The One About Sex

I’ve been thinking about sex lately.

That’s nothing new, of course, but the way I’ve been thinking about it has been different this year.

Rewind to New Years: I’m ringing in the year with some friends, and after a few rounds of intoxicating, someone suggests we play Never Have I Ever. And it quickly becomes apparent that I have never have I evered basically everything. Which I expected. What I didn’t expect was this: My friends thought this was weird.

I should back up again. I grew up homeschooled. And homeschooled in the conservative Christian Midwest. So my friends at the time were generally either other homeschoolers or kids from my church. Abstinence was the norm, not the exception. There were probably people shacking up by high school age, but they certainly never let it show. As far as evidence was concerned, our homeschool co-op was chock full o’virgins.

Then I went to college. Specifically, to a conservative Christian college in the Midwest. Not BJU crazy, but still fairly old-fashioned. Our student conduct policy (I’m sorry, “Life Together Covenant”) forbade dangerous activities like smoking, drinking, and “social dancing”.

And you knew that the jocks were probably getting it on with the cheerleaders, and that there was a reason the secluded TV area was called “The Passion Pit” (No, not because they used it for showings of Passion of the Christ). But even there, nobody would really openly admit to doing anything toooo sexual. There was a tacit understanding of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, and of pretending that absolutely nothing was going on.

So now I’m in my late 20s, and for the first time in my life, I have friends who think it’s weird that I’m a virgin. And that means I have to actually examine what I really think about sex, where before, I could always just ignore it. And the conclusion I’ve come to is…I have no fucking idea.

Like violent car crashes, sex was always something that just happened to other people. If I liked a girl, there was some thought in the back of my mind that if I liked her, and she liked me, and then we started dating, and then we got engaged, and then we got married, that eventually, somewhere down the line, there would be sex waiting. And that sounded cool, but it was all very abstract.

And then, of course, there was masturbation. But masturbation really isn’t sex. There’s no risk involved, no vulnerability, no relationship, no emotional connection. It’s just fulfilling an urge, like sleeping or eating.

I’ve got a lot of emotions tangled up with my thoughts about sex. There’s still an instinctual feeling of guilt that triggers at sexual fantasies (probably a holdover from religious upbringing). I worry about getting into a relationship I feel trapped in, or of leaving that relationship and letting down someone who depended on me. And on the flipside, I worry about becoming emotionally dependent on someone who would leave me.

It’s been a good year for conversations about these sorts of things. I’ve had talks with friends who are married, single, asexual, pansexual, demisexual, and it’s been really helpful to hear from people who relate to this issue in so many different ways.

Sometimes I wish there was a word that summed up the way I feel about sex. I’ve considered asexuality and demisexuality, but neither of them seems to fit. I don’t have a lack of sexual attraction, or feel it only in the midst of a strong emotional connection.

I feel like a firehose that hasn’t found a fire yet. Not like I’m bursting at the seams, unable to contain myself…just at the ready, should an inferno present itself.

Well, thanks for letting me bare my soul in this free therapy session, internet. I’d promise to write more often, but you probably know by now that my writing habits are even more inconsistent than my sexuality. Thanks for reading!

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Never a Dull Moment in the Garden of Kinesthesia

I’d forgotten how it felt to not feel
Not hurt, not ache or pain
No thrim-throb in the brim-brain
No anxieties about now, tomorrow, yesterday
No scrumbled thoughts of ‘What’d I say’
This amnesia is electrifying
And I want to turn it switchabout
Forget all that came before
Before the numb
Before the hushing of the zim-zum
I’ll make a palace here
Construct it of silence and peace of mind
Invite all my friends over for tea
And never worry if there’s not enough sugar to go around

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Fine, I’ll Do a %&*#!@$ Post About Racism

I really don’t want to write about racism today.

My Facebook feed has been a steady flow of articles, memes, and rants about white supremacists, Charlottesville, free speech, racism, Arpaio, and He Who Shall Not Be Named.

And I don’t think any of them made any difference.

Well, I think they’ve made people mad. They’ve made me mad, no matter whether I agreed or disagreed with them, or whether I actually investigated the facts behind them. But I don’t think they changed anybody’s mind.

I don’t think anyone has ever had a core belief challenged by a meme. And even when I agree with the viewpoints of some of my friends, the articles and rants they share are frequently full of fallacies, emotional appeals, and exaggerated/decontextualized data.

If anything, they may actually be solidifying the other side’s beliefs by presenting an opposition to fight against.

So I’ve been trying to avoid talking on the subject, because I don’t think I have anything to say that can change anybody’s mind. I don’t want to start another poorly-researched internet fight that puts both sides at each others’ throats. I really don’t want to write about racism today.

But.

I work at a public library. Working in public service, I’m privy to a lot of unpleasant interactions between people. Usually a few minutes pass, and the frustration rolls off my back.

Sometimes it comes home with me.

Fifteen minutes to close, a woman comes up to the desk to check out, her two kids in tow, about two and six years old. As I check out her books, she tells me that a man yelled at her older child because the younger one was being too noisy. “He made the older one cry.” I glance over at the man. Though too far away to make out what’s being said, he is glaring at the woman. I apologize for her bad experience, wishing there was something else I could do to make things better. There never seems to be anything I can do.

A few minutes later, the man comes up. “I’ve been trying to work, but I can’t because of those…………..children.” He pauses for a long time mid-sentence, trying to find a word that won’t get him in trouble. The pause communicates his contempt in a way that will be hidden if this conversation is written up later. “I guess they don’t raise these [nationality] kids to be polite where they come from, but this is a public library, not [nation of origin]!”

I bite back the reply that two-year-olds tend to make noise no matter what color skin they have. And the reply that, just because a family looks different, it doesn’t mean they haven’t lived here as long as he has. And that the public library is, as one might guess from the name, open to the public. And that, if you have a problem with a child’s conduct, perhaps you should say something to the mother, instead of his six-year-old brother.

Because there’s nothing I can say. Nothing I say will change this man’s mind. Nothing I say will rebuke him. Nothing I say will do anything but stoke the flames that are simmering across this nation.

There’s a quote that gets passed around from time to time: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s a cute quote, but what bothers me is the assumption that everything falls neatly into those two categories. What do I do about things I can neither change nor accept?

I don’t know. I don’t have any deep thoughts to wrap up this post. I can’t fix the world, and I’m not okay with the way it works. Sometimes I just need to talk about it.

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Love With an Expiration Date

I don’t know love
Not the Monday, Tuesday, every other day love
Not the lifelong, singsong, nothing-can-go-wrong love
Not the sweetheart, work of art, till death do us part love
Not the wedding band, ain’t life grand, wanna hold your hand love
All I know is doomed love
Entombed love
Elephant in the room love
Love entwined with tragic fate
Love with an expiration date

I don’t have the mettle to settle
The weight of commitment like a kettlebell around my neck
A stinging nettle, or burning acetylene
Even the thought of meddling in these muddy waters has me backpedaling
Backtracking, backpacking to the past
To find in contrast, an outclassed outcast
So downcast that the iconoclast that surpassed him is flabbergasted
Aghast, he lambastes this harassed bastard
Taking to task this mask of moping coping mechanisms
A dope groping hopelessly at the end of his rope
Like a trope from one of his television programs

“Will they or won’t they?”
He sees echoed in a thousand fictional relationships
Stretched out for years, delaying the eventual payoff
And the disappointment that inevitably follows
The shitty last season after the main characters get together
And the magic has disappeared
The one aspect of humanity that television seems to accurately portray
So he balances on this tightrope
Between “will they” and “won’t they”
Chasing what cannot be caught
Wooing what cannot be won
Flirting with futility
Amassing a storehouse of regrets
The only trinkets that never lose their luster

But even the doomed love is hard to come by
Dependent as it was on the wellspring of naivete
That dries up with every passing day
I’ve come to miss those wasted passions
Fruitless attempts to fly on papier-mâché wings
I don’t fall any more
Don’t crack my collarbone on the canyon floor
But neither do I experience the exhilarant moment of belief
Before gravity has its way.

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More Late-Night Butterfly Effect Thoughts

A few days ago, I got a speeding ticket, and ever since, I’ve been observing its ripple effect. Here is one of those ripples.

Tonight I was driving down from Indy, taking 465. I passed someone on the highway, and a short time later, they passed me. On another night, this might have stoked my competitiveness, leading me to retake the lead. But because of the recent ticket, I have been driving more cautiously, so I allowed them to remain ahead, but I took note of the license plate number. Before the numbers were the letters were YLL. Like it was short for “you’ll”, As in, “you’ll remember this license plate”. And so I did. They soon rushed ahead, and I lost sight of the car.

Several miles later, when I pulled off onto my exit, I discovered I was behind the very same car. YLL from the license plate confirmed it.

After the exit, I saw YLL take the same turn that I take. What a funny coincidence, I thought. I thought the same as YLL turned into my apartment complex. I followed them down the row of apartments, curious to see where they would stop.

As it turned out, they parked in front of my building. In the exact spot I would have taken. If I had decided not to let them pass. If I had not gotten the speeding ticket. If I had chosen the other of the two roads.

If any of that had happened, I would have arrived first, taken the spot, trundled off to bed, and never been the wiser. But I hadn’t, and so I was privy to this odd bit of coincidence…that one of my three neighbors had been coming down the same stretch of highway at the exact same time that I was.

I wouldn’t have noticed that YLL stayed behind in the car after parking. It was too dark to make out the driver without being creepy, so I couldn’t identify him or her, but I saw that the headlights were on, and heard music playing through the stereo.

The lights are still on, five minutes later, as I start to write this. The music has stopped, though. Is YLL waiting for someone? Maybe YLL is not actually my neighbor, but a friend picking someone up.

I checked again, and YLL is gone now. I wonder briefly if YLL is the supplier of the pot that my downstairs neighbors have made into the permanent aroma of our apartment building.

This ripple seems to be returning to the placidity of spacetime. The only change that persists is that my car is now one space to the left, and slightly out of the parking lines (YLL is not a precise parker). And of course, that I am thinking about this, and writing about it.

I have an eerie feeling that I have seen my quantum ghost. That YLL was another version of me, the one who got no parking ticket, who drove more speedily, who took the nearest parking space. And now that ghost has vanished as the possibilities resolve themselves. Most likely nothing will come of it, but still…once again, I am aware. Once again, I watch. And I wonder where YLL is going next…

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I Took The Road More Quickly Traveled By

Some days you come to a fork in the road. You know that both roads will eventually take you to your same destination. You know that both roads will take you there in the same amount of time. And you debate which way to take. Finally, you decide you are being silly. There is no difference between these choices, and your life will continue on exactly the same. So you go one way.
 
You get pulled over in a speed trap.
 
Now you have a speeding ticket. And a fine to pay, which, while not crippling, is a noticeable deduction from your spendable money.
 
That meaningless choice now has consequences.
 
Maybe this fine means you will go out less. There will be experiences you do not have, food you do not eat, people you will never meet.
 
Or maybe that money would have been spent on a new, addicting video game that would have kept you in the house, staring at a television screen. With its absence, you spend more time going on walks and exercising, and feel healthier as a result.
Maybe you drive slower for the next few weeks, and you avoid a life-threatening accident.
Maybe you drive slower for the next few weeks, and you arrive late for an important job interview.
 
Maybe the situation makes you contemplate the butterfly effect of every inconsequential decision, and you decide to write a blog post about your musings. Doing so inspires you, and you return to your writing after a long creative drought.
For positive or negative, your life has changed. You have shaped your life with an involuntary decision. And every decision you make will shape it further, your life trickling like a bead of dew down a fractal tree of infinite possibilities, each choice making you into the person you will one day have been. You are a multitude of endless lives that could be lived, more potential yous than there are atoms in your body. You are a cosmos of consequence.

All the same, I wish I’d taken the other road.

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The Man Upon The Table

My thoughts return at times like these
To the man upon the table
The person who I used to be
Before the one who now is me
I wonder at his screams
His violent protestations
As the doctors prepared him for what was, in retrospect
An urgent emotionalectomy
Why couldn’t he see the dangers of his condition?
Even, in that very moment, the suffering that these tumors
(Fear, anger, sadness, love)
Were inflicting upon him?
Didn’t he see how much happier he would be once they were gone?
No, not happier…that’s a poor choice of words
The happiness and joy, those had to go as well, of course
As we now understand these to be symptoms of the underlying disease
The mechanism through which the whole remains undetected and untreated
Like the dangerously rewarding surge of endorphins
Accompanying the abandonment of chemo
So not happier
But couldn’t he see how much less unhappy he would be?
He used to suffer so many agonies
Fear of a future he could not control
Anger at injustices he could not correct
Sadness at tragedies he could not prevent
Love
In all its forms
Because when has love ever been without pain?
And there were the smaller discomforts as well
Embarrassment caused from slights meant with no ill-will
Regret over choices that would have ended poorly in either direction
Anxiety about ludicrous imaginings that would never come to pass
Disappointment in his attempts to give voice to these miserable emotions
I do not think he would have liked this poem
Or, more to the point, he would have disliked this poem
Because of course, I do not like this poem
But I do not dislike it either
It simply is
And it is fine
That’s all anything ever needs to be now
Everything is fine
Everything is fine
Everything is fine
Everything is fine

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