Terrified to Run Into Your Ex? Here’s How to Deal…

‘Cause I know I am! [Laughs a joyless laugh that eventually peters out into sad awkwardness]

One of the ways my anxiety manifested, in the months after my last break-up, was a near-constant fear that I would run into my ex – on the street, in a store, in a coffee shop. This was exacerbated by the unfortunate fact that I moved into an apartment coincidentally near his, mere weeks after the break-up. Worst.

In working through this anxiety with my therapist, talking to friends about it, and journaling about it, I came up with a bit of wisdom on this. Here are a few questions to ask yourself if the thought of running into your ex terrifies you. It’s not much, but hopefully it’ll help you if you’re going through something similar.

What’s the worst that could happen? One of my best friends is a social worker, so she knows all the smart questions to ask me when I’m spiralling into anxiety – and she asked me this every time I mentioned this fear to her.

Here’s my personal “worst that could happen,” with regards to running into my ex: I could run into him while he’s with a partner of his, and while I’m rumpled/makeupless/depressed-looking, and they could both look at me pityingly and/or attempt to talk to me. This could result in me bursting into tears, which would, of course, make the whole situation even more embarrassing and pathetic.

Stating my “worst-case scenario” makes it clear to me that even if the worst happened, it wouldn’t actually be that bad. I’d get through it. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve cried in front of someone it’s embarrassing to cry in front of, nor would it be the first time I’ve seen a former flame with their achingly gorgeous new paramour. I got through those other times. I didn’t fall into a chasm in the earth from pure and total humiliation. I’m still here. And the same will be true if I run into this ex, too.

Do you really have anything to feel bad about? This is another question my social-worker friend posed to me, and she’s so right. She picked up on my feeling that it would be shameful for me to run into my ex – like I should hide from him, because the end of our relationship was somehow a failing on my part. But the thing is, it wasn’t! He ended the relationship, for reasons personal to him, and it wasn’t my doing or my fault. I have nothing to feel ashamed of. I can reasonably hold my head high if I do encounter him.

Even if you did do something wrong in your relationship, it’s likely by now that you’ve either owned up to it and apologized for it or that enough time has elapsed that both of you have moved on with your lives for the most part. If you feel you still owe your ex an apology, maybe you can reach out and issue that apology. But otherwise – why feel bad if you run into your ex? Why hide your face like you’re a pariah to them? There’s no reason for it!

Could you get away if you needed to? A friend reminded me that even if I did run into my ex and he did try to talk to me, I would always have the recourse of simply ignoring him and walking away. I would not be obligated to enter into that interaction if I didn’t want to.

If escaping your ex is an actual safety concern for you – i.e. if they had/have abusive tendencies and/or you think they’re upset enough with you that they might try something violent if they saw you – you could try using a safety app like bSafe whenever you’re in a neighborhood where your ex might be, and maybe consider some self-defense options if that’s your style. (Pepper spray isn’t legal where I live, and sometimes, when random men follow me down the street late at night, I wish it was…)

What would make you feel stronger? A lot of the cognitive-behavioral therapy I’ve done has focused on the practice of accepting the things I cannot change and changing the things I do have control over. In this case, that means figuring out what would help me feel less freaked out about running into my ex, and putting those measures into place.

I used to wear dark sunglasses and headphones when I had to walk in the direction of my ex’s place, so I could plausibly ignore him if I did see him. I’d put on clothes and makeup that made me feel strong. I’d often text a friend about my situation so I felt emotionally supported in what felt like a brave act. I’d listen to music that made me feel happy and badass. And for the most part, it worked!

Have you ever been afraid to run into an ex? How did you deal with it?

12 Days of Girly Juice 2017: 3 Fave Encounters

This is the third year I’ve done 12 Days of Girly Juice, and this instalment – the one about my top 3 favorite sexual encounters of the entire year – is always one of the most fun to write, and one of the most difficult to decide on.

This was true in 2015, when my sex life wasn’t terribly robust but each sexcapade nonetheless felt fresh and magical – and it was true in 2016, when my sex life was hoppin’ and each new partner brought something wonderfully different to the table. This year, I had more sex than either of those years, and, once again, it’s been tricky to choose just 3 encounters that stick out in my mind as top-o’-the-charts. But I think these 3 represent the kind of year I had sexually – which is to say, a very, very good year.

All rumpled in his bed the morning after.

Kink Mastery

I had a boyfriend from April to August who became, even in that short timeframe, one of my top-3 lifetime sexual partners by number of encounters – topped only by my previous long-term loves of 3.5 years and 1.5 years, respectively. That he managed to barrel into my top 3 in the few months we dated speaks to what total horndogs we were, both separately and (especially) together. Our kinks aligned perfectly, like lock and key – and when two sexually compatible pervs come together like that, lots and lots of good sex tends to ensue.

It’s difficult for me – even now, months after the breakup that devastated me – to look back on those experiences without sadness and remorse. But I’m getting there. The reason the relationship unraveled was that we didn’t actually have much in common outside of our sex life, a fact that seemed frustratingly inconsequential to me at the time but would’ve become more and more apparent if we’d kept dating. So I’m starting to view that relationship as what it was: a blisteringly hot sexual tryst, the romantic backdrop of which is ultimately forgettable and unimportant. (Does that sound mean? Well, it’s okay, because he broke my heart. As Anne Lamott says, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”)

Anyway, we had a lot of good sex, some of which still guiltily hangs out in my autoerotic archives. But one encounter that particularly sticks out to me is this: one night in May, we kissed and groped and moaned together in his cozy bed in a west-Toronto basement apartment. He spanked me over his lap, taking me into subspace sternly and easily. He made me suck his cock while he held my wrists down flat on the bed so I couldn’t use my hands, then fucked my face while holding me firmly by the throat, combining two acts I’d hated with everyone before him but somehow loved with him.

After that, he tied my wrists and thighs together with rope and fucked me, circling my clit with his fingers all the while, in the manner of someone who’s fucked me enough to know how to do it properly. He untied me and went down on me until I came in his mouth, spacey and incoherent, and then he held me down and fucked me until he came inside me, leaving a deep bite mark on my shoulder that I admired for days afterward.

What this relationship ultimately taught me is that I’m willing to put up with a lot of painful complications in exchange for good sex – and that maybe that shouldn’t be the case, going forward. But damn, was the sex ever fantastic.

Casual and Wonderful

In January, I spotted a boy from across a room and immediately thought, “Damn. Who is that?” It was the truest example of “infatuation at first sight” I can remember experiencing in a long, long time. He was geeky, cool, and unassuming. I felt my breath catching and was vaguely aware I had started to sweat. And then he turned, noticed me, and I saw him having what looked like the same reaction to me that I’d just had to him. He walked up to me, said breezily, “I don’t think we’ve met,” and introduced himself. A few minutes later, he was casually saying, “We should go to [local sex club] Oasis together.” It’s emblematic of my social anxiety and insecurity that even then, I didn’t fully realize or accept he was into me. Silly girl!

Over the months that followed, we gradually became fuckbuddies, and then, at some point, actual friends with benefits in the true sense. We’d meet at the sex club once a month or so, have drinks in the heated outdoor pool while catching up on each other’s lives, and then get down to the sexytimes. I found that every time we parted ways, I felt good – uplifted, confident, desirable, satisfied – in a way I’d never really felt when saying goodbye to other previous fuckpals. There was no sense of longing or rejection; I didn’t want any more from him than he was able to give me, and vice versa. It was a kind of casual bliss.

My favorite encounter with this handsome weirdo so far was much like most of the others. We hung out in the pool for a while, chatting and laughing. When I finished my drink and set it down by the side of the pool, my pal pushed me up against the wall and kissed me, fierce yet unhurried. I moaned, as I always do when he kisses me; he’s very, very good at it. He pushed his hardness against me through his swim briefs while we continued to make out and I felt myself get more and more turned on – another remarkable talent of his, given how difficult it is for me to relax into sexual situations in public.

There came a point where the things I wanted to do to him were no longer possible in the swimming pool, unless I intended to drown, so I told him we should go upstairs to the third floor – an area specifically designated for sex, where all men have to be accompanied by at least one woman to dissuade creeps. He pressed me harder against the pool wall, playfully kissing me and grinding against me until I reached a zenith of arousal so intense that I had to say, “No, seriously, let’s go. I want you to fuck me.” His signature goofy grin appeared as he said, “Yeah, that sounds good,” and followed me out of the pool.

Once upstairs, we kissed more, all chlorine-scented and towel-swaddled, and he pushed my towel aside so he could go down on me while I melted and writhed and called out meaningless syllables over the cacophony of other people fucking in the next room. Before too long, he was pushing two fingers inside me, deep, stroking me exactly the way I like it without needing to be told, and I was coming on his hand, feeling unrushed and unpressured. He’s very good, I thought, like I always do with him.

Then he fucked me relentlessly with his absolutely excellent dick, muttering all the while about how tight and hot and wet I was, until we collapsed in a damp heap on the red vinyl.

I treasure our post-sex ritual almost as much as our sex itself: we cuddle casually while watching and mocking the bad porn always playing on massive TV screens around the room. He makes me laugh and makes me feel safe. That night, I stayed until I was too tired to keep my eyes affixed on the porn anymore, and then he walked me downstairs, I got dressed, and we said good night.

The breakdown of romantic relationships always makes me especially grateful for my intimate relationships that are not romantic – their specialness and specificity, the affirmation they provide without demanding much in return, the needs they fulfill for me when more “serious” relationships feel too intense or difficult or unattainable. That hookup on the top floor of Oasis left me glowing, and not hurting. Except for the dull ache in my vag that means I’ve been well and truly fucked.

Sexplorations

This list is about my favorite encounters of the year – which, to be clear, doesn’t always necessarily mean the best sex I had all year. Sometimes the most memorable and meaningful encounters are also clumsy, imperfect, unpracticed. Sometimes sex is good emotionally moreso than physically – and sometimes it’s both.

Last week I went to hang out with a long-time far-away Twitter crush for a planned date. We had negotiated a broad range of activities, mostly including him inflicting sensations to me and exerting control over me, because that, as you may know, is my jam. Usually.

But once I got there, things felt different. I am ordinarily the subbiest sub and the bottomiest bottom, but this sweet pervy man turned to mush any time I climbed on top of him or told him what to do, even with commands as innocuous as “Come here so I can fix the tag on your T-shirt.” My dormant inner domme stirred, as we pushed and pulled each other’s limits and buttons. “I think I want to sit on your face,” I proposed as we laid in bed many hours into a multi-chapter sex-a-thon, and his voice trembled with excitement as he breathed, “Okay.”

Facesitting doesn’t have to be a dominant act, and I’ve done it as a submissive many times. Someone can pull you onto their face and hold you there until they’ve had your fill of you, while they lie with their head on a comfy pillow like a gluttonous monarch. This was not that, though. This time I was the queen… and his face was my throne.

I tugged on his curls to get him exactly where I wanted him, and took from him all the pleasure I wanted for as long as I wanted. When I was done, I brushed my hand along his skin, his chest hair, his belly and hips and the significant swell in his boxers. “Tell me what you want,” I murmured in his ear.

“I… I don’t feel I have the… the right to ask for anything right now,” he stammered subbily. I smiled.

“It wasn’t a question,” I clarified. “Tell me what you want. Nobody said you’re gonna get it.”

He swallowed hard. His words weren’t working so well. “I want to come,” he managed, at length. “I want your mouth on me.”

I purred with pleasure. This was the answer I wanted and he knew it. I crawled down his body and began to tease him with my tongue. A leisurely almost-blowjob, purely for my own tactile pleasure, my own amusement. “Tell me how beautiful I am,” I ordered, and he did. “Now tell me three things you like about my mouth,” I continued, and he did – still stammering, still barely coherent. “Do I need to stop?” I warned, his cock stilled in one hand, when he couldn’t quite get through an answer. “No, no, please,” he protested, and tried to get the words out. Good boy, I thought, but did not say, because my mouth was full of him. A very good boy indeed.

Dominance has always scared me because I anxiously and self-doubtingly believe no one will ever really want to do the things I tell them to do, because I’m not worthy of being wanted that much. But what I’ve learned is that some people do want me that much, and that sometimes the strength of their desire can lend me a confidence I don’t otherwise possess. And that can heal me, a little bit. As I take my pleasure from an obedient cutie, I can also pull some strength from them, some focus, some courage. Kink, as I’ve noted here many times before, is so much more than just a “sex thing.”

Interview: Alexandra Franzen on Break-Ups, Hope, and Surviving

Alexandra Franzen is one of my favorite writers on the planet. Her voice is relentlessly upbeat, incisive, and clear as a bell. She’s inspired and uplifted me countless times, whether she’s writing about how to say no, how to achieve a goal, how to become a better writer, or anything else.

So I was heartened when I saw she had a new book coming out called You’re Going to Survive. It came along at a time when I needed that exact message, badly: I’d just had my heart broken and was figuring out how to feel better and move forward. (I don’t know why I wrote that in the past tense. I’m still feeling that way, honestly.)

You’re Going to Survive is full of stories about real-life people and their real-life problems – and how they kept going, even when it seemed like they couldn’t possibly. In this book, authors, chefs, lawyers, musicians, web designers, and Broadway performers (among others) describe one of the worst moments in their entire career – moments when everything went catastrophically, heart-poundingly, mood-ruiningly wrong – and how they got through to the other side. Spoiler alert: they all survived their hardships. And you can survive yours, too.

I wrote to Alex to ask her a few questions about the wisdom of her book as it pertains to break-ups. Here’s what she had to say…

What are your best tips for surviving a break-up?

My last break-up was a little over four years ago. It was pretty intense. I’ve had about five major break-ups in total, including breaking off an engagement with my college sweetheart.

In the past, here are some things I’ve done after a break-up:

– Call a friend while hiding under my covers in bed.
– Cry until it feels like my eyes are going to fall out of my head.
– Write super intense poetry.
– Thwack a punching bag at the gym.
– Get a hair cut.
– Get my cash washed.
– Get a Tarot card reading.
– Get a new vibrator.
– De-clutter my home.
– Buy myself some flowers.
– Flirt with people just to remember what it feels like.
– Pack all of my possessions into the back of a VW beetle and move to another state.

Every person is different, and every break-up is different. So, I would say, do whatever you need to do. There are no rules.

Personally, I’ve tried to view each break-up as an opportunity to clear space in my life—both physically and emotionally. Bye, old clothes! Bye, old commitments on my calendar! It’s a new beginning.

We often hear that “time heals all wounds,” but is there any way to speed up the process?

There’s a woman named Christina Rasmussen who studies grief, loss, and reinvention. She’s written books on this topic. She says, “Time doesn’t heal. Action does.”

I totally agree. To heal and move onward, we can’t be stagnant. We have to take action.

After a break-up, I’ve found that really small action steps—like making my bed, or getting nice bath salts, or opening the window to let in some fresh air—can seriously improve my mood. Small, loving actions can make a big difference.

Any tips for dealing with feelings of unworthiness, undesirability, unloveability, etc. after a devastation like a break-up?

Once, I went through a break-up that totally rattled my ego. I felt like I wasn’t interesting or attractive enough to hold his attention. Even though I’d been the PERFECT girlfriend—I mean, I cleaned his entire damn house and bought groceries and tolerated his cat even though I’m seriously allergic!—somehow, it wasn’t enough and he wanted to date other women.

I was crushed. I felt so rejected and confused. I remember feeling like, “I want answers. I want him to explain why this didn’t work out. I need him to explain why I’m not enough. I need to hear this from him. That’s the only way I will feel ‘closure’.”

I told all of this to a friend of mine. She said to me, “But what if he never gives you the closure that you want? What if he can’t explain, or won’t explain, or refuses to meet up with you to talk? Is there some way that you could give a feeling of closure to yourself?”

I’ve never forgotten what she said. Because the reality is, with many break-ups, the other person can’t—or won’t—give you the answers that you crave, or the feeling of closure that you crave. You need to create that feeling by yourself, for yourself. This might mean doing a ritual (like burning old letters) or re-writing a story you’ve been telling yourself inside your head about what happened and why. Ultimately, the only person who can really give closure to you… is you.

Also, let us remember the wise words of Dita Von Teese: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

It’s so true. Just because someone isn’t interested in being with you, that doesn’t mean you are undesirable! It just means you’re a delicious peach and they happen to want a banana or a pear. They’re allowed to have their preferences—just like you.

How can you be brave enough to “get back out there” when your heart’s been broken?

I know a woman who was single for a really, really long time. She was really frustrated, and she was beginning to wonder if she would ever meet someone.

One day, she got invited to meet up with a few people and have brunch. She was going to say “no,” because she’d already eaten breakfast that day. But she felt this funny intuitive feeling that urged her to go, so she decided, “OK, I guess I’ll go anyway even though I’m not hungry.”

She ended up meeting her husband at that brunch. It was totally unexpected and out of the blue. They’re madly in love and have the sweetest, most amazing relationship.

I think about my friend’s story a lot, especially when I’m feeling discouraged.

The truth is, whether you’re searching for love, or searching for something else, like a new job, the path to getting there might be really surprising and unexpected. A spontaneous gut decision—like getting brunch, taking a road trip, or making an online dating profile—might lead to something incredible. Personally, I feel “braver” when I remember that the possibilities are truly limitless, and today is always a mystery, and anything can happen.

So, get out there, and keep your eyes and ears and heart open, because who knows what tomorrow might bring? Or what today might bring? Today is not over yet!

What do you wish someone had told you after your last really awful break-up?

“Hey, guess what? You’re going to meet the love of your life about two months from now. Just hang in there. You won’t believe what’s coming next.”


Thanks so much to Alex for her words of wisdom! If you’re craving more, be sure to check out her website and preorder her new book, You’re Going to Survive. (And remember: you are going to survive.)

Tegan and Sara and My First Sort-Of Love

Tegan and Sara’s album The Con came out ten years ago, in the summer of 2007. That was a year full of significant events for me: I turned 15, came out as bisexual, and dated someone for the first time, that someone being, notably, a girl. And all of it is linked inextricably in my mind with The Con, because it was the soundtrack of my year. The soundtrack of my first real romance.

This was the era when someone’s taste in music seemed to say something about them, when MSN Messenger away messages and Facebook statuses were peppered with oblique song lyrics, when I’d creep someone’s Last.FM page alongside their LiveJournal if I wanted to know their heart.

That fall, I had the burn-your-life-down kind of crush on a purple-haired girl I’d met the previous semester in English class. I hadn’t really noticed her until, early in my sophomore year of high school, she confessed to me via Honesty Box that she loved my writing, and then revealed her identity to me, sheepishly, but wanting me to know. She was only the second girl I’d ever had tingly romantic feelings about, but I still recognized them immediately. Oh shit, I am in trouble, I thought one day when our eyes crossed from across the hall and I saw her blush as I felt blood rush into my own cheeks.

“I think I have a crush on her,” I confessed to my best friend, the first person I’d come out to earlier that year, in the girls’ bathroom.

“You should ask her out!” my wildly brave and confident bestie suggested. “I’ve seen the way she looks at you. She likes you too.” I feel a certain kinship with 15-year-old me, because a decade has passed and I’m still that girl who refuses to accept anyone could be interested in me until they tell me in their own goddamn words. I just don’t see myself as worthy of that kind of revere.

As I pined over her, summer hardened into autumn and I listened to The Con on loop. It jibed appealingly with my fledgling queer identity, giving me an image of gay women who were neither fully butch nor fully femme, and who didn’t quite fit the stereotypes of effusively romantic women nor stonily reserved men. They existed in an in-between space that felt familiar to me then. And though their love songs were ambiguous enough that they could’ve been about anyone of any gender, I felt the specialness of these being love songs written by women about women. If there is a particular aesthetic or mood unique to sapphic infatuation, I felt that in the songs of The Con.

One day we had plans to meet up at lunch, but my crush had earned herself a lunch detention, probably for being late to class – she was always late. She told me she’d be stuck sitting on a bench in the office at the time we were supposed to meet. I vowed to come visit her. At the appointed time, she snuck out under the guise of using the bathroom, and we chatted awkwardly and grinningly outside the bathroom door. “Kate! Your face is so red! Are you feeling okay?!” a friend of mine asked when she walked past and spotted us. I blushed even harder. No one was supposed to acknowledge my obvious massive crush on this girl; we weren’t at that stage yet, I felt. I just wanted to luxuriate in the pretense of mystery for a while.

Weeks of coy flirtation elapsed. She called me a “pretty girl” in a Facebook message and I squealed with delight as I read the text to my best friend over lunch. I saw the way her friends eyed her knowingly when she talked to me between classes, like they knew the significance of this because she had told them. We rode the subway together after school and a sudden movement of the train threw me against her as we were hugging goodbye, igniting a million fiery sparks in my nerve endings.

I don’t remember how exactly I decided, but one night I came to the conclusion that I needed to ask her out and I was going to do it by writing her a letter. Tegan and Sara are as likely an explanation as any; there’s a verse in “Soil, Soil” that goes, “I feel like a fool, so I’m going to stop troubling you; buried in my yard, a letter to send to you. And if I forget, or God forbid, die too soon, I hope that you’ll hear me and know that I wrote to you.” I wrote several drafts of the letter and eventually gave it to her at the end of a party. To my surprise, later that evening she called me and said, “So… We should date.”

We had talked many times before that night about how “Call It Off” may have been our favorite track on The Con, an especially perfect jewel on an incredibly perfect album. I even quoted it at the top of the letter I wrote her: “I won’t regret saying this, this thing that I’m saying. Is it better than keeping my mouth shut? That goes without saying.” But it’s a song about a break-up, and I didn’t see the dark prophecy of that at the time. It wasn’t until later that I recognized the foreshadowing as foreshadowing.

Our relationship only lasted five weeks, ending in a tearful phone call where she broke up with me for somewhat vague reasons: “I’m not in a good place to be in a relationship,” “I feel trapped,” “I don’t know what I want but it’s not this.” She cried more than I did. It was a small trauma that has informed every other relationship I’ve had since then: whenever I’m dating someone, I live with a constant anxious fear that they will suddenly decide they don’t want to be with me, and will break up with me for reasons I can neither predict nor understand. That was precisely what happened at the end of my last relationship, almost ten years after that initial blow, and it felt almost exactly the same: a shattering and a crumbling and a sense that I would never adore someone like that again. Like O, like H in your gut.

The break-up was compounded by the fact that we remained friends afterward. Immediately afterward. This is the sort of mistake I doubt I would make now; I’m an emotional masochist in many ways but I also know how to set boundaries and I know what will make me miserable. Remaining friends with my first sort-of-love after she dumped me made me miserable. She told me over and over again, in many different ways, that she regretted the breakup, wished it could’ve gone differently, thought we were a good match, wanted to get back together with me eventually, and didn’t want me to see other people. She was 15, so I forgive these ridiculous manipulations now – but at the time, they felt like knives going in.

“I may have done the upbreaking, but to quote ‘Call It Off’ in its entirety, well, I won’t do that because that would be weird and you probably know the lyrics by heart, but you get where I’m going,” she told me in a loquacious Facebook message a month after the break-up. “So really I’m the heartbreaker for breaking my own heart, except not quite to that crazy heartbreaking angst-ridden extent. And then I had a good thirty-six hours of physically restraining myself from attempting to grab the phone and call you and shout, ‘JUST KIDDING!’ or something to that degree but less comical.”

I listened to “Call It Off” in bed every night, sometimes crying, sometimes just numbly staring into space. “Maybe I would’ve been something you’d be good at,” Tegan warbled. “Maybe you would’ve been something I’d be good at.” It was my first introduction to the idea that sometimes what you mourn after a break-up is not the relationship that was, but the relationship that could have been. The idea of the romance you wanted, moreso than the romance you actually had.

It wasn’t until many months later that the spell finally broke. In July – more than seven months after our break-up – I told my ex-girlfriend about the new girl I was seeing, who absolutely, fully adored me and treated me well, both emotionally and sexually. I was excited and wanted to share the news with my ex, who was also one of my closest friends at the time: I’d just had sex for the first time, and it was great! But I worried she was anti-my-new-relationship, and told her as much in the message.

Her reply came back sooner than expected. “I am not, repeat, not anti-you-having-sex. This is because I am very much pro-you-being-happy-and-doing-whatever-you-want-and-not-giving-a-rat’s-ass-what-anybody-else-thinks,” she wrote. “The only reason I tend to shudder and vocalize rude things at points such as these is because I also happen to sometimes be pro-my-own-sanity. But really, who needs sanity? And anyways, do I really have to go into why I don’t like picturing you having sex with people, when honestly you can probably guess?”

It occurred to me then, as an uncharacteristic blinding rage swept over me, that she was holding me prisoner in a relationship that was never going to be a relationship. Seven months after breaking up with me, she was still moping like it had been anyone’s decision but hers. Still acting like she had any right to withhold love from me, even love from other people. It disgusted me. I couldn’t believe I had been stuck on her for so long.

I stopped clinging to the fiction that maybe we could get back together someday. I stopped hoping against all logic that she might someday be the girlfriend I needed. I stopped obsessively checking her Last.FM page to see if she’d been listening to Tegan and Sara, with the assumption that her musical nostalgia would signal romantic nostalgia about me. We remained friends, but I refused to continue “walking with a ghost.” I had better things to do.

The Departed Dominant & the Jilted Submissive

My collar is too tight. I keep tugging at it, loosening it, shifting it against my sweat-slick throat. It doesn’t feel quite right, because my submission doesn’t feel quite right. It’s been five weeks since my dominant dumped me and my submissiveness still doesn’t feel quite right. I’m simultaneously sympathetic to my own cause and furious I’m not over this shit already.

“This is the first time I’ve worn a collar since my breakup,” I tell my best friend, realizing only as I say it out loud that it’s true.

“How are you doing with that?” Bex says, their brow furrowing because they understand the gravity of what I have just said, in a way a vanilla friend might not.

“I’m doing okay,” I respond. Still tugging on the collar even as I try to let it lie.


Whenever someone breaks my heart, I become outraged I let them touch so many things in my life I cared about. Like a bad apple in a barrel, cruel lovers ruin whatever they come into contact with. I can’t watch Steven Universe or listen to DVSN anymore; I can’t order from that one Thai place we used to frequent; I can’t even enjoy media featuring characters who share his first name. It’s all painful and I’m furious it’s painful.

But what hurts even worse is the places he touched that are buried deeper in me, more central to my heart than my entertainment preferences: my sexuality, my sensuality, my submissiveness. I let him own me while he was my dominant; it’s unfair he still gets to own part of me now that he’s gone. I want those parts of me back, but that’s like trying to make dirt-trampled slush back into clean white snow.


I miss my bruises. I miss my bite marks, scratches, and hickeys. For the first several days after the breakup, I think this thought at least once an hour and cry every time.

Holding my ghost-white forearm out in front of me while sitting on my friend’s bed, I splutter, “There’s a bite mark here. You can barely see it. Soon it will be gone, and I’ll have none left.” My friend is listening but I might as well be monologuing to myself; I’m so absorbed in my own internal drama these days.

Later, I tell Bex the same thing via text. I’m repetitive when I’m heartbroken. “You’ll get more,” Bex suggests.

“I don’t want more from anyone else.” It feels true when I type it. It feels like it will always be true.

“You will one day,” Bex replies. “Or not. And that’s okay too.”

My heart folds in on itself then, crumpled and dissolute. What if they’re right? What if this prophesied nightmare comes true and I never find my way back to my submission? What if I left my kink in that man’s hands and he still has it and he’ll never give it back?

I bend over in front of a mirror and stare at my ass, dappled with bruises from a scene with a one-off hookup last week. I stare and stare at the wine-dark marks and feel blindingly angry that these meaningless splotches still linger while that bite mark, that one last precious vestige, is nearly gone.


Relationship psychology fascinates me, and so do sex toys, and one intersection between the two is the intriguing question: who keeps the sex toys the two of you shared when you break up?

My toys are mostly mine, purchased with my own dollars or acquired with my professional clout. But them being technically mine and mine alone does not stop them soaking up meaning from past relationships. There’s the metal hanger rail I can’t bring myself to use with anyone but the man who pried it out of a hotel closet for me; the silicone dick extender I got to fulfill a specific partner’s fantasy and likely won’t use again; and now, the multitude of kink implements that remind me only of the dom who debuted them on me.

How long will it be until my favorite paddles no longer feel like his? How long until I can use my shiny new wand vibe without thinking of how he, at my request, tied me down and held it against me until I squirmed and screamed? Will I ever be able to repurpose the wooden dowel he bought for me at a hardware store, sawed and sanded down to size, and used to smack stripes onto my skin?

A week after the breakup, he drops by to return the nipple clamps I forgot at his house. I’m filled with bitter rage – Yeah! He SHOULD give those back to me! I bought them with my own money, dammit! – while also knowing it might be a long, long time before I want to use them again. I hold the clinking clamps in my sweaty palm and tear up, thinking: You damn fool. Crying over nipple clamps.


I move into his neighborhood – not on purpose, just a cruel coincidence – and develop a crippling fear of running into him. I won’t leave my building without first slipping on a low-key disguise: sunglasses, headphones, modern shields against creeping invaders. I add extra blocks to my walks so I won’t have to take streets I know he frequents.

What am I so afraid of? He did this, he fucked this up; I don’t have to be ashamed. But I’m scared that if I see him, he’ll still feel like my Daddy. Or worse, I’m scared that he won’t.

I pass by his house and (insanely) want to knock on the door. My phone beeps a text tone and (insanely) I wonder if it’s him, wanting me back; wonder if I should text to ask. A distant ex sends me a long-overdue apology out of the blue, and (insanely) I consider seeing him again. I don’t do any of it, and (insanely) I very, very much want to.


I try to make everyone into my dom, because I feel unmoored without one. I say self-effacing shit until friends have to command me to shape up; I pretend my to-do list is a written decree from a bossy babe; I spend more time around my parents because there is no one else now to make me feel small and cared for. When texting with casual beaux and Tinder randos, my once-flirty banter tricks like “Is that an order?” and “Make me!” become, instead, thinly-veiled desperate pleas.

But just as a tree falling in the forest is inaudible if there’s no one there to hear it, a bratty submissive is just an aimless failure if there’s no one there to rein her in. When I make silly decisions, like skipping meals, forgetting my iron supplement, and putting off my work until late at night, no one scolds me or spanks me or throws me a stern look. No one tells me to straighten up and fly right. I am neither punished nor rewarded for anything I do. I must be a Goddamn Adult and supply my own motivation. I can barely remember how.

In navigating this sudden crisis, I am reminded of the existentialist philosophy classes I took in high school and university. When existentialists came to the ultimate conclusion that there is no God, no watchful deity, no inherent meaning or purpose to life, at first they felt deeply anxious and upset. It was like being cast out of an airplane with no parachute, reeling, not even certain where the ground lay. But soon, they came to realize: one can make meaning out of one’s own life. One can select a purpose, a direction, a vision for oneself, instead of waiting for some distant God or Divine Right Order to do it. What was terrifying at first becomes empowering as you sit with it and think it through.

I have to make my own meaning. I have to be my own dom. I know this. And one day I will figure out how to do it.

 

This post was sponsored by the amazingly generous folks at SheVibe. As always, all writing and opinions are my own. Check out their selection of restraints, spanking implements, fetish wear, and other kink products!