"I never promised you anything I couldn't do
We tried to bury it and rise above..."
I spent this past week at Monique Darling's Transformative Intensive for Extraordinary Facilitators where I had the pleasure of being one of the educators in her impressive lineup. I asked if I could attend on some of the other days when I wasn't teaching so I could watch my colleagues' presentations, and then, as often happens during these events, I had a breakthrough, a moment I couldn't unsee, a question I couldn't unask.
Monique was performing a vulva massage on another educator who is a certified sexologist. In tantra teachings, our chakras, in addition to existing along the planes of our bodies, also exist fully within our genitals, so genital massage combined with breath work and intention can be a way of unblocking fear, shame, identity issues, etc. As Monique began penetrating with her fingers, the person on the receiving end said, "You're gonna find some issues coming up around 5 o'clock and 7 o'clock."
For all the education I have put myself through in service to my calling (NLP, hypnosis, NVC, timeline therapy, tantra, reiki), sexology is a field into which I have not delved. Confession? I really don't understand the inner workings of my vagina; sex is so much about narrative and intention for me that it's never really been something I've felt called to learn more about. So when I heard this educator I admire talking about exactly where in their vagina their emotions were being held, I thought to myself, "Wow, that's incredible! That's a whole language I haven't learned yet! Here's an awesome new thing I could potentially geek out on!"
And then another voice popped up immediately: No. No more esoteric languages. You already feel alone enough in this world.
It was the first time in my life that the idea of learning something new was met by my brain with fear. (Maybe if Monique's fingers had been in my vagina I could have worked through it.) Sure, I have sometimes met the idea of learning some things with apathy or disinterest, but never had I had such a strong dopamine response get shut down so quickly by my amygdala. Nope. No more learning. Danger ahead.
Monique took time for questions after the demo. I waited until the room was quiet, because I didn't want to make her demo all about me and my stupid fears. But when ultimately I shared my reaction, several other women nodded and raised their hands in solidarity.
"Yeah," one woman echoed, "what's the point of stepping into our divine empowered consciousness if nobody else can meet us there and we just keep losing everyone?"
It's weird being a dating coach and dating people who are not dating coaches. I imagine it's equally weird for them dating me. I don't expect people to play on my level; that would be unrealistic, given the literal thousands of hours I have dedicated to learning intimate relating. But I do share the things I learn, in the same way that any nerd is apt to get excited over the subject material of their specific geekery. Only it's a little different sharing, say, your favorite tv shows with the person you're in a relationship with than it is sharing how to be in a relationship with the person you're in a relationship with.
In my ideal vision this is not a conflict; in my ideal vision my font of wisdom is a resource I make available to my partner in an expression of service submission. I use the things I know to serve their needs to the best of my ability, I use my communication skills to ask for the things I need in return, and if they come to me with a conflict, then I help to facilitate around it and solve it in a manner that pleases them -- not by imposing my will because I know better, but by offering them whatever resources I have that will lead to a solution that makes everyone happy. (And honestly for as many men as are obsessed with the idea of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, you would think this would not be a difficult sell.)
The last man I dated with any significant investment finally articulated to me, perhaps a bit too late, that one of the struggles he is overcoming in the wake of the decades-long relationship he was in prior to me is the fight for self-autonomy; in his previous bout with relating, he was constantly told he was wrong and forced to abnegate himself from decisions. I realized then that in offering my resources to him in what I felt was an act of care and generosity, I was unwittingly triggering him. Unfortunately, as often happens to us when we are in the process of breaking through things, his pendulum swung a bit too far in the other direction, and he began telling me I was wrong about my own feelings and forcing me to abnegate myself from decisions about the relationship by making them without involving me. (Projection is awesome! Hearts are broken more easily than cycles!) And if in that moment I had pointed out to him what he was doing, I would have, in the very act of conveying my informed take on the situation, been threatening the very self-autonomy he was seeking.
Sometimes compassion is just about shutting the fuck up.
"You date a lot of really smart, really successful people," my friend Conner said to me not long ago. "I don't know them personally. But they're probably used to being the smartest person in the room. And then they meet you. And you're maybe not smarter than they are overall, but you're smart in the one area that they likely aren't, the area in which they have to relate to you. In some ways, it must make them feel like they've found their missing piece. And in other ways it must make them feel very resentful. And humiliated."
"Cassandra was not very popular," my former lover said to me.
It didn't cheer me up that Huffington Post published this article "Men May Like the Idea of a Smart Woman, But They Don't Want to Date One" just a couple weeks later. Apparently a study was done that found that while men find smart women attractive in theory, they don't feel really great about being up close and personal with them. What's heartening is that it was a study of only about 150 men and they were all undergraduates, not nearly reaching the peak of their neuroplastic development, so, I mean, make of this data what you will. Still, I get it, sadly. I do. Toxic masculinity puts so much shame on men's emotions, sexualities, and sensitivities that it's no surprise some of them feel that besting women in success and intellect is the only thing that will make them desirable. If they're dating a woman who's already smart or financially successful, what do they have to offer that doesn't take away their man card?
It would be easy for those who don't know me to imagine that I'm a controlling know-it-all in relationships, but that idea leaves out the fact that I'm a service-oriented submissive coping with an anxious attachment style. So I'm more likely to ask someone "What can I do better? What do you like that I'm missing? What would you like this to look like?" than I am to try to dictate things or force my way. The trouble is, even asking those questions can accidentally put me in the role of facilitator, especially when those questions aren't something that a partner is prepared to ask in return, or even to be able to answer.
I'm just trying my best to do everything right in an arena where things tend to be naturally messy and intimate and explosive, and I would like some fucking compassion for once. The idea of "doing everything right" in relationship is mad folly to the point of hilarity, but I would like to be appreciated for how sincerely I fucking try. I would like that to be counted in the plus column, not the you-bring-out-my-insecurities minus column.
I remember the first time I met Cristo D'Arcy, an intuitive healer invited by mutual friend Neil Strauss to work with us at a week-long retreat that was part of his research for The Truth. Cristo read everyone in the group accurately, down to naming high school sports injuries, and the group was amazed. We were all on the porch drinking and laughing and balking and asking to be healed. When it got quiet, I asked him if I could ask a personal question and he agreed. "Do you ever get lonely?" I asked. He looked at me for a long moment. "You know, no one's ever asked me that before."
Esoteric attraction coach Elizabeth Egan Everett warned me very quickly upon my move to LA that the path to consciousness is a dangerous and lonely one, not named The Perilous Path for nothing. But I was stubborn, unmovable. I wanted gnosis. The more I learn about attraction, intimacy, relationship, and sexuality, the more isolated I feel. I am intensely, eternally grateful for my friends in sexuality/spirituality who share this language with me, and in times like this I surround myself with them for connection and self-care, but I also think the idea that sexuality educators can only date other sexuality educators is akin to saying that chefs should only have dinner with other chefs.
I got into studying the art of seduction because I was, romantically speaking, the runt of the litter. I just wanted a normal relationship like everyone else was having. But somewhere along the line I bypassed that point.
I made some very difficult decisions recently; quiet, personal decisions; decisions that go gentle into that good night. I cannot be intimate with people with whom my only safe choice is to keep my goddamn mouth shut, because that isn't intimacy. I have to be able to bring my whole self to the table, and that self happens to include years of thought, resources, and opinions. I don't need those opinions to be anything other than what they are -- opinions -- but I need to be afforded the simple human right of self-expression. Sure, not every acquaintance needs my latest hot take, but with an intimate partner, I mean, isn't the whole point of intimacy having a safe space to say the stuff I think about?
I have an opportunity now with someone presently on my radar, and that opportunity is a forked path: on the one hand I can censor myself, act the way I imagine a normal girl acts, be generically pretty and pleasant but tone down the weird; on the other hand I can be me and do the crazy grand shit that I do, the stuff that will either lose me someone entirely cuz I'm a fuckin' weirdo or firmly seal me in their heart for the exact same reason.
Maybe if I cared about the outcome of things more than I enjoy the process of following my dopamine it'd be different. Maybe I'd be scared, play it safer, think who the fuck do I think I am, hold back. But this is my art. I'd be depriving myself of my own creativity if I chose not to do the things that I love in the sincere attempt to bring someone -- and myself -- pleasure. So when someone I want to fuck asks me to send video, it's just way more interesting to me to make art porn than just switch on a webcam. That's probably weird, but it's me. And it's better to know sooner rather than later whether someone's into that or not. (On the plus side, I also learned how to edit video, so, there's that.)
As I've said before, it is better to be available to the right person than in a relationship with the wrong one, and as a primary-oriented non-monogamist, I only need one person to get me, appreciate me, and love me for who I am (with the option for more should they show up). I could easily have a thousand people love me for who I am not. I could easily have a guy shove a ring on my finger and then start cheating on me five years in because no one taught him how to relate, because relationships are seen these days as an end state rather than a journey or an art form. I don't want that.
Earlier this week, I balked in fear at the idea of learning something new, because learning felt unsafe. That's not cool. I didn't recognize myself in that moment. I'm undoing that now. I'm done apologizing for myself, belittling myself, and feeling that my sincere desire to cultivate pleasure with a person I love somehow makes me a liability. That's easier to write than it is to do, but here I am, and it's a start.