I find that relationships are a bit like juggling props. They have the same function; they’re thrown in the air of our lives and shuffled in our hands, but they’re all different shapes and sizes and weights.
And in my case, suddenly, they’re different genders.
When we drop one relationship and pick up another, we discover they have different problems and, likewise, different joys. But, in the end, they’re all probably equivalent for the most part. Equally hard to juggle, that is. (Except, of course, for the extremely “un-jugglable” kinds, like the imploding abusive relationships, for example.)
What I’m getting at is that I sometimes really miss my ex-partnerships and I realize that I’ve traded parts of them away for this partnership, one that is lacking in areas that I hadn’t noticed when I was (free) falling in love with Guo Jian.
For example, I really miss breasts. Seriously.
I have my own (no kidding), but all my other partners had breasts too and they were so cozy to curl up against on those cold nights. It might be a result of some strange reflex derived from having come of age in a queer sexual context, but I sometimes still reach for his. Of course, it’s usually in the dark of night and my hands find only his flat chest. I wonder if he notices me pawing at their absence? It’s in those moments that I suddenly remember that he’s a he.
But what do I get in return? He’s a bit taller than me (and that’s a first!) so when he hugs me, his broad flat chest is the perfect height for my head to bow against, forehead first, when I’m tired or sad or just needing a bit of a cuddle. What’s more, there are no breasts to separate my face from the beating of his heart. That wide chest is something I crave now, like butter craves freshly baked bread, and I want to bury my head there and hear his heart beating when he wraps me up in a hug of greeting.
I also really miss gentle touching. Caresses. Lightness on skin.
Now, commentary is welcome here, but there seems to be more full-body touching that happens with lesbian relationships. I’m sure not all straight men are the same, but I sometimes have to remind him that I have a back that’s worth touching, for instance, or calves, hair, neck, etc. To his credit, he has fully explored the breasts, stomach and “netherlands” regions and needs no prompting in those areas, but occasionally I have to guide his hands to the less obvious erogenous zones.
“Guo Jian,” I asked him one day, “Doesn’t it feel good when I kiss your neck or run my hands down your back?” “I guess so,” he replied, “But not as good as when you…” and my point was both lost and made in the same moment.
Is this a guy thing?
No woman I have ever been with has needed to be prompted when it comes to full body touching. I miss that. I miss the naturalness of two women together, taking it slow, deliberately tantalizing each other through the lightness of fingertips along meridians, savouring the journey as well as the destination, so-to-speak.
But then again, there are times when lingering along meridians is just annoying. Get on with it, right?! At least I never need to gently move things along! Haha!
And, I could do without facial hair.
He is currently clean-shaven—no goatee and no moustache—but he has played around with several combinations throughout the years we’ve been together and so I am always the first to celebrate his smooth upper lip. Otherwise, kissing is just so…. scratchy. My lips miss smooth female faces.
Then again, on lazy days or when he’s grown it out and his whiskers graze my neck or inner thigh, it reminds me of the way bark nuzzles my flat palm when I caress a tree trunk. There is nothing like it. Another dimension in texture that surprises me every time.
At our post-wedding event in Canada, I hadn’t prepared a speech and found myself saying into the microphone that I knew my relationship with Guo Jian was a surprise for everyone, but no one was more surprised than I was to have met and fallen in love with someone who has hair growing out of his chin. Everyone laughed.
The funniest part, though, was when the translator finished translating for Guo Jian and his laughter rung out just moments after everyone else’s had died down. That made everyone laugh once again, but twice as hard.
And it’s the truth. I was the most surprised of anyone. I still am, sometimes. And I admit that my biggest hurdle in this relationship has been my incessant need to analyze and compare. In the first year, especially, I was constantly spinning in my self-pity about how hard the transition was and would invariably say this to myself, mid-spin: “Never again. He’s the first and last man. This kind of thing would never happen if I were with a woman! I miss women!”
It goes without saying that such thinking is not helpful.
So, this “law of equivalency despite shifts in all variables” regarding relationships (and yes, I made that up) has to eclipse the almighty obvious one: gender. This isn’t just about gender. Sure, going from one relationship into another has its steep stage of transition, but the juggling also includes (but is not restricted to) personality, culture, sexual orientation, upbringing, class, education, etc.
And that’s just taking into account the new partner. What about ourselves?
When I met Guo Jian, I was a different person than when I met my ex-partner. Sometimes it’s all about timing. Who we are when we step onto stage with another set of colourful, complex individuals to juggle into our lives is as important as the people themselves. And I made a choice to be here. Climbing that steep stage and standing proud before the world is what I signed up for. I’ve got to keep the balls in the air.
Now that I’m partnered with a man, I will resist the temptation to continue discussing balls!