Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in review

Well, here we are, New Year's Eve again, and once again it's time for my annual wrap-up post.

As many of you know, one of my key tenets in life is to live in the moment. The main reason I adopted this philosophy was because of the fire of 2005, when my house in Houston nearly burned to the ground at two o'clock in the morning. It was practically a total loss - a lifetime of memories and possessions destroyed in one night. The event had a profound impact on my life, both materially and as a catalyst for my personal growth.

But the point I'm making here is that no matter how settled or stable you think your life is, no matter how predictable it seems today, you can wake up tomorrow to find everything changed in an instant. Nothing in life is certain, except that it will someday end. And as someone who knows this first-hand, this is why I strive to live each day on its own merits. We have no control over what's happened in the past, nor what will happen in the future. We can only control what we do in the present, and that's where I try to keep my focus, always.

With the exception of course of this blog post, which I indulge myself a peek in the rearview mirror. And of course, this year 2009 has pretty much been all about the change in my relationships and finding a job. From the first time Polina and Lori came over to my apartment ("Cooking party" - Jan. 24, 2009) which was also the first time I'd ever had friends outside Tara and her family over, to our recent adventures over Christmas ("Christmas parties" - Dec. 27, 2009) Polina has become an increasingly important part of my life.

At the same time, my relationship with Tara and her family deteriorated over the course of eight months, beginning with our decision to stop having sex ("Unconditional love" - Feb. 22, 2009) and finally ending on Sept. 1 when she came over to return my keys and stuff left at her house, and tell me we would no longer be part of each other's lives. It was by no means a shock to me, because for most of this year our relationship has been marked by some vicious fights and very difficult talks, ever the moreso because we loved each other so much. But in the end, we simply could not bridge the differences in our core beliefs that separated us.

Next to that development, everything else seems pretty insignificant. I got my new job, which is great and I love it, except for the long commute ("First day at work" - Sept. 10, 2009). I marched in my first Pride Parade ("My first Pride Parade!" - June 29, 2009), played my first cricket game ("My first cricket game" - July 8, 2009), my first karaoke bar ("Karaoke virgin no more!" - July 27, 2009), and my first wedding as someone's date ("A wedding story" - Sept. 13, 2009).

Pretty much everything else of importance is already chronicled in the 110-plus blog posts for 2009, so I'll end this here. As usual for me, it's been a pretty exciting year, some good, some bad, but hardly ever boring. I'm happy to be sharing it, and thank you, whoever you are, for following along.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas parties

It's been a very fun and eventful 72 hours with Polina, as we cavorted between two states and three New York boroughs doing Christmas-y stuff, and I'm grateful for her company over the holiday and taking care of my needs that way.

I've been super-busy at work right up until Christmas as part of a team putting together a proposal for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. Both Monday and Tuesday this week I was working until 10:30 p.m., but on Wednesday afternoon we submitted it, well before the 11:59 p.m. deadline that day, so I got to go home a little early. I even had time to go out to lunch with my female co-workers to say bon voyage to one of our departing colleagues.

On Thursday, Christmas Eve, I drove out to Staten Island to pick up Polina and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first time we've been there together. I took her around to see my favorite rooms and works of art (although my favorites from Claude Monet, JMW Turner and John Singer Sargent were missing from their usual places). We had a late lunch in the Trustees Dining Room, a members-only privilege that I've been wanting to partake of since I joined the Met three-and-a-half years ago.

Chocolate lava cake with ice cream

After a meal of chestnut soup, steak, scallops and a chocolate lava cake that was almost too pretty to eat, we sat for a while and had a relationship check-in. It seems she has been feeling a little overwhelmed with the primary nature of our relationship lately, so we're going to try and slowly de-emphasize the importance of it in our lives - or at least in hers. So we're going to try and reverse our movement the same way we got here - making small moves, taking one day at a time, and just trying to be gentle and good to each other.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the museum and looking at art, then went to a nearby bistro/diner to eat an early supper of Eggs Florentine (poached eggs over steamed spinach and English muffins, covered with Hollandaise sauce, which is made from egg yolk, lemon and butter cooked in a double boiler and wisked smooth) and French toast. Then we took a cab down to Rockefeller Center to see the big Christmas tree above the ice rink, which she had never been to see before.

Rockefeller Center tree

We stayed to watch the musical light show on the side of Saks Fifth Avenue, done to the tune of "Carol of the Bells" (which she can sing in Ukrainian) and then went into St. Patrick's Cathedral to listen to the last of the Christmas Mass singing. Then we took a cab back to the Met and drove home to Staten Island.

Christmas morning we left in the morning and went to my apartment, where we changed clothes and I showered and made us a breakfast of omlettes and turkey bacon before going to see Sherlock Holmes. We arrived right before one show started, and it was sold out, so we waited in line for the next show. I read my book and she edited a friend's novel for about 45 minutes before they let us in. Awesome movie for the both of us - she enjoyed the homoerotic Holmes/Watson dynamic, and I appreciated the little nods to the original source material from the Arthur Conan Doyle canon.

After the movie we drove to Queens for my friend Bonnie's family Christmas party. Bonnie, for those of you who don't know, is a relatively new member of my women's poly group, and the first poly Asian female I've met that I can remember. We attended a PolyNYC meeting way back, but I didn't remember her until she reminded me. We arrived a bit late, but Bonnie saved us some food, and even prepared a plate without pork/ham for Polina, knowing that she's Jewish, which was much appreciated. She also made some delicious cookies, which we ate along with a traditional Chinese chestnut cake, cupcakes from Crumbs Bakery and her aunt's excellent New York style cheesecake. For me, this was a bit of a nostalgic experience of being in a holiday party with a bunch of loud Asians, although my experience has been with an even louder group than Bonnie's family. It's not something I particularly miss, but it was interesting feeling that kind of energy again after several years of not being a part of it.

Bonnie and her dad

Polina and me, dressing festively

We left around 9 p.m. and drove back through Manhattan to New Jersey to go to friends Ryan and Beth's ("Polys in the wild" - August 11, 2009) Christmas party, where we ate yet another plate of food and had some egg nog with spiced rum as well. We watched Independence Day with the crowd of about 16-18 friends, then played a card game called Apples to Apples for a few hours until people started departing. We were among the last to leave about 2:30 a.m., going back to my place to sleep.

We lingered in bed until after noon on a very rainy Saturday, but finally got up and had breakfast and planned our day. We wanted to shop for ski wear, and Polina left her phone at Ryan's place, so we went to a nearby Ski Barn first, but the prices were way more than we wanted to pay. We stopped at a Staples to get a replacement iPod cord and other computer things Polina needed, then another quick stop at home because she forgot to take her coat out of my coat closet, and I gave her one of my spare flash drives for her keychain so she wouldn't have to buy one at Staples.

We stopped by Ryan and Beth's place and hung out with them for a while before heading back to Staten Island and having dinner. Polina showed me the student film she helped to edit, and we showed her mom and grandmother the movie trailer for Sherlock Holmes. I was intending to go home that night, but it got to be rather late and the weather was absolutely lousy, so I stayed and we watched Eddie Izzard's stand-up comedy movie Dress to Kill before going to sleep. It's the first time Polina and I have spent three consecutive nights together, which is ironic in view of our new direction.

I left Staten Island this morning after breakfast and went to Sports Authority, where I did manage to find a ski jacket and pants, goggles and socks, so I'm pretty well set to go skiing, whenever the opportunity presents itself. I just wish I was in better physical shape, because I know I'll be gassed quickly on the first day. But it would still be fun to go and play in the snow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taking stock of love

I've been thinking about the differences between poly and mono, and the stock market. And remember, I am definitely in the category of hopeless romantic, but I'd like to talk about relationships using the stock market as an analogy. Bear with me, this is going to be good.

The American system of capitalism embodied in the stock exchange works on the principle of perfect information, or transparency. Any information about publicly traded companies that is deemed to be "material" - that is, something that might affect earnings, has to be publicly disclosed. So if a pharmaceutical company invents a new drug to cure cancer, every step along the development of the product (positive and negative) must be announced. This ensures that the price of the company's stock always reflects as closely as possible what the market will pay for it, in as close to real-time as possible.

So if people are optimistic about a company and think well of its prospects, appetite for the stock increases and the price goes up. Conversely, if the company appears to be headed for hard times, people will sell any stock they are holding and the price falls. If information is not disseminated as it should be (i.e. insider information) it's illegal to act on it to profit in the market. Just ask Martha Stewart.

So it is in a way with relationships. If you believe that a relationship with someone has a good future, you "buy stock" in the form of spending time and effort being with them and nurturing the relationship. If you think the relationship is headed for disaster, then you're more likely to "sell off" slowly or quickly, by either spending less time with them or dumping them entirely.

Now, the difference between poly and mono is that, in most cases, poly people are more likely to embrace the whole "transparency" concept when it comes to relationships. Consider that in a poly relationship, where each person agrees to be as candid as possible about their feelings and attraction to the other person or other people, everyone involved is kept fully informed. By being informed, each person can then make an informed decision on whether they want to keep buying stock in the relationship, hold the amount they already have, or start selling it off and reallocating their resources elsewhere (i.e. dating other people).

However, in a mono situation, that's like buying a majority interest in one company and letting your investment stay in that one particular stock without any active management on your part. And that's great, if the company you invested in is a blue-chip stock with long-term success in the market, like Apple Computer, General Electric or ExxonMobil. You'll probably come out ahead with a lot less effort.

But if you picked a company that looked safe once that later falls on hard times - like AIG or General Motors - you might find yourself holding a lot of worthless paper, especially if you're not paying attention because you think your choice is faultless. In a mono situation, it's easy to get lazy and stop the regular flow of information because you are fully invested in that company/person and both of you are restricted from pursuing other opportunities. And when the flow of information is impeded, sometimes negative information builds up and all becomes public at once, causing a distress sale with widespread repercussions; i.e., a financial market meltdown, like the one that happened in late 2008-early 2009.

Anyway, that's the thought that's been running through my head lately. Like any other prospectus, I'm not giving advice here. Your situation and risk profile is unique. Please read carefully before you invest.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Checking in

It's been a week and a half since I've written, and I just wanted to write something, anything, so it doesn't go too long. I don't think too many people read this, so this is just me keeping the pencil sharp.

Last Friday I went into the city on my way out to Stony Brook for my friend Angel's birthday, and she wanted to go to a gentleman's club, so we went to the VIP Lounge. It's pretty much the same as any strip bar I've ever been to, although I haven't been to one in almost 20 years. I was surprised to learn that lap dances still only cost $20 a song - no cost of living adjustments for strippers, apparently.

Polina and I spent the whole weekend together, which was wonderful. We saw New Moon on Saturday night, and of course I loved it and she didn't. We actually got into a bit of an argument about it, so we had to stop talking about it. She's not nearly the hopeless romantic that I am, nor as big a fan of the Twilight books. Sunday we spent most of the day in her dorm room since she had to work on her research paper, but in the evening I took her and her friend Rosie out to Carrabba's again because I wanted to have the Limoncello bread pudding with the Blue Bell vanilla ice cream.

This week is my first as a full-time employee of Nearing, and it's been great so far. I came out to my immediate boss on Friday, like all the way - transgender, pansexual, polyamorous, pagan and dating Polina. She took it all in stride, so now I'm just going to find opportunities to mention these things to other people in the course of conversation, although I don't think I'll dump the whole load on anyone all at once like I did with her. It's nice being able to be out at work though - score one for New Jersey versus Texas.

That's all for now - more later, I hope.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A missed opportunity

I used to think dating was hard enough as a single girl. Tonight I found out how much harder it can be as a pansexual polyamorous girl.

I went to my local public library after work to pick up the second half of my beginner's Russian language course (Polina and her family speak Russian, so it's nice to be able to say and understand a few words with them). After I got that, I went to look over the movies and found Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which I've wanted to see for a long time since I'm a fan of Woody Allen, and it's a poly-themed movie (there's a consensual love triangle between the three lead actors).

I was holding the movie and the Russian course when an older gentleman in a long black wool coat struck up a conversation with me. He was probably in his 50s, well-groomed, and had a polished and confident manner - think Richard Gere, but taller. He asked if I had any movie recommendations, and he noticed the movie in my hands, saying it was a good one. Since I haven't seen it yet, I couldn't concur, but I said I've been waiting a long time to see it.

Now here is the point where, if I were truly brave, I would have said my interest in the movie stemmed partly from my being polyamorous. But, even as generally open about it as I am outside of work, it's not something I typically blurt out upon first meeting someone, especially in a public library (which, by and large, is not a bad place to meet new people for someone my age).
Then he noticed the language course and asked what my interest was in Russian. I said my girlfriend and her family speaks Russian so I was learning to so I could fit in better with them. I also made the comment that this particular course (the Pimsleur method) seems to be tailored for American men going to Russia to pick up Russian women (lots of phrases like, "Wouldn't you like to have a drink with me? at the restaurant? at the hotel?" "Do you want to buy something?") He looked at me and said, "Well, that's something you don't really need."

We talked for a bit about his interest in Russian history, and my family background (my grandfather being a Chinese ambassador to Russia during the Stalinist period). After a bit more small talk about movies, he wished me a nice evening and left. We did not exchange names or contact information.

Now. I'm not saying I was especially attracted to this guy. Frankly, I didn't even make much eye contact with him because I was looking over the movies. He probably interpreted that as me being disinterested. But when I think back upon the encounter, I could have handled it better. The guy was clearly interested in me, or else he wouldn't have started a conversation. But I didn't give him much of a chance or any real encouragement to get to know me. That's not the way I want to live my life, but old habits die hard.

It also couldn't have been too encouraging for him to hear straight off that I had a girlfriend. I'm certainly not ashamed of that fact, but the problem is that the minute you tell people that, nine times out of 10 they assume you are a lesbian and that you are monogamous. It's hard to dissuade that assumption in a casual encounter ("My girlfriend's family speaks Russian, and oh, by the way, I'm polyamorous and also open to dating men" - yeah, that works great.)

The real missed opportunity here is that I was given a perfect opening to say all these things because of the movie in my hand at the time. The conversation could have gone something like this:

Man: Do you have any recommendations?

Me: Well, I found this one, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Man: That was one of his better ones.

Me: Woody Allen? Yep, I'm a fan of his. It's also of particular interest to me because of the love triangle story since I'm polyamorous and pansexual.

Man: Really? What does that mean?

Me: Polyamorous means engaging in multiple long-term, consensual loving relationships with different partners at the same time. And pansexual just means I'm non-discriminatory in my choice of partners when it comes to gender. For example, I have a girlfriend, which is why I'm learning Russian as you see, but I could also become involved with another girl, or a guy at some point and she would be supportive - unless she couldn't stand them, that is.

Man: That sounds really interesting. Maybe we can more about it over dinner - can I get your phone number and ask you out sometime?

It's still a lot to say, but you can see that I missed an opportunity here that might have turned into something. But as they say, you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes.

While I'm certainly content to spend as much time as possible with Polina, I know she would like to see me happy with someone else as long as we could continue to cultivate our unique relationship. I've never been enthusiastic about dating, which is why I don't put a lot of effort into it. But I do feel strongly about being open to the possibility of love when it presents itself, and in that respect, I failed miserably tonight. When the goddess offers a gift, it should be accepted with an open heart.

Perhaps this experience tonight will help me do better next time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The $120,000 apostrophe

On Tuesday I was at work at my desk and I got a call from the chief recruitment officer at Nearing (my company) to come see her at 2 p.m. When I get there, she's on the phone so I go over to chat with one of my friends in the HR pod, and she congratulates me for getting a full-time position. I tell her that I actually haven't gotten an offer yet and she realizes that she's just spilled the beans about the offer I'm about to get.

Loose lips sink ships, I always say.

Anyway, after two months of what was basically a tryout, I accepted an offer to become a full time Nearing employee. I feel like I've been "made" - like a Mafia boss. There are several advantages to this, not the least of which is feeling like I'm a bona fide member of the team and not an outsider, which means I can work on more confidential things. I'm also going to be doing less writing and more PR work, including media work, which is fine with me.

But mostly this is good because Nearing's benefits are better than being a contractor, and I'm eligible for a sizable annual bonus. I'm also eligible for a 3% match on a 401K contribution, an employee stock purchase plan, and most importantly, paid holidays, sick leave and vacation time off. So now I can take days off without impacting my paycheck, although my overall compensation is probably about the same, assuming I didn't take any days off as a contractor.

There's a story going around the communications department that part of the reason I was offered the position was that the communications senior vice president appreciated my attention to detail in editing documents. She is one of the most detail-oriented persons I've ever met, and unfortunately, many of the staff are not so much.

So I was editing a press release one day, and I notice that one of the apostrophes is a straight up-and-down apostrophe and not a "smart" apostrophe - one that is different for open and closed positions. I noted it, and the SVP even found another one in the same paragraph that I missed. But clearly she was impressed that I edit to the same level of detail as she does.

Later on other press releases the SVP would ask staffers if I had reviewed them yet, which people interpreted as me having "editing cred" with her. I also created a flyer for a technology expo that she reviewed with no changes. I didn't think much of that at the time, but later I found out that having something come back from her with no changes is like winning an Olympic gold medal at Nearing's communications department - most people have that happen maybe once or twice a year if they're lucky. She's quite a demanding boss, but she's actually a pretty nice person. She reminds me of my old boss in Houston at TxDOT in a lot of ways.

Anyway, the takeaway for this is that when you do your best, sometimes good things will happen, and with certain people, sometimes a thing so small as changing an apostrophe can land you a six-figure paycheck. You have to know when to sweat the small stuff.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Christmas trees

Every morning I wake up about 6:30 a.m. (or try to) and drive about 70 miles down the length of the state of New Jersey to go to work. This takes me about an hour and 15 minutes on a typical day, or two hours on a bad day. The first 45 minutes is all highways and tollways, and the last 30 minutes are the best because I take back roads through rural farmland around Princeton Junction, which is so beautiful this time of year.

I’ve been driving the same route more or less for about two months now, and along one stretch of two-lane road I pass a Christmas tree farm. When I first passed it, I didn’t take much notice because the trees were small and unrecognizable, but in the past month they have grown up to take the familiar triangular shape. I’ve never seen a Christmas tree farm, so it’s been quite delightful to watch them grow day by day, and I’ve enjoyed saying hello as I pass by.

As some of you know, I tend to employ personification on a lot of things in my daily life – my minivan (Yoshi), my stuffed friends (Oz and my other cubs and pups); even some of my pillows have names. Being alone a lot, I tend to live inside my head and it helps to have an excuse to talk aloud. But seeing this field of trees each day, sometimes I realize that very soon now, many of them will be cut down and taken away and I will be sad to see them go.

It’s a small thing really, but it also reminds me that just because I know something is not going to last forever doesn’t mean I shouldn’t let myself enjoy it or become attached to it, knowing I will miss it someday. I’d rather be hurt than live my life avoiding the possibility of being hurt. Living in the moment is not without risk, but life is a finite and non-renewable resource that must be fully consumed each and every day, or it is lost forever.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Polina's birthday, part 3

On Saturday night Polina and I hosted the first public event for Open Love NY, a combination kick-off meeting and birthday party for her 19th birthday. It’s something we’ve been planning for the past three weeks or so, and the past couple of weekends we’ve been working pretty hard on it. I’m happy to report that everything went off pretty much as planned, and a great time was had by all.

I picked Polina up from my local train station in Montclair Friday night and we stopped at the local diner for dinner. I was amused by two kids in the next booth behind her who couldn’t stop staring at her purple hair. We got home and worked on our donation jars for our three non-profit causes – Cunning Minx’s podcast Polyamory Weekly, Kenneth Haslam’s Polyamory Library at the University of Indiana, and the Jim Collins Foundation (which helps pay for life-altering surgeries for transgender people). We also finalized the event sign-in sheet, survey, donation descriptions and sent out a reminder on Facebook.

Saturday we got a very late start after a relationship check-in talk before getting out of bed in the early afternoon. We had some cereal while waiting for our friend Laura to arrive before we all went out to gather the birthday cake, food and last minute errands, like making copies of the survey and buying a wireless microphone (which we ultimately ended up not using). By the time we got home there was barely enough time to get something to eat, get changed, and load up Yoshi – and we still had to go back once because we forgot Polina’s MacBook that had our music playlist on it.

We were fortunate not to hit too much Saturday night traffic and got to the gallery at about a quarter after 7 p.m., which gave us only 15 minutes to set up. People were already arriving, and there were some gallery customers loitering around, which made things a little hectic and confusing, but we managed to get things set up quickly.

Laura helping set up

We set our table with red pepper hummus and spicy flatbread, a tray of four kinds of sliced cheese and multigrain crackers, stuffed grape leaves and giant green olives stuffed with garlic, guacamole and tortilla chips, and large black seedless grapes. For drinks we had soda and pomegranate blueberry juice. We set out our donation jars at the head of the table, along with short descriptions of each.

Party at Lyons Wier

We cut the music and started our meeting at about 8:45 pm, but people kept trickling in throughout the night. I introduced myself and Buck and we talked a bit about Open Love NY’s reason for being and mission to plan more social events for the polyamorous community of New York. I thanked the gallery owner and our volunteers (which should have included a shout to Laura, who was so helpful the whole day) and we went around the room to introduce ourselves. I had a few more remarks about the survey and then we started the birthday celebration by clearing space at the table for Polina to sit.

While Barbara prepared the candles on the cake, I gave a short speech about Polina and how this event came about because I wanted to do something for her birthday while also helping get OLNY off the ground (something we both were eager to have happen). I talked about how we came from such different backgrounds, and yet managed to find each other through the polyamorous community, and how our community is organized around the idea that we should be free to love openly and honestly.

Speaking from the heart

Barbara brought out the cake, which I had customized with the infinity heart symbol of polyamory (like the pendant I gave her for our anniversary) in purple to match her hair:

Poly birthday cake

The party continued until about 11 p.m., with some people still arriving in the last hour to say hello and happy birthday. We had about 24 people show up altogether, which was very good considering the crappy weather in the city that night. There were lots of old friends, newbies, longtime polys and group hugs all around. It was lots of fun playing hostess, although I did run out of gas a bit near the end and had to take a break or two.


Polina, Laura and I packed everything into Yoshi around midnight and went home to put everything away, have some tea and we watched Chicago on my big screen before going to bed. All in all, it was a very successful event, and I'm proud of our effort in putting it on and seeing it through. Hopefully it will have the desired effect in getting OLNY jump-started - there was already talk about planning a holiday party as our event was winding down.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Polina's birthday, parts 1 and 2

This weekend was Polina’s birthday celebration, and the first time I’ve participated in it fully. As some friends might remark, it was done in true Polina fashion, encompassing my first two-night stayover at her house for all the activities. And despite fighting a progressively nasty cold for most of the weekend, the birthday girl managed to keep her spirits up and bring cheer to everyone around her.

Friday afternoon I left work early because I wanted to get my hair done by Edison while Polina and her friends were en route back from Stony Brook University. Edison and Shirley did their usual fine job of making my hair look its best, with a subtly multi-dimensional dark brown that looks natural yet sophisticated. They also asked about Polina, referring to her as “purple” since they didn’t remember her name, only the color they dyed her hair. Edison is planning to open his own hair studio in a few weeks, so I hope the next time I visit him it will be his name on the door.

I walked over to Whole Foods on Houston Street (where I’ll be on Wednesday for my women’s poly group) to buy some truffles to add to my birthday present, and then drove out to Staten Island. Polina’s mom opened the door for me just after getting off the phone and telling Polina I hadn’t arrived yet. I helped her mom in the kitchen making food by peeling vegetables and practicing my Russian with her until Polina arrived with her dad, middle sister Ella, and three friends from school – Perri, Sammy and Jake. We had Shabbat dinner together then the five of us got settled in the third floor bedroom on three air mattresses.

In the morning all eight of us packed into the family minivan, dropping Ella at Prospect Park in Brooklyn and us in midtown Manhattan near my old office where we had booked a seven-hour block of time at an isolated karaoke bar on 48th Street near 2nd Avenue. We started singing at 1:30 p.m. and the crowd swelled with each passing hour as friends continued to arrive, eventually reaching 15 people.

Kotah, Panda and Anya having fun

From the SBU band there was Jacob and Beth; Polina’s long-time friends Panda, Dakotah (from the Great Adventure Shindig), Anya, and Alina, plus Patrick and his girlfriend Alyssa; and our newer friends Ryan and K-Rob. It was a very diverse group, with a wide variety of musical tastes (and vocal ability) but it was a great time. The band people had fun singing and dancing to their marching pieces, like “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, “Disturbia” by Rhianna and “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. I stuck to songs I knew by Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis and Taylor Swift.

I gotta have more cowbell!

Ooops! Forgot to smile

By the time we left, Polina was getting very hoarse and sounding like an 80-year-old woman who smokes two packs a day. The crowd thinned out the way it came together as we walked Sammy and Jake to Penn Station for the trip back to SBU before most of the rest of us went to a Korean restaurant for a late dinner. I had a kim chee stew and spicy hand roll sushi, which was very tasty.


By the end of the night, Jacob, Beth, Anya, Panda and Kotah comprised the second wave of overnight guests, accompanying us back to Staten Island. Beth and Jacob left early in the morning to catch a matinee show of Avenue Q, while the rest of us started the day slowly. Polina’s voice was totally gone in the morning, so she was reduced to using handwritten signs like a stroke victim:

What's your sign?

Most of the day Polina’s family (eldest sister Sophia and husband Robert and grandparents trickled in) made food and desserts for her birthday party while Panda, Kotah, Anya, Polina and I hung out and did various things. I went out for a bit with Robert and Ella to throw a Frisbee around in Miller Park, and Kotah had to leave early. By about 4 p.m. we were ready to start the party and it was a very long table of food:

Princess Penny

Polina still couldn’t speak very loudly, so I acted as her “translator” – she would write down what she wanted to say and I would address it to the appropriate person down the table or announce it to the group. For presents, Polina got a vintage bicycle to take with her back to school, some Origins bath products, a book called "The Crow-Girl" and my present of a “Cognito Ergo Nom” t-shirt, organic lip balm and her favorite shade of lip stick from my collection at home (since I feel somewhat responsible for the upkeep of her lips), and a box of chocolate truffles. Her grandfather also gave her money, as grandparents typically do. She had also received a bonsai tree from Beth and some other presents from friends the night before.

Birthday Napoleon

After dinner Polina and I went upstairs and recorded a quick 80-second audio promo talking about the upcoming Open Love NY event next Saturday, which will be used on an upcoming podcast of Polyamory Weekly. I did most of the talking since her voice was so ragged but at least she was audible. And by the way, her illness didn’t stop us from being affectionate this weekend, so we’ll see if my reputed constitution passes the test.

I was going through my emails from last year around this time for her birthday and we had just had our first date (more of a hanging out together kind of thing) at the MIX Festival a week or two prior so we were just getting to know each other. It took upwards of 18 emails back and forth to work out all the logistics and details of meeting up with Laura for my surprise visit to MOMA. Also, I didn’t know her well enough to pick out a present, so we went shoe shopping together with Laura and Patrick.

It is with no small amount of wonder that I look back only one year ago at how much my life has changed in respect to my relationship with her. Of course, I should be used to big changes in my life by now, but still, we've come a long way in just one year. To honor that first birthday, I thought it was a nice tradition to have her pick out something for herself for birthdays (the Questionable Content t-shirt) in addition to whatever I feel I can surprise her with, since she enjoys surprises.

Part 3 of the two-weekend birthday celebration starts on Saturday - stay tuned.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Happy Birthday Polina!

This Sunday was Polina’s birthday, and we spent pretty much the whole weekend together which is why I’m posting this a day late. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to write a recap of all our adventures soon (although not tonight since I’m going to Poly Cocktail Hour in the city).

As I usually do in my blogs, I try to say a few nice things about people on their birthdays. Last year she escaped this tradition because we had only just met. As a side note, I was just realizing that with my last three relationships, I met each of them right around this time of year - October/November. And of course this year, I’m very happy to be able to say a few words about my sweetie.

I know Polina doesn’t necessarily like reading about the qualities in her that I find so attractive, but it’s hard for me to be objective since I’m so fond of her. I suppose one way to say it is that I see a lot of Agnieszka Prime in her, which I know means very little to anyone reading this. Sometimes people just have a certain charisma, an energy to them that is responsive to your own. You see something in them that touches a part of you and a connection is made. From there, you continue to find small links to each other, and like strands upon strands of tiny spider webs, each little thing builds upon the others to form a strong bond.

For us, our initial connection was obviously formed through polyamory, and then through identifying as pansexual and transgender, and to a lesser extent through a shared spiritual philosophy. We’ve reinforced our bond with books (Laurell K. Hamilton, Tamora Pierce, Tom Robbins), TV shows (Firefly, True Blood), music (Linkin Park, Paramore) and late night talks over hot chocolate. Polyamory and being involved in the poly community in New York continues to be the main driver of our relationship and the requisite open communication is the glue that keeps it from falling apart in the face of our many differences.

Some of our differences work for us instead of against us. People tell me that Polina has an old soul, and it is true she is remarkably mature for her age. I’m the opposite, being very young at heart for my age, for reasons that should be quite obvious to those who know me. Our inverted biological and emotional ages tend to cancel each other out and make our age difference less of an issue for us than it would be for most couples. It also gives us some fluidity and freedom in how we act toward each other – we take turns being parental or filial toward each other, although we generally treat each other like most girlfriends do as equals.

So what qualities do I like about her? She makes me laugh; she has a refreshing sense of humor. As I’ve mentioned before, she can be bold in expressing affection toward me. She shares my core philosophies of being true to oneself, living in the moment and loving unconditionally. She is a frank and honest communicator, and she appreciates that quality in me. We make a really good team, with our respective strengths and weaknesses complementing each other – I forget what our Myers-Briggs scores are, but we do seem to mesh well together when we embark on a common goal. We have lots of fun together with whatever we’re doing, whether alone or with other people. And for me, seeing her smile is as beautiful and warming as the sunrise after a long autumn night.

Happy Birthday, my dearest Polina - you are the star by which my heart navigates me through life.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Upcoming poly events

It is shaping up to be a busy week for me, with Poly Cocktail Hour at China 1 on Monday, Nov. 9, our Women's Poly Group meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 11, then our Open Love NY party on the 14th. Polina and I spent most of Saturday afternoon and evening working on stuff for the OLNY party - it's going to be a lot of fun.

For those of you on Facebook, we have created a page on the Open Love NY site on the event, which you can find here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Open Love NY/Polina Party

For the small number of people who read my various blogs, I am announcing here first that Polina and I are planning the first big public party for Open Love NY that will be a joint celebration for Polina's 19th birthday.

It's going to be at the Lyons Wier Gallery, 175 Seventh Ave. (at 20th Street) on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Non-alcoholic beverages and snacks will be served. Admission is $10, which also gets you a limited-edition Open Love NY bracelet. Plus, $1 from each ticket sold will be donated to poly-related efforts that are important to the poly community.

Lyons Wier Gallery is conveniently located near the 23rd Street Stations on the C, E, 1, F and V subway lines. More details will be forthcoming in the next few days, but I wanted to start getting the word out here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Work update

So, as promised, there is some news about my job that is altogether encouraging. I've been working now for about six weeks in the marketing communications department of my company (codename: Nearing) as a senior writer under a contract basis, which means technically I'm a contractor for a company down in Sugar Land, Texas working onsite for Nearing in Princeton, New Jersey.

A lot of things happened just this past week. First of all, one of the junior communications associates left the company to work elsewhere. So that's good for me because it will probably mean more work to do. Also, Nearing is an open office environment, which means there are no offices or cubicles, just rows and rows of open desks divided by rows of file cabinets. Even the CEO sits at an open desk. Each section sits together in groups called pods (which means we're all pod people, a la The Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

Up until recently, there was no room in the communications pod for me or Erik, the guy who does internal communications, so we had to sit on the other side of the building with the human resources people. While that did have the advantage of being quieter, it was rather distracting overhearing all the HR chatter, like people being disciplined for sexual harrassment, talking about how much money people make, etc. But once the spot opened up with the associate leaving, my boss asked me to move over to join the pod. I think this is a good sign that she asked me and not Erik to move, even though he's been there longer and is an actual Nearing employee, not a contractor.

Also this week, I've been slammed on a project to write a proposal for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy (DOE) for a solar power plant in New Mexico. The proposal was due on Thursday, and I was working until 9:30 or 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday nights. While that means I was putting in 14-15 hour workdays, I also got lots of kudos from the government affairs people I was working with, which included some senior executives in the company. Another major upside is getting overtime pay since I'm a contractor, which means for every hour beyond eight hours worked in a single day, I get paid my normal rate plus 50% extra per hour. We finished the 120-page proposal and submitted it about two-and-a-half hours before the midnight deadline on Thursday. There will be a second round application in January, so I'll probably be doing the same thing in a few months.

In the meantime, on Friday I was put in charge as the project manager to redesign and build structure for Nearing's green energy, philanthropy and corporate responsibility Web sites. As you might guess, this is a pretty big job, so I'm excited about sinking my teeth into the project instead of just working on small projects that come in drips and drabs. It's also stuff that I not only have experience in (I was the New York office lead for Agent K's corporate responsibility team) but am also passionate about.

All in all, I'm getting more optimistic about my job, and if things continue to go well, I am confident that I will be able to move into Manhattan when my current apartment lease runs out in March.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stony Brook visit #3

I am just back from a short but intense and lovely visit with Polina out at Stony Brook University. I left my office in Princeton (lots of work news in my next post) at 3 p.m. on Friday to have enough time to get to her school by 7 p.m., which is when her marching band practice ended.

I met up with her at the bandspace and renewed some acquaintances from prior visits and met some new faces. We followed a group of about 30 band members to a Stony Brook ice hockey game, where the team was playing the University of Rhode Island Rams. The band gets free tickets to play at the games, so I got to tag along as a FOB (friend of the band). It was actually the first time in my life I've ever been to an ice hockey game, as it is not a very popular sport in the South. But I've watched enough ESPN in my life to know the basics. It was only the second game for Polina.


Playing Basket Case by Green Day

Polina did not bring her cymbals to play because they had a drumset instead, so she was allowed to play the crash cymbal for the national anthem:

Polina crashing

The game was very tight, but the Sea Wolves were overcome by the score of 3-2 when a goal scored by Stony Brook was ruled to have been made a fraction of a second after the final buzzer sounded. I would have liked to see an instant replay on that, but I guess they don't have that luxury in college games.

We returned to the bandspace and then most of us went to a party at the dorm apartment of the guy who played the drumset, Dan. I got to know one of the Sousaphone players, Steve, who shared his bottle of Chianti with me and Polina. He's from southern California, UC-Berkley, where he earned his music degree in harpsichord, and is now pursuing a master's degree in music history. He asked me what brought me to the northeast, and I gave him the two-minute version of my life history, which he found quite interesting. Then we started talking about polyamory and Polina joined us for part of that conversation, and he was supportive, but didn't think it was something he could do himself.

Polina introduced me around and brought me up to date on what's happening with some of her friends. She spent some time dancing with friends and some time cuddling on the couch with me. We left the party about 1:30 a.m. and headed back to Polina's apartment, where her suitemates were surprised to see us. We stayed up to watch an episode of Castle before climbing up to her top bunk to sleep at around 2:30 a.m.

This visit with my girlfriend was good for me in many ways, not the least of which was lots and lots of kissing/snuggling after missing each other last weekend. But also after our somewhat difficult conversation two weeks ago, I've been able to process that fully (with the help and support of my friends, especially Lori and Sylwia) and continue to live in the moment and love unconditionally. Polina and I continue to focus on loving each other as much and as best we can, given our circumstances, and building what we feel is a sustainable relationship with each other, and one that may someday include other people as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Poly goes international

Just a quick post about a very fun night at Poly Cocktail Hour Monday night. I went directly from Princeton and drove to China 1 Restaurant in the city - luckily, the traffic was not very heavy because of the Columbus Day holiday.

There were only a few people there, including my friend Kyle, but I recognized one face from Saturday's picnic in Central Park, a fellow named Rob who had been sitting with Polina most of the afternoon. He's from southern Australia, and he's been on holiday in New York for the past week, but only by chance stumbled upon the Poly Pride event. He actually came to the rally all by himself, which is a pretty gutsy thing to do. However, Polina helped to make him feel welcome enough to show up at PCH two nights later. I only met him briefly, so it was a good chance for me to get to know him better, and he's a delightful fellow and very supportive of the polyamory movement. It's too bad that he lives so far away - he's probably the first guy I've met that might actually have been someone we could have both dated (he's one year younger than me).

Aussie Rob at an Australian cafe on St. Marks

I also met a first-time visitor named John and got to know him a bit. There was also a guy named Tommy, who lives in Buenos Aires and is working on a documentary about how true monogamy (one mate for your entire life) is actually a small minority among human relationships. There was Anton, a Mensa fan who talked with Leon when he showed up with Pauline, a Teutonic teenager (she's 19) he met in Italy who came all the way from Germany to visit him. Barbara and Joe also came, and Ken, the guy I dated briefly late last year around the time I first met Polina. He's now getting married to a woman who lives in India whom he met online.

I did my best to introduce everybody around, and keep people engaged with each other. Karaoke Rob showed up, as well as Jeremy, and a few other people I've seen at past events. Reid was there, but spent all his time talking with someone, so I didn't get to talk to him except to say hi. I also met another woman named Barbara who is on my bisexual Yahoo group who was there for the first time.

I noted that I started going to PCH back in April of this year when Polina was in Argentina, and then we started going together throughout the summer ("Busy start of the week" - April 14, 2009) so I'm on a seven-PCH streak right now. When you go to an event this regularly, even a natural introvert like me starts getting comfortable and playing hostess. I'm never better at it than when I'm with Polina ("Baby kitten rescue" - May 12, 2009) but a couple of the new people mistook me for the organizer of the event and couldn't believe that I wasn't, since I seemed to know everybody.

It got to about 10 pm and I was thinking about going home, but K-Rob and Aussie Rob started talking about a hot dog place called Crif's Dogs on nearby St. Marks so we decided to go get a bite to eat. I invited Leon and Pauline along, and they said they would be 10 minutes behind us.

Leon and Pauline

Crif's Dogs is a very interesting place. Not only do they have an extensive lineup of deep-fried hot dogs with all sorts of toppings, but there is a secret speakeasy bar that is accessed through a fake phone booth in the middle of the room. Leon, Pauline and I all squeezed into the booth, Leon picked up the phone and the entire back wall of the phone booth opens up and we walked into the bar to have a look. It's a very posh bar compared to the humble hot dog joint we walked through to get there. The whole set up reminded us of the old TV show Get Smart, or the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic from Harry Potter.

We all ate and talked until it was about midnight, which is way past my bedtime. Aussie Rob and Pauline both were due to fly back the very next day to Australia and Germany respectively, so this is one gathering that will not be replicated for a long time, if ever. Which is a pity because if Polina had only been there, we'd have had two Robs, and teens Pauline and Polina.

K-Rob and me at Crif's Dogs

All in all, it was a very good night, and very encouraging that polyamory has fans beyond the U.S. I gave Pauline a DVD with a copy of the MTV True Life "I'm Polyamorous" episode on it as a souvenir. Leon and I talked a bit about Open Love NY and getting that ship moving again. Polina and I have been talking today about what we can do together along that line, so we might have some movement on it this week. Stay tuned.

Gone but not forgotten

I am a happy person most of the time. I do get moody and emotional sometimes, but generally I believe that we are responsible for our own happiness, meaning that if we are not happy, it’s up to us to fix it. Whether that means changing our lives or changing our outlook on life, there’s usually no one else that is going to do it for us.

With that note, I will mark a rather bittersweet anniversary for me today, October 14. It was four years ago today that I met Tara, Bee and Bug face-to-face, and began the process of joining a family that ultimately did not work out for me. Since Tara severed ties with me on the first of September, I have had no contact with any of them, other than following her on Twitter.

Some people might be surprised, or not understand why these three people who used to be so close to me less than two years ago would treat me like a total stranger now. I can’t explain the whys and wherefores about the complexity of our relationship in this post, and none of that really matters now anyway.

The short version of the explanation is that Tara is an artist in the purest sense of the word, and as such she is the most uncompromising person I’ve ever met, or am likely to meet. It was one of the things I loved about her at first. Later when we became real-life lovers, that aspect of her character caused some friction and discord, because I am generally a very easy-going kind of person and she is not.

One thing I know about myself is that the rare occasions when I fall in love, I fall pretty damn hard. Part of the process for me when I’m in NRE (new relationship energy) is that I put a lot of energy into learning all about the person I’m with, and I can be pretty amazing in my ability to recollect details. Tara always used to say that I earned my Ph.D. in Tara Studies because I was so focused on learning about her when we were together. Polina might feel the same way, considering I’m learning Russian so I can understand a little more when she’s talking with her family.

So from my perspective, knowing and loving Tara as I do, I understand why she needed to have a complete break from me. I don’t bear her any ill will. A part of me will always love her, and be grateful for what she brought to my life. One of the things I’ve come to learn is that sometimes love is not enough, and it doesn’t always conquer all like in the fairy tales. While it may be the single most important thing in life to me, it’s not the only thing. We each have our own lives to live, and love cannot impede our freedom to live it. I learned that lesson painfully with Tara, and I’m constantly applying that lesson with Polina during our relationship check-ins so as not to impede her growth as a person.

I don’t think I will continue to mark this anniversary in the future, as it doesn’t have much meaning in my present life, and one thing I try to do is live in the moment. But I might do other things in the future to honor the family I used to have, and all the ways they changed me. Even if they never speak to me again, they are as much a part of my past as my estranged birth family. Sometimes we need to remember what has come before so we can carry our lessons forward, and if nothing else, I have proven in my life to be a pretty good student in all kinds of things.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Poly Pride 2009

It was a wonderful weekend for me and Polina, even though our plans kept changing constantly. Friday night she was supposed to come directly out to my apartment and stay the night so we could go to the Poly Pride Rally in Central Park on Saturday morning. But when she was getting ready to leave Stony Brook she found out that her parents, instead of leaving for a music festival that day as we’d expected, decided to stay home one extra night so they could spend some time with her.

So Friday she went home to Staten Island, which actually worked out well for us because that gave me extra time on Friday night to make some peanut sesame noodles for the picnic. This is a cold dish that I have fond memories as a kid, but have never tried to make before, and unfortunately it didn’t come out quite the way I wanted it to, but everybody seemed to like it anyway. Here’s a rough recipe that I followed:

1 lb. Chinese-style white flour noodles, medium width
8 oz. Thai peanut satay sauce
½ red bell pepper, julienned
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and julienned
1 bunch green onions, sliced diagonally
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sambal olek
2 tbsp soy sauce
White sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine all sauces and vegetables and let marinate while you boil the noodles to al dente. Drain noodles thoroughly and toss with sauce and vegetables. Chill and sprinkle sesame seeds on just before serving.

I also had more time to buy food at Costco, which included some tabouli, red pepper hummus, garlic stuffed olives, black seedless grapes and a few other things. I had gotten some spicy flatbread for the hummus earlier in the week, so I was putting together a kind of Mediterranean/Asian fusion menu. Unfortunately, I had bought some stuffed grape leaves the other day and subsequently forgot to bring them. But I also had to get a picnic blanket from Home Goods – I couldn’t find one with a gingham pattern like the one my birth family used to use, but I did find a really huge white cotton one with a blue trim that was big enough to spread under my queen-size air mattress, with extra material left over to put the food.

Saturday morning I got up and ran some errands while waiting for Kerry to come over so we could drive into the city together. She had a little trouble finding my apartment, as most people do the first time they drive here, but by that time I had everything packed and we got moving pretty quickly. We loaded the air mattress, food, blankets, camp chair and her hula hoop into my cart and made our way to the Great Hill in Central Park.

Since we were late, Polina was already there and she ran over to greet me with a hug and kisses. She had been press-ganged to read interstitials and poetry between each speaker and/or entertainer that took the stage, so she had to stay nearby. Kerry and I made our way up to the top of the hill where my friend Adele (with husband Lance and child Haley from the Bridgewater picnic) was sitting. It was Adele’s 44th birthday, and she was celebrating with cupcakes for everyone. Adele, Polina and I all got a shout in the poly news blog (

Polina reading interstitials

Throughout the day I saw many of my poly friends and acquaintances who have been mentioned in this blog – Reid, Barbara and partner Joe, Sylwia, Murray and Sandra, Carol, Karaoke Rob (since there are so many Robs, I need to qualify him), Justen, Patrick, Alan (the Boston-based poly news blogger), Kyle, Buck, Lyndell and a few others I’m sure I’m forgetting. Some of them took turns cuddling and making out on my air mattress, which of course is why I brought it. A couple of us gave Polina a back massage when she came up to hang with us for a while.

There were some wonderful musical acts, including N'Harmonics, an accappella group and a three-piece rock band, Houston Bernard & Bonfire Bandit, that were especially good. There was a hilarious cabaret performance by Raven Scheckter's We Three troupe doing poly-Jewish songs to the tunes of West Side Story (e.g. “Maria” became “A Triad”). Comic Kelli Dunham was the emcee, and Polina read various poly-themed letters and writings, in addition to one of her own slam poetry pieces. After her duties were finished, we sat on the air mattress surrounded by friends and I gave her a silver infinity heart pendant on a long silver chain to celebrate our first anniversary of meeting each other in the park at this event a year ago.

Kyle, Polina, Kerry and Lyndell
Anniversary pendant

As the sun began to dip below the trees, we packed everything up and Kerry, Polina and I drove back to New Jersey together. Kerry came up to the apartment and we gave her the dime tour, as well as showing her some of our favorite books and graphic novels (Sandman, Lost Girls, Fables, etc.). She left soon after to take a babysitting job for a friend, and Polina and I went out to dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. We came home and watched some episodes of TV show The Vampire Diaries on my DVR before going to bed.

We woke up really late the next morning, another benefit of shifting our sleepover to Saturday night, and made our usual breakfast of omelettes and turkey bacon. Polina wanted to get her hair colored again from its faded orange tint, so I made an appointment for her with my hair stylist, Edison. Before we left we had another relationship check-in that was a little difficult for both of us, but ultimately brought some closure to our last conversation at the frozen yogurt shop a couple weeks ago. We drove to her house in Staten Island for a quick stop before heading into Chinatown for the hair appointment. Edison created a deep purple tint for Polina’s bangs, which she loved.

Edison at work

We got out just in time to walk over to the Film Forum on West Houston and 7th Ave. to watch “The Yes Men Save the World,” a documentary movie about two guys who perpetrate elaborate hoaxes that illuminate injustice and corporate greed in the world. On our way back to Staten Island we got lost in Brooklyn for a bit and found this apropos street sign that sums up our weekend:

A Street in Brooklyn

Her parents were home from the music festival by the time we got back, and her mom had the most amusing blank look of horror on her face when she saw Penny’s new hair color. Both her parents hated the color passionately, and I can’t really fathom why because the dark purple against her natural dark brown is much less flashy than the red, orange and yellow that she’s been wearing the past several months. But Polina is very independent-minded, so I’m sure her parents’ disapproval won’t bother her too much – just as it doesn’t seem to hamper our relationship too much. I stayed for a cup of tea and we said goodnight, ending another happy weekend filled with fun and adventure.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sex toy party

Guess it has been more than a week since my last post - I must be slipping. Although, truth to tell, my life is pretty much confined to the weekends since during the week I don't have much time to do anything other than work and commute. Generally speaking that is, because I took last Thursday and Friday off. Not because I necessarily wanted to - since I'm a contract employee, when I take time off, I don't get paid for it. But the rest of the communications staff was down in Baton Rouge, LA for a big company meeting, leaving me with nothing to do.

Thursday I ran a bunch of errands that were piling up on me, like taking my dress from Ella's wedding to the dry cleaners, dropping off clothes for tailoring, getting Yoshi's brakes fixed and getting my allergy shots. Then Friday I drove out to Stony Brook on Long Island to visit Polina. I watched her band practice for a while, then we went to dinner with some of her friends.

After they dropped us off at her dorm, we hung out there for the rest of the evening on her top bunk bed, playing Scrabble on Facebook, videochatting with her friend Patrick, and having some long-overdue private time. Seriously, despite all the time we've had lately, we haven't actually been in a bed together since Aug. 10, the last Poly Cocktail Hour she attended ("Polys in the wild" - Aug. 11, 2009), so that alone was worth the four-hour round-trip.

I probably would have stayed overnight in her dorm room except that Angel was having a Brown Bag Party at her house the next day, and I had invited Agnieszka to come with me, so I had to go back to New Jersey to pick her up anyway. Angel sells intimacy products (i.e. sex toys and novelties) through these Tupperware-style parties she throws, and at events like the Spice NYC party a couple weeks ago. Agnieszka and I drove out to Queens and had a fun time at the party, learning about different lubricants, stimulators, vibrators, and other somesuch. The thing I'll most remember is Agnieszka playing with a latex-like face used for fake blowjobs - she had me in stitches. I also won one of the games where the prize was a deck of Hustler playing cards that said "Barely Legal" on it - I wondered if Angel was making some comment about my girlfriend, but she denied it.

We came back to Agnieszka's place from the party, and chatted for a while to catch up. It's been quite a few months since our last outing ("Shanghai Mermaid" - May 31, 2009) so it was nice to talk with her about what's been happening. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I've known Agnieszka longer than any other friend in the northeast who is still currently in my life, and it's always nice to get her perspective on things.

On Monday, I had a second-round interview with a PR firm in the city, on Vanderbilt Avenue right next to Grand Central Station. I met with the president of the firm, and we seemed to hit it off well. He asked me what I did in my spare time, and in a burst of honesty that comes from being gainfully employed, I told him that I do volunteer work in the LGBT community. He smoothly indicated that he was fine with this by saying that he has a close friend who was the first openly gay board member of the New York Stock Exchange. So that is a plus if I decide to work for them - I wouldn't have to be evasive about Polina, who would surely visit the office at some point.

The real issue of course is whether I want to make a job change in this economy after only a month at my current job. The job I have in Princeton is in many ways my dream job - I get to do a lot of creative writing, I don't have to deal with a lot of people, it's low pressure and low stress, and in an interesting field at a very healthy company. The free lunches and free drinks are nice, and the people are great to work with. The downside is that it's not a full-time, permanent position (which is both good and bad) and the commute is wearing Yoshi and me out. So if I stay there, I will probably end up moving to south Jersey in March, and that's not really where I want to live.

I'm not supposed to think about this dilemma until it becomes one - that is, until I get a comparable job offer from the new firm, and that hasn't happened yet. But if it does, it will be one of those life-altering decisions that I'm not eager to make right now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mabon circle

It was a fairly busy weekend for me but full of good and productive things. It seems like I’m finally starting to adjust to an early sleep schedule, but I still need to work on keeping my apartment clean when I don’t have unlimited time to pick up after myself. It’s not terrible by most people’s standards, but I’ve gotten used to keeping things tidy, especially when I have company over (which is a lot rarer occurrence these days).

So this weekend, I left directly from work on Friday and drove up to Middletown, NY to visit with Buck and Donna so that we could transcribe a poly timeline that was created back in March at the national poly leadership summit I attended as a volunteer. The original scroll of the timeline will be housed at the Kinsey Institute, which has a poly library of historical documents, but we wanted to capture the information on an Excel spreadsheet so it can be used and expanded on a future Web site. Friday night we all had dinner together at a Mexican restaurant, followed by some group cuddling on the couch back at Buck’s place before bed.

Saturday Donna had another engagement upstate, so Buck and I had the day to ourselves. We started with him getting a haircut at a nearby salon, which was also hosting a bridal party that morning. It was actually quite fascinating watching the bride getting her hair done, and it gave me a new appreciation of how much work it takes to create these beautiful hairstyles for special occasions.

Afterwards we had brunch at a Perkins restaurant and then went to Sunshine Studios so I could buy the Woodstock Chimes Emperor wind gong I saw last month when we visited for the Open Love NY leadership retreat. We spent the entire afternoon transcribing the timeline scroll, which extends from about 500 BCE (before Common Era) to 2050 CE and charts the growth of polyamory in the categories of Self, Group, Movement and Culture.

On Sunday I went into the city to meet up with Polina and attend my first group circle at a friend's house for Mabon. It was quite a big step for me to share my spiritual practices with other people, but as part of my continued growth and dedication to my practice, I felt it was a good opportunity to see how it feels as part of a group. My friend Katie (who is married to Patrick, one of the board members of Polyamorous NYC) organizes a family-friendly circle with her five-year-old daughter Evie to teach kids about paganism. Katie and her girlfriend Laura, and her daughter and I joined Evie in circle, and it was a lovely experience. The presence of the children made the circle feel more casual, but also brought a nurturing energy to it.

As Mabon is a time of harvest where we give thanks for the bounty we reap from our efforts throughout the year, I have two major things to be thankful for – my new job and my relationship with Polina. As I said in circle, these are the things that I’ve worked on and put effort into this year that I’m thankful have borne fruit.

Polina arrived afterwards and joined us for the potluck lunch party around the same time that Patrick and little Jasper came home from gymnastics class. I gave Polina a DVD of the MTV True Life episode she hadn’t seen yet (my big national TV debut) and she brought me a present from her trip to Switzerland, an aluminum water bottle with pictures of Swiss postage stamps on it. She also returned my copy of Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon, which she managed to slog through so we can see the movie together when it comes out on November 20.

Polina and I left around 3:30 p.m. and decided to watch a movie, but we couldn’t find a theater nearby that was playing anything we liked. So we stopped in our usual frozen yogurt place on Christopher Street to relax and have another check-in about our relationship, which is moving toward a more poly structure as we both pursue new people while continuing to nurture our bond to each other.

We both acknowledged how our relationship has progressed in the past several weeks, even given the disapproval of her family and the limitations we currently have on spending time together (although I think we are both a little surprised that we’ve managed to see each other three weekends in row after our month-long separation in late August and early September). We had a very candid talk, followed by as much snogging as we could get away with in public, before heading back to Yoshi and dropping her off at her grandmother’s house for Yom Kippur services that evening.

In other news, the job has been going very well so far, other than the commute is rather long. Through familiarity with the route, I have it down to about an hour’s drive time each way. I get to focus on writing all day long, without having to deal with budgets, team supervision, client meetings or any of the other managerial/administrative things that I had to do at my last two jobs in public relations agencies. I also keep pretty regular hours since I’m a contracted employee (unless they want to pay me overtime) and it’s nice being fed a nutritious lunch every day in the free company cafeteria.

However, I’m getting renewed interest from PR firms I interviewed with over the summer as the economy bounces back, and I admit it would be a good thing to live and work in the city, all else being equal, so that I could spend more time with Polina and my other friends. Career-wise, I’d probably be better off staying in Princeton and getting more in-house communications experience, but we’ll see if I get an offer that makes it worth making another jump.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SBU football, Thriller and Rosh Hashanah

As you can probably tell from the headline, it was another busy weekend for me and Polina. I'm really happy that we continue to find reasons and ways to see each other as much as possible instead of going for several weeks or a month between visits. While we stay in touch constantly via phone, text and video chat, there is no substitute for touch and smell and feeling her energy shine from her eyes.

Friday night I left straight from work to head into the city to meet Angel, who had invited me to a party celebrating the first anniversary of Spice NYC, a queer party planning organization. The party was held at Leopard Lounge, above a bar called Sin Sin on 2nd Avenue and Fifth Street. I was early, so I went to get my nails done and browsed at a few shops before meeting her outside the door. She was toting her suitcase full of sex toys to show at the party and we sat at a booth while she set up a raffle for a dildo she was giving away. It was actually quite funny watching her show people a giant pink dildo and trying to get them to buy raffle tickets.

Me and Angel

I left as the party was getting hot because it was still a long way out to Stony Brook University, where Polina goes to school. I bought a Garmin GPS unit on Friday since I no longer have my family to help me with directions when I get lost (I used to call them Oracle based on the DC Comics character) so I made decent time once I got out of Manhattan. Our friend Afiya was also visiting, so they came out and met me in the parking lot just after midnight when I arrived. I changed out of my work clothes and we went to another room on her floor to watch "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" and an episode of "Entourage" with a couple guys before returning to sleep.

Saturday morning we met up with several of Polina's friends to have brunch, which turned out to be a late lunch since we were waiting on people to show up.

Waiting on friends at Roth Pond

After lunch Polina left with her friends to get ready for band rehearsal while Afiya and I wandered around the campus looking for stuff to do. We found some people practicing walking on a slack rope tied between two trees, so Afiya gave that a try, without much success. We played basketball in the athletic center for a little while before they kicked us out. Afiya and I have yet to play a one-on-one match, which we've been trash-talking about for months now. Eventually I'll get to kick her butt somewhere. We parked Yoshi at the stadium and hung out, sitting on Yoshi's inverted couch out the back, tailgate style. We threw my softball around with her using my glove and I used batting gloves which are lightly padded in the palm - it's actually good practice for cricket, which doesn't allow fielding gloves except for the wicketkeeper.

Eventually it was time to go into the stadium, and we watched the pre-game show and visited Polina in the stands:

Cymbal player

The halftime show was very entertaining, and I captured it on video using my camera, while Afiya took pictures from higher in the bleachers. They played Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" (also known as the cowbell song from Will Ferrell's classic Saturday Night Live skit), "Thriller" by Michael Jackson (where the whole band gets to mimic the famous dance steps, and Penny gets to do them while holding cymbals), "Bye Bye Bye" by N*SYNC and "Disturbia" by Rihanna.

But while the band was very exciting, for once they could not compete with the football game, as SBU won the game 21-20 on a touchdown in the final two minutes and a missed field goal attempt by Brown University as the clock expired. Fans from the student red zone stormed the field in an amazing display of school spirit:


After the game the three of us went to an Indian restaurant to grab a quick bite before we were to drop Afiya at the train station, but we ended up missing the train by about a minute, so we dropped her off at her home on Long Island on the way back to Staten Island. All of Penny's grandparents were there, plus another family friend visiting for Rosh Hashanah, so we slept downstairs in the living room, her on the couch and me on my air mattress.

The next morning we had breakfast together and drove into the city to Pier 45 where Penny's Jewish community group The New Shul had a ceremonial throwing of bread into the Hudson River to symbolize tossing away your sins to the fishes. We then walked to Washington Square Park for a brief lesson by the rabbi, and Penny and I recorded a digital video greeting for her Dutch boyfriend Peter, who is having a commitment ceremony with his girlfriend Floor in Amsterdam this weekend.

Penny greeting friends in the park

We stopped off at the group's art installation called The House of Awe & Repentance before going back to my place so Penny could do some homework and I could make us some food. I made her an improv meal of turkey bacon, white rice and kim chee, while I had some fried rice with very un-kosher Chinese sausage. We drove back to the city so I could drop her off at her grandmother's apartment for a birthday party which was for family only. Unfortunately, that meant I wasn't able to take her back to SBU as we'd planned, so she had to take the train back early Monday morning and call a friend to pick her up from the station.

Finally, I want to wish everyone a very happy Mabon, or Fall Equinox, which is today.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Way I Loved You

Taylor Swift has been in the news a lot lately, and I've been listening non-stop to her album Fearless since I checked it out of the library last week. But while I like all the tracks, the one song that is on my mind at the moment is track 10, "The Way I Loved You."

As you can see from the lyrics if you click on the link, the song is about how someone can have a seemingly perfect relationship and somehow long for a volatile and tumultuous one that develops somewhat equal parts of both pain and passion. And this is interesting to me because both Polina and I have one thing in common - we both recently ended ex-relationships that fit this description. But having gone through them, we've also both realized that we're not the sort who long to have that kind of relationship back.

It remains to be seen for both of us if our aversion to relationship drama will extend into future relationships, since we are both open to dating new people. But for now, I think we both appreciate how our relationship has become one that is stable, nurturing, positive and transparent. We work closely on specific issues together to improve our communication, and we both put forth effort to meet each other's needs.

But I think the big secret to the success of our relationship so far is our ability to enjoy the present, to live in the moment, and not to dwell or obsess over future scenarios or obstacles we have yet to face. If our relationship works well on many different levels over a long period of time, we can eventually overcome a lot of the issues that seem insurmountable right now. But for right now, we focus on loving each other as best we can, and letting the future unfold as it will.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Poly parties

It's Wednesday at work, and I'm looking forward to going home and chilling out for the evening. It seems like it's been a non-stop whirlwind since I started working last week, and indeed it has.

As you recall from my last post, I started my new job on Thursday sleep-deprived because of a mix-up in communications where I didn't think I was going to start so I stayed out late in the city the night before at my poly women's meeting, only to find out that I was expected to come in at 8 a.m. And that's pretty much been par for the course as my body tries to adjust to a different sleep cycle that requires me to leave the apartment at 7 a.m. to beat traffic down to Princeton each morning.

And then of course last weekend I was camping for the wedding, which was lots of fun but not overly conducive to a restful sleep. Sunday evening was fairly restful as I got caught up on laundry and putting things away from the camping trip, but I still wound up going to bed late and waking up early Monday morning.

But enough griping since I don't want anyone to think I'm in any way unhappy about having a job or spending time with my lovely girlfriend. Monday evening I took off a little early after work to drive into the city for two different parties. First up was the monthly Poly Cocktail Hour at China 1 Restaurant, where I met up with my Open Love NY friends Buck, Donna, Lyndell, Simon, and Leon, and also was pleasantly surprised to see so many members of my women's poly group there as well - Sylwia, Barbara and Oxy showed up. I said hello to other regulars (Derek, Norman, and a few I haven't learned their names yet) and met some new people, but didn't really engage with any of them since there were so many of my friends there and I wanted to spend time with them. Oxy and I started talking about boobs and she let me touch her ample, all-natural bosom (she's an F cup) which I did ever so gently with the tip of my finger.

Simon, Sylwia, Barbara and Oxy

I only mention this because of what happened later in the evening at the second party, which was Diana and Kerry's MTV True Life viewing party. I took a cab down to Fulton Street near South Street Seaport where Diana's friend Hookah Mike rents a huge, six-bedroom loft that he shares with five roommates. The apartment has two large common areas in an open floor plan with 12-foot ceilings; one area includes the windows and the other connected to the kitchen and dining areas. This place was so big, they had room for a ping-pong table in between these two common areas, which each had its own projection TV and sofa/loveseat/coffee table. I say all this because I've never seen such a spacious apartment in the city and I was a little overwhelmed. I can't begin to imagine what a place like that must cost in monthly rent!

Watching MTV True Life projected on the wall

I only saw a few people there I knew - Birgitte (past president of Polyamorous NYC), Reid (co-founder of Cuddle Party), Hannah (a butch genderqueer I met a few months ago at Poly Cocktail Hour), Diana's boyfriend Ed and Kerry’s boyfriend Kyler - but most of the people seemed to be friends of Diana who had helped or participated in the MTV show, plus several of Diana's partners of course. The show started 30 minutes later than it was supposed to, which caused some confusion, but once it started, it was a non-stop rollercoaster of laughter, groans and general hysterics. Kerry, Diana and Ed, who starred in the show, didn't get to see it prior to airing, so they had the biggest reactions since they were on the screen most of the time.

Kyler and Kerry

My participation was reduced to a brief cameo, as I was in the background for a couple shots and got one close-up that lasted about half a second. None of my dialogue was used (which I’m a bit relieved about) so it's not likely anyone is going to notice me (although I was wearing a very sexy, low-cut turquoise silk top seen below with Erika, Birgitte's girlfriend).

Erika and me at the Slipper Room back in May

During the show, I was sitting on the floor next to Hannah, who was sitting next to a Korean girl, who introduced herself to me as Nari. I immediately was sure we'd met before because she seemed very familiar - it turns out she is quite famous as an associate producer for the Travel Channel who appeared on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show when they went to Seoul, South Korea. I've seen that particular episode several times because I love Korean food, and it's also one of the funniest episodes of the show, with Nari's bubbly and youthful optimism in stark contrast to Tony's world-weary cynicism clashing at every turn. And I'm not the only one who liked the episode – you can read plenty of Nari's fan mail in the comments section of her recent post about Vancouver on the Travel Channel blog.

Since Nari works in television, she had a lot to say about how it looked like MTV took advantage of the three poly men from North Carolina who appeared on the show. We all agreed that Diana and Kerry (and Ed) did a great job presenting polyamory as a legitimate and workable (albeit complicated) lovestyle, requiring good communication, maturity and flexibility to be successful. Unfortunately, the flip side with the poly men showed the opposite is also true, that without those qualities, polyamory can result in major drama and heartache. It was also pointed out repeatedly that the NC men lacked any kind of poly support network or the experience of someone like Diana that might have helped them learn how to handle things better.

Of course I am reminded of my own experience with trying to start a poly family where the problem was a complete lack of buy-in to polyamory as a sustainable lovestyle by the other three-fourths of the family. My ex-girlfriend often lamented what she saw as my need to be part of a larger community to help deal with our poly situation, something she had no interest in doing. Predictably, people who find themselves in poly situations without adequate resources or experience find it a lot harder to make things work in the end.

Once the show wrapped up, people started to drift toward Hookah Mike's bedroom to talk about the show. I was talking to Nari and her fiance Sam and showing her some of my pictures on my camera. I asked Sam to take a picture of us, and he took several while Nari started getting really frisky with me. Sam sort of encouraged it while he was taking the photos too. After the photo shoot Sam wanted to go home, and said he would wait for Nari downstairs. Nari wanted to take me to a karaoke bar or do something else since the party seemed to be winding down, but I demurred, saying I had to get home and get some sleep as it was around midnight.

Me and Nari chewing scenery

She was very persistent however, so I settled for chatting with her while she smoked a cigarette while we sat on the window ledge. If anyone has seen the episode with Nari on the Travel Channel, let me tell you: she is every bit as energetic and perky in person as she was on the show. We both look much younger than we actually are - she’s 27 but looks like she’s 17 and still gets carded for cigarettes. Her first guess at my age was 28 and it took her about five guesses to get high enough. I found out that she was getting married to Sam this Friday, and I asked if she was poly. She said no, but that she and Sam were very open and poly-friendly.

We talked about our exes and she told me about her first girlfriend in college. She didn't say she was bisexual, but she did say that while she loves cock, she also loves big boobs and can't wait to get pregnant so that her boobs will grow bigger (she's almost totally flat-chested). I asked her if she would like to feel mine, and she dove in with gusto, putting a two-handed grab on my chest that would make any NFL wide receiver green with envy.

I think it was right about then that Sam walked in, complaining that he had been waiting for half an hour because he'd been locked out downstairs. They got into a bit of a fight, and I tried to explain that I wasn't trying to keep Nari from leaving or doing anything inappropriate, at least given that we were at a party with mostly sex-positive, polyamorous people. Sam practically dragged her away, but not before Nari planted a goodbye kiss on me. After they left, I and two other people who had watched this scene unfold sat looking stunned at each other, wondering what it was all about. They certainly did not seem like they belonged at that party, nor should be getting married in four days. Shortly after, I said goodbye to everyone and left myself, passing the couple once more on the street on the way to get Yoshi from the garage.

Tuesday night after work I stopped by Il Trapezio Cafe in Nutley, NJ to attend a book reading by my client, author and academic Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio, who has just published Gaia and the New Politics of Love: Notes for a Poly Planet. Several of my friends also attended - Buck and Donna, Murray and Sandy, and Adele from my women's group, who works a few blocks away at the public library. We had a nice lively discussion, and Serena signed a book and gave it to me. I've been working for her for the past three months, but I have to end our working relationship now because I simply don't have the time anymore. But hopefully the seeds we've sown in the media will bear some fruit in the coming months that will contribute to the success of her book.

Book reading in Nutley

So now I'm all caught up on the weird and fun stuff that's been happening lately, I'm looking forward to a couple of quiet nights at home, watching movies and catching up on sleep before the weekend. Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) begins on Friday at sundown and ends Sunday at nightfall (which I guess is full dark), so I'm going to visit Polina at Stony Brook to watch her marching band Saturday night, and then celebrating with her family on Sunday.

Postscript: A shout goes out to my best friend Lori, who just accepted a marriage proposal today from her boyfriend of 2 and a half years, Erik. The date is set for May on the anniversary of their first meeting. Congratulations!