So … what are you doing for Valentine’s Day this Sunday?
“My Hands Are My Heart,” Gabriel Orozco, 1991
Remember what Kristen and I did last year? I planned a little surprise trip up to a winery, which was lovely. This year, though, I’m broke and Kristen doesn’t like spending money, so we’re taking swing dancing lessons through February (which we both LOVE) and staying in this weekend, cooking and holing up with each other.
All I really want to do lately is get lost in her, talk to her, touch her, explore her. I’ll probably make a little card or love note too … I’d love to write a perfect poem for her, one of these days. I ran into this lovely haiku the other day, and you know how sometimes you read things and they are just like so fucking perfect that you feel like you’ll never write something that good? I kind of love that feeling. And I really love this haiku.
I have never felt
more completely like myself
than when I hold you.
Not that I’ll stop trying to write her a perfect poem. I will, I am. Just that I keep running into things that are so perfect. Like this: “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” — J.D. Salinger (posted on my tumblr media log recently). Maybe I just need to do some sort of collage or compilation.
On a related note, I was listening to Dan Savage’s podcast Savage Love, which, if you don’t listen to, I highly HIGHLY recommend, he’s sometimes a bit of a jerk, yes, and occasionally has some bad slips of the tongue about plenty of hot-button things, but he’s honest, and very sex-positive, and I’ve learned a LOT from his work over the past ten years. Last week, at the beginning of his podcast, he had this to say:
Valentine’s Day is a week and change away, and when you’re a sex advice professional, as I am, you get a lot of calls on the run up to Valentine’s Day, asking for boiler-plate love and romance advice from bullshit publications that the rest of the year pretend that sex doesn’t really exist. And what they want is usually this bullshit deep-fried funnel cake sugar coated romance crap, and not real romance: you know, “how do you sex up your Valentine’s? How do you make it more erotic?” And what they want to hear is candles, and dinner, and wine, and flowers.
What’s crazy about all the standard Valentine’s Day gifts is that they all have narcotic effects, really! Go out and have some wine, and eat a big rich meal, and you’re really not going to want to fuck when you get home! You’re going to want to fall the fuck asleep. And then you get all these letters—if you’re a sex advice professional, as I am—the day after Valentine’s Day, from people who are worried about the health of their relationship, or whether their partner is really attracted to them, because they went out and had this big romantic Valentine’s Day date and dinner, and then they didn’t fuck because they fell asleep, or he fell asleep. Well of course he fell asleep. He had a gut full of steak and booze and rich crap.
You know, if you want to spice up your sex life, on Valentine’s Day, stay the fuck home, do something that gets your blood pumping, like move your ass, don’t feed your face, and then bone each other! Done! The end, right? Don’t make reservations. Don’t fall into the restaurant industrial chocolate complex conspiracy that is Valentine’s Day, and think you have to mark it by pouring money into … whatever! You need to pour your own bodily fluids into each other (if you are fluid bonded, if not please use condoms and barriers and whatever)! And you can do that best if you stay the fuck home!
You know what you should do, if you do go to the restaurant—and you probably should go the restaurant, waiters gotta eat, I put myself through school waiting tables, I don’t want to like kill the restaurant industry (I don’t think I have that power)—FUCK FIRST. Fuck at four o’clock, if you have dinner reservations at eight. Fuck twice if you have dinner reservations at eight, then go to the restaurant. And toast the awesome relationship you have, and the amazing sex you just had, and then go home and collapse into bed, and fall the fuck asleep.
—Dan Savage, Savage Love Podcast episode 172 (transcribed by me, errors are probably my fault)
Now, I’ve always been a sex-at-night kind of person, probably because I like staying up late, but my days are often so jam-packed lately that I’m finding Kristen and I do this quite often—we go out to some awesome event, or for a great meal, then we end up crashing. This definitely made me think about planning the evening (and the sex play) with a little bit more intention.
I know, I know, Valentine’s Day is a cheesy corporate and capitalistic holiday, and we shouldn’t need excuses to show our loved ones that we care. But, to be honest … I’m a romantic, and I like the excuses. I also fight with my tendency to over-shower, over-give, over-love someone, and an event gives permission to channel those tendencies into gifts or romance.
So the question remains: what are you doing for Valentine’s Day this Sunday? What do you wish you were doing? What’s the romantic Valentine’s Day that you will always remember?
I want you in the gloaming, in the grey
light of near-dusk, anxious to fade
the brightness of morning, midday,
the tragedy of sunset back into the
dim tones where we no longer strain
to see. I want to trace lines on your
skin until I find my fingers touching
paper, want to grip your hair until
it is all fallen. No twilight trysts,
though we do continue on through midnight,
through constellations, through antique
blue at five am before the sun remembers
itself an idea again. I want you without
shadow, without sun, without brilliance,
without cover, without cost, and there
we will soil crisp sheets, turn sugar
and heat into salted caramels, discover
the perfect angle of shoulder that becomes
landscape. I’m no cartographer, but I could
be; I long for a protractor, walking stick,
compass, to explore hidden openings to wet
caves I never knew I fit inside. Your eyes
glow willing in the gloaming. Your fingers
on my forearm, the grey light is pause,
poised, darkening, as fireflies begin
to rise from the ground. As we spin away
from the sun I want you, still, not reaching
or retracting, simply motionless with
anticipation, one singular breath at a time.
Partially inspired by Alice Elliot Dark’s beautiful story “In The Gloaming,” partially by the song Living in Twilight by the Weepies which I’ve been listening to on repeat for many days.
What’s the difference between romance and chivalry?
Colleen and I had an interesting discussion a while back. The two can look nearly identical, we thought – bringing flowers, pulling out a chair, taking a jacket – but something separates them.
I do think some things are not so chivalrous and are exclusively romantic – candlelight dinner, gazing into each other’s eyes, promises of love + affection – but pretty much all the chivalrous actions seem to fall under a romantic umbrella. Like a sub-set of romance.
But see, sometimes chivalry is purely kind and thoughtful, with no romance whatsoever. When I hold the door open for a stranger, or for my mom or sister or a straight girl friend, I do it with no romantic intent.
Ah – so perhaps that’s what differentiates the two: intention. That’s what Colleen and I concluded.
Chivalrous actions are done purely for the sake of doing the action – kindness, thoughtfulness, observation of something that would assist someone else.
Romantic actions, however, are done with a particular purpose: of wooing the other person. Romance does want something in return, and when the relationship changes to “just friends” or ends, the romantic gestures cease.
So the gestures of romance and chivalry can appear the same, but are given with different intentions.
So (here’s the part where I get personal), I’ve always been a romantic. Big time. Love poems, handmade gifts, mix cds, sweet nothings. (I know, you’re shocked.) Lately I have been extremely suspicious of romance and the webs of seduction it spins, but I haven’t let go of chivalry. In fact, my chivalrous impulses have gotten stronger.
Trouble here is, I think my chivalry is often misinterpreted as romance. Paying for dinner, holding her door. I’m told these aren’t things that many transmasculine folks do, so they can be interpreted as grand gestures, even though honestly that’s just how I am.
As with everything else in my dating life, it seems, I need to make my intentions clearer in matters like this. I’m learning, I guess – to have better boundaries, to trust they are in place, to be clear, to listen to others and hear when they are not accepting of the boundaries I have.
Sometimes I feel like the boundaries I have in place are too strong, too much, too thick. Huge cement walls with barbed wire instead of lines in the sand. But the strange thing is, it isn’t until my huge cement walls are accepted – really accepted and acknowledged – that I can start putting up a chain link fence instead, then a picket fence, then a hopscotch chalk line.
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. – Carl Rogers
Update: I also wrote about chivalry on the post for March’s masthead, bringing butch back – specifically the ways that I approach chivalry as deeply feminist.
A 23-year-old British woman recently had a chance to look at her own heart on display, part of The Heart exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London.
She had the heart transplant at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, three months ago after a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, a potentially fatal condition in which the heart walls stiffen. Her first reaction on seeing the old heart was disgust, but later she described the experience as slightly surreal. She said: “Because it was mine, I was like, wow, that’s my heart. I just couldn’t stop grinning. It’s odd to think that I stood here alive, and that was part of me once upon a time.”
– From the London Times Online, 9/1/07
This is the mix for DateDyke, which she (thank the heavens!) received yesterday. I made an elaborate cover (including that photograph and quote, above) and insert, with a few sentences on why I chose each song, but which are kind of special for her, so I won’t include that here.
Here, however, is the tracklist to the new year 2008 mix called how much my heart can take:
- 1. Electric Light – PJ Harvey
2. Wicked Game – Giant Drag
3. Preparedness – The Bird & The Bee
4. Sexual Animals – Sarah Fimm
5. Love Me Like a Man – Bonnie Raitt
6. Closer to You – JJ Cale
7. Warm – Kinnie Starr
8. One Big Love – Patty Griffin
9. Please – Tristan Prettyman
10. Headlock – Imogen Heap
11. If I Was Your Man – Joan Osborne
12. Tear You Apart – She Wants Revenge
13. Yr Love – The Butchies
14. The Fear You Won’t Fall – Joshua Radin
15. Did I Imagine You? – Dot Allison
16. Sweet The Sting – Tori Amos
And if you’d like to download these songs, I stuck ’em up at YouSendIt, tracks 1-7 and tracks 8-16. YouSendIt allows 100 downloads of each file, so if you get to the file and you can’t download it, let me know in the comments and I will reupload with a new URL. … Though maybe not until after Miss DD is on her way back to Seattle on Tuesday. I might have better things to do this weekend than upload mp3s. Maybe. Just sayin’. I’m sure you understand.
9 hours, 45 minutes.
My retaliation mix for Miss DD went out into the mail yesterday, but unfortunately I didn’t realize that she can’t actually get the mail on Thursday, she’ll be occupied by being on a plane to come see me. So here’s praying it comes in the mail tomorrow.
Why did I not send it overnight? Dammit dammit dammit.
I’m keeping a lid on the tracklist until she actually gets it, but I want to share this one particular with you, track #12 from the mix how much my heart can take.
UPDATE: Looks like the embedded video isn’t working; meanwhile, watch the video on YouTube.
Lyrics in the ‘continued’ page.
Thanks for all the lovely comments on those last few posts; I have plenty to say about this crush, this long-distance romance, the desires of courtship, of getting to know someone.
But! Amidst the ridiculous sappy love shit, I have a new erotica story I am particularly excited about, and that’ll be up later today. It’s called The Houseboy’s Rebellion and it is, of course, written for Miss DD. Custom smut is so much fun.
I also want to make a few announcements.
Welcome my lovely friend Ariel? Ariel!; she’s posting brilliant rhetoric on things like radical love, where she asks: what do you owe the person you fuck? What to do with the friends with whom you have ambiguous boundaries or desires? Among other things:
I believe in lightning bolt love. I really do. Right down to the soles of my feet. I talk about polyamory and nonmonogamy but really if I found someone who lightning bolted my heart to the sky I wonder if these would become theoretical discussions.
… Oh I just love her turns of phrase. More over at Ariel? Ariel!
You may’ve noticed the facelift on Miss Avarice‘s lovely blog recently, I’ve meant to mention it, specifically the header image, which I designed. And I can indeed confirm that those are Miss A’s shoes – specifically, the shoes she braved New York City subways in when she visited me (ahem, I mean, this fine city) in October.
While I’m linking, I may as well mention that Miss DD made me a mix CD this week, complete with the cover image of my hands bound together in her leather wrist cuffs. (Yes, I sent her some of the photographs she took of me.)
The mix is really lovely (whole tracklist is posted over at her chronicles), and tells a story from the opening track “I’m Not in Love” (the Tori version, of course) to “Think I’m in Love” in the middle, to “This is Love” by PJ Harvey as the closing song. But? It also has “Come to Daddy,” “Nasty Little Thoughts,” “Smack my Bitch Up,” and “Crazy Bitch,” so clearly it is not all sappy ridiculousness.
Kinda like us. Go figure.
She wrote these things as her game-plan strategy, yesterday:
- let myself be excited about you while maintaining some realism
- enjoy the moment and not try to control or predict outcomes, but also not put any expectations on this (the “be present and mindful” strategy)
- date when i want to but not for distraction
- back off the emotional rollcoaster a bit and just focus on accepting this for what it is
And today, I keep coming back to that list, articulate and succinct, attempting to really feel it in my heart, not just know it in my head.
The Muse – my best friend here in New York, another femme spy, if you will, the one who keeps buying me amazingly fantastic ties, the latest being a hot-pink number that is flat at the end instead of pointed (is there a technical word for that style of tie? probably) – The Muse ran our composite charts, and we discovered that we are pretty much astrologically compatible:
… a feeling of “fatedness,” that this relationship is going to play an important role in your lives, even if it is not a long-term relationship. You will be exposed to the most basic and profound aspects of your own and your partner’s inner nature. Both of you will experience psychological changes through this relationship. In a sexual relationship, physical sex assumes an unusual importance. Sex is likely to be seen by both of you as an experience that transcends ordinary reality.
The composite Moon in the twelfth house requires the two of you to do a great deal of work that most couples are unwilling to do. … If you don’t seek out the truth, your relationship will give you the feeling that you have been defeated in life by forces you don’t understand.
In a love relationship, the expression of love will be quite intense, with a powerful quality that will transform both of you in some fundamental way. Your love will not be light and gay but something very serious that involves both of you at all levels of mind, body, and soul.
I wouldn’t necessarily let astrology make or break anything, but I think it’s an interesting tool to give articulacy to the feelings in a relationship, or one’s own sense of self. Strange how it can sometimes feel so spot-on.
She’ll be here next week (six days) for four days. And I’m sending out my own mix CD to her shortly – glad I got hers first, some of the songs actually overlapped.
In retrospect, it seems so obvious. Of course it’s hard to date while you’re falling for someone else. Of course you should work on that new relationship, get it to a stable place, before dating around, otherwise the foundation will probably be too shaky.
In making that other date, I think I was attempting to not acknowledge how much I’ve already fallen, how much I want to keep falling, how much she matters already. “Nah, it’s just a casual thing,” I was telling myself. “I should keep dating, keep seeing other people, this can’t really work, what can we do.”
“Nothing.” My friend, the Musician, said to me. “It’s impossible. There is no possible way for it to work. Except when it does.” The Musician and her girlfriend spent fifteen months at the beginning of their relationship apart, in different states and then in different countries. And somehow, they made it happen. She & I are probably the most romantic people I know, kings of the big gestures in love.
The people around me are laughing when I tell them my predicament. I kind of want them to say, this can’t work, just give up now, forget it, get real, but they don’t. They get it, like the Musician. Cody‘s girlfriend is also long distance, and about to move to his city to be with him. Dylan is beginning to practice dating more than one person at once (is that public knowledge? I can edit this out if you don’t want me to say that). Molly, my fluffer femme spy, reminds me that she is also an IT department of polyamory. And I haven’t even started tapping the resources of Eileen & Maymay & Rona and other sexbloggers who date multiple people and still manage to love and commit.
Y’all are seriously rooting for us, aren’tcha? It’s kind of strange to feel so supported in this. Maybe you’re sick of the smutty Sugarbutch gallavanting? Or perhaps you’re mirroring my own enthusiasm? Maybe you’ve been following my heartbreak and loss and know how happy I was when I was in love, and just want to see me happy again? Perhaps some of you still believe that One True Love thing and want to see me settled and happy.
Sugarbutch will die when you’re all in love and monogamous, you know that, right? more than a few friends have said this to me. But I don’t think it will die – I still want to write smut. Perhaps it’ll be less dating, but there better well still be sex in my life.
“It just keeps working, until it doesn’t work,” The Musician said. It’s like that quote from Death, part of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, where she comes for a little baby and the baby says, “That’s it? That’s all I get?” and Death responds, “You get what everyone gets. You get a lifetime.”
I like a lifetime as a unit of measure. Same with a relationship. That’s what we get, DD & I … how long we can make it work, and how we’ll make it work, is definitely still To Be Figured Out.
“Will the grand gestures be worth it?” The Musician asks. “Who knows? I won’t know if all these huge gestures, flying across the country for my girlfriend, were worth it, until I’m on my deathbed saying, ‘holy shit, I’m dying, and you’re still here.'”
“Yeah, you’re right. And at the same time, I don’t regret the grand gestures in the relationships I had that have ended. And as much as I’m sad about the endings, or unhappy with how things ended, I don’t regret giving everything I could give, in them, at the time.”
“You’re such a romantic.”
“Yeah. But at the same time, what would I do if she was here? Is it only safe because she’s far away? Would things be totally different? Would I run?”
When I stop to think about it, I’m terrified. Second-guessing myself and my feelings, uncertain, unconvinced, unclear. I still feel so messed up from the two major breakups in my recent past, so particularly fucked by the manipulations of the unholy bitch that I have been trying to unlearn and unbelieve about myself. Somewhere in there I still don’t believe I’d be any good for someone in this state of flux. Too many unknown variables, too much changing.
But, on the other hand, I am closer to being who I want to become than I’ve ever been, and that is saying something. I’m refining, distilling, settling into a version of myself that is sustainable, solid but flexible, just good.
“Are you kidding!” The Musician says. “We’re alike, you & me. You squeeze your heart out in every direction you can find. You want her. You aren’t poly. You want the big love. You want to fall. And clearly, you want to fall for her.”
I still don’t have any idea how to make this work, but I think it’s beginning to sink in, a little deeper, to those inner layers, and clearly I have some new, revised choices to make.
So. Miss DD and I are talking and chatting and falling.
I sent her flowers on Friday. She called me at work and climaxed on the phone, let me listen. (I was immobile, unable to say anything or join her, torture, so fucking hot.) She’s talking about coming to see me, stay with me, here in New York.
And here we’ve run into a hurdle: I had a date on Saturday night.
I was tempted to cancel the date, scared to tell Miss DD that I’d set it up at all. It’s with someone I don’t know (yet), someone who answered a personal ad profile and who is intreaguing.
I am not sure how to navigate this dating-other-people-while-falling thing. Seems so dangerous, our hearts both on the line. I am (probably overly so) concerned with her feelings.
I guess I’ve decided that all I can do is be honest and open, kind, as best as I can. It sounds like a simple strategy, like staying present, but is so very difficult to practice.
We talked about it. Miss DD and I both agreed that it’s a good idea to see other people, but that we’d like to know before the elaborate sex story gets posted on the blog, and would like to know if or when it gets serious. Seem like fair guidelines so far.
So I went on the date.
The girl was bold and sometimes brash. She’s new to dating butches. Called me a chauvinist. (Which, of course, is a quote out of context – it wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds.) Maybe I should have said, masculine is different than chauvinistic, but instead talked about what it means that I’m a feminist, how I believe in gender theory, and what it’s like to be butch, to date femmes. That was when she started stroking my hand, and giving me those smoky eyes.
She’d like to see me again. But here’s the thing. I kissed her, and went back to her place, because she asked me to, because I could. And that’s how I’ve been operating on these dates the last six months or so: taking the opportunities presented to me. But honestly, I’ve learned that there are more opportunities than I have time to take, and that I shouldn’t necessarily take all of them, though it’s hard to know which ones will be the most valuable. They’re all valuable in their ways, of course; but I’m finding some patterns, and I’m learning that I can, and should, be more discerning.
And right now? I am kinda into Miss DD. (Kinda a lot.) My head’s all aswirl with her and this predicament: she’s far away. I want her to be with me.
DD’s friends advise her that perhaps seeking out more than one person means you haven’t met the right person yet. Yeah, maybe. Or perhaps it means circumstances just aren’t quite right. You gotta make due with what you got, right? You gotta boogie where you are, you can’t boogie anywhere else.
So, for now, especially given Miss DD is planning to come visit me soon (eleven days), I’m not going to make any dates. This is my own idea, not hers, she is not pushing me for this. I just don’t know how to reconcile falling for her and dating other people in my head. There’s too much happening in there, I need to eliminate some of it.
We’re working on the beginnings of some conversations about being poly, and what that means, and how this will work between us, and obviously this will be something tricky to negotiate, but it is not impossible.
This girl matters to me. I don’t know how she did it, how we did it together, how we got our hearts into this mess, but she & I are problem solvers if we are anything: we can do this, talk it through, check in with ourselves and each other, figure it out.
Tonight, I’m feeling hopeful. And I can’t wait to see her again.
- What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for someone else?
- What’s the most romantic thing someone else ever did for you?
- What’s the sexiest thing you’ve ever done for someone else?
- What’s the sexiest thing someone else ever did for you?
Bonus: I’m updating my sexmix cd/playlist. What are the sexiest songs to which to seduce, make out, and have sex?