Do You Thank Your Lover?

In the early 90’s, ABC had a show called ‘Homefront’ that took place circa WWII. I remember watching a scene that involved an older, father-figure, character telling a younger man to “grab your wife firmly around her waist the next morning and thank her for last night”. When I watched this episode I had only had sex a few times and I didn’t have a wife on whom I could try this form of gratitude. Nevertheless, it seemed like a good idea to me. I ran the hypothetical idea by a platonic female friend and she recoiled in horror. “You can’t say that! It will make her feel like a whore!” Wow! Those were strong words coming from an 11th-grader. But, I was young so I took one woman’s advice as the gospel.

You can bet your paycheck that no one has ever complained of being over appreciated. It’s just never happened. The sticking point of contention occurs with the delivery/expression of gratitude. This goes for all human interaction. Try slapping your lover on the ass and saying, “thanks, slut!”, after sex. Unless you’re in a role playing scene and have chosen not to break character, that may not be the ideal way to express gratitude.

FWIW: This post isn’t intended to tell you the correct way to speak to your lover. That’s left to the agreements that the 2+ of you have with each other. While there are certainly wrong ways to express gratitude I’ll try to avoid getting sidetracked with an abundance of ‘what not to do’ bullet points.

You’ll notice that I keep using the phrase “express gratitude” in reference to recreating the “thank you” scene from ‘Homefront’. That’s because some people, while grateful for the sentiment, hear the words thank you and feel as if it cheapens the experience. On the flip side, everyone expresses their gratitude in a different manner. How a person expresses gratitude often gets distilled down to their love language. If you (or your lover) are unaware of your love language, it’s a good idea to have a conversation about how you express yourself. (I’ve never read the book, nor am I endorsing it. But, you can at least recognize your patterns for expressing love.) If you’ve taken a new lover and they’re unaware that you express your appreciation through physical touch, they may just mislabel you as handsy. Despite the love language of you or your lover, most will recognize the expression of gratitude in the form of gestures. Some time ago I wrote a post that read: My lover told me that I’m the only man that’s ever made her breakfast. *sigh* Gentlemen, please step it up! That post received a huge response! In one of the comments, a friend mentioned that her BF had bought her flowers (a first) and made her dinner (another first) as a response to my call to action. He wanted to “step it up” and show her that he appreciated her. Comedian Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson) once joked about how much more sweet sweet loving men would receive from their wives if they were to make a birthday/anniversary/just because card by hand as opposed to buying something from a store. There’s some truth to that. Get in the habit of making things for your lover to express how you feel. It could be as simple as making a… phone call. Phone call! Who does that? What is this 2005? I know, I know. But, try it out. Try it out when you’re asking for that sweet sweet loving. Think it through. Would you rather receive a text message that reads, “wanna come over” or would you rather hear your lover on the line saying, “Do you want to spend some time together tonight?”

There is a marked absence of the word “please” in societal interactions. Listen to the way people speak to those that work behind a counter. You may hear lots of thank you notes in their responses. But, how often do you hear please in their requests? I’ve worked behind enough counters/bars to know that it ain’t often. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you call up your lover and go on some 90’s R&B-inspired monologue requesting, “may I please make love to you?” That just sounds… hilarious. There are other ways to say please without using the word. Just ask nicely and don’t assume that sex will happen. I’ve had conversations in the past that yielded the following response, “I’d love to see you. But, you should know that we can’t have sex tonight because reasons.” I would immediately respond with an emphatic “thank you for being upfront about that!” This post is really just about kind communication from all sides. As the moment draws near, you could make your request by taking a cue from Barry White. This is an actual quote from his song ‘Staying Power’, “Tease me with your emotion. Soon we’ll share nature’s body lotion.” (Use that one with a straight face and I’ll send you $100,000… in Monopoly money. I’ll make it $200,000 if your lover doesn’t walk out.)

After all is said and done*, be careful not to say thank you too soon lest your lover think that you’re about to leave. If it’s that time during the sexy rumpus when you get up to get some water, juice, more condoms, a fresh towel, etc. that may be too soon to say “thank you”. Are you going somewhere? Your lover may wonder.

*-Done should not be defined by an orgasm (for either of you). Keep going until someone taps out.

Gentlemen, still at a loss for words as to how you can say thank you? Here are a few phrases that you can edit to make your own.

-“I’m glad that you came… to see me.”

-“Thank you for making the time, I know that you’ve been busy with reasons.”

-“Goddamn!” *high five* [You can get up and dance from the excitement. Have some fun!]

As I mentioned, expressions of gratitude for sweet sweet loving should be happening between any and all genders. Nevertheless, Gentlemen, we can take a lesson from the airlines when we express gratitude to women for their company. “We know that you have many choices for penis travel and we’re glad that you chose us.”

In all seriousness, my personal definition of work ethic is to never make my employer regret their decision to hire me. That same work ethic applies to making sweeeet love. If she’s made a decision to be with me, I don’t want her to regret it during or after. That’s why I express my gratitude.

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Naked Camp: The End

There is both beauty and tragedy in creation and destruction done by the same hand. Impermanence was explained to me like this; years of painstaking work to cultivate and create a beautiful work of art, only to destroy it and learn the lesson that nothing is ours. All things end or change with time. There are times when I have these abbreviated fantasies about blowing up my life, selling most things, packing up the rest, and moving to another country. Voice of reason says, “Be realistic (such a limiting word). What about your responsibilities?” Voice of fuck it says, “Let’s Get the FUCK OWWWWT!” But, I stay and find my second wind. Instead of blowing up my life, I blow up things in my life. I once wrote, “Today is the day for kerosene bridges and I have been given the gift of fire.”

The fire has been lit. I’ve decided to end my beloved Naked Camp. Naked Camp began as a trip to escape all of the things that made me want to blow up my life. I decided to drive myself to Harbin Hot Springs (HHS) for my birthday in August 2012. I had experienced a lot (nothing worth repeating here) that year. I rented a yurt and just spent as much time in silence as I could. I enjoyed being able to escape where no one knew or cared who I was.

As I was laying down in the sauna. A woman sat down on the level below mine. As she relaxed, her head tilted back and the back of her head landed on my leg. She jumped, knowing that she had broken the social contract of touching a naked person without consent. I laid my hand on her shoulder, made eye contact, and gave her a nod to imply my consent for her to rest her head on my leg. She did and we later began to converse as to what brought our separate journeys to meet at HHS. It turned out that she was there leading a retreat, I forget what about. As the weekend continued, I watched several people who had also arrived on their own begin to make and nurture connections with people they had met at the resort. I wanted to recreate the experience I was enjoying on my own with friends of my choosing. So, I posted on Facebook before I planned to return to HHS.

February 5, 2013: I’ve been thinking about my trip to Harbin Hot Springs this year. I’ll probably go for a long weekend in June. I started thinking about asking to see if any of my quiet friends* wanted to go on the trip with me. … * – By quiet I mean, you can be without electronics for a few days AND you know how to appreciate a sunset without talk-talk-talking away a beautiful experience.

From the onset, I was trying to curate an experience (read: preemptively micromanage my friends) in order to protect myself from a shitty experience.

I’ll fast forward this story a bit to say that the first trip with friends happened at Orr Hot Springs (due to a suggestion of someone in the first group) back in August, 2013. We later began calling it Naked Camp. Things started changing, duration, frequency (twice per annum), overall planning of the trip, etc. The one constant was the changes I kept making to the email template I sent to potential new attendees. Have you ever written an online dating profile after a breakup? You know the one wherein you preemptively reprimand any future dates, “you’d better not do this and that OR ELSE we’re not compatible!” Yeah, my emails were all about, telling people what not to do @ Naked Camp. Unsurprisingly, arguments, heated discussions, and emotional labor still popped up in this space that was supposed to be about disconnecting and rebooting.

In the days leading up to this most recent Naked Camp, I wasn’t even looking forward to going. I was excited to get off the grid. But, the trip felt more like a chore than a place of healing. Overall, this wasn’t a bad trip. I had a spectacular massage. We went on a beautiful hike. However, I also found myself trying to explain microaggressions to a friend who laughed as I cited examples. She insisted that microaggressions were not a thing. When I found myself cussing and my voice growing louder, it occurred to me that no one in that group had my back. I was the only Black person in the group and I was the lone voice in the wind doing the emotional labor of explaining my experience. (Which is really the experience of so many people.) When it was clear that she was not willing to see from a different perspective, I stopped talking. Silence from the rest of the group filled the room as I was reminded that all of my efforts to curate just the right group of friends was all for shit. No one had my back.

To add insult to injury, I went down to soak in the hot springs, stopped to pet one of the kittens that lives on the property, and got stung by a Yellowjacket. I didn’t just get stung. I was wearing nothing more than a robe and squatting down. I got stung in the head of my dick! I don’t recommend this experience to anyone. I rinsed it with hydrogen peroxide, took some ibuprofen (for the swelling), showered, and got into the hottest bath I could find.

I’ve just returned from my last trip to Naked Camp (8). I realized that uninviting people who have frustrated/annoyed me over those eight trips isn’t an option because I still have to see those people in the real world. So, I uninvited myself. I walked away from something that I love. I have no regrets. I look forward to my next retreat that’s just for me. I enjoy my company. I don’t argue when I’m alone. If you’re reading this, take some time and enjoy yourself, by yourself.

Actual Conversation: A Lost Habit

Tonight, I had to remind my class that I’m open/receptive to feedback. I felt the need to tell them that I wouldn’t defend my position or refute their valid feelings. I will listen and hold space for anyone who feels as if I’ve wronged them and chooses the path to resolution through conversation. Actual, your lips to my ears, conversation. I’ve watched (from 1st and 3rd person perspective) as friendships have imploded due to a written disagreement. I’ve seen misunderstandings balloon into unforgivable trespasses, exacerbated by one or both parties refusal to speak to the other.

This isn’t the future I was promised. Watching Sci-fi of the 60s/70s/80s, I saw the proposed future be a place wherein telepathic and empathic communication had replaced spoken words. These were signs of an advanced human intelligence and an advanced society as a whole. The society we’ve designed for ourselves is one that finds us typing more and speaking less. When are we going to get back to talking?

A social justice trend I’ve noticed is that some will tell a person of privilege (PoP) who asks a question about a marginalized group (MG) that it’s not the MG’s job to educate the PoP. They go on to tell the PoP to educate themselves. If I have a question for a MG, in an earnest effort to understand some of what they experience as they navigate their life, where may I ask <insert question here>? Social media isn’t the place to ask. That comment thread will turn into the wild west in under 5 minutes. Everyone will stop listening, someone will begin repeating, another will begin reprimanding, and in a short while, someone will tell me that it’s not <insert person>’s job to educate me on such matters and that I should educate myself. Okay, where? Should I ask members of the MG on the street? At best, that will give me a woefully limited scope of an answer. Should I go and read a few blogs or listen to some podcasts about this MG? Well, isn’t that just the strong opinion of one person? Is that really educating myself? When are we going to get back to talking?

When I was first introduced to Polyamory, I wanted to learn more. I went to the open relationship discussion group, held monthly at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco. I sat and listened, asked questions, held space, and brought friends with me who were also open to learn about the lifestyle. Words were exchanged and I learned about a unique group of people. I was in the process of changing my lifestyle and will be forever grateful for what I learned in those discussion groups. Polyamorous people are not a MG (for the most part). I wanted to learn about a new community and I learned through the education of listening and conversation. When are we going to get back to talking?

When was the last time someone ghosted on you? For the uninitiated, ghosting is when someone disappears out of your life without explanation and they stop responding to your attempts to communicate. I love tech. I can pay my rent while standing in line at the grocer! But, ghosting began with tech (caller ID). When we gained the power to not answer the phone based on who was calling, we stopped picking up. Eventually we stopped calling back. Then we stopped texting back. We’re so afraid that people won’t accept our “no” without explanation that we click yes on an invitation, just to flake later on. Now we think texting is talking. (Humans are designed to gain understanding through body language, tone, and pheromones. When you take all of those away, it’s no wonder we all have fights in writing.) When are we going to get back to talking?

Since the Baby Boomers started booming, consumer tech has been focused on making everything easier. (Again, I love tech and I’m not here to bash it.) In the process, tech has taken us further away from our humanity. We now have 1,000 friends following us (not creepy at all) on social media and just because we can rattle off some anecdote about each of those 1,000 we tell ourselves that they’re actually our friends. When was the last time you spoke to one of those 1,000 friends? Pick up any textbook on human behavior / sociology and you can read about why communities tend to reach a maximum and then split off into two communities. If you insist that social media helps you stay in touch with 1,000 people then I’ll put this out there. 1.) Why do you need to stay in touch with that many folks? Do you really give a shit what your 3rd grade crush is doing now that you’re both 40? 2.) How do you define staying in touch? Seeing a picture of them doing something interesting and filtered so that you can Like it and feel connected in some way? I hope you touch deeper than that when you nurture actual friendships.

I know that this post just sounds like I’m bitching at you to re-evaluate your thoughts around staying/being connected to people. Sure, that’s part of it. But, more importantly, I hope you walk away from this read willing to make the effort to talk to people. If/When you do, seek first to understand before attempting to be understood. That reminder I gave to class back at the beginning of this post was sparked by a complaint at work. I’m willing to bet that the majority of 1-star Yelp reviews could have been avoided, had the customer spoken directly to the source of their frustration. No, don’t talk to the manager, talk to the person you wish to talk about. Seek a resolution in the moment, using your words. Let’s get back to talking.

Disclosing If You’re Transgender Before A Date

There’s been a lot of controversy as to whether a transgender person should/should not does/doesn’t have to disclose their status as trans before a date. While there are arguments on both sides, I think the piece most angry internetters (because no one talks about important issues in person any more) are missing is the trigger that comes along with “should/should not” and “have to” language. I haven’t met many people who enjoy being told what to do (while their clothes are on). When a person who has never lived in a transgender body/mind/spirit tells an entire community what they should/shouldn’t be doing as they navigate their lives through 2017, tempers flare (and rightfully so)! I’m a cisgender heterosexual male. Before you roll your eyes, know that I’m not telling you that to make this about me. I’m telling you that because I’m NOT here to tell the transgender community what they should/shouldn’t do. I’m certainly not going to tell anyone how to date. I’m no expert at dating. I am going to offer my opinion on the matter. But, you figured that out when you subscribed to or clicked on this blog. That’s what blogs are, right? Just some random internetter sharing an opinion that is just that, an opinion.

No, [You] Don’t Have To Tell [Me You’re] Trans Before Dating [Me], but it would be nice if you felt safe enough to do so. Many transgender people fear for their safety. Because of this, not revealing their status as trans becomes a matter of keeping themselves safe. I’d like to think that we understand the basic need of self-preservation. So, before you get angry and argue the counterpoint, Yes, You Do Need To Tell Me You’re Trans Before Dating Me, stop and consider the other person’s position. Looking at this from my perspective, I have the societal privilege of being cisgender. I refer to that as a privilege because a.) many people would call me “normal”. (In general, I don’t use words like normal or weird due to the subjective nature of both. This is why I’ve used quotations around normal.) b.) As a cisgender man, I don’t have to fear violence if I walk into a room and announce to all within earshot that I’M CISGENDER! No one would care. No one would threaten to beat me. No one makes jokes on radio shows about killing cisgender men. So, to some degree, I am privileged.

I’m of the opinion (there’s that word again) that no person, or entity (talking about the Universe/God/Karma/insert deity here), owes us anything. Say it out loud, throughout your day. THE WORLD DOESN’T OWE ME ANYTHING! A transgender person certainly doesn’t owe it to me to tell me the journey of their physical vessel before we date. I would like to think that if they’ve agreed to a date with me, they would feel safe enough to share this detail with me. To be clear, they don’t owe it to me. They don’t have to, nor am I saying they should. I just want them to feel safe enough to do so. Much like when I ask a cisgender woman on a date, I hope that she feels safe enough to be alone with me (in a car or on a walk). Rape culture has given cisgender women plenty of reasons to fear being alone with men on a first date. Because of that fear, I’ve given my driver’s license number and my plates to girlfriends of the women I’ve taken out for the first time. Transphobia has given transgender women plenty of reasons to fear disclosing their status.

Let’s assume that a transgender woman does feel safe enough to disclose their status as trans to me before our first date. Does that feeling of safety mean that they should? Of course not, they don’t owe me anything. It would be nice to know. When inviting someone to sleep over, I disclose that I snor. When inviting someone over to my home, I ask if they’re allergic to cats (I have two). When offering to cook dinner for a lover, I ask about her dietary restrictions. I don’t have to do any of those things. I choose to out of courtesy and the fact that there are no safety concerns. For any transgender woman I may ask out in the future, I do hope that you will feel safe enough to know that you are empowered (not required) to tell me your status.

I once asked a woman on a date. They agreed. The date didn’t happen due to a calendar mix up. I later found out that they were trans, pre-op. I wasn’t mad. I was just left to wonder, when were they going to tell me? I’m of the opinion (there it is again) that if I don’t get the answer I seek, it’s my job to ask a better question. Let’s consider their pre-op status as a transgender woman the answer. What I learned from that experience was to open lines of communication before future dates. (Please note that opening lines of communication is not a euphemism for interrogation.)

So, I’ll leave you with this. If you’re transgender, I do hope that you’re dating people who have been vetted and/or vouched for as non-violent, open-minded, and possibly pansexual so that you do feel safe enough to disclose your status as trans. The dating pool is tough. Adding another component like that will only make that pool shallow. I get that. I’ve found that at this stage in my dating career, if she can’t accept the fact that I’m a sex worker, MMJ user (not abuser), and I’m polyamorous, then she’s not worth my time. I try to disclose all of that before our first date. If you don’t feel safe enough to disclose your status to your potential date, there’s a good chance they’re not worth your time. If you’re cisgender, don’t tell other groups what they do/don’t have to disclose. You’re encouraged to start a conversation about your own identity. You’re encouraged to let it be known if dating someone who has genitalia that does not match your sexuality is off putting. You’re encouraged to open safe lines of communication. For the love of [insert deity], don’t tell other people what to do.