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Tainted Love by Abigail Ekue

I had sex with herpes. My apologies, I had sex with a man who has herpes. It wasn’t unlike any other sexual encounter I’ve had when you get right down to it. It was the first time I had sex with a man with that virus… knowingly.

Before the foreplay could even begin we had somethings to discuss. I had to know what activities were off-limits. Before I could allow him to “bury his face in my ass and pussy” I needed to know it was safe. I’ve never used a dental dam or other barrier while receiving oral sex so I guess I’ve never been totally “safe”. Perhaps late that Saturday night-early Sunday morning would be the first. He assured me it was okay, that his mouth was okay — his requests to make out made a lot more sense now. This was herpes of the genital variety we were facing.

We lost ourselves in the intensity of the moment and for a split second part of me thought of how natural it was. I know herpes isn’t a physical ailment but there was the irrational part of me that expected it to be different. Maybe if it were different, it would keep me aware of the virus, his virus.

We finished the first round with him behind me, promising he wouldn’t touch me “with it” while he jerked himself off and I looked over my shoulder to kiss him. Through the breaks between the kisses and the breaths he told me that kissing me was going to make him come faster. I ran my fingers through his hair and held him by the back of his head. He made a mess on his stomach and I turned over and began kissing and sucking his nipples.

About half an hour later, we were taken with the passion again. I initiated this round; straddling his waist, licking the back of his neck, sucking his ears and rubbing the length of his back, leaving a wet spot on his lower back when I got off of him. He knew I was ready and his fingers were between my legs again. It felt good to know my body wasn’t off-limits. We kissed and masturbated each other. Wash your hands if he comes. Remember to wash your hands. He shifted position and held his body over me. Not on top. He kept his hips a safe distance from mine. The kissing and groping was not making it any easier.

It was time.

“You wanna get a condom?” he asked. I laid there for a bit then propped myself up on my elbows. I didn’t even have to speak the question. He told me it was fine as long as we used a condom, that he wasn’t contagious that night. I must’ve made another face because he said we could look it up online. Yeah, we could look it up online and they’d tell me it was more likely for someone to pass on the virus during an outbreak or right after one while they’re still shedding but there’s always a chance to pass it on to someone else. “There’s no turning back,” I emphasized, “if I get it, that’s it, I fucking got that shit for life.” He nodded, said he understood and left me with my thoughts. I thought about my next visit to the doctor. I never turn down a full STD/STI screen — swab my pussy, swab my mouth, swab my ass — and I’ve had a clean track record. I can’t imagine if at my next one they tell me I have herpes. I’d be angry at him but more angry at myself. After a brief back and forth over morals and microbiology I got out the bed. His penis wasn’t getting softer and my pussy wasn’t getting drier.

Dorothy Zbornak said it about Stanley and it applies here: well, he’s really brought new meaning to the word solicitous. Once I allowed myself to relax certain he rolled the condom all the way down, I humped back. He pulled out then released. I remember thinking that was a very mature thing for him to do.

The timing seemed right that we’d see each other again. He brought it up. I was certainly game. In the days that followed I went through my box of tools and toys and found a stash of female condoms — sometimes he could wear one, sometimes I would wear one and non-lubricated condoms for times I wanted to “bless him”. Oral sex is a part of sex for me and I was determined to find a way to do it with him. I wanted to. The condoms I found didn’t have a taste. I’d hit the jackpot. I wasn’t so lucky with the female condoms. After much slipping and sliding I gave up and decided I’d try to insert one properly another time.

I was willing to have sex with him again. I wasn’t blinded by love or any similar emotion. I think it was the prospect of having sex. Before him I hadn’t had sex for 2 months. Before that it had been many more months. For a woman rapidly approaching her sexual peak, my sex life is non-existent. For a first-time hook-up, what we did was fun and pretty compatible. I’ve definitely questioned my motives for having sex with him. He’s sexy as fuck, a good age, healthy. Yet healthy comes with an asterisk. He revealed his health secret to me months prior. That night, he told me he’d only had “the conversation” three other times before me and it’s always tough. I felt for him. I feel for him. Part of me probably had sex with him because I felt he needed it. I could show him he was accepted, that he wasn’t a leper, that he was still desirable. I think I fell into the trap, the role of sexual healer with him that night.

When he first told me he had herpes he said he keeps his sex to a minimum because of it. He’s conscious of it and doesn’t want to put others at risk. It was obvious he doesn’t have sex a lot by the way he acted that night. It was obvious that he is a very sensual man. I can’t imagine living with the weight of possibly infecting someone with something incurable. After we finished and cleaned ourselves up, he held me by my shoulders, looked me in the eyes and told me I was fine and that he wouldn’t put me at risk. I flashed back to the moments before he made that declaration and recalled how careful he was with his hips; he went in deep keeping that centimeter or so of air between us. His virus is always weighing on him.

There’s a good chance that I won’t contract herpes from him… were I to see him again. If he weren’t the type to pull a disappearing act. I don’t trust that if I were to contract herpes from him that he would be there, if he would express remorse, if I would have his shoulder to cry on or be able to learn and compare notes with him on how to live with it. I’m pretty sure he’s not ready for the responsibility of giving the virus to someone. His anxiety that evening was certainly a result of thinking about that possibility and contending with the raging hormones. Next time, I’ll relax him with a massage instead of my pussy.

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Daddy by Wookiesgirl

My father died last month at the too-young age of sixty-eight. As an addict. Alone.

***

My father was born to a woman who didn’t want him and never loved him, a woman who threw him away at the tender age of four. Oddly enough, I use her name as my writing pseudonym. I remember the day I asked my father if it would be okay to use her name. He was tickled! He said, “She may not have wanted me, but she was still my mother.”

I asked him specifically why she hadn’t wanted him. I’m not sure he truly knew, but his belief was that she only wanted one child, a daughter. And she’d already had one, his older sister. My dad, was a “whoops.”

His father died when he was one year old. After that, my dad became a target for his mother’s abuse. Even before his father’s death, she didn’t care for him the way a mother should.

After his mother abandoned both he and his wanted sister, his uncle adopted both of them. He wasn’t rushed off into therapy the way folks might, rightfully, do now. Worse, I’m sure what had transpired, the abuse my father suffered, was never discussed.

After the adoption, he grew up in Manhattan with money and privilege. He lacked nothing. He was given everything and had access to anything he wanted, but not what he needed. Therapy and a mother’s love weren’t available. Did you know that the recipe for a sociopath in the making is what my father experienced? Some people are born that way, with a defect in their brain. But, some sociopaths are made. My father, a diagnosed sociopath and drug addict, was made.

The damage had been done.

As an adolescent he was constantly in trouble. As an adult he’d go on to be incarcerated multiple times. He was a con man, a criminal, a drug addict, a sociopath, and, at times very physically and emotionally abusive to those around him, including my mother, my siblings and me. Yet he was a lot of other things, too. Normal, amazing things.

As a young man, he missed qualifying for the USA Olympic swim team by barely a second. He trained racehorses. He taught the wealthy and a few celebrities how to ride horses back in the sixties. He had a fantastic sense of humor. He had impeccable taste in things we could never afford. He always took pride in his appearance. He was a little vain, but wore it well. At times, he was a loving and affectionate father. At other times, he was also a loving husband.

He was one hell of a truck driver; by 2006 he’d driven five million accident-free miles. He could drive an 18-wheeler in any weather condition, on any road and haul any type of load, including swinging beef. It takes balls to be a swinging-beef truck driver! It’s like hauling live animals, all that weight moves around while you’re driving a huge bullet of steel down the interstate. My father was a badass in so many ways.

He’d been a trucker my entire life. Most of my summers were spent on the road with him. I’ve seen all parts of the U.S.. I’ve been in nearly every truck stop across the country.

He used to let me sit on his lap and steer that big rig. Which now I realize was crazy, but he did it anyway. He’d slide his seat back and prop me on his lap and away we’d go, down the interstate. He’d have me change lanes, pass other rigs, honk the air horn… I have to say those are some of my fondest memories.

My father lived a double life. One he showed the outside world and one the unlucky ones experienced. In my home, growing up, I got to see both. The good and bad. He was wonderful; he was also a son of a bitch. Quite literally.

All of his drug use was done on the road, away from our home. When he got clean and sober the first time, in the early eighties, I learned about his demons and their cause. At that time, he entered a 12-step program. Although he had many relapses, he eventually cleaned up. Until the last few years of his life. He never went back to his drug of choice, freebasing cocaine, instead lost himself in the madness of huffing chemicals.

Do you know what huffing addiction is? Here is the Wiki page about it. By the way, it’s legal, and not part of regular drug screening.

About five years ago, his ex-girlfriend informed me that she had caught him huffing. Their relationship was at its end and she felt the need to tell me. At the time, all I could do was suggest she seek out and attend Al-Anon meetings. A little while later, she sent me a letter. I never read it. I didn’t want to know these things.

I had made a decision to not confront him about the huffing for two reasons. One, I was concerned that with his history of violence, he’d go after his ex-girlfriend because she had told me. Two, it was none of my business. My father was a grown man. I had learned, due to my own recovery in Al-Anon, there was nothing I could do. He would have most likely lied to me and/or he would have refused to discuss it. So, I let it go. I gave it to God. Or, maybe I tucked it away and purposely forgot about it.

About once a year, my dad would tell me he went and took his sobriety anniversary chip. I would listen and know in the back of my mind that he wasn’t being honest. I didn’t know if he was using currently, but I knew, at the very least, that he had recently.

Fast forward to the present, the day a police officer showed up at my door with a message for me.

My father’s body was found in his room. In his bed. In his pajamas.

The cause of death was unknown.

It appeared he’d been dead for at least forty-eight hours.

His room was littered with huffing paraphernalia and pornography.

I was shocked to find out my father, my father! …was dead. Was I shocked to find out he was still using? Yes. Was I surprised? No.

I had talked to my father once a week on Sunday; he would call without fail. I’d only seen him once a year, over the last few years, and only for a few hours each time. He had health issues that were being overseen by his doctor. And he worked consistently. He had been living his life just fine from my perspective. I truly thought he’d stopped huffing, because I had neither seen nor heard any evidence of it.

But a sociopath is a master of disguise.

I had to go to New York to pack up his belongings. My husband wasn’t able to come, so my twenty-one year-old son came instead. We had to clean out his one room efficiency. It was a slum apartment. I didn’t know it was a slum until I got there. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would find in that small room.

Have you seen what it looks like inside the home, the inner sanctum, of someone that lives with the disease of alcoholism and/or drug addiction?

When you walk into the home where an addict has lived alone, it’s one thing. If that person lived and died there, alone, it’s an entirely different thing. When you walk into a room where your own father, who was that addict, lived alone and died, so very alone, it goes beyond the boundaries of an emotional storm. It’s an emotional apocalypse.

I walked into that horrible space and looked the disease, my father’s disease, in the face. It shattered me.

The room was littered with small silver cans of huffing chemicals, small bottles of another chemical and pornography. I was prepared for those things. The police had told me. But I wasn’t prepared for how he was living.

My father, the man I knew and loved, the man that kept the interior of his truck immaculate, was living like a junky. The room was filled with trash, stacks of old paperwork, dirty clothes, empty medication bottles and dirty towels. The bed had no sheets.

There were holes in the mattress. There were cans all over the bed, next to it, and inside it. There had to be at least a thousand cans in the room.

There was pornography everywhere. And it wasn’t normal pornography. It was the kind of porn I would never have expected to find. There were other items I didn’t expect, either.

Old plastic beverage bottles, which were filled with urine; probably because he was too high to get up and make it to the bathroom. There were dirty socks he sprayed the chemicals onto, and the broken elastic bands he used to keep them over his nose and mouth.

His old computer lay on the floor around an old broken desk. There were several television sets that no longer worked just sitting there. Black mold had grown beneath an old box full of paperwork from his AC unit leaking.

There was so much in that room; I cannot list it all. I could have gone my whole life without ever seeing these things. I would have preferred that.

How could he have lived like this? How was he this sick and I didn’t know? My heart broke. It broke for him. It broke for me. And I was angry. All I could do was put on a pair of yellow rubber gloves and start cleaning with the help of my son.

I refused to let anyone else besides my son in that room with me. I didn’t want his friends to see this side of him. Especially if they hadn’t known. This act, this covering up, went against everything that I have embraced in recovery. I don’t keep secrets like this anymore, but I couldn’t let this one out. I couldn’t let all the people that were currently in his life, know what he had struggled with. His coworkers and friends loved him. His current girlfriend and her family loved him. He was respected and looked up to.

I absolutely had to protect his dignity. I needed to give him that. And so, I kept the secret. I didn’t tell anyone. There were only three people that knew of the condition of the room and they hadn’t heard it from me.

I packed up what was left of my father’s life. Something around nineteen boxes, including two suitcases full of clothing. Most of the boxes were filled with paperwork. I packed it up and left that room.

I organized his funeral, but was unable to take care of him the way he had wished. He wanted to be buried in his family plot. He wanted to be near his father. However, he was estranged from his sister and she very politely told me to screw off and to never contact her again. Yes, you read that right. The sins of my father, even in death, are apparently also mine.

I had an open casket wake, which are still very common back East. His friends, coworkers and his girlfriend’s family all came. Some of my family came, including my mother, who he’d been married to for twenty years. My close friends that lived in the area also came. He had an amazing turn out, which sounds odd but it’s true. This man had made as many enemies in his life as he had friends; either you loved him or you hated him. The unlucky ones loved him first and hated him second. That was my father.

When I told my friends about the drugs and the room, it gushed out of me like a flood. They, my son, my husband and my friends back home, were the ones that kept me from being swallowed in the tornado of emotions. I wouldn’t have gotten through without them.

I had to cremate him, which is something he never wanted. I had to do so many things I didn’t want to do, but had to. I did the best I could.

When I returned home, I was numb. I went about my daily life, dealing with kids, family, work. When it was quiet, I would sink into a dark place inside my mind and the questions would rise, screaming: How? How can this be? How can my father be dead? He’s missed it all! He’s missed my babies growing up! Now he’ll never spend time with them! He’ll never know how smart they are, or how naughty they can be. He’ll never see it. He’s missing it all, damn it! How could he do this to me? Didn’t he realize that I would be the one to clean this up? Didn’t he know how hard it would be? Didn’t he know I wasn’t prepared for him to die? Mommy was supposed to go first. She’s the sick one. She’s so sick that she’s not really here anymore, not the mother I knew. I felt orphaned! I felt like I’d lost them both.

Damn this fucking disease!

Two weeks ago my moment of clarity finally came. I was talking online to a friend, another writer, and I was telling him about the situation. He said something to me that made my head spin. When the spinning stopped, my whole perspective had changed. He said,
“I know the horrors of having to go through rooms like that and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. All I can say is that you will get over it. It will fuck you up a bit, but you’ll come out better on the other side of that ‘room’. Trust me. I think it’s good though that he had you to do this. I know it’s little comfort, but it shows what kind of person you are and I think he would be proud.”

Whoa! There I was, feeling quite sorry for myself, and my friend goes and springs this on me. But, you know what? He was right. My father knew that I would be the one to clean this up if he were to die. I’m sure he would have preferred that I not have to deal with any of this, but he knew that I, of all people, could do it. He knew, I am quite sure, that I would take care of it and I would take care of him.

You see, I loved my father. Despite his demons, despite what a violent son of a bitch he was when I was a child, despite the fact that he was a user of people and a taker of things, he was my father, and I loved him unconditionally.

I’m forty and he still called me “Puppy,” his childhood nickname for me. I had laughed and joked with him a lot. I’d read him some of my short stories. I cried to him about troubles with friends. I told him my secrets and he never once judged me.

I am proud to be his daughter. I am proud of him and how wonderful he could be. I’m proud that I had such a good relationship with him.

He died knowing I loved him.

The cause of his death is unknown. I’m still waiting for the final toxicology report. I don’t think he died from the huffing, although I’m certain it contributed to his death, along with the other abuses he’d heaped on his body over the years.

My father was tired. He’d driven a truck for forty years. He was too old, in my opinion, to be on the road anymore. I told him many times, “You’re too old for this, ya bastard! Retire already and move to Arizona so you can rest and play with your grandchildren.” He would laugh at me and tell me to shut it!

Well, Daddy, I finally got your old ass to Arizona. I wish you could play with your grandchildren, though. You would have enjoyed that. I know you’re at peace now. Your demons are no longer chasing you and you are free from your disease. It was a long, hard road, but now you can rest.

Rest easy, Daddy. You’ve earned it.

I love you.

 

 

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truth. sexuality. sex-positive parenting. by Airial Clark

When I think about why I gravitated towards studying sexuality I think of wanting to get to the root of thing. It’s really about honesty. We live in society that makes it hard to be honest. When my sons were still babies, and I was still taking night classes at my local community college, I got a tattoo. I know, I know, everybody Gen X and younger has tattoos, so, no that’s not the exciting part. What was exciting for me is what the tattoo was of, I’ve got the word truth inscribed on my body directly above a double-headed ax. Classy, I know. How many moms have weapons permanently inked on their skin? Not enough, in my opinion. I got the ax of truth because I was 24 and just figuring out that I needed to be as honest as possible about my life, all the time, in order to be the best parent I could be. It didn’t matter if the boys were going to know what my truth was as long as I could be an excellent example of living it.

How often do sex and truth line up for us? How often do we make little sub-categories of truthiness to contain our sexual desires or behaviors? How much more pressure do we feel to hide our sexuality when it comes to our family members? It starts when we’re young; hiding ourselves from our parents. Then it continues when we become parents ourselves. And it’s not like I’m talking about people who commit sexual assault. I’m talking about just your average consent-based behaviors based on mutual desire. There is so much shame to be found in that space! It’s insane.

So how does breaking the cycle of shame and dishonesty relate to studying sexuality? How does it relate to being an honest parent? I have to walk my talk in order to have any credibility with my kids, I have to be transparent if I’m going to be an effective educator in the communities I engage with. The overall theme here is honesty. From honesty, came integrity. From integrity, came wisdom. And it’s all about sex for me. The power of being honest about our sexuality is so big we can measure it by the political platform of the GOP.

I’ve taught my kids that the only perversion that exists is lack of consent. That’s it and that’s enough. Everything else is gravy. Everything else can be sexy. Everything is butter sliding off a hot biscuit. Feel me? As I get older, the double-sided ax speaks more and more about my own sexuality. My favorite answer to all things sexuality has become “Both!” Men or women? Both! This partner or that partner? Both! Parent or lover? Both! It’s my truth and I wield it like a weapon.

One of our mentors, Susie Bright, was just interviewed at The Examiner.com and in it she said, “I think the best bisexual stories I read now are just honest deliverance, no agendas. They may not even use that word; they just tell the tale. Don’t try to win the community’s approval; it’s impossible.” My work isn’t about winning anyone’s approval’ it is about finding community. It’s about supporting other parents so they can be as honest as they want to be. It’s about getting to the root of what is undermining our authentic sexuality. I study sex because it’s a way to access people’s sexual reality. What are we really doing? How do we really feel? The only way to know is ask. So tell me, who are you asking?

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Emotional Bandwidth by Airial Clark

I had a hard conversation the other day. A very dear friend and I had to come to terms with the fact that she practices mono-intimacy. She can really only have one important person in her life at a time- and that person usually defaults to the one person she is romantically involved with. We’ve been close friends for decades and this is her consistent pattern: have a best friend whom she is not romantically involved with but treats like a partner. You know, like a “play-spouse” doing errands together, attend events together, mixing up the mundane and the playful, all while casually dating other people. Then out of those casual dates she connects deeply with someone and then shifts all of her attention to that person. Suddenly she forgets to return phone calls or keep up those weekly traditions. Her friends will say she’s in a love coma, or a lust bubble- which can last for years at a time for her.

This goes beyond monogamy- this is about being unable or unwilling to devote attention to more than one connection at a time. And it is hard to watch a woman in her 30’s do. Maybe when you’re in your late teens or early 20’s it’s normal. Maybe age has nothing to do with it at all. Maybe this isn’t something she needs to grow up from. Maybe this is just how she is. And there is a lot of support for this type of relationship structure. There are a lot of ways we can look at this situation, but what I’m seeing is that there is a spectrum of intimate availability. Some people are more than just capable of maintaining multiple intimate connections- they need to do it. They need to have more than one person they feel deeply connected to, or are even romantically involved with, so they do the work to make sure they have that. They show up and they invest and they participate in ways that let their people know that they are loved. It is simply how they relate. Then we have my friend- who would be at the opposite end of the spectrum.

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I want, I want! I need, I need! by Airial Clark

As parents, we’re forever caught in this dilemma of whose needs and wants get prioritized. How far down the line we put ourselves can cause a lot of problems in all of our relationships. I see the connection to my children as very much a living, breathing relationship. Kind of like the U.S. Constitution– yes the fact that I am their mother is set in stone, but how that plays out and what that looks like it subject to amendment. It’s election season so my metaphors are all a little political. There are three people in my family so it’s an easy allusion to the branches of the federal government. If I’m the President, then one son is Congress and the other is the Supreme Court. Yes, I do feel like I’m constantly being judged and the threat of impeachment is real. Look at what happened to Bill Clinton’s presidency due to his sexual behavior… tell me there’s not some similarity there. Are you raising a Kenneth Starr? What about a Newt Gingrich? Is there an aspiring Neo-Con in your household?

I worry about that a lot; how to balance my sexuality with my parenting. How to meet my own set of parenting standards while prioritizing my sexual health? The bar is high for both of those aspects of my life. I’ve definitely had times when my sexual needs fell far down the ladder of priorities. And I’m totally okay with that. In fact, it lets me know that I’m a responsible adult. But I also know that taking care of myself is crucial to my being a healthy parent. Part of being sex-positive to me, is that I can say no to sex whenever I need to. I don’t have to perform for anybody and I don’t have to meet anyone else’s standards as to what my sexuality should look like. And when there comes a time when sex is just not a priority, I’m confident enough with my own judgment to be at peace with it. Even as a person without a primary partner, there is no panic or rush.

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Parenting Instincts, Resources and Assumptions by Airial Clark

You know what’s been difficult for me when it comes to seeking out parenting resources? Believing that the person who wrote the book or the article or the blog post had me in mind while writing it. I want information and suggestions. I want expert opinions and well thought out guidelines. I want to commiserate and nod my head in agreement while reading. But are the things that make me different from those authorities and scholars insurmountable barriers to my accessing their suggestions about how to raise my children?

Sometimes it feels like it. Like I just know they’re not talking to me. I’ve felt like many parenting resources have a little invisible asterisk by the title: Does not apply to Queer parents, single parents, kinky parents, poor parents or sexually active women. Do I really want to read yet another parent how to book that assumes I’m straight, middle class and married? Do I have to ignore the lump in my throat when the baseline assumption in the article about time management and intimacy is that I wish I had more time to be alone with my husband? Not that there is anything wrong with that article, or having a husband, we’re just over-saturated with that perspective. The assumption that just because I had heterosexual sex at one point in my life means I’m heterosexual all the time is aggravating. The theory of sexual fluidity has existed for decades. It’s not new or shocking or trendy. It’s real. People’s sexuality shifts and changes, exists upon a continuum and spectrum of lived experiences and attractions, opportunities and challenges. We know this. So why does this understanding about sexuality suddenly come to an abrupt stop when it comes to parents?

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My Path to Becoming a Sex-Positive Parent by Airial Clark

Hello Sex Love Joy readers!

First off, thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my little survey. I am honored to be a guest writer for Sex Love Joy and wanted to make sure my posts here are as useful to you as possible. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my own stories with you as well as providing links to other resources that I can confidently recommend as sex-positive for parents.

I want to share with you a series of conversations that I had many years ago that set me on the path of becoming The Sex-Positive Parent. Like many women, I have embraced the feminist mantra that the personal is political. And our family ties, while deeply personal, can also be the microcosmic metaphor for the larger political context we find ourselves in.

My family tends to reproduce every 20 years. I was 21 when I gave birth to my first son, my father was 20 when I was born, my mother was 23, her mother was 20 when she had her and that mother’s mother was 21 when she became a mom as well. I’m definitely hoping to bump that age up by about 10 years with my own children, but for now, I have more examples of young parenting than I do anything else. Being only 20 years apart from my dad, and the fact that his mother was a primary caretaker in my life, meant that he and I had a different type of dynamic. He felt like an uncle more than a dad a lot of the time. So I know that the conversations my dad and I have aren’t conventional. I am his only child. We are very similar.

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Another Girl with My Husband? by Kaysee Smart

A Contemplation in the Bath…

An Amended Excerpt from Consensual Infidelity: The True Story of One Ordinary Couple’s Experiment with Swinging, by Kaysee Smart

After dropping the kids at their respective schools on Monday, I decide to take advantage of my two hours of solitude by climbing into my hot, deep bath filled with frothy bubbles. Ever since I was a kid, the bath has been my sanctuary. Peaceful and calming. I used to stay in it for so long that my mom would check on me, thinking I had fallen asleep and drowned. Closing my eyes, I slide down the back of the tub until my shoulders are submerged in the comforting cloak of steamy water.

I listen to the rain gently tapping on the outside of the steamy windows. My steamy bath is the place I can claim all to myself: no children or husband allowed. I can forget about my responsibilities and indulge myself for one hour, the period of time that the water stays hot.

As I pour lavender scented body gel on a bath sponge and start to soap my arms, I think of my friend Tiffany who religiously soaks in the bath every day, sometimes twice a day. While I blush to think of it, I allow myself to picture her nude in her bathtub, luxuriously stroking soap across her own shoulders. This picture gives me an idea.

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