Another sleepless night for me! I’m not sure what’s causing it this time. It could be the sudden realization I had in the store today that it would be my last time shopping in this community to which I have grown so accustomed and my vacation away from everyone and everything I know is almost over. It could be the reconciliation that coming to terms with the years that have passed while I struggled to stay afloat and my “sudden” old age that I can feel within me and see in the mirror; reflected in my eyes that seem to be drawing themselves backwards, my face that seems to be aging by years each month and in my skin that pulls away from my muscles as if it has tried in vain to flee from my aging body and is now hanging ashen and dejectedly off my lumpy and sunken frame. It isn’t vanity that drives my dismay in seeing my meat coated skeleton showing signs of decline. Not anymore. It’s surprise and fear. Surprise at how quickly things are changing and fear in wondering if I’ll be able to find my true self while my chronological self can still move without a cane and sit without a cushion for my perpetual hemmorroids. I think that’s what I’m feeling anyway…I never really know what I’m really thinking…what’s real and what isn’t…or at least I rarely am.
But despite all this grappling with my own mortality, I have to admit that there is a particular reason I find myself all set up on the couch with my laptop and writing a post at 4:00 am despite having attempted go to bed hours ago. Just as when I was walking on the beach and “heard” a voice telling me to write about my experiences in following my urges in the past and seeking out the scratches for my itches, today I have been hearing the same encouragement to write as a follow up to the conversation I had with a young friend who is thinking about an open relationship with her husband because he fails significantly at scratching her itches. I worry that I may have given her bad advice because she caught me in an altered state of “freak in the sheets” where my sexuality is on overdrive and the my motto is “The fastest way to get over a dog who hurt you is to get under a new dog.” Although I’ve found my center again and I’m no longer fully feeling my freaky vibe, I have carried forward a significant part of the conversation I had with her and, in particular, I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about how her situation has become so similar to my own 23 years ago.
Although I had been quite promiscuous as a teenager and had a lot of sex before marrying my first husband when I was 20, the sex I had experienced was a string of serial lovers, one at a time, in traditional positions and without me ever reaching orgasm. All I had done at that point was imitate the women in the porn videos really – thinking that was sex. At the same time I was thrust into the world of sex, VCR’s and video tape rentals were being introduced and for the first time ever, XXX movies were easy to find and watch. I have zero appetite for pornography now and when I do see anything even resembling it, I just feel a lot of sorrow for the women in them; knowing they’re just making noises that simulate pleasure they aren’t truly feeling. But either because I was curious and wanted to know more, or because I was recognizing myself in the young sexualized women on the covers or because I had been sexualized early in life, I really liked porn movies as a teenager and watched them frequently. Unfortunately my foundation of what sex meant and what it was was built upon childhood trauma, shame, sexual assault and a large intake of early 80’s porn. Recalling this now, I see a whole new perspective in recognizing the younger me as so very unhealthy, so sad and so self-objectified and devalued. It makes me cringe even as I type this.
I have spent real time daydreaming about the life I would have had if I had a different beginning that wasn’t so shame filled and provided the safety needed for me to reach adulthood with my sexuality uncorrupted. But that wasn’t the beginning I had and as a result of the events early in life and later as I became a teenager, my sexuality was splintered off into separate part of myself. This splintering brought along a numbness and a series of lovers – many of whom I don’t even remember. And along with each sexual partner throughout my life, I accumulated that much more self-hatred and shame. When I married at the age of 20, I married with the specific purpose of locking myself into a commitment with one man in order to prevent myself from having sex with anyone else. I really believed that would work – that I would be able to zip up my sexuality and put it on a shelf, never to have it out again, simply because I dressed up in a white dress and promised to do so in front of others; pretending to believe in a God with whom I could have a different kind of three-way…a marital covenant.
At the age of 27, I was leaving that marriage. After seven years of (rare and completely unsatisfying) sex with one man, I was so frustrated and had so many itches that needed to be scratched. My husband at the time was a very kind and generous man and I’m sure he would have done anything to please me. But having the sexual history I had, I wasn’t looking to be pleased and sex was supposed to look like it did in the porno movies; or so I thought. That was never going to happen with the man I was married to and recognizing this made me feel even more shame. I felt too worldly for him; too experienced, too damaged. He felt too innocent; too pure, too good for me. Sitting here today, I’m sad to admit I wasn’t even conflicted at the time about taking my leave, breaking a good man’s heart and destroying my daughter’s family and home. Ultimately I had a short affair with a man (who was a friend of my husband’s), left my husband and from that day forward I considered myself at a point of no return.
Looking back now, I can see it was probably an act of self-sabotage; I could never cheat on someone and stay in a relationship because the guilt would eat me alive. So I knew that by sleeping with my kind, loyal and loving husband’s friend, I was forcing myself to leave the marriage. Oh how I wish I could go back and have a conversation with myself on that day. But I can’t…and my story is what it is. Like I’ve said before, many beautiful things are in my life today that wouldn’t be if things had been different so I can’t, and don’t, wish for change. While the next man I married turned out to be the exact opposite of my first husband (emotionally abusive, manipulative but great in bed), from that soul-scarring marriage was born my son. And without my son and his unconditional love and pride in having me as his mother, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t be alive today. So with this, I remind myself that everything on a journey that happens is exactly what is supposed to happen. So I guess, no matter what you decide to do, just remember that someday you’ll be glad that you did regardless of how it turns out in the short term.
At the same time I was leaving my marriage, I was finishing up my first degree in computer info systems and, if you didn’t already know let me tell you, nerds are often some of the freakiest of the freakiest. I had spent four years as a young married sexually frustrated (unknowingly dissociative) mother taking classes and socializing with even younger freaky nerds who were doing all sorts of wild stuff with each other and were very open about their lifestyles. I wanted to do wild stuff with nerds, too. It looked like they were all having so much fun! It seemed, from what I had seen and what I had been told, like the edgy-sex-with-no-shame-and-no-drama scene that I just knew I would be happy being a part of – where sex looked like it did in my 80’s porn movies and my shame could be left behind. So I left my marriage ready to get my freak on and I spent the next 20 years of my life desperately trying to find that illusive scratch for my itch.
I will never hold myself up as the model of anything; good or bad. Truly. I have no idea if what I have experienced has been controlled, tainted or not at all influenced by all the other stuff. I have big chunks of memories missing and I’ve never been able to find any kind of consistent thought, opinion or values of my own because, as it turns out, I’m a “we” and not a “me.” But even with all this brokenness, disparity and chaos, there are some things I consider to be truth about things, people and situations and when I sense the truth about something, I don’t question it. Because for any experience or thought to comes through the battlefields of my life and my mind and come out the other side intact and cohesively understandable to myself as truth, I honor it and let it stand.
My writing this letter is the result of two of my truths becoming intertwined and having a profound effect on me as I’ve worked through my integration and recovery. And while I don’t propose these truths will, or should, affect anyone else the same way, I am very clearly hearing that very insistent urging within me to write that friend and share with her these things I’ve learned for myself. I’ve never attempted to put these truths into words outside of my head and since I write these posts as streams of consciousness with no editing, I’m a little nervous that I may not be able to convey these thoughts to her in the way I’m hoping. So I write this post instead as practice so that I can share my truth in experiences with her in a way that doesn’t come across as what I think she should do or what she will find on her journey. And I’m also not claiming to have full of experience within the spectrum of sexuality. While my sexual history is relatively extensive, it is not exhaustive and it is not being held up here as a bragging point or matter of comparison. Now…that being said, let me get on with it.
So…onto the two truths I know for sure about myself and my experiences. First – through my DID and lifelong quest to be accepted and be “good” and measure up to the expectations of a mother who could never be pleased, I became a profiler of people and their motivations. You see, this was necessary in order to figure out what “good” was in different situations with different people. Over the course of my life, I have developed a habit of getting into people’s minds and digging around into places I have no business being and getting them to tell me their deepest secrets and to reveal themselves to me in the most vulnerable of ways. I can see now how this was something I needed to do in order to “survive” and in building a character that would allow me to be around others and be accepted. I had to develop (and finely tune) the ability to often see most people better than they saw themselves. Ironic…since I was completely blind to my own selves.
The second truth was a direct result of the first one and it comes in two parts. In every situation where I sought out an edgy sexual experience with others who seemed to be and/or who claimed to be interested in the same or already contentedly living the lifestyle based on the same, I would always end up in their heads or in the heads of the people with whom they edged around with in their experiences. And through these interactions and intersections of people seeking the fringe of the edgy sexuality scene, I consistently ended up encountering two distinct kinds of people:
(1) people completely incapable of empathy or any level of caring/connection, so much so that just being near them would leave me feeling uneasy (I don’t want to say “sociopath” here because I’m not talking about Jeffrey Dahmer’s or that sort.) I’m talking about the kind of person who would take off the condom without telling the other participant(s), or would claim to have be disease free but had never been tested, or who might pinch too hard, or would secretly video record things and share it with other… that type of thing). These were the people who I could never read and who I could easily tell didn’t have anything to read because they seemed to be lacking that thing that could be read. Does that make sense? And no matter how good they were in the mechanics of sexual pleasure, they lacked the human component that allows any kind of connection at all possible and (in my opinion) ended up feeling a little bit evil or sinister in some way. Good in bed perhaps, but not good for the head.
(2) people who portrayed themselves as free-spirited, sexually open, tantric, magik’ed, Gaia-ish, polyamorous …anything and everything between the pseudo-sociopath that I described above and the traditional one-on-one monogamists. It was one of the most frustrating and eye-opening experiences of my life but out of all of my encounters with people claiming to not want one-on-one monogamous relationships, after just a little while spent digging around in their minds or sleeping in their beds, 100% of them (again…in my experience) revealed themselves to be putting up a front in order to protect a wounded part of themselves and were wanting a one-on-one monogamous relationship where they felt specifically loved and specially cherished but knew (either consciously or subconsciously) they were too damaged to find, participate in and stay faithful in that kind of relationship. No joke; no exaggeration.
I know that last one might seem hard to believe, so I’ll throw out some examples just off the top of my head. These are either people who I experienced these things with or who were the unknowing subjects of my curiosity as I was digging around in their heads while they experienced them. There are many and my tired mind is resisting, but I’ll just throw some out as they bubble up to the top. Let me see…
The successful author and PhD scholar who had an open marriage and a king size bed in which he would have sex with with different women while his wife had sex with different men in the same bed beside him. His wife began liking one of her partners (their garbage man, no less) in particular and ended up leaving this guy for the other and he was so “betrayed” by her lack of loyalty and declared it was their attempt to be monogamous that had fated them to such an ending. So for the next few years after the divorce, he was so proud of his “poly” lifestyle and had two main girlfriends. They were very open on facebook and all traveled together, lived together, all of it. He was a very outspoken proponent of multiple partners and opponent of monogamous relationships. From the beginning I could see the cracks – the way his girlfriends would comment on his posts, respond to each others’ comments and just the genera subtle way their dynamics would show themselves “unfiltered” on social media would tell a whole different story than the one of polyamorous peace he painted. There was obvious jealousy and comparing and measuring between the women and a subtle telling of their hurt when he would acknowledge the attributes of one (not intentionally comparative, in my opinion, but inherently comparative all the same because of the nature of the polyamorous relationship itself). When the relationship eventually imploded (as they all do, in my observation), he and the more aggressive one of the girlfriends, as the subtleties on social media seemed to imply, married and the other girlfriend was asked to leave because there was just too much jealousy about which one he loved the most. He is no longer a vocal supporter of the swinging and polyamorous lifestyle. He is, however, still quite intellectually indignant and vocal about his thoughts about his “disloyal” ex-wife who is still happily married to the trash man with whom he shared a bed…and his wife.
There was the couple who advertised for a “third” to spice up their marriage and for a couple years enjoyed having another woman join them every weekend for “anything goes” sex and it all seemed to be working out until the wife found out the husband was meeting up with the third one-on-one during the week when she wasn’t home. Despite sharing her home, her bed and her husband with the third for over two years, being left out of the equation left her feeling cheated on and betrayed in a way from which she couldn’t recover. The husband was apparently threatened by the way the third could leave after the weekends with him and his wife and not feel jealous of what he did while she was gone and needed to feel wanted by the third. He wanted to make sure she wasn’t having sex with any other men when she wasn’t with him (and his wife, it needs to be said) and he needed to be sure it was him the third wanted, not his wife, because he had been made insecure by the women’s friendship outside of the bed and needed that validation. The third had never been married and despite her outward projections otherwise, she was jealous of the the wife’s life and so she was more than happy to betray the friendship with her and prove to the husband how much he meant to her; crossing the ultimate swinging “no no” line by meeting up with him alone. The couple divorced, the third moved on and found another couple…this kind of thing was how she avoided being hurt. She claimed to not want or need commitment with just one person but was actually terrified of it and jealous of the women who had it, so she spent her relational energy becoming a third and dividing the original two, then signing back up with her “IB34U” online persona and finding yet another couple who was looking to scratch that itch they couldn’t reach for each other.
There was the super programmer nerd who was hyper-sexual in chat rooms (back in the day) and would meet up with women for random sex frequently and seemed very content with the lifestyle. We flirted and called ourselves “best friends” when we were classmates but that friendship definitely crossed the lines at times. I think he had assumed that once I left my husband and got a divorce I would want to be with him in a committed relationship – that I was leaving my marriage to be with him, not to join him in the edgy sexy world he had been bragging about. Maybe, maybe not…I don’t know. As I continued to explore my sexuality without him, he stopped speaking to me altogether and worked beyond any reasonable length of time to discredit me to others. We ended up working for the same employer and he seemingly came to the conclusion I was also stupid and not qualified for my job – often ridiculing me and creating such a hostile environment for me that I wonder now I survived it and succeeded in that job despite him. He’s married now to another one of the nerdy classmates he was hooking up with at the time. They’ve been together over 20 years now and live in a cute little log cabin and raise rescue parrots.
There was the nurse / tantric “sex witch” who had the pretty big following of adoring lovers and invited me to come to her home in Joplin for one of her home sex parties. I was so excited to get a chance to get a peek into the community and see what it was all about. I showed up a day early and spent the evening prior to the party talking with her and her elderly mom. It was all so “normalized” and she really seemed to be in charge of her sexuality and her emotions. I was in awe of how “vibe-y” and confident she was and was so ready to learn from her. The next evening when everyone showed up, one guy in particular showed up and had someone with him and my new friend’s energy changed immediately. The party ended early and I ended up spending that night and most of the next day listening to her talk, rage and cry as she came down from a bad trip after eating an entire baggie of psychedelic mushrooms and talking about “that bastard” who had brought “that bitch” to her party. Turns out she was into him and thought they had a one-on-one consensual relationship going. Apparently he believed her when she claimed she wasn’t into monogamy.
There was the young Gaia member who invited me to the Earth Day weekend at her nudist camp where, at first glance, it really did seem like it was an “anything goes” sexual mecca. There was a large tent called the “orgy tent” that quite literally smelled like pussy from 50 yards away and at any given time had 20-30 women having sex together with an open door policy for any woman to come in and join and all-screen walls so anyone who wanted to just observe (and smell) from the outside could do so comfortably. That night there was a 100-person drum circle where naked people were dancing around a huge bonfire, sometimes touching each other or themselves; letting themselves get caught up in the heat from the flames and the hypnotizing rhythm of the drums. I’ll never forget the voluptuous woman with pink blushed skin and long strawberry-blond hair and large breasts who walked around giving everyone a drink of her homemade strawberry wine; the way she looked me in my eyes as I drank and it felt for just a second as if I was drinking her. No matter how hard I try, I can’t forget the sinewy man they called “Frog” who would ask permission to hug you and upon receiving permission would pull you so closely into him that there was no space anywhere between you and wrap himself around you in a way that locked you in place standing up while he defied physical science and somehow managed undulated against every inch of you and moaned for up to 10 or 15 minutes without saying anything while others looked on as in exhibition. And as free spirited as all of this was and as open minded about their sexuality as you would think the attendees would be, I found myself walking around the campground, going from bonfire to bonfire talking to different people and every single one of them, after just a little while of talking, would drop the “free love” gig and start talking about their heartache and the other people at the camp who had hurt them, who they were secretly in love with and who they hoped to one day be married to. (Except Frog…pretty sure Frog was a sociopath.) The young woman who invited me along for the celebration, who was raised in the campground from the time she was young and swore she would never settle down with just one person, called me just two weeks ago to let me know she had gotten married. I am going to stop by and see her on my way north when I leave here in a couple of weeks.
I share these stories with zero intent to make a point. I have always been incredulous that I was never able to find someone who was truly healthy in the alt-sex lifestyle, who was truly alive inside and also not secretly yearning for someone to love them and only them. Someone who wasn’t open because there was a part inside of them that was closed. Maybe they’re out there and I just didn’t find them. Maybe those people are the real unicorns. At least in my experience, they must be.
I’ve worn myself out. If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing I’ve worn you out, too. Hopefully not too many typos in this one. I have the feeling there is a shit ton of them because I’m tired and my ass hurts from sitting on this fucking couch too long. And while I’m not quite sure I like what I’ve managed to put together in this post, I’m hoping anyone who stumbles across it while wondering about leaving their marriage to “scratch an itch” will be able to pull from it the general intent of communication and thinking points I hoped to convey. Regardless of where you go and what you encounter on your path from here forward, I do believe you’ll be better prepared if you take these base assumptions with you to quickly filter out the wanna-be-scratchers before you let them attempt to scratch the itch you feel. From experience, I can tell you that the itch isn’t necessarily one that can be scratched by another person and is actually something much deeper and much more profound.
TL:DR. We must first find the love and acceptance we need for ourselves within ourselves. Until we do, everyone we meet will hurt us and be hurt by us. Also…don’t let the sinewy guy at the campsite hug you…