Fidelity, monogamy, honesty, etc.

I read an interesting article in today’s New York Times Magazine on the concept that  “fidelity” perhaps need not be the primary focus of a successful relationship. Frankly, I’m not sure that any sane person has ever suggested that it should be the primary focus, although it clearly is a significant focus for many (and probably most) couples.

The author primarily focuses on Dan Savage’s assertions that (1) monogamy is difficult, (2) it is important to understand that sometimes the sexual needs of one or both partners can best be met outside the relationship, and (3) honesty is vitally important. In general, I agree on the latter two points, if not necessarily on the first–and here’s how I arrived there:

Longtime readers will remember that this site was originally a very different animal than it is today. It was pretty much built on the foundation of my own personal sexual revolution as I paraded through the back rooms, sex clubs, and dark alleys of San Francisco’s South of Market Area. To use a polite term, I considered myself something of a sexual libertine. I still do. Long term relationships. cohabiting, and–Great Pumpkin forbid–marriage were not on the agenda.

And then I met Mark. Suddenly I found a kind of love that I’d never experienced before, and likely never will again. Seemingly overnight, all the rules changed. The funny thing is that I never really thought of myself as “being monogamous”. In fact, that’s not a conscious choice I ever would have made and it was most certainly not some sort of “moral awakening” or whatever. The fact is that after a time, I just didn’t really feel like pursuing anyone else. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t difficult. It just was. Was I still attracted to other men? Of course. Did I get rid of all my porn? Yeah, right. Pursuing other boys sort of ended for me the way that heavy drinking had a few years earlier: I just woke up one day and realized I didn’t really do that anymore. And this is why I suggest that, at least in my case, monogamy was not at all difficult, mainly because it was not a choice I made but something that sprang naturally for me out of my feelings for my partner.

That said, I understand that this is not how it works for everyone. And that’s important here when we consider how couples deal with extramarital coupling. I would never suggest that my relationship experience is–or should be–a model for anyone else. Relationships are built of individuals who have a nasty habit of having a whole world of different needs and wants. Who the hell am I to tell another couple how they should relate to themselves or anyone else? That’s way above my pay grade. And that’s what irritates me so much about some proponents of polyamory and open relationships, with their smug assumptions that their way is the only “correct” option for all of humanity and that anyone who disagrees or has a different experience is just too fucking stupid or unevolved to know any better. In short, they’re every bit as didactic and judgmental as fundamentalist Christians who offer heterosexual monogamy as the only model.

But I digress. Savage is not going down this “one true way” path and I very much respect him for it, although he is quick to remind us that “men were never expected to be monogamous.” He’s probably correct in this, but advancing such a purely evolutionary argument leaves him open to the obvious criticism that men were also never expected to be homosexual. It’s important to recognize the “nurture” in this equation as well as the “nature.” As Judith Stacey said in the article, “Monoga­my is not natural, nonmonogamy is not natural. Variation is what’s natural.”

All in all, though, I find myself agreeing with most of what Savage says, at least on a personal level. Like him, I am skeptical that the concept of polyamory would ever work in my own relationships. While I might have been upset by a partner having a random sexual encounter here and there, I could probably have understood and coped with that. But I know that I would never have been able to tolerate a partner having long term, ongoing sexual and romantic relationships with other people. If a sexual need needs to be addressed outside the relationship, that’s one thing, but if a relationship need isn’t being satisfied inside the relationship, I think there’s a problem. But I recognize that not everyone would agree on that. In my case, though, it just wouldn’t be fair to me or to my needs; it would be too much wear and tear on my emotions. And it would probably be no picnic for the partner who wanted multiple relationships, either, as he’d have to either hide them from me or live with how miserable they were making me.

And therein lies what I think is the biggest issue: the fact that there is too often both a discrepancy between what the partners want and a lack of communication about it. This too often makes compromise and even further communication impossible. When one partner presents an ultimatum, the other is almost genetically pre-programmed to reply with another ultimatum–or even worse, to throw his own needs out the window in an effort to “save the relationship.” Either one is a dead end and is all but guaranteed to cause (probably fatal) problems that might not have occurred if there had been a mutual dialogue at an earlier point.

I don’t actually believe that most couples make sexual fidelity (I really hate that term) the primary issue in their relationships as Savage suggests, although most do make it a pretty big one. And I agree that individuals in a strong relationship will generally deal better with this issue–as they will with any issue–than those in one that’s already troubled. Whatever solution works for them (on fidelity, finances, priorities, whatever) is OK as long as it’s mutual and as long as it’s discussed before it becomes something toxic.

I remind you, however, that as a recent “person of divorce,” my take on how to manage a successful relationship might be somewhat suspect and worth ignoring completely…

Absolutely Thursday night

Random Thursday night stuff:

  • Happiness is…having a late afternoon meeting at Wake Forest which makes for only a ten minute commute home after work.
  • I like 3rd Rock from the Sun. However calling it “science fiction”–as Netflix does–is a bit of a stretch.
  • I’ve been approved to submit a book chapter for publication. That’s sort of like getting permission to apply for a job that doesn’t pay anything. Ah, the things we do for tenure…
  • …or maybe just to stay employed.
  • Why is it that anytime Bank of America comes into my life I wish I’d had some lube?

Sorry. That’s all I’ve got tonight. I had a big essay written that was (gasp) actually about something but I didn’t like it so it’s not here. Maybe it will be eventually.

Good Sunday morning reading

Lots of interesting stuff this morning:

Calling all Brits (or at least one Brit)

I know I still have one or two readers in the UK. Would one of you consider ordering one of these and shipping it to me if I paid you for the whole shebang? I know the paper wasn’t worth wiping your bum with, but I collect these things.

I would be your BFF. Really…

A crisis of content

I’m not really sure where this site fits into my life or into the internet anymore.

Otherstream and its predecessor have been my primary public outlet for over fifteen years, but it really seems to be coming to an end in tecent months. I just don’t seem to have anything much left to say. What I do manage to publish lately is so trite, superficial, and generally pointless that it might as well be a Twitter feed. And that’s not where I want to go. If I wanted a Twitter feed, I’d have one. The point of this site has been to publish something a little more substantial and to do it using a publicly-accessible medium that doesn’t require a password or a subscription for access. You don’t have to be my “friend” or to “follow” me to read what I have to say here. And that’s extremely important to me. It always has been. I believe in (forgive the touchy-feely language) serendipitous discovery; we should occasionally read something that’s outside our Facebook newsfeed or Google Reader. That’s part of why I’ve always been a fan of the printed newspaper; that format allows my eye to wander sometimes into a story it might not otherwise find.

Facebook is fine for what it is, I guess. For me, what it is is a way to keep up up with some friends I don’t have enough real live conversations with. The vast majority of my 103 “friends” are hidden from my news feed because they never post anything but useless clutter that I couldn’t care less about. In fact, many (most?) of those 103 people are not even friends in any real sense of the word, but coworkers, former coworkers, and the occasional old friend I’ve lost touch with over the years– and for good reason, I realize from time to time.

It’s sometimes not even a particularly effective way to keep up with real friends either, as I try to decipher veiled references and cryptic comments that largely make me realize just how little I really know about what is going on in that friend’s life. Similarly, I recently posted a status update that was really a bit melancholy and a woman who’d been an acquaintance in college very quickly and breezily “liked” it (as she does with damned near everything I post) which only served to prove that she doesn’t really know me from Adam anymore, either. It also demonstrated that I may be guilty of posting in a not-very-forthcoming manner myself. Not that there was any doubt about that to begin with…

Mind you, a few of my friends post very useful clutter that amuses me greatly and they also post personal updates that I’m happy to read and that actually provide some insight.  But in many ways, I think Facebook, Twitter, etc. are impediments to–or substitutes for–actual, meaningful communication. Internet publishing–or the personal variety, as currently practiced–places no value whatsoever on reflection. It’s all about whatever one is thinking or doing right this very fucking second, with no acknowledgment that what one was thinking or doing five minutes (or five years) ago might have had some bearing on the present as well. This weekend, I hesitated about posting a context-heavy journal entry with some photos that were taken a week ago because it all felt so “behind the curve.” After all, I really should have posted them last week when they still mattered. But you know what? They still matter, maybe more than they did last week, because I’ve had time to reflect on the significance of the events surrounding them and what it all means to me.

But I still haven’t posted the photos or the commentary. Or many other posts, with or without many other photos or commentary. And that’s the problem.

I want this to be a site to have substantial content aimed at the “public” and not just my friends. But that public has largely moved on to something else. Nowadays, this pretty much is just a site that my friends read. And why they’d bother anymore is quite beyond me, because I never seem to get around to saying anything substantial either. I’m either self-censoring (but that’s another topic for another day) or not bothering to say anything to begin with.

More navel-gazing? I’m allowed one of these every few years, I guess. It may be the end. It may not be the end. I may still be doing this long after Twitter and Facebook have ceased to exist. Whether I continue or now, most of the planet won’t know the difference anyway. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter that much because the site is primarily for my own amusement, as I’ve noted on many occasions. But if I didn’t need the “publishing high” this would just be a password-protected Live Journal page or something on my local hard drive, wouldn’t it?

The road

Jeez, how much do I love this woman:

Well, they were wrong, again.  Around noon, the clouds rolled in for good.  Some sprinkles in the afternoon that made me think about packing it in, finding a motel, and sleeping for about 12 hours.  But I toughed it out.  I convinced myself that I’m out here as a documenter not an art photographer.  I need to record what’s still here since half of it might be gone by the next trip.  So, I continued, taking more photos than any other day of the trip so far.  Grey ones.  A depressing amount of “reshoot in sun” notes on my list from today.

I’ve been keeping up with her for years, but for some reason, her most recent trip has really inspired me to get my ass back on the road again, where it belongs and where it hasn’t been nearly enough in recent years.

And soon, dammit…

Basement 4.0

Basement 4.0 (Geeky Bachelor Pad Edition) is almost complete. Inspired by the need to merge a good bit of furniture from Pittsburgh into the house in Winston-Salem and the need for a space that actually feels like me after a year of perpetually “staging” the house, I’ve been converting the basement into my office/workspace for the past few weeks. I’m almost done, save for hanging cool stuff on the walls.

Today’s accomplishment included getting a lot of reference books down here from my old office, getting my collection of TV Guide dating back to 1960 on shelves in chronological order, and getting that long run of Progressive Architecture and Architectural Record we purchased a few years ago a little more presentable.

I’ve been working upstairs, too. I guess I’m sort of “reclaiming” the house (my life? my independence? choose your own metaphor…) and maybe trying to get more comfortable with the fact that I probably won’t be selling it in the near future. I may even do some painting. It’s definitely time for a transformation. I do love the house. And I always wondered how it might look if I had a really big house all to myself and could let my collection of crap run rampant. Maybe I’m about to see.

More basement photos after the jump. Continue reading

What a fucking dipshit

Morrissey stands by Norway comments:

Before starting his track Meat Is Murder, the former The Smiths star told the crowd, “We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown… Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried S**t every day.”

Abandoning Da ‘Burgh


Goodbye, house…

I think I already mentioned it, but the Great Pittsburgh Experiment (2009-2011) came to its conclusion a few weeks ago as Mark and I met up to dismantle the house we’d been so excited to buy two years earlier.

The reasons are clear: we’re no longer a couple and one of us lives on the other end of the country. And the one who lives on the other end of the country is the one who was more excited about having a house in Pittsburgh to begin with. Not that I didn’t love the house too, but it was always more Mark’s fantasy than mine, and he did all the painting and the renovations, etc. Pittsburgh is a place I’d still consider living should an opportunity arise. I really like it there. But I probably won’t visit much now that we’ve sold the place; part of the fun was “playing house.” It just wasn’t enough fun to justify paying another mortgage.

One benefit of moving is that I got lots of nice new old furniture to use in Winston-Salem. The former owner left a fair amount of stuff in the house when we bought it, including an amazing “Brady Bunch Hawaiian Adventure” bedroom suite which has now migrated southward to the Carolinas. I got custody of a much newer and better mattress too.  Thanks to Mark for driving the truck and helping to load and unload all this stuff. It’s inspired me to do a makeover.

It was sort of a sad weekend, obviously, as one more part of the life we used to have together was ending. But it was something we had to let go. I wish I’d taken some time to spend a few days up there before we gave up possession of the house, just to have a few more breakfasts at Barb’s or lunches at Smallman Street. I felt very much a part of Pittsburgh, strangely enough, even with my limited time there. Years from now, I’ll probably see these two years of owning two homes as a sort of surreal period, much like 2005-2006 in Charlotte but probably with fonder recollections (except maybe for the ones that involve driving through 250 miles of West Virginia each visit). I’ll miss Pittsburgh, but I’ll miss what it symbolized even more.