So when one of the best ultimate players in the world, Ben, showed an interest in me, I was thrilled. When he said, "I'd like to date you, but with no rules, no commitment, and I get to flirt with girls, sleep with girls, travel with other girls, do absolutely whatever I want, and you have to be okay with that," I really thought about it. Initially, it did not seem like such a great idea. And then I considered what a good Frisbee player he was and I was like, "This seems like a really good deal for me. Onward!"
This was also a time of great enlightenment for me. I was a junior in college in Seattle, a very sex-positive city. I was taking all sorts of college classes, for college credit, towards my college degree, about sex. I took Sociology of Sexuality, Psychology of Sexuality and Psychobiology of Women. I remember my mom calling me and saying, "What's next? Poetry of Sexuality? Math of sexuality?" And I remember thinking, Those both sound good, I ought to look those up in the class directory.
At the same time, I was making a lot of new friends. Some were polyamorous, some were part of Seattle's "kink" community, and virtually everyone was bisexual.
I was learning all sorts of new things. I listened attentively, took a lot of notes, and always read the suggestive readings.
So when Ben suggested that we date- but that we pretend we're not dating around others so that he could keep his options open, I thought- fantastic! A chance to prove how super open minded I am!
I think open relationships can work. Never in my experience, but certainly in some situations. However, ours did not work. For many, many reasons, our relationship was terrible. Absolutely a disaster.
When you're a girl, and you're in a *terrible* relationship with a boy, it's easy to start to hate other girls. Girls are always hating on girls. We're encouraged to do that. So I made up my mind not to develop any negative feelings towards other women. That way, I'd be okay with everything always. I refused to become 'crazy' or 'needy' or 'clingy' or 'spiteful' or any of those other things that are a natural reaction to being fucked with.
Besides which, I thought this super-acceptance would really impress Ben. I was so easy to date! So convenient and open minded and accepting. I would literally have no needs or feelings. Between this and all the hair-straightening and outfit choosing I was doing, I might even be close to perfect.
And I'm sure he did appreciate it. I'm sure he was really impressed by me and appreciated how easy I made it for him. But he was so busy having sex with other girls that the conversation never really came up.
This went on for a long time. Whenever I felt like shit, I'd chalk it up to insecurity. And nobody wants to feel, or admit to feeling, insecure. When I felt jealous, I'd do some research. I'd literally google it like it was tonsillitis and there was a homeopathic cure. I once read that envy was just toxins in the body and a juice cleanse could clear it up forever. Totally game, I put on my book store outfit, hopped on the bus to Barnes and Nobles and bought a card deck of smoothie recipes and a blender.
I even read good books, books recommended by my Poly friends and my professors, like "The Ethical slut." And I was so desperate to make it work out with Ben that I'd warp all the information I got in those books to support this dysfunctional situation.
It's too bad I never stumbled, during this period of enlightenment, onto Dan Savage and his Savage Love Cast. I would have found out right away, in very straightforward terms, that my relationship was actually abusive (mentally, not physically), tormenting, manipulative and that I should GTFO. Get the Fuck out. But somehow I didn't find the Savage Love Cast till years later. Too bad!
Around this time, Lisa and I were captaining our college women's ultimate team. Lisa and I took this pathetic, limping team that was falling apart and threw ourselves into making a real program out of it. We worked night and day, and it payed off. One year after our big push, we played in the finals of College Nationals on national television.
I'd gone to an all-boys high school, so being around so many women was new to me. I started picking up on all the thing we do, like apologize about everything, and all the negative words we used that were anti-woman. Bitch, slut, cunt- the male equivalent of these words simply didn't exist.
Also, this idea of women being called crazy started to really get to me. Listen for it- people are constantly calling women crazy. "She broke up with me, but it's okay, she was crazy!" "Yeah, I met her once, she was crazy!" Nobody bats an eye. The going theory is that all women are crazy.
So I refused to call anyone crazy and I refused to call anyone a bitch and I was determined to like everyone, especially the girls who were sleeping with my boyfriend.
And then came the Seattle Ultimate Carnival. This is the biggest party of the year. All the Frisbee players in the Northwest come down to Seattle for the weekend. It's held in some hip warehouse downtown. The teams prepare routines and costumes and compete for Patagonia gear. I'd been dating Ben for five or six months by this point, so I kind of figured he'd go with me to this thing. But asking...er...confirming...that we'd go together was so conventional and close-minded. Also, it would make him feel penned in and trapped if I asked, and I certainly didn't want to make him feel that way. And besides, I was going with my team.
Then I'm at the party, everybody is at the party, and Ben is there with some other girl, this girl he went to high school with. And he is all over her. And I'm like, that's strange, because I'm right here. This feels a little weird. It's upsetting, but it's totally my fault because I shouldn't be feeling jealous.
Everybody notices what's going on. Ben is not a subtle person. Our friends keep looking at them, and looking at me in confusion. Some of them, his friends, his teammates, are pulling me aside and asking what is going on. A few ask, "Do you want me to ask them to leave? We can make that happen."
And I say no, because the last thing I want to do is to make a scene. I can't admit in front of everybody just how messed up this relationship is (of course they all know that, because it's painfully obvious, but that's something I don't understand yet.) I've come this far, I can put up with it for another night. And besides, she isn't doing anything wrong. She's obviously just a spirited gal (dressed in Japan-o-phile school girl outfit) having a good time. This is part of the agreement, this is cool.
Of course, this ruins the whole night for me. But finally, the party ends. Unfortunately, the after-party, which is even more fun and important that the actual event, it at my house.
So Ben takes this girl, this wacky girl nobody knows, and now they're in my house, in my living room. This girl is totally drunk, and she's falling all over everyone. She's one of those clingy, touchy, overwhelmingly physical drunk girls. She's starting to really annoy everybody.
My roommates pull me into the bathroom. "Who the hell is this girl?" They ask. "Do you want us to make her leave? What is wrong with Ben?" And what they don't ask but it's obvious they're thinking is, "What the hell is wrong with you?"
But I really don't want to make a scene. A scene where some girl is kicked out of the house and Ben is yelled at in front of everybody? I would suffer for that later. It would be awful. I'd rather just let it happen. Besides, this girl....I refuse to dislike her. She's not crazy, she's just wild. She's just drunk and having a good time. In fact, I think I like her. We'll get along. We'll become friends.
Finally, everybody else at the party has had enough of her. They stick her outside and lock the door. The after party is winding down anyway.
Apparently, she has a different idea because moments later, she punches through the glass window on the door and lets herself back in. We find her in the front hallway, laughing and holding tightly to a fist that is gushing blood. My roommates are like, "This Bitch is crazy." And I'm like, "No...no...."
But by this point, my roommates are beyond furious. The window to our house is broken, glass is everywhere, this will all have to be explained to our landlord who is notoriously uptight, and it will be expensive, and until it's fixed there is no way to lock the door. And this girl is still here, in our kitchen, dripping blood onto the floor as she eats grapes out of our fridge. And Ben is here, and he realizes the situation is out of hand, but when he realizes things are wrong and he's at fault he just gets more stubborn and difficult. That's why he's so hard to deal with.
For my roommates, this is no longer about Ben treating me poorly in front of everyone. This is about a psychopath being in our home at 2 in the morning.
One of the girls informs Ben that if he doesn't get her out of there she is going to call the police. So I sit on the steps and watch Ben wrestle this crazy girl back to his place for the night. He doesn't once make eye contact with me or acknowledge that I am a witness to all this. But, you know, this is what open relationships are all about. Making yourself invisible.
At this point, it is becoming difficult not to feel anything negative. I decide to put myself to bed and either deal with or repress everything in the morning. I go downstairs. Back in those days, I lived in a room that was a re-done garage. You had to go outside and re-enter my room through a separate door. So I do that. I lock the door behind me, then turn the light on. And I am about to fall into bed when I see the walls.
There is blood on my walls. Streaks of blood, as if some girl who had just shoved her fist through a window had gone into my room and rubbed her bloody wrist on my walls. Which is exactly what has happened.
You know, I can be a dramatic person. I like to tell stories and perform. But that doesn't mean I like invite this type of drama, the let's-pour-a-bucket-of-blood-on-that-girl-on-prom-night psycho drama. No way.
In that one exhausted moment, I realized, holy shit. That bitch is crazy.
And Ben is crazy. And if I stayed in this situation any more, I would become crazy.
My advice to you if you're involved in anything like this: good relationships, open or closed, monogamy or monogamish or polyamory, all of it, are based on honesty and support. Anything else is crazy. And you need to GTFO.
I still believe in supporting women and all of that, and I've since found actual, legitimate ways to do that. I became a high school teacher, I lead girls' trips in the wilderness, I speak with groups of teenage girls about writing and health education, and eventually I became a trained doula. Letting a crazy bitch punch through a window in my house and track her blood over my walls, just to prove to the jerk I was 'dating' how tolerant I was of his fucking around? This kind of thing is less of a priority these days.