Being a 4’11, 100 pound woman who’s typically soft spoken, people often look at me and think I’m pretty timid. But over the years as I’ve gotten used to running a business, I’ve found my voice and have become a lot more outspoken. Aside from when I’m working, I’ve been told by friends that I can be very commanding in my personal life as well. The more comfortable I am with someone, the more opinionated I become – and because I can exude a dominating personality, my friends say that I have Napoleon Syndrome, resembling the historical general who was really short but really bossy.
With this said, I tend to find dating men a type of power play. As someone who has trouble letting go of control, the only time I find myself able to do this is in bed. I’m definitely into BDSM – not so much the whips and chains part, but the part where someone dominates me and takes away the power I otherwise hold so dear. I know that you can’t tell whether someone is into BDSM by looking at them, but biologically we look for signs that our partner is sexually compatible, and dominance is stereotypically seen as masculinity.
I grew up Roman Catholic to two conservative parents in a small town in Alberta. I’m no longer religious, but I still hold similar small town values when it comes to what I’m looking for in a partner. Most of the guys I’ve dated have been sweethearts who worked in the trades and looked rough on the outside. The lumberjack-plaid-wearing-types. One actually was a lumberjack. The majority of them weren’t into BDSM, but they were typically dominant in bed.
Now that I’m starting to date men in Vancouver, I’m finding less tradesmen and more of a mixed variety. There are the guys who love the outdoors, but for the most part men here are a lot less rough on the outside and more into spending time on how they look. For example, the other week I went out with a volleyball player who dressed well and made his own candles. He was really sweet, but he didn’t come across as the type to pin me down and make me beg for it.
I always say if I were on Millionaire Matchmaker, Patti Stanger would kick me off her show. I know I can intimidate men – for one thing, I write about my sexual experiences and run a feminist magazine. For another, I can come off as emasculating. I find myself walking in front of my dates and opening my own doors, ordering for both of us and making sarcastic comments rather than swooning – but in my mind I’m hoping they’ll be dominating enough to brush it off, tell me to let them open the door and make me fucking swoon.
As a progressive woman who doesn’t believe in gender roles, I hate that I still hang onto the traditional values I grew up on. I don’t think men need to chop down trees to be sexy. However, I’m not going to lie when I say that I struggle with men having feminine-associated attributes. When a man takes more time figuring out what to wear than I do, it makes me feel less feminine. But maybe that’s my problem and not his. I once dated a guy who I originally thought was gay, wore expensive suits and was totally my cup of tea in bed – so I know that looks have nothing to do with sexuality.
At the end of the day when I’ve put my laptop away and I’m ready to relax, I really just want someone to consensually push me up against the wall and have their way with me. It doesn’t matter if they like dressing nice or are crafty. Maybe I should give the volleyball player another shot. I admire his attention to healthy living and his entrepreneurship, and maybe he’ll surprise me by being more dominating than I expect. Also, candles in the bedroom are definitely a bonus.
Tonight I’m going out for drinks with my server from last night. Asking him out came from a combination of the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had, my first glass of wine in a month, his level of attractiveness, his ease when it came to conversating and his generous removal of my drink from the bill. But the thing that really made me interested in him was the fact that he didn’t hit on me, ask for my number or make any indication that he was into me other than his warm smile and generosity. When I paid my bill and turned to leave, he said goodbye and that was it. Previously I had looked for a pen to leave my number – but to no avail. I kicked myself after walking through the door empty handed, and I thought maybe since I chickened out he was feeling the same way. If anything, at least it was worth the shot of getting to know him.
I used to be a server, so I know not to take people’s kind gestures as a sure sign that they’re into me. But there was something in my gut telling me that maybe he was. I tend to shut out this feeling when I’m attracted to someone, because I’m terrified of rejection. A person basically has to be making out with me for me to believe they’re interested. I’m so used to guys hitting on me that it was refreshing to have someone treat me with kindness and not expect anything in return – but it also confused me that he took my drink off the bill and didn’t ask for my number. Was he just a genuinely nice guy who did nice things for people, or was he a player who comped drinks off pretty girl’s tabs while secretly hoping they’d take it as a sort of mating call? Either way, I haven’t been out on a date for a while, so I let my vagina make the decision.
Suddenly I was standing outside the closed restaurant with a note I cowardly tried to stick under the door – but it wouldn’t go under, so I left it in front of it. While I was walking away, I told myself how stupid that was because it could blow away or he might not see it, so I picked it up and stood beside the building for about five minutes, anxiously trying to think of what to do. The last time I did that sort of thing I tried to ask out this guy in my elementary school and it failed miserably when I kept repeating, “are you seeing anyone?” and after clarifying that I meant dating, he said he wasn’t, and I said, “oh okay,” and left.
Back when all I cared about was having sex, I used to have so much game. I didn’t care about rejection because a) I was probably drunk and b) I probably didn’t like the person anyway. But now I’m at a point in my life where I actually want to meet people and develop real relationships and I’m vulnerable in the sense where I can get hurt. Asking out a random guy doesn’t seem like a big deal in retrospect, but since I’ve moved I’ve been disappointed by the guys I’ve dated who disappeared after we slept together, and I’m not looking for a repeat.
Eventually I built up the nerve to go back in the restaurant. The door was locked, and he was working alone at the front. When I knocked and he opened the door for me, I asked if they had an ATM because I ran out of bus change – which I actually had – and he told me to come in. Since there was a convenience store literally across the street, he MUST have known that I was making an excuse to talk to him – right? Either way, he eagerly offered me bus change out of his pocket, even after I refused, and I took it as an excuse to ask if I could repay him by buying him a drink.
We agreed on me meeting him at his work after his shift was finished. After trying on multiple outfits, I’m confidently not overthinking things and am going to be totally casual about having drinks with a kind, good-looking guy I know nothing about. I mean, it’s probably going to be fine. To be honest, I don’t know a lot of people here yet, and I’m just stoked to go out with someone who’s cool and get to know them. And I’m definitely only having one drink and going home alone afterwards. Because if he disappears after a one night stand I’m going to have to find a new gluten free pizza place.
My first abusive relationship was when I was 15. I had no clue that what he was doing was classic domestic abuse until years later when I realized I had developed a pattern of “taking in sick puppies,” as my dad liked to call it. I can’t quite recall exactly what he did because people who’ve been through trauma have a tendency to block these things out, but I remember feeling like there was something off about him. He was overly possessive, and he’d flip like a switch – hot and cold – when I tried to be intimate with him. He’d refuse to hold my hand in the hallway and blast his headphones on the bus while staring angrily into space. I vaguely remember a time when he was holding my panties in front of me, taunting me as I tried to cover myself and grab them back. After about a year I broke up with him because he made me feel uncomfortable, but I was yet to realize it wouldn’t be the last time I felt that way in a relationship.
Years passed and I started dating a writer while we attended the same university program. He was introverted and artistic, and he liked to spend his evenings drinking – a lot. It was one of the most passionate love affairs I’ve ever had, and the sex almost made me forget about the times he would yell at me when he was drunk. We’d go to a house party and stay in one of the extra bedrooms, and he’d start incoherently picking a fight with me over nothing, leaving the room in a huff. When he’d wake up in another room the next morning, he’d come back and ask what happened just as sweet as ever and not remembering a damn thing. On top of that, he hardly ever answered his phone, but his jealousy was so bad that he would make me show him my texts. When I somehow developed the skin virus molluscum contagiosum near my vagina, he started yelling at me in the street on the way to the clinic because he thought I was cheating on him. He then left me there, in the pouring rain, while I walked to the clinic alone. But after I finished getting liquid nitrogen blown up my ass, I went back to his dirty apartment where we had makeup sex and I forgave him.
At the time, I was working for a domestic violence organization, and after reading hundreds of stories on abusive relationships it still hadn’t clicked that something was wrong with my relationship until the point where I’d been embarrassed by him making a scene in the street. I knew he wasn’t treating me how I deserved, but I was more scared of being alone than dealing with his erratic mood swings. It took months for me to realize that things weren’t going to change – even after my friends told me that I needed to leave him or when he failed to come with me after my mother had a heart attack. I would make excuses for him and try to be understanding of his actions because he was a nice guy and we had a lot of fun together – but finally it took him standing me up for me to lose my patience and tell him I was leaving him. I realized I was better off alone than being dragged down by not getting what I needed in the relationship.
It’s been a few years and I feel like I’ve been through enough bad relationships to be able to grasp the signs of an abuser. I know that there are so many potential partners out there, and that even if you think it’ll never get better than the person you’re with, it always does. You will find someone who shows you the love and respect like you deserve. But now my friend is immersed in an abusive relationship herself, and I don’t know how to help her. She’s been dating the same guy for five years, and I’ve maybe met him a handful of times. Until this year she’s never really disclosed much about her relationship, and suddenly everything is coming out of the woodwork. She says he acts like Jeckyll and Hyde, he puts her down constantly, makes inappropriate sexual advances even when she tells him to stop and “doesn’t usually hit her.” When she tells him she’s going out, he guilt-trips her and gets jealous of her guy friends. She even wakes up with him inside her and thinks he’s trying to get her pregnant. He’s threatened to hang her dogs and throw them down the stairs because they annoyed him, he’s hit her cat because it peed on his side of the bed and she’s afraid to leave her animals alone with him. She’s admitted that she’s scared to say anything about how he treats her in case he reads her texts. But then right after she says all this, she defends him, saying he’s a good guy and that she’s working on making things better – as if it’s her job to fix him.
It’s so easy to read this and think that women in abusive relationships are stupid and that they should just leave. I know, because that used to be my thought process before I found myself wanting to get out of one and my friends gave me the ultimatum of him or them. I told them I needed support and didn’t feel ready to break up with him, but they still didn’t understand. That’s why as taxing as it is to see my friend’s texts about her abusive partner when she won’t just leave him already, I tell her that I’m there for her if she wants to talk. As women, we tend to give our partners the benefit of the doubt until there’s no more to give. We think if they have a job, they’re kind and attractive they can’t possibly be abusive and we’re just jumping to conclusions. But abusive people have a way of continuously putting you down so you start to doubt your value and believe their behaviour is justified. What women don’t realize is that the abuser has to be the one to understand what they’re doing is wrong and put in the effort to change, and most of the time they don’t. Waiting around for that to happen is like wishing you’ll win the lottery if you just keep buying more tickets.
It’s heartbreaking to know that my friend is in this situation. I wish I could make her see that she needs to dump his ass and free up room in her life for someone who will treat her how she deserves to be treated. She has so much life left to live and she needs to enjoy it. But unfortunately like many women, she might never decide to leave him. She says they’ve talked about marriage and children, and although she’s not ready to settle down she doesn’t want to lose him. No matter how much advice I give her about relationships and listen to her talk about how he treats her, I have to come to terms with the fact that she might stay with him and I might have to smile at her wedding – because removing myself as her support system is only going to cause her to feel more trapped. But if she finally decides to break up with him, I’ll be there to help her throw him to the curb and pick up the pieces – because I know how great it feels to be on the other side after believing there’s nothing better out there than him.
We were sat at his kitchen table when he told me he didn’t see a future with me. I wasn’t the right woman to mother his children, he said. I hadn’t even wanted children in the first place – but somewhere between two years of him trying to coax me into changing my mind in front of his traditional French family and doing his laundry because I wanted to prove to him that I had domestic qualities I started to believe that maybe one day I would. I’d been through the hardest battle I’d faced to date against mental illness, and I was working towards slowly changing my health – the constant fatigue, overwhelming anxiety and inability to support myself financially – but it wasn’t going to happen overnight. He was 27 and he had just bought a house from his cushy corporate job. I was 21 and just starting my adult life.
Hearing that my partner didn’t think I was fit to raise his children was an absolute blow to both my heart and self-esteem – but looking back on the relationship, he wasn’t exactly a saint either. Lots of people struggle with mental illness and raise healthy, happy children. A lot don’t. But what makes the difference is making an effort to both work on yourself and work together with your partner, if you have one. He was too caught up in his career to be concerned with helping me work through my mental illness, and saw it as an obstacle towards his goal of procreating. Breaking up was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever experienced – but it was also one of the best things I’ve gone through. It made me realize my full value as a person rather than a baby-maker, and the necessity of putting myself first so that I can become the person I need to before I can even look at the option of raising another life.
It’s strange to think that when I was younger I thought by the time I was 25 I’d be settled down and on my way to having children because that’s what people did – but I’m nowhere near that mindset now. While I’m much more mentally and financially stable, I’ve moved cities, traveled and have had a number of relationships since that breakup, I still don’t have any desire to have children, just like I didn’t before I met him. My internal thought-process hasn’t changed despite the internal guilt society puts on you while getting older.
While I’m still young and aware of the fact that I might change my mind one day, seeing myself as a non-breeder suddenly limits my dating options as I’m nearing my mid-twenties. I’ve never been interested in the conventionality of the white picket fence, but a lot of people I’ve dated are, and most of them want children down the road. Besides my ex who told me I wasn’t the right woman to bare his children, most of my relationships weren’t road-blocked by the goal of settling down, getting married and having kids because my partners were focused on finishing school, starting their careers and getting hammered. But the older I become the more I see more people around me taking cues from society that they should settle down and start a family. I’m going to have to become more upfront when it comes to picking future partners, unless I want to go through another heartbreaking experience over the issue of children.
A guy I dated in the past told me that I’m selfish because all I want to focus on is myself. The more I go to parties where women sip their martinis and talk about wedding rings and getting pregnant, the more I mentally cringe and realize I don’t want those things in my life. Even if I was more financially stable and didn’t have mental health issues, I’d use my gained energy and mental clarity to concentrate further on running my business and traveling the world rather than being constantly present to make sure the spawn I’ve bore turn into well-adjusted adults. My idea of contributing to society is by publishing meaningful stories for people to relate and learn from them, not shaping young minds who are under my care for the majority of my life. I’m aware I could do both – and no, I don’t want to.
But I’d be lying if I said that dealing with mental illness isn’t a large factor into my decision. As a person who takes my life very seriously because of my health issues, I see parenting as a full time-commitment and not something to look at lightly through romanticized rose coloured glasses. With a history of mental illness in my family, the high risk of developing post-partum and the knowledge that the behaviour I’ve learned from my parents growing up could transfer to my parenting skills, I would be crazy to bring another child into the world, or even to adopt one. I never want to put another child through what I’ve experienced in this lifetime.
I’ve always been someone who loves taking care of people. I love cooking and doing chores for those who matter to me. I’ve been thinking about the possibility of volunteering with children, and I have a nephew back home who I adore and can’t wait to watch grow up – but this doesn’t mean I’m meant for the tall order that’s being a mother. Just because someone has the equipment or the skills to do something doesn’t mean they aren’t supposed to do something else instead. As a business owner, I oversee multiple people every day, and I’m good at it – but at the end of the day, those people aren’t my responsibility and I get to go to bed under the peace and quiet of a childfree home.
Who knows – maybe I’ll change my mind. Maybe I’ll become a step-parent to some lovely children who mean everything to me. Maybe I’ll be overlooking the crystal-clear ocean of Tahiti when I’m elderly, still without children and loving life. I’m not saying I don’t want to eventually settle down with a partner or that I don’t want to make a difference in the lives of others, but I don’t see myself bringing a child into this world so that someone else’s life can take priority over mine. I’ve fought too hard against mental illness to be able to enjoy my freedom, and if that’s selfish I’ll take it.
Submitted to Hush Magazine July 2014.
*Names have been changed.
We were immersed in the quiet world of hard walls and soft blankets that only lovers understand. With our fingers entangled together in warmth, she suddenly asked a question no one ever asked me before.
“Have you ever had someone you could trust to be there for you if you couldn’t be there for yourself?”
It was then that I was yet to experience the tumultuous wrath of lady love. I had recently come out as bisexual before I moved to Vancouver and met *Emily. It was my first time seriously dating a woman, and for the several short months we spent together, my time with her was more passionate than with the many men I’ve been with. We found each other on Plenty of Fish right before she had an emotional breakdown. Holed up on Vancouver Island at her grandmother’s for some peace and quiet, she’d later tell me I was the only one she confided in then.
Unlike the relationships I’ve had with people before, Emily let me confide in her too while fully listening without judgement. We wrote each other every day for a month before finally meeting face-to-face or even hearing each other’s voice – but that didn’t stop me from imaging what it would be like to kiss her. The way she made me feel at ease and let me open up to her was nothing I’d experienced before. It had always felt like everyone else was just waiting to talk or that they had an agenda, but she encouraged me to be myself and let my walls down for the first time. Because of this, just holding her hand was more intimate than most of the sexual experiences I’ve had in the past.
But to trust someone to be there for me? I laughed in disbelief. She might as well have asked me if I was purple.
Sure I’ve had people in my life – family members and partners – who’ve been there for me to an extent through both lukewarm and rough times. But I’ve never let anyone in my head long enough to save me from the black depths of hell that is mental illness. I didn’t grow up with an affectionate family that outwardly supported this fight, so when I was diagnosed and tried to fulfil my emotional needs from the men I dated, the reality fell short of my expectations when they weren’t reliable or empathetic enough when I needed them. Because I couldn’t fully open up to them, I never felt fully connected to them unless we were making love – and sometimes not even then. I started to build a wall that stood in front of my vulnerability, and the only way for someone to start to break it down was by having sex with me.
But when I met Emily, I was in a much better place emotionally. I had spent a lot of time working on myself because I knew I couldn’t get into a relationship if I wasn’t more mentally stable than before. My empathy and understanding from my personal experiences made me a good fit to be there for Emily’s breakdown, and it felt wonderful that I could support her rather than needing someone to support me. The fact that I didn’t ask her to be there for me and that she still made an effort was what made me fall for her even harder. Where other people had an issue with me writing about my dating life, she was the first person to tell me to do whatever the hell I wanted with my art. She was accepting about my past struggle with using sex as a coping mechanism for stress, and she even researched things that affected me so that she could better understand them.
But if you’ve ever had a whirlwind romance, you’ll know that Emily and I had a short period of bliss before things started going awry. She seemed invested in our relationship emotionally and talked to me often, but she would physically withdraw while we were out drinking. One night when we were at the lesbian event, Hershe Bar, I found her huddled in a doorway outside having a panic attack. Shortly after we came back inside she disappeared again, and a half hour or so passed before I found her outside talking to another woman. It was clear she was terrified of letting me in and trying her best to push me away, and I let her know that I wasn’t going to put up with her unintended games; she either wanted to spend time with me or she didn’t.
Emily and I were lying on her bed one day when she told me that I should see more than just her. It wasn’t the first time she’d said she wasn’t ready for a relationship, and from what I’d seen I believed her. When an old flame contacted me shortly after, I asked her if she’d be upset if I went to his house. She said she wouldn’t, and we ended up sleeping together. It didn’t mean I didn’t love her or want to be with her – but part of me needed to distance myself from my feelings for her. When I told Emily about it the next day, I understood the saying that women don’t always say what they mean.
After an emotional discussion, Emily told me that she’d be okay trying polyamory and that she wanted to come to a party I was going to. We agreed that while we were out together we wouldn’t hit on anyone else for the respect of each other. Little did I know there was no going back from what I had done.
We were waiting for the bus at the end of the night when she yelled out, “I fucking love you!” I didn’t think a dimly lit bus stop was exactly the opportune moment for two angry, intoxicated lovers to say it for the first time – but this didn’t calm her down any. I was livid that she had avoided me all night, again – as it turns out the self-professed-lesbian had been busy making out with a guy – and the man who sat beside me on the bus didn’t help by using our obvious quarrel to hit on me. When I finally got her to come back to my place to talk, I told her that I loved her and wanted to be with her. She said she wanted to be with me too. We went to sleep in each other’s arms and I thought that things were going to work out.
But Emily had put up a wall that I couldn’t tear down. Every moment we spent together felt completely different than what we had built in the beginning. She finally decided that we should just be friends, that she wanted to work on herself and that she didn’t know how long it would take her to let herself become vulnerable again. Until she didn’t – and then she did again. I said I didn’t think I could be around her without wanting to kiss her, but she insisted that being friends with me was important to her and she’d always be there to talk to.
As time went on, our emotional connection never went back to the way it was. Quick, detailed responses turned into slow, short ones that more than often never came. It wasn’t losing her as a lover that killed me as much as losing her as the first person who I felt I could be myself around. She let me start to believe that I could trust someone to be there for me if I couldn’t be there for myself, and when she wasn’t emotionally invested anymore it was too painful to keep reaching out in the hope that she would be. After a few months of waiting for our friendship to get better, I told her that I couldn’t be friends with her anymore because it hurt too much. She couldn’t validate me with a response.
I know that relationships aren’t black and white, and that people say things they don’t mean all the time. I’m not going to say that men are less complicated than women, but I got so used to men being upfront in my relationships with them that I forgot how women often think in shades of grey. I once told a boyfriend to go out and have fun at a strip club and ended up crying myself to sleep after he told me he got a lap dance. I had wanted him to have fun, but it didn’t occur to me how much it would tear me inside thinking about another woman’s naked body on him until it happened. I understand Emily’s confusion while trying to navigate rationality around emotions – and I also understand people’s frustration when it comes to loving the ladies.
I hear Emily’s seeing another Vancouver transplant, who she talks to often and confides in. It used to destroy me that it wasn’t me – but I’m happy that we’re in different places in our lives now. I’ve learned that I can open up and be myself around someone, and that they can go away and I can still survive without them. I’ve learned that it feels amazing to deeply love a woman – but that I deserve someone who’s emotionally available enough to know what they want and stick to it. I’ve also learned that if you love someone you need to think a little harder before making the actions that you do. Ultimately, I’ve learned that the wrath of lady love is worth those intimate memories of hand-holding that keeps you dreaming for another to take its place. It’s a magic that I want to feel again, even if it can be tumultuous.
Submitted to Hush Magazine June 2014.
I met *Alex in my second year of university. I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship with a sweet, dreadlocked mechanic named *Steve, as well as a fling with the nerdy mall cop who had taken my virginity when I was drunk – before I took Steve’s. Maybe it was something about the uncertainty of having sex with an asshole I dated for two weeks over the vanilla love-making of a three-year-relationship that started my quest for more. Or maybe it was just the excitement that tingled up my thighs from the mall cop’s cold, hard handcuffs. In retrospect, being in bed with the person holding the cuffs wasn’t nearly as hot as the idea of them, but for years it was all I could think about while I was with my partner. Never a cheater, I finally ended the relationship and went off to experience what I was truly longing for: Satisfying, kinky sex.
Fast forward to Jimi Hendrix and cheap wine and the taste of cigarettes. Alex had me pinned on the floor of his bachelor-esque apartment with my hands cuffed behind my back. He was using these black, metal handcuffs I had picked up at the Taboo Sex Show – teasing me with his cock as his dreadlocks hung in my face until I agreed to let him fuck me, unprotected – a revolutionary new world compared to the one where I would anxiously take pregnancy tests while on the pill and using condoms. You could say university opened up a lot more doors than learning about post-modernism and the correct way to use semicolons. Not only did being with Alex satisfy me sexually, but it also improved my writing. He introduced me to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a creative style that probably had my professors thinking I was high while writing my papers and the motivation to challenge him not only in our craft but in the bedroom. He was my gateway drug to the world of power-play, and I couldn’t get enough.
I remember the first time he asked me to slap him across the face. At first I refused, hardly thinking I would be into that sort of thing. But as our sex life would prove, he was incredibly persuasive. Our relationship quickly progressed, where he got me to attempt to swallow his cum (I almost threw up) try to pee on him in the tub (I got pee anxiety) and successfully fuck him with my vibrator (I washed it A.S.A.P). While it’s clear I didn’t find these activities very pleasurable, it’s not to say my sexual interests are very vanilla. When he finally convinced me to slap him and my palm hit his cheek, it was like something inside of me was awoken. Slapping him turned to him slapping me – which moved to biting, spanking, hair-pulling and light choking.
It turns out actually that I’m quite the masochist – which is ironic considering my relationship with Alex turned abusive.
I always thought kink was just a term used for people who liked getting dressed up in leather chaps and ball-gags. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those things – in fact, I bet if I tried them I’d like them. What I’m saying is that nobody told me it was normal to like getting slapped in the face during sex. I enjoyed the power play that came with him pinning me down and daring me to try to stop him from making me cum. In my every-day life, feeling in control is important – so when I trust someone enough to let go of that control it’s incredibly euphoric. The problem comes when you don’t understand the line between your partner taking control in the bedroom and manipulating you in your relationship.
Once when Alex and I were fooling around, I pulled his dreadlocks as I kissed him. I loved it when he did it to me, and because he liked it when I slapped him I thought he might enjoy hair pulling as well. Well, I guess he thought I was pulling too hard, because he started pulling my hair too – harder and harder – until tears welled up in my eyes. He looked at me chillingly and told me that I was doing the same thing to him. That should have been one of the first warning signs. With kink you need to have good communication because sometimes you end up doing something the other person doesn’t like – but when I accidentally missed Alex’s cheek and hit him in the eye, I kissed him with sincerity and deeply apologized. He just looked vengeful.
Things escalated to Alex yelling at me when he got too drunk at night to him being generally emotionally abusive during the day. He would ignore me, have mood swings and be neglectful of my feelings. But the sex was so good that I was hypnotized into believing the pain he was causing me was just part of our passionate love affair. He would make me show him my phone because of his jealousy, and one time when I developed the skin virus molluscum (probably because he neglected to clean his apartment) he left me crying in front of the STI clinic because he thought I was cheating on him. Of course I went back to his place after my appointment and we had intoxicating make-up sex.
Eventually the blood returned to my head and I broke up with Alex before my third year of university. I saw him recently at the bar on a trip back to my hometown, and after four years he was just as drunk and incoherent as ever. Having since been with caring partners who treated me well while still pleasing me in bed, his sex appeal – dreadlocks and all – had reverted to that of a goldfish. But seeing him did make me realize that I’m still very much into power-play and that I’ve grown to realize the difference between a genuine asshole and a kinky lover. It’s very much possible to have someone slap you around in bed at night and still bring you breakfast in the morning. It’s also nice to have vanilla love-making or switch it up to be the one in control – but I still have those black, metal handcuffs sitting in my bed-side table for the right moment.
Submitted to Hush Magazine June 2014
About six months ago I moved to Vancouver in the midst of a mental health breakdown in the hopes of taking control of my body. I have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, which basically means that I’m too sensitive to the changes in my hormones around my menstrual cycle. Stress affects me much more than the typical person and I become emotional easier, with symptoms such as depression, rage, anxiety and even suicidal ideation. As you can imagine, it affects my day-too-day life dramatically, and so when I was seventeen I was put on the birth control pill to help regulate my hormones.
For years I swore by the pill, taking it with pride every morning as it lessened my PMDD symptoms slightly and kept me from getting pregnant. But when I moved to Vancouver this winter to take a holistic approach to my health, I began a detox towards eating raw vegan to heal my PMDD and I wasn’t sure if it was right for me anymore. I had started to rid my body of the unnecessary toxins I’ve been putting in it over the history of my twenty-four years of life, such as gluten and dairy, and I immediately felt more energetic and rational. I wondered how much better I’d feel if I got rid of the synthetic hormones I’ve been pumping through my veins for seven years. After all, if I was going to detox my body of harmful chemicals, staying on birth control didn’t make any sense to me. I was ready to take my body back from almost a decade of feeling like I was battling against it and become one with my natural rhythm.
So when my last pill pack ran out a couple months ago, I didn’t refill it after I got my period. Instead, I bought a shitload of health foods to compensate for the withdrawal of hell I was preparing to experience. The idea is that if you eat enough fruits and vegetables to rid yourself of toxins like sugar and salt, your body will heal any issues it has. This has been done by Kristina of FullyRaw Organic, who’s sworn by a raw food diet since healing her hypoglycemia.
Armed with my old-school blender, I mixed smoothies multiple times a day and ate nothing but fruit. But after a few days of being off the pill, the withdrawal symptoms hit and left me debilitated in bed. It was like having major PMDD symptoms right before my period: Migraine, depression, fatigue, anxiety. I also suddenly felt what I assumed were my ovaries producing eggs for the first time. I’m not exaggerating when I say I felt like I was dying through both the physical and emotional symptoms – I hoped that going off the pill would be the right decision.
But after a week or so, my withdrawal symptoms began to lessen and I was able to carry on with my life. My newly heightened emotional state left me feeling like I was getting my period all the time, but at least I didn’t feel like I was near death any longer. When my cycle was ending and my period was around the corner, I experienced real cramps I hadn’t felt since high school, my breasts were sore for once and had what I now know as a withdrawal bleed. I had completely forgotten what my natural period was like, and so the handful of tampons I had from the one box I barely used the last six months didn’t cut it for the parting of the red seas that spilled from my vagina.
I knew that it would take time for my body to get back in sync after being programmed from the pill after all these years. But what I wasn’t prepared for was not getting my period despite weeks of bloating and cramps and crying spells leading up to mother-nature’s gift. It had arrived like clockwork every Tuesday near the end of the month, and because last month I was a couple days late, I wasn’t very worried when it didn’t show up the Thursday after. But it had been over a week, and for someone who hadn’t missed a period since going on the pill it was an unnerving feeling.
Because I’ve been insanely careful about using condoms since I went off the pill, I knew in my rational mind that I’m not pregnant and my body is just trying to sort its shit out. But my heightened emotional state mixed with my anxiety disorder had me obsessively Googling things like, “can going off the pill stop your period” and “can you get pregnant if he fingers you after touching himself?” Every time I felt something in my underwear I prayed it was Aunt Flow finally showing up – but it always turned out to just be a puddle of cervical fluid – which I also Googled because I read an increase of the white stuff in your panties can mean you’re pregnant.
Turns out this can just be due to an increase of hormones, and PMS symptoms are the same as ovulating symptoms which are the same as pregnancy symptoms. It also turns out that you can go up to a year without getting your period after going off the pill. So to put myself out of my misery, I got up the nerve to get a $4.00 pregnancy test at the convenience store and had a slight panic attack while waiting for the results.
Duh. Every high schooler knows that in order to be pregnant you need to have cum inside you. The condoms never ripped – I checked them thoroughly afterwards. But I needed that assurance to stop from worrying and work on making a decision: Do I stay off birth control and wait it out for my body to get back to its natural rhythm, or do I go back on it for the sake of my sanity?
On one hand, I love the idea of being off all medications and living a holistic lifestyle without the drawbacks of being on the pill, such as migraines, fluid retention, depleted magnesium, bone density loss and an increase in vaginal infections –and the risks, like blood clots, vision impairment, heart attack, stroke and blood clots. If I want to reclaim my body long-term and rid myself of PMDD, I feel like going off birth control and managing my health through diet is the best option.
On the other, life would be a lot easier if I didn’t have the anxiety of getting pregnant and not having my period on time – not to mention less physical symptoms of PMDD. Also, while being more in touch with my emotions is nice, constantly being on the brink of crying is kind of exhausting.
It’s clear I have a lot more thinking to do than I thought I did when I just decided to stop taking the pill on a whim. Books like Sweetening the Pill have helped me to start make a more informed decision in a society where we’re dished out sample packs like candy without much question. It talks about why someone might go off the pill, what to do when you’re off of it and what natural forms of birth control you can use. The birth control pill is a wonderful invention for those who absolutely don’t want to get pregnant and want more manageable periods, but it’s also not the only effective form such as the Fertility Awareness Method, which makes you more in touch with your body and is my ultimate goal.
Have you gone off the pill? Let me know your experience below.