Content Warning: Weird stuff. You've been warned.

Tag Archives: I do what I want

… and do something with my hands that does not involve petting the cats:

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Yes yes knitting BUT WHAT ABOUT MEEEE?

Every time I nudge them with my foot to get them to stop scratching the carpet:

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What no no claws in the carpet here of course not just stretching that’s all go about your business human go on k byyeee

This, except with towels:

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All the things belong on the floors silly human whyfor not you know that already

Every time a foot moves under the blankets:

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I MUST KILL IT WITH TEETHS

They have no concept of “blocking the TV”:

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But is good place for sits.

What I wake up to every morning:

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Is an hour before alarm happens. Good time for snuggles.

Damn, they’re cute though:

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Look, I are a clock.

It’s been a long week and I needed kitty gifs. Thank you for indulging me.


I know, I know, it’s fiction and it’s not supposed to be perfect. But, I just… look, there are some improvements to be made, ok?

_______

Scene 3: Jamie Leaves For The Wedding

JAMIE is rushing around, in a hurry to finish tying his tie, grab his coat, keys, etc.

JAMIE: God, I’m going to be late.
GIRLFRIEND WHO APPARENTLY HAS NO NAME: It’s just ’round the corner, you’ll make it.
JAMIE: You sure you don’t mind me going without you?
GWAHNN: No, really. You know them better, and I think it would be hard for both of us if I came along. I’ll send them a nice note later.
JAMIE: I’m sorry it had to end like this, but I appreciate that we were able to talk it out last night. I love you, but that doesn’t give me the right to keep you in a relationship you’re unhappy with.
GWAHNN: I know. And I appreciate that you were able to respect my needs, and that I felt safe in being honest with you about how my feelings toward you have changed. You’re a good guy… I just don’t think you’re the right guy for me.
JAMIE: I understand. It hurts, but I think we’ll both move past this in the end. Maybe we’ll even stay friends?
GWAHNN: Maybe so. After all, mutual love and respect doesn’t go away just because we’re not dating anymore. The things we liked in each other are still there, even if the romantic feelings are gone. I’m so glad this wasn’t a nasty breakup.
JAMIE: Right? Can you imagine if we didn’t have such strong communication skills and you felt so trapped in our relationship that you started cheating, half-hoping I’d catch you with my friend or brother or something, and  I’d be forced to do the work of breaking up so you didn’t have to?
GWAHNN: Ugh! That would be terrible! Now go, or you will actually miss it.

_______

Scene 5: Colin Strikes Out

COLIN wanders through the office with a basket of fruits, baked goods, and various food items. He very obviously ignores the men in the office and is speaking only to the women.

COLIN: Best sandwiches in Britain. (She shakes her head uncomfortably.)
COLIN: (to another) Try my lovely nuts? (She tries to ignore him.)
COLIN: (to yet another) Beautiful muffin for a beautiful lady. (She tugs self-consciously at her cardigan, pulling it closer together.)
COLIN: (arriving at MIA’s desk) Morning, my future wife.
MIA: Colin, you need to knock that off. You’ve been coming in here and hitting on me for ages, and I think you’re already well aware that your advances aren’t appreciated. But just in case, let me make it clear for you: I am not interested. Stop treating my workplace like it’s a Lady Zoo. I am not here for your enjoyment; I am here because this is how I earn my living and in fact has nothing to do with you. Hitting on women incessantly and indiscriminately  won’t get you laid, which seems to be what you so desperately want. It just makes you creepy. Women don’t like to sleep with creepy dudes.
COLIN: Wow, you’re right. I’ve been really disrespectful and inconsiderate of you, and everyone else here. I guess I’m just really insecure about what my place in the world is as a man. There’s a lot of toxic messages in our culture about how men and women are ‘supposed to’ interact; mostly it revolves around men feeling powerful by treating women as objects for personal gratification and not the full and complex human beings they truly are. Maybe I need to spend some time reflecting on how I could be better as a person before I try to find a girlfriend.

The office breaks into a standing ovation.

_______

Scene 13: Jack And Judy On Set, That Part Where They Talk About Traffic While She’s Half Naked And Neither Of Them Make A Big Deal Out Of It And Martin Freeman’s A Perfect Gentleman Because Of Course He Is And Joanna Page Is Absolutely Charming Because Of Course She Is

This scene is perfect in every way and I staunchly refuse to listen to anyone who would try to tell me otherwise. I just put it in here because it’s really great and we should all aspire to be more like Jack and Judy.

_______

Scene 51: Where Karen Tries To Bring Up The Fact That One Of Harry’s EMPLOYEES Has Been HITTING ON HIM, SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK DUDE

HARRY and KAREN are getting undressed and preparing for bed after the Christmas party.

KAREN: That was a good night. Though I felt fat.
HARRY: Oh don’t be ridiculous.
KAREN: It’s true. Nowadays the only clothes I can get into were once owned by Pavarotti.
HARRY: I always think Pavarotti dresses very well.

A slight pause. Karen hesitates, then:

KAREN: Mia’s very pretty.
HARRY: Is she?
KAREN: You know she is, darling. I felt really uncomfortable with the way she was acting toward you. You do know she’s flirting with you, right?
HARRY: (Sighs) Yes, I do. I just… don’t know what to do about it. She’s a work colleague, you know? I’m worried things would get awkward if I said anything about it. And to be honest, in a way I sort of like the attention. I mean, I know you love me and still find me attractive, but it’s hard to see myself get older and older, and wonder if I’m still the man I once was. It feels good to be flirted with. That doesn’t mean I want to pursue it beyond that, of course, but… it is a nice ego boost.
KAREN: I understand that. I’m getting older too, you know. I know how nice it is to feel like you’re not totally invisible. But, darling, if you don’t set boundaries with her, she’s going to continue to escalate. If you think it’s awkward to turn her down now, just think how much more awkward it’ll be if you get caught sleeping with one of your employees. Even if she goes so far as to force herself on you, it’s not very likely anyone will believe you, since we live in a society where, infuriatingly, sexual assault committed against men is treated as a joke. Are you really willing to lose your reputation, possibly your job, just to be polite and avoid an awkward conversation?
HARRY: Well when you put it like that, of course not. You’re right. I need to put a stop to this before it goes any further.
KAREN: Thank you, my darling.

_______

Scene 53: Harry Leaves The Office To Go Christmas Shopping, Mia Tries To Seduce Him While Maintaining A Sheen Of Plausible Deniability

HARRY: Right. Back at three. Christmas shopping, never an easy or a pleasant task.
MIA: Are you going to get me something?
HARRY: Er… I don’t know, I wasn’t planning on it. Where’s Sarah, by the way?
MIA: She couldn’t make it in today. Family thing.
HARRY: Well then I will take her at her word and certainly not insinuate that she drank too much and is taking an avoidable day off, which even if she was does not mean that she deserves our derision and joking behind her back. I’m sure whatever reason she didn’t come in today was a legitimate one. See you later.
MIA: Yes. Looking forward to it. A lot.
HARRY: Excuse me?
MIA: Looking forward to seeing you. You know.
HARRY: Mia, this sort of behavior is inappropriate, it makes me uncomfortable, and it needs to stop right now.
MIA: What? What behavior?
HARRY: You are being intentionally suggestive, and I don’t like it. From here on out I would appreciate it if you kept our conversations focused on work-related topics.
MIA: I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was making you uncomfortable. I just find you really attractive, and I thought it was fun to flirt.
HARRY: Be that as it may. I am in a monogamous marriage, and I am your direct superior here at work. This puts me in a very awkward position, not to mention endangering both our jobs, and I need it to stop.
MIA: Understood. I apologize. Moving forward, I will work to keep our interactions strictly professional.
HARRY: Thank you, I appreciate your understanding.

Harry goes Christmas shopping. Nobody buys any necklaces and nobody finds that necklace in a coat pocket later on, only to realize on Christmas fucking Eve that he fucking gave the necklace to someone else, and it was probably expensive too and I doubt they’re so well-off that it wouldn’t be a totally unnoticeable expense, and nobody has to see Emma Thompson start to cry while straightening out the bed and then have to put on a happy face so the kids don’t suspect anything, even though she clearly feels alone and hurt and totally unappreciated and unloved, because trust me that is the most heartbreaking moment in the whole movie and I fucking cry every time and it’s the WORST.


Um, hi. It’s me, Penny. I’ve been away for a while.

Life got real hard there for a minute, you guys. And then it got easier. And then it got hard again. I assume writing is like riding a bicycle – you never forget how to do it? But… well, I’ve never been great at riding bicycles. And there are a lot of hills around here. And I’m super rusty. And so is my bicycle. Or it would be, if I had a literal bicycle and not a vaguely metaphorical one.

Woof.

Where do I even start?

Sullivan and I are well and truly divorced now. It wasn’t all that hard in the doing-things sense; the paperwork got submitted and looked at by the state, it got reviewed and approved and stamped and signed, sealed, delivered (I’m yours! Ooh baby). There’s a new name on my driver’s license, one I chose that’s all my own. And that feels good. It feels like a concrete step away from some parts of my past I’ve been struggling to leave behind. New name has been my official name for over a year now.

Fun fact: Banks can not EVEN DEAL with it when you change all your names. Last name? Easy. First name? It’s been done, not insurmountable. First, middle, and last? Blank stares…. crickets… ominous clouds gather… a wolf howls mournfully in the distance… a wild wind tosses leaves across a cold pale moon… the pine trees rustle and sway… a raven bursts into flight from the shadows with a raucous cry…  a quiet, soaking rain begins to fall… awkward cough.

It was hard in the emotional sense. In the space of a few months the conversation turned from being best friends, supporting each other, staying in each other’s lives… to jealousy, insecurity on both sides, squabbles about mostly petty things, and what I can only imagine must have felt like a pretty big betrayal.

I, uh… I fell in love. With a dude.

Not like I meant to. I was pretty invested in the image of myself as a lesbian. I was pretty sure of myself for a while there. I had an amazing summer romance with a lady I fell head-over-heels for; a lady I am still fortunate enough to count a dear friend. I knew she was moving away when we started dating, and that was fine. I didn’t want to give her any reason at all to rethink that decision, so I learned how to love deeply and let go freely. All that is to say, if I needed to prove anything to myself about my sexuality, I think I did. I’m definitely not straight.

Sullivan disliked that I was dating women while we lived together, waiting for the lease to run out. Tried to be supportive; but, I think, couldn’t shake the feelings of possessiveness that come with several years of monogamous marriage. Maybe he found it threatening. Maybe he didn’t like confronting such clear evidence that our marriage was ending. I don’t really know; he never told me, it just came up in hurtful ways. It made for some very mixed messages. We had a hard time communicating our needs and boundaries to each other. We argued. The lease ended. We moved out.

This dude, The Dude, was someone I knew through a shared hobby and a mutual ex-girlfriend. He had also been divorced. He was from the same city as me; in fact, he and Sullivan were in the same high-school class. (Sullivan was not impressed by this; I found it fascinating.) After Sullivan and I split, he invited me over for wine and trauma-bonding. We drank and laughed and took long walks and talked about our Feelings, Of Which There Are Many. By the end of the evening it was clear to me that this was a friendship I very much wanted in my life. I became close with The Dude. Trusted him because it was clear he wanted nothing from me but friendship, and that made me feel comfortable and respected.

I don’t really know what happened there, exactly. I mean, I fell for him and we started dating and so on and so forth but… like, how? Why? Wherefore? I dunno. As I suppose most of these things happen, it just happened. I loved spending time with my best buddy, and at some point I realized I loved my best buddy. I wanted things from my best buddy that were more than just best-buddy things.

Awkward cough.

We quietly started dating. I was very confused about what that meant for my newly-formed sexual identity, but pretty quickly decided that the whole point of the exercise was to be less concerned about how anyone anywhere thought I should express my attractions and desires and just kinda threw all the labels out the window. These days I go by queer, or mostly-gay. Or, if I’m in a particularly self-effacing mood, The City’s Least Successful Lesbian.

Sullivan was not thrilled to find out about me and The Dude. There was a confession on my part and some very angry highway driving on his part. By the way, people, for the love of – DON’T CONFESS THINGS IN MOVING CARS. JUST DON’T. DON’T EMOTE AND DRIVE PLEASE. We were fine, nothing happened, he didn’t do anything scary but fuck – come on. Emoting, much like driving, deserves one’s full attention. Never the twain should meet. Leave them twain. The twainest of twains.

Interactions between me and Sullivan got colder after that. More distant. More terse. It all sort of fell apart. I wanted to stay friends but could understand that he needed time to process, to decide if he wanted me in his life, to forgive whatever hurt I’d caused by destroying the illusion that the breakup of our marriage was solely about my sexuality. There are things I feel about a lot of this now, there are lots of things I could say about what went down and how it happened… but I am doing my best, with the benefit of hindsight, to try and see it from his perspective this time around. In the interest of being honest and not hiding things, in the middle of signing paperwork and exchanging stuff and figuring out what our relationship looked like now, I did sort of drop a bomb.

Ultimately, I did what I could. I told him I hoped to remain friends, but wouldn’t push the issue. He could reach out when he was ready, and I would wish him well in the meantime. I unfriended him on social media, hoping it would give me some freedom from second-guessing everything I posted, fearing he would see it and be upset. Trying to protect him from further hurt. Fearing that just being myself and settling into this new life would seem, to him, like I was rubbing it in his face. That’s part of why I stopped writing here, too. I sent texts for holidays and birthdays – just to say I remember you, you were important to me, the door is open if you want. I’m willing to talk, to listen. If you want. If you want. 

I don’t think he did. The replies came later, got shorter, stopped coming at all. He moved away, spent his birthday with my family, which I found out through Facebook. This still disturbs me; not that my family is close with him, but that they never mention it to me. Like most uncomfortable things, they just pretend it doesn’t exist. Later, they told me he moved again; going back to school in a different state. I hear he’s been seeing someone. (Okay, the few times I’ve ill-advisedly looked him up on Facebook tell me he’s been seeing someone.) I truly wish him all the best. I hope his life now is better than it ever would have been with me still in it.

I’m sometimes sad that we didn’t stay friends. Sometimes I think maybe it’s for the best, that we would have just clashed endlessly as we tried to become the people that we are now. People who are each different from the one the other married, and yet uncannily similar. So much has changed for me that it feels really odd to step this far back, to remember how it was, who I was then. Reading back through the archives here feels like I’m reading about someone else. Someone very familiar to me, but whom I disagree with on some key points. Sometimes it all bubbles to the surface and seems very fresh; sometimes it seems a lifetime ago. Like clothes in the back of the closet that don’t fit anymore and aren’t really my style – is that mine, or did someone else leave it here  at some point and I forgot who it belonged to?

So. I guess I have three years’ worth of posts to catch up on. Sorry I disappeared for so long, guys. Let’s get reacquainted, shall we?


There are weird things going on with my heart lately. In the metaphysical place-where-I-feel-feelings sense, not the literal muscle. My physical heart, as far as I know, is doing just fine.

But I’ve got this weird ache. It feels a little like loneliness, but a little like freedom too. I am untethering my life; casting off the lines and floating up into the sky. It’s terrifying. Exhilarating. And lonely. But not necessarily bad lonely – just solitary. I keep trying to tell myself that I need solitude. Time to stand on my own two feet. Chart my own course.

At the end of the day, when everyone who inhabits the spaces of my life goes home to their own dreams and desires, I am left to face myself in the gathering darkness and ask: what do you want? The question is enormous. I was never taught how to make decisions for myself. There was always someone else to consider, someone to defer to.

What do I want? How do I get there? If I acted thinking only of myself, where would I be and what would my life look like? What dreams would I dream for myself?

It’s not like there’s nothing I want from this life. I’ve just lately been realizing that I’ve put my career and professional dreams on the back burner for over a decade while I searched for that fairy-tale romance the movies promised us. Like somehow finding a husband would land me a role in that movie somewhere, or get me a job correcting the spelling and grammar in novels by newly-discovered authors. Funny enough, though, the harder I searched for that perfect relationship the more I sacrificed of myself in order to find it and keep it. Being alone was worse than being mediocre and meaningless and unfulfilled. Somehow.

Don’t think that I look back on the years I spent married as wasted. I learned a lot about myself, about how I function in a serious relationship, and about my limits. I learned how to speak up for what I want and need. I learned how to even figure out what I want and need. I still have a wonderful friend in the man I married, and I am finally at a point in my life where the life I’m living seems authentic and my own.

Sometimes I think it is easier to pair up. It is so much easier to give someone else what they want than to forge your own path and follow your own bliss. Especially if you’re doing it alone. That aloneness can really get to you. It can convince you that you’ll never get what you want. It’s scary to forge your own path without a partner there to share the load. It’s hard to walk your own path, knowing there’s no one there to guide or encourage you. It can be tempting to settle into the path of least resistance instead – to find the spouse, have the kids, dedicate your life to the tedium of surviving… rather than seeking out the thrill of really living.

So there’s this weird little ache in my neurotic little heart, telling me to keep looking for that fairy tale ending. It’s telling me to get swept away. It’s telling me my own dreams aren’t worth following, because I’ll never get them anyway. I am doing my best to ignore it. I know where that leads. Instead I am doing my best to remind myself of the freedom I feel when I’m walking on my own through the city; the feeling that I can go anywhere, be anything. The feeling of being untethered. The feeling of standing on my own two feet. The feeling of floating free.

It’s time to see how far I can fly.


I was chatting with a friend the other day about the situation my husband and I suddenly find ourselves in and how we’re dealing with it. I mentioned that I’m stressed about finding a place to live on my own, and that I’m even more stressed about moving day and splitting up all our stuff. He said, “Oh, so you’re getting divorced?” and I said, “Well, not right away. In fact, it’s possible we’ll just stay legally married until one of us finds someone we’d like to settle down with.” This surprised him. Why wouldn’t we get divorced and just get it over with?

Well, for one thing, divorce seems to be a costly and difficult thing. It’s something I know almost nothing about – for instance, do we file for divorce in the state where we got married, or where we’re currently living? Do we have to hire a lawyer or is it possible to do without, assuming the split is amicable enough? How does one get started? How much does it cost? Are there laws that require us to, say, separate for a certain amount of time before filing or jump through other legal hoops? These are all big scary questions that I know I’ll have to answer someday… but I don’t want to answer them right now.

There’s also the issue of lost benefits once we split. We enjoy a better tax rate because we’re married. We share car and health insurance. We are currently able to care for each other and act on each other’s behalf if catastrophe strikes. I hope it doesn’t – but it is reassuring to know that, in this new city where I have no family and only a few close friends, there is someone who is willing and legally able to handle my affairs if something terrible should happen. It’s a safety net that, frankly, makes this transition less terrifying. I don’t want to give up that safety net – and I don’t want him to have to give it up, either.

In my case, there’s also the very real possibility that once I give up these benefits I won’t get them back – whether or not I ever meet someone else I’d like to marry. We are making great strides toward equal marriage opportunities, but we are not nearly there yet. Even if I live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, it’s still unrecognized at the federal level and is likely to stay that way for some time. So as soon as the divorce goes through, I am at the mercy of institutionalized discrimination. I find myself wanting to delay that inevitability as long as possible. Is that a selfish line of thinking? Not really. It would be selfish if my husband wanted a divorce, and I was refusing him one based on those reasons. As long as he’s ok with staying married on paper, so am I; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. 

I still love my husband. I always will. In fact, it’s because I love him that I think it’s best for us to separate. We have discussed the option of staying in an open marriage, where we still treat each other like spouses and keep our legal benefits but are free to date and find certain kinds of fulfillment in other people. But I know he wants children. I know he dreams of having a wife who loves him and wants him, who wants to build a family and a future with him. He deserves that dream. He deserves to be married to a woman who desires him. He deserves the children he’s always wanted. I can’t give him that, and it would be cruel to trap him in a relationship where those things were either impossible or complicated to achieve. Eventually, I will be in the way. I don’t want that for him or for me.

But there’s no reason to send ourselves through that difficult and costly journey just yet. There’s no reason to take this leap alone, without the safety net a marriage implies. For now, we care about each other and have the means to take care of each other. Our marriage is – and always has been – what we make it.


Dad:

I’ve had some time to think about the things you said to me, the day I told you I was bisexual. I’ve thought about what it means, and what you believe, and where I fit into that picture. I’ve come to a decision.

I assume by now you’ve shared the news with Mom, if not my sisters. (One already knows, I talked to her privately.) I don’t mind if you have, or if you choose to in the future. It’s not something I particularly need kept secret. In fact, that’s kind of the point.

I’m not writing this to disprove your religious beliefs, nor to tell you you’re wrong for believing them. My intent is not to break your faith in any way. However, in order to state my message clearly, there is something I need you to understand: I do not believe in your God. I do not share your faith.

Because of this, I cannot agree with statements made on the basis of faith alone. Telling me “It’s wrong because God says so” is not a valid argument to me, any more than “It’s wrong because I say so” – which, to be honest, is all I’m hearing in those statements. I am a grown adult, and I have the freedom and the right to make my own life choices.

I am choosing to live my life out of the closet. I am not ashamed of my sexuality.

I am choosing to explore my sexuality. I am not ashamed of my desires.

I do this with the full consent and blessing of my current partner, who understands there are certain things in life he simply cannot provide for me. He and I are communicating better than we ever have before, we are more respectful of each other than we ever have been, and embarking on this journey has done wonderful things to strengthen our marital bond. I do this not to escape my marriage, but to enrich it. I do this not to tear down our bond, but to build it up.

Ultimately, who I build relationships with and how my husband and I manage our marriage is none of your business. I am not interested in hearing how you think I am Doing Marriage Wrong.

But there is something I need you to understand: I will not accept mere tolerance. I am tired of hearing the message “Well, it’s not what we would choose for you, but it’s your life to live.” That statement tells me that you’re not going to stop me if you think I’m making a mistake, and you won’t try to have an open and honest conversation about it, but in your heart of hearts you will always carry condemnation and judgment toward me. You will always be waiting to say “I told you so.”

I have yearned my whole life for approval from you. I have yearned my whole life for acceptance. I have made myself miserable to the point of desperation, trying to squeeze myself into the rigid role of model child, trying to be this mysterious perfect daughter that you could love without reservation. But I have always failed – maybe not in your eyes, but certainly in mine. I feel I have not gained your acceptance or your understanding. I do not have your support in being myself and following my heart: merely your tolerance.

The time has come for me to ask for your acceptance. I realize, given your faith, what a monumental thing it is I ask of you. I am asking you to consider that the Church may have it wrong on this one. I am asking you to re-examine your beliefs.

I would not ask this of you if it did not matter. If I was comfortable believing that my feelings were wrong, I would not ask it. If I was comfortable lying to you about this part of my life, I would not ask it. If I was comfortable with discrimination dressed up as loving tolerance, I would not ask it.

But I am not comfortable with those things.

You were right when you said it was not wrong to be attracted to members of the same sex. I believe that. But I cannot accept that it is wrong to be in a relationship with someone of the same sex. To accept that would be to turn my back on a wide community of wonderful, loving people; a community of which I am a part. I cannot accept that falling in love can ever be a sin – and I cannot accept that expressing that love, exploring that love, could ever be sinful, either. There may be times when it can hurt, yes – people are imperfect and as such can hurt each other – but that does not make it morally wrong. The full experience of love, in its myriad of forms, is an inalienable human right.

So here it is: the crucial decision.

I respect your right to religious freedom. I respect your faith and your beliefs, though I do not agree with all of them. Because of this respect, I will not demand your acceptance – even if I could demand such a thing.

However, I also respect myself. I respect my right to choose how I live my life, and with whom. Because of this respect, I will not subject myself to the pain of discrimination and intolerance, even from those who love me. Because of this respect, I will choose to lead a life that brings me joy and fulfillment, and choose the friends and lovers and partners that support me on this path.

I would like to share my life of joy with you. In order to share it fully, I need to know that you accept the life I live, without judgment. Tolerance (“It’s ok to feel that way, but not to act on it”) is not acceptance. If you cannot offer acceptance, then I cannot continue to share my life with you. I will not edit and hide parts of my life to show you a face you approve of.

You must either love all of me, or none.


So, the other night I went out on my first-ever official date with a woman.

It was lovely.

It was lovely.

And it was different. In a very nice and refreshing way. It was much more relaxed and groovy than many of the dates I’d been on with men – no nervous back-of-the-mind commentary on a constant loop of “Oh my god what if he kisses me? What if he doesn’t? Am I pretty enough? Am I being too loud? Am I eating too much? Am I not eating enough? What does he expect tonight? Is he going to ask for sex right away? Will he stop seeing me if I say no?”

Get this: we talked. Like friends do. We got to know each other. Shared stories. Laughed, a lot.

It was awesome.

And because there were no scripts to follow, there was no fear of overstepping one’s imaginary bounds – of somehow ruining the evening by not living up to expectations. I didn’t have to worry about fitting myself into a role within the date: it was all about What Do We Want To Do Next? Where Do We Want To Go? OMG Did I Tell you About That One Time When I XYZ? It was like a night out on the town with a new best friend. Only difference being, I got to hold her hand now and then; and occasionally my brain would interrupt the conversation with a quiet Hey, Wouldn’t It Be Fun To Kiss That Girl? (Shut up, brain, I’m trying to listen. Take your fantasies and go play in the other room.)

How is it that I’m only learning what a good date is supposed to look like three years after getting married? Who is supposed to be teaching this stuff? Because seriously – someone is dropping the ball here. How much heartache would I have saved if I’d really figured out how to get to know a dude as a friend before jumping into boyfriend-girlfriend mode? Or even after that? Hell, I’ve moved in with at least one guy before figuring out whether or not we were actually friends. (He was manipulative and controlling, so short answer: no, we weren’t.) I’d had the “first comes love, then comes marriage” narrative drilled into my head so hard, I never really stopped to think rationally about how to approach relationships. I was just looking for someone, anyone, to love me. And with the cultural ruts worn so deeply into our gender identities, it’s really easy to trip and fall into a relationship almost by accident.

She and I get to create our very own, special kind of relationship from scratch. It’s sort of terrifying. After all, that means I am actually responsible for thinking through my actions and reactions; no knee-jerk gender roles to fall back on. For the first time, when I’m out with her, I am realizing what it means to be at least partly responsible for someone’s safety and well-being. Since there’s no social script for us, it means I have to do things like say, “Hey, I’d really like to kiss you goodnight, but I think it would be better if we waited. Is that cool with you?” and hope she doesn’t think I’m a total dork for asking. It means being conscious of my emotional baggage, and remembering that it’s mine to manage, not hers. It means asking ourselves questions like: Who takes the lead? Who makes the first move? What responsibilities do we have to each other? To the others in our lives? To ourselves?

But it’s freeing, too – for the first time ever, I don’t have this weight of expectation pressing down on me. I can trust she’s not just there to get laid. I can trust that she actually likes me for who I am. That I’m not just a pretty face, or another notch on the bedpost, or a trophy or an arm decoration. The fear is gone, in a way it never has been in the early stages of any of my other relationships. I’m allowed to just be myself – she likes me that way. And I get to delight in this kindred spirit I’ve found, to discover her and learn about her. We’ll get around to the physical stuff, I’m sure. There’s undeniably an attraction there – my heart gets all fizzy when I think of her and my brain has been sent on time-out for inappropriate interruptions on more than one occasion. But the impetus for sex-right-now-to-seal-the-deal just isn’t there. There’s no “This is what we’re supposed to do next, this is what we have to do next.” There’s no pressure.

We’re enjoying the experimentation, the newness of it. We’re reveling in the Choose Your Own Adventure style of romance. (If you kiss the girl, turn to page 4. If you announce your intention to kiss her at a later date, then run away in a whirl of giddy anticipation, turn to page 13.)

Taking it slow is awesome. Why have I never done it this way before?


I’ve felt for a long time that the name I was assigned at birth (let’s say it was… Jenny) doesn’t fit me. Jenny wasn’t a word that described me; it was just a label tacked on so people would know what to call me. It was a name that carried with it all the associations of my childhood, all the expectations of parents and relatives long before I came into this world.

Jenny is the name attached to the person my parents want me to be.

Almost exactly a month ago, I posted this brilliant post by Cliff Pervocracy to my Facebook feed along with a comment that simply said “Hey, internet, I think I wanna be called Penny* now. Is that cool?” The three folks who responded (none related to me by blood) all said that yes, that was in fact cool. Since then, my husband and the friends I see in person have been doing their best to call me by my chosen name. I’ve been doing my best to introduce myself under my chosen name. (Not making the change legal, however, makes for some awkwardness around the employment area. Still working on that.)

A couple days ago, in accordance with the New Year and fresh beginnings and all that, I changed my Facebook name. (It also forced me to put in my full last name, instead of just the initial I had in there when I started the damn account.) By the time I got up the next morning, I already had a message from my mother asking “Who are you and what have you done with my daughter?”

I replied that I was still here, thank you, just making some changes. The response to that was, “Don’t change too much, we like you the way you are.”

Maybe I’m snatching an insult out of the jaws of a compliment, here. I’m willing to admit that’s possible. But if I don’t like me the way I am, shouldn’t I be allowed to change as much as I deem appropriate? I don’t even want to ask how much is too much, because that implies that I care if I change “too much” for my parents’ tastes. Truth is, I don’t. They’re going to love me or not love me however much and in whatever way they decide. It’s taken me decades to realize that I don’t have control over whether or not they love and understand me. It’s not my responsibility.

I have a problem with “we like you the way you are.” The way I am is not the way I am – it’s the way they think I am. And that is a lie; that is a trap. The way they think I am is a prison cell, and I have been confined my whole life. It wasn’t until I moved away that I first breathed free air.

It’s for reasons like this that I sometimes resent our technological age. A hundred years ago, I could have conceivably cut all ties when I moved away. I could have run off to join the circus, literally or figuratively. I could make all the changes I want and never worry about whether or not certain people find out. But in this day and age, everyone leaves a trail. Everything leaves a string attached. There are no more ways to simply disappear – not without severely disadvantaging yourself. There will always be the expectations of others, hovering like a cloud around my head.

If I am choosing a life free of the expectations of others, then I must enable myself to choose a name that is free of those expectations, too. And simply the act of choosing is an act of power, an act of agency.

As Cliff puts it:

I like the idea of a chosen name.  In my despotic utopian fantasies, everyone would have to change their name (or consciously and explicitly choose to keep their birth name) upon reaching adulthood.  (Or better yet, every ten years.  This would result in a lot of middle-schoolers named Rocketship Dinosaur McExplosion and that’s awesome.)  It’s such a big and important part of your identity, it seems odd to just go with whatever you were handed.

I have a theory that everyone deserves more choices. Imagine being that middle schooler, being given the opportunity to choose your own name for the first time ever. For some kids, it may be the first choice they’re ever given concerning their identity. This is actually brilliant, because in this despotic utopian fantasy, a person’s right to choose is recognized and celebrated. In this dreamworld, every ten-year-old child has their personhood and right to self-identify affirmed and uplifted. What a powerful feeling that would be – to make a choice about your identity and have it respected. How many more of us would have chased how many more dreams, if only we’d known our choice to follow those dreams would have been respected?

This touches on another point, also eloquently stated by Cliff:

Honoring our own desires is not something we’re taught to do.  It’s assumed that kids are balls of cheerfully self-indulgent id already, that all you have to be taught is how not to eat everything and hump everything and name yourself Rocketship.  The lesson on “actually, indulging yourself in safe and considerate ways is not just okay but necessary” never really comes.

I’m changing because I want to change. Part of that desired change is my name. Part of it is how I honor my sexuality. Part of it is how I treat my body. Part of it is how I adorn my body. Part of it is the type of work I do, part of it is how much or how little I share of myself, part of it is the boundaries I set and the ways I deal with the things that have happened in the past.

All of it is about being allowed to want. All of it is about letting go of the shame I feel at wanting things. All of it is about gaining the confidence to be really, truly, 100% myself.

And that starts with a new name.

*Penny is not actually my new chosen name. It is, however, my Superwoman-esqe alter ago. And I will answer to it just as happily, because I chose it, too.



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