And Yet You Know…

  
We visit our then, a scrim of sense, diffusing pleasure like burning lemon oil 

and surfeit our now, a false dredge of real, deferring the candy-colored recoil.  

Bodies heaped in undulating ether, sweat-sore and sticky smiles, lie assured

the way it never was, but ever lives in imagination craved of slick-thin succor.

 

I was never that woman, you never that man, and yet we perform our analysis

like religion, like cookie dough on a sheet, anticipating the rise and melt of us.

At last I ceased tracking the trailer down an outstretched road to preview then.

Steady we blow, chime-sounding earth’s heaving guts of it all in resolved amen.

 
credit: http://www.i4wardsolutions.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/link.jpg

The Painters of Love: Loving a Married Woman

  

I adore Anna Pulley’s story ache of loving the married woman, which appeared in Salon yesterday. She not only captures the essence of the thin-tissue-beauty of love, the compulsion of the affair, the ever-turn of the heart toward love, but also the crafter’s gift of the memorable passage. Like this one, for instance:

Ours was a love that hinged on possibility—what we could offer each other was infinite potential. Reality never stood a chance against that kind of promise. I loved her in a way that felt both inexplicable and inevitable. She represented a singular perfection, she had to because she contained none of the trappings of a real relationship, the awkward, the beautiful, the sweet, the ordinary, the holding hands in public, the quiet walks, the bickering at Trader Joe’s. She was perfect in part because she was an escape, she seemed always to offer more.
 
After an enticing lead-in about long-distant love and steamy encounters, she delicately moves us along the strip tease of her narrative, the movement from reflection to memory slip-sliding her narrative along with the tensile desire of an abandoned lover simmering sleight over time. She does not call herself a lesbian until two thirds in to her lovely essay. She wants to soften us to love first, to focus her reader. A concerted effort to steer her  reader’s mind from irrelevant drift she anticipates–detours like same-sex relationships, polyamory and the like, she withholds. Her story is of love, despite the title–all love. And imagery.
 
Fantasy. The addiction (cynical), the lure (soft), or the attraction (clinical) to the love of a “taken” one lies in the fantasy and the primal urge to create more compelling than procreation (fewer responsibilities to the aftermath).
 
We love to idealize love, to be in love, to make it and create it even where it does not exist. I am not suggesting that the love of a married woman ignores the woman, the being, for the objectification of love itself. People mostly fall in love with people, their features, physical or otherwise. However, the framing of love inside the circumstances of the beloved–the out of reach object–often plays a larger role in the picture of love we paint.
 
The interdiction (legal), the forbidden (moral), and the circumscribed (situational) of the affair seduces the painter in us. We who urge the perfect love, inch closer to its never realization by placing love in an outline, form or box with walls of pristine ideals and requirements. I love my lovers because they are who they are–funny, sarcastic, sensible and sexy; because they love me the way they do–with abandon; because they engage in the most intimate acts with me, thrill my very being and inspire me to create, live and aspire to contribute to humanity–go to work, raise my kids, change people’s minds. They make me feel.
 
They never sour, fall from grace before my eyes in the daily practices that make us all abject beings: ever cleaning the rotting flesh we are in the pettiness of hourly living. We belch, shit, blame and deflect responsibility. We lie, cower and deny. The human.
 
Not for the mistress of our getaways. Whether the encounter is a sleazy hotel sex hour or a week at a resort in Cancun, we project our ideal loves in that other we cannot keep, probably do not want to keep except to indulge surrender to the painful satisfaction of longing. Weaned on love stories and poetry (okay, maybe that’s just me), we grow to yearn, throb and grieve. Pain, like love, reminds us what we are. Affairs bring all of that and more.
 
I once read that our memories change each time we recall them, that we are constantly editing what happened. In the end, we can’t hold onto anything, not love, not even our own truths, because everything moves. Nothing is ever written just once.
 
Yes, we are artists, all of us. Human nature, the essence of frailty, tells the fallible story of its tellers wrapped in the egos of an imagination. We want. That is our condition. Our art is our necessity. We love to be loved in the art of love. And it is an art.

OMG, nooooooooooo!!!

  


Yes, it’s tragic. I can tell by the frequent wailing and gnashing of teeth around here. Zayn is leaving.  My daughters are heartbroken.

When all the eye rolling is done, I have to ask myself if this phenomenon, the three, four, has it been nearly five (?) year love affair my children have had with this boy band (now man band), is something to deride. Perhaps the resistant nod to the importance of this group on my part comes from the force feeding I have endured over the years, trapped in a car with screaming teens and pre-teens, windows rolled down as they shouted along with the blaring music,”You don’t know you’re beautiful!!”, at passersby, laughing, arm-waving and car-seat dancing. 

While I have maintained the appropriate role of music critic, one of many as a mother, explaining to my daughters with aplomb that cuteness is not one of the criteria for musicianship, I must confess to knowing most of the lyrics to at least two of the albums and have been caught singing a 1-D song while cooking dinner in the kitchen a time or two…or five. The truth is, I like the band, and my daughters have been warning me that this day was coming, the breakup of the band. 

They would know as they follow every word ever uttered by mouth or in print on Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, text or telephone from fellow fans befriended while waiting in line for tickets, movies, and concerts, or at fan sightings and school about these adored entertainers. My 16 year old has told me during more than one car ride to school or a friend’s house with grave admonition and dread that their five-year contract, made when the band members were her age, is almost up and it is doubtful they will re-up given their rigorous touring schedule lo these many years. She suspected burnout all along.

And now it is slowly unfolding, the story of Zayn’s quitting–or was he fired? My 19 year old gave me the lowdown this morning about how it may actually be a firing from the slave master, corporate, money-grubbing, greedy-bastard managers (her characterization, my words), when he dared to walk off a tour after publicity of Zayn’s cheating on his fiancee, or so it was made to appear by the evil media. She explained that Zayn was the more sensitive one and just got sick of the twisting of his life with all the fan-dom gossip and media lies. 

So says she, who somehow coaxed me on more than one occasion several years ago to drive all over Los Angeles chasing these boys for a possible sighting. One time, I flipped out on her and her friends after a six-hour chase that made me question my sanity–truly. There is a limit to a parent’s indulgence of teenage fantasy addiction, and I had exceeded that limit by legions.

The truth is, I will miss these boy-men should this signal the beginning of the end. All those car rides–and there have been many–with four or five girls screaming in my car every word to every song, windows down, wind whipping through us, and even my steering wheel banging car seat dance in full swing, have been fun and meaningful, girls having fun in music fantasy, me witnessing. My younger still insists only half ironically that she will marry Harry, so there is no need for any other boys in her life.

These singer-musician cuties have played an important role in our lives, in theirs particularly, and not only as an obsession or a place holder until something bigger and better and realer comes along. Their devotion, waiting for hours to glimpse them, purchase tickets, see them in concert, find the latest about their lives, has been not only the commitment of love-sick, crazy teens with no reality that can compete with the fantasy of them, but of the true commitment of fans, caring fans who love something bigger than themselves, something to hang their hopes on for a future relationship with someone truly special, someone with greatness, ambition, good looks, talent and caring for an adoring heart.

For me, these guys have given me opportunity a’plenty to not only serve as taxi driver, crazy mom, and sage adviser about everything from music to love to addiction, but also as friend and adoring fan to these girls, all beautiful in their youth, purity and zealous affection and enthusiasm in their devotion to a lovely even if sometimes embattled over the rights to the story world, something that could be a lot worse than wholesome 1-D. If they have to be addicted, I am okay with it being a handful of benign cutie patooties. 

And quite honestly, it has been interesting to watch these boys grow, musically and personally, amazingly in sync with my daughters’ growth in the same fashion. The music is less bubble gum, evolved, adding a layer or two of musical and lyrical depth and diversity. Similarly, both girls have developed diverse musical tastes over the years that I deem mature and sophisticated, even as I question the talent of some of their selections. 

My car rides are now infected with a wild array of cynical, political songwriter-singers, not so fresh and innocent as 1-D, more so overly whiny, sardonic and anti everything socially accepted, like the Front bottoms–their rebellion phase, kind of like their mom’s Dylan, Doors and Led Zeppelin phase decades ago. But despite their clear evolving musical tastes way beyond the pop pablum of groups like 1-D, or their predecessor Justin Bieber oh so many moons ago (comparably “my” David Cassidy in the 70s), they hold Harry and the boys near and dear, laughing at themselves while seriously loving them too.

But we all move on, even 1-D dudes. Zayn is right to quit. Why not end at the top? Why not try to regain the semblance of a sane life at the ripe young age of 22? It will take another five or more years to get over the post-traumatic effects of rising and sinking so far and wide as unknown to super-star to used-to-be. Although, I somehow doubt the residue, the fractured band, as Brad Nelson of the Guardian dubbed them, “four goofy white guys shouting“, will make it and not only due to the dent in the multi-textured sound that Zayn contributed to creating. 

The fans may not be so forgiving of the Simon Legree (or is that Simon Cowell?) managers they may see responsible for the breakup or may not be able to let go of what was–the perfect quintet of dreaminess. A beloved will always be missing.

In any event, there will be the press stories and the fan stories, the truths of which may not coincide. The best part of the band for most fans is not even the music but the constant back story and just the story making itself, constantly winding in and around the social lives of imaginative teens and pre-teens flexing their minds and hearts into the vast landscape of love, music and social media. What else is there, after all?

 

Killer Thoughts

It’s been around for a while, but I just saw this delightful Ryan Woodward animation “The Thought of You,” which has made its rounds on Facebook, Vimeo and Youtube ad nauseum. And my fresh look adds yet another interpretation among the hundreds of others mostly fawning observations and applauding. The difference in interpretive tone–positive or negative–is probably affected by the accompanying song. In one version, Nick Lovell’s “Cradle in my Arms” is the backdrop, which is slow, severe and mournful, whereas the other version is accompanied by the Weepies’ “The World Spins Madly On,” a much more upbeat though just as disillusioned song.
 
In the short animation, I see thought, airy nothing, on display. I see the “lost in the world” lyric, with two ideas dancing around each other, illusive in the acting out: he grabs her but she evades him, slips from him but then there she is again, and they dance and she caresses him but he ducks away, also slippery.  
 
And the lyric, “woke up wishing I was dead…the night is here the day is gone,” floats into my consciousness as the scene changes to dream sequence, a longing, where she is an angel, the feathers falling as she flies from him. Is he about to kill her off? When they finally spin together as they and “the world spins madly on,” she suddenly becomes real to him, her clear yearning to touch him, there standing in all of her need–real–and he lets her go.  She is real, depicted with shading and fullness, depth, and he is still an idea. He lets the real go. Dreams and fantasies are far more interesting, full of potential.
 

Nick Lovell’s “Cradle in my Arms”

I don’t mind
Where I wake this morning
I will only be misjudged

 

You are here
But your mind is elsewhere
You have battled for so long

 

Just call me when you feel like coming home
Call me when you feel like coming home

 

Have I changed?
Or do my eyes just see things
So much differently now?

 

Lay the blame
Only if you have to
But it’s you who brought you here

 

The animation suggests thought as the figures are mere sketches until the woman acquires shading, a touch of reality, when she is more concretely identifiable as herself and not the projections of the male configuration’s imagination: as angel as the feathers that fall suggest or even a dancer. When she stands there just herself in want of him, not playing chase, at the end, he leaves her. He loses interest or runs in fear or both.

 

I want to peel off my skin and roll myself in salt when I see this where others–Youtube and Vimeo commenters–look to the beauty of the dance and feel warmth and loveliness. The projection of my own thoughts on someone else, making that person an extension of my own desire and will is a life-long habit and a doom to so many relationships.Too often have I wished another to fill the expectations of my imagination, which is powerfully creative and unrealistic as if totally unleashed from senses.

 

The result: not actually seeing or finding the person standing before me because I have never been there–present–in the first place to notice. Wrapped up in my mind’s eye, not my physical eye that sees not envisions, causes blindness–and eventual loss.
 
When she is an idea–a thought–it is easier to hurt her. Experiencing another as flesh and blood makes it more difficult to hurt that human being, compassionately and empathically sensed as one senses him or her own self. 
 
That is how genocides or near genocides have been possible in the past–making whole populations an idea, a problem needing a solution, the Jews of pre-War World II Germany as only one example. No human being but the most unfeeling, the sociopathic, could be convinced that the economic solution for a failed economy and the woes attending such is to kill another singular, seething human fleshly being standing right before one’s eyes. No, that person would have to become an idea–the economic drain, the problem, caused by immigration, greed, religious destiny, or some other idea.

 

For me, fantasy has always been greater than reality and my heart is a painter. Those who show up to be my canvas often cry out, insist on themselves as I sketch and color them brighter, fuller bloom. 
 
The Weepies’ “World Spins Madly On”
 
Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
I thought of you and where you’d gone
and let the world spin madly on

Everything that I said I’d do
Like make the world brand new
And take the time for you
I just got lost and slept right through the dawn
And the world spins madly on

I let the day go by
I always say goodbye
I watch the stars from my window sill
The whole world is moving and I’m standing still

Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
The night is here and the day is gone
And the world spins madly on

I thought of you and where you’d gone
And the world spins madly on.

 
“And the world spins madly on…” The world of the imagination is a mad spin, crazy making in its delusional world making.

 

How many of us do this–imagine what we want rather than experience what we have?

Why We Do What We Do Sometimes: Compartmentalization and Fantasy

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credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

There are many reasons for infidelity, such as revenge, boredom, the thrill of sexual novelty, sexual addiction. But experts say that a large majority of the time, motivations differ by gender, with men searching for more sex or attention, and women looking to fill an emotional void…. Women tend to have an emotional connection with their lover and are more likely to have an affair because of loneliness.

I googled random words that popped into my head yesterday, only a few that I recall now that I have wandered far from my original search–crisis, conscience, fidelity, causes–and found the above webmd answer to the inquiry, “Why do women (and men) cheat?” Having researched infidelity endlessly in the last six months, I was pretty sure I knew the answers. Yet, as each new search yields slightly different results, I keep returning to the inexhaustible topic.

Paraphrasing here, despite feeling guilty and regardless of how “the other woman” compares to their wives, men cheat when emotionally dissatisfied, i.e., feeling under appreciated or unloved, according to Dr. Gary Newman’s study of 200 avowed strayers. The proposed solution: Wife, get out of yourself and pay attention.

The article teases out the commonplace and dresses it up with officialdom in a reader-friendly version of the study findings. There are few details of the subjects, questions or demographics. But do we need a study to come to the banal conclusion that marriage breeds contemptuous familiarity, human nature tends toward the unconscious and ungrateful, and daily presence and gratitude is the answer to so many of the questions?

Presence:

How can I be kind to my husband and show him how much he means to me with the daily do’s grinding me into the ground: work, kids, parents and the myriad other balls I juggle to keep it all going, each taking huge chunks out of my time, patience and happiness on most days?

Simple, I remark to myself. Stop, breathe and re-set. Do the enormous work of superhuman strength to take ten minutes out of the day for a gratitude inventory: people who care deeply for my wellbeing, who would suffer horribly if I died or fell gravely ill, even if it doesn’t seem like that most days. So that when I mindlessly knee-jerk react to my husband’s insignificant screw up, I can at least apologize and salve the wound. And just maybe avoid the knife altogether next time. It takes practice.

So the next time he goes out to get 2% milk and gets nonfat instead without an inkling that his kids would never drink that, I refrain from laying into him, complaining how clueless and checked out he is. No one wants to feel dumb. No one reacts well to unkindness. I marvel at how I give strangers on the street more kindness than I give my people sometimes. Just unjust.

But kindness is not a panacea and presence is not easy. Some cheat even if they feel good about and are well-treated by their spouses–to what degree I have no idea, but articles abound with studies attesting to infidelity even among avowed happy homers. People stray for as many reasons as there are people, my weak math brain speculates, as each individual comes to a relationship with his or her own nature and nurture.

Compartmentalization:

The human mind copes with conflict in unseen ways. Mindfulness–a condition for catching self-deception in action–is tricky when it comes to danger triggers and survival mechanisms. I have observed that clandestine relationships survive largely on compartmentalization, which is only one tool in the human arsenal of coping skills.

We parcelize ourselves in order to make sense of what we do. For instance, I have been known to be an overly conscientious mother and daughter but a neglectful wife, at times, and I rationalize that deficit by focusing on the surplus.

Likewise, a man in a strained or dying marriage may justify an affair by weighing his acclaimed superior fathering and provider skills against the undeniably less superior husband skills attested to by his wife and his own admission. But since he is a good father and provider, he believes he compensates for the few failings as his wife’s lover, friend or supporter. She gets her due, so he should get his.

That is just one example of guilt-alleviating separation that keeps folks moving along through their days and in their marriages until either or both terminate. But it’s not just for cheaters. Many sites I consulted on the subject such as Psychology Today and Webmd, cite professions that necessitate compartmentalization. Soldiers, for example, seal up the killing to survive the mental anguish.

Compartmentalization is often survival, no doubt, especially for those with high powered jobs widely responsible for others’ safety like police officers, doctors and lawyers. A doctor could not work without burying the constant threat of lives lost at her hands.

To a lesser or greater extent, we survive emotional infidelity by splitting ourselves into bad and good, justified and unjustified. This disassociation answers the question of how she could fuck her lover each afternoon and then spoon her husband to sleep each night. But is she aware of the division?

Fantasy:

We all come to situations as we are. No kidding. Some of us are, and I do include myself, if not outright addicted then highly reliant upon fantasy to prop us up through hard times or as the go-to coping mechanism. I know I dealt with teenage loneliness in fantasy. It gave me the endorphin boost I was later addicted to in distance running.

If I imagined that someone to whom I was attracted also found me attractive as THE object of desire, I smoked those elaborate imagined scenarios with that special someone who found me irresistibly witty and charming, and so, so deep. I would inject the role of lover in love songs, succumbing to the bitter-sweet surrender of being someone else, somewhere else for a while. It was release.

Some people use love to obtain that high even into adulthood. While life sped up for me so much that I lost the luxury of hours mulling in my imagination–school, work, real relationships that were not so ideal and took a lot of rolled-up-sleeves ugly work–I still had spells of disappointment or a generalized ennui that was relieved by lapsing into fantasy.

Specifically, when I found myself in a restricted relationship by borders of time, emotional commitment and opportunity–mistressing, for example–fantasy played a huge part for me and my partner. It sustained the relationship and certainly heightened the sex.

Intention:

There is an interesting thing about daydreaming and fantasy: Sometimes it works to manifest what you want in life, and other times it keeps you stuck in your life. What makes the difference?

The difference has to do with your intent. Are you consciously imagining what you want from a place of inner connection and joy, or are you using daydreaming and fantasy to avoid your feelings and avoid reality?

When you consciously and joyously imagine what you want, you are participating in creating what you want. However, when you use fantasy and daydreaming as a way of avoiding your feelings and avoiding the reality of a situation, you are using them addictively.

So says Margaret Paul, PhD in “Addiction to Fantasy and Daydreaming.” I agree. Intention is everything–almost. Fantasy spans the poles of medicine to poison.

When abseiling the steep slopes of rocky terrain–deep, existential loneliness or disappointed dissatisfaction in a life partner choice–unhealed lovers or spouses find respite in the life-supporting ropes of daydreams or fantasies of another’s possible meaning or potential in some improbable space and time of the imagination.

This human tendency, whether for avoidance or enhancement, as addiction or inspiration, no matter how dilatory to healing a relationship or the self, was certainly pronounced in those who made me mistress. That is one of the things all lovers had in common: being in love with feeling love and their projected ideal–in me. And I did the same for them.

My illicit loves were all drenched in rich fantasy, which has made each relationship both an irresistible draw and a resounding alarm. While I heard all I desired, all the tailored words and acts calculated to keep me–or my image–I placed a padded, porous cotton circle of safety around my heart.

Because in time I knew that I knew. Looking at myself from the outside as if in a metafictional moment, an actor slow turning away from the scene to wink at the unseen, unknown audience, I broke the fourth wall. I toggled the strutting and fretting between falling in and out of my heart’s desire in dangerous liaisons, which accounted for my enjoyment and sanity within them.

Of course, there is living in the moment and then there is all the rest. When I was with my lover–in that room or car or restaurant–looking into the eyes of the object of my reciprocated desire at that precise moment, there was only the thickness of amniotic warmth, need and desire in perfect balance.

And the other pole–fear, longing, insecurity, conscience, dissatisfaction–drifted in and out of the majority of hours spent without my lover, sometimes striking me with a punch and other times with contemplative concern.

Most times, however, I just went through my days attending to what was directly in sight. I still do. And hope that sleep, my most beloved and ardent lover of all, returns a new day with answers, insight, solution or simply more of the same as all the other yesterdays–practice.

Presence, intention and study are disciplines that enable me to dip into the copiousness of heart pumping inflow and outpouring. Some days it is easier than others to see myself and others with incisive clarity. Others, I fog over.

However, the intention is always there. Struggling with the practice, sweating the line of possibility and decency, creation and destruction, I awaken each day resolved to do the best I can even as I want to do better than that. And so I get up, falter in a slight sway, and get on with the business of another first step to somewhere.

Guest Post – On Orientalism

The Belle Jar

By Israa Nasir

It was around 10pm on a summer night, a few years ago. I was waiting on Queen West for a friend. We were going to head out to a party like any other twenty-something on a weekend. A man approached me and asked if I worked in the ‘entertainment industry’. When I said no, he told me that I had a “really good look for this stuff”. He introduced himself as a film-producer and continued to tell me that his next project was looking for exotic, middle-eastern-looking women and that the pay would be really good (side note: I’m not middle-eastern). As I began to walk away while refusing his offer, he shoved a card into my hand and told me to think about it. I turned the card in my hands and saw that he was indeed a film-producer; he produced pornography, specializing in ‘oriental and…

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“Why It’s Natural to Have Taboo Fantasies”

Though this subject has been parsed on this blog in a number of writings, this article by goodinbed.com is very light fare (thinking of someone else during sex is taboo fantasy?), readable and succinct, even though questionable as to its definition of both taboo and fantasy.  There is nothing earth shattering but it is an assuring read for those of us with a host of tools to accomplish our sexual goals.  Enjoy.

Shame and Arousal…Again

credit: bdb3b8.medialib.glogster.com

Serendipity. I was writing about shame the other day when a friend emailed me an article by Jeanette Geraci titled “Unwanted Arousal & Sexual Shame,” appearing in elephant journal on August 7, 2012, with the subject line, “Shades of You.” A reliable source so I read it.

In this article, the young female writer struggles with the shame of her fantasy life, one comprised of debasement and humiliation. The shame, she explains, quoting from Carolyn Shadbolt’s “Sexuality and Shame,” is “the result when the inner meets the outer,” referring to the inner fantasy life meeting societal expectation and the inculcation of “…moral edicts about what is sinful, the chastity of women, the sanctity of marriage, the moral degeneracy of homosexuality, the superiority of male heterosexuality, the deleterious effects of masturbation, gender roles, sexist imagery, biological determinism and so forth…” which form and influence consciousness and sexuality (Geraci quoting Shadbolt in the above-referenced article).

With embarrassment, Geraci admits she is aroused by debasement, images of the female form exposed and humiliated, something she confesses as uncomfortably anti-feminist. She reveals that her former therapist echoed popular social attitudes and normative constructs–as well as the writer’s inwardly adopted critical “voice”–that self-debasement, anti-feminist self-loathing-laden imagery was evidence of illness; she even feared she was a “demented pervert.”

“Reading” her, it occurred to me that she was in a three-way relationship with herself, her fantasies and societal dictates: she (subject) gazed upon her mistress (object), which was arousal, fantasy or desire, both of whom/which (Geraci and her desires) were seen/judged (subject and object) against societal norms, and in this triple gaze, she found shame.

I have to admit my friend was right. I identify. I also enjoy deep, dark, delicious and salacious fantasies about masochistic debasement, cages, leashes, whips, confinement, exposure, humiliation…sure. I have a rich imagination, always have. Why these fantasies? I could psychoanalyze and conclude that my life and my ego-produced self-idol as an overly burdened, overly responsible, overly worked mother, lawyer, daughter, teacher, sibling, community member and leader are the cause.

My life-long focus and long hours spent working for others, trying to solve their legal problems, carving spaces in young minds for some critical thinking and civic responsibility, volunteering my time to build others’ dreams and financial success, care taking of husband, children, parents and siblings (the go-to volunteer and legal advisor) needed counterbalance–a place of rest and surrender commensurate with the output and idol of my own making just shy of martyrdom. Extremely responsible people require extreme fantasies of complete irresponsibility–maybe.

So I could say the body/mind needs balance and self corrects. I could say I have guilt that I believe I need atonement for, something that happened in my childhood and has been buried. Perhaps it was growing up in a Jewish family (enough said) or being sexually molested by trusted family members. I am no psychologist and can only rely on what I have read and heard anecdotally throughout the decades to understand the possible effect.

But I am not going to concede my fantasies as deviant or the result of psychological trauma and therefore unhealthy. When asked about my theories as to the origin of my masochistic arousal, I have often responded that I thought my fantasies allowed me to safely dabble in the taboo. Long before me, Freud wrote that the taboo has a complex position in human lives. He defines the taboo in Totem and Taboo as a concept that “diverges in two contrary directions. To us it means, on the one hand, ‘sacred’, ‘consecrated’, and on the other ‘uncanny’, ‘dangerous’, ‘forbidden’, ‘unclean'” (75). So the taboo is extraordinarily both profane and sacred, the apogees in the unconscious.

I recall reading that ancient societies created taboos for organizational purposes, when heredity and genetics were unknown, from pre-psychology days. They served practical necessity: living in tribes where birth defects were observed or jealousies endangered lives led to the conclusion that sleeping with a sibling or parent should be a no-no. Survival of the tribe and society depended upon it. The numerous generations since have swallowed without questioning such practices or forbearance of behaviors deemed taboo, behaviors inscribed in flesh after so long.

However, it is in the human spirit to test limits, to yearn to know all there is to know, even what has been proscribed. There are those who need to go further or deeper than others. To complicate matters, in Judeo-Christian influenced Western societies, the bible with its begats and siblings procreating to get the world kick started confuses matters even more.

So many airy filaments to tie together, all invisible floating conflicting inflections of morality out there in a culture, in the consciousness of a culture. I have never thought of my fantasies as abnormal. Nevertheless, I have not wanted to share particular details of them to lovers or friends because I have a strong need to be liked and respected. Perhaps that need is an offshoot of shame, a byproduct or the source. But I never thought the having of them was wrong. I always knew that it was society’s prerogative to judge but that did not make having those fantasies wrong. That did not cause shame in the having.

I think the biggest reason I didn’t share my fantasies was to preserve that treasure trove of the deeply private, simply for the keeping. It is the deepest layer closest to the core, layered upon semi private space to the all too public space of daily life.

I was gifted time with my daughter today, my sorrowing baby with a broken heart, her first at 15 and 1/2. She reminded me of the beauty of aching sadness. I took her to the beach rather than school, and as we sat on the ridge of a small bank of sand overlooking the ocean, two dolphins slowly passed by, swimming leisurely, sometimes in sync, sometimes not, but they cruised the shoreline easily. She seemed to know what it meant.

There is texture to a day when the sky and the sea are only a few shades apart. Despite the subtle sameness of the two, the horizon is in sharp relief. The outline of each tittering tern or gull is charcoal black.

This was the backdrop of my soft discussion with her, both of us on the edge of tears for the pain, holding back the overwhelming flood of feeling, the sublime, the knowing that there is something more, as I spoke into the horizon of what I knew about staying with someone who pushes you away despite his needing you, the nature of depression and feeling.

There is a pain that measures and balances pleasure that reaches perfection. We need to go where there is no holding back sometimes–we practice the path in our dreams and fantasies.

I never felt that I wanted to live out all of my fantasies. Some are going-solo utilitarian, some are sexual enhancers, some I don’t want to experience and some I do. The striata is based on acceptability to myself and society, yes. But there are so many communities within which to be accepted, one to fit every fantasy one could possibly have: bdsm, bestiality, scatology, fetishism, necrophilia, you name it. There are societies of all flavors of the erotic or pornographic. The key is to uncover, recognize and deconstruct the “normative” voices in your head. Undoubtedly, some fantasies, if enacted, would injure me so survival instinct and pain threshold define my boundaries.

Trite, but we all come to this subject of fantasy with all that we have been and all that we are. The internet teems with those who have weighed in on the subject of so called “deviant” fantasy and arousal, professionals and lay people alike. The consensus seems to be that such fantasies are “normal” and instrumental to a healthy sex life, improving, enhancing and enacting sex with them in the safety of a relationship or the mind.

Unfortunately, it appears Geraci did not have the benefit of internet assurance and validation, or a bereaved daughter to show her the horizon on an overcast day. But she figured it out nevertheless. Her conclusion to an intriguing subject and a touching vulnerably written piece is that with age and support she learned not to judge herself and that others should not do so either, not on one’s sexual cravings and arousal source; she concludes that all is fine so long as no one gets hurt. Of course, the self is a someone, and I bristle a bit at Geraci’s title after such a conclusion. “Unwanted arousal” still implies a critique based on social mores. She apparently wants her arousal and to not be judged for it, enough to work hard to un-sublimate it, discuss it and defend it.

Arousal and shame have a rocky relationship. It’s like society and the police, necessary evils we want, support and hate–hate that we need them. They impinge on our freedom and remind us that we are susceptible and un-free. But anarchy is less predictable. We trade off. Our fantasies are trade offs too. We keep them to police, uncover and secure our socio-genetically formed psyche. But we also need them to give us, some of us, pleasure and rest, profound desire–and a rich sex life. They teach us who we are, ever mediated in the gaze.

Sex and Shame, How Hot is That?

Felix Clay of Cracked writes “5 Bizarre Ways the Brain Links Sex With Shame” more to amuse than inform, and I was amused. He has the art of entertainment writing, spinning facts through his own voice and vision to create something fun, kind of like the way Bill Nye the Science Guy made science fun, or David Eagleman makes theoretical science entertaining or Carl Sagan made the cosmos an approachable mystery.

Nothing earth shatteringly revelatory about this article, but the writer really is funny. In light of the article I previously posted about public humiliation, violence and revenge of the mob wives/girlfriends publicly beating and stripping the mistress, the reminder of the close relationship between shame and arousal, sprinkled with lightly touched upon biological origins, gives one pause to question whether this seemingly newly-arisen form of justice in China (merely re-fashioned stockades and pillories) is just an orgy of masquerading arousal. Maybe it’s time we bring back drawing and quartering for some real group sexual participatory fantasizing.

Esther Perel on the “Erotic Arts” and Julia Kristeva on the Abject: My Morning Muse

I am unsure why I fell into a musing about horror, Kristeva, the abject, power and fantasy after listening to this video clip I found on my Facebook timeline from one of the sites I follow, but maybe it was the mention of words like freedom, sovereignty and imagination. I immediately thought of a graduate school read on The Powers of Horror by Julia Kristeva, probably because Perel also mentions fantasy that we imagine but would not like to live out. I have often been asked by lovers about my fantasies, and often have hesitated, asking which ones, the ones I want to live out or the ones that merely help me out in the shower that I would never want to live through. Just as often, the inquirers do not understand the question nor my fear of being judged. They just want to know them all.

And what does this all have to do with the mistress? I thought about that too. What about that space that fuels eroticism, the missing body of the wife, the absent body that haunts the mistress relationship, incurring pain of guilt and separation of the cheating spouse based on the conception or misconception of marriage as merging. If eroticism is as Perel often claims in her writings a creative space fueled by seeing the other as strange, separate, then the pain that is associated with separation, difference, separateness–the pain of separation–may be what contributes to creativity and thus, the plagued mind of the cheater also fuels eroticism.

When a man (or woman) engages a mistress, he experiences fear, fear that his wife will find out, that a divorce will ensue, that the life he has built will be crushed, his family lost to him, his life, essentially; he fears death. He comes in contact, in the words of Julia Kristeva in her book The Powers of Horror, with the abject, something that triggers a space where boundaries between self and other, subject and object, are broken down and the real or reality of what we are, who we are, not in symbolic terms but in reality, is experienced–the world as meaningless or chaotic (Modules on Kristeva in cla.purdue.edu). Kristeva exemplifies this notion with what we experience when we view the corpse. Seeing a corpse evokes the state in the viewer of a space of realization that we are mere bodies subject to death at any moment, and returns us to a recognition not merely that we are mortal but that existence is the disorder of mere living matter in various stages of decay. It is the fear, she avers, that is prelingual, the moment of first recognition or knowing of separateness of mother and child (Lacan) every human experiences (Modules).

The getting-caught-and-losing fear of the unfaithful spouse is the unconscious encounter with that primal fear, not only of death but of the meaningless of the human/living existence, and is produced in the recognition that occurs in the relationship with the mistress. It is also a space of the imagination that allows for creativity. The separateness that allows for fantasy (seeing spouse as an other and not an extension or part of self), according to Perel, is also evoked, shares that space of the mistress maintenance. The impulse to merge in marriage, to be as one, is the human need to avoid that separateness experienced at birth and continuing into the childhood recognition that the self is not the mother, but the marital space is also a constant reminder of that separateness, that inability to merge as daily existence has each spouse questioning whether the other is even of the same species on some days. How could he even think I would want sex when I am so tired and stressed? What is a man made of? This experience of separateness is the re-experiencing (or nearly) of the primal pre-lingual space of the abject, the chaos of human existence, that momentary recognition, though not cognition–just being there–of that meaninglessness.

So, the way fantasy is sometimes a place we wouldn’t want to go, but do go in our imaginations is illustrative of this drive toward the abject. People who fantasize about rape, bestiality, necrophilia, humiliation, torture, and more, but would not necessarily want to actually live such fantasy, perhaps dabble in if not downright dive into the abject, something to awaken them consciously or unconsciously to that space of fear of the merging of subject and object with self and the dead material around us, bodies, dead or alive, decaying living or once living matter. In those fantasies, people–we–recognize ourselves as just that–living/dying matter–and it produces fear but also eroticism, a place to create through imagination, the going into and pulling back from that chaotic space, the urge, the freedom and sovereignty, as Perel says, of creating due to that disorder, going into the dark, but emerging from it, improvisation and breaking from the structures of our imaginations–the taboo which keeps us from violating customs and practices that preserve society like incest–a reprieve, a vacation into fantasy.

The mistress as metaphor for so many strands of meaning, of human, is what draws me to the subject. There is a place for everyone–desire, fantasy, death, morality–a living creative space that is not merely the object of the gaze, like watching the ecstasy of performers in the orchestral symphony. We watch, intrigued by the performers’ expressions of perceived pain and pleasure that comes with the drilling discipline that fills their fingers and mouths over the millions of practicing hours they endured along with the erotic merging improvisational space into the music. But the mistress is also a collective space of participation and creation evoked by the non-mistress. I guess that explains my morning muse courtesy of Perel–once again.