For Now

November 9, 2010

To answer the first question — yes, yes yes — Wifebian knew that I was scheduled to meet up with her friend’s girlfriend. In fact, I sent Wifebian a text, which I told her to send to her new friend, which the new friend was to send to her girlfriend. Everyone knew what I was doing and I was in charge. My prefered modus of operandi.

And clearly, at this point, these ladies, these interlopers, these may be lovers, need blog names. Their new blog names are based on the fact that each of the women in this couple play into mine and Wifebian’s most destructive attractions. Wifebian’s new friend will be called “Borderline” and her girlfriend will be called “Green”. Borderline is getting her name because Wifebian has a history of being terribly attracted to women with histories of sexual abuse and self harm and inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations. Women with these kinds of problems are often diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. And Green is getting her name because I have a terrible history of being attracted to women who are younger than me, have less formal education and less sexual experience, butches outcast by a  cold and heartless society.  In fact, during moments of acute femme grandiosity, I have been known to refer to myself as the Mother Theresa of Butches. Also, Green wore a green sweater when we met up. It’s like a Joseph Heller novel over here.

So, Green is 25 and from a small-ish North Carolina city, pop. 103,000. She is light-skinned, with medium brown eyes, chin-length twists and a feminine voice. If pressed, I would say one of her great grandparents was Cherokee. She played college basketball and works with children. Her shoulders are broad. I didn’t initially find her any more or less attractive than the average girl to whom I’m attracted.

But she was a very sweet woman. She understood her own feelings and could explain them. She was even able to take some emotional risks in the conversation and got tearful a couple times. She said she was disappointed that the four of us couldn’t be friends because she was looking forward to being friends with a couple that was “where me and Borderline want to be”. She said that she and Borderline haven’t had sex in more than 6 months and that Green feels bad about herself, like there is something wrong with her. (Wifebian also tells me Green is stone.) Green explained why this is all hurting her so much and making her so angry. When I used the phrase “emotional affair”, I could tell it was the first time Green had heard it and that that’s how she felt.

I tried my best to share my wisdom: If we wanted Wifebian and Borderline’s crush to die, I said, we had to let it live — but like a Bonsai tree, with lots of wire and scissors (I didn’t use the bonsai metaphor with Green, that one was for you guys.) I told her that if she felt so threatened by Wifebian, that she needed to keep an eye on Wifebian, that Green needed to insert herself into this situation, ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ I said, trying to speak some common, albeit destructive, language. I tried to tell her that she shouldn’t take Borderlne’s crush on Wifebian personally, that it’s all chemical. I said that Wifebian and Borderline need our help to make good decisions. I tried to tell her that their crush on one another is a gift that Green and I could choose to give to them. I tried to share a little about the flaws, foibles and fumbles in my own marriage. That this shit is hard, nobody’s perfect, that we need help, that we have to fight for our relationships. I asked her what she thought of going to therapy with Borderline. She said that she doesn’t see Borderline even caring about how much she is hurting Green and how can someone with a degree help that?

In the end, she refused to consider any future in which the four of us were sex partners or even friends. Well, mostly. If Borderline loved her, Green said, then Borderline would not engage in this flirtation with Wifebian. Green said it was a test. If Borderline followed these directions, it would be proven to Green that Borderline cared about her, and Green might consider the four of us being friends or even having sex. I told Green that “tests” are not the most awesome way to develop trust in a relationship and Green said, “You don’t know Borderline.”

We talked for 2 ½ hours.

Afterwards, Wifebian and I went out for pizza and beer. Wifebian acknowledged that while Green and I were talking, there was some heavy flirting going on at work. Specifically, while Wifebian was following Borderline up a set of stairs, Borderline stopped short and thrust her ass into Wifebian’s pelvis, at which point Wifebian placed her hands on Borderline’s waist and reminded Borderline that they were at work. Also, a couple of unfortunate text messages. I became enraged. Wifebian explained that they thought my conversation with Green was going to change things, that everyone was going to have the green light to do every thing and anything and it was all going to be alright. I explained that no, nothing had changed, and even if it had, Borderline and Wifebian conducting some sort of mini- affair was not on my list of non-monogamous things to do. I called Borderline, explaining that Wifebian told me that there had been some touching at work and that I needed to meet with Borderline in person to explain my expectations of her. Borderline had me meet her at a gas station.

Truly, I am not the kind of woman that meets other women at gas stations. But, having consumed a locally crafted micro-brew, my anger was very available to me. And it was a rainy night. It was all too delicious and ridiculous to resist. But really, this woman just needed to see my face as I told her what she was and wasn’t going to do with my wife.

When I came home from my rainy rendezvous at the gas station – that conversation lasted about 2 ½ minutes – I told Wifebian that my expectations for her were to save all texts she sent and received from Borderline and to tell me if Borderline touched her. And that I was done with this for the evening.

In the intervening days, Borderline and Green have broken up and are back together. But they arent speaking. But a coworker told Borderline she saw Green buying rings in a jewelry store yesterday. But maybe Green was just picking up the promise ring that she took back from Borderline the other night. Wifebian and Green have had a drunken, but peace-making, conversation at a bar. I have attended a school happy hour with Wifebian and Borderline and continued to assert my bemused superiority, smug detachment, and total control. Wifebian also had a long talk with an ex girlfriend, who is a former stripper and dominatrix, but also mother and healer. The ex helped Wifebian get her head back together, echoed many of my sentiments, but was also able to engage Wifebian’s higher self in this situation, which I havent been able to do what with all of my jealousy and insecurity. Thusly, Wifebian is talking about meditating, going to Meeting and has ordered a copy of The Ethical Slut off of the internet, which I thought was very cute. I mean, of course I already know everything that’s in it and won’t be looking at it at all. Wifebian and Borderline have ceased extraneous communications, per Green’s request and deleted one another’s numbers. Which I cant say isn’t a relief for me. It just means less work when it comes to keeping everyone in line. For now.

And me, I have, once again, tried to arrive at some essence, the essence of what makes a marriage a marriage, or rather, my marriage a marriage. What is it that I demand of Wifebian to demonstrate her unique allegiance to me, what is it that will make my relationship with her different from all others? Must it always be so unique and different from every other relationship she has for the next 50 years? Or can it just be special, different and better most of the time? If it’s not exclusive access to her vagina, orgasms or oxytocin that I want, what is it? Is it money and children that make a marriage? Her PIN number? Free babysitting when we have kids? Is it control I want — the choice, a say, over what she does and doesn’t do? Do I just want dibs? Maybe I just want eternal dibs. The right of first refusal, if you will? Maybe that’s the simplest way to put it. That is my proclamation for today:

A marriage, my marriage, is about having dibs until death does us part.

 And, in the intervening days, I have daydreamed about ways to help Borderline and Green out of this tangled web of lying and fear they have woven for one another. A relationship is a relationship, four years is four years, if they break up, fine, but they will just find some other partner-actor with whom to play out these ancient scripts. So, why not work on it, I told Green. Do something different. I want to buy them gifts, send them cards, create fantastic treasure hunts for them. Leave them clues and books. What Green and Borderline need is just a really great trust fall. <jk>. I want to mentor them. I want to fuck them, (Well, just Greene, really). I want to leave their campsite better than I found it.

Except, I have to work 6 twelve hour shifts over the next 7 days in order to take next weekend off. Wifebian and I are going to a baby shower in Baltimore. And! I have to cajole the management company into installing a baseboard heater in the kitchen and bathroom and turn the water on for the washing machine. And I have to keep unpacking and take a shower and pay some bills and keep remembering to take my anti-depressants and to drink enough water and I have to keep feeling guilty about not going to the gym. So much to do! And so it is that the waters of my worldly concerns come rushing back in to engulf the spirited vagaries and adventures of my queer libido. For now.

I also need to make a hair appointment with the stylist that bit Wifebian on her ear that first night at the bar . . . I mean, Wifebian’s hair does look great . . .   I haven’t told you about that yet? And! They serve beer at her salon? Which makes me wonder about the difference between a bar and a beauty shop if it’s not exclusive access to beer . . .   ah, jokes . . .  I joke.

Whatever This Is Called

November 3, 2010

One of the most significant developments coming out of this Asheville thing is the making of friends. Lesbian ones. This may be an indication of an immaturity in my relationship, but Wifebian and I have never had to negotiate the development of new friendships with other gay people as a married couple.

In general, I havent made a mutually depthful, reciprocal, soulful friendship since college. Maybe I have intimacy issues, or maybe I havent really tried, maybe I’ve moved too much, or maybe the business of friendship is inherently different once youre an adult. Maybe its all these things, but I still want one. Or heck, maybe even two.

Specifically, Wifebian has started a friendship with a woman at her job who is a femme, partnered lesbian. So far, the friendliest thing thing the new friend has done was help Wifebian move on a day I was working. I have not met the friend’s girlfriend and I have not spent much time with the new friend. The new friend’s partner is a little suspicious of Wifebian; I joke about being jealous. Then, Wifebian told me that the new friend said I have a nice butt. And her and Wifebian talk about sex more than the average pair of new gay friends. And then there’s the whole part where the new friend is also Wifebian’s “type”.

You see where this is going.

Right? So we’re not talking about “making new friends” anymore, right? We’re talking about crushes, right? Friend has a crush on my wife. Or does she want to have sex with her? Or with us? Uh, ok, whatever . . .

Then, last weekend, Wifebian went out to the local lesbian bar with her new friend and her new friend’s girlfriend. I was at work. The new friend ended up propositioning Wifebian for sex, the girlfriend got mad at Wifebian’s new friend for a different, but related reason, and decided to fight with Wifebian’s friend on our porch at 3AM and be rude to the neighbor who asked them to quit it.

None of this constitutes “friendship material” in my book. But Wifebian says she is bored, would like also to be friends with her new friend’s girlfriend, who is butch, because she needs “boy”friends. I say that I am looking for a higher level of ethics in a new friend, some professional success, someone with some hobbies, a spiritual bent, other well-adjusted friends, perhaps a savings account, you know, the basics. But, more than the basics, too. And I certainly cant entertain their “friendship” if chick is going to be back-handed and secretive about her intentions.

Last week, before the proposition occured, Wifebian and I had been invited to dinner at the new friend’s house. I wasnt into anymore, but then Wifebian talked me into it, but then the new friend’s girlfriend said there would be no dinner. Over the intervening days, it turns out that Wifebian’s new friend and her girlfriend have been talking about opening up there relationship for some time, which is different than friendship, which is different than trying to sleep with my wife. I dont want to be friend with you and I dont want you to sleep with my wife, but kinky group sex? That I can do!

When Wifebian and I got together, I was a non-monogamous fool. Loved it! Thought it was great! But Wifebian squashed it and I humbly accepted the boundary. But now, for the first time in her life, though, not to mention in our relationship, Wifebian feels secure enough in a relationship, specifically ours, to consider having sex with other people. While I, on the other hand, after four years of monogamy, am leary, especially with this couple. Both of these girls are younger than Wifebian and I, are completely new to non-monogamy, I sense that they are unhappy in their own relationship, and I know they dont identify as queer. (Not to mention, 1/2 of the couple works with Wifebian.) This couple is not the best couple to be nonmonogamous with now that I am out of practice and Wifebian is exploring new territory.

Last night, Wifebian and I had warm, sexy sex, involving a fantasy about me her new friend’s girlfriend, then walked the dog up to the local cafe and talked about it all over a couple of our favorite chocolate chip cookies. We talked about our unfulfilled needs, the ones that cant be fulfilled because no person is everything to another person. We talked about Wifebian’s identity as a butch and a bottom, how this couple’s dynamic is different and provocative in relationship to ours, We talked about how our sex used to be (fanfuckingtastic), how our love used to be (wholenotherpost), and what to do next.

Initally, I wanted nothing to do with this because I dont want to be friends with them and I’m not aching for the non monogamous lifestyle. But now — now, I realize that Wifebian does not have some desire to have group sex or exchange partners, but that really my wife has a crush on her friend and feels secure enough in her relationship with me to try to ask about maybe expressing it sexually. I realize that I am the one in this situation who knows even remotely what she is doing and that if it’s going to work out, I have to be in charge.

I sent my phone number to the other girlfriend. We are going to meet up at the mall tomorrow. The mall! I love it! I would like for her and I to talk about this without Wifebian and her friend, since we are the level headed ones (hopefully) at this point. (Besides, the idea of watching Wifebian and her friend try to be, like, non – crushed on one another while in this woman’s home in front of this woman’s partner kinda makes me wanna barf.)

Acording to my analysis so far, Wifebian and her friend — the two “bottoms”, the two “passive” people in these two relationships — have a crush on one another that they want to express phsyically, but the dominate partners are being like, “Hell to the NOTGONNAHAPPEN!” If I can put myself in charge of deciding if this is a good idea, with the cooperation of the other person who is “in charge”, we might all have a shot at having a mutually beneficial, drama-limited, good time.

I guess.

I hope.

I mean, I could get back into this non-monogamy thing. It is super fun. 

But, then, there are the judgemental voices, the ones in my head, about how non-monogamy is immature and this endeavor is particularly ill – advised, how I should be spending my energy on budgets and recipes and baby-making and how I might even be doing real damage to my relationship.  But, I want a dynamic, queer sex life with my wife. I want a stable, loving marriage in which to raise happy, healthy children. I want both of these things, and I’m sorry, but “date night” doesnt seem to be cutting it.

I need a picture of Dan Savage to hang over my fire place. With candles and a rosary. The patron saint of . . . whatever this is called.

So, my BIL i s a police officer. For the first time last month, BIL drove his police cruiser home from work. He has also recently arrested some people that live in or near his development. Then, the other day, one of the signs marking an entrance to his development was spray-painted with gang symbols and anti-police epithets. A couple Sunday dinners ago, we discussed “those people”, “that kind of thing” and of course we worried that BIL and SIL were being targeted. They were talking about moving.

The three of us — Wifebian, BIL and myself — all work with low income black people. Except BIL is conservative and we are progressive. The three of us are abreast on current events and embrace our profession as an identity, so, we get into these, like, conversations where we try to relate to one another about, well . . .  our jobs. Also known as 50% of our lives. It can be hard. I’ve never been related to a racist, anti-immigrant police officer before. So, I’ve tried to understand how a republican thinks, a republican police officer, and his version of the world, which makes me think a lot about social work and my version of the world. Some days, talking with him makes me think I am totally naive and other days talking to him makes me think he is a total asshole.

But, what has my profession really taught me about the world? What is my job good for? Especially compared to what other professionals know about and what they get from their job. Like, my SIL, who’s a vet tech, can squeeze my dog’s anal glands and get us half-price vet meds and I am really grateful for that.  My college friend who interviews celebrities and my other college friend who is a traveling musician and the one who is on TV — they all get fantastic social capital — everyone thinks their job is awesome all day long and want to talk to them about their jobs. Free samples, travel, pictures of you on your Facebook page posing with Mark Summers — all serious perks creating real social capital. I think the term is “fringe” benefits.

But, then there is perspective. Everybody looks at life differently. But a lot of it depends on what your job is. Like, the other day, I met a guy who used to be a chemist and he worked for a company that researched the best way to make rubber adhere to metal. We had this whole talk about his new grill that I couldnt have had with anyone else at the party. Five minutes in a house and my dad could tell you how much it would cost to paint it. Five minutes in a math classroom and my wife can tell you if the kids will pass their end of grade exams. Our jobs give us fantastic insight into some very interesting and very small parts of the world.

My small, interesting part is people. People concern me. Poor ones. And justice, too. So, I ended up becoming a social worker. (Or is it that I’m a girl that I ended up a social worker, hard to say.) Sometimes I day dream about journalism or law, though. They do people and justice, too. And lawyers make money. (And journalists can too. They have a much better chance of getting a book deal than social workers.) But, they say lawyering promotes depression and journalists are in a worse position than social workers right now with like, job security. (That’s the awesome thing about poverty.) And we see what policing has done to my brother in law.

So, with social work, I get some perks, some capital. I mean, although nobody wants to talk to me about my job at  dinner parties, I get the sense that social work is considered honorable and valid, an actual profession. Especially if you’re one of those social workers that calls yourself a “therapist”. But, mostly, what I get from my job is insight into people and how to live a decent life. I get a lot of reality checks on how bad it can get and how good I have it. I get a sense of purpose. I mean, the alleviation  of human suffering is a pretty awesome gig. I get to constantly work to improve my own self and think about myself which is a real luxury. I get to hit the streets and meet hookers and drug dealers and wife beaters. That is, I dont have to stay in the box I was born in for more than two days at a time, which is an awesome privilege, really.

I also totally understand bad behavior. I can’t explain straw polls, or cell phone towers or seafood inspection, and I definitely can’t fix your TV, but I can tell you all about that son-of-a-bitch hoodlum and that crackhead bitch, yes I can. I can also give you some insight into those weirdos over there. And I’m really grateful for that. I can’t imagine how totally fucking irritating drug addicts would be if I didnt understand why they dont just fucking quit.

Basically, I think social work helps me stay cool. My fringe benefit is not being an asshole. It could just be the anti-depressants kicking in, but I think social work might be good for my mental health, for my relationships — to myself, my loved ones and the world. Dare I say, it’s good for my spirituality? And even if it is the meds talking, it’s the daily practice of social work that got me within ten feet of an SSRI to begin with. (I also used to be against OTC pain relievers, therapy and the DSM, too, if you can believe it. By the way, I had my first Lexapro orgasm this weekend! Woo hoo!)

Back to Sunday dinner. Wifebian tried to make the point that BIL needed to have relationships with black people outside of a patrol car, except she just ended up saying, “Yeah, well, I have more black friends than you!” And that wasnt very effective, you know, as a rhetorical strategy because BIL missed the point and asserted that his college roommate was black and so is his (patrol) partner so he clearly knows everything he needs to know about being black in a patrol car. Then, FIL kind of changed the subject and wondered if black people complain about white people as much as white people complain about black people, alluding that he and BIL indulged in their totally racist world views during their recent road trip together. That was a refreshing moment of insight and self-reflection. We all agreed that they probably do. (I tried to avoid citing Get On the Bus. It is the only empirical data I have regarding black male road trip behavior, but I can’t remember any of the scenes.)

We capped off the evening with middle SIL telling her favorite race story. It’s about the time she was vacuuming and a very large black man accidentally walked into her unlocked house. When he walked in, she looked up and said, “Oh my,” to which he replied, “My bad, my bad my bad.” SIL always says, “I never say ‘Oh, my,’ why did I say ‘Oh, my!’ ? ”  and then she makes fun of being so white. Then, I was like, “That black dude probably never says ‘ My bad’ and he’s telling his story like, ‘I never say “My bad!”  — what was I thinking!’ ” And we laughed. Which was fun since that’s the fourth time I’ve heard that story and it was nice to make a new joke that didnt come at the expense of someone else.

So, the conversation didnt go so badly, really. No one said the N word or cried, so . . . success? I guess I wish that my social work background gave me some sort of edge in conversations like that, but it doesnt, or hasn’t so far. I don’t change minds or swell hearts. Nobody at the table wanted to subvert the dominant paradigm or go volunteer after dessert. Could I get better at translating my experiences to a general audience, to average people in average situations like my BIL and SIL? I want somebody to say, “Oh you should talk to my SIL Mrs. Basement, she’s a social worker and she can totally explain learned helplessness to you.” Except it appears that I can’t. And most people don’t care to know. I need talking points!

My brother and sister-in-law ended up putting their house on the market last week. My sister in law says that she has finally become as racist as her husband. She is angry that she has to leave her first home because of those people and wishes they could just stay in their neighborhoods and we could just stay in ours.

Nonetheless, I wish her well. And I’m pretty sure that doesn’t make me naive.