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

2015-07-24

Additions to the Queer Lexicography: You’ve Got Toptions

Wow things have been a little hectic around here! It’s summertime in NYC and I am working hard on my East Coast bucket list. Last weekend I went to a Bluegrass festival in the Catskill Mountains about 2 hours North of NYC, this weekend I head to Atlanta for pre-wedding preparations for one of my besties, I went to two queer weddings in June (one of them at a summer camp in PA!), did NYC Pride (aka Gay Stamina month), produced Rebel Cupcake for the last time and a couple weekends ago took an overnight trip to Fire Island! On that trip I caught up with my friend Avory who loves a clever turn of phrase as much as I do and inspired this edition of Additions to the Queer Lexicography!

AvoryAvory on their birthday after the incredible Bjork concert! Avory serves great fashion and great turns of phrases.

Toptions. This is the idea that you have a lot of different Tops to choose from. And yes, I’m talking about Tops in a sexual way not a sartorial way, but feel free to use it that way too, especially when talking about fat friendly crop tops! Being open to Toptions means being in a mindset of abundance. I think a lot of people out there lament that they do not have a lot of Tops to choose from. Believe me, as a Femme who is Top leaning, especially when it comes to public play, I know that there are lots of Tops out there. I feel like going into any situation where you may want to play, you’ve got to be open to possibilities, talk to lots of folks, explore your Toptions (or bottom possibilities) and have a mindset that there are lots of people out there waiting to be explored!

I spent so much of my early twenties totally convinced no one would be attracted to me that I barely tried. I often clung to the edges of play parties, dance parties and whatever other cruising environments I was in not interacting with folks. I’ve learned that there are lots of Toptions out there, you just have to leap into small talk with folks and feel things out. Being there is often not enough to open the door, you gotta break the ice. Small talk doesn’t cost anything but time and maybe a little annoyance. And, as Rachael says, if you’re going to have to get through 9 rejections to get to 1 yes, get through them as quickly as possible!

You booed up with the first person you met on Fire Island? You are really missing out on all of your Toptions!

Related post–my theory of Butch abundance!

abundanceI believe in abundance so much and want to be reminded of it all the time so I have it tattooed on my wrist! A scarcity mentality is draining to me! Also, I’m repping Wide Eyes Open Palms my favorite latte makers, in Long Beach, CA!

Fuckit List. It’s like a bucket list of who you want to fuck! I have a few people on my Fuckit List and I know we’re all going to be gay for a real long time so that helps me to have some perspective and patience. Also I’ve talked to a lot of older queers about their sordid pasts and have heard many juicy stories about finally being single/available at the same time and getting to do it to that person they’d had their eye on for 15 years.

Also when going to a queer event or place and you know who you’re going to run into, having a Fuckit List in mind of possexibilities is a good way to be prepared and manifest abundance.

Freddy is monogs now, but I’ve got them on my Fuckit List.

nailsMy nails from the cold brew photo… relevant to my abundance mindset and inspired by sunsets in LA!

Shark Week. An incredible euphemism for your period. It’s vicious and bloody! Lasts about a week. Get it? I loooove it. It’s also great because it can be kind of masculine (though Femmes shark it up pretty magnificently) and it’s always nice to have a masculine version of a period euphemism!

200069_10150172750922079_5109552_nI can’t talk about Shark Week without Miss Mary Wanna doing her shark burlesque act! Photos by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake!

This one has been spinning out there for awhile and somehow I always thought people were talking about the Discovery Channel. I don’t know, I don’t have cable, I know people really like Shark Week. But when I heard it multiple times during a few months I was like, wait a minute, Shark Week? And I finally asked.

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OMG it’s Shark Week and all the ibuprophin is gone. This is a nightmare.

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Manses. I can’t believe I never talked about Manses before, but Glenn Marla introduced me to this awesome masculine of center euphamism for period. Get it.

It’s my manses and I hate that all of the products come in pink. Get it together Kotex, people of all sorts of genders get periods!

MacyBevinbeachReading on the beach at Fire Island (Cherry Grove) with my dog Macy!

2014-12-17

Introducing Hell’s Bells, Handbell Butt Choir

One of the things I am most grateful for about my living situation is that my roommate is one of my favorite artists. The things that this femme creates are incredible. Like, stick in your head remember for a bunch of years incredible.

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Last month Damien started getting a bunch of packages and I was wondering what they were. She casually said, Ariel [Speedwagon] and I were thinking of creating a handbell butt choir. I responded, “Oh, really?” But didn’t get to all of my questions about it. Which were many. How are you going to get the handbells to stay in the butt? Do you know how to play the handbells? (Damien has churchy origins so I figured some time in a youth handbell choir was likely.)

Then the night came when Ariel was over (and Lizxnn) and the handbells were opened and I could hear them in my bedroom… clear as a bell. And this was clearly a thing that happened.

So much work went into this choir. Figuring out the mechanics of making butt plugs out of handbell handles. Casting the bell ringers–finding people who were okay with Christmas stuff, playing a handbell with their butt, and at lease slightly musically inclined, plus the more difficult aspect, whether their schedule permitted both performance dates and a couple of rehearsals. Artists in NYC are busy, especially during the holidays!

1907875_734849713259779_1475339536878244670_nPhoto by Zachary Wager Scholl for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

They had to select the songs to play out of the thousands of holiday songs out there. They had to rewrite the music for the songs in some sort of music software Damien learned, and arrange it for handbells in the correct key. And learn what a key was. And decide which four notes were the best for the butts…

10445597_734849459926471_6872289149922360399_nPhoto by Jacqueline Mary for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

I was impressed during this entire endeavor as it unfolded at my house and excitedly went to both performances. The finished product is in the below video. (You can see my little head cackling away with Heather, I’m in the bow in the front row doing backup videography for the first performance.) TOTALLY worth a watch this holiday season!

Not safe for work (unless your work is butt friendly). It’s really funny and heartwarming. Hell’s Bells Handbell Choir!

(Also I was definitely already calling the handbell player second from the left “Jingle Bells” because of their important role in that song… but then after you see the video you know why that name will be seared for life!)

For further holiday related video wonderfulness, allow me to remind all about the amazing Leo Christmas Hammer video from last year. It still makes me cry. Miss you Leo!!

2014-11-07

MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival is Next Week and Why You Should See the Bambi Lake Documentary

Wonderful blog readers, if you have the capability, I’d love it if you opened this video in another tab and listened to the soothing tones of the “Golden Age of Hustlers” by Justin Vivian Bond while you read this blog post. I’ll wait.

Bambi Leaning 1Silas with Bambi.

My friend Silas Howard directed and produced an incredible documentary Sticks and Stones about Bambi Lake premiering in NYC on Tuesday Bambi is the chanteuse, erstwhile sex worker, performer and songwriter of “The Golden Age of Hustlers.” I absolutely adore this song, I’ve seen Vivian perform it several times over the past few years. Sticks and Stones follows Bambi through her old stomping grounds (the ’70s along Polk Street in San Francisco). The 14 minute film has Bambi reminisce about those Golden Days, a three year period before drugs diminished the spirit of the hustling there, pre-AIDS during the Harvey Milk days.

Bambi talks about how she got into performing in the 1980s punk scene in San Francisco and when she developed the courage to begin songwriting. For anyone who is a fan of the song, hearing her tell the beautiful story of San Jose Johnny the Libra is really touching.

Silas cuts into the footage of Bambi and the archival footage with shots from the video shoot for the Golden Age of Hustlers (the video I asked you to play in the background of this post) that Silas co-directed. Sticks and Stones is a really touching story but also very, very sad. “We all get a golden age of about three years,” Bambi says.

The documentary has premiered in San Francisco and LA and is having it’s NYC premiere next week on the opening night of MIX NYC, the queer experimental film festival.

12274733794_a0084c23f1_zHere’s the scale of MIX! It’s giant! A big art factory! All of the photos of MIX here in this post are by Tinker Coalescing.

Last year I went to MIX for the first time and had a blast. I always thought it was just a film festival, but it’s also a huge-scale community art installation featuring epic lounge areas, a stage, performances and so much eye candy to absorb. I plan to spend a few nights there next week during it’s temporary run. Tuesday, November 11 through Sunday, November 16 and then it’s gone.

12774420383_97ba2940db_zLast year one of the installations was the Breastival Vestibule by my friend Rachael Shannon.

The films I’m planning to see are Un(dis)sing Our Abilities–a sexplicit series of shorts about sexualities not seen in the mainstream, queer, fat, disabled, of color and otherwise; One Size Fits All, a series of short films about bodies including the Sins Invalid documentary. Sins Invalid is a performance project based in the Bay Area about sexuality and disability that I’ve never been able to see and am excited to see the film. Nomy Lamm and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha are in it!

Here’s the calendar of films. There are so many to choose from!

12272014053_30bd05f2ca_zHeather Acs produced and performed in a show one evening at MIX. You’ll spy Mizz June there on the left. Heather is producing another show, Ms. Heather’s Drama Club, on November 18th and 19th in NYC.

I’m hostessing at Psychic Fall, a huge nightlife gathering in the MIX NYC space on Saturday, November 15th. RSVP here on the FB or buy presale tickets!

1278807_276340495896758_7447648647983650576_oMe, Cristy Road and Avory Agony at last year’s MIX.

1781559_276340119230129_1756652014182454650_oMy friend Sabina, a queer punk from Sweden.

12272019533_155d6fb28c_zThe MIX Screening room gets tucked away amidst all of the art.

I’m also going to spend a bunch of time hanging out with my friends in the epic art space.

If you can’t make it to MIX Sticks and Stones will release online in the Spring and I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Now go watch the Golden Age of Hustlers video!

2014-10-15

I Lost a Bunch of Weight and Feel Really Complicated About it

Last year I lost a bunch of weight without intending to lose weight.

I’ve debated writing about it for a long time. What do you say when you’re a body liberation activist, who is fat and totally okay with it, when your body shifts in an unintended way? My silence around the how and why of my weight loss has partially been political—my body is nobody’s business except my own—and partially been because I needed to make my own peace with the shifts happening on a very intimate corporeal level.

IMG_20140906_045612Me, backstage at Dollypalooza with MILK from RuPaul’s Drag Race and Camille Atkinson.

During this process I’ve learned a lot about making peace with a changing body. I have been fat my entire life, since I was maybe 5 and it was identifiable to me that fat was a thing you could be and that’s what I was. I’ve been the fattest in most of my friend groups, among the fattest people almost everywhere I go, and generally at the higher end of plus size so that not all plus size stores carry clothing that fit me. My experience of fat came with some privilege—I have not had a Super Fat experience, for example—but I definitely was decidedly fat.

And I loved my body. I still love my body. I had gone from hating my body and being completely checked out of it to being an embodied, yoga attending, dancing full body in spandex outfits on the dance floor, person who could tell you exactly how her body was feeling at any moment. I did so much work to get to that place and to love every inch of myself.

Chronic disease.

Starting in about 2006 I was dealing with chronic digestive issues. It would flare up differently and at different times. Stress, anxiety and I was extremely reactive to fiberous foods—like broccoli and raw salads. My digestion was so bad at times I couldn’t leave the house, or I was often late getting places because I would need to spend time having diarrhea or cramping. I went to see gastroenteologists about my condition twice over the span of a few years. Both came up with different diagnoses, both had me go in for a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. The first diagnosis was colitis, but that was later ruled incorrect. The ultimate diagnosis was IBS—Irritable Bowel Syndrome—which my last doctor explained as, “We know something is wrong with your digestion we just don’t know what it is.” I have tried several different prescription medications for it and nothing resolved it.

I knew from paying attention to my body that coffee was something that made my digestion way worse, so I dropped that habit a couple of years ago. It helped. Replacing coffee with tea in my life is what inspired me to start the Lesbian Tea Basket.

I knew from paying attention to my body that alcohol, especially bourbon, caused a revolution in my intestines. When I gave up drinking at the beginning of 2013 it was partially because of wanting to address these ongoing digestion issues.

IMG_20140419_170005I could never have gone through this process without a fat positive health coach who I could call from the grocery store. “Hey Vic, is spelt the same as wheat?” “It’s better than gluten but still in the starchy carb category.”

Along came the candida overgrowth. It started for me as the presence of yeast during sex. Just a kind of weird, what is that white stuff presence. Then it happened more and more. Because it wasn’t itchy or causing any other symptoms of a yeast infection I didn’t think it was the “chronic yeast infections” a few folks I knew who had gone on the Candida Diet. But my friend and health coach Vic, of Heart Beets Holistic Health, said she was pretty positive my yeast presence was a Candida overgrowth. Vic suggested I read the book The Candida Cure and consider going on what she called the Candida Starvation and Murder Plan.

A lot of people call it the Candida Diet and I hate the term because “diet” is so loaded with baggage. In the media and in common parlance, it is used often as a violent word to attack bodies like mine. So often people don’t understand why fat folks “don’t just diet” when weight loss is much more complicated than that.

Number one, fat might be just the way someone is built. Number two, the systemic oppression of fat people actually makes it really difficult to take any lasting measures towards health. Number three, my body is nobody’s business but my own. Number four, plenty of fat people are healthy. Number five, it’s also okay if someone just wants to eat how they want to eat, they should not experience oppression because the genetic lottery means that will show up as a larger body. No one’s value is based on their choices—all humans are worthy of love and respect.

I could probably rant longer about how much I hate diet culture but that’ll do.

The Candida Cure.

Setting aside my issues with “diet” language, I read the Candida Cure, taking what I liked and leaving the rest. The author of the book was diagnosed with MS and uses the Candida Starvation Plan as a way to live symptom free. Since the whole point of the eating plan is to starve the candida, which feed off of sugar, I began referring to the eating plan laid out in the book as the Candida Starvation Plan, playing off of Vic’s jovial ways of making complex nutritional issues extremely accessible.

I learned a lot about what causes a candida overgrowth—big factors are any period of stress in your life (stress spikes your blood sugar which feeds the candida), going on antibiotics, eating a lot of sugars over a period of time. The book said that up to a third of people probably have a candida overgrowth and Western medicine really doesn’t talk about it. (Which is true—I saw Dr. Oz a few weeks ago and a guest was talking about how antibiotics are causing digestive issues but totally danced around ever using the word “candida.”)

I learned that candida was living in my intestines, eroding the lining and likely causing my years of chronic digestive disease and inflammation.

The Candida Starvation Plan is brutal, when compared to the typical American Diet. No sugar, not even fruit sugars, no caffeine, no gluten/wheat, no corn, no soy, no grains or carbs of any kind besides brown rice in limited quantities. No nightshade veggies like mushrooms or peppers. No sugary veggies. The Candida Cure even says no pork because the antibiotics given to pigs might feed the candida.

IMG_20140901_133725Ribs, when prepared with no sugar, are debatable on the Candida Starvation Plan. My body needed the pork, though.

After I read the book, having gone on her Spring cleanse and determining by the direct cause and effect (“Hey, when I eat a banana I get a yeast infection”) that I did have a candida overgrowth, Vic stepped in to help me design a Candida Murder Plan. The Starvation Plan works a lot better if you’re actively killing off the Candida, too.

Vic gave me a cycle of four herbs to take, since candida can get used to one herb and then not be affected. She also prescribed this “dirt drink” that takes an oil that kills the candida, mixes it with psyllium husks and powder to take it to different parts of the intestines and delivers it with food grade diatamaceous earth and bentonyte clay. Once I was using the dirt drink every morning I could tell that I was healing.

The whole Candida Starvation Plan was about 7 months, with a couple of times where I got off the plan because of life circumstances—travel with limited food options. If I could have avoided the life circumstances it might have worked in about 3-4 months.

My IBS symptoms cleared up about 60% within a month, and were almost entirely gone within 2-3 months. I now only get flares when I eat trigger foods or am very emotionally stressed out.

Losing weight affected me in complex ways, and most of them were difficult.

First of all, it startled me. Having tried to lose weight a lot of different methods over the years and rarely seeing a shift above or below a certain 60 pound range (I called it my pendulum, where as an adult I never went above my pendulum or below it) I really thought I’d just plateau around my normal “low” weight and stay there. I rapidly sunk below that low and kept going. I genuinely didn’t think my body was going to have that in store for me.

Second of all, since the weight loss was unexpected, I felt kind of resentful of it. If you’re one of the billion typical people who are seeking weight loss, the kind of hassle that comes along with it is bearable and perhaps even embraced. But if you aren’t expecting or seeking a weight reduction having to buy new clothing and replace really simple stuff like bras is annoying and a cost that is hard to absorb. Also, when the weight loss was coming on I was also at a period of really intense brokeness and couldn’t afford to replace my wardrobe.

IMG_20140713_125708This dress was a handmedown from a dear friend. I had two friends do closet purges and invite me to dig through their leftovers–goddesssends in a time of brokeness when I needed some staple dresses to wear and many of my favorites were too big.

Third of all, I was impressed with my friends and family. Sure, there have been lots of folks who have given me the nonpliment of “you look great.” There is one friend who I’ve distanced myself from, in part because she just never heard me when I said, “I need you to stop calling me skinny and telling me how good I look. It makes me uncomfortable when you talk about my body.”

The majority of my personal community and family has been really neutral about my weight loss, waiting for me to bring it up if I do bring it up and not showering me with praise. This has been really awesome, because I know I’m doing a great job surrounding myself with body positive allies, and educating folks about how to be an ally to fat folks who appear to have lost weight.

Fourth, I made a decision once I realized I was losing weight to be extremely neutral about it with myself. I even made it a spiritual challenge, to see myself as just a soul having a human experience, that my body is going to change no matter what I do (hello, aging) and that this was just another change. I don’t want to feel bad or glad if I do end up increasing weight in the future. I want to accept it as another phase my body is going through.

I also wanted to really live the phrase Health at Every Size. I’m willing to do the work of knowing what my body needs to feel healthy and do the work to love myself at every size I’m at. If I am going to advance the belief that all bodies are good bodies I am going to treat my body that way as well.

Fifth, I was surprised that sex was different when I lost weight–and not how I would expect. Weight loss rhetoric would have you believe that sex gets so great when you lose weight, but actually it was super weird for me. I have lost sensation in many parts of my body and I can no longer get fisted. I don’t get it. I’ve had sex with two people before and after the weight reduction and both noticed the difference. Vic thinks it might have to do with less adipose tissue, which means less estrogen and less sensation. Who knows, but I’d love to get fisted again. I mean, I’ll continue to have great sex no matter what, but it would be nice to not have to learn a whole new language about how my body wants to be touched sexually.

Sixth, I actually felt weird when asked to pose nude for an international magazine (look for Diva Magazine out on October 18th) that I had lost so much weight. I ate a bunch of dairy before the shoot so I would look plumper.

So what did I eat?

I had to learn a whole new way of eating for my body. I tried the Candida Starvation Plan for a month with no pork, at Vic’s suggestion. That part really sucked and after a month of no pork I went back to bacon—antibiotic free, hormone free, organic heritage humane pork is my preference anyway so I became very strict about that aspect of the pork.

IMG_20140420_182121Vic suggested when I was hungry to make sure I was eating enough fat. Fat fills you up. Deviled eggs are full of fat, but it’s rough finding a no sugar added mayo. I went to Whole Foods.

I got really good at slow cooking meats. I would make a pork shoulder in the crock pot which would feed me for 3 weeks. I ate a lot of bone broth (Vic’s recipe is great).

Breakfast was a challenge. I would have eggs, bacon and greens on some days. Some days I’d make kale, bone broth and pulled pork. Other days I’d have this weird grain cereal called Quia, being sure it was the type of Quia that didn’t have dried fruit in it. I’ve since found this amazing paleo baking queen named Brittany Angell who sells a $10 premium membership that comes with a breakfast recipe ebook.

I had big salads, veggie stir fries, tons of thai food cooked without sugar, and meat. I was doing a lot of cooking and thus doing dishes, but I though I was starving the candida, I was never starving!

I would get a little carb crazy sometimes, and then I would do some baking. Almond flour biscuits were a saving grace, as were brown rice tortillas from trader joe’s.

The Candida Cure allows half a grapefruit, or a handful of blueberries, or a small green apple per day, as all are relatively low sugar fruits. Also sweet potatoes a few times a week, so I got some fries every now and again. I was very strict on the candida starvation (I wanted to be one and done with the Candida Starvation Plan) except for caffeine which I had in iced tea probably once or twice a day because I drink a lot of iced tea. It’s decaf at home but I grab it at Dunkin Donuts often.

It was remarkable, actually, how different food began to taste when I took sweet out of the equation. Regular stuff, like veggies, get sweeter when you aren’t having sugar regularly.

I had tried to diet a many times before I decided to love my body as it was. I always failed. I hated my body. But this time, I was totally embodied and paying attention to how food was affecting me. I love my body and I like paying attention to it and doing things that make it feel good.

Being able to feel the difference in my chronic digestive disease so quickly was really helpful. I knew what I was doing wasn’t some amorphous “maybe it’ll help the candida;” I really knew it was working.

Since I weaned myself off the diet, I try to eat a generally anti-inflammatory food plan. I focus on no gluten/wheat, no soy (this is the most reactive food to me), no dairy during allergy season and limited dairy otherwise, sometimes no corn, low sugar, low starchy carbs. I focus on eating veggies, fruit, meat and protein. It’s really similar to my partner Dara’s anti-cancer diet, so that is helpful.

IMG_20140510_161609I’m really delighted to be back together with honey.

I can tell when I’m eating inflammatory foods because my stomach gets really hard. It’s much squishier when things are moving well. I kind of err on the side of Paleo because that’s a pretty big food movement that is most similar to my food guidelines. Thanks cross fit folks for making a food plan that helps me find recipes easily.

So, that’s the elephant in the room. Longtime readers of my blog probably noticed that I reduced my weight and were curious. I’m annoyed that so much of how I lost weight had to do with not eating cupcakes and donuts and things that I freaking love. Food celebration is a big part of my body liberation performance and activism.

But I also really fucking love my body and don’t want to be all cramped up unless it’s worth it. (By the way, my friend Maggie and Karen’s epic, decadent, weekend wedding extravaganza last weekend? Worth the whole week of yucky digestion.)

I would never have been able to love my body the way I needed to in order to do what I needed to do to resolve my chronic digestive issues before I loved my body.

A long time ago I made peace with my body and began to love it. I’m really glad I can love my body no matter where it is on the weight pendulum. And even though I lost a bunch of weight, I’m still fat.

2014-10-04

How Dolly Parton Taught Me to Have Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

I have been a Dolly fan my entire life. The more I’ve gotten to know her personality, her charity work and her life philosophy she’s just endeared to me even more. I consider Dolly Parton a business and professional role model as well as a spiritual guru.

My favorite way to get folks to really get to know Dolly is to encourage them to listen to her audiobook version of My Life and Other Unfinished Business, her 1994 memoir. I’ve listened to it over a dozen times and it’s the reason I still own a cassette player because that’s how it was published. I love to put it on while I’m cleaning the house.

My favorite quote from her book is this, “All my life … I have been driven by three things; three mysteries I wanted to know more about; three passions. They are God, music and sex. I would like to say that I have listed them in the order of their importance to me, but their pecking order is subject to change without warning.” As quoted from this great 2000 Salon.com article about Dolly.

I think it’s pretty amazing that one of my favorite celebrities has her own theme park and I wanted to make the pilgrimage someday. It’s hard as a working artist to be able to carve out money and time to do a trip for fun like that. In fact, I’d planned about eight trips with friends that had all fallen through, including going to Knoxville for business just an hour away from Pigeon Forge but not having time to go to Dollywood.

My dear friend Jess is also a deep Dolly Parton fan, and had free tickets to Dollywood good for this past Spring. She invited me and Dara to come along, knowing we were going through chemo as patient and caregiver. Dara ended up declining because a theme park would be too taxing for her low energy level and being immune compromised around little kids is a dicey proposition. She encouraged me to go anyway, so I said YES to Jess’s generous offer of her airline miles to get me down there.

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Because I’d had so many Dollywood trips fall through it took until the week before the trip, once the flight was really booked, that I believed it. Once I believed it, I started listening to nothing but Dolly Parton and took another turn through her memoir.

On the first audiocassette of the book Dolly talks about having faith the size of a mustard seed. She’s not super Bible focused when she speaks about God, mostly she’s into the generally benevolent higher power version of God, but this instance she talked about how one only needs to have faith in the tiniest amount, but really believe in it, in order for the faith to be effective.

Jess was flying in from San Francisco and we met late on Thursday night at the Knoxville airport and drove to our Dollywood Cabin.

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Friday morning we stopped for breakfast in Pigeon Forge on the way to Dollywood at Reagan’s Pancake House. We noticed all along the main drag in Pigeon Forge that folks had set out camp chairs as though for a parade, but no one was there. First of all, we noted that no one in a big city would be able to leave anything anywhere and expect to find it again. It was super quaint and country, we were totally delighted by those trusting chairs.

When our server sat us he asked if Jess and I were visiting from Michigan. That was odd but, we felt, the Goddess giving us a high five—since Jess is originally from Michigan and that’s where we met.

We asked him what was going on and he said, “A parade.” We asked if we would like it and he answered with an apathetic shrug, “I guess, if you like Dolly Parton.” We were shocked!

First of all, I was wearing a “What Would Dolly Do?” tee shirt, and we were visiting the Smokey Mountains from really far away, chances are high we like Dolly Parton. Second of all, pretty much all fans are primed from the beginning that it’s rare to see Dolly at Dollywood. She’s a busy celebrity doing her celebrity things all over the world (this summer, in fact, at 68 years old she started another world tour).

14111684103_79592f3cd8_oMy What Would Dolly Do tee shirt is a handmedown from my friend Bridget. This is me and Jess on Dolly’s tour bus at Dollywood. I’m holding her tea set, which is glued to the counter.

We quickly smartphoned all the information about the parade and the weekend. We had stumbled upon Dolly’s homecoming weekend! We knew we’d be able to see her in a parade at Dollywood that afternoon and again at the parade in Downtown Pigeon Forge, where all the chairs were waiting, at 6PM. We decided this was the Goddess bringing us to Dollywood on this specific weekend and were delighted at this turn of events!

We got some advice from park workers about the best strategy to see Dolly’s parade in the park and then get downtown for the big parade (by making sure we went towards the exit of the park to see the tail end of the park parade, to get us ahead of the crowd). I got pretty good at sensing the fan energy and started noticing when folks would congregate in weird spots, those were the folks to go ask about Dolly goings-on. We learned about dollymania.net, the premier Dolly Parton fan website, that had a whole list of Homecoming Weekend activities.

Dollywood has tons of shows, which I think makes it a great all-ages kind of place that’s not just about thrill rides. I noticed that there was a show called “My People” premiering the next morning that had a bunch of Dolly’s family in it. I told Jess, “I bet Dolly is going to be there.” Nothing published on fan sites or in the Dollywood schedule confirmed my suspicion, but I just knew. Dolly is so family-oriented, if she was in town for the premier, of course she’d be there!

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We saw both parades and they were awesome. We even go to walk the parade route through Dollywood on our way to strategically be near the exit and it was really cool to have the Dolly perspective on the parade route, all the eager fans lined up waiting to wave at her. It was so magical and a little overwhelming. Though, I’m sure if you had been a celebrity for 50 years like Dolly has, you might get used to it.

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This was the first time I’d ever seen her in person and she was so cute! In person she looked a lot like my Grandmother, another blonde femme icon of mine, who is a glamorous woman with a big smile and lots of lip gloss.

After the parade, we left the park and I had a hunch Dolly would be getting off her little wagon thing just inside the parking lot and I was right, catching a quick photo of her getting into her Dolly van, that matches the Dolly tour bus we had gone through that morning in the park.

14106260314_06f3203455_zI try to be a super respectful fan and keep my distance. If she hadn’t just been doing a public appearance I wouldn’t have tried to snap a photo.

At dinner that night, after seeing Dolly again in an outfit change at the downtown parade, we tried to figure out how to get to the 10:30AM premier of the My People show as early as possible. The park opened at 10, so we figured we could get into the parking lot at 9. Nothing confirmed any of this, but we had a hunch and just kept following our intuition. Following our intuition kept aligning us with things that were totally delightful.

13919219119_92e5c91e95_zThe Downtown parade was very Southern, small town and a great way to sample all of the dinner shows and entertainment available outside of Dollywood–Pigeon Forge is a big tourist town.

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13919227430_8cf7c81127_zJust after Dolly went by us there was a rainbow that came out of nowhere just above us. Another high five from the Goddess.

We were prepared to stand in line at the gate to the park for a long time, but though we got in line at 9:15 or so, they started letting us in right away. I didn’t exactly RUN to the theater where the My People show was playing, but I walked really fast. And by the time we got there, the line was already incredibly long.

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In front of us was a Southern family. The matriarch’s aesthetic was totally delightful—she had a gorgeous white Southern hairdo, right from Steel Magnolias and a matching seafoam green pantsuit that was likely from QVC. I love that kind of style, and I told her how much I liked her outfit.

The family in front of us kept talking about how we “definitely” weren’t going to get in to the show. I mean, it was 9:30AM and we were already in line for it, but because there were VIPs at the show people were filing into a special side entrance to the theater. The more VIPs that came, the less likely it was that we, the general public, would get seats.

A park employee told the dad from the family in front of us that there was “no way” we were getting in. I just kept telling Jess, pointedly, that Dolly Parton says to have faith the size of a mustard seed, and that we were going to have faith that this was our time to see Dolly. Jess kept supporting me by saying, “Whatever you want to do, I’m following you.”

I was surprised that the family in front of us even stayed in line, given how Doubting Thomas they were about our chances of getting seats. They could have just gone on to enjoy their day in the park. I saw the line behind us thickening and the VIP line streaming folks, including several obvious Parton family members. (Dolly is one of twelve siblings—that’s a big brood.)

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Once our line started moving I got a little nervous for the moment of truth. We wound our way to the entrance of the theater and stopped about ten people from the front. A theater personnel in a Dollywood smock poked her head out and said, “Sorry, no more seats.” Many of the people behind us left, but me and Jess and the folks ahead of us stayed put.

The theater person poked her head out again and said, “We’re not going to be able to seat you.” A couple folks ahead of us in long denim skirts abandoned the line. I turned to Jess, “Well, if I were Dolly Parton I’d point out that she didn’t say anything about standing room.” I had my faith set on seeing Dolly that morning.

She came out a third time and tried to shoo us away but we would not be moved, even the Doubting Thomas family stayed put. I figured maybe they were doubting in words but not in action. I kept repeating that we were having faith the size of a mustard seed to Jess.

Then, moments after the last naysay, the door opened and we were let into the theater. We streamed in, quietly and quickly shuffling through to a huge section in the center of the theater, a bunch of seats marked “reserved.” We were fifth row center!

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And just after we sat down, out of the corner of my eye I saw a rhinestone costume through the curtains and followed the costume up to see Dolly Rebecca Parton eyeballing the crowd! I gasped and pointed Jess towards it.

My heart was so full at that moment I started to cry. It’s so rare that you get the visceral experience of having faith in something that required triumphing over doubts, adversity and people saying “No.” Most of the time these things play out over months of years, rarely does it all happen within an hour with a very satisfying crescendo. It was a lot of emotion! And I felt so vindicated following my faith and intuition.

Dolly came out and took a seat about two rows and a few seats to the right of us, right off the aisle.

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She watched the show with us, which involved her family members and a band playing music live along with a video screen of Dolly performing from above them. It was very surreal to watch Dolly perform on a TV while she was sitting just to our right.

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15243325217_69093e255b_zHer super hot niece, Heidi Lou, performing in the show.

15243328327_1abec55f9e_zDolly on stage with her sister, brother, niece and some other relation.

If I had given up when it seemed hard, impossible or a waste of my vacation day to wait in line for the chance to see her, I wouldn’t have had that experience. During a year in my life that proved to be the most difficult, with one crisis following another, it was the perfect time to be reminded of the power of faith. As much as I’ve admired Dolly for so many reasons, she is a model to me for perseverance and believing in yourself, in spite of all of the Doubting Thomases in the world.

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2014-05-16

Dara’s Experience During Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

Before Dara started chemo I’d known plenty of people with cancer at a variety of ages. Other than understanding that chemo is extremely difficult and disabling, I didn’t know what was involved. Going through the chemo process with someone as girlfriend and primary caregiver has been an extremely different experience and there is a lot that I’ve learned. Helping to ease the discomfort of the person you love the most in the world is a huge motivator to suck up information like a sponge! I wrote the below for a friend who asked for a relative about to go through chemo and I thought it might be a helpful blog post. It’s long so I tried to create headers and bold stuff for easy reference. I’ll write more another post about my experience as a caregiver (I’ve learned a lot) and about the other parts of her treatment.

Dara’s experience with chemo hasn’t been consistent as side effects change and shift. Before she started her treatment everyone (doctors, nurses, former/current chemo patients and their caregivers) said that all bodies react differently to chemo and things will be somewhat unpredictable. Even all the research we did ahead of time wasn’t really helpful until she was actually going through the experience. This is an account just of one person’s experience with the physical and emotional affects of chemo as they’re happening.

14196785121_78d53e8877_zDara’s “Rod Stewart” wig.

She’s on a sixteen week course that consists of eight two week cycles for her Breast Cancer. The first four treatments were of Adriamycin/Cytoxan (abbreviated A/C) and the last four treatments are Taxol (abbreviated T). Different poisons that do different things but they both suck.

In case you don’t know how chemotherapy works, basically it treats cancer by stopping cells from being able to grow and divide—this affects both cancer cells and non cancerous cells. Since your hair follicles are some of your fastest reproducing cells this is why during chemo your hair might fall out.

Going into chemo Dara kept saying she’d heard chemo was “better than it had ever been” which, after I unscientifically polled my Facebook friends who have cancer experience, I think that statement just meant that the drugs to treat the side effects were better so folks experienced less terrible side effects. Also there are lots of different chemo treatments now that get better and better as cancer research comes out. I’ve learned a lot from the nurses we’ve hung out with during Dara’s infusions. Sometimes folks who used to have to be in the hospital to get their chemo infusions over a long period of time can take their chemo meds and go home with them for a 24 hour infusion. There’s a new treatment where folks just take a chemo pill and it isolates and blasts specific kinds of cancer cells without killing the other cells in the body.

During the Infusion

14176949556_88317a8c66_zWe were asked by the MSK publicity department to not include staff faces in a video Dara shot at her infusion center, so even though we heart everyone we work with there we’re keeping that up on our photos for the blog. Hence the “disguise” above.

Dara’s actual chemo infusions are as close to fun as anything involving IV lines can be. The care she’s gotten at Memorial Sloan Kettering has been amazing. The nursing staff at the Brooklyn Infusion Center is incredibly kind, caring, smart as whips and fun. The infusion suites have recliners, a couch for the loved ones, these consoles with internet tv and games on them, free wifi, baller coffee machine and a pretty great fridge with shasta colas. I’ve had friends suggest bringing games and activities to chemo, and we’ve had a ball doing chemo karaoke when the actual chemo goes in. Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” and Alice Cooper’s “Poison” were on the first round playlist.

During the Taxol treatment she gets Benadryl as a pre-med (meds she gets before the infusion, along with IV steroids to help prevent nausea) so she spends that three hour infusion asleep and I do work on my laptop.

The day before her chemo infusion she goes in to see her oncologist and the practice nurse (the nurse who only deals with that doctor’s patients) to talk about the side effects and have a physical exam. She also gets lab work done and we sit down with the scheduler for all her upcoming medical appointments. This process is usually an hour and a half but with wait times can be up to three hours. The main campus of Memorial Sloan Kettering is on the Upper East Side, which is an hour each way for us. There’s free wifi and the good sodas there, too, which is helpful for me to get work done. I bring this up as part of the chemo process because sometimes the schlep and amount of doctor wait time affects how she is feeling and her ability to recover.

How Chemo Feels

Her first few weeks on chemo she was able to isolate “glory days” where she felt good for about the five last days of her cycle—almost back to normal in terms of energy. She says, “It might be better than normal because when you feel normal after feeling crappy for nine days you feel like Superman.” In the fourth cycle she didn’t really have “glory days” and then with the Taxol treatment it’s more like “glory hours” where for a few hours a day she’ll feel okay or have some energy but not reliably.

Feeling good during chemo has been affected by her period, which stubbornly hung on for awhile even though it surprised her doctors that she was still getting it. PMS plus chemo is basically the worst. She also thinks that anything else that was wrong with her before chemo has gotten heightened, like chronic lower back pain.

You Kinda Can’t Do a Lot During Chemo

There’s all kinds of things she can’t do other than the physical obvious stuff that she doesn’t have energy for. No vitamins other than Vitamin D because you don’t want to strengthen the cancer cells we’re trying to kill. No spirulina or other supplements. She was doing a bunch of anti-cancer diet stuff before chemo started and they told her no juicing more than 6 oz a day but she hasn’t been able to drink fresh juices since the nausea started. No tears or punctures to the skin as much as you can help it because you can’t heal that fast and therefore, infections. She had to switch to a soft toothbrush and even then her gums were bleeding like crazy for a couple of weeks.

Chemo makes you immune compromised, so she has to be wildly careful how she interacts with other people and hand washing/hand santizer is an all the time thing. Using hankies or scarves to open doors/touch elevator buttons, etc… Our chemo nurse Erin said that as much as possible learning to never touch your face is a really important way to prevent catching things. As caregiver I have to be extra careful to not get sick as well because if I’m sick she can’t be around me. We have to tell anyone who comes to visit to cancel if they feel that they might be sick or getting sick.

14013573347_f4e975e092_zYou get used to seeing these masks during cancer treatment.

She is given a shot of Neulasta the day after her chemo infusion (luckily this happens in Brooklyn as well) to encourage her bone marrow to produce more immune blah blah blah and she gets some bone pain from it. Her white blood cell count has been pretty high for awhile and then one week went up to 39 which was like enough WBC for everyone in the hallway we were in, as her doctor said, so they skipped it for one cycle. If the WBC is too high something goes wrong but I forget what doomsday thing they said. We had to go in for an extra round of labs the week after they skipped it to make sure she didn’t dip too low.

Hydration has had the hugest effect on her overall experience of side effects. She hated drinking water before chemo. We have done all sorts of things to encourage her to drink more. Coconut water is a huge help (she’ll go through a carton a day sometimes), I found all these calorie-free drink mixes that are meant for water bottles in my cabinet, tea, lemon in water, etc… We also do a daily chart marking off her water intake and I give her stars for a behavior chart every day she drinks all her water. Sometimes working towards a goal, especially when you don’t feel great, really helps.

Watching TV really helps, because it distracts her from her bodily discomforts. Sometimes when friends come for a visit she says, honestly, after a bit of chatting, “I really just need to watch TV now, want to watch with me?”

Feeling “high” from her drugs is not exciting for Dara. She doesn’t find it as fun when it’s high for a medical purpose than recreationally. Plus she wants to feel like she can function and it’s hard to decide to take a drug that makes her feel disconnected from everything around her. Sometimes it’s a welcome relief but most of the time she toughs it out rather than getting high.

The biggest side effects she’s experienced are fatigue, nausea, pain, constipation and extreme emotions. Nothing has been a slam dunk in terms of what’s helped ease them. Something helps for awhile and then maybe it doesn’t anymore, or the side effect gets different or worse.

Fatigue

She just gets tired. At first I thought the experience of being around her while on chemo was like having a partner who has the flu but since it’s not an all the time thing it’s just like BAM she gets tired, so maybe the flu for a few hours. Maybe 10% of the time she’ll get winded going from the living room to the bedroom. And 10% of the time she’s totally up at her normal capacity for running around. The other 80% is somewhere between those two extremes.

14013370469_19440a7cd3_zGoing to the park during her first “Glory Day”.

Nausea

The anti-nausea meds work really well for some people and for Dara they weren’t great. She was extremely nauseous most days she was doing the A/C treatment. Luckily, the Taxol treatment is mostly about pain and not nausea so that’s been a welcome change. Though it’s Sophie’s choice, right, would you rather be in pain or nauseous?


She’s prescribed Zofran (for daytime as it’s non-drowsy) and Compazine (for night-time as it makes you drowsy). She was feeling really jittery for the first few weeks of chemo and thought that was a chemo side effect, but it was actually a side effect of Compazine. Once she stopped taking that at night the jitters went away. She was also given Ativan for nausea as an “in case of emergency” kind of drug. She doesn’t like taking it because she doesn’t want to feel “high.”

By week three of chemo she basically went off her anti-cancer diet and started eating whatever she could keep down—this was mostly bananas, yogurt, and bread.

Here are some home remedies and food that helped when the nausea was really bad:

Frequent, small meals
Ginger ale
Ginger tea from David’s Tea
Morning Sickness Tea from the Herb Shoppe
I hand-ground fresh ginger and kept that in the fridge to make tea with
Really uncomplicated foods: Boring chicken breasts, pasta with butter and a little bit of garlic, I made a bunch of congee (she liked it once but can’t do leftovers when she’s nauseous), french toast, pancakes, bananas cooked in butter as a treat
Ensure is a good meal replacement, and was okayed by her doctor (because of the vitamin/supplement content we had to run it by her oncologist)

Edibles and other forms of medical marijuana have helped with the nausea sometimes, but as I’ve said earlier she doesn’t like feeling “high.” A friend gave her a tincture, which is helpful because she can regulate how much she gets (rather than guessing how much to eat of a brownie, right?) and I’ve heard of a different tincture of CBD that doesn’t get you high but is hard to get in New York.

The nausea is better these days but she still experiences it now and again (a couple times a dayish) on the Taxol.

Constipation

This has been an ongoing issue for the last few weeks and it gets really bad. Constipation makes you grumpy and I can definitely tell in her mood if she’s stopped up. It’s also painful and makes her nauseous. Here’s a variety of stuff that helps, sometimes helps, or has been suggested:

Miralax (powder dissolved in liquid, her doctor suggested)
Senekott (vegetable-based stool softener and laxative, Erin the chemo nurse suggested)
Dulcolax (stool softener, Sarah the chemo nurse suggested)

Food remedies we’ve tried:

Prune juice, prunes on her cereal
Fibery cereals
Eating salads
Blueberry/kale involved smoothies (which I make and usually drink, too, and work very well on me)—my recipe is 3 huge handfuls of kale, 1-2 handfuls of spinach, a small handfull of cabbage, enough almond milk to blend the greens comfortably, then I add 1-2 tbsp of brown rice protein powder, 1 small banana, 1 handful frozen blueberries, blend and drink.

Exercising helps relieve the pressure of the gas inside her and last night I had her do a yoga series I’ve done before to move the digestion, which helped move her gas a little. It’s where you lay on the floor, pull up your left knee with right leg straight, hold for 1-2 minutes, switch to your right knee up and left leg straight, hold 1-2 minutes, then do both knees up 1-2 minutes.

She got so constipated before her second infusion of Taxol that she ended up puking after she got the benadryl pre-med! Sometimes after she finally gets relief from constipation she gets diarrhea for a couple of days and finding the happy medium between the two is rough.

Watching her suffer through this I definitely have been feeling a lot of gratitude for my own movements. Anyone out there reading this who has had a normal feeling poo today, send up a little thank you.

Pain

For the bone pain caused by the Neulasta shot, her practice nurse suggested taking Claritin the day before, day of and day after the shot. It has really helped but not gotten rid of the pain entirely.

She’s had a lot of pain from the Taxol. She sometimes gets relief from ibuprophin—600mg helps her with pain, 800mg helps her go to sleep. She has gone to a vicodin here and there but it is constipating and she feels “high” on it so she doesn’t like it as much. Edibles helped once with her pain but the other day definitely didn’t help the pain.

Dara has found that moving around when she can helps relieve the pain and discomfort. Her doctor has said exercising is great when she can do it and she tries to but it doesn’t always feel possible because of her fatigue. Low-impact walks around the block help, dancing to music for four songs is fun, she likes working out at the empty gym in her friends’ fancy apartment building, and doing stretches. I think anyone who has a yoga practice going into chemo is going to be in a good space for relief opportunities.

Massage has been a huge help with joint pain during the Taxol treatment. I’ll often massage her hamstrings, knees and ankles before she goes to bed. I have heard you shouldn’t massage a cancer patient with metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread throughout the body) because it can help move the cancer, so I would definitely check with a doctor before doing that.

At the okay of her doctor she’s been taking calcium and glucosamine/msm supplements to strengthen her joints (helping her joint pain) and strengthening her bones that might be weakened from the chemo. It violates the rules against supplements, which is why she needed to get the okay from her doctor.

14196784611_e0d0a8ab18_zShe got this amazing alien design in her hair courtesy of Camera Ready Kutz!

Emotions

Her emotions are so intense right now! She cried real tears at the end of Turbo, the snail movie. She cried real tears during that Macklemore “Same Love” song even though she feels complicated about the institution of marriage.

She finds her emotions are easily influenced, so she cultivates what she watches very intentionally—happy videos, movies and tv shows have been really helpful. (She never watched TV shows before, being mostly focused on work and her social life, so now she’s found all 6 seasons of Parks and Rec and we recently discovered Broad City on Comedy Central.)

She is very strict about only having positivity around her and has had to ask some Debbie Downers to not be negative in their interactions.

She also tries to be real, and sometimes (like yesterday, talking about our first visit to the radiation oncologist) says, “Okay, I just need to vent so I don’t want any bright sides brought up right now.” She’s gotten angry sometimes, and has a few songs about how much chemo sucks. Letting out the negative emotions is just as important as cultivating the positive ones. I do my best to coach her through that as I’ve done a lot of work in that arena on myself.

We’ve been going to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and just getting into nature a little bit really helps her mood. I read somewhere that fifteen minutes in nature is a huge stress relief. Even when she’s too tired to walk too far, we’ve just gone and lied under a cherry blossom tree.

A simple change of scenery helps a lot, even if she’s not sure she’s up for it, trying something/anything helps (and sometimes if she doesn’t think she’s up for it trying it still helps). We sometimes just go for drives in the car—on Sunday she drove me to Trader Joe’s and sat in the car while I went inside. She didn’t have the energy to help with shopping but being “out” in the sunshine helped her mood tremendously.

Having buddies to talk to has helped. She’s got a couple of people who started chemo after her she talks to and she’s appreciated chatting with other folks about their experiences with similar chemo treatment. I know there are support groups out there and she’s thought about going to one after chemo is over.

She also sees her friends when she can, and we’ve spent some time apart here and there, which I’ll talk about in the caregiving post.

My dog Macy has been a helpful emotional support animal, Dara feels very calm when she sits with Macy on her lap.

Spirituality is a big part of our relationship and both of our lives. We pray before each infusion and pray over the side effects often. It helps to feel spiritually connected.

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Hair Loss

She shaved her head so her hair wouldn’t fall out in great clumps. We were surprised at how long it took for it to go away. It was kind of scary while it was happening because there was no way to predict how quickly it would fall out, but now I’m so used to how she looks bald it feels like one of the more insignificant parts of her cancer treatment. She’s also not entirely bald—she still has some “fuzzies” hanging on, maybe about 10% of her hair is left.

By the way, she lost body hair first. Her pubes thinned out, then her chin hairs fell out, then her head. On the Taxol she has thinned out her leg hair and lost some eyelashes. Nothing has grown back.

Other stuff

Her skin feels like it’s crawling sometimes and she has the sense she can feel her organs moving. It’s a weird hypersensitivity and dis-ease feeling.

Chemo brain is a thing! She gets confused sometimes and her already hilariously bad memory gets worse. It’s been less true on the Taxol than the A/C treatment.

Her teeth are getting kind of brown. I heard a lot of folks talking about how important it is to go to the dentist right before and right after chemo in case the chemo has eroded the teeth. A couple of friends told me about people where all their teeth fell out after chemo, totally scary to hear. Here’s hoping everything is okay dentally and otherwise afterward.

Your mouth is like the fastest generating part of your body. Like the cells just reproduce like mad in there, so if you get a nick during regular life you heal overnight but during chemo it doesn’t heal and becomes a sore. To prevent mouth sores you can do this solution of .5 liter of water and 1 tsp each of baking soda and salt. Swish with this 6-10 times a day (basically anytime you eat) and it helps prevent them. Dara got a wicked mouth sore the first week of chemo and her doctor prescribed a topical cream to solve it, but before it went away all she could eat was yogurt.

Little comforts help, like getting a couple of caps for her to wear and cozy jammies. She bought a couple of wigs for work (she freelances so she wears them for client meetings).

Sex has absolutely been affected. I’d say if when she’s healthy we’re at 100%, right now we’re at a 25%? And that’s mostly her just giving one for the team if you know what I mean. Her sex drive has definitely been affected. I’ve found, though, that we find lots of ways to connect the way we used to use sex, so cuddling, being intimate otherwise and creative helps.

I am Reiki Level One certified (getting Level Two this weekend) and have been doing reiki treatments on her here and there and they seem to help. My instructor said that his friend with breast cancer liked getting treatments right before her chemo infusions, but I think it depends on when the person wants to have that kind of energy.

A friend suggested the book The Chemotherapy Survival Guide and that’s been really helpful as a reference guide.

Asking questions is totally my MO—I like to ask questions until I really understand things. So I’ve learned a lot about chemo. There’s never a perfect permutation for how to deal with chemo side effects, you just kind of throw stuff at it until something works.

I hope some of this helps anyone out there going through chemo or who has a loved one going through chemo and you want to understand it better. I genuinely hope that Dara is “one and done” with chemo and with cancer.

I’ll be back with a couple of other posts about the experience, and my Instagram has been basically a live blog of the experience of breast cancer. Dara has a great vlog about what she’s been learning from her cancer experience.

14013382068_094eaea021_zThe first infusion, singing Poison.

2014-04-23

New Body Love Video by Mary Lambert

This has been an amazing few days of body love video work on the web!

Mary Lambert, the hot tattooed queer singer brought to the stage of the Grammy’s by singing the hook on Macklemore’s “Same Love,” song has released a new video about Body Love!

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It’s a gorgeous piece of spoken word about loving your body and finding your value within and I was super stoked to see lots of different types of bodies in it, including a trans*gentleman lovingly stroking top surgery scars.

Mary did a whole social media body love campaign to support the release of the video that I lament I didn’t find out about until today when I was cruising her facebook fan page.

Also, a great post-script to the very earnest Mary Lambert video, which is all about how it doesn’t matter if people find you fuckable if you love yourself on the inside, is this super weird but awesomely irreverent video from Ilana Glazer. Ilana is one half of the duo behind Broad City, a tv show on Comedy Central that you can find on Hulu. Broad City is what Girls and Two Broke Girls tries to be but fails. It’s hilarious hijinks of two Jewish girls (one of them is queer) living in Brooklyn. I laughed for a very long time at a subtle Trader Joe’s joke.

Ilana makes the very important point that you, yes you, are completely fuckable and tons of people want to fuck you. And then it kind of devolves into a very “happy 420” place which I suppose is hilarious and makes a lot of sense if you are high, which I was not when I watched it so I’ll find out from friends.

2014-04-03

Untapped Cruising Territory: NPR Singles’ Mixers

Awhile ago I started a blog adventure to go to regions of NYC looking for queer cruising opportunities I hadn’t explored. I believe life begins at the end of your comfort zone and I really think that’s true for dating in this wild city. In a time when I was totally not cruising I ended up finding a gem I wanted to report back to my readers! Even in times of temporal monogamy* I’m looking out to try to get my readers laid!

The event: I’ve been working with a business coach on my attorney business to try to develop a sustainable, more reliable income for myself. My artwork suffers when I am having to spend too much time hustling for cash, and the whole point of having my law practice is so that I can support the body liberation social justice work I love to do. Part of the business coaching is developing business contacts as steady streams of client referrals as well as learning how to do more networking for clients.

IMG_8139_120710The event space. Photo from WNYC.org.

Under her guidance, I was in the process of developing an email to friends to ask for networking events they knew of. All of a sudden, as though a message from the Goddess, I heard an advertisement on NPR for a lesbian mixer. It was so perfect! The event promo on the radio made it sound like a networking event and the event page on the WNYC website made it sound like a singles’ mixer. I was already sold either way.

Coupled with all of this, my girlfriend is a great networker at networking events and volunteered to go with me and coach me on networking. So I was all set to plunk down $40 per ticket (the price was definitely helped because it is a benefit for public radio) to try out some professional networking with other lesbian NPR listeners. A better group of potential clients I could not have asked for.

Why this is untapped for me: Well, the price tag for one. I’m not one to spend $40 for a concert ticket, let alone a happy hour networking thing. Also, I’m totally going to admit loving and listening to NPR but I’ve never given to a pledge drive. (There are so many things I wish I could go back in time and do when I was working at a law firm making real money–donating to public radio is totally one of them.) I’m a total fair weather listener to public radio and I admit that.

Also, I don’t go to a ton of events marketed to lesbians since I actually identify as queer, though I do enjoy “lesbian” as a cultural identity. I was curious what kind of crowd this would create, though, so I was interested.

The Outfit: I went into the event thinking this was to get clients and not as a singles’ mixer (or as an event to write-up for my blog, otherwise I would have tried to get press tickets) so I didn’t take photos. However, I wore one of my super favorite lady lawyer dresses with some vintage cat pins on them. Hey, I was playing to my audience and lesbians love cats.

5752937889_3210240f0f_bI wore this outfit, though this picture is from a couple of years ago, I think I did similar hair and had a different pair of cat’s eye glasses. In my dream job world I wear vintage style dresses for all lawyer outings, which is only true about 50% of the time.

The Wing Femme: In this instance I wasn’t technically cruising so I didn’t have Wing Femmes, I actually had one dedicated Wing Butch (my girlfriend) and an intermittent Wing Butch (Leo). My girlfriend was actually great at this, she showed me how she introduces herself to folks at things like this, starting out doing most of the talking for me, a few of the folks in between she helped me tag team and then the last couple of introductions I did on my own. She was quite great at teaching me professional networking. I don’t love professional networking because I don’t love small talk. This is what makes me a great talk show host but not necessarily great at mixers.

The Scene: The scene was actually pretty fun! I saw a few familiar faces from the queer Brooklyn nightlife scene and some folks from some magazines I know. My astrologer Katie was there (who is single and was looking to meet folks**) and so were a few other folks I have met in my time as a queer New Yorker for over a decade. But what was more refreshing was how many folks I didn’t know!
700_3247Photo courtesy WNYC.org

The age range was wild–a few folks in their 20s, pretty heavy on 30s and 40s and then a good amount of lesbians over 50. But what was even better was that everyone seemed to be having a great time and really interested in meeting people.

I was definitely in the minority of being there for professional networking. At least 70% of the folks I met were definitely trying to meet people to date. I still made some good connections, though, and learned a lot about how to navigate professional networking events should my friends help me identify some of the good ones in NYC.

There was also a really great lesbian trivia game emceed by Caitlin Thompson. It was really, really funny. I was actually shocked when our team didn’t win the trivia game because we got almost all of the questions correct.

700_3034 (1) Photo courtesy WNYC.

The winning team got every question correct. I am in awe of that teams lesbianitude and knowledge of current lesbian events.

Folks were talking all night, and my single butch friend Leo said she got hit on a lot. I felt like the energy in the place was really good and a lot of people there got what they were looking for.

The verdict: I might have gotten a client (I at least got a good lead for a client, we’ll see if she retains me). But more importantly, for you, dear readers, I think the WNYC singles’ mixers are a winner! You can check out the scene for yourself in this slideshow at WNYC.com!

I heard (on NPR this weekend) that there is an OKCupid algorithm that says that if you agree with your partner about the answers to three questions it is a predictor about whether or not you will be a compatible couple. The questions are:

Do you like horror movies?
Have you ever traveled around another country alone?
Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?

(It’s totally worth reading the OkCupid blog entry about why those questions work to predict compatibility. Data! It’s sexy!)

However, I think that whether or not you both like NPR is a good predictor of being compatible because the idea of spending Sunday mornings (my very favorite time spent as a couple) are totally awesome spent brunching while listening to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.

I really should donate to NPR.

WNYC is producing singles’ mixers for people of all orientations all the time (and lots for over 40s)! Check out their listings and maybe also donate to public radio before it’s too late and you pursue a career as a social justice artist.

*My then not-girlfriend and I had a temporary agreement during January about not exercising our non-monogamy, which some might call monogamy but I vehemently called “Non-practicing open relationship” so as not to compromise identity. At the present moment we’ve rearranged to a free ass pass arrangement during chemotherapy, but, lez be honest, getting laid is a lot of work and so is caretaking and self care.

**Katie generally likes femme of center folks, but people of all gender presentations who are stylish and fun get her attention.

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

2013-12-13

Femme Stocking Stuffer: New York Toy Collective’s new Mason

This is a post I meant to include in Femme Sex Week that got a little thwarted waiting for some interviews to come in. So in the meantime let’s just call this the BEST FEMME STOCKING STUFFER EVER in all of the myriad of entendres that can be.

A little warning that the content of this post is sexually explicit because I talk about sex and so it is NSFW if your work doesn’t like photos of sex toys. (They’re still life, not being used but still, does your boss need to see a photo of a huge hot pink cock?)


I did a photo shoot for the NYTC with a bunch of awesome folks including Tuck Mayo, Majda Fagdaddy, Ericka Hart. Here’s a fun behind the scenes video that involves me juggling dildos.

I first met the women behind the New York Toy Collective at a Dia De Los Muertos party I attended in 2012. They were vending their wares at a table and the opportunity to touch and feel the Shilo (their first design) and compare it to the Vixskin was sale enough–it’s so much softer and more pliant yet still sturdy.

Shilo
The Shilo in some of their fun colors.

The Shilo is a pack and play, which means you can pack with it in your pants (either while wearing a harness or just shoving it in a pair of tight underpants or panties) and then the idea is you can functionally use it to fuck someone. Lots of people pack with different things that make them have different relationships to their gender and sexuality, but it is a lot easier to pack with a softer dick than with a typical hard dildo. I learned this the hard way (badum-bum) when I was a drag king performer packing with a hard dick and it fell out of my bell bottoms during a group number to a disco song. I was 22 and I was mortified.

As a size queen I initially saw the Shilo and thought my appetite would need it to have more length and girth to be fun for me. But after hanging with them a few times and them vending at my parties, my lover at the time and I decided to give it a try and she bought it (using my friends and family discount, sometimes it pays in discounts on sex toys to be a party promoter).

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Optional balls with little bullet vibe.

I was shocked at how awesome it was, as I have low expectations for pack n play cocks. Not only was the Shilo fun for foreplay, doing all the things one might do with a pack n play, it was really easy to use and when she would take it off and just use her hand to fuck me with the Shilo, the bulbous head was amazing for g spot stimulation. A+.

Skip to this summer, when I run unto Chelsea and Parker and they have a new model that’s less phallic and comes in hot pink. Like the brightest hot pink I’ve ever seen a dildo come in. I was thrilled. They also knew I’d be excited to learn about their new model, the Mason, slated to be released late Fall, that was bigger than the Shilo. I begged them to make the Mason in the hot pink because it would make it the perfect packing cock for Femmes and swishy dandies who prefer to have bright colors than flesh tones.

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So pink and magical!

I do want to give a shout out to the range of four flesh tones available for the cocks at New York Toy Collective. That is awesome for folks who like a cock that maybe coordinates with their flesh. But I prefer to have a cock that coordinates with my flamboyance!

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The Mason.

I got a review copy of the Mason and I am so stoked about it! It’s 25% longer than the Shilo and the length really helps me because when one is fat and one has sex there is more flesh between you and your partner (for example, bellies take up space!) so having a longer dick when you’re using a harness is easier in that. The bulbous head is still awesome on my gspot.

I also have appreciated the bendiness of the Mason for the, um, fuckee being on top position. Because it bends with my body (when I use it with my current sex roster I’m getting done–it’s just the way my sex life is right now) I find it doesn’t fall out the way other, harder dicks tend to. It’s easier to insert, too!

If you have a Femme in your life you want to buy for, may I suggest this highly awesome sex toy to stuff their stocking? Or just put it on your wish list. Or buy it in a flesh tone for someone who isn’t into hot pink.

This is a super high quality investment piece kind of cock that is fun for play and for packing. It’s very worth it. The Shilo is $149 and the Mason is $159. Optional balls.

This month, the New York Toy Collective is offering a special promotion, the details of which are below. I’ve used these nipple clamp bells and they’re really fun!

The show us your bells promotion is our first social media campaign
(ever) so we’re really excited. It started when we came across these
jingle bell nipple clamps. Literally bells on nipple clamps in red,
green, blue and purple, and we thought on we need these, everyone
needs these. This year we are giving away hundreds of pairs of holiday
bell nipple clamps with the purchase of our products. We’re asking
people to send us (tweet, instagram, fb, tumblr) a picture of
themselves with the nipple clamp. It can be a picture of an earlobe,
cat, water bottle whatever you want just so long as there is no nudity
and it includes the clamp. Each week in December one winner will be
chosen to get $100 gift card at the sex shop of their choice. For a
complete list of the shops you can visit our site, it is basically any
shop that carries our products in the USA or Canada. Additionally,
we’re trying to keep it as open as possible so like any legit
promotion no purchase is necessary, you can use any nipple clamp
you’ve got just send us a picture and you’ll be entered to win. Don’t
own any nipple clamps, a wooden clothes is an affordable and
accessible alternative.

The offer is valid when you buy online or at retail.

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I love the New York Toy Collective because it’s queer woman owned-and-operated, small business and totally awesome. It is an honor to get to work with them and they make really incredible products. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

***

I’m fundraising to support my website and the drive is running until the goal is met. So if you’re able to support the site I appreciate any and all donations. There are some amazing prizes up for grabs including a chapter from my forthcoming memoir full of dyke drama, crushes, flirting, fat politics and femme community organizing at the $50 level.

2013-10-25

FEMME SEX WEEK: Femmes Behind the Sheets

After the success of FAT SEX WEEK and GAY SEX WEEK it only made sense to round out the trifecta with FEMME SEX WEEK. Check out the tag to see all of the entries in this topic and check back soon for more amazing Femme sex talk!

People who are not Femme are often mystified by Femmes in this kind of reverent and beguiled way. There’s some good mystery in the classic Femme tropes that even I sometimes fall under the spell of (like, “How does she get her hair to look like that?” I wonder with stars in my eyes) but I have a tag on my blog about the secret lives of Femmes for a reason–to kind of take the intimidation factor down a couple of notches.

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Weird anonymous photo series I took in Vegas.

For FEMME SEX WEEK I wanted to talk about masturbation and desire in a way that kind of pulls back the sheets on what turns Femmes on. There’s no one way to be Femme (there’s, in fact, approximately 1,467,987 ways to be Femme) so obviously there’s no one kind of sex or fantasy that turns on all Femmes.

I’ve collected a sampling from some anonymous Femme sources, some I know personally, some are friends of friends, and I’ve put them together below. They represent a cross section of race, sexuality, body size, Femme presentation and gender, with about a fifteen year spread on age. From a Latina Hard Femme Switch to a Cis White Straight Femme.

In response to the question What do you think about when you masturbate:

All sorts of things! butch & femme & genderqueer daddies punishing me for being bad, humiliation, face riding, all manner of power dynamics (locker room scenes, the overwrought trope of teacher/student, once I even thought about my boo & I playing out some kind of kinky red riding hood scene in which they were the big bad wolf & I was “fleeing” from them.. hot!). Femme on femme action: glitter, messy lipstick everywhere, those beautiful glass octopussy dildos, big heart pillows, a canopy bed. Shower sex: with those suction handcuffs! sex in a big ass clawfoot tub full of bubbles & petals sometimes rocks my self-fucking world.

I often think about a scene I want to be in. Being tied up, getting so close to coming, then not getting permission to. In my hottest masturbation sessions I’ll edge so close a few times then finally “get permission” to come in what will be a all over convulsing, feel the bottoms of my feet throb, shattering orgasm. I’ll sometimes think of a sweetie that I have a crush on and what making love to them might be like.

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What I think about when I am masturbating depends on the day and the mood. I don’t watch much porn anymore. If I am watching anything it’s medical videos which have always done the trick. I’ve always been turned on by the physiological responses of arousal, in particular. The quickening of someone’s heart – It’s something that just can’t be faked.

Without multimedia, I think of physical sensations. The tickle of coarse beard hair on my inner thigh. The drag of tightening rope against my skin. The surge of power I feel when a cock hardens in my fist. Hands all over me. Arms and chests and necks and smell, that drunk feeling I get putting my face against someone’s skin and breathing in.

Sometimes I think about what I hear too. A sharp intake of breath. The plaintive sound of a man begging, and when words disjoint themselves and turn into unintelligible sound. I love and adore and get off on the pleasure of others.

And sometimes I think about nothing at all — like a sky without clouds. Sometimes when I masturbate I am a body, not a brain. That’s the mindset I need to be in to come with a partner as well. I remember the first time a boy went down on me (my second partner, but the first one who ever cared if I had an orgasm). I was putting on a big show but I couldn’t quite get there. He stopped and looked at me, and said, “I don’t care what happens because I am enjoying myself. So don’t worry about me. Just think about you.” I stopped trying to fake it and cleared my mind completely. That was the first time I came in front of someone else and I realized the blank mind is what I do when I am alone. I have nothing to worry about and no one to perform for. It’s just me.

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My fantasies can change a lot from day to day, but I fantasize a lot about power play. Being raised Catholic, I still have a lot of mental blocks to asking for sex or making choices about what I want in the moment, as doing those things can immediately put me on a path of self-shaming (how dare I actually want sex?!) that shuts me down. So when I’m masturbating I tend toward scenarios where one player (it’s rarely “me”; I don’t actually think of my own physical body when I fantasize, instead choosing to mentally inhabit one or more characters in my fantasy) is enjoying being sexually dominated or even coerced into sex that they end up enjoying.

During the course of a fantasy, I usually switch perspectives multiple times. I may even align myself with both/all the players in quick succession, which might sound confusing, but plays out mentally a bit like some good camera work in a well made porn.

I also read a lot of fan fiction, and must admit that it has influenced my masturbatory fantasies. I’ve recently become quite enamored of tentacles, lately. They fit in well with the “you don’t want it until you’re getting it, and it’s suddenly the only thing you want” theme of my fantasies, and I love that thinking of them makes masturbating feel a bit like a sci-fi novel.

****
FEMME SEX WEEK continues through next week with some exciting interviews, toy reviews and porn!

Does my artwork help you feel better in your body and more alive? I’m doing a fundraiser to help sustain my website, blogging and finishing my memoir. If you can donate at the $15 level I’ll send you a postcard with an affirmation on it! There are lots of other prizes, too, check them out here! Thank you for reading and being part of this community.

2013-10-24

FEMME SEX WEEK: My Experience with Getting Femme Visibility on the Streets

After the success of FAT SEX WEEK and GAY SEX WEEK it only made sense to round out the trifecta with FEMME SEX WEEK. Check out the tag to see all of the entries in this topic and check back soon for more amazing Femme sex talk!

This weekend I was in front of the camera for a lifestyle shoot for the New York Toy Collective (more on their products and a behind the scenes video from the shoot later on in FEMME SEX WEEK). One of my favorite parts of a photo shoot is the chance to hang out with folks I don’t see much and meet new people with an immediate ice breaker–working together on a photo shoot.

While I was getting my make-up done somehow the topic turned to people getting picked up on the street, namely how one of the other models had been picked up on the street and on the train, in the same day, by two different femmes. One of which they ended up sleeping with. I was so impressed! It feels like an urban legend, a hot Femme just rolling up on a cute queer and making their desire known in an intentional way–AND WINNING. (Where winning, here, is both of them getting laid.)

Erica singing about sex toys. @NYToyCollective
Erica, pictured here, is singing a song about sex toys on that ukelele.

I’ve noticed over the last year or so that I have had an increase in my own queer visibility on the street. I tend to tweet about it whenever it happens because I’m usually alone and it’s so remarkable to be a Femme presenting person getting a dyke head nod or a wink on the street from a queer presenting person. It rules! It’s like that inner 20 year old in me who wore nothing but baggy Old Navy men’s clothing to appear more “andro” because I thought that’s what would get me attention from other queers is finally getting what she always wanted. To be seen.

I’m also an intrepid queer explorer so as soon as this visibility started happening to me I went into self-examination mode to determine what I was doing differently.

My dyke head nods, winks and smiles happen usually when I’m alone and lots of places I don’t expect. Especially at the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, when I’m wearing no make-up and some kind of “running around”outfit, I feel like I see all kinds of masculine of center queers who give me the nod.

I delight in the queer acknowledgement and then sit back and examine what I was wearing, doing, or “coding”to be queer. I’m feeling my most authentically queer when I’m really performing my gender, and that is in a huge, over the top kind of way that I mostly only do at certain parties. (See:every Rebel Cupcake, Swoon and Hey Queen.)

Lifestyle. @tuckmayo backstage at @NYToyCollective
Me and Tuck during the photo shoot.

Then I think about my hair. Is it because I have weird, loud hair (that’s about as loud and weird as I can get away with and still be a practicing attorney)? And I see other hot Femme presenting people out in the world with loud hair but it doesn’t necessarily code them as queer.

But what I have figured out is that it’s not so much how I present it’s what I do. And it’s that I finally learned how to casually flirt with people with an eyebrow raise or a smile or a wink, which is what is eliciting this response of “I see you and I wink back.”

I spent a decade trying to figure out how to flirt and express desire. Being called “too much”or “coming on too strong” many times, I kind of put the kibash on it. And before I was “too much” I would let my fear of rejection stop me from asking people out, flirting or being at all forward with people. Up until a couple of years ago, I had no idea how to be in the middle ground. And, as in all things, expressions of desire are a balancing act.

What I’ve done is finally,, finally absorbed my own advice of “Nobody ever died of awkward,” and what Rachael was always trying to teach me about flirting. “It’s never a bad time to make someone feel good.”

Backstage at new york toy collective @NYToyCollective photo shoot.

Flirting with someone on the street is not a big deal. And I’m not talking about catcalling, harassing or yelling at someone. I’m talking about a little eye contact and a smile to say, “I see you queer and I think you’re hot.” This often goes unnoticed by the person, but sometimes it doesn’t. And I get that head nod or acknowledgement. It’s kind of like that awesome Butch/Femme “dance” dynamic that people talk about, only here it’s queer on queer and it’s just about really seeing and appreciating each other.

So as I relaxed into the understanding that expressing desire didn’t mean I was proposing marriage, that I’ve done the work on my self-esteem to know that my self-esteem doesn’t rely on other people, I have nothing to lose in thst circumstance. It’s now become a kind of reflex, I see a hot queer on the street and I do the head nod or the smile that let’s them know that I see them. And sometimes they see me seeing them!

Maybe I’ll work up to the kind of impressive work that the Femme used to pick up that hot model on the train (they are really hot, by the way). But in the meantime I’m appreciating the ways in which I’ve eroded my own feelings of Femme invisibility in this tiny way and I’m maybe brightening the day of some anonymous hot queer on the street by non-verbally acknowledging their hotness.

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FEMME SEX WEEK continues through next week with some exciting interviews, toy reviews and porn!

If my site has ever helped you get a date, learn how to love yourself more or feel at home in your body, would you consider donating? My fund drive has some really amazing prizes and I’m working to fund my art so that I can finish my memoir and keep putting the kind of energy into this blog that I love to do. For $100 you can get a laptop dance from Drae Campbell. (This prize is too hot for Go Fund Me, so donate the $100 through paypal to queerfatfemme at gmail).

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