Short short today — I’ve got a review to finish and a piece to prepare for tomorrow’s “Risque Fantasies and True Confessions” LitCrawl reading (!) before I head out to the city (The City) this afternoon. I’m sleepy this morning, but singing somewhere inside my body, singing under my organs, grateful.
Last night’s first meeting of Declaring Our Erotic: Reclaiming Our Sexuality just felt gorgeous. I continue to reach for language to describe what happens when strangers gather and are willing to risk writing about desire, are willing to risk being witness to others’ writing about desire. Every time it feels like a miracle, and by miracle, I mean something human and present and deeply connected, I mean something wonder-ful, astonishing. Every time I am astonished. Every time I am grateful at this willingness, at this desire to be present with others in our own desire, every time I am torn open-and-smiling by the honesty, by the power of that honesty, by what it takes to say, yes, this is what I want (or this is what someone else wants, and, yes, I get to step into the experience of it as I write about it).
This is not a society that rewards us for presence-ing deep erotic naming that can’t be capitalized on or used to sell us something (esp. used to sell us self-loathing). This is not a society that wants us to understand that we are made up of layerings and layerings of longing, that we are more than just the singular sex that someone decided is supposed to ‘go with’ our singular sexual identity — that we are everything that has ever given us joy, that we are every stroke used against us, that we are the complications of our fantasies and our bodies’ hopes and our lusts and our fears. That we are more powerful because we are this complexity. We are less easily conquerable when we are in this complexity and connection.
Last night while I walked up Market to the bus stop at Civic Center, I was flush with liquid joy (and not just because of how hot the writing was, but yes, that, too). I just felt so damn happy and proud of all of us in that room. We’re not supposed to be this present and honest with each other, and yet, so many of us have a fierce desire to do so, to buck against the system that shames us into this insidious loss when it comes to our sexuality. And then I thought about my father.
A few years ago, right at the beginning of the first Body Heat tour, at a Starbucks’ parking lot just outside of Denver, I hugged my dad and said, My work is mattering, Dad. People are reading my work and it’s making a difference. Of course, by “my work,” I meant this performance troupe I got to be a part of, and the writing in my chapbook, unconsummated, which is all about sex and longing, quite explicitly. I thought he heard me. I thought he was proud, because I wanted him to be proud. I wanted to be able to explain to him why I did this work, so that he wouldn’t have to be ashamed of his eldest daughter, and I am still, somewhere, that 8 year old who wants her dad to be proud of the way she can jump off the high diving board into the deep end at Woods Pool, even when he’s not there to catch her. I thought if I could explain it in educational terms — to meet him as a “teacher” — that it might get through. He made like he understood in the moment, because that’s what we do in my family, and then, a lot later, he made clear that he didn’t understand and wanted me to be doing anything but writing about and working around sex.
So, when I say I’m trying to find the language to explain why last night’s workshop was so amazing, it’s not just so that I can explain it to you, although I do want to be able to do that — it’s also so I can explain it to my dad, to those who aren’t a part of this sex-positive community that has saved and held me. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find the right words, but I guess, somewhere, I’m grateful for the continual challenge: over and over, naming it again, naming it new and ok and powerful. Maybe reassuring myself, the way my dad might not ever be able to do: I’m grateful that I get to do this work. It’s important and it matters, what we do in the writing circle together. We make a difference, together.
Thanks for the way you’ll be present with someone who needs reassuring today, for the way you make a gift of your attention and acknowledgment. Thanks for your writing, for your words.