theferrett: (Default)
[personal profile] theferrett
Gini felt I was neglecting her - so we had to have a talk about Butterfingers.

She brought her feelings up in the car on the way to ConFusion, saying that she felt that I was spending all my time flirting with other women, and that was upsetting her. After a bit of uncomfortable digging on both our parts, we doped out that her insecurity didn’t seem to be caused by a lack of attention on my part; whenever I have a chance to spend some real time with her, I do it like a shot. And while I do flirt online, I usually do it by writing gigantic emails on evenings when we’re watching TV and chilling.

So it didn’t look like my other relationships were sucking time away from her, nor was my affection for her flagging. So what was it?

More hard-core examination revealed that she felt like all I was doing lately was trying to sleep with other women. Which I didn’t think I was, really - I do flirt a lot, and I have some regular once-a-week correspondences with women that might turn into connections if they were local, but really I spend more time snuggling with Gini and writing short stories than I do trying to cultivate long-distance relationships into anything new. Viewed in terms of results, my constant horndogging had led to precisely one new physical connection in about two years’ worth of sporadic correspondences.

So where was the feeling coming from? As it turns out, it was because I was being really diligent in negotiating permissions.

Because we have a disproportionate amount of out-of-town guests and convention visits, Gini and I run into a lot of people. I find some of them attractive. And if I think that there’s a mutual attraction that could develop into something physical in any conceivable way, I’d hate to miss out on that connection. So what proceeds is this strange three-stage process: first, I clear any potential interactions with Gini, to ensure that she’s not opposed. If she is, the process stops there.

Second, when I’m actually in the presence of the woman who Things Might Happen with (assuming Gini’s cool), I determine whether she’s actually interested. I don’t usually ask explicitly, which would be awkward; most of the time, it’s just flirting and it goes no further, and I’m perfectly happy with that. (I don’t want to have sex with someone I can’t have an enjoyable conversation with - and honestly, given a choice, I’ll take the conversation.) If I’m flirting heavily with the Woman Who Things Might Happen With, then sometimes it evolves into a discussion that reveals “This might go somewhere, but I’m in town for two days, and neither of us want to rush into anything” - which is also fine. So most of those potential interactions evaporate in the cold light of reality, dissolving into a platonic and pleasantly flirty friendship.

But if it turns out that Gini’s fine with it and the attraction between myself and Woman Who Things Might Happen With is so fervored that it looks like we could tumble into bed madly, then I put the stops on and contact my two girlfriends to clear it with them. Again, if either of them twitch, it’s a no go.

As I said, this elaborate sex bureaucracy has led to a full-on press about once in recent history. But me asking all the time was leading Gini to believe that I was firmly pressing for a physical connection that got denied, whereas I was like, “In the unlikely event this happens, I want to know where my boundaries are.”

In an attempt to explain this, I concocted perhaps the dumbest metaphor I’ve ever devised in a long history of dumb metaphors.

“Look,” I said. “Imagine that we’re going out to see a movie. You know I love movies, because movies are awesome. But imagine, if you will, that there was a chance that at this movie theater, on any given night, the cashier might also give me free Butterfingers. It’s like this sudden, unexpected bonus of something I don’t need, but I really like!”

“I don’t care if you eat Butterfingers.”

“Well, in this world, you do care. In fact, you care about the Butterfingers so much that I have to make sure you’re aware of every Butterfinger I eat. So every time I head to the movies, I’m all like, ‘Hell, if there’s a chance at Butterfingers, I’d better clear it with Gini - because if it turned out there was someone willing to give me Butterfingers and you would have been okay with that, I’d hate to miss out.’”

“You realize this metaphor is awful.”

“So we spend a lot of time discussing Butterfingers,” I boldly continued, “But the actual amount of time I spend getting Butterfingers, or even deeply caring about Butterfingers, is pretty damned slim. I just want to make sure that if Butterfingers are available, it’s okay with you.”

We both admitted that it was terrible and absurd and reduced a long and complex set of mutual interactions between not one, but two people’s parts into a single, butter-crunchety candy - which it certainly is not - but after laughing about how wretchedly inaccurate this was , she finally said: “I just have this feeling you don’t actually care about the movies. You’re just going to the theater for the Butterfingers.”

“I can see why you’d think that,” I agreed. “We talk about Butterfingers a disproportionate amount. But if you look at the number of times I’ve actually gotten Butterfingers by going to the movies, then I think you’ll agree there are much, much easier ways for me to get them.”

There it was born: The Butterfingers contract. A short-hand way of saying, “This is almost certainly not going to happen, but if by some miracle it turns out that a physical connection could be established in the time available, then I’d be cool with it.”

This turned out to be quite useful later in the con, when Gini texted me to ask, “Would [NAME REDACTED] be an acceptable Butterfinger?” And of course I said yes. And of course nothing happened.

If Gini continues to feel insecure and ignored going forward, of course, then I’ll stop asking her about any but the most likely of potential attractions. There’s no reason to make Gini feel worried by constantly bugging her with small-chance situations. However, I’m pretty sure that thanks to this short-hand, if I look at someone and say “Is she an acceptable Butterfingers?”, the time the conversations will take up decreases, and Gini will feel better. Which is, of course, the goal.

And, of course, it gives both of us a vocabulary to ask for something, which means that Gini now has the ability to ask me about stuff in a low-key, nonconfrontational way.

Later that evening, I told some friends about the Butterfinger contract, which they also agreed was a terrible comparison yet somehow useful. Then, when I wasn’t looking, out friend Dawn dropped a Butterfinger into Gini’s lap. Much laughter ensued.

Date: 2011-01-25 03:34 am (UTC)
dydan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dydan
What a great story! And as horrible as the metaphor was, it DOES work!


theferrett: (Default)

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