My Holidays, My Family, My Way

In just a few weeks, my partner and I will pack up our car and begin our annual road trip south for the holidays.  It has become our tradition and something that I just couldn’t imagine not doing.  But when I tell people that we are doing this, the very first question I get asked is, “oh are you going to go visit family?”.  Well, let me just preface this by saying, my partner and I are a family.  For us, Christmas isn’t a time for visiting our family.  It is a time for us.  We go down there because we love it, it gives us a chance to relax, do whatever we want without any obligations and simply to have just a total and complete reset.  It is our Christmas Vacation, on our terms,

It’s funny though the looks you get from friends and acquaintances who just cannot imagine ever not spending the holidays with their family.  It is almost a moral obligation.  We are outsiders, again, straying from the norm.  Here’s a familiar term within my blog, I am once again an outlier in the way I do things.  Just because you have always spent time with your family does not mean that you have to continue to do that.

In my immediate family, the holidays were about obligation, and stress.  It was about dividing time between families, and scheduling dinners, and basically pleasing everyone but myself.  I was informed that I was only allowed to make my own holiday traditions once I had children of my own.  Until then, I was on everybody else’s clock.  And for a while, I was compliant.  I spent my 20’s just driving from house to house, having quick little visits and then heading home craving that celebratory drink, thankful that I survived another year without tears or having huge blowouts with certain family members.  Writing this, I honestly cannot believe I actually tolerated this way of spending the holidays for so long.  Especially knowing what I know now.  The holidays can actually be really fun, relaxing and completely drama and stress free if you choose to do it that way, and you better believe that I do.

I love many things about Christmas.  I love watching movies, baking cookies, and drinking all the Christmas cheer I can get my hands on.  I love getting dressed up for the parties, and wishing happy holidays to strangers on the street, and just the general joy that seems to be in the air.  It has a sense of wonderment and magic that makes me so happy.  But I also appreciate that I can do all those things completely obligation free when I am far away from those that have kept me locked in tradition for so long.

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Last year, we had our entire campground to ourselves for Christmas and spent the morning drinking beer, taking sexy photos and just enjoying each other’s company and the sunshine.  In the evening we got invited to a potluck for all the people who didn’t have family that year, and my goodness it was amazing!  Everyone was so thankful to be there, that Christmas cheer was overflowing.  There was absolutely zero dinner stress.  There was no bickering, no drunk aunt that was going to say something offensive and possibly ruin the rest of the night.  There was no secret sign between partners as to when the appropriate time to make your leave was going to be.  There was absolutely zero, and I mean zero drama or even a hint of it.

That is how I choose to spend my holidays.  That is how I want to celebrate this joyous time of year.  That is why I have zero qualms about driving for nearly 30 hours at a time to arrive at this little peace of tranquil perfection.  I firmly believe that the relationships in your life should enrich you in some way.  We cannot choose our family, but we absolutely have a choice in how we spend our time, and with whom.  Even if you feel the overwhelming obligation or guilt this year, try and remember to take a little time for yourself.  Spend authentic time with those that are important to you this holiday.  And perhaps you will be lucky enough to have the mindset spill over into the rest of the year.

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Money and Relationships

AKA The Adage of Never Mix Business with Pleasure: Relationship Edition

I doubt there is a person out there who has never heard the warnings against mixing business with pleasure.  Announcing plans on going into a financial partnership with your best friend will elicit gasps, dire warnings, and a whole barrage of “never do that” anecdotes.  It’s a very simple concept to grasp, when finances are involved the relationship will suffer at one point or another, and very often erupt into irreconcilable differences that sever the friendship.  Ok, so we all agree that this adage is well known, and is ripe with a million and one examples?

Then how the hell are relationships supposed to survive this very thing.  Mixing sex, love, a partnership with the obvious financial merging of two people is supposed to be taboo (never sleep with a coworker as an example).  Something that we are supposed to avoid in friends but have zero choice about in long term relationships.  Does anyone else find this mind-numbingly insane?  Instead of teaching partners on any level about how to do this legally or otherwise we completely and almost universally clam up about this.  It’s almost as if society seems grateful that two people can share financial difficulties as a unit and solidly behind closed doors.  It takes the public pressure off of this glaring deficit in our societal norms.  There is no medium for dealing with these things.  Instead we completely remove finances from the public discourse, very similarly to the way we avoid talking about sex in public.  And the bottom line for me is that the subject of money is my weakest link.

I, feel great shame talking about debt.  I feel even worse feeling like a financial burden on my partner and would love to continue just avoiding the whole conversation.  And yet, there is simply no way to separate the money from the relationship for any length of time.  It’s impossible.

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And it freaking sucks!  Money should not be the cause of such a high divorce rate in our culture.  And there should not be a gender gap when it comes to income earning and I could honestly just go on and on about all the crappy reasons and excuses that I can to explain why I feel so lost and helpless at this very moment.  I’m struggling to understand how two people, who are supposed to be partners can survive if there is financial disparity.  Is it up to one to be burdened by the guilt of the other?  Are the two just supposed to accept the past mistakes and help each other move forward?  Or as in my case, is my extreme stubbornness to fix my own mistakes and problems going to be the detriment of the most amazing relationship that I have ever had?

These aren’t easy questions to ask, and even harder to answer.  But ultimately that’s where you end up when things in your culture, society or even household are taboo.  You end up in what feels like a no-win scenario.  Wishing you could fix things with the snap of a finger or press the magic reset button that will allow you to move forward without having to face the music head on.  I’m talking about money and relationships because it is hard and scary, especially for me.  I am clawing my way up from debt one day at a time.  That is my mission and mandate.  And most importantly, my promise to myself.  And someday, I hope that this small step forward will lead me to be able to more openly discuss my finances, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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What to Tolerate as a Sex Positive Blogger?

As I went through my comment feed today (on the blog and twitter) I was struck by a strange feeling that I have become desensitized to a lot of the crappy comments I have to deal with, and I really don’t know how to feel about that. I am on a personal mission to share my experiences in non-monogamy and the communication growth that I have gained during this time. I share things about my life, my experiences, perspectives, and even the sex positive body image that I feel more often than not. I put myself out there, not to brag or gain notoriety, but instead to work through my thoughts and feelings while at the same time earnestly trying to help others going through something similar. But the thing of it is, whenever you post something online you are opening yourself up to the good, bad and the ugly.

And today, I was struck by just how unimportant the trolling has become to me. Even 6 months ago, I recall talking to @huntergash on gtfo about how much the trolls were basically ruining the online experience. I remember feeling enraged, and passionate about the subject. And now? I feel almost numb. As if, I no longer care about trying to educate or enlighten these trolling and aggressive anonymous beings. And it feels incredibly weird.

With everything going on politically right now, I guess it’s almost fitting that I feel less like my voice matters or will be heard with the correct people. As much as I try and funnel those who just want to look and not glean anything from my writing to the appropriate channels (Patreon), I still get a barrage of inappropriate comments on a seemingly daily basis. And I find myself lazily muting, or blocking them, rather that responding. Is that in part because I am much busier with life than I was 6 months ago? Or perhaps are they “winning” so speak, in that I am accepting their presence as part of publicly posting? Or is there something else that I haven’t quite thought of or just won’t admit to myself quite yet. Maybe, just maybe, it is too daunting a task to educate strangers.

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Case and point. Have you ever known someone who has been overly aggressive or sexual in person, only to find that on social media they brag about how they have never been that guy and are disgusted by the men who belittle women? And did you feel helpless to call them out? Or a gut wrenching conflict to out their behaviour thereby stooping to a level they may understand? Or did you just ignore and reconsider if your memory of past behaviour was even accurate? I ask these questions publicly because I am struggling to define my role right now. I feel like my voice is falling on deaf ears. There is no educating new readers, rather, people skim and agree with the parts they like and ignore the parts they don’t. No one wants to question themselves or ask the tough questions. Have I in the past behaved inappropriately and am I willing to admit that and grow, change or even just asking questions?

I love blogging, and being public. But the reality is that it feels less important than it did in the past. It feels like the conversation is over, and people read what they like and dismiss the rest. There is no challenge of opinions or desire to better ourselves. Should I go back to scolding strangers who violate my trust and sex positive outlook? Or do I continue my latest trend of just ignoring? Honestly, it feels so challenging right now to continue the dialogue of a sex positive nature and balance the outright stupid comments with those of my incredible resources, fellow sex positive bloggers and fans.

Sharing My Opinions and the Current Radio Silence

The first few years of non-monogamy, I felt unsure.  I had zero clue what I was doing, wanted, and therefor no voice.  I made mistakes, and when I would try and write about them, it just came out fuzzy and convoluted.  I wrote as a girl experiencing something new for the first time, but with a fragile and timid voice.  Sitting here now, writing the “big” story for the first time, I realize, with complete humility, that I found my voice.  The writing style has progressed and that scared and timid girl is no longer a part of me.  It is so crazy looking back and seeing the complete change in identity and voice that I have found.  It almost feels like I was searching for my strength and identity through my blog for so many years that I barely noticed when I switched from it being my safety net, to a real part of my identity.  And this goes beyond my writing, because in the past few months, I have actively shared my opinions and views that I did not first test out in writing.  And I was doing it without even realizing it.  I have gained a voice beyond my blog, and it is as exhilarating as it is a little strange, to be sharing my opinion on non-monogamy.

Why though does this matter?  Why am I writing about finding my voice?  Well, simply put, there has arisen an interesting reaction or rather, a radio silence.  Some people in my life, are extremely off put by me having opinions.  It was one thing for me to just write about my journey, and question the things going on around me.  As it turns out, it is quite another for me to voice my opinions about societal changes, or my views on relationships.  I’m accepted if I am just a wanderer questioning and exploring, but hot damn, coming to conclusions of my own is polarizing for my readers.  It’s a pill that cannot easily be swallowed.  And rather than just talking to me about things, asking questions or even engaging in a little discourse, it’s much easier to just run away or ignore me.

When did our society get so scared of conflict or a difference of opinions?  If you don’t like a particular subject or opinion of someone, do you just block and ignore them altogether?  Can we not reconcile a way to engage with a person who thinks a little differently than us?  It seems we are so afraid of offending others that we are losing the ability to actually communicate.  Yes, it is easier to just close a tab when you read something you don’t like, but guess what?  There is nothing gained, or learned by just walking away.  There is everything to learn by asking yourself why are you offended or uncomfortable.  Is it due to your preconceptions, biases, or perhaps even a word just sets you off?

I don’t love the feeling of being scoffed or shamed, but it feels much worse, when I am ignored and cut out because I share an opinion.  It’s not a very inspiring feeling.  But, unfortunately that is a part of our social climate right now, that I have to come to terms with.  If someone disagrees, the chances of me hearing about it are sitting at about 2 percent.  Whereas when I began my blog over 7 years ago, I was sitting at about 20 percent of people who were willing to have a conversation with me or engage and share a different perspective.  And as a writer it is little lonely having all this radio silence.

I move forward, knowing that I have earned my opinions, of which I know I have many.  And when I share them, I am not looking for validation or even really like minded souls to engage with, but I do very much appreciate the brave souls who are willing to at the very least think about what I have said.  But this is merely an assumption that I make based on the readership and clicks, because beyond that, I hear crickets on my end.  Perhaps this is something that I will just have to mentally prepare myself for when my book comes out.  I no longer believe that no news is good news, because as I am learning, no news often means that people just don’t have the capacity to disagree or engage.  We are afraid of offending and it is paralyzing our ability to communicate.

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Social Media Versus Reality: Gender

I saw a tweet on Father’s Day, that basically asked you not to wish dad’s a happy father’s day if you are not sure of their preferred pronoun.  And well, this got me thinking…

Every time I take a social media break and get out into the real world I am stunned by the dichotomy of the two worlds.  And specifically I am talking about gender.  While I will not claim to be any sort of expert when it comes to all the gender diversity, I am certainly one who likes to have an open mind and always learn more.  I try to write with a less male/female vernacular, and I do attempt to employ the “softer” tones of they or them when it makes the words flow a little more naturally.  I do this, mostly because I want my writing to be relatable.  I want people to seamlessly put themselves in my shoes or gauge a new perspective free of the gender limits.  And while I cannot promise to always get it correct, I am happy to have a broader voice that appeals to more people.

With that in mind, I sometimes forget just how staggeringly different the real world is.  Social media is this idealized bubble of how society should be, mixed with trolls and outliers for a strange balance.  It works in a weird way.  I feel secure in my views and fairly happy that I am surrounded by so many sex positive and open minded individuals, even though I have no clue what many of them look like, (thanks social media).  We get along on a level that is interesting and often educational for me.  And that is in stark contrast to the realities of the offline world.

Take for example washrooms.  The online world makes it seem like genderless washrooms are becoming more and more common place and are an inclusive, amazing steps for businesses, schools and events to start incorporating.  And in the social media bubble, I am all for it.  No one should ever feel shamed for using the restroom.  But then, I get out into the real world and remember that going to the bathroom in front of people is absolutely awful!  I do not like peeing in front of women, so how in the hell could I comfortably do that with all genders in the same space?  Oh, wait… I do.  In many swing clubs, they have a bathroom where both men and women can go together to ensure that partners do not unnecessarily get separated from each other.  So, the reality is I have been doing this for years.  And yet, in the normal day to day setting, it feels uncomfortable and just plain wrong to do.  Especially in the workplace or in educational facilities. But a swing club is like a little invite only bubble, just as social media is.  Maybe in some future reality bodily functions won’t be such a big deal.  But today, in the here and now, I do not enjoy public washrooms!

So, let’s look at another example.  Using social media, I again try to use an inclusive voice.  I work hard to be mindful of my diverse network of people.  And in doing so, I try and catch myself when I call out men or women for bad behaviour.  I make many attempts to broaden my finger pointing and use words like people, or humans or really anything that removes gender.  But, the real world is a stark contrast from this online community.   I won’t lie, it’s so refreshing to sit down with a girlfriend and bitch about all the ways men and women are different.  To talk about gender in the workplace and just how lopsided even something as benign as dress code is.  For you see, the workplace is not an open and genderless environment.  Perhaps someday it will be, but right now, we are not even close to that.  It is polarized.  Men do this, wear this, talk like this, and women have their own rules for behaviour, dress and acceptable language they can use.

Gender exists all around us.  We see men who hold open doors, believe in being chivalrous, and always pay on a first date.  We see women getting dolled up, wearing high beautiful heels, and acting in a way that opens the door for me to take care of them.  If you go to a bar, you see men talking crash and crude, objectifying women.  And you see women gossiping and bitching for hours on end over a few bottles of wine.  Men work the physically challenging roles, and drink beer to unwind.  And the ladies, well, they are the nurses, the teachers and the caregivers.  Will this change?  Of course it will.  We are constantly evolving.  But when you talk on social media forums, it feels like men and women are being shamed for doing things that feel natural to their specific genders.  And we must remember that that is not healthy either.  It takes time to undo decades of gender roles and our socialization.  And truly, I don’t see a problem with maintaining a certain level of division, so long as there is a place to include those who want to break free of their moulds.

We are living in a polarized real world society, with the online community providing us an ideologized space.  There are going to be clashes as we figure this all out.  But if I can offer one peace of advice, just be open, understanding and inclusive wherever possible.  Don’t get too stressed out about calling people him/her/they/them.  Just be kind and respectful if you are ever corrected.  This is going to take time to figure out a system that works for as many people as possible.  We cannot expect language or gender norms like this to change overnight.

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