Friday, March 23, 2012

Alone Time



ALONE TIME


This past week was my (Mimi's) spring break.  Marc and I usually travel over my breaks, but we both had pressing work responsibilities, so we decided to have a stay-cation in New Orleans instead of heading out of town.  As would be the case if we were traveling, we informed our lovers that this would be “our” time and though not completely unavailable, a bit off the grid.

The week started last Saturday with Marc shooting the Make It Right Gala.  I was his assistant for the gig so we were able to share the experience together and I got to meet Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Drew Brees. (Jumping up and down clapping my hands like a kid on her birthday)

Though work took over during the day Mon-Wed, come Thursday, we both put work aside and became tourists in our own city. 

We went to new and favorite restaurants-sushi at Saki CafĂ©, Steaks at Dickey Brennan’s, brunch at Stanley, and yummy cocktails at Sylvain. We took in lots of live music, like Bonerama at Tips, Lagniappe Brass Band at Mojito’s where Marc sat in on drums and we met a gorgeous woman from Oregon, and the Stooges at the Hi Ho Lounge where we ran into old friends and made some new ones.  We strolled around the French Quarter shopping and people watching.  We stayed up ‘til the wee hours of the morning smoking, giggling, and philosophizing while we listened to records or watched our favorite movies like Tootsie, Fargo, and Ocean’s Eleven (and said the lines together like our own version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show).  We slept in, went on bike rides, and walked the dogs together. 

At one point, we were returning home from a bike ride on the Lake Shore.  We had stopped at a red light at Carrollton and Esplanade.  I rode my bike up to Marc’s side and, as I did, I spanked his spandex-clad butt.  When I came to a stop, he leaned over and kissed me on the lips. I looked toward the folks waiting for the streetcar and noticed a heterosexual couple in their mid-forties watching us.  They were smiling and holding hands.  The man put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her around to kiss her on the lips.  They gazed into each other’s eyes and completely forgot about us.  I assumed they were tourists and enjoying their concentrated time together, just as Marc and I were.  Then I remembered that we’re home, and though a bit more focused on our "alone" time this past week, this is our life. 

Marc:  

It was unusual for us not to get away for Mimi’s Spring Break…hasn’t happened since we met in 2000, but it was really great to connect with her right here in our own city.  Things have been very crazy with work (I just received the contract for my new photography book, and got the big Make it Right shoot with Brad and Angelina, Snoop Doog, Kanye West, Rihanna, Ellen DeGeneres, Seal, Sheryl Crowe, etc.), so it was nice to be able to put that aside for a few days and play tourist in our own city.  We’ve also been dealing with issues that arise from negotiating the open relationship, so again, it was nice to set THAT aside and focus on each other. 

I think it’s important to have a mini or full blown moratorium on other lovers at times, in order to build and maintain our solid relationship, and inspire confidence that we are indeed each other’s main priority.  I am reminded on a daily basis of why I’m with Mimi – her intelligence, sexiness, hilarity, gorgeousness, her smile, her…well, you know, but it’s important that we still make lots of time for each other.  It’s important that we go on real DATES where we get dressed up for each other as we would for a date with a lover.  So yeah, having a stay-cation was just what the doctor ordered.  To quote Ferris Bueller, “if you have the means, I highly recommend it”.


Mimi:

Like every relationship (monogamous, open, polyamorous), it is important to make time for building and maintaining bonds.  I have been in monogamous, open, and now a polyamorous relationship.  It is my experience that Marc and I are more conscientious about setting time aside for just us precisely because we are open and polyamorous.  We don’t have children, but I have to assume it is the same for people with kids.  When there are other people in the picture, it’s easy to get lost in the “negotiations” or, perhaps even more problematic, “new relationship energy”. 



"New relationship energy" refers to the intensity of sexual attraction and giddiness that comes with a new lover.   It can feel intoxicating, and that euphoria can be distracting.  I’ve often said there should be “New Lover” leave time built into employment.  I think this is especially true in an open or polyamorous relationship.  Not so much so you can spend all day in bed with the new lover, but so you have time to spend all day in bed with your primary partner!



The stay-cation with Marc was just what the doctor ordered.  We had both been working hard in our jobs and in terms of negotiating our relationship. Taking time off allowed us to really focus on each other, not just for an evening or a day (which is something we do all the time), but for an extended period of time. 

Marc and I are not just primary partners, we’re best friends.  I like nothing more than “pal’n around" with him.  When we were walking around the French Quarter, or sitting in restaurant undistracted by work or by our lovers, or chowin’ down on frozen pizza at 3am, I appreciated why Marc is and always will be my primary.  It’s that remembering and appreciation that is so key to a successful relationship, but especially an open or polyamorous one. 

When I slapped Marc’s butt and he kissed me, I remember thinking that the people in the cars around us probably thought we were new lovers.  There is no way anyone would have looked at that interaction and thought to themselves, “Aw, look at the cute couple eleven years into a long term monogamous relationship.”  It just wouldn’t be the first assumption.  There’s a reason for that.  When Marc and I focus on each other, it is kind of like having that “New Relationship” energy together despite having been together for eleven years. Perhaps we’d be like that even if we were monogamous, but I know that, in our case, the remembering and appreciation for each other is something we’ve built in precisely because we are open and polyamorous. There is something so wonderful about knowing each other so well, liking each other so much, but at the same time, not taking each other for granted.

Though it’s a cultivation of something known rather than exploration, it makes me giddy and horny just the same. It's something like "known relationship energy" rather than "new relationship energy". We are best friends, primary partners, and hot for each other. 

I have this feeling a lot with Marc.  We often joke about how, when we’re on an airplane or doing something touristy, people probably think we’re on our honeymoon.   “Yeah,” we say to each other.  “Another awesome honeymoon without the pesky annoyance of planning and paying for a wedding.”  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bad Planning




Bad Planning

Last Friday night, I (Mimi) had a date with my friend, Armand (not his real name). Armand lives in a different city, and he and I get together when he’s in town gigging or recording.  

As I was getting ready, I received a text from Marc who was on a shoot that evening.  He asked if it would be all right if, while I was out with Armand, he invited one of his lovers over to our house.  

This had never happened before.  He had never requested having someone over while I was in town—it’s always been when I’m traveling—let alone for a quickie.  

I thought about some of our open friends and how they have dates at home while their primary partner is out for a few hours.  They seem to be able to come back together at the end of the evening.   This should be okay, I thought to myself. 

I felt a tad blind-sided, and it didn’t sit right with me, but instead of following my gut, I replied “ok”. 

A few minutes later, my cell phone rang.  It was Marc.  “Baby, I want to make sure this is really okay.”

Annoyed, I spit more than said, “You can have her over, but I want clean sheets and not a trace of her presence left in the house when I get home.  I don’t want to even know she was here.”

Marc replied, “How can I wash the sheets in that short amount of time?” 

I felt the blood drain to my limbs in a fight or flight gush.  “Well then, there is your answer.”

“Ok.  Yeah.  I’ll tell her the timing won’t work.”

I thought about it and, realizing he wants this and I want to be a good partner, I heard myself say, “You know, we have more than one set of sheets.”  Realizing I was making it easier on him and still feeling the sting of being blindsided, I followed up with, “But I don’t know when I will be home.  There’s no fucking way I’m going to come home while she’s still here.  I’ll text when I’m ready to come home, and then, I want her out of there.”

“That would be awkward.”

“Fine, after I text I’ll give you a half hour.”

“I don’t know…I’m gonna tell her it’s not a good idea.”

By this time I was running late and feeling frustrated and angry.  “Do whatever you want.  You know what I need.”  And then I hung up without saying goodbye.

Marc texted ten minutes later to say that he wasn’t going to have her over.  The last line of the text read, “It was a bad plan from beginning.”


Mimi:
When I received the text from Marc, I immediately felt a small jolt of panic charged with a spark of anger.  Not a good combination.  When I need to make a quick and emotional decision, I either go with the heart or retreat to the head.  In this instance, I ignored my heart, and instead of paying attention to how I feel, I rationalized about how I should feel. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve struggled with how I am feeling and what my rational mind is telling me I should feel.  Unlike this situation, however, I usually have some time to go back and forth, strike a solid balance between heart and head, and make a good decision.  When I received Marc’s text, I was faced with a completely novel situation and I had about five minutes to get my head and heart together, and that just wasn’t going to be enough time.  So I shut down emotions and retreated to my head.   Hey, other people can do this, I said to myself.  I should be able to do this.

Though I relied on my head in response to his text, my heart took over when he called to check in on me.  I was already on edge from being rushed at the last minute to make a decision, so when I requested clean sheets and Marc said he couldn’t wash them in time, and then, when I said that I want to come home when I’m ready, and he said that would be awkward, I lost my rational footing and tumbled into the emotional rapids of my heart.  The whole situation, from the beginning, but especially at this point, felt like my needs and feelings were being completely disregarded, or worse, dismissed.  That’s when I said, “Do whatever you want,” and hung up on him.  Real mature, huh? 

Instead of replying with “Ok,” I should have called Marc to say that, in theory, there is no reason this can’t happen—either one of us having someone over while the other is out.  However, it’s not sitting well with me at the moment, and I’ll need some time to figure out why.  I’m sorry, but I don’t think it would be a good idea tonight.  Also, we should talk about it—especially the logistics of how it would work.”

Ah, hindsight…

Fortunately and lovingly, Marc canceled his plans with his friend. I would have preferred that he said “This was a bad plan from the start” when I first said something about the sheets, or even better when he thought of it or she suggested it, but in the end, I felt visible and cared for by Marc. 

So why did my head say “go for it” in the first place? There are a few of reasons—some nobler than others.

First, I know that Marc would not have asked if he didn’t really want it.  In a previous post, I talked about compersion—taking pleasure in your partner’s pleasure with another.  I knew that Marc doesn’t like being at home alone while I’m on a date, and it was also true that she and he had gone out the night before and had to put the kibosh on physical intimacy.  They were probably chomping at the bit, and compersion would mean loosening the reins to let them run it out.  After all, I’m going out on a date; there’s no reason Marc shouldn’t be able to have his desires fulfilled as well. 

And this is where nobility ends…

I also said ok because I’m an overachiever.  Having climbed mountains and rock climbed (did I mention I have a fear of heights?), my general approach to fear of the unknown is to charge head long into it to conquer the fear.  And then there’s this little voice in my head that says, “You have to be the best, most perfect open/poly partner that ever was.” (Roll eyes and insert tongue in cheek) In my mind at the time, a good open/poly partner is one who can handle anything a partner tosses in her lap.  This, of course, is ridiculous.  A good open/poly partner is one who is in touch with how she feels, communicates those feelings clearly, and is capable of saying “yes” and “no”. 

Finally, I said ok because I was going out on a date, and my rational mind was trying to be “fair”.  How could I say “no” to Marc when he had said “yes” to my date with Armand?   What I didn’t take into consideration is that the circumstances of his request were not the same as my request to see Armand.  I had asked Marc if he’d be okay with me seeing Armand several weeks earlier, and it wasn’t a completely new experience—Armand and I had already gone out on dates exactly like the one we had planned.  Marc’s request was last minute and something we had never done or even discussed before.  To conclude that saying “ok” to Marc was the only fair and balanced decision was a bit like the fair and balanced coverage on FOX News.  It’s just not.

So my ego and my desire to be a good partner got in the way of my doing the right thing when Marc asked.  And the right thing was to say “No.  Not tonight.”  When new partners or experiences are introduced to our repertoire in the future, hopefully we’ll remember that the key is honest communication and good planning.

Marc:
On our date on the night before, my lover and I didn’t have the opportunity to, well…you know.  She and I were both regretting that fact, as we had had a date the week before, and again did not have the opportunity, so when this opportunity knocked (Mimi’s date with Armand), we thought it might work out.  

I was reluctant to ask Mimi, as I had a date the night before with the same woman, and Mimi and I generally have a rule about never twice in one week, much less in two nights, BUT when Mimi’s other lover is in town, they spend anywhere from 3-6 days off and on together, so I figured that it might be ok.  Also, the fact that she was going on a date that would inevitably lead to sex was not only a reason to want to not be alone at home, but a reason to do the same, and engage in some of the equity that makes things generally go smoother. 

I asked Mimi via text, and I reiterated repeatedly on the phone that if it wasn’t ok with her, that’s “totally cool” with me, just thought I’d check.  I was proud of her for doing the work she needed to do to say yes in the first place, but once the caveats and conditions came, it was clear that a.  Mimi was not 100% on board and b.  maybe it was a bad idea from the start.  I was pretty pleased with how I was able to “stay on message” despite the fact that I could hear the growing tension and concern in her voice.  I kept driving home the point that if she wasn’t ok with it, that would be ok with me.  I realized that it just wasn’t do-able when I was told I’d have 10 minutes to say goodbye to my lover, have the bed sheets changed, and have the house completely “lover-free”.  Problem was that after I got off the phone initially, I had texted my lover that we were a go, and now I had to text again saying “reverse that – it’s not a good night for this”.   My lover said she understood, so it all worked out. 

I wasn’t able to act on my desire that night, but Mimi and I walked away from the experience with even more knowledge about how all of this works, and again, we did it in an ethical manner, being honest with each other, and with our non-primary partners.

In a relationship that is not open, people who are on the “down low” use the opportunity of their partner being away to have a rendezvous, and hide (or try to hide) their actions and desire from their partner.  I’m so grateful that I can be open and ask the question “hey…I want to have sex tonight while you’re away…is that ok?”  As you can see above, it requires work and doesn’t always work out as planned, but it brings us closer to each other, and it feels good to be honest!