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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

I’m considering applying for a fellowship with a magazine I’ve been reading since I was fifteen, trying to figure out which category to apply under. I generally write about feelings and relationships and mental health and other emo stuff like that. The closest category I can apply under is “Pop-culture Criticism”. I say to the group of people sitting in my living room, “I need a topic to write about. Think ‘Pop-culture Criticism’”.  
“Why don’t you write about us?” she says.
I say she, because I don’t know what to refer to her as. We’ve jokingly referred to each other as our “girlfriend”, but is she my girlfriend? I’ve had sex with her twice, we talk every day and hang out almost every day. She comes over and makes me dinner while I’m at a fundraising committee meeting, and then sits close to me. She told her mom about “us”. She refers to “us”.
“That’s actually a really good idea,” my partner says, after a three second moment of silence.
My partner and I have been together for almost eight years- literally my entire adult life. We have a punk rock love story for the ages, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that this dude is the love of my life. We’ve grown together, and we want the same things for our future. I don’t feel held back, instead, I feel safe and grounded in our relationship. 
I think about it: I could write something about romantic/platonic/intimate relationships that differ from typical monogamous (and polyamorous, for that matter) relationships. I could write something about consent and communication in relationships in the context of this…thing we have going on. I could write about navigating jealousy. I could write about the body feels or gender feels this has brought up for me. I could write about feeling like I’m living the bisexual dream- and about feeling conflicted about the fact that I even feel that way. I could write about exploring my sexuality for the first time in my adult life. I could write about how vulnerable I’m making myself by writing about this whole Thing.
And then I realized that I don’t even know what to refer to her as. Maybe I better stick to writing about the whole process and touching on each of those things for now. This whole Thing is still so fresh, and, worst case, what if I screw it all up because of something I write and it puts an end to it all!?

Two years ago, I met a girl through community theatre who I thought was a total babe. We became close friends and periodically flirted, even sexted. I shared the sexts with my partner, and we flirted in front of him. He was into it. I also made sure that she realized that I was sharing our flirtation with my partner. She was into that. I tried to hint that I’d like to sleep with her, but when she found out that the deal my partner and I had established was that I could have sex with other women when he was involved, she never acted on anything.

Then, one night, she and I went for a walk to catch Pokemon (don’t judge us), and we found ourselves down by the beach. We walked along the beach, and just as we were about to head back into town, she said, “I want to talk to you about something. I’ve been having feelings for you…” and then she kissed me. Right there, under the stars, on the beach. I followed that with something like, “hold on, I need a smoke”.

I lit a cigarette, and she told me that she had discussed her feelings with my partner, who had told her that he thought I would likely be receptive to her initiating something between us. He was right. He also told her that she and I could discuss what capacity we were comfortable with having him involved in. We discussed some specific boundaries and what we were both looking for, as we walked back towards my apartment. I texted my partner: “hey, are you down to have sex with _____ with me?”. He texted back: “hell yeah”. We got back to my place, and the three of us discussed our specific boundaries and committed to open communication, regardless of what happened from there. Then, I said, “sooo are we gonna go to the bedroom or not?”, and we all got up and practically ran to the bedroom.

It felt like being 14 in that I was nervous but SO excited. I’ll spare you the details, but it was awesome. After, we checked in,  smoked a couple joints, and she went home. Since then, we’ve spent almost every day together, and had sex a second time. It was even better the second time, and it’s looking like this is going to be an ongoing thing. She and my partner are friends, but, believe it not, they’re both really into ME. How freakin’ neat is that!?

The things that have come up because of this Thing are interesting, and even a little bit surprising for me. First of all, I never thought I would feel comfortable having a third person share the intimacy that my partner and I share. I guess I’m lightening up… learning to enjoy myself for the sake of enjoying myself. Feel good for the sake of feeling good. She makes me feel good, and so does my partner.

It feels really good to take things slow and redefine a friend relationship into something that doesn’t even really have a name. It feels really good to share this experience with my partner, and bring a whole new level of communication, trust, and intimacy to our relationship. It feels really good to explore my gender and my sexuality. It feels really good to feel queer (not that I haven’t always been queer, but it feels different to be in an intimate relationship with another woman after being exclusively with a cis man for so long). It feels really good to confront body image issues I have. It feels really good to confront the way that my gender is tied in with those body image issues, and that those body image issues are just the tip of the gender-shit iceberg. It feels really good to heal alongside another woman- one who I think is beautiful, and caring, and fun. It feels really good to let my partner witness and engage with this entire process. This Thing feels really good in general.

I can’t wait to continue exploring this process, and to find the language to describe this Thing. I’m also looking forward to navigating the bridges we will, inevitably have to cross, such as: to what extent are each of us/will each of us become emotionally involved? How sustainable is this Thing? What happens when she meets someone and wants to be in a relationship with them? How will this change our friendship in the long run? How will this change the way each of us are in relationships moving forward?

I think that, as long as we all remain committed to communicating honestly and openly, the possibilities are endless. And, if nothing else, this is a Thing that feels good.

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