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“He had known life in other forms than those of pastoral simplicity, having mingled in the gay and in the busy scenes of the world; but the flattering portrait of mankind, which his heart had delineated in early youth, his experience had too sorrowfully corrected.”

I’m sorry, Rebel Love, that it’s never quite so straight forward with me when it comes to writing a subject. I find, for better or for worse, that I have to circle the idea many times, like a marble gliding along the orbits of a funnel, before I can properly tell what wants to be told. In classical poetry, writers called upon the muse(s) to help them begin; I needed similar aid this morning when I sat down to write about my new experiences with what is called “casual dating.” When I read the quote above, from Ann Radcliffe’s ‘Udolpho, it helped to lubricate my fingers, (much like coffee loosens the brain at 7 AM), so I could begin typing. Glancing at the words now, I see an entrance into my story. Because, for me, the “pastoral simplicity” (countryside bliss, for readers whose heads aren’t clogged with lit terms) has always been the estate of the Relationship. From a very early age, I remember my body tingling with sheer proto-lingual sexual keenness: the knee touching the girl’s leg in music class, the third-grade teacher who played tennis; the fear & electricity. I’m no less a sensitive surface now. 

When I was 13, I moved to a new school and found myself suddenly the centre of female attention, which delighted me, and from then on, throughout high school, relationships were a place of fluency. I loved loving, and, I think, because of the great degree of femininity I seemed to naturally house, dating girls was very natural for me. 

Gradually, throughout adolescence, I sunk into the comfort of my strongest qualities, which were all empathological. I began to revile, in many ways, masculine qualities – and justified my stance intellectually, which is easy, nowadays, in a time when “men are the worst” is a mantra of familiarity for many people. But, truthfully, I think I was afraid of something that didn’t come naturally to me, or, had been slowly suppressed and diminished. 

(Because I don’t want to bog you down, kind reader, in too much autobiographic trivia, now I’ll jump ahead to the present day). 

In this reflective moment, I want to exclaim that the woman I lived the last 3 years with, before we broke up in February, is a beautifully intelligent person – creative & charming, and a delight to those who come to know her. We are no longer together, because issues of the soul always surface, and, if left untreated, will always poison a relationship. I ended us somewhat abruptly because I didn’t want our love, years from now, to die a delayed and exhausting death.

Being a committed partner is a challenge for some, but for me, it has always been a safe and comprehensible mode of being; so, since my early romantic years, it’s what I’ve sought. Being single, or “casually dating,” has always scared me. It required, in my mind, elements of tact, assertiveness, and a strain of masculinity that I didn’t wield. The flip side is that binding myself always to the utter safety of a relationship, facets of sexuality, masculinity, spirituality, have felt painfully underdeveloped, and needed attention. Some of these regions I was able to heal and develop in the course of my relationship, through my writing, growing, and of course, with the help of my partner. It is only now that I’ve fostered the muscles needed to face these curiosities, uncultivated kinks, and dialects of sex, that have rattled, unaddressed, for so long in my body. 

an image of a black man and an asian woman facing each other smiling

This spring & summer, I have given myself, for the first time ever, a chance to sing unabashedly the tune that is unique to my own sexuality – and learn its timbre in duet with others. I have learned about various time signatures, different genres of melody; I have sung beautifully with some and been enharmonic with others.

In all categories of the soul, it’s vital that we listen to ourselves and what needs attention. We are only, as they say, as strong as our weakest element. It takes a lot of courage to engage a shadowy side of yourself; it may sting and speak confusing, upsetting, alien … It’s always worth it, feeling the fruition of a latent Yang in a body of dominant Yin … feeling strong as a human because you are multidimensional, and don’t reside, or hide, in one section of the self, in cloistered safety. 

Have you experienced casual dating? (Dating without intent to settle)

a black and white image of a man looking outside from the window

I close with a poem by Jack Spicer, that has always touched me:

Be brave to things as long as
As long as
As long as the plot thickens
As long as you hold a tiny universe in your hand made of stringy oil, cats’ hair, tobacco, remnants
Of what was once wide.
As it was once as long as, the plot thickens.
Be brave to thinkers in the night, rusted boxes, anything,
That has dimension.
As if it were a foot wide
Tall, square, as long as boxes