Hey Swatties, in this column I’m conducting a casual interview of one of our campus’ up-and-coming radio-show host-duos, A-lass. Although you can come see them celebrate girl power and blast some tunes at 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays in WSRN, for now I’ll be talking to them about love, sex and relationships.
Tom: Hi A-Lass… So I guess to start things off, what have you got to say about love?
Nora: I think what we have is love.
Tom: Of course. In your radio show, you preach about the importance of introspection in order to maintain a healthy approach to relationships. Is this something you feel like you regularly apply to your own lives?
Michaela: I think it’s a constant work in progress. We have ebbs and flows. The trajectory of my self-esteem is somewhat like a sine curve, undulating from day to day. You know, sometimes I have my lows, sometimes I have my highs… But I would say that I live my life trying to be grateful of the love I receive whenever and from whomever it may come.
Tom: Pets are enough.
Michaela: The woodland creatures are enough.
Nora: I would like to second Michaela, we are constantly traversing stump filled woodland paths and the goal is really to just try and get over them, day by day.
Tom: See, but what does A-lass have to say to lounging in the moss, off the woodland path.
Michaela: You know, I say I really relate to moss, in that it’s always there, it’s resilient, it grows in the rough, dark places, it prefers the rough, dark places. I would say that at Swarthmore you’ve gotta survive where you can.
Tom: Whether it be on a tree trunk or slaving away in McCabe basement.
Nora: I would like to add that lounging on the moss is so important. We are on this path of discovery but straying off the path that is laid out before us can be an important way of resting, finding a center and listening to what our surroundings are telling us about where we need to be with our minds, bodies and souls.
Tom: Ok A-lass, so I’ve been having a lot of issues in my life trying to figure out the ways in which my expectations from a relationship are going to differ from the reality of it. Have you guys ever experienced this?
Michaela: Well honestly, I find myself often being too goal oriented in terms of everything in my life. I see myself on a trajectory and I feel like there are these certain benchmarks I have to hit within a certain time frame, and it doesn’t allow things to develop organically. That said, I think it’s very important to realize that your needs are also important, so if you don’t feel like they’re being met, it’s important to communicate that; I think it’s all about balance.
Tom: I feel you, but don’t you ever feel like there’s some sort of disenchantment that sometimes occurs?
Nora: I totally agree that there is this process of reconciling your ideal with the reality of your situation or relationship, but I think this provides room for growth and fulfilment. I think that it’s important in a relationship to meet your own needs and learn how to ask for what you want, and have the courage to reject something that is actually unfulfilling. It can be so difficult to determine whether something is unfulfilling because you have unrealistic expectations or because you’re not being treated fairly. That’s a really difficult divide to navigate.
Michaela: Yeah, and I feel like it’s important also to remember that your particular romantic relationship is not the only source of support that you have. You have a lot of networks of support open to you. You know, when I was in High School I read Emerson’s “On Self Reliance”, and I thought like “this is it, I create my own universe, all I need is myself.” Admittedly, it was coming from a really unhappy, unhealthy place. What I’ve realized since coming to Swarthmore, is that needing to draw on networks of support doesn’t mean that you’re weak or that you’re somehow deficient, but it’s the human condition.
Tom: I completely agree. That was so real.
Nora: So real.
Nora: On that note, something that I think is really relevant on this small campus is that finding alone time is something that needs to be done purposefully. I want to advocate for that not as a contradiction to the importance of relying on your friends, because I think it serves a very different purpose: spending time alone is an important way of solidifying the ways in which you can use the support of those around you effectively. We can learn how we perceive ourselves and others.
Michaela: Yeah, I would say that if you can’t be alone with yourself you’re in trouble. Sometimes I hate being alone just because I don’t like the person I am alone. I think that’s pretty problematic.
Tom: But in this instance, my first instinct is to quote Rupaul, and say: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else can I get an Amen up in here?”
Tom: I think there’s a lot to that, but in my experience there was a point in my life where I was craving the idea of a boyfriend. I’d been told on all fronts that it was something I should have and I bought into that completely. It was only once I learned that I could have fun alone with a glass of wine and a book that I viewed having a partner in a healthy way. I feel like it comes down to realising that when you say “I love you”, it isn’t the process of introspection involved with the “I” that’s important but it’s the respect and fascination you have for the other party.
Nora: I totally feel you on that one. A friend once told me that once every new relationship began, she looked back on previous ones and thought “that couldn’t really have been love, this is the real thing.” She then thought about it more and realized what an absurd judgment that is to make. The fact of the matter is that every relationship is different. I think it is important to try and realize the value in these different things.
Tom: And to move onto different things A-lass, what do you think it is that makes a sexually satisfying relationship?
Nora: I think communication?
Michaela: Yeah, I was about to say…
Nora: I know it sounds like such a classic but it’s so hard to do! It’s hard to ask for what you want in so many ways, there’s so much embarrassment…
Tom: Yeah, like telling the guy “my bad but… that’s not working, do something else.”
Michaela: I think this raises a lot of questions about valuing the self in the dynamic, and realizing that if its a healthy relationship you want to be making each other happy in the sexual experience.Try not having a clear picture of what you think sex should even look like. Even listening to your friends talk about sexual experiences, you basically have the scene written before it even happens. That’s not how our bodies, minds and emotions work. If you don’t feel like you look like a pornstar doing something, that’s totally fine.
Tom: Do you believe that though?
Michaela: So Tom is pointing out to me that I don’t always embody these things that I preach, and you know what, I’m gonna fucking own up to that: I don’t. I often would like to look like a pornstar, but is that gonna happen? No! But you know what? I’m me, I do what I can and I think it’s a gradual process for me. Every time I’m with someone new, I need to teach myself how to revalue myself within the relationship and how to love myself within that relationship. And it isn’t always easy.
Tom: I’m so in awe of the fact you’re sharing this on air.
Michaela: Ayy, come at me boys now! You want it? You want it?
Tom: I’m probably going to say something worse now. I was once in a relationship where for various reasons me and my partner were not having anal sex, which is the all or nothing of gay male relationships. I originally had a lot of guilt about this. It was a real learning curve to realize that that aspect of the sexual relationship is not necessary. It sounds obvious that what sexual acts are prioritized is just a social construct, but it was only through this experience that I realized this. Me and my partner can both have a great fuck without needing to compromise my…
Tom: A-lass, you understand so much.