Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Shut Up about Your Penis (Boundaries and Good Guys, Self-Proclaimed and Otherwise)

My boundary lines have been stepped on and crushed into oblivion so many times that I have built them into walls. The only way to get across how non-negotiable my boundaries are seems to be to let men run into them. Typically, they ignore my stating my boundaries, my warnings when I feel uncomfortable. They ignore every clear statement that they exist, seeming convinced that they alone hold some magic power that will force my boundaries to crumble before their greatness. They want to hold the key to my heart, so therefore in their addled mind my boundaries don’t apply to them.

Let’s take this example from a Tinder date I went on a while back:

I got home from a Tinder first date that involved watching our mutual childhood favorite musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, at his place, only to find text messages about how turned on he was and how hard his penis was. And I wasn’t happy about it.

you can lookMe: I mean, it was fun kissing you. Really fun. But trust me, if I wanted to know the current state of your penis I’d ask.
Him: Oh don’t be like that
Me: What, having boundaries?
Him: No, just don’t be so shy
Me: That’s not being shy
Him: Well sorry I’m so open thought you’d like it
So here he’s positioned the situation not as I have boundaries and he’s broaching them, but rather that he’s open and I’m by comparison closed. Open is deemed superior, and I’m somehow inhibited, and it’s up to him to open me up and get me to not “be like that.”

Let me make this very clear: The least inhibited thing you can do is to respect and name your own boundaries. That is the ultimate way to honor yourself as a sexual being.

Unfortunately I didn't have a fork.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a fork.

When I say I don’t want to hear about your penis, I mean it. That doesn’t mean I’m shy or sexually inhibited. It means I don’t want to hear about your penis. I had had a nice evening. There was some hand holding, a little bit of kissing. I moved his hand a few times when it roved to places I didn’t want it to go. But all in all, a nice time.

However, I wasn’t at a place where I wanted to know about his arousal.

If I’m not at a place where I’m comfortable talking about intimate things with you, then pressing me to do so is only going to make me more uncomfortable. Attempting to manipulate me into doing so shows a total disregard for my feelings and my needs in light of your own desires and priorities. He did this several times, not seeming to realize that it wasn’t complimentary that he felt the need to tell me how turned on I make him but rather threatening that he cared so little about my boundaries in conversation. If he’s this dismissive via text, how bad did this have the potential to get in person if I went on a second date with him?

I should’ve realized this before this first date. When I had asked him if I should dress nicely or more casually, and he said t-shirt and panties.

I replied: You get that I’m not coming over to sleep with you right?
Him: Yes I know you’re not coming to spend the night or sleep with me if that’s what you meant
Me: Yes
Him: I’m actually a good dude, you’ll see
Him: You mean seven brides for seven brothers isn’t a hint for sex? Lol
Me: You mean comments about my panties aren’t hints for sex?
Him: Was a joke! Sorry thought you saw it that way
Me: I get that you’re kidding, but when it’s someone you don’t know, it comes across as kind of like you have expectations or particular intentions but are trying to mitigate them with humor
Him: I get that and sorry, promise no expectations or intentions or plans other than watching a musical that I’ve known since I was like 7

it's not easy having a good time
The first date struggle is real.

I find it intimidating when someone assumes, or even implies, that I’m going to sleep with them. Suddenly a date is less about enjoying getting to know someone and seeing what happens and more about worrying if I’m sending the wrong signals, even if I’ve clearly spelled out my intentions for the evening, or how I’ll respond if and when he makes me uncomfortable again. I stop getting to function as a human being and become a sex object trying to regain her humanity.

If you care more about me as a sex object than you do about me as a person who needs to feel heard, to feel safe, then you’re not a good guy.  Too often in my experience, when I call a guy out for objectifying me or making sexual jokes or comments that make me uncomfortable, the default comment is “but I’m a good guy.”

Correction: In real life, the self proclaimed good guy is frequently an entitled prick.
Correction: In real life, the self proclaimed good guy is frequently an entitled prick.

The “Good guy” identifier is an excuse to say whatever and then defend their delusions of what it means to be respectful using a self-applied label of who they think they “actually” are. “Good guy”-ness gets treated like a get out of jail free card. It’s a way of telling women that because I’m a good guy, I can lay claim to your body, objectify you, and make you uncomfortable, because I can’t envision myself as anything otherwise. Anything you confront me with that substantiates the opposite will fall on deaf ears, because I’ve decided I’m a Good Guy.

Being an actual good guy is more than “well, I’m not going to try to rape you. I’m not going to kill you, hit you, or drug you.” It is respecting someone else’s boundaries. It is making the effort to clarify those boundaries if you don’t understand them. It is consensual conversation, not only consensual actions.

I frequently find myself with the burden of deescalating the situation, of convincing someone that sexualizing me isn’t ok. Genuinely good guys don’t do that.

Real good guys don’t need to tell you they’re good. They establish their credibility over time. They build trust and understand that that takes a while. They become good guys in your eyes because they have been good to you, without expecting anything other than respect in turn.

boundaries
Multi-tasking: I get to be Hogwarts, McGonagall calling the shots to protect the boundaries, and the knights defending Hogwarts.

Honestly, this is one of the hardest lessons Tinder has taught me: in my relationships and interactions, no one can advocate for me but me. As much as I can moan to my roommates and friends about frustrating conversations and they may commiserate, it’s up to me to stand up for my boundaries and champion myself. And sometimes, there’s only so much I can do. Sometimes you just have to walk away and know your own happiness and well-being are more important than someone you barely know.

Here’s to the real good guys. I’m glad you’re out there.

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Expecto Pick-up-line-um!

RENT taught us to measure our lives in love, but I’ll always measure my childhood in Harry Potter books.

I grew up eagerly anticipating each book, standing in long lines with my friends sipping approximated Butterbeer only to race the treasured tome home and spend the night taking turns reading aloud. We fell asleep curled around each other like puppies, dreaming of Quidditch pitches, house elves, and horcruxes. It gave us new building blocks for our weird imaginings, and like so many kids our age, an outlet for our weirdness, our frustrations, our yearning for a world in which at least some things were black and white, where evil could be clearly branded with dark marks and be battled face to face or smashed into smithereens with magical swords.

Harry's face though
Harry’s face though. Just look at that face.

So when a guy on Tinder used a cheesy Harry Potter themed pickup line on me tonight, I was like a kid in Weasley Wizard Wheezes or Hermione with a Kindle fire.

Guy: Did you survive the avada kedavra curse?

Guy: Because you’re drop dead gorgeous

Present day me went “well, not exactly original, but still pretty awesome.”

14-year-old me is like this:

LET ME HUG YOU WITH ALL THE POWER OF HAGRID AND THE JOY OF CONFUSINGLY ASSIGNED HOUSE POINTS.

“LET ME HUG YOU WITH ALL THE POWER OF HAGRID AND THE JOY OF CONFUSINGLY ASSIGNED HOUSE POINTS.”

Do I think we’re super compatible? No. Do I still want to hug or at least high five Harry Potter man simply because of the nerd factor? Um, is the Hogwarts motto Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus? (Hint: Yes. Yes it is.)

The only way to succeed is to let go of the idea of success (anxiety, chihuahuas, and merry-go-rounds)

R.I.P. Tinkerbell.
R.I.P. Tinkerbell. How little I realized I had in common with you until it was too late.

“Relax,” the Gentleman reminded me as he kissed me, the constant tension that runs through my body jumping from my lips to his. “I can feel you shaking.” Oh dear. I’m so tense I shake. I am a human Chihuahua. If I were a dog, I would be in Paris Hilton’s purse. Shame. Shame shame.

I have spent my entire life anxious. It took me 24 years to realize most people aren’t overwhelmed by the world all the time. I would panic in the grocery store as I found myself overwhelmed by noise. In high school, if I couldn’t find all my colors of pen so I could write my notes in rainbow order, I was distracted all though class. The idea of getting lost made me feel violently ill; I once got lost in rural Tennessee, panicked, and proceeded to drive 100 miles an hour on roads with no names in the wrong direction (logic was clearly not with me at the time). Even as a child I was a perfectionist to the point that when my parents once attempted to reprimand me by lightly smacking my hand I beat my head against a cement column in our house for an hour and refused to stop, aghast at my own misbehavior. I was the human version of Dobby, with no tea towel and better hair.

I’m doing so much better, in large part due simply to the realization that most people don’t live like this and it doesn’t have to be this way, but by nature I still am relatively more anxious than most people.

Even with all this progress, I’ve actually managed to clench my jaw so much from stress that my jaw throbs and sometimes I can barely open my mouth. Sometimes I even find myself unable to eat my favorite cereal (Grapenuts. Yes, I am an old person. Yes, I know they taste like dirt. Yes, I still love them. Mmm dirt. The taste that goes crunch.). Even my dentist says I have to relax.

I’m a go-getter, a doer. I like having goals, and I’ve been described as “teleologically inclined,” meaning I’m all about results and the endgame. I like checking things off lists, and I love accomplishing things that are difficult. But every time I try to relax, and especially to meditate, I find myself more stressed. With visualization exercises, if you’re supposed to visualize a warm relaxing sensation spreading through your body, I’m always convinced my imagined warmth is spreading too slowly. When I focus on my breathing, I find a catch in my throat as I become hyperaware of my lungs. And then the more frustrated I get at my lack of success, the worse these issues become. It’s a viscous cycle of anti-relaxing relaxation attempts.

Tonight the Gentleman suggested that I can’t approach relaxation as if it is something to be achieved. There is a difference between being and doing. I have to work on simply being. The more I actively seek to relax, the more tense I will be when I feel like I’m floundering. And then it finally dawned on me:

The only way to succeed in this is to let go of the idea of success.

The same thing, I think, applies in dating, too. When we’re hunting for something in particular, we don’t appreciate people’s authentic selves. We construct them in our minds, overlooking who they really are, or else when their true selves register with us we’re constantly measuring them up to some preconceived notion we have of who our ideal partner ought to be. Then we find ourselves disappointed, our dreams fading into a reality that tastes bitter in our mouths after the sweetness of imagined success.

In having such a particular idea of what success means we lose what actually makes a relationship successful: recognizing and appreciating someone for who they really are. Being present, not in some false dream we’ve created for ourselves.

Gorgeous take on this by the incomparable Harold Feinstein. Reaching for the Brass Ring, Coney Island, 1958 http://www.haroldfeinstein.com
Gorgeous take on this by the incomparable Harold Feinstein. Reaching for the Brass Ring, Coney Island, 1958 (http://www.haroldfeinstein.com)

We treat so much of life as if there are goals to be attained. We reach for brass rings we’ve placed for ourselves, in turn losing sight of the twists and turns of the merry-go-round. The ride itself is the prize, the goal arbitrary, distracting us from what is at hand, be it relaxation or a relationship.

It’s the little moments that count. It’s learning rather than mastering. It’s not a forward progress necessarily. It’s simply movement, attempts, breath in, breath out, less effort, more existence.

Relax. Just relax. And be. If anything, it’s a place to grow from, with no particular end in mind.

Forget the ring. Take the ride.

We are worth our own time.

Jesus had to postpone, for a completely legitimate and very important reason. He is just as disappointed as I am to delay our date.

dishonor mulan
My cow had much dishonor. Thank goodness I showered.

That said, I wasn’t exactly on my game for getting ready tonight anyways. I sprinted up the stairs 20 minutes before I was supposed to leave screaming “I FORGOT TO SHAVE MY LEGS. SHAME. SHAME UPON MY HOUSE. SHAME UPON MY FAMILY.”

I hopped out of the shower to find a text postponing our date, and I shouted “my date’s cancelled. I shaved my legs for NOTHING.”

My mother, ever astute, replied, “No you didn’t. You can still enjoy them.”

This was a revelation unto me.

I’ll go through so much trouble just to sit there on a date and know my legs are shaved, just in case I decide to let someone touch my legs.

I’ve spent a lot of my life professing that if someone gets to touch my legs then they can feel damn lucky, whether they’re shaved or not. And that’s true. I’ve gone on plenty of dates without going to the trouble of shaving my legs. Have no fear-I really feel no shame if I don’t shave my legs for a date. There is no actual dishonor on my house, my family, or my cow. At the same time, I love the way my legs feel when they’re smooth.

I like to lie down on my softest sheets and pretend I’m a starfish and rub my legs all over the bed like I’m making a snow angel. It’s basically 700 thread count heaven.

It's always sunnier when you're a starfish.
It’s always sunnier in Philadelphia/your bed when you’re pretending to be a starfish.

But I forget that that counts just as much as the feeling of someone else’s hands on my legs, if not more so. My happiness counts just as much as someone else’s delight in touching my smooth legs.

So why won’t I invest the time in my own enjoyment? In my own body, for my own sake? Why does hypothetical potential touching on a date hold so much more sway over my time than just what makes me happy? Have I placed myself so far down on the list of priorities that men I’m just getting to know take precedence?

Why don’t I wear my sexiest underwear just because I want to? Why don’t I let myself enjoy those 30 seconds of looking in the mirror and the knowing all day that’s what’s under my jeans and my t-shirt? Why don’t I do my makeup so I can enjoy exploring my face and celebrating the arch of my eyebrows and the lengths of my lashes? Why don’t I paint my nails so I can enjoy the flashes of color as I type? Why don’t I spritz on my favorite perfume so I can bask in how fantastic I smell? Why don’t I wear those spindly black heels to get coffee when it’s just me and a copy of A. R. Ammons’ selected poetry?

When did we let other people become more important to us than ourselves? It’s not selfish. It’s care-taking. It’s celebrating our bodies and our joys. We are worth our own time, our own energy, our own efforts. We are worth not being overlooked, even by our own selves.

Oh snap. Oh Snape.
Oh snap. Oh Snape.

This is my challenge to myself for this week and my challenge for you as well. Do something for yourself that reminds you that you are worth your time. Be a priority for yourself.

Let’s channel the L’Oreal campaign here: because we’re worth it.