The Republican Dog Trainer

“I don’t actually like dogs.  There’s no real need for people to have dogs.  I’d like to starve every dog until it was small enough to drag it into the bathroom and drown it in a bathtub.”
“Not that I would drown the dog, of course!  But the dog’s a drain on you, you realize.  Only holds you back.  Listen, how much kibble do you feed it?”
“Her, sure.  Point is, you could save a lot of cash by slashing the amount you give her.  Do two, three bits of kibble a day, and those annoying dog food bills will just evaporate.”
“Listen, I – I’m not sure I want to put you in charge of my dog – ”
“How can you doubt my qualifications?  I ran a very profitable slaughterhouse, where we took in all kinds of animals and stripped them down to their component parts!  Between this and our mutual acknowledgement that dogs are kind of useless and we’d all be better off without them, who would you want taking care of this animal?”
“…anyone?  I want a dog in the house.  My dog is useful to me.”
“No, it isn’t.  It’s a drain on your resources.  A luxury for lazy people.  And if we have to tolerate this sort of frippery in our lives, then I say we strip it to the bone.  So no more having the dog in the house, or spending money on toys, and frankly, the more we can neglect the thing the sooner it’ll be out of your way.”
“But it’s my seeing-eye dog.”
“Nonsense.  You don’t need a dog.  After all, my vision is perfectly fine!”

How Having Multiple Boyfriends Is Like Having Multiple Kids

I have many friends who have five children. You know how many small children it takes to wear me out? One.
Which is to say that I adore small children – but as an introvert, kids burn my batteries something fierce. I struggle to find avenues of conversation with them, because they’re little and I know talking is good to develop their brains, but it’s the most awkwardest of small talk. It’s often stressful for me trying to figure out what we have in common to talk about – or even in making sense of their answers, which they toss off as though I should know all about Bridget down at the playground.
And then there’s the maintenance aspect. I love putting my Godkids to bed and reading them stories and ensuring they’ve brushed their teeth and choosing their clothes for the next day, I really do… but by the time it’s all over, I’m ready to put myself to bed.
I don’t know how parents live with five of that constant busyness and not be impossibly stressed, all the time. And yet they do. I see evidence of their joy. So it must be possible, but those people have gotta be wired differently than me.
Yet teenagers? Love ’em. I can eat up a diet of angst and surliness all day. You could put me in charge of seven or eight teens, and I could thrive.
But that’s the thing. For some people, “having a kid” is a trivial relationship in terms of burning energy – they love babies, and can have a ton of toddlers hanging about, and those relationships energize them. There’s an upper limit to the number of kids they can profitably manage, of course, but somehow they can have a family of seven and find not just the time, but the personal energy, to make it work.
That’s a basic rule of humanity: some people find certain types of relationships easier to manage than others.
So when people ask, “How can you have a meaningful romantic relationship with two people?” the proper answer is, “Having a romantic relationship is something that comes naturally enough to me that I can manage to have more than one and still have the energy to dedicate to another.”
See, I’m a hopeless romantic, and I spend a disproportionate amount of the day sending sweet and sexy texts and asking about my partners’ days and wishing – quite sincerely! – that I was curled up in their arms. Hell, I’ve had friends tell me that I pay more attention to them than their partners do, and that’s just me checking in on them when I’ve got the time.
And if that took away from my relationship from my wife, I’d probably gear down. But the truth is that for me, because of who I am, I can ladle out vast amounts of affection to other partners and still make Gini feel valued.
I like people. I like intense friendships. And for me, “adding sex” doesn’t denature the quality of a relationship. For many, throwing a sexual element into a relationship transforms it into something so different that they have to act in new and uncomfortable ways to manage it; they’re wired differently than I am. For me, sex is something casual that can be deeply meaningful, but is not inherently so.
So for me, “adding sex” to a friendship creates a relationship that I don’t find all that difficult to manage. For others, that dynamic differs. And that’s great.
Yet for me, what this combination of priorities gets me is meaningful multiple romantic relationships. Are they the same as a monogamous romantic relationship? No, of course not – and if for you, the only way you could be fulfilled is to know that someone’s devoting the entirety of their time and affection to you, then clearly you’re not cut out to be poly.
Yet what we have is enough time and affection to make us happy.
(In the same sense that I, a long-time sufferer of Only Child Syndrome, can’t imagine how a kid could be happy with a mother who split her time.
For me, having multiple lovers comes natural… But I’d really struggle taking care of multiple toddlers, even though I like kids. That’s because we’re all wired differently.)
And wait! This gets even crazier! Although both my wife and I are polyamorous, we have different tolerances for what kinds of relationships we can manage. I am tolerant of angst and emotional processing (see also: that affinity for teenagers), whereas my wife is drama-allergic to the extreme. So I can have multiple florid relationships that are experiencing hitches, whereas Gini can handle multiple relationships as long as nobody expects her to sit down and have A Talk. Trying to troubleshoot multiple relationships at once causes her to short out.
She sees my other relationships as exhausting. Because for her, they would be. We’re both polyamorous, but our styles are entirely different.
And that’s all polyamory is, really: a group of people who are comfortable existing in different relationship styles. I keep hearing from monogamous people, “Man, just having a husband wears me out,” and my inevitable reply is, “And that’s totally okay!” Then I look at their five children, two with diapers that need changing and one with gum in her hair, and go, “Whoo, couldn’t handle that.”
Nobody’s wrong for not wanting lots of kids. Or not wanting lots of friends. Or not wanting lots of lovers. It’s all about what sorts of relationships you have an affinity for, and what sorts of relationships you really enjoy but maybe take a little more strain than you’d like to manage in multiples.
It’s all good. But just realize, if you’re monogamous and questioning how polyamory works, that each of us has our own unique style, a comfort zone where we feel so at ease it feels not only natural to have a relationship of that sort, but that we crave multiple relationships – whether that’s friends, kids, workout partners, lovers, Facebook buddies, or movie pals.
It seems a little crazy to you. That’s because your relationship strengths are widely shared by others, and so culturally we’ve come to accept your way of doing things.
Some of us are wired different. And that’s cool.

As Of Tomorrow, I Do Not Have Gonorrhea

I got tested as part of my annual STD check last week, and if I don’t hear from them by tomorrow then I am “clean.”
I always find that bizarre.
Maybe I’m paranoid – paranoid enough to get tested despite no signs or symptoms – but I always go, What if they forget to call?  I know there’s a lot of notifications to give, and all these Planned Parenthood issues with confidentiality (they go so far, and correctly, to have a secret system where you give them an artificial name so they can leave a message and you can call them back without alerting anyone).  But things go wrong in any bureaucracy, and the whole “Just assume it’s fine unless you hear from us” freaks me the fuck out.
I always call.  Just to be sure.  And they sound so perplexed.
So right now, I’m Schrodinger’s Slut, probably not genitally ablaze with various transmissibles, but uncertain.  At some point tomorrow, I will start another free period where I am, insofar as we can reasonably assume, good to go – an assumption that will degrade throughout the year as I continue to have sexual encounters, until I get tested again.
I dunno.  Testing is inaccurate on so many levels – the blood tests are rife with false positives and false negatives, so there’s no really good way of knowing you have herpes unless they get a culture from some outbreak.  And for those tests, there’s always some period in which you’ve begun to contract the disease, but it’s not present in your system enough to show up, so realistically it’s not a clean bill of health but rather a bill that says, “Well, you’re either completely free of the disease, or we’re early enough that it has yet to take a diagnosable foothold on your system.”
It’s so inaccurate that on some levels I wonder why I have it done.  It’s not like I’m not going to play it safe anyway.  But I feel obliged to get a certificate just so I can be as honest with my partners as I can possibly be, and here I am stating that honesty in the hopes that my number didn’t accidentally drop off a “CALL THESE PEOPLE STAT” list at the no-doubt-overworked and understaffed Planned Parenthood clinic.
I don’t wanna bug them for what’s been a no every time since I started doing this.
I probably will anyway.

Today's Rant, In E Minor

Someone asked: “But isn’t polyamory breaking you up from having a true and meaningful relationship?”
Yes! Yes it is. Which is why I’m currently breaking off all other relationships I have, including my mother, my good friends, my colleagues, and of course anyone I’ve ever met online. Thank you for showing me that “meaningful” relationships are exclusive, and if you are friends with someone then becoming friends with someone else would only cheapen that bond.
Thus, the only logical conclusion you can reach given that premise is that having more than one relationship with anyone is making the others less “true.” Your affection is a finite thing, and giving your time and caring (and potentially bodily fluids) to someone else makes all the other relationships you have a fake and tawdry thing – not really relationships, but something less.
If you come from a family, I wish you the best of luck in determining who your mother and father loved the best, whether it was you, them, or your siblings, because loving more than one person is obviously crazy.
I hope it’s you they liked! I really do. But if it turns out it’s not you, it’s not your fault; after all, they had to choose someone. Nobody could have deep and true feelings for a person, and then paradoxically turn around and have meaningful feelings for someone else.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m now going to have to stop talking to you, because my wife needs me. Me, and no other. Ever.

Chainsaws And Bunnies: A Few More RPG Thoughts

Two others issues with Delta Green:
1)  It’s utterly unconcerned with making the players into heroes. 
Which is to say that if I create a fortress for a “normal” fantasy game, I’m going to anticipate a couple of easy routes to get the players in.  The secret back entrance.  The unguarded sewage pipe.  The supply train people can smuggle themselves into.  A scalable wall.
That’s because the unstated goal of most fantasy games is to give the players success.  You want them to get in, because the point of the game is that the players win.  Win against all odds, perhaps, but win.
Delta Green is concerned with realism.  And so their chemical plant is created as though it were engineered by a professional security team, with every ingress as locked up tight as the game designer can muster.  There’s a dog run and razorwire fences and guards checking supplies and security cameras.  If you want to bust in, it’s going to be every bit as difficult to break into as it would an actual well-guarded chemical plant.
Which gives a feeling of immense satisfaction if the players break in.  But that if’s a big one.  Because it’s not engineered with a flaw, it’s engineered as though very smart people actually wanted to keep people out.
That’s all a matter of perspective.  As I said to Gini once, in what became a running gag, “Look, if you want easy, I’ll let you hack at bunnies with chainsaws.”  And there would be a session where they killed a bunny with every roll, and after a while it would become boring.  The challenge scale depends on what you’re looking for.  Delta Green is for people who are looking for challenges that match up exactly with real-world challenges, and that runs the risk of real-world frustrations.  Frustrations that are magnified, because…
2)  It’s written in an alien language for my group.
If I presented my players with a fantasy fortress, I guarantee you they’d ask about a secret back entrance.  And then ask about the supply train.  Or a guard to bribe.  Because they’ve read enough fantasy books that they’re familiar with the tropes, and even if none of those panned out, they’d feel very good about asking.  They’d have skin in the game.
But Delta Green relies on an intense knowledge of police procedurals and FBI investigations, and those tropes are different.  I know Dead Letter was playtested successfully at least twice – there are notes on that in the module – but one group of playtesters brought up COINTELPRO, the 1950s anti-Communist infiltration campaign that sent secret agents into the Blackfoot tribes (and anticipated that some of the now-defunct agents would be living on the reservation to blackmail), and the other referenced the Iraqi chemical plant inspections and took cues from that.
Which are both really good ways of approaching the problem, but involves a level of familiarity with government procedures that don’t translate well.  If my players knew a lot about how government investigations worked and were history nerds, this game would probably have been great to them, because they would have gone, “Oh, how did the Syrian diplomats approach the allegations of chemical warfare for the UN?” and built a framework from there.
As it was, my players were at a loss to formulate approaches, because the tropes were not as well known to them.  And that was frustrating.  If they’d taken approaches they knew had worked elsewhere, but failed – “The last COINTELPRO agent died in 1996 of lung cancer, sorry” – then they’d at least have felt like they were methodically picking through the list of valid ways to do things.  (And as a GM, if they’d brought something that dazzling up, I’d have felt obligated to toss them a bone.) It wouldn’t have been frustrating.
They were working off a fictional mentality, which is all fine and well – but Lord of the Rings teaches us few usable approaches for sneaking into South Korean territory.  For that, you’d need to be familiar with spy smuggling techniques, and  how many people are, really? Maybe Charlie Stross.