58 – Main Tank

Another one for my wife. She’s having a tough time with her own mental and physical health journey right now, and I know that I’m not easy to deal with while I’m in this process also. I’ve tried to stop dumping so much of that on her. Then too, we both have a tendency to shame-hide when we should ask for help. The thing I’m trying to absorb is that, when I perceive a deficiency in myself, an inability to get something done or give an answer or be what someone needs, the fastest way for them to get what they need and me to stop feeling awful is to admit what’s going on inside me. I want us both to be able to ask for help without shame.

I find this very difficult, so I look at it through the metaphor of raiding in World of Warcraft, because that’s something we used to do together and a metaphor we use quite a bit. At the time, she was playing a Paladin tank, and I a Paladin healer. I’ve been playing my Paladin Mahavira as a healer since Wrath of the Lich King, when I learned from probably the best healer I’ve ever met in WoW. At a time when Paladins had switched from spellpower-driven builds to stacking straight Intellect, Levin and I were the last two Paladins on our server building spellpower, ignoring the huge, long-cast-time heals in favor of Holy Shock and Flash of Light. It was a spiky, risky way to heal, and relied on having a tank that trusted Levin utterly. See, if a tank doesn’t trust their healer, they might get scared when their health gets low and pop one of their own defensive skills. Some of these skills can make the tank lose control of the boss they’re tanking; some of them are simply on long cooldowns and will be unavailable in a few seconds when the shit really hits the fan. Either way, a tank that doesn’t trust their healer to save them can wipe a raid as fast as a bad healer.

Mahavira, also known as “Healmom,” because apparently that’s mom hair?

Levin was a very, very good healer. I saw a few raids wipe because newbie tanks didn’t know to trust her; I never once saw a raid wipe because she failed to save someone’s life. I tried to be at least half as good, even though Pally healing has changed a lot over the years. And when I met my wife, we did a lot of raids together that involved me quietly chanting, “I got you, I got you, trust the healer… okay, NOW!” She was a brilliant tank, and had a brilliant off-tank at her side, and that’s the experience I think is relevant to real life: that feeling of listening to the raid channel, mostly quiet because we are working, son. There’s just the two tanks every few seconds: “Taunt. Four stacks. Five stacks. Taunt. Can I get a cleanse? Thank you. Taunt.” When she gets low, my wife’s voice doesn’t change, she doesn’t panic. She trusts her healer. When we wipe, she has to make an effort to die, and I have to make an effort to let her.

I want to work on this kind of dialogue in our real life – just the steady updates on how it’s going, the instant, “Hey, I need help, you got it?” The trust that asking is okay, that your friends are there to help you, that you all want the same thing and are working together, not against one another. “I can’t hold this, need another person on this quick quick – yep, thanks.” There’s no shame and no criticism during the fight. Just trust and communication. It’s tougher in real life, during a real fight with something scarier than a self-important Blood Elf in a fancy hat. But we also trust each other more than I ever trusted anyone I raided with, and I believe that will get us through the damage spikes. We don’t need cooldowns. We got this even if it goes sideways. We can two-man this thing if we have to, baby, you and me.

The green bar gets down to just a sliver –
still, the paladin grits his teeth and taunts.
Only looks back over his shoulder once,
praying that his healer will deliver.

The man who hesitates will lose his life.
Trust your luck when you can’t trust the dealer;
most of all remember
trust your healer.
The tank raises his shield and trusts his wife.

The cascade of light nearly strikes him blind
with a sound so sweet it calls tears to his eyes,
the fading spell leaves his wife’s touch behind.
They have wings, but not the kind that know the sky –
the treasure is this fight, not what they’ll find.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

Advice for Sluts #3: Breaking up while polyamorous?

Check it out – a real live human asked me personally a question! This time when I critique someone’s marriage, it will be because I was invited to do so, not because I stole Prudie’s mail! You can’t imagine how pleased I am right now.

Quick recap before we get started here, since we’re doing this all official-like now: I’m a huge ho here to help you figure out how to ho it up in an ethical, compassionate, healthy way, whether for fun or profit. You can find the remainder of my qualifications, such as they are, in that post there, but the pertinent one today is that I’ve spent most of my dating life in polyamorous relationships, trying to figure out how to interact emotionally and sexually with a lot of people while keeping them and myself healthy and happy. Poly-related problems are, with a few exceptions, monogamy problems with an exponential multiplier – the issue is the same, but the feelings and the confusion are amplified for every additional person in the mix. Very often, when you think you have a poly problem, what you have is a relationship problem that you’re trying to solve with polyamory, and that’s why it’s not working.

Our Letter Writer today gives a great example of a situation where that’s probably the case – the relationship was already limping, and polyamory has simply complicated the fallout – but also an occasion where honestly, the source of the problem doesn’t matter as much as what you do next.

You don’t know me (duh) but (if I read it correctly) something on your profile said to ask you anything so I’m taking you up on your offer.

I’m married. Have been for a year and a half or so. Spouse and I are sexually incompatible, so recently we had a talk and discovered we are both poly! Yay!

Both of us went on dating sites and happened to find the exact same couple through the opposite person in it. That’s cool! Now we are all a little cube of love and stuff.

Except we aren’t. Spouse got really upset at me tonight. We had some hard times with cars and finances and had to take rideshares to work and the like for a while.

Well, one day, I accidentally ordered all my rides from my personal account instead of the joint account. I got like 4 overdraft fees tacked onto my account, at 40 bucks each.

So I didn’t realize this till tonight and told them i was in the hole. They freaked out and started yelling about how I always fuck up finances. I’ll admit I’m not great with them, but this was an accident.

Their yelling progressed to how they’re upset that I have so many friends that support me and that I get sick and get off work for 2 days while, when they’re sick, they still had to go in. Also how apparently everyone always asks them about me. About how their gf doesn’t talk to them much while I talk to my bf a decent bit.

This isn’t the first time they’ve gone off on me for something, and honestly they’ve said much worse things, but it really hit me today for some reason.

Since the argument, I’ve been looking for apartments and trying to balance a budget based on what I under-guesstimate I make. I honestly feel I need to leave this relationship to help my own mental health.

Back to the poly thing though. That nice little cube we have. I don’t want to fuck up the lives of two absolutely wonderful and supportive people because of stuff my spouse said to me. I’m scared that if I do leave then things might be said and I know what will happen.

Honestly I’m just really fucked up and I don’t know what to do. I still love them, but I need to take care of myself. But I also don’t want to hurt the other two people we’ve only just started relationships with.

I know this is something kinda fucking heavy to send at 12AM but I need help and I’m entertaining all offers, so…. here I am.

My apologies,


Okay. First of all, let’s get one thing straight – you have nothing to apologize for. Thank you so much for extending yourself, for asking for help generally and specifically for inviting me to comment on your life. That is a brave and openhearted thing to do, and I am so happy that you did.

With that settled… I think you’re asking two questions here, a poly question and a validation question. The poly question is: “How do you break up only part of a poly relationship?” And the validation question is: “Will you give me permission to walk away?”

I want to answer the second question first: yes. It seems like you want to leave, and I think your reasons for that are good ones. Just from what you wrote, I know a few things about your spouse – I know that when you alert them to a financial crisis, they do an acrobatic pirouette off the handle and start yelling at you. I know that this yelling is aimed at your character and your person – “you ALWAYS do this thing, which shows that you are part of a GRAND CONSPIRACY TO BE MEAN TO ME, one in which you are in cahoots with my employer to deny me time off.” And this yelling, which to me sounds like a dealbreaker all on its own, has happened before. There have been other occasions when this person said “much worse things” to you, possibly at yelling volume. I’m using more specificity than I need here so that you can be really honest with yourself about how you’re being treated.

I don’t think it takes any kind of diagnosis to say that this environment isn’t good for your mental health. If you’re looking for apartments, you’ve already decided that you need to leave, so let’s take that as read while we move on.

First, the safety stuff:

People who get hurtfully shouty can get hurtfully handsy, especially when their favorite shouting target tries to leave. I’m not making any assumptions about your spouse, but if you think this is even a remote possibility, you’ll want to keep your preparations very much to yourself. You have probably already done this if you were worried about it, but here’s another permission from me: it’s okay to trust your gut, even if you’re not 100% sure, especially with regard to your health.

There are a lot of organizations that can help you, even just with planning and guidance. LoveIsRespect is a great one, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline can guide you in putting together a safety plan and finding local organizations and people who can support you.

This is also a really good time to connect/re-connect with your people outside this relationship. Do you have family nearby (whom you like)? Friends not connected to these three people? A therapist? It seems like a lot has happened in the year and a half since you married – potentially discovering a sexual incompatibility, discussing and trying polyamory, meeting the other couple, time spent as a unit – and a lot of times, that means that you’ve been very focused at home and let some outside connections lapse a bit. It’s time to recover some of that, to remember who you are separate from your spouse and your metamours. This is critical, because in order to have the conversations you need to have, it’ll really help to have an idea what it is you want to happen.

Some things to consider while framing that picture…

I would be very surprised if your metamours were totally unaware that your marriage involves this level of yelling and personal attacks. Depending on the level of intimacy between all of you, either of your metamours could be in a similar position or getting similar treatment from your spouse. In the same way that I would feel obligated to be honest if someone I knew entered a relationship with someone who abused me, I think in this situation it’s important that you’re candid about why you’re leaving. When you do that depends mostly on your relationships with your metamours, but I wouldn’t suggest doing it before you’re prepared to execute your plan to leave, unless they live with you. They’re not under immediate threat and you are, so you need to deal with that first, and these conversations can’t remain one-on-one for long. Order of operations is going to depend on your sense of your own safety – swap around #1 and #2 and leave first if you’re at all unsure about how Spouse will react to the news.

  1. Inform Spouse of your intention to leave.
  2. Leave
  3. Talk to metamours.
    (This conversation doesn’t have to be in-person. I would want to do it ASAP, and I imagine you feel the same way, so it’s constructed in such a way as to not require input from them. You can leave it as a message on their voicemail/Intertube of Choice if you want, and if Spouse is blowing up their phones at the same time, that might be a good idea.)

I’m going to offer you some words I would use, because often I find people don’t tell you that – they tell you, “Talk to them!” which I think for most people leaves you right where you started. But you don’t have to use my words in any way.

If you follow a basic format with the conversation, you’ll be okay:
  1. Explain the situation without going into specifics about any one event
  2. Tell them what you plan to do next
  3. Tell them what you need from them, or what you would like to happen between you, in an ideal world.
  4. Invite them to share their “ideal” outcomes and work with you to bring them together, if and when they want to do that.
  5. End the conversation, give all of you some space to process and discuss amongst yourselves. This is a great moment to do some self-care or vent to a totally unconnected friend.

It’s not necessary to trash your spouse here, and it is necessary to let your metamours make their own decisions about their relationships. I would say something like:

“Spouse and I have struggled with some incompatibilities for a while, as you maybe sensed, and due to Spouse’s recent hurtful behavior during those conflicts, I don’t feel safe staying with them. It’s not for me to tell you how to handle your relationships, but in case Spouse has directed this kind of behavior at anyone else, I wanted to have it on the record.”

You can’t tell them what to do, but it will help them decide if you can tell them what you plan to do. If you need their help executing some part of your safety plan, this is the time to ask. That request might feel awkward or painful, because they understandably have complicated emotions about what’s going on right now. But when your health is at risk, it’s okay to ask the people nearest you to hold onto their emotional butts for a second and give you a hand out of this pit full of snakes. It’s okay to expect adults to manage their own emotions and deal with the business at hand if it’s a threat to your health. You gotta be alive to have feelings, so protecting your body comes first.

Complicating this will be the question of whether you’re comfortable seeing Spouse again after you leave. Only you can answer that. Be kind to yourself when you do. If you’re at all unsure, err on the side of a full block, especially if there’s a chance Spouse will, ah… resist being broken up with. Fully separating will require a little reorganization of how you relate to your metamours, and it might be challenging for them if they choose to continue relationships with you both separately, but that’s for them to choose, and it’s a choice any friends have to make every time someone treats their friend badly. It’s not easy, and it sucks, but those things are not your fault. You did not cause this. You are not creating the problem by making them aware of it. There are many ways they can handle the situation, and if you’ve got an idea, you can offer it. Do you guys usually do things as a group, and can those things be rejiggered to work in pairs or on other days when Spouse is not available? What things do you do with your metamours that you most want to preserve? In an ideal world, what would happen here?

“I’m going to move in with Soandso Who Is Not You Guys for a little while, figure out my next move. I care about you both deeply and I would love to continue (having our dates on Fridays/doing game night with you both and not Spouse sometimes/sleeping over on a different night than Spouse does) if you’re comfortable with that, but I understand that our relationship will probably change somewhat. I just want you to know that I love you and I want to protect my own health here while causing you as little pain and stress as possible.”

Then it’s time to put your phone away and take care of yourself. Give yourself 24 hours to process and rest. Nothing is going to happen that can’t wait a single day, even though people will probably try to make you feel like it is. Their emergency is not your emergency. My Buddhist therapist tells me that we have three obligations when we speak: to be honest, to be kind, and to be necessary in what we say. If you have been honest with everyone, told them exactly as much as necessary for them to make informed decisions, and done it as kindly as you can, you have nothing to feel guilt or shame about, and nothing more to offer someone who wants to argue with you. It’s okay to turn the phone off.

Take the steps you need to protect yourself, tell the parties involved with clarity, brevity and compassion, and then treat yourself with that same compassion. This won’t guarantee that no one will react badly, fly off the handle, make a bad choice – of course it won’t. But you can’t control that. It’s not up to you to manage how they feel about your news, and when you try to take responsibility for managing their emotions (or they try to make you responsible for managing them), it denies their adulthood rather than treating them as an equal.

Tell them what you want so that they can tell you if it’s something they can give. Don’t ask for less than what you’re worth. Don’t let Spouse make you feel smaller than you are. You are asking for the bare minimum in being treated like an equal partner, and the fact that you have other partners has nothing to do with that.

I wish you safety, and clear eyes, and a bone-deep sense of your own worthiness, Alice.

If you have a burning question of your own, be advised that
I am no kind of doctor
but I’ll tell you if what you’ve got looks weird at

53 – Emberchild

For my wife. I so deeply value the space and safety she’s given me to grow, to heal, to find my voice. She cared for me and protected me for years, and then she did something much, much harder – when I got my feet under me again, she stepped back. She let me change, let our relationship evolve. She didn’t need me to stay an invalid for her to feel important. She didn’t force me to stay weak so that she could be strong.

If I live five hundred years, it might be long enough to catch me up on what I owe her just for the seven years we’ve had together so far. It’s a moving target, an unreachable goal, and as an absurdist, I like that. May I sink ever further in her debt, and may I never stop striving to even the score.

“Magician,” January 2012

You who could see through the ones and zeroes
saw through me. You who always missed her cue
showed me I was waiting for something too –
for someone who saw us both as heroes.

Nothing’s meaner than a dog chained too tight.
I defended my scrap of misery
and howled when you tried to take it from me.
But you didn’t run when I tried to bite.

I lost my words – you gave me loving numbers.
I lost my way – you found me in the dark.
I couldn’t love my flesh – I loved your marks.
Didn’t let go when it pulled me under
when glass got in my eyes and froze my heart
you gave me an invincible summer.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

46 – Anachronism

One of the frustrating things about therapy, for me, has been that I feel immense pressure to give up portions of myself in order to be healthy. I’m not sure if this pressure is from my therapist or myself or both – probably a little of both. The thing is… I’m a person who loves people’s flaws. I love people for their human moments, their weaknesses, their awkwardness, their genuine feeling and inability to hide it. So there are a few things about myself that I truly love, a few things that feel like part of my identity, that my therapist and the rest of the world would term “unhealthy.”

I want to be healthy, if what “healthy” means is that I can be kind to myself, that I can stop feeling personally responsible for every flash of emotion that crosses anyone’s face in my presence, that I can stop hearing the voices that hate me telling me all the fun ways I could die every second of every day… if that’s what healthy means, I want that very much. But it seems like in order to have that, I have to give up so much of who I am.

Who I am is who I’ve become playing out the moves I was taught. I’m not saying it’s amazing. I am a bent, twisted person. I am a little bit of a junkie, and I will probably always be all about whatever new addiction you have to offer, but I’ve learned to channel that toward relatively harmless addictions. If being healthy means not having that junkie chattering in the back of my head, calculating how many pills it is between me and not being able to deal with fucking life again… I might never be healthy.

I am a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster rider – I would rather be in pain than indifferent, rather be terrified than checked the hell out the way I’ve been for the last few years. I will probably always be the person who cries because swans can be gay and falls in love inside a week. If being healthy means not riding that rollercoaster, I might never be healthy, and I don’t know if I want to be.

I’ve spent my life looking for people who would love me not despite my flaws but because of them. I need to be allowed to be the broken creature I am… but I don’t know if that creature has a future. I don’t know if the future I want is a place I can really live.

My children’s children’s faces before me
are sending their mercy back through the years,
telling me they’ve seen the deaths of my fears,
and those that remember me seem to adore me.

I want to know that future memory –
myself, tempered by the time between us,
finished with the penance that redeems us,
purified of every part of me.

It seems unfair that I should have to build
me into that person with no blueprint,
plot this ship’s course with no destination.
But then, that’s why martyrs have to be killed.
The world I want isn’t one I can live in –
that story starts with my abdication.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

45 – Let’s Pretend

It’s funny that I didn’t stumble upon The Belonging Kind before today, considering what a huge Gibson nerd I was as a kid. It’s hit me hard. So much of my daily life feels like a performance, and unlike seemingly everyone I’ve ever known who’s felt the same way, I don’t hate it. I hate trying to hide it, and not being acknowledged for the work I put into it. I hate people assuming that because I’m actively presenting a face for them to see, that face must be in some way “not real” or a concealment of my true self.

It’s incredibly fucking hard to interact when it feels like every person is looking for the lie in everything I say, trying to prove me disingenuous, trying to categorize me based on my words. The less control I have over my output, the more unpredictable results it gets from the people I’m interacting with, the less I want to interact at all – one of the reasons I’m so bad at the phone. Zero useful input from the phone in terms of body language or expression, but I’m expected to behave coherently in responding to it anyway… yeah, I know. I’m a fucking alien. It just… hurts, being an alien.

That’s the worst part of it. My brain hurts, all the time, like whatever I am can’t breathe in this atmosphere. It’s just a little wrong, all the time. Just a little hard to see, a little hard to understand, a little slow to react, a little foggy on the details. The purest peace I have is when I’m listening to someone I love talk, or watching them do something. I don’t have to respond, I don’t have to have a face… I can just admire their face, bask in their light. It takes the pressure off, for a second.

I don’t mind being an alien. I just hate feeling alone, and forced to pretend I’m not an alien. I hate it that it’s so hard to find people who like the alien, rather than the pretense. I hate it when people look at that pretense and see a lie, instead of a desperate, fumbling attempt to make myself understood.

Thinking about ghosts. Feeling alone and not alone.
“As Unchanging as the Sea,” March 2006

There is a place where it’s easy to think
the air somehow makes heavy things lighter
the nights are warmer,
the days are brighter,
time doesn’t slip away each time you blink.

There’s somewhere we don’t get headaches all day.
Somewhere words matter, and people listen,
anything other than gold that glistens.
Surely if I find the right words to say…

It hurts to discover my enemy.
It hurts to recognize that face as mine.
It hurts to realize that I’m so unkind;
the creature snapping at my heels is me.
If we could both leave our faces behind
then I could see what you need me to see.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

33 – Dregs

I’ve always had some… strange thoughts kicking around in here about how we visualize love, and how we write history. Pop culture and stories give us this model that looks transcendent, everlasting… but what makes the ones we love most precious to us, in my experience anyway, are the things nobody else sees. The banal moments with someone, the fact that they know how to make a sandwich just like you like it, the dumb tune they hum when they’re thinking… those things aren’t in the stories, and they aren’t in the history books, and yet they’re all we really, truly care about. All the fury and pain and struggle is in service of that, of acquiring and protecting that, and yet we immortalize the fury and pain and struggle and just… leave out the rest. “Happily ever after,” and then once the honeymoon’s done, show’s over, everybody out.

Regarding this picture here – the photographer used to be on DeviantART back in the day, but doesn’t seem to be anymore; if I can find his site these days I’ll get a link up. The vanity set in the picture was Eva Braun’s, thus the iconography. The Star of David belongs to the model. I found the picture beautiful and thought-provoking, and it feels pertinent to this train of thought – it’s so strange to see symbols that have such brutal, horrendous associations depicted in an elegant, utilitarian context, intended to be beautiful and intimate. The weird banality of history, the way that earthshattering events touch the ground and surprise us by being so very human… it feels ridiculous and scary and sad and lovely. Like everything these days.

I wish I knew the photographer’s name! Google did not help me.
If it’s your photo, let me know! I love your work and wish to credit you properly.

It seems like we’re always washing our hands.
Fingerprints seem to get on everything,
cups and bowls, and blades, and hearts, and heartstrings.
They’ll butcher our story however they can.

Ask yourself – will they write down this moment?
Love in fairy tales is “ever after,”
and none of them will forget your laughter,
or their righteous zeal for your atonement.

But no one will remember how you smell.
The color of the sky seen through your hair
is part of history I’ll take to hell;
the forges steam with lovers’ tears down there.
They’ll write their books and claim they knew you well,
pretending that your skin was never bare.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

23 – Afterimage

It’s a breakup poem! I don’t want to spoil the story by saying who it’s about, but it’s from Shadowplay. There’s a lot of heartbreak in that one, I’m afraid. It’s actually mostly heartbreak. And drugs. They say every painting is a self-portrait, right?

I don’t go to your side of town these days.
The glutinous air in the afternoon
smells like the incense you kept in your room.
You’ve stolen this city in all kinds of ways.

On paper I can’t add up what went wrong.
I took down each word that you said, you see,
then add in the answers you got from me –
of course I have to bring my notes along!

You scarred each sense with your silhouette.
Each bottle of your favorite beer haunted,
a heart attack in the sound of each step,
each kind touch a blow to nerves you taunted.
Can’t square up all the sorries and regrets
Can only hope you found what you wanted.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

22 – Doppelgänger

I read someone today talking about an ex-partner of theirs, saying, “He was basically the embodiment of how much I hated myself back then.” It occurred to me how apt that was – how much the people we choose to surround ourselves with mirror how we feel about ourselves. When we’re capable of advocating for ourselves, setting boundaries, etc., we form friendships that reinforce our emotional self-sufficiency, bolster our self-esteem, and promote healthy communication and maintaining healthy boundaries. When we feel self-loathing, we form friendships that reflect that loathing back, attach ourselves to people who say out loud what our brainweasels are always telling us: we are broken, we are pathetic, we are worthless. We hear that, it echoes inside us, and we think that means it’s true.

Now, I wouldn’t be so foolish as to claim before you, of all people, to be mentally sound. I’m very much on a journey to mental health, and the further I go on that journey, the more clear to me it becomes that there is no firm destination, that “mental health” is a constantly-shifting goalpost that pathologizes anyone who doesn’t think like a straight white man.

That said, I’m further along on that journey than I was five years ago. Five years ago, I was in a deep fuckin’ hole. I was in the Well. I hated myself, not for anything I’d done, but for everything I couldn’t do, everything I couldn’t be. I drank a lot during those years. A LOT a lot. I got to a point where I was killing a handle of rum in two days. During one of those nights, I met the boy this sonnet is about. He did all the damage to my life and my brain he could possibly manage in the three years I knew him, but it could easily have been much worse. My suicide wore that boy’s face for a little while, and we got to know each other very well.

“Thank You, Frailty,” February 2013

My death wish came dressed as a boy with curls,
a boy who brought me excuses and wine,
a boy who was awake at the right time
for me and – it turned out – quite a few other girls.

The part of your brain that wants you to jump off –
that part loved how obediently
he parroted all of its hatred of me.
Even years later, it still sometimes borrows his scoff.

He wore three years of my misery
like a fine coat, and twirled to catch my eye.
When he took all my pain I wondered why
till he introduced what he’d made of me:
Here’s a hair shirt that wants you to die.
Here are pants that cut you off at the knees.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

8 – Scarmaker

And today’s is done in twenty minutes. Obviously I need to stop forcing myself to stay on topic. I can’t write poetry on-topic. I just need to free associate with the rhymes and rhythm until something cool floats up, and figure out what it all MEANS later. Or make y’all figure out what it means. What’s my cult for if not to wildly interpret my incoherent gospel?

This one is about that bad love. It’s not about any one person in particular; there’s imagery from a few relationships I’ve been in that were bent in one way or another. Here’s the thing about that… people tell you that you “have to learn to love yourself before you love someone else.” And I think that’s bullshit. I think you love other people BEST when you love yourself, but if we all waited till that day to love someone, a lot of us would be alone forever.

“Anfini’s Beast,” June 2006

You don’t learn to love other people well by sitting alone. You will make mistakes, you will have relationships that are kind of fucked-up, sometimes YOU will be the one who is fucked-up, and all of that will teach you a great deal about how to love and be loved. The bad love you’ve had is not worthless. That time was not wasted. It made you who you are, it taught you what you want and what you sure as fuck don’t want, and it taught you some things about dealing with another human that you can try on the next human you meet. Maybe they’re into it, maybe they’re not. You keep trying, keep loving. You’ll never do it perfectly, but I promise you, doing it badly will be part of how you learn to do it well.

So this one’s for Procell and Macha, Pearle and Elie, Haven and Adsartha. It’s for Brock and Jeremy and my mom. I love the scars you gave me.

At first I saw you in the finger-hooks,
and took their plaster kisses for your love.
I let you tell me what you’re guilty of,
and I assiduously read your books.

I did your will without daring to look
(Avoid the pinning eyes, avoid the shove)
I learned to dodge ballistics from above,
and let you call me “monster,” call me “crook.”

I carried messages between your eyes,
I let you carve your words into my skin
and read them back to tell you where you’d been,
became habituated to your cries
and as I closed the box and sealed you in,
I whispered that I loved you for your lies.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

Phrases That Make Me Swipe Left

and other reasons your online dating profile is not getting you laid

I am an attractive young white person who enjoys travel, long walks on the beach, and being a real human who definitely exists.

Once you’ve been doing the online dating thing for a bit, whatever app or service you use, your eyes start to glaze over. Especially if you’re femme-shaped, you see people calling for attention all day long, every day of the year, until they all start to look the same. The same happy, pretty pictures, the same generic phrases about work and play, the same copy-pasted, low-effort messages so nobody gets caught caring too much about the outcome… This will not do. For your own sanity, you have got to establish some hard-and-fast criteria for eliminating people.

The basic stuff, of course — a certain age bracket you’re comfortable with, certain red-flag topics that you definitely will not agree on, maybe you’re not into blondes or beards — that’s the first level of filtering. But you’ve done that, and you still have thirty-five dick pics to sort through. It’s time to get petty. Here are a few minor sins that will instantly send a profile to the nega-zone left of the phone, to languish forever among the bigots and catfish.

1. Headless chest or ab pics

If I see a beheaded bathroom-mirror shot of your sunken chest one more time, Trevor, I’m going to track down your Facebook and tell your mom how you’re acting on the internet. Here’s a pro-tip, straight men: women don’t give a shit about your abs. They really, really don’t. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve all got one Edge Case Bobbie in memory, one woman who was literally only into you because she saw your rippling pecs in her dreams, but that doesn’t change the reality. Statistically, women look at men’s faces first—when you ask women what features they find attractive in men, sure, chest and abs will be on the list, but they won’t be at the top. The top of the list is always a sampling of the following in random order: eyes, hands, arms, smile, facial hair. That’s what women look at, and men, that’s not news. We’ve been telling you this for decades. You know women aren’t as interested in your abs as in your face, and yet you continue to offer me pictures of your naked torso that cut off at your clavicles. You know what that says to me? It says you’re arrogant and self-involved, more concerned with enhancing your ego than sharing who you are with me. Hard pass.

2. “NO FAKES! Sick of being friendzoned. I value: loyalty! Honesty! THIS MEANS YOU.”

Listen. I know online dating is tough for men. I get that there are a lot of scammers and catfishers out there, I do. But you don’t need to dump all your resentment on every new person you meet. When you lead with aggressive, wounded warnings, when your profile is a laundry-list of what you don’t like and don’t want, it makes me wonder why you’re not writing anything about yourself. Is the huge chip on your shoulder the most attractive part of you? Are you interested in anything but your own pain and anger? If we go on a date and it doesn’t work out, will you add an all-new passive-aggressive rant about “people like me” at the bottom of your profile?

Don’t make the next person you interact with responsible for what the last person did, and don’t lead with your resentment. It’s one thing to express reasonable frustration about how tough online dating is for men. It’s another thing entirely to conclude that women are to blame for all your suffering, and they need to fix it by having sex with you.

3. “Things I can’t live without: air, food. I’m really good at: being myself. What I’m doing with my life: living it.”

Yeah, yeah, you’re hilarious. Just like the last ninety-five people who made that joke. It’s a dad joke, and unless you’re a dad, you need to let them have it. If you are a dad, you need to stop trying to date people the same age as your kids. Just sayin’.

4. “If I say too much here, what’s the point of getting to know each other? Just ask me anything you want to know.”

Both men and women pull this one, and it’s extremely rude. If you’re on a dating app or site that uses long-form written profiles, (and if you’re not, why are you reading this? Go back to waving your penis at innocents on Tinder) that means that all the people you’re trying to attract have put effort into their profile. Why did they do that? To help you. To give you things to talk to them about, to assist you in starting a conversation, to help you know ahead of time if you want to rule them out entirely. People aren’t writing these profiles for their fucking health. They did all that work to make your life easier before you even showed up, and the very least you can do is make the bare minimum of effort to fill out your profile. If you have so little personality that you’re able to spoil all of it in a box marked “What I’m doing with my life,” I promise you, we’ll be bored before dinner arrives regardless, because you are a boring person.

5. “I love to laugh.”

Holy shit, where have you been all my life? I’ve spent years surrounded by dour human Eeyores who cry out in physical pain when I crack a joke! I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed laughing before; you must be a unicorn!

If you’re saying you have a great sense of humor, fine — just say that. If you’re saying you like your partners to make you laugh a lot, that’s fine too! Use your words. But “I love to laugh” is right up there with “I’ve been eating every day since I was a kid” and “I would rather not be killed” in terms of telling your audience anything about you.

6. “I hate to lose.”

Another rare beast! Where do they keep finding all these mutants who don’t enjoy coming in second? I can’t be bothered with that; I prefer to surround myself with career losers, the kind of people who actively seek out failure and revel in it. I find they’re much more interesting.

The thing about someone who “hates to lose” is… they’re seeing losing as a blow to their ego, an entirely unproductive event that diminished them. They don’t see losing as an opportunity to learn, an attempt during which they gained experience and skill, or a genuine acknowledgement of someone else’s ability. They just see it as injury, an attack on their perception of themselves as a “winner.” Do you know anyone else who talks about “winning” all the time? Who needs very much to convince you that they are a “winner” but doesn’t have any actual wins to show you? Almost presidential behavior, wouldn’t you say? Swipe left.

7. Your Myers-Briggs type

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Myers-Briggs is pseudoscience. It’s loosely based on untested, inconclusive work by Carl Jung, it‘s stunningly unreliable, inconsistent, and incomplete even for the purpose it purports to serve, and it indicates nothing about you except what you would like to believe you are. Myers and Briggs were not psychologists and didn’t learn the psychometric testing techniques they used to back up their theory until after publishing the theory — in other words, they decided what they wanted to believe about human nature and then went out to find data that agreed with them. Between a third and half of the published material on the Myers-Briggs test has been produced specifically by the Center for the Application of Psychological Type, which provides training in the test and is funded by sales of the test. There is no evidence that this test relates to reality in any meaningful way. Myers-Briggs is a horoscope for people who think they’re too smart for horoscopes.

8. “I can’t see likes/I don’t pay money for this service, so just message me!”

Okay, class, eyes up here. Clearly I need to explain this shit, because no one seems to understand how this system works and that it’s working as intended.

Most dating apps use some permutation of the “like” and “friend” structure. In this structure, you can “like” or “favorite” someone you’re interested in, and “friend” or send them a message if you really want to get their attention and are willing to make the first move. When someone you’ve liked also swipes right on you, you’re both given a notification of that, to prompt you to start a conversation.

This means that the function of the “like” button is to indicate that you’re open to interacting with a person in a low-pressure way. We know you can’t see it — 99% of users do not pay money for these services; we can’t see the likes either. That’s not what they’re for. If you could see them, they wouldn’t be low-pressure. If someone isn’t brave enough to message you, they also wouldn’t use likes if they thought you could see them regardless of your interest. Online dating tends to appeal to people who find face-to-face interactions more intimidating — for this reason, dating apps have geared the service toward allowing you to put yourself out there without risking rejection, only interacting with people who have deliberately chosen you. This is a good thing. You don’t want everyone to see you, you want people who want you to see you. The only way you lose in this scenario is if your dating strategy was the shotgun copy-pasted message spammed at everything with tits, and sorry not sorry, if that’s you, you are the problem.

9. “I like watching Netflix.”

Do you get that this is the modern equivalent of saying, “I like watching TV”? What are you trying to say? You enjoy watching moving images, just any kind? Will a screensaver do? Maybe you’re a huge devotee of the Netflix corporation specifically? What if I don’t have Netflix, do you like watching anything else, or will you walk out if you see the Hulu logo? Please, I’m begging you, go get a personality. There are plenty on Netflix, just pick one.

10. “I love to travel.”

Nope. Nobody loves to travel. I’d believe you if you said, “I love traveling to relaxing beaches,” or “I love exploring Buddhist sanctuaries,” or “I loved all those years I spent hitchhiking in Europe,” but I do not for a second believe that you enjoy sitting in airports, carrying luggage, exchanging currency, worrying about your phone service, or driving long distances with someone you got sick of eight hours ago. Perhaps you’d like to tell me why you like traveling? Where you’ve been and why you picked that place? What you saw there? Because when you say, “I love traveling,” all you’ve told me is, “I’ve been privileged enough to travel a lot, and I intend to maintain that level of privilege if at all possible.” Cool story, bro. We’re all very envious. Sure is a shame you didn’t learn anything on your travels.

11. “I think outside the box.”

No, you don’t.