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I have just returned from Burning Man — the huge arts festival in the Nevada desert that is part rave, part experimental community, and part Mad Max Movie,. This was my fourteenth time attending. But a friend of mine, whom I’ll call Sean, went for his first time, and his Burner “virginity” went out in a blaze of glory, and not just in a sexual sense.

I recently met Sean, and within minutes of talking I found out he was going to Burning Man and it was as if we were meant to meet. I also learned that he originally planned to go with his boyfriend, but after they broke up, he decided to go anyway. In fact, he used Burning Man to really embrace his autonomy. Hearing some of his history, it sounded like he was almost never single, that he had a string of boyfriends one after another as far back as he could remember.

There’s a belief in our society that it’s probably best to “sow your wild oats” for a time, but eventually you should settle down and find a good “solid relationship.” Perhaps this is true, but I have seen all kinds of relationships work all kinds of ways.

In terms of my friend, Sean felt in many ways that he was sort of never enough. Not that his boyfriends believed him to be “less than,” but that Sean believed he was not complete without being in a relationship. Certainly there are plenty of people who believe just that, songs are composed, and movies filmed stating just that — that we are half of a whole until we find our “soulmate.” If this is the case, then there are a lot of people who are incomplete, and they’ve never found their other halves.

Yet for Sean, it was just great to be enough for a change. He wasn’t dependent on anyone but himself. Heck, I hardly saw him while we were there because he was out on another adventure, one right after another. Ideally he could do all of this with a boyfriend at his side, but there could be just as many ways he might have been held back, too.

Drawing from personal experience, I have gained a great sense of deep satisfaction from taking some time on my own to learn to be fully responsible for my contentment without having to subdivide my attention with the needs of another person. Growing up, it was not easy to hear my own soul’s subtle voice while the crosstalk of others needs was distorting my hearing. It wasn’t until late into my twenties (and after a lot of therapy) before I could sort out my own personality from all the other input my parents, the church and society heaped on me.

I guess that’s why I personally believe that it may be best to take some time to go solo before you commit to a potentially life-long relationship, not just to “sow your wild oats,” but to really have a clear idea of what makes you a unique person. Learn to know what it feels like to be enough, and to be content as you are. Then, from that sense of peace you can contribute to another person’s life in relationship, rather than constantly feeling you aren’t enough unless your partner contributes to you. It certainly was beautiful to watch Sean blossom, love himself, and want for nothing.

I think that’s what made Sean so very attractive to the hot, twenty-something stripper that humped his leg for a day or two. Oh no, flying solo does not mean you have to be celibate. Sean was strong, confident, clear in himself, happy and wide-eyed. He could have a sexual adventure without it destabilizing who he was as a content person. Very sexy indeed, and more than enough!

(originally published in Pulp Magazine 9/29/11)

1 Comment

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