Saturday, November 9, 2013

My First Experience with ATS

Amy "Luna" Manderino, Founder and Artistic Director of Lunatique, became inspired to study bellydance after seeing FatChanceBellyDance perform at the Festival on the Lake in Oakland, California in 1993.
- Justine Sutton (2002). "Lunatique"
 My first experience in ATS was challenging and fun. I'm about a week or two behind the Wednesday class, and having to play make-up. This is the first time that I have actually met for five hours in a single week to practice dancing. By the time I was done Thursday, my body was finally starting to feel sore, but I was riding high. I had decided that since I had the opportunity, I was going to take advantage of Mecha Ramos's Thursday night beginning class with its Salsa fusion. I paid 24 dollars at the door to dedicate myself for the whole month, and we got started.

Coming fresh from my first ATS class, I started recognizing the same moves that I had been working on in the other classes, only with a slightly different flair. It gave me a chance to practice what I had just gone over and realize that all these different styles feed from and reinforce one another. As I recognize the subtle variations between each style, I'm hoping that it helps me be more graceful. So in addition to technique, this year I am planning to focus on stamina and grace; which further encourages me to study makeup techniques. The few pages I have read and applied from Making Faces has already had a noticeable impact, particularly when my image is being picked up on camera in a conference room setting.

A year ago, I was still not interested in ATS, but after having danced with girls in ATS, and being on stage while they did their thing, I really started feeling the energy of this art form. ATS stands for American Tribal Style, invented by FatChanceBellyDance in the 80s based on the eclectic tribal belly dance culture in the 60s and 70s. From ATS, various fusions, including tribal fusion have sprung.

As I banged my zils in class to the gradual immersion, I discovered that I was only about four moves behind in the basic vocabulary, so the class must have started fresh only in the last couple of weeks. Joanna welcomed me with open arms, and I found myself enjoying dancing with her this first time. Amina had each of us come to the front of the class to demonstrate a move while we kept the 3-3 pattern going on our zils. My brain melted on the 3/4 shimmy, not seeming to be able to zil and shimmy at the same time. I am focusing on that move this week. Yesterday, after about 15 minutes, I was finally able to do the 3/4 shimmy while zilling, but only if I just stood there. Today, I'm going to try to do the same thing, but with my right leg in showgirl position. Eventually I should be able to sway, and then, finally, step while shimmying and zilling.

When Amina called me forward, she asked me to do the Basic Egyptian, "I know you can do that."

Confused, I asked, "Which one."

She proceeded to show me the Egyptian one, and as I did it, she corrected me. I have been doing a Turkish Belly Roll all this time. What she asked from me was more simple, just a swaying pelvic walk with nothing added on top. This was reinforced two hours later in Mecha's class, when part of the choreography used that same Basic Egyptian, only with a kick-release, and from the side. Mecha used to be one of Amina's students years ago, so I can guess where she got that from.

Amina was telling Joanna, in my hearing, that the class was meant to help bring people up to performance level, so they could join they performing troupe, and that the Saturday class is an accelerated one. I'm willing to stay where I am, at least for this month, so that I can start getting more confidence. My goal at this point is to just start learning the technique, build my dance vocabulary up, and have fun with the group dances. I want to see which tribal fusion moves I learn come from ATS. When I feel more comfortable rotating into the lead, then I might switch to Saturdays. Until then, I'm going to enjoy every moment I can.

A funny thing happened. I accidentally joined a group demonstration of ATS to the rest of the class. I didn't know if I was supposed to participate or not. I happened to be in position 4, and just started following along. Practically all the moves Amina was improvising were variations that she had taught us in our Wednesday evening tribal fusion performance class, especially with the last choreography. I followed along as best I could, even through the half-turn sequences, when she suddenly stopped, facing the group, gave me a high ten, and said I "did a good job faking it." It was fun! I never felt so energized as I did in that moment, contributing to something larger than myself. I've had a taste, and now I want more, so much more.

Hugs and Blessings,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Woman in Progress

I never lost weight to fit better in the ballet world.  Maybe something inside told me that I was really okay the way I was, that it was not important to be a waif in order to dance. Of course, I wouldn't know how true that was until years later. But I kept dancing. It was what I knew and loved. I assisted my teachers in classes for the younger students and kept dancing every day. My mother was continually supportive, driving me to dance school and waiting patiently while I took my classes.
- Paulette Rees-Denis (2008). Tribal Vision: A Celebration of Life Through Tribal Belly Dance

I am a woman in progress and I always will be this side of the grave--even then, my proteins will break down and the organic material will recombine, lending its support to new life--always changing, always evolving. I have been through many passages in my life, but perhaps one of the biggest was my transition. There is a truism that transition is never complete, and I agree with that. My transition from male to female only was the beginning of a lifetime of change. Challenge, and the change that goes with it forces one to push her boundaries, to step out of the comfort zone and redefine who she is as a more open, complete, and round person. Being is a verb. It means about being active about who you are, and interacting and changing with the environment around you. It means finding new elements to express about yourself and finding ways to express them.

Dancing is for me a way to continually plumb to new depths as I link my body to my soul, which in turn links to the music. I become the marionette, but I do it my way. Everything becomes one. And I take classes to expand my dance vocabulary, and to help develop my body so that it can indeed have more expression.

Because of classes shifting, I am, for the time being, having to give up my tribal fusion technique class for troupe practice with Zarandeo Dance Company. Instead of crying in my soup, I thanked the fabulous Michelle Sorenson for having had the advantage of her instruction over the last year, and looked at my options.

I am about to enter my fourth year of belly dance, and most of what I have studied in the past three years has been cabaret style. I had a request to start teaching classes at my church, while at the same time I have been getting more interested in American Tribal Style and Burlesque. I am still in three performing troupes: Azalea, for the third year; Masheed, for the second year; and Zarandeo in its first year.

It turns out that the time that the church wanted me to teach is still in conflict with my current troupe practice, so I turned to the choice I really wanted to try: American Tribal Style. I started reading a book on it as an Amazon recommendation, and then my friend Kathy loaned me a signed copy of Tribal Vision. My tribal fusion dance instructor, the fabulous Amina, told me that she has another book for me to read on ATS. Several of the members of our tribal fusion troupe are also members of the ATS troupe Azar. I have been onstage and in class while I watched them perform ATS with such dignity. The lead/follow dynamic reminds me of Swing dance and the improvisational element reminds me of my own improvisational style. The culture is also attractive in its emphasis on building each other up together instead of competing to get the best audience reaction. I understand ATS has a huge vocabulary to it, so I'll be joining Amina's beginning ATS class on Thursdays after work.

I find it amazing that I actually backed my way into tribal style. Tribal style already has a very rich history over the close to 30 years since it's inception. It has branched out and flowed into so many new forms of belly dance in that time. I began with Cabaret and Egyptian Cabaret, took a gypsy workshop, and then over the last year joined a tribal fusion troupe and started taking tribal fusion technique classes. A few months ago, I was invited to join a troupe that specializes in Ethnic Fusion, and now I am going back to the root of fusion, American Tribal Style. I will actually have a chance to learn which moves are the tribal moves that infused into tribal fusion.

I have also entered another passage of my life. Last weekend, I had a wedding in Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City. I wed my road warrior Trixie in a celebration that involved an exchange of collars BDSM style, a Cherokee blanket ceremony, and a handfasting. It was an absolutely beautiful ceremony and Bert Fontana made me look like a goddess with my hair and makeup. As a result, I am now encouraged to start exploring makeup manuals to work toward recreating a glam look. All I had to know was that it was obtainable.

Hugs and Blessings,

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Honoring Courageous Transgender Veterans

I am dedicating my performance at the Stars and Stripes and Slinky show at the Fort Douglas Post Theater on July 6 to Kristin Beck, the retired Navy SEAL from SEAL team 6 who just came out in her memoirs. I have already written a trans-feminist piece that celebrates the forgotten warrior, i.e., women warriors, including trans women warriors, and am in the process of preparing to perform it monologue style at this benefit, which is a USO-themed burlesque show with the benefits going to area veteran's organizations. In a way, it is a cut at Don't Ask Don't Tell. In the poem I am going to deliver, I close with a rendition of a true story of a transgender woman who died on the battle field.

I am a Navy intersex transsexual veteran who served on the USS Lynde McCormick (DDG-8) and USS Mahlon S. Tisdale (FFG-27) from 1989 to 1993 during Operation Desert Storm as a Torpedoman's Mate.

I have been doing public performances since 2008, early in my transition, when I had the opportunity to do and the desire to perform They Beat The Girl Out of My Boy...Or So They Tried (as part of the Vagina Monologues) at  Casa Manana in Fort Worth in front of hundreds. I performed in the Vagina Monologues twice more here in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah in 2011 and 2012.

I am also a performing belly dancer, and have been doing solos for almost three years, almost as long as I have been studying the art of belly dancing, and performing in several troupes. It was via the belly dance community that I got my first invite to deliver some of my poetry at a burlesque show in February of last year. I decided to do a piece from the book that I published because it was the closest piece that I had that fit the theme. It was also a risk for me, because I was essentially outing myself to a whole community in which I felt loved. I left the audience crying.

I was asked to perform again this last February, in which I did a piece of trans-feminist slam entitled Certain Other Inalienable Rights, finding the packed audience very responsive. I had just had voice surgery and was surprised when I came from behind the curtain to have my first-ever standing ovation. As a result, I was asked to perform again this July at the Fort Douglas Post Theater for veterans.

When I saw the breaking article on Kristin Beck, I knew I had to dedicate this performance to her courage above and beyond the call of duty.

Hugs and Blessings,

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Washed Out at the Renaissance Faire

The weekend before last turned out to be a complete washout. I drove from Taylorsville, Utah, through the rain and overcast skies up to Marriot-Slatersville, Utah, with a bag full of snacks, my sword, and my portable jam box, dressed in gypsy garb.

When I got to the site, there weren't that many people present for a Saturday morning at 10:00. I parked near tha gate on the gravel, with the warning that the mud was so bad that parking anywhere else would be impossible to get out. The sand of the farm, mixed with steady rain had created a sloggy mess.

Regardless, I slogged my all the way back to the stage where were to perform. The staff had laid bark on the trail to aid in footing, but it ran out pretty quickly. As I slid and slipped my way back with all my gear, I eventually had to remove my flip flops because they were so full of muck and proceed barefoot. By the time I got to my destination, one of my friends came out and told me that they were probably not going to open that day. On our way back to the gate, I lost one flip flop and a really good book. I called my troupe members and gave them the sad news.

On Saturday morning, I drove out to Tooele to do a benefit performance at a nursing home that was adjoined to Asylum 49, a reputedly haunted hospital. My bra busted before I could even get out of the car. A couple of large safety pins later, I was dancing with my sword for the senior citizens of Toole, who clapped enthusiastically as I performed. I was able to also throw in the new moves I had been working on last week, and closed with a kiss and sword flourish.

When we took the tour, I felt a strong presence at the end of a long, dark hallway, and I wasn't the only one. There is also supposed to be a child ghost present on the site, but my impression is that he is very shy, as I didn't feel a strong presence in the area set aside for him.

My next scheduled performance is at Taylorsville Dayzz in Taylorsville, Utah, just south of the Taylorsville Recreation Center on Friday, June 28. I will will be dancing with the modern fusion troupe Masheed, and there is a possibility that I may be doing my sword solo as well.

Hugs and Blessings,Sofia  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Forgotten Warrior

She plies the skies
For enemy eyes
Always alert
Always ready.
Her Falcon's talons
Ready to strike
At mach 2.

Warrior princess
She is the almost
Forgotten warrior.

Not her story
Has tried to erase
The lives of the great female knights.

She joins the ranks
Marches stride in stride
With sisters who have gone before.

Like Queen Tamar,
Zenobia and her daughters,
Who held the mighty Romans at bay.

Joan D'Arc
and Ahhotep,
Warrior Queen of the Nile.

Fu Hao
The priestess general.
And the cunning Artemisia.

And many more,
Who passed the sword
Like a gift from Ishtar,
Of Love and war,
Or from Athena
Athens Protector,
The Creator and destroyer of worlds.

Worlds without end,
Worlds full of men,
Killing one another.

It is only in the divine feminine warrior,
That we find the mixed blessings,
Of love and strength,
Creation and destruction.

Her fierce nature
Roots both her passion
And her protection.

She is channeled,
To another place,
Another time,
Her passion,
Are called upon,
By the nature of another woman,
Thousands of miles from home.

Don't ask
Don't tell.

Out in the jungle
A warrior cries,
Struck down in his prime,
By bullets strafing in wild lines.

He holds hopelessly to his guts
Now worthless.
The pain subsiding,
The endorphins lulling him into a

The pain in his mind
About to also be dispensed,
The rapid crunching of the foliage
Disturbing sweet impending darkness.

It's too late,
He knows,
Whether friend or foe.
He looks up into the tear-stricken eyes
Of a friend.

“Oh my God,”
His friend cries.
“You'll be okay.
Medic! Stat!”
And gathers the fallen warrior in his arms.

It's too late for me.
But please one thing before I die.”
“Anything, dear friend of mine.”
“Call me Judy one more time.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Cyst

I'm pretty sure it's a cyst. I found it on the underwire line when I took my bra off yesterday evening. It's a hard lump just in front of the armpit. I tried massaging it, hoping it was just a clump of tissue, but it's still there.

The worst part is that I have no insurance now. No job, no insurance. I guess I really fucked that up.  That means if I go to have it checked out that it's going to be costly, a cost that I can't necessarily afford. I've already been on several interviews and been turned down by all but one company. I had the final interview with them last week and am waiting for their final decision this week. I have 2 phone screens today and an in-person for Tuesday with 3 other companies. At least, as long as I'm interviewing the other companies know that someone else may want me, which puts the 911 on the interview process.

What a way to go this would be. Killed by a cyst that became tumorous and wasn't removed all because I raised my voice one time and let an executive know another that his behavior was making me feel defensive. Stressed to death.

I have the option of tapping into my HSA to pay for the doctor, mammogram, draining. I don't have too terribly much in my 401k and IRA. Maybe I could plunder that.

I remember the days of waiting for my wife to leave, so I could secretly try on her bra. I remember sneaking herbal breast products and later starting hormone therapy. I remember not being able to wait until I got home to wear a bra.

I remember wearing a bra under my work clothes because it felt good, and later having to wear a bra because going without made my nipples hurt. I remember getting a natural breast augmentation done to be more proportionate.

Lately, I've been having to take my bra off to sleep, and now, I will have to forgo the underwire bra in favor of camisoles and jogging bras.

Sometimes life comes full circle.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Interview Questions

I am finding that I am starting to enjoy a certain part of interviewing and that's the point when I get to ask the questions. I have stock questions that give me insight into the company, the culture, the processes and the people. 4 to 5 questions is all it takes. I am also to take that insight and use it to drive my Q/A time at some follow-up interviews, which I did for the first time yesterday. I'm kind of wishing that I had discovered this technique some time ago. I also saw how well people who already worked together got to know each other better when I ask these questions to a group. I highly suggest taking the time to make your own stock list of lines of questioning. As an example here's mine, especially when I'm stumped for more specific questions:

1. What's your favorite part about working at XYZ, inc?

2. If you could change one thing, what would it be?

3 (For the technical interview). What new technologies have you introduced? What is the process of introduction? And did the technologies meet your expectations?

4. (For the managerial interview). If I were to be/progress into management, are there good mentors available? Do you have a good mentoring process?

5. (For the follow-up) This is a good time to drill down on things raised in previous interviews as the interviewer's job title dictates.

6. What recent challenges are you facing today and going forward?

7. Tell me about your first assignment/how you came to work for XYZ, inc?

Two questions I hate to hear are:

1. Where do you see yourself 1, 3, 5 years from now?

I hate this question because I'm a dynamic individual, and the answer, whether or not you honestly truly feel it, can jeopardize the interview. Do you have too much ambition or not enough? Ambition is ambition, sometimes requires encouragement, and sometimes requires tempering. The point is no one knows where they're going to be, and it makes them less agile. Maybe I should answer with a question of my own from now on: "I'm not sure. Are there specific opportunities that I should be considering at those intervals?"

2. What do you see as your greatest weakness?

This is a horrible question. Nobody is going to be completely forthcoming when they answer this question, because they risk getting the job. Instead, the candidate has to pick something that they are working on already that isn't their greatest weakness; or they have to pick a strength and show the negative side, thereby implying the actual strength. The last time I was asked this question, I was talking about my strength and accidentally started talking about how it became a weakness as a manager; to which I found I triggered commiseration from my interviewer.

Getting to know the people, culture, and processes before you start working someplace is vital. And even if you don't get the job, you can digest all that experience into secondary wisdom that you can take with you when you finally do land a job. This is really pertinent if you plan to lead or manage at any level.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Long Letter

I was asked to send my first counselor a long letter about what's been going on with my life and what TGSSN is.

It was great to hear from her again. TGSSN (Transcenders Global Social Support Network) is a support community that is truly global and present on FaceBook. It sprang into existence because of a glaring hole in support services. While there are many support groups that are aimed at the Transgender community, they tend to support the needs of the majority of its members who fall under the larger umbrella. A minority of individuals, those who transition from one gender to another, often can't find a listening ear or a mentor for their journey, which extends in time and space from the pre-transition days to the post-transition years. It is a place where people can support themselves by supporting one another, where someone doesn't have to be left alone with destructive emotions and can find a sympathetic air. It is also a place where information related to transitioning can be found. Because of this, the group is open to anyone who is at any stage of a gender transition, pre-, during, and post-; supportive family members; and community support givers. The latter is why I invited her to join.

Transcenders emerged from a weekly coffee meeting I was hosting in Louisville, Kentucky. I started it in parallel to one that TransKentucky was doing in Lexington. The drive between the two cities was about an hour and a half, which precluded most men and women in Louisville from attending. We discussed what kind of support services were missing on the spectrum in the area and decided that we saw that there was no mentoring or low-cost group therapy available. I had been thinking long and hard about how to structure a support network, had proposed ideas to Sienna and TransKentucky, and was about to become the officer in charge of implementing my idea at TransKentucky. The sitting president then went through a burn-out crisis because she was handling everything else alone. Meanwhile, the coffee group decided to band around the evolved idea of a support network. The core idea that had finally emerged was that each person should exchange contact information with at least two others and form a pledge of support, very similar to the buddy system in AA. I felt that single pairing was too weak because people in the trans community did sometimes disappear off the face of the earth, and that would leave someone with no one to rely on if they too crumbled. One of the major reasons for the support is suicide prevention. When I was offered a job in Utah, no one was strong enough to take over Transcenders in Louisville, and so I turned to FaceBook.

On FaceBook, I created the the new group, added the current members from the Yahoo Group, as well as people who were mentors to me. I added everyone who I felt met the criteria for the new group, and spelled out the guiding priniciples. Occasionally, I sought out new people to join who added a bit more diversity, and I added people I met in Thailand. The group truly is global. No matter what time of day that someone is struggling, there is someone else awake and pledged to be supportive in their time of need. I can't imagine how many suicides this has prevented or the number of times someone was able to guide another member to a better place. Most of the work goes on behind the scenes as friendships are formed. I know, because I am friends with some of these people and have witnessed some of their conversations. It truly is a beautiful thing to see someone unafraid to share when they are struggling and sometimes two or three people leap in to provide a supportive ear and feedback.

That's TGSSN, and I am proud of the membership there.

On Saturday, I got my first standing ovation--at a burlesque show. I was more worried that my voice would give out, because I had vocal chord tuning two weeks previously. I had been going through a process where I was increasingly being mis-gendered over the phone and sometimes double-gendered in public. I heard my voice on a recording, and I couldn't stand it anymore. So I had my vocal chords blistered with a laser on January 31, and over the following 6 weeks, my voice is supposed to tighten up as the scar tissue tightens, to about 1 note higher, which takes me away from the danger zone. The presurgical evaluation revealed a node on each vocal chord, which accounted for my voice suddenly getting tired and dropping. People have noted that my voice definitely sounds more feminine now--when I have it, and when it's been warmed up.

I met the burlesque dancers through the belly dance community. Anna, who runs the burlesque troupe, was best friends with another intersex transsexual belly dancer for many years before Candy took her life about 6 or 7 years ago. As a result, Anna friended me quickly when we met, and has been somewhat protective of me from some of the harsher elements in the community as she sees it. I didn't dance at this event. I recited a (trans) feminist slam poem I wrote in Kentucky. Last year, Jodi, one of the dancers in the troupe, organized a fund raiser for sanitation conditions in India, and one of her friends noticed that I was a poet. The event was Goddess-themed, so I recited my poem, "God's Compassion," which was a very outing poem, detailing my last struggle with my decision to transition. I was very nervous that night, afraid of how people would treat me once they found out I was once male. They cried, and Anna shouted out, "I love you, Sophie." And everyone still treats me like the woman that I am.

My experience with the Vagina Monologues (which I've done three times now), has helped me in presenting poetry in a very evocative manner. So did a few of the open mics that I did. Everyone loved the poem I did last year, that they asked me to do another presentation, this time for the burlesque show, with the proceeds going to the YWCA Women's Shelter. The women's shelter in Louisville had come to my aid in the past, so I knew I couldn't decline the request. I knew exactly which poem I wanted to do, even though it was risky and set about memorizing "Certain Other Inalienable Rights." I knew it might alienate the men in the audience, but it was a woman-empowering piece. When I paused to drive home a point, they audience responded, and oh, how they responded! I paced the stage in my red cocktail dress, black boa, garter belt, thigh highs, and cat-o-8-tails (one tail had broken off Friday night). And when I spoke, they shouted out affirmations! I graciously conceded them the space and the energy built between them and me. I blew a final kiss as the curtains closed, and couldn't make out what was being said in front of the curtains as I exited the stage. People ran up to me, gave me a hug, and said, "You got a standing ovation!" I still find it hard to believe and am walking on air. I have one more venue where I plan to audition the piece, and it's a place where models meet sketch artists.

I have started my third year of belly dancing. I am dancing in two troupes now. One is Egyptian Cabaret and the other is Tribal Fusion. Both troupes are performing at Spring Fest on March 2nd, and I'm still trying to keep a sword on my head during one of the two choreographies. I have been soloing for almost two years, and, yes, my new solo has a sword on my head :)  I also am in the middle of co-teaching a workshop to women from my church (I only have to worry about the music selection, warm up and cool down. My partner came up with the choreography and lesson). I'm thinking about maybe extending some Sunday lessons (to friends first). My goal is to be ready to enter at least one belly dance contest this time next year. I was so happy to see that someone in India had seen one of my videos and rated it 5 stars!

Speaking of which, I took the opportunity to do a spot in a handwashing video that was aired in North Indian villages by Jodi and the PlusOne India campaign. I learned how to say, "I wash my hands with soap because I am a smart person," in Hindi, and we shot my scene in a laboratory with me in a lab coat. I also did a recruiting video for my work to hire Java Developers, which has over 1500 views to date.  I am coming to learn that I am a very memorable person, and I am constantly approached by people who have seen me perform or who have spoken with me.

I was promoted last September to Development Lead at my company. I have been working one of the core strategic projects for just over a year now. Eventually, I may apply for a director position, but I have enough challenges to keep me on my toes now.

I am really excited and anxious about the position that I was offered at TEA (Transgender Education Advocates) of Utah. They want me to be their first Volunteer Coordinator because of my warm and welcoming personality. I don't know if this is a board position or not; it is certainly not a voting one, and that's okay with me. It's certainly a cause I strongly believe in.

They probably inferred the "warm and welcoming personality" from my current role as the Welcoming Committee Chair at South Valley Unitarian Universalist Association, which I've held for about a year and a half. When I made a speech on Welcoming from the pulpit one Sunday, it didn't take them long to ask me to take over the role, since I had done something very similar at First Unitarian of Louisville. Only now, I have 5th Sunday committee meetings on how to make our church more welcoming. So now I'm tasked with creating a Radical Greeter workshop.

In my personal life, things have finally cooled to a loving friendship with my ex. It's been about 2 years, and I don't think we blame each other for anything anymore.

Another contemplation of suicide brought another person into my life, as she also latched onto me and followed me home one night. She had been working on me with a steady interest for over a year. She stayed with me until she had to go back to her trucking school and I see her when she comes through town. She is part of my inner emotional circle, and I am finally accepting the fact that I am polyamorous, that there's no shame in it, and I am learning bit by bit how I need to structure my world. My trucker girlfriend, who was already part of a poly family, joined anothe lover and me as part of a core family for the moment. The other lover has more monogamistic leanings and will probably move on when she finds someone that satisfies that need for her. While Da fulfills my kinky needs, and S fulfills physical companionship needs, L (who I've only dated three times since December), satisfies my emotional bonding needs. L, though, enjoys being single. I love all three. Then in my next circle, are De, A, and J. De's really sweet and supportive, goes to practically all my events, but because I feel she was keeping something secret from a long-term partner, we no longer share "benefits." A is new and I have only been around her three times, but we had an instant connection. I tried to reconnect with her for months after we first met. I think J and I are mostly friends at this point, as I saw her in the arms of another friend at church, and am very happy for her. Then comes the circle of acquaintances, with hints of something more, playfulness and flirtation.

For a while, I thought I needed a lifetime partner that satisfied all my needs, then I thought I needed a primary partner with open bounds, but now I know it is just a want; because all my needs are met when I open my eyes. I am well and truly loved. I am blessed that almost everyone who comes to know me loves me, and I them. What I once thought was a curse is indeed a blessing. I would still someday love to have a primary partner, especially as I get older.

Is this long enough?