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I am generally a kind person, especially around matters of sex and gender and sexuality, so if someone came up to me and said, “I’ve changed. I thought I was this and now I’m that,” I would be gentle. I would listen carefully, paying attention to cues about how they were feeling about the change in question, and I would support them in that change. Such things can be fluid, and second-guessing our feelings can be disastrous, and it’s okay to not know, or to suddenly know more than you did before. It’s okay, I’d say, people change.
And yet, I am being downright mean to myself these days, about my own sexuality and how it has changed, both in the past and also really recently. It’s still fresh. My head is still spinning.
In the last year, I swung from enthusiastically non-monogamous (using the sailor-in-every-port model) to a deliberate, chosen devotion to only one (as part of a power dynamic that thrills me to my core). Before that, I had slowly slid along the orientation axis from a butch, bearded dyke (20 years ago) to today’s tomboy-femme, clean-shaven babygirl, who has been attracted exclusively to cisgender men for the past 15 years.
And even while I feel deep satisfaction and profound joy and breath-taking excitement more than I ever have about my sex life, I can’t shake the feeling that I have failed. I don’t even know if that is a transitive or intransitive verb, like, do I need to specify someone or some cause that I’ve let down, or have I just, you know, failed?
I don’t know where this comes from. Maybe a sense that, because my stuff has slid more toward heteronormative, I just can’t speak from the margins anymore. Where am I getting that from? No one has ever said that to me. Do people actually say that? Would they? What would I say in response? Am I scared of being called a poser, a sell-out?
My tingling sense of unease is heightened because I generally have lived so publicly. For years, my sex life has been all out there for the world to see, both in life and in my art. But maybe, if no one ever knew that I ID’d as a lesbian those many years ago, then heteronormativity would ensure that no one would spend any time thinking about who I am now. There would be no change to notice or comment on.
Ditto the poly thing. After years of trying monogamy and tripping up repeatedly, I was DIGGING INTO THE BANQUET, I tell you. I went out on dates, and wrote bold lyrical status updates, and made a concerted effort to give full disclosure to new and potential suitors. I was IN IT, up to my fucking armpits. This is the way I prefer it; in general, I don’t like to hide things. The way I am with my one lover now feels right, but I can’t help thinking that if I had kept my personal life more, well, personal, then my current practice of cleaving to one man only wouldn’t feel like such a major break.
It’s the damnedest thing. I still feel queer as fuck and poly as hell, at least in theory. People still look at me, or listen to me, and make all kinds of assumptions, most of which were true at some point in the past. But I don’t see any of it in my life anymore. I followed my bliss, and this is where it has taken me: into a pool of quiet intensity that, to the outside observer, at least, looks "normal."
Why do I even care what I look like? None of those things that have been part of my identify are contingent on behavior or appearances anyway, right? There are lesbians who have never yet touched a woman, there are poly people who still call themselves poly after years of being in a monogamous relationship, there are trans people still with the genitals they were born with. It’s what’s in your head and in your heart.
At least, that is what I’d say to someone who came to me with this kind of story. And it’s the right advice. It’s the right understanding of the fluidity of human sexuality. Fluidity is the right word.
My desires feel like currents; sometimes they have rushed along until I almost drown in them, and sometimes they stir, still but deep. I wouldn’t want to fight them, nor do I want to deny everything that got me to this point, because I really do like where I’ve been and I like where I am now. I just wish I could internalize it for myself a lot faster.
REPEAT TO MYSELF UNTIL I BELIEVE IT: I haven’t failed anyone, not even myself. I’m just good at feeling and riding the flow.
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My newest show is having its world premiere on Friday, June 11. After Montreal I'll be taking nerdfucker to fringe festivals across Canada, a few select US locations, and then I'll bring it to the UK in 2017. For now, enjoy and share!
I groaned when she gave me his name and number. I don’t know what to do for this guy, I said.
“Don’t ask him any questions,” said the dispatcher. “Just go straight into a story, something basic, a blow-job or girl-on-top.”
My own sparse notes about him say something different—ANAL, in big bold caps—which only underscores my point. But how do any of us know that we’re doing it right?
“We don’t,” and I can almost hear the dispatcher shrugging as she says it. “Are you ready?”
I say yes, but in my head I’m thinking, NOOOOO.
Doing phone sex with someone who won’t speak is one challenge, but doing it with someone who can’t speak is an entirely different and more frustrating matter. This caller has Parkinson’s disease, apparently, and it’s advanced enough that he can’t articulate well at all.
I googled around on Parkinson’s and sex, and all I got were stories about how some kinds of medicine used to treat the disease can lead to a rise in compulsive behaviors, including sex. I think I was googling the wrong thing, but I don’t know how to phrase this question with search-term conciseness: how do I discover what this client really wants and likes when I can’t see him and can’t understand his speech? It's not actually a question about Parkinson's, it's about working around serious gaps in our ability to communicate.
If we had a rapport built up, I could probably ask him to play the 20 questions game, with grunts for yes/no, but we don’t have that relationship, and he is not shy about hanging up when he gets annoyed, which ... I get and don't get. I mean, surely he must know by now that many people find his speech difficult to understand, especially over the phone? Maybe not.
And knowing something like that doesn't make it any less frustrating. I can imagine that the yes/no approach feels condescending. Maybe it really bothers him. Personally, if people had a hard time understanding me, but I really wanted to get off, I think I’d be relieved if someone proposed a simple non-verbal method of getting to that outcome, but I don’t know. Maybe I’d just be pissed all the time.
The first time I spoke with this caller, I made the rookie error of asking him an open-ended question and I didn’t understand a single word he said. (I don’t know where the ANAL note came from, but it wasn’t from him.) Since then, he frequently does talk to me, at the beginning of the call, but generally stops after I get rolling into whatever narrative I’ve chosen for the call.
We go the full length of time that he’s purchased, usually, but I can’t tell whether he’s come—his breathing is normally pretty labored—and there is no goodbye, just the prolonged noisy clatter of hanging up the phone when one’s fine motor skills have gotten blunted. To be honest, I have a few other callers who barely give me more than this. But they are at least able to say yes or no.
Since this caller doesn’t normally hang up when I launch right into a randomly chosen narrative/position/activity, I suppose that’s passive consent. He wouldn’t keep calling the company back if the service he gets wasn’t working for him. Whatever doubts or anxieties I have about doing calls with him, however much I wish I could get more clarity about what he wants, in the end I have to accept that those are about my needs, which are not the actual point. The actual point is what he needs, which I will never know for sure.
It burns, and it’s not just about wanting to make this caller’s experience better. This is a blow to my professional pride. I like that I know how to get to people’s hot buttons. I think that I know how to do this with just about any caller. It’s a skill, and I have it, but it is of no use here, with this caller.
I will always have to stumble clumsily through a monologue that I don’t know is actually wanted. I will never know.
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This article starts off with the following:
“Sex is hot. But wouldn't it be even hotter if sex could make you, well... hotter?”
GARRRRGH. BODY-POSITIVE SEX ACTIVIST HULK SMASH.
Everyone knows what “hotter” means here—thinner, more toned but not too muscle-y—which, you know, only makes me want to take that idea and kill it and then cook it for 10 hours with some garlic and eat it on a soft taco. That is the ONLY way I am ever going to swallow the concept of objective hotness: when it’s dead and made tasty with guacamole and sour cream.
This article makes subtle use of one particularly terrible motif in mainstream sex tips: introducing feelings of self-loathing in the act of sex. Yes, you may be getting laid, but you could definitely stand “to get hotter,” because everyone could and everyone should want to. You may be knocking hotel headboards off the wall with the hottest, nastiest sex of your life, but don’t get too confident there: you are NOT HOT ENOUGH.
And then our puritanical origins pop up. Why do we want to keep making sex “useful”? Why do we need to keep finding excuses to be doing it? I’ll tell you why: because we are not hot enough to deserve hot sex. WE HAVE TO SUFFER FOR IT.
I already shredded an article very like this last fall, so I don’t want to spend too much time on this iteration. It brings back many of the same positions—planking, yoga bridge, standing—and adds in lunging for a bonus round of exercises that should never be performed on top of your lover.
Lunging! You know what I’m talking about! One foot forward, the other leg extended to the back, and then you just do that and hopefully get low enough that your bits will get tickled in some meaningful way. Your partner’s dick would have to be SUPER LONG in order to get anything good from this. Or you will have to lunge super low. Good luck. Don’t fall over!
Part of me wants to drop this whole trend of sex-as-exercise into the lap of one of my exercise-fanatic friends and say, hey, try these out for me just to confirm that this is at least as ridiculous as it seems on paper. Another part of me wants to flip the script, do an article about how to make exercises at the gym sexual! Our culture is more in need of bringing sexy back than inserting exercise virtue into every goddamn activity. And a lot of gym stuff is already halfway there, with the grunting and the sweating, and the repetitive bouncing and squatting. So what might that article include?
- Add Kegels to EVERYTHING! Try not to get tangled up on the elliptical trainer.
- Plank-Dom(me) mash-up. Hold that pose at least two minutes with your master or mistress sitting on you and spanking your ass.
- Treadmill strut. Don’t set the speed too fast. You’re not trying to cover ground, you’re trying to fill that air space WITH YOUR BOOTY.
See? This way at least makes the gym more fun. In the reverse direction, you’re subtracting joy from sex. Sex tips that encourage you to concentrate more on the look of your core muscles than the feel of your CUNT muscles are, by definition, terrible.
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He and I make time for at least one coffee chat every time I pass through his town, sometimes even a work date, if we can swing it. It’s rejuvenating like whoa. He is both peer and good friend, a rare combination that means we can enjoy each other’s artistic triumphs with unjealous joy. I can tell him personal truths that make me cry, and I know that if I follow the story with a sort of shaky “that would make a great play, huh?”, he won’t think less of me. And though we work in different fields, we can share bits and pieces of our working lives that are similar enough to be useful.
On my most recent visit, he was telling me about the film he had co-written that had done well at a kinda big-deal film festival. There was one late-night showing, but it was full. Industry people offered actual industry opportunities to my friend and his writing partner; it was great, he said.
But the moment that stood out for him was when the entire theatre erupted in laughter at a joke he had written. My friend’s face got all soft in a way that had nothing to do with the can of beer he was cradling. That joke was his baby, you could tell. “There was plenty else in the movie that I had done,” he said, “but that was my favorite bit. I wrote that joke myself, and they loved it… if I do nothing else creative in my life, I will always have that moment.”
He was quick to say how weird it was, to feel so strongly about one little joke, but I thought, no, that’s not weird at all. And as he smiled and glowed in that remembered moment, I thought how such moments are essential for artists to have.
Look, we all know—even if we’re still struggling with the how-to's—that business is important, the hustle and the grind, the planning and visioning. We know, too, or we’re learning, how to bring forth the art, to get good at the craft. All of this takes work, and I’m willing to do it. But I can’t lose sight of my own moments, when I know that my work is affecting someone, deeply, when I know that I’m on the right track:
- That one time in 2010, in Winnipeg, where an audience member spoke out for the first time during Phone Whore. That freaked you out, didn’t it, I say toward the end, and someone answered, from the audience, “YES.”
- The first time I told my story, about a caller who probably passed away, at Stand-Up Tragedy in London. The room was quiet while my voice cracked.
- The time two women came up to me after a performance of the lesbian monologue from The Pretty One. "That was us,” said the one, while the other woman clutched her hand and grinned and wiped away tears.
It’s not weird to hang onto those memories. It’s essential. Because while hitting one’s Patreon goals or getting good reviews or running these Fringe marathons are important and perhaps necessary objective outcomes, they are not what keeps me going. They’re external, and therefore not enough to fuel the fire.
I need the feeling that suffuses my bones when I see that my work has landed and stuck. I want that vibration that passes between my soul and someone else’s. I want to look out at a particularly challenging point in a play, and find someone’s eyes on me, focused and intent. They want to see, even thought it’s hard.
There are moments like that, and my friend’s story reminded me to keep those strong in my memory, to not dismiss them just because I can’t put them down in my artist CV or quote them on a poster or trade them in for money. Because when there is no real way to know whether or not I’m “doing it right,” then at least I have this to set my creative compass by.
“Follow your bliss” ain’t just for hippies.
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He used to be a regular. He could still be a regular, except I’m not. Regular, that is. My schedule is all over the place for six or seven months out of the year, when I’m touring, and so any regulars I found in my first year, when I was on at least 15 hours a day, every day… well, I had a lot, and I lost most of them. I don’t know if they went to other companies, or just kept it to evenings with my current company, but if they had kept requesting me, they probably stopped after a couple of months. I would imagine it's just too depressing after a while to keep trying.
So I don’t get this guy but maybe once every couple of months now, when I happen to be on and he happens to be off work, but I still greet him by the nickname we settled on back in the beginning. It’s in parentheses at the top of his card: Daisy.
I remember that negotiation very well. I was just getting to know him and his fantasy. Lots of cock-sucking, with him in the role of greedy “tranny” slut (his word, not mine), but he put a surprising amount of energy and thought into selecting his outfits, or rather, he wanted me to select his outfits for him. His calls were my introduction to the idea of costuming not just as an element of setting, but also an arena in which I could begin laying down the power dynamic.
So we’re going to the police station, are we?
“If that's all right, mistress.”
Well, we gotta put some clothes on you first, I mean, I can’t very well parade you naked down the streets.
As much as you’d probably like that, you show-offy little bitch.
You do like it when people stare at you, don’t you.?
Well, then, let’s give ‘em something really good to look at.
And so we did a whole wardrobe assessment: tramp or pretty princess? Oh, a bit of a princess, eh? Then we’ll take the lacy white top with the pink bra underneath. But down-home style, that means the denim micro-mini. What kind of panties? No no, thongs are trashy, Daisy, we’ll get something pretty and pink to match the bra.
I want to keep you looking sweet, I told the caller that first day The first man to get into that tight pussy of yours is going to be paying extra to keep the panties as a trophy, so let’s make them something worth framing and putting on the fucking wall.
“What shoes should I wear?”
Oh, honey, it doesn’t matter. Once we get you in the office there at the station, you won’t be on your feet long enough for that to matter.
After we got him through the five-minute wardrobe discussion, and 8 or 9 minutes with every single male officer at the station that day—some back for seconds and thirds, with an emphasis on the better-equipped African-American policemen—I said, Your (male) name makes no sense for what we’re doing together. I’m gonna give you a new one, for when you work for me.
He was still coming out of his head space, so his laugh started out as a giggle and then dropped down. “That sounds perfect.”
I guess I’m a little surprised that it stuck with him, given the irregularity of our contact. But when I greet him that way, after a gap of three months, there’s no denying how quickly his voice gets higher.
What have you been up to, you little whore?
“Nothing, mistress. I save it for you.”
I don't mind his little lies. It's the thought that counts.
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I have a little bit of custom textile art in an embroidery hoop; it reads “HOME IS WHERE THE KEY FITS.” I commissioned the piece two or three years ago, in what I now recognize was a fit of trying to make myself feel better about my itinerant lifestyle, of ramping myself up to feel stronger and more empowered and choiceful in what felt like a forever-on-tour life.
As everyone knows, putting a belief down in a cross-stitch sampler or some other displayable textile medium doubles the Don’t-Give-A-Fuck factor, and of course putting an anti-home sentiment into a medium that implies having a home to hang it in, well, the irony was perfect and I was feeling a little militant, and so it made sense.
Since I lacked any set physical home space, then yes, home would have to be where I laid my head at night. Whilst touring, I never have the same bed for more than a week or two in a row, so I had to say it to myself in order to keep coming to terms with it. HOME IS WHERE THE KEY FITS.
I made home where I could find it. Fuck the nuclear-family, stack-of-plates, well-filled-spice-rack life. That wasn’t for people like me, I thought, and so I said “fuck you” and commissioned the piece and silently cursed my travel kitchen kit and hardened myself to never knowing how those strange pillows would work out for my neck. Who cares. I don’t need home. Hell, I don’t even want it.
Except maybe…. Just maybe I did. I was slowly realizing over the past few years, maybe home was something that I hadn’t figured out. When I finally met someone who I could actually imagine nesting with again—not just imagine it, but crave it—when I looked around at other artists and thought, wait, they have home bases, how do they do that? They are mostly independently wealthy, but hey, that’s just circumstance, I can catch up, right? These were thoughts I had.
These aren’t just random thoughts, though. Recently I have been feeling my entire inside landscape shifting around this concept of home. It feels weird, like there's a new and necessary organ growing inside me, and my body is trying to make room for it. I’m growing a second heart, and it needs room. It needs a home. It needs an actual place with this other actual specific person where I can rest at night. I can’t be blasé about it anymore. That’s just what I need.
I’ve known this, but I didn’t know it until this last weekend, when I had to unpack the storage pod that I had packed over four years ago. I sat on the floor, in my partner's house, surrounded by the flotsam of lives I thought I wanted, vestiges of homes that eventually became husks of themselves in the face of lives unshared. These were my dreams of domesticity, drifts of dishes and cookbooks and funky linens and my one piece of art, domestic goddess, she hasn’t had a wall to hang on in four years. I looked at it all, and sifted through it, and got into multiple arguments with my partner, because we're trying to disentangle and separate and he has his own hurts and grievances around that whole process, but I’m the one writing this, so I just kept on looking through and leaking tears the whole time.
In spite of that grief reflex, I knew that I didn't want the lives that went with this stuff. A lot of it was passed on, or will be donated out. I was ready to let it go. But I saved a few bits and bobs, and packed them up in boxes, and I’ve shipped them off to the UK to await my arrival, and then the domestic goddess will once again have her world.
Home is where the key fits, yes. (Otherwise it’s breaking and entering.) But that’s not enough for me anymore. Home is where the spice rack is shared. Home is where my fancy red bedspread will go, on a bed warmed by two. Yes, sometimes I'll still be on tour, but I know there will be space there for that as well. Because home is where my second heart, my creative, loving soul, will have room to thrive.
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