"Midlife Divorced Lady Cliche"
February 20, 2017 5:29 PM   Subscribe

 
That was a very interesting read. Thanks for sharing.
posted by Fizz at 6:19 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


I really dug this. Thank you for posting.
posted by nevercalm at 6:21 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


This is super interesting. It's like the performance of emotional labor plus some additional spookiness. I love this. It doesn't feel cliché at all. I kind of wished there were chemistry after all, but it is what it is, and what it is is good.
posted by limeonaire at 6:27 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


That was good.
posted by intermod at 6:28 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


I hope that Tinder Dude realized what a gift he got.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:42 PM on February 20 [15 favorites]


I invited him over to my house, and asked him if he could come in a trusting state.

"Things might be intimate," I said. "But not sexual. Think you can handle it?" (...)

"Awesome," he immediately consents.
.

"'Awesome,' he consented" is right up there with "'Hello,' he lied" for all-time great lines but I don't really get the feeling she did it for style.

Me, I would not ever fall for this whole 'I'm going to call the shots and 'challenge' you to be brave enough to trust me, without telling you what I want to do to you until you are physically inside my home' routine, no matter how badly I wanted a cut-rate spa treatment or how desperate I was for a human hand on my back. or a hand on a loofah on my back. [*] but then again, I'm not the recent victim of a devastating breakup, and I also have a lifetime of warnings about people like this due to being female, so.

[*] but if I ever did, because even the mighty fall, I would absolutely go through the same 'ha ha yes this is great A+ intimacy what a terrific shower hour it has been thank you very much I'll remember this always goodbye" set of responses as he did. At a certain point of no return it seems like all you can do.

I had the opportunity to meet someone else's needs (that they maybe didn't even know they had) — all while being very, VERY clear about what the boundaries were.


this woman isn't safe.

I see from the comments that this particular guy is fine and happy, and she may never do anything worse than getting someone drunk and talking them into a shared bath. and that is not a crime in any jurisdiction I am aware of. I don't even think it should be. but the complete conviction that it was not only ok but a great favor she was going to do him, even before the fact...If this isn't an official scary warning sign in The Gift of Fear or somewhere, it ought to be (I mean, someone saying they can sense what you need even though you didn't know yourself. and of course they're going to give it to you, because they're such a giver, and it's totally not about their own needs, even though who is she fooling.)

like there wasn't enough to be anxious about re: internet dating, now I have to worry that if I go over to some guy's place after vague promises of what I assume to be pity scotch and perhaps a little over-the-sweater action, journey-with-no-destination style, he's going to try to non-sexually bathe me.

(Why am I so negative? well, I have been super snide at times in the past regarding complaints of woman-on-man social/sexual pressure, mainly because I perceived double standards. but in this case the double standard is on the other foot. I am putting myself in her date's place and freaking myself out a little bit. This is a case where having it turn out all right and fine in the end does not justify the way she went about orchestrating it: didn't tell him there would be nakedness until he got there, and didn't tell him there would be touching until he was already naked and scotched up in the bath. but hey, at least she knows the magic word "boundaries.")
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:45 PM on February 20 [55 favorites]


I am also conflicted about this.

On the one hand, it comes to a pretty good introspective point about how "sometimes we're the one-time catalyst for someone else's growth, and that's okay." But on the other...it's kind of weird that she forced the issue like that, and it feels uneasy that she wholly abandoned her own satisfaction in the service to another. I don't know whether it's generosity or a martyr complex.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 PM on February 20 [5 favorites]


As someone who was the focus of people's need to experience how great they are by violating my boundaries, I couldn't really finish this piece. I'm all for midlife woman power and the power of human connection in strange and interesting ways but...this just feels a bit like some kind of Eat, Pray, Love pseudo-spiritual version of The Graduate - and not in the good way.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:04 PM on February 20 [21 favorites]


That is the opposite of a smart thing to do. Sure, you told him up front there would be no sex, and that should be enough. But then take him into your house and give him all the opposite signals, while getting him drunk?

That's going to turn out bad some fraction of the time. Wish that wasn't the world we live in, but.
posted by ctmf at 7:10 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


I glad it worked out for them. I'm pretty sure that would have run away from the situation in a hurry.
posted by octothorpe at 7:14 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


There's probably some dim and distant satisfaction to be gleaned in helping other people out - I wouldn't know - but maybe it doesn't need to happen in such a David Lynchian way.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:15 PM on February 20 [14 favorites]


Meanwhile, in another universe, people meet, trust each other and have an unusual yet deeply healing experience together, all consensual, all adults, no harm no foul.
posted by diode at 7:27 PM on February 20 [27 favorites]


Sure, you told him up front there would be no sex, and that should be enough. But then take him into your house and give him all the opposite signals, while getting him drunk?

? I think you mean she might have been in danger, but all the signs point the other way. that is, I believe her about all this creepy dominance she was ostensibly exerting over the proceedings, that she was completely in charge of not only the program of the evening but of how both of them were to feel about it. That plus her being sort of clothed and in her own home while he was neither -- scotch and a slippery bathtub and a weird vibe make a man as vulnerable as a woman in the same situation. the only signals she was giving him were that he was to do as he was instructed.

& that since he expressed sexual interest at one point previously, she felt she had more or less blanket enthusiastic consent for any other thing she wanted to do with or to him, as long as he didn't protest, which he did not. thus, her boundaries were in her mind the only ones in need of vigilant defending. he was the one at risk of the good old classic: you said Yes to one thing, so I'm sure you won't say No to another, similar thing. so sure, I'm not even going to ask, just tell you I'm going to do it, and then do it.

I don't think it was ambiguous but just in case: when I said she wasn't safe, I meant not safe to be around.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:34 PM on February 20 [21 favorites]


The expectation that I should be satisfying a dude's unexpressed needs in extremely intimate ways is exactly why I don't want to date.
posted by lazuli at 7:57 PM on February 20 [16 favorites]


In retrospect, I'm increasingly aware of the times when, while I'm trying to meet my own needs, I'm actually just acting as a catalyst for someone else's needs.

This is the passage that stood out for me. It's complicated, because it suggests that acts we tell ourselves are selfless and generous can actually be self-serving.

Honestly, i was reminded of Vincent telling Jules that he's given a million ladies a million footrubs and that every one of them meant something.
posted by Caxton1476 at 8:25 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


I had a woman who'd been through a divorce earlier than me take me under her wing a bit soon after. Nothing literal like this, but I read broad swaths of this story in personal metaphor. I understand, but don't entirely agree with the negative reading. It's okay for two people to have an encounter like this that they both consent to, and it's certainly okay to find the hearing of it uncomfortable.
posted by meinvt at 8:30 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]


> There's probably some dim and distant satisfaction to be gleaned in helping other people out

I can't tell if that's a tongue-in-cheek comment, but for some people, including me, helping other people out is a route to much more than dim and distant satisfaction. Kindness can have a reward of happiness.
posted by anadem at 8:48 PM on February 20 [11 favorites]


This was a weird but interesting enough story about people dating on a planet I've never visited. Just like every single Woody Allen movie.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:48 PM on February 20 [11 favorites]


I thought this was lovely and reminds me of some qualities in myself I want to become reacquainted with.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:12 PM on February 20 [5 favorites]


I read this and couldn't stop rolling my eyes at how much she was patting herself on the back for having "fixed" this stranger.
posted by sarcasticah at 9:42 PM on February 20 [16 favorites]


I am certainly creeped out by the New Age element ("cleansing", the belief that something 'spiritual' and perhaps supernatural happened such as in the smoke story, etc)- but I feel like some of the negative reading by commenters who see her behavior as predatory is a sign of just how much we aren't used to stories of women taking an assertive role in sexual activities. Much as she calls this intimate-but-not-sexual, it is in some way a sexy performance given the dating app context etc. The guy previously told her he'd like to (in general) engage in sexual activity with her. That's not exactly consent to do the specific thing she then did, but it's not like she asked for blank-check consent without a context in which it was obvious that he wanted sexual contact.

There's a huge power disparity here, weighted in her favor, that we aren't used to seeing in cishet relationships other than through the lens of psychological BDSM scenarios (which, contrary to 'best practices', do sometimes start with a 'give me blanket consent to do something intimate to your brain' level of negotiation rather than a laundry list of exactly what activities the 'top' wants to do to their 'bottom'.

I move in BDSM circles and used to move in New Age ones, and this sort of performance is much less strange/creepy to me, even with the technical issues of consent. To me the big consent violation here is not her asking for 'blanket consent' without telling him what she has planned, but is her moving on to touching the guy when he was already drunk- though the 'he has asked for sexual activity already' element is probably the excuse.

We the readers also weren't there, and don't know if she actually is reporting it exactly as it happened, or is, for effect, reporting herself as being confident and in charge of her homemade ritual.


The piece that stands out as problematic for me is the New Age assumption that she's doing something supernatural to help 'cleanse' him etc. I've seen New Age women do that manner of flirting before, and it's icky, ESPECIALLY when they're dealing with an emotionally vulnerable person. This guy sounds extremely vulnerable at that point and adding this piece of bullshit about her power to fix him is super gross to me. Tell the poor guy you're going to pamper him, don't inject your own ego into it there.
posted by girl Mark at 11:59 PM on February 20 [5 favorites]


Slarty Bartfast: The planet is called Seattle. It's full of interesting things in the casual dating world.
posted by girl Mark at 12:32 AM on February 21


This reminds me of the work of Adrian Howells who was a performance artist from Glasgow. His practice was to create intimate spaces like this for complete strangers.

I did one of these with him where he bathed me (I was completely naked, but given the option of underwear), then just held me close wrapped in a soft white bath robe (picture isn't of me). This was one of the most beautiful, intimate things I've ever experienced. I felt so deeply loved, cared for and held by someone I had met for less than an hour.

Adrian had done a huge amount of work to build a performance that was intensely intimate but also respected people's boundaries and consent absolutely. He had held similar spaces that were less intimate(well, less naked at least) such as offering foot washing and the earliest performance I'm aware of of this nature was literally washing people's dirty underwear.

The extent of the experience was also made entirely clear before hand, there were options as to how intimate it could be, the space was entirely sober, he was entirely responsive and focused on my consent and comfort throughout. He was an expert and professional at creating and holding these spaces.

Despite this being the only time I'd ever met him, his death in 2014 hit me surprisingly hard, and I'm tearing up slightly just writing this post now. With the nature of his death particularly (he took his own life), I wish I could have returned just a fraction of the love I'd felt from him when he needed it most.
posted by angusprune at 1:24 AM on February 21 [33 favorites]


The thing that bothers me most about this piece is that I read the whole thing and her peppy comments and I still don't know if she ever once considered that he might want to stop.

That lack is not about sexual agency as woman to a man. That's about "I'm establishing this is a very vulnerable person, fresh out of a breakup that stripped his defenses raw and involved predatory criminal acts, and now I'm writing about how I got him drunk and [x]'d him. Isn't it hilarious that I [x]'d him?"

Whatever you put in [x] will be creepy. Because this situation is creepy.

I don't see that she held any space in her head for him to get the fuck out of there if he wanted to. What was she going to do if she triggered something? What was she going to do if he panicked? What was she going to do if he dropped out and went unresponsive? I mean, even something as basic as, where were his clothes? If he wanted to get up, if he wanted to get out of there, where were his clothes? Did she even bother to think of that?

Attributing the concerns of queenofbithynia and others, even partially, to a lack of exposure to a woman taking a powerful or dominant position feels really dismissive of the actual concerns in question. There are ways to do this well. There is good form in how to do this well. A lot of good form.

This article is bad form. That she seemingly got away with it this time, by the skin of her teeth, through sheer luck -- and only seemingly, we still have no idea how this guy is going to feel about it down the track -- is not in any way a justification of the fact that by her own account she did some really, really poor handling of a very vulnerable person and she doesn't even seem to realise just how dangerous and imbalanced it was. That is creepy.
posted by E. Whitehall at 4:23 AM on February 21 [18 favorites]


I feel like some of the negative reading by commenters who see her behavior as predatory is a sign of just how much we aren't used to stories of women taking an assertive role in sexual activities. Much as she calls this intimate-but-not-sexual, it is in some way a sexy performance given the dating app context etc.

No, even on a re-read this morning I don't feel like this was Woman Power. There are some really creepy moments in this piece:

" No one's uncomfortable, because I'm hosting and I have set the stage that this is completely normal. I have made it clear that this is extremely intimate, but not sexual. I hold the container of trust so firmly that it's totally no big deal."

How many times did we read in the Jian Ghomeshi case that part of how he and other predators get away with their behavior is that they act like what's not normal is.

""Why are you laughing," I drone, adjusting my shower cap with my mitt-covered hand. "This is very sacred business. We're here to scour the shame off your soul.""

This is what really churned my stomach. He's laughing...possibly embarassed, unbelieving, high...and she signals that he should have shame, she -- so enlightened! So benevolent! -- can see it and on a second date, she's invented a ritual to absolve him of it. That why are you laughing...and of course she follows it up with showing him how disgusting his skin, literally his skin is. His behavior from there reads as dissociated to me.

This behavior is outside the norm. It's like pushing someone through a faith healing or a confession ritual with alcohol and drugs on a second date. Using language like "intimacy" in a obscuring, self-serving way was predatory. Taking the previous desire for sex was predatory. Ugh I think I might have to go see if there are comments.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:29 AM on February 21 [14 favorites]


I kept waiting for the part where she cut off his head.

This is just all kinds of fucked up. This woman is creepy and has some serious issues -- getting a stranger drunk and then cleansing him? Who is she to decide he needs to be cleansed, Mother Teresa?

So much yuck. SO MUCH YUCK under the guide of intimacy. This isn't intimate; it's invasive and predatory.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:50 AM on February 21 [6 favorites]


The expectation that I should be satisfying a dude's unexpressed needs in extremely intimate ways is exactly why I don't want to date.

I am glad someone else said it, because I was most of the way through the comments here and no one was pointing out that this lady volunteered to do, like, 60 billion gigajoules of emotional labor for this guy, based on some apparent optimism that it would be making the world a better place. Which... OK, sure, if it floats your boat to make your bathroom smell like old Marlboros after you fill your tub with some Tinder dude's dead epidermal layer, then more power to you. But it would have been nice if she acknowledged the gender dynamics of her feeling responsible for making this guy feel less responsible for his own emotional situation following a bad breakup.
posted by Mayor West at 6:13 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


it would have been nice if she acknowledged the gender dynamics of her feeling responsible for making this guy feel less responsible for his own emotional situation following a bad breakup.

no but look, I'm an old-style misandrist from before that was a cute joke for kids but of all the nauseatingly entitled expectations men project onto women, having to spa-mitt up and scrub the epidermis off them nonsexually on the second date is not one that they even actually have. This was all her own weird power fantasy from start to finish, she just got super lucky that he didn't mind. and I think it is a grotesque misapplication of the already stretched term 'emotional labor' to apply it to that. She wanted to do this fantasy role-play and she did it. hooray? but "responsibility" for his emotions was purely part of the fantasy; hers, not his.

I think perhaps some of the creepiness comes from how familiar her grandiose rhetoric about empathy and her immense capacity to heal is; she sounds like people who do things to you for your own good, more in sorrow than in anger and who know every second and every step of the way that they did it for you and they knew best and if you protest you are an ingrate, an advantage-taker, and an emotional vampire. there is no self-questioning, only self-adoration, and I maintain my position that it is not safe to get in a drunk bathtub on a second date with a person like that. Do I mean I can read abuse in her tone? no. honestly, no. but you know how every so often a sad MRA-type starts in on how "creep" is supposedly a gendered slur? this can be exhibit A in all the trials of the future. Look, I will shout vainly; look, women can be creeps too. it speaks very well of us that we aren't usually. but christ. sometimes we sure are.

my last word on it is that if a person like this told me they were going to "cleanse" me, I would assume that she either meant she was going to make me sit in a giant flowerpot and drop clumps of burning sage leafs in all around me, or else make drink the Master Cleanse and talk about my feelings before the Scotch came out. literal actual bathtime would never cross my mind.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:46 AM on February 21 [16 favorites]


The Carole Caplin de nos jours.
posted by Segundus at 6:52 AM on February 21


no but look, I'm an old-style misandrist from before that was a cute joke for kids but of all the nauseatingly entitled expectations men project onto women, having to spa-mitt up and scrub the epidermis off them nonsexually on the second date is not one that they even actually have. This was all her own weird power fantasy from start to finish, she just got super lucky that he didn't mind. and I think it is a grotesque misapplication of the already stretched term 'emotional labor' to apply it to that. She wanted to do this fantasy role-play and she did it. hooray? but "responsibility" for his emotions was purely part of the fantasy; hers, not his.

Yeah, but my gross-out was increased by her patting herself on the back for having performed all this emotional labor (that he didn't need or likely want!), as if that made her a powerful mystical woman. In her mind, she was performing emotional labor for him. The fact that she was actually imposing it on him makes the situation seriously weird (non-consensual emotional labor?), but her expectation that this is what guys want or deserve is a big part of what squicked me out.
posted by lazuli at 6:54 AM on February 21 [8 favorites]


I feel like this was an M. Night Shamalan script where the big mind-blowing twist at the end is that no one got assaulted or murdered and eaten and turned into a skin suit. So better than most of his movies to date for sure. Sixth-sense level stuff here.
posted by some loser at 6:54 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Her savior complex makes me roll my eyes, the cleansing itself is weird by conventional standards but certainly not the weirdest thing I've heard of, but the fact that she got him quite profoundly drunk is the big line in the sand that makes this Not Okay.

It's one thing to offer someone a drink or two, but pouring whiskeys into him all day was totally gratuitous and manipulative, even by the standards of what she was trying to do with this "cleansing" business.
posted by desuetude at 7:28 AM on February 21 [7 favorites]


I think a lot of the tension in the above comments comes down to there being two different things going on - the experience this woman had and her writing and publishing an article about it. On the first side, it sounds like she had something transcendent happen to her. We don't know the circumstances , we don't know the million unique connects and disconnects between the two of them, all we know is that what happened felt magical to the writer. AN that is neat. Its always nice to know that something weird and wonderful can come out of what should be mundane circumstances.

On the other hand, there is the question of why the article was written and published. Having an experience and publicly writing about it are two very different things. Was the author trying to say that everyone should take more chances? That we would all be better if we helped someone else out? In any case, from the outside what she did seemed very risky, and so the situation she chose to hang her message on was poorly chosen. Again, from the inside, it may not have felt, or been, risky at all. But the article in no way made that clear (and probably couldn't have given all the factors involved).
posted by rtimmel at 7:41 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


...pouring whiskeys into him all day ...

Also the little aside about how if he hadn't the wherewithal to note that he'd really had too much booze in him to head home, she would have been happy to let him hit the road. Apparently she didn't realize? Which is odd, given the intensely powerful spiritual empathic insight into what was for his own good! Hamburgers aside, just another little wrinkle in how the evening worked out much more fortunately than it otherwise easily could have.
posted by Drastic at 8:09 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


but her expectation that this is what guys want or deserve is a big part of what squicked me out

Exactly. She decided this is what he needed. She doesn't KNOW this person. She has absolutely zero right or the knowledge to make any of these decisions.

YUCK. I want to scrub my eyes and brain after picturing this scenario.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:43 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Slarty Bartfast: The planet is called Seattle. It's full of interesting things in the casual dating world.

Fascinating. I arrived in Seattle already partnered up, but this explains some rather strange interactions I've had with people who didn't know I was married.

my wife will be so relieved that scrub down wasn't sexual!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:07 AM on February 21


The fact that she was actually imposing it on him makes the situation seriously weird (non-consensual emotional labor?)

Well, not that unusual in families, but very strange with acquaintances.
posted by ambrosen at 9:18 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


If you skipped over reading the comments section out of habit it might be worth doing so to get some additional context.

There's a glowing review of the experience from the "Naked Stranger" to reassure anyone who might have concerns which describes the experience as "a brave gift from a stranger who risked her home to my demons and created a healing space for me."

There's also a comment where the author describes herself as an "emotional entrepreneur" and talks about how this was a way to get a sort of emotional "ROI" from this date which is very interesting in the context of the discussion of what she is getting out of the experience and her motivations.

Finally there's a comment from the author where she clarifies that "it's worth noting that the vibe of the evening definitely wasn't ceremonial… we were drinking whiskey from jam jars and cracking jokes half the time." which I don't really know how to square with the bit of the story where she quotes herself as saying "Why are you laughing," ... "This is very sacred business. We're here to scour the shame off your soul."
posted by metaphorever at 9:26 AM on February 21


Hey, y'all! I'm the author of this piece (thanks to RF Simpson for linking it), and this thread is being a super fascinating read for me -- especially the interpretations of my behavior as being "creepy" and "unsafe."

Gender absolutely plays a key role here, and it's interesting to consider how horrifically post might read if the genders were flipped. This is something I think about a lot: what behaviors have I been permitted to get away with because I'm a woman and the general opinion of most dudes seems to be "Aww, that's cute because she's smaller than I am and probably can't physically hurt me." An abuse of power is an abuse of power, and it's an interesting question to hold as to whether this situation was an abuse. It didn't feel that way in the moment, but it's a good lens for me to consider it from.

The only comment I'd argue with in this thread here is the impression that I thought I "fixed" him. I didn't have any sense of that, and if my post implies that, then that's my fail as a writer.
posted by arielmeadow at 10:18 AM on February 21 [9 favorites]


Re: Naked Stranger - I totally hear his lived experience and feel relieved for him.

However, his description of needing the following day to process, having intense feelings needing to be near her (that he says he dealt with on his own) and her own description make me think of the times in my life that I was mistaking an intense experience for a positive one.

When you’ve been through a lot of dysfunctional stuff the idea that someone can come along and cleanse you of it is very seductive, but doing that through a loss of agency (putting your fate in the hands of the healer -- or having the 'healer' just take charge) can actually make things a lot worse in ways that can take a while to come out. I would have said the same thing right after in similar situations, but what made those situations so intense was that people were finding new and exciting ways to violate my boundaries, which long-term was essentially more of the same.

From this vantage point, having good boundaries and then entering willingly and knowledgeably into that kind of thing is so much better.

Not only that but it really is about what ifs. What if he had a major work event coming up and had to focus the next day? What if she triggered off something bigger than they could handle and he slid into self-harm or other negative coping abilities? She didn’t, but how did she know, on the basis of one meeting?

Basically I think that when people see psychic/psychological wounds in others, that’s a signal to be even better about consent and boundaries, not get exponentially worse just because you can.

On preview -- Hi Ariel, glad to see you are here following along. Happy to discuss anything I've said in MeMail.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:25 AM on February 21 [7 favorites]


Hi Ariel. Thanks for hopping in. Why did you think this was a good idea? At what point did you feel he needed to be cleansed and it was on you to do it? Did you ever think you were overstepping or that because you didn't know him at all, you could have created an unsafe situation for either of you?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:29 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


I call bullshit on the cigarette smell.
posted by bondcliff at 10:44 AM on February 21


I thought it was a good idea mostly because I'd been on the receiving end of something similar last year, and benefited greatly from it. (In my case, it was a third date with a guy who asked me if he could do reiki on me.)

As for why I thought he needed to be cleansed, I knew from our conversations that he was in the midst of a bunch of therapy and personal work on getting over his breakup, and thought it might be a nice way to support the stuff he was already doing.

As for overstepping, I certainly overstepped my own capacities as a caregiver. I have more than enough of my own personal work to do that it wasn't super smart for me to take on someone else's. As for whether it was an overstepping of his boundaries, I try to follow Dan Savage's campsite rule with dating... based on my conversations with the dude I scrubbed in the weeks since (we text every couple days), he's doing well.
posted by arielmeadow at 10:50 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Consenting adults, good intentions, no harm, no foul. All's well that ends well.

(Thanks for the update.)
posted by she's not there at 11:32 AM on February 21


Just please remember the campsite rule applies to consensual relationships with no manipulation, not "it's ok to manipulate people if they are ok later."
posted by warriorqueen at 11:34 AM on February 21 [7 favorites]


Absolutely agreed, warriorqueen.
posted by arielmeadow at 11:50 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


It's also difficult to say no to someone who is slathering on the woo because it's tantamount to saying "your beliefs are stupid and I refuse to indulge them," which is fraught territory. I used to have an employee who believed in crystals, the healing powers of certain rocks, auras, etc. and she was endlessly giving me bracelets, sending me home with rocks for a sick family member or announcing that she'd burned sage to cleanse the office after some difficult event. She meant well, but I kept finding myself nodding along with the same vaguely sickly phony smile on my face because "Cut the shit" would have been inappropriate and cruel.

Thanks for joining the discussion, arielmeadow.
posted by carmicha at 3:37 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


And this thing where you say Gender absolutely plays a key role here, and it's interesting to consider how horrifically post might read if the genders were flipped. -- no, that is not where this is coming from, at least for me.

The genders do not have to be flipped for this to be magnified as an unsafe situation. It is an unsafe situation, by definition. Current gender environment, in the existing gender roles and balances? No. Not relevant. No flipping required. I was just thinking, all the way through, "this poor man. This poor man. This poor man. Shit, this poor man." and my heart was in my throat for him the entire time.

That it seems to have worked out well is orthogonal to my concerns here. It reads horrifically to me as it stands.
posted by E. Whitehall at 3:50 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]


I read this quite differently. I saw the shower scene and Ariel adjusting her shower cap as both of them enjoying this absurd adventure. It never occurred to me to think he was boxed in or where were his clothes ( right there stacked on the toilet, in my head) or any of that. I read with the assumption that there were hours of conversation and physical signals taking place that I, as the reader, could not be aware of.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:56 PM on February 21


This is an ego performance and it is gross.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:41 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


Arielmeadow: I think some well-intentioned people here might be underestimating how invulnerable men feel in relation to women. I doubt that he was nervous or intimidated in the way a woman would be if the genders were reversed.

I thought it was a good story and a kind act, though obviously not something men should feel entitled to.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:09 AM on February 22


There are many different narratives one can tell about what happened and it appears that both participants are telling the same one. I'd like to make up one of my own, which, since I am far removed from the situation, is likely to be mainly my own projections.

This guy is very passive and that's probably what got him into the trouble he was in in his previous relationship. He tends to trust people too easily which can get one into bad situations. He does it because allowing distrust asks him to take a more assertive role and he finds that psychologically scarier than any actual danger. To find someone willing to take such an active role is not only a great relief for a passive person but is also a gift of the other person's time and interest which makes him feel special.

Ariel quickly understood all this about him and knew he presented no danger. The absence of challenge might also have been part of why there was no chemistry for her. What's more, Ariel likes to be in control and so what others are calling "work" is really more of a treat for her, and to be trusted like that is an added reward.

Plus, she being a writer, gets to tell the story and he gets to be a main character for whom the story is written. It's the next chapter I wonder about since in the long run, it has to be disappointing for both of them. They both want more, he thinking it may be there, and she knowing it's not. They need to hold on to the current narrative as long as they can.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:52 AM on February 22


I hope that the guy continues to be happy with the experience as time goes on.

Because while the two situations are completely different, Arielmeadow's description of things sounds a lot like what I think was going through the mind of the woman who sexually assaulted me when we were both 18. At the time, I had no framework to identify it as sexual assault, because patriarchal culture is thrilled for any sexual contact with a woman, and the feminism she (and by teaching me, I) understood said that as a white male, consent is not even a thing, because my privilege created the world we live in to my desires. And besides, since I identified as solid Kinsey 6, the fact I would not admit any sexual attraction to women, isn't that on it's face, blatant misogyny?

So it happened, and it was a terrible experience for me, it ruined our friendship, led to another miserable experience with another woman, and made me kinda jumpy around grabby women. The jumpiness was easily diagnosed by female friends as another example of the inherent misogyny of gay men. So I continued to believe that what actually was an assault was really an important act of empowering female sexuality that I had completely bungled due to my own sexism. A sexism that came up time and time again, and that I failed to fix, as I was told.

If you had asked me, from the time it happened, until 29 years after, if it was a positive experience, I would have said yes, it was awesome, and important for both of us, and if I felt like being that honest, an experience that I had terrible feelings about that were due to my own shittiness as a male in this society. But thanks to a bunch of reading, and the hard work of many non-cis and non-binary people on pronoun usage in feminist writing, I was finally able to sort out what had actually happened. And so many things suddenly made sense! What a massive breakthrough! But no one wants to hear about the guy who was sexually assaulted by a woman of color. Except maybe MRAs.

I hope that doesn't happen to the guy in the story.
posted by conic at 11:45 AM on February 22 [7 favorites]


This really calls for his side of the story.
posted by Caxton1476 at 5:21 PM on February 22


I mean you can actually just invite the poor bastard to come to the actual Korean spa with you. That's a thing.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:11 PM on February 23


The author explicitly says she isn't disclosing all the information from the first date, so does that not leave what follows afterwards quite ambiguous?

Many of the negatives one could draw are based on an article which literally admits that the reader has a lack of context.
posted by TheGarden at 2:50 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


Many of the negatives one could draw are based on an article which literally admits that the reader has a lack of context.

It's not a news story, though, where the point is the objective truth of the story. She presumably wrote it for a reason, in this form. As someone else pointed out above, what conclusions did she want us to draw from it, and why? What conclusions do we actually draw from it, and why? As a story a friend might tell about "This awesome experience I just had," it may just mean "Here's a thing that happened to my friend." As an article published online for a wider audience, the message gets bigger and the readers' lack of context needs to be factored in to how the story is presented.
posted by lazuli at 6:19 AM on February 24


Yeah that is true.

I guess for me, it seemed to be more like a story inspired by true events or a creatively charged version of what happened rather than an absolute account so I took the entire thing with a pinch of salt. But I appreciate everyone's mileage may vary on what they took away from it.
posted by TheGarden at 7:40 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


"As an article published online for a wider audience, the message gets bigger and the readers' lack of context needs to be factored in to how the story is presented."

As the author of the piece, I just wanted to say thank you for this. There's a lot of context that I left out of the post (it was already so long!), including Seattle's more "woo" culture, his and my conversations about his existing therapy and healing modalities and safe words, the tone of evening, etc.

Metafilter's response to this post was a stark contrast from the response it got from other reader communities, and that's super educational for me. The concerns around consent and power were great for me to consider. I hadn't thought of this as a BDSM experience, and after the feedback here, I spent a couple hours talking to a domme I know who gave me some additional thoughtful critique. Hugely educational!

Metafilter's response to this post was also helpful because it gives me great information about how my failures as a writer contributed to the negative response. Publishing is my job, so this is critical stuff for me to be challenged on and thinking through. Thanks to everyone who chimed in on this thread. As a longtime Metafilter member, it's always informative to have my work critiqued by the community -- and oh, this certainly isn't the first time! Heh.

Also, for those who missed the comment link up-thread, here's the reply the fellow himself left on the post: http://offbeathome.com/scrubbing/#comment-1769210
posted by arielmeadow at 10:53 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


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