Showing posts with label sex. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sex. Show all posts

yet another fiery hot take on 50 shades

Every news outlet and its parent company is publishing the same piece, saying the same thing: 50 Shades of Grey isn't erotica; it's abuse. And I agree, because it's obvious (and here I'm referring to the book) that Anastasia isn't a true submissive. She's not into it. She's more scared than titillated. She sets limits which Christian fails to honor. All of this runs completely contrary to everything BDSM represents, and everything that makes it awesome.

When 50 Shades drifted onto my radar sometime in the last couple of years, I felt the same tingle of annoyance - of irrational possessiveness - I get when an unknown band I love blows up. Oh great. Secret's out. And yes, all the LOLs in the world at the idea that BDSM could be my, or anyone's, secret. But there you have it.

What bothered me was the fear that 50 Shades, the most widely-selling book of its kind in recent memory, had gotten it terribly wrong, where "it" was a subject I cared about. The fear that, in the wrong hands (and minds), that subject was going to be mishandled, and thus misrepresented to the millions of people suddenly exposed to it. Or, alternatively, that it would be so watered down as to be unpalatably boring. Turns out it was a little from column A and a little from column B. (Columns D and s were unavailable to comment; they were too busy having fun in much better books.)

So I am relieved by 50's embarrassing critical reception. Sure, it's sold and sold and sold. But virtually every reviewer, professional and amateur, is in agreement: the writing is wretched. And wretched writing doesn't move people, in good ways or bad. The outcry against (an inaccurate portrayal of) true BDSM that I feared never materialized, and instead people are crying out against what they've correctly identified as abuse. They are also seeing 50 Shades the literary endeavor clearly for what it is: pap. I also don't imagine that hordes of young lovers are flocking to their local Pleasure Chest to stock up on toys. Not that I would disapprove if they did. I am in great favor of such pursuits, every last consensual kink of them. But I'd hate for anyone's curiosity to be rooted in the sort of misguided, misogynist ideas put forth so ineloquently in 50 Shades. The only bad kink is nonconsensual kink, and that's exactly the kind E.L. James wrote. But don't take my word for it; she says so herself.

I started writing with the idea: when you meet someone who is into bdsm (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism, red.) and you are not up for it, what will happen? 

(Emphasis mine.)

There are a couple of fantastic, extremely thorough take-downs of 50 Shades on the web that, if you're interested, are smart, funny, and will satisfactorily quell any fears you have about missing out on something hot. Because I was definitely afraid I was missing out on something hot. Thankfully, people more patient than I went ahead and determined that no, we are not missing out on a damn thing. (Not the least because 50 Shades stops short, IMHO, of anything much further beyond Vanilla+.)

The Pervocracy looks at 50 Shades from the perspective of an active, feminist member of the BDSM community, and nails it again and again:

One of the many nasty things about this book is that it acknowledges that kinky women exist, but much like blonde women, they blend into a homogenous morass of not-quite-humanity. [Christian Grey]'s past submissives don't have any names or distinguishing features, they're just "the fifteen," and Ana and [Christian] always talk about them like there's something cheap and dirty about the fact that they might've actually enjoyed playing with him.

Jenny Trout has authored several romance novels herself; I have a feeling that what a lot of people were looking for would be much better found in her books. An excerpt from her take on 50 Shades:

Now, let’s move on to how fucked up it is that Christian is grossed out by the fact that Hyde likes rough sex. I get it, he’s supposed to be thinking, “My god, is that how I’ve been treating Ana? I’m such a fool! Tender and quiet lovemaking with a minimum of bodily contact from now on!” But it’s so, so stupid. The thing that makes Jack Hyde evil isn’t that he likes rough sex. It’s that he likes rough sex specifically to humiliate and manipulate women into doing what he wants them to do for him, without caring about obtaining enthusiastic consent, and that’s nothing like what Christian…

For the record, I would (maybe) include links to some of the good BDSM writing I cut my teeth on oh so many years ago. Alas, Usenet is no more, and the Altnet I frequented bears little resemblance to its modern iteration. There is one remaining extant web source of material that young Ellie spent many a night procrastinating frosh term papers on...but if you want to know what it is, you'll have to email me to ask, muahaha. I'll share, but first you've got to admit you're curious...

And with that I will shut up about the thing I wish everyone else would shut up about, too.

You are not quinoa.

Mushrooms tonight. Just the littlest bit. Wasn't the plan. Didn't intend to. But it was dinner with his dad, who, despite having been nothing but absolutely lovely to me in our limited interactions - is still his dad. And I wanted to be my best. Relaxed, confident, engaging and clever. Interesting things to say. Listening well, asking smart questions. On point with my French. Basically, some version of myself that only exists in my imagination. And the fastest way to her is through what's contained in the little grey vase pushed to the back of my highest kitchen cabinet.

So a cap and a stem, as I was getting ready. Short pleated cotton skirt, loose turtleneck, dilapidated combat boots, marled hiking socks, long wool overcoat with slightly puffed sleeves. Strongly considered a beret. Actually dug one out and put it on. Regarded self critically. No. God, no. Yanked it off, tossed it onto the couch. Paused. Stuffed it back into the drawer from whence it came. Hide the evidence of that near disaster.

I didn't say I'd done anything, but he told me later I gave myself away, anyway. "How?" I asked, intrigued to think I have a drug tell. 

"The way you were oohing and ahhing at those Christmas lights, when we parked." I nodded. Guilty. Could have happily watched them for an hour. "Also, how open minded you were about getting vegan for dinner." I had to laugh. Yep. "I knew you were shrooming. I knew it." He shook his head. "Think I can't tell when my girlfriend is high? Come on."

But before this conversation, which takes place later, back at home and after the reconnect: dinner. Tiny place in Silver Lake, super crunchy hipster server, patrons. The menu makes liberal use of quotation marks, to emphasize (warn?) that items will not be what they seem. "Cheese". "Roast beef". "Bacon". The shrooms and I find this extremely amusing, but I'm scared of coming across condescending or critical so I try to reign it in. The man sitting beside me, whom I adore, really likes this place. I'm going to make an effort, goddamnit. 

It's easy to speak with his father, who is down to earth and funny, and will happily chat about himself, his work, or just random trivia - and who will kindly spare his son's girlfriend from having to talk about herself (which, as she suspects he quite empathetically picked up on the first time he met her, she prefers not to do). He tells us about the photosynthetic properties of olive trees, and mentions that a meteorite will be passing through Earth's atmosphere tonight. He explains the (very different) French meanings of some English words, when they confuse me. Panache. Elan. His third child and I listen with genuine interest, holding hands under the table. He's a born storyteller and utterly non-threatening, and I think to myself: he's my favorite of the dads, by far. And while I briefly wonder if I should say this later, I don't, knowing that a compliment like that, while well-intentioned, has the unfortunate side effect of ushering in the Ghosts of Boyfriends past. And while they never stay long, they can chill the room quite effectively when they choose to. I'm comfortable enough to throw in as much French as I can, glad of the little I do know, which feels like points scored, though I know it really isn't like that. I know I am genuinely liked. I can tell by the smiles and laughter - and the Thanksgiving card I received a few weeks prior. 

The food poses a problem, despite my having ordered the simplest things I could: white bean soup and a hummus platter. Before entrees arrive, we're served bread that as best I can tell is completely unseasoned and well on its way to a second life as croutons. It's accompanied by something called cashew cheese. I'm trying, I'm really fucking trying, but the shrooms are more than ready to steer me to a dark place, quick, and the phrase "cashew cheese" is all they needed to hear. Done. I'm done. Appetite gone. I glance around the restaurant like a caged animal, relaxed for the moment but growing wary and keen to have an escape route if necessary. I have an ungenerous thought. If vegan food is so amazing and healthy, why do all these people look vaguely sick and miserable? I make a mental note in Sharpie and run it over with several shades of highlighter to NOT share that thought later, no matter how high I get.

I can't eat my dinner, but I pick at it the best I can. The soup is harmless but bland. The hummus is awful until I realize it isn't hummus, it's quinoa, because the server has gotten my order wrong. No matter, I'm fully nauseous at this point. Fucking shrooms. Too many? Stale? On too empty a stomach? No idea. He notices me not eating and while he helpfully offers tastes of his, to fetch the waiter, etc., I can feel his disappointment. Or maybe I'm imagining it. Maybe I'm disappointed in myself. Maybe I'm feeling inadequate, for reasons I won't understand until several hours later. And had I articulated them to myself at dinner, had I been able to, this is what I would have heard: I'm an outsider, here, right now. Outside this family, this father-son relationship. I hope I'm worthy, in his eyes. Whose eyes? Exactly, Ellie. Whose. Outside this scene, this whole vegan thing, which, really is all part of a side of him I feel what - what do you feel? Intimidated by? Jealous of? What is it? Yes, maybe, a little of both? I'm not vegan or new agey. I hate tofu. I've never meditated once in my life, much less twice a day for ten years. I've never even done yoga, for Christ's sake. So? So what? So what if that's what he wants? What if that's the kind of girl he needs? You are a Midwestern-Southwestern suburban transplant LA wanna-be cool city chick who has no direction and has made a habit of scoffing, HARD, at some of the things he believes about the universe. So what the fuck, Ellie? Why are you sitting here? You are not vegan. You are not quinoa. You are white sugar and gluten. Are you sure you're what he wants?

Of course, none of that had helpfully presented itself yet. But I got through the moment, and the dinner.

---

Back at my place, the reconnect. The space where everything else drops away, no matter what tensions or misfires there've been. We are equals. Barely in the door. Deep in my eyes, always, fearlessly gazing, holding my face, the back of my neck. Breath gone. He knows exactly how. Thumbs in the waistband, below my skirt. No, wait. Not until the last possible second, I whisper. Something about keeping them on, so hot to me. Don't know why. Just is.

He whispers back. But what if this is the last possible second? Hmm? Turns me where I stand. Over the desk. Mouth against my ear. What if this is the last...possible...second...

---

I confess it all, after. The shrooms. The insecurity, the distance I felt at dinner. Though I don't explain the depth of it. I'm ashamed, self-conscious, I don't know. I want to be exactly what he wants. I'm scared of not being good enough. But, as always, he blasts it all away. Reflective listening. His empathy, like nothing I've ever known, from anyone. We are the same person. Everything you just said is how I feel sometimes, with you. I have all the same fears. But what's the very worst that could happen? Think about what the absolute worst thing could be. Work through it. What is it?

That you'd realize I bore you. That I have nothing to offer you. That you'd end it.

Well, I get afraid of the exact same thing with you. And hearing you even say that right now is helping me resolve my issue, making me feel better, because we are so similar and I go through the same thing. There are lots of things you like that I don't. And vice versa. It doesn't matter to me that you experience things the same way that I do. What matters to me is that we're on the adventure together.

I talk. He listens, ask questions. Unfold it, see all the wrinkles, get to the heart of it, take its power away, and be done with it. I can see he's exhausted. It's late. Keep talking. I'm listening. If it helps, keep talking. He sinks further into the pillows - but he doesn't miss a word I say.

Eventually, he falls asleep exactly where he's laying, his arm crooked behind his neck, above the covers and partly dressed. I watch him for a few minutes, delighted by the way he so quickly and easily drops into slumber, like a child up way past bedtime. 

But I don't watch for long. Chaucer needs a walk, and I should sleep, too. 

adventure and mental expansion

A friend sent me a link to an article titled Smarter People Have More Sex, Do More Drugs And Stay Up Later Because It’s The Smarter Thing To Do today. Email subject line: Validation.

Well duh, I thought, before writing back "If only this had come out before my parents had died."

My favorite bits:

Many previous studies have found that people with higher IQs, better jobs, or degrees from top-notch universities are more likely to smoke weed or even snort a few lines here and there.

Esquire reports that this is because these people tend to pursue insightful experiences involving adventure and mental expansion.

Smart people will indulge in most opportunities that could potentially broaden their minds.

They also more closely understand addiction and moderation and are therefore less fearful of engaging in drug use. 

---

Seems like it finally might be time to tell the story of when I went dancing and ended up in the shower, out of my mind on ecstasy, with a couple of guys whose primary sexual interest was one another, not me.

Or not.

my body, today (edited repost)

Warning: NSFW pics of yr blogmistress below the fold.

UPDATE: I originally published this yesterday, then pulled it after a few hours because I felt squicky about it. But then today a couple of people whose opinions I really value reached out to me to say they liked the post. So I decided to put it back up, but with the photos sized down a bit. I decided that would lessen the squick factor enough for me. I probably will post these on IG (as an exception to my not cross-posting rule), because they do look pretty cool on the phone. So apologies if you have to see them, like, three times when all is said and done.

Thanks for putting up with my quirks, you guys.

----

I took some OMGsexy photos of myself today, for fun. I wasn't planning on it, but the shadows were doing cool things on my sheets, and I thought some boudoir pics might come out nice. A friend is borrowing my Nikon, so I just used my iPhone and a desktop tripod. I thought about redoing them with my dSLR (and, uh, a less wrinkled sheet) when I get it back, as a sort of official update to the boudoir pics I took a couple of years ago. But I'm not sure I care enough to put that much effort into it anytime soon.

Right here used to be a very long paragraph detailing why I choose to share pictures like this. I wrote about three versions of it before I gave up, because it comes down to the fact that I just plain want to, for reasons that are various and complicated (but probably not all that mysterious, at the end of the day).

I am extremely interested in the ways that sexuality intersects with new media. I've got all kinds of half-formed posts in my head about "gpoys" vs. the male gaze, about how women training the camera lens on themselves is a way to reclaim - and reframe - their sexuality, about how vanity can be a gateway to demonstrably positive things like fitness and self care. And I would like to explore those ideas at some point. But all of that has very little to do, if I'm honest, with the fact that I took some sexy pics today and I just feel like posting them.

These are just cell phone pics - not good quality at all (though they look pretty rad on my phone). There are some unflattering angles. My skin is kind of terrifying in some spots. I think my nipples make an uninvited appearance in one of the pics, and the thong is bunched and twisted weirdly in others. But I didn't alter these in any way, other than running them through a VSCO cam filter. So I think they're a pretty accurate and fair reflection of my body, today, at thirty-eight years old.

frenchie

with someone with whom I was discussing sex, yesterday:

him: [redacted]

me: I've realized that my sex life to date has been a lot like getting the mail. Much of it is junk, expected and boring. Rarely have I gotten something I was really excited about, and that I hoped to get more of. 

him: [redacted]

---

with Wally:

him: (sends pic of a mall brow bar)

me: My fifth circle of Hell. Interestingly, the ones inside of that are related to hair removal, too.

him: Guess you won't be getting a franchise. (sends snippet of promotional video playing at brow bar)

me: I read that too quickly and saw "frenchies." I was all, What god awful new way to torture women in the name of beauty is THAT? 

him: Frenchie? Is that like a Brazilian?

me: That's what I was guessing. More curl, though (ew).

him; So after a Frenchie would your lady parts start being rude to Americans?

me: HAHAHA

him: Or just surrender to aggressors?

me: OH SNAP.

it's all ok

I wake to music. Bass guitar and muffled lyrics: sound checks on the street below. The nostalgia wastes no time settling on me as I lay in bed, a fine dust I know will be difficult to shake off. Last year's St. Patrick's Day was one of the best days in I've had in LA. I spent the day with the two people I felt closest to, men who I knew understood and loved me, in spite of everything awful about me. We stood together, alone amongst thousands of other people, threw our arms around one another, and belted out the words to songs that dialed me back years, to other joyful times in my life. Music and love, romantic and Platonic, memories created and called upon, just steps from my front door. I was enraptured by life that day.

Drugs will do that to you.

And it's drugs that are on my mind when I wake up, because I'm scared. I'm scared that this nostalgia will choke me if I don't find something sweet to wash it down with. So much has changed in the past year. I've grown enormously, yes. I've tried to roll with the knocks, both brutal and easy, and I think I've landed in a pretty good place. But a part of me can't help but long for the life I had 365 days ago. A few weeks after St. Patrick's Day, 2012, I was on a plane to Florida to help my father die. A few months after that, the relationship that I'd clung to like a life raft, terrified of even more loss, ended, sending me into a spiral of desperation and suicidal ideation. And a few months after that, Wally moved away, taking with him something I hadn't even known existed until I met him.

Constants downgraded to variables. Touchstones crumbled to ashes. Remember, Ellie, this is why you don't hang your happiness on things that can change. 

Yeah, well.


But though my mind occasionally flashes to the contents of the tiny plastic bag inside the vase that's pushed far to the back of my highest kitchen cabinet shelf, I'm determined to give it a go without. I can do this. I'll just get hammered and have a great time with my friends. I won't look back. 

I take Chaucer for a long, brisk walk, and he even gets some rare, off-leash play with another dog. This feels like a good sign, and as we round the corner of my block, the barricades and trucks, the tents and lights and balloons, the early revelers that are already trickling into the street festival, charge me up with positive vibes. It's going to be a good day.

I don't even have a plan, really. I've invited K. and R. to join me, but it's iffy that they're going to come. Some acquaintances from the neighborhood, and another one from my building, have said they'll be there, but we haven't set a time or a meetup point, and it will be hard to find them in the crowd. I consider texting some other downtown friends, but decide against it. If I'm going to spend time with anyone today, it needs to be with people I love. The only people I feel close to that are actually nearby, and that can come, are K. and R., but as they're not fans of crowds, there's a very good chance that I'll be going alone.

And I'm mostly ok with that, since a) not going is not an option, because the sound of the massive party pouring in my windows would just be too depressing to hide from, b) I know after a few drinks I'll be happy to mingle with strangers, anyway, and c) A. is going, and I know if I run into him, we'll probably stick together for the day.

I feed Chaucer, slam water to rehydrate from a party the night before, and get dressed while listening to Flogging Molly, loud. It's the one day a year I can blast music with impunity, since my neighbors can't hear it above what is already rocking our building from the street below. I put on a button down, a kelly green sweater, a plaid miniskirt, over-the-knee socks, a skinny scarf, and a pair of combat boots. An outfit that's ridiculous and way too young, but which I can get away with on a day like today, when silliness, spirit, and inappropriate wardrobe choices abound.

I put in a final request urging K. and R. to come over, and head downstairs. Residents of my building have been given free VIP access to the festival, so I get to bypass the block-long line and walk in with almost no wait. I'm trying to psych myself up for the day, but I'm not feeling it. And as I drift into the crowd, populated by clusters of laughing friends, I lose emotional steam. I don't want to be alone here. But the U2 cover band that I loved so much last year and the year before is playing, so I put on my game face and push up towards the stage. The sun is beating down on me, and I realize that a cashmere sweater, wool thigh highs, and no sunglasses was a bad call.

I'm debating whether to get a drink, run back home to change, or leave downtown for the day altogether when I realize someone is talking to me. A guy decked out in festive accessories is asking me something. Who are you looking for? Are you alone? 

No, I'm not alone, I reply. Are you alone? It's only sort of a lie. K. and R. may come, and if not, I know I'll run into people I know soon enough. The guy says he's looking for a girl, a friend he's lost in the crowd. He tells me I look like I just walked out of Hogwarts. I laugh, but have no witty comeback. I can't wrap my head around this conversation, I say honestly. I'm way too sober. Sensing I'm not in party mode yet, the guy wishes me a happy holiday and disappears back into the throng.

I realize I'm sweating in my layers, and that if I don't go home and change, my low mood has a zero percent chance of improving. As I head out the exit, I see that at this point, even the VIP line has gotten ridiculous, and I'll be in for a wait when I come back. But my apartment is just around the corner, so I decide it's still worth being more comfortable.

At home, I tear off my sweater and shirt, my skirt and my socks. Chaucer dances around me excitedly, nervous at all the energy and sound filling our tiny space. I change into a tank top layered under a green and black striped crop top, jeans, and Converse. I drink another glass of water, and lean against the counter, trying to relax. I want to have a good day. I need to have a good day. I can't have last year back, but I can have something equally good, if I choose it. I have to choose it.

But the day has taken on a life and a meaning of its own, and I feel helpless to stop it. It suddenly feels like a litmus test of my happiness. I'm petrified of the comparison between this St. Patrick's Day and the last one, and what it will do to me if today is a bummer. And that's when I decide to write myself a money-back guarantee.

I have to stand on the tips of my toes to reach the vase. I pull it down carefully, and take a small, compressed tablet out of the bag inside. It's purplish-white, with the shape of a cat stamped on one side and M80 on the other. Other than the thickness and the stamps, it looks exactly like my synthroid pills. I force down two more full glasses of water before I swallow the tab, and promise myself I'll get more water at the bar downstairs, first thing.

Back at the festival, I have a twenty minute wait just to get in again. I try not to feel frustrated as I hear the band play songs I love, reminding myself that it'll be at least forty minutes before I start to roll, anyway. K. and R. text to say they're on their way; that they're just drinking some whiskey first. A knot in my shoulders loosens. Yes. I won't be alone today. In just a little while I'll be laughing and singing and cavorting with friends, just like everyone else. Gratitude washes over me, and logistics settled, I focus on guiding the warmth and light that's slowly building in my bloodstream, on channeling it up through my neural pathways, out my fingertips, and into the world around me. I imagine myself a conduit and a receptacle. I can take energy and I can give it. Today will be what I make of it. This high will run the course that I take it on. Make the conscious decision, Ellie. Choose light and love and laughter, and those are the things you will get.

Serotonin is a biological miracle in and of itself, and I'm awed by the fact that humans have figured out a way to hijack and amplify it, purely for recreational purposes. This is one of the last sober thoughts I remember having, before the light and love and laughter float me up to another plane, where I spend the next several hours.

---

To write the rest of yesterday in chronological, sensical, and dryly factual prose would feel like a lie, because my thoughts, feelings, and experiences were deeply colored by the drug I took. I just don't know that I'd be able to accurately recreate what actually happened. What was said, and thought, and felt. Or if not a lie, maybe something even worse - some kind of gross imprisonment of things pure and organic and defying of classification. Things that shouldn't be bottled up or tied down, because they aren't mine alone for the tying down.

If you haven't been there, I know that doesn't make any sense. But if you have, you understand what I'm trying to say, even if my words are overly florid and melodramatic. There's nothing you can say to make someone who's never taken MDMA understand what it's like, because the experience is so individual for everyone. Every time I try to explain it, or write about it, I come up against a wall that divides the words I know from the feelings I want to describe. Everything I'd want to make understood is on the far side of that wall, beyond the reach of description. The closest I could come would be to just write the word euphoria, over and over and over a hundred times.

But since that would be boring, I'll put some more words down, anyway.

---

Back at the stage. Sunlight feels good now. Yes. Really good. The crowd thickens around me. Not pushy, not drunken. Just happy. Or maybe it's me. Maybe that's it.

Tap on my shoulder. Tall young man, bowler hat. Grass green vest, green plaid tie. Green eyes, devastating eyelashes, straight black hair past his shoulders. His exaggerated bow. M'lady. My delighted laughter. A hug. An acquaintance who works in the neighborhood. From New Zealand. His accent and dialect are charming. Much younger. Works at my favorite casual lunch spot. I sit at the counter, we chat while he cooks.

Do you want a drink?

Not drinking today. My meaningful look. But I will need water soon.

He understands. Stay put, be right back. Couldn't move if I wanted to.

A few minutes later, a cold bottle is pressed into my hands. Lots of birds here.

Birds? 

Birds. Women.

Yes. Birds. I love it. The music and sunshine, the connectivity. Strangers smiling. Singing to themselves, one another. Sunday Bloody Sunday. A massive Irish flag, waved across a stage. I can feel it now. It's definitely here. It's good. It's going to be really good. The chatty phase.

I sent the lead singer some photos I got of him a couple years ago, and he loved them.

Yeah? Did he ever try to holler at you?

Holler?

Holler at. You know, like, ask you out.

I love this, too. Oh no, nothing like that. I never met him or anything. 

Well, he would if he met you. You know that right?

Turning to face him. What...?

You have no idea. You're the most radiant woman. When you walk down the street... He trails off.

I smile. Looking straight at him. Leaning close to his ear. That is such an amazing thing to say to a girl. Really. That's the most beautiful compliment, and I'm so flattered. But we're friends, right? And we're going to stay friends? You know how old I am, right?

Oh, I know. I know. I wasn't... His face is sincere. He's just being sweet. And drunk. Confessing a crush. No hurt feelings. It's good. Everything is good. He drifts away soon, though. Later, I'll bump into him. Bombshell redhead, green halter dress. Seems genuinely happy to be talking to him. Yes. Good for him. An introduction. I tell her with honesty how stunning she is, how much she stands out in the crowd. His smile is even bigger than hers. No trace of resentment or weirdness. Everything is ok. I've lost nothing. Maybe even gained something.

I float a little bit higher, and memories form with a bit more disjointedness.

---

K. and R. arrive. K's tipsy, but rattled by a dog attack they witnessed on the way over. Me joking and laughing. Cajoling her out of a bad mood. She's ok. She's happy. A friend of hers is here. We meet up. VIP section. Our group grows: friends of friends, coworkers, partners. Laughter, random connection, coincidence in a not-small town. Wait, you know Stacy too?

Wally texts me. He's not having a fabulous day. I tell him how much he's missed. Do you remember a year ago right now?

I do. That was quite a day. How are you doing? Celebratory? Wistful?

High. Little bit wistful too, yeah. ...Ok, a lot. :(

Sorry doll. Maybe it's just down payment on future joy. Plus wistful at least means you had good stuff. Nobody's wistful for crap times.

It's cold. I'm cold now. I run home again for a coat. This time I'm not made to wait, and I rejoin my friends quickly. The wind. We huddle together. Drinks, more drinks. Water, more water. I'm in conversation. I'm miles away. I'm face to face. I'm above myself, looking down. This is my life. These are my friends. I live here. I've made this my home. I have work to do, to improve myself, to be a better person, but I've achieved this at least. These good people care about me. There's nothing more beautiful than that. My mind is quick. I'm wittier. I'm making strangers and new friends laugh. The hum and buzz of energy builds around our small cluster in the chilly afternoon. We are happy people, in this moment, on this day. 

My heart full. I did it. I made today ok. I feel fantastic. The smiles on the faces of my friends mean everything to me. It's enough. I need nothing more. I deserve nothing more. But I'll get more anyway.

---

We leave the festival, but the group falls apart. Confusion, disagreement; scattered, drunken minds. Some tension. Too much to drink. They want to eat, to slow down and stop soon. I don't. None of that. No way. Not yet. I'm still high, not ready for the weight of reality, of arguments and frustration.

I text A. again. We've been texting all day, on and off. He's high too. He was at the festival, felt like painting, went home to do work. At a bar now. Come join me, he says. I look at my friends.

Guys, I'm leaving. You're arguing, and I love you, but I'm really high, and I need to keep moving. Ok?

K. is hurt, angry. What? No! We'll come with you.

No. I need a K. and R. break, ok? I love you guys to death, but I'm gonna go.

Anger. You're full of shit. You're going to meet someone. 

Yes, I am. I'm going to meet A. He's high too. And I want to see him. Please don't be mad. Are you mad?


Are you leaving because we're fighting or because you want to see A.?

Both. I want to see him, so it's convenient that you're arguing. 

Honesty: a side effect of the drug. Her face softens.

Ok, go. 

Are you mad?

No, get out of here.

---

A bar a few blocks away. Crowded, dark. He's not alone. I don't want to be here. I want to be back at the music, under the lights and in the crowd. He agrees. Let's go. Should we take more? Do you have more? I do. Let's split one. I reach deep into my pocket for another tablet, which he carefully bites in half, grimacing at the bitter taste. I drop the other half in my water bottle, shaking it vigorously before taking a sip. His friend leaves.

Just us. Again. Walking down the street. Laughing, talking, reminiscing. Harmless. Happy. High. It starts slow. Can I hug you? I just want to hug you.

Yes. You can. That would be ok. That would be fantastic.

His arms wrap around me from behind. Strong and tight and warm. Back at the festival. Music. Cold. We dance, we play. We hug and hold. I slip my arms into his sweatshirt. What happened? How did this...? Time machine. It's the exact same fucking moment. Almost, anyway. And better, in some ways. No hurt on the horizon. We know the score. This is a safe place we visit. A well we drink from when we're dying of thirst. He gazes down at me. I gaze back up. The grinning. Our grins, always. We must look ridiculous.

Stop.

You stop.

No, you. 

The words start.

There's no one like you.

There's no one like you, either.

And so it goes. We walk hand in hand to the bookshelf, and we take it down together. Be careful, it's heavy. We flip through the pages. I point to a picture. He tells the story. Remember? Remember? Sighs that are more happy than sad. That song. Remember? That day. Remember? Bonnaroo. Remember?

We cling to one another, sway to the music. I rest my head against his chest, low because of my flat shoes. His eyes are bright. He is so happy. So, so happy.

I lower the bucket, bring it back up for him to drink from. You know you're the reason I started writing again, right? I mean, serious writing? You unlocked it. You were the muse. You probably saved my life.

His turn. Lower the bucket. Bring it up. I'm thirsty, too. I've never felt better than when I was with you. You made me feel like I'm ok. Like it's ok to be who I really am. 

This is what we do. This is the gift we give one another. We've done it over and over, in the months since we ended. And we'll probably do it again.

You have no idea. You're such a happy person. I wish I could be that way.

Do I really seem happy?

El, I've seen you at your absolute worst. The lowest you could possibly be. And it was bad, right? It was really bad. But I see you, and I know who you are, and you are truly so happy. You make yourself happy. You're amazing. 

I swallow this, bury it deep down in the safest part of me, and then I give it right back. I praise his talent, his ambition and drive, which are unlike any I've ever seen in a self-employed creative. I don't know how you do it. Every day, you work so hard, and you make it happen. Other things he deserves to know, too. You were the best boyfriend I ever had. You showed so much care and consideration for my well being and my happiness. ...You are the most authentic person I've ever known. Even at your worst, you are always just...you. No artifice. No hiding who you are.

---

It's inevitable, and it starts with the kiss. Minutes long, lingering, in plain sight of everyone milling around us. Drawing the attention - and occasionally the comments - of strangers walking by. Unlike any kiss given back on earth. We're not on earth. We're way, way above it. The things in the kiss are timeless and beautiful: friendship and understanding and compassion and comfort. We are on the exact same plane, physically and emotionally. It's ok. It's so, so ok.

---

Soft blankets. Candlelight. Silly Chauc, go lie down. Laughter. This is so great. How do you feel?

Amazing.

Me too. 

He asks whether I've been writing. He doesn't read my blog - only the occasional post that I want to share with him, and that I send to him. Not much, I say. The GOMI thing really fucked me up. I don't want to be judged. Sometimes I wonder why I do it. What am I putting myself out there for? To what end? Even Instagram. It gets exhausting. I think I need a break. 

He tells me a story about an artist, some woman who wrote on her website about the lowest, ugliest moments of her heroine addiction and depression. And how it was so relieving to her, to have it all out there. Like, go ahead, judge me if you want, it's just who I am.

Yes, I say excitedly. That's exactly it. It's like a confessional where I can just lay myself out, and people can either accept who I am or not. 

Music. Explosions in the Sky, is that ok?  

That's perfect.

Postcard From 1952. A more perfect song has never been written. It rips through my heart and my soul, leveling me where I lay, pressed against him. Sheets, smooth and soft. It's cold, though. Put the heat on. Yes. Come back. Come close. You are so beautiful. Your body. Oh El, your body.

Your shoulders. They've been molded. I trace their lines with my fingertips. They're like those things football players wear, what are they called? 

Shoulder pads? He laughs. Be quiet. 

We talk and talk and kiss and talk and kiss. We talk about our romantic lives, about the people we've met, dated, and connected with - or failed to. We talk about my father, about how experiencing his death together was one of the most powerful and bonding experiences of not just our relationship, but of our lives. I struggle to find the words to tell him how amazing he was for me at that time. Husband-like. That's all I can say. You were just...husband-like. You took charge and did what I couldn't, and you got me through it. Emotionally, logistically, everything. 

I'm still so high. I close my eyes and describe the visions in my mind. The faces and shapes and colors and movement. I change the music. Of Monsters and Men. I sing softly in his ear.

A wave of clarity washes over me, and I realize what it is I love most about this man, what is so unique about him to me. He's the only man I've ever known who has willingly, openly, and happily laid his whole heart on the table for me. He's the only one who's been truly emotionally available and vulnerable, ready to take on the happy and the hurt, come what may. His attention and love were undivided, and mine for the taking. I try to explain this to him, but fail. Dating in LA is hard, he says. Everyone is looking for something better. But you'll be ok. I want so much for you to be happy, El.

Another music change. Youth Lagoon. I'm sleepy. I'm drifting. He tries to pull me back in. I know what he wants. My mind wants it, too, but my body is maxed out. I can't, I say. I'm sorry. I'm so tired. Holding me close. But the music expands, reaches out to me. The songs I love most pull me back to the moment: Posters, Daydream. I shift positions, I feel his need.

I whisper in the flickering light. What do you need?

No, it's ok. We shouldn't...

What do you need...? I reach out, touch him, answer my own question. His sighs. I've always loved his sighs. Rewards for piecing the puzzle together correctly. This. You need this. And this...

---

Something to hold. Something to know. Something to believe. Something that is sure and true and won't change. You are a beautiful person who changed my life forever, and for the better. We aren't right for one another, and we know it, but you are an oasis in the desert that is sometimes my life, and I'm one in yours.

No one was hurt. No betrayals, no infidelities, no lies. I have no one special in my life, and neither does he.

Friends. Bodies. Comfort. Love, of a kind. Serotonin. St. Patrick's Day, 2013.

It's all ok.

cowboy boots

Every once in a while, the subway car will start to move, but I won't feel a thing. There's a disorienting and slightly nauseating few seconds where it feels like the entire world is moving around us, while the train stays still. While I stay still. Then I realize it's just an optical illusion - the train on the opposite platform has started to leave the station, giving me the brief, false impression of personal momentum.

This is what depression sometimes feels like: an inability to distinguish my own inertia from the progress of the world around me. I can't tell if everything is moving past and beyond me just because I'm still for the moment, or if I actually am moving forward, and just can't tell yet.

--- 

Recalibration is such an emotive, empowering concept to me right now. To shift the standard, to reset the bar according to my own scale. Zero goes there. Ten goes there. Negative ten goes there. I can take control of my experience of some input, therefore getting a clear idea of what output I can expect. 

---

The other day I bought a plain white, crew neck t-shirt. Unbelievably, it was the first time in over fifteen years that I've done that. I've had a couple of otherwise white graphic tees, an off-white, v-neck tee, a sheer, white long sleeve v-neck layering tee, even a few plain white men's v-necks for working out. But this was the first completely plain white, short-sleeve women's crew neck tee I've purchased in nearly two decades. WTF.

I'm obsessed with it. I want to wear it every day. I love how bright and clean it looks against the grime of downtown - against the all-dark uniform of so many of its inhabitants. It's so quiet that it practically screams. It's ironic without being so, because how the hell can a white t-shirt have anything ironic to say? And because I'm relaxed and happy in it, I know it probably looks better on me than shirts I paid three times as much for. 

I love wearing something so absurdly simple, in a city that's anything but. It's like turning in a blank sheet of paper, five minutes into the essay exam. Everyone in the class glances up, nervous and embarrassed for me. She knows she has to write something, doesn't she? She's going to fail if she doesn't at least try...

Anyway, I realized how apt a metaphor this is for the way I live my life. I refuse to let anything be simple and easy. I refuse to do what's best for me. I embellish, needlessly. I complicate. I choose poorly. I choose too much. 

I need more plain white tees in my closet life. 

---

Being rejected is like jumping into a cold swimming pool. At first it's unbearable, and all you want to do is get out, to escape the sting. But if you just keep moving and breathing, after few minutes it becomes tolerable. Pretty soon you don't notice the cold as much. And after a while, if you continue to swim, you forget how miserable you were just a little while prior. 

---

I dreamt the other night that I was standing on a street corner with two middle-aged men, both cowboys. They wore dusty jeans, stetsons, and shiny new boots. Their faces were well-lined and tanned, but handsome. I felt very young and fresh next to them. 

One of the men wanted me to dirty up his boots for him. He was afraid he wouldn't be taken seriously as a cowboy unless his boots showed signs of wear. 

For some reason, this invitation felt like the most erotically charged proposition I'd ever received. But I welcomed it.

I decided that the only way to properly break in this man's boots was to stand on them, and grind the soles of my own street-filthy sneakers against them. I stepped carefully onto the tops of the man's feet, gripping his shoulders for balance. He put his hands around my waist and held me while I twisted my dirty shoes onto his clean ones, pivoting back and forth, left and right. I felt tremendous joy, not just because it was such a silly, childishly fun thing to do, but because it was working so well. I could see the smears of dirt dulling his boots. All this time, the other man just watched us in silence.

I looked up at the man holding me, and I laughed, delighted by our bizarre dance. The expression on his face was one of utter charm and beguilement, and it made me feel alluring and beautiful. I looked at the other man; he was smiling at me, too. The way they looked at me made me feel like I was some exotic creature from another time and place. An angel - no, a nymph. Something magical they'd lucked upon, that was going to give them exactly what they wanted.

It was then that I woke up, feeling intensely aroused. And thirsty. 

Weirdest dream I've had in recent memory. 

off and running

I run at night, and usually, very late. Ten, eleven, midnight. The past few weeks it's been at two, three in the morning. Sleep and I are having some issues. We should probably talk to someone about it. We probably won't, though. We'll probably plod along unhappily for a few more months, expecting a deus ex machina that never comes, until one of us breaks. It's a template of self-sabotage I've perfected.

I often assure the worriers in my life that no one's out at that hour, but that's not true. There are plenty of people out. But it's been my experience over the last few years living downtown - and running its streets at night - that those who are out have no interest in me. They've got plenty of other, bigger concerns: finding shelter, finding safety, finding whatever it is they need to give one another. They congregate in clusters below Angel's Knoll, talking in low voices, barely lifting their heads as I move past. They spread out in solo, huddled forms on Broadway, gathering bags and newspapers and cardboard around themselves, staking overnight claims in the relative warmth of doorways.

They never bother me, and I try never to disturb them, or run too close. I am well aware of the privileged life I lead compared to them, and the thin sliver of dumb luck of having been born to whom I was born, that separates me from them. If they smile, or nod, or say hello, I am friendly back. They're not people to be afraid of. They're just people, looking for happiness and security like the rest of us. But they happen to be at the bottom of a much steeper mountain than most, and I feel for them.

I run to Little Tokyo, then past. I loop back and navigate the Arts District, maze-like and crooked. I run down Spring Street, past late night revelers and diners. I run to South Park, then up to Figueroa, and back home. If it's early, I follow stop lights. If it's late, I run red lights with impunity.

I run with music. I couldn't run without it. Lately, I run with Hamilton Leithauser screaming in my ears. He eggs me on. If my voice can hold those notes at this volume, and hold them so richly and effortlessly, your legs can hold out until the end of this song. Listen to me. Don't think about anything other than my words, my harmonies. Don't think, Ellie. Just listen.

I do think, though. I can't help it. I meditate on exactly what it is I'm working for, with each step. Health, of course. But that's not what I think about. My thoughts, when I'm running, stray to much shallower, albeit exotic waters.

I think about sex when I run.

I obsess about it, even. Somewhere along the way, the exertion of intense physical exercise crossed wires in my brain with the excitement of having sex. Sometimes, thanks to endorphins, the high they give me feels strikingly similar. I've realized that I never feel more alive than when I'm having sex - or just about to. And a really hard run, one that leaves me panting, sweating, and burning with muscle fatigue, makes me feel thrillingly alive in the same way. This is my body. This is the hardest I can work it. This is the ultimate physical test I can put it to, and these are the visceral rewards it has to give. All of it applies to both endeavors.

Then there's the vanity of it.

I am never more vain than when sweat is running down my back, and a torn, ratty t-shirt clinging to my skin. My hair sagging in a damp ponytail on my neck, and my face flushed red with blood. I am never more superficial than when I'm wearing four year-old trail runners with holes in the toes. I am never more keenly aware of the shape of my body than when it's hidden under a thermal and sweatpants.

I run so that when he moves his hands down my body, around my hips and across my stomach, I feel like my best, sexiest self. I run so I can confidently peel off my clothes, lights on, eyes locked. I run so that I never have to shy away, or flinch, when he touches any part of me. I run so I can exult in that touch, and rise to it. I run to remove the obstacles to intimacy between he and I.

Whoever "he" is.

Whoever "he" will be.

And by obstacles, I don't mean flesh itself - some arbitrary, culturally predetermined amount of it that has to be eliminated before a woman can be considered sexy. Fuck that noise. Sexy happens at all sizes and shapes. Sexy is not a number on a scale. What I run to remove are the mental obstacles that exist, as they do for every other feeling human being, between having and loving my body: the hang-ups and insecurities that are an inevitable part of the human experience. To be clear: we should all determine for ourselves what size, shape, and weight makes us feel sexy and healthy - and work towards that ideal. And hopefully, that ideal is of our own design - not imprinted on us by unwelcome and unrealistic societal influences. Though it's fucking hard not to feel those influences, innit?

Anyway, that's why I run. I'm running towards my ideal self, which may look nothing whatsoever like the next woman's.

And sex. Sex gets me running.

Another thing that gets me running? The power of secret-keeping.

When I was a dancer, my body was in the public domain. Anyone could come see it, anytime they wanted. There was very little I could hide. Precious little left to the imagination. And that was ok. There is no shame in what I did. I gained some unexpected, hugely valuable skills from my experience as a dancer. And at times, having my body in the public domain was actually quite fun; at the very least, it was a massive, constant ego boost.

But now that my body is, once again, a private matter, I find a wholly different kind of pleasure in that privacy. Anyone seeing me on the street can size me up and know, generally, what my body is like. But I tend to dress, day-to-day, in non form-fitting clothing. Baggy jeans and oversized t-shirts are my uniform. So the exact contours and curves of my body - the lines of muscle or the pockets of fat - are a secret I can choose to keep or reveal, as I wish.

I love that.

I find that deliciously empowering.

I love the idea that the showing, the sharing of my body can be a gift I give to another person. Something for us both to enjoy. That if I work hard enough on it, it can even be a bit of a surprise. I run to gain muscle tone that doesn't show from underneath loose denim, or empire-waist dresses. I run so that he - whoever "he" is - has no idea exactly what I'm hiding, and is maybe, possibly, hopefully a little bit delighted when he finds out.

None of this is to suggest that my body is anything "better" than anyone else's. It's just a body. It weighs a certain amount. It has certain measurements. Those numbers are no better or worse than anyone else's numbers. They're just my numbers. The point is, the potential of making it something that I feel is special, that I am empowered by and can enjoy - that's what gets me off and running.

Even if half the time I come home and eat three bowls of cereal, anyway.