Category Archives: Monday Musings

Nasty women

Walking through the airport a few days ago, I saw a very pretty woman walking the other way. She was trying to look as unattractive as she possibly could with a sloppy coat, her shoulders hunched against the world, a ball cap pulled low over her eyes.

Perhaps she had no ulterior motive and I was just reading intentions into it. But a friend of mine mentioned the other day that she wears her RBF (Resting Bitch Face) when in airports or restaurants where she does not want to be bothered by men.

Recent outrage over actions and words of the Angry Orange Troll for President is justified, but incomplete. Somewhere between “locker room talk” and physical assault (Troll accused of both) is a fundamental truth: the sexual drive of many men can make life very difficult for women.

We can talk all day long and half the night about the causes of this behavior and not get anywhere. It may be social, it may be individual, it may be biological, and is probably a blend of all three and many more influences. The answer will probably have to wait until we discover more about what it is to be human, and how the brain works.

It does seem to me that this behavior in some men has a direct correlation to their level of empathy, but that’s an observation not an explanation.

Nor does it give us an easy answer on how to avoid feeling like we have to hide ourselves in public to avoid being the target of meat seekers.

For now, I really like the approach of ownership. That is, I own my behavior, my looks, my attitudes, and my responses to people like the Orange Troll. If his advances had been met every time with scorn and rejection, and learned that he was shaming himself as a man, he may have learned his behavior had negative consequences. Instead, over the years it has worked for him often enough that he was confident in his approach.

His boorishness, to give it a nice name, is only one level of this type of assault, and in some ways not the most destructive. If we were to put it all on a scale, which can be a helpful if inaccurate abstraction, from physical rape to whining about not getting attention, there are many ways in which men make demands that range from frightening to tiresome. Biology or lack of social grace or lack of mother’s love, it does not matter. What matters is how I respond.

I am not responsible for their desire, nor required to make them happy if I’m not interested. I try to be polite if pressed, but wiling to be a “nasty woman” if pressed too hard.

I get to dress as I like and if I wear “come fuck me” shoes at the airport, I anticipate more attention. That does not give a man the right to ignore my right to say “no,” whether it’s because they are too old, too short, not the right hair color, just not my type or because I’d rather read a magazine.

You don’t know why, either.

Hi there!

Yes, its been a long while since I’ve written. Here.

In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, lately. The second edition of “Exposed” is nearly complete. Oh my! What a project! When I embarked on a rewrite six months ago, I had NO IDEA what I was opening up. But, it’s worth it, and I hope you’ll agree. I’ll be sharing excerpts over the next few months as it goes through the editing process.

AND, the first draft of the second book is FINISHED! The working title is Dragonfly, and I’m excited to get back on that.

The reason I’m writing today is because I saw an article in the magazine “Science News” this morning. The upshot is that the microbes in our bodies may affect our moods, and hence our behavior.

“Though preliminary, such results suggest that the right bacteria in your gut could brighten mood and perhaps even combat pernicious mental disorders including anxiety and depression. The wrong microbes, however, might lead in a darker direction.”

Then there was a book review in the New York Times titled “Sext and the Single Girl” that wonders if women are getting the sex they want or need from their current lifestyles.

How do I tie these references together? Yeah, it’s a stretch, but here goes.

First, women will not get what they want or need out of sex until each determines exactly what that is, and it’s not easy to do so. It is even more difficult when there are conflicting demands: Blow job for a man who doesn’t want to return the favor? Eyes for the muscle bound gym-boy on the third week of this month but the CPA on the fourth? Etc.

If our microbiome is also at large in this process, in addition to our heredity and memories from a forgotten childhood, how the hell are we supposed to know what we want, and why?

The fact is, we often don’t until we’ve tried it, and even then it may change. We need to stop judging ourselves for how that goes down, or we do, if that’s what we feel like at the time.

Free will may not be our prerogative in the best of times, and certainly not when it comes to “the passions.” I don’t know. You don’t know, either. Don’t be too harsh, toward yourself or others.

That’s all.

It’s nice to be back.

~ Jessica

Sex, Love and Intimacy

It’s hard to sift the emotions we have around sex. Sarah lives where many of the contradictions are obvious.

“When you’re with your sugar daddy, doesn’t it feel ‘wrong’ to be so intimate? Doesn’t it feel odd, especially when you are in a relationship with someone else? Even in the polyamorous community, isn’t there jealousy?” I asked.

“Of course there’s jealousy,” Sarah says. “And it can get ugly. But in our group at least, there seems to be a deeper level of communication, openness and honesty.”

I thought about that for a while. If anyone can make love with anyone else, then I suppose much of the “possessiveness” within a relationship falls away. Or becomes obvious for the baggage it is.

“That’s exactly right,” said Sarah. “Even in ‘normal’ relationships, although our group thinks of monogamy as ‘abnormal,’ couples want to believe a partner is there because he or she wants to be there. We all recognize that being there only because of a wedding ring, or the children, or mutual dependence isn’t all that great. We all want our mate to want to be with us.

“It gets pretty clear quickly in our group if someone is bringing baggage, and it gets talked about. We see it for what it is, instead of what it pretends to be, all sorts of stuff about ‘you should do this’ or ‘you should not do that.’ It’s okay to say, ‘I feel…’  or ‘I need…’ ”

“But what about intimacy? Doesn’t the fact that you are having sex with your sugar daddy drive your boyfriend or girlfriend crazy?”

“The sex is easy. But I don’t lie close and all wrapped up all night with my sugar daddy. That’s an intimacy we won’t have. I don’t want to have that. I’m not going to fall in love with him, so there’s distance, there, too. Sex is not necessarily part of intimacy, or intimacy a part of sex, but intimacy is a part of love.”

“Doesn’t it become sex for money, then?”

“There is more to our relationship than sex. We are friends, he is a mentor, I offer whatever insights I have to questions he has, we do things together that we both enjoy. Why should the fact that we also have sex stain all of that?”

Sarah made me realize we often live our lives by rules, but rules can’t be a substitute for honesty and openness. Honesty makes us vulnerable, and can be difficult, but using rules to justify behavior, or find fault with the behavior of others, always fails the most important test.

We say “You broke the rules…” instead of saying “What you did doesn’t work for me…”

Instead of saying, “I want to be with you.”

Multiple lovers

More of my friend Sarah: She is also “polyamorous.” We’ll cut to the chase on this one: Per Wikipedia, Sarah has “intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships.”

“I just don’t believe we were designed to be monogamous,” Sarah says. Her sugar daddy knows. So did her last boyfriend: He also was part of  “The Lifestyle” as it’s also known.

This is brought up by the recent hacking of “Ashley Madison,” an internet site for those seeking to have affairs, a site for adulterers, if you will. The hackers threatened to release information on “clients” unless the site shut down. To those who think adultery is sport, or that you won’t get caught, all I have to say is: “Seriously?”

Sarah is honest and open about her engagement with others. She speaks of dating a “couple,” both very attractive, “he is verity sweet, she’s really beautiful.” She likes them both, and they both like her. She wouldn’t participate with them “if they weren’t both completely good with it.”

“They” were her “date” to an event just this last weekend.

Another point of view: Alice called me this morning. Because it’s Sunday, I asked why she wasn’t in church.

“I’ve not been to church in a while. It’s a conscience thing.”

“You!?” I said. Alice is one of the more devout people I know, and one of the most truly moral, not one who just wears it on her sleeve.

“I struggle with hypocrisy. It’s probably a temporary state, but living a double life doesn’t suit me well,” she said. The “double life” is caused by a new relationship — Alice and her new boyfriend have sleepovers. “I enjoy sex, but the church says I should not until I’m married.”

“I think you are more ‘Christian’ than a third of the people in church who ‘sin’ but don’t think twice,” I said. “You walk your talk.”

Alice wasn’t prepared to judge, but in our discussion of morality when I mentioned Sarah’s point of view, Alice said, “I think you just made my head explode.

“For me, having sex with someone I love is the ultimate intimacy, the ultimate gift we give each other. We give and receive a piece of each other. I don’t know how you share that.”

“We are able to separate sex from love,” said Sarah in a later conversation. “Sex is just sex. Enjoyable, wonderful, erotic, intimate. But it’s not love.”

“No. To connect two lives into one, to commit mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, completely to one’s life mate is immeasurable by any word …” says Alice.

Sarah’s split with her recent boyfriend wasn’t about sex, it was about emotional boundaries, and it appears to me she still loves him. They are just like other couples, except when they run into each other at parties, they may be having sex with mutual friends.

Obviously, I don’t have Sarah and Alice over at the same time for tea. Maybe I should, because each has the same kind of emotional and intellectual honesty I respect. I think they might like each other.

But here’s my point. Many in the “poly” community have said that the openness of their marriage actually made it stronger. Certainly, many of those not of that point of view have had relationships shatter because of infidelity.

Many of us have made love with someone we are not with today, and been in love with someone who did not satisfy us sexually. I don’t know where the gain or loss might be. Do those who favor the poly lifestyle have more or less than others? More sex but less attachment? Or are the monogamous constantly fighting their biology, denying a perfectly natural excitement of multiple couplings?

I don’t know the answers. But I do know that the responses we have go deep to the core of our lives.

~ Jessica

Sex, Love and Money

My friend Sarah has a sugar daddy. I’ve met him. I like him, though he’s not my type. “Robert” helps Sarah out with a monthly allowance, and she gives him something he wants. Sex? Sure. But much more than that, too.

Sarah respects Robert, and what he’s accomplished in life. She’s interested in how his world works, a world far different than the one in which she spends most of her days. She asks him about that and loves the stories he tells.

There’s an age difference, but it doesn’t seem to bother either one of them.

So why does it bother you? Is it the fact that money is involved? Is it the fact there’s a “soft” contract, an understanding of expectations? An “exchange?” That it’s not a relationship based solely on “love?”

Hmmmm. I’m sure you could find an analog in more than one marriage you’ve observed in maybe the last… day?

Sarah says one of the things she likes best about their “arrangement” is that Robert is respectful of boundaries in ways that boyfriends never were.

“He makes time for me in his schedule. He doesn’t blow me off to go get high, or because he has a hangover. He doesn’t make demands when I want to be with friends, family, or even ask if I have a “boyfriend.” Our time together is “our” time, and when we’re apart, we communicate, but in a non possessive way.

“Yes, he helps me out with expenses. Yes, people will judge me for that. And him. They judge us for our age difference. But I like him, I’m attracted to him, and each of us is free at any time to do something different. What’s wrong with that?” she asks.

“I like helping Sarah, taking pressure off her life,” Robert says. “Some will say I’m trapping her with my money.  I think of it as offering opportunity. Sarah can use my support to go back to school, or buy a bauble. But that’s not for me to say. A trap? What about the trap of those who say ‘marry a rich man’ and pretend it’s about love? I have no wife, too little time, and am cheating on no one. Don’t judge me.”

Marriage is a contract too, only a not very good one by most accounts, because it doesn’t stipulate the conditions under which it will end. Sarah’s “arrangement” with Robert is much more realistic. When it’s over, it’s over. And either can declare it over.

“I think our arrangement promotes a healthy relationship,” says Sarah. “I have attributes and I’m not helpless. If Robert doesn’t treat me with respect, I move on. If I fail to show up, he moves on. He’s an attractive, interesting man with resources. Many women would be interested.”

As I looked at my own bias, I discovered I can be reactively judgmental, without reason. The key was to keep pushing my opinions around until they exposed themselves as … opinions. A point of view. A set of values that often come down to, “This is what’s right for me.”

Which I believe is a perfectly logical and defensible stance.

But personal.

Sarah says she’s not going to fall in love with Robert, because she knows it’s not forever. But in this era, what relationship is forever? Marriage? Snort. Marriage isn’t forever for most of us.

Sarah has to avoid a deep financial dependance that leaves her desperate when it’s over. Robert has to understand that he’s aging, and Sarah still has many more years of vibrant life that she deserves to live. There will be loss, there will be pain.

Many of us have fallen in love with someone we are not with today. Many of us experience soft moments of mourning, a sweet melancholy, for that lost love, too, that can last years if not decades.

Comfort and love

It was evening, by the clock, but we were soaking up warmth from a sun that still hung far above the horizon. Summer in the northern latitudes can be like drinking honey from a wide-mouth jar.

Billy sat on the rock wall next to me. We are just friends, now. That other didn’t work out, and we both knew it at the time, so there are no hard feelings. I go to Billy when I can’t figure out men, because he’s ruthlessly honest about his gender. He comes to me to talk about his women.

“She was a remarkable person,” he said, taking a sip of some coffee concoction that I knew would not let him sleep tonight. “It’s really weird. Three dates. Spread out over months. Talking on the phone.”

He looked out over the harbor of Victoria, the most elegant city on the west coast of North America. We’d come over from Seattle to do just what we were doing. Sit on the harbor wall, listen to street musicians, eat East Indian cuisine that tasted like it was cooked just now in Madras.

“She said it was wrong to measure the relationship by the number of dates, or number of months. I don’t get that, but I felt like we’d known each other …forever. I loved the way she said ‘Hiya…’ when she answered the phone. I loved the way she’d say ‘Whatcha doin?’ when she called me. I loved the way she would ask me questions about my day.”

Billy shook his head.

“It just sucks.”

Billy was pretty twisted up by this, and Billy does not lack for female attention. They could not be together. We don’t have to go into the reasons, how long it lasted or didn’t last or why it didn’t. The reasons are none of our business. I wanted to be there for Billy, and I wanted to hear what Billy had to say, because I always learn something from him.

“She insisted that on our third date we had to see if we had ‘kiss compatibility.’ She was pretty confident in her kisses. I guess she had doubts about mine.”

We both laughed out loud. Billy is a very good kisser. Among his other, many qualifications as a lover. “Of course, we had to find out if everything else was just as fine,” he said. He left unsaid that it was just fine.

“I did the right thing. Ending it as soon as I knew it wouldn’t work, with as much class as I could, before we got in way, way over our heads. I don’t know how we got as deep as we did, so damn soon. Three dates!?”

There are times when a friend just needs to listen. Billy wasn’t asking for advice. He wasn’t looking for “feel sorry for me sex.” He wouldn’t nor would I. Like me, he believes certain pains are part of being human, part of the plan, part of our growth.

“It was just so comfortable. When I think of being with her… it’s not thinking, it’s a feeling, really… it’s just a feeling of comfort.” He looked out over the harbor where the sun refused to climb down from its perch, as if it were embracing the harbor, the boats, and Victoria as the crowds embraced the sun.

“Three dates. I’ve been in relationships for years that didn’t come close to that kind of intimacy. That feeling of belonging to someone… Oh, fuck. This just sucks.” His voice strained as he tried to hold back tears.

“I’m sorry, Billy,” I said.

I don’t know how or why we feel that incredible sense of connection with some people. The comfort in the way they speak to us, the way we want to speak to them, the awareness of what they are feeling and desire to make whatever that is more like velvet, the need to be honest and expect the same.

I don’t know what love is, but I know that Billy experienced it with someone he had not known for very long.

Science of our infidelity

What if promiscuity was the result of brain wiring? What if that wiring was the result of inherited genes that impact us in ways we can not possibly anticipate?

What if what we want in a partner changes over time — not because anything happened but just because time had passed? What if infidelity isn’t “his fault” or “her fault” but caused by an invisible process outside of anyone’s control?

This musing was sparked by an article by Dr. Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Read that article here.

I’ll jump to Dr. Friedman’s conclusion and work backwards: “For some, there is little innate temptation to cheat; for others, sexual monogamy is an uphill battle against their own biology.”

The  “biology” or propensity toward infidelity, appears to be linked to the amount and location of hormones, or receptors for those hormones, in our brains and are the result of genetic “programming.” Oxytocin and vasopressin are especially relevant. These impact behavior. In fact, according to one study, “Forty percent of the variation in promiscuous behavior in women could be attributed to genes.”

Men have their own variants. Evolution has favored men who spread their genes far and wide: i.e., prone to infidelity. But I’d like to rephrase that: Evolution favors genes able to spread far and wide through behavior of the organism in which they are carried, and that they influence to favor that spreading.

Some of you are now thinking I use this to justify any and all sorts of behavior, but that’s not the case. There are other biological forces at work as well, and social forces, etc. In the overlapping circles of self, family and society, there are many competing forces at work. It’s a pretty dynamic system. Understanding the causes of behavior does not change the fact that certain behaviors are destructive and painful.

At the same time, accurate understanding can at least mitigate that pain, and possibly reduce  the destruction. Continuing with mistaken beliefs not only prolongs pain and destruction, but often adds to it.

A partner cheating on us can lead to the belief that we are inadequate, when the real cause has little to do with us and is result of that partner’s wiring. It can be confusing when the cheating partner doesn’t know the real cause of their own behavior and blames us for being “inattentive.”

Dr. Friedman writes of a friend: “… (she had a) propensity for sexual exploration that seemed in some ways independent of the emotional status of her relationships.”

For those prone to exploration, we might believe our partner has become boring, when it is in fact our own wiring that causes us to seek new stimulation. Nothing changed for them. We do not need to judge them as lacking when our wandering is internal to us.

At the same time, belief that a partner is “immoral” or that they simply choose to hurt us, or are indifferent to our pain is probably not true and diminishes the joy that once existed.

All that said, we do not always get what we want. Hard decisions still have to be made. But to make those decisions well, we have to recognize that differences between people exist, and often for historical and/or biological reasons that are nobody’s fault.

But we still have to decide what we are willing to live with, and what we are willing to risk. There are no guarantees.

Doing the impossible

It had been too long since I’d connected with a friend important to me. When she slowed down enough for us to have coffee, she described how very hard it had become to manage difficult and demanding clients, a family that needed her, health issues, along with a patient and understanding partner who also wanted her to share moments with him and not always be preoccupied.

“I can’t do any more!” she said. “I just want to say $*@& IT!”

“If you can’t do any more, maybe you can do less,” I said, recalling something my French grandmother had said.

“What do you mean?”

“Once when I was overwhelmed, I asked Grandmama how to do what I thought was impossible. She gave me a short list of guidelines.

(1) Only take on tasks you believe in;

(2) Only work with those you can work with;

(3) Only accept work you can work on;

(4) Only set goals you can achieve;

(5) Only criticize yourself when it’s constructive.

“But Grandmama, that’s just common sense,” I said to her.

“ ‘Doing simple things that can be done is how the impossible things get done, Jessica,’ my grandmother said to me.

“So now, when I can’t get everything done I need to do, I just try to do what I have to do next. One step at a time, a day at a time. And try not to be too hard on myself for what I can’t do today.”

We ordered another coffee, spent another 15 minutes together, then it was time for each of us to go back to work.

Who do you find attractive?

What if our sexual preferences begin to form in childhood?

I don’t mean whether we are straight of gay or asexual or voracious or something in between or that encompasses it all or something completely different.

I mean what we find attractive, but within our sexuality “type.”

To keep it simple, and acknowledge the gross oversimplification of this speculation, let’s pretend that heterosexual girls begin to form their sexual attraction preferences with their fathers, at an age where they have no clue what’s happening, maybe even infancy. And that (straight) boys begin their sexual wiring based on their mothers, at the same age.

Let’s say dad is a particular body type and the relationship between father and daughter is warm, loving and nurturing. I wonder if later in life, women with that kind of dad will be sexually attracted to that shape of man. And if boys who develop in a healthy way with mom, if she is skinny or plump might direct his desire later in life.

At the same time, if Dad is harsh or scary or dismissive, I wonder if daughter will shy away from that kind of man. If mom is indifferent or unreachable or angry, if boys will subliminally look for someone who does not  look anything like her.

And here’s an odd twist: Does the preference wiring have to occur, and sometimes have to focus on adults outside the family unit, possibly those who offer a child what is emotionally needed? Or if biology requires that a model be found regardless of suitability, if sometimes that model is nurturing and sometimes debilitating?

What happens to sexuality if the model is taken from the child’s environment (death, divorce, war) before the process is done with it?

Since we are indulging in wild speculation, let’s add to the mix the social taboos about getting too close to daddy or mommy as one is forming all these brain connections. DON’T DO THAT!” What happens as the child acquires now-self-directed anxieties that were foisted upon them (us) as they (we) began to experience things they (we) could not possibly recognize, let alone understand.

I have no articles, no Freudian analyses, nor modern science to justify any of this absurd opining. As my friend Billy says, (neglected by an obese mom, only attracted to skinny women): “Just sayin…”

I need your help!

Something is happening with Exposed and it might be — just might be — pretty wonderful.

Last week we dropped the price to 99¢ for the ebook. I didn’t know whether to make the change permanent, or just part of a weekend promotion. I finally decided to keep it at that price for one month, and I’d decide what to do from there.

Nothing much happened. But then on Saturday, we got a serious uptick in the rankings. For two days, we were in the top one percent of the million or so ebooks on Amazon, and in the top 40 in our categories.

The numbers have fallen off a bit, but not nearly as sharply as they have in the past after a spike.

That’s where you come in, dear readers. I’d really like the momentum to keep going. I’d like to be in the top 5,000 of all ebooks sold.

So if you will buy an ebook here, and write a review that’s posted on Amazon, send me a receipt and I will send you two of the hottest chapters of the new book, Crosscurrents in .pdf format. This offer is limited to the first 200 readers who respond.

The first 100 who respond and who write a review on Amazon, will  get in addition to the chapters  a personal email from me, and I’ll send them a paperback copy of Exposed for $7. That’s less than half price, and more than I make on the book. I’ll eat the postage, too, which is about $4.

The first 25 who respond, and who write a review, will get a free paperback copy of Exposed, along with the chapters, and a deep (50%? My publisher will have input, I’m sure) discount on Crosscurrents. Just send me proof of purchase from Amazon, and a copy of your review, which should be signed such that I can tell it is you.

This offer is good for the month of May, 2015. I will not sell your email address to anyone, but may keep it on my own mailing list for other special offers and notifications.

We are so close to making Exposed a real success. With your help, we can get there. Thank you,

~ Jessica