Posture And Privilege: On Six Months Of Personal Training

Working with a personal trainer for six months requires a whole lot of privilege: the spare cash to hire one. The surplus time to spend a couple of hours a week in the gym. Enough health to be able to get to the gym and work out effectively.

Yet that said, there’s plenty of people who have the levels of financial and physical privilege that I do who didn’t put in the work. So I take a lot of pride in what my wife and I have accomplished in the last six months, even as acknowledging the privilege that lets it happen.

One does not diminish the other.

And damn if it ain’t providing results.

Taller, Straighter Me

——————–

People keep asking me: “Do you feel healthier?” And the answer is, “I didn’t feel unhealthy to begin with.” I had enough energy to walk the dog about two miles a day and climb flights of stairs when I needed to – as far as I was concerned, I was healthy enough.

As far as my cardiologist was concerned, however, I needed more work.

Actually, I feel less healthy now that I’m working out. Before, I sat in a chair all day long and stared at screens in perfect bliss. Now, I ache about five days a week, the strain from having augmented my lower back or my biceps having become more-or-less a constant in my life. Gini and I have taken to hot baths in the evening because our muscles are both swole and swollen.

If you were to drop me, unexplained, into my pre-training body and my post-training body, I’d think the pre-training body was healthier because it didn’t twinge all the time.

That’s mostly a result of my sedentary lifestyle, but I find it amusing.

——————

Taller, Straighter Me: Side View

My posture is a huge difference, though. I stand about two inches taller, which is ridiculously obvious in these before-and-after photos.

I always thought that “getting better posture” was just “remember to stand straighter, you klutz” – but as it turns out, the body is all connected. The reason I was slouching is because the muscles under my shoulderblades and my ass were weak, and not pulling me properly into position. My quadriceps had become freakishly oversized to compensate, but I stood like an ape.

You’d think that personal training would be a burly guy screaming at you to lift until you vomit, but that’s not this place. It’s a lot of fine correctives. They’ve been guiding my muscles into position until my shoulderblades pull me up into the proper stance, which is weird; now, when I slump, I feel that rubberband counterpresence tugging me back.

Posture isn’t what I thought it was. My body isn’t, either.

I wonder what’ll happen if I keep with this.

——————

The weight loss has been accelerated thanks to Gini’s discovering she’s allergic to wheat.

She really doesn’t want to be allergic to wheat, mind you. She keeps sneaking bread and then feeling her face get all blotchy. Which she thought was just “her skin” until she stopped eating wheat.

So we’ve been on a modified paleo diet for the last month – no sugar, minimal carbs, cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles for everyone. (Gini has done all the cooking in an attempt to learn paleo, which is another privilege – I’ve been desperately trying to do more of the housework to make up for her added load, and desperately failing even as she appreciates the effort.)

I don’t know how long we have to do this before (or if) it becomes an actual life change. I still crave sugar, desperately. I want bread. If we go out, I sneak little portions.

But still. I drove cross-country to see my sweetie in New Jersey, and since I was sleepy I went, “YES! I CAN EAT ALL THE SUGAR AND CARBS I WANT TO STAY AWAKE!” And I grabbed a bagful of Hostess, and…

I wanted one Hostess cake. And even that was pretty meh.

Weeks later, there’s still a bag of Hostess in my drawer. (They’ll keep forever.)

So maybe my tastes will change. Or maybe they’ll move away from bad processed sugar – I had a homemade cake and ice cream at a diner that was delicious, and I gobbled it down.

Or maybe I’ll slip back to processed sugar the minute I’m off this diet, like has happened every time before. Addiction’s a bitch, yo, and sugar is an addiction – one that’s hard to break, because unlike smoking or heroin you can’t just quit food. Food’s always around, you always have to have some, and it’s a constant temptation in ways that even alcoholics (who get a LOT of asshole “Why aren’t you drinking?”s) don’t face.

—————–

I hope to have abs before I die. I’ve already got baby lats. I took these photos with my shirt off because I’ve still got flab, but there are muscles peeking up around the edges.

I thought I’d go to my grave without ever having had a six-pack. Now, I might.

It’s an exciting time.

—————–

Still, I do feel weird about posting these pictures because I’ve seen this happen time and time again – people lose weight and everyone goes “WOW YOU LOOK TERRIFIC” because society has taught us that “thin == fit and good and lovely,” even if they’re losing weight because they’re too sick to keep anything down.

(I’ve seen comments of “You look soooooo sexy” when someone’s become emaciated enough to need a feeding tube. Our society’s the one that’s sick, man.)

So in a way, posting these photos contributes to a bit of fat hatred. My sweetie Fox has noted that they adored my body before and adore it now, even as it’s in a different shape. I’d like to think I was sexy before, even if I never feel it.

But now I feel sexier because society says I’m sexier. I’m trying not to buy too much into that. But I am excited by things in my body I’ve never had before, like lats and traps and all sorts of other things that sound like they belong in some AD&D map. My body is doing things it patently couldn’t before, because I see the exercises I did six months ago and they’re now trivial compared to the ones I do now.

It’s a form of change, and I love change, and it is healthier so I stick to it. I worry that some day we’ll stop the trainer due to budget or time or some other form of lost privilege, and then we’ll slide back into the unhealthy habits because man, it is so much easier to sit on the couch and not need hot baths in the evening because whoah did you see those squats?

But for now, like all things, this is transitory. And transitional. And if my body happens to converge with being traditionally, Hollywood-style sexy, then that too will be interesting. I haven’t been skinny since I was 22, when skinny was comparatively easy because my metabolism was a furnace that devoured all calories. Ever since then it’s been a slog and an accumulation.

What’ll happen if I’m genuinely muscular at 50? What’ll that be like? It’s an exciting goal to see what I can do, and maybe it won’t last but I wanna at least max this out like a videogame to see what happens.

Please, Lord, let me have abs just once so I can walk around a public space gratuitously shirtless and not have people give me the side-eye.

I feel that’s a worthy goal.

The First Amazon Order I Ever Placed Was The Death Knell Of My Job

There’s a meme going around Twitter, which I quite like: “Let’s play a game. Go to Amazon, to “Your Orders,” and with the year drop-down, find the earliest year listed… and then RT and tell us what the FIRST thing you ever bought on Amazon was. Bonus points for it being nearly 20 years ago. 🙂

I didn’t need to look it up.  I vividly remembered my first order from Amazon, because it told me I was going to be out of a job soon.

See, at the time, I worked for Borders Books and Music – the #2 biggest book store in the nation, a rising competitor to Barnes and Noble, and damn proud of how we weren’t just more profitable than Barnes and Noble, we were better.  We were the first to put coffee shops in our stores, we had quizzes we gave our clerks to ensure they’d be educated, we had nicer wood shelves and hefty paper bags.  We were the luxury experience.

And we’d been hearing a lot about this Amazon.com thing.  Dot-coms were a big deal.  And Borders was thinking about getting into the online game – because that was optional then – so they tasked me, the local Internet addict, with placing an order from Amazon, just to report back to the bigwigs what the experience was like.

This was in early 1998.  If you’re paying close attention to timelines, that was already too late – Amazon had been open for four years already.  But we were arrogant, convinced there was nothing some upstart Borders couldn’t do that we couldn’t do better, so we slept on it.  And I should have known better personally, being an Internet nerd, but I was high on Borders’ supply.

I remember sneering as I logged in.  My password for Amazon was, and still is, a preening insult about how superior Borders is – a fact I consider three times a month when I log in to order from Amazon Prime.  And I ordered a CD I’d been thinking about getting – Repeater, from Splitsville.  It was nice to know that I’d be reimbursed for my $13.47.

They told me it’d take 5-7 days for delivery.  “Ha!” I spat.  “Who’d wait that long?”

I got it three days later.

And I remember that package waiting on my doorstep – because packages were kind of a new thing back then.  Most people did almost all of their shopping in real life, because mail-order catalogues were inconvenient and slow.  To have a package on your doorstep had kind of a mystical component to it, because whoah, here were goods delivered to you from afar.

I was thrilled to have something waiting for me.  It had been quick.  And convenient.  (And back then, they’d  always padded their delivery estimates by a day or two so you’d be thrilled when it arrived “early.”)

I remember picking it up, looking at the snazzy, sharp-printed logo on the package – and dammit, I was excited.  I’d been expecting a drab manila envelope, but this was a luxury delivery.  And when I zipped the package open, expecting to find just a CD, it was also stuffed with bright fliers – another surprise.

I don’t remember what those fliers were, but I remember reading them in excitement.

And I remember the shame when I recalled that this was the enemy, I shouldn’t be happy about this delivery – followed by that sinking sensation that if I was this happy, how would ordinary customers feel?

I remember bringing in the entire package in the next day to my bosses, saying, “We have to get into the online business now.  These guys are serious.”  And I remember the way my bosses sifted through the package like it was evidence from some crime scene, nodding sagely, not understanding what this meant.

I left the company in 2000.  They went out of business in 2011.  And I’ve written about the many reasons why Borders never managed to compete online – I gave some insider knowledge of the infighting that doomed Borders.com, and talk here about why generic physical bookstores have a hard time competing with online ones.  (Specialty stores have an advantage.)

But really, it all comes down to that first thrill of the package.  That sense that I’d ordered a CD and gotten an experience to rival Borders.

That first Amazon package told me that Borders was in big, big trouble.  And now, in 2018, Borders has been dead for seven years and Amazon is chugging on.

I’ve kept my Amazon password – the one that shits on Amazon and touts Borders.  I never save that password in my browser.  I make myself log in with that damned password.

It keeps me humble.

Microcorrections

One of the weird things about my relationship with my wife is that we’ll preemptively apologize.

For things that probably don’t matter.

And we’ll do it without really thinking about it.

For example, I’ll say something like, “So when is Amy getting back from the dentist?”  At which point I’ll realize that I was barking that question out with no preface, my tone a little flinty, as if Gini had somehow inconvenienced me by lending our car to our daughter.

So I’ll follow that up quickly with, “Whoah, that came off way angrier than I’d intended it.  Like, lending our car to our kid is a normal event.”

And she’ll go, “Thankfully, I didn’t interpret that as angry,” and tells me when Amy will be back.

And sometimes Gini will say, “Hey, we need to talk about your date this weekend” and I’ll cringe, and then Gini will hold up her hands and go, “Whoah, why did that sound so bitchy – I like Laura!  I just wanted to know whether you needed the spare bedroom.”

And I’ll reply, “Yeah, I gotta say, I totally flinched,” and she’ll hug me and say “No, it’s cool, just a timing issue.”

Here’s the thing: this happens a couple times a day.  Minimum.  To either of us.  “Hey, you gonna walk the dog – wait, why am I sounding so sad about that?”  “Come on, we gotta get to dinner – I’m okay, it’s cool, just get your purse.”

You’d think it’d be a quirk – and it is, hoo boy, it is – but a lot of time we wind up in microconversations about managing tone.  Because yeah, that did sound impatient to one of us, and we confirm that our reaction was what we thought it was, and the other partner then apologizes and we check in with each other.

But what we’re apologizing for, it’s hard to call it an upset.  We haven’t really had time to get more than a flash of emotion before it’s handled.  At best it’s a mild jostle before we’re sweeping the other partner’s elbow in ours to ask, “You okay?”

And yet it’s useful.

Because what I realized we were doing was constantly modulating our tone to each other – one confirming this is how they came off, the other confirming they had in fact grokked proper intent.  It’s a constant feedback loop of checking in, verifying, honing.

You might think we do it to be nice – and we do, mostly.  But now that I ponder it, there’s the flip side that when we are properly irritated, or instantiating a Serious Conversation, or self-pitying that you get to walk the dog on a nice day, we are tuning into the correct negative emotion.

Say what you will about expressing bad feelings – but when one of us does, our ears are pricked.

And I think that’s one of the reasons Gini and I have such good communication flow – years of nailing down what “tense” looks like helps us during arguments, because we do generally have a good bead on when things are about to boil over.  (Not that we don’t have arguments that boil over – I’d like to tell you every difference we have could be settled over genteel tea and cupcakes, but no, sometimes voices get raised.)

And I also know, sadly, that is one of the reasons some of my other relationships haven’t worked out – I hate talking in real time through phone or Skype, and it’s cumbersome to “hear” tone properly via text.  The tendency is to go shorthand – but a single “Oh?” in response to a tricky question can have a myriad of responses ranging from “stiff surprise” to “Tell me more,” and constantly tagging every “Oh?” with a “What did you mean by that?” can get to sound mighty tetchy on its own.

But constantly verifying communication correctness is something I do in real life, and it does help on visits.  And I think it’s sort of nice to have that feedback loop at such a trivial level – like I said, apologies are offered, but they’re not for much of an offense.

Which I think helps train Gini and me to think of apologies as an easy thing to give – it gets us in the habit.  Offering genuine apologies for tiny bumps makes it a lot easier to give mid-level apologies – “Okay, I should have checked Google Calendar first to see if you had an appointment before offering Amy the car” – and the large apologies of “I should have put my date for this weekend on Google Calendar in the first place.”

Yet in the meanwhile, we’re doing little work.  All the time.  Several times a day.

Sounds nice to us.

Gearing Down For Death: Eighteen Years Or Less, Or More

“We’ve lived in this house for eighteen years,” my wife said to me.

“And?” I asked.

“I’m turning sixty this year.”

“…still not getting it.”

“Chances are good that the next eighteen years are I’ll ever get to spend in this house.”

Dying.

She was talking about dying.

But when aren’t we, these days?

“And if this is all I get, I want to make it awesome,” she continued.  “I want to appreciate every last drop of it.  So I’m making a lot of new decisions.”

My wife is wise, yo.

She wrote an entry about what she intends to do about those final years with me, and I think she’s full of wonderful ideas.  She’s been a lot happier now that she’s been sewing quilts in the basement again, reforging an abandoned corner into her quilting nook, and when it gets warmer out I’m going to spend a weekend building her a lightbox in my wood shop and oh also she’s going to die.

She’s always going to die.

She’s been dying in my head ever since I almost died.

Because right now, Facebook is helpfully showing me much-loved photos from five years ago – me in a hospital gown, my chest sporting an infected scar, from where they did a triple-bypass and I spent three days on the Ventilator.  Facebook is quite chuffed, constantly reminding me of the worst days of my life because well, it certainly was exciting, wasn’t it?

It was.  To be sure.

And that heart attack shoved me right into the realization I was mortal.

We all know we’re mortal intellectually, of course, but I think that the brutal emotional truth of a helpless death only gets ground into us by percentages: that first time you try to stand up and realize you literally can’t – that nudges you towards a fatal understanding.  That first time you feel that ache deep in your muscles that never goes away, ever – that inches you towards getting what the feebleness of a deteriorating body.  That first time you injure something and know it should have healed by now, but your body’s used up and won’t come back to baseline – that’s a taste of the finality you get to swallow.

Being on the ventilator was a huge shove towards understanding what death is.  Double-digit percentages in progress.  So much understanding that I’ve been intellectually unable to process it, even after five years.

And to a large extent, what death looks like to me is “being apart from Gini.”

Because that was the worst part; when I was on that ventilator, my vital signs so low I did not have full usage of my brain, I had no Gini.  She was in the room, but she might as well have been on another continent, or on Pluto.

Love didn’t matter.  I was just dying tissue, with no wife.

Gone.

And ever since then, we’ve been subtly traumatized; she came that close to losing me (note to doctors: do not fucking joke that this clogged artery is called “The Widowmaker,” because that tends to stick with a terrified spouse), and I did in a very real sense lose her.  We’ve been more panicky; we text each other a lot more, because if one of us has been half an hour late maybe there’s been a car crash maybe they’re dead they’re probably dead what do I do now and then we spend time trying to imagine life without the lifelong love.

I love many women.  Very deeply.  But Gini and I have worn grooves into each other.  We fit like pieces of a puzzle.  We support and enable each other’s lives in ways we do not fully understand; we are halves of a whole, added.

And the last five months of my life have brought a catastrophic mental breakdown, where I had to go into deep therapy.  That breakdown is my social anxiety, metastasized like a cancer to tear at all the good portions of my life – but the treatment’s been kicking up a lot of long-dormant thoughts, because my therapist is incisive and creative.

And I was next to Gini on the bed, lying down next to her as she snored in deep slumber, when I thought: I love her so much.  She’s going to die some day soon.  

I’d better not get too attached.

Shocked, I texted myself that just so I’d remember in the morning.  But there it was: As deeply as I loved Gini, part of my reaction to the trauma of a triple bypass and its recovery was to pull back on some level.  I loved her, I doted on her, but there was a part of me that was always unhappy because I did not commit fully.  Not the way I’d used to.

Death had brought distance.

I talked to her about it, of course, and she nodded.  “I don’t know what I can… do… about that,” she said.

“I think just hearing me is enough.”

And I’ve been paying attention to things, or trying to.  She’s right: we’ve got eighteen years, give or take.  And it’s not like death is going to go away.

Yet our relationship itself was a mad gamble.  I knew her only through phone calls and emails and a handful of stolen weekend visits – and yet I was quitting my job, moving to Alaska, agreeing to be a stepdad to two kids I’d met all of twice, settling down.

I remember telling my friends, “Yeah, this could end catastrophically.  But… I have to know.  She’s that amazing.”

Eighteen years on, and she’s that amazing and more amazing still.

Eighteen years left – or less – and I think, “If she does die, do I want to look back at my time with her and recognize the moments I could have been more present with her, but didn’t because I was afraid of truly feeling?”

Yes.  Yes, her loss would rip me to shreds.

But can I let that stop me enjoying the now?

I can’t.

And this weekend has been another window into senility, because I got a nasty case of the flu and turned into a senior citizen for a few days.  I slept for hours.  I was unable to get out of bed.  Everything ached and my thoughts refused to come together.

All I wanted was a goddamned chocolate milk.

But that’s part of our new process, you see.  Turns out my wife’s allergic to gluten – she didn’t want to be, I assure you – and so for a month we’re trying a modified diet with no sugar or carbs.  It’s been an adventure in zucchini noodles and wayyyyy too many sweet potatoes.

But when I’m sick, my body craves sugar to function.  I’ve powered through work shifts by loading up on vast gulps of chocolate milk, riding that sugar high past my clogged brains.  And I didn’t have that.

I was sleeping in, vaguely aware of the weird noises in the kitchen, when suddenly there was a mixer bowl placed in front of me on the bed.  I looked up to see Gini, looking down on me nervously.

“What’s… this?” I asked groggily.

“I can’t do a chocolate milk,” she said.  “But I looked through the recipes and there’s a chocolate chip cookie dough you can do with chips of dark sugar-free chocolate and coconut butter and all sorts of artificial sweetener workarounds.  It’s not strictly on the diet, but… I figure you’ve been so good about sticking to the diet we can work around things…”

My hands closed around that cold, metal bowl, but all I felt was warmth.  I can remember her tentative smile, seeking approval.  I remember thinking, even then, how much time she must have spent researching alternatives to sugary things, then going to the store to get these things, then making them in a complex alchemy of the kitchen.

“The batter’s a little sandy,” she said.

I hugged her.

And in that moment, I hugged all of her.  Yes.  She’s going to die.  We’ve got eighteen years, or less, or more, but there’s an end point to this.  Eventually the ventilator comes for us all.

But I was there.  Feeling her.  Feeling all of her.  Realizing that we were going to live shoulder-to-shoulder with death, and find a way to flourish under that dark shadow because what we’ve got is love, what we’ve got is cookies, what we’ve got is time spent kindly and yes oh my God yes I love her.

——————————-

In therapy, I’ve learned there’s a lot of bad reasons for blogging.  You can do it for the attention, you can do it to externalize parts of your personality you shouldn’t give away, you can do it to justify opinions you shouldn’t have.  I blog a lot less these days because I ponder my rationales more.

But sometimes, I blog to capture a moment in my life.  Just to crystallize that instant I want to keep, for good or for bad.

Today was a good moment.

Today, I’m keeping it.

“Why Would You Ever Be Polyamorous? Isn’t It All Drama?”

So I’m in the hospital, being informed I’ve just had a minor heart attack and they have to keep me overnight.  My wife’s not there, because she’s visiting her boyfriend in another state.

She wants to rush back to take care of me.  But what would she do here?  Hospitals are a second home for me, because I used to visit my hemophiliac Uncle Tommy all the time, and visiting is boring and uncomfortable.  I know others would panic, but me? I’m cradled in the best care I can get, and if she rushes home she’ll only get here at 1:00 in the morning and sit all night in one of those murderously painful chairs while I’m drugged up and grunting.

“Stay with your boyfriend,” I say.

“But…”

“Come in the morning.  I’m just gonna sleep, and there’s nothing you can do now anyway.  Get some rest, and drive when you’re not panicked.”

And I think about her, in the arms of someone I trust thoroughly, who’ll take care of her when I’m incapable.  I don’t need her now, and I don’t have the energy to comfort her – but he can.

“You sure?” she asks.

“I’m sure.”

I sleep better that night, knowing that someone’s ensuring Gini’s not flying apart with stress.  (And she got there the next morning.)

#

(Later that night, her boyfriend pondered whether it was okay to make a move on her.  “Are you kidding?” she said.  “If you don’t, he’s gonna be pissed that he’s sleeping alone and I’m not distracted.”

(Reader, she was correct.)

#

My sweetie Fox wanted to go see the eclipse.  The eclipse was near the quilting museum.  My wife wanted to see the quilting museum.

This was all in Kentucky, where there was bourbon – which I wanted to see.  And I wondered: could I combine all three of these into a single trip?

How would it work, going on an extended vacation with my wife and my sweetie?

It all started well – singing Hamilton, drinking bourbon, long debates about obscure topics.  But the rubber hit the road when the car broke down and Fox – who has chronic illness issues – exhausted themself trying to stay upright for the many hours until the mechanics and tow truck and taxi could get to us.  And by the time we got to our hotel they were flustered and upset and panicked because they were collapsing and they were too much trouble, they hated this illness that robbed them of strength at all the wrong times, and who would ever want to look after them when they were –

My wife, who was in no way dating Fox, held them and reassured them that they were loved.

Because they weren’t dating. But they were friends.

And Fox got better, and we saw the quilting museum, and when the eclipse severed the sky it was one of the most magical moments ever.

I remember holding my wife’s hand, and my lover’s hand, as the sun turned into a silhouette and I felt like the world was truly full of magic.

#

I remember sitting down with one of my dearest friends and one of my oldest lovers at a bar.  My friend had asked, “I mean, how do you date Ferrett?  He’s blogging all the time, he’s dating lots of women, how do you handle that?”

My sweetie, who’d had perhaps one too many drinks, gave a goddamned seminar in How To Date Ferrett.

I kept my mouth shut.  She told me all sorts of things I didn’t quite realize about myself, the strengths I didn’t realize I had, the ways she navigated around my neuroses, the bullshit I thought was important but ultimately didn’t matter.

She’d spent years learning how to love me well, and in explaining our relationship to my friend she helped me love myself better.

And in the end, she tilted a glass and said, “I don’t honestly care whether we’re dating.  I mean, I like that.  But we’ve both got restrictions, and one day he might decide mine are too much for him and he’ll leave.  But I know we’ll never stop being friends – and that’s the important thing.”

I blinked.  How could she not care whether we were dating?  And then I thought of the constant way we’d been exchanging texts over more than a decade now, that humming connection of “Oh, did you know” and “Well, that just happened” and “Look at this and laugh” and I realized that yeah, maybe we wouldn’t be smooching some day but we’d always be caring, and shit, why wasn’t that better than anything else in my life?

I watched the way she waved her drink as she spoke, the gesture a little exaggerated and a little intoxicated, and I realized that God, yeah, I was in love with the right woman.

#

“Isn’t poly stressful sometimes?”  Yes.  Yes, it is.  And I write about the troubles with polyamory because I think that a lot of poly relationships make the same mistakes – mistakes that I, tragically, have made – and by pointing out the patterns maybe some people can dodge around them.  Or at least figure out what their mistake is sooner.

But when I do that, monogamous people keep asking, “Why would you risk losing one lover to get two?”  And I think, Jesus, like your relationship is guaranteed no matter what you do – you risk losing a lover doing anything worthwhile, whether that’s moving in together or trying out BDSM or going to college or having kids.  I wonder if these monogamous questioners ever look at the number of marriages where people did everything “right” for two decades and everything still fell apart because you risk imploding a relationship whenever you seek what your heart wants, and you risk imploding a relationship when you don’t seek what your heart wants.

Polyamory is stressful.  Because relationships are stressful.  But there are also beautiful moments in polyamory where you feel the strength of the web, feel the compassion of not just one person but multiple people clinging tight around you when you threaten to fall apart, and it’s like friendship but it’s different in a way that you can’t really explain until you feel it click because god damn there’s something glorious in living with fewer boundaries.

Is it stressful?  Yes.  Particularly in the beginning, when you’re kicked back to high school and it’s got all the awkwardness of those first monogamous dates you had where you don’t know the tricks, and the insecurity cuts deeper and your communications aren’t honed.  It’s tough.

But anything worthwhile takes some effort.

And I think back to these moments, and a hundred more like them, these times when I had multiple lovers and so did my partners and that was all not just okay but beneficent, feeling that magnificent comfort of knowing that something great flowed between us like an ocean, and yeah.

Yeah.

It’s worth it.

 

“Why Does My Partner Hate All Of My Other Partners?”: A Theory

In the beginning, my wife and I were theoretically open to having other lovers.  I say “theoretically” because whoever she dated, I pretty much said no.

Now, not everybody’s in a relationship where they can veto someone else’s new cuteness  – but I always think of that scene from LA Story, where Steve Martin’s character wants a reservation at the hottest restaurant in Los Angeles to impress his date, but the maitre’d runs a credit check on him first.  When asked what he’d have for dinner, he says he’d probably order the duck.

“With this financial statement, you think you can have the duck?  You can have the chicken.”

“What about my date?”

The maitre’d shrugs.  “You can urge her in one direction.”

Which is to say that if your old partner doesn’t like your new partner, even if there’s not a veto on the table, there’s a hell of a lot of ways they can make you uncomfortable – starting with that squirmy feeling that you know you’re making your partner upset by simply being here.  Or the pretty sensible, “I told you I didn’t want you dating this person, so I really don’t want to hear about what’s happening there.”  Or an unwillingness to compromise when schedules start snagging.

If you’re in a poly relationship where you’re used to your partners being supportive, finding that glacial wall of disapproval glaring back at you whenever you return can be, well, chilling.

And I’ve spoken a lot about dysfunction in polyamorous relationships, where one partner can’t handle the jealousy of you being with someone else for some reason.  Maybe they’re trying out this polyamory thing because they like you and realize tolerating your wayward sexuality  – always a successful approach – is the only way to get you.  Maybe they’re insecure, and no amount of special gestures will ever convince them that they have any worth to you.  Maybe they’re selfish, where they want the hot smoochins but don’t want to deal with you having the hot smoochins.

But if your partner’s seemed sensible before – loving, even – and yet they’re still sneering at person after person, as if no one you might date could possibly be acceptable to them, I’d like you to consider another possibility:

Maybe you’re drawn to assholes.

I was insecure in the early days of our relationship, yes, but my wife was also drawn to bad boys who mainly saw me as an obstacle to be hurdled in order to get with her exclusively.  And I kept saying, “No, that guy’s really fuckin bad news for us as a couple,” and Gini said, “Ah, you’re just jealous,” and it wasn’t until I finally caved and let her start dating a couple of men who, in fact, lied and gaslit her in order to undermine our relationship that she went “Ooooohhhh, I get it.”

Once she realized that some of her hot-button personality types consistently led to disaster, she came to understand that I wasn’t being a dick, I was actually doing my best to look out for her.

And you’d think – you’d think – that years later, when we officially went polyamorous, and for a while Gini started slamming down “Not her”s like they were going out of style, I would have said, “Gosh, I remember when I hated all of her potential paramours, perhaps she’s just looking out for my best interest.”

But nope.  The script flipped, and suddenly she was saying “Nah, bruh” and I was the one thundering, “DON’T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY?”

(Spoiler: she did.)

And again, it took a couple of fairly disastrous relationships for me to realize that my wife may have been insecure about people I was dating from time to time, but she was mature enough to put that fear aside and only have the talk when I was choosing women who were bad for me.

(She went for bad boys – I chose people who shared my mental illnesses.  Neither ended well.)

These days, we’re a lot better at being in sync.  Because as I’ve said before, my wife doesn’t have a veto because she is my wife – she has a veto because she has a twenty-year-long track record of looking out for my best interests, even when I was too stupid to see them.  So when she says, “I dunno about dating this one,” that’s the record-scratch moment when I pause and go, “Huh.  What has a better win record at sensing impending dysfunction when it comes to dating – my penis, or my wife’s instincts?”

So I trust her instincts.  (Not that either of us tend to date jerks these days – my theory is that everyone is attracted to three types of people who are bad for them, and the sooner you figure out who those people are the better off you are.  I’m pretty sure I’ve doped out, like, two of them.)

But that brings us around to my ultimate question, which I occasionally hear from people – “Why does my partner hate everyone else I date?”  And it could be insecurity.  It could be greediness.  It could be any number of manifest dysfunctions.

But before you investigate that, first ask yourself whether you’re drawn to people who are healthy for the  polyamorous dynamic you claim to want, and whether past partners of this type have led to internecine conflicts that made everyone involved miserable until a few breakups settled the dust one way or another.

It could be that you’re drawn to people who are flat-out bad for you, and your partner could be that canary in a coal mine, desperately fainting in the cage to try to warn your sad ass that yes, you are descending into a toxic environment once again and they may not be able to haul you out this time.

It’s not always true.

But it’s worth investigating first.

How To Make Fun Of Trump’s Tiny, Shrivelled Penis

I’d like you to imagine that you’re at a big wrestling match with all your friends.  I mean, like all of them.  Every person you’ve ever wanted to hang out with on some level is there with you, at the show.

You did not get good seats.

So there you are, you and a couple hundred buddies huddled together in the same section of the distant bleachers, a crowd of thousands sitting between you and the wrestlers on a remote stage.  And your most hated wrestler comes on, so naturally you want him to know that he’s a scumbag.  And you know this wrestler’s a notorious homophobe, so you scream out as loud as you can:

“YOU DIRTY, HORRIBLE F****T!”

Now.  Pop quiz.  Do you think it’s more likely that:

a)  The wrestler will hear you?
b)  Your gay friends will hear you?

If you answered anything other than “b,” you are an idiot.

But I see a lot of that with regards to Donald Trump – folks getting on social media to mock Donald for having dentures, or jeering about what a tiny dick he must have, or insulting him for any number of other physical handicaps he could not help having.  (The bad toupee and spray-on tan, well, I’ll give that a pass, as he chose them.)  And they’re out there really giving Donald a good shellacking, talking about what a doofus he looks like with no front teeth and a tiny cock…

And I wonder: You do know your friends can hear you, right?

Because Donald can’t.  He’s got literally all of America yelling for his attention, a constant stream of Twitter-ats that you could never dream of, and the chance of Donald Trump hearing your extremely specific brand of bodyshaming is next to nil.

The chances that your friends are hearing your insults on social media, however, is pretty goddamned high.

And if those friends have dentures, or a tiny cock, or any of those other so-called deformities you gleefully mock Trump for, well, what you’ve just told them is “I’d mock you, too, if I thought I could get away with it.”  You’re telling them, “You’re a freak and the only reason I don’t call you out for your teeth/cock/whatever is because I respect you.”

Yet I got news for ya – people with small cocks and no front teeth and baldness already get made fun of.  A lot.  They can tune into any goddamned comedy show and find some moe taking a potshot at them.  They’re told all the time by society how worthless they are for some physical condition they never asked for, and you rubbing it in is basically another long line of realizing that yeah, your so-called “friends” are sniggering behind your back.

Their response is probably, Thanks for the fuckin’ “respect,” pal.

“But wait,” you protest.  “I’m not mocking Trump – I’m mocking Trump’s vanity.  He’s very concerned about his appearance, so making fun of him isn’t saying everyone with no front teeth or a small cock is pathetic – I’m only saying it because it’ll hurt Trump!”

And I got one word for ya, liberals:

Pocahontas.

That’s the nickname Trump trots out whenever he wants to lay into Elizabeth Warren.  He doesn’t really think less of Native Americans (inasmuch as he thinks about anybody, really), but he knows it irritates her to have her admittedly debatable heritage called into question – and if a couple of Native Americans happen to feel slighted along the way, then that’s worthwhile collateral damage as long as she’s irritated.

He’s not really concerned about her bloodline, he’s just, you know, saying whatever he thinks will vex her.  And he does not give a shit about anyone else who gets dragged down in the process.  And most of my liberal friends have been hand-flailing, saying that Trump’s smearing Native Americans to score a cheap point is far out of line.

But too many of them think it’s okay to smear their friends as long as it maybe, maybe, needles Trump a bit.

So heck, if you’re taking that approach, why not go with the stuff that’ll really get Der Trumpster’s goat?  You know he’s terrified of having his heterosexuality called into question – why not call him a big, juicy f****t?  Hell, he’s pro-white, he’d hate to be called the N-word! You know that would really work under that infamously-thin skin, so why stop at his teeth?

What’s that?  Can’t do that, you say.  There are lines, you say.  And I say, “Fuck your lines.”  If the only reason you’re willing to stand up for your buddies’ potential feelings is because you think they’re part of some protected group, and if “people with dentures” or “men born with smaller penises” or any other kind of traditionally-mockable feature don’t deserve your consideration, then you’re basically only nice to groups of people who won’t call your shit out on Facebook.

Except, alas, I know there are some people who do do that – the number of “Trump going down on Putin” jokes are legion.  “I don’t think homosexuality demeans someone,” they’ll say.  “I just know it hurts Trump to see him in what he would perceive as a demeaning position, so I’m going to tell the world this funny joke based off the idea that gay men are awful and blowjobs are degrading and hope you recognize that my bigotry is artisan.”

And if that’s your approach, then what the fuck is the difference between you and Trump except for your choice of target?  You’re both schoolyard bullies with scorched-earth tactics, willing to propagate whatever inadvertent meanness you’re capable of so long as maybe it hurts your target.

Except remember: it doesn’t even do that.  You’re out in the bleachers, doofus.  At least when Trump starts calling people names, they’re guaranteed to hear what he said.  You?  You’re just some schmuck in the crowd, yelling in your friends’ ears.  Unless you’re toting 100,000 friends on Twitter, your ego’s rivaling Trump’s to think that your every Facebook bon mot will be read, personally, by the goddamned President of the United States.

Now.  This is where the inevitable me-defense comes up – as in, “Well, I have dentures, and I think it’s funny!” – and under normal circumstances I would go out of my way to point out that this isn’t about you, it’s about your friends who may never say anything to you because they’ve internalized this societal shame, and finding a single person who’s okay with a shitty joke doesn’t necessarily make it not-shitty….

But here’s the real point.  The real goddamned point.

This is Trump.

Why do you have to make fun of his physicality when there’s so many other things he chose to do that you could mock him for?

If you’re opposed to Trump, it’s not because of his wig – it’s because he’s done things.  Maybe you don’t like the way he’s let homophobic zealots take over the government, maybe you hate how he’s let Puerto Rico languish, maybe you despise how he’s worked hard to stoke the fires of anti-Muslim hatred.  Like any President, if you’re opposed, you’ve got a million valid reasons to loathe what he’s done.

And you’re going after his dentures?  His goddamned dentures?

That’s like walking into a museum devoted to the Holocaust and finding nothing but goofy pictures of Hitler’s mustache.  You don’t have to bodyshame Trump.  You’ve got a thousand better arrows in your fucking quiver.  And picking on the dude’s dorky looks doesn’t do a goddamned thing to convince unswayed voters, because voters generally don’t vote based on the “looks derpiest” methodology.

Point out where he did wrong.  Point out his intellectual failures, because while it’s no shame to be low on smarts, the man ran for President and claimed competency.  Point out his shabby policies.  Hell, point out that he likes his steak well-done, who the hell wants that?

(I have some dear friends who like their steaks well-done.  I will mock them for that.  It’s a choice, people, and a bad one.  Step away.)

But aside from the spray-on tan – because he woke up one morning and chose that shade of orange – insulting Trump’s body for almost any reason doesn’t work.  He doesn’t hear you.  Your friends do.  And when you go “I’m only making fun of fat people because he does it!”, contemplate the fact that people who do not pick up on your carefully-crafted irony take it at face value.  Contemplate the fact that no biologically-born male woke up one day and chose to have a smaller penis, and your hipster body-shaming is propagating all the same values that Donald Trump himself loves – namely, that big dicks indicate competence and small dicks indicate inadequacy.  (Whereas what it really represents is a biological marker that doesn’t make you any more or less capable.)

Sure.  maybe you could, somehow, get across that careful and perhaps-nonexistent distinction of “I mock this because I feel it would bother him, not because I would think less of anyone who actually had this happen to them,” why fucking bother when there’s a billion other cheap shots to take that won’t potentially cause people you love with no teeth or small cocks or some other unchangeable similarity to Trump to cringe?

And maybe, in the end, it comes down to this: you think if someone was born with a smaller cock or bad teeth or thin hair, they genuinely deserve to be made fun of.  You’re free to have that opinion, of course.  Just as my opinion of you is that you’re a waste of human flesh.

As for the rest of you: The best way to make fun of Trump’s tiny penis is this:

Don’t.

Do better.