Gini and I were creeping up on a divorce, one angry fight at a time. “We need to get help,” we said, so we found ourselves a marriage counsellor.
Our marriage counsellor loved to watch us fight.
Every Monday after work we’d go in, and the counsellor would pepper us with variants of the same question: “So how do you feel your partner is being unfair?” And it would take a good twenty minutes before the room would heat up – but with unerring accuracy, the counsellor would home in on the exact places where I thought Gini was being a cold bitch and Gini thought I was being a whiny bastard.
Then, leading us on with quiet questions, he’d evoke all the ways we constrained each other. He’d ask Gini what her life would be like if she didn’t have to deal with my anxiety. He’d ask me how I’d feel if only Gini respected my feelings. His voice would never rise, but ours did, as he outlined all the crimes we perpetrated on each other.
We’d start yelling.
It’s not fair that you need me to call when I stay out late!
Yeah, well, how fucked up is it that all I need is a call and you can’t even pick up your fucking cell phone?
Maybe I don’t call because I know just calling won’t ever be enough for you! You’ll –
“Let’s bring this to a close.”
And just like that, our forty-five minutes were up. We were in the middle of a screaming fight now, but the counsellor had other patients in the waiting room, and we’d made some breakthroughs today, and we’ll continue this next week.
Like hell we would. We’d go home and fight for three hours, reiterating all the horrors of our marriage in detail until we were so tired all we could do was hold hands and try to remember what it was like not to hate each other.
We lasted four sessions with this counsellor. I don’t know whether he had a plan – maybe if we’d had more time, he would have guided us towards answers instead of raising all the ugliest of questions – but after session #4, Gini and I fought in the parking lot for an hour because the kids were home, and then finally said:
You know what? Fuck this guy.
Yeah. Fuck this guy.
And we left.
Now, I still believe in the power of therapy, and counseling, and professional aid. I’ve had friends who are still together today, only because they found a good therapist who gave them the tools to fix their marriage. Good therapy is empowering, brilliant, life-saving.
The problem is that you have to find good therapy.
And that’s something that doesn’t get discussed often enough. When someone’s in a suicidal depression, we tell them “get some therapy” like a therapist is a magic wand that gets waved in your face, and *poof!* your problems are gone.
And the truth is, therapy is a lot like dating. It’s not that there are good and bad therapists (though there are), but rather that there are good and bad counsellors for you.
Some therapists make a lot of suggestions, which is great for someone who bounces ideas off of people, but can be terrible for someone with poor self-esteem who won’t realize these suggestions are harmful to them. Some therapists are very hands-off, which is great for someone who’ll recognize their own problems if they talk it out enough, but can be terrible for someone lacking self-insight. Some therapists default to heavy medication, which can be great for someone who has a broken brain, but can be terrible for someone who simply needs to talk out a few issues and now is buried under a fog of medical side-effects.
Every therapist has their own approach, and not all approaches are compatible with yours.
And even that caveat ignores the issues you can run into finding a therapist who isn’t qualified to handle your lifestyle choices. There’s the obvious issue of a queer person getting a conservative therapist who thinks that homosexuality is a disorder, but it can be more subtle – a kink-ignorant therapist who sees all BDSM as self-harm, a polyamorous-ignorant therapist who quietly pressures you into finding a primary partner because she believes all relationships should have a core partnered center.
And it gets ugly. Because psychological professionals in all their stripes are good things, but often the people who need them most are folks who are dysfunctional enough that they can’t recognize a bad relationship when they see it. They’ll stay with a therapist who’s clearly not meeting their needs, maybe even a therapist who’s inadvertently doing damage.
I say this because I was talking to a good friend this weekend, and she told me how when she got therapy, she sat down with them and said, “Okay. I’m queer, deep into leather protocol, and polyamorous. Are any of those going to be a challenge for you?” And she could tell by the doctor’s reaction whether this was going to work out for her.
Which was, I thought, the perfect way to handle therapy. Those first few sessions are a job interview, to see whether this person gives you feedback that betters your life. If it’s not working, you leave, and find another therapist.
(An option that’s often sadly not available for the poor or those in court-mandated therapy or simply for those with narrow insurance policies, but in an ideal world it should be as simple as “Not this guy, find someone better.”)
Yet what happens in real life is that we often treat therapy as though it’s a singular thing – “Yeah, I tried therapy, didn’t work.” Whereas what really happened was that you went to two doctors, neither of which were helpful for your needs, and wrote off the entire approach.
That’s like saying, “Yeah, I dated two people, it didn’t work out, I’m not the sort of person who can handle intimacy.” Maybe that final statement is true, maybe it’s not, but there’s so much at stake here that you should probably try more than two people before writing off the entire process.
And like dating, you should be aware that while therapy is an awesome thing, a life-affirming thing, a totally transformative thing, it only really works when you find the right person to do it with.
We often say “Get some help” as though you get a therapist and it’s fixed. Yet the truth is that you need to get the right *kind* of help, and it *is* out there for you, but that getting help is the start of a process where you look over a bunch of options and try them out and see what you feel better after you’ve had a few sessions, and you keep trying until you click with someone who brings you to your happy space.
That marriage counsellor probably worked some miracles for some couples. He came highly recommended. And the fact that he didn’t work for us isn’t proof that couples’ therapy is worthless, it’s proof that we needed to fight the right person to help mend our differences.
And yes, it is totally unfair that when you’re at such a low point in your life that you need a professional to step in and aid you, you may need to do extra work to sort through various flavors of assistance to determine which ones are going to get you out of this mess. You’re tired. You’re depressed. You may not think life is worth living, and yet here you are having to put more effort into it?
But that’s how this works. It’s not a one-size-fits-all shop. It’s like shopping for clothing, and if you’ve got the psychological equivalent of stubby legs and a long torso, you’re gonna have to shop around.
Yet when you’re done, you’re gonna look fabulous. I promise.
Every Memorial Day for the past decade, I have linked to my Memorial Day essay: A Love Letter To Those Who Kill.
And inspired by Jon Stewart’s recap of our country’s long history of screwing over our veterans – seriously, watch it, it’s both amazing and damning how long we’ve called people to sacrifice and then abandoned them – I’ve decided to institute another tradition:
So I started thanking soldiers for their service with more than words, by actually donating to a charity that helps them.
This year I donated $75 to Fisher House (A+ rating on Charity Watch’s list of veteran’s charities), mainly because they fly families to injured soldiers and I think it’s important to help the folks in the field. If you’ve got the cash, it’s not a bad place to throw a few bucks.
A word on the essay: A few years ago, someone expressed concern about the gendered language of this essay, of the repeated usage of “our boys” when there are, in fact, a lot of women in the military risking their lives as well. She felt that using the term “our boys,” though traditional, renders women invisible. She asked me to revise the essay to change this.
Unfortunately, a combination of “this is a snapshot what I said then, no matter how dumb it may sound to me now” and “I’ve watched George Lucas edit his shit into horror” and “I’m not sure in editing I wouldn’t change the meaning/introduce other errors which would then also need to be edited” makes me have a rule that I don’t edit an essay at all once it’s been up for a day or two. (Otherwise, I would doubtlessly edit some of my more controversial essays into such well-reasoned processes that people would wonder what the fuss was about. And the job of this blog is not to always make me look good or enlightened.)
But she raises a good point. I also raise a glass (and lend a hand) to the women in our services. Thanks to everyone, all genders and races and religions and beliefs, who serves.
In any case, flaws and all, here it is.
So you prooooobably know my debut novel FLEX is out by now. Probably.
There’s, like, a 40% chance you know the sequel, THE FLUX, is available for preordering as we speak and will be out in October.
Which is the weird thing about publicity, really: done properly, it punishes those who are paying attention. Because I’ve mentioned that the sequel is available for preorder at least five times on this blog, maybe more. Those of you who were super-fans of me registered that fact, then committed that fact to memory.
Those who weren’t – and most of y’all aren’t – probably weren’t reading me on the day that I mentioned “Hey, the sequel’s dropping in October.” Or you did read it, but you hadn’t read FLEX yet and didn’t give a crap about a sequel to a book you hadn’t even read yet. Or you read FLEX and were vaguely interested in a sequel, but your cat was knocking over a glass of milk when you read me mentioning it and so you forgot.
The paradox of book-shilling is that to some, you’re talking about this book too damn much, and to others, you’re screaming PR at the top of your lungs and yet they have yet to hear you. Yeah, it seems like The Avengers merch and advertisements were everywhere, but that’s because you were already keyed in to watch The Avengers movie: to the average joe on the street, they may not have even been aware the movie was coming out until the week beforehand.
And it’s not entirely a punishment, because if you’re Avengers-friendly, then you’re probably not too upset to see another Avengers trailer or another Avengers movie poster. Still, the fact is, as an Avengers fan, you get pummelled with Avengers advertisements, all because someone who doesn’t care about the Avengers needs to see that damn trailer six or seven times before it triggers the “Oh, yeah, maybe I should see that” button.
(Truth: Most marketing studies show you need five to six impressions before you make a sale.)
So I try not to hammer on Mah Book overmuch – I talk about it a lot because it’s What I’m Doing these days, not as part of a marketing scheme – but there’s this weird conflict where I risk annoying the people who were paying attention in efforts of drawing the attention to those who weren’t.
Yet the weirder thing still?
That only gets people to buy your book, which is in and of itself pretty useless.
Thing is, I have a shelf full of books I bought from people I liked, and there the books sit. And sometimes I even read the books and go, “Okay, that was decent,” and then I never mention it again.
The marketing these authors need, which only the quality of the book can create, is to have me going, “Oh my God, I am halfway through Ramez Naam’s Nexus and fucking loving every line of this book.” There are only a few authors who have me handing out their books like candy, touting them on Twitter, recommending them to friends who I think I’d like.
The word-of-mouth where people spontaneously recommend your book without you nagging them? That’s the key to long-term success. And you can’t control that. All you can do is to write a good book that’s something you’d be excited to read, and hope that it catches fire.
Because I’ve written stories that I loved, but disappeared without a trace. And yet Sauerkraut Station, a tale I did almost no PR for, got handed around enough until it got nominated for multiple awards. When you’re an author, you come to realize that only some of your tales stick enough that people tell their friends, and God, if you knew how to do that consistently then you would, but you don’t, so every story is a crap shoot where you go, “Okay, I can get people to read it, but are they going to love it?”
So when I see people recommending FLEX, I’m still a little weirded out. I didn’t remind them that the book existed, I didn’t ask them to do anything, they just liked my book enough that when a friend said, “What should I read next?” they leapt to their keyboards and said, “Haaaaave you met FLEX?”
That’s how books really sell, though. You can get asses into the theaters for Avengers. You can get them excited in advance. You can get a blockbuster opening weekend.
But when the people come out of the theater, they start to tell their friends. What they tell their friends affects how the movie’s going to do in the long run.
That’s the real marketing, and that’s why you get things like The Princess Bride, where it wasn’t a big success at first, but people kept telling their friends. And I’ll bet you dimes to dollars that Princess Bride has now made way more money than Three Men And A Baby (the #1 box office of 1987), but that took time.
So it’s weird. As an author, you do what you can to remind people that your books exist. Then they take on a life of their own, one where you find it growing into fanfic and fan theories and all these other delightful things I’m slowly exploring, and I’m glad someone’s liking it.
More importantly, I’m glad they’re liking it when I’m off doing not a thing at all to remind them that it exists. That’s the sweetest thing of all.
Everyone’s talking about That One Scene from the last Game of Thrones, which is egregious and stupid and redundant. We knew that That Character was a villain. We knew that That Other Character was a constant punching bag for more powerful men. So when we saw that it was dumb, because it was a gratuitously rapetastic scene that actually didn’t show us anything new about the characters and did little to further the plot.
But the dumbest scene, the one that didn’t even make sense in the fucking show, should have gone like this:
“SO YOUR ‘SQUIRE’ KNOWS OF A BIRTHMARK ON YOUR THIGH, SIR.”
“My squire dresses me in armor for all battles, and tends to my wounds afterwards. My squire would be quite lax if he did NOT know of the birthmark on my upper thigh. Can we go now?”
“We have this awesome nerd bar in Cleveland called The Side Quest, and they’ve chosen my book Flex to read for their monthly book group. Can you give me some Angry Robot freebies to throw in their direction on June 2nd?”
And, look what Mike Underwood sent me from the Angry Robot vaults:
Now, The Side Quest would be a great place to hang out anyway, as they have all sorts of board games for people to play, and screens playing Doctor Who reruns, and crazy drinks like this:
But the truth is, there will be a discussion of my book Flex at 8:00 on June 2nd – a book that’s filled with bureaucromancers, obsessive magic, pudgy goth females kicking ass, and donuts. I will be bringing both books and donuts to this discussion group – so if you’re in the Cleveland area, stop by and sample some great drinks and some great goddamned authors.
I have a theory: People go to movies to see things they’ve never seen before.
It’s a terrible theory on the surface, because sequels permeate the theater. And a lot of people want comfort. But when you look at the big blockbuster films, the ones that dominate, they’re full of sights you cannot get in any other movie. Say what you will about Avatar, the visuals are uniquely itself. Say what you will about Gone with the Wind, the spectacle there has never been beaten.
And Mad Max: Fury Road is like entering a whole other world.
You’d think the “dystopian post-collapse society” has been mined, but no – Fury Road is ablaze with bizarre concepts, ushering you into this car-worshipping nightmare where suicide bombers spray their face with chrome paint before entering Valhalla, where the flares are glorious puffs of dust like fireworks, where the conveys of killer cars bring their own musicians swinging from chains before walls of speakers.
If you’re looking for an experience you can’t get anywhere else, Fury Road is the only place to get this.
And the action is unrelenting. Fury Road seems to delight in throwing such insurmountable odds at the characters that when the camera pans back to show you all the massive resources of each warlord setting out, you have zero idea how our heroes can survive. And then the assault comes, and it’s overwhelming, and enough scars get inflicted every time that the resources keep diminishing, and how will they live?
Fury Road’s acquired some bizarre reviews, though, which I don’t get. Some people have said that Fury Road has no story, which is bizarre because – like last year’s reaction to “Gravity” – they’re confusing “Complexity” with “Storytelling.” Max is a simple story, basically a two-hour car chase, but in it there’s character growth and conflict and commentary buried in that pedal-to-the-metal plot.
Saying that Fury Road is some sort of abandonment of storytelling is like saying that Calvin and Hobbes had no meaningful stories because the linework was simple. You can tell great stories off of simple threads, and if you disagree, well, Old Man and the Sea would like to have a word with you.
As for the other criticism, people keep telling me that Fury Road is a feminist movie, and, well, I’m not seeing it. It’s ostensibly feminist in that Max is escorting some women out of a breeding facility, but we’ve seen that story before when Big Tough Man escorts women out of a rape factory. Or one man, standing against a dystopia that has incalculable power. In the end, it’s mostly women against men, but that’s just because the women aren’t in power.
No, to me, Mad Max is the lowest possible bar for feminism, and it sort of bothers me that this is seen as a feminist movie, when in a sane world having female characters with their own agendas would be, well, just a movie. It’s kind of like how in America, Hillary Clinton is ZOMG SOCIALIST whereas in a sane society she’d be a slightly right-of-center politician – it’s just that we’ve shifted so far that actually not wanting to tear down infrastructure is a leftist attitude.
Mad Max is a very good movie. Which happens to have female characters who get just as much (simple) characterization as the guys. I wish that could be unusual, but it is.
And as it happens, we rewatched all three of the prequel movies this week. And every time, I have the same damn reactions:
Why did the Jedi fight so boring?
In Star Wars, we got empathy and mind control. In Empire Strikes Back, we got clumsy telekinesis. In Return of the Jedi, we got Force Lightning.
And in all three prequels, we see the Jedi at the height of their powers, and we see… the exact listing of powers.
I’ve literally seen more variance in the Star Wars videogames.
Come on, man. These are the Jedi Knights, and every swordfight is a cut-and-copy of the Holy Trilogy. I was hoping for new and exciting uses of Jedi powers that we see in fan films, the tie-in novels, even the Clone Wars cartoons, and it’s like the inspiration just ran out.
Why did Yoda have to fight?
Oh, God, having the great Jedi master be a badass at combat was such a mistake. Here’s what he should have done, and why.
Why did we have to see Anakin as a young boy?
Seriously, it added nothing. You could skip the Phantom Menace in its entirety and the story could start there, with a minor backfill to explain Ani’s mother in slavery. It’s two hours of wasted time.
Why was Qui-Gon Jinn so goddamned concerned with Anakin?
We know that Qui-Gon Jinn wanted to “bring balance to the Force,” but that’s not a motivation: that’s a reason. And as a writer, motivations trump reasons.
Take another example: why does Darth Vader try to recruit Luke in the Empire Strikes back? The reason is that he needs an ally to fight the Emperor. Okay, fine, but emotionally that doesn’t tell us what itch that’s scratching in Vader’s burned little head.
The motivation is that he wants to join up with his long-lost son and create a new family.
Reasons give us logical rationales. Motivations tell us what emotional urge this satisfies.
We have reasons for Qui-Gon Jinn going “WE HAVE TO MAKE THIS BOY A JEDI.” But at no point do we know why he’s so hell-bound on this. Is Qui-Gon Jinn dissatisfied with the Jedi Council’s lying and secrecy and secretly wants to undermine it? Was he himself an orphan at some point and cannot bear to leave a boy behind? Is Qui-Gon Jinn just secretly sick of whiny Obi-Wan and is desperate to find himself a new partner?
Done properly, when the trilogy finished, we’d have an idea of whether Qui-Gon ultimately got what he wanted, or whether things went horribly ironically wrong for him. As it is, Qui-Gon Jinn is an enigma: his every action tells us what he wants, but we never find out why.
Why did Lucas get so wrapped up in terrible CGI?
Watching Revenge of the Sith, there’s a great moment where Anakin and Obi-Wan climb out on a gantry, fighting, and it’s clear it’s a real gantry. The actors have to adjust their weight, look worried they might fall off, are tentative.
Then, two minutes later, Anakin is standing on a tiny robot zooming forward at thirty miles an hour over a river of lava, and he looks exactly like he’s standing on a greenscreen floor. Because he is.
Cracked has a good article on why modern CGI looks surprisingly crappy, but it’s particularly telling in Lucas films, where the actors don’t seem to have been told where they are. There’s one scene in the latest Raiders where the actors are standing feet away from boulders rocketing past their face, and they don’t react like humans by cringing or expressing some hesitation or nervousness, because they’re not rooted in the moment.
I wish Lucas had recognized that practical effects make the actors sell it more.
Was Anakin justified or not?
The biggest problem with the sequels is it wants to have it both ways: Anakin Skywalker’s fate is a tragedy, but he’s not really a villain. And so it dilutes its punch by going, “Well, Anakin’s bad, but he’s got some good sides!”
You gotta commit, George. If the Jedi Council was bad, then show how worm-infested they are. And if Anakin was bad, then he’s gotta do more than kill some offscreen “younglings.” But as it is, Revenge of the Sith’s strongest scene is where the Emperor is talking to Anakin about how the Jedi council is spying, and stealing, and they obscure knowledge, and yet oh wait they’re the good guys and who’s right again?
There’s ambiguity, and there’s feeling like the movie can’t make it its damn mind. The prequels flop back and forth between whether the Jedi Council was efficient and undermined by a creatively evil mastermind, or weak and shoddy and deserving of fresh ground. Alas.
If Padme really didn’t want to have anything to do with Anakin, how come an experienced politician like her invited him alone to her romantic bungalow and wore skimpy outfits straight out of the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalogue?
Did someone tell the costume designer what this scene was supposed to be?
Where did Padme’s motivation disappear to?
She died of a broken heart? Just gave up? Oh, well, that’s good.
“I was always kinky/sexual,” she says. “Even though I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 17, pretty much right after I started experimenting with kink, threesomes, lesbian sex, and orgies.”
And I feel a little sad, because I was always just slutty.
Slutty’s different. You don’t need to know anything to be slutty.
Which is to say that I didn’t so much as kiss a girl until the month before my seventeenth birthday, but from then on it was lighting a firework. I dated wildly, widely, catastrophically, racking up about forty new women in the next four years…
But weirdly, I was also strangely vanilla.
I knew about kink, of course. I’d read all up on PENTHOUSE LETTERS, and Playboy advice columns, back in the days long before the Internet. But that was the moral equivalent of porn. I knew threesomes existed, I knew that people tied each other up, I knew that bisexuality was A Thing, but…
Culturally, I knew nothing, Jon Snow.
These were days long before the Internet, a good decade before THE ETHICAL SLUT was penned, and so while I’d heard of wife-swapping I’d never heard of polyamory. I knew about whipping people, but never understood what purpose it fulfilled in people’s lives.
Basically, there were normal people, and then there was Kink. And Kink was a big red door you passed through and never returned from, an all-consuming passion that devoured all your other hobbies, and when you became A Swinger you never woodworked or had children or played tennis, you just fucked and fucked and fucked because nothing else satisfied.
And to be fair, the handful of Swingers I bumped into were like that, omnivorous, not interested in mere friendship, every relationship they had angling towards getting you in bed. If you didn’t fuck them within a few months, the fuse was burning down, and once they realized you weren’t walking willingly towards their bedchamber, the friendship terminated.
None of this was shameful, mind you. If they wanted to surf on a tide of Crisco, good for them! I had no problems with gay men spending their days in bathhouses losing their minds in anonymous sex.
Yet I had other hobbies, so I wasn’t kinky. The PENTHOUSE LETTERS erotica was mostly the same: Innocent, Roped Into Crazy Once-In-A-Lifetime Adventure. You couldn’t just start kink, you had to have someone basically abduct you into it.
I was a lesbian sheep, waiting patiently for someone to arrive, not quite sure how to start this process. I would have welcomed a threesome, or some crazy orgy, but those didn’t just happen – they were planned, by Orgy People, with Orgy Invites. The Orgy People owned Orgy Apartments.
So I ran rampant with vanilla sex, and some of it was in weird places – in the backs of hearses, on the floors of bookstores, certainly in theater bathrooms – but though I wanted threesomes, I didn’t know anyone who was a Threesome Girl. Because if you were a Threesome Girl, then you’d be nothing but a Threesome Girl, and all I knew were women who went to concerts and watched The Simpsons and had, you know, normal things.
Which was stupid, obviously. So fucking stupid. While I was doing all of this vanilla fucking, I was emceeing the goddamned Rocky Horror, surrounded by phone-sex girls and strippers and bisexual women who dressed up like men and fellated dildos for fun.
Yet I knew them in other aspects. And again, kink was the eclipse of all other hobbies, the black hole into which you fell and never emerged, and these people weren’t those people.
Furthermore, I wasn’t those people. It never even occurred to me to experiment. My girlfriend hog-tied me once and I fucking loved the experiment, but that wasn’t kinky. She just tied me up one day, bored, while we were watching television. If it was kinky, she would have worn An Outfit, and put on mood lighting, and started talking dirty – oh, God, I have such problems talking dirty – and I would have known that Kink Was About To Happen because man, Kink was a performance like Rocky Horror where Frank strode down that fucking floor and you knew.
She just tied me up. You couldn’t have kink in a living room with television reruns, man. Or have part-kink.
What I’d enjoyed wasn’t kinky, it was just… a thing. Which I didn’t know how to ask for. Because how do you ask someone to tie you up without it sounding kinky, and that’s awkward because you’re not kinky, you just want a girl to tie you up and sit on you?
Christ, I was so fucking stupid.
But that’s why I think the people who grew up with the Internet are at a real advantage. They’ve seen the same porn that I have, sure, but they’ve also seen FetLife and CollarMe and tons of other discussions of polyamory and kink and QUILTBAG issues where they can go, hey, alternative sexuality is an addition to a personality, not a subsumation of it. They watch accounts like KittyKuriosity’s Twitter feed, where yes, Kitty is a sexy owned painslut camgirl, but she also has pets and wants to be a vet some day and is getting into Final Fantasy cosplay.
And had I seen that melding back in the day, I think I would have been a lot kinkier. Because I could look at myself as I do today and go, “All right, I need to finish up my chapter of this book, and find some plans for the bookcase I want to start this weekend, and get some more alcohol for my fire wands, and get some ice cream.” That kink was a thing I did, not a destination.
I would have realized that some of those girls were Threesome Girls, I was just too stupid to see the signals, and I would have asked my girlfriend to tie me up, and I would have said “Hey, let’s try poly instead of me cheating all the damn time,” and I would have explored more.
Instead, I was convinced all that Kink stood far away from me, clearly for Other People, and I was a straight boy from Connecticut. It didn’t even occur to me that I could explore there.
But I’m here now. A little late. A little slow to understand that hey, maybe I could do that, too – even after all these years.
It’s a nice revelation to have.
As I’ve been progressing down the path of Debut Novelist, I’ve been playing a secret game myself: when something happens to me that only happens to professional authors, I mutter, “AUTHOR ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.”
Got my first blurb for Flex? AUTHOR ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.
Book went into a second printing? AUTHOR ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.
First appearance on a bestseller list? AUTHOR ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.
First complaint that the ebook is too expensive, even though I have no control over pricing once the publisher buys it? First time I find my book pirated? Sure, I’m a little sad at people’s dickery, but AUTHOR ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!
But today, my friends, is one of the happiest days in my Author Achievements, as it was one I was never certain would arrive:
Kick-ass fan art? AUTHOR ACHIEVEMENT FUCKING ROCKED!
This lovely image of Valentine DiGriz is brought to me by the most excellent Tormented Artist, who I’ve pondered doing webcomics with from time to time, but man, prose writing is just enough these days. But Bill is extremely fond of the fuller female form, and as such Valentine was every bit as sexy to him as I’d hoped to convey. And here she is, with all of her mental backup. I love her stance, and her shoes.
He assures me this will only get better as he fills in the inks and applies color. Oh, I believe it. His other art is also awesome, so check it out.
In relationships, you can have identical actions that generate vastly different consequences. Kind of like watching “Say Yes To The Dress.”
Which is to say that my wife adores watching fluffy wedding shows where the bride tries on a zillion froofy outfits, parading this latest dress in front of her family, before finally settling tearfully on the perfect dress.
The bride flutters her hands in front of her face. Tears mean that this is the perfect dress. Gini tears up, too.
And sometimes, when Gini is having a bad day, she needs to curl up and watch a “Say Yes To The Dress” marathon.
We have one big television, so if she watches it, then I can’t spend my Saturday ferociously trying to beat the new Dragon Age game on the Xbox. And me, I need my videogames to blow off steam. Not destroying the Darkspawn will leave me stressed and unhappy.
Yet I recognize watching silly wedding shows makes Gini happy, and as such it’s a worthy thing to do. And so I’ll find something else to do on my laptop while Gini watches her dress shows.
Yet if I gritted my teeth the whole time, going, “I fucking hate this show, one day she’ll stop needing these stupid gown-parades, and until then she fucking owes me for putting me through this,” well, we’d have the exact same situation – me, watching “Say Yes To The Dress” with her – but the consequences and fallout would be profoundly different.
Which is to say that I occasionally get emails like, “Hey, I’m polyamorous, but I want my monogamous partner to be happy. Will this work?”
And the answer is that yes, they can – as long as they approach your polyamory as though it’s a choice they actively make in order to make you happy, and not some grudging sacrifice they make where there are secretly bills piling up, underlaid with the unstated assumption that this is a phase you’ll grow out of.
The two situations can look very similar – the monogamous partner staying at home, nervously passing time while you go out on a date – but one situation is going to implode eventually, whereas the other won’t.
And it’s okay that sometimes, you’re going to be uncomfortable in this relationship. Because the truth is, almost every partnership involves you stretching in some uncomfortable ways to accommodate your other partner’s needs. When our goddaughter Rebecca died, Gini dealt with her grief by withdrawing and silence, I dealt with it by needing hugs and attention. We both sacrificed our needs temporarily, switching off between me leaving Gini alone when my body screamed for hugs, and Gini cuddling me when her body screamed for isolation.
But we never resented. Because during those moments, we actively said, “Yes, this is outside our comfort zone, yet I love them enough to stretch beyond what I’m comfortable with.”
It’s possible that I could have left Gini alone for a day, yet silently seethed with frustration that she was being so unreasonable, wondering why the hell she couldn’t just get over this. The result would have looked the same, but eventually the resentments would have exploded into arguments.
But I chose willingly. Not because it would enable us to stay together, but because it would make her happy.
The root motivation makes all the difference.
So if you’re trying to decide how to make something work out, whether it’s a new partner or a switch to poly or a downshift from heavy BDSM adventures to more “vanilla” sex or any of the thousands of differences that can divide two people, a common mistake is to just get them to do the actions. Too many negotiations hinge upon Doing The Thing – but it’s not enough for them to just sit there passively, resenting the compromise, quietly blaming you for this fault.
They need to say yes to the dress.