The Love Riddle

Having a conversation about past relationships recently served up the usual questions.

“You love them, sure. But were you ever ‘in love’ with this person? As soon as I asked, memories of my own past relationships popped up in my head.

Sometimes the answers are never as simple as the questions – and only leave us asking more.

“Well, this brings up the age-old question.” He replied. “What’s the difference between being in love and loving someone?” A thought designed for debate.

We exchanged smiles across the room assuring one another that neither one of us was up for such philosophical archaeology over morning coffee. The subject was changed and we tossed up ideas on how to spend our day.

Days later, his question was still on my mind.

“So.” I thought. “What is the difference between being in love and loving someone?” I mean, sure I’ve felt love. But with such a poor track record of my own, was I even qualified to know?

A brilliant therapist said to me once: “If you cut off the heads of the men from your past and switched them around, you’ll see they are interchangeable.” I knew what she meant and loved the decapitation analogy. “The pattern is in your choices.” She continued.

Nodding with that look of “holy-shit” glazed over me, I pulled up my jaw from the floor and agreed. The biggest take-away from that session was in the knowledge that I had more control than I thought (we all do).

When we navigate the ghosts of our relationship’s past, it’s safe to say we come to a universal conclusion: our answers have more to do with us – and almost nothing to do with them.

Where we are in life, who we are as people and where we want to be – these all play a major role in who we chose for our partners.  And as we evolve, so does our love-barometer. This is why it’s natural for couples to ‘grow apart’ or have their relationships ‘run their course.’ Relationships ending aren’t so much failures as they are successes of moving forward.

“Once they cross a boundary with me, I’m done.” He explained calmly. “There is never going back.” I envied his conviction.

Why does it take some of us so long to leave the toxic hamster wheel of past relationships? The answer is simple. We weren’t ready to learn the lessons.

“I know what you mean.” I agreed. “It just took me longer to get there.” As soon as I said those words I was filled with a feeling I forgot existed – I was happy and whole.

If you define yourself by your relationship and allow yourself to be disrespected but stay anyway, chances are you aren’t in love. You are in love with the idea of being in love. A hard pill to swallow but once you do, amazing things can happen.

An unbalanced partnership, one dragging the other down – or two people who lift each other up and support the other’s dreams. Staying because it’s comfortable or leaving to find someone who challenges you and helps you grow. Living without passion or connecting with someone with the same desires – being in love is another way of loving yourself enough to know the difference. And never settling for anything less.

Christine Macdonald

Power Strip: An Adult Extertainer’s Backstory

Every stripper has their reasons for choosing that life. Here is a little bit of mine.

~ ~ ~

I’ve never been a rule person. Breaking any and all guidelines for being a good kid was my thing. Screw conformity. I’d scale the fence at the exact moment my brain registered the “No Trespassing” sign. If you told me I wasn’t allowed to go there, I’d shoot you an adorable smile, nod obediently, and then do everything in my power to defy you.

Things began innocently enough. As a mischievous pre-teen, my adventures in search of complacency weren’t very earth shattering. Days were spent dreaming of first kisses with Chachi Arcola from Happy Days and thoughts of navigating Rydell High School as both Sandy and Rizzo from my favorite movie, Grease. There were worse things I could do.

Every now and then my exploratory mind served me well. My impressionable brain was a delicious symphony of borderline dangerous adventure and idle curiosity. I possessed the perfect mindset to allow myself permission to experience things I never thought possible despite a brief church upbringing designed by our mother to keep my older sister and me in line. I don’t know where the idea of religion started with Mom. Maybe not having a father in the mix for her two girls swayed her thinking. Instead of one dad to help her raise us girls she’d get the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Not that we were strict Catholics; our occasional Sunday Mass attendance was peppered with the usual holiday events each year. But that was enough. An hour of Mass, complete with accepting the body of Christ on my tongue while being reminded that He watches my every move was all I need to be freaked out. The long drives home served up haunting views from the back seat of Mom’s station wagon. Hypnotized by the shimmering stain glass windows framing the entrance to the church, I always wrestled with the pockets inside my breath.

Church visits stopped shortly after my thirteenth birthday when, after my first and only Confession, I decided the feeling of being wrong all the time just wasn’t for me. Then there was the why. Why I felt the need to confess. And why I felt so guilty.

Even though I was unconscious when it happened, I still thought I needed forgiveness for losing my virginity that night on the beach. I don’t know what I expected to feel after releasing my truth bomb in the confessional, but it didn’t make me feel any better. If anything, the blanket of shame wrapped around my shoulders became heavier. After the priest shelled out my Hail Mary and Rosary penance to absolve me of my sin (and what a doozy, at just thirteen), I walked away and never looked back.

Ever since I learned the difference between pink and blue booties I’ve been curious about my body. As a freshman in high school and shortly after the beach incident, my curiosities about sex grew stronger. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I snuck downstairs to watch an R-Rated movie on cable. After getting lost in this new wonderland of nudity and pleasure, my hunger for knowing the whys exploded.

The next morning with the sun winking through the glass louvers in the bathroom, I sat on the toilet and opened my legs. Like a doctor asking me to say “Ah,” I began to explore myself with my fingers. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to see myself, to visit the birthplace of the moans and pleasure scenes that had captured my attention the night before. So I ran to my bedroom, got my purse and scurried back to the toilet. I reached for the sliding door, ensuring that it was locked, and grabbed my compact mirror.

Holy shit.

I was in awe of that place—that sacred part of womanhood I was taught to never discuss. I loved every inch and fold of her. She was soft, fragile and safely tucked away. But also, I knew she was a force. At some point, I moved from sitting on the toilet to lying naked on the floor. I opened my thighs and held the mirror with one hand, exploring myself freely with the other. My thoughts streamed together on a repeated loop of wow, this is you and a baby comes through here – you can create life! My very own No Trespassing sign.

The more I got to know myself, the more pissed off I became about that night on the beach at camp. I started to realize my virginity wasn’t lost at all, but that it was taken. At just thirteen years old, my No Trespassing sign was broken through without my permission. I wasn’t even conscious!

That’s it, I thought. Never again.

It makes perfect sense that I faked my orgasms during my twenties. With each lover I was an actress, making them think they rocked my world. Even if it wasn’t true, it was my lie and my body.

Stripping was another way I felt control with my body; I’ll show you my goods, on my terms, the way I want to – you give me your money.

It was years before I would confess my childhood secret to anyone but the priest. When I finally shared with Mom about the week I spent at camp and how her baby girl returned home a woman, she was mortified and I felt somehow she blamed me. The blanket of shame felt even heavier. I felt like that little girl being scolded in the Confessional all over again reaching for a life raft in her lungs, waiting for the stain glass on the windows to fade.

After much self-discovery I finally understood I was raped. It took a bit longer to truly believe it wasn’t my fault.

Feelings of somehow bringing it on myself— asking for it—suffocated my self-worth, serving as landmines along the way. But I worked through that wreckage and got out from under the cloak of self-blame.

After nearly ten years on the stripper stage I was done; burned out and ready to find a new life.

At twenty-eight, I moved away from the only world I knew, started regular therapy and began to delve into my own whys. Through much introspection and forgiveness (with myself and others), the blanket of personal shame I wore for so long eventually disappeared. It has been replaced with something much lighter – an extension of me. The new fabric is a delicate blend of strength and self-love. I’ve earned this survival cape and wear it with pride.

Every story inside us from our past is a piece of fabric that makes us who we are. Some parts are tattered and worn; frayed with struggle and defeat. Other patches are threaded so tightly and strong, it’s a wonder we ever survived without them. How cool is it, to know we have.

Christine Macdonald

A Valentine for Singles (You Are Victorious)

It’s February. You’re single. Unless you’ve held yourself hostage binging on Netflix and Domino’s since New Year’s Eve, you’ve been exposed.

At first glance, the damage is nominal. You enter the grocery store for paper towels and laundry detergent and get your first glimpse. Petite floral displays paired with heart-shaped balloons have replaced the clearance-priced holiday wreathes and pine cones.

Red and pink carnations cover the display section near the entrance, along with heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates. 

For singles, Valentine’s Day is a welcome mat of I am unlovable. It’s right there waiting; ready for us to wipe our lonely all over its face. But guess what? It doesn’t have to. We can just as easily be wiping awesome all over this day, leaving a trail of “I’m not settling” glitter in the air. A kind of pheromone-dust released only after making it to the other side of anguish born from heartbreak. It wreaks of well deserved, long overdue happiness. And why shouldn’t we be happy? It’s far better to be alone than with the wrong person.

When it comes to love, being alone and happy blows doors off of feeling alone with the wrong person. Why tread water in a crowded pool when you can save yourself alone in the ocean?

Whatever our story, when it comes to love not being right – it’s never easy to let go. Breakup casualties are everywhere. But we always survive the pain. And when going through the darkness after a breakup, the very best thing to do is remind ourselves of just how loveable we really are.

We love ourselves enough to know when it’s time to let go. We deserve to be with the one person who will make us realize why it didn’t work with anyone else.

But for some, Valentine’s Day when you’re single still feels like a trap. So many of us define ourselves by our relationship status. That’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous.

Whenever I’ve been single on February 14, I’ve called it “Victory Day” – makes more sense. When we survive emotional land mines of true love’s demise, we are victorious.

Still feel like shit on Valentine’s Day? Read this list of love lessons and remember: you’re worth more than what some candy-filled display wants you to believe.

~ ~ ~

 

  1. If someone wants you, nothing can keep them away. If they don’t, nothing can make them stay.
  2. Stop making excuses for anyone’s behavior.
  3. If you have ANY doubt in your mind about someone’s character, leave ’em alone.
  4. Allow your intuition (or spirit) to save you from heartache.
  5. Stop trying to change yourself for a relationship that’s not meant to be.
  6. Don’t force an attraction. And remember – sex isn’t love.
  7. Never live your life for anyone.
  8. If you feel like you’re being strung along, you probably are.
  9. There is nothing wrong with dining out alone. It’s sexy, even.
  10. Don’t stay because you think “it will get better.” You’ll be mad at yourself a year later for staying when things are not.
  11. Actions speak louder than words.
  12. Never let anyone define who you are.
  13. Don’t knock masturbation (it’s sex with someone you love).

Christine Macdonald