Compartments and Closets and Circles, Oh My!

Ever since I read Thumper’s post about compartments and closets, I’ve been thinking about my own version of it. I’ve come to some surprising realizations.

For years, I described my life as a sort of Venn Diagram. I had a circle for family, a circle for close friends, a circle for co-workers, a circle for casual friends. I say sort of, because technically, I preferred that it wasn’t a Venn at all. Whenever one circle would overlap with another, it felt like my worlds were colliding. I would get a little anxious. I would worry that someone from one circle would say something to someone from another circle that I didn’t want to share. It was exhausting.

These circles started to a certain extent while I was at university. I wanted to keep stories of my personal escapades from co-workers and family. They didn’t need to know how much I drank, who I was fucking or that I had two fuck buddies simultaneously. When I graduated, I moved to a very large city, in part, to be able to keep my circles separate.

At my first job I was the youngest employee so it was easy. I was living the single life in the city and I worked with people 10 years older who were married and starting families. We didn’t socialize outside of work. They loved living vicariously through the limited stories of my escapades that I shared with them. A few years later, a job change landed me at place where the people were my age. It became increasingly hard to keep the circles entirely separate. Happy hours would merge with close friends meeting us at the bar. Parties included both circles. I would stress the whole time that my one of my close friends would slip and tell a coworker about the guy I was shagging from another office. I was paranoid that my coworkers would tell my friends about the fling I had at a company meeting. It was exhausting and stressful.

It’s not that I was a completely different person with any circle. I’m not even sure if I can explain why I wanted things so compartmentalized. Privacy definitely played a role. Looking back on it, I think that insecurity and shame also played a part in it. No one, from any circle, ever saw the real me. I certainly didn’t want any of them to see the self-doubt that plagued me. I didn’t want to be judged about my sex life. No one could know about things that happened in my childhood. They certainly couldn’t know that I was battling depression. In hindsight, I think that I only revealed different pieces of myself to each circle because I felt that the sum total of my stories and experiences were just too much…everything. I didn’t want someone to know everything because I didn’t want judgment or pity or sympathy and I was certain I’d end up with at least one if anyone knew everything about me.

Having said all that, I have never been ashamed of the person I am or the choices I made but I also knew that many people would judge those choices. Even my best friends were amazed at my ability to separate sex from love in those days. I was never really promiscuous, but I was able to enjoy sex with someone simply for the sex. I didn’t need love or even a relationship to want or need it. But even the friends who said I was like a guy because I had casual sex were judging me in a way. Their admiration was really more of a judgment: good girls obviously didn’t enjoy sex with someone with no strings attached. Guys were the ones who used people sexually. (Yes, my eyeballs are rolling back into my head as I type that.)

The circles changed and expanded when I married TN and we started a family. Having kids increased the number of people I interacted with on a semi-regular basis. For a while I managed to keep these circles distinct, but as time passed and we established roots, that became harder and harder to do. Teachers, PTA, kids’ friends’ parents, political work, community activism, neighbors, new friends, the circles were endless and more and more intertwined.

The last couple of years have been fairly transformational for me. Therapy helped me finally deal with some issues that had haunted me for a long time. Once I was finished taking care of myself, I was able to focus on repairing my relationship with TN, which as you know as been evolving and improving over the last year. Lastly, I have started to live more authentically. Ninety percent of my circles now overlap and intertwine and it wasn’t until I read Thumper’s post and started thinking about it that I realized I am truly good with that. I had been focusing on the isolation that comes from not being able to share my kinky side with anyone else, but now I’m celebrating that I am who I am. I have dear friends that love me just as I am. I’ve earned the respect of people who may or may not agree with me, but respect the integrity I try hard to demonstrate every single day in every single interaction with them.

When I started writing this post a few days ago, I had pictured my life today as a Venn diagram of wiggly circles overlapping into a big mess that freaked me out. After writing, thinking, rewriting, more thinking and even more writing, I realize that overlaying this mess of circles is just me in all my imperfect glory. Yes, there’s still the kinky circle not really overlapping any of my circles. Yes, I still wish that I didn’t feel so isolated in real life about my kinky side. But as I grow to accept this side of myself more and more, I’m also confident it won’t be this way forever. The friends I’m making as NDG will eventually overlap my muggle circles. Until they do, I’m so happy for their understanding and acceptance of who and what I am today.

All in all, life is pretty fucking amazing these days.

NDG  xx