Remembering the Reason for the Season

So now that Thanksgiving’s over and the leftovers in the fridge are slowly dwindling, it’s time to turn our attention to the upcoming holiday season. And I’d just like to take a minute to remind each of us to remember the *true* reason for this holiday.

With commercialization, and vacation scheduling, and all those other things, it can be easy for us to forget. Even the carols we listen to quickly become mere words, and we no longer remember their true import.

Think about it. Really. Those carols are not just empty words:

Up from the sea, from underground
Down from the sky, they’re all around
They will return: mankind will learn
New kinds of fear when they are here

The traditions we enjoy have a much deeper meaning, and one that we lose far too easily, I fear. The twinkling lights on the Christmas tree were originally there to remind us of the stars, and of the threat that looms like an ominous shadow over everything we love: on that winter solstice night when the stars are right, the Great Old Ones will awake from the slumber of death once more, to wreak destruction and terror on all mankind, exposing our existence for the hollow and purposeless shell it is.

We have no hope on that day but to pledge our souls in service to the Elder Gods, so that we may be devoured first, spared the long slow spiral down into gibbering madness.

So as the nights grow longer and the days grow shorter, take some time out of your hectic schedule to meditate on the coming of the Great Old Ones. Should the stars not align properly in the heavens this year, and humanity be granted yet another year of our tiny, meaningless existance before the Crawling Chaos covers us all, breathe a sigh and exchange presents with those close to you in thanks.

Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Ftaghn!


Back from Chicago. While I was there, dayo took me to a place that sells hot chocolate.

Now, this was not any ordinary place selling hot chocolate, mind you. Many places sell hot chocolate–Starbuck’s, grocery stores, even But this place offered hot chocolate that was different. Better. Beyond the ordinary. I knew something as up when I saw the sign outside the door. It proclaimed, in neon green dry erase marker on shiny blackness, “Our chocolate kicks more ass than Chuck Norris.”

The place was Coco Rouge.

More Steve Jobs than Steve Jobs, more ass-kicking than Chuck Norris

At some time in the past, the place now called Coco Rouge was an alleyway. The sort of alleyway a careless traveller might get rolled in. The building was tall and very narrow, lit by crystal chandeliers and red neon, very BladeRunner-esque. One wall was rough stone, the others polished concrete like the floor. The decor might be described as Late Twentieth Century Pretentious meets Postmodern Gone Mad…very minimalist, very chic, very Apple. Down, even, to the black mock turtlenecks worn by the vaguely pretty, vaguely multicultural but in a non-threatening sorta way staff who took my order, and rung it up on an enormous antique mechanical cash register polished ’til it gleamed like a Terminator exoskeleton.

This was a hot chocolate place from an alternate future, a place like what Starbuck’s might have been in a version of reality where Apple, not Microsoft, ruled the earth.

I chose the house special. Select dark chocolates, it said, bitter and only slightly sweet, blended together to perfection.

Now, from that description, and the reference to Chuck Norris outside, I expected a well and good ass-kicking. You know, the chocolate equivalent of being hit over the head with blunt object and dragged off into some dark corner somewhere. I expected to wake up in an alleyway with a concussion and my wallet missing. That seemed reasonable, I thought, from dark chocolate, bitter and only slightly sweet, delivered in an insulated glass mug that looked solid enough to hit someone.

What I got was something else entirely.

The first sip didn’t blast me with Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! and also, Chocolate! The first taste was surprisingly subtle, complicated, with several distinct chocolate notes and none of the cloying sweetness and slightly burnt flavor you get from cheap hot chocolate powder. It was, in other words, very good hot chocolate.

Another sip. Definitely dark chocolate, heavy and brooding, with an understated hint of mayhem. This hot chocolate did not hit me over the head and rifle through my pockets; it seduced me, charmed me, lured me out into the alley on my own. Less work, you see, if you don’t have to drag your victim.

By the time I was nearly finished, I realized that I had been sacked by chocolate, so deftly and so subtly I didn’t even see it coming. No, this was not the chocolate equivalent of blunt-force trauma; this chocolate was more like the experience you get when you meet an exotic stranger in a bar, share a deep and intoxicating kiss, and before you know it you’re waking up in an alley with your pants down around your ankles and your wallet nowhere to be found. No concussion–that’s much to declassé–but you still have no idea how you got there, or how you’re going to explain it to your partner back home.

All in all, a mighty fine hot chocolate.

Calling upon the community for help…

So, as many of you folks know, I have a number of different Web sites, one of which is aw SymToys. That’s the Web site where I have Onyx, the sex game I’ve developed, and I also have a bunch of BDSM tutorials and that kind of stuff there as well.

One part of the site I thought would be an interesting experiment is Whispers, which is a place that people can talk about sexual fantasies. I’ll admit to a small, teensy bit of an ulterior motive for putting it up; if it gets enough content, it might act as a way to keep people coming back to the site. But more than that, I thought it might be an interesting experiment in applied sociology.

It got some content early on, but it’s not received many postings recently, even though it does get a fairly high number of page views (typically a few hundred visitors a day). I suspect that part of the reason it doesn’t get a lot of contributors is a kind of chicken-or-egg thing; if folks don’t see a lot of other people contributing, they’re less likely to contribute themselves. And the things that have been submitted so far tend to follow the same general theme, probably because people go with stuff similar to what’s already there.

So, I’m calling on the combined creativity of my friends list. If you’d like, visit the Whispers submission page and contribute something yourself! When i say it’s anonymous, I mean it’s really anonymous–I don’t even track visitor IP addresses in the submissions form.

Some thoughts on sex and relationship

Count von Count as a metaphor for passion

All of life can be placed on a continuum, with Count von Count on one end and the Cookie Monster1 on the other.

The Cookie Monster loves cookies, and Count von Count loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But the nature of their love is much, much different. Cookie Monster is all animal passion in his love; he stuffs all the cookies in his mouth all at once, and doesn’t even care that the crumbs all go flying out. There is no reason, no sanity, in his love. It’s am explosive, fiery love, a love that consumes everything it touches.

The Count, on the other hand, lines up his PB&Js, and counts them. Then he eats one, and counts them again. He knows how many are left, but that doesn’t matter. For him, the love of his PB&Js is a cerebral thing. He savors the process. He draws out his passion, delighting in the intellectual joy.

I am very Count von Count about sex. I love savoring it, I love drawing it out, intellectualizing it, drawing in and tasting my lover’s responses.

“Oh God oh God oh God I’m going to–”
“No, you’re not. Not yet. Perhaps I will just…move…slower. Or maybe…”
“Pleaseohpleaseohplease I need to I need to!”
“What do you need to do?”
“Oh pleaseJesusGodI’msoclosepleasepleaseplease!”
“You are, are you? So if I just do THIS…”
“…or maybe press just a little bit harder, like THIS…”
“…or perhaps move a little bit more, like THIS…”

And amazingly enough, I have partners who keep coming back. Even when I start off a session by saying things like “I’m going to hurt you now. You can scream if you want to.”

I had the opportunity to accompany feyscorruption to a play party recently, and she, too, keeps coming back. I’m not yet quite sure what sort of relationship she and I are building, but so far it’s different in kind from most of the relationships I’ve built in the past…or at least it feels that way to me.

In the past, I was in a long-term poly/mono relationship with a partner who, I think, never fully trusted me (or at least, never fully trusted polyamory), and seemed to me to believe that if she didn’t keep me on a pretty short leash I’d end up running all over the place.

At that time, I generally seemed to stabilize at about three relationships. For a very long time, I was involved with her, feorlen, and a partner M, and things remained that way for quite some time. Longer, in fact, than the median lifespan for conventional marriages in the US which end in divorce.

After my marriage ended, I still seemed to stabilize at three relationships; Shelly, joreth, and serolynne. At least for a while.

Since I’ve moved to Atlanta, though, things have changed rather a lot, and become rather a lot less well-defined.

On epiphanies and habits

My past displays a reason
The past displays a cause
And I know that we will never be the same
‘Cause it’s the elements that make us who we are

My path betrays my reason
My hope betrays my cause
And if I ever find a way
You know I’d follow through, I’d carry on
But the elements have made us who we are

Shortly after I moved to Atlanta, I met figment_j. She was quite a surprise to me; but then, the people in my life often are. One could argue that it’s because I have never once gone out seeking a partner, and rather keep myself open to whatever connections form on their own; looked at another way, it could be argued that I’m reactive rather than proactive in relationship.

Shortly after we connected, she moved to New Jersey. Our relationship seemed to falter after that, in part because I’m not really good at long-distance relationships.

Cue the irony here; all of my relationships are currently long distance, some more long distance than others. Yeah, I know. Polyamorous and multi-partnered and all of my partners are a ways away. I’m doing it wrong.

Part of the problem is that I’m very unstructured in my life–so unstructured that accidentally clicking on a link to Google Calendars has been known to cause me fourteen points of aggravated damage. I Just Don’t Do Structure. She and I communicate differently, and for whatever reason, the things she needed to feel valued felt to me like obligations, which made it difficult for me to provide them. In the end, I think she did not feel valued by me, and we sort of called the whole thing off.

So there I was, on my way back from playing with feyscorruption at two o’clock in the morning, with the moon grinning down like a Cheshire cat at me, and I was (what else?) processing. Count von Count, and all that. And it occurred to me, I don’t really assert my needs in relationship.

I do talk about needs in relationship, and I do ask my partners about their needs in relationship. In fact, feyscorruption and I have had a conversation about what she’s available for.

But, y’know, saying “What are you available for in relationship?” is not the same thing as saying “I would like a relationship with you.” It seems the same to me, because (at least from my perspective) I wouldn’t ask a person I wasn’t interested in a relationship with, and the subtext of “What are you available for in relationship?” sounds to me like “I would like a relationship with you,” but the two still aren’t the same.

And interestingly, that very night figment_j called me, and let me know that the door was still open to a relationship with me.

In my past, there were certain things that were most definitely Not Okay in the context of my old relationship. Proactively seeking out new partners and making myself available for big-R Relationships with them definitely Was On That List Of Not Okay.

Problem was, I was available for relationship, so when they formed (and they did), those relationships tended to be Not Okay, too.

Now, I learned some bad lessons from this. One of the lessons I learned was that being reactive rather than proactive in relationship was a Good Thing. I’ve never developed, and still don’t have, a good set of tools for laying out the boundaries of my romantic relationships; instead, I tend to follow my partners’ lead, and allow my partners to shape and form the path the relationship will take. That passivity is a bug, not a feature, in the environment I live in now.

As I’m fond of saying, habits can become ruts, paths that we take simply because at some point we stop seeing any other way.

On choices and consequences

you are so far from home…

They turn me alone, not today
In you, this void just goes away
In this distant foreign land
I won’t be forgotten

Complicated, I know; life’s this way
And you’re half the world away
And my hold’s slipping from your hand
As I walk you to the gate

It’s also a feature, too, this lack of proactivity in relationship. It give me flexibility.

When I met Shelly, I saw in her things I had never seen in anyone before. I recognized so many things I valued on such a deep level that it felt like being struck by lightning. Even her recognition of the Void resonated with me.

I did not know, of course, how profoundly my connection with her would change everything. Nor did I know that Shelly was a dragonslayer; to be honest, I don’t believe she did, either. That recognition has been extraordinarily expensive, and at the same time a gift beyond all price. There is in her a passion, as methodical as the Count and as fiery as the Cookie Monster’s, and every time I am reminded of it I am awed and humbled by it.

There is not any part of life that Shelly does not live with passion, and there is not part of life that Shelly does not face with an unflinching, razor-sharp intellectual honesty. She probed and prodded the weak spots in my relationships, the thousand little compromises I’d made and the choices I’d made without consciously being aware I’d made them. There are, I think, few people who can stand up to that relentless probing and pushing; it is no accident that she has often been surrounded by people who are not like her and do not understand the value she brings.

Eventually, there came a time when the pushing and probing of the fault lines in the life i had built led to a tiny earthquake, far beneath the water, an almost imperceptible slip of those faults.

Even the smallest of seismic shifts can create a wave, deep underwater, that presents itself as no more than a ripple on the surface, a few inches high…yet when it reaches the shoreline, is revealed for the gargantuan tidal wave it is. Wen that wave surfaced, it altered the landscape forever. There are certain compromises I will never make again, and I believe I am a better person for it.

That is the gift beyond price Shelly gave me–the tools to remake my life in a way that allows me to be who I am.

Our relationship today looks nothing like it did when it began four years ago. She has set herself down a path that has re-forged her in the fires of her own passion. The life of a dragonslayer is not an easy one. We no longer live together, and I rarely see her these days. In almost every important way, she is no longer the person she was when I met her.

I am flexible in relationship. A relationship that came attached with expectations would have, I think, become brittle and fractured by now. But our relationship, because it is allowed to be whatever is is, today is as strong as it has ever been. Time and distance don’t matter. I have, over the past four years, been able to watch her unfold and blossom, and I feel uniquely privileged and honored to be able to be part of that.

In the past, I have generally tended to stabilize at about three relationships. Today, I have somewhere between four and six, depending on how one defines the word “relationship.” Over the past year, I’ve been forced to examine many of the most basic assumptions I make about sex and relationship, and to learn skills that I have never needed before.

And in all of that, there is a sense that distance does matter. Distance makes it seductively easy to continue to add partners, almost indefinitely; because I live alone, and because any long-distance partnership necessarily imposes limits on the time and attention which I can make available to someone, there seems to be a vast amount of unused potential for relationship that is not touched by my current partnership arrangements.

Back to sex

I’mm drawing your lines with my hands
I’m weaving the dream that never ends
I don´t play hide and seek with you, dear
when i touch you

You know that you love it
You need it
For sure

Aiming fingers searching secret pleasures
Roaming where your river seems so deep
you know I’m going on
i like the song you’ll sing for me
when i touch you…

I am very Count von Count when it comes to sex. So much, in fact, that I quoted Francis Bacon during a conversation about sex with feyscorruption recently.

Okay, so that’s a little over the top, perhaps. Particularly when the conversation came as it did on the heels of a different conversation with a very charming woman who may identify herself if she so chooses which included lines like “I am going to take you now. You may come if you want to, but there are rules. You are only allowed to come if it hurts. Now, be a good girl and ask me to rape you.” (Yes, the people in my life have some very interesting and exotic tastes. Yes, I share those tastes.)

We live in a society that promotes a virulent and particularly destructive, I think, double standard about sex. Men who have a number of partners are studs; women who have a number of partners are tramps and whores. The conversation touched on that double standard a bit; women who embrace their sexuality openly, enthusiastically, often run the risk of losing the respect of the people around them, because, y’know, good girls just don’t do that sort of thing.

There’s another irony there, at least with me, because, you see, I am more likely, not less likely, to respect any person who embraces all of himself or herself, and who makes conscious, deliberate choices about what to be, even when (or especially when) those choices run counter to the generally accepted ways to live.

Next week, I leave to spend thanksgiving with dayo. I have not seen her in a long time; in fact, our relationship is nearly a year old at this point (almost exactly a year old, depending the point at which one might choose to call it a “relationship”), and these past couple of months have been the longest time we have gone since the relationship began that we have not seen each other.

I could not, two years ago, have predicted the path that would led to her life intersecting with mine. And at this point, I can not imagine my life without her in it.

There’s a saying: “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you will know exactly what to do.” The part that saying gets wrong is in failing to understand that sometimes, it may be some or all of the above. I have been blessed, in my life, to be able to share some part of it with all of the people who’ve touched it; and I’ve been particularly blessed with being able to share it with people who have been there for a reason, a season, and a lifetime. dayo is, I believe, quite possibly all of these.

However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to do some very dirty, very evil things to her poor hapless naked body when I get my hands on it.

1Yes, I know he’s now the Vegetable Monster, and that “cookies are a sometimes thing.” Blasphemy, it is. Edit: So apparently, rumors of the Cookie Monster’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Whew!

The Internets are working at the new apartment! Yay!

This is one of a very, very few friends-only posts I’ve made…in fact, I think it’s the second.

So Thursday I did an interview with a writer for WebMD about polyamory. The article, which to my knowledge isn’t finished yet, will supposedly be on the front page of the Web site when it’s done.

I discovered that I’ve done these interviews often enough now that I can pretty much predict how they’ll go. Initially, the writer said it’d take 15-20 minutes, which I knew was a bit ambitious; it ended up taking nearly an hour.

There’s a sort of standard flow to an interview about polyamory given by a person who’s not at all familiar with it. Usually, they start out using terms like “polyamory,” “open marriage,” “open relationship, and sometimes “swinging” interchangeably, which prompts a brief segue down the road of “polyamory can be seen as one type of open relationship, sort of, but not all poly relationships are open and not all open relationships are polyamorous.”

From that point comes a list of questions about the interviewee:

“How long have you been polyamorous?”
“How many partners do you have?”
“Do your partners know about each other?”
“Have your partners met each other?”
“What do you mean, they like each other?”
“You and your partners hang out with each other and do things together???!!
“Your partners have OTHER BOYFRIENDS?
“And you like them???!!!!11!!11!”
“Don’t you get jealous?”

From there, things generally move into Phase II of the interview:

“Do you think everyone should be polyamorous?”
“What makes you want more than one girlfriend?”
“Why isn’t one person enough?”
“Of your girlfriends, which one is your main girlfriend?”
“I’ve heard polyamorous people have ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ partners. Which one is your primary?”
“Which one do you want to live with?”
“Do you have group sex?”
“Do you ever think you’ll settle down?”

That generally brings us into Phase III, which is:

“What about children? Isn’t it confusing for children?”
“I talked to someone who said he broke up with a polyamorous partner. Doesn’t that mean polyamory doesn’t work?”
“What do you get out of being polyamorous?”

I’ve made this post friends-only because it often happens that people who ask me for interviews have read my journal first. Im not trying to ridicule the questions that I’m usually asked; that’s not actually the point here at all.

Instead, I think these questions serve to illuminate just how deeply ingrained cultural ideas about sex and relationship are. These interviews inevitably take more than 15-20 minutes because in many cases it takes longer than that just to deconstruct the assumptions behind the questions to the point where the answer is intelligible. I also think it’s interesting that cultural ideas about sex and relationship are so much a part of a person’s background understanding of the world that even completely different people, having no contact at all with one another, giving interviews in different formats at different times for different types of publications, will ask more or less the same pattern of questions in more or less the same order.

When interviews about polyamory appear on the Web, one can expect the same pattern of comments and responses, too.

One of the things that consistently strikes me when I view reader response to a Web article about polyamory is how much the responses say, not about polyamory, but about the person making them. We all tend to re-create the world in our own image; “I think this is wrong because it is inevitable that someone will get jealous” translates, for example, to “I personally would be jealous, and can not conceive that another person might not be.”

The things we do to entertain ourselves…

Over the past six weeks or so, I’ve been playing a very long, very slow game of chess with the founder of the company I work with. He has a chessboard in his office, you see, and while I was in his office one day talking to him, I moved p-k4. He responded a few days later.

He’s not usually in Atlanta. Typically, he spends four or five days up here and the res of his time down in Florida. For the past few weeks, he’s been making a move each time he comes up for a visit, and I’ve been answering after he leaves. I’m playing a very conservative game; I have no idea how strong a player he is, but his opening defense (Sicilian) shows that at the very least he has studied the game to some extent.

I fully expect him to well and truly kick my ass; the man is brilliant, and if he’s as good at chess as he is at everything else he’s studied, he will probably be a formidable player indeed. Time will tell.

Though I didn’t come here to talk about chess. I came here to talk about moving.

Yes, I am moving. I’ve found another apartment about ten minutes from my current one, which is the same size and considerably cheaper. It’s also laid out very differently–tiny bedroom (which is totally dominated by my enormous cast-iron king-sized canopy bed), huge living room. The huge living room is a nice feature. I have a loft, and until now my computer desk has been beneath the loft. The new living room is large enough for me to put the computer desk next to the loft, which opens the possibility of doing suspension bondage beneath the loft–something that joreth has been interested in pursuing lately.

But, during this move, I violated my own prime and hard-won lesson: I rented from U-Haul.

U-haul sucks. You know U-Haul sucks. I know U-Haul sucks. But planning is not in my nature, and when I found myself with a very short time in which to procure a truck, I chose the path of least resistance (hah!) and rented a truck from U-Haul.

Now, I’m used to U-Haul’s cumbersome rental procedures, their overpriced moving supplies, and their creaky and oft poorly-maintained trucks. What I was not prepared for, however, was the accelerator cable to snap off the gas pedal while I was backing the truck into the new apartment, nor for the screw holding the gas pedal to just kind of cease to do its job. One does not, gentle reader, normally expect to step on the gas in a motor vehicle and have the gas pedal just fall off beneath one’s foot and start flopping around in the footwell.

Of course, thanks to aforementioned inability to plan my way out of a paper bag, I was doing this at roughly midnight-thirty Eastern time, when (a) U-Haul is not readily and speedily available and (b) it’s dark. Nor did I have a flashlight handy, which meant that (a) I had to fix the truck myself (b) in the dark.

It’s a good thing I rock like a rocky thing, else I’d likely still be there.

I was not able to move everything from the old place to the new, though the big stuff requiring the use of a truck was finished. That means that I am looking pretty for actually finishing the move, as I have until Wednesday to be completely cleared out of the old place.

And that brings us back to chess.

I expect the company’s founder to make a move today r tomorrow, to answer the one I recently made. The reason I expect this is that all the company’s principles will be in Atlanta tomorrow, for a very large meeting with certain Unnamed Persons upon which, I am gravely told, The Future Of The Company May Rest. This meeting requires a great deal of work on my part, as I will be doing the materials which will be presented.

“Franklin,” I was told not half an hour ago, “eat lunch late tomorrow. For the rest of the week, be prepared to be at the office until Unreasonably Late.”

Which poses a bit of a dilemma, as you might imagine. You see, among the week’s activities must be Moving The Rest Of My Shit and Cleaning Of The Old Apartment. Which I will, apparently, be able to do only between the hours of O’Fuck Thirty and O’Fuck Forty in the AM, over the next couple of days.

You know what I like about Fate?

That’s not a rhetorical question. If anyone can think of a thing I like about Fate, I’d love to hear it, ’cause I’m kinda drawing a blank here.

I slept at the new apartment last night. This morning, I got up bright (hah!) and early this morning to find that the pilot light in my gas water heater had mysteriously been snuffed out, and I had no hot water.

It’s gonna be that kind of week. I want pie.

Whee! I made Carnival of the Godless!

My post on why I’m an optimist made it onto this month’s Carnival of the Godless, a biweekly roundup of blog posts and articles related to atheism. I’m #2 on the list, and just above some entries on Greta Christina’s blog, which if you’re not reading you should be.

I first encountered Greta Christina’s blog via datan0de. joreth did likewise, and from her blog found the Carnival of the Godless. She sent me the link, I thought it was teh awesome, and now they’ve linked to something I wrote. Small world, eh?