Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
Recently I started sleeping with my professional dance partner. The sexual chemistry is incredible and I am really enjoying myself. The only problem, I feel twinges of guilt and indignity for letting go so wildly.
What advice do you have for a young woman exploring her sexuality and loving it, but simultaneously feeling like if many of the people close to her knew what she was doing, she would be shamed?
One nice thing about sex, for most people, is that it happens in private. The intimacy of the practice has a purpose in and of itself: sex is between you and your partner(s). Are you hurting your lover in a way that is damaging to his or her health? Are they damaging you? It sounds pretty innocent to me, lovemaking with a trusted partner.
Who are these people that might “shame” you? Are they friends and family and do they share your beliefs and outlooks in life? Are they bound by religious or communal doctrine that might suggest that expressing your feelings for a dear one physically is sinful? Be sure their shame is theirs, and not yours. If their beliefs penetrate your private affairs, it is up to you to build a stronger interior.
The other question is whether you are imagining and projecting their shame because in fact you feel dirty for your own behavior. Sometimes shame comes up as a way to limit oneself. It can be a way of expressing fear or doubt at deserving such sweet things in life. For example: you find a hot and sensitive sex partner and wonder if you deserve such pleasure, and quickly smear the experience in shame so as to limit your enjoyment.
Check in with yourself and make sure you are enjoying this new physical step in your relationship. Do you feel safe? Cared for? Loved? Do you need there to be love, or can you enjoy sex without it? And does this kind of no strings attached sex make you feel good, or are you someone who needs more commitment? Explore your sexuality but do so on YOUR terms. The judgmental puritans in the rafters can worry about their own orgasms.
5.8.11 at 8:13 am | In honor of Mother’s Day I anonymously. . .
4.8.11 at 5:00 am | Dear Yenta, So I recently signed up for an. . .
4.3.11 at 2:08 pm | Dear Yenta, I've been going to acupuncture. . .
3.31.11 at 2:01 pm | Dear Yenta, When I have sex, I think about my. . .
3.29.11 at 1:56 pm | Dear Yenta, I have lost the ability to write.. . .
3.20.11 at 3:00 am | Dear Yenta, This past year 3 friends I love lost. . .
4.19.10 at 7:08 am | The following questions were placed anonymously. . . (13)
6.17.10 at 8:33 pm | Dear Yenta, My armpits are sometimes itchy,. . . (6)
8.23.10 at 9:44 pm | Dear Yenta, Even when I’m so turned on I’m. . . (6)
February 23, 2010 | 7:08 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
Twice I seem to have started to fall in love with girls who claim only once I’ve plunged my heart overboard for them: “it is not the right time for me.” – Their excuses being along the lines of having just arrived in a new city and feeling a need to commit solely to one’s work, one’s craft, or one moving on to another country, another school, or whatever and therefore not wanting to commit to a relationship. Are these excuses, or am I just busted? Am I falling in love with them just because they become unattainable? How do I both simultaneously tell a girl how wonderful she is, how beautiful, how amazing while at the same time keeping my distance so she can breathe and not feel as if I am suffocating her growth as a woman? How should I best keep calm – best maintain proper communication when a request for less communication has been flagged?
Thanks Yenta, and Happy Chanukah.
-Two Steps Forward and Two Steps Back
I adhere to the strict belief that when we choose our partners we choose them with full-subconscious knowing. By this I mean that you knew, when you chose these women, that they would eventually leave. My grandfather used to say that there is a lesson to be found in everything. When it comes to matters of the heart, we are always being clued in to our own emotional maladies. The good news is, when we pay attention to these issues, we are given the opportunity to heal them.
This is not a simple question. For one, I think you need to ask yourself what “fall in love” really means. Have you known real “love?” Is this “love”or the projection of it? Psychologist Robert Firestone talks about something called “The Fantasy Bond.” He writes:
”Most people have fears of intimacy and are self-protective and at the same time are terrified of being alone. Their solution to their emotional dilemma is to form a fantasy bond. This illusion of connection and closeness allows them to maintain an imagination of love and loving while preserving emotional distance. Destructive fantasy bonds, which exist in a large majority of relationships, greatly reduce the possibility of couples achieving intimacy.”
This leads me to my presumption that you might have issues with intimacy. Why do you feel that having a girlfriend implies needing to adorn her with words like “wonderful, beautiful, amazing?” As nice as it is to express these sentiments, they are not an inherent part of being in a loving relationship. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you are always putting your woman on a pedestal it not only dehumanizes her, but it also implies your own self-loathing. It is a faux version of real love, one that is veiled in emotional lies and ultimately serves to push her away.
There is a fine line between compliments and obsessive expressing. Also, don’t underestimate the power of non-verbal communication, even a quick loving glance often communicates admiration and appreciation. You do not sound like you are communicating, but distancing with all of these compliments. Do the compliments have anything to do with what you are actually feeling, beyond sparkle eyes for your lady? Do you enter relationships so you can give love, or share love?
It is best to come into a relationship whole and to seek to enjoy the wholeness of another. As cheesy and impossible as this sounds, it means that the work you have cut out for you is YOU. You need to explore your own issues with intimacy, discover why it is that you have been actively cutting love’s aorta for yourself, not the other way around. A common cause of intimacy troubles are related to childhood abuse. Check out: Emotional Unavailability : Recognizing It, Understanding It, and Avoiding Its Trap by Bryn Collins
Also, remember that a woman’s growth has nothing to do with you. She will thrive or destruct based on her own choices. You can support her growth, or witness and appreciate it, or, in attempting to lasso this lady with such tight reigns, you also might find that you are a hindrance and therefore a disposable entity on her path to becoming. Your version of “communication” is more like smacking her with positivity in an effort to control her and keep her by your side. Perhaps she is exiting in hopes of less bullshit. In the end, instead of tethering yourself to a woman, it is high time you get the reigns on yourself.
For more help read: Fear of Intimacy by Robert W. Firestone and Joyce Catlett.
To pose a question anonymously, click here and send your e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.
February 21, 2010 | 6:47 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I’ve noticed that my shampoo has been consumed at an alarmingly fast
rate since my roommate’s fiancée moved back into the house.
I wrote it off as my own paranoia about my toiletries, but I just got
home and saw him holding my shampoo in his hand as he was about to
wash his hair in the kitchen sink (entirely different issue, do you
answer plumbing questions too?). Anyway, I want to confront him about
it, but I don’t want to rock the boat too much. My roommate and he
are expected a baby (sometime this week), so they’re under a lot of
stress from that. Moreover, he does a bunch to fix things around the
house and keep it neat, since he doesn’t currently have a job, but
that doesn’t justify his using my shampoo. I also suspect that he is
responsible for throwing away two cans of my shaving cream. I like
nice body care products, so they’re not cheap to replace, especially
if I’m having to replace them with greater frequency. Do you have
any suggestions for how to fix this? I’m thinking about just moving
my toiletries out of the bathroom, but I feel that may be too
Receding Hair Product Line
Again, this is an issue revolving around the simple establishment of boundaries. No, it is not ok to use people’s things without asking. And worse, if you are going to use someone’s things without asking and you finish them, the common law of housing says that you should buy the dude a new can of shaving cream or bottle of shampoo.
You sound like you are getting niceties confused. It is great that this guy is fixing your home, but like you said, his good deeds don’t just get to be traded out for bad deeds. It’s like saying because you always vacuum, you have a right to never doing your dishes. Unless this is some sort of household spoken or written agreement, there is no trading of chores for mooching.
I hear you wanting to tread softly, since the baby is a-coming, but I also think there is a difference between being polite and being a pushover. You have every right to gently ask that he buys his own hair products, kindly explaining that yours are important to you. Or, keeping them in your room works too. I don’t know that that is passive aggressive so much as proactive and self-protective.
Do what you need to do to clarify that your hygiene is serious business, and that you aren’t interested in sharing your supplies. You could say, “hey, could you replace my products when you finish them?” if you want to share, or, why not buy some shitty shampoo and give it to him with a smile? I doubt it will make anyone anxious enough for a premature delivery. Make a joke of it, whatever. Just remember that in your living space, no matter who is pregnant, or really, who is the impregnator, you have a right to your personal boundaries.
February 18, 2010 | 6:44 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I started dating my boyfriend in July. Any day now, he’s supposed to
run off to work for a disaster relief agency for 6 to 12 months in
some far-off, war torn, disease-riddled land. While I admire him
greatly for this choice (a choice he had made before we met), it’s
going to wreak havoc on our relationship. It’s been a long time since
I met someone with whom I have so much in common and that I really
enjoy. We are well matched. Although, he is emotionally reserved
in part because he knows he’s leaving. Yenta, is it worth continuing this
relationship or do I cut my losses now?
-Dating a Social Servant
If you started dating this man in July, and he knew when he met you that he was leaving, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself. You chose a man who you knew would leave you, and now you are wondering if you should hold on.
If you are as well matched as you say you are, then I am confused by the question. Long distance can be a bitch, but so can losing the most important person in your life. Is he emotionally reserved, or is he not that into you? Or, is he scared to lose you? If you are as well matched as you say you are, then I wouldn’t let this one go just because he is pursuing his far-away dreams.
Have you two talked about what happens next? Where does he stand? And have you had any time apart traveling since you met him? How did that work out? Long-distance relationships really depend on how much the individuals involved are willing to invest, both on their own and as a couple. If you think this do-gooder is someone you should keep around, then I would start fighting now.
And in the meantime, fight with a realistic understanding of what that kind of distance can do to a couple with a wobbly foundation, or how the distance can shrink with skype, effort, a plane ticket and a sincere investment in keeping up with the love. Are you two close enough to cultivate this? If not, and if he is the one, then a year apart on separate paths might just bring you closer when you find each other later and are really meant to be.
February 16, 2010 | 6:43 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I have always had a problem with guilt. Anytime I feel I let anyone
down or hurt someone in any way, I feel like a terrible person, and
that’s hard to deal with. Unfortunately, I’m also a PhD student and
instructor of freshman composition, and my job involves a lot of
grading. All of my colleagues tell me to spend 10-15 minutes, tops,
per paper while grading, but I struggle to take under 30 minutes per
paper. It’s killed me all semester long, and I know I can’t keep
doing this, but I feel like I would be cheating all my students if I
didn’t take that time. Do you have any advice on how I could
Dear Guilty Grader,
I once took over five sections of English at a wild Catholic school when a teacher quit mid-schoolday. This job was torture, but also a quick education on the importance of standard shifts in grading. Like you, as a teacher I want to give my students what I think they deserve, which is time, attention and thoughtful response.
By the end of week one of this new job I found myself on a couch surrounded by over a thousand pieces of paper. I had assigned too many exercises and according to my previous grading policy, I had to comment on every single piece of paper. So, I started hyperventilating. That was the first of many corners I learned to cut.
Students benefit from comments, but moreso, they benefit from a sane teacher. If you think you can manage 30 minutes a paper, so be it. Don’t use what other teachers are doing as a litmus test for your own work. But if their 10 minute policy could save you some headache, then re-juggle your mindset and deliver. Your students will be better off having a well-rounded teacher than a book-size response to their Romeo and Juliet essay.
Cheating your students would be to rip your heart out of the job. Cheating your students would be to walk out on them mid-school day. Cutting your own previous high standards down to size to accommodate reality; this is just plain smart. In the meantime, remember that teaching is giving. Make sure, in the stress of grading, that you are being extra gentle with yourself. Doughnuts, baths, ice cream and movies are types of things that need to be doled out to you, in addition to final grades for the students.
Also, start training yourself. A “terrible person” would probably walk in and tell the students they are all retarded stupid freaks. A “terrible person” would give F’s for no reason, sleep with the hottest kid, and smack and kick the bad kids. At the end of each day take note of not having done these things to keep the concept of “terrible” in check. You sound more like a mensch.
February 14, 2010 | 6:58 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I recently started seeing a man who has a repertoire of “fetish”
delights. He likes toes, he likes big booty ho’s and he also likes
to lick brown eye hole. I am of course conflicted. While I try to
judge no one for the way the world delights them, I find a strange
blend of pure joy and pleasure from his escapades “back there,” as
well as a subtle form of judgment about his predilection. I mean,
who actually likes to stick their face in ass? It makes me suspect of
him as a person which is a bit judgmental really. And besides, it’s
not unheard of. But I question his psychology too – like is he into
being HUMILIATED? or is this just the trick that makes his stick tick?
The truth is, LOTS of people enjoy this practice in a million forms. “Fingers in the ass again,” is how The Notorious B. I.G. referenced it in his song “Get your grind on.”
When I was in high school someone once told a nasty hurtful rumor about me and this practice, which I certainly had not engaged in at 16. The reason it was nasty was because of the outward associations we have with this part of the body. The rumor was meant to degrade me so I see where you are coming from with your trepidation.
In reality, though, annilingus is a common practice among sexually active adults for a simple reason: it covers an erogenous zone full of millions of sensitive nerve endings that provoke intense pleasure. See www.whitelotuseast.com for a tutorial.
Your partner may simply be excited about entering this taboo space, not associating it with defilement as you might. In addition, he might be elated at the idea of pleasuring you, which is not such a sin.
Generally, like you said, it is best not to judge or emotionally assess people’s sexual needs. A healthy sex life can look a million ways, and sexual behavior does not always correlate to surface emotions. But, that is not to say that you don’t have a right to your own discomfort. Is this someone you are both emotionally and physically intimate with? Is there space for a conversation between sexual acts? It is possible you need to hear him out as to why he loves doing this.
Also, you might want to revisit your own relationship with your rear. Why would wanting to kiss you there be something humiliating for a man? Your vagina floods with blood every month, and I don’t know if human waste is so repulsive when puritan attitudes are ditched. And what about this practice reflects his psyche? I wonder if you like or respect the man to begin with. It is possible that he repulses you, and you are projecting all that repulsion on what he is doing to your body.
Ultimately, communication is key in bed. Communication and some feeling of trust, either long-established or gutteral. Either way, your own view of your own body and the things done to it, knowing your pleasures and repulsions, will keep you from asking too many questions about the sanity of your partner. Knowing your own limits in bed takes a lot of stress away from awkward tongue-tickling moments. I recommend Aphrodite’s Daughters : Women’s Sexual Stories and the Journey of the Soul by Jalaja Bonheim as a way to start cultivating your bedroom self-image. Also, this odd site: www.sexwithoutshame.com.
February 11, 2010 | 6:33 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
Is it okay to date multiple people? I struggle with this question a
lot…Currently, I am dating more than one person and both
relationships are advancing on physical and emotional levels,
although, they are advancing at different rates. At what point do I
have to pick one? I am not stressed out by it, I have room in my life
and head to manage both relationship, but my friends think it is
emotionally immature and greedy… I dont feel unhealthy, and I would
be totally honest if they found out about each other.
Needy and Greedy
Dear Needy and Greedy,
The barometer test for situations like these has to do with who ends up getting hurt. If you can honestly say that no one involved will be devastated or destroyed by your dating habits, then what’s the problem? There are plenty of people who believe in open dating policies and succeed in this fashion. They succeed based on honesty, openness, and a clear understanding of what commitment means to them and how to get their own needs met. If you fall under this category of evolved dating, then so be it.
When it comes to love and sex the opinions of others can be poisonous. Every different human has a different set of needs and some are more proactive and more creative about meeting them than others. For all you know these friends judging your behavior are just jealous. Are they getting any? Maybe you getting more than your share is “greedy” in their eyes because somehow they feel you are dipping into their pool of possibilities. Date away, as long as no one gets hurt.
If, however, you secretly want a monogamous relationship and can’t quit all this piggybacking, then that’s a question to sort out within yourself and possibly with a therapist. This same answer applies if your chronic dating is chronic lying and cheating.
For help cultivating multiple healthy relationships at once check out: The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy or Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino.
February 9, 2010 | 6:31 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I have this problem where I talk incessantly. I cannot seem to
stop. Every time, before I go out with friends, I tell myself on the
way out the door, to just shut up and listen. But invariably I end
up on another monologue.
To be completely honest, I am probably not that bad. I do have a few
friends who say I am a good listener. But the problem is when I go
out with a group of people, or with friends of friends I just can
not shut up. Even when I see people’s eyes start to glaze over.
How do I stop? Please help.
One common symptom of excessive speech is lack of oxygen. You need to see if you are breathing enough as your nervous talk escalates. Then, practice breathing, hearing your breath, timing it, counting it, whatever it takes to stay with yourself. A runaway mouth in a crowd also implies an exit of the self. You are putting so much out there that you momentarily abandon number one. My guess is that the more pressure you put on yourself to shut it, the worse it gets. This is why breathing cautiously helps in an anxious situation like this one, because it is a way of staying with yourself and therefore staying calm.
Also, these words you spew are a form of nervous energy that needs to be expelled. Work at this. Run or bike or go to yoga the day of a group gathering. Masturbation is an excellent social calming tool. If you are up for it, get off before going out to keep those swirling nerves under control. Masturbation, and of course, meditation. Sit in silence for even just five minutes watching your breath before you go out. Note your thoughts and remind yourself that they are just in your mind. This trick, if practiced regularly, will cut away half the neurosis.
Lastly, be nice to yourself. Everyone gets nervous. Don’t be so rough with your gabbing mouth. It will more likely stop evading you if you don’t put so much awful pressure on it to cease. And laugh at yourself. This is, ultimately, a little funny, a mouth with a mind of its own. I doubt you are nearly as awful as you think. Awareness, so they say, is the first step to recovery. You will be silent in no time.