Monday, October 27, 2008

Poly advice column

Last week in my routine media monitoring activity, I picked up an item from the Guardian, one of the major daily newspapers in the UK, about a woman seeking advice from a cheating spouse who claimed he was "polyamorous" to explain his relationships to two other women. Unfortunately, he was also being deceitful and disrespectful of his spouse of 15 years. Guardian readers were invited to offer advice to the reader for the following week's column, and several wrote in explaining the concept of responsible non-monogamy, and how this was not it. I also helped my Polyamorous NYC group draft a response from the president, but unfortunately it was not used in the column, which you can read here:

Private Lives: Is his 'polyamory' just an excuse?

And here's the response that I wrote for the president to submit:

Your partner is giving polyamory a bad name by deceiving, dishonoring, and disrespecting you. Polyamory is consensual and responsible non-monogamy, and as president of Polyamorous NYC (, one of the largest such organizations in the world, I can say it is possible to have multiple relationships successfully. My advice is to find some polyamory support groups in your area or research the term online so that you can better express what you want and need from the relationship. Once you and your partner realize there is a better way to pursue a polyamorous lifestyle, you can make an educated decision on what's best for both of you.

It's unfortunate that no one gave the advice we advocated, which is to learn more about polyamory so she could explain why her spouse is doing it wrong and better express what she wants out of the relationship. But at least the columnist gave the advice that is one of my cornerstone tenets, that we are each responsible for our own happiness. I particularly liked the way she phrases it:

In order to be happy, it's not necessary to have a partner or to have any particular person or thing at all. It is, however, necessary to assume responsibility for your own happiness, and to establish principles for the kind of life that will make you feel proud of yourself.

The upshot to this is how polyamory is becoming, if not acceptable, at least understandable to a larger audience than ever before, and there is at least some balance to stories like this. In the past, I wouldn't have expected a single respondent to offer anything other than "your spouse is cheating on you - leave him." While in this case it was a pretty clear case the husband was being abusive to the reader, at least there was some acknowledgement that polyamory can be done a "right" way and a "wrong" way. That's progress, methinks.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bear Mountain

After a dreary Saturday fighting tropical storm-like weather close to home, Sunday dawned clear and brilliant and my family went out in search of adventure. We found an Oktoberfest festival at Bear Mountain State Park in New York, and even though none of us drink beer, it seemed like a fun thing to do in a place that we all love to visit.

We drove north for about an hour to Bear Mountain and drove to the top of the mountain first to take in the scenic views. Afterwards, we went down to the park at the base and looked at the craft fair listened to a few polka songs from the live band. Here's a photo of me taken by Bug with the Hudson River Valley behind me:

Hudson River Valley

Here is a photo from Perkins Tower at the top of the mountain, showing all the fall foliage:

Bear Mountain

And here is a photo of the crystal-clear Hessian Lake where we sat and ate Belgian waffles and ice cream:

Hessian Lake

It seems like this weekend has been so short - I'm not ready to go back to work, but alas, I must. However, I am thinking about taking off Samhain (Oct. 31) to spend the day with Tara celebrating the pagan new year. I have a surprise destination near the Met in mind that I hope will delight her on Friday.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I went to see Wicked on Broadway Tuesday night with Lori, and it was spectacular. The untold story of the witches from the Wizard of Oz strikes me as a musical version of the way The Mists of Avalon tells the story of the women behind the legend of King Arthur. It was funny, charming, and a visual cornucopia, especially the flying effects at the end of Act One ("Defying Gravity"). I had checked out the soundtrack from the library months ago and put it on my iPod, not intending to listen to it until I'd seen the show, so I listened to it on the train ride home - how's that for instant gratification?

The songs are really starting to grow on me, and you can hear them online at the Web site's Music Player. One duet at the end of the show has a particularly poignant lyric that makes me think of Tara and what we've been through the last four years - the song is called "For Good" and the first part goes like this:

I've heard it said that people come into our lives
For a reason, bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow
If we let them and we help them in return

Well, I don't know if I believe that's true,
But I know I'm who I am today because I knew you

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
Because I knew you I have been changed for good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Staying put

I got some bad news today - my biggest client, the one I spend the vast majority of my days working for, has decided to terminate the account because of the recent financial meltdown. This actually has quite a trickle-down effect for me, as I'll explain briefly.

As you know, I've been planning to buy a house next year when my apartment lease runs out. In August, I was talking seriously with my family about the possibility of all buying one together, but it didn't get very far because I don't think we're ready for that yet. So I was pretty much ready to start looking for a house for just myself, so I can get away from annoyingly noisy neighbors and start building some equity instead of paying ungodly amounts of money for rent that I'll never see again.

However, as everyone knows, in September we had the Wall Street disaster, which is still lingering in the form of tightened credit markets and stricter mortgage requirements. In a nutshell, buying a house these days requires a larger downpayment and more security in the form of co-signers or large cash reserves that I simply don't have. Consider this story in the New York Times about young couples getting help from their families to buy real estate:

"Mixing Money and Family" - Oct. 20, 2008

Now, it is entirely possible that the market can turn around, but I'm not betting on that to happen anytime soon, despite the efforts of our elected officials. Add the fact that I have a Certificate of Deposit expiring at the end of this month that I was going to use as part of my downpayment, but at this point it seems wiser to renew it and just stay in the apartment for another year. I would have to give my intention to vacate in January if I was going to leave in March when my lease is up to avoid breaking my lease, and I just can't feel secure enough with my job and the economy to make that leap.

Besides all the hard financial realities I'm dealing with, there's also the instability of my family situation. I don't know what's going to happen with all of us, and it seems unwise to make any big decisions when things are so unsettled. While I don't feel like I need to wait on them per se, in the face of all the other issues, it seems best to delay the decision until everything else improves and I'm really ready to make the jump, and then reevaluate where I am with my relationships and life in general.

I try not to worry too much about the future, but I really hope I don't have to starting looking for a new job on top of all this - that would suck. I've never been a job-hopper - my last two jobs averaged about 7 years each, and I've been here for 2 years and three months so far. I might be getting worked up for nothing, but always best to be prepared when the signs aren't favorable.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I have quite a potpourri of stuff to talk about, and very little time to do it, so I'm just going to do a stream of consciousness kind of post, omitting some of the formal language I usually employ. Please forgive the brevity.

First of all, proud to say that my alma mater, the University of Houston, is the first school in Texas to offer a gay-lesbian minor concentration in their undergraduate degree program. I'm sure this is at least partly the result of HGTA members at UH, but I forget their names.

"Lessons in diversity" - Houston Chronicle, Oct. 20, 2008

Had an interesting day yesterday - went to dance class with Agnieszka, where we learned the finer points of stripping out of different types of street clothes. Then I rode the subway up to the old Yankee Stadium to meet up with my family and take one of the final tours before they demolish it. Here's a photo Tara took of us in the dugout - Bug is taking my picture behind Bee.

Yankee dugout

Then rode the subway back downtown to South Street Seaport to meet a new friend, Polina, for a presentation of short films at a LGBT film festival. Polina and I have both been going to Polyamorous NYC meetings for several months now, but only actually met each other at the Poly Pride rally earlier this month, where we were both volunteers. Since then we've been getting to know each other and have gotten quite close, despite spending only a total of a few hours together. What's interesting is that she's the first person I've met who falls under three of my umbrella characteristics: pansexual, polyamorous and transgender (she identifies as gender fluid, meaning she alternates between masculine and feminine presentation). There's definitely the beginnings of attraction on my part, but we'll have to see how things turn out.

Speaking of characteristics, I recently took a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator profile for work, and what's interesting isn't so much the type I scored (INFP, for those interested). The interesting thing is that my type has changed since the last time I took the test at my old job in Houston, four or five years ago. Your type is not supposed to change throughout life - it's supposed to be your innate preferences. In my case, I swapped a "T" (for thinking) for an "F" (stands for feeling), which makes a lot of sense to me, considering the changes I've gone through in the past few years. Despite my tendency to overthink things, I'm much less of a thinker than I used to be in my previous life, and much less reliant on logic and objective analysis. Now I primarily make decisions based on my values and subjective evaluation of person-centered concerns. My description of my complete type, which I think is pretty accurate, goes as follows:

· Sensitive, concerned, and caring
· Loyal to people or a cause
· Guided by an inner core of values in decision making
· Focused on contributing to their own and others' inner development and growth
· Committed to a strong personal belief system
· Likely to enjoy reading, discussing, and reflecting on possibilities for positive change
· Usually seen by others as sensitive, introspective, and complex

Kind of sounds like prerequisites for being poly, among other things, doesn't it? Hope everyone had a nice weekend, and I'll be back soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The science of hugs

Here's a little tidbit from a new book called "Hug Your People: The Proven Way to Hire, Inspire, and Recognize Your Employees and Achieve Remarkable Results" by Jack Mitchell. I found this in my Cuddle Monsters newsletter today. Hugs are something we should all be practicing, so consider this a public service announcement.


Most times, at least here in the U.S., when we go in for a hug we go towards the person's right cheek. Maybe this is because most of us are right handed, but it seems to be the norm. If you do the muscle testing after this hug, you'll find that your muscle is weaker, meaning your energy level is down. However, when we hug left cheek to left cheek instead, the muscle testing shows that we are stronger, or that our energy level is up.

Why is this?

When we hug on the right side, we're connecting liver to liver. Our liver is where we hold our anger, so we are actually sharing our anger with each other for a brief moment. That weakens our energy. On the other hand, when we hug left to left, we connect at our heart centers, where we hold our love. So for that brief moment, we are sharing our love from that place in our hearts. Try it, and see if you can feel the difference!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Followers unite!

I've added a Followers widget to my blog on the left side in my navbar, so if you'd like to use it to stay updated with this blog, be my guest.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Third anniversary

Lots of good stuff happened this weekend. Tara stayed over Friday night and we had a leisurely Saturday morning breakfast to the sounds of Yes instead of our usual classical soundtrack. It was the first time in a couple weeks we've had one of those. Also nice is that she's getting a little more used to sleeping in my bed, which is considerably softer than hers. I try to do my best to make her comfortable when she's at my place, but there's not much I can do about the bed.

Saturday night we had dinner and watched The Rock as a little break since we're out of new Heroes episodes now. It's rather funny watching such a testosterone-fueled movie with a roomful of girls. If the movie wasn't so loud, you could probably hear the eyes rolling in our heads. However, I did balance that out with a solo viewing of The Notebook earlier in the day, which of course made me cry my eyes out.

Sunday I went into the city with Agnieszka for the start of our series of burlesque dance classes. There are 13 or 14 women signed up for the class, one other that we recognized from our last class. Sunday's class was actually the exact same class we took before, but this time we weren't 30 minutes late, so we learned feather boa technique that we had missed last time. Our teacher, Jo, invited us to stay for the following class on dance movement, so we did that class too, before Agnieszka went to see a play with another friend and I went home to eat dinner.

Then yesterday I took Columbus Day off work to celebrate my third anniversary of meeting Tara here in New York. The actual date is Oct. 14, 2005 - an important date in my personal fairy tale. As such stories usually do, it took place on a dark and stormy night, and so many things went wrong, from me oversleeping and missing my flight to her getting soaked in the city all day waiting for me. But miracles do happen, and we were able to meet right where we wanted to, in front of the Tiffany window in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, barely 30 minutes before closing time. Our first meeting, our first kiss, and the start of this amazing journey together.

To celebrate, I took her for breakfast at my favorite bagel place near my office, then we rode the tramway to Roosevelt Island (her first time) and walked around the south end of the island (which in hindsight wasn't the most picturesque part, but it was also more private).

After we got back from the island we stopped at the tri-level Dylan's Candy Bar, which is a much bigger version than the one in the Houston Galleria. We got some Wonka bars and Tara tried some of their signature Belgian milk chocolate, which she loved. I took a small piece since I was breaking my diet anyway, but I have lost 15 pounds to this point, so I'm not too worried about it.

We took a train up to the Met looked in on some of our old favorites. We also went to the roof to see the Jeff Koons sculptures, a first for me. These whimsical figures seemed to delight the many children at the museum most of all.

Jeff Koons

We left the Met and had dinner at a new place for both of us called Burger Heaven, which turned out to be a very satisfying place to eat near the Museum of Modern Art. I had a reuben burger and fries, and Tara had a plain burger with a baked potato. Then we took the subway down to Tribeca for a book signing by author Jonathan Carroll for his new book, The Ghost in Love. I've never read any of his books, but the story sounded very interesting from his reading of the first chapter, and I was intrigued by the fact that Carroll wrote another book called Bones of the Moon which was the same story as "A Game of You" in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. So I bought a copy of the new book and had it signed - Tara brought her copy with her from home. He signed mine "Michelle's First - Hopefully it will not be your last."

Jonathan Carroll

Happy anniversary, my dearest Tara - thank you, as always, for being in my life. I love you.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Day 23 of South Beach Diet

It's been three and a half weeks since starting my diet on Sept. 15, and I'm pleased that I've lost 10 pounds so far. The results are definitely starting to show. My co-worker commented yesterday that she could tell I'm losing weight - she said I looked sleeker. Today for the first time, I'm having to wear a belt on my "fat" pants to keep them up. But don't worry about my wardrobe, I've got plenty of stuff to wear on my way down the scale.

The attention reminds me of when I did this diet in 2004-2005 when I created quite a stir in my office. My appearance changed so radically - it was like I went from middle-age to college age in a few months. I still chuckle at the time a grocery clerk mistook me for my ex's offspring or younger sibling rather than spouse. Granted, I am younger than her, but by less than a year.

Anyway, I'm still groovin' on Paramore - I bought the album I was looking for yesterday and ripped it to my iPod. I also love this song off their new album, Riot! and I bought it last night on iTunes. I'm pretty sure I've seen this video before somewhere, but I can't remember when. It's hard to miss Hayley's shocking red hair.

That's What You Get

I also love this review of the new album on Amazon:

Ah, youth: the exuberance, the energy, the blistering highs and bottomless depths. It’s an ideal breeding ground for true rock & roll belief. Hence, the youngsters of Paramore unearth geysers of loud, sugary angst on Riot!, their major label debut and follow-up to 2005’s All We Know Is Falling. Small-town musicians who have played together for years, Paramore boasts the appeal of an emo-pop blast developed out of savvy songwriting and musicianship. The sweet spot the band hits--somewhere between Avril Lavigne and All-American Rejects--comes naturally. Lead singer Hayley Williams, barely 18, has big-time vocal depth and genuine charisma besides, and while her singing can sound a little contrived, she delivers with such end-of-the-world conviction that it’s an easy flaw to forgive. Bright and catchy melodies abound, but songs like "Misery Business" and "Miracle" also feature razor-sharp cadences and ultra-clean transitions. Too clean, actually. The production is crystal clear, which accentuates the stumbles (mostly on the ballads) and robs these whippersnappers of the messy highs they surely achieve playing live. But some things can’t be entirely glossed over, and while the more aged among us will sip our Scotch and make fun of their adolescent shenanigans, we’ll also be surreptitiously listening on our iPods after we put the kids to bed. --Matthew Cooke

Also, after much ado yesterday, I found a nice hardback copy of Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris which I've been reading in paperback, but I hate the paperback cover, which is a tie-in to the HBO series True Blood (showing a close-up of a female vampire's lips, fangs and tounge). The hardback cover is so much nicer, a pretty painting of the vampire Bill and heroine Sookie Stackhouse flying over their town, wrapped in a glittering cape together. I'm much more interested in the romance than the blood-sucking, as with the Twilight books.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Twilight music

The track listing for the movie soundtrack to Twilight has been officially announced, as follows:

Muse - "Supermassive Black Hole"
Paramore - "Decode"
The Black Ghosts - "Full Moon"
Linkin Park - "Leave Out All the Rest"
MuteMath - "Spotlight" ("Twilight" mix)
Perry Farrell - "Go All the Way (Into the Twilight)"
Collective Soul - "Tremble for My Beloved"
Paramore - "I Caught Myself "
Blue Foundation - "Eyes on Fire"
Rob Pattinson - "Never Think"
Iron & Wine - "Flightless Bird, American Mouth"
Carter Burwell - "Bella's Lullaby"

I've read in other sources that Muse will re-mix the first track for this release, which is cool because this song is actually my #1 Most Played Song on my iPod right now (in fact the top 3 are all Muse songs, probably fueled in part by Twilight fever).

Also, I've totally in love with the first track by Paramore, another emo band with a 18-year-old lead singer named Hayley Williams who has a really big voice. You can check out the new song, Decode, on their MySpace page or on Stephenie Meyer's Web site, where the song debuted last week. While you're there, you can see the new movie poster for Twilight (which I don't like as much as the first one, but oh well). I might go out at lunchtime and see if I can pick up Paramore's first album, All We Know Is Falling from the bookstore.

The Linkin Park song is already one of my favorites from the Minutes to Midnight album I checked out from the library. And I think we can all agree that Collective Soul is a pretty cool band, even if you've been rolling your eyes at everything else in this post. Hey, at least I know I listen to cotton candy!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Transgender survey

A quick note from the office: one of the speakers at PolyPride Weekend was a representative from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and spoke about the following survey. I invite anyone who falls under the transgender umbrella to participate.

Task Force on the way to gathering largest sample in U.S. history

In the wake of one of the most violent years on record of assaults on transgender people, and at a time when we are building support for a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have launched the first time ever comprehensive national survey to collect data on discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in housing, employment, public accommodations, healthcare, education, family life and criminal justice. Already over 2,000 people have taken the survey.

Do you identify as gender non-conforming in any way? Take the survey! Record your experience and be a part of this historic effort. We want the survey to capture the full spectrum of gender expressions in our communities and record how prejudice and discrimination starts and then affects that very broad spectrum of people. Forward the survey on to others who'll want to participate!

Poly public relations

As you all know, Saturday was the Poly Pride Weekend rally on the Great Hill in Central Park, and I had so much fun mingling with my poly friends and meeting new people. I arrived about a quarter to 11 to help set up the tents and signs, and it was looking pretty glum because of the wet, cold weather, but by noon the sun was out and the day turned out beautifully.

Once things got started there was too much for me to do, so I hung out with Lyndell and some of the other volunteers backstage, occasionally helping to facilitate media interviews throughout the day. As many people remarked all day, this year's event had an unprecedented amount of media coverage, both before and at the event, including stories in the New York Post, Village Voice, TimeOut Magazine, and the big kahuna, the front page of the Style section of the Sunday edition of the New York Times.

"Hopelessly devoted to you, and you and you" - October 5, 2008

I don't think it can be overstated how important this story might become when we look back on the history of the polyamory movement, and I'm proud to say that I had a hand in making it happen. I write case studies all the time for work, and here's my little personal case study on making this important story possible.

We got the lead on a writer interested in doing a story on polyamory from the event's keynote speaker, Tristan Taormino, author and columnist for the Village Voice. The PolyNYC president asked me for some advice on how to approach the writer to pitch the story. I researched all the stories written by this reporter in the past several years, and found a common theme - each one began with a personal anecdote on a real live subject. Based on this observation, I recommended that the president write the pitch offering someone's personal story, and it was Diana Adams, PolyNYC's vice president and poly attorney, who stepped up. This is what I do for a living - advise clients on how to gain positive media exposure, and for once, I'm happy that I've had a chance to do it for a cause I believe in.

I had a chance to meet Cunning Minx, who produces a weekly podcast on poly issues and who happens to also be from Texas, so we spent a few minutes talking about the Lone Star State. I also met Linda, one of the members of my women's poly group, who was there with her lover and his other partner. At one point I counted about 150 people there, which I'm sure was the largest gathering ever of poly people I've ever heard of. Some people recognized me from our monthly meetings, and it was nice sitting down and chatting with them informally, which we rarely do at meetings.

It would have been nice to go to the after-party, but I wasn't going to miss my family's Saturday night dinner and the finale of Season Two of Heroes, which ended on a somewhat unsatisfying note due to the Hollywood writer's strike. Still, it's all good stuff, and the SNL this week was way above par from the past two weeks.

Today I drove into the city yet again, this time with my family in tow so we could check out the new Vincent van Gogh exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. On the way to the museum, we saw these huge Hello Kitty statues made of painted bronze in the public atrium of an office building:

Hello Kitty

We also walked through a street fair on Lexington and the Polish Pride Parade on 5th Avenue on our way to MOMA. The van Gogh exhibit was fascinating, and we were also surprised to see that Salvador Dali's painting, The Persistence of Memory was back on display after a long hiatus. It's so much smaller than we expected it to be, only about the size of a sheet of paper.

I think everyone but Tara got a combination of museum fatigue and onset of illness, so we had to cut the visit a little short, but we all loved the exhibit and we had a good time together. Personally, I feel like I might be coming down with a sinus infection, but the next day or two will tell for sure.

Friday, October 03, 2008

New Twilight trailer Oct. 9

As noted on Stephenie Meyer's Web site, there will be a third and final trailer for the Twilight movie released Oct. 9 exclusively on the Twilight widget that I've now installed on the left side of the page. It will be playing in theaters starting Oct. 10, but I'm not planning to go to the movie theaters next weekend. Doesn't it seem like there's so much more interesting stuff being made for TV than movies these days?

Speaking of TV, we are two-thirds of the way through Season Two of Heroes and still loving every minute. The only problem is that it seems everybody but the titular Japanese character is turning to the dark side. And please, if you have to comment, please don't reveal any spoilers, since we haven't gotten to Season Three yet (but they are recording each week in HD on my DVR).

I'm very excited about PolyPride Weekend this year, which starts tonight with the Supermassive Cuddle Party. I went to this last year and met my friends Lyndell and Simon but didn't go to the picnic in Central Park and rally. This year, I'm skipping the cuddle party but attending the rally tomorrow - in fact, I volunteered to be the PolyNYC president's assistant, which I guess means being a gofer for the day.

Lyndell is the producer behind the whole weekend, and I've been helping her with media relations, which is, of course, my stock in trade. The president, Birgitte, actually invited me to co-facilitate the National Polyamory Leadership Summit on Sunday, but I had to decline because we're going to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art Sunday afternoon. Still, I was flattered that she asked me, since I'm not an officer for the group.

I found out that Tall Girl, the clothing store, is shuttering its store in White Plains, north of Manhattan, so I think I might pay a visit before the end of October. There's a train that runs up there from Grand Central Station, so I can go directly after work and still make it home at a reasonable hour, since it only takes about 40 minutes each way. Maybe I'll do that next Friday, since it will be a long weekend with me taking Monday off.

Speaking of clothes shopping, I had a quick visit to Loehmann's on Seventh Avenue this week and bought a suit, since I only have one suit and I've been wearing it pretty regularly going to court for my client. Now I can send the first suit to the cleaners and not be worried I won't get it back in time for when I need it. Apparently, Tahari is one of the few designer brands that makes suits in large misses sizes (14-18) because both of my suits are that brand. Just a quick trip to the tailor to alter the pants and it will be ready to wear.