It felt like an eternity between the day I bought my conference ticket and the day I got on the plane to The Open SF Conference in San Francisco. There were lots of experiences along the way that changed the dynamic of the weekend. I had been writing for the website, interacting with the cast online, had developed a close online relationship with Cooper and started to gain more followers on twitter. I would be going to Open SF not as a passive observer and a fan but as a more active participant. It took a great deal of effort to go into the weekend with no expectations.
I had an amazing series of experiences within the first 10 hours of touching down in SFO. The fear that Cooper and I would not connect in person quickly dissipated within seconds of meeting. The irrational fear I had that the rest of the cast wouldn’t like me was swept away when they accepted me with open arms. In retrospect those fears seem so silly and insecure but is often the way my mind works. There was something mind boggling about going from reading my first Life on the Swingset article a year and a half ago to the reality of meeting them in person.
I also had two monumental firsts. I had sex with someone other than my husband for the first time in 20 years and had a BDSM session with an experienced Dom that nearly brought me to orgasm.
And I hadn’t even been to a single session yet!
The conference itself was a not stop roller coaster ride. I took away something life altering from nearly every session. I learned from sessions with people I had long followed online like Charlie Glickman, Tristan Taormino and Cunning Minx. I also went to fun sessions that helped with everything from saving money while poly to learning to over come shyness when trying to meet knew people. At the same time I was learning to open myself up to people and think of things in a new way. I can also say I was at the first ever live podcast of “Life on the Swingset.”
I had a few freak out moments when the security of familiar faces went away and I was reintroduced to that familiar feeling of isolation. Finding the strength to overcome shyness sometimes got the best of me. I also found I had to deal with feelings I hadn’t expected. There were times I worried I wasn’t handling things well. In retrospect I was able to get through these moments. I made new friends, had wonderful intimate connections and spoke confidently to many people.
There were so many interesting conversations. Large groups would meet in the lobby and forums were still alive with discussion online. I found many people all on a similar path that took great comfort in knowing they were not alone in their journey. We were called to action to unite disparate camps and to be as open as you possible could. We were not only learning how to deal with jealousy or power structures. We were learning how to respect each other as a community that approached non-monogamy in their own way, to work together to fight the standard narrative and grow as activists and educators.
Leaving the cocoon of the golden bubble was heartbreaking. I had been hugged, kissed, accepted and cared for by more people in that weekend than I had in my entire life. I also had to say goodbye to Cooper, which was harder than expected. The feeling of freedom and inclusion was going to go away once I got on that plane. The come down was devastating.
Unfortunately, I started on an emotional tailspin the minute I left the hotel. I knew once I landed at LAX I would be returning to the conservative suburban world and would have to work hard to recreate the feelings from the weekend. Putting on the mommy uniform and sitting with people I had nothing in common with further magnified my sense of loss and isolation. I was also learning what a bitch NRE could be. I cried for days. The intense feelings I was having made it harder to reconnect with my husband at home.
I wound up clogging the timeline with my meltdown while trying to figure out why I was experiencing such sadness. Unfortunately, resuming internet only interaction made the virtual connections seem empty. Thankfully the Twitter-verse opened its arms and sent much love and support during my struggle. Several long chats showed me that I was not the only one going through a post OpenSF decompression. I had a long chat with Cooper and an eye opening chat with the amazing Shira B. Katz. I was reminded that I had experienced change on a MASSIVE scale this weekend. I had far more successes than failures and that I was loved and appreciated by everyone.
In the end, my transformation was less like a butterfly’s emergence from a chrysalis and more like William Hurt’s last transformation in Altered States. What I got out of this experience was the realization that I had to work harder to meet new people and develop community here locally. I look forward to new learning experiences, opportunities to grow and continuing to help the show and website. I can only hope by sharing my stories that people will take something they can use from my experiences.
This journey has been more than just about being open and it all started with a Twitter account I opened to cyber stalk rock stars. Thanks to Pepper Mint for taking on the daunting task of putting OpenSF together, the LOTSS cast for allowing me to join them on the Swingset, Dylan for being there when I was struggling, Shira for taking the time to show me how to appreciate my experiences and how much I’ve grown and all my wonderful Con and online friends for their love and support. I also want to thank the awesome and sexy Cooper Becket for his encouragement, guidance and friendship.
I identify as swinger, open, poly and kinky and I am furiously happy about it.