Jan 2013 19

by Laurelin

I remember in high school being obsessed with this one guy. Jackson was the epitome of everything I thought was cool: he rode BMX bikes and wore baggy jeans and flannel t-shirts with different band shirts underneath like NOFX and Pennywise. He didn’t drink or do drugs or hang out with the cool kids, but he was always smiling and surrounded by people. He was different and I liked that.

We wound up dating for a while (it seems like a long time, but in retrospect it might have only been a few months; time is different now). He broke up with me at the end of my freshman year and I was devastated. My first heartbreak, my first bitter taste of a feeling I would in time become so familiar with. That being said, there is nothing to be done but move on, keep going to class, keep on smiling like nothing was wrong. Eventually I lost interest in Jackson and the feeling faded. I was moving on and Jackson was nothing more than a blip on my radar. That is, until Jackson started dating Jill.

Suddenly I missed him with a fierceness that can only be likened to the hunger a vampire feels after waking, born as a creature of the night for the first time. Suddenly it seemed like there was no one else, that Jackson was the only one for me, no one else should have him, especially not Jill. Who was Jill? Where the hell did she even come from? She was nothing like him; she didn’t even LIKE the music that he liked, the music that he and I liked. It was all consuming, and soon Jackson was all I could think about. I wanted him back. I remember that feeling like it was yesterday; unhealthy obsession.

My cell phone buzzes and I glance down. My heartbeat increases when I see his name. This one I think I’ll write back to, this intriguing man who isn’t really like anyone I’ve ever met before. This has been one hell of a week for me and my buzzing cell phone, which is filled with messages from people I never expected to hear from. I have spent a lot of the past year unable to move forward constructively when it comes to a few kinds of relationships in my life and for whatever reason I have just totally and completely moved on. I simply woke up one day and stopped texting, stopped calling, stopped inviting these guys out with hopes of rekindling romance. I just stopped chasing them. And the second I stopped, all of a sudden they noticed.

If anyone had told me that these guys would be saying the things that they have been saying to me in the past few weeks I would have laughed. If you had told me they would be showing up at my bar, sitting and hanging out until closing and then asking to walk me home, I wouldn’t have believed it for a second. Now, as I choose to go home alone, I acknowledge that they only want me the way I wanted Jackson back once I saw him with Jill. They liked me chasing them and once I stopped they finally looked back, circling back like a dog with a lost bone, sad that the game is finally over.


Jan 2013 17

by Brad Warner

Last week a friend of several friends of mine back in Akron killed himself. His name was Tyler. I probably met him or at least saw him around Angel Falls coffee shop or at one of the Akron Cooking Coalition’s vegan dinner parties. But I didn’t really know him. A lot of my friends did, though. And they’re pretty sad that he’s gone.

In connection with this I was asked what the Buddhist view on suicide was. It’s kind of like what I said in my book Sex Sin and Zen about the Buddhist view on abortion. I don’t really know. But the fact that I don’t really know says a lot about the Buddhist view. Imagine a person who had studied and practiced Catholicism for nearly thirty years, for example, not knowing what the church’s position on suicide or abortion was. It just wouldn’t happen because these are very hot issues for Catholics. That I don’t have a ready answer to the question tells you that these are not hot issues for Buddhists in the Zen tradition. I can’t recall a single instance of Dogen mentioning suicide in any of his many writings. I’ve decided not to Google the answer before writing this piece because I think my raw non-Google-informed opinions might shed a different light on things than the factoids any random person could find after searching the web for three minutes.

The very prominent suicides by self-immolation (setting oneself on fire) that have been carried out by certain Buddhists in Vietnam and elsewhere have led some people to the mistaken conclusion that Buddhism sees suicide as a noble act. This isn’t true. Suicide is generally frowned upon by Buddhists as something to be avoided because it is thought to be an act that tends to lead to a less auspicious rebirth. I believe it is counted among the “actions that are difficult to overcome” in one of Buddha’s recorded talks. It’s not believed that one is condemned to Hell forever for killing oneself the way the Catholic tradition has it. But it’s thought that one is setting up conditions that will make one’s next birth more difficult than the life one chooses to end prematurely. This is because committing suicide causes so much pain and suffering to those who know and love the person who chooses to take their own life.

I take all that stuff about rebirth with a big grain of salt, myself. Even if we really do get reborn after we die, how can anyone can say what sort of next life a person is likely to have knowing only the fact that the person killed himself? There’s a lot more to any individual’s life than just how it ends. For those that believe in rebirth, the entirety of the person’s life determines how he or she will be reborn, not just the last thing the person did.

When dealing with suicide, vague speculations about rebirth don’t really help. It’s a way to avoid the real question of what do we do when faced with the fact that someone we cared about killed himself. No one ever knows the right thing to do or to say when something like this happens. It’s more important just to be supportive. In fact, I’d say that discussing what sort of next life the person is likely to have is one of the least supportive thing you could do.

I came precariously close to killing myself one sunny day in the Spring of 1992. My life was shit. I was living in a decrepit punk rock house in Akron, Ohio. My girlfriend had dumped me. I had no money, no skills, no prospects. I’d released five records on an indie label that had gotten some good press but had gone nowhere in terms of sales. My dreams of making a living as a songwriter and musician were obviously never going to come true. I felt like all I had to look forward to was eking out a meager existence in the muddy Midwest.

I put a bunch of rope in the trunk of my car and drove out to the Gorge Metro Park, just down the street from where I lived. My plan was to carry that rope out as far away from people as I could, find a sturdy tree and do the deed. But when I stepped out of my car I saw some kids playing in the field right near the parking lot. I realized I could never find a spot far enough off the path where there wasn’t some chance a little kid out for a hike, or a young couple looking for a make-out spot, or an old man with a picnic basket and a picture of his late wife might find me. Then I thought about my mom and how bummed out she’d be if I killed myself. And I thought about my friend “Iggy” Morningstar who’d killed himself about ten years earlier and how I was still not over that. I put the rope back in the trunk and went home.

That day changed me forever. I decided to live. But I also decided I was no longer bound to anything that came before that day. I decided that conceptually I had already killed myself. Now I could do anything, absolutely anything at all.

All the greatest things that have happened to me in my life have happened since that day. Things have been so incredible since then that I sometimes wonder if I’m the main character in some weird existentialist movie and that there’ll be a twist ending in which the audience will realize that I really did kill myself that day.

If you’re contemplating suicide, my advise is go ahead and kill yourself. But don’t do it with a rope or a gun or a knife or a handful of pills. Don’t do it by destroying your body. Do it by cutting off your former life and going in a completely new direction. I know that’s not easy. I know it might even seem impossible. If you’d have asked me before that Spring day in 1992 I would have told you it was absolutely impossible for me to do any of the things I’ve done since that day. At first it seemed like I was right, that it was futile to even try to get out of the morass I was in. It took more than a year of very hard effort before things started to change even a little bit. But when they did, they really changed.

Maybe that’s not where you’re at, though. Maybe you’re just stuck there trying to figure out how to respond to the news that someone you cared about decided to end her own life. Maybe you just want an explanation. Maybe you just want it to be like it was before. Maybe you wish you’d done something different, said something different, been somewhere where you could have prevented it.

You’re not alone. Everyone who has ever known someone who killed themselves had the same questions and second guessed themselves the same way. But know that those are just thoughts. They’re not real. They don’t mean much. The human brain likes to organize things. It tries its best to make sense of whatever it encounters. But some things just don’t make sense. We don’t like that. But it’s the truth.

It’s hard to let go of these kinds of thoughts. But it’s the only way to deal with them. They don’t lead anywhere. They don’t help. Letting go is easier said than done. If you find that you can’t let go even though you want to, then just let go of letting go. Just leave the fact that you can’t let go as it is and do something else anyway. Whatever you do is probably fine. See a movie, take a walk, watch the ducks, go to work. It’s all fine. Just because you’re not grieving in the stereotypical socially approved ways doesn’t mean anything.

Take care.


Jan 2013 03

by Laurelin

Butterflies. Every girl wants that feeling. We crave it: the thought of something new and exciting. That secretive smile that is just for you, your whole being just bursting with hope over the thought of something new. Those new guys, they’re the skip in your step home from the bar after getting a phone number or that perfect first date kiss that leaves you feeling full to the brim with a feeling so wonderful you could just cease to exist.

It might be one of the best feelings in the world. While fleeting, it’s when we feel the most innocent and yet the most powerful, the most indestructible, like our whole lives have led us to this point and nothing looks as beautiful as the whole freaking normally ugly awful world. (Enjoy this feeling while it lasts, because everybody knows butterflies can’t survive amongst a stomach full of beer and cheeseburgers.)

Over time mine seem to have turned into something more along the lines of ragged moths dancing around a tired flame. A flame that might go out, but also might grow brighter, and burn all the little moths. It also might not even be a flame, perhaps just a touch of heartburn.

I can point out a number of men in Boston who have given me this feeling and each time the feeling faded, leaving room for failed relationships, broken hearts and (lucky for me) in most cases, solid friendships. It’s gotten to the point where even if I meet someone who evokes this feeling I can’t help but wonder how it’s going to end. Should I even bother? (Of course I should.) Doesn’t it make more sense just to stay the way I am and not risk getting hurt? (Of course it doesn’t.)

It was thirty-four degrees last week and the wind was bitter as I walked to a cab, but for some reason I wasn’t cold. I should have been in bed hours ago, but I wasn’t. My cheeks were red, burning, and I smiled and looked up at the city, the whole skyline lit perfectly against the black sky. I had no idea where I was, besides far from home. I felt warm, and I was unsure if it was the booze or just remembering that kiss. Either way, I knew I was in trouble.


Jan 2013 02

by Nicole Powers

“I started to write erotica as this sort of quiet rebellion.”
– Tiffany Reisz

Tiffany Reisz has just lured me over the edge of a cliff and is letting me hang. If I didn’t love her I’d hate her. When I ask her how she could do this to me, she responds: “I’m a sadist. It’s what I do.”

Fortunately I’m a glutton for punishment. Having already devoured The Siren and The Angel, the first and second books in Reisz’s Original Sinners gothic romance series, I’ve just reached the suspenseful end of the third installment, The Prince. The fourth climactic novel of the tetralogy, The Mistress, won’t hit bookstores until August 2013, and the anticipation is sweet torture.

The Original Sinners is set in the underground world of the 8th Circle, an illegal S&M club where anything goes as long as the members stick to the strict codes of the culture. Thanks to the staggering popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, BDSM has been dragged out of the proverbial dungeon and into the glare of the mainstream. However, fans of Reisz laud her work for being more accurate in its portrayal of the scene, and far superior in terms of plot and prose.

Like Reisz, the central character in The Original Sinners series, Nora Sutherlin, is a writer of erotica with a penchant for pajamas in the living room and power play in the bedroom. But while Reisz’s leading man is brunette SG blogger Andrew Shaffer, Nora’s is an enigmatic tall, blonde and handsome Catholic priest called Søren who’s blessed with some seriously sadistic predilections. Other characters that jump off the page and stay with you long after you’ve put the book down include Zach (Nora’s cautiously curious editor), Wesley (her virginal houseboy), Kingsley (her complicated confidant), Griffin (a playboy with a heart and a Rolex both made of gold), and Michael –– a bisexual young man whose journey from tortured teen to self realized submissive is the subject of the second Original Sinners book, The Angel.

Though laced with lashings of romance, Reisz’s fiction also exposes and explores the more extreme and contentious aspects of carnality. The underlying message is one of acceptance without judgment, which might seem at odds with the author’s stated strong Catholic faith. However religion, like human sexuality, is full of contradictions and nuance. We caught up with Reisz, ironically on a Sunday just after mass, to talk about sex, love, original sin, writing, romance and erotica –– though we never did find out why there are no good synonyms for thrust [a pet peeve of Nora’s].

Read our exclusive interview with Tiffany Reisz on

Dec 2012 21

by Laurelin

One of the perks of having an online column is literally being able to go back in time. Exactly a week, month, and year to the date your words are still there and you can instantly remember what was going on in that moment. So many times those memories are just… lost, and I realize suddenly how lucky I am to write the truth, to write with honesty and more often than not, pain, because I can look back see how I’ve progressed. Tonight I look for last year’s post, and I am a bit squeamish. I have a sinking suspicion that nothing has changed. I don’t feel different. I feel… used up and empty. To quote Bilbo Baggins, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

On this day last year I wrote “Life Beyond the Bar Scene: Winter is Coming.” I was clearly not over my ex and I was using other people in an attempt to replace him. It wasn’t working. I remember feeling lost, confused, alone. Fast forward one year, and I have managed to actually get over the ex I was writing about. He and I didn’t speak for about six months, and while I think part of me will always look at him as the one that got away, they were the best and most needed six months of my life. Erased. Deleted from everything, hidden from Facebook, he quit working at my bar, simply… gone. I ached, and then one day I didn’t. Life goes on, what do you know!

He walked into the bar two months ago, after all that time, and I remember stopping dead in my tracks. I had almost forgotten what he looked like and that moment of recognition hit me like a wave crashing into a small vessel in a storm. I hugged him and said I was happy to see him, and for once, I was.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call you on your birthday,” he said. And I knew he had remembered it and had not called because it really didn’t matter.

“That’s okay,” I said. “I didn’t call you on yours either,” and my lower lip didn’t tremble when I turned away. I couldn’t believe it. I smiled, and when he left I waved, turned back to my bar and carried on. He was never really far from my mind, but it was almost like he had finally found a place in the archives, a place that didn’t hurt.

A new year is coming and I don’t feel any different, but I am. I think I only feel used up because I think I should feel that way. Looking back I’m suddenly pretty sure I just lived the best year of my life. I went on a ten day Caribbean cruise in January. I scuba dived shipwrecks, got over my fear of karaoke, and held baby monkeys in diapers. I danced like no one was watching even when everyone was watching and I screamed “Discount Double Check” and did Aaron Rodger’s touchdown move zip lining across the rainforest in Antigua.

I dated. I discovered dating was not for me and I discovered that while men can be mean and break my heart, I can be mean and break their hearts. And I was sorry, sometimes more than others. I got up on stage and I read stories naked for the first time in March and again in October. The first time I was so scared I could have just peed right there on stage and the second time I walked with confidence, read with pride, and now I can’t wait to do it again.

In April I ran my first Tough Mudder and it was a ten mile muddy uphill journey of insanity. I didn’t train much and when I got back, that was it. I started running. I joined a Crossfit gym and I vowed that I would no longer blame every aspect of my hectic life for the wobbly parts of my body I didn’t care for.

I got promoted at all of my jobs, I turned 30, my friends are brilliant and I still find time for the little things: cat naps, cuddling with pets, reading, movies, martinis, and the occasional misstep into romance, which as my readers know has yet to work out. Used up and empty is often a result of this; but it’s not all I am. It can’t be.

When you think about it, each day since that post one year ago is just that: one day. It’s just another ordinary day, when added up makes an ordinary week, ordinary month, and yet somehow… a totally extraordinary year.


Dec 2012 10

by Symbol

I’m 6’6”.

I’m 6’6” and on average somewhere around 275lbs. I routinely get compared to Vikings, characters from medieval fiction, and the occasional professional wrestler. The average height of the women I usually end up in relationships with? About 5’2”. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with someone taller than 5’7”. That’s not from lack of trying. I just don’t seem to be able to find, or perhaps attract, taller women.

I went on a few dates with a woman who clocked in at 5’10” this summer and it was wonderfully strange –– I’m so used to having to bend to kiss. The level of height disparity I normally deal with renders paired dancing completely out of the question, and there’s a variety of other things that can’t be done when you’re more than twice the size of your partner.

I’ve dated a lot of women in my life, and they all seem to share the same dominant characteristics, they’re tiny women who know they want and go after it –– me, in this case. I remember having a conversation with one of my exes, Heather, about why she was attracted to me (and to large guys in general), her response was something I completely wasn’t expecting. I’d known that she’d been sexually assaulted in the past and basically, for her, the safety she felt with a guy my size was second-to-none.

This got me to thinking a little and, in an unintentional homage to High Fidelity (one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time), I dug around a bit and got in contact with some exes, at least the ones I’m still on speaking terms with (read: the ones that didn’t cheat on me) to find out what their respective stories were.

There wasn’t a common trait really, and I feel a little foolish for thinking there might have been. In almost every case it was a combination of things: sense of humor, appearance, conversation. Safety was a big one though. It resonated with more than a dozen of my exes, but it still wasn’t unanimous.

However, what I did discover during these inquiries, which started out innocently enough, was more disturbing. I found out that less than ten percent of the women I’ve been involved with had not been sexually assaulted prior to getting involved with me. Now, if you’ve read my other posts (the White Knight one in particular) you might not be surprised by that, but I was. With very few exceptions, I had no idea that any of these women had this particularly history during the time we were together, so it wasn’t my subconscious trying to find women who “needed” protecting.

This got me thinking more about the “safety” quality that had been brought up, which in turn got me thinking more about former living conditions and such. I have distinct recollections of the majority of my ex-girlfriends sharing a couple of qualities that, in retrospect, make a lot more sense:

1. More than half of them hated being home alone.
2. Almost all of them hated sleeping alone and/or going to bed alone.

I didn’t pry into the specifics of the sexual assault stories my ex-girlfriends had newly revealed, though several of them felt the need to explain in more detail. In almost every case, it was either a relative that went too far, or someone who had taken them out on a date and didn’t take no for an answer.

After I got over that grim revelation and reigned in my sudden need to run out into the streets and dispense vigilante justice, I started thinking about all the women I know and the ones I’ve been interested in. The fact is, I simply don’t know a lot of tall women. And by “a lot” what I mean to say, really, is any. I think I’ve known two tall girls in my whole life; one I wasn’t remotely attracted to and the other hasn’t been single a day in her life.

I suppose it stands to reason that if being tall is a trait that women find attractive, it’s a trait that men find attractive too. But here’s where that theory falls down: I’m obviously attracted to women regardless of height, or else I’m a terrible masochist that has spent the better part of twenty plus years “settling” for short women (and that’s totally not the case, honest!).

I’m really not sure what I’d do if I was presented with a tall, available woman. To be clear, by tall I mean 5’9” and above. I seem to keep coming across women on dating sites that list their height as 6’. I’ve even seen one that was 6’1”. They’re never people I’m interested in for one reason or another. (One was a smoker, another openly mocked vegetarians in her profile – both deal breakers for me.) Since there seems to be an entire world of women 5’11” and above out there, who are these women dating?! And what part of the world are they living in?

“Scandinavia” seems to be the response people usually throw back when I (jokingly) ask that question aloud. But surely I don’t have to travel to the other side of the world just to find women that are eye level?

On the other hand, when I think about it, I see tall women all the time –– but the tall women I see are always holding hands, have linked arms, or are emitting some other obvious body language that is designed to communicate “I am taken.” I take signals like that pretty clearly and so they just usually don’t register.

Sure, I’m guilty of seeing a really long pair of legs and following them up, but the moment those legs become part of someone who is clearly unavailable they just sort of ghost off of my radar (sadly). I’ll let you in on a little secret though, whenever I see a tall woman the first thing I do is check her feet. An old acquaintance of mine, herself a tall girl, got me into this habit. She’d always check other tall girl’s feet to see if they were really tall, or if they were cheating and using lifts, platforms or heels. Nothing pissed her off more, as a tall woman, than seeing another women cheating her height (so she said).

For me, I think a partner in the 5’7” to 5’11” range would be ideal. I have one friend who, for whatever reason, I always think is shorter than she is. Every time I see her I find myself pleasantly surprised by how tall she is. I can’t explain why –– she’s just taller in real life than in the memory I have of her. It’s strange, I know.

Again, I want to be clear: I have no problem with shorter women. I love women of all heights, sincerely. It’s just sort of become something of my own personal “white whale.” …And now I find I’m immediately regretting using the term whale in conjunction with any kind of search for women.

Surely Laurelin can’t be the only tall women out there that’s looking?

Related Posts
A Guy’s Perspective: The Legacy Of A Violent Upbringing – The White Knight Syndrome
A Guy’s Perspective: Good Friends Are Hard To Come By (Especially After 30)
A Guy’s Perspective: Falling in Love (And Other Deadly Sins)

Dec 2012 05

by Laurelin

I hung his picture last week. I hung it in the kitchen above the stove, the space was perfect and as I pounded the nail into the wall I wondered if this was the right thing to do. It had been shoved in the back of my closet for one year and two months and today I hung it up, finally ready to not vomit when I looked at it. It’s a nice picture. It’s not a photograph: the kid fucking painted it. It’s hands down, the best gift I have ever received in my whole life, and for one year and two months after my 29th birthday the only creature that saw it was my cat when she tried to climb the vertical plastic shoe rack from Target in the back of my closet.

So, last week I hung the picture. I hung it, and when I walked in to the kitchen today to make tacos there it was above the stove as I sautéed the onions. I made tacos. I ate the tacos at the black and silver high top 50s diner style table in my kitchen and they were delicious. The painting watched, and when I was done I smiled and I knew that I had finally done the right thing. That chapter of my life was in plain sight and finally over.

It’s weird not having anything to harp on. Not having that nagging feeling of heartbreak, not having that sinking feeling as I lock the house and head to work or to the bar I hang out at. This feeling of freedom, to see these men and actually be happy to see them, to no longer have to fake it till I make it. My smile is genuine, my invites to events aren’t because I want to win them over but because once we were all friends and finally I am not a fucking idiot, and I can take this for what it always should have been: friends, co-workers, anything but what it was.

It’s like a veil has been lifted from my eyes and I can finally see, and I pray that I can constructively move forward. What did I learn from that last relationship? What did I learn from the last bartenders who broke my heart and what did I learn from the bartenders whose hearts I know I broke? As much as we think we can’t, we always put the pieces back together. We are able to one day not make the same mistakes over again, finally able to look at the bigger picture. And one day, hopefully, we can take that picture out of the closet and hang it in the perfect spot in the kitchen, right above the stove.