Monday, April 15, 2013

Dancing Home

I'm currently reading Dance, the Sacred Art. The author suggests writing about how dancing feels. So:

I need to close my eyes and my mouth when I dance. Being in my body still feels mostly sexual for me; I didn't even realize that until I wrote it this minute. And thus it still feels body startles and betrays me by being primarily a tool for mens' use.

I dance small and tight. I don't want to be seen or take up too much room. My dancing is constricted like my life, like my thoughts. I worry about getting the steps done correctly instead of just dancing my truth.

I keep my eyes shut because I do not want to see or be seen. I don't want to connect. I have pockets of terror hidden deep within me. I cannot connect because then you will see my broken places, the places I'm ashamed of, where I've failed or been selfish. And though I know you all forgive me my ruined places, my fractures and wounds, I can't. Not yet. And seeing the love you all extend to me, breaks me down.

I don't know how to move through this relationship with my body. But I know I won't quit, because I believe it's leading my somewhere good.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


My particular, special pathology is that I can make anything into a weapon to use against myself.
When I take pleasure in working out and caring for my physical body, I am vain.
Selfish for buying clothes for myself.
A trip to a craft store today with my mom reminds me of all the things I didn't do for my kids: I should have decorated more for the holidays, made scrapbooks, did projects with them.

And so, left to my own devices, left alone with myself, the enemy, in a 5-hour car ride, the litany begins.
These are the things that break my heart:
neither of my kids lives with me, or with each other, and their relationship is not strong.
my kids live 5 hours away from me.
the time my son cried, tantrumming in the truck when I wouldn't let him up on the roof with a hammer.
the time I left my daughter overnight in the hospital with she had her tonsils removed, or that bone spur taken off her thumb, I can't even recall.
the abortions.
the divorces.
my ignorance, which seems only to expand exponentially.

I carefully craft a thick hairshirt: these are my wounds. The pain that cleaves my soul. And this is how I choose to define myself.
But if it wasn't these things, it would other things...

Sometimes I'm so tired but I can't quiet the voices in my head that whisper Fail, fail, fail.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The first one

There is paperwork and a questionaire at the gynecologist's office. One of the standard questions is, How many pregnancies have you had?I used to always lie to the people who expected things of me; but rarely on paperwork. I never thought I was accountable to technicians or nurse practitioners.
So, five.
How many live births? Two.

I was always terrified that I was pregnant, beginning about five minutes after every sexual encounter. Please, God, please, God, please. I didn't know what else to pray.
Although I'd had intercourse the first time when I was 14, my first pregnancy didn't happen until I was 22 when my daughter flew down from the heavens to live in my belly for a while before making her grand entrance.

My baby girl was not yet two when she and I moved out of the family home for the first time. She would spend some weekends with her dad and then I would go out drinking with my coworkers and friends. I coudn't bear to be home alone. It was during one such pub crawl that I met Willy: shorter than me with long curly dark hair. He resembled Captain Hook. He was an easy target, so I went home with him.

I liked waking up to his broad back with a white t-shirt stretched across it. I liked that he had his own home and two boys who wanted to be brothers to my baby girl. I cooked meals at that house and we ate dinners together like a family.

But he was short, and he owned a house in a bad neighborhood, and he talked all the time about a band of singers that had died. And he had those sons, that I would somehow become my responsibility. And I was only twenty-three. And I wasn't even divorced yet from my first husband.

We had sex one night at the house I was sharing with a coworker. I had a single bed and my daughter was asleep in the next room.
"Can I come in you?" Willy whispered.

I went every week to get my nails done, because I wanted to be pretty like the other girls who dated Willy's friends. I went to a woman's white house and sat in her white tiled kitchen and watched her manipulate my hands and fingers and I couldn't even speak. I wanted to close my eyes forever.
"You seem different today," she said.
I never went back.

And then I was startlingly exhausted all the time. And hungry. And I knew what had happened.

The lease on the house I was sharing was ending, and I'd worked hard to save money from my $7/hour job so that I could afford an apartment for me and my daughter. I didn't want to live with Willy and his sons in that scary, dirty neighborhood. I'd found an adorable apartment with a long hallway and a living room and a kitchen with a window, upstairs from a deli, and had made a deposit on it.

But now there was this and it would require all of my savings.

I don't remember telling Willy that I was pregnant. I must have told him I couldn't have another baby then and I didn't want to live with him. I do remember the card he left for me at his house with his half of the cost: a Valentine's card that said, I feel like my heart's been ripped out.

I didn't want to be responsible for that.

I sat in a waiting room by myself. There were other girls there too. First there was a pregnancy test and then a counselling session and then the procedure. During the "counselling," a nurse talked about what choices I could make besides termination, and what methods of contraception I could use in the future.

Another choice was awake or asleep for the termination. They didn't call it an abortion. No one stood outside with signs or placards that day.

I chose awake. Awake meant a faster recovery but that wasn't why I chose it. I clung to the idea of not escaping any of it. I had made this mistake, I had to do this awful thing now, and I wanted to feel every inch and minute of the pain involved.

It did hurt. I laid on an examining table with my feet in silver stirrups and stared at a picture of flowers thumbtacked into the ceiling tiles and took big breaths as I'd been instructed until they warned me of hyperventilating. The pain, as my insides were scraped empty, was as big as my shame.

Afterwards I was sent to a recovery room with other girls. I sat on the floor and bent over my crossed legs: I'd read it would ease the pain of menstrual cramps and so it made sense to me that it would help in this situation as well.

I alarmed some of the nurses.
"What are you doing?"
"This helps with the cramping."

I was supposed to have a friend available to drive me home. I lied and told the staff my friend was waiting out in the car. But there was no friend. I picked up my daughter from her daycare and drove us both back to the shared rental house, where I made her ravioli for dinner.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

when i'm exercising alone, for instance running or using the elliptical, i tend to get lost in my own brain. last night at the gym i used the elliptical for 45 mins while waiting for yoga class...and began to remember what it is i don't enjoy about being smaller.
i don't like the vulnerability. there always suddenly feels like not much between me and the world. there's nothing to protect me, no shield of invisibility. truly, on a deep level, being looked at and acknowledged makes me squirm. i do it because i'm socialized that way and i must, but deep down it's the opposite of fun.
there's also no protection from myself. if the fat is dealt with, then what? doubtless i will have to face all the heartache i work so hard to avoid.
there's no fix, you know. it's waves...of sadness, and then normalcy, and then sadness again. this is not a plea for help--just an explanation. when i see that tidal wave of sorrow bearing down, i want to run. i am, quite naturally, afraid...but then i double my work. there is both fear and grief to turn and face.
and there is so, so much to grieve.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

the *heart* of a slave

One of my favorite books, and movies, is Ethan Fromme. The scene where Ethan purchases the ribbon for Mattie is particularly rending: that such a small thing can be so fraught with meaning.

Subtlety is a lost art.

i recently described my "first" experience with a Master to a friend of mine. Of course, i didn't bother to talk about the very, very first, when i was perhaps 19 and briefly dated a boy, a man, who suggested a D/s arrangement to me. He may have seen my potential even then? but i wasn't ready yet.

but briefly: i was married, and escorting, and in between lovers. this was a time in my life when i did not have the understanding i do now, so i was always baffled by my own extreme sexual and perhaps deviant drives. i was an avid runner then and my black dog, luna, ran with me every day. it was during a run that i realized, or decided, that i didn't even know how to love properly. love, for me, had all kinds of strings and conditions and expectations. my romantic crushes devolved into messes. it occurred to me that modelling my dog's behavior might be closer to the truth of "love." i made a decision to try loving unselfishly, without any expectation of reciprocation.

the next lover i had was more than happy with this arrangement: he could use me as he liked, was never questioned, and was free to see other women. i was learning to expand the boundaries of what i could handle. A. had never been a Master or a Dom but he tried.

needless to say, it ended badly when He lied to me, because that was *all* i had asked of him.

Still, though, the basics of the arrangement ring true to me. my situation at the time was untenable but being the slave i am, i couldn't bear to make a decision myself. A. had agreed to guide me in my decisions and i believed he had my best interests at heart, because he wanted to preserve me as a good slave. {hmmm, so clearly there was still some expectation on my part.}
if we are lucky and mindful, the self is always evolving. we strip away layers of society's expectations in a constant excavation, with secret hopes of recovering our authentic selves. that is where true beauty is found, i believe: in the discovery and acceptance of our most genuine selves.

i've tried almost everything in my life to discover, deny, and change who and what i am. my pathologies span the spectrum from excessive indulgence in food, alcohol, sex, and drugs, to self-harm, bulimia, and various implusive, complusive behaviors.

my family of origin was one of chaos and dysfunction & trauma. i observed a variety of ways to live but never received any guidance; i believed therefore that i had to figure out everything on my own. my mother's example of an independent single mother was the one i had the most exposure to, so that informed my choices as well. i developed into a resilient, autonomous woman.

guess what kind of men i attracted.

men who were not as strong, who admired my strength, who were probably subs themselves.

when i realized that i was, in fact, a submissive, the problems with my marriage clicked into sharp relief. no wonder we were floundering: we were both subs and neither of us was steering the ship.

there are other factors that determined my desire to be a slave. The chaos i always experienced made me long for safety and protection. i tried to provide that for myself over and over but it's just not the *same* as being able to put that kind of trust in someone you know is stronger than you.

a Master has a better, clearer vision for his slave as well as an understanding of who she really is. i happen to be really skilled at aiming low, at expecting too little of myself, of putting my money on the safe bet. A true Master can and will guide his slaves to pursue their highest potential, because it also serves Him well. it seems obvious to me: who wants to own something that's cheap, or ill-made, or of little value?

i truly enjoy serving, and being owned. it may be a choice but once the choice is made, it can't be least not to my way of thinking. i appreciate being driven to be pleasing. i get a deep satisfaction from being found satisfying. i practice patience and deference. i must accept that i am not the *only* slave; that is a wound that burns but the more often it happens, the less it hurts, and i get to practice that unselfish loving that i believe in. and if a Master does "buy me a ribbon," it's such an appreciated gift, full of meaning...this, to me, is the crux of serving: to be able to do it well, and fully. it's not something that can be pretended.
so i suppose this is my "coming out" as a slave. there is a difference between a slave and a sub but i'll leave that to you to discover. it's always scary to publicly admit to embracing an uncommon lifestyle, but jumping into the fear is the best way through it...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

what to wear?

When I was younger, kids' fashion was nothing like it is now. When I was very young, my mom *made* most of my clothing, and I had items I loved like a Winnie-the-Pooh jumper and flowered pinafores. I had a pair of black and white saddle shoes.
As a teen, "fashion" was scaled-down version of adult clothes. Tight "designer" jeans and capezio flats.

I was, of course, never comfortable.

I wanted clothes that reflected my personality--but a) nothing like that existed and b) even if it had, I wouldn't have had the courage to wear it.
I began my work career in New York; then I moved to Vermont and I was stunned to see that the Director of the agency where I worked would wear a dress to work WITHOUT NYLONS. But it wasn't hard to adjust to the casual dress...and now I wear jeans to work.
Today I went shopping at the thrift store: this has been a favorite activity of mine for over 20 years. I found 2 pair of lined slacks that I can wear to the office.
I have certain brands that I like: Eileen Fisher, Habitat, Flax, Sigrid Olsen; but I also look for texture and color.
Just because everyone else is all dressed down doesn't mean I can't dress up, if that brings me pleasure.
So I wanted to share with y'all some of the awesomeness that I'm jazzed about today.

A Geiger wrap. Geiger is an Austrian company specializing in boiled wool coats and sweaters, etc.
I found a cream-colored wrap with grommets in the sleeves (hmmm, a specialized straitjacket?) for $7. Clearly I paid way below retail for that.

I also found a very sweet hand-crocheted sweater in a canteloupe color. It's a very serene item, for my grown-up days.
Here are some non-thrift things that I'm longing for:
a blue lyric jumpsuit by BB Dakota. I totally recommend going through eBates if you want one. But leave one for me.
and Trixie pants from meSheeky.

I am getting more serious about buying a home. I'm leaning towards a condo, because I don't want to worry about who's going to cut the grass, etc. I want a 2-bedroom place so I can make the second bedroom into a own walk-in closet. My friend Alison did this and I'm so jealous.

I have a lot of fun shopping these days. I'm in the middle of two rough couple of weeks so it was lovely to go today and do something I always enjoy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

public struggles

Recently, I joined Twitter as per my mentor's instructions.
I had no idea what I was setting myself up for, and true to form, I just jumped in without looking or thinking.
At first it seemed pretty inane...and I didn't really see the point. Very short thought bites, lots of jokes. Lots of sexual innuendo.
I immediately sought to establish myself sexually. Who here might be attracted to me? Who would validate me?
This drive coincided with my monthly temper tantrum about my sexually disinterested husband.

I see a therapist who tells me I overemphasize the importance of sex, and that he believes I am a sex addict.
The DSM doesn't recognize "sex addict" as a disorder.
I talked with a few people, men and women, on twitter, about sex. Perhaps it was flirting.
I didn't feel good about it. I worked really, really hard to not be that girl, the girl who cheats. I appreciate all the other ways my husband and I connect. But on occasion, it pains me that the man I desire more than anyone else has so little interest in me.
It's hard, as a woman, not to internalize that.
I also remembered what I'd been missing. I awakened that crave in myself, the goosebumps and the rushing blood and the excitement and the longing for touch.
My desire seemed HUGE. Disproportionate.
Like a binge.
So I didn't feel good about that, either:I thought I'd beaten that animal drive.

And concurrently, I published a couple of articles describing my very bad behavior.

Critical mass, baby.

I made an appointment with my psychiatrist. She increased my meds when I described the crying jags and the sleeping.
Guess what?
*that* was a fail, too.
It began to seem to me that not only was I about to crash and burn, falling back into the familiar degradation that I so habitually use against myself, but I was going to do it in front of an audience.

I've run away and started over lots of times in my life. I'm the queen of reinvention.

But once you begin to establish a public personality, that's not so easy to do.

And no one warned me not to use my real name on Twitter.

So, today I'm shaking off the grit.

Back at it, fighting the good fight. I am bigger than this, better than this. Like an alcoholic who won't let a bottle of beer run his life, I refuse to allow my vagina to dictate my actions. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to Ruin a Game of Monopoly, or Your Life

When I was a little girl and my parents were still married to each other, we would occasionally make the 13-hour-trip to visit our extended family. I liked visiting my Uncle John, the sheriff, or Aunt Shirley, in her lakefront house. My favorite, though, was Aunt Marilyn.

Aunt Marilyn's husband was Morey and their children were Michele and Michael. Aunt Marilyn was a nurse and Uncle Morey was a doctor. Michele and Michael ice skated and skiied, respectively. I loved the symmetry of their lives. Arriving at their cozy Vermont home seemed like a relief. We would hurry across the gravel driveway in the damp ink of night into their house. In the winter we would ride sleds down their sloping front yard and in the summer I was allowed to walk alone down the dirt road to fetch the mail. The angst that haunted my own life on Long Island was absent from their lives. I thought maybe it had to do with the clean air.

There was no television and we used to read or play board games or bang out "chopsticks" on the piano. I liked to just lie on the couch in the living room and look out the window at the evergreens. Or I would climb the ladder to the "crow's nest," a small loft above the kitchen, where my brother, who was the eldest, and Michael, who was the youngest before me, would sometimes set up Matchbox tracks or run the vibrating football game.

I was often in the way.

Once in a while we might play board games. I preferred Parcheesi because the rules were simple but one night it was decided that we would play Monopoly. I may have been seven years old at the time, and I could barely add, much less make strategic decisions about which properties to purchase. Before long I was broke. I was "out."

Before any window of choice opened in my juvenile brain, I hooked my fingertips under the board and flipped it. Maybe I was out, maybe I couldn't playing, but then neither would anyone else. A little dog, a little car, a little hat, a little ship, and pastel colored money: all airborne. Three other faces with round mouths stared at me. I remember feeling guilty and giggling the way a shamed child will, and tricking myself into believing that the game was salvageable.

Of course it wasn't.

My writing was featured recently at the Good Men Project and elephant journal. And in trying to meet editor's requests that I "clean up the ending a little bit," I realized that I'm still not done. I haven't exorcised all of my demons yet; my unhealthy coping techniques are still in my back pocket. I was thinking today about the sad, sick part of my personality: the part that needs supervision, that so quickly reverts to making hurtful choices, that can so quickly cause vast wreckage.If nothing else, I'd like to think I'm too old for this shit. But I'm not.

I think of Nic and Dave Sheff, a father and son who both published memoirs. Nic was a meth addict and Dave is his father. Nic relapsed after the publication of Tweak. He's in recovery now, and having what seems to be a successful life.

I wonder if I'm going to have a public relapse.

I think of recent questionable choices and actions, and I realize that I can't make a situation that's already bad any better by hurting myself. If I throw the Monopoly board, I'm going to head down a familiar road of shame and guilt. Causing additional destruction to things that are already damaged won't improve anything, least of all my relationship with myself. This may be obvious but it's a new idea for me. I hope that this time I am able to gracefully accept being out of the game. And I pray that I can keep my demons in check.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Good Men Project

I'm just one small voice out here in the dark (or living in your computer, whichever you choose). I'm not a reader of Jezebel and I certainly hope they don't find me and come to skewer me. Those women are serious.
I am, however, a writer. A sexual assault survivor. A wife (x3). A mother. A former prostitute. Female.
I was part of the vanguard of latchkey kids: my parents were the only divorced parents in my 2nd grade class (albeit with good reason: my father was a pedophile). Feminism was never discussed at my house because my mother was too busy trying to survive.
Nothing much was ever discussed.
But I learned me-ism; personal strength; resilience and independence. And I learned that when I had achieved something, anything, the best use of that growth was to turn around and extend a helping hand to the person behind me.
I don't remember how I stumbled upon The Good Men Project. But I fell in love with it immediately. I'm easy like that but loyal as well. I admire the stated mission: "an effort to build and sustain a national discussion about being a good father, son, husband, partner, and worker in America today."
That word, discussion, seems to have been lost in the recent controversy. GMP has come under fire for two specific articles that were published: I'd Rather Risk Rape... & Nice Guys Commit Rape Too.

Since reading the articles, being peripherally aware of the attacks on GMP and on Tom M specifically, a few questions and points keep coming to mind.
  •  a discussion usually has more than one point of view, does it not? GMP uses a lot of different writers and claims to be a place for discussion, not dissemination of one specific viewpoint.
  •  is there no place where we can appreciate Anonymous's honesty: he provides a very clear window into today's rape culture. In fact, for me, his article illuminated rape culture very clearly.
  •  are we each to be judged by our worst actions? if someone is brave enough to hold up their absolute worst moment and say, "Here, this is what I did," in an effort to build conversation, to increase understanding and communication, is s/he guaranteed to be slaughtered in the court of public opinion?
  •  at what point did feminism become about bringing anyone down? if the only way I can help to lift myself and my sisters is by pulling someone else down, I'll pass. Maybe I'm incredibly naive, but I believe that there is room for all of us to be better together, regardless of gender.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

When I was 20, I worked for a public interest research group in New York, earnestly advocating for clean drinking water. I'm not sure how we accomplished anything: my part was going door-to-door, educating people and requesting donations. The minimum we were required to collect was $100 per night. Our team was made up of college students, an older man named Frank with horn-rimmed glasses and greasy hair, a thick lesbian named Daphne and a skinny kid with a big nose and greasy skin. I slept with most of them. We did something called "cross-training," where we could elect to go to another part of the country and work for their local PIRG and our travel and housing would be provided. I was sent to Virginia Beach and slept with a several people there, as well.

At that time in my life, everything was essentially an avenue towards sex.

At the beginning of our daily shift, we would ride together to previously scouted neighborhoods and be dropped off for a few hours. With territory map in hand, we'd begin knocking on doors at about 3pm and finish by 8pm. On paydays, we'd cash our checks and descend on Richard's house. Richard, and three of his friends, had moved to New York from Georgia and to me it seemed very glamorous and grown-up: four independent adults renting a whole house together. I was camping on my mother's couch at the time.

We would buy lots of alcohol and dance in the unfurnished living room. more than once the evenings ended in bed: Stuart, the bi-sexual blond college student from the wealthy family, George, the slender gay man, Richard, and myself. It's more than 20 years ago now but I still remember how lovely all those hands and mouths felt on me.

Abu, an Indian college student who wore tie-dyed t-shirts, joined our work team and our payday parties and he seemed to like me. This was entirely baffling and made me not like him at all. But we went out to dinner together and when he invited me to go see the Dead, I was more than willing. I hadn't been to a show, ever, although I pretended I had. I was, after all, a hippie activist.

The day of the concert bloomed sunny and temperate and Abu drove us to Giants stadium. I was amazed at all the people in the parking lot. While we were standing in line waiting to enter, I found a $20 bill on the pavement. It was that kind of beautiful day.

Our seats were nosebleeders, of course: our assigned section was something like XYZ600. Instead we rushed among the crowd of people thronging up against the walls, peering over at the floor section below. I could see that plywood had been laid out to protect the football field, and that was covered with blue tarps. Everyone was looking over the wall, leaning out, but no one was jumping down. I only glanced quickly before climbing over. It was a long fall. I jumped directly into the arms of a security guard.

He twisted my arm up behind my back and steered me towards the exit.
"Do you have a ticket?" he asked. I didn't want to answer him: I didn't want him to be sent up to that distant seat.
I said, "Please, I'll do anything." I meant it, of course. I knew if he said "OK," I'd have to follow through with a blowjob in some dirty, half-concealed corner. I didn't want to be ejected from the stadium, have to wait in the parking lot for Abu, miss the show...
"Do you have you ticket?" he repeated.
"Anything, I'll do anything, anything you want." I was trying to twist my head over my shoulder so I could see this man, who seemed so huge, who was hurrying me along with my arm snug up against my own spine. I thought if I could just make eye contact, he would know I was serious.
"Do you have a ticket?"
"Yes, but..." We were near the long exit hallway now. I was trying to think of how I would find Abu after the show, if I was sent to our seats. Where the hell had we parked? Please, please, please, was all I could think. Perhaps I was saying it out loud.

The security guard let go of me. I spun around him and bolted away and met the smiling faces of my fellow Deadheads, the ones who'd watched the end of journey, my near-expulsion and then redemption. I ran back towards the place where I'd jumped over and found Abu. He told me about all the people who'd been able to get onto the floor while I'd distracted the guard.

I didn't think about what could have happened, what almost happened, what I'd invited to happen. I was a happy hippie girl, a peripheral student of zen. I danced. But sometimes I remember the girl I was, and wonder about what she was so willing to give away.