Tell Me When it Hurts…

I have the tendency not to tell people when they’re hurting me; I just keep it in and accept it until I hit a breaking point or the pain stops.  Of course I know this isn’t healthy, but it’s so hard to break this habit once you’ve started.  I think: Maybe if I tell this person (s)he’s hurting me, (s)he will be defensive.  Maybe (s)he will blame it on me.  Maybe (s)he’ll apologize but won’t mean it.  Or even worse: Maybe (s)he won’t apologize.  Maybe (s)he doesn’t care. 

Maybe (s)he will say, “I’m sorry you felt hurt.”  Not, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

If I’m hurting someone, I for sure want to know so that I can change my behavior / language or at least try to be more aware and more respectful of that person’s needs and feelings… so what stops me from thinking that other people feel the same way?

I’m reflecting on this because of a couple of incidents that happened this weekend, both of which are related to physical pain rather than emotional pain.  The gentleman I am currently (whatever with) was visiting; there was a point in the weekend where he physically hurt me more than I wanted to be hurt (Kink!  Look it up.), and I didn’t speak up.  The next day, I did something that caused him physical pain, and he didn’t say anything; I stopped when I noticed he was wincing. 

Why didn’t I say anything?  Why didn’t he say anything?   I can’t speak for him, but in my case, I didn’t want to ruin the moment.  It worked out well; the moment went un-ruined and carried on into a pretty spectacular night.  But it probably would have been just as spectacular had I said, “That feels good, but it would feel even better if it were a little lighter.”  Had he said something to me right away when he felt pain, it definitely would have resulted in a better night for both of us. 

This was just physical pain; remaining silent about emotional pain has far worse (often long-term) ramifications… it can be corrosive and psychologically damaging.  Two things I’m trying to learn from this relationship are a) how to be a better communicator and b) how to be more mindful; this might be a good place to start.  I’m trying to remind myself that often when we feel hurt, the person who is hurting us isn’t even aware they’re doing it. 

Tiny Buddha has a really wonderful article on how to confront people who hurt you; when I read the article, I realized that maybe I should be looking at expressing hurt feelings in a different way.  I shouldn’t focus on what I expect the other person’s reaction to be, or what I fear their reaction will be, but rather focus on honestly expressing myself with no expectations and no judgment.  A difficult endeavor, but worthwhile in the long run.    

Now to lighten the mood of this post: I was watching an episode of Star Trek: TNG last night in which Picard and Dr. Crusher are linked telepathically through a device attached to their brainstems (because science fiction!).  They discover through reading each others’ thoughts that they’ve been engaging in an activity together that neither one of them enjoys just because each one thinks that it makes the other happy (It’s just breakfast, you pervs.  Get your minds out of the gutter.).  Further evidence that we should speak up when something really bothers us.*  What I’m getting at here is that we can look to Star Trek to learn deep life lessons.   
 


[This episode, by the way, has the most gutting ending.  After seven years of flirting, Picard says to Crusher something along the lines of “Now that we know how we feel about each other, maybe we shouldn’t be afraid to explore those feelings.”  Bev replies, “Maybe we should be afraid,” and then walks out the door.  WHAT.  Bev Crusher, who twice before has started to tell Picard about her feelings before something cuts her off!  How can you do this to us, son of Carl Sagan? 

Ahem.  Sorry.  Sometimes Star Trek makes me emotional.] 

*However, there is something to be said for tact and careful consideration of what we choose to say / how we choose to say it.

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New Restrictions on Social Media Postings for Teachers

Pretty thrilled not to be living in Kansas right now…

From the linked NPR article:
“Under the policy, examples of improper use of social media include speech that could incite or produce violence, discloses confidential information or ‘is contrary to the best interests of the employer.'”

That is wide open.  I’m wondering what constitutes “confidential information”.  Pretty sure that under this policy I would already be suspended / fired / tarred and feathered… whatever it is that they do to teachers in Kansas.  

Because Teacher is Inappropriate

I had this elementary student for two years who had a dark sense of humor like me; we got on like beer and chicken (in case you aren’t aware, beer and chicken are partners). 

One day, we were reading a story in his class about a young boy and his grandmother called “The Raft” (not to be confused with the excellent short story by Stephen King that made it into the first Creepshow movie); there was a picture in the textbook of the two sitting on a homemade raft.  The young boy was wearing a life jacket; the grandmother was not.  When the students asked why she wasn’t wearing a life jacket, the words tumbled out of my mouth before I took the time to think about them: “Maybe they just figure that since she’s so old, it doesn’t matter if she drowns.”

This boy started laughing uproariously and said, “Teacher, you are heartless!”  “Aw — thanks!” I replied.  Like I said, chicken and beer. 

If the other students got it, I hope they knew I was joking!

 

Backfire!

I thought it was a genius plan.  Pure, evil genius.  I’d challenge him not to masturbate for an entire week leading up to our weekend together, and I’d take on the challenge too, to be fair.  Then I’d send him dirty blog posts, videos, and pictures all week to try to make him crack.  Brilliant, right?

Wrong!

The upshot of my plan is that I spent hours… HOURS… looking at sex blogs, porn, and dirty pics to find just the right ones, and I can’t masturbate

Longest.  Week.  Ever. 

Happy Masturbation May! (NSFR)

Hey everyone!  May is (formerly National) Masturbation Month, so get get thee to bed (or the nearest empty room, or a dark corner in an alley… you know, whatever strikes your fancy) and have a good wank.

Or do this: Walk into your corner watering hole / local public ale house, sit next to an attractive stranger, look him / her dead in the eye, and ask: “So.  What’s the most interesting and / or fun place you’ve ever masturbated?”  I bet if you did this continuously throughout a Friday or Saturday night while bar hopping, you’d end up with some fantastic stories.  Write a comment if you do!  Consider it homework.  I am, after all, a teacher.

For me, it was on an express bus crossing South Korea.  I was on my way home, texting back and forth with this guy I’d wanted to sleep with for years; we were making plans for him to come over that night and “have a few beers.”  I couldn’t stop fantasizing about him; I absolutely had to touch myself.  The bus was full of people, but most of them were sleeping.  I was sitting in a solo seat and the entire bus was dark; I was silent, and as far as I know, no one noticed at all.  But hey!  At least I’m not the only one who does this.  The express buses in Korea usually stop at a rest area for fifteen – twenty minutes; I’ve also gone into the rest area bathroom on a couple of cross-country journeys to rub one out.  Sometimes you just need that release, you know?

To women everywhere who acknowledge that they masturbate and enjoy it, I salute you. 

Running on Empty

I have this student who always wears a track suit.  He has several, all in different colors.  He’s a big guy who has a buzz cut and walks like a wrestler, even though he doesn’t wrestle.  He often comes in late, clutching his stomach and looking pained, but he’s there every day.  His English level is probably the lowest in his class, but he is super confident — never afraid to speak, never afraid to make mistakes, and always wanting to participate.  I love him for it.  He’ll often start speaking rapid Korean in the middle of telling me something, when his sentence or idea is too complicated to explain in English; I’ll listen patiently, answer or respond in English (if we’re in the classroom; if I see him in the hallway, we speak in Korean), and keep the conversation going. 

A couple of weeks ago, he missed his Thursday class; the following Tuesday, when I was walking around listening to my students answering conversation questions, he called me over. 

“Oh — teacher!”  “Hey!”  I said.  “Where were you last week?  Are you okay?”  “Oh no, teacher,” he answered.  “Hospital.”  “Uh?”  I asked (kind of the Korean equivalent of “huh?” or “what?”), thinking he probably went because he either had a cold or was hungover.  In Korea, people don’t go to a clinic or stay home when they’re sick; they go to the hospital.  (I’d like to mention here that a majority of the hospitals in Korea are private, and they’re closed on weekends; only a few hospitals here have emergency rooms open on weekends!  Basically, if you get sick on a Sunday, you’re screwed.)

Anyway, he then proceeded to explain to me in a wild rambling of mixed Korean and English (I would love to reproduce it here, but I wouldn’t do it justice) that the reason he’d gone to the hospital was because he was so sick from drinking that he had to get his stomach pumped; the doctor told him he has severe liver damage from (and here I quote) “middle school high school drink all time.”   Fuck.  I guess now I know why he always looks like he’s in pain — he probably always is.  And he probably keeps on drinking, joking about it, and thinking he’s invincible, as we all do in our early twenties.

Update: Today my students gave presentations; this student was missing.  His best friend came up to me and said, “S could not come to school today.  Police.”  “What?!” I asked.  “He’s at the police station?!”  “Yes,” he said, calmly.  “What happened?  Is he okay?”  I asked.  “I don’t know,” he said, and walked away, unphased, like this shit happens all the time.

Further Update:  S comes to class this week and tells me he was at the police station.  I know, I tell him.  I ask if he’s alright and to tell me what happened.  Apparently, his friend called him to help him in a fistfight.  S went, and the police came.  He then told me that the police have an arrest warrant (!) out for him, but that it’s okay because he’s “buying a lawyer.”  He makes me promise not to tell the other teachers.  I pinky swear I won’t, and he stands in front of class to give his presentation.  

A sampling of hilarious and delightful things my former elementary students wrote:

1.  She (a teacher) is leave because we toke all the time.
2.  My mom is my hoes wife.
3.  When we finished shop, we went to the calculator.
4.  If I will be president I will kill all the people that eat alcholes.
5.  If you don’t brush your teeth you will get plague.
6.  I would travel by Car, becaus If I ride airplane, boat… I’ll throw-up and dizzy.
    I would travel by whale, because it is free of charge, and good at earth.
    I would travel by future traffic. (because it is better than now traffic).

I really miss those kids.

The Science of… Love?

Disclaimer: As much as I desperately wish I were, I’m not a scientist – if there are any scientists who read this and think, “That’s not right!” please let me know!

Every week, I listen to an insightful and fascinating podcast on sexuality, relationships, and dating called Sex Nerd Sandra (I highly recommend it!); this week’s topic was on how and why we pick our partners.  Her second guest, Kate Loree (a marriage and relationships counselor) talked a lot about the neurochemistry and endocrinology of relationships and sex — what happens in our brains and endocrine systems when we’re attracted to someone, when we sleep with someone, when we date and enter into relationships. 

She argued that the person you’re attracted to / the person you have passionate, lustful, insatiable sex with isn’t necessarily the person you should settle down with; that sexual attraction happens because of serotonin and dopamine, but those things shouldn’t be the basis of wanting to grow old with someone.*  Sandra countered with this question: “If I can’t trust my brain chemicals, then what can I trust, and what is love if not that feeling?” 

This got me thinking a lot.  I’m struggling with the idea of sexual desire and the desire to be in a committed relationship being mutually exclusive.  I know for sure that I wouldn’t want to start a relationship — the kind that takes negotiation, communication, and compromise — with someone who I didn’t have great sex with.  That being said, everyone has different priorities when it comes to sex, romance, dating, and relationships.  There are people for whom finding a partner who is willing to commit, work together, sacrifice, and compromise is most important.  There are people for whom finding a good co-parent in a romantic partner is the most important thing.  In addition, situations, attraction, and people change, and there are a lot of couples who stay in committed partnerships / companionships but who no longer have sex, or who find sexual fulfillment outside of their primary partnership.  And to that I say: You do you! 

For me, good sex is non-negotiable.**  And really amazing sex takes hard work.  It takes open communication, negotiation, and compromise!  If great sex takes the same kind of hard work that great relationships take, couldn’t it be the beginning of building a foundation of a strong relationship?

Loree also talked about the role of cortisol in emotional and physical pain resulting from being separated from a partner; cortisol is a hormone that spikes when we feel stress.  When this happens because of separation from a partner, it’s akin to going through drug withdrawal since so many neurotransmitter and hormone levels elevate when we’re with someone we desire (dopamine, serotonin) or love (oxytocin, vasopressin) or both (again – not mutually exclusive).

I was ecstatic to hear this!  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I’ve spent the past few months thinking I was absolutely insane because I’m dating someone who lives in another city, and every time we say goodbye, I feel real, visceral, physical, searing pain that lasts for days.  I sometimes find myself in the middle of my hardwood floor on my hands and knees in a puddle of uncontrollable, sudden onset tears and think, “Why is this happening to meeeeeee?!”  And now I know.  So thanks for that, adrenal glands! 

It felt good to hear Sandra talking about her experiences with this, because it’s always nice to know that you’re not crazy and other people feel this way, too. 

I’ve had really great sex with people I didn’t have an emotional attachment to, and have loved people I’ve had good, but not incredible, sex with.  And once in my life, I was lucky enough to have both.  Right now, I’m struggling with this question: If I’m having mind-blowing sex with someone, but I’m also experiencing romantic feelings for that person — real, valid, haven’t-felt-like-this-in-years feelings — do my romantic feelings just come from the hormones?  In the beginning of a relationship (with NRE working its magic), how do we know the difference?    

*She later went on to say that building a relationship should be the result of a conscious decision to be with someone who helps you self-actualize. 
**A friend said to me the other day, “I think you’re like me – your heart lives in your vagina.”     
             

Travel Sex (NSFR – Not Safe for Relatives)

As in: Hey there, sister!  You might not want to read this one.

So I’m at this IRA pub in Derry, talking to the only other Americans I’d met traveling through Northern Ireland (they happened to be from my state, so we were getting on quite well) and a group of gents that had heard our funny accents and came over to talk to us.  I distinctly remember this one fellow who was telling me that he could no longer see out of his right eye because he’d gotten hit in the face with a rubber bullet.  “You’re pulling my leg,” I said, not believing him at first.  And then a split second later, I realized: he’s totally not kidding.  I’m in Northern Ireland.  

The whole time we’re having this conversation, I notice a big bald guy looking over at me (looking me over?) from a table a few feet away.  I give him a smile and keep talking to the group of guys I’m with.  After a couple of pints, they decide to call it a night and head out the door, leaving me still a bit chatty and not quite ready to leave, but with no one to talk to.  I go and sit in an empty chair next to the wall, and the bald bloke pulls up the chair across from me.  We exchange our names, say a few introductory words, and then: “So – how about we get out of here, then?”  “No,” I said, grinning — “I don’t think I’m looking for that tonight.”  We continue talking, and I realize that maybe I am up for it.  I’m really not into bald guys (Captain Jean-Luc Picard being the exception), but he was handsome and I was traveling.  “Okay,” I said.  “Okay, what?” he asked.  “Let’s get out of here.  I have a room in a bed and breakfast down the road.”  No more needed to be said; we grabbed our coats and walked briskly out the door into the January night. 

We did have a lovely conversation on the way; he told me about the history of the area, and I asked a lot of questions.  The cold air felt good in my lungs and I had drunk just enough to feel warm and giddy.  Once we got into my room, the conversation was done.  Usually, one night stand sex isn’t great; sometimes, it’s downright awful.  But this was hot.  This guy was built like a fucking bodybuilding giant, which again is usually not the type of guy I’m attracted to, but he was perfect that night.  He picked me up like I weighed nothing and fucked me against the wall, banging me into it so hard that we knocked paintings of ships off of it and so loud that there is no way we didn’t wake up every single guest.  He tugged my hair like reins and compressed my entire body against him.  He flung me all over the room like a rag doll, and I wanted more.  We rested for a little bit, soaking the sheets in our sweat, before going at it again. 

And then: “Okay, you can go now.”
“What?” he asked with furrowed brows.
“I said you can go.  Go home and get some sleep.”
“You’re not going to let me stay here?”
“No,” I laughed.  “I’d also like to get some sleep.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, I’m serious.  I had a really good time, but you need to go.”

He put his clothes on, looking confused, and joked about me being cold.  He gave me his card (there once was a time before Facebook), like I was going to contact him. 

And honestly, it felt good to have that kind of power.  I walked into the B&B’s dining room the next morning, tranquil as a monk, smelling of sex and faintly smiling, and sat down in a beautiful hand-carved wooden rocking chair at a table with a doily on it next to a wall covered with sky blue and cream colored wallpaper, and I tore into the Ulster fry in front of me like a champ.    

In any case, the point of the story is that travel sex is great, you guys.  Go do it (be safe!).  And it’s okay not to be Facebook friends after you do.     

National Standards for Sex Education

The new SIECUS state profile on sexuality education says that 55% of high school students in my hometown are or have been sexually active.  When I was in middle school, I was in a clique of five girls (kind of ashamed to admit this, but there it is); by the time we graduated from middle school, three of the five had already gone full-on PIV.  I wasn’t one of them, but I certainly wasn’t far behind; I lost my V-card two months into high school.  I wasn’t pressured by the guy I slept with or any of my friends; I wanted to have sex.  I was a teenage girl who recognized my sexual desire and made a conscious decision to act on it  — right after trick or treating, no less (before you tell me I was too old to be trick or treating in high school, I was collecting canned goods for a food bank!).  But that’s another story. 

Anyway, this is why it freaks me out so much that a) abstinence is still being taught in many schools as the only way to prevent pregnancy and STIs and b) when sexuality education is taught, it’s taught in a risk-avoidance framework that only focuses on pregnancy and STIs.  Like these are the only topics that matter when it comes to sexuality.  Teaching using a risk-avoidance model doesn’t allow for students’ voices to be heard or for their desires to be acknowledged.  It doesn’t help them navigate their way through the very murky waters of sexual communication and negotiation; it doesn’t even touch on identifying and talking about sexual harassment and abuse or sexual identity. 

We took a class my freshman year of high school that discussed condoms and birth control, but kind of how a top secret government agent might talk about UFOs — as in, “these things are out there, but that information is classified.”  Obviously, this class came way too late.  Health education in middle school mostly covered ‘our changing bodies’ and issues related to puberty, and that conversation was too late as well, as our bodies were already morphing into unrecognizable and sometimes very smelly alien creatures. 

I mostly dealt with this by a) talking to my one friend* who could confide in her mother about being sexually active and therefore knew where Planned Parenthood was and how to make an appointment, and b) teaching students how to use condoms in the lobby after school as part of an HIV 101 mini-class.  I can just imagine that piece of paperwork coming across the principal’s desk: “HIV education!  That’s a great idea.  They’ll talk about the immune system.  It’s biology!”  

There are a lot of organizations that are working hard on comprehensive sexuality education for middle and high school students: Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, answer, and Scarleteen to name a few.  The first three listed worked together recently with a bunch of health / health education networks and organizations to develop national standards for teaching sex education, which is super exciting!  If core subjects have national standards, health education should have them too, no?  I mean, having to include standards on lesson plans sucks, but having a list of national standards for sex ed not only normalizes the subject but gives teachers guidelines to help them work toward a more inclusive and comprehensive sexuality and relationships education model, rather than the risk-avoidance model that is so commonly taught now. 

*This is the same friend who first took me to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and for that I am forever grateful.