Tuesday, May 24, 2016

7 Reasons Why Breakups Suck So Damn Bad

Hey there, gorgeous. This ran in Alternet and Salon, but I thought you might like it delivered here to your virtual doorstep. I learned a ton of interesting stuff on this one, mainly that I have the emotional maturity/coping skills of a traumatized baby lab monkey.

There are plenty of good reasons why the death of a relationship is so unbearable. There's shame, failure, guilt, anger/incredulousness at the other person's inability to see how incredible you are and sadness over that very same thing, plus the personal rejection of your Very Being.

The Czechs have a lovely word for it: litost. "Litost is a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one's own misery," writes Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

But this torment is more than just the nature of breakups, the need to experience darkness to appreciate the light, blah blah blah. Breakups also activate all kinds of neurochemical, physical and psychological fuckery that makes the whole business even more painful. Stupid biology.
To wit:
--Breakups turn you into a jonesing addict.
If the beginning of a love affair is a kind of chemical-fueled madness, so is the ending, but in reverse. In one of the crueler aspects of neurochemistry, just when you're hitting the personal low of a breakup is also when dopamine—the reward chemical that made you feel so damn good in the beginning-- decides to flee the scene, making you desperate for another hit. Dopamine acts in the same way as any drug of abuse, according to Helen Fisher in Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love: “If the beloved breaks off the relationship, the lover shows all the common signs of withdrawal, including depression, crying spells, anxiety,insomnia, loss of appetite (or binge eating), irritability, and chronic loneliness. Like all addicts, the lover then goes to unhealthy, humiliating, even physically dangerous lengths to procure their narcotic.” (Note: Having tried the “unhealthy, humiliating” Plan of Action, I can advise with some authority that it's not gonna go well for you.)

--Breakups actually hurt, physically.
In one study researchers had subjects “who recently experienced an unwanted breakup view a photograph of their ex-partner as they think about being rejected.” This was pretty cruel and probably not worth the 50 bucks or whatever the subjects got, but we learned that psychic trauma activates the same parts of the brain that process physical pain. Meaning, your brain experiences emotional pain as it would if you spilled hot coffee on yourself. Or, more accurately, kept spilling coffee on yourself every time you heard that one song on the radio, went on Instagram, etc...

--Breakups are depressing, officially.
In a study of poor sods who'd been rejected by a partner within the past 8 weeks, 40% experienced clinically measurable depression, with 12% of those having moderate to severe depression. All breakups involve an amount of grief (and indeed, in another of those “think about how much your break up sucked while we look at your brain with an MRI” studies, the parts of the brain associated with grief lit up.) but sometimes the grief becomes “complicated grief.” Complicated grief is an unwieldy beast of grief lasting 6 months or more (or, way too much virtual hot coffee spilling), featuring unpleasantries like over-rumination and mooning, bad dreams, and the excessive playing of Elliot Smith songs.

--Your stupid brain can actually start to get off on your suffering.
Anyone who has looked in the mirror to examine their tragic selves mid-cry knows there is a certain joy in one's own deep suffering. But sometimes that sort of self-schadenfreude can become addictive in itself. In some people, enduring grief triggers the reward center in their brains, making them seek the dark feelings so they can get a little happy chemical hit.

--You lose your sense of self.
Without the identity created within the relationship (i.e.“We like paddleboarding”), some emerge bleary-eyed from a breakup with a hazy sense of who they are. The sort of psychic rootlessness is compounded by the loss of the sense of having a secure base within the relationship and with that partner. “Wherever that person is, that's your emotional home,” writes Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. in Come As You Are. Without that, you're kind of homeless, emotionally.

--It's even worse for people with “anxious attachment styles.”
Only half of people in U.S. have a “secure attachment style,” that is, they have relationships easily and trust others like normal healthy people, while the rest of us flounder about, either clinging too much (attachment anxious) or preemptively cutting and running (attachment avoidant). Those with attachment anxious styles show “greater preoccupation with the lost partner, greater perseveration over the loss, more extreme physical and emotional distress, exaggerated attempts to reestablish the relationship, partner-related sexual motivation, angry and vengeful behavior, interference with exploratory activities, dysfunctional coping strategies, and disordered resolution.” Meanwhile, for the attachment avoidant—you know who you are—there was little such emotional fallout. Bastards.

--Breakups kick in our survival biology.
Attachment is a survival mechanism. A baby needs secure attachment or it will die. “When (our relationships) are threatened, we do whatever it takes to hold on to them, because there are no higher stakes than our connection with our attachment objects,” writes Nagoski, citing Harry Harlow's “monster mother” studies. Harlow bonded infant monkeys with mechanical “mothers,” then rigged the mothers to shake the babies, spike them or jet cold air on them to force them away. The babies responded to this rather shabby treatment by running right back into the arms of those unpredictably cruel, rejecting mothers. Not only that, they became desperate to fix the relationship and tried to win back the mother by flirting with her, grooming and stroking her. That is, behavior some among us may recognize quite well.

So yeah, it's bad. With the combination of biological, chemical and emotional havoc a breakup causes, it's a wonder any of us ever get over it. But we do. If you can just accept you're going to be fucked for a while--and not in the way you'd like—the appeal of spending car rides furtively weeping to Joni Mitchell's “All I Want” will eventually fade and you will indeed get over it. At some point. You might have to listen to a whole lot of “All I Want.”

In the meantime, take solace in the words of Nietzche and Louis CK, two dudes not exactly known for being consoling. “Ultimately, it is the desire, not the desired, that we love,” wrote Nietzche. That is, that passion is still in you regardless of who its recipient is. And hell, the next person might be even better at appreciating it. And said Louis CK, in a typically genius statement that could apply to any relationship: “No good marriage has ever ended in divorce. It's really that simple.”

In other words, you're probably better off without 'em. Sorta. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"The Copulatory Gaze" and the Body Language of Flirting

Whenever I'm around this one guy I know, I feel my head tilt to the side and my hand reach out toward him, as if to touch him. I try to stifle these gestures because they are sexual "tells," that is, unconscious moves signaling unspoken thoughts or intentions. And these particular gestures, I must confess, are universal mating signals. In terms of biological signaling, I may as well be breaking out the landing gear lights and guiding him to my gate, so to speak. I don't actually wish to mate with this dude (oh hell no) but, clearly some part of my subconscious is thinking he's fine. Real fine.

That's what's interesting to me about these mating gestures. I don't wish to signal anything to this guy, but my body certainly does, and I wonder what mechanism is at work there. I mean, why him? I am fascinated by how my body responds to him automatically and unconsciously. I don't mean to do the whole head tilt thing, it just happens. And although I'm not going to act on it, I have to admit that it's fun to feel my body react, feeling the pull of attraction and knowing I'm part of a timeless biological dance.

So what am I signaling exactly? Well, Grasshopper, a head tilt does a few things. It makes me smaller, for one, and exposes my vulnerable neck. These indicate "I am harmless." (Note: I may or may not actually be harmless.) Appearing harmless is a good thing, mating-wise, according to Helen E. Fisher in her completely fascinating book, Anatomy of Love: The Natural History of Monogamy, Adultery, and DivorceMen also try to appear harmless. All of their initial mating gestures are geared to convey the basic message, "I am here; I am important; I am harmless."

Writes Fisher:
"Men tend to pitch and roll their shoulders, stretch, stand tall and shift from foot to foot in a swaying motion. They also exaggerate their body movements. Instead of simply using the wrist to stir a drink, men often employ the entire arm, as if stirring mud...And the whole body is employed in hearty laughter--made loud enough to attract a crowd."

In the 1960s ethologist Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt used a secret camera to document female flirting behavior around the globe. No matter who he was creepily spying on scientifically studying, a universal flirting pattern emerged. Again, here's Fisher:

"First the woman smiles at her admirer and lifts her eyebrows in a swift jerky motion as she opens her eyes wide to gaze at him. Then she drops her eyelids, tilts her head down and to the side, and looks away. Frequently she also covers her face with her hands, giggling nervously as she retreats behind her palms."

Of all the courting gestures, to me, the most potent is the so-called "copulatory gaze." In cultures where eye contact is permitted, potential lovers will stare into each other's eyes a second or two longer than is necessary (generally two to three seconds) and, if interested, their pupils will dilate. Eye contact seems to trigger a primitive part of the brain, notes Fisher, calling forth one of two basic emotions--approach or retreat. "You cannot ignore the eyes of another fixed on you," she writes, "You must respond."

Many of these courting gestures are present in animals as well. Female possums do the coy look/head tilt move. Snakes, frogs and toads inflate their bodies to draw attention to themselves, and "pygmy" chimpanzees at the San Diego Zoo look deeply into the other's eyes for several moments before having sex. (No documentation exists on whether they also make each other mix tapes.)

My favorite animal courting move, however, comes from the chimps observed by the lovely Jane Goodall at the Combe Steam Reserve in Tanzania. When a female is in estrus (heat), a dominant male doesn't muck around with the loud laughing and notable drink stirring, he gets right to the point. "A male will stare intently to get a female's attention, sit with his legs open to display an erect penis, flick it, rock from side to side (and) beckon her with outstretched arms."

Yes, it's kind of comically direct, but I can see how with the right chimp, or my case, human male, it would be quite heady to be so courted. Although it would have the unfortunate side effect of eliminating the wholly enjoyable pastime of analyzing and dissecting a potential lover's moves. "Okay, so last night, Fred was staring intently at me, displaying his erect penis and flicking it. What do you think he meant?"

Thus we get to your questions of the day. One of the reasons I'm so fascinated by this subject is because I was always bad at interpreting such signals. What about you? Do you consciously use these gestures, or have you noticed yourself doing them? Do you notice when a potential suitor is doing these things, feel a general intuition about their intentions, or what?

Please, do tell.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pool Noodle Homemade Sex Toy, a London Lover, and Assdazzling

Note: Photo contains acceptable level of nudity
Crap, now I need to cover everything I just put in the title so let's just get to it, shall we?

1.  Pool Noodle Violation:  The lovely and smart Enlightened Sexpot wrote, "Your balloon phone sex post made me think of pool noodle sex" and sent along "Pool Noodle Girlfriend" by Patrick McGuire. It's a strangely fascinating interview with a guy who rigged up a pool noodle so he could have his way with it. To make the pool noodle even sexier, he stuck it to the bathroom mirror with a plunger so he could watch himself. Because what could be hotter than seeing himself--a guy living in his parents' basement. Fucking a pool noodle. In his parents' bathroom. 

Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

Did you try those more traditional methods first?
Yeah, and I looked for other materials around the house but I never really found anything. The last place I looked was the garage, and that's where I found the pool noodle. I thought, "Oh wow, that's got a nice texture to it.”

So it called out to you?

OK, then what did you do?
I cut it up while I was on the can so no one would ask me what the fuck I was doing. I was shoving a condom into this thing, and then I saw the plunger and one thing led to another. I think I was plunging the condom into the slit with the plunger and I thought, "Ahh fucking hell! I could stick this to the mirror.” And that's pretty much it.

How long ago was this?
Probably five or six years ago.

And you've been violating pool noodles ever since?
No, I think I only had one pool noodle and making that contraption takes about a third of it. So I think I only did it two or three times because I didn't want my parents to be like, "What the fuck are you doing to all our pool noodles?"

How would you describe the experience then?
It's fun in the making and in action. It's a large item... so what do you do with it afterward? You want to hold onto it but you don't want to buy it breakfast or anything. You kind of think "Maybe I'll keep this thing around for another go, but then you're like "Fuck it, it's garbage day tomorrow, I have to put this in the can.”

Is your pool noodle a dirty dirty slut? My only advice is to check your pool noodle for warning signs: staying in its room a lot, loss of interest in activities it once enjoyed and sobbing at the curb after being rejected on garbage day.

2. Update from Dusky: Dusky, you may recall--if not click here ("I have had one great love and one great lover and they are not the same man"), then here ("I am going to see that old lover")--is a married woman from a country where "agonizing" is amusingly spelled as "agonising." She was sharing insanely torrid emails and texts with her old lover, finally jetted to London to visit said lover and...it was tepid and weird.

I am happy as can be, because at last my London lover emailed me.  He agreed that things hadn't gone as expected, and basically let me down very gently and kindly, suggesting that he and I would always be kindred spirits and friends.  It caused me a final little heart-break to have it all officially OVER, but at last it finally is.  I'm no longer agonising over what I did wrong and wondering what he's thinking - he has given me the perfect closure.  Bastard as he is, his ability to write a perfect email is a damn fine skill that I can't help but adore him for.  Most wonderfully for me it means that I can again remember that early affair fondly, without feeling that it is tainted.  We've simply proved that it doesn't exist anymore, because those younger versions of ourselves no longer exist.  But from time to time I will think of those two lust-crazed people with joy, and it's lovely to know that he will too.

So, closure. Which is good. Or goodish, at least.

3. Your new business. Your welcome.

A Misguider Googler recently found IBWMW via the search terms "picture of assdazzled" which made me think of this brilliant idea--Assdazzling. It would be a service similar to vajazzling, but for your butt.

My husband said to this, as did Kirkegaard, "There are some things that should not be bedazzled."

Unfortunately, as a World Renowned Anal Bleaching Expert (this, unfortunately, is actually true), I already am quite busy in the ass-related market. So if you are looking for a business opportunity, and enjoy working with both sphincters and tiny pokey rhinestones, I bequeath the Assdazzling market to you.*


*For a modest donation, I will name you the IBWMW Minister of Assdazzling, which would look mighty fine on a business card.

photo: Herbert List - Sans Titre, 1937

ps circa 2016: this is a rerun, so there are some comments about a part I deleted (re: tiresome ranting on google, sigh, bein' a dick again). 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On Masturbation. And My Two, Possibly Three, Favorite Sex Toys.

Photo by Jimmy Detroit
"Your kisses are as wicked as an F-16/and you fuck like a volcano and you're everything to me," Liz Phair, Supernova.

Do you know the grand fuckery of which she speaks? The insane lust, the deep primal wanting, "Lips sweet and slippery/Like a cherub's bare wet ass." God, I do.

The thing is, most of the time I'm not there. And, given what you've been telling me lately, I think the same might be true for a lot of you.

If your sex life is such that masturbation is what's happening, and you'd like to fuck around (quite literally) with some new technology, I have a couple toy suggestions for you and that lonely bed of yours.

Why should you listen to me? Well, I'll tell you, smarty-pants.

--Between writing for Cosmo, AlterNet and this blog, I have had to put a fuck of a lot of whirring, sucking, vibrating things between my legs. Because that is MY JOB. Yes. God, or The Force or whatever, is good.

--Something about Malcolm Gladwell's theory of putting in 10,000 hours at anything to become an expert. 

Yes, my friends, I have been to the mountain top, sex toy-wise, and I've come back down, limping a little but full of Wisdom, to tell you my top two suggestions.

--If you are only buying one toy:

Oh darlin', I will rock your world.
The LELO Ora 2 The World's Most Sophisticated Oral Sex Simulator is expensive as hell but, damn, the thing is an excellent lay. It ministers to you via various vibration patterns and a little ball that makes lazy little circles or half-circles exactly where you want it to. You can just cycle though the patterns, and it feels like the best lover you ever had. I'm totally serious. It even seems to know exactly how long to pause before you completely lose it.

On the other hand, I looked at the Amazon reviews and some other people said it was weak, or unsuitable or whatever, so remember that everyone's body is different and just because I tell you to put something between your legs doesn't mean you'll like it as much as I did. (You should, however, DEFINITELY listen to my advice to never put that Sqweel whirlygig thing anywhere near your cooter. Trust me on this.
Man, that smarts.
(Further disclaimer: if you buy the Ora through this link, Amazon will give me like 2% or something. So if you buy like 28 million of them, I should be pretty good. Trickle down economics in action!)

--If you want to spring for 2 toys:
Allow me

I'd recommend the Womanizer, used in tandem with a g-spot vibrator (any will do, I use a Butterfly Bliss because I got it for free.) Between the gentle sort of suction motion of the Womanizer (maybe give it a different name in your head) and the low throbs of g-spot vibe on the inside, you will be a wreck, in the finest of ways.

(And yes, if you use the link to buy Das Womanizer and/or the Bliss, Good Vibrations will send me a 20% kickback, so you'd only need to buy about 3 million of them.)

Anyway, I'm not telling you this so you buy some merch, I'm saying it to sort of mark a shift in my head. Sex can be beautiful and scary and transcendent and super hot (or not.) And yes, of course it's preferable to have someone going mad for the way your boobs look when you unhook your bra, and being with someone brave enough dive into that Unknown with you, and just sort of bearing witness to whatever goes down. (Perhaps an agreeable Quaker, experienced in bearing witness, would be good here....though perhaps I'm not fully understanding the concept.)

However, even if it's just you, sans pervy Quaker, that sexual force is still there. And it seems hugely important to activate that power, whether by hand, sexy sucking toy thing or any non-Sqweel partner.

Henceforth, when loving the one I'm with is just...me, I am hereby ditching my previous habit of taking note of all the ways I am not sharing that experience (i.e. "Holy hell, they'd love to see this, hear this, feel this...") and getting all tragic about it. (For the record: Sobbing and coming at the same time is indeed dramatic and occasionally hot, but not that great as a Everyday Lifestyle Choice.)

Instead I'm going to revel in what does go down. It's still good. Sometimes damn good. And like Pamela Madsen, but less naked, I will transfer that energy out into the damn world.

Huzzah, motherfuckers.


P.S. If you'd like to order a print of the Jimmy Detroit photo above, email him at JimmyDetroitx@gmail.com or contact him via  Facebook. Friend of the Blog, Great Guy! Plus real Art, highly affordable!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why We Fuck

I was sprawled across my bed, utterly wrecked, one morning many years ago. I'd just had amazing amazing phone sex with someone who, to this day, remains the most attachment-avoidant person I've ever met.

"Holy fuck," I mumbled, made dreamy by ravishment. "Why was that so...good? We were on the phone."

"People need connection," he said simply. To my surprise, even he had known this, deep in some barely accessible part of his poor love-avoidant heart. And it had been a connection, an intense sexual communion that felt like something real had happened, even though no body parts had been touched or even seen.

This private connection between lovers--This is why we fuck each other, even though there are plenty of promiscuous toys, pillows, and shower spouts that can do the job quite well. And, yes, it has to be fucking (of some sort) because other human interactions--a nice chat in the bank line, for example--just won't do it.

Bearing witness to someone surrendering to their instincts--just being with them in the moment they lose themselves--is fucking powerful. And to find someone you trust enough to fall into that void with them, well, it's a rare and beautiful gift.

On a less sublime level, I think it's also about being present in the Now and existing in a state of Flow, where you are wholly consumed with what you are doing. These are purportedly optimal (and often needlessly Capitalized) states for achieving happiness, inner peace and well-being. (See also: Ekhart Tolle's  The Power of Now and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's  Flow). The orgasm is, like, a bonus to what's really going on.

Caitlin Moran describes this kind of focused-attention-on-another in her book How to Build a Girl about a teenage Brit who transforms herself into a badass music journalist/sexual adventurer:

"Here's the amazing thing about sex:  you get a whole person to yourself, for the first time since you were a baby.  Someone who is looking at you--just you--and thinking about you, and wanting you...You are in a room with a closed door, and no one else can come through it....It seemed to me that this was the real reason people wanted to fuck so much. To get here. To get to this tiny, quiet place where there was nothing else to do but be with each other. Just to be two humans who had--for a short while--stopped wanting."

That idea fits nicely with what I discovered when I looked on PornHub the other day for the Top Rated Video of All Time. It wasn't "Bitch takes cum in her hair" or whatever I was expecting, but a sweet little clip of a sleepy, tousled-haired woman waking her lover up and giving him a blow job. 

This top-rated video--OF ALL TIME!--showed two people portrayed as affectionate, familiar lovers happy to be waking up together in such a nice way. They weren't over-the-top porn excited, but just enjoying the everyday-yet-so-amazing swollen pleasures of taking someone you like in your mouth and/or being taken thus. In the world of porn, this was maybe about the squarest, most vanilla thing ever. And yet it was the most loved...of all time! (For that one day, at least. Today, alas, I can't re-find it. It has been replaced by "Hot blond maid having anal." Top-ratedness is apparently fleeting. )

The point of all this being: sexual connection, in whatever form it takes, is something we all seek, including the millions of surreptitiously wanking users of Porn Hub on that particular day. Even my old friend, dear attachment-avoidant boy, needed this intimacy, albeit from the distance that felt safe to him.

We all need to get this place, however we can--where you get to be two humans who have--for a short while--stopped wanting.

Go find your place.



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Advice To Greg Abner, My Would-Be Email Lover

Dear "Greg Abner,"

Congratulations! You're almost there in perfecting your unsoliticed-email-leads-to-romance-leads-to-some-poor-chick-sending-you-a-few-thousand-dollars-for-your-airfare/life-saving operation/ outstanding business opportunity! Just a few more tweaks and you're ready to go!

Here's my take on it:

Personalize: When women receive unsolicited email from a total stranger, they want to feel like the stranger sees that "special something" about them. For example, in your random Facebook email to me, you write:
What a great smile.......I bet your smile is capable of sweeping any man off his feet....
Okay, just for reference, here is the photo to which you refer:

In it, I am trying to look thoughtful and artsy. Although, as my friend Audrey unkindly and unfortunately more accurately put it, "You look like you just stumbled into an alley and are looking for your shoes." Another of my delightful friends, Paul, said "You look hot and mentally imbalanced." We needn't quibble over whether I look hot or crazy, or whether or not I eventually found my shoes in that alley (answer: I didn't find "my" shoes, exactly but found "some" shoes that "sort of fit.") The point is that we all agree that I am not smiling. Again, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Study your lucky lady's photo and write something personal. Like, "You look mentally imbalanced." Or perhaps, "I happen to sell shoes."

Okay, let's move on. Greg, in your message, you continue:
Your terrific hair do is just out of this world.Please make my day by writing back.
Really? You think so? I love it too! It's all freaky and wild and...wait a minute...did you just call it a "hair do"? I'm sorry, Greg, but that's the kind of slip-up that's going to alert a potential victim special lady that you're either not from around here or that you're a pervy old lady from 1947.

Your Facebook profile could use a little work as well. "Your" photo is fine. Let's have another look at that stock photo you carefully selected:

I kind of wish someone in a lower age demographic was writing to me, but, that's okay, I think the older gentleman look works. It's more believable than some shirtless, rippled youngster trying to chat me up. I'm not stupid. I've seen Catfish, you know. (If you haven't, do check it out. It's a nice little indie film.)

I have no problem with your claim that you are British (a nice touch!) and that you now live in Denver, Colorado. However, your "About Greg" section could use a few little touch-ups. Don't worry, it will just take a sec. You write:
Easy going , starigth forward and laid back retrospective kind of guy, my friends say i'm nice to a fault but i can't wait to know what you think about that..... i know i have a kind heart that a lotof people tend to take advantage of most of the time.i'm looking to meet some old school friends/mates and some interesting new friends .
Maybe you could let one of your fellow Brits "have a look," as they say in your former stomping grounds, at your punctuation and grammar. "Straight" not "starigth,""lotof" is not a word, and whatnot. Also strike "I can't wait to know what you think about that" from your profile entirely. When you use it here, it sounds like you're trying to pick anyone and everyone up. That will not do.  Remember, make the lady feel special. The time to bring out that gem is once you are corresponding with your beautiful lady with the out-of-this-world hair-do, and she's starting to weaken to your considerable charms.

And lastly, in the photo that you labeled "me and my daughter," you've neglected to realize that your daughter is not actually in the picture. Such inattentive parenting could be seen as a "turn off" to a prospective mate.

But don't worry, you've almost got it! Just a few more tweaks and you will be darn near irresistible. Soon that money will be rolling in! And, if you'd like, I have a few Special Secret Tips for just for you, because I think we've made a connection today. I'm sure you feel it, too. I just need a little plane fare to come visit you so I can start giving you your personalized Special Secret Tips right away!
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