Stephanie Valente lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has published Hotel Ghost (Bottlecap Press, 2015) and waiting for the end of the world (Bottlecap Press, 2017) and has work included in Susan, TL;DR, and Cosmonauts Avenue. Sometimes, she feels human. http://stephanievalente.com
Kailey Tedesco's books She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publications) and These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press) are both forthcoming. She is the editor-in-chief of a Rag Queen Periodical and a performing member of the NYC Poetry Brothel. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. You can find her poetry featured or forthcoming in Prelude, Prick of the Spindle, Bellevue Literary Review, Vanilla Sex Magazine, and more. For more information, please visit kaileytedesco.com.
Joanna C. Valente is the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Marys of the Sea, Xenos, and the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault.Read More
Because love can be nightmarish at times…Read More
Lee Taylor is a writer, musician and light worker raising two children in Brooklyn, NY. She has an MFA in creative writing from The New School and spent the past six years living and blogging in Switzerland. Her essay “The Patron” was recently published in the inaugural print edition of Hofstra University’s literary journal, Windmill. She was also featured in the March issue of Bodega, an online literary magazine.Read More
You’re gone, which is fine. After I dropped you at the airport on Sunday I went home. I felt pretty proud of myself for hanging up all of those fancy prints and artwork we’ve collected over the past few years. It sorta felt like I was my mom up there, standing on your recliner with a hammer. I had chicken in the crockpot. It was nice.Read More
BY BECCA SHAW GLASER
Up close, he wasn’t as cute. He was older and plumper, and anyway, it all just felt so weird. When I first saw his profile earlier in the day I thought, Ooh, he seems like someone who wants a relationship. I was absolutely specifically not looking for a hookup, but as soon as we started typing, it became clear that’s what he was up for. His place turned out to be a bank converted to a condo by the Dean of Architecture. Everything was huge and austere, almost entirely white, with cathedral ceilings. Perfect, I thought.
Oct 5, 6:41pm
How do you feel
driving to meet a stranger,
naked under your skirt
knowing that you may be
seduced and taken and
Conveniently he’d forgotten that I’d told him I would be arriving hungry and could he please feed me. After I reminded him he tossed canned clams and hasty pasta together, smashing garlic cloves with the side of a silver chef’s knife. I hung awkwardly by the granite island.
He had wanted me to wear heels but I didn’t own any. Boots? Yeah, I had tall black boots. He’d asked me to wear something that showed cleavage, and no panties, so I did. While I waited on the hard-backed chair, legs firmly closed, he plied white wine. I said No thanks. I knew I was supposed to uncross my legs so he could get a glimpse, but I didn’t even want to take off my long black coat, keeping it tightly buttoned.
Oct 5, 6:41pm
Wet with anticipation?
When the food was ready we sat at one end of the stark maple table. Half-chewed worms poured from our mouths as we discussed the economy of desire, the poststructuralist concept of sexual exchange—really it’s a handshake, we agreed, a Marxist solidarity. He said In those days they used to think women so lusty the husbands made them wear metal plates when they were away to stop them from fucking half the village. And I hate it now—for men it’s like supposed to be a conquest and the woman’s supposed to be pushing away, keeping her number low. I was impressed by his awareness of gender and sexuality, but I still felt so timid that even sitting next to him on the couch felt scary. Our voices were tinny, floating around under the white cathedral ceilings and getting lost.
When he took off his clothes in the bedroom he was glazed in ginger fir, pale skin flecked with large pink freckles, each candied with a hair, long strands piercing out of his pubis, and I realized I was repulsed. How unfair and fucked up of me, I thought, to be so political in my preferences. He devoured my vulva, he was good at it, it’s a skill, I shut off the top of my head. Looked out the enormous arched window. Can anyone see?
Oct 5, 6:43pm
I’m kind of lost.
He told me his favorite was to be with female CEOS, older women who were used to being in charge, he loved when they became submissive with him, let themselves go. And he loved being the odd-male out with a male-female couple. He liked going to truck rest-stops and having his dick sucked by another dude, most straight-identifying, of course, or sucking other guys’ dicks through those glory holes. I loved hearing the stories. I loved thinking there are younger guys out there who get off on giving older women pleasure, because, I’m getting older. I wished for a world where I could feel safe being so sexually adventurous, not terrified of rape, disease, or being considered a slut.
Oct 5, 6:44pm
Oh. We don’t
have to do this,
He stuck his fist partly in, and I was opening on his cool white sheets under his white down comforter against his vanilla-stained Ikea headboard in his white marble flat but I didn’t want to suck his small pink dick or even kiss his lips which I felt bad about and thankfully he didn’t pressure me at all but I think it was pretty obvious and then when it was clear I couldn’t or wouldn’t cum, Want to watch me? he slid his hand over his penis moving silently until white spurted out. I tried to at least touch him a bit while he was touching himself but the truth is I didn’t really want to.
After the shirt got tucked back into the jeans, after the zipper on the black dress was zipped up again, my still-wet vulva bristling between my thighs, my curly hair tangled, my breasts pulsing with the sensation of stranger-touch, after I shut the door to his white world firmly with a thud behind me, the first thing I wanted to do was see my lover, the lover who can’t be in a real relationship, the lover who gave me permission to try to find one. Not even in my car yet, I dialed, and surprisingly he picked up, said Sure, come over—and it was almost like coming home, to his soft gorgeous body, the body I’m bonded to, he was stretched out on his tiny bed, books and clothes chaotically strewn everywhere, small piles of trash that for some reason he sweeps into a corner and then leaves for weeks, he was watching Baron Munchausen, being uncharacteristically silly. He knew where I’d been. It didn’t bother him. In fact he liked the look of the dress, too, the way it clung to my breasts, pushing them together. I dropped my black shoulder bag and pressed my mouth to his.
Becca Shaw Glaser is the co-editor and author of “Mindful Occupation: Rising Up Without Burning Out.” Her writing has also appeared in Mad in America, Black Clock, H.O.W., Two Serious Ladies, Birdfeast, The Laurel Review, Quaint, and Lemon Hound, among other publications.
A female body in mom jeans looks at a water color of Bianca Stone’s depicting the three fates. Only one faces us and says in her speech bubble, “I’m filled with rooms I’ve never seen before.” It hangs in my living room. I am the female body, a room I see so much of I don’t see it at all. I see it so little that I’m usually digging my nails into my skin in order to get anything practical done without overwhelming anxiety. How do I get this out of the room? I got Netflix binge-streaming House of Cards to distract me from my loneliness and this. I miss something I’ve never had, stupid saudade. How much of the wine bottle has been drunk and will it get me to the end of the night?Read More
BY GHIA VITALE
This piece is part of the Relationship Issue. Read more here.
As someone who has been polyamorous for seven out of the 11 years I’ve been with my partner, I can say with utmost certainty that polyamory is not an experiment for me.
It is the path in life my heart wandered down and never turned back. And suddenly, the mainstream dating world knows about polyamory. Now that I can simply check off the “polyamorous” box in an OkCupid profile, I am still hesitant to dip my toe into the icy waters of online dating.
One of their most recent additions is a feature that allows you to link your account to a partner’s account in order to let users know whom you’re currently dating on the site. It’s actually no better than how Facebook only lets you be in one relationship. In other words, to Hell with the rest of your lovers if you’re poly because according to these websites, only one of them is worth mentioning. The threesome requests were frequent enough when I confessed that I was bisexual in my profile. I’m worried that no matter how much I stress that I’m not looking for flings, that’s all others seem to want me for. That’s how it went in the past, anyway.
One of my biggest hang-ups about poly dating is the same issue other experienced poly people struggle with: the risk of becoming collateral damage in someone else’s quest for self-discovery, novelty, freedom, and most importantly, love. A recent spike in popularity has saturated the poly community with widespread interest. That means the poly-curious population is increasing. While that might mean there’s more to love, it also means there’s more people there to mess it up. Many newbies embark upon their poly journey with pure intentions; others mistake our permanent lifestyle for whatever they wish would fulfill their temporary and misguided desires. How do I know their desires are misguided? I know this because I’ve been directly implicated in these personal quests for self-fulfillment that end in nothing except breakups.
I let everyone know that polyamory is the only way I roll. While people are more than happy to enjoy my company as a fling, the idea of having multiple significant others that are actually significant is beyond most people’s comprehension and it seeps through their behavior. Once I let them know there’s zero chance of a monogamous future happening (or even a monogamish one), the tone of our interaction change drastically. All of the sudden, our relationship is no longer headed in any kind of committal direction and I lose my viability as a “serious” partner whom they envision a future with. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not pressing for commitment before it’s appropriate. I’m all about free love and I believe each relationship being a unique expression of love. But even though we’ll both claim we want poly relationships, I’m the only person who means it. What they actually mean is that they want to indulge in multiple relationships at once without strings attached. That’s fine, but that’s not polyamory.
It’s always different variations of the same scenario: I meet someone who claims to be poly-curious, poly-friendly, or “open to being with a poly partner.” Then they realize they’re not as poly as they thought they were, that they just wanted to date around and explore before meeting a monogamous partner. Whether or not I consented to this involvement never mattered, so I’ve learned how to recognize the unique smell of this trainwreck smoke so I don’t have to stand the heat later on. I understand that these people usually mess up because they don’t know better. As the person who’s actually poly, I basically have to be the person who knows better. It just sucks to become seriously invested in someone because they seemed to say the right things at the right times and gave you the impression that polyamory was a long-term consideration for them. It no longer felt like a carpet being pulled from beneath me once I developed a healthy sense of paranoia about it. Even educating these people about poly doesn’t seem to make them go back into the hookup culture that better suits their yearnings.
Polyamory is about maintaining multiple relationships, not just the freedom to have as many flings. Too many people enter polyamory with the “playing the field” mindset. They’re more than happy to practice polyamory, but never actually be polyamorous. If they were actually living polyamory as opposed to practicing it, they would see polyamory as a part of their future rather than a quick fix. That’s just the problem: They don’t see polyamory as a part of their future. They only see polyamory as a situational means to their temporary ends. Yes, polyamory absolves you from having to choose 1 person over another, but there’s so much more to it than that. Polyamory is far more about building and maintaining connections than it is about driveby romances and hooking up.
As a polyamorous person, I want more than a good time. I want love.
Ghia Vitale is a writer from Long Island. She graduated from Purchase College with a BA in literature as well as minors in psychology and sociology. She has written for Ravishly and Quail Bell Magazine.
BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
This piece is part of the Relationship Issue. Read more here.
When I was in kindergarten, I made my first best friend. M happened to be an exchange student from Japan. We barely spoke—she couldn’t speak English well, and really, what kindergartener speaks any language with precision anyway? Yet, for whatever ethereal reason, we chose each other. We were inseparable—we watched “Sailor Moon” together and enjoyed eating lunch while the other kids played on the swings. But then, she moved back to Japan when I was in 1st grade, and the whirlwind was over. This essentially set the tone for most of my early childhood friendships.
I craved intensity from a young age. I yearned for the kind of friendship you saw in movies and books a la Judy Blume and “Babysitters Club” and “Pretty in Pink.” Like many introverted, shy, and artistic kids, I wasn’t exactly Ms. Popular—my idea of a good time was listening to The Cure, painting pictures of bizarre landscapes and women, and dreaming of becoming a day where I had real friends who “got” me—who didn’t just sit with me at lunch because what else did you have going on?
Many friend groups came and went—not because I wanted them to or didn’t care—but it’s just what happened when your elementary school friends migrated to different friend groups by middle school. For awhile, A and I did everything—we played pretend horror games in her apartment complex parking lot to swimming at our local pool in the summers. But when puberty hit around age 12, and I wasn’t quite into boys or Britney Spears or shaving my legs, the relationship waned. I got used to being alone from a young age.
By the time high school arrived, this sense of emotional isolation from my peers at once strengthened my need for authenticity and intensity, and yet, also made me reluctant to open up in a “real way.” It was easier to say what people wanted to hear, versus what I wanted to say. It didn’t help that I attended a Catholic all-girls school where being different (not to mention queer, although I didn’t use the term at the time, but I was already aware of my attraction to girls) was not cool. It wasn’t until I was 15—having never been kissed yet—and found myself in a mall hallway ferociously making out with my best girlfriends C and C that I was finally beginning to realize I didn’t have to operate innocently, repressed, and alone. And in many ways, this high school make out session with my friends, while not unusual, spawned my complicated feelings about what I wanted out of my relationships and friendships.
Even then, I wanted connection—that kind of intense intimacy that is shared only by a few—some call it being on the same wavelength or being soul mates. Whatever the term, I craved that telepathic-I-will-love-you-always-type of relationship/friendship, and I craved it with multiple people. As humans, we often need to feel special—and we often seek to label our interactions with each other—like having one or two best friends.
While I understand this impulse (because everyone does this to some extent), it can create unhealthy expectations, in many ways. On one hand, friendships change and evolve and go through phases, and having labels can put unfair pressure on a friendship to always up to the label attached (in the same way we attach pressure on romantic partners to be “the one,” as opposed to “a one”). Conversely, of course, labels also divide our passions and emotions into boxes, and in many ways, close us off to other people who don’t deem as “bests” or “close friends.” When I finally realized that I could actually allow myself to have and share intimacy with all of my friends, not just a select few, I realized that I wasn’t jealous when certain friends became busy or preoccupied (because everyone does at some point), and that I was becoming more honest and self-aware not just with others, but myself. So often in high school, college, and even part of grad school, I would feel vulnerable and left out when a close friend who make plans with someone else—I’d wonder why I wasn’t include—that something must be wrong with me. It was tiring, time and time again, to feel this way. I was getting tired of feeling jealous or “rejected” even if I wasn’t actually being rejected.
Of course, this is not to say I currently don’t have friends who by definition are best friends or soul mates or kindred spirits. And sometimes I do use these terms, but often times, I try not to. I try to just let my relationships be. But for me, the distinction I find truly dangerous is the fact that a romantic partner has to be the sole focus and recipient of someone’s emotional life—as if having a wholly different kind of intimacy outside of a partnership means you are “cheating” or somehow abnormal, for me, seems to be a quick recipe for disaster for everyone involved. How can any one person live up to that expectation? And how does that promote change and growth, if you aren’t learning from other people?
Maybe some people consider this unhealthy—this desire to feel truly connected to others in an all-consuming way. I don’t care about getting drinks and having bullshit conversations about literary journals and literary gossip and the current Internet sensations and outrages. I rather cook dinner, talk about our fears, watch movies, sit in silence, have slumber parties (yes, I’m still 12 years old, although I think this brings a sense family and security), and just not feel bound by polite rules or society.
When I was 23, I lived with a man who was 36. We were both poets—we constructed a fantasy world together, sewn together by pretty words and carefully crafted lineation. That relationship, while it didn’t last past a year, taught me a lot about what I wanted, and didn’t want. When I would go out with friends who were male, he would often get upset—and even accused me of cheating on him with my best male friend C, despite the fact that I never harbored romantic feelings toward C. C and I would hang out multiple times a week—which is not uncommon in a graduate program where you read and critique each other’s work, and then eat lunch together before your multiple part-time jobs. Often times, C and I would play video games and talk about our dating life. If anything, I resembled a sister more than a girlfriend.
But I wasn’t even resentful of T for being possessive or jealous. It saddened me, because this behavior is often accepted by many intelligent and independent people—and to some extent, I thought this was normal, until it became so extreme that it seemed I couldn’t go out without him being suspicious or upset. After out breakup, I was forced to move out of our shared apartment, because the rent was too expensive for me to maintain. He ended up moving abroad, and I stayed in New York. This split, of course, proved beneficial to both of us. T got exactly what he wanted: a freedom America wasn’t giving him, a new relationship with someone who makes him happy.
For me, I finally found clarity. The fact that he often rebuked C and I for being “too close,” for hanging out too often, for sharing a bond that he and I didn’t exactly have—was the exact prompt I needed to dig deeper into myself. And that simple fact made me think: Why should I limit my relationships with other people, simply because someone else is jealous of a connection I have? That doesn’t scream support or love or happiness for someone experiencing a connection outside of a romantic partnership—or any kind of relationship, platonic or not.
For some, this level of emotional intimacy may be a betrayal—and that’s OK. Everyone is different and has their own unique needs, but for me, it’s just a part of who I am, and that’s a part of me I’m not willing to sacrifice for anyone.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015) & Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications). She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the chief editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, Pouch Mag, The Atlas Review, The Destroyer, and others.
But when you’re in your early twenties and on the kind of quick rebound Serena Williams might appreciate, you think differently. I had recently come back from a Midwest breakup with a long-distance boyfriend. Several gallons of ice cream later, I was still feeling empty. It was springtime, and the idea of getting through the approaching summer on my own wasn’t something I wanted to do.Read More