Miley Cyrus And The VMAs

Here’s my take:
I don’t have a problem with women acting sexy on stage.  (Or men.)  And if someone wants to tart it up at the VMA Awards, which is often the Place of Titillating Performances, then hey.  Zero problems with the concept.  (I still think Madonna put on a helluva performance there with “Hollywood.”)
The problem is that I don’t think what Miley Cyrus did was sexy.  At all.
Even leaving aside the tapdancing army of pedobears, she looks like she’s enacting what a twelve year-old rich girl thinks is sexy – exaggerated tongue-swirls, butt-shaking, skimpy clothes, all sorts of “woo girl” behavior.  And when I saw that, it struck me more of a parody of what sexy is supposed to be than any urge to have actual, you know, sex.
There are those who’ll claim it’s a brave performance nonetheless, but to me it’s very superficial – to me, sexy involves letting us see a little bit of the vulnerability and desire.  Madonna and Britney are sexy because, while they put on very studied performances, it still feels like we’re sensing some of their desire for us – not necessarily for me specifically (though Britney, call me), but their pleasure in turning on an audience with the potency of their bodies.  They weren’t afraid to move slow.
Miley, well, it’s personal.  And to quote Ms. Summers, she’s going through the motions, walking through the part – a catalogue of supposedly “sexy” behaviors reflected upon us, without an ounce of desire in the mix.  And I’m not certain whether it’s a conscious parody of our desires, or just some sort of monumentally botched attempt to go over the top that collapsed like a bad souffle.
Regardless.  I was amazed that so many things earmarked as “sexy” turned out to be so plastic when tossed into a single performance.
(Also, as my friend Angie has linked to, some of the racial components are a little troubling as well.)

Coping With Tragedy

I’m usually the Mr. Spock of the emotional world, able to self-surgery my own guts and analyze them dispassionately.  Even when I’m unable to control my desires, I at least have a pretty good sense of why I’m doing something.
That awareness is the the first thing to go in times of serious grief.
I first noticed it when my beloved Uncle Tommy died, my first major death, and I spent the next few weeks getting upset for no apparent reason.  Well, the reasons were kind of apparent, but I was breaking down over empty toothpaste tubes and the like.
And then, when my friend Kat was in the hospital and we were all worried she had cancer, I thought I was a monster because I was never thinking about Kat but I was in a serious, self-hatred funk of depression.  How could I be so selfish?  Then I got the news that her tumor was benign, and literally my depression evaporated in the next minute.
When I’m in serious stew, I can’t think about it up-front, so all my processing comes on the sidelines.  I haven’t thought about my grandmother, or my cousin Jimmy, as much as I’d like to have.  To my mind, I should be paying them respect by having them on the brain 24/7, like some sort of CNN newscrawl.  But what’s happening is that I’m reclusive and brittle, taking deep and angry offense at the slightest of bruises.  Once again, my anger is squirting out through other sources.
And I’m usually good at having a network of happy text-correspondences going throughout the week, but I forget these days; I think I’ve responded, or I read it and it bounces off, and so I’m sort of mean and isolated, which I don’t like much, either.
And I know.  I know it’s all okay, people love me, I’m under a heavy load, et al.  But it’s not how I like to be, and I don’t like the way I’m acting right now.  But it’s the way my brain has formed to bleed off massive amounts of emotional trauma, and I guess it’s what I do.  I keep functioning, which is good.
Still.  I saw little Rebecca via Facetime the other day, and it did me a world of good.  Baby steps.  Baby, baby steps.


Funerals and hospitals are raining from the sky. The news we’re getting from friends is choked with death, and mysterious medical ailments, and we’re exhausted from oscillating between hope and bracing ourselves for another blow.
And at times like this, I am grateful for my wife, and the safe communication patterns we have built.
The other day she was yelling at me because I’d lost her phone chargers yet again, in a place where I clearly hadn’t, since I’d been lying sick on the bed and hadn’t moved. She was angry, and furious, and I just waited it out.
A few minutes later, she apologized.
Later, when Gini was driving, she cut off some guy in traffic and I went off on her for her terrible fucking driving, and though she looked stricken she said nothing. A few minutes later, I apologized.
Because we’re smart enough to know that this isn’t what we’re angry about. We’re furious about small sick girls, dead grandmothers, dead cousins, babies in ICUs. We’re angry because we still have to function through all of this, that “lying down and crying” would be an unthinkable luxury. We have friends to support, bills to pay, places to be.
The phone chargers and traffic patterns are just a small cut through which all this pent-up pressure erupts.
And we’re smart. We trust. A fight would be so satisfying in all the wrong ways, now, because it’d be something we could affect; we can’t strangle tumors, we can’t punch God in the throat, but we could scream and yell a lot at someone who was actually mean to us and get a lot of satisfaction out of it.
But in the end, we’d feel worse. An argument like that would shred us. And so when Gini snaps at me or I at her, we suppress that snarling instinct and mutter, “It’s not about the dishes. It’s about all of these other things.”
We do that because we trust. We trust that we would never hurt each other on purpose. We trust that every hurt inflicted is either accidental, or because there was no other choice in it. We trust that we want nothing but the best for each other, and though we fail constantly, regrettably, lamentably, the intentions we build this fragile psychology on are made of glittering diamond.
We love. We heal. And we hope. And, until there is safe space again, we forgive.
That’s all we can do.

On Finding a "Good" "Secondary" Relationship.

I’m not a fan of the “poly is just like being married, with bolt-on attachment relationships!” model, even though I’m in one. Poly is fluid. Poly is people loving other people, and the relationship webs can get as complicated as a cat’s cradle.
But a lot of poly people are “core couples.” And one of the cries I hear from couples is, “Why is it so hard to find a secondary partner?”
Well, maybe it’s because you’re calling them secondaries.
Look, falling in love is tough enough without being told up-front that you are the ablative shield that will be tossed aside, should the “real” relationship need to be protected. And I see a lot of couples concerned that they can’t seem to find a nice, obedient girl to have sex with them both and smother them in affection then go away on demand, and why is this all taking so much time?
It’s taking time because you’re asking for really specific behavior, and you’re going to have to flip through a lot of people before you fill that slot.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to the idea of core relationships – I have one with my wife, Gini. If push comes to shove, anyone I date knows that Gini will come first in an emergency.
Does “coming second to someone else’s needs” make it a bad relationship? I sure hope not. Because if push comes to shove, I’ve been informed that if there’s a fire and she can save only me or her children, well… I’d better prepare to roast. I married her knowing that if there was an irreparable conflict with the children-units, I’d be summarily jettisoned.
Yet we have had a lovely relationship for fourteen years. How?
Well, the trick is that while Gini values her children, she doesn’t see me as disposable fun, either. So in conflicts, she didn’t automatically take anyone’s side – some days she was pissing off our daughter by defending me, other days she was pissing off me by defending the kids, and on certain haggard days she was pissing us both off by pointing out we were all pains in the ass.
And she prioritized space for me, depending on who needed it. There are very few days the house is on fire, but there are tons of days where I needed cuddles more than the kids did, and vice versa. She didn’t use the fact that the kids would ultimately come first as an excuse to ignore me when I became troublesome, and more importantly, she didn’t use me as a vacation to get away from the kids when they become a hassle.
It’s entirely possible to have a fulfilling, emotionally-wonderful relationship knowing you come second to someone else. It’s how most of my good poly relationships have worked myself, since most of the people I date have kids or a spouse or both.
If you’re one of those couples, you might have a harder time finding new people.
Look, I dig that poly is a scary time. And the quickest and easiest way to create an artificial feeling of security is to form rules that bar this new partner from fun activities: You can sleep with him, but you can’t sleep over. No holding hands when I’m around. No dates on our special weekends.
Those aren’t bad things in a void – hey, they keep you together with the person you value most. But don’t kid yourself: it’s also a very overt and alienating sign to prospective new lovers: We have rules, and they are designed so that you have less fun than we do. Know your place.
And if that happens, well, can you really blame the vast majority of people for kicking the tires, coming to the correct conclusion that this is just going to be a continual battle for control, and moving on?
I dunno. I hate the term “secondary.” I hate the idea that someone is less deserving of love because they came in later. Yes, there’s a reality on the ground that if push comes to shove, I’ll have to choose Gini as my Pokemon-in-battle…. but my whole job should be ensuring fairness, not reinforcing a hierarchy. Anything I’m doing on purpose to minimize a lover’s involvement in our lives, whether they’re dating Gini or me, is a wretched thing that should be done scarcely, if at all.
So when I hear “It’s so hard for us to find a good partner!”, what that often means is, “It’s so hard for us to find someone who will fit into this narrow box we have carved out for them!” Which, hey, if you can find them, great. I’m all about happiness. There’s someone for everyone. Doubtlessly, there’s someone in this big world who feels comfortable jumping through the hoops you’ve set, and genuinely doesn’t want to be a quote-unquote primary, and will settle into the narrow restrictions you’ve enabled.
(And hopefully, you’re following rule #1 in finding new lovers.)
But if you’re very concerned about finding new partners soon, then maybe you want to look at how you come across to new people. I’m not saying rules are bad – Gini and I have our own little quirks, like how only we can have sex on our impossible mattress – but I am saying that you have to acknowledge how offputting all those rules are, and maybe think about handling your jealousy in other ways. Or settle in for the long wait as you sift through hundreds of people to audition the right person for you.
Or maybe you just consider not being poly, and becoming swingers, or even monogamous. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Words I Don't Like: "Partner."

“Spouse.” I like spouse.  If I tell you I have a spouse, I’m revealing nothing about my preference.  Oh, it is often assumed my spouse is a woman – and in this case she is, for like the majority of America, I’m heterosexual.
But I also think that a numeric majority isn’t reason enough to appropriate a word, and I have many lovely gay friends with same-sex spouses.  Hell, I have poly friends with “spice,” as the plural of spouse. It’s a great word that covers either gender with aplomb.  Spouse?  It lets you acknowledge your life-partner in a conversation anywhere you damn please without getting bogged down in unwanted politics.
I’m a spouse who has a spouse, and that reveals precisely as much as I’d like – go ahead and assume, but by God I’m not being evasive if you assumed my “spouse” was a girl but it turns out my spouse is a six-foot Freddy Mercury look-a-like.  (Which, you know, I love Gini, but hey.  Freddy Mercury.)
Yet if I tell you my son has a partner, well, crap.  Under current American parlance, that’s pretty much a sign that he’s gay.
Not that I particularly care that he is gay.  But there are times, when discussing teenagers, because I value their privacy, that I often don’t feel like signalling what their sexual preference are to strangers – and I don’t feel like lying, as “boyfriend/girlfriend” will do.  “Lover” seems a bit too intense, particularly if it’s a fourteen-year-old girl we’re talking about.  “Sweetheart” or “beau” feel also a little gendered, as well as outdated, and though I could use the term “steady” I feel like I’ve teleported back to the 1950s.  “Companion” feels like they’re travelling through time in a phone booth.
After that, it feels like I’m down to either mangling the language in awkward ways – “Yes, she went out with that person she is dating” – or being far too clever in saying, “Yes, she saw World’s End with her swain.  Isn’t her suitor wonderful?”
I dunno.  I want a nice, simple word that neither forces me to dance around gender issues nor avoid them, usable when a seven-year-old girl announces she’s dating whoever the heck she adores on the playground this week.  There may be words that suffice, but they’re not comfortable words, and damn if I don’t want one.