Happy Easter everyone!
Photo courtesy of Master’s Eye
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The last few months haven’t been easy. I have spent it getting over an ex. And it’s not even my own ex, it’s a partner’s ex. In fact, getting over this has proved more problematic than getting over some of my own exes – I have an enviable degree of ease in moving on from my own dead affairs of the heart; I tend to shrug them off with an ‘Ah, that was fun’ and no backwards glance.
To be honest, it wasn’t the break-up that upset me, it was the entire existence of this person in my partner’s life, albeit only for a few months, and so I am not really getting over the break-up, I am getting over the relationship. And with that it has thrown up a whole lot of questions for me about how good a partner I have been. Spoiler: I have been a bit of a shit. Why I am writing this now? As part of my own healing process, really, and to draw a hard red line under a difficult period. And because this week’s WW prompt is tantrums and I have had too many tantrums for any self-respecting 44-year-old in the last six months!
But really, it was this tweet from Nooky Semper, asking about the difference between jealousy and insecurity that really got me processing my thoughts and crafting sentences in the shower. Was it jealousy that made me so unhappy? No I don’t think so. I don’t ever really experience the debilitating grip of the ‘green-eyed monster’ and I never wonder or worry about what partners are doing when they are not with me. The voyeur in me delights in hearing about their sex adventures and I will happily host posts written by partners and by hot-damn-why-don’t-you-live-closer men about their wives.
What I do have is a sometimes debilitating degree of insecurity that can leave me ludicrously anxious. Without information and reassurance I display many of the erratic (and distasteful!) behaviours associated with jealousy. So maybe Nooky is right – maybe it is a fine line between insecurity and jealousy. On reflection, I think what shook me so much last summer was the surprise of it all. I chatter away to my partner about who I am swiping on and who is sliding into my DMs but he’s not quite so loose-lipped as me so when I realised there was someone more significant in his circle it gave me a profound wobble. He didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t lie. I just didn’t have the information and reassurance I needed to feel secure and when I worked things out for myself the insecurity was already doing its worst. Last summer was a bit of perfect storm for me anyway – I had a huge ‘don’t come home again’ row with my Dad about Brexit, my business was not in a good place and I was already working through in my head the other changes that would occur in our relationship in a few months’ time. I was low on bandwidth to cope with curveballs.
I am also ‘blessed’ with off the scale status anxiety and while I still have no desire to have a primary partner I have realised that the possibility that I might be joint second does not fit at all well with my vision of myself in a hierarchy. My partner has pointed out that while I relish hierarchy it doesn’t mean he does and of course that is fair but I found myself thinking all the not-good-poly thoughts that I might not be good enough, that he’s gone off me. He reasonably and rightly pointed out that I manage to accommodate two or three ‘partner light’ arrangements without it affecting my feelings for him and of course he is right.
For me the hardest part was that I didn’t like her. I am used to thinking the other women in his life are magnificent, talented, hilarious, sensational women but I didn’t feel that about her. I found her opinions challenging and her comments about weight hugely upsetting and some of her attitudes to relationships jarred with my outlook. And I did not cope or behave well in the face of this adversity! In fact, I became a bit of a monster. In public I wrote thoughtful comment pieces but in private I had spiteful WhatsApp tantrums. I am lucky probably that I have a partner who has both patience and a remarkable ability to just ignore you rather than judge you when you’re being a harridan!
It’s at this point I feel the need to give @19syllables a cameo; last week when I was pondering what you call a partner’s partner if metamour seems highly inappropriate to the situation. “Step Fuck” she quipped. Now, being in possession of a lovely stepmum I don’t go in for the ‘evil step…’ trope but we guffawed so loudly at her joke I think we disturbed the sewer rats under the pavement where we were drinking coffee! I think Step Fuck is a perfectly glorious flipside to metamour!
So, here we are months later. I can’t deny that when it ended I was relieved. I am not a total cow – I was also a little sad for him when that happened because I could see he was sad – but my instinctive response was ‘Oh, thank God, we can get back to normal now’. Although of course, that was easier said than done because his new normal meant there was no time for us to re-establish our balance and contentment levels before an entirely welcome and glorious hiatus was upon us.
But now spring has sprung and we are slipping back into routines of writing geeky lists, long evenings at my dining table and cheeky photo adventures. I can feel my shoulders relaxing and my sense of calm returning. And the best thing to come out of it has been acknowledging my desire to dig in and survive the trouble. My default is usually to up sticks at the first sign of properly hard work but I found that I didn’t want to. There is too much wine to be drunk, recipes to road test, long lunches with mutual friends to enjoy and adventures to have. It’s nice to feel that way. Winter has gone!
And I think we have a new found appreciation of expectations and boundaries. I am certain he is much more aware of what I need to know to stay secure and I most definitely learned how not to react. I trust him to be more open with me next time and I hope he trusts me to be less wedded to a meaningless hierarchy. Because there will be new partners in the future, for both of us, and I must remember what he said: “It was something and now it’s not. It didn’t affect how I felt about you when it was something and it doesn’t now it’s not.”
A sunny day is forecast. I’ve already booked a day off. The night before a plan is hatched over Scrabble and wine: “I’ll cancel my 3.30 meeting and pick you up from the station – we’ll have a mini photo adventure.” ‘Hurrah!’ I think. ‘Or maybe I’ll watch you masturbate in the woods. Yes, I like that idea. You choose to which vibrator to bring. Don’t feel you have to wear underwear.”
Seventeen or so hours later my orgasm is ripped out of me, aided by the Rocks Off Chaiamo but accelerated by the sight of spunk hitting the woodland floor. I glance over to the backs of the unaware dog walkers some 50 metres away and smile. The voyeur and the exhibitionist in me is satisfied. An hour after being picked up I’m sat on a wall outside another train station looking for all the world like a modest middle-aged woman in a red jumper dress, waiting to meet her godmother for an exhibition and early dinner.
The Wicked Wednesday mentor prompt feels like as good a reason as any to get my arse into gear to write up my Eroticon talk. I have been (and am) a mentor to many in a professional capacity but I didn’t imagine my little hobby blog would result in me becoming one within this community. But iof Ros’s awesome photo from the closing hours of Eroticon weekend and JenetalTorture’s stunning Sinful Sunday this weekend are anything to go by, maybe I am here too!
The title of my talk was Nude photography and its role in personal power and self-esteem. I split my talk into two sections: the first half was a brief look at some photographers who’ve used nude photography to powerful effect and the second looked at some of my own techniques for helping me and those I photograph feel fabulous. This post was going to be developed into a longer one so it had some of my ‘talking’ bit to bring the slides to life for those who weren’t there but I ran out of time! So here are the slides flying solo…
We’ve had a hot steamy session in our Airbnb today, so of course @JediHamster100 had to capture it for the blog!
Photo courtesy of A Dissolute Life Means
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NAME (and Twitter if you have one)
Exposing40 will be on my badge but you can call me Catherine! Find me on Twitter at @Exposing40.
Tell us 3 things you are most looking forward to at Eroticon 2019
1) Having the delightful Tabitha Rayne back in the house. Our after hours PJ parties are often the highlight of Eroticon for me! Especially if we Skype in Maria from the US! But catching up with everyone will be a joy!
2) Being there all weekend. Last year I could only make the Sunday sessions but this year I can make both days and I’m looking forward to the buzz of day one! I am especially looking forward to hearing Franki, Eleanor and Zebra’s sessions on the Saturday and Florence’s on Sunday.
3) Me! I’m running a session on Sunday morning – it’s the first of the day so I promise it won’t be taxing! I’ve plumped for an interesting and inspiring (I hope!) walk through the work of some amazing photographers from within and outside our own community who used/use nude photography to great effect and I’ll include a look at some of my photos that have helped people deal with self-esteem issues.
We are creating a play list of songs for the Friday Night Meet and Greet. Nominate one song that you would like us to add to the play list and tell us why you picked that song.
Continuing on from last year’s Pulp choice, here’s another number from them. Sheffield: Sex City.
What is your favorite item or book you’ve purchased so far this year?
The only tangible thing I’ve purchased for myself other than a couple of pairs of nondescript linen trousers for a work trip is this door stop! I had one before but the moths ate it. The maker names them all and asked me if I wanted to choose the name. I said no and told her to choose the name. She named her Martha, which for obvious reasons amused me a lot when I opened it. But that’s not my favourite thing. My favourite thing to purchase is experiences (so, flights and tickets basically!) and the adventure I’m most looking forward to this year is Tel Aviv and Petra in September.
You can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what is it? Sushi? Scotch Tape?
Time! Kind of a cheat as the rest of my life is also time…but if I could just have more time in the time I have left it would make life so much easier!
What is your favourite quote from a movie?
What self-respecting person of a certain age would not deal up a Withnail & I quote at this point?! But which to choose…
…but this is probably my worst nightmare…
What is your word suggestion for next year’s Eroticon anthology?
Joy (copied from two other meet and greets but it’s one of my favourite words so happy to back it!)
Complete the sentence:
…dizzy! I haven’t been able to stand up properly without holding on to something since Thursday evening’! And related, I feel a bit sorry for myself. I never get sick but I am bonafide properly sick and it’s horrible. I’m not good at slowing down but I’ve had to leave work be, my presentation for Sunday still needs finishing and I’ve cancelled an evening with my bestie who’s in town from Wales today and a date night with EA tomorrow. If I’m not better by the weekend I am going to have a proper cats bottom mouth on me!
This weekend’s prompt was published just a few days before Exhibit A and I had our first evening at mine since his daughter was born. Our first evening at mine since late November, in fact. I was excited and also bizarrely nervous – I had butterflies in my belly as I was waiting for my doorbell to go! I hadn’t missed him as such; in the intervening three months we’d had our wonderful photo adventure with Livvy, a close-to-his-with-phone-at-hand steak dinner in the in-between period between due date and arrival date, wine tasting for my birthday and drinks before my East Africa trip. And of course there’s been opportunities to meet Martha and see Livvy too. In short, from where I’m sat, he – they! – have done a spectacular job of balancing and tending all parts of their life and I have so much admiration for their little unit of three (or five counting the cats!).
So although I hadn’t really missed him, I was excited because, of course, despite the happy memories created in the intervening three months, I was more than ready to hang out naked with a glass of wine in hand. I was probably nervous because I wondered would it be the same? Would the casual intimacy that’s been fine-tuned over the years still be there or had I suggested an evening at mine too soon and would he rather be at home with his two best girls? I needn’t have worried – with the same pre-dinner snacks I always buy laid out on the table (but with Prosecco upgraded to Champagne to toast Martha) muscle memory kicked in and it was the same as ever. Before I knew it we were opening our usual bottle for the road and the Manics were on Spotify.
So, back to the photo. The prompt had come out a few days earlier and during my flight home from Kenya I’d been pondering ideas for a double exposure incorporating both of us. I love a circular story and I liked the idea of picking up where this post had left things. In the event, I completely forgot to even mention my ideas, never mind try and articulate them. At one point he called from the bedroom, “perhaps you’d like to photograph this” and I did try, but I was also cooking dinner and, well, if you’ve got to decide between photographing a hot man wanking or saving the dinner, you save the dinner. Well you do in our world! A few days later though I thought, “bollocks, I forgot about the prompt week photos!” I still liked the idea of doing something with the two of us so I rummaged around in my archives to find a photo first used almost two years ago and then shot my own version to blend it. I quite like the effect of it!
“She had a shotgun wedding.”
“She’s living in sin.”
“She’s just his bit on the side.”
One late September Saturday in 1983 around 100 of my grandparents’ friends and family gathered for a 50th wedding anniversary party that my Mum and her siblings had organised. It remained a surprise until the Friday afternoon when my Aunt told my Nan that there was a hair appointment booked for her on the following morning. On hearing the news my Nan broke her heart crying and revealed a secret that she’d kept for 49 years. You see, they hadn’t married in 1933, they’d married in 1934, just six months before their eldest child was born. For almost half a century my grandparents had been lying to their children and friends, hiding the shame of their ‘shotgun wedding.’ In the face of this very public celebration the mask finally crumbled and my Nan confessed that we were celebrating a year early. But she swore that Aunt to secrecy and the rest of her children only found out five years later when their parents died within a few months of each other.
Almost 80 years to the day after that 1934 wedding I was sat in my local pub chatting to a then partner about the news that had come out of his country that day; America’s Supreme Court had allowed same sex marriages to stand in five states meaning for the first time more Americans lived in states where these unions were legal than not. That evening he stated his view that “non monogamy is going to be the next relationship structure to come into the spotlight and upset the status quo.” “What makes you say that?” I asked. He argued that people have always gossiped about and judged other people’s relationships and that as each one becomes more socially acceptable (and disparaging the people in them becomes less acceptable) it paves the way for something new to bear the brunt of judgment. “Think about it,” he said. “Having a child out of wedlock used to be the worse thing that could happen, but imagine calling a child a bastard now? And living in sin – you’d never say that these days.” His view was the legalisation of same sex marriage marriage would mean another paradigm shift and the door was now open for non-monogamous couples to out themselves and ‘enjoy’ a period of being the object of fascination and fear.
I can’t really decide whether he was incredibly astute or over simplifying things and bloody lucky in the timing of his statement, but it’s undeniable that in the last five years ethical non-monogamy and polyamory has been enjoying its moment in the spotlight. There’s an increasing amount of coverage in the mainstream media, some of the most popular dating apps have introduced the opportunity to declare your non-monogamous status and more people are coming out about their relationship structures to family and friends. And, as he predicted, there’s backlash.
While it would seem inconceivable in 2019 to make asides about ‘shotgun weddings’ or ‘living in sin’, comments like ‘she’s his bit on the side’ still prevail and they carry the same weight of casual thoughtless judgement. I read something recently where someone talked about poly men “pretending to be enlightened and sex-positive and forward-thinking when really it’s just them wanting to stick their dicks into as many women as possible.” A couple of weeks ago LoveLustLondon tweeted an OKC comment where someone’s blanket message to non-monogamous folk was “don’t even think about messaging me and good luck catching an STD.” Comments like these are not prejudiced on the scale of homophobia or racism, but they are prejudiced nonetheless and can be deeply hurtful to non-monogamous people. And they are lazy. People who make them are invariably lashing out and making no effort to understand or respect the dynamic and hard work that goes into successful open relationships.
Of course, there are some people who are using the increasing profile of non-monogamy and tick boxes on apps to behave in an entirely unethical way. Tech can facilitate in a far more efficient way the same poor behaviour that drunk Saturday nights with mates or late nights at the office used to pave the way for. Humans have always and will always behave like arseholes sometimes. A while back a few of us got involved in a Twitter chat defending poly in light of someone claiming that it’s being evangelised. Exhibit A said at the time: “The pseudo-poly guys and opportunists on dating apps are assholes, but ‘it seems to be all over the media and it’s the evangelical ones who shout loudest’ is exactly what people used to say about homosexuality: “why do they need to shove it down our throats, etc”.
To extrapolate the point Exhibit A made, to those people who make snide comments about poly being trendy or poly people just wanting to fuck everything that walks, I would suggest they replace poly with ‘gay people’ and check whether their comments stand up to scrutiny. If your comments are stigmatising someone and how they are honestly and consensually living their life then you may want to interrogate your attitude rather than their lifestyle.
Last weekend, knowing this post was in the pipeline, I asked Twitter what their experiences were. I could have written this post just sharing people’s responses. I think the one that made me saddest was The Curious Mermaid who said: “The more I read of these tweets, the more I feel that I’m right to still be in the closet about non-mon as far as work acquaintances and parents are concerned.” I hope in time it becomes as acceptable to talk about your different partners without raising eyebrows as it is to now say you’re moving in with someone. I’m unlikely to ever experience the half a century of shame that my Nan did when she became pregnant with her first child, but I also look forward to the day when describing me as someone’s ‘bit on the side’ becomes as unlikely and unacceptable as discussing that someone is living in sin.
This was meant to be posted in time for the fear prompt last week but time ran away with me. Here it is a week late!