"How Do I Get Past My Jealousy?": For Poly Newbies

Like pain, jealousy is a symptom – not a diagnosis. If you have a stabbing ache in your heel, it could be bone spurs, it could be the onset of Lou Gehrig’s disease, or maybe it’s time to take off the stiletto heels.
Jealousy tells you there’s a problem.
It does not tell you where that problem lies.
And when poly newbies ask me for advice, often they say, “How can I get past the jealousy?”
The big question is, should you?
Look. Sometimes the problem is your insecurity. Your partner has showered you with love and attention, you know they’d be there if you really needed them, and yet somehow now that they’re out on a date you feel insignificant and small.
Those times, the diagnosis is “handle it on your own.” Yeah, it’s tempting to interrupt your partner’s good times to ease your own ache – but tromp on your partner’s happiness enough and eventually they start to resent you. And generally, you want your partner to come back from a date and be happy to see you, swept up in multiple loves, rather than feeling like they’ve had a good evening and now must pay the cost with you.
As such, most good polyamorous relationships involve a couple of lonelier-than-you’d like nights while they’re out having fun.
(I suggest getting together with friends. Or planning your own dates! And remembering the nights your partner’s presumably at home when you’re out having fun, and repay their generosity with your own, whenever possible.)
Yet jealousy is like pain. And this relentless focus on “getting past jealousy” often allows monsters to thrive.
Because if this jealous pain signifies an actual problem, the last thing you wanna do is “get past” it. If you’re hurt because your live-in boyfriend stayed at someone else’s house without calling home first, the “suck it up and deal” approach actually is terrible terrible advice.
Sometimes, you’re jealous because someone did something that ignored your needs, or treated you as disposable, or shoved you aside in favor of someone else, and that’s not okay. “Getting past” that is like the guy with shooting chest pains sitting in his chair and going, “All right, let’s muscle past this.”
The truth is, handling jealousy in a polyamorous relationships – particularly beginning ones – is really fucking tough. You need to do is to have the maturity to say, “Okay. I am crawling with jealousy right now. Why is that?”
And the answers to that are knotted with paradox. Swing to one of the extremes, and you’re doomed.
You have to realize that not every spasm of jealousy is anyone’s fault. Accidents happen between good people. Looking for a whipping boy for every bad feeling of yours will lead to disaster…
…yet you have to realize that some spasms of jealousy are someone’s fault because they’re treating you badly, and this jealousy is a pain that signifies a disrespect you should not tolerate.
You have to interrogate your own needs to say, “Yes, I am not afraid to ask for the baseline standards I require to remain happy in this relationship.” Even if they’re silly, or seem stupid, or you can’t properly explain why you need these things from your partner…
…yet you have to be careful not to shovel endless partner-sacrifices into a gaping maw of jealousy that will never close over. You have to know yourself well enough to not fall prey to slicing your lover to death by a thousand cuts, endlessly promising that this new thing they cannot do will somehow ease your pain when it won’t.
You have to look at whether you told your partner this was okay for them to do, and not blame them for acting on a willingly-given permission for something you now regret…
…yet you have to look your partner in the eyes sometimes and say, “Yeah, I thought I was gonna be all right with this, and I’m not, so I’m not blaming you for what you did but man I can’t handle that happening again right now.”
You have to be a bare-knuckle advocate for your own needs, unafraid to throw elbows when you see something that’s required to keep you sane and functioning…
…yet you have to have compassion and empathy for not just your partner but your partner’s partners, refusing to treat them like human dolls to be moved about for your amusement, remembering that they also have needs and working to negotiate towards a center that makes everyone happy, not just you.
All of that’s complex. But it starts with saying this:
“I’m jealous.
“What does that mean?”

The Opposite Of "Unrealistic" Is Not "Gritty"

When I grew up, some moral guardians had the bright idea to “sanitize” kids’ shows.  They removed all violence – the Superfriends cartoon, infamously, would not allow the heroes to punch anyone, even villains, so Superman spent a lot of time plugging volcanoes with rocks and Batman spent a lot of his time with his thumb up his ass.
So the comics I read had no drugs.  No blood.  No swearing.  No heroes with bad attitudes, really.  No villains who ever won.  Just a steady stream of sunny outcomes.  Comics were for kids, man, and this is what kids needed.
So when people started writing adult superhero stories in the late 80s, of course they explored all the fallow areas that had been suppressed since the Seduction Of The Innocent scare of the 1950s.   Superheroes killed messily, and fucked, and fucked up, and swore, and met nasty endings.
Unfortunately, this sent a message to comics readers that the industry has never recovered from:
Happy is unrealistic. 
Depressing is reality.
And so there’s been a pressure in comics ever since to go bloodier, badder, bigger.  Anti-heroes are where it’s at – because people who’d stick to their moral tenets are childish.  Good characters get stuffed into fridges because callous murder is the only way to motivate someone, and really, isn’t brutally killing someone the act of a mature narrative?  The darker you can get, the better.
This has culminated in Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman, where Superman murdered his opponent in Man of Steel and now, apparently, Batman’s got no problem offing punks either.  Both heroes have blood on their hands, and it’s a dark grit-fest where people get tortured and slaughtered because hey, that’s how the world is.
The problem is, it’s not.
Look.  I like dark.  If you read my books, Flex starts with a daughter being hideously burned in a fire, The Flux has that same daughter being trained to kill by a sociopathic pyromaniac, and the upcoming Fix has a protagonist betraying everything they hold dear.  There’s plenty of downer moments in my books.
But life also holds moments of transcendent beauty, and if all you ever do is show dark then you’re just the polar opposite of those 1970s Superfriends shows – all graphic violence instead of no graphic violence.
I write huge, apartment-destroying magical battles in my ‘Mancer series, but what people remember are the donuts.  Because in the ‘Mancer series, donuts signify connections with other people – the weird laughter folks have even in the midst of total tragedy.  And the best narratives (not that I’m saying mine are) mix dark with light to create a chiaroscuro of happiness – the dark moments seem more frightening because we’ve had that ray of hope to cling to, and the happy endings seem more earned because we know this wasn’t some sanitized, preordained ending.
When it’s all dark, we’re staring at a flat black wall – maybe you can make that wall impressively large, as Snyder seems to have done, but eventually it all looks the same.
Sadly, Snyder and DC have inhaled the most childish idea about superheroes – that the opposite of “unrealistic” is “gritty.”  And they’re selling this concept with bold spectacle, which appeals to some people, but ultimately what you’re getting are not heroes, but “men with power.”  And there is a difference.
Snyder went on record at one point of saying that Superman had to kill someone, for how else would he know it was wrong?  And man, isn’t that a terrifying statement about cops, who each presumably must have a body buried somewhere to explain their being drawn to the law?
No.  What Snyder is doing is buying into the idea that every story must have a murder to be Mature, and mean joyless people are Grown-Up, and he’s Very Concerned with telling a story that’s Adult and Not Childish.  And sadly, he’s selling that joyless vision to DC at a time when Marvel is eating their lunch by telling stories about heroes who face the darkness and yet emerge triumphant.  (Don’t tell me The Winter Soldier isn’t dark and gritty when the Soldier is gunning down civilians on a highway as Captain America tries vainly to stop him.)
You have have your darkness.  Just leaven it.  Have a few honest laughs, a few characters you root for who don’t get tortured, a few moments of good men on the same side.
Trust me.  It’s a better story.
And before I go, let me quote an essay from Leftover Soup author Tailsteak, who says something very wise about Superman:

Okay, time for a controversial opinion about Superman. Ready? Here we go:
A haiku is not merely an art form – it is a puzzle. It is a challenge to fit what you’re trying to say into 5-7-5 as elegantly and naturally as possible. If you write a poem that’s 5-7-6, you have not created an ultrahaiku. You have not challenged a stodgy tradition in a bold and innovative way because you’re a rebel. You have failed at writing a haiku. Your poem may be beautiful and moving and a wonderful work of art, but it is a nonhaiku, and if you include it in a book with “HAIKU” on the cover, that cover is false advertising.
If you write a story about an alien superhero who – despite having near-infinite godlike powers – is placed into a situation in which he has no choice but to take a human life and then feel really really bad about it, you have failed at writing a Superman story. You aren’t a bold and creative rebel who’s defying tradition to show a world that’s dark and gritty because that’s what real life is really like. You are a failed writer who has failed to write a Superman story and your comic with Superman on the cover is false advertising.
Superman has effectively infinite strength and speed, so showing him fistfighting a robot or throwing a mountain into space is boring. Having him lose his powers and struggle to get them back is stupid. That’s why they’ve never made a decent Superman video game – they’ve all been action adventures.
A Superman story shouldn’t be an action adventure – let Batman and the other mortals have those. A Superman story should be a puzzle. Watching Superman thwart evil – without taking a human life or committing a crime or even telling a lie – should be like watching a man use a backhoe to repair a pocketwatch.

He’s correct, you know.

Hi. I Don't Want To Have Sex With You. But I'd Like To Hang Out, Somehow.

So I went to get my nails done the other day.  And next to me was this pretty blue-haired girl.
When I mentioned Harry Potter as part of my conversation with my manicurist, she perked up.  We all started talking together about Universal Studios and Disney and trivia quizzes about the best parts of Harry Potter, and then it was time to go and I fumbled about awkwardly and then left.
Somehow, saying, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE FRIENDS?” seemed weird to a total stranger.
And I had no ulterior motives.  I joked with my sweetie afterwards, who had gone with me, that I could have held her up as proof: “I’m full up on dating!  She’ll tell you! This isn’t about that!  You just… seem neat.”
But then I thought about navigating those weird waters, trying to say “This isn’t a date” when in fact that’s what every quote-unquote “nice guy” schmuck says when he’s hoping to sneak into somebody’s pants through the act of friendship, and watching her face as she determined my level of creep, and doing that in front of my manicurist and the whole staff, and….
I left.
And the truth is, it’s kind of hard to make friends.  There’s that awkward transition where you meet someone on a plane or at a bar, where you’ve enjoyed this conversation but you’re not quite sure whether this enjoyment extends to multiple engagements, and you’re worried you’re going to ruin this nice chat you’ve had by giving the foul aftertaste of  “Then he hit on me,” and so it’s easier to just leave it on the ground.
Gini says you gotta treat it like you’re six years old on the playground.  Just walk out across the sandbox, arms out, and shout: “WANNA PLAY?”  Which is great if you’re an extrovert and don’t mind embarrassment, but for me I often find myself thinking of people days later, wondering Hey, do they still think about me?  And if they did, how could I possibly find them?
I probably have potential friends scattered across America, hanging snippets of ten-minute conversations.  We connected, in those brief timeframes, but neither of us knew how to break that icy embarrassment of not wanting to intrude, not wanting to be eager.  And having been caught in a couple of awkward snafus where I was making polite conversation and someone wanted to be best buds, it’s not the worst thing to default to walking away.
Still.  She was nice.
We coulda hung.
Or at least I think we coulda.

My New Nails! Batman vs Iron Man vs Superman vs Captain Americaman

So as usual, I went to my Mad Manicurist Ashley with a challenge: “Batman vs. Superman is coming up. So is Captain America: Civil War. ENTER MY HANDS ONTO THIS BATTLEFIELD.”
And so she did!
Batman vs Iron Man vs Superman vs Captain America.
The smeared “pizzazz” nail in between Cap and Tony is, I think, my favorite.

The Photos, Left Behind

Yesterday, Dropbox mailed me: “Been three years sinceya logged in, son. Claim this account or lose it.”
I logged into a porno ghost town.
There was a folder – “Pictures” – which had no pictures. But it was owned by an ex-girlfriend of mine, and co-owned by a man she no longer dated.
That’s where she used to send us naughty pictures.
I found more folders, also of exes or people I had fallen out of touch with, which used to contain the sexy bits we sent to each other. I don’t know why I stopped using Dropbox for all of my long-distance sexin’ needs – I guess the iPhone’s just better equipped for remote horniness – but there were all the tatters of old intimacy strewn about an abandoned account.
I wondered what my exes still had of me.
I know if I love somebody sexually and remotely, we’ll be exchanging naughty bits together: I do audio snippets, there are videos made, photos exchanged, anything to stave off the loneliness of missing someone you crave physically. And that’s a healthy trade so long as the relationship blossoms, but…
There’s several exes of mine who may or may not possess these moments.
I mean, it’s courtesy to delete incrimidating evidence after a breakup – you don’t want to be one of those “revenge porn” assholes – but I’ve never specifically mandated, or requested it; I just assume my exes will be mature about this sort of thing, and so they have been. But there’s nothing stopping them from keeping my old sexiness as a memento, hauling them out occasionally when that old ache is keen, or bitterly listening to old promises and scorning their old naive selves.
And even if they do delete them, there’s the accidental erotic detritus still scattered about – that Dropbox, those old texts, that video you forgot you stashed there. My erotic self is fragmented, an old estate sold to passerby and left to rot in musty closets, the charge that had once driven us mad to kiss now this neglected bunch of 1s and 0s.
That feels weird, knowing that somewhere, in a computer, I’m demonstrating a passion I no longer feel. Yet it would feel like a weird loss, somehow, to have concrete proof that this last evidence of our connection has been extinguished.
Somewhere, there’s a digital archaeologist stumbling across old love letters, except here they’re sappy late-night text conversations that shade to carnal. There’s photos of me, and her, and perhaps us, that were never meant for public consumption. They meant something once.
Now they’re a ghost town, and it’s a sadness to hunt these Dropbox files down and click “Delete.” But I wouldn’t know what else to do with them.