Vanilla Day

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day or, as I am going to call it going forward, Vanilla Day. I’ve never been much of a fan of Valentine’s. I tend to crumble under the pressure of pre-organisation anyway, so a day like V-Day when you have to be lovable and romantic just tips me over the edge. In theory I also don’t buy into the commercialism and incongruence of it: the fact that people buy cards, and gifts and book meals in over-crowded restaurants and try to prove how in love they are.

I’m also a bit annoyed that I don’t buy into it, because, after all, the sentiment is a lovely one. And actually yesterday affected me in a way I wasn’t expecting.

The reality of starting out on a journey of non-monogamy is that it is lonely. Not physically lonely: my phone is busy and I go on a lot of dates. But I am not looking for “no strings” sex or a series of first dates and building meaningful relationships with multiple people takes time.

Conventional, monogamous dating is one thing: you go on a date, decide if your values align or if you have chemistry and if you do, you invest a significant amount of time into getting to know that person until you decide whether or not they’re someone you can picture yourself with long-term. Being upfront about non-monogamy adds some complications. Firstly, it narrows your pool quite significantly. While it is starting to be seen as a more valid choice, most people are still monogamous and, if not, many just assume that non-monogamy means non-commitment or consensual “cheating”.

But I’m looking for more than that: I’m looking for a partner. I’m looking for a special someone who feels the way I do about relationships but is still willing to commit to me. I believe that another human is not mine to possess; I believe that we should be free to explore connections with others. But I would love that to happen in a respectful, honest and open way with someone who chooses to share that journey with me. I want to be able to explore my own connections with others, perhaps with my partner too, sexually and otherwise.

This kind of relationship takes an awful lot of trust and building that level of trust takes time. Plus, I am very impatient but also very new to this… I am learning quickly but also making mistakes. Not every online connection materialises into a meeting in person and not all of those that do ever go on to become anything more than a first date. Not to mention other kinds of limitations: while I don’t believe that love is finite, time and money certainly are.

So with all this in mind, Vanilla Day made me feel lonely, a recurring theme for me at the moment, in a way that I just wasn’t expecting. Throughout the day I had some lovely messages and my housemates and I spent the evening together making vegan pizza (penis- and boob-shaped, just for shits and giggles) from scratch. We had a lovely time talking about sex and politics and got very merry on red wine.

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I ended my day with a 1 hr 44 min call to M, one of the first people I started talking to last summer when I made the decision to jump into both non-monogamy and kink with both feet. Interestingly, M and I have only met up once, but something keeps drawing us together. He is in a long-term open relationship (the story of when I met his wife will be told in time)  and was working away so staying in a hotel with some free time to talk. We caught up and talked about life in general, we giggled, and ripped Vanilla Day apart. I cried a bit and we talked some more and I cried some more. He’s been where I am and he held my emotions making me feel understood and cared for in a way that is rare. He helped me to feel grateful for what I do have, whereas my propensity can be to lament what is missing. He also made me realise that the messages I receive and the conversations I have on a daily basis are all signs of people thinking of me and caring about me. And even if I haven’t found my non-monogamous knight in shining armour yet, I am surrounded by people willing to make me a part of their day.

The biggest lessons, though: I need to be patient and appreciate all of the experiences I am having for what they are. I am having fun, I am speaking to and meeting new and interesting people all the time. I am learning my limits and pushing my boundaries and confronting previously unknown parts of myself on a daily basis. And that, after all, is why I chose this path in the first place.

How to talk about sex?

Nonmonogamy is most definitely not just about sex. But, for me, it’s a pivotal part of the journey I’m on. Love, relationships, lust and sex – not to mention the the variety of permutations, combinations and disguises they come in –  can be confusing.

But because it’s important, I want to talk about it.

I want to talk about all the different parts of sex – the good, the bad and the ugly. I want to explore, in person and in writing, the things that turn me on: my fantasies- realized or not. I want to talk about exploring unconventional relationship styles because I fundamentally believe that monogamy is flawed. And I want to document my journey of sexual exploration because I think we SHOULD talk about sex more. I’ve been talking about sex a lot recently and I’ve been enjoying it; but perhaps I’ve also been enjoying it all the more because I know I’m not “supposed” to enjoy it as much as I do…

However, that said and with all things considered, I have still chosen to conceal my real identity and write this under a pen name. Perhaps this is the 21st century equivalent of writing at all (think back when all women authors wrote under a – male – psedonym just to be recognised) Jokes aside, I’m worried about writing openly about sex. I am pretty sure that this blog alone would be grounds for a slap on the wrist at best, possible dismissal from my job at worst.  Neither are things I want to have to deal with. But neither are they things I should have to deal with for indulging in an interest outside of my working hours.

As a woman, working in a “respectful” profession, am I expected not to enjoy sex? Or is it ok if I do, as long as I keep it private? And are there parameters around how much I should enjoy sex, or how much I should push my sexual boundaries because of my job?

The layers here are hugely complex. I deal with a large amount of deep-seated guilt surrounding sex anyway. Add to that the layers of guilt due to my career and it’s a brick wall I have to attempt to scale. And surely, as long as the barriers around the two worlds don’t overlap, what is the harm in it?

Sex – for me, anyway – is difficult to talk about openly outside of certain ‘safe’ situations. It’s everywhere but nowhere at the same time. It’s something the vast majority of people do, it is the means by which we perpetuate our species and it is used to sell the most innocuous of products. But to admit, as a woman, that you enjoy actually having sex and want to do so outside of a monogamous relationship? That’s something that still opens up a whole can of worms.

Talking about it now, as I approach my mid-thirties, also seems somewhat frivolous. My friends are settling down, getting married and having babies. I am not. I don’t want any of those things right now, perhaps ever. Instead, I am actively choosing to embark on a journey of sexual discovery.

So why didn’t I do this in my twenties? The honest answer is because I was too scared to. I was too bogged down with the shoulds and too intent on working towards getting the marriage and the babies that I thought I wanted. I was also less confident in myself and certainly less confident in my body.

And now, speaking to people – specifically men – about sex, with a view to exploring it in person with them, is a minefield. How do I come across? Am I being too forward? Should I send that photograph? Will they view me derogatorily if I do? If we met, would they be respectful, even if what I wanted sexually were not particularly respectful? Is it even safe to meet? 

So yes… In a nutshell, I want to talk about sex. I want to talk about sex badly. So I am going to. And I am going to try and do it as unashamedly as I can.

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