and some straight couples. Because at the end of the day, relationships are relationships.

During the first session where we each spoke separately, Christine asked us for each of our versions of our first iteration, what areas of growth we wanted in our relationship and what we were hoping for out of coaching. Dara remarked afterward that she felt “heard” about our first iteration for the first time ever. Christine is really easy to talk to and is great at asking the right questions to open you up.

I’m excited to work with Christine moving forward. I’ll be blogging about the experience so stay tuned!

Christine is offering a limited number of free introductory sessions to readers of my blog (with folks later in the game on a waiting list). The first session is great–it’s a great way to see if she’s a match for what you want. Again, Christine works with established couples and single folks and people of all genders and sexualities (even though the landing page is geared towards women specifically). She’s really great and in that introductory call you’ll walk away with tangible stuff you can apply to your life to help you open yourself up to a great relationship.

Also, this week Christine and I were both featured in the Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit. Hopefully you got to catch our interviews when they were released, but if you missed them you can download them as a package (along with a slew of other great interviews about money, nutrition, love, travel, healing and body love). Click here to view more details

2013-06-28

Eight Things to Keep in Mind For Your First Sex Party

There are a couple of not safe for work photos in this post…

It’s Pride Week and the close to Gay Stamina Month and what better thing to talk about that makes us really gay than… sex. My friend Elisabeth even addressed it in her wedding column!

A few friends of mine are preparing for their first ever play party, so I’ve been doling out advice right and left. It’s called “play” but sometimes folks interchange the word “sex” or the acronym “BDSM.” Whatever you call it, it is a social occasion in which folks are free, perhaps even encouraged, to engage in public sexual or kink behaviors. It’s a good place for people who are exhibitionists and voyeurs, as well as people who want a dose of sexual energy in their lives. There are a bunch of different reasons folks might want to go to a sexy party, a few of which I’ve addressed below. I believe being good in bed is one third chemistry, one third listening to your partner and one third skill. Sex parties are great places to learn new skills and better sexual communication.

I only attend sex parties sporadically and rarely play with strangers–and I don’t play unless I really feel like I want to. When I want to feel agency over myself as a sexual being I like sex parties a lot for that. The energy is usually really good and liberating and it often feels like a way to reclaim my body after a break-up, even if I don’t play at all. And I’m always looking for ways to do that.

My first play party was about a decade ago. I was still living in Philadelphia when I made the trek to Throb on the Lower East Side. It was a queer women & trans play party, the likes of which I had heard about in dyke literature–Michelle Tea books, On Our Backs magazine–and the fringes of my sex positive friend groups. I was in a monogamous relationship (with some make-out freedom) and I’m not sure entirely why Seth was okay with me going without her but I think it was an adventure I felt in every part of my twenty-four year old heart that I needed to have.

I think it was a release party for Sugar High Glitter City and I was too shy to ask Shar and Jackie to sign my copy. I found that first party intimidating but liberating, and not as scary as I thought but still scary in a this is a really new thing I don’t know how to be sort of way. Over the years I’ve become really fond of parties that hire a good DJ (nothing kills my boner like bad music) and have at least one room that feels like a regular party and isn’t very serious. I like to chat with folks and sometimes people are very serious about kink. I’m not. I remember having folks tell me “I heard you were flogging so and so at Switch and making her recite Britney Spears lyrics.”

Like I said, I don’t go to play parties often but I enjoy them. There are some folks who make this a huge part of their life–taking weekend trips all across the country to go to parties. So this list is just some suggestions from my perspective and I encourage you to ask other folks for their ideas as well.

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I consulted my friend Felice Shays about her tips as a long time player, author of Brutal Affection, and the person who flogged me for the first time during a demo carnival at Throb the second or third time I went. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

1. Brush up on consent practices.

Just because someone is at a party doesn’t mean they want to engage in play or sex, or engage in it with you. They might just be there testing the waters or just not that into you or what you want to do. Remember, without no there is no yes. But also, they might just be shy and want to, so it is worth asking and being prepared to hear “No” or “Yes” and remember that asking is the victory, not the outcome.

Some parties have explicit consent policies and practices–you should read all of those before you get there so you have an idea of what to expect. I suggest reading the Learning Good Consent Zine to any person who wants to engage in sexual activity with another person ever (i.e. everyone), but it’s especially good to do this before you go to an explicit play space. Also my tips on How to be an Ally to Your Fat Lover are relevant here, too. Be body positive!

The Myth Party is one of my favorite play parties ever and I suggest cruising their “rules and security” section. They are very thoughtful and awesome. I appreciate that everyone there adheres to these consent policies because it makes me feel comfortable as a queer woman who has sex with folks of non-normative bodies and genders to know that the multi-gendered partiers are all on the same page as I am with consent.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

2. Brush up on your talking to strangers.

I’ve written extensively here about how to get over shyness and ask people out on dates. The same principle applies at a play party–nobody ever died of awkward.

Felice suggested making it a goal to talk to at least one person you don’t know. I had the goal to talk to five people I didn’t know at the single’s mixer I went to a couple of months ago. It’s hard to talk to strangers (even for some extroverts) especially in a sexually charged/awkwardish environment. But probably everyone else is feeling a little nervous, too. Even experienced players get nervous, awkward and consider leaving. Best just to dive in and get through it so you can get to the good stuff!

Felice also said, “If you see something or someone interesting talk to them. Wait until they’re done w whatever or whomever they’re doing.” It’s normal to feel like a weirdo in unfamiliar social settings but remember a play party is just like a regular party. Use a little grace and finesse about when and how you talk to people. Be appreciative not creepy.

Take advantage of cruising wristbands and use that as your opening with people. “I notice you’re looking to engage in S/M play as a top…” Submit party here in Brooklyn has a whole cruising wristband system.

The one-liner that works best in my experience at play parties is, “Would you like to negotiate something?” An ex of mine said going up to people at parties is like shooting fish in a barrel because most folks at women/trans events are too shy to make the first move. Be bold, the rewards are plentiful!

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Felice is a mega-tron babe. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

3. Go with a specific desire in mind but no expectations.

This was from my roommate, Damien Luxe. I think it’s a great idea to have a desire so that way when you do talk to someone or they talk to you and the question comes up whether or not you want to negotiate something, you have things in mind. Examples might be, bondage, flogging, spanking, sex, making out, cuddling, watching porn together, watching scenes together, doing each other’s make-up, learning how to do something.

But going with no expectations is really important. If your getting laid is the only way you’ll feel successful at the party, you probably won’t be successful. Going with the flow and being open to genuine connections is probably better. I learned how to just let expectations go and be appreciative of the experiences I’ve had and wound up much happier (be this at conferences I thought would be total boink fests, and dates I’ve thought were sure things but then there was no chemistry).

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Felice giving a glitter spank demo at Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

4. Interact with the host!

Felice suggests “Find the host and ask for a tour and or offer some help.” Getting the lay of the land is really helpful right away. Often volunteering at events is a really great way to meet people you may want to negotiate play with. It’s a good ice breaker, too, and can help you feel more brave, as these parties are all about stepping outside your comfort zone.

I was the Mistress of the Parlor for a play party my friend Trent threw a few Pride weekends ago called “Transaction.” I got to greet people and play matchmaker and ice break. I loved that job! It didn’t get me laid but I think I was secret monogamous at the time so I wasn’t really looking for action.

If you think the host is hot (and probably they are, and very good at what they do), Felice has some specific advice. “Don’t wait til an hour before closing time to ask the party host to flog you or fuck you – they’re possibly cleaning up condoms or wiping down equipment or fucked or flogged out already.”

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I was searching desperately for a photo of LeRoi Prince in Captain Kirk drag to illustrate a point later on in this blog entry but I had to settle for this insanely hot photo of them in a vest and shirt. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

5. Dress in a way that makes you feel confident and sexy.

I’m not so into the leather scene aesthetic of black tank top/tee shirt and black jeans and black boots. Or camouflage anything. Sure, I like 90s style on the right person, but I just think that’s a “safe” look and good style really makes you stand out. How about gray skinny jeans? Your boots should be fabulous. If they were two-toned cowboy boots that would really turn my head.

When I was still pretty new to kink stuff and going out a lot after the end of my engagement, my bestie Rachael came to town to teach me to flog. When deciding what to wear to the party we went to (I think it was Switch at Paddles, may it rest in peace) she highly endorsed me wearing a gold dress. “It’s important to stand out,” she said.

Lots of folks default to the standard slip dress or lingerie, which is fine if that is your aesthetic. But I don’t shy away from a costume and was pretty proud of what I wore to do that hostessing gig at Transaction, which is the same outfit I wore to Femmecee Rebel Cupcake a couple of months later.

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From Rebel Cupcake, August 2010. The fact that I was 31 at the time is sort of startling because it doesn’t feel that long ago and I still have all of the elements of that outfit in my wardrobe. Photo by Nogga Schwartz.

Corsets are good, wear great underwear and “consider shaving your personal bits or whatever else you consider primping before you get there,” says Felice.

Most play parties have a place to change, and people often make use of this. No one expects you to arrive “ready.” This is one of those great examples of a place where you can bring multiple outfit changes. At a party I went to with a sweetheart in service to me (and I was performing) I had three pairs of shoes and took advantage of having someone to lean on while I changed heels several times.

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Finding that photo of me meant finding a photo of my darling Miss Mary Wanna from 2010, too. What about wearing a hot apron and fishnets to a play party? Photo by Nogga Schwartz.

6. Mindfully imbibe.

Lots of parties are BYOB. Some are sober (keep your eyes out for that). But be mindful of using alcohol and other drugs when you’re playing. It really messes with consent and boundaries and you don’t want to do something you wouldn’t soberly decide to do with your body or to someone else’s body. There are many other chances in life to get fucked up and a play party doesn’t need to be that place.

But, you know, if you need a beer or a makers on the rocks to ease into things, go ahead. Just be forewarned that there are people who won’t play with you if you have been drinking or using other drugs.

Also, drink lots of water. Felice: “Drink water. Use lube. Drink water.”

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I’ve worn this outfit to play parties, too. This is my dear friend Anne!

7. Pack your toys!

Lots of parties have the big equipment, like beds, crosses to lay someone on, cages, etc… But you have to supply the flogger, canes, dildos, vibes, whatever. What you might want used on you is a great thing to bring because not all tops come carrying all that they have in their repertoire of skills. And if you have something you want to use that’s a good thing to maybe flag with casually in a back pocket. Just a thought for cruising purposes.

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Drae Campbell at Rebel Cupcake NO PANTS NO PROBLEM. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

8. Kiss somebody.

Felice says simply, “Kiss somebody!” Making out is fun and no big deal. I used to throw make-out parties all the time and they were really fun. I had all these games and got people in huge groups (50 or so) to play where it forced them to interact with people and either kiss, make out or friendly handshake and it was a way to negotiate play and also meet new folks.

In summary, sex parties are totally a fun way to play with energy and get really into your body and your desire. I highly endorse a couple of them before you decide they aren’t right for you. And if they are, you might find yourself on Fet Life getting all up in it every weekend like the sex hobbyists I know.

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The time we had a makeout contest at Rebel Cupcake NO PANTS NO PROBLEM. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

Folks in New York who want to give play parties a try I suggest:

July 11th–the hardly ever happens so catch it while you can Myth Party. It’s like the nightclub of the future, where folks are dancing and mingling but also fucking and playing and wearing Star Trek costumes.

It’s a great answer to the problematic nature of “who exactly is women and trans” because it’s not. It’s a fluid gender party where the needs and comfort of queers of all bodies, genders and ethnicities is privileged. You have to apply to get an invite and it’s definitely, definitely worth it. Especially if you just go to be at a party with sexual energy and aren’t sure whether you want to play. I went as a performer last time and was super impressed with it and felt no impetus to get down with my sweetheart, but felt welcome to. She and I had fun playing with a new dynamic, and briefly playing fetch with one of my roommate’s houseboys who was playing the part of Rover that evening. Pet play may not be my thing but it’s all play, and sometimes fetch is fun no matter who is doing the fetching. These parties are about experimenting and being free.

July 13thUnchained. It’s new, I’ve never been, but a trusted friend of mine went and gave it their stamp of approval so I am passing it on.

Every last SaturdaySubmit. It’s a Women and Trans party I’ve been to many times. They have a great in-house DJ (Angel Boi). The space is a basement, which sometimes smells like basement and is not my favorite olfactory experience but it’s a fun group of folks that seem to change every year or so I make the trek to the basement.

2011-10-17

GAY SEX WEEK: The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Finding People to Have Gay Sex With You

Hi friends and welcome to NATIONAL QUEERFATFEMME.COM GAY SEX WEEK, where each day this week I am going to talk about GAY SEX to increase LGBT presence in the media. I thought that the first thing I would address about was how to find other people to have gay sex with you.

Conveniently, this solicited advice question landed in my inbox a couple of weeks ago. I offer some solid tips to you, dear readers, and some direct advice to someone who has a specific desire.

Dear Bevin,

I’m not sure who else to come to with this and you seem like the kind of person who doesn’t mind listening- so here’s my problem, I don’t know where to meet femmes that are into other femmes. I’m a cisgendered female and I present in a very feminine way and that also happens to be what I’m attracted to, but ever since I came out, I’ve dated butch identified women because that’s what I thought I had to do. I don’t want to do that anymore, I’m twenty five now and I want to be with someone that I’m actually attracted to.

My problem is finding them. All the femmes I meet either say really offensive things right off the bat (a big red flag for me is women who say, “if I wanted to date someone that looked like a man, I would just date a man”) or prefer to be with non femme identified people. Where are all the femmes that are into other femmes (and are also not racist/sexist/homophobic/mean and are body positive feminists)? They must be out there, right? Where do I meet them? Should I lower my standards?

I realize you’re not an advice column, so thank you for listening. Your blog is wonderful, it’s guided me through some serious issues and I will forever appreciate your willingness to be a voice in the dark.

Thanks,

NO FOFA FOR ME

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Femme on Femme! Miss Mary Wanna gropes Fancy Feast. Both will be performing on November 10th at Rebel Cupcake’s Cat Party! All photos by Nogga Schwartz for Rebel Cupcake.

Dear NO FOFA FOR ME:

Thank you for the compliment about my blog! I love being a voice in the dark for folks. Or a voice in the glitter for other folks. I have every confidence you are going to get laid. Sometimes it really seems like you are a Femme wandering the desert wanting a glass of water to drink with nothing but mirages on the horizon but just like that (imagine a swishy gay snap) everything will change for you.

GETTING LAID TIP THE FIRST: Do It Yourself
This is a little bit of a trick answer, because before you do anything about finding a sex partner it really helps to be having an enriching solo sex life. Light candles, take yourself out on dates, take a bath, woo yourself. Be physically experimental. I’ll admit to often defaulting to being a lazy masturbator, but I think nothing attracts someone to you like the glowy glowy aura of having good orgasms on your own. During my “walking through the desert” times anytime I go out if I’m doing myself right I have more fun in the world and get more flirts.

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GETTING LAID TIP THE SECOND: Name Your Desire
You are already doing something right, which is you’ve found and named a desire. There is nothing in the GAY SEX handbook that says you only get to have sex with certain other kinds of gays. Femmes don’t have to just have sex with Butches, just like the sports dykes don’t have to just stay isolated to their own kind and lesbians who look like Justin Bieber don’t just have to have sex with pop star lookalikes. The queer umbrella is pretty magical in that way, folks who run in my circles have sex with all kinds of different gender presentations and preferred gender pronouns, cisborn or not.*

I know this is not true of all gay circles, what with gender and sex policing. Gender and sex policing makes it harder for other folks to get laid! That makes me sad. When it comes to sex I think the more the merrier. I want all of my fellow gay comrades to be getting as laid as possible.

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That said, I think the climate for how accepted Femme on Femme Action (FOFA) is changes from queer group to group. I believe really firmly in being the change you want to see in your community. Be really vocal about your desire, tell your friends you like Femmes. Most people want to help you get laid. I have a really specific kind of pairing I like to partake in (Femme/Fag**), I articulated it to a bunch of folks while I was walking through that desert, listened to that Stevie Nicks song “Leather and Lace” a lot and then it sort of happened for me. I didn’t do these things specifically to get laid but just to honor my desire (see below), and I think it happened for me because I articulated my desire and then let go of the results.

GETTING LAID TIP THE THIRD: Honor Your Desires
Another thing I want to make clear is you should never lower your standards. Being a picky identified person myself, I know that not lowering my standards means a lot of sex-free months between sweethearts, walking through that desert longer than usual. My mind is my erogenous zone and when I don’t like someone that much personally/politically I just lose my wood for them entirely. But it also means I am never spending time with folks just for the sake of getting laid. (Hence the importance of item one above.)

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Katie (center) wrote on PrettyQueer.com about how she is not that into sex. I think everyone should get as laid as they want, not everyone likes to have sex and I believe the right 10 minute person is out there for her who will do it to her while she watches Real Housewives.

GETTING LAID TIP THE FOURTH: Get Your Friends to Help
I think it is good karma to help other people get laid. It’s like this feedback loop of if everyone is getting laid I’m going to get laid, too, eventually. I am a natural matchmaker and keep my eyes and ears peeled for folks I know who are single. So tell all your friends what you’re looking for and eventually someone will know someone.

It is also super important to let folks know your relationship status! I always ask people’s friends if they are available. Lots of people are in open relationship situations. I think that if you have a Free Ass Pass or are Monogamish or PolyOneWay the onus is on you to let your friends know so they can help you get laid and help their other available friends zero in on you.

I also believe in starting your own community groups to create affinity. I am sure there are lots of other body positive, anti-racist queer folks near you hankering just as much as you are to find community and get dates. Whether you want to sleep with them is variable, but I find if you make friends with someone with politics that match up with yours they likely have friends who have similar politics and can introduce you. Community organizing is a great way to meet folks. I wrote up a blog post about starting a community organizing group.

I mean, do community organizing because you’re passionate about something not because you want to get dates (we’re not living in a sitcom–I can easily imagine Neil Patrick Harris’ character on How I Met Your Mother doing this) but if you’re genuinely pursuing your paths and your desires you will meet folks and have more dates.

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GETTING LAID TIP THE FIFTH: Rejection is Expected
Rejection is a practice. Nobody ever died of awkward. Anytime you are pursuing getting dates or laid it is going to involve rejection. The more you get rejected the easier it becomes and besides, why waste your time coveting someone who is not able to see how awesome and succulent you are?

GETTING LAID TIP THE SIXTH: Turn Getting Laid Into a Hobby
In the spirit of getting your friends to help, I asked a friend of mine who is getting very laid right now to send me some tips about how to get laid. They told me that getting laid was their main hobby, which is why they were so successful.

A) To improve your odds, go where the action is. Find out where like minded people who share your interest will be and show up.*** If you want sexual connection, go to a sex positive environment like a sex/play party or sex education event. Once there, talk to folks about what you are interested in and be open to learning if this is a new experience for you.

B) Persistence pays off so be prepared to show up more than once. Any kind of connection with folks is a combination of repeated presence over time and community requires participation. Find the groups or events that you feel drawn to and become a regular so people can get to know you and what you have to offer and vice versa. For the biggest bang for your buck, volunteer!

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Kit Yan!

C) Be open minded about your own desires. There’s a fine line between knowing what you want and going after it, and being too focused on a specific thing that might not exist exactly the way you envision it. Your best bet is to be curious about meeting people where they are and seeing how that resonates with you. Be open to being surprised so you can see what is actually being offered even if it doesn’t perfectly match your expectations.

D) Practice safer sex. Protect yourself and your community with pride. Know your boundaries of what is safe for you and learn how to communicate that to potential partners. This includes being able to say no to people who might be using substances that would impair their judgement. You want a hot and joyful connection that both (or all!) of you will remember with no regrets.

Sex is part of your lifelong journey of self expression. Since it’s the part with orgasms, it can be worth a little effort to step outside of your comfort zone and into something new and exciting. Enjoy the ride!

I hope this list helps you all find folks to have lots of GAY SEX with in celebration of NATIONAL QUEERFATFEMME.COM GAY SEX WEEK!

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*My favorite PGP is Majestic’s “gutteral moan.”

**I’m attracted to lots of different folks, including Femmes, but Femme/Fag (no matter the gender looks and acts like a Fag) tends to be my most common pairing and is oddly specific. Also, lots of folks say “[That person] is a Fag” to me a lot as though that should discourage me from pursuing it. But lots of queer folks do it a lot of different kinds of queer folks, including Muppet Femmes like me.

***Also, no matter your attempts to get laid, it is really important to show up for causes and parties and local businesses that are important to you. Your participation is important, your dollars matter and your community will shrivel up without your support. Don’t stop going to parties assuming they will always be there, keep shopping at your local store that caters to you and supports your community first.

2011-10-16

Solicited Advice: Fat Girls In Your Bed/Fat Girls on Your Arm

I love giving solicited advice. I borrowed an advice request from Taueret (AfroTitty over on the Tumblrzzzz) and gave the following advice.

Dear AfroTitty:

hi you ARE sexy but i also have a real question for your queer bodypositive self. i’m talking to this girl who is cute and awesome and also fat, which i think is hot. what do i say when she says she says she’s fat in a sad way? like we just met so i think it’d be creepy to be like hell yeah girl and it’s awesome but also it feels wrong to say no you’re not when i LIKE that about her and there’s nothing wrong with it! help me be sensitive i have no people skills

sundubu

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AfroTitty at Hey Queen.

*Note from Afrotitty: I got this question a couple days ago and my brain has been a little occupied with navigating the new addition to my personal pronoun roster, so I decided to pass it on my fat comrade, Bevin [QueerFatFemme.com] who is also an expert on getting fat girls into your bed/arms*

Dear sundubu:

Thank you so much for your compliment about Afrotitty. She IS sexy.

I am Afrotitty’s friend and co-worker at Re/Dress NYC and I am also a queer body positive identified person. Congratulations on talking to an awesome cute fat girl! The thrill of someone new and rad is really among one of life’s best feelings.

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Door queens at Hey Queen! Hana on the right looking ferocious!

Also, go you for coming from a body positive and fat positive space! Fat is awesome! Fat is also a loaded word with a lot of stigma around it that many people do not find empowering. When I say “Hi Fat friend!” to my pals they know I am saying Fat in a way that celebrates and takes back that word. Body empowerment is special and bonding and I find this like the verbal equivalent to a loving belly bump greeting.

I had a really interesting wake-up call recently when my new girlfriend said “You’re not Fat!” to me when I was talking about my fat. I was like “Uh, yes I am. This is my identity and a big part of my politics.” She has dated lots of Fat Femmes but not a Fat Femme who loved her body and had body politics. I had to remind myself to have compassion for her in the journey to understanding the body politics I have been working on for over a decade. She loves my body and is very vocal about it, but sometimes it’s odd to see someone have that visceral bad reaction to the words I throw around because I am used to being in my radical fat queer communities.

That said, remember when you thought Fat was a disempowering word and maybe you weren’t okay with it? If you can put yourself in that position it will enable you to have some compassion for the long journey your cute awesome fat crush is only just beginning. That is IF she chooses to begin it. Lots and lots of folks on the fat spectrum learn about body positivity and don’t choose to love themselves. This is really difficult work, loving yourself and your body in a world that is hostile to all bodies. Stay open and compassionate to the fact that she might need to come around and might never come around.

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Nogga and Topher at Hey Queen!

In the meantime, you can gently tell her when she uses the term Fat in a derogatory way or is engaging in body shame (or looks at you in shock when you use the word Fat in a positive way) that you think that ALL bodies are valuable and that Fat is an empowering word that describes your body (or if you are not Fat, describes bodies you find attractive and worthy). Also, it is really helpful for people of all bodies to get compliments.

Also, I want to give you some extra support around learning how to be sensitive in interpersonal relations. It is hard! I am a loud, bold, high intensity person and often I have really flunked at sensitivity. But just *wanting* to be sensitive is a good first step. It’s a lot of work to learn and I am still doing it.

So, anyway, sundubu, I wish you the best of luck with this cute awesome fat girl and I hope you get really well laid.

xoxo,

Bevin

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Me and Princess Tiny and the Meats at Hey Queen.

2011-07-19

My Body Paint Photo Shoot with Camrose Artes Infinitae

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There are a lot of things you can do to work on getting in touch with your body. Learning what it means for me to have self-care and physical pampering has been really helpful. So has getting into having bodywork done.

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As someone who grew up both fat and poor, I had a lot of hurdles to get through to feel like I was worthy of someone touching my body to pamper it as well as pay for that to happen. I was 26 and working full-time at a well-paying job until I actually got a massage for the first time.

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Bodywork is an umbrella term that means a lot of different types of therapeutic activities using the body–both through touch and not. Massage is probably the most well-known type of bodywork but there are a lot of bodywork things you can get done including reiki and other energy healing, acupuncture, chiropractic services. I think it’s just amazing to learn how to be touched and how to be pampered.

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In late April I had a bodywork session that was a new form of being in touch with my body that was quite wonderful, brought to me by my friend Cam of Camrose Artes Infinitae.

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I had been massaged by Cam before, both at Michfest where we met (she is on the massage staff) and when she does massage tours through New York City (she’s based in Colorado). She was in town in late April and as the cherry blossoms were in full bloom she was inspired to paint from my existing shoulder piece. I decided to go for the bodypainting bodywork this time.

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I sat down with her at a friend’s apartment in a third floor kitchen overlooking backyards in my neighborhood. The window was open and storms were rolling in and out. We didn’t put on any music, I just listened to the birds and the weather, occasionally chatting with Cam when we were face to face and she could read my lips. But even eyes closed it was a really wonderful experience. Feeling the brush against my body, the breeze on the paint, hours and hours of attention on my whole body with lots of different brushes and sensations. It was unlike anything else I’ve ever done.

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She laid out a huge palate of colors and glitter and proposed color schemes and ideas to me, but I really trusted her instincts. She has such a wonderful eye for different colors, if you page through her portfolio online you’ll see what I mean, every body she works on is totally different.

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She used rose water to mix her paints so all I breathed in for hours was the scent of roses. It was heavenly. She can also do it without rose water if you are scent sensitive but I highly recommend you go for the roses.

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Part of the brilliance of the experience of getting your whole body painted is being able to document it. Cam is a very talented photographer and she has a strong artistic vision. She’s the kind of photographer that prefers to shoot a lot of frames to get the one that is just right.

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She gives really great direction, too. She sees a lot of possibility in architecture and structure, backgrounds and how they blend with a subject.

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Nudity was optional and I have only been shot nude by one photographer before (who is a good friend) so I thought for this since we were planning to try to shoot out amongst the cherry blossoms I would create a special outfit for it. I took an old pink bra and fashioned a sort of faerie floof to it and created a skirt out of shiny gold fabric from my craft stash. I also brought with me a muumuu to wear over it when I needed more modesty.

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I also prepped for the session by getting a manicure in a coordinating color and I decided to just let my hair be wild and fluffy.

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It got too late in the day to go to the Botanic Gardens but we had a lot of fun just wandering through Clinton Hill back to my place. It was like a two woman parade, me popping in and out of doorways and Cam trailing behind me, all smiles and taking photos.

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At the end of the day I felt incredibly peaceful, beautiful and not of this world. I was supposed to go to this legal networking class I had paid for but I decided to skip it and instead visit my friend in the hospital and go to the homecoming show for Heels on Wheels in full body paint. That was way more fun and way more in the spirit of living my life as a full-time artist.

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Cam retains copyright to her images but will give you lots of hi res versions to have for your own collection or to use for your queer performance art purposes (or whatever) with credit back to her. I cannot recommend her body painting services highly enough as a way to treat yourself. She’s also a really great masseuse! She’s gorgeous and has amazing energy! She travels a lot (maybe to your town?) and she’s so wonderful.

Thanks again, Cam!!

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2011-07-14

The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Preventing Chub Rub aka Thigh Chafing

New additions to this post added August 23, 2013! See the bottom!

My mailbag yielded this great question from a reader.

Hi Bevin,

I have a bit of a sensitive question. On your blog, you’ve got all these pictures of you wearing FABULOUS dresses…but what do you do to prevent chaffing? (Or is this not a problem for you?)

(I did a search at your blog before I asked. I hope it’s not too personal!)

Thanks for your blog–it’s fantastic!

–An amateur queer fat femme!

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Camping at FemmeCamp! It got fancy.

Dear Amateur Queer Fat Femme:

Thank you so much for your question and the compliment! I’m so excited to be a resource for you and others. In fact, I have never addressed the timely and relevant issue of chub rub on this blog. (Chub rub is also known as thigh chafing, summertime thigh sweat issues, fat thigh rubbing and the like. But I like chub rub.)

When I was a baby Femme I didn’t think I would ever get to wear dresses all the time for two reasons: the mysterious chaffing between my thighs that made wearing them excruciating, especially in the summer, and my aversion to carrying purses.

And then something magical happened. When I was about 22 I discovered there was a name for this mysterious chafe, and it was chub rub. And there are numerous solutions for it! Also around the same time I discovered a purse I absolutely fell in love with that made me want to carry a purse. And once I had the freedom to carry more things than a wallet and my keys (like femmenabling items like lipstick, hand sanitizer, safer sex supplies and chub rub solutions) I decided there was no going back with this Femme thing, I was all in.

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This is a replica of the purse I fell in love with and carried to death. I used to collect Marilyn Monroe purses, though this one is a photo of another blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield.

So, how to solve the issue of chub rub? First of all, I want to say this is not just a problem for fat people. This is a problem for lots of folks of all sizes who wear pants and who wear dresses. Chub rub is a pervasive fashion issue. Luckily, fat femmes have each others’ backs and we’ve been swapping these solutions for years. Here are some methods I know about, starting with the two I prefer.

First is wearing shorts under your clothes. Not just any shorts, tight fitting shorts. Bike shorts help some.

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Mackenzi found some bike shorts she swears by from Target in the athletic wear section this summer. Here she is in front of her amazing store! It has a brand new ecommerce site so go visit and buy lots of gifts and housewares from her and support a queer fat femme owned business!

I use shaping garments for my shorts-under-dress solution. The best I ever found were from Lane Bryant about 9 years ago. I am grateful that when I worked there I bought a bunch so now they’re only just getting tattered. I have never found such good quality and comfort in a shaping garment since. I think you can get some good ones still from the girdle section of your local department store.

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Me & Sarah Jenny. Sometimes you’re wearing something so clingy that a full-body shaper situation helps to keep the dress aligned. I’m one of those people that doesn’t buy into the thought that shapewear actually makes you look any thinner, I think it just moves your fat around so dresses might fit a little bit differently than if you were freefatting.

This Macy’s light control girl short is exactly the shapewear I am talking about and about half the cost of the ones I bought at LB (that have lasted years). I think shapewear can be a great investment if it isn’t Spanx. Those disintegrate far too quickly and I find them a poor value.

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Me, Leslie and our friend Kwame at a Fourth of July BBQ wearing dresses in the heat. I am freefatting.

I have tried the Lipo in a Box brand (unfortunate name for shapewear) and I found their shorts bunchy and fiddly but they will do the job in a pinch.

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Coordinating tights/leggings/teggings are also a great chub rub solution along the lines of shorts-under-dresses.

If the idea of shorts under dresses sounds hot, well, it usually is (which is why you want shapewear that breathes). So I love the option to use a specialty cream or lotion to ease the chub rub.

My brand of choice is Bodyglide. You can get it online or at running stores because runners chafe, too. I walk right into the running store, buy it, and I’m sure the staff knows that I am a fat girl in their store for the chub rub cream. I use Bodyglide to both prevent chub rub and treat it when it has already happened.

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I think body chemistry has a lot to do with how and whether a certain cream or lotion will work on you, but other friends have suggested:

*Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder-Gel, which you can get at drug stores in the ladycare aisle. I don’t love it because I like the ease of the stick application of Bodyglide.

*Raw Shea Butter Lotion, the brand I prefer is Nubian Heritage. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha turned me onto this brand and it is my very favorite, both scented and unscented versions. But I use it as body lotion and not chub rub cream.

*Deodorant. You’re putting it under your arms already, try it on your thighs?

*Silky Underwear Dusting Powder by LUSH I love LUSH from the bottom of my heart and my coworker Afrotitty suggested it to me as a sweet-smelling solution. I have some, I’ll try it.

Macy and My Block
Paparazzi moment! Meeting up with my friends Brian and Arnulfo for brunch on 4th of July. Photo taken by Arnie while I was on the phone with Brian and Macy was taking care of business. I’m wearing my favorite denim mini skirt that is actually a skooter (shorts built-in under a skirt that you can’t see are there–different from the kind where it’s just a front flap and you can see the shorts in the back, I hate those). I’ve gone hiking in these, climbed trees, clambered over rocks and walked for miles and miles with no worry about chub rub.

So, AQFF, I hope this list helps you grab those dresses from your closet and wear them comfortably through the rest of this summer and the rest of the times in your life you want to wear dresses!!

P.S. Anytime you purchase anything using the Amazon referral link on QFF.com I get a referral bonus and stash it away to buy myself fun stuff like books and toys. I appreciate it greatly. Thanks to whoever bought a lot of stuff in January!


Here are a couple more additions to our arsenal of thigh chafing prevention!

Bandelettes! 6″ bands of lace that grab onto your thigh fat and prevent chafing. My whole review of them is at this link! $14.99 and a bargain!

Here’s a great natural remedy for the chafing when it happens–a coconut oil calendula infusion! Take about an ounce of coconut oil and melt it, add some calendula (available wherever loose herbs are sold) and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then let it cool and rub it between your thighs for relief. Coconut oil is also another idea for chafe prevention.

*Butt Paste, an all natural diaper rash treatment and prevention! It comes in lots of sizes, and I found Butt Paste in 2 oz for $5.99 on Amazon. There is also a Maximum Strength Butt Paste. According to some of the online reviews folks prefer it because it is natural, effective and has a pleasant slight vanilla scent and most other diaper rash creams smell like medicine. Apparently the maximum strength is also good treatment if your chafing has gotten to the point of open sores.

Again, all chafe prevention creams and oils really depend on how your body chemistry works with them. If you have other methods not mentioned I’d love to hear about them!

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