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Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Tantric Turnaround

In Mental Health, Sex on December 15, 2009 at 1:23 am


Dear Yenta,

I can’t believe I’m asking you this, but here goes.

I spent years of my life depressed, anxious and unhappy. I had few
relationships, mostly with unavailable, emotionally stunted partners,
just like myself. Now I’m in a healthy relationship and I am truly
happy.

I realized at a certain point in my life that things would not get
better if I didn’t deal with it. About five years into therapy, I was able to recognize that clinical depression had a hand in my difficult years, and I started taking antidepressants.

And the problem is this: antidepressants have eliminated my ability
to have an orgasm. Oh the irony! I had a decent sex life back in the
day, but now sex is really just an activity, like running or yoga.
I’ve adjusted the medication and been over this with my doctor to no
avail. But as fulfilled as I am now, I feel like it ultimately limits the
connection I have with my partner. Gratifying sex is what set our
relationship apart from all other relationships. And I like yoga, but
I miss the orgasms. What do I do?

Things Could Be Worse.

Dear TCBW,

I applaud you for taking your emotional growth and general sanity into your own hands. This dedication to well-being is admirable and is what builds positive communities around the world.

But things, my dear, could still be better.

I am going to treat this question under the presupposition that you are male, by standard American definitions. If you are female, and need help with the same, see: Trouble Coming in addition to reading below. If you are neither, improvise with those two answers.

There is hope, yet.

Antidepressants work in a number of ways, one way being to sever the connection between body, mind and spirit so that your life experiences are more manageable. Sometimes we are poorly programmed, so this split or cap on experience helps avoid the poor programming. With this cord cut, you might need to re-wire your own body, something that can be done with a little effort.

Basically, now that you are happy a number of things have shifted – your center of gravity, your attachment to misery, your ability to stay positive and your overall physical balance. One thing, psychologically, that this may have done is complicate your sexual drive. You may, quite simply, be maturing.

Young sex is often driven by nerves, fear and anxiety. There is a possibility that you have eliminated these things and now need to approach sex and sexuality from a new angle. Tantra could be a calling that this new shift has beckoned, particularly if you are already practicing yoga. This has to do with spiritually infusing your bedroom, and learning to make love without working towards orgasm. You might find that this has a profoundly positive turnaround for your sex life.

Meanwhile, these medications only control part of your chemical makeup. Have you taken inventory on diet and substance abuse? Cigarettes and alcohol can drastically affect your ability to ejaculate. Check out Dr. Weil’s page on natural treatment for erectile dysfunction for more ideas.

Ultimately, I heed caution when it comes to psychotherapeutic drugs. There are other ways to treat depression, see: Woe is Me. There is also a LOT that can be done with the body and mind to work around medications you do choose/or need to take. Don’t be too quick to fold if Prozac says its boss. Chances are you can use this medicated emotional leg up to begin to explore your body, mind and spirit from new angles. Caution: you might find your next orgasm, grounded in a healthy lifestyle rather than an anxious exit, to be far beyond those you ever experienced before.

Home for the Holidaze

In Mental Health, Parents, Uncategorized on December 14, 2009 at 6:36 am

Dear Yenta,

I find myself dreading the upcoming holiday season. I love them but
time with my family can be SUCH an emotional drain.

Do you have any suggestions for establishing and maintaining
boundaries? Or quick answers for people asking you to justify your
life choices?

-Homeward Bound

Dear HB,

One woman once said you should never go home for more than two days. Two day visits rock, no space for conflict, just long enough to really enjoy every minute. But, if you need to be home longer…here are some pointers on how not to regress to age thirteen.

1) Spend a night reflecting on what you are doing with your life and why. Make sure you have some semblance of an answer before going home. This answer does not need to be shared with anyone out loud, it is the one you hold on to as the questions start firing.

2) Look at all of this as if you live inside a shell. Inside is all mushy and sweet, outside is the veneer you show people. Another word for this is learning to live like a Washingtonian. Use your best political face to show love and white lies.

3) Only answer when you feel like it. You have every right not to answer a question. Or, what people hate, is “I don’t know.” This is a great answer if you can stand by it and the frustration it will provoke. People who have made commitments they resent, will then resent you for your lackthereof.

4) Learn to see yourself with two sets of eyes, theirs and yours, and train yourself to know the difference. What they can’t see can’t hurt them, and what you remember of who you are is crucial. Don’t confuse their eyes for your own.

5) Boundaries. The only trick here, again, is pre-meditation. Know in advance how far you want to go with information, and set the limit. People hate boundaries. They will try to trick you and knock your walls down. Stand firm if those walls are there to maintain your sanity.

6) Trust your gut and give away only what serves you. Exiting a Buddhist retreat and entering family life from your own independence aren’t such different experiences. One retreat leader explained that you might want to run home and tell your husband or girlfriend or mother everything and then find, upon arrival, that they don’t get it or don’t care. They taught us to guard our experiences and to be slow in unfolding information about the time we spent in silence. You might feel like telling the girl in the checkout line all about your retreat, but never want to reveal a word to your own children. The moral here was learning to trust one’s voice. You might find your mouth cemented shut in some cases, without warning, and running wildly in others. Just listen to your body and proceed with the questions and answers from there. Pain = negative. Warm lull = positive.

So, whatever you have made of your life was done so for a reason. Family sometimes understands, and sometimes does not. They sometimes want to put a leash on you in fear of losing you to the new world you have entered. So spend some time remembering who they are, what their needs and hang-ups are, and also recalling who you are and what you stand for.

For example: One brilliant friend of mine went home to her evangelical parents and they all looked at her, shaking their heads. “Aren’t you worried about rotting in hell for all of those tattoos you have?” they asked. And she calmly answered, “I appreciate your concern, but these tattoos mean a lot to me and connect me to God as I understand it.” Boom.

As you approach each conversation go into it with awareness and self-respect, watching your words and theirs, knowing that everyone’s attempts to cut you down to size have to do, 90% of the time, with their own insecurities.

For family it is even harder, because they were once closest to you and the shifts in intimacy levels as we age unnerve some people. Keep this in mind as they get rough, remembering the origin of their words. Be protective of you. Whatever you have become is probably gorgeous, and needs to be revealed at its own rate.

Brandon Walsh Syndrome

In Drama, Uncategorized on December 13, 2009 at 3:41 am

Dear Yenta,

I have a friend who always goes for the “bad boy” that isn’t
interested. She becomes close friends with these guys and then tries
to draw inferences from the close friend relationships like “we do a lot
of date type stuff together.” I don’t want to hurt her feelings by
telling her they just aren’t that into her, but I feel kind of
dishonest just smiling and nodding every time she talks about these
“relationships.” I obviously think she is great and that the right
guy is out there for her, but listening to her stories tells me he is
not these wild dudes. I also think she is depressed, so I don’t
want to rock the boat and send her spiraling any deeper. What would
you do? Am I being a good friend or should I tell her what I really
think?

-Smile and Nod

Dear Smile and Nod,

What is being a good friend? Is it blindly supporting someone through hard times? Or is it helping someone see themselves more clearly when they have gone temporarily blind? Or, really, is it a balance of both?

Too much truth burns, we all learn that the hard way. But too little makes you a wet rag. All your fear of being honest with your friend sounds like you are enabling her depression. That, and you sound a little afraid of her.

There are ways of saying, “he isn’t worthy of you,” “you deserve someone who…. Listens, cares, shows up, etc.” You don’t need to bash her choices, but you can insinuate that there are more options, that it is ok to dream big and expect bigger results. One element of depression is a narrow and skewed vision of the world. Without commenting on her sour lovers, you can still easily coax your friend into believing she deserves more.

Also, teetering on the edge of a depressive downfall, your friend is responsible for how deep she lets herself sink. It is nice to be there, but try not to be too Brandon Walsh or Dan Humphrey. This means let her worry about her, and you about you, while still showing your love and positivity so she might find her own way out of this quagmire.

The Mommy and the Medelach

In Dating, Drama on December 12, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Dear 27-Year-Old Yenta,

As Chanukah approaches, I fear that my boyfriend will think my latkes
aren’t as good as his mother’s.

This happens every year and we always have a big fight about it. He
likes mine well enough, but he’s always saying how his mother uses
more salt or chops the potatoes this way or that way. I want him to
accept me as I am, latkes and all!

Thank you,
Lately Always Testily Kvetching Everything

Dear Latke,

Um…this has nothing to do with your boyfriend accepting you. If he is Jewish, and so is his mother, then you should stop fighting and start eating fried pancakes. A Jewish mother always comes before a Jewish wife/girlfriend, that’s just the way it is. Jewish men are kings in the eyes of their mommys, so why mess with an ancient system?

Did you wipe his tush? Breast feed him? Clothe and feed him for eighteen years? No. Your role is big, but hers, and her latkes, will always be bigger. If he likes his mother’s latkes more it doesn’t reflect on how much he likes you. In fact, I can’t believe I am still writing this reply. This is a non-issue. You = girlfriend. NOT mother. The end.

Plus, you and his mother should probably both step aside because my mother’s latkes will always dominate. Now there’s something to really worry about.

Strictly Sexual

In Sex on December 12, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Dear Yenta,

Recently I started sleeping with my professional dance partner. The sexual chemistry is incredible and I am really enjoying myself. The only problem, I feel twinges of guilt and indignity for letting go so wildly.

What advice do you have for a young woman exploring her sexuality and loving it, but simultaneously feeling like if many of the people close to her knew what she was doing, she would be shamed?

Thanks, Yenta!

Horizontal

Dear Horizontal,

One nice thing about sex, for most people, is that it happens in private. The intimacy of the practice has a purpose in and of itself: sex is between you and your partner(s). Are you hurting your lover in a way that is damaging to his or her health? Are they damaging you? It sounds pretty innocent to me, lovemaking with a trusted partner.

Who are these people that might “shame” you? Are they friends and family and do they share your beliefs and outlooks in life? Are they bound by religious or communal doctrine that might suggest that expressing your feelings for a dear one physically is sinful? Be sure their shame is theirs, and not yours. If their beliefs penetrate your private affairs, it is up to you to build a stronger interior.

The other question is whether you are imagining and projecting their shame because in fact you feel dirty for your own behavior. Sometimes shame comes up as a way to limit oneself. It can be a way of expressing fear or doubt at deserving such sweet things in life. For example: you find a hot and sensitive sex partner and wonder if you deserve such pleasure, and quickly smear the experience in shame so as to limit your enjoyment.

Check in with yourself and make sure you are enjoying this new physical step in your relationship. Do you feel safe? Cared for? Loved? Do you need there to be love, or can you enjoy sex without it? And does this kind of no strings attached sex make you feel good, or are you someone who needs more commitment? Explore your sexuality but do so on YOUR terms. The judgmental puritans in the rafters can worry about their own orgasms.

Apres Paula Abdul

In Breakups/Divorce on December 10, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Dear Yenta,

Twice I seem to have started to fall in love with girls who claim only once I’ve plunged my heart overboard for them: “it is not the right time for me.” – Their excuses being along the lines of having just arrived in a new city and feeling a need to commit solely to one’s work, one’s craft, or one moving on to another country, another school, or whatever and therefore not wanting to commit to a relationship. Are these excuses, or am I just busted? Am I falling in love with them just because they become unattainable? How do I both simultaneously tell a girl how wonderful she is, how beautiful, how amazing while at the same time keeping my distance so she can breathe and not feel as if I am suffocating her growth as a woman? How should I best keep calm – best maintain proper communication when a request for less communication has been flagged?

Thanks Yenta, and Happy Chanukah.

-Two Steps Forward and Two Steps Back

Dear TSFATSB,

I adhere to the strict belief that when we choose our partners we choose them with full-subconscious knowing. By this I mean that you knew, when you chose these women, that they would eventually leave. My grandfather used to say that there is a lesson to be found in everything. When it comes to matters of the heart, we are always being clued in to our own emotional maladies. The good news is, when we pay attention to these issues, we are given the opportunity to heal them.

This is not a simple question. For one, I think you need to ask yourself what “fall in love” really means. Have you known real “love?” Is this “love”or the projection of it? Psychologist Robert Firestone talks about something called “The Fantasy Bond.” He writes:

”Most people have fears of intimacy and are self-protective and at the same time are terrified of being alone. Their solution to their emotional dilemma is to form a fantasy bond. This illusion of connection and closeness allows them to maintain an imagination of love and loving while preserving emotional distance. Destructive fantasy bonds, which exist in a large majority of relationships, greatly reduce the possibility of couples achieving intimacy.”

This leads me to my presumption that you might have issues with intimacy. Why do you feel that having a girlfriend implies needing to adorn her with words like “wonderful, beautiful, amazing?” As nice as it is to express these sentiments, they are not an inherent part of being in a loving relationship. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you are always putting your woman on a pedestal it not only dehumanizes her, but it also implies your own self-loathing. It is a faux version of real love, one that is veiled in emotional lies and ultimately serves to push her away.

There is a fine line between compliments and obsessive expressing. Also, don’t underestimate the power of non-verbal communication, even a quick loving glance often communicates admiration and appreciation. You do not sound like you are communicating, but distancing with all of these compliments. Do the compliments have anything to do with what you are actually feeling, beyond sparkle eyes for your lady? Do you enter relationships so you can give love, or share love?

It is best to come into a relationship whole and to seek to enjoy the wholeness of another. As cheesy and impossible as this sounds, it means that the work you have cut out for you is YOU. You need to explore your own issues with intimacy, discover why it is that you have been actively cutting love’s aorta for yourself, not the other way around. A common cause of intimacy troubles are related to childhood abuse. Check out: Emotional Unavailability : Recognizing It, Understanding It, and Avoiding Its Trap by Bryn Collins

Also, remember that a woman’s growth has nothing to do with you. She will thrive or destruct based on her own choices. You can support her growth, or witness and appreciate it, or, in attempting to lasso this lady with such tight reigns, you also might find that you are a hindrance and therefore a disposable entity on her path to becoming. Your version of “communication” is more like smacking her with positivity in an effort to control her and keep her by your side. Perhaps she is exiting in hopes of less bullshit. In the end, instead of tethering yourself to a woman, it is high time you get the reigns on yourself.

For more help read: Fear of Intimacy by Robert W. Firestone and Joyce Catlett.

ReASSessing

In Sex on December 9, 2009 at 4:48 am

Dear Yenta:

I recently started seeing a man who has a repertoire of “fetish”
delights. He likes toes, he likes big booty ho’s and he also likes
to lick brown eye hole. I am of course conflicted. While I try to
judge no one for the way the world delights them, I find a strange
blend of pure joy and pleasure from his escapades “back there,” as
well as a subtle form of judgment about his predilection. I mean,
who actually likes to stick their face in ass? It makes me suspect of
him as a person which is a bit judgmental really. And besides, it’s
not unheard of. But I question his psychology too – like is he into
being HUMILIATED? or is this just the trick that makes his stick tick?
Help Yenta!

-Bootylicious

Dear Bootylicious,

The truth is, LOTS of people enjoy this practice in a million forms. “Fingers in the ass again,” is how The Notorious B. I.G. referenced it in his song “Get your grind on.”

When I was in high school someone once told a nasty hurtful rumor about me and this practice, which I certainly had not engaged in at 16. The reason it was nasty was because of the outward associations we have with this part of the body. The rumor was meant to degrade me so I see where you are coming from with your trepidation.

In reality, though, annilingus is a common practice among sexually active adults for a simple reason: it covers an erogenous zone full of millions of sensitive nerve endings that provoke intense pleasure. See www.whitelotuseast.com for a tutorial.

Your partner may simply be excited about entering this taboo space, not associating it with defilement as you might. In addition, he might be elated at the idea of pleasuring you, which is not such a sin.

Generally, like you said, it is best not to judge or emotionally assess people’s sexual needs. A healthy sex life can look a million ways, and sexual behavior does not always correlate to surface emotions. But, that is not to say that you don’t have a right to your own discomfort. Is this someone you are both emotionally and physically intimate with? Is there space for a conversation between sexual acts? It is possible you need to hear him out as to why he loves doing this.

Also, you might want to revisit your own relationship with your rear. Why would wanting to kiss you there be something humiliating for a man? Your vagina floods with blood every month, and I don’t know if human waste is so repulsive when puritan attitudes are ditched. And what about this practice reflects his psyche? I wonder if you like or respect the man to begin with. It is possible that he repulses you, and you are projecting all that repulsion on what he is doing to your body.

Ultimately, communication is key in bed. Communication and some feeling of trust, either long-established or gutteral. Either way, your own view of your own body and the things done to it, knowing your pleasures and repulsions, will keep you from asking too many questions about the sanity of your partner. Knowing your own limits in bed takes a lot of stress away from awkward tongue-tickling moments. I recommend Aphrodite’s Daughters : Women’s Sexual Stories and the Journey of the Soul by Jalaja Bonheim as a way to start cultivating your bedroom self-image. Also, this odd site: www.sexwithoutshame.com.

Spotlight: Sex Workers’ Art Show

In Sex on December 8, 2009 at 11:55 pm

The Sex Workers’ Art Show is a fantastic performance venue for those looking to bust out of their sexual shell. Spoken word, short stories, skits and poetry on stage from real live Sex Workers who know a thing or two about the psychology of the bedroom.

This March they are doing a Southern tour.
Click here for a schedule and click here for a bio of the performers.

Product Placement

In Drama on December 8, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Dear Yenta,

I’ve noticed that my shampoo has been consumed at an alarmingly fast
rate since my roommate’s fiancée moved back into the house.
I wrote it off as my own paranoia about my toiletries, but I just got
home and saw him holding my shampoo in his hand as he was about to
wash his hair in the kitchen sink (entirely different issue, do you
answer plumbing questions too?). Anyway, I want to confront him about
it, but I don’t want to rock the boat too much. My roommate and he
are expected a baby (sometime this week), so they’re under a lot of
stress from that. Moreover, he does a bunch to fix things around the
house and keep it neat, since he doesn’t currently have a job, but
that doesn’t justify his using my shampoo. I also suspect that he is
responsible for throwing away two cans of my shaving cream. I like
nice body care products, so they’re not cheap to replace, especially
if I’m having to replace them with greater frequency. Do you have
any suggestions for how to fix this? I’m thinking about just moving
my toiletries out of the bathroom, but I feel that may be too
passive-aggressive.

Sincerely,

Receding Hair Product Line

Dear RHPL,

Again, this is an issue revolving around the simple establishment of boundaries. No, it is not ok to use people’s things without asking. And worse, if you are going to use someone’s things without asking and you finish them, the common law of housing says that you should buy the dude a new can of shaving cream or bottle of shampoo.

You sound like you are getting niceties confused. It is great that this guy is fixing your home, but like you said, his good deeds don’t just get to be traded out for bad deeds. It’s like saying because you always vacuum, you have a right to never doing your dishes. Unless this is some sort of household spoken or written agreement, there is no trading of chores for mooching.

I hear you wanting to tread softly, since the baby is a-coming, but I also think there is a difference between being polite and being a pushover. You have every right to gently ask that he buys his own hair products, kindly explaining that yours are important to you. Or, keeping them in your room works too. I don’t know that that is passive aggressive so much as proactive and self-protective.

Do what you need to do to clarify that your hygiene is serious business, and that you aren’t interested in sharing your supplies. You could say, “hey, could you replace my products when you finish them?” if you want to share, or, why not buy some shitty shampoo and give it to him with a smile? I doubt it will make anyone anxious enough for a premature delivery. Make a joke of it, whatever. Just remember that in your living space, no matter who is pregnant, or really, who is the impregnator, you have a right to your personal boundaries.

Monkey in the Middle

In Drama on December 8, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Dear Yenta,

My very close friend, Samantha, has been hooking
up with another good friend of mine, but he’s not in her close circle
of friendship. They only know each other through me. Unfortunately,
its starting to get awkward. We have big group dinner parties, and
they both attend, but do not talk to each other. After the dinner
party, they always end up going out together and having a wild night.
Everyone wants to materialize the relationship into something formal,
like “yes they are dating,” or “no, they are just f-buddies.”
It’s just weird because everyone knows, and my friend is starting to
have public anxiety over coming to events, she always asks if he will
be there and if so, do I think it will be awkward. It seems like she
wants me to be the mediator in their relationship. He now is more
likely to share intimate details of his life with me, because I am
close friends with Samantha. Its like he thinks we are the same
person. I feel like they are communicating through me. How should
I go about making this clear to them? It’s very complicated – she just
got out of a relationship and wants him to man up and ask her out, but
he is being very sensitive about how I would feel…and we never
hooked up or anything. She is too shy to take action. Should I take
action?

-Unintentional Threesome

Dear UT,

Oye. Get out of there.

First off, why does everyone at these dinner parties care if these two are dating or doing it or neither? Why do they need to define a pair’s status? And why do you need to be involved at all?

Boundaries, baby, boundaries. Tell Samantha and her said lover that you don’t want to be involved. That’s pretty simple and clear. Tell them both that the topic is off-limits and leave it at that. It sounds like they can take care of each other and will do so on their own clocks.

Are you, though, in love with Samantha’s beau? And better yet, is he in love with you? Is it possible he is just using your friend to have an excuse to be nearer to you? All this nonsense about “your” feelings about their dating seems contrived. Do you care, honestly, if they get together? Or do you just hate being the middle-woman?

If you are the medium for their immature relationship, also figure out how you got there. We choose our friends and relationships, and they didn’t just choose you as a moderator, you acquiesced. What are your feelings in all of this? You mention theirs a whole lot, and the awkwardness of the emotional tug of war, but what do you want? I doubt your dream was to be Samantha’s lover’s wet rag.

Samantha needs to own up to her own drama and you might want to find some drama of your own, the kind that doesn’t place you smack in the middle of another couple.