Am I emotionally mature enough for the relationship I want? A question.
I decided - after a spectacularly distasteful outing while in New York City a few weeks ago - to sign up for Tinder.
My illustrious bio made mention of my kinky proclivities in the form of quoting Brandy Jensen’s Twitter, iced by mention of my fondness for black magic. It was my way of doubling down on my weirdness and to serve as a means of - however minorly - holding myself up to the confidence I mustered to put the kibosh on being used as an emotional fleshlight while simultaneously having my disability erased for my troubles. I am ready for more, and perhaps even more than marginally better, than I’ve experienced with the disappointing world of dating.
The result was about 4,000+ matches, and me shelling out $50 to cut through the repetitive, addictive UX/UI - and also to get 6 months worth of entertainment and writing material. Much to my surprise, however, this decision also prompted me to have to confront the question:
Am I emotionally mature enough for the relationship I want?
Before I ever ventured into the digital dive bar of the online dating world, I’ve been trying to be the one rather than finding the one. It’s such an obnoxious Instagibberish quotable, but there’s something to the notion that we should put more time into being prepared to rise to the occasion than trying to find the occasion, hoping we’ll somehow miraculously sprout wings and a glimmer of a clue. As someone who has flown by the seat of her Mercurial-winged ass, let me assure you: we do not. Unless, of course, it comes on the other side of getting a knot on your noggin, which I strongly don’t recommend because the metaphorical concussion that comes with is actually traumatic sublimation and memory loss. Not a good look, kids.
There’s been a lot of journaling and therapy, emotional eating, and exercise bordering on self-harm and crossing over. Self-love, it turns out, is not actually perfumed post-it notes with beachy backdrops, and glamorous promises of snow white, Balinese bliss. It’s more like running through an airport to catch a connecting flight, only to slip on the hem of your maxi dress, busting your face up, and then subsequently bleeding all over the emotional support chihuahua of the person seated next to you on your flight because you removed the tissues from your actually broken face too soon. But damn it, you made your flight, and that's all that matters. That's what the process of learning to love myself has been like for me: making the fucking connections, no matter what. I might be horribly embarrassed, ugly crying, and still learning about the timing of staunching my own bleeding from injuries that may or may not have been within the realm of my control, but I'm on the plane. There's constant progress. Painful progress, maybe, but at least it's short-lived and I'm not putting off getting to where I want to go because I was afraid my lack of coordination would thwart me.
Tinder is my connecting flight to embracing my desire for a long-term, committed relationship. It’s also a connecting flight towards exploring my sexuality, as I embark on a journey of (re)embracing my body, sensuality, and eroticism. As I wrote in an Instagram essay:
“I'm currently going through a phase with my sexuality, in the sense that I am finally feeling safe enough to be who I always have been.
So much of the constellation of my selves is raw power. A stellium in Scorpio, another in Capricorn, Leo Moon, Leo Rising, Capricorn Lilith, Aries Midheaven. I take up more space than some of the most daring space takers without trying. I am divine delight and thunderous rage. I am the muse. I was born provocative, wild, and biting - clawing away at any expectations of goodness, my goodness being transmuted through the copper melanin of my skin into sin by a contrasting world, my badness evidence of my inherent guilt. I was always going to be anything but a girl, always moving too quickly, even if I was stopped to ask wild roses questions and to ponder the meaning of stars.
...I'm finally *in* this body. Fully. And all I can think about is pleasure as my birthright. I look in the mirror and I see an old friend who has become my soulmate, and I know that I am home. A home where I can decorate my walls and windows with only things that are sumptuous and satisfying. A home where I no longer have to hide in the smallness of light, and can revel in the comfort of shadow and shades.”
The most prominent manifestation of this shift in relating to myself, and how I wield my power and desires, was coming to terms with the fact that I’m a mild-to-moderate sexual sadist and have a strong desire for a power exchange relationship(s), with me in the driver’s seat both in a vanilla as well as a kinky context. I’ve never really had conventional intimate relationships of the sexual or romantic variety before, nor do I have a particular desire to cultivate something in line with those heteronormative standards now. I’m a few sugar daddies, two Dominant male partners, a live-in situationship, a couple dozen random hook-ups, and being a (semi)retired sex worker deep into unconventional arrangements territory, suddenly attaching myself to white picket fences or disproportionate emotional labor codified as respectable. The last time I had a traditional relationship - and even that had the buddings of kinky undertones - was when I was engaged as an 18-year-old to a 22-year-old white man whose conservative family never would’ve accepted me as a whole person anyways. Young love generally isn’t about sustainability or vision, but somehow, I had eyes and ears for both even that early on, and we broke up over a combination of infidelity and his expectation that my goals and independence were subordinate to his wants as my partner.
But even in my queerness, kinkiness, and fascination with sexuality and power, I’ve been wrestling with my questions of worthiness and fitness to receive and maintain the relationship I want. If anything, deviating from the standard provokes greater consternation of my fitness and ability to maintain something better than the bullshit white supremacist patriarchy hands us, despite my own past track record being spotty as fuck. My choice in partners has ranged from perfectly suitable to monstrously abusive, leaning more towards the spectrum of pain and disturbing disrespect than I’d prefer. While abuse is never the fault of the abused, I am intimately aware of the violence of my rearing and the dehumanization of my beingness has conditioned me to be passive about my self-love, my ability to communicate my desires, and my expectations for respect and care. I’m also twice neurodivergent - gifted and autistic - and struggle to play the game of dealing with allistic people and the expectations of a neurotypical society, subtext and all. All of that while navigating hypersensitivity and profound empathetic states that I know are logically not in line with the expectations of the broader world or even within my own brain. I look at the foundation I have to build on and from and sincerely doubt if I can cradle and carry the tools needed to show up as something akin to a decent partner.
For all my knowledge of useless trivia, the topic I know best are my own flaws and shortcomings. I have made a living and a life out of public, cathartic dissection of my wounds and exploration of those most taboo and trying emotions. For all of my yearning to open up these landscapes of pleasure and expansion, I know that I disrobe with a body glittering with stitches and dotted with bruises and scars. There are days when I look at myself and my dysmorphic, pained body, recalling the idea that we are collectively supposed to be some sort of temple - holy, profane, or secular - and simply feel like it sits empty and ransacked, unfit for occupation and contemplation, let alone gathering. Or worship. I don’t know how people find each other, hope, and comfort when they get close to intimate places that look like my body and feel like my heart.
The type of relationship I want is one that helps me see both the very real and uncomfortable dimensions of being here, in a body on Earth, and the miraculousness of being alive. It helps me to learn to be capable of navigating the fear and the feelings of undeserving with empathy and affirmation, but honesty and accountability. I want to lean into vulnerability and rest my weariness on good faith and trust - to make a commitment that in every choice to commit, and recommit, we try to remember to leave the other better than we found them even if we end up deciding to stop coming to meet each other on our respective life roads.
Am I emotionally mature enough for that relationship yet?
The answer is no, because it’s the wrong question.
Am I ready to accept the responsibility of showing up for myself - and life - as the type of person who can cultivate, sustain, and nurture that type of relationship?
It turns out an Instagram quote was right for once.
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