Notes from the Road
Part Seven: Des Moines
I spent most of last week in Palm Springs at The Dinah Shore festival, the “largest lesbian festival in the world.” It turns out I’m too old/introverted/shy/disinterested. Days were spent at loud pool parties with DJs and drinks, and nights were spent at loud dance parties with DJs and drinks. I sent our Brunch of Shame sizzle reel to the events director back in November to see if they might be interested in booking us. They had already booked their “comedy,” though. Ryan and I went to see the “comedy.” It was two women who are sorely out of touch with modern queerness, or even just basic lesbianism. They were sorely out of touch with modern anything, really. Fuck it. They were bad. The first one made “jokes” about sex “toys” and said that if you can’t “get the job done” with your mouth or fingers she doesn’t want to bother. It’s sex. Not an oil change. She also made tired jokes about lesbian bed death and how lesbians can’t have threesomes because they’re too competitive. Right. Because we all know how chill straight dudes are when it comes to proving their prowess. The second one has apparently been doing stand-up since 1987 but hasn’t learned how to write a set up. She went on and on about how she had rejected religion as a child and how she grew up so Christian she though other religions were Lutheran, Baptist, Catholic, etc. That’s funny, she then explained, because those aren’t other religions. Hahahaha. She also made a joke about how the desert is so dry that all the lesbians at The Dinah were probably finally using that 14-year-old bottle of lube they never use. We left in the middle of her set feeling sorry for the “comedians” and the women they were having boring, efficient sex with.
I'm not saying they should have booked us instead us, but...
I booked the trip in November when I was still single and met Ryan in December. So, Ryan joined me for the majority of the trip which worked out well because I would have been miserable there by myself (see above mention of being old/introverted/shy/disinterested), and the time we spent together ended up being far more valuable than any one-night stand with some random woman.
I was feeling encroached on and claustrophobic. I was feeling like I didn’t have the capacity for a relationship and everything that entails. I was remembering how comfortable I had been with being single before I met Ryan. I was annoyed at myself for not respecting my alone time and not making enough room for myself on the lay over before this one. I had (happily) spent most of my days with Ryan and hadn’t left myself enough time to write or generally take care of my own shit.
There are aspects of our relationship that are great and very meaningful, but there are some things that can be challenging and that make me feel trapped. There are ways in which Ryan and I are really compatible and ways in which we’re less so. In other words, it’s a relationship. I was able to identify and articulate for myself some of the issues I was having, but I was too scared to bring them up with Ryan.
When you grow up in an alcoholic household, you learn that feelings are scary and have the power to destroy. Boundaries are rarely drawn, or respected if they are drawn. The concept of knowing what you might have the capacity for in a relationship is nonexistent. It’s all or nothing. Obviously a seven-year-old with active alcoholic parents isn’t going to have the wherewithal or allowance to say, “When you drink to excess I feel scared for my well-being. I can’t control how much you drink, but I can control whether or not I chose to be around you when you drink.” Good luck sleeping on the street, kid. So, you learn to hide your feelings, or disregard them. And you learn that you have two options, endure the behavior or…what? Die? Get punished for calling out bad behavior? Hurt someone’s feelings so bad they threaten to disown you? Your perfectly valid need for safety and self-preservation is at odds with the reality that in order to survive, you have to put your safety in danger. So, maybe your feelings and safety (i.e. comfort) begin to matter less. Your parents are the ones who are supposed to protect you, so when the danger is coming from inside the house, you internalize the idea that you aren’t worth safety or comfort. And as you carry this garbage with you into adulthood, it turns into an inability to tell friends or partners that their behavior makes you uncomfortable, so you learn to end relationships instead. Where you might be able to say, “Hey, there’s this thing you do that triggers me or makes me uncomfortable or that I just don’t have the capacity for, can we talk about it and find something that works for both of us in order to preserve the positive aspects of this relationship”, instead you cut your losses and walk away, leaving a wake of half-lived relationships behind you.
I was sure that if I told Ryan how I was feeling, Ryan would be destroyed. That’s how powerful feelings are. And so I was thinking I was just going to have to end it. Unpacking it now highlights the illogic of it, but in the moment, it seemed like the only right option.
I’m not even sure how it ended up happening, but I approached one of my concerns gingerly with Ryan on Saturday night. I braced myself for a tirade, which makes a ton of sense because Ryan is definitely known for their tirades… Very little of my anxieties are based in reality. At any rate, Ryan was like, “Yeah, cool. No problem.” And I was like, “Wait. That’s it?” And they were like, “Yeah, what you said makes sense and I totally get it.” So, emboldened, I went on to address a larger concern I was having, and Ryan, weirdly, didn’t scream, or melt down, or accuse me of abuse. Ryan said, “Thank you for trusting me enough to let me know how you’re feeling. Let’s see what we can come up with that works for the both of us.” And I was like… “Wait. That’s it?!”
One person cannot be everything. We have friends PLURAL because we appreciate different things about different people. One friend is the one you go drinking with. One you talk about politics with. One you cry with (I mean, hopefully not exclusively because that would be a pretty lugubrious relationship). Why do we expect our intimate partners to be everything to us? Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Just because my plate is extremely full right now, and I don’t have the capacity for certain topics of conversation, or I need more alone time than someone else might need, doesn’t mean I don’t have other things to offer a partner. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
There’s this weird thing called “communicating” that I’m learning about. You tell someone how you’re feeling in a gentle, loving way, and they respond in kind. Hopefully. If they don’t, maybe reexamine your relationship? I have never been good at it. Because of how destructive I’ve believed my feelings were, I learned to express them as anger. I’ve set boundaries like they were grenades. Pull the pin, lob it at the target, and then run the fuck away so I can’t see the destruction I’ve inevitably caused with my “needs” and “feelings.”
I’m going to leave it there. Except to say I keep thinking about that poor mouse who died in my kitchen. She probably ate poison somewhere in the basement and somehow made it all the way up here before she expired. It’s not like when you’re poisoned you just die suddenly, unaware that anything is wrong. It’s extremely painful. It’s usually preceded by vicious cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Where was all the mouse vomit and diarrhea? Poor little guy. She must have been scared. I wonder if she wanted her mama.
Also? I keep having this awful image of picking the mouse up by her tail and putting her in my mouth.