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

2015-10-02

How I’m Leaning into Decluttering

A couple of years ago I had my first full reading with my astrologer, Katie Sweetman of Empowering Astrology. She told me that I should be decluttering. It was a big spiritual thing I needed/wanted to do but because of elements of my chart I don’t remember, it was also something that was hard for me. Both a struggle and something that I needed to happen for my spiritual growth.

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In the Earthly realm I can tell you straight up why decluttering is hard for me–I moved 13 times by the time I was 13 years old. I had a working class single mom, so between financial uncertainty, divorce stuff, and moving towards the best public school district she could, we were on the run a lot. As a kid, coming home from summer camp to a new place is jarring. I have a thing with wanting to feel settled in a space and I think having stuff is part of that. It’s also from a place of having been really poor/broke in my life and wanting to make sure I can be safe and have the things I need. I’m a pantry always full just in case kind of person. State of emergency and stores are closed? My house is where you want to be.

In the past couple of years I’ve been leaning towards late in life minimalism. Well, my version of it, which, compared to how I used to be, will appear way more simplified. (I love glitter, accessories and flamboyance too much to truly ever do minimalism.)

As someone who has come to faith in my thirties, part of paring down is actually trusting the universe. If I get rid of these crayons, can I trust the universe enough that when I need crayons again I will have the means to buy them or borrow them? If I get rid of these clothes can I trust the universe that I will be able to get clothes that fit me when I need them? It’s hard to do that when you’ve had the experience of a weight change and not been able to afford work clothes that fit. (This is why a lot of work wardrobe pieces for me accommodate size changes.)

notesDecluttering old files meant I found a weird stash of personal archives from earlier this decade. I found a postcard from a friend, a note from an old lover, the card I got from the first time I met World Famous *BOB* in person before we became friends, a coupon for Bed Bath and Beyond I still intend to redeem.

The universe works in mysterious ways and somehow, just after I lost my day job in 2008 and set out as an artist/freelancer, I met someone who now invites me over every time she does a closet purge and it’s almost as good as having a personal shopper–her taste is impeccable, we’re about the same size and she loves shopping but is a picky outfit wearer and rarely returns things. Her generosity has kept me in cute clothes through a LOT of financial tough times. Her Tumblr is also amazing, lots of rad fat stuff, sex positivity and feminism.

Katie’s astrology reading was right, I can feel the internal need to simplify and to open up energy. In some ways I’m very excited about moving across the country because it forces the question “Do I love this? Can this be replaced?” for literally everything I own. I appreciate the nudge to do this thing I’ve been doing slowly for the past couple of years.

mailingstackI’m getting really intimate with the post office down the street. My next task is to figure out when the line is the shortest.

When Dara lived with me for a couple of months during chemo she hired my friend Miss Mary Wanna to come be my personal organizer and organize my bedroom. She was really helpful, both knowing my aesthetic and needs as a showgirl (no one can help a performer declutter like another performer), but also being a firm nudge to get rid of the things I really needed to get rid of. It was right after I had lost a bunch of weight and it was helpful going through my clothing. I have a small rubbermaid tub of vintage that fits at a different size because those are items I love and will come back to, and I let go anything that wasn’t something I loved.

(Miss Mary Wanna is a great personal organizer and if you need someone to help you do a project like that, you should get in touch with her.)

meandjoeyI actually really hate the process of sorting through things and decluttering, but I really love putting love out there. It was sooo fun to make a care package of craft supplies, toys and costume pieces my nieces Joey and Etta will love. It definitely helped me forget how much I hate going through stuff.

That experience was great training and I employed the idea that I wanted to really be able to see and use my home better and in order to do that I needed to continue to pare down what I had. I am a longtime follower of Fly Lady (FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself) and her free systems of organization and philosophies that help folks who are not born organized get some control over their spaces. She’s the person I heard “Do you love it?” from long before everyone was talking about the Tidying Up book.

ettaI love what a weirdo Etta has become, and how princess oriented she is. I made sure that in my costume pieces for her that I put in some balance–a bridal veil I had kicking around as well as a pink suede tool belt. And plenty of really weird toys and crafts. And a lot of glitter.

I began the plans for my impending move in earnest a couple of weeks ago, getting moving quotes (why it takes as long as shopping for insurance to get a simple moving quote is beyond me), and realized that Mercury is in Retrograde and I should just plan to finalize the HOW of moving once October 9th rolls around. I thought it might be helpful to know how much space we have to move before I started packing, but it’s this weird dance of how much I can get rid of versus how much I want to take.

Since Mars is in Virgo I’m using that glitterdone energy towards the organization of the move and it feels great to be taking huge steps forward.

I’m actually learning a lot about myself in this process of decluttering. It’s helping me really think about how I use my time and how it relates to my values. Going through my stationary reminded me how important the written word is in general–I think handwriting is an amazing tool for harnessing energy. Sending random love notes to my loved ones used to be something I spent a good amount of time doing. Doing the decluttering showed me that I want to get back to that.

But I don’t need all of my Girl Scout camp counselor stationary to do that, I can get by getting rid of 70% of my stash and just stick to my card file box. (It’s a great organizational tool for being thoughtful, having cards sorted by occasion and ready to go ahead of time, so all you have to do is remember to go into the card file and pull one out to mail.)

victoriachristmascardIt’s never a bad time to tell a friend that you love them, even if it’s through your 2014 holiday card you didn’t even get printed until February 2015.

I had a friend, Tammy Cannons, tell me she was interested in getting all of my leftover stationary and office supplies and would pay me the shipping. So I had a great time curating an amazing box of old stationary (I said, “I hope you like Winnie the Pooh and Babysitter’s Club”) and threw in a ton of accessories, too. Decluttering + care package is such an amazing feeling.

I’m putting a lot of time and energy into ensuring my stuff goes to great homes. In the past, when I’ve dropped stuff off at Goodwill and Salvation Army I have been told by them that my things would be all sent to the trash. When someone tells you that, you start not trusting the NYC donation monster. Also Housing Works has told me before that they get so much great stuff in NYC they don’t want pedestrian donations. So I’m working on being mindful about how stuff goes away. Since I am intentionally doing my move with a lot of lead time, we’re moving on faith instead of for a job or in a panic, and I’m actually working on how to do this the least stressful way possible.

bevinandtammyI had so much fun putting together Tammy’s care package, too!

I can sort things and do it differently, so I’m going to. It’s helpful to have folks willing to come pick up stuff (also great way to have tea with friends who I don’t see enough) and it’s helpful that my apartment building has a magical “free bench” with a pretty successful turn around. I dropped off my huge stash of craft paint the other day when I went outside to walk Macy and it was gone before I came back into the building. And the stuff that gets donated for real is going to go outside of the city someplace where they have more space and less population density and hopefully things will go to good use.

I’m instagramming a lot of my process at the hashtag #bevinanddaragowest and it’s also a great way to find stuff I’m offering out there for the cost of shipping. This creepy joyful monkey lamp (I bought when thrifting with Mackenzi) was snatched up right away by my friend Lo Lo from DC who will now add it to their a full of monkey ephemera!

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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.

2014-01-23

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

2013-09-09

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

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

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

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

Photo by Grace Chu
Photo of me by Grace Chu.

What inspired you to get celibate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did celibacy get easier over time?

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

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

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

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

What surprised you most about your year of celibacy?

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

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

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

Photo by Grace Chu
Photo by Grace Chu.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-05-29

Solicited Advice: Should I Email Her?

Hi Bevin,

So I am not sure if you put your email up on your website so that people could ask you for love advice, but I am going to try anyways! So here is the situation — I am a girl who is in my early twenties, my best friend goes to college up in Colorado and she developed a good friendship with a lesbian who I actually knew as well through years of playing club volleyball. I have gone to CO each year to visit my friend and the past two years I have gone there I have always flirted/made eyes at this girl (especially after a few drinks), and I developed a crush on her last year. I just recently went up to visit and had a very flirty exchange after going out and drinking (nothing happened but there was definitely something going on and she kind of hinted that she liked me) but nothing happened. It’s hard to explain this, but I really feel like she liked me, but I am just not sure, especially because I have little experience with same sex relationships and am not an open lesbian. Anyways, I left CO feeling a bit sad (they are seniors this year so I probably won’t be seeing her again) but her summer job is really close to where I live (just saying that it would not be out of the question to see her again). Anyways, I couldn’t stop thinking about her, so I even facebook friend requested her, I was hoping she would message me but I haven’t heard anything from her. I am considering messaging her and just saying hello, how are you doing or something like that, but I am also worried that my gut instinct is completely wrong and that I just developed all of this in my head and am crazy or something or even that she knows that i like her and would not appreciate me sending her a message. In a way I assumed that if she had felt as strongly for me she would have met me halfway and messaged me after I added her on FB, but then again she is an out lesbian and I probably come off as straight (other than my flirting–but that was also after a few drinks) anyways, could you give me any advice? Should I message her or just get over it? Thanks. [Name Redacted]*

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Blog posts are better with a photo and I have no photos of drunk eye flirts or volleyball.

[Name Redacted]!!!

I love giving solicited advice!

So, my advice is GO FOR IT. Re-read my entry about how nobody ever died of awkward.

The other day I was thinking about all of the friends I have who I at one time had crushes on or just wanted to make out with or something and I no longer feel that way and we’re just pals. It’s astounding how many people are in this category and how it’s so not awkward anymore that I totally forget that I once agonized over instances of drunk flirting.

And then there are the times that I went for it (especially via Facebook/MySpace in the olden days) because I’m so much better at being bold textually. And having gone for it I totally had big lusty/lovey relationships with folks who otherwise were too shy to roll up on me. Folks who lived far away from me who I had crushes on for years. One of those folks was the person I dated who passed away nearly two years ago and I am so so so grateful we had the time together we did and if I hadn’t been so bold before my visit to her town to proposition her for a make-out we likely never would have gotten together. Like, ever. Carpe diem. For real.

I think I said this in my nobody died of awkward post, but it’s still true–having someone not have reciprocal feelings for me is a really fast way for me to lose my boner for them. I mean, what’s the point if they don’t like me back?

So, anyway, much sex has been had because I was willing to make a move via email/facebook/in person or whatever. And most lesbians are pretty shy. This is why gay boys have way more sex than lesbians do. It is a mystery of the ages but I think women are socialized to be rolled up on and don’t make moves the way gay boys do. (Total generalization, but it is so true that you will have more sex with girls if you are willing to make the first move/s.)

As much as you think you’re “saying” by flirting, having drunk eye sex or facebook adding, you just have to count on folks to be mostly clueless and not pick up on signals.

So send her a flirty email that says how much you’ve enjoyed having eyes with her over the years and you want to see if she’s interested in making out next time you’re proximal. Whatever town that might be.

Good luck and thanks for reading my blog!

xoxox,

Bevin

(I actually wrote this advice back to her the same night. I had some time and the rambly earnestness was touching. I also didn’t address her not being out of the closet yet because she didn’t ask for advice about that! Also I got an email from her that she sent the message and received a favorable reply so let this be a lesson to you, dear reader, if you’re sitting on a potential email to a potential makeout. Send the message!!)

*Some details have been changed.

2012-01-04

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 5: Wyoming, Salt Lake City and Freedom

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.


To Salt Lake City, UT from Longmont, Colorado via Interstate 25, Interstate 80–through Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

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Longmont is basically spitting distance from the Rockies. GORGEOUS. Majestic.

I left Cam’s at noon to pick up a prescription at a local drug store. I called my doctor because I just felt the slightest hint of an oncoming urinary tract infection and that is NOT CUTE on the road. She called in the prescription. Whatever it was went away quickly with the short course of antibiotics and I am glad I took action for my health instead of hoping it would go away on its own.

I enjoyed that the gas station in Colorado was blasting country music like we were in the South and there were lots of cute men in cowboy hats hopping in and out of pick-up trucks. This was my first time in Colorado. I drove through a few small towns outside of Fort Collins on the way to I-25 and stopped at a Goodwill looking for Double Chin Wins. Nothing doing. As I said in my yelp review, the pricing was great for end-users but not for vintage resalers–whoever is doing the pricing at the Goodwill in Fort Collins is very conscious of value, which is actually great for them. But I prefer thrifting where I get to determine what the treasure is, you know?

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Once on the highway I was still feeling the buzz of the love from Cam’s house and how nurtured I was feeling. I was enchanted by the expansive rolling beige hills of Colorado and just as I was about to enter Wyoming saw a big buffalo cut out sign. Thinking “It would be really cool if that was actually a buffalo ranch” BAM, there were buffalo. Roaming.

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When I-25 intersects with I-80 in Cheyenne, the freeway makes a great curve. I was so overtaken with the beauty of the sky there. I had a spiritual moment.

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There is something so incredible when the sky keeps going on forever like that. I felt lighter. I felt open. I felt that energy shift I had been longing for during the last few months of loss and change and grief. I felt free.


Cue MEN’s “Who Am I To Feel So Free”

My break-up in November was the last straw that sent me packing on this trip. I was sort of intent on it working through the holidays and the winter, figuring even if we weren’t forever times compatible we could provide some joy and comfort to one another in the meantime. That she dumped me out of the blue rather than work on things was a shock. It was also a complete blessing in some ways because it liberated me to do the soul-searching and processing I needed to in order to rise from the ashes of my life.

Cue June Carter Cash & Johnny Cash “It Ain’t Me Babe.”

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We had been monogamous and it was the first time I was in complete monogamy monogamy for several years. My fiance and I were non-monogamous with a few rules and didn’t really use it. And anyone I dated after that was never a girlfriend girlfriend. I had once been “secret monogamous” (so declared by a friend) because I was seeing someone and even when presented with ample opportunity I didn’t stray. So being for real monogamous for the first time was a weird mindset shift. If I was attracted to someone I might feel guilty or have to internally process that “Okay, we’re all gonna be gay for real long time,” or something. It’s not hard for me to practice monogamy but I am the kind of Femme who just wants the theory of freedom more than the practice. Monogamish.

My friend Heather weaves this great metaphor. I am a wild pony and I like my corral door to be open. Line the corral with lots of snacks, I’m not really wandering. But when the door is closed it just feels so closed.

So I had been feeling the effects of a closed door. Not necessarily in a bad way and not that I won’t be monogamous again. But this was three weeks after my break-up and I was still doing my internal conditioning of “You can’t act on this attraction because you are monogamous.” And then having to remind myself, oh, no, you got dumped. You’re free again.

And this freedom just settled in like clouds shifting in the sky as I drove through Wyoming that day. I felt good.

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It was stunning. Wyoming is beautiful country, I just can’t believe it honestly. That song Cowboy Take Me Away (cue Dixie Chicks) always always reminds me of it. I went through the Northern part of Wyoming when I was 21 and moving to New Jersey from California and was similarly struck with its gorgeousness.

Since this was the end of November, the weather was shifting and there was visible snow. It was sort of exciting. I stopped for gas often, every 100-150 miles instead of every 200-300 miles as I had previously (my tank will get me 350-400 miles but I am a girl scout and I am prepared). I was stopping so much both because of my peeing needs and also I kept fearing there would be some long loooooong stretch of highway with no gas stations. Wyoming is long and the cell service is somewhat spotty at best.

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Sounds tasty. It was the day before Thanksgiving.

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I love a great sunset–best part about driving East to West is watching the sunset everyday.

So the gas stations had snow on the ground and it was really really cold. Macy had on her sweater. We kept going toward Utah. The best part about this part of the midwest is that they typically have Diet Dr. Pepper in their soda machines. It is my favorite fountain beverage and hard to get outside of the surrounding Texas area.

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I stopped at a Sonic for some tater tots for dinner, lost the screw in my glasses when I changed out of my contacts, did some girl scout macguyvering looking around for an eyeglasses repair kit in my car (found it). Took Macy for a good walk in a Wyoming strip mall, atop some rocks overlooking the glowing highway.

I entered Utah and it was pitch black. The drive of I-80 to Salt Lake City is super mountainous and scary. Lots of “look out for deer” signs and twisty turny stuff. I had never been to Utah but was freaking out more about the road and whatnot to notice.

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This is still Wyoming.

I switched my audiobook to the more upbeat Bossypants by Tina Fey. I gripped the steering wheel. I made it to Utah by 9pm. I was road worn.

Cue Starkville by Indigo Girls. A song all about being road worn and love lorn.

I sat in that hotel room (super grateful for the microwave and fridge so I could enjoy leftovers from Cam’s lasagna) and felt all buzzy from Diet Dr. Pepper, updated the music on my ipod and wrote a very hysterical and lengthy email to a friend. Sadly determined my drive the next day was another 12 hour stretch. My previous Salt Lake City to Bay Area projection had been incorrect. I wanted to make it to my mom’s house in the East Bay by dinnertime but wasn’t sure I could physically wake up in time to get on the road by 6AM.

I decided to let the goddess decide (no alarm set) and fell asleep watching an infomercial for the genie bra. [Which, by the way, doesn’t actually make those women’s boobs look great. You’re better off with a well-fitting real bra or wearing a sports bra. I am not sold on the genie bra.]

I was buzzy and road worn, but I was free.

NEXT STOP: East Bay!

2011-12-30

GAY SEX WEEK: The Queer Date-Not-a-Date

Hi friends and welcome to the resurrection of NATIONAL QUEERFATFEMME.COM GAY SEX WEEK, where I am going to talk about GAY SEX to increase LGBT presence in the media. I previously addressed how to find other people to have gay sex with you. We discussed some cheap or free sex-ed resources in how to have better GAY SEX. I posted a great automatic make-out playlist. Today we’re celebrating the Queer Date-Not-a-Date.

In my post Nobody Ever Died of Awkward: The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Battling Insecurity and Asking People Out I address the complexity and agita of the Queer Date-Not-a-Date.

When I ask someone out I always use the term “date”. I encourage you to do that, too. My friend Megan Beene used to complain about the “Lesbian Not-Date” syndrome where you’re hanging out with someone and you’re not sure if it was/is a date.

In the last year and change I have come to embrace the magic of the Queer Date-Not-a-Date. I use it as a tool for good and not intentional game playing ambiguity and I think you can, too.

The first time I initiated a Queer Date-Not-a-Date in my real life I had a friend who I had a mild crush on. If my crush was on a graph charting how I felt about her in level of romantic intensity it would roll like ocean waves up and down. I never really understood if that meant we should go on a date or not. Something told me I shouldn’t ask her out and, despite my staunch belief that Nobody Ever Died of Awkward, I just thought it best to wait.

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Kitty Glitter from Rebel Cupcake: Cat Party. Darlinda, Just Darlinda, Fancy Feast, Miss Mary Wanna and me!

It occurred to me that we had never once spent time one-on-one and we should experiment with that. I asked her to dinner without any context and created intentional ambiguity on my part by not saying “I want to go on a date with you” and simply saying “I want to go to dinner with you.” Not “grab” dinner or anything that was intentionally casual. Just “go to dinner.”

I had a great time. I really loved connecting with her face to face outside of the regular venues for our friendship, and I also learned a lot about her over the course of the dinner that I didn’t know and realized we were so not meant to be dating.

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I really just want Miss Mary Wanna to be the first thing that pops up in a google image search of Gay Sex.

Similar to the situation I describe in Nobody Ever Died of Awkward, where I maintain friendships gratefully never brought to the date place even though I asked one time, the result of this Queer Date-Not-a-Date did not produce any awkwardness and our friendship actually blossomed.

As a queer New Yorker, I tend to meet people I maybe want to have gay sex with in group situations. Dance parties. Community organizing. Consciousness raising groups. Conferences. Queer witch solstice gatherings. I am in my thirties and tend to make decisions about who I want to do it to or go on dates with using a little more thought and pondering. Maybe at one time in my life, even two years ago when I wrote Nobody Ever Died of Awkward, I would just know right away that I wanted to have a date with someone. Now it is much more appealing to me to just have some intentional time with someone and figure out whether a date is even appealing. I don’t always know right away.

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Here, Elvis santa is deciding about her ambiguous relationship with this elf on the rebel cupcake stage.

The Queer Date-Not-A-Date can be any kind of ambiguous activity a deux planned by you or the other party. Maybe they ask you to hang out and you’re not sure if the intention is a date. Maybe you plan intentional time one-on-one without stating a date intention. When the hang out is over there will be more clarity.

Once you are on the Queer Date-Not-A-Date, it is easy to turn it into a date or cross the threshold. Using the powers you have to push through your insecurity (remembering Nobody Ever Died of Awkward) you can then state your intentions.

I was on a Queer Date-Not-A-Date with a foxy out of towner. We were set-up on a touristy hang by a mutual friend and after several hours of awesome hang out and her dropping a Steel Magnolias quote (WHAT) I set my hand on her thigh and asked if she wanted to come home with me. It was clear to me what I wanted at about 2 AM, but prior to that I didn’t know.

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That time Heather and I produced Steel Magnolias. We’re working on Queer Breakfast Club now.

Sometimes it can be really fun to just go out with someone, hang out, and flirt a bunch without the pressure of a date date. Flirting is fun! It helps you feel alive, joyful and desired. Not every flirt needs to have dessert. And if you want dessert you can just ask. The Queer Date-Not-A-Date is good practice trusting your instincts. It’s also good practice to learn to love the questions as much as the answers.

In the last year and a half I’ve been in the first period of my life where I am not actively or passively looking to date. I have done so much emotional and spiritual work on myself (and have made a lot of significant changes internally) that focusing externally on date stuff isn’t my priority. Imagine how much time you would have on your hands if you stopped stressing about being single or getting dates and just enjoyed your single life and the sex that happens upon you? I have that time and have devoted it to spiritual and emotional pursuits.

You might recall I dated Cougar for four months this year, and she successfully asked me out by requesting a super low-pressure “hang out.” I thought our hang out might be a Queer Date-Not-A-Date because I had previously inquired as to her relationship status to our mutual friend, but wasn’t intending to do anything with the information. I think, had she asked me on a date date, I probably would have freaked out and said no or “yes, but not right now.”

She did the work, reaching out, being flexible and easy to schedule with (helpful for me given how busy I can get) and then busted out a crudite platter as a good host. We had the vibes and at the end of the evening I knew I wanted to go on a proper date with her. It was on from there.

We broke up in early November and it is one of those sad but for the best sort of things. I’m back on the bandwagon of not actively pursuing romance until after I finish a personal emotional spiritual goal. But who knows, when the next Queer Date-Not-A-Date happens it might be the right time for romance or sex or whatever.

I like to go out on proper dates. I love courtship. I love that queer courtship rituals are what we make of them. And at this point in my life I just like to see what the energy brews up between me and other folks and how that’s going to play out. I’m embracing the ambiguity of the Queer Date-Not-a-Date and love using it as a tool for good.

***Special warning–I think the Queer Date-Not-a-Date should be used only when you are being ambiguous in a well-intentioned way. If you just chronically don’t know what you want it’s super unfair to string people along. If you really don’t know what you want, take time out and do the emotional work to get to know yourself well enough so you learn what you want! Also, remember this adage “If you can take it or leave it you should leave it. Make room for something new and magical to take it’s place”***

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I am welcoming a new Blog Benefactor on board this week! The Queers in the Outdoors 2012 Calendar is a super foxy, sexy celebration of sex in the outdoors!

It’s a homemade, zine-esque wall calendar with 12 illustrations of queers getting it on in the outdoors. Proceeds from the sale of this calendar go to the legal fund of this artist, a queer who was arrested and fined $1085 for having outdoor sex. I especially like that the images show a variety of queer presentations, genders, abilities and sexual, uh, situations.

Queers in the outdoors! Getting it on!

The calendar images are too Not Safe For Work for the blog, but clickie through and enjoy! And then buy a copy of the calendar for only 6 to 20 bucks sliding scale!! Support a great cause and promote sexy queer magic times. Makes a great gift for radical queer Capricorn birthday celebrants.

Thanks for your support of the blog, Queers in the Outdoors Calendar!

2011-11-29

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 1: Planning

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.

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A previous Lesbian Jack Kerouac adventure in San Francisco.

I have an inspirational calendar above my desk that has stated for November “Open your arms wide and beautiful moments will come to you.”

After a sudden break-up just two weeks before the end of a two month protracted lay-off experience, I decided to embark on an epic journey. My goals for my Gay American Road Trip were to shift my perspective and my energy. I felt very bogged down in sadness and lacking traction in my life, which was very frustrating. Creatively blocked, I hoped new perspective and big skies would clear things and make way for new blank pages in the chapters of my life.

The decision to go on the trip was solidified quickly, just two weeks prior to leaving. Everything fell into place, and with places to stay popping up from friends it didn’t feel nearly as alone as a solo trip might. I also have a very charming and friendly seven year old Shih Tzu dog who loves to nap in the car. It is hard to feel alone when in the company of a canine companion.

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“Macy you can sleep while I drive,” I adulterated classic Melissa Etheridge lyrics as I packed to leave.

I decided to hop out of town right away―literally the day after my last shift at Re/Dress. I was ready for that energy change. Already a difficult nine and a half hour day working retail, adding community sadness and the agita of uncertainty plaguing me and my fellow Shop Girls, I wanted to shed this juju immediately. Since I had a gig go go dancing at Hey Queen on November 19th I knew that my first chance to leave was November 20th. So I did.

The reactions of my friends, advisers and family were similar―overwhelmingly supportive but very concerned for my safety. As a single 32 year old woman traveling through the heartland solo, I need to be vigilant about safety, but strike a balance where safety vigilance did not compromise the feeling of complete and utter freedom the road offers. As a lifelong Girl Scout and devout traveling adventurer I am familiar with both wilderness survival and road survival. I will be offering my safety tips throughout this blog series.

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Getting things in the rearview mirror, somewhere near Reno, Nevada.

I have hit the road before. When I moved across the country at 21 I departed with my college best friend who decided in Minneapolis to take a train back home. So I had already driven halfway across the country by myself and knew what that was like. I’ve driven the two days to Atlanta, GA from Brooklyn and driven back and forth to Michfest several times. I knew my limits and my preferences and I also knew I liked being alone in the car. I definitely would not have gone cross country on a solo road trip if I hadn’t had experience.

Preparing the Car
*Safety tip.* Prior to leaving I did a few crucial things to ensure my car was ready for the road. I have a Toyota Prius, a dream car I bought myself when I was making $80K a year as an attorney in a small firm before I got laid off and tried my hand at living on less than a third of that per year as a part time Shop Girl and part time solo attorney. The solo business has dwindled to about nothing this year and I am looking for a new full-time gig to replace both of those. I have had to scramble like hell to keep making payments on my car but I love it and couldn’t get out of the loan. So why not celebrate all I’ve sacrificed to keep it by taking off on this trip?

I only go to the dealership to get the Prius serviced. They do safety checks every time I go in and I knew I was due for an emissions service (about $200), which would also help with better gas mileage, and when I was there for the service they surprised me with the need for a brake fluid service (another $200). But making sure it was safe for the road was really important to me.

Preparing the Dog
Macy got her shots updated and a fresh rabies vaccine before we left town (the rabies certificate is packed with us). I also treated her preventatively with Frontline for fleas (who knew what she might get exposed to on the road). I bought extra poop bags, brought a full bag of food, some small tupperware to keep a single portion of food in for our overnights, a couple of extra small tupperware for her water needs, some treats and her favorite lamby toy. I also packed a down blanket to put on the seat next to me, which was something she could dig in and also easier to clean off than my interior.

I also researched pet-friendly hotel chains. I knew we would need to spend a couple of nights in hotels and wanted to prepare for Macy’s welcome. Motel 6 is nationwide and La Quinta is located in most of the cities I might need to stop.

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Peaceful La Quinta moment. The one in Ventura had some kind of ambient wave noise and moon you could watch.

As of this publication I have stayed twice in La Quintas and I find them super comfortable and affordable. ($52 and $62 with my AAA discount plus taxes and fees in Salt Lake City, UT and Ventura, CA, respectively when booked online at La Quinta’s website.)

Planning the Trip
I had about 17 days to spend on the road―with my next gig in Brooklyn being Rebel Cupcake on December 8th. I did a gas estimate on gasbuddy.com to find out if I could afford the gas―hey estimated $450 for round trip to Palm Springs, CA, where my fabulous Grandmother lives. I looked at the route and plotted some places in between where I could stay and where I wanted to visit.

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I’ll be honest that the “End of the World” episode of Parks and Recreation that aired in the beginning of November was a great inspiration to me in the conception and the plot of this trip. Characters April and Andy take a spontaneous road trip to watch the sunset in the Grand Canyon. I knew that was a spot I wanted to see― have never been there and it is only a few hours east of my Grandmother. I wanted to visit Austin and Atlanta, Southern cities where I have longtime besties and there are handsome Southern butches to give this freshly single Femme a little hope at the start of a long Winter. (Sometimes even just window shopping is like eating a full meal.)

I also have friends who popped up on Facebook and offered places to stay. My dear fried and co-creator Cam lives about halfway from Chicago to my mom’s place in the Bay Area. I have a lot of friends in Chicago I could count on for a place to rest my weary head.

*Safety Tip.* I am a member of AAA and believe that to be an everyday safety need as a single lady driving around in a city full of potholes late at night. If I need a tow not only are three included in my yearly dues, but it comes with a tow person who is vetted by my auto club. Helpful for peace of mind. And for around $55 a year in Brooklyn, it’s a huge value considering all of the discounts and benefits from membership. I’ve had AAA since I first began driving and my mom added me to her membership and it has saved my ass on many occasions.

To plot the route, I started plugging in addresses on AAA’s online Trip Tik planner. As a member I can save trips on their website when I log in and it was helpful to keep updating it as I confirmed with friends and got their addresses. (I found with google I had to keep updating my route from scratch.)

I copied a calendar from my wall (the inspirational one) to use the grid to fill in travel times and how long I wanted to stay each place. I started working forward from my departure date, filling in the daily hours and miles traveled and writing where I would sleep that night. I knew my comfortable daily travel was 840 miles, but I could do 1,000 if I had some rest the next morning. I also am a big fan of leaving at the crack of dawn so as little night driving happens as possible.

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This is what greeted me at dawn in Illinois.

I didn’t intend to reach anywhere specific for Thanksgiving― wanted to take exactly as long as I could safely to get across the country and back. Not setting deadlines was helpful for that. (Had I been accompanied by a willing co-pilot we could have done it in 3 days.) Luckily I was able to make it to California for Thanksgiving, 5 days after setting foot out of my door in Brooklyn, much to the delight of my mother.

After I worked my way out to California on the calendar, I began working my way back from December 8th counting backward the route it would require to get back to Brooklyn. This way I could see exactly how much fudge time I had in the middle of my route to plan my brief layovers and make my plans to see folks.

I planned a time in the mileage for an oil change around 3800 miles when I knew I had a day off from driving.

I had to drop a lot from my itinerary―honestly this trip could have taken me a full month. I wish I could have gone up to the Pacific Northwest to see pals in Portland, Olympia, Seattle and Victoria. I wish I had longer to soak in New Orleans―a town I very desperately want to spend a chunk of time exploring. But that’s the thing about travel and the open road, there is always more to explore. It’s with an abundant spirit I say I know I’ll be back and I will see more.

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Somewhere in central Wyoming.

I also ordered some travel books and maps and a Trip Tik book from my local AAA office. I really haven’t used them much, though they are great to have as back-ups and good driving tips, local speed regulations and whatnot.

*Safety tip.* Other safety items I always have on hand in my car are a flashlight, spare tire, shoes, car manual, cell phone charger.

So that was how I planned the trip. It took several days to plan, but the planning itself was very invigorating. When I’m not on a computer at my Grandmother’s I’ll post a map of my route.

In sum, I plan to be on the road for 7800 miles and 17 days.

2011-06-20

So Much Loss

Filed under: Queer Oprah — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Bevin @ 10:07 pm

First of all, I am renaming Gay Pride Month. I am now calling it Gay Stamina Month. Everyone goes out twice as much, there are three times as many events. (The LGBT Bar Association had not one but FOUR pride events this month–that’s not even touching on the abundance of nightlife!)

And in the midst of this whirlwind of pride events and Real L Word people behind a velvet rope on exhibit at a nightclub, our community is rocked by the tragic and sudden loss of an incredible artist. Our friend Cheryl B. has passed away.

Cheryl B

I knew Cheryl first as a poet and the performer behind Poetry vs. Comedy, but I didn’t really get to know her until she dated my friend Kelli Dunham. She was a remarkable person and their love story is dorky and awkward and tender and glorious. I loved that Cheryl could be both sarcastic and sweet, which is a difficult combination. She was also an incredibly talented writer, evident most recenltly in her fabulous blog chronicling her journey with cancer called WTF Cancer Diaries.

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At Nerd Love with Cheryl, Diana Cage, Molly Dykeman and Kelli.

But mostly I knew that Cheryl really loved Kelli and she made Kelli very, very happy, which was the most important thing to me. I remember the first few times I saw her with Kelli I could tell how much she loved her. Sometimes when I go into people’s homes I can sense how much love there is and with Cheryl and Kelli it was palpable wherever they were. On stage being dorky and reenacting their first dates as the bears in the XTraNormal videos at Nerd Love in February, and in the hospital during visits. It was quiet and beautiful and shared glances and dedication to positive thinking and letters to hospital staff posted on their door about being responsible for the energy they brought into their space.

When Cheryl first got sick it was really shocking, and my heart leapt to Kelli and Cheryl. And I cried because it was so unfair, just like right now I am crying because it is so unfair that someone as loving, generous and wonderful as Kelli should have another loss like this.

This marks the third person I have known personally to pass away in the last three months, all under 46 years old. I am so shocked at how much loss my communities have experienced and grateful for how much love there is going around.

I am a person of faith but not religion. I had this beautiful image a couple of months ago after my friend V passed away of all of the beautiful women who are waiting for me beyond the veil or whatever you want to call the passage from this life. V was a Femme mentor to me–I knew her from afar the very first moment I laid eyes on her at Michfest. She was a beacon of Fat Femme adornment and I saw in her hope for myself. At the time I was so lost with my identity, with my body, I felt so isolated in the lesbian community and there V was, self-confident and strutting through a community she clearly belonged in.

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Here is V atop the truck in the Femme Parade a couple of years ago. Our friend VA is next to her on the left.

We met personally years later and she eventually, and often, called me her fashion icon. I was flabbergasted–how could someone whose own fashion inspired my emergence from my self-hating shell call me an icon? It was some sort of circle of admiration bending over onto itself and it was beautiful.

V was so full of love and joy for life. She was tender with everyone. Here’s a confession: I was still so intimidated by V that I never once asked her to take a photo with me. I am a person who obsessively photo documents my life. I am always asking people to take photos with me.* But for some reason I kept being intimidated about asking V, I have no idea why. I guess I once put her on a pedestal and it was hard for me to take her off. Also, hence why I have taken over two months to write about her passing because I was waiting to be able to say something “perfect” even though I know better–I know there is no such thing as “perfect” expressions of love or grief.

So the day that V died I vowed never to let my intimidation stop me from taking photos ever again.

I remember the last NOLOSE conference I was hanging out by the pool and everyone else was in a workshop but V was floating in the pool near my ex-lover Luscious. I was talking to V and she asked if I would take her photo with her iphone floating there–she was so happy, she wanted to capture that moment. So I went to her room and got her iphone and took the photo and won’t forget the look on her face and how she soaked up that bit of life like a piece of bread in a bowl of soup. I wish I had that photo, too!

And another moment. V was a really talented quilter. She brought a quilt she made and displayed it at the worker craft fair and sat in front of it. It was yellow and now when I think of her I often think of that image of her in front of that quilt.

Last week marked one year since Luscious passed away. I realized I am not partial to remembering birthdays or anniversaries of death. I think about Luscious every day and actually have been thinking a lot about her lately anyway. And then when people on Facebook** started talking about it, there I was hit with Big Feelings. It’s as though I don’t like the pressure of the one day that is supposed to hurt more than others. Or one day where you have to feel it bigger, like the feelings aren’t already there or something. But then it is that day and it does feel bigger and you don’t know why.

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Me and Luscious. Photo courtesy of Tanja Tiziana.

But that’s it. There are feelings and there are losses and shit is just sad. I used to be so afraid of grief and feeling sad. There was this time in my life where I made the decision to not be sad anymore. I spent most of my teenage years in this intense depression, mostly stemming from feeling very very bad about being fat. I read this book where the main character just hated herself and was miserable and I realized that I didn’t want to live that way anymore. That was the beginning of my life-long journey to love myself.

But what I unintentionally added to that was a judgment of myself about being sad. I worked hard to escape from feelings of sadness and grief. I learned how to rebound like a pro when I got dumped. I was so sad about my step-mom dying when I was 19 I couldn’t talk about her for three years without crying so I just didn’t talk about her. And she was and is one of the most important people to me. I learned how to not let myself feel sad. I learned how to cut people out and cut myself off from conflict when it hurt too bad.

I just read about Akhilandeshvari: The Goddess of Never Not Broken and it reminded me that all of the things I’ve gone through in my life are really important parts of my strength now. When I forget about that and when the sad, angering or frustrating things happen I fight against them because of the injustice.

Since last Fall I’ve been working really intently on healing losses from my childhood and my life. I had a devastating heartbreak and I didn’t try to romantically rebound for the first time since I started dating. I am learning how to grieve. How to really feel my feelings. How to trust my instincts. How to love myself through not feeling things “perfectly” and how being sad is really okay sometimes but that also gives me a huge impetus for joy in the little things. Being in the moment and present. Everything is temporary–and that’s the beauty. When you are sad it will pass. The crying jag in the car, it will be over. And it is so necessary.

I am sad at the loss all around. I think it is really unfair and I feel so much sadness for the partners and family and close friends of the people who have passed.

But I am in awe of all the love in these losses. I am so inspired by the love Kelli and Cheryl had for each other. I am so inspired by the love V had for everyone around her and the life she revelled in. I am comforted knowing that I loved Luscious as best and as broken as I possibly could and she loved me as best and as broken as she could during the time we had together.

And this is me, my process, my looking at the glass half-full. Because I’ve got just one wild and precious life and I choose to have a positive one, and see V in my spiritual posse of Femmes on the other side looking out for me and ready for me when my time comes.

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And I felt this loss, and the heaviness and busy-ness of last week and all the disco floors and ceilings and too many repetitions of that terrible Katy Perry song and my instincts are telling me to take a break from Gay Stamina Month. I’m going away. Wednesday and Thursday it’s me, my dog Macy, and some alone time at my favorite beach. And I’ll be feeling my feelings, my grief and my joy and my awe and my love for women who inspire me.

And here are three things that have brought me great joy in the last two days.


This video.

Prize Pig Shirt
This photo. The Prize Pig shirt from Heart Attack Culture is incredible.

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Finding this photo I took in San Francisco while filming for Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s Fierce Fat Femmes documentary. I was doing a performance art piece in this donut shop. I love this photo.

*I think our queer and fat and otherwise different communities are beautiful and this is the vision of the world I want to capture. Mainstream culture gets the magazines and tv shows and news reports and I think we should get as much exposure as we can–hence my drive to create media that inspires self-love for all people, regardless of their differences.

**Facebook grieving still feels hard for me to participate in, but I still totally read all of the things people post about V, Luscious and now, sadly, Cheryl.

2011-02-12

Glitterpositive Valentine Sentiments

Happy Validation Day everyone!

Love Thyself
Chalk art from Re/Dress NYC by Erin Bunny Burrows.

This time of year life is inundated with prix-fixe Valentine’s Day specials at restaurants and single-phobic, glitter-phobic rhetoric. (“Don’t be different! Do everything the same! Don’t be a wild pony! Find one person to love and do it in this totally heteronormative way!”) I find it gleefully ironic that these messages are sometimes sent using glitter*, when glitter to me represents people who shine really bright and really differently without regard for trying to quiet down or dim their shine in order to woo a mate.

I am a big fan of doing good things for yourself on Valentine’s Day, partnered or not. I’ve written about calling it Validation Day before and celebrating the joy of your life on Valentine’s Day. I’m into buying yourself something frivolous, delving into the cheesiness of hearts and confetti** just because it’s fun, or getting together with friends to make lasagna, drink red wine and revel in each others’ fabulousness.

I did the last thing one year with a whole bunch of boys. I was 22, being a fag hag and hiding out from the scary world of actually risking rejection by dating queer women. If I went out with a group of gay boys to a chorus of how fabulous I was*** it became much easier than the bizarre rejection I felt in a sea of lesbians who didn’t acknowledge me out at the queer girl events. I didn’t realize then that most people are just shy and socially awkward in big group scenes, my own awkwardness exponentially increasing the discomfort.

I don’t regret those days at all. I really needed to develop a sense of comfort with the woman I was turning out to be and it was like I was in a special baby Femme incubator. I also really loved Dolce and Gabbana cologne, watching old episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and going out dancing and so did they.

I thought I would do a round-up of glitter-positive, fat positive things that have caught my eye lately and share with you so that you, my queer/gender-fabulous/glittertastic lovelies out there can revel in some glitter-positivity out there. Shake off some of that mainstream-media Valentine’s Day hype.

Queerness, for me, is my choice. I am an active agent in choosing who I want to sleep with, who I want to have relationships with, and how I politicize my life.

Glitterpolitic is one of my favorite new blog projects. How is Ashley so hot and so smart? With the addition of her roommate/blog partner Erin their tumblr is unstoppable.

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Ashley at the Femme Conference, with Queer Fat Hungry. Photo by me.

I’m fat positive because I’m a feminist, and I refuse to acknowledge in the magical thinking that if you’re small enough, quiet enough, compliant enough and saccharine enough, you will somehow be enough.

Great article called “Why I’m Fat Positive” by You’re Welcome.

Co-dependent love is constantly represented as the ideal. ‘I can’t sleep/think/ live/function without you, romantic partner’ leads to the inevitable crash of despair when things don’t work out because you’ve set up someone else to meet the impossible expectation of completing you. ‘Forsaking all others’ doesn’t just imply sexual partners but in a nuclear model of family, seems to also speak to friendships and extended family.

Amazing article from Crunk Feminist Collective called Living Single.

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Erin from Glitterpolitic. So much hot in one blog!!

Shame doesn’t work. Diets don’t work. Shame is a tool of oppression, not change. Fat people already are ashamed. It’s taken care of. No further manpower needed on the shame front, thx…You know what’s shameful? A complete lack of empathy.

From “Hello, I’m Fat” by Lindy West.

Go forth, live and love radically!

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Source.

*I love a good post-Valentine’s day craft store sale.
**My Butch Ironworker roommate is making heart-shaped mini cheesecakes for Valentine’s Day and I am very inspired.
***I have always adored nightlife fags as they are liberal with compliments.

2010-06-29

Additions to the Queer Lexicography: Love The One You’re With Edition

I was recently profiled by the fun gang over at Autostraddle in their feature “I’ll Have What She’s Wearing”. It was a really fun interview and it talks about my views on self-love, fashion, and Femme identity. It’s also a direct transcription of how I talk so in case you’ve never heard my podcast you can experience it.

I’ll Have What She’s Wearing: Bevin is a Fancy Muppet on a Mission

Leave them a comment and tell them they should pick me to be in their Lesbian Maxim because I’m sad I didn’t come up with that and I so should be a Maxim centerfold.

It’s time for some Additions to the Queer Lexicography!!

Purse Anchor: I recently went out with three very foxy masculine-of-center gentlemen to a small town gay bar.* It had been awhile since I’d been out in a crew that wasn’t made up of many Femmes and in a venue with a delineated dance floor (let alone room to move around easily). Noticing how they moved around the dance floor versus how I moved around the dance floor was really interesting. I was anchored to the ground with my purse and everyone else had way more locomotion. It’s a matter of street smarts, I don’t leave my purse anywhere out of arm’s reach and when I’m on the dance floor I dance next to it. Generally I carry a clutch so that I can dance with it, but when there is a drink in hand I find that just spoils my groove. So the clutch has to get set down.

With well over a decade of nightlife behind me, I’ve tried many purse permutations for going out. Here’s the thing–I don’t have pockets nor do I trust pockets with the things I need. And some of those things I need are my camera because I obsessively document my queer fat femme life, my wallet, keys and many different kinds of lipsticks. I used to try the bra pocket with just an id and cash and my housekey but I have bigger needs these days.

Regardless, part of being Femme is not having to make excuses for the girl shit I do. Mama needs a purse anchor.

“Ladies, let’s dance over here. This speaker will make a nice spot for our purse anchor.” or “Hey, let’s go dance over by Heather. She has a purse anchor and we’ll be good Femme Allies if we dance closer to her.”

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Purse anchor. As pictured late night at Hey Queen, my favorite Brooklyn dance party (except Rebel Cupcake, of course).

Love Jail: I’m not entirely sure who gave me this term, it was either Glenn Marla or Deb from Re/Dress. We were at the store one day and they told me about the concept. Love Jail is where you get with someone and you drop of the social face of the earth. Obviously sometimes when you start dating you want to get shipped off to love island for awhile** and recalibrate how you spend your time accordingly, but you should never sacrifice your besties for your relationship. It puts too much pressure on the relationship and at the same time is bad friendship form. I talked about this in a previous post, but it is fun to have a term for what happens when you dump your besties.

“I haven’t seen Jane since she started dating Jen. They’re totally in love jail.”

ETA: Love Jail is a concept coined by and told to me by Alysia Angel, meaning essentially the same thing and was the name of her country dj night in Olympia, WA. I had completely forgotten about her telling me about this before I heard it again from Glenn and Deb and wrote this post. Sorry Alysia!

Lesbian Cylon: I recently started watching Battlestar Gallactica. I am not a big Sci Fi person but my BFF Brian gave me the dvds to watch and insisted I would love it… and I did! It’s really character and plot driven and easy to forget they’re in an alternate universe floating around in space. In BSG they actually have robots that look like people, only they’re manufactured thousands of times. So there are many copies of each of however many models there are.

Mackenzi went to a party and described it to me like this. “Everyone there looked like hipster dykes. Studded belt, asymmetrical hair, black tshirt. Repeat.” My response, “Like Lesbian Cylons.”

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Mac is not a Lesbian Cylon.

This has been true for years. There will be a sort of generic dyke look and everyone adopts it. (Remember visors, spiky hair, white a-shirts and cargo shorts?) I think it is true in a lot of subcultures, but it’s just very funny when you look at a sea of people and they all look alike and imagine them to be robots. I value style difference and people who can set themselves apart from the crowd. Or people who can adopt the on-trend look and make it look totally different.

So Lesbian Cylon is a way to describe the generic dyke look of the moment. “I predict the Lesbian Cylons of 2015 will be wearing Beatles haircuts and bolo ties. Just wait.”

****

You can vote for my self-love talk show on OWN until Saturday every day! Please vote early and often! Tell your friends!

*I love small town gay bars, I especially love it with an insider who can tell me all of the local dramz. Not that Brooklyn doesn’t have local dramz (ooh, honey) but it’s interesting how when there is only one bar it all gets localized more painfully.
**Love island is that lovely place you go when you’re on laycation and you shack up with some take out and can’t get out of bed for a couple of days because you’re so enamored with your date. Texts to and from friends sometimes include the line “I’m on love island I can’t go out.” Thanks to Damien Luxe for that one.

2010-05-20

Love Snippets

I have been thinking and talking about love a lot lately. I’ve gotten some amazing anecdotes from people. I’ve been writing them down in my tiny notebook.

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I wish I always looked so put together when I am writing something down. Also, I wish I always had my BFF Rachael looking over my shoulder, but it is sort of like that considering I consult her at least once a day.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been in love.”

Me: “Really?? How is that possible, you’ve had so many boyfriends.”

“I always like to keep one foot out the door so that I can leave at any moment. Besides, the way you all talk about it [referring to my friends] why in the world would I want that? I never see you experiencing the upside!”

***

“Do you have confidence that you will fall in love again?”

Me: “I am skilled in dozens, or even a hundred things… Falling in love is something I am adept at, and comes easy. I fell in love by accident most recently. I know I’ll fall in love again. Whether or not I fall in love & it is reciprocated is an entirely other thing that I have no control over. That’s where faith comes in. Do you?”

“It is all I believe in.”

***

“I’m going to see [her girlfriend] this weekend. I think she’s going to break-up with me.”

Me: “Oh no! I am so sorry!”

“It’s okay. The way things were going she was just being shitty to me. At least now she’s being honest about her emotions. I’d rather know that it’s going to be over with. And I have a laycation coming up with someone in a couple of weeks so that softens the blow.”

Me: “Imagine being excited about a break-up.”

***

From a private comment to my last entry about someone being broken up with for being glitter and with someone operating in an emotional beige zone, I read this part of it and had to snap because I was reading it and agreeing so heartily.

At this point in my life — where I’m learning how to allow myself to have desires and feelings (about things like kids or family or love relationships) and not censor them before they’re even allowed to emerge — being with someone who’s interested in imposing emotional limits from the start is a bad idea.

Wow. Yes. And having the wherewithal to actually articulate that is so leaps and bounds into being in touch with your desires and feelings. Sometimes I feel that there is this pressure in the dating community to be so cool with just being casual and having “no labels” and not processing. Not that I love processing, but I feel some elements of social pressure exist to just kowtow to the people who are commitment skittish. Likewise, there is a lot of pressure in other circles to BE MARRIED and HAVE KIDS and assimilate to heteronormativity. There has to be some delicate balance between u-haul lesbianism and enjoying things casually.

I have a friend who uses the term “intimate casual”. It leaves the door open for intimacy in whatever form that will take but also not putting big expectations on things. I think it is possible, but not when you’re so concerned with policing your emotions lest you scare someone away.

I think people who are checked into their emotions are less likely to be scoundrels. I realized that in the long aftermath of my broken engagement that he was never really checked in with himself emotionally and never told me when the landscape changed. Instead he cheated.

This is why I have made it my business to start loving conflict. Having conflict with someone at least means I know where they’re at emotionally, without having to worry if someone is hiding stuff from me. (This is a process. I still hate conflict. But I am trying!)

***

A note on my last post about glitter and beige. I’m not trying to say glitter means extrovert, beige is introvert. I know plenty of glitter introverts. I also know plenty of stage personalities who are also introverts. And being a stage personality is only one example of a glitter personality. I am just trying to call out a beige privilege in dating–a lot of people leave glitter in the dust for someone less intense/less complicated, etc… No shade to beige identified folks.

However, I will say if you find it hard to wear your glitter on the outside, I encourage you to try. It takes a lot of chutzpah to be in touch with what you are passionate about and share it with people, in ways that make you comfortable but also get you out of your comfort zone.

Rebel Cupcakes gotta work hard to stay fabulous–sometimes it feels like a never ending battle to express yourself and feel good about yourself in a world that is telling you that you are always too much for it. I am confident it is going to pay off. Being true to yourself is ultimately a winning battle.

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3/4 of the Baconettes at the last Rebel Cupcake. The next one is June 17th!

***

I leave you, my romantic, ever hopeful sweethearts, with a poem by one of my favorite new-to-me poets. Regie Cabico:

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