A private love story. – Jessi Kneeland

The moment he took his camera off his face and I saw his eyes, I blasted.

She was as beautiful as a girl. But not at all like a girl. In fact, considering how much I was thinking of only meeting women, she felt a non-girl-girl shock.

Later, as we sat and talked, I waited. Whatever it was, I thought. Does he interrupt or talk about me? Express unexplored privileges or maintain gender roles? What would disappoint me? What would make me hurt or insult me? What red flag would say this man with a male body might not even be worth a hitch?

As I waited to be given a reason to leave, I wondered how impressive his vocabulary was and wondered how he enjoyed playing with words and language.

I told him (I really called him out, because such statements are the way to bring red flags to the surface) that I care more about fighting oppression than something else on earth. He jokingly made a joke that as a white man who was studying women in college, he should first explain to me the oppression.

It was funny and I relaxed a bit.
He knows who he is in this room.
He knows what I'm talking about.

I told him I was a writer and he told me he was a photographer.

Days later, I look back at those first moments as we sat down together and realized that his body language was like someone who had been practicing not to ghost animals; very quietly holding on and valuing the wildness of their camera lens, without interference or influence.

This is what made me feel.

I told my mom a few days later that she had the best vocabulary of all I've ever met. I didn't tell her, that's why I decided to kiss her. He told me later that he was just trying not to be a fool – that to me actually meant he was trying not to be upset because when he was nervous he didn't make much sense.

He had no idea for weeks.

I was very late that night. Predators, even. You should come over. Getting to know him would just ruin it. I don't meet men anymore, it doesn't take me anywhere.

When we first had sex, I told her that she was not like a man and was thrilled to see that the compliment deeply touched her. The first time we had sex, so was he

surprised me by letting me know he wasn't available for boot invitations or hitching – if I wanted something with him, be something.

In fact, he surprised me a lot.

I was amazed at how carefully and thoughtfully he weighed my words and dealt with his thoughts and feelings. I was even more surprised to see that he was actively working on growing up, doing things and learning about one hangout, not because I asked him, but because he was doing just that.

Early on we had a thing. When he walked together, he wanted to walk outside (curb). It was a ridiculous, archaic act of performative knighthood, I thought he was annoyed that he wanted to cross every corner of the street, always slipping to a place closer to the road. It was sexist reinforcement of gender roles that I would not tolerate, and I told him so.

He started explaining himself, which I immediately closed. It's not personal, it's a blanket policy, I told her. I'm not letting men protect my sexism.

The days went by and he brought it up again. He said that at the time of firing and attacking (yes, but … true) he hadn't been able to come up with the right words, but could he share something now?

Okay, I said.

"I walk outside," he said, "because if the car were to leave us off the road, the person on the outside would act as a little shield, protecting the inside from the worst. If it were between you and me and one of us would die, I work for what it means for my self-worth, but that's how I feel. That's who I am. But when you say that between the two of us, * you * rather dies, that's not the problem. You can walk outside. "

What struck me was the extreme thought he had given to the subject, and the fearless disclosure of something so personal. I told him that because we were honest, I would rather he die when me. That Me I'm selfish; this is who Me I am.

He said quietly, "I know."

His voice was filled with nothing but warmth and admiration. He still walks outside.

That's always the case with him. On the surface, he agreed: I could walk outside. But first, I should to argue with him; First of all, I should consider something new.

Such gentle strength is his trademark. He seems so gentle, so easy to dominate and light-hearted. But as soon as I think I'm starting to make my way through unsatisfactory shutdowns (as I often have partners who wanted to please me without having to go too deep), I'm challenged, curious, and deeply moved.

Recently, I realized that I had rarely been interested in my partner's thoughts before. I mean, I was just as interested in the thoughts of my four-year-old nephew as love.

However, I have often found that the topics and abilities of my partners' actual mental processing are completely irrelevant and annoying, like listening to an adult child's superficial hearings.

I am fully aware, if yes, yes. But I've put a lot of work and exercises into thinking, feeling, expressing and communicating … and most men are notoriously bad at expressing complex relational thoughts and feelings.

I told my therapist and he said he imagined me walking in my partner's thought museums, seeing the dull and the expressionless.

I said it was more like I was walking around making lists to see how they could be improved. I also reflected that my partners had never historically been able to walk very far into my thought museum without feeling completely overwhelmed and walking back out again.

We laughed at the picture, but it was also very sad.
I have spent a lot of time in relationships, feeling alone.

So far he is different. Every new exhibit in his museum of thought is more interesting than the last; more mobile; prettier. I'm scared that it stops when I suddenly realize I've seen the whole thing and I'm gone.

I didn't know I was so hungry for it to investigate anyone. Maybe I told myself that I was not just a museum person because I didn't think there were any museums worth visiting.

And … he doesn't just walk into my thought museum, he party in it.

He runs through the corridors, sometimes taking notes and sometimes shouting, sometimes sitting quietly and letting the exhibit move him.

Exploring in this way is truly exciting and worrying, and so is active reconstruction of old exhibits and creation of new ones, with every new conversation.

"Where is it going?" I'm thinking. What happens if he stays long enough for his entire museum to be designed by him? Should it feel partnership? This is terrible.

The strangest thing to me is that these conversations, the endless stream of packing, processing, growing and researching truly excites subject. Like the person who is starving, so is he clutches on top of them her body reacts to my thoughts as some men respond to a tease.

I didn't know the boys would handle it, I told my therapist. I didn't know they could think and feel like that, talk and control themselves. Like a girl. Like a friend.

Specifically, I didn't know I could talk to the same person I was sleeping with.

Don't get me wrong talked to their previous partners. Of course. They listened and validated, they were kind and respectful. But I've always understood that this part of my brain, my absolute favorite part of myself, was something I could only share in small doses. It was exhausting for others, I knew. "Reflection," they called it, but they listened to me anyway as love. Such a touching gesture. So good men.

Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me, that it's not enough.

Sometimes I decided that one's most private thoughts are simply best shared with twenty thousand strangers on the Internet.

I was amazed at how sex and conversation could be so deeply intertwined that great discussion would lead to great sex and great sex would lead to great discussion and everything would just keep going better and better.

I was surprised to discover that I didn't want to write about sex. I write to understand and organize things, and often write to save my male partner from all thoughts and words. But every moment with him is already healthy; U.S we've already been through it out loud, so there's nothing to understand. Even if it was not so deeply private – a new feeling for me – there would simply be nothing to write about.

What surprised me most was when we had the first real fight. It was gritty and rough, a minefield of triggers and dawn awareness that I couldn't hide from this person. The way he listened made me naked and vulnerable. His thoughtfulness, curiosity and attracted attention were too much for me.

I wanted it to fail. I wanted it to be right boys can't do better.

I was expecting it to end, I was expecting it to get confused, hoping even for that. In the end, he does what men do. He is shut up; all words, heat, sex and curiosity cease and he becomes cold and disappears.

I'm alone again, but I'm right.

That's what men did, said one of me who was deeply hurt. These disappear by themselves, leaving us to work on either bringing them back or cleaning up the mess.

But he stayed.

Inside her body and fight. She was angry, scared and hurt and told me so. He made it clear that he was on my side and willing to do the job, but also that I needed to have it. He reflected that he might know the part of me waiting for him to fail, and since I'm on a mission in this world, I would always be "ahead of" him, so if my litmus paper was that he could "catch up," I could get my wish.

"If someone is dedicated to their craft, they have major gaps in other areas of their lives," he said. I felt like I was punctured in my stomach. "I want a partnership where we don't have to commit to the same thing, but instead help fill in the gaps for the other person."

At that point, while I was still very angry, I stopped wanting it to fail. Instead of his nasty hope, there was a very scary and fragile new hope. Hope is so tender and new that I have not wanted to write about it so far, hope for a partnership that would be possible if we seemed equal.

I felt the demolition work going on in my thought museum, the walls exploded and moved deep inside me. One exhibit was my ego screaming, "by no means is some stupid white boy talking to you about himself," while my higher self was sitting there crying with gratitude that someone had finally come in and saw what was going on.

I told her about the feeling I sometimes experience with her.

It feels like we are kids, pure and pure, swinging and free, best friends exploring all the joys and pleasures of the world together, both psyches that the other wants to spend with us. It seems as if one of us appears to the other

at the front door to ask if they could come out and play because we had an idea for a game, and the other went every time we hung out, just in case.

That feeling is undoubtedly the thing I've been looking for; a thing that, in my opinion, could only exist with a woman, with equal. But right now, even though it's new and scary, I'm giving myself permission with the man, this nice non-girl, who keeps surprising me and hoping for challenges as I never dared to hope.

Who knows what our museums will look like when we're done with each other? Perhaps this will change the course of our history. Maybe not.

I didn't know if I wanted to share it yet, tearing it up from the rooftops and keeping it secret; safe; mine.

But then COVID happened and now he and I are trapped, stressed and anxious, and not sure what the future holds. So I thought it was a good time to say that there is still love in this world. There is beauty, hope and joy.

And that's good.

I will send you all a slice of normality and a new love.


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