Winnowing

There’s an art to hearing input from confidantes, on private things. It’s a challenge to hear past familiar thought patterns and feelings to accept what wisdom they can add. It takes a fair bit of finesse to tease out the words that come from their own histories, experiences no less valid than your own but perhaps not relevant when spun into advice for you. I…won’t pretend to be an expert.

The Chef and Chi have plenty to say. I told them I’ve only had a couple of dates in the last several months. Felt no excitement after either. “I don’t think I’m looking to start any Relationships right now. Something, sex for sure, but the thought of dating exhausts me.” While we’re together, I let conversation flow, save the critical part for later. There’s a winnowing process, which for me takes some time and quiet.

Wheat. “You should keep in mind what you will want, when you are feeling it. Every now and then evaluate whether you still aren’t interested in a relationship, or you’re just avoiding taking any risks.” Anxiety does tell me to keep myself curled up, treat any hint of intimacy as a threat. My gut is unreliable. I have to untangle the thoughts and feelings I’ve generated whole cloth, or out of association with a past that has nothing to do with now, from the ones that match current experience. I’m not always good at it. I don’t always–ever, really–feel that it’s fair to ask someone new to understand. So much easier to spin a cocoon that never admits someone new. I know better than that, but still, it does help to be reminded.

Wheat. “You have some good friends. You sleep with some of them, it works, maybe don’t be afraid to feel out whether that’s an option.” After I’ve known someone a while, if we haven’t had sex, I tend to assume it’s not on the table. I might be down for it but 95% of the time I’ll assume they aren’t. Of course, the most recent exception has become a particularly excellent (if infrequent) source of sexy fun times. There are tiring things about this–friends-with-benefits situations with monogamous people put me in the tenuous position of playing side-chick with people who are single, knowing I’ll be set aside when they find a partner. I accept this at the outset and I’ve chosen it more than once because I’m avoiding risk of intimacy, but it does get hard not to feel disposable at times.

Chaff. “People cheat. They just do, if you don’t keep them interested. You can’t expect that people will tell you who they’re screwing, I don’t care how open the relationship is.” I can. I do. I will. I have no interest in being lied to, and refuse to just accept that this is The Way People Are.

Wheat. “It’s not about what you need. Fuck that, you don’t need anything. What makes you happy?” I can’t answer that. It’s probably the best indicator that I don’t need to be pursuing anything right now, the fact that I can’t answer that. What makes me happy? Fuck, I don’t know, ice cream? Ask me again when I feel like my housing/income/job situation is a little more solid under my feet. It’ll probably be a while.

Chaff. “You can’t tell men what you want. They won’t believe you. Drop hints. Let them think they figured it out. Otherwise they won’t believe it’s real.” This is too often true. I have no patience for it. I say what I mean. I expect to be believed. It’s not a standard I’m willing to lower.

Chaff…I think.  “Jealousy means they care. You always want to work through jealousy, soothe it away, but you should try cultivating it sometime. the right kind. I got jealous as fuck when he made you scream, but it just made me want to do it to you, too.” I don’t trust jealousy to stay in the realm of healthy competition. Maybe she knows how to keep it there, maybe it works for her, but I’ve seen it get ugly too many times. I don’t know. It’s hard, this one. I don’t know.

Wheat. “Date your friends. Date your lovers. We’re not the same people we were three years ago. I still think of you as my girlfriend but that means something different now, doesn’t it?” It does and I’m flattered and she’s right. Relationships, friendships, all of it stays fluid. People stay fluid. We entwine first branches, then roots. Grow closer some places, have to draw back where we damage each other in other. Sometimes we grow apart. The Chef and I have–there’s so much distance, neither of us reaches out often enough to keep us close–but so far we learn each other again and fall into a new pattern that works. I like this. I like that I don’t feel any pressure to expect that it’ll work out again next time.

It was a long evening of talk, most of it simply sweet and fun. We don’t always agree. It’s something I love about them both, that we can feel safe that not-agreeing won’t devolve into fights. Only more to process. I’m still processing some of it.

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