Over My Head

I’ve been waiting to post this for a long time; it was inspired by this Girl on the Net post.  When I saw that the Wicked Wednesday prompt was “Follow Your Heart,” I thought: it’s time.  It’s non-fiction and not very wicked, but I can’t think of a more appropriate prompt for this piece.

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At the time I met Banger*, I was deep into lesbian territory.  I hadn’t been physically intimate with a man for four years and wasn’t planning on it anytime soon; however, when I opened my door and saw him standing there one cold February afternoon, I felt my heart leap in my chest.  He was my type: Tall, bespectacled, bookish.  At least – he was the type I’d had before I stopped dating men.  I panicked and reacted to how handsome I thought he was by being overly cheerful and energetic.  I didn’t really know what to do with my sudden and strange urges; it had been so long since I’d had them.

Over the next year, I developed a massive crush on him, but never said anything; he was always dating someone, and I was supposed to be gay.  We became close friends and confidants; we worked together, shared an office, and lived in the same building, so I saw him all the time.  We’d go out for kimchi stew or barbecue together and chat; a couple of times we went to a noraebang (private room karaoke), just the two of us, drunk on rice wine, and sang songs late into the night.  He made me giggle.  Not laugh – giggle.  The kind of laughter you share with someone when you have inside jokes or find something hilarious that no one else would laugh at.  We could be silly together and really honest with each other because we weren’t trying to get into each other’s pants.  It was brilliant.  Spending time with him was so easy – a breath of fresh air.

He went home for vacation that summer, and I found myself acutely missing his company.  I could feel a kind of dull ache inside of me at his absence.  When I went home for Christmas, he kept in contact with me the whole time I was gone.  The night I got back, there was already a message on my phone welcoming me back to Korea and asking me to dinner.  We spent the next three nights on his bed, watching 90s movies and drinking boozy hot cocoa.  It felt like those times in uni where you’re trying to be physically close to a crush without admitting you like like each other, because what if the other person doesn’t feel the same?  The second night, I asked if I could put my head on his shoulder.  I couldn’t even remember the last time I had cuddled with someone, and it ignited something in my body that I was wholly unprepared for.  My insides exploded with an unstoppable force, and my panties were literally soaked by the time I got back to my apartment.  The next night, as I was stroking his arm, my brain stopped working and my body took over; I grabbed his face and kissed him, and it felt like everything fell into place in that one moment.  My lust was a champagne bottle uncorked.

I went away for a couple of days after that; when I came back, we spent hours making out and exploring each other’s bodies before falling asleep.  At first morning’s light, I told him that I desperately wanted him inside of me.  I hadn’t had penetrative sex with a man for five years at this point; I thought I would need to take it a bit slow or that it might even hurt, but because I was so highly aroused, it felt so. fucking. good.  Like eating an ice cream cone on a scorching summer day.  Like the first time you try ecstasy and you find yourself floating in joyous spacetime.  Like the first day of spring after a long, hard winter.

He called me; he asked me to spend time with him; he held my hand in public, and that’s when I think I fell.  I moved to another city shortly after we first hooked up; it was hard going from seeing him every day to seeing him twice a month, especially now that we were being intimate.  I found myself feeling lost in the behemoth of all these feelings I hadn’t felt in years – overwhelming waves of love and desire.  I had a real libido for the first time in forever.  I was drowning in hormones, and I didn’t know how to get to shore.  I felt crazy.  Suddenly I was being cautious with every word I said to him, scared that if I said or did the wrong thing, all of my joy would vanish.  He would disappear like a magician into the void of a magic box.  I tried to stop myself from feeling, tried to put tape over a waterfall, but I had already contracted emotional ebola and I was bleeding out.

Over the next couple of months, we had the most incredible sex I’d had in a decade, and I experienced orgasms I couldn’t even believe were real.  We fucked everywhere in my apartment, cuddled next to each other on the couch to watch videos, and only came up for air to go out to eat and build up our energy reserves so we could make love again.  If oxytocin is sex vodou, he was a houngan and I was ready to dance with snakes.  He brought me back from the dead.

My friends were baffled.  They said:

“I’ve never seen you this happy.”

“I’ve never seen you this way!”

“You’re glowing!”

“I’m surprised at how… mushy you’re being about this.”

“I never expected to hear you being so sentimental.”

“I’m impressed – not because it’s a guy, but because you like him.”

“It’s kind of nice to hear you say that you feel something again.”

And suddenly, I wanted to know what we were.  Not where it was going – I knew he was moving back to England in the summer – but I wanted to know that he had romantic feelings for me like I did for him.  That I wasn’t alone. That I wasn’t crazy.  I told him that I had real feelings for him and that it was freaking me out.  He said he hadn’t had romantic feelings for anyone in years and didn’t know if he could.  I, meanwhile, was feeling ALL THE FEELINGS ALL THE TIME, and it was so completely isolating.  I tried meditation, breathing, yoga, sleeping pills, processing with friends.  Nothing could take away the anxiety of loving someone when I didn’t know how he felt about me.  My pain started to become stronger than my joy, but I held on because the high was so powerful.

When I told him that I felt like I’d changed from someone he actually cared about to someone he was just sleeping with, his response was, “Yeah, I guess that’s just part of the changing nature of relationships, you know?”  When I asked if I could say that we were dating, he responded, “I don’t know.  I mean, you can say whatever you want, but I don’t know.”  When I said that that had hurt me, he said he was sorry I felt hurt.

We kept having these amazing weekends together, but I was in pain all the time.  It’s hard work loving someone who doesn’t love you in the same way; it takes everything from you.  Confidence, dignity, pride, joy, sanity.  Laughter.  Self-worth.  I knew that he cared about me a great deal; he wasn’t good at expressing that with words, but he showed it by doing things like serenading me with a song sacred to my heart that he learned just to play for me, or by choosing to spend his last weekends in Korea with me.  But I was in a different place.  I understood for the first time why people want to give up everything to be with someone.  Why they’ll move half a world away.  I wanted so much to spend my life loving him despite knowing deep down that we probably wouldn’t be compatible in the long run, and that was unnerving.  He told me shortly before he left that he loved me – and I truly believe he did – but continued to introduce me as his friend, which was confusing at best and devastating at worst.

The day before he left, he asked me: “What now?”  I don’t know, I said.  I wanted to say that I wanted to be in a long-distance relationship with him while continuing to date other people here, but the idea of him saying no to that was too crushing to consider.  So I just said that we’d keep in touch, keep loving each other, and hopefully one day down the road we’d meet again and create a second chapter in our story.

We tried to be friends after that, which in hindsight seems like the biggest mistake ever.  His responses to me became less frequent and shorter; we still talked, but it wasn’t the same.  I finally told him right before Christmas that I was deeply in love with him and that it was too painful to try to be his friend.  That I needed a break.  We talked for a long time and hashed things out – then emailed a week later and talked for hours again and hashed more things out – and in the end, he said he was still attracted to me, but didn’t know if that translated into romantic feelings.  That he just assumed I was over him.  That it would be logical to have romantic feelings for me, but feelings aren’t logical.  That he didn’t know if he could be emotionally supportive of me.  I got angry about it all and my anger hurt him; he thought I was diminishing the ways he cared for me just because his feelings weren’t as intense as mine.  He loved me – just not in the way I wanted to be loved.  We left the conversation on a positive note, and agreed that the friendship we’d had before was worth working on.

It took a long time and dating other people (and a thorough reading of More Than Two) to wade through the layers of love and loss I felt… but I made it to the other side, and when I did, I came out stronger.  Not that defensive kind of stronger where you swear you’ll never let anyone in again, which is where I was before I met him, but the kind of stronger where you learn how to open your heart and love completely, accept and really feel your feelings, and vow to work on knowing what you want and how to communicate that.  Where you breathe deeply and let your walls crumble to the ground around you in tiny pieces.  Being that vulnerable and crawling through the darkness that came after were both transformative experiences.

I started writing this blog while I was seeing him because I wanted him to be proud of me for doing something creative; it has since turned into something I’m proud of myself for doing.  I’m grateful for that.  We’re still friends, and the friendship feels easier now.  My heart feels so much lighter when I talk to him.  He lives with someone he’s dating now; that was hard to cope with at first, but a month or so ago I suddenly found myself feeling genuinely and deeply happy for him out of the blue.  We should all get to love in life and be loved in return – even the people who have hurt us.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

 

*Not his real name, obvs.  This is what a few of my friends started calling him after I initially and hesitantly told them I was “bangin’ a dude.”

 

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Straight Talk

Blood is such an excellent prompt for a piece of fiction, but I’m having the damnedest time thinking of one because all I can focus on is the blood gushing out of me at this moment.  Thanks to hormonal birth control, I barely bled for the last twenty years.  My periods were usually three days of light bleeding and no cramps – so my whole life I’ve had NO idea what women with heavy or painful periods went through.  My periods were terrible when they first started, but it was so long ago I’d forgotten.

Until this year.

I’m experiencing heavy bleeding for the first time as an adult.  I mean cups full of scarlet blood, much redder and thicker than I expected it to be, poured into my drain… which is unexpectedly satisfying.  I’m experiencing strong cramps for the first time.  Now that I have a copper IUD in, I’m experiencing menstruation-induced pain for the first time.  And it’s a motherfucker.  My lower back hurts in a way that I’ve heard women complain about but have never been able to imagine.  So bad that I don’t want to go to the gym today, even though I know exercise will help.

I’m skittish about using my cup this month because my first IUD expelled last month during my period, so I’m using a pad for the first time since I was thirteen, which is a weird feeling (tampons are wildly expensive here – around $.50 a pop – and stores don’t sell the ones without applicators).  It’s uncomfortable and I can actually feel the blood coming out of my body in spurts.

The strangest thing about all of this is that it actually feels good emotionally.  Even though I’m experiencing pain, I also feel much more connected to my body, to the other women in my life, and to the natural world.  I know that sounds so fucking cheesy, especially given that the reason I’m bleeding more is that I have a piece of metal in my uterus – but the feeling is genuine.  I want to make art with my blood.  I want to be fucked bent over in my shower, hands against the tiles – to have him come inside of me, to watch the pink fluid run down my leg in rivulets and mix in with the water on my shower floor while panting (Y’all know period sex is so good, right?  My orgasms are much more intense right before or at the beginning of my cycle!).  And I want to talk about menstruation.  To men (gasp!).

Women are made to feel shame our whole lives for something we have zero control over – socialized to believe we are dirty or smelly or untouchable when in actuality, we are badass.  Every month, we go to work or school while bleeding.  We play sports and work out while bleeding.  We go on dates and hang out with friends while bleeding.  We take care of kids and partners while bleeding.  We program and shop and dance and work outdoors and swim and study and read and run conferences and write and make art and make music and cook and take boxing classes and sleep and drive and argue and heal and play while actual blood – ounces of it – is coming out of our uteri.  Some women have incredibly painful periods, and they still do all this shit.

Half the population bleeds for approximately 15-20% of their reproductive lives.  That’s a lot of blood… but many of us never talk about it.  And I think we should – or at least, we should feel like it’s okay to talk about without the people around us clamping their hands to their ears and exclaiming, “TMI!”  Can you imagine people doing that if you started talking about what you ate for dinner or how long you slept last night?

I’ve had more than one male partner freak out because he suddenly saw a little bit of blood on his dick and he thought something was TERRIBLY WRONG when in fact, he had just knocked a little blood loose from my cervix at the beginning or end of a cycle.  I have male friends who refuse to have sex with their partners while they’re bleeding because the mere sight of blood unnerves them… in person.  Seeing pints of blood squirt out of various body parts in a Quentin Tarantino film is no problem, but if it’s on a tampon, it is gross and terrifying.

But period sex is awesome for a lot of women; if we can handle a cunt full of blood five to seven days a month (and spotting in between), men can probably give a go to having a little blood on their cock for five minutes.  I say if the sight of blood bothers you, try a blindfold!  Your partner is powerful at this time anyway (I mean… at least according to Pagan folks), so it seems like a good time to work on your submissive side.  When your partner wants to talk about what’s going on with her body, listen.  If you have a question, ask!  Communication is aces.  Period fucking: Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Menstruation affects most aspects of our lives in some way – for me, it can impact mood, diet, activities, libido, and physical and emotional comfort.  For women without access to educational or medical resources or menstrual products, it can be completely life-altering.  One thing it does not do is impact the decisions I make at work or how I engage in other life responsibilities… but it does affect my life, and I expect to be able to acknowledge that.

I’m happy I bleed.  It makes me feel strong.  It makes me feel incredibly horny (my period horn is super intense now that I’m off the hormones).  Sometimes it makes me feel crummy and sore and frustrated and sensitive too, but I wouldn’t change it if I could.

Cu T

Late last summer, I made an attempt to get an IUD placed as I’d recently stopped using condoms with The Texan; things didn’t work out so well.  I wanted a copper one, but the office I went to didn’t have any, so I opted for the Mirena instead – but when my gynecologist tried to place the IUD, my cervix was so narrow that she couldn’t get the tube in.  She said I had two choices: come back again when it was a better time in my cycle and my cervix was more open and malleable, or sit around and get my cervix dilated.  I hightailed it out of there and said I’d come back later.

 

 

During that appointment, she said I should go off the pill; I never asked why.  Instead, I kept taking them until The Texan left in December, after which I finally went off after twenty years of hormonal birth control… and I waited.  I wanted to get my IUD in during a period when I knew I wouldn’t be having sex (the highest risk of infection comes in the three weeks after placement), so I waited until one partner was gone for the summer and another one was leaving Korea AND timed it so I was both off work that day and in a place in my cycle that would be conducive to a slightly more open cervix.  Sheesh.
 

Women who have IUDs have lots of feelings about them; some love them and some hate them.  I did as much research as I could[1]; determined not to go back on hormonal birth control, I found a hospital that had a small copper one and set a date.  It was my first time seeing a male gynecologist; I thought that would make me nervous, but it didn’t.  What did make me nervous is when he showed me a uterine sound and told me he was going to insert it to check the depth of my uterus.  And after that hurt like a son of a bitch, he then told me that he was going to need to dilate my cervix a little with bigger sounds to get the insertion tube in.  Eek!  I consider myself a strong person, but that didn’t stop me from crying a bit and saying “OwowowowOWOWOWowowow” over and over.  It made me feel completely in awe of any woman who has actually pushed a human baby out through her cervix.  He told me to relax.  Ha!  “I’m going to put this metal stick into you – so you know, just relax.”  That being said – it worked this time!  Hurrah!

 Image result for uterine sound
“It can’t hurt that much, lady.”
Day one was pretty awful, not gonna lie – lots of bleeding and cramps.  Days two and three involved lots of bleeding and almost no cramps; days four and five were reversed (the worst cramps I’ve ever had, but very little bleeding).  So… we’ll see.  Is it worth it as a backup method?  I’m still using condoms with my partners as I have more than one, but I really don’t want babies.  I like having a just-in-case birth control method.  And who knows?  In a year or two I may end up with a partner with whom I decide to bond fluids.

 

Oh, and that whole gynecologist wanting me to go off birth control pills thing?  I asked this doctor about it and he said, “Yeah, you shouldn’t be taking the pill for more than two years at a time.”  WHAT.  Thanks for telling me that, no gynecologist I’ve ever had.  He then said gravely, “You should probably get a mammogram – extended pill use is linked to breast cancer.”  “But I’m only thirty-five,” I said.  “Do it before you leave Korea,” he retorted.  (Korea has amazing health care – the kind where you can just walk into any office any time without an appointment and it’s cheap AF.  My copper IUD was only $100; in the US it could easily be $500.)  So it looks like I’ll be getting a mammogram this year… at thirty-six. 
 
 On a complete tangent, I found this amazing website where someone documented his partner’s cervix through actual pictures the first month after she got her IUD in; it’s completely fascinating!!!  It made me feel better knowing that other people have experienced the same things I’m experiencing (and likely will be for the next month or two… ugh).  I’ll make a full report on my first post-IUD penetrative sex later and I promise it will be much hotter than talking about mammograms and sounding.  


[1] A note on the articles I read while researching: IUD placement seems to be quite different in the US than here. I got no Misoprostol, no numbing agent, no prior STI tests or pregnancy test… pretty sure my gynecologist didn’t even wear gloves.  

Hormonal Drift

Warning: If you can’t deal with the fact that half the population bleeds for ¼ of their lives, you probably shouldn’t read this post.
A year ago, I went to my gynecologist to attempt to get an IUD put in.  While doing an exam beforehand, she looks around my giant skirt at me and asks, “How long have you been on birth control?”  “Twenty years,” I reply.  “You need to get off it.  Now.” she says.  “But –” I start to protest, and she cuts me off: “Now.”  She told me that I had the uterus of a seventeen year-old – whatever that means. 
I finally took her advice last December when The Texan moved back to the US and went off hormonal birth control for the first time in two decades.  I was freaked out about what might happen to my body; here’s what did happen:
  • My face broke out like a fifteen year-old.  The acne was gone in a couple of months, but it was really bad for a while.  Now when I get my period, I get acne in places I’ve never had any before, so that’s weird.  It goes away, but still.  Weird.
  • I finally stopped spotting and my mood swings stabilized.  Yea on both accounts!
  • My periods last longer and there’s a significantly heavier flow, but nothing too bad.  I’ve also been experiencing cramps for the first time since I was fifteen.
  • MY BOOBS GOT SMALLER!  This is a huge victory.  I’ve always had giant knockers; since I exercise a lot, this is a pain in the ass.  Having smaller breasts feels wonderful – it’s something I’ve wanted my whole life.
  • My libido has skyrocketed.

I thought that I already had a much higher libido than most people – I’ve had more than one boyfriend complain about the frequency with which I want to get down.  Now it feels a little out of control.  In addition to no longer putting extra estrogen and progesterone in my body, I also do weight lifting, which increases my testosterone level.  I am ridiculously horny ALL THE TIME.
I’ve started hitting on people I normally wouldn’t hit on, have said yes to sex with someone I’ve never considered sleeping with before (and it’s been great!), have done some pretty stupid and hurtful things in the past month because of my sex drive (sorry, Emily Nagoski), and have had some horrifyingly sexually aggressive thoughts that I never had before.

I’m feeling great about having more sex with more partners (this is going to be a renaissance year for my sex life, no doubt), but I’m not okay with being in a place where I’m not fully thinking through my actions before doing them. What I’m saying is, I need to check myself before I wreck myself, as it were.    

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.”