Category Archives: Friday Focus

Looking for love in all the wrong places

“I don’t want to be always ready to move on after six months,” Melanie cried one afternoon.

Beautiful, high energy, and hurting, Melanie was trying to sort emotions after a recent break up that she had initiated. She was done with the man, who she had been slowly peeling out of her life for months anyway like removing shreds of skin after a bad sunburn.

The recently-booted man’s offense? Depends on who you ask, of course. He had become jealous and angry during the long process of being pushed aside. But it was clear Melanie no longer loved him and was ready to move on.

She didn’t really lament losing the man. She lamented losing one more chance.

“I’m getting older,” she said, which caused me to snort. She was barely into her thirties, though she had a four year-old daughter of whom she was fiercely protective. Melanie also self medicates, and is frequently offered drugs, money or “security” by men or women who want that quick mind, bright laugh and hard body in their life.

A psychologist once told me that infatuation lasts six to eighteen months, and love has to fill in from there, as a more satisfying, deeper relationship develops. But Melanie is a thrill-seeker: sexually adventurous, high energy, and possibly broken by a psychotic mother who left a trail of destruction through the childhoods of Melanie and her siblings.

“I am so afraid of being just like her,” Melanie cried.

“What do you want?” I asked about the relationship she envisioned.

“I want my best friend,” she said, very simply, but again started to weep. “But I haven’t been the woman the person I want to be with would be attracted to,” she said.

“There’s you answer,” I said. But that was much too glib. It will not be easy for Melanie. It’s not easy for any of us. She will have to forgo the offers of drugs or cars or marriage by men and women who want her to fill their fantasies, instead of making her dreams come true.

Though it’s easy to say she should be patient and discerning, it’s hard sometimes to hold out, or even know what’s real.

“Exposed” not available — for now.

We’re making some changes to Exposed by Jessica Love. Consequently, the book is no longer available for purchase. As of today, Amazon still lists the paperback for sale, but soon it will percolate through their system and the paperback will disappear as has the Kindle option. Used copies may still show up, I don’t know.

Changes to the book will not be huge, and are caused primarily by a redirection in marketing.

Exposed will be reissued quickly with a different cover, possibly a different number of pages in a different format, maybe a few paragraphs altered here and there. I don’t know, I may even stick in a new chapter or two!

One thing that won’t change is the attitude.

I will still be posting here, musings about love, sex and adventure, and will let you know when the book is relaunched. My hope is that will happen within a few weeks, less than a month.

I have to thank Green Darner Press. Exposed would never have seen the light of day were it not for their enthusiasm and support. I threw the manuscript at them a year and a half ago as I walked out the door to the jungles and sandy beaches of Costa Rica. I will forever remember the joy I felt sitting in a hammock in Samara when they wrote me, saying they wanted to be my partner in the project.

I’ll write more tonight. There’s heavy lifting to do now, to get this work done and the book into your hands.

~ J.

Boob envy

At the gym, I was lifting weights close to two women who were on adjacent treadmills talking about a friend of theirs who had just gotten a “boob job.”

“Why why why did she get one?” asked one. “They just sit on top of her chest like a pair of Texas grapefruit.”

“Because her husband is an asshole,” said the other. “She hopes it will  fix everything wrong in their relationship. She doesn’t need bigger boobs. She needs a bigger husband.”

We all laughed, though afterwards, I thought it interesting the “insult” was also related to an assumption about “size.” The husband may be an asshole, and we all know a boob job won’t fix a lousy marriage. Right? But I don’t know if husband bought wife a boob job for her birthday, or if wife got a boob job for his.

Some women get boob jobs without a man around to please. They want to feel more attractive, to fill out clothes or a bathing suit. Perhaps they believe all men like women with bigger boobs, or maybe they don’t think about men, at all.

I don’t know that men can be blamed for this. Not all men find huge breasts attractive. My friend Billy says he’s mostly attracted to slim, small breasted women, and he prefers the touch of natural, regardless of size.

The topic of “objectification” is complicated, and I don’t think it’s well-understood.

Biological entities, we send biological messages when we present with breasts that sag and appear half empty (half-full doesn’t seem more positive, for some reason), and we send different messages with breasts that overflow a “D” cup.

As social entities, we are sending messages when those breasts are completely covered and nearly invisible at a concert, and a different message when a nipple wants to be seen by the room, from over the top or from the side on its own exhibitionist mission.

Because we are both biological and social, we send and receive mixed messages all the time. Our biology may be saying “I’m fertile and ready to bear children, come with me,” at the same time our social message may be saying, “Touch me and I’ll hurt you.”

These communications change over time. Layers of fat used to be the depiction of beauty. Not any more. Hollow cheek models have become so slim that France, of all places, recently “outlawed” the use of seemingly anorexic models in advertising because of the negative influence on “healthy” young women.

What we find “beautiful” changes, and sexual attraction is, by itself, dynamic in a relationship. We are built that way. As one of my favorite author’s once wrote, “There’s no aphrodisiac like a little strange stuff.”

At the same time, we all want to feel attractive, and we all want to be loved for who we are.

If a woman goes through that painful and dangerous surgery to satisfy the whim of a man, there’s a chance he might not be around long after scars disappear. There’s a chance she’s trying to fill a void, but not on her chest.

On the other hand, if a new pair of boobs helps her stand taller, either barefoot or in heels, wearing anything else or not, in public or in private, it’s her choice. That’s what’s important to me: that she made the decision, for reasons of her own.

Man or woman, gay or straight, or something in between?

Generally I don’t comment on the “news.” But there’s a story out there that ties into many themes in my writing, here and in my books.

Bruce Jenner has declared, “For all intents and purposes, I am a woman.”

As Mr. Jenner, and 26 years old, he was the decathlon champion in the 1976 Olympics and was considered to be the top male athlete in the world.

But he knew then, and had known since he was a child, that his “soul” was that of a woman.

“I’m not stuck in anybody’s body, it’s just who I am as a human being,” Mr. Jenner said in an interview. “My brain is much more female than it is male.”

I still would not have written about this, except last Sunday I saw an article from the Associated Press written by Lindsey Tanner about the traumas suffered by people born physically as “intersex:” they have reproductive organs of both man and woman. Often they have chromosomes of both a male and a female.

The article notes that a century ago, “intersex adults were top draws at circus sideshows.” Much more recently, babies would be subjected to surgery for this “condition” that may affect from between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 5,000 of newborns.

Surgery has many dangers, and while the stated goal is often to avoid “public scorn” of the child (circus), it’s hard not to imagine it is also an attempt by parents to have a “normal” family.

Slowly we are achieving acceptance. As one intersex adult advised parents of intersex “Take them home and love them.” We are coming to an understanding that surgery, and which sex one might aim for if either, is a choice that may belong to the individual so affected.

Bruce Jenner, who has biological children, says he is not gay, though that can be a mind-bender when we think about relationships and his transition from man to woman. But let’s not focus on the labels.

Instead, let’s look at the opportunity we all have, to recalibrate our views on sex and sexuality. It is a very complicated biological process, and expresses itself on a very broad continuum.

There are those who say “marriage and sex should be between a man and a woman,” and that “homosexuality is a ‘choice’ that should be changed.”

I say that God makes a full spectrum of human beings who are entitled to love, and be loved, as they are, and the choices of how to express that are their choices to make.

Drugs and sex

Can drugs make sex easier, or better?

I get asked this question surprisingly often, despite the fact that I put my opinion out there pretty definitively in Exposed. It’s a short book. Those parts are easy to find.

Easier? I suppose, for some. Better? I will say no, but maybe for reasons you don’t anticipate.

Before I go there, a word about being dosed, someone slipping you a “roofie”, or otherwise becoming incapacitated without your consent. If that happens, don’t be silent. Get tested, and if positive, file charges on the human hangnail who wanted you unconscious when they ejaculated into you.

Even if you’re okay, the next victim may not be so lucky. Maybe the perpetrator will get what they deserve in jail. There are few times when I favor “eye-for-an-eye,” but that’s one of them.

Okay, back to theme.

No doubt, some people are terribly inhibited, and others much less so.  It is also true some drugs, (alcohol, especially) lower inhibitions. So the answer’s obvious, right? Have a drink or two and a great time.

Maybe, but my grandmother would say that continually bandaging a wound that doesn’t heal risks greater injury. I believe that looking deep into the inhibitions in the moment, and dealing with them honestly, is a better approach that can result in wonderful outcomes.

Yes, there might be real tigers, too. But they can be flushed from the tall grass. How wonderful to discover the rustling was only the wind?

That said, a glass of champagne or an occasional Long Island Iced Tea has transformed more than one ordinary evening into an exceptional night.

Can drugs make sex better? Marijuana and the more intense psychotropics certainly can make an experience more intense.

Is “more intense” better? I can’t answer that question for you. But I will suggest that life always tries to keep in balance. If you intensify an experience, you will pay a price.

Linking orgasm, itself a pretty powerful drug, to ecstasy or Molly or peyote or amyl or pot or any of the designer drugs out there may mean that without the enhancement, the thrill is gone. You may become desensitized (common among those dependent on vibrators) to the “natural” experience. You may not enjoy vanilla sex as much as you used to.

Maybe it’s worth it for you. Maybe you’re already at a place where good old fashioned multiple partner sex on a mattress in a crowded auditorium just doesn’t do it for you anymore.

That’s your call. But two more thoughts: If you go there, do so because it’s where YOU want to go. Don’t be pushed by someone who may have his (or her) own addictions / desensitizations to deal with. It’s one thing if they ask, another thing altogether if they pressure, or insist. Those people are carriers, not partners.

Secondly, nothing happens without a consequence, and we can’t always anticipate what those may be. Think about what you’re doing, and be honest with yourself when you make the decision.

Of course, that’s true of almost everything. Right?

FWB

Tonight I’m going out with Billy, an old friend. We’ll have dinner, and I’ll give him a long-overdue birthday present, and maybe we’ll dance to some good music.

And then we’ll probably spend the night together.

We have wonderful sex. It’s easy, orgasmic, and emotionally satisfying. We both like to lie wrapped in each other’s embrace when we’re finished. Sometimes we talk, often we don’t. We just enjoy the companionship, and the company.

We are not in love.

We aren’t even lovers, in the proper sense. We each see other people, though we don’t talk about that much. Billy can get a little jealous, even while he laughs at himself for being so.

“It’s the damn biology,” he says. “There’s no rational reason for it.”

I love that it’s easy for him to accept he can be jealous of me seeing other men even while he sees other women. I get it. I can feel the same sort of twinge, or “squick,” as a good friend once named them.

It comes with the territory. If all Billy and I did was have coffee once a week, I imagine we could talk about lovers and laugh at the awkwardnesses of dating without any squicks. But there is something about sleeping together that triggers a different response, a possessiveness, if you will.

Some of my friends don’t have that problem, especially those friends who frequent some of the same “clubs” that I do, friends who are truly “polyamorous.” They seem capable of making love to several men, simultaneously or sequentially, and being with men who do the same, without any jealousies at all.

I don’t know if they are simply wired differently, or if they have gone through some transition to a higher awareness that gives them more freedom from emotions faced by the rest of us.

Awareness is the essential component, regardless of where one falls on the spectrum. And honesty. I love what Billy and I have together now, even as I know that someday it will end when he or I meet someone with whom we want to be exclusive. If we do.

If and when that happens, one of us is likely to feel left out. Jealous. We can be aware of that now without letting it ruin what we have in this moment.

In this moment, we choose to go out, dinner will be wonderful, the music will rock, and so will the sex. And we will care for each other through the night, if not always.

“Don’t over think it.”

I was in a jewelry store the other day, just browsing. An older, very handsome man was at the same counter, buying an anniversary gift for his wife of 40 years, he told the clerk.

“Whats the secret?” I asked.

“Don’t over think it,” was his quick reply.

“There’s more,” I said.

He paused and looked at me, to see if I was really interested in what he had to say. He didn’t mind sharing, but didn’t want to waste his time, either.

“You were raised in a narcissistic world,” he said at last. “It’s not your fault, but it is what it is. Everywhere they scream at you that something is missing, you need something, you deserve something, that they can give you happiness.

“They do sophisticated science to determine how your brain will flicker to their message, then they bombard you with it. They know how to make you want something before you even know it exists. They create a void so they can fill it with false promises.

“It lasted 40 years because she and I value our connection. We are more when together than when apart. We share the adventure rather than protect our space. We communicate rather than text. We take care of each other rather than blame. We try to think about what’s next and what’s best, not about what’s missing.”

I stood there a moment, after he finished. So did he. Then it was time to move. I was no longer interested in whatever bauble brought me into the store, and he was on a mission.

“Thank you,” I said.

He just gave me a smile, a small nod, maybe a small shrug to say the value of his words were not in what he said, but in what I heard.

He went back to looking for an anniversary present. I went outside into Seattle rain, thinking about what I was looking for.

Do we want a sales pitch?

My favorite coffee shop (name redacted) in Seattle has incredibly comfortable chairs where I go occasionally to stare out at the water and gather my thoughts. The chairs are clustered a little too close together, so sometimes conversations are shared with strangers.

Yesterday I overheard one that I knew I wanted to write about, which is why this post is a day late.

The woman, I’ll call her “Elaine,” was talking to “Robert.” They were friends, not lovers, though had been at one time.

“What do you tell a woman? What do you say to sweep her off her feet?” Elaine asked.

“I don’t really do that. I just am who I am,” Bob said.

“No wonder you’re still alone. You have to tell her that she’s the light of your life. That you’ll do anything and everything for her, forever. For better and worse,” Elaine said.

“Selling myself seems dishonest in this age of uncertainty,” said Bob. “I’m a good man. I do good things. I show them who I am, I don’t want to have to make a sales pitch.”

“You have to do more. Maybe you should at least tell them that you’ll be there, that you won’t… ” and here, Elaine couldn’t continue. She started to cry, but sort of pulled it back together and between breaths, said, “…you should tell them that you won’t cheat on them, that you won’t break their heart.”

I felt for Elaine. She was wearing recent wounds. I really admired Bob for not saying anything. Instead, he reached over and took Elaine’s hand.

I somewhat agree with Bob. It’s important to share a vision of the future, but to what extent do women want that vision molded and polished, as if we were being sold a used car? Not me. I want to see it run. I want to take it for a drive where I slam on the brakes, and yank the steering wheel. Is it safe on the road or only in the sales lot?

Flowers at the beginning of a relationship can be lovely, but flowers throughout a relationship are exquisite. I’m waiting for the one who brings flowers because that’s who he is, not just who he says he is.

Differences that unite

Salt is a rare but important commodity for monarch butterflies. Those that eat milkweed along roads treated with salt appear to have an advantage over those that don’t. With more salt, males develop more thoracic muscle, enabling them to fly further in search of females. Females get bigger brains and eyes, allowing them to find better places to nest.*

Hmmm. Males and females may be genetically programmed to have different priorities, and these may be expressed differently in different environments?

Because so often male / female communication seems so screwed up, I don’t think we really appreciate the extent to which biology plays a role. I may be painting a target on my chest, because so often when someone, anyone, brings this subject up, shout-downs often follow. I think the major culprit is the tendency to over-generalize.

So let’s agree for just a moment, anyway, that human sexuality has a mental component, and minds can’t be divided into simple categories of “man” and “woman.” We have homosexuals and pansexuals and asexuals galore, babies occasionally born physically as both, and while it may be that each of us has a tendency to a “wiring” that allows us to see the world a little differently than other people in the room, there are few absolutes.

We all know and accept not all straight men are insensitive, and not all straight women are nurturing. Bonding conditions at birth play a huge role, as does testosterone exposure in the womb, as does a hundred million other factors we haven’t even begun to discover.

Nature also plays with groups of individuals, tribes or societies. Where behaviors are partly genetic, and genes switch on and off, and environments change, and everything overlaps, sorting out a single “truth” about these things is pretty complicated. Categories are useful tools but are oversimplifications when dealing with continuums. Depending on them for ultimate “truth” is reckless.

Personally, I think differences are pretty cool and without them our species, any species, would be at a significant disadvantage. It’s rare that two people see the world in the same way, but it’s possible for either or both to change a point of view, if not priorities and genetics. Unconditional love is one of the most powerful and transformative forces on Earth.

Along with really good sex.

It also appears that some lab rats may feel regret, and, possibly empathy.* Not to overgeneralize, but I know a few guys that could take some lessons.

*Science News, July 12, 214

 

Emotional infidelity

Jackie is vivacious, with sparkling eyes and a melody of laugh that grabs attention from across the room. She has had many lovers, some of whom she stays in close touch with, sharing their lives in ways deep and profound. When her boyfriend Mike asked who she was always on the computer with, she bristled, and defended hours spent emailing Dave, a former lover.

“Mike has no right to tell me who I should talk to, and what I talk about. I’m not having sex with Dave. He was an important part of my life long before I met Mike. That’s just how it is.”

When Genevieve smiles, a corner of the world lights up as if by magic. She loves deeply, and she even loves men she had been “in love” with years ago. Some of them still want to bask in her glow: Men from her past sometimes seek to be in her present, unable to let go.

But Genevieve doesn’t go too deeply into conversations with former lovers, because she knows there’s a hook in there, a door trying to open, but more importantly, she knows her fiancé Don would not like that, any more than she would, and thinks of that as emotional infidelity.

It’s so tempting to take sides, but I don’t think there is an absolute right or wrong, here. But I do know absolutely there are consequences to the choices made.

Genevieve has chosen to make Don the focus of her emotional universe, and he knows that, and responds in kind. That “exclusive emotional intimacy” is valuable to each of them, and each knows the other is the one rock available to which they can return in a world of too little stability.

Mike may have no ability or desire to communicate on the level Jackie needs to feel complete. It’s easy to think of a situation where Mike could be perfectly good with Jackie sharing her soul, or partaking of Dave’s, but in this case, the sharing is causing friction. Dave has access to Jackie that Mike finds hard to accept.

Jackie wants it that way. She hasn’t done anything “wrong,” that’s just how she is.

The parallels to sexual behavior are valid. Readers here know I don’t think there’s an absolute right or wrong with polyamory, or casual sex with multiple partners, sequentially or simultaneously. But I know absolutely there are consequences to the choices made. If both partners are on the same page, sharing may enhance a relationship. If one wants exclusivity and the other does not, there are going to be problems.

I agree that Jackie gets to make the call about continuing her relationship with Dave. Mike has to accept that as part of Jackie. But Mike doesn’t have to accept that as part of his life. Mike does get to decide that he wants someone who does not share herself in that way with anyone but him.

If he heads for the door, Mike hasn’t done anything “wrong,” that’s just how he is.