Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Return to Being Awkward

Photo courtesy of Trevor Williams
An interesting effect of having been involved in relationships that consumed absolutely all of my attention for the past two years is that I seem to have completely lost my ability to flirt properly.

I think (although I'm uncertain) that I can initiate a flirtation moderately well. I don't really do this, though. I seem not to have enough time and motivation to make it happen.

However, when someone attractive flirts with me, I get completely flustered and awkward, and at best mumble and leave quickly.

This is so totally unlike me I can't understand how it came about, nor what to do about it.

Case in point: Sunday night I met up with a group of friends to share food and conversation and to watch a movie. This is a weekly occurrence for many of us, but we were joined by some friends who come less regularly. Among these is someone I admit I have a bit of a crush on. This guy is quite gorgeous, smart, kind, and fun to be around. So when, at the end of the evening, he gave me a long hug and mentioned it would be fun if we could get together sometime, I, of course, replied with a sparklingly witty, adorable, inviting remark.

No, wait. I didn't. That's what I wish I did. I actually kind of awkwardly mumbled something and left.

This isn't even the first time I have totally flubbed a golden situation with this man. I know he wouldn't be cruel to me, even if he rejected me, so what in the world is my problem? Why can't I be even a tiny bit charming and adorable when he talks to me?

He's not the only one. There have been a handful of times over the past year or so I have watched the perfect moment sail right by me, and thought to myself (sometimes only moments later), "That was absolutely my chance. If only I'd said something witty and sweet."

But I don't. I mumble and look at my feet and, if I'm lucky, manage to giggle.

I can only hope I will be presented with enough opportunities to brush up my skills.

Is this what people mean when they say they've lost their mojo?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Stress Relief Girlfriend

Photo courtesy of Ciaran McGuiggan
I have discovered I play a specific role in one of my relationships.

I practice solo polyamory. That is, I don't live with my partners, share finances with them, have children or shared business interests with them. Some would call me "single," but I don't feel this fits me particularly well, as I have been in loving, committed relationships for nearly two years now.

The benefit of this (aside from the many benefits I gain from not having my boundaries infringed) is that date time really is Date Time. My partners and I have to schedule time together specifically. We don't end up having time together accidentally, and we never slip into the habit of doing things independently but in the same room with each other. Our dates occupy time we've set aside to spend together, and I really like that.

One of my boyfriends, Rusty, shares a home, finances, and business with another partner. I also gather (although I could be wrong) that he often serves as a sort of caretaker for her: bringing meals and medicine when she doesn't feel well, doing dishes and laundry, seeing to many of her everyday needs.

Most of the time this doesn't affect me much, but sometimes, like now, when he's under great stress, I become The Stress Relief Girlfriend. He arrives for dates mentally and emotionally drained, and requests we do things to take his mind off his stress.

I am often happy to fulfill this role. After all, being The Stress Relief Girlfriend involves a lot of sex and video games, our favorite pastimes.

But, being the only resident in my home (and owner of two adorable but high-maintenance cats), I still have to do my laundry, and take out my trash, and wash my dishes, and clean my cats' litter box. And all last week I was ill, and (through no fault of Rusty's) ended up spending several days home alone, feeling generally miserable and a bit sorry for myself.

It can be difficult, when my own stress piles up, to be The Stress Relief Girlfriend. I like that Rusty thinks of me like this; that he considers time with me the enjoyable escape from responsibility and tedium (not that his other partner is tedious, mind you, just that they share the tedium of work and daily life). I enjoy being able to give him this escape, to be where he turns to feel better.

But I won't deny that sometimes it's not very easy. When he wants a relaxing night away from stress but I have chores to do and cats to feed and errands to run and all my own stress of the day or week, I find myself rushing through my own responsibilities or delaying doing them in order to take care of his needs.

Although I'm sure this sort of dynamic exists within monogamous relationships, I never really saw it as transparently as I see it now. I feel I have this role to play, the free-wheeling, fun-loving girlfriend who is always ready for a good time and happy to provide a place to relax and recharge. Sometimes that role fits better than other times.

I'm not complaining, exactly, and I don't feel this is a situation that needs to be fixed. It's simply not something I encountered before I was in polyamorous relationships. I suppose I am remarking on its existence, and wondering whether anyone else feels this happens in their relationships as well.