Tag Archives: conflict

Questioning

I had a date yesterday. It was unusual in a lot of ways: he asked for my number at work (this happens often), and I gave it to him (this is unprecedented). He’s tall–much too tall. He frequents coffee shops, which mostly bore me. He is yet another straight white man. I enjoyed his company, enough to make a second date, but I’m questioning.

I’m questioning my own judgment. To a lesser extent (all but drowned out by the thunderous wrath of my own queerness), I’m questioning my own values and identity. For all that I will fight and rage when people say “bisexuals are just confused,” I am looking at myself right now with the same dismissiveness and disdain that gay men and lesbians display when they note my history of “straight” relationships.

I’ve always trampled down the second Q of LGBTQQIA. I want to treat it with a sort of ruthlessness, because “questioning” can so easily be used to call all of us into question, because its very framing is tenuous and uncertain and I am afraid of any hint of uncertainty. Because bisexuality specifically has so much added scrutiny, beyond other forms of queerness, that I don’t dare add my own questioning to the questioning I’m bombarded with so often. But yes, it’s there.

The truth is I feel like I am failing at bisexual praxis. I’ve had three partners in the last six months. All casual. All straight white men. They’re mentally and psychologically exhausting in a way no other people are, even the most progressive of them. And the truth is that exhaustion leaves me vulnerable to questioning. To wondering if all the women and genderqueer folk I’ve dated or fucked or just lusted over for all these years were just a fever dream, or a delusion, or a phase.

The truth is that choosing a radical expression of bisexuality leaves me, by definition, rootless, and it is inefficient to gather nutrients without soil.

I am not sure what to do about this. I am questioning my options and my choices and myself. It is exhausting.

In which I fail, and fail, and fail

“Did you want to try to have sex, before I go?”

I don’t know. That is, I don’t, but I don’t know why I don’t. I’m frustrated and lonely and I crave sexual touch. It’s been months. “I don’t know. No, I think–” I’m inarticulate, nervous. Is it going to be a fight, if we don’t? Is it going to be a fight if we do?

“It doesn’t have to be like standard PIV. You could fuck me, or try punching or electricity. If you need to feel in control.”

My gut twists. I don’t want, not at all. It’s visceral, shocking. I am not like this. I’m babbling. I say definitely no but I’m trying to explain and it doesn’t make sense. I have to say it three times before he understands.

“What about just kissing? You like kissing.”

I do. It’s been months. I feel pressured and miserable and scared mostly, afraid because there’s a delay between reaction and reason. I can feel it, the gap. What I want/don’t want is inchoate and the words I give it feel like excuses, like lies.

I’m trying. I don’t want to say no because I want to want it, because I think maybe the fear will dissipate and excitement can take its place if I just try. Like riding a roller coaster.

It doesn’t work, the kissing. I try. My body wants to fold into itself, there’s no enjoyment, but I try. And then I can’t. I bury my face in his shoulder and apologize.

Questions. “Why” and “what’s going on” and on and on. It feels like pressure. I feel like I deserve it. I snap at him. I don’t want questions I just want to curl up quiet and alone. He deserves answers, it isn’t fair, but my mind isn’t clear enough. So I snap. So we fight.

He only suggested it because I said I was frustrated the night before. He thought I was pressuring him. I thought he was pressuring me. He pulls apart my words and calls them inconsistent. I don’t see it, don’t know how to explain.

This is what I mean by not working.

Scenes from a Break-Up

Z and I broke up. It wasn’t pretty. The conversation followed a couple of weeks of silence and a passive-aggressive facebook post, so it was obvious where it was going to lead. Still. It wasn’t pretty.

Z: “I assumed you were lying and trying to manipulate me.”

I understand this fear. I don’t understand how it excuses her lying to and manipulating me. She feels paranoia and mistrust, she decided it was true, she decided not to say it, and she decided to treat me differently based on those feelings. She decided I was lying to her. That I wasn’t invested in a relationship with her. She closed off to the relationship in response to that fear. She didn’t tell me. It’s long standing (I’ve written about it before), and we’d discussed it more than once at length.

Z: “So if I think you’re manipulative, I shouldn’t stay in a relationship, but you don’t trust either of us. Shouldn’t you not be in a relationship?”

She may be right. My trust issues are severe. I’ve hidden things I shouldn’t, and a part of the problem that led to this most recent mess came out of that. I wasn’t being open about my mental state or the effects of illness. I’m not being open about them here, even, and you folks don’t know who I am. I hide in closets sometimes, or in my car. It’s probably not healthy.

The difference, as I see it, is how we respond to fear. I am always afraid. Anyone who is allowed to get close is close enough to cause hurt, and that thought is never far away. I try not to make decisions based on fear. If I have to–if I can’t think straight anymore and terror becomes certainty and the floor falls out–it’s not an excuse to attack. It’s not an excuse to lie. It means I’m leaving.

Z: “Every time you say you want someone else, what I hear is ‘not enough, not enough, not enough.'”

This wasn’t directed towards me. It’s not the first time she’s said it. Not enough. That may be what she hears, but that’s not what is being said. I’ve always found this line of thinking particularly childish and narcissistic. “If same-sex marriages are legitimized, my heterosexual marriage means less.” “If you’re bi, you can only half-like me.” “If you want other partners, it’s because you don’t want me.” No. No. NO. Look, I get that we’re told to believe this basically from birth, because that’s a major tenet of the theory of One True Love. In reality? “I want to be in another relationship also” doesn’t say she’s not enough. It doesn’t mention her at all. The need to make herself the subject of a sentence or topic that has nothing to do with her is kind of baffling.

Also, she was dating both of us. Does she translate her own behavior the same way? Were we each not enough for her? Or did she never consider us to be in a relationship?

Z: “You’re saying this is all my fault.”

I wasn’t, and I don’t believe that. “I’m saying your choices and your behavior are your fault. And my behavior is mine.” If she doesn’t tell me there’s a problem, she’s not giving me the option of addressing it. But that doesn’t erase anything I’ve done wrong, of course not.

Me: “You’re important  to me. I’d like to know we could still spend time together, but I don’t see how a romantic relationship could work.”

Z: “It can’t.”

I respect the hell out of her for being blunt there. I should have been, and I chickened out; softened it to uncertainty even though there was no doubt that this needed to end.  Maybe I felt I’d been harsh and unkind enough in the hours leading to this, but more likely it was plain cowardice. It is not kind to leave the burden of saying what needs said on someone else, and I did.

 

As we left it, she and the Techie are still together. In theory, so are he and I. I’m wary: if she can’t be happy with polyamory and he can’t be happy with monogamy, it seems to be a pretty clear recipe for misery unless one of them changes their mind or they split up. In the meantime, I’m in a real good spot for collateral damage. But that’s hardly new.

 

Obviously this is only a few snippets of the conversation, the comments that most upset me. Obviously this is only my interpretation and perspective. I’m upset. These are patterns I don’t find acceptable and I am known for showing little compassion and no flexibility when faced with things I don’t find acceptable. It means there’s a fundamental incompatibility. It doesn’t mean she’s a monster or a villain or a Bad Person. I’m not interested in any support/commentary that feels the need to say she is.

Communicate!

That’s the answer to all relationship problems, right? Just communicate! It’s so simple! Gosh, to imagine people still have conflict in relationships. We must all just be willfully avoiding the perfectly obvious solution.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had (okay, am having) some catastrophic relationship issues that come from failure to communicate: from lying and misleading to withholding information to simply not realizing that something needed to be said. Communicating often and well is absolutely requisite to any relationship.

But it’s not sufficient. And it won’t solve all your problems.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Communication is not simply the dispassionate exchange of factual information. Relationships are complex social situations that each party understands in a different context, sometimes wildly different. We’re dealing with social norms that tell us from early childhood that certain things are simply understood, and discussing them can easily be perceived as gauche if not accusatory. Two vanilla monogamous people may find it challenging to discuss monogamy beyond briefly acknowledging that their relationship is “serious,” for instance. Digging in to what monogamy means to each of them could normatively be perceived as looking for a loophole. The discussion itself can communicate intent to violate the terms of the relationship. That particular issue is lessened for those of us who practice relationship styles well outside the norm–D/s or polyamory or to a certain extent queer relationships–but there are other norms we’ve internalized. We all have; one can’t live in a society without picking up some of its customs. It’s work to understand that conversations that challenge those norms aren’t loaded. It’s important work, and the results can be transformative, but don’t dare pretend it’s easy.

Silence communicates.

Shutting someone out can send a clearer message than any words. When someone shuts down, they’re often communicating avoidance or anger or hurt very clearly. What they aren’t doing is allowing communication to be productive or reciprocal. It’s topic-ending, which can be okay, even necessary. If the shutdown is complete, and you can’t talk at all…well, it stops being a relationship at that point, doesn’t it.

Listening communicates.

Silence isn’t always negative. Attentive listening can show that you care when no amount of telling your side could. Stopping to absorb information creates communication that is genuinely two-way.  Being careful to understand what your partner means by their actions and words, saying “what I hear you saying here is this, is that what you mean?” is not just listening, it’s learning their language. We may think we’re speaking the same one but we never are, not completely. You will always be translating each other into your own native tongue. That’s okay. In fact that’s unspeakably beautiful, when you’ve learned how. Finally, silence stifles impulse. A pause helps to process and think before a reply. Sometimes it has to be long. I’ve seen them last for days, when a matter requires  a great deal of consideration. Most issues, most people, have neither the need nor the patience for that, but a few moments to collect and speak with care is well worth practicing.

The body communicates.

Snuggling closer, smiling, reaching for a partner’s hand. Shrinking away, looking down, folding into oneself. Running a hand up their thigh, a grin that shows teeth, letting down one’s hair. We read these. It’s a kind of intimacy, learning the look that means joy or lust or grief that is unique to this person. There’s a reason many people find text messages and IMs problematic–words alone can convey so many things. Tone is difficult enough to read in person. Over text? Near impossible. Was that an accusation or a joke or flirting or–? We read each other when we talk. The topics that make my voice go flat and my eyes hit the floor, the ones that bring me bubbling up with excitement, most people tread around them differently.

Human coding sucks.

We none of us use words to mean the same thing. Not exactly. I have a friend/ex who says “I love you” often and easily. The first time, I almost bolted from his apartment. Those are words I don’t say and don’t like to hear. They’re frightening. What they mean to me is frightening. To him, it’s hardly more than “I feel affection for you, I care about you.” No big deal. Abstract terms are most volatile. “Respect my existing relationship”…okay. Define “respect.” What does it look like, what crosses a line? Even in research, on forms carefully calibrated to minimize confusion, people pause. “What do you mean, anonymous?” “Did we use a condom? Well, kind of, it’s complicated.” On those forms it’s easier to see ambiguity, I think. We look at them expecting to be misinterpreted, judged. We approach them with specific goals to clarify what we mean. Social interaction, especially romantic interaction, we expect to flow more naturally. We feel understood, and that we understand. It’s part of intimacy. But we also make mistakes because of it.

No amount of communication can overcome insecurity or mistrust.

You could be the most articulate, honest, compassionate communicator in the world. If the person you’re talking to doesn’t trust you at least a little bit, it won’t do a damn thing to solve your issues. If everything is run through a filter of paranoia and insecurity, it will be interpreted in a way that seems to justify insecurities and fears. I’m prone to anxiety. I have to set it aside until it seems reasonably proven before acting on it, else I will literally never have a healthy interaction with anyone. One of my relationships just ended in large part because of insecurity and mistrust. She thought I was lying, using her, manipulating. She thinks that her (our) partner choosing to be poly is an aggression, that it means she’s not enough. It’s wrong and it’s hurtful, but there’s nothing for it. No matter what I say or do, it goes through that filter and comes out hurting her.

We don’t want to hurt the people we care about.

Words can hurt. “I don’t like mushrooms” can easily sound like “I don’t like your cooking…or you” to someone who’s just cooked you a mushroom-laden meal. Remember, our coding sucks. When we’re asked a question that’s loaded, we know that a true answer may not convey truth, but saying so will seem to convey avoidance. So many people hear “you’re not good enough” in so many statements that do not actually mean that. It makes people reticent to speak, that fear of being misunderstood.

Something is missing.

No two people prioritize quite the same things. You can’t say everything. You can’t know what details your partner will fixate on, think are important. A few things are norms: whether you have other partners, risk behaviors with them. Not disclosing that is never “oops I didn’t think you’d care.” Others need discussing. Is it cheating to flirt? Do you need to know the person I’m texting is an ex, when I show you a random meme she’s sent me? When do I have to “come out” as bi, poly, kinky? (I hate this, because people should not get angry that assumptions they make are wrong and it happens all the time. People don’t have to stop on or before a first date and say “by the way I’m straight/gay, monogamous, cisgendered, vanilla. Does that bother you?” but if a person is anything else and doesn’t lead with it, they (we) are lying scum. The assumption is kind of unfair, folks.)

…that was a longer than expected tangent. Anyway, some things that should be said won’t be. It’s problematic but often they’re only not said because your partner honest to goodness had no idea they needed to be. Dietary restrictions come into this a lot. Polly Pocket has a pretty limited palate. It took a few meals to realize I couldn’t just say “I’m making vegetable and beef wontons, is that ok?” because it didn’t occur to her that I’d use “weird” vegetables and it didn’t occur to me she’d think they’re weird. Some people are not comfortable being in a house with a gun. Gun owners don’t tend to expect this, and do tend to keep them out of sight unless they have a large collection. And on, mostly minor things we’d never think to mention because they’re part of our daily routines. We don’t communicate because we don’t know we need to.

Communication without action means nothing.

Sometimes communication goes well. You get to the root of an issue, discuss solutions, agree on a course of action, and all is well.

Until two days later the agreement in violated. You forgot. He lied. Whatever. Having that same talk ad nauseum will continually bring you back to a workable (or at least agreeable) solution, but a blueprint for a house you never build is just an unwieldy sheet of paper.

Communication is important. Maybe one of the most important things. “Communicate” is great advice…but saying just that and nothing more is itself an example of poorly communicating a plan. Communicate how? What actually needs to be said, is it what I think it is or something deeper? What are the barriers, how can they be overcome?

Communication is hard. It’s an insult to wave it like a magic wand of relationship repair. It’s a process and it’s work and it’s delightfully, horribly complex. So if you want to tell someone to communicate more and better in relationships, best be able to say what that means.

Cat Logic

One of my cats has a terribly annoying habit. She will sit down just out of reach and wait for me or Spouse to move and pet her. Then she will walk away a few steps, flop down, and stare at us until we get up and go pet her again. This continues until (1) we stop following her, (2) we become frustrated by her manipulation and carry her back to wherever we want to be, or (3) she suddenly stops the game to tear around the apartment for no damn reason. Cats do that sometimes.

My theory is that she’s measuring our love for her in how far we’ll follow when she goes away.

Z is acting distant. Saying bitter things that suggest I only spend time with her in order to get to the Techie. Moving away from casual contact–if I touch her she suddenly needs to wash dishes or go outside to smoke. Last night she asked if she needed to leave the room so he and I could fuck, and left before we could answer. (She’s been in too much pain to join in, but still.)

She’s pushing me away, maybe him too. She’s said not to follow, that she’s insulted when it seems like we are babysitting her emotions. I respect that. But it seems a lot like cat logic. If we don’t follow, it means we don’t care. If we do, she keeps moving away. Dragging her back whether she wants it or not is not an option (for obvious reasons).

I’m handling this poorly. It’s hard for me to show compassion when I feel insulted. I spend time with her alone often, invite her to my place, suggest we go to shows. Z and I hang out, talk, cook, etc. without the Techie. The Techie and I only see each other around her. If he and I are alone together, it’s because she briefly left the room.

I do not spend my time on people I do not care about. I’ve told her this, and she’s seen it, but the idea remains that I’m just using her to be with him. It’s hard to handle because I do care. I’m not willing to just roll my eyes and walk away rather than try to resolve this. And I empathize: I’ve pushed people away and shut down because anxiety said it would hurt less than waiting for them to leave. It’s unspeakably difficult not to shut down now, because I don’t know how to handle this. I can’t help but think Z and the Techie would be more secure, happier, if I walked out the door right now and disappeared from their lives. It’s hard to believe either of them when they say that isn’t what they want.

So far I keep following. Keep talking. Will continue to invite her out and ask for her time because she’s important to me. I worry it isn’t enough, that she’s going to keep moving further, keep looking for the spot that’s just too far. I texted earlier:

this is an issue and it’s looking like a lot of that is on me. I’d like to talk it through if/when you’re up for it. Meantime if there’s anything you need, just say the word.

She hasn’t answered. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Folks, I’m really fucking bad at this. In case you hadn’t noticed.

[Update: conversation has cleared up issues. We had been using the same words to mean different things without realizing it. The Techie had separate conversations with each of us and didn’t relay what was said, we each assumed the content of those conversations had been relayed and were frustrated that the other wasn’t acting on information we didn’t have. And then it asploded. So…oops. Lesson #1: The Techie does not communicate. No assuming things. Double oops.]

Eggshells

We hurt each other.

Not consensually. Not for kink. Sometimes we just do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing. Maybe we have a fight. We know each other too well, emotions are high. We know better, but we feel hurt and want our partner to feel it, too. Words come out. When you know someone well enough, you know which scars never fully healed, how to rip them open again. Or maybe it’s an accident, a blithe comment that reveals a wound you didn’t know was there, or just forgot. It’s not just words. Actions, too: a flogger wraps. Embarrassing, painful. A cancelled date, an unexpected touch, something precious dropped and maybe broken.

We hurt each other.

Whatever the form, when you hurt a partner (or they hurt you), it is compounded by a sense of betrayal, if only momentarily. We trusted you. Maybe not completely, but we trusted you not to hurt us. So (at least) two things need to be addressed: the harm itself, and the aftershock. Confronting the person who hurts you can be hard. Being confronted can be hard. We have to do it if we want to repair damage, but it isn’t easy. Almost no one knows where to start.

If you’ve hurt someone:

Apologize. They may not accept it (and they don’t have to), but apologize. Mean it. If you don’t know what you’ve done to hurt them, find out as calmly as you can. “I’m sorry that you feel bad” is not an apology. It’s passive-aggressive. Apologize for the behavior, not its effect.

Remember that it’s not about you. If someone is telling you that you’ve hurt them, that isn’t an attack. Defensiveness is a refusal to address the issue. I presume you care about your partners. If you hurt them, focus on fixing the hurt rather than maintaining your ego or denying the hurt exists.

People aren’t heroes or villains. Doing something wrong does not mean you’re a horrible person. We all do it. We fuck up or lash out or just don’t know what the hell we’re doing sometimes. These are discrete behaviors. If you’ve hurt someone, it makes sense to feel bad. It’s not so helpful to decide this makes you a Bad Person who should be shunned forever for your unforgivable sin. Acting like that is asking the person you’ve hurt to take care of you, and avoids addressing the hurt.

If you’ve been hurt:

Articulate it as well as you can. A person can’t address an issue if they don’t know it exists or don’t understand it.

Do you know what you need? An apology, space, time, physical contact, reassurance, a commitment to address a certain behavior? Ask for it. If you don’t know what you need, say that. Ask for help finding a solution. Too many arguments move from “I’m sorry” to “that’s not good enough” without ever saying what would be good enough. And maybe nothing is, but if that’s the case it needs to be said.

It’s not about them. People aren’t heroes or villains. Calling someone a monster doesn’t address the hurt; it tells them you think it’s inevitable and irreparable that they’ll hurt you.

It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to not be able to deal with it right away. When emotions are high, productive conversation can be painful, almost impossible.

Often we hurt and are hurt at the same time. There’s triage. There are cycles. I hurt you, the way you handled it hurt me. It takes mindfulness, self-control, cooperation to keep that from building up and up and up. And we fuck up. We fail. It’s going to happen again. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

——————————————————–
Please note that none of this is particularly helpful when dealing with an abusive situation. Just situations where problems or arguments occur and could be more productive. Also, y’know, I’m not exactly good at all this. Could be completely wrong.

Overprocessed

“You’re not saying anything.”

“I’m a sex toy that caters. I don’t figure I get much say.”

Z’s face goes slack. Anger, restraint. “Do you have any idea how insulting it is for you to say that to me?”

I do, and I regret it. “Defense mechanism.”

Too many words, too late at night. They both say they care. I deflect. There’s mention of romantic attachment. I acknowledge, question relevance. I don’t trust hierarchical relationship structures. The Techie doesn’t say anything. Z says she doesn’t know how else to practice poly. I’m trying not to shut down, failing. This can be a conversation, but not at six in the morning, not after four hours of this. I accept the term “dating,” if tentatively. There’s more to discuss.

Spouse is furious. He hates the Techie. He cries, threatens, manipulates, cries. The reaction surprises me. It’s too strong. I can’t manage empathy; I don’t understand. It hurts to comfort him while he attacks. It hurts that he sees self-defense as an attack. I’m frightened and shut down, curled into the closet messaging strangers for support. Wondering why I ever thought human interaction was worth the work.

Two days, more than twelve hours of difficult conversation. I dredged up ancient history with Spouse. I felt forced into it, but no less guilty. Still wondering whether human interaction is worth the work.

Today’s been stable. Work, meetings, listening to Nightvale radio. No difficult conversation. But stress hasn’t gone down. I’m not certain it will.

I do this to myself. Poor choices, I guess.

Scheduling Conflicts

I told the Techie about two weeks ago that it was important that we see each other before my classes start up again. Partly because oh my God the sex is amazing, it needs to happen more often. Partly because I’m seeing the man, I want to actually see him once in a while. I don’t know how much time I’ll have after term starts. Partly because there are a couple of things we need to talk about–logistics of scheduling, I’d like to clarify how we want to characterize our relationship, etc. I don’t want to send a dreaded We Need To Talk text, because those words are scary and I’m not evil. So instead it was “hey, I know life is hectic, but we need to make this happen.” He agreed.

First I invited him to join Spouse and co. at a bar after work. He was still working when we left the bar at eleven, so that didn’t exactly pan out. The conversation came with the reassurance that there’d be plenty of free time shortly, since he was taking a few days off to do some home improvement that had been put off too long.

Then I offered to help build a fence. By the time I left work he had all the help he needed, and he doesn’t much like asking me to do physical labor anyway, so things got put off. No big deal, it wasn’t exactly a date.

I had a busy couple of days after that, so we didn’t talk much except a few brief text messages. I eventually asked how full his dance card was for the next couple of days. (“very”). Things came up for him. My in-laws visited unexpectedly. He got called to work the last two times we had plans. And then I sulked.

The thing is, it’s not the usual paranoia with him. He says he wants to see me, and I believe it. It’s not that I have to see a person all the time to be happy. But I have a lot of obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I try to schedule my entire life, from class and work to social activities and exact meal plans, a week or so in advance. There are white boards and planners and a spreadsheet on the fridge. The only reason I don’t share a detailed Google calendar with people I see often is that Spouse says all our friends would think that was insane (as though they don’t know I’m kind of nuts already?). If I have plans and they fall through, it doesn’t exactly ruin my night–I can talk to people or bake or read at home alone, no big deal. It’s a little more frustrating when plans for seven become plans for eight thirty become maybe nine o’clock become sorry-I-can’t-make-it, but it’s an unavoidable occupational hazard.

My classes start Wednesday. I’m taking a lot–fifteen credit hours (with plans to drop to twelve after I decide whether to drop the one that may be too difficult or the backup). I’ll be working 20 hours a week. Studying and writing for class. I’m active in the kink community–organizing and providing games to the board game munch and cleaning the dungeon each take up a solid block of time every week. Spouse and I have dinner parties, and of course I want to spend time with him alone as well. So while I think I have time for the Techie about once a week, maybe occasionally more, it will not work if we can’t plan ahead.

So we have plans for this evening. I’m having dinner with Spouse, then heading to the Techie’s place at about eight. Fingers crossed that things don’t fall through again.

Bernoulli Trial

It’s quiet for a bar, or maybe I’m just not used to being out on a Tuesday night. There are six of us sitting around the table, loudly debating the relative merits of mathematics and the sciences.

Proof that maths is cool: Euclid III:16, Oliver Byrne translation

I end up huddled over the table with the one person I hadn’t met before, earnestly comparing notes on data analysis software. Two members of our party take this as their cue to stand and say their good-nights. He said something apologetic about this being a really nerdy conversation to have in a bar. I retorted with “I need someone to talk stratified sampling with. Also I’m wearing a t-shirt with a TARDIS on it. Nerdy is not a problem.” At this point I should note that I have no idea when people are hitting on me until it’s comically obvious to everyone else.

“I’m going to get a drink, can I get you something?”

“No thanks, I don’t really drink.”

“You drink something. Soda, water?”

“I’m good, thank you.”

“You sure? I’m only gonna ask once.”

“Dude, you already asked three times. Get your beer already.”

He walks to the bar. Spouse and his friend-with-sexual-tension wander off to play a game. I take the moment alone to text the Techie without being rude, and ask if he’ll be able to join us.

The statistician comes back before the Techie answers, so I leave my phone on the table. He looks surprised. “I didn’t realize they were getting up. Seems awfully rude to leave a pretty* girl alone at the table.”

I shrug. “S’ok, I needed to text someone anyway.”

“Still–” At this point the Techie texts back. I don’t have my phone set up for previews, but he’s programmed in under an overly adorable pet name. The statistician looks at it. “Is that your boyfriend?”

“Something like that.” He visibly deflates. It’s so cartoonish I have to bite back a laugh. I pick up the phone and message the Techie back. I’m breaking my text message etiquette rules, but I need a moment to decide what to say.

I could gently explain that he’s made an erroneous inference: the fact that a person is in a relationship does not always mean that he or she is unavailable for another relationship. I’m not looking for a new partner right now, and certainly not a monogamy-oriented vanilla male, but in a city with a significant poly community and a huge swinger community, it’s worth knowing.

But then, he was a bit pushy about that drink. If I admit to nonmonogamy, the rest of the evening could be more annoying than I want to deal with.

“Well, you’re pretty and geeky, no wonder you’re taken.”

Nevermind, it’s going to be annoying no matter what. Lucky for me, Spouse and FWST come back and announce that they’re getting tired a few minutes later.

The poor statistician looked very confused after Spouse and I kissed on our way out the door.

 

 

* The word “pretty” bothers the hell out of me, generally because it evokes an image of femininity to which I do not conform, in this case because it implies that it is less rude to leave a plain woman (or a man) alone in a social situation.