Two People You Might Consider Giving Money To

Got two folks with entirely different causes you might ponder tossing shekels towards:
For Charity!
Chelsea is blind, and the cane just isn’t cutting it for her.  She needs a guide dog.  You apparently need to take a class to have a guide dog – which makes sense, you don’t want to hurt or put the dog out of training – and those classes, sadly, are not cheap.
She’s trying to raise $1200 to get her guide dog class covered.  She’s $400 of the way there.  Kicking in a few bucks certainly could not hurt your karma.
For Sci-Fi Fans!
If you remember my appearance on The Functional Nerds podcast, you’ll know that it’s a super-fun time for all concerned.  They interview authors with good questions, they riff, and they don’t ramble on forever (which is my #1 killer in a podcast).
Now they have a Patreon to help cover their costs and keep them running. They’re good to run.  Tune in, try ’em, and if you like it, donate.
For Gosh’ Sake!
For the record, if you’d like me to shill for your Kickstarter/GoFundMe/Patreon/whatever, I am literally the worst person in the world to ask, for I am disorganized.  (Chelsea had a kick-ass cause, and she had to bug me four times.)  I’ll occasionally do it, but I am forgetful and scattershot and never plan my blog, so it’s fine to ask but just realize I’m not the best at this.  (And if I don’t know you from the Internets, it’s a very long shot, as I usually only recommend people I know well enough to vouch for.)
Still, you’ve got two good causes above, so if you’re healthy and in good economic condition, donate.

Thanks For Calling Me An Asshole.

“The logical next step in this email exchange,” Gini told me, “Is to apologize for being such an asshole.”
The pause was glacial.
“You realize,” I said stiffly, “That I came to you because they hurt me.”
“I get that.” She sounded sincere, even sympathetic. “But they didn’t do anything wrong, and you bit off their head. You’re the dick here.”
My fingers twitched.
“Okay.” I breathed in deeply through my nose. “And now I’m pissed at you.”
“And that’s okay,” she said.
I spent the next several hours alternating between furious silence and walking in to calmly explain the subtle reasons why she’d pissed me off. Of all people, I told her, I thought you’d side with me on this one. Don’t you see why this is just like this other thing you agreed was awful?
She listened, never returning my anger, occasionally conceding a point where she didn’t know all the facts. But she retained her overall judgement: you’ve been a douche, and you should apologize.
Seven hours later, I realized I’d been a douche and I should apologize.
And this morning, I got a text from a good friend who called me out on a different bit of assholery in a different way, and I replied “thank you.”
Because calling your friends out isn’t easy. Gini hadn’t had a great day, either, and when she got home she found her husband embroiled in a snakepit of tangled grief and anger and flashbacks, and the last thing she needed was to spend several hours with my rage pulsing through the house, carefully maintaining herself lest those banked embers flare up into a housefire.
But she did it.
So did my other friends who’ve grudgingly carried me through my irrational times.
Looking your friend in the eye and saying “You’re wrong” isn’t something we cherish a lot in this world. We give lip service to the idea of debate, but most friends and lovers are expected to provide support, to drown us in unquestioning love, to dish out sympathy.
Yet when I came looking for a heaping helping of sympathy, my wife looked down into her sympathy stewpot and said, “You don’t deserve this.” And that took courage and strength; courage to turn me down, strength to not make it personal. I was wrong, but she didn’t rub it in, she checked in on me, she expressed volumes of love.
She did everything except agree I was right.
And occasionally, I see someone take on my wife in a comment thread on one of my essays, saying, “You just agree with him because he’s your husband.” And I laugh.
They don’t know my friends. My friends will text me when I’ve gone too far, will look me straight in my eyes when they’re fuzzed with anger and give me that quiet “….No.”
You know what?
I trust them more for that.
When I go to my friends for sympathy, and get it, I know that’s real sympathy. Because I think of last night when I tossed down my bucket into the sympathy well and it came up dry, and realize that if she’s on my side, it’s because she really believes.
And when my friends tell me I’m wrong, that pulls me up short. I was surfing a tide of inchoate anger, and they called me back from shore.
Truth was: I was the asshole.
And I thank them for calling my attention to that fact, I really do. You save me when I’ve lost myself. You remind me of the tenets I’ve told you I should live by. You patrol my borders for me when I’ve forgotten where I set my lines, and you shove me back in when I’m bumping chests and looking for fights.
It’s not often that I have to rely on the grace of your good judgment, thank God.
But when I do, when I wake from the haze and realize what a fool I’ve been, I bless you for refusing to back down out of convenience. Because I know you stood tall out of love, and that means more to me than anything.

The Great Waterpik Experiment

As you may recall, I lost ten of my teeth to gum disease.  Fuck you, Doctor Cappadonna, for telling me that – and I quote – “Sometimes, gums just bleed!”
So I spent several years lacking eight front teeth, humiliated eating in public, getting multiple painful gum surgeries.
As a result, I floss.
And every three months, I go into a dentist’s office, where they deep-clean my teeth and tell me that I’m not doing a good enough job.  There are still inflamed areas, deepening pockets.  And that’s hard to do, because teeth are crooked and getting in everywhere with the floss is difficult, and –
– hey, why not use a high-pressure hose to clean out my teeth?
I switched to Waterpik for a three-month period, just to see whether blasting my dental crevices with water did anything.  Which was an adjustment; Waterpiks are easier, but a lot messier, and unless you can swallow water at high speeds it all dribbles out into the sink like you’re some drooling maniac.  Plus, blasting chill water on your gums kiiinda hurts, so you gotta use warm water.
But I got my results in:
Dead even with flossing.
Which is great!  As noted, sticking a little tube into my mouth is way easier than using hooked bits of plastic to try to worm my way under my dental bridges.  And it’s quicker, and more convenient to take my travel Waterpik on the road.
This may even get better; I’m comparing novice Waterpik usage with years of flossing expertise, and I’ve started putting dollops of Listerine in the Waterpik.
So if you don’t floss, and you’re worried about your gums… try a Waterpik.  It’s working super-well for me.

It's In How You Handle Your Fuckups: Hope For Redemption, Look For Monsters

There’s currently a huge garbage fire over on FetLife, around which people are predictably clustering close and warming up their popcorn.  Of course they are.  Everyone loves a good flame war.
The details are this: coupla years ago, a very good looking and charming man espoused his brand of “Consensual Non-Consent” – which is to say that he believed that such lesser needs as “safewords” and “negotiating limits” ruined the scene. (In fact, he stated that if you spent twenty minutes over cocktails with him, he a) knew everything he needed to know about your limits, and b) had now consented to his eponymous brand of sexual conquest.)
A lot of women loved this.  (Didn’t hurt that he had fabulous abs.)  His well-written erotica documenting his real-life adventures picked up thousands of hits, as did his videos.  People created groups devoted to his style of play, debated how to mimic this man’s phenomenal performance.
This dude would find a woman and he didn’t need her to tell him what she needed – he knew.  He pushed her to the right places. He was carnal, spiritual, instinctual – and his instincts were invariably correct.
And when this man was called on the potential dangers of his style of play, he repeatedly stated that the reason he was a great Dom was that he didn’t make errors.
Well, turns out he made errors.
And as the stories flood in from his home town about some of the horrors he perpetuated, we’re seeing the usual consent violation fallouts.  “Well, I had a good time with him!”  (I’m sure you did!  Maybe even the majority of people did!  But that’s not proof he didn’t go beyond someone else’s limits.)  “These other people are just jealous of his popularity!” (They may be, and actually often are, but that’s just more reason to play carefully: if you know people have the knives out, check your shit.)
And above all, the eternal battle cry of the consent violator:
“He’s a good guy!”
The thing is, that “good guy” label may actually be correct.  I think consent is a tricky business, especially when you’re treading into BDSM experiences where the goal is to push people into uncomfortable places in order to induce catharsis.  It’s easy to negotiate poorly, or to miss a vital nonverbal communication, or even just give someone what they thought they wanted only to discover you’ve induced trauma.
Mistakes happen.  Good guys can accidentally push past people’s limits.
But I think what makes a good guy actually a good guy is how they react to that pain.
Do they put a full-halt on their activities, stopping until they can analyze what went wrong?  Do they do their best to make it up to this person they hurt, which may include such ego-free acts as “Withdrawing from their presence” and “Abandoning the need to be the hero in this story”?  Do they use this mistake as a building point to change their own behaviors and to instruct others to ensure that things don’t go this poorly again?
Or do they do their best to gaslight and obscure the victim’s reactions?  Do they add pressure by withdrawing emotional support until they acknowledge how wonderful this experience actually was?  Do they dismiss the pain, making this the victim’s fault, emphasizing that their technique was flawless and it’s something wrong with her?  And if it’s one of those squidgy edge cases where she agreed to something but feels terrible about it the next day, do they double down on the legalese, sneering at “buyer’s remorse” and accentuating the fact that hey, you said yes, rather than providing care and trying to make them feel better?
I think the too-popular consent model of “Anyone who violates consent is an evil demon who should be flayed alive” is incorrect.  People fuck up.  Sex is complicated, and anyone who says differently is selling you something.
So I don’t think a consent violation is necessarily a reason to demonize someone.  But the way they handle that violation’s aftermath can be very demonization-worthy – and it’s why I think the true predators are usually outed in the reaction rather than the incident.
As for the guy on Fet, I don’t know him, nor do I know the extent of what happened.  (He’s a continent away, and I don’t hang out with anyone who self-describes himself as an “alpha male.”)  I believe the victims, naturally, but a lot of women clearly did have a good time with him, and it’s always hard sorting out an accused person’s intent from their public performance, particularly when they’ve spent most of their time in an online arena doing sexual marketing techniques.  Maybe he genuinely didn’t know about his past harm.  Maybe he’s actually remorseful.
But the difference will be this:
Does he change up his play style to account for the fact that this consent non-consent can do some ruinous harm, and maybe spend more than twenty goddamned minutes interviewing his partners before he unleashes hell upon them?
Or does he quietly start erasing the bad things he did, accentuating all the fun times his partners had, accounting “abused, traumatized women” as just part of the acceptable casualties of his enjoyment?
One way leads to – well, if not redemption, at least better outcomes.
The other way creates a monster.
Me?  I hope for redemption. But I look for monsters.
(NOTE: The genderization of this piece is weighted heavily towards male/female accounts of abuse, as that’s what this example was – and, in my experience, usually is.  But there are abusive dommes as well, and consent violation is not limited to any single gender.)

The Abandonment Rate, Or: Date More, God, Date More

“I’m no good at dating,” a friend told me. “I talked to some people, and they seemed interested, and then they disappeared for no reason. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
I stared at her.
“You realize that’s what dating pretty much is, right?”
Look, I date fairly successfully. And I’d estimate my conversion rate from “good conversation” to “actually meeting up” is somewhere in the high teens, if that. I spend a lot of time chatting with people who seem interested in me, then we talk, and they wander away for some reason I never quite find out.
It’s not always personal, of course. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes they meet someone more suited to them. And, yeah, sometimes I guess they find me uninteresting on some level – but that’s part of the deal.
And that’s just counting the people who emailed me! If we count the number of people who I’ve tried to start conversations with and gotten nowhere, then we’re down to maybe 5% success.
5% success, and I do it well.
And I think a lot of people who date get depressed because they’ve dated like seven people, and they’re getting no response, and this means they suck. No. Dating is like baseball: a .300 batting average, which includes a generous three tries for each attempt to get a hit, is *quite* excellent.
It sucks. But there’s a metric in web sites called “shopping cart abandonment,” which is when someone puts an item in their cart and then never check out. The average abandonment percentage is 63% – six out of ten times when someone clicks on the “I want to buy that” button, they decide not to get it, and nobody’s quite sure why.
Fact is, pretty much any activity worth doing involves a lot of whiffs. Job hunting. Making friends. Submitting writing for publication. Writing jokes. Life is full of null responses, and dating is just another facet of that.
Yet if you start taking that abandonment rate personally, then you’re poisoning your own well. Rather than having four people wander away and going, “God, I must be terrible,” instead think, “The worthwhile things in life involve more misses than hits. I’ve got to get used to the idea that even the best players have low batting averages, and part of the reason they wind up being good is that they keep stepping up.”
Because the sad thing is, a lot of the folks who thrive in these cultures are the genuinely wretched ones who overestimate themselves in all the wrong ways – the moral equivalent of spammers, with a 0.03% response rate, but they’ll cheerfully try a thousand people with their terrible approach and it’ll never occur to them that maybe it’s time to change up their technique.
Meanwhile, genuinely nice people throw up their hands in despair because they’re not achieving a 10% success rate. And again, if you look at the number of swings-per-hit for the best baseball players in the world, it’s still frighteningly low. 10% may be too optimistic an estimate, particularly if you’ve got standards. It took me fifteen years of constant dating before I found the love of my life, and I consider that to be a pretty lucky catch.
You? You’re trying for life-changing things. That’s good. Life-changing things involve a lot of perseverance. So keep at it.
And know that yeah, it sucks. But it’s the only way to get to the good stuff.