Monogamy, Polyamory, Words, Words, Words!

Some recent blog posts and conversations have got some thoughts swirling around my head.

1) I’ve always thought of myself as monogamous. When Brooke and I first got involved, we both established that we’re monogamous in relationships. I realized recently, however, that I wasn’t being honest with myself and therefore wasn’t being truthful with Brooke. So I talked to her about how I’m actually more than OK with being physical with more than one person at a time. (And no, I’m not talking about threesomes, foursomes or moresomes.) I can’t imagine being comfortable with snogging or sexing up someone I’m not close to, but getting physical with friends? Yep, I’m good with that. BUT…I know that Brooke isn’t OK with that, and it’s not a dealbreaker for me. I don’t have to get sexy with anyone but my current partner, I’m just open to it and fantasize about it. If Brooke wants me to be only with her, I’m totally cool with that. (Especially since we’re both cool with each other flirting with other people. Past partners of mine haven’t always been cool with that.) You can’t expect me to only be attracted to one person, but it’s completely reasonable to expect me to only get sexy with one person.

2) While Brooke and I are monogamous in the sense that we’re only romantic and sexual with each other, we’re polyamorous in the sense that we both love a lot of people in many different ways. It would be silly to expect Brooke to love only me and it would be silly for her to expect the same from me.

3) Brooke recently told me that she doesn’t like referring to me as her “boyfriend,” since it sounds like a temporary, lightweight relationship, and our relationship is definitely not short-term or lightweight. I agree, but I’m also not a fan of the term “partner,” which sounds to me like we’re a gay couple being forced to make our relationship sound less than a heterosexual marriage. She prefers “manpanion” because it sounds kind of silly but also indicates that I’m her male companion. That inspired me to start referring to her as my “companion,” which references two of my all-time favorite TV shows, Doctor Who and Firefly. So we’re both Time Lords and we’re both courtesans. Or something like that.

4) Rethinking the terms for each other made me think that I want new terms for a lot of people in my life. I want a word for: Person Who I’m Totally Crushing On At The Moment; Person Who I Adore But Am Not Romantic With; Person Who I Would Be Happy To Fuck Given The Opportunity But Who I Can’t Imagine Being In A Successful Long-Term Relationship With; Person Who I Think Is Incredibly Cool; Person I Love To Flirt With But Would Never Actually Do Anything With; My Companion’s Wife; My Companion’s Wife’s Husband; The Mother Of My Daughter (“ex-wife” sounds so negative!)–and so on. Just as the word “love” doesn’t always express well the various shades of feeling, the words “friend” or “girlfriend” or “partner” or “lover” don’t always express well how I relate to someone. (I love the Yiddish word “meshpokha.” It means “extended family,” which includes people who aren’t related to you by blood or marriage, they’re just a part of your extended family by association.)

This post was originally posted in a more secluded location for certain friends only. I’m more comfortable now posting it openly.

Ask

Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life
You’d like to

So, if there’s something you’d like to try
If there’s something you’d like to try
ASK ME – I WON’T SAY “NO” – HOW COULD I ?
— “Ask”, The Smiths

I’ve talked quite a bit of politics on this blog. I’ve talked about death, too. But I haven’t talked much about sex. This post will change all that. So if you’re someone who doesn’t really want to know my thoughts on sex (Mom, I’m looking at you!), turn away now.

Are we all sitting comfortably? OK, let’s do this.

My friend Amy (also known as Brooke’s wife) turned me on to the Pervocracy blog. Although I’m not into BDSM kink and I’m not, strictly speaking, polyamorous, there’s a lot on the blog that I find incredibly insightful and useful. The most recent post, “Why have sex?”, led me to an older post, “What do you want?”. Together, these posts opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve never asked or thought about these two things, which, now that I think about it, are really damn important questions to answer.

Let’s face it, when it comes to finding time for sex, making sure you and the other person (or other people, if you’re the type of person who has orgy friends) are both in the right mood, coordinating moods and energy, masturbation can be a whole lot easier than having sex with other people. And if you’re looking for emotional intimacy…well, sex isn’t always the best or easiest way to get that. Asking “Why do you want to have sex?” might seem like a duh question, but when I asked myself that and demanded I answer with something other than “Because sex is fun and feels good,” it suddenly became a very profound question that I still haven’t successfully answered (mostly because I’ve had too much going on in terms of sickness and death to have the time and presence of mind to really address it). Just as I think any romantic relationship needs to address the question of “Why are we together?”, any sexual relationship needs to address the question of “Why do we want to have sex with each other?” And just as I think every person needs to answer the question “What do I want out of a romantic relationship?” (Note: my ex-wife and I wanted different things, which we should have known and addressed much earlier than we did), I think every person needs to answer the question “What do I want out of sex?” (Also, every person needs to answer the question, “What do I not want out of sex?”)

I’ve always been pretty insecure when it comes to initiating sex and asking for what I want in sex. I get terribly shy when it comes to talking about my fantasies with my partner. (Although I don’t have the same shyness when talking to close friends.) A lot of this comes from a fear of rejection, a fear that I’ll been seen as a “pervert” or “weirdo” (even though I know I’m pretty damn vanilla when it comes to sex). I know this isn’t healthy and I’m working on it. Asking and answering the questions above are an important step in that.

Are you completely comfortable asking for sex? Are you completely comfortable stating your needs, your desires, your fantasies, your boundaries? Are you completely comfortable saying no and explaining why you don’t want to do what you’ve been asked to do? Do you know what you want and what you don’t want when you have sex? Do you know why you want to have sex? It’s silly how long it’s taken me to start asking these questions, but it’s equally silly not to ask these things.

Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
— “Let’s Talk About Sex”, Salt ‘n’ Pepa

Ending the Jam

With everything that’s been going on the past couple of weeks, I realized today I’m never going to catch up with my poem a day project, which I’d already fallen behind on. I’m not giving up on writing poetry (I still owe people poems from last year’s fundraising event), but I know I can’t manage a poem a day right now.

However, I’m still going to work on doing something creative every day, including pushing myself to write more fiction. I recently looked at the notes I’ve written for some stories I have in mind and realized that if I want to write the stories to the best of my ability, I don’t need to do any research and very little prep. Basically, the stories would write themselves. Which gives me no good excuses for not writing them RIGHT THE HELL NOW.

I guess I better get my ass in gear and DO IT, huh?

A Long, Hard Walk to Goodbye

This has not been my best week. A week ago, I’d already lost two days of work to what I thought was a cold. It only got worse over the weekend. Last Monday morning, I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and found I was running a fever. I went to urgent care and was diagnosed with the flu, which I hadn’t had since I was a kid. I spent all of last week at home, running a low-grade fever, tired, achey, and congested. My temperature finally started to go down on Friday, but I’m still tired, achey, snuffly, coughy.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, my dad emailed me to let me know he’d slipped in his kitchen while getting himself some juice. He lay there on the floor for 4 or 5 hours, finally getting up to call my brother for help. On Friday night, my brother called to tell me that after calling our dad at home and not receiving an answer, he’d gone over to the apartment and found our dad in bed, unable to get up on his own. My brother helped him up, then called 911 for an ambulance, despite our dad’s insistence that he was fine and didn’t need a doctor. At the hospital, the doctors quickly determined our dad’s situation was critical, due to an infection (possibly pneumonia, possibly a UTI from his catheter). Our dad went septic (that is, the infection spread to his bloodstream), and at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, my brother called me to tell me our father was dead.

He’s dead. It’s still sinking in. I’d mentally prepared myself for this as best I could back in November when my dad went in for some crucial surgery, which was complicated by his COPD. Really, I’d been mentally preparing myself for this for the past 10 years or so, when my dad’s lifetime of smoking finally caught up with him. He’d had problems with breathing and problems with hernias and his intestines for years, and my brother and I had had to rush to the hospital to see him any number of times over the past decade. Still, this happened so quickly and suddenly, it took me by surprise. I’m still trying to make sense of the fact that I’m never going to see my dad again.

It would be nice if this blog post were nothing but “I’m so sad about my dad’s death,” but the fact is, my relationship with my dad was very complicated. I’ve always loved him, but I haven’t always liked him, and for the past year (at least), his more frustrating personality traits, as well as the memories of things he’d done over my lifetime, were really putting a strain on me and I found being around him incredibly difficult most of the time. My father was smart, charming, witty, goofy, sentimental, principled, and caring. He was also very self-centered and narcissistic. He was often overbearing, intrusive, judgmental, needy, manipulative, and self-aggrandizing. I’m still working on getting over all of the negative input he gave me as I was growing up and getting past my anger at him for trying to drive a wedge between my mother and me (and my brother and me).

As terrible as it may sound, I’m feeling a lot of relief right now. I’m relieved that he’s no longer in physical pain and emotional distress. But I’m also relieved that I no longer have to deal with his insults, his guilt trips, his turning every conversation topic into something about him. And I’m relieved that I can talk openly about all of this now, without him getting defensive and verbally abusive.

I’m also sad. As much as he frustrated me and made me angry, he also made me laugh and made me think. A lot of my political and social morals and ethics come from him. A lot of my sense of humor comes from him. A lot of my generosity comes from him. As difficult as I often found him, I’ll still miss him.

You’re gone from this world, Richard Reno Neff, but you’re not yet gone from my life, and I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to you.

And to all of my friends and family both near and far who have been sending me their love and support: thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know I can make this long, hard walk to goodbye with you all by my side.

Crossing the Line

Like any long-running TV series, there have been some pretty stinky Doctor Who stories. Some have tried to hard to be comedy (and failed), some have had goofy premises, some have just been executed poorly. “The Gunfighters,” “The Twin Dilemma,” “Dragonfire,” “Fear Her” and “The Doctor’s Daughter” are far from the best Doctor Who has ever offered. But even the worst stories haven’t crossed the line that “The Sound of Drums”/”Last of the Time Lords,” the finale of the fourth season of the new series, crossed for me. Which is why I consider “The Sound of Drums”/”Last of the Time Lords” to be the worst Doctor Who story ever.

WARNING! HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

I liked the episodes a lot when I first watched them. The story really kicks off with “Utopia,” a well-paced, tense, imaginative episode. The final reveal of Professor Yana as the Master is thrilling, especially with Derek Jacobi as Professor Yana/the Master. And then the Master regenerates into a new form, played by John Simm, the action switches to present-day Earth, and the story pisses in the face of the entire series.

There are a lot of goofy bits in “The Sound of Drums” and “Last of the Time Lords.” John Simms hamming up the Master as an over-the-top nutjob, rather than the sinister but suave character played by Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley, made the Master’s return less than satisfying. The Doctor being aged into a Dobby-esque CGI character was more than a bit much. And the whole “Year That Never Was” bit was far too much of a cop-out. But I can forgive all of that. I’ve enjoyed Doctor Who stories with much goofier ingredients.

What I can’t forgive is the Toclafane.

The Toclafane, for those that have forgotten, are the remnants of the human race from the end of the universe. Having failed to find Utopia, the human race has grown bitter and infantile, turning into floating metal balls of cyborg evil. The Master has convinced them to come back in time, commit genocide and take over the Earth, which they’re happy to do because they’re basically angry, spoiled children armed with death rays.

Doctor Who has had stories about humans in the distant future before. In stories like “The Ark,” “Frontios,” “The Ark in Space” and “New Earth,” the human race has been portrayed as (to quote the Doctor) “indomitable.” No matter how the human race might stumble or succumb to petty greed and jealousy, humans always remain essentially noble, always striving to create a home and build a functioning society. It’s a wonderfully optimistic view of the human race, a view I appreciate, a view that inspires me. I’d say it’s a core theme of Doctor Who and one of the primary reasons the Doctor has appointed himself the guardian of Earth and Earthlings.

The Toclafane betray that theme. The Toclafane show that the ultimate destiny of humans is to fall into childish, genocidal evil. The Toclafane are a horribly negative view of the fate of the human race. They’re not just goofy, they’re offensive. They run counter to the optimism and nobility of Doctor Who.

I can handle goofy. I can roll my eyes and get over the dumber bits in Doctor Who. But I cannot accept a blatant, gross dismissal of one of the core principles of the series. Which is why I can get past the Doctor meeting badly acted versions of American West heroes, I can get past the Doctor running the Olympic torch to the opening of the Olympic games, but I cannot get past the Toclafane. It crosses the line for me.