Three Is A Crowd

For the past, oh, two decades or so, men have been trying to talk me into three-or-more-somes. I’ve been accused of turning down the requests without knowing what I like, which is completely not true. I like men. Specifically, I like one man at a time. It’s tough to believe, I know – with the easy access to free porn on the internet (Pornhub, Youporn, XHamster, etc.), it’s pretty much shoved in your face as a consumer of sex that if you are a woman, you should want to fuck both men and women, and it should be enough for the women in porn that the men and/or viewers get off on what they are doing, not the woman who is actually going through the experience. I also blame the phenomenon that seemed to start right around age 23-ish for me, which was that women began making out with each other on the dance floor and in bars if they knew that they could gain attention from men. I’ve heard the theory that women are a lot more fluid in their sexual preferences than men are, so maybe they enjoy making out with their female friends, but I know that getting attention is a huge payoff. The problem with that is that men are now conditioned to look for that in every woman they meet, so if a woman balks at that demand, then the man moves on to the next tasty morsel.

My first live-in boyfriend was nerd before nerd was cool. He was also hooked on porn and had had some bisexual girlfriends before dating me, and he hoped to convert me into inviting others into our sex life. We even went to a swingers’ club one night when we were still living in Albuquerque. It was a bust though – not many people were there, and the three men who hit on me were in their 50’s and slightly inebriated. The bigger problem, though, is that I wasn’t ready to bring someone else in, but I was trying to please him.

A man I fooled around with was, well, very good at what he did, so he probably could have talked me into anything. He told me that he had a buddy from the gym who would be willing to do a threesome. I was tempted because it wasn’t the usual request of going at it with another woman, but I had some hard limits that I wasn’t sure would be honored because I didn’t know jack about the other guy. I don’t ever like to feel outnumbered, whether it’s with trying to wrangle toddlers or penises or anything else that has the ability to turn an experience immediately to shit.

A Greek guy I dated in Ohio talked me and another couple into a post-hot tub rendezvous, but that quickly soured for me because all my boyfriend would talk about was how hot the other woman was, and if he was taking care of her, she would have orgasmed immediately. He got his chance and he was proven wrong. (Pro tip: If you’re going to tell your girlfriend over and over how other women are prettier than her, don’t expect hero worship.)

Through a social group that I belonged to in Phoenix, among the many people I met, I became friends with a husband and wife with a young child. The husband was a nurse at the hospital where I volunteered, and we met while I was in my first year back at school to earn my RN degree. The wife provided writing and grammar services on the side, so I had some things in common with both of them. About six months into the friendship the couple explained that they had an open marriage and they were both interested in me. After I told them that I was the straightest girl they knew, they seemed to accept it and we continued our friendship. One night after the husband and I were hanging out with a group of 10 or so at a bar, he propositioned me and told me that his wife understood, and that he had her permission to have sex with me. I thought to myself, “Okay, I haven’t tried this before where everything is out in the open, so I’ll give it a whirl.” The husband asked if he could have some privacy in my living room to call his wife so they could talk about it again before anything happened, so I was not privy to the conversation. When he joined me in my bedroom, he told me that he told her what was happening and made sure she was okay with it. Can you guess what happened? She wasn’t okay with it. She called me, and then she called him, and after questioning me and him thoroughly, she determined he lied to both of us. Oh, yeah, and he was also screwing another married woman on the side. And the married woman he was screwing had another guy on the side. Are you keeping up with the math? There were at least six of us that had to go in for STD testing. And even though she figured out that the husband was lying through his teeth and I hadn’t maliciously tried to insert myself into their (oh, surprise – not-so-open) marriage, she told everyone in our social group that I was a homewrecker. I ended up dropping out of the group only a week after all of this was discovered. I had made a lot of friends and was attending weekly events and suddenly I was out.

A little older and wiser, I’ve seen many polyamorous relationships thanks to FetLife. I haven’t seen one group of three or more people who have successfully navigated love and sex without someone having to leave, usually in tears. Whether or not a relationship works strongly depends on everyone’s level of comfort with various dynamics. For example, are you okay with your man being a “pony” for a mistress as long as he doesn’t have sex with her? Are you open to being one of three wives to one man? What if your man kisses every woman he meets on the lips while you stand there and it’s obvious to even the casual bystander that it takes a little piece out of your heart every time? And probably the worst scenario is being singled out while everyone else bands together in a group that is supposed to be all-inclusive – it can be very lonely and traumatizing to be ganged up on.

What works for me is to make a relationship work between me and one other person, because damn, even that isn’t easy. I want less strife and heartbreak in my life.

WWJD

Drummer #2 coulda been Jesus. He grew out his hair to his lower back, dark brown with tight natural curls, and had light grey-blue eyes. He even had a full beard and mustache. The overall effect was Jesus, at least the Anglican version of that religious figure. Funny thing is that he was raised Jewish and was basically an atheist. Drummer #2 grew up in Manhattan in a lower middle class family that was ruled by his father’s violence and his mother’s indifference.

We met when I accepted an invitation from a guy I didn’t know well to join a group of people I didn’t know at all to hang out at a dive bar and sing karaoke and talk politics. Jeff worked at GoDaddy and he had rounded up some co-workers for a night out, and Drummer #2 was there. The joint’s decor was sad vinyl chairs from the ’70s and even sadder regular drunks sitting in a circle around the bar and staring vacantly into their drinks. I have never really shied away from meeting new people and hearing their stories – I mean, how else are you supposed to make friends as an adult? So we had some great conversations going around the table, but then Jeff had too many drinks and became a little belligerent. I was explaining to him some of the volunteer work I had been doing (being a “hugger” at a children’s hospital), and I was a little baffled to find that I had to defend myself to him when he wondered why I thought my work was benefiting anyone. Drummer #2 jumped in and that as difficult as it was to see very sick children, I was doing a great thing in comforting them. That immediately endeared him to me. In the parking lot, he gave me his business card and told me that he would like to stay in touch and his website was the easiest way to contact him.

I don’t remember how or where our next outing was, but we ended up spending a lot of time together, at least a couple of times a week. I had vowed to remain celibate for a year when I met him, so I did not see it as a dating opportunity. We would look for new and unusual (and inexpensive) things to do. I took him to the Paper Heart in downtown Phoenix, which is no longer in operation, but it was a multi-purpose art space for performances and poetry jams and live painting. It turned out that he was a photographer as well as a musician and I knew that that place would be right up his alley. For a one-month stretch I had a wild hair to go play some bingo – but not at a casino – so I tried to find places where we could hang out in a church basement with a bunch of blue hairs. All of the events calendars were outdated so we would end up driving up and down these streets where bingo should have been, and eventually we’d give up and go to a restaurant instead.

We carried on as friends for an entire year. Eventually I trusted him enough to talk to him about an idea I had for photographs, which was to paint my face, bald head and neck in white, and then make swirls on one side of my face with gold paint, quite like a Klimt piece of art. I went to a costume shop and found some really great face paints and we invested in an airbrush for the base coat. The photographs turned out better than I could have ever hoped. Some were black and whites, where my torso and shoulders were wrapped in white gauze, and that combined with the white paint and black backdrop made me appear as if I were a marble statue. Another was a full body shot of me wrapped in a quilt sewn with intricately printed fabrics where the gold swirls on my face contrasted with the white base paint, and the overall effect was stunning. We laughed over the fact that at times when I tried to look serious and intense, it really came off as a resting bitch face.

My lease with the current roommate was ending, and Drummer #2 and I decided to become roommates. We wanted to look for a house we could comfortably share that would have enough room for him to do his photography, and we settled on a 3BR/2BA on a little man-made lake, complete with ducks. We even acquired a paddle boat from his best friend. I had the bedroom at the front of the house next to the garage, and he had the master suite with enough room to shove his bed into a corner and set the rest up with black backdrops for his sessions. The middle bedroom was our office where we set up dueling computers. He was often working on editing his most recent photos or moderating a heavy metal website.

Not long after we moved in, we were laying on his bed talking about our days, and he raised up over me on one elbow and leaned down and kissed me. This is one of those times where ignoring my instincts resulted in dire consequences. I loved him as a person who was a large part of my daily living, and he seemed to accept me as I was, even with my quirks and less-than-conventional appearance. But I had all kinds of warnings going off in my brain and I wasn’t sure why. I fought them. I told myself I was being stupid. So at Drummer #2’s insistence that he wanted to be close to me, intimately, I broke my self-imposed celibacy.

Drummer #2 insisted that he wanted to show his affection for me by being intimate, but he absolutely did not want to get into a romantic relationship. I couldn’t reconcile that in my head; we were friends, and we were lovers, and we were living in a house together. Why couldn’t it be a romantic relationship?

I found out the hard way that I should have trusted the warning bells. As soon as he stuck his dick in me, everything changed. I became a possession to control. He didn’t want to be in a relationship with me, but he certainly didn’t want me to find anyone else. He also became incredibly critical of me and tried to control every emotion that I felt. Drummer #2 claimed that he was really “in tune” with me and could sense my thoughts and feelings. There were so many times I would come home from work and it hadn’t been a particularly good or bad day, but he would insist that there was something bothering me and that I should tell him everything. He wanted me to have bad days. Sometimes I would just make up stupid shit to get him off my case, like, “Oh, yeah, you’re right, this thing happened at work today.” Then he would make a big show of comforting me, as if he was the only person on the earth who could help me.

I was starting to feel really smothered. Every look on my face was scrutinized, and he was constantly telling me what I should be feeling instead. The only way I can describe that feeling is like he had is arm constantly over my shoulders, and I couldn’t shrug him off.

The co-habitation started in September of 2008. In February of 2009, I went to an event that involved group meditation. I had had many bouts of bronchitis for the prior 12 months and was fighting another round at that time, but I really wanted to get out of the house and find some peace. I got home and found him waiting on the couch with the TV and computers turned off. He was furious that I was gone for two hours, even though he knew I was going and where I would be, and he started raging. I don’t normally just sit back and accept someone screaming at me; I yell right back. It was a long, drawn out fight that lasted for four days.

We had opposite schedules and would sometimes leave notes for each other by using dry erase markers on our tile counter tops. On the fourth day I awoke to find all of the counters in the kitchen covered in black dry erase marker, telling me how horrible I was and that he had wasted his time with me by doing all of the fun things we did like try to find bingo and take photos. That was about 46 sq. ft. of counter space covered with tiny black letters. He told me that if I would just allow him to guide me that I would become a better person. He told me no one would accept me or love me like he did. At that point I was emotionally exhausted and hurt, and I apologized to him for yelling. But after that first big fight, there was always tension.

In March of 2009 I went on a date with a guy from work. That triggered another drawn-out fight, and more hate messages on the counter tiles. Drummer #2 claimed that he wanted to be in a relationship with me and that I was cheating on him by going out with someone else. It was news to me, but I agreed to stay exclusive with him. Again, I apologized.

There were so many fights and so many hate messages written on the tiles. He would also send me emails whose word counts were in the thousands. To this day I have a folder dedicated to him and all of the correspondence is in that folder, but I can’t bring myself to read it, so I can’t give you any specifics, but the fights always ended with him insisting that I should feel what he told me to feel and if I would just let him guide me, everything would be okay.

In June of 2009 we had another fight. That time, though, something sent him over the edge. I can’t remember what exactly – I probably raised my voice back at him – and he threw a drinking glass across the room at me. I do remember him calling me a fucking piece of shit, a bitch, a whore, yelling that I had made him try to kill me. I had been cooking something on the stove and there were thousands of pieces of glass all around me and in the food. The glass had ended up breaking the wooden blinds at the window next to me. I didn’t say anything but went straight to my room and locked my door. I called my friend and made arrangements to move into the empty third floor of her house, and I hired shitty movers off of Craigslist who broke every piece of furniture they moved.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. It rarely is in an abusive relationship.

It took three months, but he worked on me and wore me down until I agreed to go back to him and try again. At first he cried and tried to make his eyes as big as possible (a trick he admitted later as one of his go-to moves for manipulation), and then he started back in on telling me that if I would just feel what he told me to, everything would be okay. The fighting was constant. I remember curling up into a ball and sobbing because he told me I was worthless and that he should just leave me, and it was my fault that he was falling apart again after never intending to get into another romantic relationship in the first place.

Still, I tried. I constantly walked on egg shells around him, afraid that if I showed the “wrong” emotion, he’d freak out. We even tried to celebrate the holidays. I bought Christmas gifts for him based on what he had mentioned in casual conversation as wanting, and I jokingly told him to try not to buy anything for himself for a few weeks because it might be in my stash for him. He responded by saying, “What kind of piece of shit person do you have to be to tell me what I can buy?”

We didn’t make it to Christmas, though. I can’t remember what prompted me to leave besides the obvious, so maybe I was at the end of my rope. I emailed him and told him I would be at the house on Saturday, December 12th to get the remainder of my dishes from the kitchen and other odds and ends, but I didn’t want him there and I made that very clear. He was supposed to be working the early shift that day and should not have been there when I arrived.

When I let myself into the house carrying a brand new monitor still in its box that he had given to me, the house was silent, and I didn’t see his car. I took off my shoes and walked toward the back to the office to return the monitor. The rooms were dark and I didn’t see him in the corner of the office until I set the box down and I saw movement from the corner of my eye. He had called in sick to work and had been waiting for me. I ran through the kitchen towards the front of the house and had to pause to try to slip my toes into my shoes while opening the front door. He caught up with me there. He hugged his arms around me so that I couldn’t move without dragging him and I couldn’t raise my arms – and he also knew enough to not put too much pressure on one area to leave bruises, like grabbing me with fingers. We struggled at the door and he repeated over and over, “Don’t leave!” I finally managed to get mostly free of him and then I tried to get to my car, but he was pulling on anything he could get his hands on, mostly clothing. I got my flip phone out and managed to dial 911 but then hung up immediately when we continued to struggle in the driveway. The operator called me back and I was completely panicked and shaking, and I told her that he wouldn’t let go of me. When he realized I was on the phone with 911 he let go of me and allowed me to close the door. I started the car and tore out of the driveway, the operator asking if I could get to a safe place and wait for officers.

When the officers arrived (one male, one female), they questioned me. I couldn’t show them any bruises because I knew he hadn’t left any. When they went to the house to question Drummer #2, he gave them the big eyes and worked himself up to force his eyes to water. They came back to me and said since there weren’t any witnesses (this was too early in the morning for people to be out in the neighborhood) and he didn’t leave any marks, they weren’t going to haul him in AND if I called in another report, they were going to arrest me. I was absolutely dumbfounded. This is the stuff you read about but can’t imagine happening until it actually does. I started shaking and sobbing, and they told me to call a friend if I wanted to whine to someone.

After crying in my car for a while, I drove back to my friend’s house. A few hours later I received a call from Drummer #2 wanting to know what I wanted to do. I told him to get the fuck out of the house and stay gone for two hours. He told me he could stay and help. I told him I never wanted him to be there while I got the rest of my stuff and I never wanted to have any contact with him again. That was the last conversation we had.

Drummer #2 always bragged that he was smarter than everyone else, that his IQ tested off the charts and that he could get away with anything he wanted to because all cops and lawyers were stupid – and he proved it when I called 911. In 2010 I lived in two different apartment complexes. Every night of that year, I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I was afraid he had somehow tracked me down and broke in and was standing over me, waiting for me to wake up.

The Affair

I am stuck in bed except for times that I need to run out for doctor appointments, so I have become a heavy Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu patron. When Hulu offered a month free of their Showtime shows add-on, I jumped all over that – I haven’t had satellite/cable TV for at least seven years and there are certain shows I was hearing about over and over regarding their quality casting and writing. I powered through “Masters of Sex” and tried to watch “The Affair.”

“Masters of Sex” is fascinating on many levels. First, it’s set in the 1950s-1960’s, when discussion of the nature of sexual response did not occur in public. Second, Masters’ and Johnson’s breakthrough publication immediately preceded The Pill, which as we should know right now, freed a lot of women up to choose if and when to become pregnant, therefore leaving a lot more doors open to pursuing higher education, gainful employment and a variety of sexual partners. Third, it’s fun to see the period costumes and sets; oh, how nostalgic we become in looking back.

If you have not seen the series and you do not know the history of Masters and Johnson, caution: spoiler alert.

They convinced themselves that anything they did to contribute to research – anything – was NOT an affair. Masters was distant towards his wife and children and refused to explore anything sexual with his wife. Johnson was previously divorced with children (also a rarity for her generation) and she took on sexual partners without pretending that the interludes were for anything but sex. So in the name of research, they started an affair. At first, they would run stopwatches and talk about plateaus, but as the proverbial fly on the wall, the audience knows they are making some weak excuses to do the nasty. After a while it just became common knowledge, at least to Mrs. Masters, that Dr. Masters and Virginia Johnson were more than simply researchers to each other.

I could only get about four or five episodes into “The Affair” because it made me uncomfortable. It’s a modern examination of how men and women perceive opportunity. Again, spoiler alert – if you want to see it but haven’t yet, look away. Half of the show is dedicated to the telling from the perspective of the woman, and half is dedicated to the perspective of the man, but it’s not immediately apparent in the first episode until halfway through. When we watch through Noah’s eyes, Alison is a young, attractive woman who wears short shorts and practically throws herself at him. Her face is open, she is giving him bedroom eyes when they interact, there is always a half smile playing around her mouth, she speaks with confidence. Noah is stuttering and fumbling, unsure of himself, but going along with what she is offering because she has invited him. When it’s Alison’s turn to show her perspective, she is perpetually sad because she and her husband lost a child, and she is the one who is unsure of herself and feeling unattractive and lost. In her eyes, Noah is the instigator.

The reason why this particular series gets under my skin is that sometimes when I send another man away, I marvel at the information that comes back to me by mutual acquaintances. Like, were we even in the same relationship? Did he hear nothing that I said? Did he think I wouldn’t catch him lying?

But what if, like in the show “The Affair,” he really believes his version of the story? And what if I really believe my own version? The three men I lived with are no longer in contact, so I can’t ask them what they think now about what happened then. Do they even remember? The first one spent all of his rent money on porn and video games. The second one stole money from me and disappeared for days. The third one was controlling and abusive. What if their version of what went down is to say that I was controlling and demanding, or, I don’t know, wore unattractive socks? How can you even dispute something that the other person takes as fact? Does it ever work to try to change someone’s perception?

And then there’s Josh Duggar. I posted the quintessential meme on Facebook last night: “Marriage is between one man and one woman…and my sisters…and that chick from Ashley Madison.” He’s spending a lot of time now saying he’s sorry. I wonder how he justified all of his actions? When you strip away his church and his parents’ protection, there isn’t much left to hide behind. Duggar can’t claim he was seduced by his sisters. He can’t cry that he was duped into creating two accounts with Ashley Madison or that he didn’t make the profiles himself, since he very deliberately entered his grandmother’s address as his own. Also, is he (or his dad) going to waive the magic penis around and say that Jesus forgives him?

Two Dolla, Make You Holla

in 2006, I was working on a campus with about 4,000 employees full time, and I worked across the street part time at a women’s clothing store to earn extra money for a trip to Europe. The full time job put me in contact with a lot of people – and when I say people, I mean men, especially because it wasn’t as common as it is now for women to be in the IT field.

I met a woman through work who ended up being my traveling companion to Europe that year, and she had a little brother who was up to all kinds of shenanigans. We played designated driver for him when he partied too much to drive, and every time he would see me, he would stick my head in his sweaty armpit and tell me that he loved me. At one point, Little Brother told me that one of his co-workers had the hots for me and wanted to be set up. He wouldn’t tell me who it was and wouldn’t point him out, which made me pretty nervous and self-conscious, but I was flattered that the guy was interested, and Little Brother assured me that he was a good guy. So I agreed to meet the mystery man at a bar/restaurant in front of my second job on a Sunday night after my shift was done.

I arrived, and since I wasn’t sure who I should look for, I waited outside the front door. I was pretty hungry so I thought it would be nice to chow down and get to know this person. After about ten minutes, a guy came out of the front door and introduced himself; I’ll call him Sailor. He was handsome with blue eyes and dark hair, muscles and tattoos. I was pleasantly surprised. He invited me inside, but instead of heading to the restaurant side, he led me to the noisier bar and told me he had already started drinking. I ordered a drink and some fries.

Sailor was immediately ready to share. First he told me that he had singled me out because I “looked like a party girl.” (I wondered what gave him this impression, since I dressed in always-appropriate attire and never did the walk of shame into work.) Turns out Sailor really liked my long-ish red hair (wig! It’s a wig, buddy!). He told me that he had been in the Navy, and that every time they docked, he would pay for a prostitute because they were so cheap, usually $2, and they would do anything he asked. Sailor then told me that he was currently married but wasn’t sure if he should get a divorce or not, because his wife had gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars from a boyfriend who died, and he liked that they were able to buy cars and houses with cash. He asked me about my dating/marriage history, and I explained that when I first moved to Phoenix, I went on many, many dates because I didn’t know anyone and it was a great way to socialize as well as get to know the city. Sailor told me I must be a big whore for going on all of those dates.

This all happened in the first half hour. At this point, my mind switched from “He’s hot” to “Okay, now I have to stick around to see what happens.”

I don’t know how many beers he had. I stopped at half a drink. He started getting sloppy and singing the praises of being black Irish and said over and over how much he liked Irish pubs. I told him there was one about four miles away, so Sailor got a wild hair about going to that one. I insisted on driving. En route, he rolled down the passenger window, flapped my sun visor at passing cars and quacked at them. Sailor also said over and over, “I’m in Kiwi’s car! I can’t believe it!”

We pulled up to the pub, and he became very quiet, then mumbled, “I think I got thrown out of here and banned.” We went in anyway and sat at the bar, making the total patron count 5. The bartender took our drink orders and said, “First date, huh?” Sailor got up to go to the bathroom and the bartender told me he was sorry for me, and that he would pay for my soda. Sailor stumbled back from the bathroom; his mood had changed, and he was pouting and belligerent. I dropped any pretense of being nice – I was anxious to get home and have some real food and relax before working 14 hours the next day. After he finished his drink, Sailor decided he was ready to leave. On the way out, he high kicked the white erase board with the day’s specials – maybe to show the world how mad he was about being kicked out the last time he was there? I stopped to pick it up and reposition it, and Sailor stumbled toward my car, yelling “Just leave it! Leave it!” Of course I didn’t. Rude.

We got back to the first location and I parked my car but left the engine running. At this point, Sailor tried to sweet talk me into allowing him to come home with me to bang. He also tried to attach himself to me like a sucker fish. I told him no, and he said, “For sure, that’s a ‘No’?” I said, “Yes,” and he said, “Awww, you said yes!” Then he was on me. He tried to mash his lips to mine while simultaneously going under my shirt with his hand and ripping the right cup of my bra. The kicker is that he was doing this in front of an outdoor porch filled with about 30 people. I said “No!” even louder and shoved my forearm against his windpipe. Sailor got pissed, said “Fine!” and got out of my car and slammed the door. I didn’t hesitate, just took off. There was no way I wanted him to try to follow me or be on the road at the same time as him.

Two days later he sent me a message through the work messaging system telling me he thought the date went well. I told him that it was pretty bad – he called me a whore, he got drunk, he kicked over a sign and succeeded in ripping my bra. Sailor told me that he got a DUI on the way home that night. (YES!!!) Then he said it wasn’t so bad for someone who hadn’t been on a date for four years. I said, “Yeah, you haven’t dated for that long because you’re married.” Sailor then said that he would be happy to buy me a new bra as long as he could come into the dressing room with me. I told him it was time to figure out his life.

The next time i saw Little Brother, I punched him in the arm repeatedly and told him that he was permanently off of matchmaking duty.

Yes, I Have a Type

I like men. Tall ones, short ones, fit ones, cute ones, nerd ones, “dad body” ones, I can find something to appreciate in many. However, there are certain things that make me stupid – panty-droppers, if you will. They are:

  1. Firemen. I mean, c’mon, this should be a no-brainer. Granted, some are cuter than others, but family and friends alike encourage this particular addiction by sending me photos and buying me calendars. Even my realtor sent me a picture from a property she was renting to five firemen in Tempe, AZ – one of the guys was posed naked on top of a bicycle out back at the pool, helmet on his head, cigarette in his mouth, and holding a rifle. He was quite fit. His leg very coyly covered up his frank and beans. It was my dream photo minus the rifle and the cigarette. He had it blown up to poster size, which made it easy for the realtor to capture and forward to me. Nearly every day someone posts a half-naked fireman (or if it’s my lucky day, fireMEN) on my Facebook wall. My best day was just a few days after I got Dumb and Angry to move out of the house, I had to call 911 to get help because I thought I had popped my shunt out of the little hole in my cranium, and I was in heaven because I had a house full of firemen. They were all running through my house telling me how much they loved it while a couple stayed with me to work me up, so as I was being wheeled out of the house, I told all of them that I was looking for a roommate. Pass that up? Not me! Of course, I was in crazy pain and had just taken a big dose of painkillers so I was high as a kite, so who knows what else I said to them. I’m pretty sure I didn’t try to stuff dollars down their pants.
  2. Tall men. My first two live-in boyfriends were 6’2″ and 6’3″, and a former boyfriend was 6’4″. I tried twice to make a date happen with a guy who was 6’6″ (he wussed out, had just gotten divorced and was too damaged to follow through), and I think the guy who told me I looked like his dead wife was at least 6’3″. What is it about the tall guys? I’m not sure. I mean, yeah, they can see the top of the fridge, but big deal. I think because I’ve never been considered small, I don’t feel like Godzilla around the tall guys, as in, “Me smash little puny men and snap their thighs like twigs!”
  3. Musicians. I’m talking real musicians, like the ones that can play seven instruments or don’t rely on electronic alterations like auto-tune. I’ve lived with two drummers who could also play other instruments. I think I would give my left pinkie finger to go out with Glen Hansard (at least until I figured out the hard way that he’s a nutter or something). I think this stems from playing a few instruments while in high school and teaching myself a little piano, because I understand what is needed in order to be really good. Kid Rock can kiss my fat ass, he’s as talent-less as they get.

What I miss the most is being able to flirt, especially when I encounter a guy who would normally be somewhere on this list. If I attempted to flirt, any reciprocation would be along the lines of, “Oh, look, the sick lady with the cane and the droopy face is trying to get some action!” I can’t walk down the street with confidence while simultaneously looking for strong biceps or shapely buns because I can’t see further than a few feet in front of myself. You could parade a tall, naked fireman playing a guitar in front of me and all I would be able to see are his toes. All of my good years are being wasted in this bed while a whole new dating pool churns in the world outside my door. It seems criminal.

Magical Medical Mystery Tour

Today was the beginning of a string of appointments to become established with a new team of doctors in the city where I have relocated. Immediately upon arriving via cab, I knew that I was wasting my time.

The building was old, maybe built in the ’60s or ’70’s, and did not have automatic doors (first clue). I took the elevator up to the third floor, and arrived in a dingy hallway with sad puke green carpet. A sign in the elevator banks told me that this floor included plastic surgery, physical therapy, neurology, gynecology, hand surgery, general surgery and pain management. Picture this: All of those specialties crammed behind two closed doors, with only two receptionists to check patients in (second clue). I’m used to going to offices where neurology takes up an entire floor and I’ve never seen a list of thirteen-plus specialties squeezed into one space. By contrast, all of the good doctors a) have cleaner floors, and b) charge more, and c) are more up-to-date on research.

I arrived with all of the copies from various doctors and notes from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, because I (correctly) guessed that the huge stack of paperwork still hadn’t been scanned into the system so all of the other doctors can see it. I spent about ten minutes total with the doctor. Out of all of the information I provided to her, she asked me repeatedly why I had a shunt, since I didn’t have a diagnosis. I told her that it was obvious after the repeated lumbar punctures that I needed to have something continuously take the fluid off of my brain. I mean, at some point, you have to go with what you see, even if you can’t put a name to it. A name is just a name. A diagnosis is just a diagnosis. I’m a complete person, which also means that I am complex. It’s been five years, so I’m not surprised that a diagnosis is still evading all of the medical staff.

In the end, she threw up her hands and said she had absolutely no idea what was happening with me, but she would be happy to send a referral to any other physicians of my choice. To me, those were the magic words, because I had discussed one doctor in particular with one of my sister’s employees, and it turned out that he would only take patients on if other doctors made the referral (no matter which insurance company foots the bill).

As I suspected, it was not yet time to exit the Magical Medical Mystery Tour – certainly not under that roof, anyway.

Let me explain one more concept to you, and that is of the Carousel of Crap. We first started referring to the Carousel in my former work group as we faced some very specific challenges regarding office politics. The Carousel of Crap is the ride we can all relate to. You go around in circles, the music is a little too loud and whiny, you are nauseated because you ate a little too much cotton candy, you can’t get off because the ride is still moving, and there is shit flying everywhere.

I feel as if I have made a stop at the Carousel while on this tour. I can’t get off, I’m a little sick to my stomach and there is shit flying everywhere. I have to explain everything from scratch. I have to deal with doctors who aren’t interested in reading about my case. I must do my own research and try to find better specialists who are further away from my home base (read: more expensive cab fare). I’d like to tag out and have someone else be me for a while so they could find out what it’s like to be a rock star in the rare and difficult world.

There’s No One Waiting

I belong to an online support community where patients, family members and care providers can ask questions of each other or find others who are facing the same challenges. One man was trying to be proactive as the spouse of a woman newly diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune condition, and asked basic questions, such as would it be worth it to see a specialist vs. a regular internist, and what should he expect from the insurance companies? Here is my reply:

I love hearing about supportive spouses! My mom has a very supportive husband, and my sisters do as well – we ladies have terrible genes, unfortunately.

Just keep in mind that “supportive” might mean different things at different times. Fatigue and pain are the most common symptoms of any autoimmune diseases, and what she may have been able to do one day might change the next day, and then change back that day after that. Confusing, right? It will be. In fact, there are going to be other odd things about her condition that will confound her, and you. One thing that I like to tell people in my circle is that they should not start any conversations with, “Why don’t you just _______?” If there was an easy answer, we’d have it already.

My personal experience has been that it is tougher to deal with the doctors and staff than it is my insurance company. Don’t be afraid to fire doctors and look for new ones if they refuse to treat your wife (and you) as people who are involved in your wife’s care. It doesn’t do anyone any good to just blindly follow without understanding or questioning why certain things are being ordered, like meds or tests. I don’t get along with doctors who don’t allow for an open dialogue. Sometimes I will even write down a list, and when the doc enters the room, I first ask, “How much time do we have?” and then I tell that person I have a list. The good ones appreciate efficiency. And boy, read as much as you can. Get info from reputable websites, but also look for posts on your wife’s condition from people like us. There may be times when she thinks she is completely alone – but someone inevitably will confirm that she’s not crazy, and whatever is happening is affecting someone else as well.

Just as a side note: I live in a very large city, but have a hard time finding a decent rheumatologist – no one wants to go into that field because there aren’t any cures and the patients all complain. Anyway, the last time I went to see the nurse practitioner, who I was handed off to unwillingly, he told me that if I would just lose weight, the lumps in the tendon sheaths in my hands would go away. I told him I didn’t walk on my hands, so I didn’t see how losing weight would affect the lumps. I fired him.

And my final piece of advice is that I beg you, both, to keep your sense of humor. Try to find something to laugh about every day, even if it’s at the absurdity of what is happening at that moment.

What I would like to add, though, is that I hope his spouse realizes how lucky she is. Dating at my age is no picnic, and heaping complex diseases on top of that guarantees singlehood. I’ve been left by men I have been seriously dating when they realized that the surgeries would be a constant in my life as surely as I have green eyes. That’s why it kills me that every time we get to question of who is in the waiting room for when I get out of surgery, the nurses ask me multiple times, “Don’t you have someone in the waiting room?” It’s always the women who are disbelieving – surely not all men are put off by my bald head and scars all over my head from surgeries? Believe it, sisters. There is no one waiting for me to come out the other side okay.

What’s In a Name?

Some time ago, I had an exchange of short messages with a guy on a dating site. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with my most recent shunt surgery and how long it would be functional, but I was feeling, well, like I wanted to check out the pool. So of course my shunt went into failure immediately after I sent the first few messages, right around the same time he asked me what kind of relationship I was looking for. I sent him a message saying that I had to go into crisis mode without giving him any details and that it wouldn’t be a good idea after all to try to date, and that I wouldn’t be on the site anymore. His response was, “Well then why are you here, sweet pea?”

My first instinct was to get all poundy-poundy on the keyboard and slug him verbally. Then I took a breath because I needed to evaluate why that response got me all worked up.

This bothered me because 1) I was telling him that I was getting off of the site, so asking me why I was there after I said I wouldn’t be on anymore was at best redundant and at worst insensitive; 2) He doesn’t know me well enough to call me “sweet pea,” so that came off as being really condescending; 3) I’m still a human being trying to make a connection.

On a grander scale, how much does terminology affect how others see us, and how we see ourselves? If a man who doesn’t know me well calls me “sweet pea,” it tells me he doesn’t respect me (or women in general). It’s kind of like petting a strange dog without knowing if it bites people it doesn’t know. Maybe some women are charmed by pet names like that from strangers, but I’m not, and I do bite.

Back when I was in school all the way to my mid-20’s, I was still trying to figure out how I wanted other people to refer to me. One friend and I attached the word “babe” after our names, so she would call me the equivalent of “Kiwi-babe” and I would call her something like “Kristi-babe.” Another friend and I decided, after much debate, that we were not girls and not women, but rather “chicks” – the kind that could hang with the guys and play darts and drink whiskey and be super laid back. Later in my 20’s the “babe” moniker fell by the wayside, but “chick” stuck around. I also managed to pick up the nickname Chester the Molester while working at a restaurant, but I wasn’t alone – there was also Pea Pod Todd and Nicki Pickle. After living in a few more states and tucking more adventures under my belt, a co-worker nicknamed me Chuck. The guy I was messing around with at the time refused to call me that because it was too masculine, as in “Oh, Chuck, that feels so good.” Nope, it didn’t work for him, the straightest man on the planet.

In my 30s, I got further away from the usage of “girl” to describe myself, but was okay with the word “chick” still. But now I’m 41, and I realized that I immediately lose my lady boner when a man refers to “cute girls” or implies that I am a girl. I also don’t get hot for any man who is open to dating a 21-year-old when he is in his mid-40’s – I mean, really, how is it possible to have anything in common, especially if the man claims to be looking for a long-term relationship?

Now that I have decided I am a woman, it means I can no longer crush on Hozier or Ed Sheeran, because that would just be creepy. Pretty soon I am going to wear a variety of fabrics and patterns all mashed together, yarn tied into bows in my hair and garish blush and lipstick. I will forgo the awful perfume that smells like cat pee and cigarette smoke because I’m allergic to perfumes, but just know that I would make it part of the final package if I could. The biggest thing is that I will stop caring. I won’t give a rip if someone calls me a bitch because I’ll say it right back. That’s what I look forward to the most about aging – kiss the filter goodbye!

Man Purse

This week I received my results from 23&Me; specifically they provided the raw data to me, and I opted to have another company interpret it for $5. Some things I already knew about, including my green eyes, inability to do anything except burn in the sun, and my dislike of bitter foods. The tests also confirmed I’m three times more likely than the general public to get lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma. The kicker was the gene that makes me unable to learn from my mistakes repeatedly showed up. I was like, “Hey, 23&Me, get outta my dating life!”

Back in 2006 I was using Plenty of Fish for dating. As per the usual, I was getting messages from men who did not seem to be matches at all – they were just looking for a piece of ass and they couldn’t write a complete sentence to save their lives. Then I got a message from a guy that was an entire paragraph, showcasing his correct use of punctuation and grammar.

All of the advice columns I read about internet dating now suggest that before you trade too many messages, make a date and meet each other – that way you’re not entirely emotionally invested, and there is still a lot to learn about the other person through face-to-face interaction. Well, I did not adhere to that rule at all. I replied, then he replied, then I replied, then he replied, and so on, each message getting longer and longer. Then we talked on the phone a few times, and it seemed like it was an easy flow of conversation. Then we made the date.

I was  kind of excited because he was a bit of a traveler like me, he told me he was a massage therapist, and he looked handsome in his pictures, with surfer curly hair and big blue eyes. I mean, c’mon – a massage therapist, AND tall (6’1″) AND cute? It sounded like I hit the internet dating jackpot.

I picked my favorite place, The Blue Nile, one of the only Ethiopian restaurants in the Phoenix area, now permanently shuttered. I figured it wasn’t expensive and we’d be able to eat with our hands. I was salivating at the idea that he would actually pass the exotic food test, and I was mentally picking out curtains for when we moved in together.

So I was waiting in the parking lot for a few minutes and I got a text message from him that he was running late, but he would be there in about 20 minutes. This was at a time when everyone was using a flip phone and texting took forever because we all had to use the number keypads to choose the letters we wanted, and there were no shortcuts. I told him it was okay, and to stop texting and concentrate on driving.

When he arrived, he confessed he was late because his bus was late. If you don’t already know it, no one in Phoenix rides the bus. It’s a very spread out city and no one wants to transfer four times just to get to a location. So I was quite startled to find out that he didn’t have a car. The first thing that crossed my mind was, “Great, it’s all up to me to haul him around.” His attire for the date was less than impressive. He told me that he had spent time in Hawaii, so his attire matched that story, but the Hawaiian-print shirt had a 10″ slice across the front, and he was wearing a cross-body purse that was red cloth printed with black batik flowers. It was definitely a purse and not a messenger bag.

We went in to the restaurant and started learning more about each other while waiting for the food. My style is to make jokes because I dearly like to laugh. However, every time I said something witty, instead of playing along, he would stop, stare at me intensely and ask me what I meant. Every time I joked, I would have to explain it. Do you know how NOT funny that is? Also, he admitted he wasn’t actually currently employed and had just graduated from massage therapy school, so he wanted to pick up clients just by word of mouth. Oh, and he was sleeping on someone’s couch. Oh, and when he lived in Hawaii, his chest was temporarily pierced so that he could do the body suspension until either the cords broke or his skin ripped. Oh, and he walked over hot coals. (Okay, that last bit was cool, but it wasn’t enough to cancel out the rest.) So to recap: no car, no job, no place to live, no sense of humor, a cut up shirt and a man purse.

By the time dinner ended, it felt like the longest date ever. When the server dropped the check, Man Purse stared at it and said over and over, “Gosh, I wonder what my half is?” The entire meal for the two of us was $20. I took pity on him and grabbed the tray and slapped down $25 in cash and said it was my treat. He got a hug from me in the parking lot. I didn’t even offer to give him a ride home.

Side Eyes

Internet dating takes a lot of patience. It takes a lot of patience, a sense of humor, a filter, a hard candy coating, and a take no prisoners attitude.

I have had many forays into internet dating, though the concept is a lot more organized than when I first dipped my big toe into it. See, kids, first there was instant messaging on AOL. Then MSN messenger became popular. Then Yahoo messenger joined the fray. Any other programs after those big three were copycats and fleeting.

The internet used to be very difficult to navigate and very boring. I remember poking around on it circa 1991 and thinking it wasn’t at all interesting – it moved painfully slowly, and it was like reading a 102-page term paper. But only a few years later, when these messenger programs were becoming popular, pop-up ads and porn were running amok like children who only ate sugar for all of their meals. So it didn’t take long for sex and porn to work their way into conversations happening on messenger windows.

By 1996, the internet was evolving quickly. I remember how exciting it was to join chat rooms to talk about a topic and actually connect with other people in real time. From my profile, other users could tell that I was a single woman in my 20s, and within a few minutes, I would be trying to juggle upwards of 25 windows of private chats – specifically, men who were trying to hit on me. Sometimes there would be bots in the room who would automatically start a chat when someone new would join, and they would include a link for you to click; but being the savvy users that we were, the other members of the chat would send out a general warning to ignore “STACIA69” or some similar screen name because it was a bot that would send your machine a virus. Decades before textspeak, we all had to learn cute codes and acronyms. There was no DTF (down to fuck), but I’m pretty sure the original was BRB, which, depending on who you ask, either stands for “be right back” or “bathroom break.” The chat rooms I chose to enter would be based on my location; at that time, I lived in Albuquerque, so I would enter a chat for that city or state. I hadn’t dated much before moving to New Mexico, so I wasn’t exactly confident in my ability to catch anyone’s attention. Suddenly, hoards of men wanted me! They all thought I sounded cute – blonde hair, green eyes, not too tall or short. If I felt like we could have conversations lasting more than two minutes before a guy started talking about banging, I’d go out with him. BAM! Internet dating.

Fast forward to 2003, after two live-in boyfriends: I relocated to a city where I didn’t know one single person. By this time, there were a few very popular sites set up specifically for dating, including eHarmony (which was heavily running ads on TV) and LavaLife. I tried to take the free eHarmony quiz, and at the very end of it, I wasn’t completely turned down, but I did get a message saying “Only 3% of the male population would be interested in dating you. Bear with us, it may take a few weeks to find someone who would be a match.” I joined LavaLife instead. I think they had categories available for people to choose broken down into “Dating,” “Long-Term Relationship” and “Just Sex” or something like that. I quickly found out that it didn’t matter which category you designated – the men would hunt you down for just sex. I remember that I went on a few dates with a guy who was a chauffeur, and I wasn’t feeling especially connected or attracted to him, but we were having an okay time – or so I thought. At the end of our third date, he turned to me, exasperated, and said, “So are we going to fuck or what?” I chose the “or what” and that was the end of that. Another guy that I started talking to through the site was in Italy (Yay! Very exciting!), and we started talking on Yahoo messenger. I think it was only five minutes into the conversation when he started sending me buzzes to try to get my attention because I wasn’t answering fast enough, then he told me he didn’t want me talking to any other men. To clarify, I wasn’t allowed to smile at or even look at other men, even if it was a guy ringing up my groceries. BAM! Internet stalker.

Around 2005, Match.com and PlentyofFish.com entered the picture. At that time, both were very rudimentary; Match considered you a “match” if your height/weight/age/eye color fell within the other person’s parameters, and Plenty of Fish allowed users to send emails, but that was it. It was around this time that I started singing to myself, “Shopping for men! Shopping for men!” every time I’d log on. I had become a lot more specific about what I was looking for in men, starting with their grammar – if they couldn’t formulate a complete sentence, I’d write them off and move on. I also noticed that the messages from the men on Plenty of Fish were getting more and more outrageous, so I didn’t really take anything on that site seriously, because I think all of the guys were DTF and crazy to boot.

OKCupid entered the scene around 2008 or 2009. Their contribution to the now-crowded internet dating scene was the questions. The questions ranged from “Are you looking to settle down and have children?” to “If you caught your husband looking at animal porn, what would you do?” You could answer as few as five questions or as many as a thousand, but the more questions you answer, the better the picture prospective dates could compile from your answers. (Of course, everyone is expected to be on the honor system and answer truthfully. You should always answer “No” if you are asked if you would do something immoral and/or hurtful, even if your instincts say that you should answer “Yes” to screwing that turtle if no one would ever find out.)

In 2011, after many starts and stops with internet dating, I was giving it another go, but sticking to the free sites – OKCupid and PlentyofFish. Surprisingly, on PlentyofFish, I had a decent conversation with a guy. We were talking about traveling and road trips and seemed to like some of the same things, but had enough diverse interests from each other that I would be able to look forward to new adventures. We talked about where to meet up in the next week. So upon waking up the next morning, imagine my surprise when I opened a message from him that was sent at 3 a.m. and it was a folder of dick and cum pictures. I replied back asking what in the hell he was thinking, because we hadn’t been talking about sex at all. He gave some lame excuse about not meaning to send them to me. I told him that shit would not fly with me, and he apologized. The next morning I woke up, and there were more dick and cum pictures, sent around 2 a.m.! I replied and asked what the fuck was going on, and he said he was a recovering alcoholic and had impulse control problems. I didn’t feel the need to stay in touch with him. (Also, just as a side note, if your dick is smaller than a thumb when it’s hard, I don’t advise sending unsolicited pictures. Warn a girl first.)

A lot of the messages I was receiving on OKCupid weren’t going anywhere either. I think I went on a handful of random dates, but nothing made it past the initial meeting. The way that I was being approached was pretty trite – almost every guy said, “What’s up?” or the bad grammar version thereof. At least when I approached men, I would find something in their profiles to talk about. One guy immediately asked me out for dinner, so I looked at his profile, which didn’t contain any information, so I next looked at the questions he answered. One theme that kept coming up was his dabbling with hard drugs, including meth, coke and heroin. I replied that I wasn’t interested and I wouldn’t date a user. His reply was, “C’mon, it’s not like I’m going to do blow off your tits. Big deal if we go out to dinner.” Yeah, buddy, still not interested in wasting an evening with you.

I swore off internet dating forever after having some bad experiences. However, now that I have relocated and reconnected with my uncle, I discovered that HE is doing internet dating. (He is also texting on a regular basis, which I blame on him having a 16-year-old son.) He found an age-appropriate girlfriend for the first time in his life – he’s in his early 60s. So of course I irrationally think, “Well, if he can do it, maybe I can try again.” Never mind the fact that I walk with a cane and have a droopy face, and most days I can’t be bothered to wear my wigs because they’re uncomfortable to lay down in…someone has to be okay with dating Quasimodo, right???

On second thought, no. I don’t want to be someone else’s internet dating story.