Drawing Your Relationships

The other day in therapy, my therapist pulled out a white board, and drew a little circular image. Then she told me to write names on it. It instantly transported me back to being in a waiting room as a child and seeing the pile of toys on the floor in the corner. This space is for me. I could have sat there with that white board all day. I suppose I am an interactive learner.

The image she drew started like this. Just a little dot to represent me, myself, I. Then each circle outwards represented how close I am to different people. I’ve create an example to share.

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Hello, this is me, a little dot! Wave to the little dot! Great.

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Here I am with my partner, the person closest to me.

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Level three, my close friends. On my actual chart I wrote out names. There likely aren’t more than 5 or so people in this circle.

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Now it gets a little harder. You can come up with your own categories. I started to notice people I was kind of close with, people I wanted to be closer to, and people I was not very close to (but maybe still saw pretty often.) Where I put the names surprised me. Some people I thought I was closer to ended up further out in the circle, and vice versa.

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Okay, zoom out. People who I enjoy seeing but I’m not close to at all. People I’ve met a few times. People I dated in high school, or old high school friends. One night stands. People I ghosted or people who ghosted on me. Ex-boyfriends (technically on the map, but completely disconnected from it.)

The issue I face is a fear of  escalation.

I fear that giving clear “I want to bring you in to a closer circle” signal would be misread as “I would like to be the very best friends with you.” This is in part due to previous issues with boundaries and communication skills, but also in part due to experiences with people who have high social energy. When I indicate “let’s spend more time together” it’s often read as “we have reached a new level of closeness.” Mix that with my interest in being liked and pleasing others, and it can be a dangerous combination. Navigating these social boundaries isn’t something that I had ever learned before, and as an introvert, it’s something I’ve always struggled with.

It was helpful to learn that you can bring people in to a closer circle without opening the door of escalation.

For a lot of people this is common sense.

You simply indicate what does or doesn’t make you feel comfortable. But if you’ve been around a lot of people who don’t like to have conversations about boundaries, you may have been burned once or twice before.

My goal is to learn to be kinder to myself and others by being honest.

I would like to see you, I would like to bring you closer, but this is all I have the space for.

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You might find it an introspective practice, too.

Have a question? Submit anonymously at www.suggestivetongue.com/ask or email ask@suggestivetongue.com.

 

 

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QOTD: All Men

“Until we can collectively acknowledge the damage patriarchy causes and the suffering it creates, we cannot address male pain. We cannot demand for men the right to be whole, to be givers and sustainers of life. Obviously some patriarchal men are reliable and even benevolent caretakers and providers, but still they are imprisoned by a system that undermines their mental health.”

bell hooks

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Relationship Tip: Pretend You’re Single

If you break up and she cuts her hair, man, it’s over. She’s moved on.

I was thinking about this idea the other day and how I personally have acted and re-acted after breakups. A breakup can be a rebirth. You realize all of the ways in which you had begun to stagnant. So you blow yourself up, and you regenerate into a slightly different, if not better version of yourself.

Traditional breakup advice includes: getting a new haircut, treating yourself to a self-care day, booking a spa appointment, getting your nails done, spending more time with your friends, learning new skills, taking classes, going back to school, devoting more time to your career, and thinking about what you want and need as a human being.

You know, things that you can only do when you’re single, in preparation for finding another, more well-suited life mate.

One thing that might stifle long term relationships is the idea that we can’t do these things any time we want. We become predictable and we become comfortable. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with either of these things. Being comfortable and feeling settled can be foundational parts of a long term relationship. Unless it prevents you from growing as a human being.

Growing separately and together with your partner can help strengthen a long term relationship. Isn’t that one of the most critical components of any long term relationship? Continuously falling in love with new and slightly different versions of your partner?

Adding a little spontaneity to the usual way of things can make you feel more empowered  (which in itself, is pretty sexy) but it can also remind you that a relationship isn’t a death sentence to your individuality. The same could be said for mothers – and fathers. Does having children mean that you have to stop growing and thriving as a person, or does it mean that you just might need to be a little more creative about how and when you make those changes?

Have a question? Submit at www.suggestivetongue.com/ask or email directly to ask@suggestivetongue.com. 

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Old Posts & Advice Columning

Hi Lo! Is there a way to search an old blog post in which you gave advice from years back? The post had given advice on facing/tackling school loan debt in response to an anonymous question. If so thanks so much in advance!

Thanks for asking! I removed the search feature a while back because I wanted to discourage reading old posts as much as possible. That’s because I’ve had my blog for over ten years, and in that span of time, my knowledge base and my opinions have both changed exponentially. So has the way that I write. Some of my older posts include language or advice that I would no longer recommend using. I’m happy to answer the same question over and over again because it allows me to include new tidbits that I’ve learned since I last answered the question.

I think this is the post you’re looking for.

This is a good opportunity to mention that I’ve re-opened email responses on my blog.

I would highly encourage people to continue submitting their questions and prompts to my web form. This allows me to share the response to your question publicly, so more people can benefit from the information. But, I know, sometimes a question might be especially personal. It might require a little back and forth. In these circumstances, please email me at ask@suggestivetongue.com. I’m also very happy to just have discussion with readers about subjects that they find difficult to understand.

xx st

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What does intersectionality mean?

You’ve probably heard the word intersectionality thrown around a lot lately. That’s because the concept of intersectionality is at the core of current feminist movements. Intersectionality is a way to pay reference to the fact that we all have many identities and those identities often intersect.

Imagine yourself having a conversation about women’s rights. You might be discussing how race plays a role. This would be the intersection of race and gender.

Examples of intersections are: race, class, gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, age, disability, and illness. Other forms of identity can also intersect.

I am a white woman. This is my intersection of race and gender. My experiences are unique to me because I am a white woman. They are not the same experiences that a black woman would have.

In addition, intersectionality forces us to think about privilege. The ways my identity intersects makes me very privileged. I do not have a physical disability. I am a women and people identify me as such which allows me to interact fairly easily in the world (albeit there is still sexism, assault, inequality, etc.)

It is important to understand intersectionality because it reminds us to be conscious of how different people have different experiences.  We cannot assume that when we fight for “feminism” or “women’s rights” that we are fighting for what all women want or need. We have to have inclusive conversations and make sure everyone has a voice. In my case, this means listening more than I speak, educating myself on issues that other intersections go through (what does it mean to be homeless? what does it mean to be blind? what does it mean to be gay? what does it mean to be black in America?) so I can think more openly about where I fit in this world.

Another way to think about intersectionality is by imagining yourself looking through a camera. Point your camera at something in the distance. You are seeing this thing through your lens. Your lens is, in this moment, fixed. You see everything in this world with the bias of your identity. I see the world through the lens of a white woman. Now add a filter to your lens of “gay” or “black” or “non-english speaking” and see how different the world looks to you now. How do these new filters challenge how you interact with the world? How does it change your privilege? What is available or unavailable to you in these different intersections?

We can’t truly ever understand how other people think or feel because we cannot crawl into their shoes and walk around as them. We can, however, better understand how we are privileged and how others are not. This can make us more compassionate, allow us to better see how systematic injustices play out, and allow us to expand feminist issues to be more inclusive.

Have a question? Submit anonymously at www.suggestivetongue.com/ask and I’ll post it on my blog. Prefer a private response? Email your questions to ask@suggestivetongue.com. 

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The Report 1.15.17

why more writers should talk about money

In the past few years, some writers have begun to more openly approach questions of class. The internet has seen a profusion of such pieces: A writer who is “sponsored” by her husband calls on other writers to be more transparent about where their money comes from. Another outlines the clear advantages that being born rich, connected, and able to attend expensive schools furnishes to becoming a successful writer. In another case, a woman who wrote a well-received debut novel details how she went broke after a single advance.

st says: I make no money writing this blog.

convicted of rape for removing a condom

Sexual assault is not just about saying “no” and being forced into sex. As writer Tricia Tongco noted in a May article for ATTN:, there are a couple ways someone can still be raped even after giving consent, and condom removal when a condom is expected is one example.

st says: In addition, it’s important to remember that consent can be revoked at any time.

good girls revolt cancelled

It’s a well-documented phenomenon that in Hollywood, women’s stories are often stifled. According to a 2015 report by the University of Southern California’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, not even a third of speaking roles in popular films go to women. In addition, female directors only accounted for 1.9 percent of the 100 top-grossing films in both 2013 and 2014, and these stats have not improved much in the last few years.

st says: We need to focus our attention on consuming and supporting women-created arts so men (and women) can no longer say “chick flick” with disdain.

ten steps to make your first BDSM playtime amazing

Both of you fill in a BDSM checklist separately if you haven’t already (best to grab one that is editable, check what it has on it, and add any specific things that you like that you want to get their take on (many checklists skew M/f, so if you like cock rings or ball stretching or cross dressing, make sure they are on the list).

st says: the BDSM checklist (see link) is pretty thorough. but it doesn’t touch on everything. take it with a pen and pencil in hand.

ivanka’s dangerous fake feminism

Ms. Trump’s clear ambition remains unobjectionable in part because she seems to require nothing of men. She affirms her status as a wife and a mother first and a businesswoman second. While she speaks to the challenges of combining work and family, she makes no demands that her husband “lean in” at home — maybe Mr. Kushner does do the dishes, but they aren’t Instagramming it.

st says: I’ve got hope for her yet, but her brand of feminism doesn’t speak for the majority of women. her father might just take her down with him.

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Raise Quality, Reduce Quantity

I’m nesting.Not for kids or for a family or for the winter. For myself.

Ugh – yes, my late 20s, this is the reckoning. My boyfriend told me the other day that I have a hard time getting rid of things because too many things bring me joy. In addition, I’ve had trouble prioritizing in the past. Until we started dating, I still wore the same coat I wore in middle school. Even though I have started sporting a newer coat, the other still hangs in my closet. Because I anthropomorphize everything, every time I think of throwing it away, I get a brief but vibrant memory of the first time I put it on.

My cold fingers wrapping around the warm fabric cuffs, burrowing my nose down the collar,  mmm, it’s so warm, I’m just so warm. I’m walking through the esplanade to class. It’s raining.

Marie Kondo would tell me that I should thank this coat for providing me so many good years and throw it away. It won’t be of any use to anyone else, I don’t think. But progress has moved slowly around this home. I started with jeans that no longer fit me, too big or too small. These were, somehow, the easiest things to let go of.

As I tiptoe closer to a new decade I look at the things around me and realize how little I really need. It’s becoming more important to save for nice things that will last a long time and provide me with greater comfort.

There is no right way of adulting, but there are some standbys that I strive to achieve. Being on time as a sign of respect. Sending snail mail for important occasions. Figuring out how to navigate and conquer things no one ever taught me in school (how to have a career, how to do my taxes, what a retirement fund is, etcetera).

And, quality over quantity. Slowly but surely.

Some adult, and one adult, things of quality I especially appreciate:

  1. The Reliable Toy  – It’s a Hitachisurprise!
  2. The Perfect Sheets – Calvin Klein. Albeit, covered in kitty scratches.
  3. The Moisturizer Collection – First Aid, Caudalie, Argan Oil.
  4. The Water Bottle  – Swell. Keeps it cold, cold, cold.
  5. The Journal and Pen – Leuchtturm, Cross/Pilot.

What are some things you have kicking around the house that you have prioritized quality over quantity? How did you come to that choice (trial and error? lucky guess? read reviews?) Need a recommendation? Submit your questions to www.suggestivetongue.com/ask

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Introducing: Sexed Ed

Welcome to the latest, and hopefully greatest, or at least most bearable new segment on my blog. Sexed Ed. I just like it better than the sound of sex ed. It’s essentially the same thing, but just more, y’know, sexed.

I’ve broken down the year into twelve months. Which it already is, so I took the rest of the day off, feeling accomplished at having finished step one of my plan.

From there I chose twelve topics I wanted to discuss throughout the year in greater depth:

  • January – Women’s Health
  • February – Casual Sex & Dating
  • March – Men’s Health
  • April – Monogamy
  • May – Non-Monogamy
  • June – Kink
  • July – Intimacy Practices
  • August – Intersectionality
  • September – Communication
  • October – Menstruation
  • November – Trans Awareness
  • December – Gender Identity & Politics

A few things:

  1. Menstruation gets a whole month because no one talks about it and no one really knows anything about it and, frankly, I feel like we should re-learn the process together once a year anyways.
  2. Trans Awareness falls in Trans Awareness Month. Because I’m not Trans I’ll be providing basic information and linking to one Trans blog or author per post.
  3. Intersectionality will break down subjects like race, gender, sexuality, culture, socioeconic status and ability.
  4. Some of these groups will overlap and they’re not meant to be all-encompassing.
  5. Each post that falls within my Sexed Ed category will include a question box at the bottom. Readers will be encouraged to ask questions pertaining to the post which will hopefully lead to future, advice-column posts in the same genre. By all means, feel free to continue asking any other questions you might have even if they don’t fall within that genre.

I had mentioned last year that I feel like one way I can fight back against our supreme leader and nazi overlords is by writing. We’re at the dawn of a new year with new suits and potentially damaging changes coming. I’m talking to women, and minorities, but I’m also talking to heterosexual white men. You’re in a position where you could, if you wanted to, exist within a political landscape that reinforces your ability to live within a toxic masculinity. That’s not a safe space to be because it doesn’t allow you to think or feel like an actual human being. Your ability to be the kind of man you think is right, good, and just is on the line as well. Let’s talk about what all of that means and how to turn 2017 on it’s ass.

xx st

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Weekly Update: My Year at a Close

I make resolutions. Not to keep them, not to be perfect, not to engineer some better version of myself. Resolutions aren’t set in stone, they’re good intentions.

This year was terrible but I have to remind myself that it was, in most cases, terrible for other people. Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, they’re all people that touched my life at some point. But I’m not their wife, their daughter, I’m not their family, I’ve never met them, I haven’t even seen everything they’ve collectively produced. This is what is going to happen now. The learning to let go.

There was a lot of other shit too like remembering that nazis still exist and racism is alive and well and it’s okay to shoot someone who is different than you if you’re scared of them and a thing convinced of sexually assaulting women – among other things – being elected not–by–popular–vote into our highest office. To be a woman, to be black, to be gay or to be poor today means you’re just a little less safe. We know what that means, but we also don’t quite know the full scope of what it will mean next year.

A lot of bad things happened. But a lot of good things happened too.

Here are some of my favorites.

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  • For my Christmas present last year J got me a trip to Canada to visit one of my best friends. This February I flew out (much more pleasurable than driving) to visit with her and her now fiancé for a few days.
  • I started taking more photos and shot two weddings this year. I found a reputable place to rent lenses from and started shooting with higher quality equipment.
  • I started drawing, doodling, and journaling more this year. I’ve been slowly collecting a good standby of watercolors and pens that make drawing especially fun for me.
  • We went to France for nearly three weeks and traveled to places I’d never seen before like Omaha Beach on a Normandy D-Day tour, the Loire Valley to tiptoe through tiny towns, Versailles to explore the never ending gardens, and back to my favorite place in the world, Giverny, to walk the streets Monet walked and to see his garden.
  • We adopted our first kitty, a barely three month old kitten who we named Button. She is the cuddliest kitten. She is now about 8 months old and starting to look more cat than kitten.
  • I got The Fireman signed by one of my favorite authors, Joe Hill. A high point for me because being anywhere near people I admire is terrifying.
  • I worked a six month stint as a florist and learned how to care for plants and flowers, make arrangements and bouquets, craft boutonnieres, arrange terrariums, and more.
  • I surprised J with a 30th birthday trip to the coast where about a dozen of us enjoyed a two night stay in a cozy air bnb. It might become a regular spot.
  • I turned 28. An odd little year. Not quite thirty. Not quite twenty.

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A reader remarked on how few people comment on my posts the other day. I believe that people tend to read my posts in their email, scanning for bits that look interesting to them.  We don’t engage with what we read as much as it feels like we used to because there is so much material to consume. A goal of mine for 2017, among so many other goals, and good intentions, is to comment on all of your work more often. To think about what you’ve written and leave some thoughts.

In exchange, I hope that you will feel free to do the same here. More dialogue, more community, more thoughtful engagement with the things around us.

Off now. I’ve got a stack of books to read and a hot pot of coffee. I hope that this last night is kind to you and that you see good things in the new year. As always, thanks for being a reader.

xx st

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Just because it’s not your fault, doesn’t mean it’s theirs.

Sometimes relationships end. It doesn’t mean that they have failed.

We have a habit of casting blame on where and when a relationship failed because we want it to make sense.

Imagine the end of a relationship as a tiny death. If you are in grief, you want someone, or something, to blame. We want to know how it’s possible that something so great could ever go away.

At the end of a relationship we often go through the five stages of grief.

  1. Denial – The relationship isn’t over.
  2. Anger – How could they give up something so good?
  3. Bargaining – Will you let me fix it?
  4. Depression – They won’t let me fix it.
  5. Acceptance – I have to let go.

Within all of these points you will find blame. For yourself (I must have broken it) or for them (How could they stop trying?). We enter into negative thought patterns about ourselves and about our partners. We cling to the hope that if we could find the one thing that we did wrong, we could fix it, correct history, move forward into some one destiny that allows you and them to be together, forever.

The reality is that sometimes it’s not as simple as one person doing one thing wrong. It’s not about a moment. It may not even be about a series of moments. Sometimes two people who were good together simply aren’t good together anymore.

We enter into a chaotic repetition. We love them in all of the ways we used to love them but those actions, those sentiments, they don’t work anymore. 

Sometimes, if we try our hardest to love, and it doesn’t work, we stop blaming ourselves and we blame them. It’s all we have left. It’s a simple equation.

If I have tried everything to fix this and none of it has worked, it must be you that broke it. 

Relationships aren’t so simple. They aren’t a series of numbers to plug in to get the right solution. We are madness, bright, beautiful, confusing, loving and messy. We are all of our experiences. We are all of their experiences. There are too many confounds to solve unhappiness with a series of potentially redeeming steps.

 

A relationship might die many times before it dies the final death. The death where each partner knows it’s over, knows it can’t be brought back to life.

We can’t protect against the unknowing reasons a relationship might end. But we all have the power to make our relationships stronger and happier now, before that moment comes. It may even prevent that moment entirely.

Imagine your relationship as a fire

Sometimes your relationship might burn bright and crackle and give off heat to others.

Sometimes you relationship might roar predictably throughout the night with little need for upkeep.

Sometimes your relationship might start to fade out, the flame growing dimmer, the heat diminishing.

When you notice this start to happen, when you feel the light begin to fade, don’t question the ability of the fire to heat. There isn’t anything wrong with your fire. It just needs a little help.

Give the fire something to burn.

The more we stoke the fire (of our relationship) the warmer (and happier) our relationships will be.

Have a question about sex or love? Submit at www.suggestivetongue.com/ask and I’ll answer it on my blog. 

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