Fucking February and All The Feels

Fair warning disclaimer: This post is going to be long, all over the fucking place, full of links to blogs I’m finding helpful, free-association lyrics, fast-forwarding and rewinding, and just a whole bunch of stuff I’m trying to extract from my brain and heart.

For some reason, over the past four years, February has had a habit of kicking me right in the feels. Without fail, by the end of the month for the past four years, I’m inundated and overwhelmed by whatever has happened in the few weeks of this brutal, brilliant, abbreviated month. I mean, for fuck’s sake, it’s the shortest month of the year…how does it ALWAYS manage to pack a gut punch and a half? It probably doesn’t help that Valentine’s Day, with all it’s socially trappings and expectations, is in there, along with my wedding anniversary. Which my husband did the sweetest thing as an anniversary gift. At Wicked Faire this year, he had the DJ tech person play our wedding song during the Later Night Atrium Dance Party so we could dance to it. (Cue the chorus of “awwwwws”).

All told, it was a mostly good weekend for us personally, except for the one night he fucked up a promise. That hurt. But we’ve discussed it, he’s apologized, and we’ve moved on. And the next night’s anniversary present helped. But I’m glad that it didn’t affect him hanging out with his girlfriend and that he got to spend one of the nights with her. Long distance relationships suck, especially when you only see each other a few times a year and you’re also working during those times.

Anyway, this year, February’s Fucking Feelfest snuck up on me. I though I could escape the flood and was dealing with the past and present well. And maybe I am. But it all finally overtook me last night.

This year, there were good things on the horizon early on in the month and exciting things that happened and I made strides that I hadn’t expected. For instance, I got my ass back up on the burlesque stage, went completely topless for the first time on a public stage, pushed myself in some ways within my own relationship only to find it really didn’t need pushing at all and was completely fine, stood up for myself when things were not going as promised and mostly handled it productively.

These were the normal ups and downs, with some extra awesome thrown in. For example, seriously, so happy about performing at the last Wicked Faire. This song was floating in my brain most of the day Saturday:

I don’t know why I’m frightened
I know my way around here
The cardboard trees, the painted scenes, the sound here
Yes, a world to rediscover
But I’m not in any hurry
And I need a moment
The whispered conversations in overcrowded hallways
The atmosphere as thrilling here as always
Feel the early morning madness
Feel the magic in the making
Why everything’s as if we never said goodbye
I’ve spent so many mornings
Just trying to resist you
I’m trembling now
You can’t know how I’ve missed you
Missed the fairy-tale adventures
In this ever-spinning playground
We were young together

“As If we Never Said Goodbye” – Sunset Boulevard

But there were also some crazy, head-exploding moments from the weekend, including seeing someone in an entirely new light and trying to reconcile all of that then freaking out a little and doing my best to not run in the opposite direction for fear of fucking everything up, having him laugh at me, not knowing the current style of his relationship with his girlfriend and not wanting to inadvertently hurt her which would suck because she’s amazing, and just generally it took a lot to keep that together and to myself and sometimes I failed spectacularly. Added to that was the fact that I still had to do my job, and had that performance I was just talking about, and for some reason, decided this was the event I was going to experience the party side of the nights so I got into two room parties I’d only ever heard of previously. Wound up having some intense, awesome experiences and conversations. The more I opened up, I found, the more there were awesome people around to further the amazing experiences, from an really cool guided imagery massage that helped me sober up to a really interesting conversation about poly and couple privilege that has rocked my brain a little and given me a perspective on it that I never considered before.

Woman, open the door; don’t let it sting.

I wanna breathe that fire again.

-“Read My Mind” by the Killers

And there’s a part of me that’s just aching to breathe the fire I’ve felt before again. To rise from the ashes and explore feelings I get so rarely. And I have to temper that with other people, distance, time…life. But it ties into me wanting to get back into playing and unearthing my kink drive again, which has been dormant for way too long. Sure, she gets out and makes a quick walk around the block sometimes, but on a whole…I know I can go deeper. I have gone deeper. I need to go deeper again. Thankfully, there are a few interesting prospects on the horizon, but it’s coming back down to a game of hurry up and wait. But I am grateful for those people in my life who are there and want to explore and play with me. They are some truly excellent people.

Then there’s the thing where all of the people and things that are happening currently remind me or touch on some part of my past. The metamour who might be core monagamous or poly-friendly, but there’s no real way to know yet is dredging up some things from how I used to be when I first got into poly which is, in turn, pointing out some glaring mistakes I made that I now regret. Part of me wishes I could tell that to my two exes, but since they’re not talking to me, it’s a moot subject. Well, maybe not moot. Just I only get to have internal realizations and not apologize directly.  And really, there’s so much more to it than the mistakes I made anyway, but those are the only things I can control and apologize for. And god, I would apologize for the apparently standard practice of poly newbies to create rules up the wazoo in a fucked up attempt of protecting the primariness and specialness that I was so desperately afraid of losing. In my case, and in many cases, from what I’m reading and have read over the years, it tends to have the opposite affect of and instead pushes people away. Also, knowing now how better to handle jealousy and where it comes from, this article that I read years ago on the subject makes so much more sense.

Really, jealousy is just a fear of something being lost or taken away. It’s a feeling that points out where you feel there is an imbalance. And the “feel “part of that is the most important, to me, at least. Because it’s not always the case. Something isn’t necessarily being taken away. Sometimes it is. But sometimes new and wonderful things can be there to replace it if we let them. But for me, I’ve finally learned that when I’m feeling jealous, it generally doesn’t mean that I want the other person to stop what they’re doing, but that I’d really like some of what they’re doing, maybe at some point in the future.

For example, when I get jealous of the screen of emojis I see my husband texting to a love interest, it doesn’t mean he has to stop sending emojis or stop texting that person. It means I tell him that I’d really like to get some of those at some point, too, to spice up our texts. It has nothing to do with limiting or controlling his behavior anymore, in an attempt to reinforce that I’m The Most Important Snowflake Ever. I come from a place of love and knowing that he can send emojis to more than one person and it’s okay. But it’s equally okay to say something in a non-accusatory way about trying to get some sweet, sweet emoji loving, too. But on the flip side, if he’s doing that during a pre-set date night with me, then that’s a problem and I’d ask him to stop and let his sweetie know that we’re on a date and he can sext her lots later or tomorrow. In that latter case, it’s not about controlling my partner’s behavior, but both of us honoring and respecting the time and attention of the partner we’ve agreed to spend a certain amount of time with.

I’ve been struggling with this concept of poly with no rules for a while now, but it’s making more sense to me. The more I let go of my fear with my husband and begin to open up to the people he wants to explore with and the people I want to explore with, the more I find this ringing true. But it’s still struggling with my hierarchical core. But what I’m finding more and more is that once I transcend the fear of abandonment and realize I will be okay whether or not I have a primary, the stronger my primary relationship gets and the happier we both are pursuing the feelings and desires we have outside of each other. It’s a weird paradox, kinda like that quote about taking a leap and building your wings on the way down. And it’s come with its fair share of tears, anxiety, confusion, and loneliness. But it’s also been balanced out with a joy and openness and relief I didn’t expect. Also, I still think “no rules” can coexist with hierarchy, but it can get complicated.

Along the lines of where my head is kinda at right now, there’s this article that focuses more on solo polyamory, but has a quote I adore:

“…falling in love doesn’t equate to inhibiting your freedoms or my own. When I fall for you, it means you mean something to me, and I ultimately want to be a part of your life that makes you happy and builds you up. I’m not expecting anything from our relationship beyond the present moment, but I’m also not closed to the idea of a deeper connection developing. I want to see what happens when neither one of us is pushing or angling for anything.”

SO MUCH THAT.

Man, love is fucking complicated.

And just like in that article, I had to learn the hard way that love does not equal compatibility, nor does it alone solve relationship problems, nor does it mean I have to sacrifice myself endlessly in the name of love. These were hard lessons to learn. Four years ago in February, a day after Wicked Faire ended, I woke up and asked my now ex-husband a question that was the catalyst for us all (I was in a triad marriage) to begin the long, painful process of ending a relationships/marriages that had stretched from 10 to 13 years.

And it sucks because even though there are multiple reasons why it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me and I’m better off now, and they are, too, it still hurts. There’s the part of me that wanted my first real love to want me more than anything else. Want to stay with me forever. “true love” was supposed to be in my favor. I started out as the primary, after all.

How sad and sweet it is that I actually felt that way. My understanding about the nature of love has evolved so much over the past four years that it’s kind of staggering and I have to catch myself up sometimes. Remind myself that what feels familiar is not what I actually believe anymore. Remind myself that there’s so much of the stuff in this article that I used to do because I was so afraid. Demotion, displacement, intrusion…well, I tried not to do too much of the intrusion. But god…I was a wreck when we first opened up our relationship. In between being in love with our then girlfriend, I was a goddamned wreck. My boyfriend’s chemistry with her was palpable, and for an empath who hadn’t even begun to learn much about being an empath, that just fucking wrecked me. I couldn’t feel her in the same way as I felt him and her. I now know, since hindsight is 20/20, that that also had to do with the fact that I was a cuckquean, but had no clue about that word or what it entailed way back then. This all created some intense drama and difficulty that was sometimes balanced with moments of poly clarity and brilliance. Sometimes balanced.

Fuck, it’s been a long road.

More than anything, I’m really happy to have discovered this piece about Casual Love by Carsie Blanton because it sums up my feelings about love. I used to think it was this precious commodity that came with specific things that I should have or get or that other people should do to ensure my primacy and specialness. Now I endeavor to understand and embrace love in all it’s messy glory. For friends that are awesome even when they’re annoying, for family even when they cut you so deep you examine everything about who you are, for lovers who make really fucking huge mistakes, and for all the good that all of the above do, and all the experiences that we’ve shared and could share in the future.

It’s funny; a friend and possible D/s partner texted me recently to tell me he had an odd realization about me that he wanted to share. Apparently, he feels I don’t have a mean bone in my body and I have an openness and kindness in my face that’s apparent.

Upon reading this, I was struck with two conflicting reactions. Being touched and outright laughter.

It’s an incredible compliment to be considered so open and kind. It’s also hysterical that people don’t think I don’t have a mean bone in my body. I’m human, for fuck’s sake. As I told him, I believe everyone has a light and dark side, including me. I just try really hard not to indulge or dwell in it. All humans have both inside.

Granted, I’ve spent the better part of two decades trying to over-correct for the mistakes I saw people making around me when I was growing up, like racism, homophobia, xenophobia, fear of any new experiences or people or things. I respect and honor my dark side and work my ass off not to let fear run my life. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel fear, or that I never have mean thoughts, or that I haven’t done stupid, thoughtless, bad things. Again, see HUMAN. But I over-analyze so much about relationships and people and that includes myself, so I prefer to err on the side of joy, wonder, and discovery. This quote from Rainer Maria Rilke is one of my favorites and it’s kind of my motto:

“We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm…But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished the existence of the individual; the relationship between one human being and another has also been cramped by it, as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope. But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively from his own existence.”

I think this approach to being open to enigmatical things was what led to me exploring my first ever casual sex experience at Wicked Faire last year. (again, y’know, February). Which was great, but I still kinda went stone butch in that I had no problem giving sexually the person I was with, but wasn’t able to accept sexual reciprocation. I’m not disappointed; this person gave me some AWESOME and totally fulfilling sensation play that I was craving.

But now I’m trying to sort through some even more mysterious feelings and trying not to get too far ahead of myself, because there are other people involved and I’m states away and have a lot on my plate and it’s just got levels of complexity and…yeah.

It’s a lot to sort through and last night, after talking with the new person, I just got off the phone and needed to drive. And cry. And sing. At the top of my lungs. The open highway called me and I just let it all come in. Felt it all. The past, the pain, the sensation, the burlesque and creativity, the love, the loss, the moving on, the fear, the desire, the concern…just so much to feel and process.

And just some bonus content…a playlist of songs I can’t get out of my head lately that fit various parts of all this:

  1. Read My Mind – The Killers
  2. Just Enough – Charlotte Sometimes
  3. I Get Off – Halestorm
  4. Dreams – Brandi Carlile
  5. All This and Heaven Too – Florence + the Machine
  6. Amazed – Poe
  7. Epoch – HUMANWINE
  8. Holding On To Good – Delta Rae
  9. Fearless Love – Melissa Etheridge
  10. Independent Love Song – Scarlett
  11. Suddenly – Les Mis MPS
  12. As If We’ve Never Said Goodbye – Glee version, from Sunset Boulevard
  13. Arsonist’s Lullaby – Hozier
  14. Have to Drive – Amanda Fucking Palmer
  15. Time Ago – Black Lab
  16. The Winner Takes It All – Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia
  17. Fake Plastic trees – Radiohead
  18. Wild Awake – Tylan
  19. Under Pressure – Queen/David Bowie
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“Confidence looks good on you.” (Part 1)

The title of this post brought to you by one of the best compliments I received from a dear friend for my return to the burlesque stage this past weekend. Processing all of this weekend is going to be a gigantic task and I thought I could wait a day or two, let it all marinate, and then process it closer to this weekend, but it’s all just pushing at the sides of my brain and heart until it feels like it’s coming out of my pores. Since my brain wouldn’t shut the fuck up, I figured I’d start trying to get some of it out now.

First and foremost, holy SHIT, I went back up on stage. It’s been 3 years, to the event and though there were myriad reasons why and I ultimately think it was the right decision at the time, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity and the life push to get back up there. My husband kept telling me, throughout the past three years, that he couldn’t wait to see me back up there. He would suggest songs for me to do. He hated the fact that I didn’t allow or ask for a final show when I retired and would suggest songs to do if I ever tried to have one. And after the show, all he kept saying was that he was so proud of me and that I was beautiful. In fact a friend and person in my department snapped the most adorable pic of my husband watching me that just melted my heart. The joy and pride are visible on his face and I’m so grateful.

Then there was the endless stream of coworkers telling me how wonderful the performance was. I had no idea so many were there. I told people selectively because A) I didn’t want people to feel pressured to go because we were all also working, B) in case anyone got called away to do something worky, I didn’t want to pin my hopes on anyone but my husband and a few select others being there. But apparently word spread and just about the entire staff was there, as was the hotel staff (though since they’re technically not allowed to be with the masses, they watched from a hidden place in John Malkovitch’s head.), and also previous members of White Elephant, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years. It was just the best confluence of old and new and wonderful as I could possibly imagine.

And performing felt so damn good. Especially to reclaim things after that interaction I had which I allowed to hamper me for so long, which I wrote about in this post. And even more especially since the person I spoke of was AT Wicked Faire. All kinds of reclaiming for me.

There were points where anxiety almost got the better of me. I second-guessed a few things, almost changed something very large but thankfully, with an expert assist, decided not to. My garter belt broke about 30 minutes before I was supposed to go on stage and I had to tell myself to just keep going so I said “fuck it”, took off the garter belt, and went without stockings. Just meant you could see more of my lacey panties. 🙂

Another way I also went “fuck it” was that this was the first time on a public stage that I went completely topless. I mean, artfully so, but still. No bra. Which terrified me until I did it and turned around to face the audience…who ROARED with applause. It’s the best pop I’ve ever gotten in my career on stage and it was exhilerating. To have that positive and immediate feedback for something that I’m very self-conscious of was absolutely incredible.

There were just confidence boosters all weekend: the love and support of friends and family, being welcomed back to the stage with open arms both backstage and on stage via the audience, glowing feedback I received, the many assists in costuming and makeup that lovely friends/family new & old provided, and through it all, my husband, who kept telling me that I was going to be brilliant every time I got nervous.

And I have so many ideas now, for new numbers, for some interesting future collaborations, and this whole resurgence of feeling sexy, excited, and confident again has led to other doors opening to me which were also part of my “things I want to improve in the New Year” post. Which leads me to part 2…

“Confidence looks good on you.” (Part 2)

My return to the burlesque stage was nothing short of a fantastic experience. It helped me better get to know two people I met within the past year, both via makeups. It helped me reclaim some of my own sexiness and confidence. It’s also leading to other things from the “things I want to improve in the New Year” post.

Things like rejoining the local kink scene, which is apparently happening this weekend. I’m a little nervous but also really excited. I’ve been in hibernation too long, too. While I’ve been a kinkster for nearly 20 years now, I don’t have a lot of public, community experience. For some reason I attract SO’s who prefer private play and don’t want to engage much in the community as a whole. However, while my current SO is much the same way, he’s fine with me exploring with other people.

Which is great because there are things I want that he has no interest, experience, or time for. What isn’t great is that because of a combination of my own anxiety and fears, I’ve kind of hermitted and withdrawn from seeking out partners, both of the dating variety and the playing variety. And it largely comes down to that confidence thing that apparently looks good on me but is so hard to put on sometimes.

For example, I haven’t really been a Domme or topped anyone in a REALLY long time. There are friends I’ve flirted with that way but for various reasons, I haven’t found anyone to top or be a Domme to yet. There are a few possibilities on the horizon, but nothing definite or anywhere near fully formed.

And on the flip side, since I’m a switch, there’s my submissive side screaming to be tied up, flogged, punched, thrown into a wall and down on the floor again. Who wants to explore consensual nonconsent more. Who desperately wants to get over the fear of her own body and finally try rope suspension. Who wants to ride the wave of a single look that takes my breath away while imagining all the things that could happen after that look.

I had a few of the latter this weekend. One source, thankfully, was someone who knows she can drop me with a look and enjoys toying with that and me. And I thoroughly enjoy both. But there were other things and people that happened that have left me at a complete loss because they uncovered things that I have no idea how to deal with and leave me completely derailed. I wish I could transfer one area of confidence into another area that doesn’t have any. Of course that wouldn’t help the several levels of complex considerations.

It feels like some of the things I wanted to happen are finally happening, or might have the opportunity to happen, but I just don’t know how to encourage any of it. I’m afraid if I do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, I’ll scare people off, or fuck something up, that they’ll realize they didn’t want or like me as much as they thought. Or maybe they won’t like me at all that way. And that’s fine. Just, would hurt. But I can put on my big girl panties and deal. It’s just…a deep fear basically boils down to feeling like if I don’t get too close, I won’t wind up exposing the really scared parts of me, both mentally and physically.

I mean…I don’t let very many people see me naked. For a fucking burlesque dancer, I’m actually really self-conscious of my body and while I’m trying to get out of that, I know that many riggers like to work with naked and I’m petrified to do that because if I’m self-conscious of myself in its unbound state, what the hell am I going to look like tied up and then things are going to get smooshed and I’ll look terrible and ugly. And since submission is such a large part of me but also a part that hasn’t really been tapped into in the last few years, exposing myself, the raw nerve that wants someone to take control, to cause pain, to caress, to tie me up, to TAKE…that combined with fear of what my body would look like during that? Oftentimes crippling fear doesn’t even begin to cut it.

Thankfully some friends are taking it upon themselves to help, which is how I’m likely winding up at a local dungeon this weekend and finally taking more steps towards getting involved with the local scene. Maybe little by little, I can take on some confidence in the kink world again.

“Show me how you burlesque…”

A friend dropped this empowering and hilarious article (I Took My Clothes Off For An Audience As A Plus-Sized Woman and It Ruled) on my Facebook and wanted to know my thoughts, as a plus-sized founder and former co-director, choreographer, and dancer of a burlesque troupe. Who’s also about to go back on stage for the first time in three years next weekend. *gulp*

Anyhoo, the writer is someone who’s never seen a plus-sized burlesque dancer. Which is really the only unbelievable part of the whole thing, because oh, honey. Where do you live that they don’t have plus-sized burlesque dancers? What sad, cookie-cutter place is this and please can you start performing regularly to bring some body positivity and diversity to the stage?

That aside, the article fantastic. Kristin Chirico, part of the BuzzFeed staff (so jelly of THAT position!) decided to take 4 burlesque classes and try her hand at a burlesque performance, all while writing and photographing her journey. Her tone is one I envy: hilariously self-effacing without truly belittling herself. She is fearless in the face of hyperbole AND a corset, which I just love.

However, delving deeper, my friend wanted to know what I thought about Kristin’s observations of learning about and how to do burlesque. Here’s my take.

Straight off the bat I love her intro, which goes like this:

Hi. My name is Kristin. Like many of you, I am a hot fried basket of fears, insecurities, and anxieties, particularly when it comes to my body.

This is because I have spent a lot of my life, regardless of how big I am, being told (explicitly or implicitly) what I’m not allowed to do or be because of how I look.

But one of the things I have been told I DEFINITELY can’t be is sexy — especially in a plus-size body.

So — because I love making rule-makers unhappy — I decided to try the sexiest body-related thing that I could think of: BURLESQUE DANCING.

AMEN, sistah! My previous post where I decided it was time to get my ass in all it’s fat glory back on stage came from a similar place. I’m tired of being told I can’t be sexy. I’m tired of feeling not sexy. I’m gonna do something about it, and so did Kristin. Rock on!

She then goes on to summarize that “burlesque dancing, in case you don’t know, is a big sexy creative celebration of the body.” YASSSSSSS.

BTW, her teacher, Natasha of Hells Belles Burlesque, is wonderful and the type of teacher I’d like to be if I ever got back into burlesque fully (we’ll see how the performance goes next weekend!) She tells Kristin that “burlesque is an environment where everyone feels accepted” and while that’s not always the case (cosplay and anime audiences can be brutal for plus-sized women, as can dive bars – ask me how I know), I think that’s the spirit of burlesque. She also reassures Kristin that “no matter what happens, everyone is going to love it.” I’m really glad she had and instilled that much confidence in her student and that she knew her audience that well.

So Kristin starts learning choreography and has to battle her own asshole brain (we all have an asshole brain part) that tells her that she doesn’t look sexy but more like she’s “smugly shaving her legs”. But kept on keeping and went on to talk about her costume and name.

Her take on costuming:

We also wanted to make the corset really special-looking, and that meant sticking rhinestones on it until it could be seen from space.

“Yay!” I said about hot-gluing rhinestones to my corset, because I had forgotten literally everything I ever learned about hot glue.

See what I mean about an awesome sense of humor?! It’s totally true that many types of burlesque try to make things as shiny and sparkly as possible. It’s also totally true that people get excited about rhinestoning until they actually have to…y’know, adhere a kajillion little fucking pieces of sharp-ass sunlight to their costumes.

In selecting her stage name, she asked her officemates, but they weren’t helpful so she “ended up going with “Cherry Ontop” because it’s a pun on my name and it can double as my Bond girl name if my life ever takes a really drastic left turn.”

Then it’s back to actual choreography for her number, which, as she wisely notes, is “NO JOKE. I spent so much time trying to remember all my steps that I almost didn’t have time to focus on how ridiculous I felt.”

It’s totally true! Choreo is NO FUCKING JOKE. You have to count and time things, and remember it all, and feel the music, and make the audience feel like you’re doing more than just waiting for your next movement. You have to make it all come together in a way that the audience can relate to, swoon to, crave more from. It are srs biznis.

Important note:

The other thing about flipping your hair is that it basically turns your glasses into little projectile weapons.

OMG, yes. This is why I don’t wear my glasses on stage. I’ve found that since I can’t wear contacts anymore (a sad Rocky Horror-related injury and I hate it but such is life) it’s better to go “blind” than to risk my glasses whipping off my face, into the audience, and likely breaking from the adventure.

She talks about learning to remove clothes and how it’s not as simple as taking them off. Oh, no, no, no. There’s ART in the removal:

In burlesque, you can’t just remove your clothes — that’s for normals. You go slow. You make the audience work for it. You use your teeth! And once an article of clothing comes off, it becomes a sexy prop that you can run all over your body.

But then she touches back on the plus-sized thing and something I had to struggle with when I first started doing burlesque:

Eventually the idea was for me to make it look sexy, but slowly taking my clothes off just felt to me like I was screaming, “LOOK OUT, HERE COMES MY BODY!” like a very artistic emergency warning system.

*sigh* Yeah. It’s true. You have to get past that asshole part of your brain that tells you that you have to warn people of you impending nudity because they’re not going to want to see it. That you have to apologize for being onstage with the audacity to make your body move in sexy ways. That there’s no way that you or they should be *gasp* enjoying it. You have to just punch the fuck out of that asshole brain part and then relish in your sexiness.

Another thing she covers, which helped me understand why some people I know don’t like to practice (some of those “people” are me. Sometimes.), is why people don’t like to practice.

I realized then why I don’t like practicing things, and it’s because practice is a reminder that you are not good at something yet, and sometimes it’s painful to be faced with that, especially when there is good stuff on Netflix.

Yup.

But it’s really important to practice, especially in your WHOLE COSTUME. Otherwise, you get to dress rehearsal and realize you don’t know how to bend in a corset. I’ve been there many times. I’ve choreographed many routines in socks, leggings, and a t-shirt only to realize that those routines are VERY DIFFERENT when you add stockings, heels, a corset, two bras, two skirts, two jackets, and a boa (or feathery snake of doom, as the feathers will get everywhere. Feather boas are second only to glitter with their insidiousness stealth migration patterns.) Cause I have totally done THAT costume.

From there, her confidence begins to build. She starts to “discover (and be impressed by) all the fun things my body could do.” (GO girl! It’s awesome when you get to that place.)

Her teacher, Natasha, notices and asks if she’s sure she’s never had any performing experience before, and this is where I got a little misty-eyed.

And then I suddenly realized, oh, right! I was a theater major, but I stopped performing a long time ago. And in that moment, I felt more than a little bit of regret that I did.

When I was in college — and had boundless energy and time — I noticed pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be given opportunities to perform unless I made those opportunities myself. I spent a lot of time writing and acting in my own shows alongside all my friends who also couldn’t get roles. But constantly having to fight to make sure you are heard takes a toll. And by the end of college, the message had been pretty firmly drilled into my head: Lady, no one wants to see you on a stage.

I wish I hadn’t listened. I wish I had known what I know now, which is that sometimes people don’t want to see or hear you for reasons that have nothing to do with you.

But I know that now, and that’s a start.

Amen and halleloo to THAT. But my favorite part was still to come. (And it’s not even her slaying her number, which she did, btw.) It’s what she decided right before she went on stage:

I accepted that like it or not this is happening, so when they announced me and I walked up onstage, I just decided, right then and there: I am welcome here because I have decided that I am welcome here.

I am welcome here because I have decided that I am welcome here. That is going to be my new mantra as I walk on stage next weekend.

Her wrap up of the article and experience was also very empowering, and I’m glad she said she’s up for doing it again:

I’d do it again because it was fun. Because it was great exercise. Because it gave me perspective on all the amazing things my body can do. Because I got to learn that I have powers I never thought I did, and because I can enjoy doing things even if I am not an expert at them.

Because nobody should spend a decade being terrified to perform for some reason as trivial as “someone might not like it.” Because that “someone” is usually a big whiny complainer who is mad for reasons that have nothing to do with you.

And also because rhinestones are totally boss.

Hells yeah, Cherry Ontop. Kudos to you for helping to bring body positivity to the forefront and adding more to the tableau of sexy, confident, plus-sized burlesque dancers. You’re totally boss, too, and I’m immensely grateful for this article. Now I should go work on my costume and practice for next weekend. 🙂

I’m gonna make a change…or twenty-something

Welcome to a New Year, where millions of people claim to become a new person, complete with new workout gear, new organizational stuff, new eating habits, and a brand new outlook on life.

Until somewhere around February or March.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic because further down, I’m gonna roll out some of my own resolutions for this year. But I’ve been through many years and many people I care about and many I don’t even know talking about how on January 1st, “everything’s gonna change.” And if that works out for you, mazel tov. More power to you. No, really. I want those people to have even more power so they can continue to do awesome things.

For me, I’m finding that January 1st is a fairly arbitrary day that only gains power to inspire change because we all buy into it. There’s nothing magical about the day. It’s a man-made construct of a new year. Others have different constructs. There’s a Chinese New Year, a Jewish New Year, and I’m sure there are more for different cultures and religions and groups of people. And while the specific date isn’t important to me, the New Year has led to some fairly in depth reflection.

My body tends to follow a calendar of Paganism, even though I’m not practicing currently. Winter tends to be the time of introspection. A time to take stock and plan for the coming year. What worked last year? What didn’t? What has been eating at me to change, what progress was made? It’s a time when cold, barren land protects the seeds within it that will, in a few months, spring forth with the season.

It’s happening at work with budgetary discussions and the dying of one event to make room for the life of another. It’s happening in my house, with taking down the Christmas tree, putting away the decorations and presents and being thankful for the previous year and going on a slow cleaning binge. We’ve got a new vacuum and everything!

And it’s happening deep inside of me.

There are things I know I need to do. Hell, my last post was a damn long rant about one of them: getting back into burlesque.

But there are others.

I’ve kept them close to my chest for a while, but I’m ready to let them out into the world. Potentially to create some sort of accountability, encouragement, and just…to make it real. Of course things can be real living inside my head. But change is motion, movement. If a thought is just in my head it doesn’t mean much until I put it out there – as a conversation, part of my writing, in song, working out, hugging, yelling, etc.

So here is my attempt to actualize.

It’s time to get my health under control. My blood pressure has soared with the stress of this past year and my doctor is concerned. I’m concerned. I’m working on it, but I need to do more than take my medicine as directed. Things like:

  • meditation
  • push myself and my students more in classes
  • eating better – which will likely be it’s own post
  • dancing, moving more, and stretching every damn day
  • Finding healthier ways to deal with my anxiety and depression, even if it means meds again
  • reach out to friends and loved ones for emotional support instead of bottling

I want to be more creative this year. As such, I’m going to:

  • Play my ukulele more – I’ve already begun to learn a new song!
  • Sing more
  • Write more fiction
  • Finish at least the first draft edit of my book
  • burlesque and dancing
  • force myself to learn to use the awesome gift my husband gave me last year, with the awesome gift he gave me this year.
  • Read 27 books in a year and write at least a small review about each. I did Cannonball Read in 2013 and actually made it to 52 books and reviews in a year (!) That was incredibly stressful (but still awesome) so I’m going for a half Cannonball which is technically 26 but I’m going +1 because I don’t like even numbers.
  • Post a blog once a week. Which, technically,the Cannonball Read takes care of half of that, if I want it to.

My body craves D/s and sex and attention and receiving ASMR. Therefore, I plan to:

  • Reach out to more people locally and regionally
  • Ask for what I’m interested in
  • Rejoin the local kink scene
  • Be clearer about what I want out of date nights
  • Seek out casual play at events
  • Try to afford regular massages. “Regular” might mean every few months, but still
  • If not always massages, pedicures. Never knew how much I loved pedicures until my sister introduced me to the wonders. So good. And toes so pretty!
  • Find friends who want to read to me for ASMRing. One dear friend did this at GKE last year while another gave me a massage. That was close to bliss, aside from the pain that was being worked out of my lower back.

Fuck your fascist beauty standards. Or, I’m ready to be sexy again.

Some of my friends have started writing 2015 end-of-the-year assessment posts, blogs about what they want to change in 2016, and I’m sure more reflection on the past and hope for the future will come over the next few days. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been deep in my own mental review of the past year. What I liked, what I didn’t, what I want to change. But for now, one thing that’s affected deeply me throughout this year came screeching into the forefront of my brainmeats as something I want to phoenix the fuck out of in the coming year.

Earlier this year, I had to interact, directly and indirectly, with someone who opposed and belittled multiple facets of who I am, who I love, and what I do and in the course of a few days, total, managed to cast a pall of shame on things that I had previously been proud of: my ability to entertain, my sexiness, my kinkiness and the kink lifestyle, the self esteem I had built so carefully over the years and put back together over and over again. This person managed to also denigrate the sexiness of some of the most amazing performers I’ve ever been privileged to know and work with and, for some, call my friends and lovers. I’m not comfortable going into more detail but the experiences of this, and its aftermath, affected a large part of my life this year and continues to impact me in ways I’m still discovering.

For the most part, I’ve managed to make some sort of grudging peace with it and the fact that it will continue to nick at my skin for the foreseeable future because of reasons. Then I read this article entitled “My Right To Be Sexualized” by Little Bear. Who is now my goddamned heroine.

Y’see, I co-founded a burlesque troupe which I then co-directed for six years. The troupe is still going fabulously and about to hit its tenth anniversary being a body positive, all-gender-positive, sexy smorgasbord of theatrical awesomeness. For various life reasons, I took a hiatus/temporary retirement about two and a half years ago. Part of it was semi-planned, though not the specific timing. I knew I’d want, at some point, to be less involved because I eventually wanted to start a family. That took many twists and turns from 2012 through 2013, and all of them hit me full force in one heart-breaking day in the spring of 2013. Since then, I’ve worked on putting pieces of my heart back together, working towards a new life and new love, figuring out what I wanted, and working to make things I believe in happen. But in many ways, I wound up putting way too much energy in making things happen for other people than for myself.

The other part of the reason I left was because I was no longer feeling sexy as myself, only when I put on my character. And that scared me. I know RuPaul has told drag queen contestants on Drag Race to use their alter-drag queen-ego to enhance themselves, but I couldn’t find a way to do that so I wanted to take some time to rediscover me. What I discovered is something I’m still battling. Basically, I found that my dreams felt unreachable and unrealistic, that I haven’t been dealing with my anxiety and depression well at all, and that the self-esteem I’d built so carefully over the years was torn to shreds.

Shades of the past haunt me, even now. In my head I hear a  previous partner who, during a fight, said all he could see when he looked at me any more was my double chin and rolls of fat. Or I hear another partner who thought it was funny to poke me in the stomach and insist I giggle like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I hear the people who used to serenade me in school because the funniest thing they could think of was to sing to the fat girl, telling her how “beautiful” she was, laugh hysterically, and ask her to marry them. Or the ones who used to pretend there was an earthquake happening when I walked by.

I’ve been told, more than once, that I have a great face, wonderful bone structure, a lovely sense of rhythm and movement, but that I’d be prettier if I lost a few pounds. And I’ve been looked at pitifully while enjoying a piece of candy or a cupcake, as if I shouldn’t be taking joy in it, because I shouldn’t be eating it at all.

The mixed messages have been fun, too. From the people who openly criticized my eating habits while they, themselves, were neither thin nor healthy eaters, to the family member who bought me a gift bag full of candy for my birthday…and then handed me a diet book…to what? Round out the present? She was also a leader in the “you’d be so [pretty, attractive, beautiful, insert adjective of choice here] if you lost some weight” brigade.

There are times when I can’t stop hearing these things, happening over and over in an endless loop in my head. They come up when thinking about wanting to do a sexy dance for someone I care about makes me want to crawl into a hole because I know he’ll laugh at me, yet there was a time when I used to be excited to do that sort of thing. When thinking about how I look or various positions to do during sex send me into a panic. “I can’t do that,” I think in a blind terror. The next thought is either “I’ll look like a blob folded like that.,” or, “I’ll kill them if I try that position!”

And I realized, sometime last year, that this also impacted how I felt about getting back on stage. I felt afraid. Afraid of how I’d be perceived. Afraid to be heckled. Afraid that I’d lost even that last vestige of sexiness I was able to feel, character or not. And then, as the situation I spoke of in the second paragraph unfolded, I felt a dying gasp of fight within me.

I tried to articulate it. Tried to do something about it. I didn’t get far. There were a few, select people who agreed with me. Who supported me. But ultimately, I’ve only been able to put words to it recently, after reading Little Bear’s post.

It’s because, “no one wants to see that.” It’s because “that’s not what people like.” “That’s not what sells.”

Therefore, our low “market value” (a phrase neo-masculinists actually use free of irony) doesn’t elevate us.

It neuters us.

In that one sentence I realized that feeling I couldn’t put my finger on…I felt neutered.

Others, from strangers to lovers to public figures, have looked at me and deemed me unsexy and unworthy. Said no one wanted to see people like me taking my clothes off on stage. Said people who looked like me weren’t “what sells.” That was the message I heard, that was the message I felt, and that is the message I have had an incredibly hard time overcoming.

And along comes Little Bear, who also has PCOS (poly-cystic ovary syndrome) and is in therapy for anxiety and depression from emotional abuse and eating disorders, all things I also deal with. And my heart sang with the recognition of crossing paths, even if it’s just on the internet, with a familiar soul.

But as I read on, my heart practically leapt out of my chest with gratitude for a stack of reasons. For her writing and for putting herself out there. For reminding me that, “sexiness is for anyone that wants it.”

And for this, especially:

I didn’t wait to love my body to strip. I began stripping to slowly learn to love my body. In doing so, I am being sexy not by “retaining a mystique” or showing you “flattering” shapes. I am showing you my shape—in all its soft, chubby, hairy, sweaty glory.  I have told “mystique” to go fuck itself.

Amen, sister. I’m about to tell “mystique” to go fuck itself, too. I have a few ideas about how to get back into burlesque, a little at a time. We’ll see how they go. But I’m no longer going to be held hostage by vocal oppressors. As Little Bear said:

“No wants to see that?” Tell that to the audiences who cheer for every pastie I pop and stocking I pull.

With that one sentence, I was reminded of all the cheers I got, the praise and compliments, the heartfelt thanks from people who never thought of themselves as sexy until they saw me owning my own sex appeal on stage. The people who thanked the troupe I worked my ass off on with Viktor Devonne, its current director, to go beyond simply sexuality (which, of course has its place and is wonderful) to deal with issues of abuse, fear, aging, death, love, longing, transformation, BDSM, alternative sexualities/genders/relationships, personal growth, and so much more on stage. I was reminded of performers of all stripes (like Amanda Palmer, Brian Viglione, Dolly Shot, Viktor Devonne, and so many others) who support diversity on stage.

And recently, as if to help usher me towards this decision, there have been the random people recognizing me when I haven’t been in character who ask me when I was going to be back on stage, friends who said they miss seeing me perform and wondering if I’ll do so at the last Wicked Faireand the one special, unexpected message I got from a dear friend a few months ago who just wanted to tell me how amazing they thought I was and linked me to one of my own performances.

“No one wants to see that.”

Fuck that.

Tell that to the over 50,000 people who’ve seen the video of me that Amanda Fucking Palmer herself called “two hot buxom girls in what looks like a stolen insurance board room doing burlesque” when she re-tweeted the link to it.

Tell it to the people who’ve cried with laughter (because it was a cheeky number, not laughing *at* me) and sadness (because I’ve done some heavy shit, y’all. Give the peoples the *feels*) over numbers I’ve done. To the people I made feel. Squirm with desire. Cheer. Tell it to the people who’ve complimented my voice. My body. My choreography.

And while you’re telling people that, I’m going to get back to practicing some numbers. I don’t know when they’ll see the light of day, but I’m sure as fuck getting back on stage again.

A polytude of thanks

Once again, it’s Thanksgiving Day. For me, I have much to be thankful for and much to be thoughtful of.

  • My sister (and her family)

While I don’t always agree with all of them, they’ve welcomed me and my freaky lifestyle in their home to live when I first moved down South and then, later, when I moved out on my own, helped and supported me to do that. My sister doesn’t fully understand my life, but she loves me. Sometimes I take it for granted that I can tell her that my husband’s girlfriend is coming to visit and ask if she can partake of Sunday dinner my sister hosts. We agreed to introduce said girlfriend as our friend to the rest of the family, mostly to not have to get into a discussion about what polyamory is with the 4 and 6 year old nieces who are not my children, but my sister knows who she is and is welcoming her to break bread. When I think of families who have disowned people just for coming out as poly or an alternative sexuality or kinky, and then I think of my sister, the wellspring of gratitude I have to just be allowed to be me is sometimes overwhelming.

I’ve had conversations with her about kink stuff and while she doesn’t fully get it, she now knows a few things like  a) it doesn’t always have to be about sex, b) I’m not into being a lamp post, and c) furries exist and she may know one or two (not me). She knew my silver bracelets with my ex-husband were a collar and didn’t try to tell me I was wrong or bad because of it. She did, however, try to point out ways I wasn’t being treated well in that relationship overall, but it wasn’t because of the kink aspect. And when it came right down to it, she was right. Hence the “ex” husband part.

She’s joked with me about my job running programming for Geeky Kink Events, listened when I mooned over a new crush while currently married, and flown halfway across the country to be my Matron of Honor the weekend I decided it was a great idea to get remarried at the Wicked Winter Renaissance Faire, perform with the burlesque troupe I co-founded (White Elephant Burlesque Society – OMG so fucking good), and because I didn’t have anything else to do on Sunday, audition for The Voice. My sister is hardcore supportive love in action and living proof that you don’t need to think alike to love some one. I am truly blessed to have her as my sister and best friend.

  • My job(s)

I run programming for a company called Jeff Mach Events.  It involves working with an insanely talented pool of international writers, singers, bands, dancers, actors, performers, artists, poets, craftsman, tech people, editors, kinksters, and presenters. These people inspire me to keep creating and recreating myself. The opportunities and friendships I’ve made because of this job are too numerous to go into now, but I’m incredibly grateful for them.

In my other job, I am grateful to be allowed to teach water aerobics to people. I actually get paid to exercise, and in the water, which is amazing to me since I’ve been a water baby from the time I was born. However, it’s one of the few places I have to be careful when I talk about my other job, because this one is vanilla to the Nth degree.

  • My husband.

He and I have come a long way. To be blunt, he hurt me a lot in the beginning of our relationship and I wasn’t sure if we’d survive it. But I took a chance. I felt that if he followed through on the promises to change that he made, we stood a chance. Hell, even better than a chance. It was hard to explain, but I knew in my bones that if he could follow through, we could have something special.

And he has. And we do. We’re going to therapy. We’ve worked through some difficult trust issues. We’re building a life and a future together. He’s now teaching other people about good poly and safe sex practices. He encourages me to pursue my dreams. He’s helped make me a better person, more able to express myself out loud than I’ve ever been able to.

  • The extended family whom I’ve chosen and who’ve chosen me.

My ex-husband’s mother, for one. It was probably a clear sign that that marriage was over when I was more upset that I’d lose that particular mother-in-law than I was over the fact that my husband and wife were leaving me for each other. However, the first time I saw her after her son told her the news, she took the awkward bull by the horns and pulled me aside to tell me that no matter what happened, she loved me and I would always be her daughter. I went back to my soon to be ex-husband and ex-wife and said it wasn’t like they were losing a wife, it was more that they were gaining a sister. Ya gotta laugh, right?

Then there’s the intentional polycule apartment I live in. The poly community I’m getting to know. The kinksters I’m friends with. The burlesque dancers. The fire eaters. The hardcore punk ballerinas and fiercely fucked up clowns. The trans and non-gender binary people who’ve let me share in their journey, the multitude of sexually diverse people, and the blended families that crop up out of the most unexpected places.

  • My cell phone, computer, and car. 

Holy fuck, amirite?

  • An awesome therapist and healthcare

In the South, it’s a rare therapist indeed who doesn’t try to tell you polyamory or kinkery is wrong or a sin. Who congratulates you on publishing erotica. And just…healthcare. Sweet mother of happy, healthcare.

There’s more, but I think I’ll end it here. My goal is to remember I’m thankful for these things every day, not just at Thanksgiving, because they make all the other 364 days not just liveable, but a celebration of life. Thank you and I hope you either find yourselves similarly blessed in your tribe or that you find it soon.