Saturday, February 21, 2015

50 Shades of Stuff....

I'll admit it, I read the trilogy. I did. I read Twilight and I read 50 Shades of Grey and I've read Story of O, and Anais Nin's erotic novels Little Birds and Delta of Venus. I've read Barbara Cartland and Elizabeth Heyer and Anne Rice, and a whole slough of other romantic and erotic books. I also worked in a Women's Health clinic for about six years, and I'm an adult with a child and another on the way, let's just say that I know what sex is and can be like, both good and bad.

I know my hard limits and I know my soft limits. I know my preferences and I can communicate those with my partner and he listens and communicates back and I listen. I love that conversation is often described as intercourse, and that sex is as well. If things are going well, a good conversation can be quite stimulating. In the course of my long dating life (from 16 through my 30s) I've certainly had physical/emotional relationships that I'd describe less as intercourse or stimulating and more as, well, not like that.

There's been a lot of hoopla about 50 Shades of Grey lately, the grammatical mishaps, the "oh geeze"s and the "inner goddess" and the "stalker" and about what the BDSM community is "really like" versus the portrayal in the books. I've never officially been in the community, but I've known people who were/are, I've been invited to participate, I've researched, and I'm adventurous. Like most things in life, if you're going to work together with someone you need to be able to trust them and vice versa and you should always do your best to make wise choices about your relationships.

Your mileage may vary, however, my general advice is that if you want to explore your kinky side: do your homework, communicate clearly, prepare mentally and physically, and be safe. You don't want to end up in the clinic needing x-rays to find something you've lost, or stitches, or anything like that. There is sometimes a fine line between pleasure and pain, and between safety and injury. Make sure that you and your partner both know what your mutual barriers are and that it's okay if your barriers change occasionally, just communicate.

Honestly, the 50 Shades of Grey contract was fairly tame compared to what I was expecting when I started reading the book. It's mostly what normal people expect of each other, the only thing really shocking about it was that it was codified and went a little farther into nutrition and exercise and finally into non-specific punishments, than normal relationships tend to. Once, when I was very angry at him I threw a glass of water on my then-boyfriend, now-husband. He was... quite displeased. I haven't done it since because it's definitely on the list of thou must nots. If we made a list of all the unspoken do's and do not's, it'd put this little contract to shame. :D

Perhaps another reason that the contract wasn't shocking for me, is because after I had my first son, when I started dating again, I came up with a list of things I wanted out of my next, and hopefully last, real relationship. I never really wrote them out or anything like that until now, but this is basically what I had when I started dating the man who became my husband. Despite the fact that I was terrified to do so because it completely exposed me to rejection, I shared the list with him. I do not regret it.

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Holly's WYSIWYG Dating List (~2011)

1. I am a working mother and my child comes first, this may mean cancelled dates or interrupted phone calls and activities.

2. I am not your mother. Take care of yourself for me (financially, health-wise, life-goals, etc.), and I'll take care of my son and I.

3. I am here for a real relationship. If you want something casual/booty call-like, there are lots of other girls out there. We can be friends even if there's attraction there. I know myself well enough to know that I can't/don't want to do no-strings sex. Just be honest about what you want. I'm here being as honest as I can be because I'd rather blow this up now and have you run than to potentially have drama later.

4. I won't waste your time. If I don't see long-term potential, I'll call it off quickly. No harm, no foul. Please do me the same courtesy.

5. I co-parent with someone I don't get along well with at this time. I am doing my best to work with him on a polite and business-like basis. To that end we have a facilitator we see regularly to help us work together better but this is and will be a long-term stressor, and there will be days that I will be completely wrecked from dealing with it. You can't fix this for me and it will be frustrating. If you're not ready to be in a relationship with someone who has a kid and an estranged co-parent, get out now.

6. I don't want drama from this relationship. I've got plenty of that already due to the whole co-parenting thing. If you want to play games and have drama, there are lots of other girls out there. I am not interested.

7. I don't have time or energy to take on high-maintenance people. If we choose to seriously date, I will make time for you and I will do my best to be awesome to you, but I won't always be awesome. I am a mom first, I work hard, and what's left of my time and energy has to be split between my sociable introvert space needs, and you. I can only guarantee some good times and some not-as-good times.

8. We will not always agree. I will do my best to always fight fair and to treat you with respect and dignity. Please do your best to offer me the same.

9. When it comes to physical things, let's both go get tested and let's not give each other any nasty gifts or surprises. If, at some point you feel the need to explore other options sexually you should alert me ASAP (before you do any exploring) so that I can make good choices for myself.

 a. It is normal to feel attracted to other people during a relationship. I know and accept this. It's the actions that one takes upon feeling attraction that can be problematic.
 b. For my part, I am bad at sharing the people I am in a relationship with and, thanks to some folks who came before you, I have some major trust issues. Certain behaviors and clusters of behaviors will trigger these issues more than others. I am working through them, but I am not always going to be a "cool girl".
 c. I will never purposefully do anything to trigger jealousy from you, because that falls under playing games/ inciting drama and is utter crap.

10. I am old enough that I mostly know what makes me happy and I don't want to have to try to guess at what makes you tick. Tell me what you want and how you hope to be treated and I'll do the same. This applies to your "love language", your birthday and/or holiday gifts, even down to how you like your eggs or steaks cooked. I want to make you happy, it's easiest if you know what makes you happy and can communicate that clearly to me. Let's set each other up for success.

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For some reason, after all the discussion around these things, and my "this is a business discussion" tough girl act around them, he didn't run. He was thoughtful about it all, and had his own things to add. I'm pretty sure that most people would've bailed. In the past, before I became a mom, I myself, might've bailed if someone had come to me early in a potential relationship with a discussion like this.

After my son was born, I finally had a reason to be completely honest about what I needed and wanted and what I brought to the table. I didn't want any more unhealthy relationships because I didn't want my son to have them as an example, and I wasn't afraid of being alone anymore. Then, I finally found someone, or he found me, worth the risk of being truly vulnerable with.

I think it's similar for people in any kind of relationship. If you're in a healthy relationship, the communication is clear between yourself and your partner, in body, in words, and in actions. It takes work to get the communication to that point, and to keep it there. Constant recalibration is involved. Healthy relationships can look very differently from each other depending on the people involved, and what works for some people won't necessarily work for others. This is good and okay. One of my girl friends likes to say, "There's a seat for every butt," and it works for this.

My general thought on erotic/ romantic novels and books and things is that they're written to keep people interested. This means that the characters often do things they ought not to do. That sex is rendered clean, without chafing or accidental injury or funny sounds, and intensely orgasmic every time for everybody involved (ha!). The characters react to their circumstances and each other in ways that may or may not be healthy, and they encounter conflicts that we ordinarily might not come across in every day life due to the author's perfectly designed circumstances for his or her characters. Honestly, by contrast, a healthy relationship might be kind of boring to read about in some ways:

He said what he meant, she understood and replied exactly what she meant. They fact-checked their most recent argument on Wikipedia and he was right: the moon does rotate and revolve at exactly the same speed. (Usually she was right though and he knew better than to rub it in. He just smiled at her as she growled at him.) They were faithful to each other. They took turns making meals and cleaning up. Sometimes, the kid, who was still little, wanted his mom to come to the bathroom with him, and sometimes, the kid wanted to go to the men's restroom with his stepdad. On school mornings there was rush hour to contend with. She drove faster and more aggressively than he did, so if they were running late to get the kiddo to school on time, she'd drive and he'd talk to her because if he looked at his phone while she drove he'd get carsick. He usually drove though and she never got carsick. Thursdays were trash days. Recycling every other Thursday. There were farts and sneezes, and coughs and burps, and sometimes co-sleeping, but mostly not because the kid kicked a lot, and every day, twice a day, someone fed the cats and fish.

See? Kinda boring, right?

(Not to me. That's a little snapshot of my life and I love it. :P)

Life is a choose your own adventure story. Don't take a fantasy novel too seriously. Just have the best relationships you can have and if you're worried about other people taking fantasy too seriously, communicate clearly and respectfully, and let it be. All of us are on a journey, some of us just have to go the long way around.