For you I can be perfect.

Filtered photos and flattering angles. Pedicured toes and waxed skin. Witty text exchanges and knowing glances.

I can be a dream.

In this room, I am curious lips and crafty hands. Supple breasts and 30 inch legs. A sensitive neck and an ass that jiggles just so when met with the right amount of force. A giver of pleasure and a taker of pain. Whispered inquiries about where you’d like it and how you want it.

With you, I can be a goddess. This room, a temple. We can stain the sheets with worship and disturb the neighbors with prayers until we’re overcome with glory and pass out, sweaty and spent.

Under this moonlight, in the safety of these walls, I can be divine.

On my way home, I will pick up what I discarded at the door. I will be fears and insecurities. Scars and mistakes. My carriage will be a pumpkin and my rags will reappear. I will retreat to my shack, haunted by ghosts that mock me with a highlight reel of dark nights agonizing over the ones who glimpsed beneath the mask. Ones who kissed my tears instead of denying their existence. Men left behind because I saw only my flaws in their eyes.

In the harsh light of day, I am human. But my mortality is not your concern. We exist only in this room, under this moonlight.

And in this room, I am immortal.

Not Built to Love: A Note on Spinsterhood

You are not built to love.

Lovable women are bolstered by “we;” not suffocated by it. They look beyond their lists and types for men who challenge their status quo. Lovable women want to be worshipped and placed on pedestals. For lovable women, affection and giving come naturally.

Then there is you. You, who are hot and cold. You want a man when you want a man. And when you don’t want a man, you want a man who understands that. You roll your eyes when played too closely by willing suitors and plot mercilessly on prying the detached objects of your affection out of their shells. You dismiss for minor infractions. You reject building a life that requires another; fearing you’ll be left holding more than you can handle alone.

You are not built to love.

There’s no room in your heart to love yourself and another. Loving them makes you an unattractive shell of the woman who lures them in. Loving you requires walls — low enough for them to reach you, but high enough to keep them from invading your space.

Accepting your fate alleviates anxiety. There are alternative ways to fill a life, you reason. Friendship and travel and drinks and concerts and writing and restaurants and witty conversations and books and a relentless curiosity about the world. You know there will always be men. Affairs that reduce themselves to flashes of intense memory and passing thoughts of Whatever happened to…

You know they weep for you, right? They just know some far off man in some far off time will add to your life, for life, without subtracting you from yourself. They wonder if you’re lonely because they can’t fathom a more tragic fate than living alone. They assume you’re broken because you upset the “someone for everyone” narrative. They write you off as a cynic to keep the rose tinted just right over their lenses.

Despite their concern, they leave you to your oneness. Maybe there is reward in a life of catering solely to one’s whims and pleasures. Perhaps you can stitch solitude to fit your frame and wear it in such a way the world agrees no other garment could fit you as well.

Perhaps then they’ll stop asking: what kind of woman is not built to love?

The Art of Protecting Your Story

I remember an afternoon a few years ago, talking to my then-boyfriend about my previous experiences in an open relationship. I let my ex have sex outside our relationship while I maintained sexual exclusivity; not out of obligation, but because I was good with having one sexual partner (I preferred to flirt heavily and go on the occasional date with someone else). I’ll never forget my then-boyfriend’s grimace when I told him I didn’t “settle for” the arrangement but suggested it; and how my ex and I sometimes joked about the other women in his life. “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” he’d said. “I just don’t understand why you would do that when you’re worth so much more.”

Our relationship ended shortly after that conversation. The Cliff Notes: I broke up with him because I didn’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend (at least not in the cookie-cutter way that I’d been his). For a while, him referring to my open relationship as the “dumbest thing I ever heard” gnawed at me. I took issue with my decisions — decisions I logically explained — being disregarded as a case of stupidity from a man who claimed to think the world of me. As more time passed, “you’re worth so much more” stood out more. Having my value determined by what I meant to someone else — opposed to what the experience of the relationship meant to me — infuriated me.

I thought of that conversation recently as I watched a TEDx talk by one of my favorite bloggers and feminists, Justine Musk.

In the talk, titled “The Art of the Deep Yes,” Justine said the following:

Women are not the heroes of big stories, epic stories. We are instead the wives and girlfriends, the mistresses and mothers, the femme fatales and manic pixie dream girls in somebody else’s big story. And that somebody else is usually a dude.

When I heard this, a light bulb went off about how many times I’d allowed my entire being to be defined by what I meant to the men in my life. I’ve been a girlfriend in a monogamous relationship, a significant other in a non-monogamous relationship, a ride or die chick, a long-term friend with benefits, a girl on the side of a committed relationship, the “friend” the guy really wants to bone on the low and is just waiting for his chance…I could go on.

However, no matter what place I’ve been assigned in someone else’s story, I have always been the Hero of my own. I’ve gone into every relationship as a whole person, with a whole story, and remained such long after the tears dried and the relationships ended. Titles or lack thereof in the lives of those men never determined my worth; what I gained from my time with them and who I became in the process did.

We live in a world that tells women “you are who you sleep with” and at some point, we (women) fall into the trap of defining ourselves on someone else’s terms. Remember to come back to your own story; where you are the Hero and the situations you meet are not the sum of who you are, but plot points you can use to shape your character however you see fit.

Don’t let the world rob you of your story.