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We are three adults living in a polyamorous triad family. The content here is intended for an adult audience. If you are not an adult, please leave now.



Each year, in the last week of January, the school where I teach enters into a period of controlled chaos -- a celebration of who we are.

Parents and grandparents come to school each day to eat lunch with students.  We host a community open house that showcases student work and achievement.  Our upper school students take part in a science fair, judged by a small army of volunteers who come in from the larger community.  We hold a "read-in" where bigger kids read with younger kids.  There are all sorts of silly dress up days -- crazy hats and crazy clothes and comfy clothes day.  The culminating event, on Friday afternoon, is always a volleyball match between the 8th grade class and the faculty/staff.

It is a hard fought battle every year, and it has a very long history.  We ALL keep track of who wins and who loses.  Winners get bragging rights.  Students look forward to their year from the time they are in kindergarten.

Those of us on the faculty, scramble every year to put together a team.  Most of us play volleyball once a year -- this game.  We don't practice.  We have no coach.  What we have is experience, patience, and a gentle and durable affection for one another.  I always joke that we should have team tee shirts that say, "Old Age and Treachery Will Overcome Youth and Skill."

On February 5, I will turn 59.  I have creaky old, arthritic knees.  These days, the knees function because I regularly visit the orthopedic surgeon's office for cortisone shots.  I did that on Monday.  Always, for a couple of days following the shots, my knees stiffen up and ache, and I worry that they may never bend again.  I struggle up and down the stairs at school like a little old woman of 90.  On Wednesday, I was seriously wondering if this year I would have to sit out the game, but by today, I was feeling pretty sure I could play -- at least for some of the game.

This morning, a coworker asked me if I was really planning to play.  When I said, "Yes," she said, "But, what about your knees?"  I told her that my knees were iffy, but that I was going to give it a shot.  "Brave."  "Gutsy."  That was her assessment.  "Nutty," is closer to the truth, I thought.  What I said, though, was this:

"There is going to be a day, somewhere in my future, when I cannot play anymore.  On that day, I will sit on the sidelines and cheer.  Until then, I am going to play -- for as long as I possibly can."

And so I played.  Made some good serves.  No diving for balls.  I do not hit the floor by choice.  The knees don't bend much, so no digging the ball off the floor.  And no jumping either.  I am pretty sure the jump would be fine, but the landing?  Probably not good.  So... I take what I have; what I can do; and put it out there in front of 400 screaming kids -- across the net from a gang of determined 14 year olds, and I play for all I'm worth.  I huff and puff and sweat.  I have moments of triumph, and some purely embarrassing times.  It is fun and exciting and affirming.  I play.




Encircling my neck
Forged aluminum rings
Byzantine chaining
Signifying linkage.

Broke the
Fragile links.

No more
Collar ‘round my neck.
Away in darkness
Memory encased.

Every other
Lovely bauble
Assumes the guise
Of that which is lost
Put away, until
Each impossibility is gone.


Celebrating in Style

The three of us went out last night, celebrating the passage of another year.

We had gift certificates that Tom bought back before the holidays for a significant discount.  So, there we were, at one of the most upscale restaurants in the city.  It was truly lovely.

The special last night was Chateaubriand with two Maine lobster tails.  It was a splurge, but since Tom and T hardly eat anything at all, we were able to share.  The sides were wonderful.  The meat was wonderful.  The lobster was heavenly.

We sat and chatted and got pampered and fussed over by Adam, our waiter.  We savored the truly delightful meal, and enjoyed one another's company.  It is unlikely we'll be able to be so extravagant very often, but it was a grand treat.  It was the nicest evening we've had in a long time.


Crone Conversation #3

Melly writes:  "Oh my god! I thought Viagra commercials were bad, but then I just saw a commercial for Osphena. Ewwwwwww!   I just really don't want anyone talking about the details of their sex life to me.   

Melly I understand that television commercials that advertise these types of products can be uncomfortable to watch.  That might be especially true when they are shown during "family programming" hours when young children and adolescents are present.  As a society, we tend to want to protect and shelter children from these kinds of realities.  It is a well-meant reaction.  But really, what is the issue here?  Can we really say that children who watch television in our world are really sheltered from the subject of sex? Isn't broadcast television completely saturated with sexual imagery and sexual advertising and sexual innuendo?  Look at the Dior commercials, or notoriously, Abercrombie and Fitch.  Dentyne Ice wants us to practice safe breath, and the Doublemint twins are still out there encouraging us to "double your pleasure, double your fun."  Too, the music industry sells sex with hardly a wink these days; the sort of thing that British singer, Annie Lennox called, "highly styled pornography with musical accompaniment."  From the endless antics of the Kardashians, to the almost ubiquitous trash television in the "Jersey Shore," and "Desperate Housewives" style, we are all awash in sex -- and that includes our children and teens.  So it seems to me that if that is the argument that you are trying to make here, it is pretty seriously disingenuous.  And besides, maybe our children don't need as much protecting as we think they do.  After all, around the globe, children deal with serious life issues far beyond what most of our "sheltered" American kids can even imagine.  That's not ideal, for sure, but it also points to the fact that our kids are probably more durable and resilient than we give them credit for.

Could it be, then, that you simply cannot fathom the fact that many, many people, male and female, live with sexual dysfunction that decreases their quality of life?  Those Viagra and Cialis commercials may be targeted to the guys, but the problem they are intended to treat is far from just a male problem.  Any woman who has ever lived in a relationship with a man who is experiencing erectile dysfunction will tell you that it is her problem, too.  Sex isn't all there is to love, not even close, but it isn't "nothing at all" either.  Sex is an expression of intimacy between partners, and when it is lost, that loss is real.

Menopause is the sexual wasteland to which women are exiled when their childbearing years are past.  It is a secret place that we never talk about.  Why is that?  Why do we teach our daughters about the beginnings of their lives as sexual beings, but then act as if the ending phase of life as a female is unspeakable?  It is so easy, when you are young and fresh, to believe that it will always be "that way;" that you will always be ready to go, that the sex will always be good (hot, juicy, mind-blowing, etc.).  It is unimaginable, in the flush of youth, that there will come a day when sex will be painful, frustrating, and a thousand kinds of difficult.  But, that is the reality for just about all of us.  

So, now, there is a pill that can be taken to treat one facet of the misery that is menopausal sexual dysfunction.  It is not without risks, but for some, it might be an answer to a problem that only seems insignificant to those who have not yet crossed that line.  How, exactly, do you think that the millions of women who suffer from painful intercourse after menopause will ever find out about this new, hopeful medical advance if it is never, ever advertised?  Their doctors won't tell them.  It won't be offered unless the question is asked directly and specifically.  Probably the consensus is that there is no need for women who can't reproduce to be having sex in the first place.  Or maybe the assumption is that old, menopausal women just don't have any use for sex.  Really?  

All the years of women's rights battles, and we are still here, believing that the only reason that women need to be sexual is to make babies.  All of our science and all of our learning, and we still somehow are convinced that good, old, garden-variety sex is somehow bad and wrong -- that some all powerful, Church Lady God in the sky has a problem with us enjoying sexual intimacy.  We are animals.  Sentient animals, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.  We are, because we are so "smart," probably the only animals who think that sex is anything other that what it is.  Admittedly, we are among the very few (we think) who engage in sex for pleasure and not purely reproductive reasons, but we are definitely the only animals who are convinced that sex is ever, somehow wrong.

Melly, I am glad that Osphena and Viagra and Cialis are available to help the aging members of our society remain sexually active even when some might think that is unseemly or "ewwwwwww."  I wish there were more options for us all.  I hope, Melly, that by the time you are old enough to face the problems associated with menopause, there will be plenty of choices available to you and your medical practitioners.  


What This Crone Thinks About -- Creepy Internet Guys

I am stepping out of my Crone Conversations motif just a bit.  Not much.  I could couch this in the form of a Crone Conversation, but to do that I would have to create a "creepy Internet guy" character to talk with.  And I am not willing to do that!

Some background:  I do participate on Fetlife.  I am pretty selective in where I enter the conversations.  I only add comments when I think I have something valid, and maybe valuable to add.  I also tend to look at how many comments have already been made on a discussion topic.  If the number is "too high," and I do not know what that number is exactly, I will probably pass.  I make my comment, and I leave it. I do not enter into arguments, and I try really hard not to be mean, nasty, provocative, judgmental, etc.  My profile is pretty simple and pretty plain.  It declares that I am in a relationship; that I am looking for friendship and events, and that I am polyamorous.  It also clearly indicates that I am 58 years old.  In less than a month, it will show that age to be 59.  There is ONE photo, which is a very close up shot of my eyes.  You might guess that I was smiling in that photo because you can see the laugh lines.  That's it!

I recently received a "friend request" from some guy who lives in my vicinity.  Not a neighbor, but not from across the continent either.  I looked at the profile and he looked like a person, so I accepted the request.  I'm not that into the friend thing one way or another, and I have no reason not to talk with folks that live nearby.  For the purposes of this piece, let's just call him "Creepy Internet Guy."

Last night, I was sitting watching the football game with Tom, and cruising down through the Fetlife discussions in my list.  Suddenly, my new "friend" was there, messaging me.  He immediately told me that he loved my photos, and wanted to get to know me better.  He was very familiar, calling me doll, and girly, and baby.  He was quick to suggest sexual activities that we might engage in.  When I indicated that I was not interested in meeting for casual sex, he questioned (in that butt hurt voice you can hear through the text), "Aren't you polyamorous."  When I explained that I was poly and in a long-standing, stable triad, he reiterated that he just wanted to play -- maybe some oral sex would interest me?  Gah!!!!!

It made me think about Melly, who must run into these characters all the time.  I'm pretty sure they are not only found on Fetlife -- or even just online.  She is young and attractive and relatively inexperienced -- not nearly 60 like me.  She lives in a world where there is a tendency to want to casually hookup.  I don't think that the casual hookup is necessarily a bad thing if that is what you want, but I wonder how often people skip all the preliminaries  -- the most rudimentary bits of getting acquainted, in favor of a quick, meaningless sexual romp?  How does Melly cope with these guys, and how does she feel about them and about herself in that context?  What lines does she draw for herself?  What are her expectations and her goals in terms of intimacy and relationship?  Does she know that?

The short online exchange made me think about Joan in her nice, safe marriage.  I wonder if she ever encounters this kind of thing?  I don't think she probably does.  Marriage can act as a fortress and a shield.  I bet Joan would think my Creepy Internet Guy was gross and disgusting, but I imagine she might figure that I opened myself up, and somehow deserved his creepy advances.  Probably most middle class, educated, socially mainstream folks would agree with her.  After all, the guy must have had some reason to believe that his overtures would be welcomed -- right?  Single woman, in an alternative lifestyle, with an avowed willingness to love in unusual ways, with no visible male defender...  yeah, I suppose I look "available" by some measures.

I'm not certain what to think about my online pursuer.  Desperate?  That seems pretty likely to be true.  What on Earth would cause you to think that making crass advances to someone you have NEVER met, or even spoken with, is the approach that is going to work for you?  Insecure?  That could be too.  Maybe my "friend" hasn't got the social acumen to enter into a conversation in the sort of usual way; exchange some information; engage in a conversation long enough to establish some kind of rapport and sense of connection before suggesting physical intimacies.  Maybe he is just not comfortable enough to believe that, if he let me get to know him first, I'd still talk to him, let alone fuck him.  Maybe he figures that I am the desperate one.  After all, I am an OLD woman in a culture that values youth and beauty above all else.  Maybe he equates "polyamourous" with "promiscuous," and figures that the willingness and ability to love more than one person at a time means that I have no standards and no expectations for those lovers.

Who knows?  I think I have come away with more questions than answers.  I'm not angry or even offended.  Bemused, maybe.  How is it that we can have come so far toward greater acceptance and tolerance for one another, and still hold on to so many weird and antiquated ideas?  What an odd, odd set of circumstances.

For the record, I made it clear that I do not play casually, and that I was not looking for a hookup.  With that information, my "friend" vanished into the night and hasn't been seen or heard from since.  I am pretty certain  he is off seeking easier prey.  I wish him good hunting.  


Crone Conversations #3

My Melly is a very fine adjunct to this particular sort of writing, but I am finding that I need at least one more partner who can ask the questions that Melly is not yet experienced enough to even think about.  So, I am introducing Joan.  Joan is older.  She may be close to my age; a peer, perhaps a colleague.  Joan has a long standing marriage and grown children.  Her life is comfortable and secure, but not very interesting.  She goes out with her family and friends regularly.  She entertains in her lovely, well-appointed home.  She is living "the dream."  To me, she seems tense, frustrated, ever engaged in maintaining the illusion.  She is faithful to her husband, and it seems likely that he is, likewise, faithful to her.  They celebrate the annual date of their marriage with the customary fancy dinner and evening out, but I have the sense that there is no passion, no joy, no real satisfaction in it all for either of them beyond the social approbation that derives from long lasting marriages.  Joan is a proper lady, raised in a God-fearing Irish Catholic family; a product of Catholic schools, and an obedient subject of the Pope.  Joan thinks I might be what I appear to be -- a lonely, divorced, teacher lady, but she isn't really certain, and she fears that I might be entirely other than that...  If I could talk openly with Joan, and tell her what I really think, and how I really live, she would be shocked, but probably fascinated too.  Here, with Joan, I will have the open conversations that cannot reasonably happen in my "real life."

"We've known each other for over eight years," says Joan, "and I really don't know anything at all about your life outside of work.  Who are you really?"

Joan, I keep my private life private, and as you have surmised, there are reasons for that.  My world outside of work is really not as bland and featureless as I try to paint it.  Sharing my inner world with people on the outside is just too risky, and so I do not do it.  I like you.  I've shared your many joys and sorrows over the years, and cheered for the good things in your life. You have assured me that you are willing to listen to what I have to say; to reserve judgment; and to keep what I tell you in confidence.  I am trusting you, then, with my life.

Joan, the who are you really question is, simultaneously, very simple, and quite complex.  The simple answer is that I am an adult, capable of making my own choices, and fixing/living with my own mistakes.  In that, I'm really no different than you, or nearly all the other grownup people that I know.

What makes the answer to your question more complicated is that, at nearly every turn, I've made choices that are different than the ones you (and most other women our age) have made.  I don't think I set out to do it all differently, but it seems I tend to do exactly that.  So, maybe the beginning answer to your question is that I am likely to be something other than what seems normal and expected.

When you graduated from high school and went off to college, you majored in English and graduated in four years with a teaching degree.  You met your future husband, found a teaching job, married, and started a family.  You raised your wonderful kids to be good, solid, god-fearing citizens, and all the while, you worked to teach other people's kids how to read and write and spell.  You and your husband have had your ups and downs.  I know. You haven't shared details, but I know it hasn't always been smooth sailing for you two.  He seems like a good guy, and you two have made a good life, but I hear how you talk about him.  He is your life partner, but he isn't the "love of your life."  I know that you would, generally, prefer to spend time with your sisters or your girl friends than with this man to whom you have been married for nearly 40 years.  To me, your "successful" marriage is a puzzle.  I can see what it is, but I cannot understand why you choose to keep doing it. Perhaps that will help you understand a little bit of what I have done with my life.

Like you, I graduated from high school with good grades and a sense that I could do anything.  I wanted to go to teaching college (or maybe off to the Peace Corps, but my father would not allow that.  He insisted that I go to engineering school.  He was quite sure that for me to spend my life teaching would be a waste.  So, I went off to engineering college, to study geological engineering.  I was, for the two years I was there, one of only a very few female students.  We were vastly outnumbered, and learned how to cope as a sexual minority in an overtly hostile environment.  Like you, I met my future husband there, at college.  Like you, I was committed to practicing my childhood faith all the way through my college years.

I was so naive.  I'd never been away from home; never had a date; never been kissed; never been to a dance, or even a boy-girl party.  Away from my very strict parents' home for the first time in my life, I found that I had way more questions than answers, and intense sexual urges and drives that the "good sisters" never warned me about in all of those religion classes.  When the man that I would eventually marry pressed me to have sex with him, I found I didn't have any good response to that beyond what I'd been told in church -- "It's a sin" just didn't seem to cut it (for me or for him).  To tell you the truth, I couldn't figure out why something that we both wanted so desperately, that felt so "right" in the event, was something that the "god" who supposedly created both of us -- and the sexual intimacies in question, should have a problem with.  The logical, rational, scientific bent of my thought process just couldn't work its way through that paradox.

Becoming sexually active was something that I jumped into with abandon and great joy.  I loved sex from the very beginning.  There was never one single moment where I felt that it was bad, and I never regretted the choice.  Not once.  Of course, I did get caught by the naivety thing.  I knew that sex could lead to pregnancy, but I had no clue how to prevent that possibility.  That information was not taught in my Catholic school, and it was never discussed by my parents.  I had NO information, and if the boy-man that I was fucking had a clue, he never let on.  It wasn't very long at all before, inevitably, naturally, I was pregnant.  Given everything I'd been taught, the only thing I knew was to marry him.  Which I did -- As quickly as I could.  It was a huge mistake for us both, and in the end, for our two kids.

What I found out, Joan, was that all that sexual energy; all the desires; and the dark fantasies stayed with me. Marriage did not change me, and the years of my marriage were a long, frustrating struggle between my very ordinary, very straight-lace, very unimaginative husband ... and me.  I didn't manage to make him happy, and he could not make me happy -- not without betraying everything he was.  The marriage was a dark, dismal descent into despair and self-hatred for me.  For him?  I can't say, but I know it wasn't a good thing.  All of the stories I'd been told throughout my whole childhood and adolescence; every single thing I'd been taught about life and love and sex and being female; all of it turned out to be a lie -- at least as it played out in my life.  And it wasn't his fault, or mine.  Neither of us knew what we were walking into.  We believed the fairy tales we'd been given, and we had no idea that our own story had no relationship at all to those stories.  None.

It took me years and years; nearly three decades, to know that I could choose differently.  One day, Joan, I opted out of that marriage and into a life that I'd only vaguely imagined possible for all those years and years and years.  I chose to align myself with a partner who had sexual and erotic needs and drives that were a close match to my own, and not at all like what the fairy tale stories promised.  I chose to commit myself to a relational style that allowed for a model that was other than the one man and one woman, married for life, happily ever after, church-sanctioned, sacramental, expected social contract style of marriage that was the only model I'd ever known for adult love and sexual relatedness.  It was exciting and scary all at once, and the path I've followed has been far from smooth or easy.

No matter how difficult it has been however, I have never wanted to turn around and retrace my steps back into a life that looks like yours.  I am glad that your choices work for you and your family, but I know in my heart that that life is not for me.  So, when you discuss your wedding anniversary, or your family Thanksgiving dinner, or the weekend gatherings of family members for football or baseball, I am reduced to silence.  It isn't that those events don't happen in my life.  Well, OK, no wedding anniversaries...  but there are plenty of events and celebrations and signpost moments, but most of them happen very privately.  I can't announce and invite the outside world inside for my important moments, because most of the outside world will react with shock and horror.  Letting my life be seen puts me at risk.  Because I choose to construct my relationships differently from most; because I have sexual appetites that are viewed as different (at best), and perverse (at worst), I am liable to be subject to persecution, discrimination, and social ostracism.

Some days, I long to be able to be open and easy and secure in my life and my choices.  There are days when I envy you -- not for your so called normal marriage, but for the fact that you can have it and live it freely and openly and without fear of the judgement of strangers.  I cannot imagine the pure joy that would be.

There's more, of course.  Lots more.  We will talk again, and tell more of the story.


Crone Conversations #2

Melly asks:  "Everyone of my friends is falling in love.  It all seemed really plain when we were all in love with Justin Bieber, but I feel like I should be more mature now.  How do I know when I'm really in love?"

Melly, you are a young woman with amazing wisdom.  Even asking this question shows the quality of the inner voice with which you have been gifted.  If it all seems more complicated than you thought it was when you were a young teenager, that might be because it really is.

The hard part about this is that you will, throughout your lifetime, experience this feeling of caring deeply for another person (love), and you will also experience the feeling of very strong physical attraction to another person (lust or sex).  You have been taught that love is good and sex is (at least in most circumstances) bad.  That is simply wrong. You might love the way your mother's spaghetti sauce fills the house with wonderful smells, and also feel terribly hungry if you haven't eaten in awhile.  The two responses are both parts of the same thing, and neither of them is good or bad.

You will, for the next several decades, experience physical drives that are, at their root, part of our natural drive to reproduce as a species.  You will run into some attractive person, and you will be strongly drawn to them.  You may call this set of feelings, "falling in love," and it may be the beginnings of that.  However, it may also be quite simply that the person in your view is HOT.  You won't think about it.  In fact, thinking about it may just make it all worse.  In the throes of sexual attraction, your thinking skills are not at their best.  Your entire body is wired to respond sexually.  Every muscle, nerve, and skin cell is going to pull you toward the object of attraction.  Your body is going to be flooded with hormones, all priming you for the act of reproduction.  You are going to want that other person every minute of every day with every fiber of your being.  It is the way that it is supposed to work.  It is not a bad thing.  It is what keeps our species going; the same exact force that keeps all species going on this planet.  And if the other half of the equation sees you as attractive too, then those same drives are going to be at work for him as well.

We tend, as adults, to protect children and young adolescents from the realities of sex.  Oh, we put it on display everywhere -- movies, music, advertising, but we send our children the message that they are not inherently sexual beings, and we tell them that sex is only acceptable inside of very carefully defined and restrictive parameters.  We've gotten to be a very modern and free-thinking people except when it comes to sex, and especially when it comes to women and sex.  There, we still insist that the only right way to enjoy sex is inside of the ceremonial, legal, social institution of marriage, and then, only in very limited and constrained ways.  We lie to our young people, and especially our daughters, and tell them that sex is bad, and that the only reason to have sex is to have children.  It isn't so.  There are plenty of humans, and it is likely that there will be plenty of humans going forward.  Like your mother's spaghetti sauce, there are many levels of enjoyment to be had from your capacity to be sexual.

The princess paradigms; fairy tale stories of white knights and charming princes who will one day ride into your life with roses and chocolates and make everything magically wonderful are lies.  Melly, in the realm of human relatedness, there are no princes or knights, and you are only partly the princess aspect of yourself.  Do not fall for the fairy tale.  Live your life as fully as you may, and that includes the sexual part of your life.  No less than any young man, you are entitled to explore and enjoy your sexuality.  When you believe you are falling in love, and when that overwhelming urge to give yourself fully to someone leads you to want to be sexual, it is fine.  Explore.  Protect yourself as necessary.  Avoid diseases and abusers and unwanted pregnancies, but explore.  You need not make a lifetime commitment in order to enjoy your own sexual nature.  You do not have to bear a child because you chose to indulge that part of your humanness.  You do not have to choose only those partners that fit the stereotypical Barbie and Ken models we set before you.

Falling in love, happens when it does.  Better to have met lots of people and discovered what you like and don't like.  When we wrap love and sex up together, as if they were one thing, we up the ante terribly.  We force choices that may not be good for the long haul.  We encourage early pairing before people have had a chance to learn and grow and discern their own natures and their own desires.  "Saving it for marriage," may sound like a wholesome idea, but the fact is that your sexual drives will make that very difficult.  And if that social rule, and all that goes with it, creates needless pressure to choose a mate before you are ready, there is a very real chance that you will choose badly.

Be brave and strong.  Know your own heart and your own mind.  The world is not always kind to women who choose paths different from the accepted norms.  You will find that some will judge you harshly.  Do not listen to them.  You are good and whole and beautiful.  Your body is your possession, as is your heart.  You do not apologize for eating or sleeping or dancing or breathing.  Neither should you apologize for the sensual pleasures that you allow yourself, or for enjoying a wide and varied world of those pleasures.  There is no right or wrong way to be a sexual being.  Do not harm yourself, and do not harm others.  That should be your guiding principle.  It is as simple as that.  Really live.


Crone Conversations #1

Having taken on, albeit reluctantly, this role of "crone," it seems appropriate to begin to speak in that voice.  I think that, for awhile at least, I will write here as if I were having a conversation.  I want to find a place for all the "old woman" advice I seem to overflow with these days, and I know that there is no place for it in other social outlets like Facebook or Fetlife.  Facebook is a place where I try to keep my presence very vanilla, and Fetlife is just not likely to be a venue where anyone wants to hear what I've learned in these fifty-eight years.

So, I intend to write as if I were in conversation with a young friend.  The young woman that I envision on the other end of what is coming next, is a composite creature who exists only in my own mind.  I have begun to call her, Melly.  Melly is at the threshold of her adult life.  She is full of promise.  She grew to this point in a loving family, with a wise mother and an adoring father, and a sister five years her senior.  Melly is a bright young woman with average looks, and she is smart enough to know just how far she falls from the genetic superstar women who are paraded in front of her every single day.  She worries and frets and fusses that she might never be pretty enough or sexy enough or good enough.  She sings, and she has a lovely, strong, warm voice full of character.  She may never be a rock star, but the music flows from her with great joy.  She is full of curiosity, wanting to know about the theater and the sciences and the great big questions of life.  She has a heart full of compassion for all those who suffer and want in her world.  If she could, she would make sure that every girl, everywhere, had the right to be educated.  She would feed every hungry mouth.  She would put an end to violence and bloodshed.  In Melly's world, there would be no war, no torture, no persecution, no discrimination, no hatred.  She is not me, and she is not my daughter.  I wish I'd been her, and I wish that, when I was where she is now, I had found someone like me to talk with.  Melly allows me the luxury of framing the questions that I will attempt to answer here.

Melly wonders:  How will it affect and influence my life that I was born a woman and not a man?

Your woman's body is a vehicle and a frame and a shelter for your woman's soul.  It is strong and dark and tender and mysterious.  You already know much of what your wonderful woman's body can do.  You have danced and played volleyball and painted theater sets and sent music soaring into the hearts of all who have heard you.  You have laughed and cried with your friends.  You have followed the imaginings of your heart, enjoying a young woman's dreams, experimenting with what it means to "fall in love," and move on from that place.  You are as able as any man; which is not to say that there are not things that are uniquely part of living as a female person in our world.

There are lots of people who will attempt to force you to meet their expectations.  From parents and siblings to classmates and colleagues; from friends to lovers; from the media to the government to the religious establishment; you are going to find yourself told who to be and how to be.  Listen to your own good heart and follow your own path.  That is probably the hardest thing you will need to do from this point forward.  No matter what anyone tells you, you will know what is the best thing for you.  If you get confused, and make a mistake, don't be afraid to turn around and take another path.  Whatever path you follow, be aware of the point where path turns into rut.  If the way you are going begins to feel like it is no longer the way you would choose, then stop and consider carefully.  There is something scary about taking off in a totally new and unknown direction, but the seemingly safe and comfortable way is not always a good thing.

Define yourself for yourself.  Don't let the expectations of the outside turn into "musts" and "shoulds" for you.  In spite of all that has changed for women in our society, there is still a very entrenched social "norm" for the trajectory of women's lives.  The society around you still believes that you will not be a "complete" woman until you marry and have children.  Horse feathers!  You are complete exactly as you are.  You may choose to love in whatever way you feel works for you.  Do not allow your sexuality to be co-opted into some sort of fairy tale princess fantasy that has nothing to do with who you really are.  Ignore the labels that force you off your own path.  You may, in time, choose traditional marriage.  If you do, I hope that is a wonderful and fulfilling way for you to live your dreams.  However, I want you to know that it is not true that you MUST marry in the traditional sense.  You may find that you love more widely.  You may find that you are happier with more loosely defined relationships.  You may find that you need more autonomy and freedom than the role of "wife" affords you.  There are choices that you can make, and each one of them can lead you to a life that makes you happy and fulfills your needs.  It is also not true that every woman born on this Earth is destined to become a mother, or that motherhood is necessarily the highest and best calling for you.  Being "mom" to another human being is an awesome undertaking, and not one that is easy or guaranteed to bring you happiness.  And, whatever anyone else may tell you, you can choose to be sexual without agreeing to bear a child as a result.  The life that you are responsible for is yours.

Find work that you love.  Find work that allows you to create.  Find work that feeds you beyond the money it may provide you.  Do not allow gender labels to define what you can do, and what you cannot do.  Generations of men and women before you worked and struggled to break down barriers for you.  Any that remain, are yours to tackle for those who will follow you.  Teach or build or heal or sing or wander as you will.  Live every single day that you are given as fully as you can.

The person that you are has value far beyond the body that you were born into.  Never look into the mirror and see only the surface.  The body that you wear each day will grow and change and age and decline and, one day, die.  The scars and diminishments that are an inevitable result of living over time show up on your surface, but the person inside goes on growing and learning and living and loving.  When your young woman's freshness dims; when your skin wrinkles and sags; when the curves that are now your adornment fall to lumps and rolls of tired flesh; when your sight dims and your hearing falters; when you find you can no longer dance and leap; remember who you really are.  Hold onto your joy and your bravery and your hope.

Learn.  Never stop learning.  Every new sunrise will bring new lessons and new adventures.  Take it all in.  See what there is there of interest.  Be fascinated and enchanted and amazed by each new thing.  From the moment you opened your eyes in this life of yours, you have learned.  You spoke the sounds you learned, you walked the steps you learned. you sang the notes you learned, you traveled the world you learned.  Do that.  Just that.  Everyday of your life.  Being female changes nothing if you learn.  Being female changes nothing if you live.  Really live.