Monday, February 13, 2012

Poly Living Conference Part One: Icebreakers to Half-Naked

In The Notorious Bettie Page,  there’s a scene where she’s naked in the woods and the scene is just about how unselfconscious she is, how much she just enjoyed being there. That image has been my goal for a while, not so much the being-naked, (and not really the looking like Bettie, either—I’m not Kenley from Project Runway) but the idea of being as trusting, vulnerable, and comfortable in my skin as she was. I caught a glimpse of that version of myself at the Poly Living conference, and it feels like a pretty big breakthrough.

Saturdays are usually my stay in bed day with Amy, so I admit to being a little bit grumpy on the way there. I made a couple of goals for the day—to have fun, make a few connections, and push myself to be a little more open.

When I got there, I picked the icebreakeriest-sounding workshop. At the beginning of new experiences, I always imagine myself as shy, but of course this is rarely the case. We played that pretty standard icebreaker game called “allies”—one person stands in the middle and says something about his or herself, and anyone who has that thing in common steps into the circle. My favorite was the guy who got up and said “There’s no such thing as too emotional.” I skipped to the center to join him on that one. Mine was “I’ve just recently discovered my kinky side” and almost everyone moved to the center with me—hooray!

The first thing that always strikes me about poly gatherings is the diversity in ages. I think society trains us to think of sex and lovey-doveyness as the province of the young, so I am always happy to see poly folks of every age. In isolation, I feel like I might only have a few urgent years to goof around, but that is very silly and clearly not the case. I like the idea that anyone can decide to reinvent romance for his- or herself at any time in life. This gives me the feeling like maybe I can relax and take my time, and that’s good.

Anyway, after the circle thing, we arranged ourselves into spectrums, how long we’ve identified as poly, how out we are, how many sweeties, etc. I just love any situation where I can learn a how lot of really personal information about people all at once, so I left my grumpiness far behind.

As that workshop was wrapping up, I ended up disclosing my Bettie Page image to the “no such thing as too emo” guy and he suggested I take the “My Body and Me” workshop that was coming up next.

It’s occurring to me that going to a whole bunch of workshops about love might seem a little weird, but it’s my approach to anything—just suck up as much knowledge as I can. This is a research project after all.

The body workshop was in a mini conference room, very cozy. Everyone took off their shoes as they came in so I did the same. The facilitator was a cute bespectacled lady of indeterminate age—polyamory must be good for the skin because I kept meeting ladies who seemed my age but were sometimes decades older.

Anyway, the nice lady got naked pretty fast, narrating her way through the process.—her metamour had just gotten her this very nice purple push-up bra that made excited about her boobs, a photographer made her happy by renaming her stretch marks “texture.” and then she took off her pink leopard-print undies and was naked.

We were instructed to introduce ourselves in two words or less, and everyone opted to go by their OK Cupid names. The first exercise was to pair up with someone and stare into his or her eyes-which is SO HARD to do with a stranger but CLEARLY very good for you. Then you had to tell this person all kinds of statements that begin with “If you really knew me…” If it were up to me most of life would be conducted in this way.

As the conversations were happening, people around the room started getting progressively more naked. My eye-gazing friend’s partner was naked as can be right behind me, so she kept getting distracted and forgetting what she was saying. It was adorable. None of this felt awkward or unsafe to me at all—just kind of pleasant and normal. My body started to feel warm and relaxed the way it does sometimes after singing a lot or yoga.

Nothing about what we were doing seemed particularly magical, just talking about our bodies in pairs and groups. After a while I decided I was gonna get my money’s worth, so I took off my sweater but left on my bra and shiny scarf. I felt warm and my hair felt nice on my back.

At the end everybody had to go around and say what they’d gotten out of the experience. I said “I feel like I’m THIS CLOSE to settling into my skin and being the sex goddess I’ve always wanted to be. I guess what I’ve gotten from this is that I should take every opportunity to push myself in that direction, and that it’s safe to do so.”

Afterwards, there was a “mill and hug” and hugging naked or partly naked strangers was surprisingly easy to navigate. A girl I’ll call M came up to me and said she felt like she knew me, and that she could see that I would be that goddess, she could see it already. We’ll hear a lot more from M when I get to the snuggle party portion of the story.

I guess I want to make it clear that I don’t think I’m superspecial or anything—I sincerely think everyone is a sex god or goddess in his or her own way, (even if, like me, they get weepy at the snuggle party) and that part of being alive is to find and express that in our own way.

Next time, a nice poly lunch and the cutest date with Amy ever.

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