Healing Three Generations of Mothers

As I parent, I always feel like there is something better I could be doing. All the time. There’s this songbird perched on my shoulder, chirping away: “What else? What more? What next?” Maybe that changes once they move out on their own. I don’t know that part yet. Mine are still underfoot… well… underfoot while being taller than me, it’s like having 6 foot tall toddlers sometimes.

In grad school, I developed this particularly brilliant habit for getting my thesis done. When I need to write, I mop the floor first. Yup. While I’m sweeping, scrubbing, rinsing and drying, the desire to be writing builds so I’m writing in my head the whole time too. It’s a great trick for getting things done.

Right now, I’m wanting to write about parenting and oppression. I’m in the final stretch of the Interchange Year Long Training; Weekend 8, also known as “The Oppression Weekend.” This weekend we’re focussing on Social Identities, Oppression, Internalized Oppression, Reclaiming Power, Being an Ally, Leadership, and Mental Health Oppression. You might think one weekend focussing on oppression can’t be effective… Yeaaaaah. No. There’s a method to the madness that we only meet once a month for the weekend intensives. In Interchange, you can go as deep as you want to. You have some ancestral shit to deal with, there’s space for that. You want to stay in the now and focus on your struggles in finding a job that doesn’t suck your soul from your body? There’s room for that too. I’m planning on going hella deep. Like, three generations of oppressed women deep. My direct maternal lineage is not for the faint of heart.

I was 13 when my mother piled on layers of clothes to jump into the pool of our apartment complex mid-winter. She was surprised at how her body automatically started swimming, keeping her alive even though her mind wanted to die… I was a year old when my mother’s mouth is wired shut to repair the bones my father’s fist shattered, yet they were still in love with each other. She leaves him not because they have a violent relationship, but because she judges him as weak…I’m not even conceived but I know my mother’s first memory; her aunt dragged through the yard by two uniformed men then shut into a white wagon. Her grandmother not looking up from the red eye gravy she’s making… My mother’s parents met because they shared the same nickname; two teenagers named Red in Coffee County Alabama. He lied about his age to impress her. Lying was the kindest betrayal he ever showed her… My mother never laughs when she talks about her own mother. There’s no safety to be found there. No way to fend off that sad.

I understand why love scares the hell out of my mother. It’s all very logical. I’m not sure you can have the life she’s had and not hate love. Love is at the root of all pain. Love is the fingerprint at the scene of the crime. Love is why children go hungry and women get beaten, raped and abandoned. Love is a trick and a trap. Love is a weapon.

Imagine how the oppression we’ve experienced impacts my ability to show up fully in love with anybody. Imagine me trying to trust in love. Now imagine me unconditionally loving the hell out of my mother and my grandmother and my children. That’s what diving deep into Interchange is doing. I’m so very in love with this community dedicated to transformation. To being real. Like, really real. Do I want to overcome oppression? Totally. Do I want to do it alone? Absolutely not.

Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary

2014-02-12

Have you ever wondered how revolutionaries are made? Like, no really, when I read about someone who dedicates their life to making change and I always think, “How in the Hell did they come to be where they are?” It’s quite a gift to be able to have that question answered in real time. Polly Whitaker has a memoir out that is more than just a recounting of her life, but it is also the memoir of a moment in the sex-positive movement. The first time I met Polly Superstar in person she had her own float in a parade in San Francisco. I’m sure she wouldn’t say it was her float, but rather it was the float she helped organize to represent her community in the civic festivities. But c’mon. It’s Polly. To me, the float was hers and she had earned every sparkly square inch of it. In the years since, I’ve gotten to know her as a brilliant and brave woman. Thoughtful and insightful. I’ve always enjoyed the brief moments in between our hectic schedules where we have a chance to compare notes. Now, you can have that exchange with Polly too.

Polly isn’t a parent, but her own parents and the story of her childhood are major themes in the narrative. This bit, I really loved:

polly_2“Aged five, I took a trip to the National Gallery in London, accompanied by my father’s first wife Marjorie—a very traditional woman, the total opposite to my mother. In the quiet whispering rooms of this classic museum of art, I faced a huge canvas of a naked woman surrounded by nymphs and satyrs, giving herself over in communion with Bacchus. I looked up and asked in a very loud voice, completely inappropriate for the surrounding volume of the gallery, but totally innocent in its tone: “IS THAT WOMAN A SEXUAL MANIAC?” Marjorie had no reply for me. She looked down, mumbled something about not wanting to miss the Constables, and pulled me quickly through to a room filled with landscapes. I went home that day and drew anatomically correct pubic hair and nipples on all my dolls, aghast at their lack of accuracy.”

Polly’s mother was a sex therapist and her father a balloonist. Maybe a perfect combo to make a sex culture revolutionary? Note the patch on her jacket… “ballonists make better lovers.” Sort of exemplifies her parents sense of humor! I asked Polly is she ever considered following in her mother’s footsteps. She said: “No, I’ve never been very academic. I’m an artist and I’ve always known that. When I was a teenager making decisions about what to do with my life I didn’t think about a career. I wanted to be a rockstar. I followed my heart and refused to compromise. Sex therapy sounds like a lot of work. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how connected I am to my mothers work.”

It seems Polly’s parents were sex-positive before being sex-positive was cool: “I was raised without shame around sex. I know that makes my experience pretty unique. Questions were answered when they came up, in simple terms I could understand. I was never fooled or mislead or lied to. My parents raised me with a very encouraging, liberal outlook and raised me to think for myself, be responsible for my actions, and appreciate the value of friendship. I think they did a great job.”

_MG_2867I think they did too! I really enjoyed reading this heart felt and brutally honest memoir. I’m grateful to be included in the book tour so that I can support more honest conversations about sexuality in our culture. You can check out the other reviews and interviews of Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary here: http://www.pollysuperstar.com/virtual-tour/ 

 

This post is part of the Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary Virtual Book Tour. If you make a comment in the thread below you’ll be automatically entered in a chance to WIN a LIMITED EDITION signed hardcover copy of Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary.

The comedian Margaret Cho called it “Raw, untamed, emotional beauty–Polly is a true supernova. This memoir is as touching as it is hot, as moving as it is a masterpiece.”

blogtourHEADER

Buy your copy of Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary bit.ly/pollybook

Join Polly’s mailing list bit.ly/pollyslist

Check out Polly’s website pollysuperstar.com

Follow Polly on Twitter twitter.com/pollysuperstar

Get updates from Polly on Facebook facebook.com/itsmepolly

Click the image below to check out the other exciting stops on the tour.

Balancing Acts

…as in the actions that balance us. The gives and takes that lightens our burdens or increases our strengths. The movement that keeps us centered.

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Every Equinox I post something about the beauty of balance. Just like how at every Solstice I write about the thrill of submersion. I’m a day late for the Spring Equinox, but that’s ok. Writing has been hard lately. A friend said it’s ’cause I’m percolating. So I’m giving myself permission to just feel and breathe and be in my body without the fear that if I don’t spend x amount of hours a day writing, all my good lines will slip away. The Equinox serves as a moment of reconciling. What is off? What is there too much of and not enough? What am I avoiding or what am I over indulging in?

I feel like my career and my family are always the heaviest priorities, that my physical strength kind of gets ignored. I’ve got a solid year of stress stored inside of me. Time to sweat it out. It’s a little scary. But fears exist to be conquered. On the night of the Equinox I met up with another single mama friend who is also a bad ass personal strength trainer. We’ve set up a weekly schedule and her enthusiasm to see what my body is capable of has me curious too. She’s perfect. I’m also so very grateful that I can afford to pay her. Moving money from one mama to another always feels good.

By the Solstice I can see myself fully immersed in strength training. Part of the reason I think I’m tired of writing is that I’m tired of sitting! Really. Maybe by the next Equinox, I’ll be saying I need to set aside time for writing? That’s how it goes.

 

Behold! The Power of Jars (or Happy 2014)

I am always so happy at the change of the year. Goodbye 2013, fucking hell what a frienemy of a year.

When I look ahead to 2014, I see jars. Yes, big beautiful jars. This year I fell in love with jars. So maybe 2013 can be seen as the beginning of a beautiful relationship. 2014 it’s gonna get deep.

First thing, the boys and I are starting a “Winning Jar.” It’s a jar on the shelf with a pretty ribbon wrapped around it. Every time one of us experiences something awesome, we right down the date and the event on a slip of paper and drop it in the jar. On this day next year, we’ll dump it out and read all the slips of paper. Super excited about it. The first thing I’ve written:

Happy 2014 sweethearts! I hope you love the hell out of yourself and the ones closest to you. I hope love comes pouring into you and out of you so you’re awash in the process of loving all the time.

Secondly, thanks to a generous friend I’m starting to brew my own kombucha. Not only will this save me a ton of money BUT I’m going super woo with this one and labeling the jar of each batch with a special intention. Here’s my scooby:Scooby

 

The first batch for 2014 has the intention of heart healing. It’s hard to admit having a broken heart. Especially when it’s a familial wound. 2013 was a bit of a battle year. And I feel like I’ve come out of it triumphant but the wounds are there. When you open your heart some tearing can occur.  I don’t want them to scar, so I’m treating them with a salve of self care and mindfullness. I love myself so much. Seriously. I love me and it has been a hard won love. I have earned my own hand over and again. So the first batch is heart healing. I’m not sure what the next batch will be, I’ve got 3 weeks to think about it.

Yes, behold the power of jars. All my hopes for the year to come, alive in jars tucked in corners and on shelves in our home. I hope my unconventional traditions inspire you create some for your family too!

 

Happy 3rd Annual International Fisting Day!

Yup, it’s a real day. Why? Well, it’s mostly about fisting being viewed as an extreme sex act that isn’t allowed in mainstream porn. Apparently, it’s too difficult for some companies to take the time to differentiate between punching and fisting. If there were no difference, then why would there be different terminology? So today we’re talking about who likes to be fisted, who likes to do the fisting, and why, really, it’s not that big of a deal.  I can see why mainstream porn, and by that I mean porn that caters to straight older men (aka the ones who spend the most money on it) because fisting requires patience and communication and is really about the pleasure of the person being fisted. It’s slow, it’s gradual, it’s penetration without a penis. Sooooo yeah. Maybe not the scene that the traditional demographic is into.

But seriously? Fuck those people. 

Fisting Day is a way to make the market share of people that want to see EXACTLY that visible! Through all the social media platforms people are sharing how hot that whole scenario is and would love for more of that, please. Those of us who think it’s important for erotic imagery to depict consent and communication and real pleasure would like some market share recognition too.

Chasing Amy, 1997, written and directed by Kevin Smith.

Chasing Amy, 1997, written and directed by Kevin Smith.

I first heard about fisting in 1997 (when I was 19) while watching Chasing Amy in the theater. I remember looking around at the folks in their seats to see who was squirming. Instead I saw two women to my left, both with wide knowing grins. Eye-brows lifting in what can only be described as the “thats that good shit” expression. Oh. My. Ahem. Well. My own first time being fisted was wonderful and amazing and my partner was so caring and careful and communicative. And yep those women were exactly right. 

Flash forward a decade and a half and I’m asking other parents to share their perspective on fisting. Who knew?

I put out a call on Facebook and twitter asking if childbirth altered anyone’s feelings about being fisted. Two responses really stood out!

First from Maddie:

I never really thought about it before, but yes, childbirth did change the way I felt about the idea of fisting. Granted, I had my first child at 19, so many sexual things seemed exotic or even dangerous. But definitely after feeling and seeing what the vagina is really capable of without injury or “losing shape”, I didn’t balk when I eventually had a partner that mentioned having fisted a previous partner (even double), and the idea and his enthusiasm really turned me on. 

Again, some of that is also due to increasing age and experience, but I do look at pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing as the time when I truly started to admire and gain confidence in my body, and all the things it could do. Far from the stereotype, motherhood improved my social and sex life tremendously!

Can’t lie, that made my heart all aflutter. Thanks so much for sharing, Maddie!

The second contributor asked to remain anonymous:

I’ve always preferred girth over depth when it comes to penetrative sex. Prior to childbirth, I could only accommodate my partner’s hand to her knuckles. I enjoyed the feeling of having the opening of my vagina stretched from side to side. However, after childbirth – WAY after childbirth, it took a while for my body to feel recovered – we found that my partner’s hand was naturally able to slide in deeper. After some very pleasurable warming up, she was suddenly wrist-deep and I experienced the most incredible feeling – the feeling of my lover’s fist completely inside me. For me, fisting sex is when I feel the closest to my partner, I feel fulfilled physically and emotionally, heck – it’s a spiritual experience. It’s transcendental. And, I had never quite been able to do that before childbirth. 

Beautiful! Many thanks, Madame Anonymous for adding your voice to the Fisting Day conversation.

If you who would like more info on Fisting Day, and the folks who started it, you can check out their website, facebook page, twitter (@fistingday) and tumblr. These links are for 18+ and NSFW.

Happenstance and Happenings

How is summer almost over already? This has been a busy season. I’m excited to announce that I’ll be co teaching a workshop on radical parenting at this year’s Symbiosis Gathering! Joining forces with Tomas Moniz continues to be a fantastic experience. Symbiosis is on the Autumnal Equinox, so swimming all day, dancing all night, camping out with Saul Williams, is the perfect way to end this summer.

Speaking of Rad Dad, it’s relaunching! Alongside Hip Mama, Rad Dad is moving to a bigger format and distribution. There’s only a few days left to grab an annual subscription to both Rad Dad and Hip Mama, it’s a perk for supporting Rad Dad’s relaunch. Here is what Tomas has to say about where he’s been and where he’s hoping to go:

From the start Rad Dad’s mission has been about providing space for everyday fathers (and parents and allies) to explore the complexities of parenting, to confront racism and sexism, to create conversations about how to be a loving engaged and committed father to those in our families. I hope to continue and expand this mission by increasing our visibility and access.  My goal is to raise money to increase distribution and redesign the format.

You can check out the video Tomas made here! 

After Symbiosis, I’ll be starting the new Fall season presenting, not one, but TWO sessions at CatalystCon West. I’m super excited to be on panels with several amazing and brilliant parents. You can check out the sessions I’m at here: http://catalystcon.com/sessions-west/#parenting.

Other things going on, I had another article up in the SFBG, a book review of the new children’s book, What Makes A Baby. I was thrilled to meet Cory Silverberg while presenting at Gender Spectrum in Berkeley last month. We then co-facilitated a workshop together at the Good Vibrations store in SF too. That was super awesome. Collaborations make the world go round. I’m excited to keep working with Cory.

I had the honor of reading at Beast Crawl! You can watch my reading of Slut Shaming on the Playground on You Tube! I was in a line up of truly inspiring writers. Many thanks to Saturday Night Special for having me.

I started a new research gig too. Using my degree makes me ridiculously happy. I’m working for an anti-racist grassroots think-tank. Yup. It’s a dream job. Whole new field to explore and people to meet. Plus I get to be a data geek. I love being a data geek.

Oh! And my elder son raced in his first international regatta!! I am so so so proud of him. One of my main parenting goals is to facilitate opportunities for my kids that I never had the chance to experience. And this was a big one.

 

 

Vulnerability & Community

197731_10102060085034883_779389637_n-1Carol Queen made the most heartfelt comment to me at Friday nights opening reception for the “I Masturbate…” photo exhibition at the Center for Sex & Culture. She said the center really, truly felt like a community gathering space. And I can see why this exhibition prompted that feeling. The Sex-Positive Photo Project is one hundred percent about community. We’re documenting our community. We’re proud of our community. And our community makes the project possible. From the people in the photos to the frames on the wall, it’s all you.

We do this work because we admire you. Really. We love the educators and the performers. The risk-takers and safe-space makers. The “put your money where your mouth is” critical media consumers. The “I felt so fucking alone in my journey to self-acceptance that I’m going to take this giant leap into archivable vulnerability” folks. That willingness to be vulnerable is the thread that holds us together. The recognition of that vulnerability is what motivates people to support us.

A funny moment at the opening was when a friend of mine who wasn’t photographed for the project asked another friend of mine who was photographed, “How did they get so many people to be models? How did they convince you?” To which the friend responded, “It’s Airial, you want someone to do something, you just get Airial to ask for you.” And that made me smile. Maybe it’s because I transmit my enthusiasm so well. If I’m excited about something, chances are it’s worth being excited about.

Shilo is a gifted photographer. One of my most favorite visual artists ever. We met because I wanted to meet her. Simple as that. I saw her photos and thought to myself, this is someone I need to know. We met up at a coffee shop in Oakland one spring evening in 2010 and it’s been a tale of mutual support and collaborative love ever since. Successful collaborations are intimate in their own way. She tells me “I want to do this,” and then I do whatever I can to make it so. I’m a writer- I have no idea how to take a good photo. I don’t know anything about lighting or lenses. I do know that people are starved for media that reflects their experience. I do respect the power of the narrative and the social impact of storytelling. I do understand the combined power of image and text. And that is who we are.

We share the burning desire to celebrate the people that inspire us. The photos on the wall and the people in the building Friday night felt like a culminating event of mutual appreciation.

I’m really grateful Shilo got to feel that love. Many thanks to the Center’s gallery curator, Dorian Katz for inviting the project into the space for the month of May, and also for the heartfelt introduction she gave Shilo during the opening. The staff at the center did a fantastic job of welcoming and hosting the big turn out of friends, family and fans of the project. I appreciate all you who came out to share that moment with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musing

Muse by ~zigbone http://fav.me/d4isewh

My 2013 looks about like this. No idea what’s going to happen next. It’s all very intense. I’m navel gazing, crystal gazing, searching for both the hidden meanings and the flags waving right in my face. This is what I know so far. I don’t want to work alone. I know for some people being able to work solitarily is a dream come true. And it was tempting. But… it’s just not me. I don’t want to be on my own all the time. I want to be a part of a team. I want to have a group to be accountable to and to depend on. I like the collaborative decision making process. I like shouldering a portion of the weight. That’s what I’m realizing. I don’t need to run so hard. I don’t need that much space. I need just enough. So while I will continue to write, I’m going to put more emphasis on being part of organizations that I am proud of and excited about.

I put myself through school so that I would have options. Yes, to build skills and develop my talents, to prove to myself that I could meet the deadlines and perform the tasks. That I could learn advanced statistics and meet IRB requirements and organize my own research study. To confirm my suspicions that I have a ridiculously deep love of words. Yes, all of those things.

But really, when it comes to a job… all I really want is not to be required to fetch someone else’s coffee. Not that I expect or desire anybody to fetch mine for me. I’ve been working since I was 15. A good portion of those years were customer service positions. From slinging coffee to servicing insurance policies to hosting CEO’s and politicians… I’ve done it all and I got an advanced degree to dislodge the chip on my shoulder. That’s part of being an older student in a social justice grad program. None of it was theoretical.

There is a beauty to sifting through the maybe’s and possibly’s to get closer to what feels right. Maybe I wanted to be my own boss. It’s possible to be an independent sexual health consultant. What feels like the right path to pursue though is to plug-in on an organizational level.

So that’s what I’m gonna do.

Reinventing Wheels?

Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Here is what I need: other parents. I need you. I need to be with quirky parents like me. I need to look into your face and see that you’re just as determined as I am to not give up. Not give up on your dreams, not give up on your kids, not give up on being an individual in order to adhere to the status quo. I need to see you doing your thing. I need to read your words and watch your projects grow. And I need it in a deeply personal way. It’s not easy being a hyper-autonomous person who craves community. Navigating those contradictory parts of my personality takes a lot of work. If you’re somebody who feels that same push and pull maybe you’ve also felt how parenting adds another dimension to that struggle. I need to be around other parents who are deeply committed to growth; personal growth, familial growth and social growth.

I kinda have that right now and I kinda don’t. I know parents like that, I don’t spend as much time with them as I’d like. The ultimate cool parent dilema. We’re a little too busy raising kids in order to make it out to a lot of events; which is how community is sustained, showing up for each other. Being at the same place at the same time on a regular basis is pretty much the recipe for building community. That goes for online as well as in person communities. And no offense to the awesome social support systems I have access to online, but I need some face to face time. I need to see some damn eyebrows in action. Need to hear the pitch of voices raising and falling with emotion. I need to be in your presence.

There’s an event coming up that I’m really excited to be a part of. It’s part zine release reading, part radical parenting discussion. I have a story in Rad Dad 23 and I’ll be doing a reading. I am grateful to have been able to contribute to such an awesome, independent and necessary publication. I’m also super excited that the founder and editor of Rad Dad, Tomas Moniz, sees this release party as an opportunity to build community. We’re working together to make the event at The Holdout in Oakland on December 15th from 5-7pm not just family friendly, but family sustaining. There’s a recipe to making an event beneficial to parents: kid friendly food and kid oriented entertainment. We’re working on having both. Stay tuned for more details on the event.

My truth is that I need to meet other cool parents and I’m pretty sure other cool parents need to meet me. And yes I’m using cool and radical as synonyms. I’ve been a radical parent from the jump. And I’ve always been cool.