Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Relationships

Reflection and Projection

One of the frustrating aspects of all this predatory men bullshit is how ardent and vigorous randos will defend a man they don’t know. It’s not just with the famous predators, either. It’s in real life, too. Many women have had the experience of trying to explain why they’ve uncomfortable around a man they know for maybe inchoate reasons, and the man they’re explaining it to gives a hundred reasons why the guy is acting the way he is. The reasons may make sense on the surface, but there’s a ‘yeah, but’ feeling inside the woman as she’s listening that she can’t squelch no matter how hard she tries.

I realized a long time ago that the reason some guys are quick to defend questionable behavior is because they can put themselves more easily in the shoes of the man than they can the shoes of the woman. It doesn’t matter if the woman is wearing pumps, flats, or heels, they’re still shoes the man has never worn. Even sneakers, as they’re smaller and tighter and–OK, I’ve taken this metaphor as far as I possible can. They hear about a man catcalling a woman on the street, and they think, “Hey, I’ve talked to a woman on the street before. I’m not a bad guy. Maybe that random guy isn’t a bad guy, either.”

There was a post at Ask A Manager by a woman who was pretty sure a coworker was hitting on her, but wasn’t sure how she should turn him down since he never actually issued an invitation. He didn’t work in the same division (if I remember correctly), but he was above her in rank. They were out of town at a conference, and they had gone out for drinks with coworkers once and another time with friends of her (it was her hometown, I think). The letter writer (LW) includes texts in which the coworker pushes to do things in private and she gives him ‘soft’ nos in various of ways. Reading the texts, it’s clear to me he’s hitting on her, and she’s politely declining.

Predictably, some people picked apart what the LW texted and did (going out to drinks with the coworker and her friends) without concentrating on how he escalated his requests despite her soft nos, even to the point of suggesting she change her flight to a later time so she could watch a game with him! She said no, she was going to stick to her plans, but it shouldn’t have had to come that far. There was far too much focus on what she should and shouldn’t have done, but thankfully, there were people also pushing back on it. They said it was a shame that women couldn’t be friendly to men without being taken as flirtatious.

Continue Reading

Getting My Freak On

I’ve mentioned my love for my stories over at Captain Awkward and Ask A Manager. One reason I’m addicted is because I don’t interact with the world at large very much, and it’s a way to gauge how weird I am against two communities that are more similar than not to my personal leanings. CA is way more left-leaning than is AAM, but both are more progressive than the country in general. In addition, both are filled with passionate, thoughtful commenters (and have strict commenting rules), and even when I don’t agree with someone, I can usually come away with something to think about.

What do I mean about the weirdness? I’ll give you an example. There was a letter at AAM from someone who played a ‘prank’ of locking her (AAM uses the generic she/her unless otherwise noted in the letter) coworker on a balcony right before an important meeting in which the coworker was presenting something. He was let out (phrasing hers. It appears she didn’t let him out), and he waited until after the meeting to go ballistic on her, pulling her away from a client and telling her he would kill her if she ever did that again. The OP (original poster/letter writer) took great pains to say that they had a jokey relationship before this, and asked what she should do now.

My immediate reaction was that it was a malicious thing to do, especially before a presentation, and that she should take her blaming tone and shove it. She was framing the letter as if she had done this silly little thing and look at how he overreacted!!!!! Now, him grabbing her and threatening her is not cool. At all. I am saying that upfront. However, what she called a prank is not cool, either. She locked him on the balcony, not knowing if he might have issues with being out in the open for a long period of times, heights, or not having an escape. Two, she did it right before an important meeting in which he had a presentation. He might have been thinking he would miss the meeting, and that would have been an unpleasant feeling as well. Three, apparently, she wasn’t the one who let him in.

I was really disturbed by how she minimized her own behavior only to focus on his. There were plenty of people on my side, but there were also plenty of people saying the prank was probably innocent, and the coworker really overreacted. I’m not defending his behavior because there is no place for grabbing/threatening, but I can at least see where that behavior is coming from. I have much less sympathy for the OP because who the hell pulls a childish ‘prank’ like that? Apparently, many people, according to the comments.

An interesting difference between the two commentariats is that there are several ‘out’ polyamorous people at CA, and it definitely puts a different spin on relationship-related woes. The commentariat at AAM is very harsh against people who have affairs–both the partner who is married and the other person. Over at CA, the common belief is that it’s the person who’s married who has the contract with their partner, and they are responsible for keeping it. The other person isn’t obligated to honor the marriage and as people are not possessions, should not be the target of anger/ire. At AAM, there is a sizable portion of the commentariat who believe that if you help someone cheat on their partner, you are a terrible person, period. They liken it to being the driver of a getaway car for a bank robber–yeah, you didn’t rob the bank, but you’re helping the person who did.


Continue Reading

Wish I May, Wish I Might

I’ve been going down the rabbit hole in the archives of Captain Awkward and Ask A Manager, and I recently realized it’s because they’re my version of soap operas. I don’t mean that in a denigrating way because there are real people writing those letters and real people commenting. I mean it in the sense of watching the communities interact is fascinating from a psychological perspective, and it’s now my joke if only to myself that it’s time to hush up because my stories are on. In addition, it’s interesting to feel like I have a handle on someone’s personality just by reading a lot of their comments, at least the regulars–and it’s always exciting to spot a crossover. It’s reached the point where I can read a comment and think, “I bet so-and-so wrote this” and usually be right. This is both the plus and minus of having a dedicated community–and the reason I usually move on from a website after a few years. I’ve moved on and they haven’t, but that’s another post for another day.

The Awkward Army (the self-given name for the Captain Awkward commentariat) is aces in supporting someone who is in a bad relationship. They are mindful of reasons why she (and it’s usually a she) may not be ready/be able to leave, but they’re supportive of her as a person. They remind her not to let her partner gaslight her or point out the strengths they see in her from the letter she’s written (or even just the fact that she wrote the letter in the first place), and if I ever needed to break up with someone, they would be the first online community I would seek.

However, one thing that bothers me is this. Oftentimes, the letter writer (LW) will say something like, “This is the only person who will tolerate/love me because I’m so weird.” They will rush in to reassure her that of course this isn’t the only person who’ll love her and offer stories of how they once thought that way and now are with the loves of their lives. Once in a while, someone will say, “Even if you don’t find someone, it’s better to be alone that with someone who makes you feel like shit all the time” which I really appreciate because well-meaning or not, the constant reassurance of you’ll find someone else is bullshit. For many people, this is true. But, for some, it isn’t.

I am one of those people. I’ve been in several relationships in my life, and I have not yet found someone who will tolerate/love me for the weird, fucked-up person I am, and it’s been five or six years since I’ve dated someone. There are a whole host of reasons for that, but I’m not sanguine that if I started dating again, I’d find someone whose luggage was complementary to mine (thanks, BFF for that description!). I don’t want to fall into Geek Relationship Fallacy (#5), but it’s hard not to feel with my particular combination of likes/dislikes, wants/do not wants, hobbies, etc., the chance of me finding a long-term partner is slim.

Continue Reading

Love in the Time of Stubbornness

I’ve been thinking lately a lot about dating. Why? I don’t really know, but I’ve discussed it with friends to try to puzzle out my feelings. I’ve written before about how I realized in my early twenties that I didn’t want children. That’s also roughly the same time I realized I was sexually attracted to women as well as men. In my late twenties, early thirties, I decided I didn’t want to get married. It’s only recently that I’ve questioned whether I want to be an a monogamous dyad relationship or not. I’ve been in an open relationship before, but it was more because that’s what my boyfriend wanted than because we both agreed, so I don’t really count it when calculating my metrics about what I want from a relationship. I also realized in my mid-twenties that I was more comfortable with casual sex  than are many women, but I didn’t really know what to do with it.

Now, I’m questioning whether I want a traditional romantic relationship or not. I’ve been reading a shit-ton of Captain Awkward, and I must admit that the letters she gets makes me very disinclined to date. Intellectually, I understand that she’s seeing the worst of the worst because you don’t write to an advice columnist if your relationship is peachy keen. However, the steady stream of women (let’s face it. A vast majority of the emotional labor done in a heteronormative relationship is done by the woman) writing in with horror stories that curl the very straight Asian hairs on the back of my neck confirm my bias for just snuggling down on the couch with a good book, a mug of tea, and my cat instead of venturing into the dating world.

I hate dating. I always have. I know most people don’t love it, but I hate it to the point of revulsion. I don’t like making small talk with people I know, let alone people I don’t, and there’s the possibility of rejection constantly hovering in the back of my mind. It’s hard to not feel as if I’m auditioning for the role of girlfriend, and it’s only recently that I’ve realized I have veto rights in a relationship, too. In other words, I’m not just auditioning for them–they’re doing the same for me. Even so, the thought of having awkward  conversation with someone while sipping coffee makes me cringe. When I used to meet people online for dating (read, sex) purposes, I was very comfortable with the emailing portion of the ‘courting’. I’m a writer, and my strength is in my words. I can be witty, vibrant, intelligent, and fearless in my writing. It’s quite different when I actually open my mouth. It’s the same with me and my Twitter persona. No, I’m not being someone different, but I’m being a more confident, more brash me. I’m sure if people on Twitter met me in real life, they would be slightly (or not so slightly) disappointed that I wasn’t as dynamic as I am online. Also weird–I swear way more in writing than I do in real life.

The real me is low-key to the point of inertia. I have low energy, and it takes a great deal for me to do something that it outside my norm. Take going out dancing with my bestie, for example (when she used to live here). We would set a day to go to First Ave. I’d be up for it when we set the date. Then, when the day arrived, I would think, “I don’t want to get dressed and leave the house. I have to drive to bestie’s house, which, ugh. Then, I have to dance around people I don’t know and maybe fend off unwanted advances. Then, I’d have to drive home again in the wee hours of the night.” I didn’t want to do any of it in the moment, and I’d have to force myself step by step. I had a great time when I went, and I love spending time with my bestie, but my depression makes it seem like going out is a mountain when it’s really a molehill.


Continue Reading

Memories Are Sometimes Best Left Remembered

I’m on a mission to winnow out my mounds of books, and I started weeding through them today. It can be a strange thing to look at a bunch of books that I labeled my favorites and realize that I’ve moved past many of them. There are others that I still think of fondly, but many of them I put in the give away pile. The unofficial ratio seems to be one book kept for every eight or nine I’m giving away. One bad thing about books is that they were made with cheap material back in the day, so they can get moldy or grimy and feel tacky.

Anyway, I was going through a box of books, and I came across a few cards from an ex. I scanned them, and they were filled with billing and cooing, and I felt…nothing. That’s not exactly true. I felt a bit of regret, disgust, and shame. The regret wasn’t that we had broken up, though, but that we had hooked up in the first place. We were both messed up, and we were friends first. We shouldn’t have gotten together, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. In addition, because I was with him, there was a path not taken that I deeply regret. I was musing about it on Twitter last night because, well, sit back and grab a cold beverage. This is going to be unwieldy because that’s the way my brain works.

I was waxing poetic about how Mike Ness from Social Distortion would have terrified the 22-year old me, but that’s he’s insanely hot. It reminded me of a bartender I had met while I lived in the East Bay who looked a lot like Mike Ness with tats and nipple piercings to match. He was one of the hottest guys I’d ever met in my life. We hit it off, and he asked me out. Unfortunately, I was dating the aforementioned ex, and while we were technically open*, we had to talk about it before doing it. I turned the Mike Ness lookalike down with deep regrets, and I was tweeting about how one of my biggest regrets was that I never fucked him. The bartender, I mean. Mike Ness, too, but that was never an option. We probably wouldn’t have lasted, but my god, he was so fucking hot.


Continue Reading

Romance? Bah, Humbug!

I’ve been thinking a lot about romantic relationships lately, in part because I’ve been reading a shit-ton of the Captain Awkward’s archives, and it’s not surprising that she focuses heavily on fucked-up romantic relationships. She’s a woman, and most of the people who write in are women. I see myself in many of the letter writers, and who among us has not found herself in a relationship thinking, “What the fuck am I doing here?” And, even acknowledging how fucked-up it is, have stayed? I’m sure most of us can relate to this, and it’s the bulk of Captain Awkward’s letters. Sure, there are some letter writers who truly have incompatibilities with their partners, but it’s mostly that they’re in a toxic relationship and are trying to either convince themselves that they are bad partners who just need to work harder/grow up/be more generous, etc., or they’re trying to convince themselves to leave. The latest letter on fucked-up relationships hits Captain Awkward BINGO, and it’s fucking depressing. She thinks she needs to work harder? B! She thinks she needs to grow up? I! He treats her with disdain (‘accidentally’ giving away her clothing when he was donating his is the most egregious example)? N! He controls her to a ridiculous degree and makes her feel like she’s the controlling one? G! Is she sneaking around in secret to do her laundry? O–wait a fucking minute. She’s sneaking around to do her laundry in secret because he gets mad. Not that she’s not doing his, but that she doesn’t wait until he deigns to do hers (and ruins it when he does it which is just short of never). That’s B-I-N-Get the hell-Out of there!

Captain Awkward is wonderful as an advice columnist. She gets right to the point, but she shows endless compassion for the letter writers. She gives great scripts for difficult situations, and her GIF game is on point. I know she gets burned out from all the shittiness she reads (understandably), but she doesn’t let it show in her answers. One thing she’s pushing  back on is the idea that relationships take work. Or rather, the kind of work they take. In another letter, the letter writer (LW) details all the recent problems and how her girlfriends are like, “At least you have a boyfriend”, when it’s clear that he’s just not into her any longer, and Captain Awkward said this:

There’s this Hollywood & Glossy Magazine narrative we have that privileges having a (heterosexual) relationship over being alone (no matter the quality of the relationship) and that puts it on the woman to do the emotional work of keeping the relationship together by having the big serious talks and speaking up about feelings and stuff. And I use the word “work” on purpose. We hear that “relationships take work” and what they mean is “women’s work” – the work of reading magazine quizzes and carrying the emotional water and looking pretty all the time and finding ways to “drive him wild” in bed and cooking new recipes and making excuses.

The commentariat is all over it, saying it shouldn’t be work in the ‘I hate my job and have to do it’ kind of way, and it should be work that both partners participate in.

Continue Reading

Emotional Labor and Why I’m Resigning

I’ve been thinking lately about romantic relationships and why I’m terrible at them. This is not me being too hard on me–this is objectively true. I haven’t been in one in six years, but I doubt I’ve changed that much in the meantime. Actually, I have changed quite a bit, but it’s still my bugaboo. Here are some of the major things I’ve put up with:

  1. Being lied to by an ex who said he had broken up with his last partner before I came into the picture. When I found out it wasn’t true and confronted the ex, he said he had opened the relationship, even though the other woman wasn’t happy about it. I’m not sure it was open except in his mind, but even so, it’s not the good way to do polyamory. Even later, I discovered that this person suggested opening the relationship specifically to date me, which made it even more suspect as he had been my best friend up until that point. We broke up and got back together more than once. He wanted to date me and his ‘ex’ at the same time, but then put his foot down when I started dating someone else. We ended up monogamous, but I’m pretty sure he was messing around with the ‘ex’ on the side.
  2. Being told by another ex that he wanted to open the relationship, and then he freaked out when I became interested in someone else. Dumped me because he wanted to be open and I didn’t (in the end), and then found out from reading his LiveJournal that he found my love ‘so tiring’ which was never mentioned once in the four years together. I got the last laugh, though, when he wanted to be monogamous with their next girlfriend, and she dumped him for the other guy she was dating.
  3. This one is complicated. I became involved with a couple. He went abroad, and she and I started dating. She had a problem with alcohol, and I had to drag her out of the Gay 90’s (sic) (gay club) because she was acting so obnoxious, one guy told me to get her out before she got herself in trouble. I dragged her to my car, and she started fumbling with the door as I was driving. I screeched to a halt, and she puked (thankfully, after opening the door). When we got to her apartment, I dragged her upstairs and deposited her on the couch and sat with her for half an hour. I made sure she was breathing before leaving. In addition, she stopped the sex once she started feeling guilty (though she and her boyfriend were open), but then would tease about what she would love to do to me even though she wouldn’t do it.
  4. Emotional abuse and the very real fear of physical abuse with a healthy side dish of gaslighting.

Any of those should have been deal-breakers, but they weren’t. At the core, it was about the fact that I had absorbed the idea that I should be with someone at any cost, that I was not worthy of someone better, and that I should be grateful that someone, anyone would want to date me.


Continue Reading