This One Goes Out To All The Queers

I fucking love you. I hope you’ve realized it already but if you haven’t let me tell you how special you are. In our society there is a lot made of the normal mode of being which is to say heterosexual. As a queer person you firmly encompass a group that sociologists and philosophers like to term other. In a cookie cutter world (I’m not anti-hetero, I have straight friends) what a wonderful thing to be.

Chances are as queer folk you’ve felt at some point as if you are on the outside looking in. This can feel isolating at times but it gives you a perspective that few hetero folks will ever have. This different way of seeing and interacting with society is why I love you. It’s for this reason that I wouldn’t want to be anything but queer. I love the insight and the way it sets me apart from most folks.

Let’s be honest. You will always encounter those who don’t get it. Worse yet you’ll always be able to find someone who actually says something shitty. Trust me, I’ve been called a faggot but there’s something very important to remember about these interactions. These people are afraid of what you are.

There’s probably a variety of reasons for this. People straight up (pun partially intended) fear what they don’t comprehend so that’s probably one reason. There are also those folks who can’t handle their thoughts. Maybe they are struggling with the fact that they really are queer or maybe its something way smaller like seeing some other person of the same sex or gender and finding something about them attractive. These are normal things for people to think but some just can’t handle it. These people are failing to accept something about themselves and not only will they try and mask their thoughts with derision and hatred towards others, they will simultaneously dislike you because you have accepted what they won’t. You being the best version of you is a threat to them.

This isn’t your problem, though they sometimes do their damnedest to make it yours. Hold your head high and be fucking proud my beautiful gendered and agender family. You are part of a diverse and colorful tapestry of the world.

If you believe biology shapes us then we are a wonderful variant meant to define the nuances of life. If you believe nurture holds sway then we are simultaneously a part of and yet a defiant and proud offshoot of our parent culture. Either way if society as a whole thinks life is simplistic and deterministic then allow us to show them otherwise.

Even among our wonderful queer family we have many nuances. We are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, agendered, transgendered, transsexual, asexual and even more. All I ask of you is to fucking love who you are because you are gods damn beautiful. Bloom, like only you can do and fuck the rest of the world. At the end of our lives we aren’t going to care that we played by the rules and fit in. And we certainly aren’t going to care what some fucking muggle said to us as we crossed the street. Rather, we are going to care that we were out on that street in the first place. That we lived our lives by our rules, cared for those around us and that we went after what’s important in making us whole.

So please, more than anything else, love who you are because who you are is fucking amazing.

 

Postscript: Case in point: The finishing touches to this piece were done between sets at a She/Her/Hers concert in a garage filled with queer folk dancing their asses off. Such a beautiful thing to experience.

The Greatest Article I Have Ever Written: State Of The Relationship Address

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I’ve met someone recently who I have come to love. If there’s ever a reason to push yourself to get out of the house then this is one of those stories. After matching on a dating app we were scheduled to meet and I just didn’t know if I was up to it. It was nothing against her, I was just in a mood. As it turns out she was thinking something similar, but went anyway.

I’m glad we met. The person I found sitting across from me was sweet, thoughtful and intelligent. She listens with intent and speaks with wisdom and I found myself being drawn in quickly. As I’ve come to know her over these last couple of months all of those things I first thought have remained true. Those traits have been complimented by her openness, emotional awareness, creativity, humor, empathy, and compassion. Having her love and support (and giving mine in return) has been wonderfully restorative to me.

You see, there was a time when I wasn’t in a good relationship. This past had come to create trepidation for my present. I was used to the worst behavior in a relationship. The questions paraded through my mind. What will I do the first time a potentially difficult topic needs to be discussed? Will the first time spending the night with a new partner dredge up too many flashbacks for me? Basically, what damage still lurks from the past that might impinge upon the present?

With my new partner these trepidations have been overcome so easily that our relationship flows seamlessly through them. I can’t describe the joy and freedom I feel when one of these milestones passes without any negative behavior. In fact, I feel welcomed, comforted, loved and safe.

That last word is so vitally fucking important that it deserves to be said again. I feel safe. To know that someone else will never knowingly and purposely hurt me gives me a very warm and full feeling. My heart is literally being protected and nurtured by my partner. It’s such a simple thing to say but a monumental thing to actually have. The feeling is truly indescribable. After abuse, being able to completely relax around someone is so revolutionary an act that it feels like a world has been created just for me.

Without my partner I know I would heal on my own, in fact much of that work has already been done. I’m not with her for the healing solely, my love for her runs much deeper than utility, but what she helps me do in that regard is remarkable and is part and parcel of what love entails. She has created such a safe space that it has allowed me to check a number of my reactions before I let them become a problem.

I’ve been lucky throughout my life to be able to recognize the times that I am living well. I can definitively say that this is one of the happiest and most beautiful times of my life. I find myself involved romantically with one of the most amazing people I have ever met and I’m developing a wonderful group of friends.

This relationship in a lot of ways is the healthiest one I’ve ever been in. Our communication and willingness to be open, vulnerable and compassionate form the backbone of it. The love that this way of being has created for us is an amazing thing to have coursing through my body. It’s empowering, inspiring and secure; and it all started one day when two people stepped outside to meet over coffee.

The Hardest Article I Have Ever Written: State Of The Relationship Address

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Most of this article was created about a year prior to this publishing. I’ve written a lot of things throughout my life. I’ve written articles against the government as run by both republicans and democrats. I’ve railed against religion and the belief of god in general. As someone who is a critical theorist I have written articles wading through the topics of gender, sex and identity. When I was an animal rights activist I penned numerous articles against hunters who in turn wrote me death threats. I’m sure I’ve offended those on all sides.

I don’t say this to brag. In fact most of my work has gone largely unnoticed so I couldn’t if I wanted. Rather, I say it so you know the gravity of the statement that will follow; that I’ve never been more scared to write what comes after this sentence.

This is because over the course of two years I learned to fear someone who was also my partner. It was an emotionally abusive relationship that stemmed from her insecurities and while we had some particularly good times, in the the end those moments couldn’t overcome her unhealthy behavior and the damage I accrued.

I don’t write this to demean anyone. I mainly want people to know what this type of behavior looks like because even though I hope people don’t have to go through this, someone reading this is. I want you to know that you are not alone.

I’m also writing because, terrified as I am, I feel like publishing this is a measure of control that I need to implement in order to take back my life. I think as you read my story from over the span of two years this will begin to make more sense.

I have been writing in genderless terms as of late and I wholeheartedly love it. I’m going to place that aside for the moment because it’s important to realize that while this is a story of abuse, it’s also a story of a woman delivering abuse upon a man. This is especially important because some people seem to think this scenario isn’t possible or that when it happens that it’s not a big deal. Men are supposed to be tough and women not so much. So how could a woman pose any threat. As men we should just shrug it off and move on. This is how patriarchal ideas harm men by denying us our own individual realities.

This effect is even more amplified in my case because my abuser is charismatic, outgoing, seemingly selfless, popular, well connected and extremely short. When people see a picture of her they always say, it’s amazing that someone that small could cause so much chaos and yet every word that your about to read is true.

Overview

My relationship story begins as most do, in my case a boy meets a girl and they hit it off. As we went things progressed quickly and little did I know that the outline of my next two years had been played out in the first week we were together.

The week was a whirlwind. It started with the first four days being amazing and the last two culminating with her getting angry and breaking up. This short cycle of ups and downs was one of the overarching themes of our relationship. It was the pattern that would repeat nonstop.

As I said, there were some good times and the good times were great. In truth, these times and hope are two of the things that kept me going. During these moments I would hear that I was wonderful and that she loved me more than she had anyone else.

When the dark behavior rolled around she would say I didn’t care about her, and was using her. Sometimes she would breakup and sometimes not.

With such extreme polar opposites it became hard to believe that either state of being was true. I was the subject of her emotions during the highs and the lows. When she was down I was more of an emotional punching bag than a partner. Everything she felt, whether good or bad, by her reckoning I was the reason for it. Instead of taking responsibility for her emotions I was the one expected to work through them. I found myself in the position of always reacting to her and it was exhausting.

Isolation

One of the ways her insecurities manifested itself was to whittle down the world in which I lived. She viewed most outside people as hostile to the relationship and so would monopolize my time. I love to spend time with a partner, perhaps even more than most people do, but this was extreme.

Though we didn’t live together (at first) I would spend a week straight with her, leaving my bed with her in it and coming home after work to meet at my place. After this week I would want a little time to try and center myself and escape the emotional cycles for a day. My request would cause her to become distant or even angry. Numerous times she stormed out and went home then bombarded me with messages for the rest of the evening.

I did manage to get some nights to myself but I still couldn’t get the space I needed. Throughout the evening she would message me so often that I couldn’t focus on anything else. Generally I like a stream of messages from a romantic interest as it makes me feel connected. In this scenario though the messages were bombs waiting to detonate. If I didn’t respond quick enough or in the right way I would face her frustration and fury.

It’s not hard to see how this resulted in a fight via text. Numerous times she threatened to, or actually did, break up. Each scenario usually culminated in her calling me on the phone where we would have to hash everything out for an hour or so. The lesson for me was, if I take time to myself then I can expect tumult which will mean I won’t get the space I need. Additionally, taking time for me might possibly cause her to end the relationship.

Sometimes rather than hit me with the stick she would dangle a carrot from it. She would find an event that I might like to go to and ask me out for it. If I said yes, either to my interest in the event or from her pressure (and my fear) then my night alone was over before it began.

It should be clear from this that trying to get some space and tend to my emotions was a fruitless endeavor. I was spending so much time trying to take care of her that I couldn’t take care of myself. My emotional stability began to crack and fall away.

Even trying to spend time with her wasn’t easy. It could become quite literally absurd. For instance, one morning I said “let’s go do something together.” Her reply was that she didn’t want to. She just wanted some down time to read. I thought this was fine and said “okay, if you’re going to read I think I might go to the park down the street and do some bird photography.”  As I was packing my gear she started to get dressed and I asked what she was doing. She said, “I’m going to go out since you don’t want to do something together.” I told her that the only reason I was going out for photography was because she didn’t want to do anything. If she wanted to spend the day together then that would be great since that’s what I really wanted to do today anyhow. Somehow that wasn’t good enough. She said she would just go spend the day with her ex-boyfriend.

Getting time with my friends was a struggle as well. According to her I shouldn’t spend time with them because they were too dumb, too young, or as was often the case too female. Now . . . I choose my friends carefully, perhaps too carefully sometimes as it limits my contacts. Still, my friends are anything but stupid. They are generally emotionally and socially aware folks. As such, they are part and parcel of my well-being and help me stay in touch with reality when I get off track.

My partner knew this and successfully managed to isolate me from them all. A female friend would later say that she stopped messaging me because she knew it would create problems with my girlfriend. She wasn’t wrong. When my phone alerted me to a text (or if someone responded in some way on social media) I instantly became scared of the inevitable questions that would follow if it was a female. She wanted to know who it was, what the person wanted, when the last time I talked to them was and what about.

One day my girlfriend gave me an ultimatum. I had to renounce one of my female friends if I wanted to keep our relationship together. The reason for this was that I might fall in love with this friend despite every bit of evidence suggesting this would never happen. Case in point; shortly after this my friend got married (not surprisingly, to someone other than me). I resisted the demand at first then reasoned that the success of the relationship was worth it and that this was a good way to prove to my girlfriend what she meant to me (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).

Control

In place of my friends hers were inserted. When we would all get together it was talk of cycling and gossip with no apparent concern as to whether I was involved in the conversation or not. I’ve rarely felt so alone and unstimulated as I was in those moments. As I would later learn, those that my ex placed close to me were there for a reason. More henchmen than friends, they would be called upon at pivotal moments throughout the relationship.

For example, I was given a list of three people that I could talk to about our relationship. Her best friend was the number one person on that list. Soon after that, my two friends proved too much for her to handle. I could now only seek the council of her friend.

Once when I did go to her friend, I tried to relate what I had been going through and my attempts to understand it. Her friend replied, horrible things happen in a relationship, just move on. Perhaps it wasn’t the friends fault. She was just too close to my girlfriend to see my reality.

Social media was another pillar of independence to fall. If I posted anything (even a nice sunset pic) when we were together without tagging my girlfriend she would get mad. Accordingly, I made sure she was tagged in the things I posted. Numerous times I visited her page to see what it looked like with our events posted to it. None of them were there. I had spent the effort to make sure she was tagged in everything we did and she didn’t approve them to her page.

In fact, there was rarely an instance when someone could look at her page and tell she was in a relationship at all. It was important for her to maintain an omnipresence on my page that eclipsed everything else, but she would become very upset and claim she was a private person when I wanted some modicum of recognition on hers.

Because most of her friends on social media didn’t know she was in a relationship she would still have men flirting and asking her out regularly. Interestingly, she rarely told them outright that she had a boyfriend. I came to think that this was part of her plan. That she needed me to stay invisible should we break up so she could resume dating anyone she might have been cultivating a connection with before.

At the very end of the relationship she was using my phone and writing my Facebook posts instead of me. Seeing words on my wall that weren’t in my voice was disturbing. I tried numerous times to get a little recognition on her page or wrest control of mine from her. My attempts were met with hostility that usually ended up in her getting what she wanted.

Her control overflowed into this blog as well. If I wrote something about myself or my ideas it would be subject to criticism and so I only posted links with small bits of commentary. I even penned an article about how to look at conflict differently and while I still think it has merit as a mental exercise (in a healthy relationship) it was indicative of me trying to get a grasp on reality at the time (thanks gaslighting).

When I found out I had herpes I wanted to use this blog, as I am now, to become a voice for others. It was clear that she didn’t want this. She actually said that it would reflect poorly on her. She didn’t want people to know she was dating someone with herpes, she would seem dirty. She stayed with me mind you, but with statements like that who needs company.

Love Bomb In Reverse

It also became evident that the kindness extended to me came with strings attached. She attempted to use nearly everything as leverage at some point.

Money was the main method for her to exert control (or so she thought). As a trust fund kid (and probable millionaire) it wasn’t hard for her to come up with money. Once she told me that since she buys things for me she expects a certain kind of treatment in return. On another occasion, after one of our breakups, she bought me a pair of shoes that I didn’t really want. She insisted I have them so I could look good when we go out. Then she asked me, “you’re not going to break up with me tomorrow are you?”

I would repeatedly tell her that if I need something I’d find a way to buy it and that she was not my provider. I asked her numerous times to stop buying me things and let her know that money doesn’t buy behavior. I suggested we only do things together that we could both afford, but she didn’t want to live that kind of “limited” lifestyle. Nevertheless, I was repeatedly given things only to later have them used against me. Those items would ether be taken back when she was upset or used to remind me that she bought them for me at a later date.

She would also exert control over what was sentimental. When she was upset she would remove the meaning from our relationship tokens by saying things like songs that were special to us didn’t mean anything anymore. In the end I’m pretty sure there was nothing sentimental left that she hadn’t decided was meaningless.

Sometimes there were nice gestures that became weapons to wield against me. She threw me a surprise birthday party once and I told her how much I appreciated it. No one had done something like that before. I was extremely grateful and for one of the few times in my life felt appreciated (I struggle with this). I posted to social media of my own accord about what a wonderful night it was. Afterwards, I was scolded for not showing enough appreciation. She said it was a waste of her time and money and she will never do it again.

Gaslighting

Whenever I tried to stand up for myself I was told I was mean. By now I didn’t know if this was true or not, my reality had been supplanted by hers. The distortions were palpable and I just didn’t know if I could trust my thoughts anymore.

One of the only things we had left, which was the physical part of the relationship started to come under fire as well. We generally had sex at least once a day. If one morning, for instance, I said I didn’t want to have sex right now, let’s see about later in the day then she would get angry with me. When I would relent and have sex for the “good” of the relationship then later that night she would tell me she didn’t want to have sex and that she only did because I wanted to. The insinuation being that I had forced her.

I was also blamed for other things that I shouldn’t have been. A couple of times after huge disagreements, we made up and she said “you make me so mad sometimes.” I knew she was blaming me for her behavior, but I didn’t want to start another fight after having just ended one so I kept quiet.

Every now and then she would say something that confirmed my reality. When it looked like I might break up she would tell me that she was the reason I was broken, that she couldn’t control her emotions and that she was going to go back to therapy (she got kicked out of group for not doing the work and went a couple times to private sessions).

These admissions kept me in the relationship because it confirmed what I was feeling for once. Whether this was strictly a moment of truth or another way to keep me in the relationship I truthfully cannot say. Either way, I stayed.

Belittlement

There was subtle and outright verbal abuse as well. A pair of my friends ask me to officiate their wedding and she couldn’t wrap her head around why they would ask me to marry them. Silly me, I just figured it was because they valued me.

Once when we broke up one of her friends got ahold of her phone supposedly without her knowing and sent me a message saying “they all hated me and always had.” Obviously she had been talking negatively about me. Nothing was ever said to this person by my girlfriend because “they were going through a hard time.” If my girlfriend couldn’t protect me from herself then why would she do so from other people. It let me know my ranking in her life.

When she was happy she would say that her friends liked me and when she wanted to hurt me she would say that they didn’t.

Once when we broke up she told me that the only reason she was with me was for the sex. Dating me was like dating a homeless person she said (because I was working class and she was rich). I knew she was using this as a means to try and distance her emotions from me so I let it slide when I shouldn’t have.

Breakups

Over the course of two years we probably broke up around a dozen times, usually at her insistence. During those times I would repeatedly ask for space. Despite asking, telling, and virtually pleading for her not to, and me often getting mad over it, she would keep talking to me about the prospects of who she was dating and lining up to sleep with next (sometimes hours after we broke up).

Half the times we broke up she would end up in the hospital for various things (gastroparesis, a cold, dehydration, passing out, a seizure, and twice because she said someone drugged her on a date). I realize now that they were probably fabricated. Her extensive experience as a head trauma nurse gave her a working knowledge of illnesses and medical protocol. Nonetheless, these crises would usually draw me back to her side.

After one breakup she ended up hospitalized and they had to keep her overnight. She asked me to stay. I told her I had plans and that I just came to visit, but she pleaded for me to remain. I cancelled my plans for that evening and spent the night in the hospital with her. The next morning after we woke she told me to leave and that she never wanted me there in the first place.

After our penultimate breakup she used the opportunity to tear asunder anything that I might still find dear to my existence. It was a way to remove everything she had “given” me.

In the course of those two years I had used every day of my vacation time and more helping her to establish a new career and volunteering with her for a foundation which helped women in cycling (something that was near and dear to my heart). She became the executive director of the race team and when I refused to get back together with her she removed me from the staff. Granted, I didn’t really want to work with her anymore, but a conversation rather than an edict would have been courteous.

All of her friends with which she was so fond of me cultivating relationships walked away en masse. Overnight about 30 percent of the people on my social media unfriended me. She had one of them message me to pile on the harassment and ask for a cycling kit back that they gave me because they didn’t want me representing their team anymore.

She contacted my ex-wife and tried to plant the seeds of dissension by saying I was a downer and mean. She told my ex that all her friends saw it and she was “just trying to help the poor guy (me) out.” The picture she tried to paint of me wasn’t what my former wife had remembered or ever experienced. In some ways though she was right. I wasn’t the same person that my ex-wife knew. I had been through two years of emotional abuse and I was tattered and worn. Still, my ex-wife knew the score because she had also witnessed the ways in which I was striving to be there for my girlfriend even when I shouldn’t have.

My ex-girlfriend came into my place of work repeatedly; once she screamed at me in front of the store. Another time she walked through my area to ask me where something was in the store. I’m sure it happened to be a coincidence that she was dressed up for a date which she also used the opportunity to tell me about. I saw her staking out the coffee house I frequent and circling the employee parking at my break time to find me. She started using an app to get around the fact that I blocked her in every way I could. She also left letters on my car and mailed them to where I lived.

In a move that chased me from where I lived she began dating my roommate two weeks after our break up. She was sleeping over every night with him. I couldn’t get away from her and he was too miserably lonely to see what was really happening.

They camped out in the room right outside my door with the television blaring. The effect of which was a constant reminder of her presence. All I wanted was space. I was a hostage and boxed in on all sides. It got so bad that I started keeping a bottle in my room to pee in when they were awake so I didn’t have to use the restroom and risk seeing her. Sadly, it had come to that.

One cold rainy evening I called my parents sitting outside the house in my car afraid to go inside. I don’t know how much they understood because I was sobbing uncontrollably. I was trapped and utterly fucking miserable. It was clear that she wanted me to lose the place where I lived because she had recommended it to me. It was one more thing she had “given” me that she was determined to take away. She asked when I was moving out so that she could move her stuff in. I let her have it and took the first new place I could find.

If you haven’t wondered by now it will probably come as no surprise that she would go on to say on that breakup that I was sexually abusive to her. It was the final thing she could do. Because I’m pro-feminist and a writer/author, floating the idea that I was an abuser denies me credibility and an audience. I’m sure it was also the story she used to get her friends to run away from me.

In one way I guess I should be happy. She posted this latest “revelation” to social media and I finally made it onto her Facebook page. She also started tagging me in derogatory comments linked to my photography page on Facebook. Having pushed me out of every part of her life it was all she had left to do.

I began reaching back out to those friends that I couldn’t before. I realized what my ex was afraid of and it was their experience and judgement. One of the first things a male friend of mine said from back home was “I believe you Jeremy, I’ve been exactly where you’re at.” Time and time again nearly everyone said that I should get a restraining order (I almost did), that I was being gaslighted and that I was most certainly emotionally abused.

I cried so many times because finally someone fucking believed me and for one of the first times in a couple years I realized that I wasn’t crazy and that my experience was actually real (something I still have trouble believing). Having contact with my friends helped to recenter me and see a few things clearly. Well . . . mostly that is.

The Ultimate Breakup

I thought I could hate her forever for what she did to me. The hate felt pure, it was strong, and I was strong because of it, or so I imagined for a second. I thought that hate would be enough to keep me away from her for the rest of my life. I was wrong on all counts.

Eventually I just got tired of being angry about what happened and so . . . we got together for a beer. Then we met again the next night. She said I seemed happy again and told me she was sorry for everything she had put me through. She said she broke me and put me through hell over the last 18 months and realized if I went through that without leaving then she could finally trust me and wanted things to work out.

Then because this is what we did, we got back together. To be honest, I’m not sure why. I think it was just familiar. My friends had cautioned me about dating her again. They were right to be worried about my safety of course. The time apart had let me center myself enough that I knew I could handle one last chance. If it didn’t work or became unhealthy I could leave this time without the crushing aspect of our last breakup.

So, by the end of that second night we were together again and her boyfriend/my ex roommate was out (although it took her another 10 days to tell him that). She said she didn’t want to hang around her friends anymore; that she didn’t enjoy spending time with them because they were immature. I think her friends were easier to cast aside than to admit we were together and that she had lied about me.

A couple of weeks or so later the new place I had moved into didn’t work out as my then roommate proved to be unstable (can I pick em or what). My girlfriend said I should move in with her. It wasn’t a good decision but I had to go somewhere quick. Living together wasn’t good for us. It wasn’t our time to live together and I knew this from day one. I would need to get my own place, but she would have to realize it as well. When I suggested that it would be healthier for our relationship to each have our own places she told me that if I moved out we were done.

That ultimatum was very unfair to me. The only move that could save the relationship was the one that if I made would also end it. There was no good way forward. When I was trying to decide how to navigate this conundrum she started demanding I get out and contacted a lawyer about having me removed. I moved out once more to the first place I could find. Luckily, I landed in a good place to live this time.

Two weeks later she would tell me she was okay with us having separate places and that moving out was the right decision. She wanted to start dating again. What I told my friends was correct. I could step aside if it didn’t work that one last time. I declined, I was more than ready to move on. There were too many wrongs and too much pain that I couldn’t overlook and rightly so. To be frank, I was treated like a piece of shit she stepped in and I had been wiped off of the bottom of her shoe for the last time.

The Friendship Attempt

Even friendship was unsuccessful.

As I stated before, my repeated statements that I didn’t want to hear about her new love interests went unheeded. She would say, “but if we’re friends we should be able to talk about this.” In most situations that would have been true, but not one where we had been recently separated and that type of information had previously been (and still was being) used to hurt me.

She was also fond of telling me about all the things that we would have done together if we had remained a couple. “We would have had a race car (a mutual interest of ours) and I could have built my dream project vehicle” as if offering me things would bring me back. It was clear friendship wasn’t going to work. I decided to cut off contact.

After a month of no contact she bumped into me at a stock car race and made sure to remind me of how she bought the coat I was wearing. I guess I’m still indebted to her. She also tried to find out where my new job was with the bait of giving me sales. It’s worth noting that one of the perks to my new job was that it is 40 minutes away so she can’t just pop in to see me. She inquired as to where I lived now. Some people never change. Except that I do and I don’t want to be around that level of control and insecurity anymore.

Ten months into no contact letters still end up being mailed to me or are left taped to my truck window in the middle of the night (so much for not knowing where I live). She sent me a photo of me sitting in my truck at a stoplight, one which I had just bought and she had never seen, with the caption “I see you.” Accounts where I forget to block her have messages waiting for me. I don’t read them; I already know what they say. One of the messages would read that she has dated and no one is like I was and she compares everyone to me and they come up short. Another would say how she missed me as a friend, then it would go on to take abusive shots at me by saying it’s for the best that we’re separated because in the end she didn’t care for me anymore and was just having sex for the good of the relationship. Then she would make mention that she doesn’t want to date because she is seeing (insert new guys name here) and she’s working on building a relationship with him. She’s so happy now that she’s almost beside herself.

Even her letters follow her desperate emotional cycle from which I fought to extricate myself. They are an attempt to keep me close so that something between us can start up again. If we were to start a relationship again then that wonderful guy she was on about will end up in the trash along with those letters. I’ve seen her do it numerous times before. At least he’ll have some reading material.

Even though I don’t read these messages, seeing them has the same effect as if I did. My heart starts racing, everything comes rushing back and I get that flush feeling like after you’ve taken a hard fall and you realize you’re injured. Fight or flight takes over and though I’m gradually getting better, it still takes a toll. The letters, emails and cards regardless of what they say are a steadfast indicator that I’m still responsible for her emotions. She still won’t let me live my life and yet I’m only happy when I’m free of her.

James Baldwin said it well, “I cannot believe what you say because I see what you do.” Her words aren’t worth hearing. She has apologized for her behavior dozens of times and has said that she is the reason I’m broken. That doesn’t matter anymore because those realizations and her apologies won’t heal me and they definitely won’t stop her from turning around and abusing me tomorrow if she feels the urge.

The only thing that will stop this pattern from repeating itself is me. Happily, I have.

Out Of The Void

If you’re mentally and emotionally exhausted just from reading this then you can understand how I was on the verge of a mental breakdown from living it. Unfortunately, this was only a portion of the things I endured.

Whether knowingly or not, I think she kept me close for whatever emotional need (to love or to hurt) she had. I believe her when she said loved me and when she said she felt as if she wasn’t good enough for me. Those competing impulses: the feeling of longing and of potential loss, kept her from acting from a place of love and it put me in a dangerous and abusive place. Truth be told, I’m not really sure she knows what it is to feel love.

Prior to this my moral compass had guided my life and made me feel healthy, surefooted and steadfast. During and after the relationship though I was set askew and couldn’t trust my own thoughts. My reality had been questioned, altered and controlled.

Because I wanted to keep the relationship together I had to stop trying to establish healthy boundaries. Now that sentence is pretty messed up I realize, but true nonetheless.

I know now that I was enacting a failing strategy. No amount of care I give or well-being I sacrifice for an extremely insecure (possibly narcissistic) person will sooth their behavior. There will always be some other concession they need to be made and I will always be the one making it. Here’s a life tip: when someone in a relationship continually refuses to take responsibility and be accountable for their emotions then you either respond as if the burden is yours (normalizing the behavior) and begin the cycle of codependency and potentially abuse or you call them out, and in the absence of change walk away.

Her insecurity manifested itself in a need for total hegemonic control of the relationship. I went into this relationship the happiest I had ever been. I came out a nervous and shattered individual with some symptoms of PTSD. Putting myself back together again has been real work but it has certainly been work worth doing.

The Takeaway

I’m a believer that there is no such thing as a wasted experience. If I learn something from less than ideal circumstances then it can guide my behavior in a way to make a better life.

In my case I was open to abuse because I believe in being vulnerable. I also critically examine my behavior and seriously consider the critique of my partner. I want to be there for my partner and that trait was wielded against me in the most pernicious of ways. I still strongly value vulnerability and openness but have learned that those traits without healthy boundaries are a recipe for abuse. I can still be open and loving and expect something similar in return. I’ve already used this lesson to side step what would probably have been a few dating/relationship disasters.

Certainly I can’t go back to the happy me before I met this person. That exact time has passed and I can never return. However, I am becoming happy again and I will continue to do so with new experiences under my belt. It will be a new, even better, version of me with the my past as a guide.

After all, I have learned that there are far worse things than being single.

 

Postscript: Since these events I have reassembled myself into something very much like I was before this trauma. Recently I have been spending time with someone who has been doting on me in a way people used to. Not only that but she is one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. She and my friends have helped me realize that all of the good in me is still present. I don’t feel like a pile of ashes on the ground anymore. I’m the nourished sapling that has sprung from ruin. Knowing that makes me very happy. May you also rise from your ashes.

 

Two Years and One Insecurity Later: State of the Relationship Address

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So this is somewhere in the second year of the blog. Sex, Love & Ire began after I was ghosted and probably catfished (fake profile) on a dating site. The event at the time was pretty hard for me to take.

After having this and other disappointing experiences I realized that something was amiss. I shouldn’t be having small emotional breakdowns over these types of scenarios. Dating shouldn’t be this hard, but why was it taking such a toll on me?

My thoughts drifted from this matter as I found myself in a relationship soon after. Ultimately though, I knew the answer to my question. I was afraid of being alone.

Flash forward two years and I’m single once more. I knew I had to make a change. I should be comfortable, even happy, being alone before I begin dating. I couldn’t keep fumbling around with those who weren’t a good fit for me in an attempt to satiate my insecurities. I also couldn’t keep trying to push myself into relationships when someone was a good fit. Those situations need to evolve at their own pace. It was unfair to everyone involved.

I decided to stop dating until I was secure with being single. Having been in a relationship for 20 some odd years it was never a reality I had to face. It was time I did.

And so it was that I set out on a quest to heal myself and become comfortable with where I was in life. My mission mostly looked like this: each time I felt the urge to get on a dating app I would ask myself why I wanted to do so. I discovered it was mostly because I was bored or lonely. When that answer came I knew I had to give myself more time. So I waited and went about my life. Easier said than done.

I started doing things alone that I usually didn’t. Going to concerts, meals, movies, auto races and trips across country all became a means to help me come to terms with spending time alone.

I can’t say how long it takes for the average person to get into a good state of mind for dating. Anyone who quantifies this is probably full of shit. Everyone moves through life at different speeds and we all certainly have our own levels of personal work to do.

For me, after three months I felt good about where I was. I started dabbling in online dating again. I didn’t think things would progress so quickly but the change I felt was remarkable. I went online, matching with people and conversing without the worry of whether or not they liked me. If someone ghosted me or barely responded I just figured they were busy or we weren’t a good fit and went on my way. When I have no matches for a week or so (this happens to me often) it was no problem. I was at ease for the first time and the whole process of finding someone felt healthy. I was more balanced and making better choices.

Then it happened; I matched and started messaging with someone. She wanted badly for me to call her right away so she could hear my voice. I wasn’t comfortable with this and maybe that should have been reason enough to decline. I don’t mind phone calls, but something about this request was a bit off. However, because I often push my boundaries we talked briefly.

The two minute phone conversation was heavily laden with sexual innuendos and even outright statements about having sex. This was all on her end because I am tragically bad at flirting; nearly incapable would be another way of putting it. Heavy sexual advances can actually make me uncomfortable (when I don’t know a person) and unfortunately that’s the only level of flirtation that I can detect. Everything I mentioned she steered back to heavy flirting. I wasn’t having it. She was driven in her need to flirt and something about it felt familiar and unstable. In some ways it felt like me a couple of years back.

I was on a strict timeline so I said goodbye and told her she would hear from me. “Do you promise” she said. “Of course” I replied and concluded our conversation.

That night I sent some follow up messages to her and each time I received a one word reply. I’m pretty verbose and a bit of a sapiosexual (finds intelligence attractive) so brevity and a lack of interest are obvious red flags for me. I stopped messaging, I’m sure she wanted it that way.

I started to think about our encounter and how similar it was to when I was actually stood up. So much of the language was similar. Even her voice and the tempo at which she talked so closely resembled my first encounter of being catfished that I began to wonder if it was the same person.

Two years ago I this would have sent me for another mini tailspin but I felt healthy and calm exiting this incident. The difference in my reaction was amazing. Here I had my first interaction with someone online and it was a total bust (well I dodged a bullet really) but it didn’t bother me. I didn’t cry, I didn’t start another blog (whew), it didn’t send me into any kind of emotional spiral. This was just something that happened and because I’m now okay with being single I could walk through that fire unscathed. Of course I don’t like being played but I really don’t feel that I was. My new found comfort had allowed me to see the dynamics of what was happening. Not only could I sense the other person’s insecurity it was a bit of a turn off.

I should take this moment to say that I know my security with being single won’t make me impervious; there will still be hurt. I will still find people with which I want to explore a relationship and they won’t feel the same. There is no way to guard against that and anyway, I don’t want to. Some things should hurt.

The remarkable thing about this experience was I realized that until the fear of being single is dealt with it will remain. When I was with someone that fear (arguably) went away but after the relationship ended it was waiting for me like a loyal companion.

This has been a valuable experience for me. I’ve learned that becoming comfortable in being single isn’t a way of giving up on finding someone, rather it frees me to be a better version of myself. When the right person comes along I will be available and when the wrong person comes barreling at me I can sidestep that collision. Dealing with my insecurity was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I see and know people that haven’t taken the time to be secure with themselves. You know them too. They are the ones that move from relationship to relationship with hardly a month between. For many this type of behavior doesn’t even seem extreme so used to seeing it are we. If any of this sounds familiar consider taking a moment to become happy with being single. If you do I will promise this much; the version of you that exits this experience will be such a better person than you can imagine.

 

To Have Loved, But Not Lost

A seagull. Photo by Jeremy Alcorn

To the man with my heart in his glorious palms; that’s how it began. I was rummaging through my files today and I reached into a folder labeled nostalgia sure that there was something there I could throw away. It held a single letter. It was one my second wife had written me on my birthday. I had forgot it even existed.

Our relationship was an unlikely one. 18 years of age separated us. Most people didn’t approve. In the end her interest faded; she moved on and so I had to as well.

Her letter was as spectacular now as it was then, I remembered why I loved her so. As I read through her beautiful prose and all of the wonderful things she said about me, about us, I pondered how such emotion and love could ever fade. Sometimes though, it does.

Things can never go back to how they were. That truth is the only thing that made moving on possible. Life is both complicated and simplistic that way.

Her words continue, this time prophetic “our time is something we have to treat as precious, focusing on what we have instead of what we do not have.”

I was the happiest with her. I can’t imagine ever feeling that way again towards another. I hope I will. If I don’t, I’m thankful for the two years we shared. I’m ever grateful that I was able to experience such emotion once in my life and I’m glad it was with her.

I returned the letter to its place with tears cascading down my cheeks and falling from my chin. The folder is like my heart, it holds something dear to me. I can reminisce about what it holds and appreciate how special those moments are to have lived. A heart bereft of love is barely able to be called heart at all. It is just an empty object waiting to be used, to be filled.

As it turns out, everything in the folder and in my heart is placed just as it should be. I was in love and that is enough.

My Partner Told Me They Have Genital Herpes

So you’ve met someone you like and you’re ready to take things to the next level, but your partner has just told you they have genital herpes.

As someone who themself has genital herpes I want you to know a few things about how to approach this situation with grace and be empowered to make a healthy decision.

So what can you do?

Consider yourself respected

If you are with someone who has informed you they have herpes then that’s one sign that you may have found someone who truly values you as a person. After all, between breakouts (of which some people never have) there is no way for you to tell if someone is infected.

By telling you about herpes or any other STI/D before you have sex they are putting your needs before their own. This is pretty sexy in and of itself. They are giving you the gift of informed consent. Something they may not have had.

Ask them questions

The information they have for you is really important. Hopefully, they can tell you what herpes looks like for them, meaning what precautions the two of you can take and the frequency of their outbreaks.

Even better is that talking to them will help you see that they are not what the virus makes them. They are just people getting along in the world like everyone else. They probably don’t define themselves by the fact that they have herpes and neither should you.

Feel free to think about it

If someone springs the info that they have herpes on you while your both naked and ready to throw down then it’s either that things progressed much quicker than they anticipated or they were hoping you would just agree to sex anyway in the heat of the moment. The first is somewhat understandable the second is deplorable.

Either way, you have the right to say “I need to think about this.” You have to determine your risk in a informed and rational way. I for instance, have chosen both to avoid risks and accept them depending on the circumstances. Obviously, you have this right as well.

Do some research

There’s nothing wrong with seeking out sources other than your partner. Not everyone is fully versed on herpes and it will also help you with your piece of mind by knowing the information you have is correct. To this end, use reputable medical sites and not a site that is posing as one.

Don’t say you’re clean

Often the words we choose have unintended consequences. By saying you’re clean (STI/D negative) you are implying that those who are not are dirty. In fact, dirty is a word that is often pointed straight at those who have herpes.

Know that herpes is beyond morality

Herpes is a virus, period. It doesn’t give a shit about your ideology. It doesn’t matter if you live a life of religiously endorsed virtue or one that is a virtue of your own endorsement. A virus reaches across all ideological spectrums.

I say this because I want you to know that while your partner’s situation will be different from everyone else who has herpes that it does not mean they lived a life of depravity. There is nothing wrong with them. You should know this because you’re with them. Whatever attracted you to them still exists.

Herpes isn’t normally screened for so even you may well have the virus and not know it. There’s not a lot of reason to check for herpes until you have symptoms. In one study, 90 percent of people who tested positive for HSV2 (genital herpes) had never experienced any symptoms prior (1). That means there are a lot of people walking around with one of the strains of herpes and will likely never know it.

At any rate, don’t fret over your partner’s means of contracting herpes unless it is important to them to discuss it.

How did I get herpes?

Why is this here? Because you’re probably wondering. Keep in mind that this is information that you really have no right to. So if your talking to someone and they mention their positive HSV status it’s not okay to ask how they got it. They will volunteer that info if they want you to know.

However, I have a blog dealing with this and I’m comfortable talking about it. I think I received herpes through viral shedding. None of my partners had any visible symptoms, none of them informed me about an HSV2 risk and I trust those I was with sexually. I don’t think the person that infected me knew they had it.

Viral shedding is where the virus is attached to a skin cell that falls from one body and then enters the body of another through a mucous membrane or a wound. The herpes virus lives for a very short time outside of the body but when your close to someone a short time is all that it can take.

Because I was infected in a place a condom doesn’t cover it seems likely that the point of entry for me was a razor nick in my skin (some recommend shaving a day before a sexual encounter rather than the day of to allow some time to heal).

I don’t regret anything. This is just one of those things that happen. I abstain from sex during any breakouts (which seemed to have stopped) and wait seven days after healing as recommended. Anyone I’m with sexually knows my status and we work around it when needed. The results have been good and so far I seem to be keeping herpes all to myself, lol. Which is the ideal situation for everyone.

I hope this little bit of info helps about how to address the revelation that your partner has herpes. Couples working with herpes have full and rich relationships and if you choose so can you. As the saying goes stay calm, and carry on.

1 – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/11/02/you-probably-have-herpes-but-thats-really-okay/?utm_term=.d6c8c7199421

The Wedding Vows

www.jeremyalcornphotography.com

Recently, I officiated my friend’s wedding ceremony for a renewal of vows. I was honored to be given this privilege. Here is what I said which I owe heavily to bell hooks in her wonderful book All About Love:

“Good evening. I’d like to start by welcoming you to this ceremony and congratulating Jeff and Eric on this special occasion.

There’s a line towards the end of a wedding. You’ve all heard it many times before: it reads, “by the power invested in me.” If only things were that matter of fact. I wish that my words here today could grant you life long assuredness, a knowledge that the two of you will prosper together and enjoy happiness till the end of your days. While I believe that you can have this, it’s not something I can provide nor is there a religious or legal edict that can make your relationship a prosperous marriage.

When you were dating, you needed to know that you were on your way to being in love. In a marriage though you will seek something much more akin to true love.

We are often shown, and so we imagine, a fairy tale version of love. Real love though is grittier than that. At times it can be a struggle, disagreements are after all allowed and sometimes necessary. If relationships are work, then love will be your career. Love challenges us in ways that can make us want to withdraw rather than pull someone close and open up. It makes us vulnerable by showing us our shortcomings and it will reveal to us our deepest insecurities. To be sure, truly loving another person is one of the most courageous things you will ever do.

This is why the two of you standing here today makes this event all the more special. By being married you have already confirmed your decision to love and tackle your fears. You have learned that while loving each other cannot end the difficulties you will face, it can give you the ability to deal with those obstacles and emerge stronger for it.

And so it is today that you continue your commitment to one another evinced by this gathering of kindred – this confirmation of spirit, this renewal of vows.

I want to say a few things about love before we get to those vows. Earlier I spoke of true love and that sometimes seems to be a perplexing idea, but it is because we often misunderstand the nature of love. True love does exist, but it is not something you stumble onto or happen upon. We often confuse the incidence of meeting someone with finding love. We may find our partners by accident but love takes much more.

Because we often think that we find love we have come to view it as a noun. Love for us becomes a thing to be given and more often, something to be received. While this view can be a good start it does not take us close enough to where we need to be. Regarded this way we miss the fundamental meaning of this deep emotion. For if love is only a thing, then we must ask ourselves where is this thing we exchange created? Where does love come from?

Obviously love has to come from us and that is why love is actually a verb. It is an intentional act, for we do not have to love, rather we choose to.

Love gives us agency. It is a way of living and ordering our lives to maximize the way we commune with those around us. In this way then, love is also much more than just a feeling. Love as a verb demands that we be responsible and accountable. It means we take ownership for our actions and expect our partner to do the same. When we falter it is our obligation to accept our mistakes and make amends. Love demands this so that we continually succeed or fail better for our partners.

In your quest to deepen your bonds remember that love should be honest. Love cannot exist in a world of deception. Speaking your truths to a partner and in turn hearing theirs will strengthen your bonds and help create respect. Your words should be measured and honest to solidify the trust you have in each other. Speaking and listening in this regard is not always easy but it is essential.

In your honesty be sure to see that your love is also kind. The goal of intimacy should be to foster healing and understanding.

For your marriage to be loving it needs to have an ethic of care. When the component of care is lost a relationship becomes distant at best, or hurtful and abusive at worst – in essence dysfunctional. Love cannot grow where there is an absence of care. When you treat love as a verb you are prioritizing your partner’s personal and spiritual growth along with your own.

In addition to these, you should be steadfastly committed to one another. Commitment is often thought of as being physically true to your partner, and while the agreement you reach in this regard is important, it is too shallow a view. You will find that committing to your partner through love becomes something which is better rounded and more complete than just being physically devoted ever could be.

I want to leave you with this caveat so you know that you are in good standing: love does not demand perfection. There may be times when you don’t feel worthy for the task of love. This is normal, it is often the product of dwelling on your self-doubt too much. Done this way you will undervalue your worth. Always remember though that your partner has chosen you. They aren’t inhibited by your self-doubt. If they could feel what you think about yourself they wouldn’t recognize it as you. Your partner is by your side because they see your truth rather than your fiction. This too is what love does.

Ultimately though as I stated at the outset, what you need, and indeed what you have found to make love blossom can only be touched upon by words in a ceremony. The power of love as a verb can only be realized by both of you.

And so it is now that I ask you both to share a confirmation of that strength within by way of vows.

______ Do you promise to love _____ , to act in a way that confers care, trust, understanding, respect, and commitment to him – guarding his heart and his priorities as if they were your own for as long as you shall live?

Then having heard your affirmations, by the power that resides in each of you and by the trust you have placed in each other. I humbly and happily reaffirm you, husbands. You may each kiss the groom.”

 

An Alternative View of Labels

Like one of the authors of the articles below I have always wondered if labels concerning human sexuality do us more harm than good. I think there are arguments for both sides and I find the interplay of ideas particularly interesting.

Here are two stories of people who though they were stalwart adherents to a particular way of being until someone special helped them discover an unexpected truth about love.

I Came Out as A Lesbian – Then Fell In Love With A Man

How My Sexuality Changed When My Husband Became My Wife

As you can see by the titles, the first story follows a traditional view of relationships while the latter has a more non-traditional story arch. I hope you enjoy them and whoever you love now or come to love in your life, I wish you the greatest happiness.

How Did Your Sexual Orientation Form?

I think for many people the premise that sexual orientation is not fixed, but can vary with stimuli, will be a difficult one to accept. However, thanks to trans folks (again) we have a wonderful new outlook on the world. Here are a couple of women who might just change the way you think.

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/the-trans-women-who-become-lesbians-after-years-as-gay-men?utm_source=broadlyfbus&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000050

Why Being A Grammar Elitist Ain’t All That

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A tip for dating or relationships in general: policing someone’s grammar is a dick move. Here’s why following grammar protocol doesn’t show the good form that you imagine it does.

So-called correct grammar is an appeal to upper class views of what is proper and just in our language. Except that language has never really worked that way. Do you think the railroad workers, saloon owners, or sex workers in the 1800’s spoke perfect English? Me thinketh not. It was more a mixture of broken Chinese, Spanish, French, Irish (Gaelic), German and a whole other host of languages. And yet, these are the people that built America and they got shit done without needing to resort to the queen’s english.

Proper grammar is an elitist approach to the english language. It’s a way of thinking one person is better than another because of how they speak. Grammar elitists place their self worth and others on education without ever once imagining that not everyone has access to the same level or quality of education or sometimes any education at all.

It’s also a form of racism and classism which ignores the cultural influences that can exist in local neighborhoods and regions. Speaking like an upper class WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) who is well versed in fine speak is not likely to garner you any special level of appreciation from a Tennessee mining community, the Dark Corner, Flint, Michigan or even in New York City.

Granted, it’s a fictional character but Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly spoke about being immortalized saying, “It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another.” It’s not at all proper english but it’s a wonderful quote (one of my favorites I might add) which easily exhibits wisdom. Everyone who is idolized has a darker side that often gets swept away by the need for a hero. Proper word choice isn’t necessarily a display of intelligence, but rather an example of someone following rules just for the sake of it.

The important thing is that we try and understand what the other person is saying and not how they are saying it. If someone from my home town told me “I found bout 5 five pounds of shroons the other day over on Kuhlman Hill.” I’m not about to correct them and say “you mean to say mushrooms” because I would be a colossal prick and their meaning is easily obtained.

Focusing too intently on grammar can also hide our chosen identity when we develop a stalwart adherence to pronoun choice such as him and her as opposed to zir and ze or they. We disrespect people and who they are over word choice.

The final reason that grammar (and word choice) doesn’t matter is that those whose job it is to keep us abreast of the english language aren’t at all concerned about what is proper. This very month Merriam-Webster introduced the words “safe space” and “microaggression” to the dictionary. Since that will piss conservatives off to no end they might be pleased to know that “riding shotgun” is now included as well. The point of cataloging language isn’t about proper usage, but about documenting what is happening. That word that you despise if it persists will one day make it into the dictionary. The kicker is, it was a real word long before that happened.

So the next time you decide to chide someone for not living up to your language standards perhaps you should critically examine those expectations and their privileged origins.