Sex & the Single Brain-Cell: Breast Augmentation Fall-Out

If there was ever a time when one of my journal archives could have been more visual than wordy… Sorry. These posts came from the somewhat stormy time with my live-in girlfriend, Dani (not her real name). Around the time we met she had lost a lot of weight, but didn’t like what it did to her figure. So, she decided to have breast-augmentation surgery. Needless to say, I was pretty happy, but needed to make sure that I wasn’t too happy with her decision…

July 2, 1990
1988_jbb-chillin-at-home-croppedWhoa, haven’t we come full circle since that last journal entry was made? For those with less than perfect mind-reading abilities, what I am referring to is the little explosion that occurred last Thursday night, June 28 (yes, I know, there I go explaining the unknown with the obscure). Let me just write that with Dani’s decision to go ahead with the breast surgery and its unclear ramifications, there has been a discernible level of emotional uncertainty between us.

Again, it involves questions about my eagerness for this surgery and the nature of my primary attraction to her. It’s been voiced more than once by Dani that I should be hanging around with someone like Pam (an attractive busty blond in one of the aerobics classes that I teach) rather than being with her. And in the absence of some tangible evidence of our love’s logic, Dani continues to chip away at the question as to whether having a relationship with her is what I really wanted. As if love is a logical argument that can be argued and won! Ugh.

So last Thursday (June 28) … it had been a while since we had had sex (since the weekend before) and I was feeling particularly randy. So after Dani’s son had been sent off to bed I made it clear to Dani that I wanted to go to bed with her before having to head off for my midnight shift at work. Ignoring the exhaustion of the preceding week and the aerobics workout that I had just finished we blasted ahead. But all stations were not “go.” This was going to take more of an effort than I had anticipated. I became distracted because it was so warm (duh, July in Southern California and no AC) and in the course of our sexual efforts, I started sweating (an old distraction). Then there was the thought that I was going to be heading to work within the hour. It was indeed not-so-slow-motion-disaster in progress. Mr. Erection swept in and out and presented no particular evidence of staying. And in the middle of all of this lay the temptation to bolster my fading hard-on with mental images of large breasts on vaguely familiar women (oh no, the forbidden fruit!). But it was a lost cause.

I decided against the “big breast” strategy and lost the battle to my many distractions. Explaining to Dani what had happened was not going to be easy. I decided to start with the part about not employing a fantasy to keep things going but then quickly realized that that was not a particularly brilliant decision. She was understandably upset that such a strategy should ever be needed. Things quickly spiraled in a downward direction from there.

Loud accusations erupted beginning with, did I love her at all or was I just making a fool out of her? How does one respond to that? Yeah, here was another case where honesty was not advisable, especially considering how skillfully Dani was able to employ “honesty as a weapon” from which one usually didn’t recover… I got up to take a shower. She got up to take it out on my desk chair with a none-to-brilliant right-hook on the thing. The chair is fine. She bruised her thumb and palm something fierce.

A dangerous level of instability descended on our household over the weekend. It took from that night until this morning at three AM, five-days, when she called with further disturbing questions, I’m guessing in order to find something of the trust that we had before my disclosure. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this breast thing, but even then, my mental indiscretions have nothing to do with the surgery. If anything it is might be my own sabotaging the relationship/fear of success that previously badgered my path.

Dani has been a lover and girlfriend like no other. Complex and simple, forward and easily frightened, playfully sexual and seriously demanding in her eroticism; she doesn’t often see her own sexual appeal but boldly takes charge when the whim is the air. She doubts her femininity and then does the career-woman-mother-lover-housekeeper thing in the time that it takes most of us to decide whether we want toast for breakfast. There is a girl-next-door, tomboy class-clown nature to her that she verbally rejects but faithfully maintains. Whereas my previous girlfriend drew me in because of her cloak of emotional silence, Dani has drawn me in with her openness and feisty spirit. It’s too bad that it seems to take our verbal fire-fights before I can even come close to understanding how I feel. JBB

There were six posts between the last one and this next one and all of them were about various computer configuration woes. What does that tell you about my state of mind? Ugh. Even then, I begin the next entry with computer shit. Sad.

July 19. 1990 Surgery Blues
This is the first actual entry made in Word for Windows. I had to redo the margins to one and a half itches because the page ran off the edge of the screen when it was set at one inch It’s silly that I should be writing about this fucking program when there are so many other things going on. For example, this morning Dani had her breast-augmentation surgery.

I have since found myself in the position of being her nursemaid. So far it hasn’t been particularly difficult. She’s spent most today in some state of slumber. But the emotional responsibilities… now that’s another thing altogether. Prior to the surgery we had our share of °discussions.” They were mostly about the possible reactions of “others” to her surgery and our own related fears. It’s been pretty difficult to keep a handle on it. Needless to say, we’ve both had ample opportunities to say, “I’m sorry” to each other. This surgery has put a strain on us but I think in the long run it’s going to be good because of the bonding we’ve shared in this endeavor. I just have to be really careful to not be too “happy” with the results.

Well, my duties call me so I’ll have to end this entry for now. JBB

1991-08-10 Oregon Trail with Denise - 05 cropped

July 26. 1990 An Emotional Week
It’s been the better part of week since my last entry. It’s also been a very busy week. In the intervening Dani has left her previous state of slumber for one with an evolving self-image. I can sense the frustration in her over the patience needed for the healing process to be successful She is not used to being still for very long and less used to having to depend on anyone. In the past week she has had to ask for my aid and that of her friend, Connie, on numerous occasions. l have tried to remain sensitive to her frustrations but my efforts have not all been successful. For example, one of my duties has been to massage her breasts to help prevent hardening around the implants and encourage blood flow. At first I was unsure about how much pressure to apply because I certainly didn’t want to hurt her, but Dani quickly interpreted my timid touch as some indication that I didn’t like the results. Ah… no! But no matter what I said she was convinced that I wasn’t happy with her new curves.

1990-05_Denise-apartment-03-croppedAnd then on Saturday, in the midst of all the emotional tip-toeing, one of her pets died. Fortunately wasn’t one of the ferrets, that would have been horrific. She and her son, Brian, had had the small female rat (affectionately named “Rat”) for a number of years. About a month ago, when she was cleaning Rat’s cage she mentioned that the rat was looking pretty old. But Rat couldn’t have timed her departure more poorly. Denise was at a loss in controlling her emotions and embarrassed with even having these emotions. It was sad.

I tried to provide Dani the encouragement and space to say goodbye to their little furry friend. I placed Rat in one of my computer paraphernalia boxes along with Rat’s last piece of bread, some sunflower seeds and a last loving touch from Dani. I then place Rat in the dumpster behind our apartment amidst a giant pile of newspapers—Rat would find ample material to build her next home in the next life with the newspapers. Dani openly sobbed and hugged me when I returned from the dumpster.

It has been an emotional week. JBB

SEX AND THE SINGLE BRAIN CELL: Sexual Ethics & The Resulting Internal Dialogues

Spring Cleaning continues… The following is the third of a series of three columns that I wrote in the late 1980s for a little publication called “Air, Dirt & Ink” (ADI) that I produced and shared with family and friends. Yeah, I’ve been writing these sad tales for a very long time, and they seem to continue. Enjoy.

Feb 1988
[ADI Editors’ Note: A friend recently asked me how the dating scene was going. I was embarrassed to admit that things were going real well. She asked, “So how’s this going to affect ‘Sex & the Single Brain Cell’?” I told her that I didn’t know, but I could get used to it if I had to. When I first began this column last June I never thought it’d become a “kiss & tell” sort of thing (mainly due to the lack of kissing going around) so I guess I should start by stating that the names have been misspelled in order to contrive the issues… ]

He looked beneath his shirt today
There was a wound in his flesh so deep and wide
From the wound a lovely flower grew
From somewhere deep inside

“The Lazarus Heart” by Sting

December 1987
A blustery day on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, an ocean of attractive co-eds scurry about between classes. I’m sitting on a bench outside the Humanities building using the pretense that I’m here to read my biology assignment as my excuse for plopping myself here. I feel like I’m on the leading edge of a jetty in this colorful current of life. Stupid grin on my face, I can scarcely bring myself to read a single complete sentence of the text on my lap.

In a matter of 10 minutes the feminine armada passes and I find myself alone with six chapters of biology still unread and a couple of militant squirrels who were bugging me for scraps (sounds like the title to a pop psychology book, “Militant Squirrels and Parades of Girls,” or something like that). That was over much too quickly. My education has obvious not endowed me with the good sense to come in out of the rain when I can hardly afford to get wet.

In this ocean of life and seemingly limitless possibilities I am unnoticed. I am lonely and affection-starved. I’m in sexual limbo. With the waves of cute Levi mini-skirts rushing by, I’m without a true confidante, which I guess is more important than this sense of physical isolation.

One of my buddies said that his celibacy was something that he has consciously chosen. But then he’s Catholic, which makes him just a little militant about his sexual abstinence. He made insinuating comments about folks who say that they are celibate … for, like, lunch or on Tuesdays, or when the wind blows from the north. He’s a serious Catholic (whatever the hell that means), he has a reason for not doing it. I guess I do too.

AIDS and all aside (like AIDS is an aside, right?) what I’m alluding to is an idealism that I periodically entertain, something about ones sexual practices having some association with ones emotional attitude toward the object of ones pelvic thrusting (yeah, I could have been less graphic, but seeing that some haven’t taken too kindly to my use of “colorful language” in previous columns I thought I’d try some “picture language” just for you). Where was I? Oh yeah, idealism and trying sex with someone you love. Yeah, I know it’s a novel idea, but given my incredible success with the general dating scene I thought I’d push this puppy completely off the map. At least I’d have a commendable reason for being alone on a Saturday night.

Childish sulking aside, life has handed me enough “wonderful memories” for me to realistically consider the question: when is IT right and when is IT not right? (Was that fucking euphemistic enough for you?) Ah yes, sexual ethics (throw that phrase around at the next party you go to, either the feathers will fly or it’ll be the last time you get invited to a party).

True to 1980s Southern California form, some friends have recited for me the proverbial, “Hey, ‘if it feels good, do it.’” Right. Just tell me this: when does it not feel good? Buddy, that sounds suspiciously like technique, not ethics.

Anyway, I think the feelings that I have here are the lingering attitudes of a previous incarnation. What I mean is that I have staked out for myself a sexual ethic that requires an emotional relationship with the person who would be my lover (yeah, I know, dumb move). And given the great success that I’ve had in establishing relationships with the women in my life it’s understandable that my sexual self is getting just a little impatient with my emotional self. This internal dialogue is beginning to take on proportions of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.”

“So, how long?” I ask myself.

“When I’m good and ready,” I defensively respond.

“How will you know when you’re ‘Ready’?” I chide myself.

There was a pause. I’ve never quite figured this part out. In fact, the truth of the matter is that I’m more likely to take advantage of whatever sexual opportunity that happens to present itself (quite dependent on the circumstantial willingness, availability, mood, horniness, etc. [take your pick] of the other party) before I seriously consider whether I’m “ready” or not. You know, shoot first, ask questions later.

Of course, all of this reveals a rather unsightly hole in the fabric of my values and sexual ethics. I mean, I don’t want to live like the horde of survivalistic animals who eat, drink, fornicate, flatus, sleep and eventually die (your friends and mine, the famed “cephalopods”) without so much as tipping their hats to the eternal consciousness of our species. Sure, sexuality is physical (at least that’s what I’ve been told by those who should know), all part and parcel with our identification as part of the animal kingdom. But our sexuality has the profound possibility of being something more than the hormonally controlled coupling of two dogs in the street.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t even bother me with beliefs that try to justify the panting and writhing and miscellaneous euphoric sensations by somehow engrafting the divine consciousness into the sex act (you know, “Sex ’cause God said so”). Excuse me for being such a prude but I’m more comfortable with one-to-one sex between humans. If a meta-physical menage-a-trios is your cup of tea … (just don’t confuse the children with your religious kinkiness). True, I have to confess that I’ve mentioned the Divine Name while engaged in the panting and writhing and miscellaneous euphoric sensations, but if anything it was an unconscious expression of gratitude for this decidedly human experience.

“So, how long?” I ask myself again.

Pause. “I really don’t know,” I have to answer in all honesty.

January 1988
So I was expecting good things from 1988. I mean, the way ’87 kind of passed out as it crossed the finish line, anything would have been an improvement, but I didn’t quite expect them to begin on New Year’s Eve. I mean, what better way to begin a year than with a heavy dose of infatuation (and infatuation that wasn’t unrequited at that!)? Can it be?

NYE champaign 2013-12-31

NYE champaign 2013-12-31

Beginning like many a notorious Bustillos social excursion, I wasn’t too surprised on New Year’s Eve when I arrived solo at the designated party place, a club in Anaheim called the BandStand, to find that out of the hundreds of partiers in attendance, I didn’t recognize a single soul. And my anxiety was little alleviated as the clock edged towards eleven. I began to wonder if my pals from the health spa hadn’t changed their plans and stiffed me. Thoughts of going home to witness the count-down with good ol’ Dick Clark began to seem more appealing to me than making another circuit around this sea of strangers.

“One more time around the room,” I thought to myself. I couldn’t even motivate myself enough to invest in an over-priced watered-down Long Island Ice Tea. Now that’s bad. Ha. Even my “Disneyland friend” said she’d be there. But she was no where to be seen. Should I have been surprised?

But just when it seemed blackest (around a quarter past eleven) the merry group of familiar New Year’s Eve revellers made a serpentine line through the thick crowd, heading in my direction.

Steve and Pam, Emanuel and Terry, Van and Ushee (however the hell she spells her name), Mutt and Jeff, Black and White, Red and Green, Off and On, In and Out… you get the idea, they were all there; plus at least one surprise…”

What are you doing here?“ she asked me as she gave me a deep hug, “I didn’t know you were going to be here.” I hadn’t seen this dark-haired beauty since last summer at Emanuel’s birthday party. And to think, I had been contemplating cutting out to see if Dick Clark was going to pass himself off as Baby New Years for the fiftieth plus straight time.

She and I managed some small talk over the pounding music about the new place she’d moved into and the party her 10-year-old son’s babysitter was putting on for the kids. Giving up on the inaudible conversation I periodically looked over at her and found her smiling at me. I finally got around to asking her if she wanted to dance. She said sure and took my hand when I led her to the dance floor.

Long full mane of curly brown hair, mischievous animated brown eyes, the svelte athletic body of a cycling and aerobic workout devotee; I thought about last summer, the attraction was there and I had debated with myself about whether I should ask her for her phone number. In a rare display of reasoning I had decided against it ’cause I didn’t feel the time was quite right (talk about articulate reasoning … ). But now, I simply smiled at my good fortune. The toil& of her hand seemed to wipe away all of the bitching and complaining that I had filled 1987 with.

But then, I had recently heard through the grapevine that she had been spending a significant amount of time on the phone with one of our party. So when she and I got on the dance floor I kept an eye pealed for those subtle signals that I was moving in on someone else’s territory (you know, the whispered death threats and glaring hateful stares). But her date-by-assumption was happily contented dancing with every other woman in the place, so I figured I’d received bum information.

With the coming of midnight, there was a bit of an awkward moment. Surrounded with energetic examples of affection and profound lust, I resisted the temptation of a kiss and gave her a simple hug (the Ghost of my “Disneyland friend” harboring my memories, no doubt). After the other couples disengaged themselves from their lip-looks all of us exchanged hugs and handshakes to greet in the New Year. That concluded she and I danced the night away. This was becoming quite unbelievable. I was actually having a great time.

On the fast songs she actually followed my steps (which never happens in the world of detached dating and dancing). Then after the first set of slow songs she made a rather appreciative comment about how closely I held her as we danced. When the fast numbers kicked back in she asked rather breathlessly if I wanted to continue dancing (which, using the McConnell method of interpreting obviously innocent gestures, might have indicated an interest in continuing the close contact in a more private setting, then again… flaw, I wasn’t misreading her signals). Having apparently achieved the “erotic higher ground,” I elected to continue dancing.

After the DJ kicked us all out at around 2 a. m., I drove her back to her car and asked her if she wanted to go to breakfast or something. She smiled and said that there was an all-night Norm’s around the corner from where she lived (which turned out to be on the other side of town in Costa Mesa).

At breakfast we exchanged life-stories and she invited me to come over. In an obvious effort to make it look like she wasn’t being too forward she added, “I have two bedrooms” (one being for her ten-year-old son, who was away at the babysitter’s for the night). I said, “Oh boy, can I sleep on the top bunk?” Under normal circumstance that one phrase would have spelled the end of any erotic encounter. But heck, it was New Year’s Eve and she seemed willing to put up with my kidding.

Using the pretense of watching some TV we snuggled up on her °ouch. Then at a rather random moment I leaned over and kissed her. She mumbled between kisses that my talents were obviously not limited to dancing. It appeared that we weren’t going to be needing the services of the second bedroom that night.

When I woke the glowing morning sun was happily smiling through the curtains of her bedroom window. I kissed her and then quietly got up and dressed. Stupid grin permanently fixed on my face, I drove home and thought, “Ah the beauty of infatuation, I lift my empty beer bottle to thee, visit me often and happily this new year!”

Two Week Later…

Be still my beating heart
It would be better to be cool
It’s not time to be open just yet
A lesson once learned is so hard to forget
Be still my beating heart
Or I’ll be taken for a fool
I sink like a stone that’s been thrown in the ocean
My logic has drowned in a sea of emotion
Stop before you start
Be still my beating heart

“Be Still My Beating Heart” – Sting

Early Sunday morning. The ten-year-old, who had been sleeping in her bedroom, woke up startled by the wind and the rain. He wandered into the living room where she and I had made uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, to announce that we were having another earthquake. Vainly I pulled the blankets over my head. Radio and TV came on in an effort to reassure him that it was nothing. He sat and listened while she got up to retired to her room. I stayed on the couch (why get up and join her when I can stay here, naked under my blanket and watch Sunday morning cartoons with him? I mean, wasn’t that why I was there?).

Any self-respecting romance novelist would have ended the story on the morning of New Year’s Day (or at least soon afterward, while the glow of infatuation still shone). The curtain would have come down, the audience would have been satisfied, the author well paid for his services. But then I guess I have a decidedly twisted knack for peeking under the curtain in order to watch the “happy couple” grapple with the responsibilities of their emotions and desires. Hey man, ain’t that what life’s all about?

I faded in and out, semi-consciously deciding on whether to watch another Donald Duck cartoon, go back to sleep or get up and take a shower. I finally opted to get dressed while the ten-year-old took the couch pillows that had been piled on the floor and made a fort. My sleep-walking lover made her way back to the living room and settled herself into my newly vacated blankets on the couch. She asked me if I wanted breakfast. Sure, I said. She told the ten-year-old to show me where everything was (I guess she wasn’t about to get up). He whined that there wasn’t any more milk. So breakfast ended up consisting of one navel orange.

Something had obviously happened between our New Year’s Eve kiss and the one navel orange breakfast. Well, actually a lot had happened. Like the nondescript sense of euphoria that got me started down this path, I was now aware of a nondescript sense that something wasn’t right. Again, there was an internal debate going on between my emotions and my libido (the latter one thinking that we had finally landed in heaven).

“What do you mean something’s wrong?!” my sexual self angrily asked. “As far as I can tell, everything’s just great.”

“No, no, You don’t understand,” my emotional self, who was beginning to sound too much like Woody Allen, tried to explain.

“No, you’re the one that doesn’t understand. Every time something good starts happening, you get to thinking that something must be wrong!”

“No, it’s more complicated than that.”

“The only thing that’s complicated about this is that you’re always sticking your fucking head where it doesn’t belong.”

“My point exactly!” Pause…

“Uh oh … so what do we do now?” This little dialogue took about seven days to finally arrive on the surface of my facial expressions. This of course complicated the process by bringing another personality into the dialogue, my sleepwalking lover.

“So what’s your problem?” she angrily asked me over the phone.

“What, you wanna list?” That did little to alleviate the tension. What was I going to tell her? That I had changed my mind? That I didn’t like the shoes she wears? That I wasn’t ready to handle the responsibility of a relationship with a woman who has a ten-year-old son and a shaky financial future? I was beginning to think that now would be a good time to strangle my sexual sell. Then I realized that that wouldn’t have produced the desired effect.

“You know,” she interrupted my thought, “I guess I was just beginning to forget that I just can’t trust anyone.”

That hurt. My romantic predecessor had been an apparent womanizing son-of-a-bitch, who did very little for her sense of trust, only being available at his convenience and very secretive about his other social involvements. And my little emotional hiccup had put me in the land of the shitheads.

morally bankrupt - but still spending (2008-01-01)

morally bankrupt – but still spending (2008-01-01)

God damn it, I tried to do what I could to understand my feelings and be honest about them. Sorry it took a whole two weeks to come to this conclusion. And she just dumped it all into a kind of generic emotional bin marked “more reasons for not trusting men.” Perhaps I tried too hard to not repeat my predecessor’s mistake and scrutinized the relationship too early. Things appeared to me to be in such either/or categories that I knew that I couldn’t make the commitment. Of course that’s not the way she saw it. So I became one among many wishy-washy assholes who had let her down. She said goodnight and hung up the phone not anticipating that I would ever call her again.

“Way to go, asshole,” my sexual self remarked.

“I had to say something. At least now you can sleep at night,” my emotional self offered.

“Hey, sleeping at night was never one of my problems.”

“Yeah, I know.”


  • image: NYE Revelers by Joe Bustillos, 12-31-2013
  • image: NYE champaign by Joe Bustillos 12-31-2013
  • image: Morally Bankrupt: But Still Spending by Joe Bustillos 01-01-2008

Not Missing the Piece

I've Been Tagged! 10 Things About Me by Nicki Varkevisser

After having a casual conversation with an attractive coworker, I pondered the puzzle of having such amazing friends but my apparent inability to have someone special in my life. Being a bit older I quickly brushed past the comedy that is having sex, and thought about all the other parts of what it means to share a life with someone. What’s the morning routine? Who gets the bathroom first? Who gets to shower first? How often are we going to eat out each week? Who will do the shopping? Will we like the same TV shows? How much quiet time does one expect or need to have each day? Even though I was raised in a large family and seemed to easily fit into the routine of my last girlfriend’s household, I’ve spent the vast majority of my life living by myself, pretty much taking care of whatever needed to be taken care of. I really am at a point where I very much wonder, why bother?

I’m reminded of Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece and the sequel, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O. I don’t want to be dismissive, but it seems to be a lot of “been there, done that.” When I was younger I know that I over-thought everything, or contrary to my gender’s reputation, actually did think about things. There’s a scene in A Hard Day’s Night, on the train when George asks Ringo if he’s going to go into the birth where the beautiful woman is sitting inviting him in. Ringo says, “No, in the end she’ll just reject me and I be all frustrated,” and walks on down the hall after blowing the woman a kiss. So, I’ve been jumping to the ends before there has been any hint of a beginning for a good long time. And now that I’m older and my friends are also more set in their ways it does seem to be a problem reminiscent of The Missing Piece: How are our lives suppose to mesh? I mean, I do miss the conversation, the companionship and a little physical affection isn’t so bad either, but I am finding life to be quite full without the hassle of connecting with another soul rolling down the same road.


11 Things the Bible Bans, #12 Diggnation Talking Religion


A friend once quipped about how stupid it is when MDs think that just because they are experts in one thing, that they must be experts in other things. For example, being an expert surgeon doesn’t mean that one is an expert at running a business (as many office managers for the medical profession painfully understand). Doctors are obviously not alone in this delusion. I cringe every time I listen to some tech pundit go from talking about the newest version of Firefox to explaining the Bible. Chief TWiT, Leo Laporte has done this more than a few times with Merlin Mann on various TWiT podcasts. I understand that they get caught up in the moment, but really? So I’m watching my favorite online drinking buddies, Alex and Kevin, on a recent Diggnation and they get all Biblical on me. It was hilarious watching Alex try to explain to Kevin the sin of Onan without mentioning that the whole deal was about making sure that the bloodline of a dead brother doesn’t end because the brother died without a son to carry on his name. It just came across as some weird Biblical thing that if you are going to have sex with your brother’s wife than you cannot pull out. Right. The rest was pretty much over-shadowed by that one. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not everyone is entitled to punish us by sharing said opinion. Then Kevin goes on to say that he got bible lessons every Sunday growing up, but how could that be true and he not know about the sin of Onan, unless he pulled out when he was like nine. It’s just fucking embarrassing. And not really very funny…

Please, don’t do this again…. but that said, Kevin nailed it when he talked about the hypocrisy of people doing whatever the hell they want to do all week and then going to church on Sunday to “clean up” for all the shit they did the previous six days, and pretending like there’s nothing wrong with that. All the other bullshit aside about heaven being whatever you want it to be or about being Christina but “cool,” there was some real truth to Kevin’s observation. But then maybe this is only something that you can see when you are not living in it, that is, the unlivable cycle of holding to a belief about how one should live that no one CAN live. When our religion is reduced to a nostalgic Hallmark moment forwarded in an email by one’s older sister but has nothing to do with the conduct of one’s daily life, or one holds to an eating or drinking ritual but clearly ignores an awareness to the Holy in the here and now, what’s the point? How sad and confused to live a life that aspires to some belief or is said to be lived in honor of the One but there’s no trace of that belief in the conversation or actions one expresses to the world from moment to moment. Eleven things my ass, who cares if what you say you believe in is completely invisible by the conduct of your daily life? Out of the mouths of babes, or in this case, the clueless.

article: 11 Things The Bible Bans, But You Do Anyway, retrieved 8/7/2009
video: What Would Kevin And Alex Do? Diggnation/Revision3, retrieved 8/7/2009

The Nomenclature of Being Single

I have a “friend” who has recently joined the ranks of the newly single status and as service to this friend I would like to pass on a few pointers on proper terms and nomenclature about Being Single. There are few things as confusing as describing one’s “status” after years or decades of checking the box marked “married” on governmental forms.

Casual Dating:
“Hey, what’cha doing tonight? Wanna go to a movie? Cool.” That’s casual dating, no plans beyond that day, no commitment to anything except the stated movie, beer, whatever. Regardless of the “casualness” of the date, don’t be mistaken, there’s an interest or attraction between the participants, that’s why it’s a “date” (if there is not actual “attraction” see “Just Friends” below).

Casual Dating No-Nos:
Never use the “L” word (alas, in this context the “L” word is not “Lesbian” but “Love”). Telling one’s “casual date” “I love you” automatically disqualifies it’s “casual date” status. Affection and sex are negotiable, but be forewarned that in this era of AIDs, physical intimacy tends to complicate things and should be avoided if one wishes to maintain one’s “casual dating” status. As with the kissing or sex, accepting gifts in the context of “casual dating” tends to complicate things and may imply a greater commitment than one had intended. Another casual dating no-no is calling or expecting “daily” calls. Remember, there’s no commitment to anything here.

Serious Dating/Boyfriend/Girlfriend Relationships:
Serious dating covers a broad spectrum of relationships. Exclusivity is the core difference between casual dating and serious dating. Using the “L” word is generally expected, as is some form of physical/sexual intimacy. Some level of continuous communication (calling, seeing one another, IMing) tends to be expected. Serious dating is NOT necessarily the same as engagement. See “engagement” below.

Serious Dating No-Nos:
Breaking the “Exclusivity” with another simultaneous dating relationship (by definition “casual” because “serious” requires exclusivity that isn’t possible with a second relationship). Going days with no communication or disappearing for days without prior notification that one will be out of contact is another no-no.

Exclusive relationship with an expectation for marriage. A marriage date is not required at the beginning of the engagement period, but continually delaying deciding on a date risks “engagement” status.

Engagement No-Nos:
See “Serious Date No-Nos.” Oh yeah, still being married to someone else would not work well with “engagement.”

Just Friends:I left this category for the end because it can be the most problematic. “Just friends” tends to be casual dating gone awry. “Just friends” also tends to be a unfortunate compromise for an “interested” participant to hang out with a participant who is less interested. Groups going out together qualify as “just friends” or groups that include singles and significant others.

Just Friends No-Nos:
Sex… well, there is the category “Friends-who-Fuck” but this is about “healthy” relationships. As with “casual dating,” accepting gifts, except for birthdays and christmas, is another “just friends” no-no. Continually going out with a “just friends” person, excluding significant other is another “just friends” no-no.

In Conclusion
One should not say “I love you” or accept gifts from a “casual dating” or “just friends” person. Conversely, if one is in an “I love you”-type relationship, one should not expect it to be okay to date other people. Finally, while the term “dating” has tended to imply some kind of “relationship test-drive,” it is not limited to “I’ll pick you up at 7” and the guy paying. Dating is when two people of some interest in one another get together regardless of who pays and whether there are others present. JBB

What the Dog Knew

Black Ice by Tony Alter

I’m not entirely sure if this is a “blog-able” item, but it was something that made me smile. I had the pleasure of meeting You-know-who’s little 2-year-old dachshund, Max, when I drove her home a couple weeks ago after the 30th reunion party. In a word, he didn’t seem to be too happy to meet me and barked and barked and barked. Granted, that’s his job and it probably didn’t help that he’d been tied up all day and all night and we didn’t really spend any time “getting to know” each other. Yeah. So, needless to say, I wasn’t feel altogether that comfortable being there in the first place, having the little guy bark and bark pretty much brought home the message that I wasn’t welcomed there. That didn’t feel so great.

Then this past weekend when I brought her home following the CSN&Y concert I asked to use her facilities before heading home. This time when I got out of the bathroom, she put Max on a leash and I sat down on the floor and he just ran up to me, sniffed me and then rolled over to let me scratch his belly. You-know-who’s mouth dropped open. I spent several minutes scratching his belly, then rubbing behind his ears and then back to his belly. I told her that I’d just met the McConnell’s new dachshund, Sophie, when I was AZ and that that might have something to do with Max’s change in disposition (or maybe he smelled the potato skins and bacon I’d eaten earlier). Actually I don’t think that it was either the other dog or the smell of bacon. For whatever reason Max saw that I wasn’t a threat and decided that here was someone else to give him attention. After several minutes, she said that she hated to break up our little party but that she was exhausted and needed to get to bed. I got up off the ground, gave her a kiss and the dog a final scratch on the head and smiled as I headed to my car. She may not be able to figure out what the fuck I mean to her, or what she’s missing when she leaves me in this “shadow role.” But a little two-year-old hyper-dachshund figured it out and let me rub his belly. I felt vindicated. JBB

Image Source: Black Ice by Tony Alter,

“Loneliness” (Another JBB Journal Classic)

I spent some more time perusing the JBB Journal archives and found this gem from the last year of my marriage, just a few months before the shit hit the fan…


1:46 A.M. Much on my mind.

I feel lonely. An odd feeling. Or perhaps a feeling that I haven’t paid much attention to in the past. My wife sleeps in the next room and I am lonely. I remember Sting once saying that he felt lonely, that there was no bridging the gap–even when he made love to his wife (ex-wife). This sense of isolation is my humanness, my refusing to let go of something, of breaking down the barrier, of opening myself up to my other, my wife or perhaps my God. Is this the point where I wandered off the path, the Way? Refusing to let go.

Something in my nature refuses to let go of my miserable bit of happiness—my security blanket, though I’ve been promised riches beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve been let down before. I’ve been misunderstood and hurt and neglected and unloved. The worst thing is to be unloved. Even in my Christianity I was not whole within myself. Something I yet lacked. But I proved unwilling to sell all. What was there that I needed to sell? I owned nothing, but I was not free. I sought nothing and nothing was my reward. “Greater is He who lives in you than he who lives in the world.” I knew very little of this greatness. “God help me,” I prayed. But God knew that I prayed with one eye opened and only one hand folded; as feable as the sound of one hand clapping.

“iSad” by Gregory Wadsworth

So my wife sleeps in the next room and I masturbate in this one. Little wonder I am an isolated infant who only knows a single painful tune. The infant sings this tune when he is wet. He sings this tune when he is hungry. He sings this tune when consciousness is fleeing from him and he doesn’t understand why. We are all infants singing one tune and our mother is not in the room to soothe us. She has gone away and left older brothers and sisters to watch us. Watch us they do, but we are not satisfied. Neither are they, they have forgotten what it is they are here for; And we never knew. We just went on crying. Crying. I am alone. And even though I long to crawl in bed with my wife and feel her near me, her warm body, her acknowledging embrace, I fear the silence that will separate us and the darkness that bids our eyes to sleep. I am alone. God help me. JBB (February 11, 1986)

The Curse of Having Digitally Enhanced Memories

past girlfriends by joe bustillos

For whatever reason I seem to have been “gifted” with the ability to remember, in pretty vivid detail, all of those pivotal moments in my life. The time of day, the way the sun shone in the sky, the rush of the crowd going by, the split second when she looked at me and said, “oh, it’s you.” It’s quite a collection stored between my two ears. One doesn’t want to live in these past memories, but so much of today’s world was built on this stream of events, that having an active relationship with one’s memories can add value to the moments one is experiencing at the present moment.

There are memories, such as my childhood with my older sisters, that I seem to remember, but admittedly are mostly remembered because of photographs that I’ve seen that were taken during that time. Even something as emotionally imprinting as my wedding, I seem to remember more based on the surviving pictures and recollections of friends. So there’s definitely a part of this that is triggered and stored externally in these photographs.

Another, more powerful, means of maintaining and adding to my storage of memories are the thousands of pages of journals that I have written. I have been writing some form of journal since high school. Thus, what others may remember through a fading collection of terse cards, snapshots and other memorabilia, I possess in written form in my own words in painful, explicit, sometimes silly detail. Now the reason this even came to mind recently was that one benefit of putting Windows XP on my MacBookPro was that I would then be able to pull up all of the journals I’d written from my pre-mac days (1985-2002). Naturally I spent a couple evenings reliving the events recorded when I was supposed to be A) finishing Pepperdine work, B) writing units for my computer classes, or C) grading work for my 6th – 8th graders. Gotta love how technology boosts productivity.

The first thing that struck me was how the problems from all the different eras all seem to be so similar. The drama and struggle of falling in love with someone only to have it cut short seemed to be an ongoing theme. Now, is that a case of consistency or an inability to learn from previous negative experiences? I don’t know. I wonder what would the 1980’s JBB think about all of this? Well in my trip down digital memory lane I found the following passage written to a friend about my first post-divorce relationship (circa 1988):

“Like most things in my life of late, my relationship with [girlfriend A] has been a bit quirky. At the end of June I thought we were through, mutually agreed that we were thoroughly miss- matched, etc., etc. But then with my birthday party (sorry you couldn’t be there) she opened up a bit up to me and stood by me like a true friend. And since then we’ve stumbled our way along, gradually confiding in each other and trusting each other with some our deepest and darkest personal secrets. And amidst all the bumps and misunderstandings we’ve actually found ourselves in something of a relationship. Imagine my surprise.” (August 1, 1988)

Where have I heard these words before? Hmmm. Then there’s this much longer passage entitled “I Wanted to Tell Her” about an evening together with said girlfriend. This picks up after we’d concluded that my upset stomach (from taking antibiotics) was getting in the way of us having sex:

“So we laid there and held each other and eventually she got dressed while I made another trip to the bathroom. When I got back into the room I said, “Hey, how come I’m the only naked person in the room?!” And she giggled. We kissed and necked and I found something to wear and walked her to her truck (even though she said that I was restricted to my room until the morning, ha! it was after midnight, so I told her that it was already morning).

“Before we left my apartment, when I was standing hugging her, my naked body against her clothed body I looked into her eyes and knew I wanted to tell her. It was right there for me to say. But I hesitated.

“And when we were standing by her truck I saw it in her eyes again. It was right there. I intimated what I wanted to say, but used the excuse that I’d already unloaded enough skeletons and didn’t want to freak her out. Now, if she didn’t know what I was thinking that comment would have made no sense whatsoever. But she just looked at me, deep intensity pouring from her eyes.

“I wanted to disentangle myself from the web, from the inevitability of saying it. But I could do so, only so carefully. And it was doubtful whether it was worth delaying this disclosure. I wanted to tell, and perhaps I should have. But I didn’t.

“For all of the insanity and the illogical basis for our relationship, in spite of the confessed lack of compatibility, when I stood there looking into her eyes, feeling her hands run through my hair and her lips pressing against mine, I wanted to tell her that I love her.

“But I didn’t.”(July 19, 1988)

It does make one wonder, that after almost twenty years I find myself battling with the same issues of intimacy, communication and seeing things through. Maybe the value at most people not having “digitally enhanced memories” in the form of endless journals is that they never realize that they’ve been through this before and thus are not held responsible for repeating the same mistakes or moving any further forward in their emotional maturation. At the same time, the fact that I have made a point to continually force my emotional (and often frivolous**) experiences down into writing may also indicate the choice I’ve made to go through all of this with my emotional eyes open and to be accountable for this life that I’ve been given. And maybe it keeps the wounds from the past from completely healing because I can re-experience the poignancy of love cut short and the pain following the demise of these relationships. Funny thing was that when I began to write in ernest in the early 1980s my catalyst was a quote that I heard from the singer/songwriter Sting, that one cannot expect to write (song/novel/lifework) unless one continually writes. Granted going through a divorce then then the subsequent journey into a completely unknown territory of being single again provided more than enough to chew on.

So maybe the point isn’t to find any one solution as much as to share the experience along the way. It would be nice if I could learn just a little from all of these experiences and maybe even change some of my behavior patterns and maybe even make a few better choices… nah, what would be the fun in that? Seriously, I do see this as a sacred trust and endeavor to make “improvements” but I also have to acknowledge that despite the painful similarities, all of these situations are different and require that I not go into some kind of “automatic” mode when faced with problem X because this and that is what happened last time. My best bet is just to keep my eyes wide opened and pay attention to all that is going on around me and with me. Here’s to the next 18-years of “ah shit here we go again.” JBB

[SIDE NOTE: A fair number of journal entries seem to be about whatever technology lusting and difficulty I’m dealing with… funny that that never changes either… JBB]

Mt5:27-37 – Adultery, Divorce & Oaths

It’s taken me since February to come to this place and yet even now I hesitate and spend time wandering around these verses. I remember deciding last year to begin my exploration in Matthew instead of John, which had been my favorite book in the former years, but I started with Matthew because I didn’t want to begin with the strong theological course I remember John taking. Alas, I knew eventually I’d have to face these verses.

The Lord is expanding the prohibition against adultery and removing a “loop-hole” of the difference between thinking about doing it versus doing it. By these verses the two are the same. This is an incredibly high standard that, quite frankly, I’ve been completely ignoring for the past 15-years. In all honesty, these were among the verses that I struggled with for years, continually asking God for forgiveness for being such a lustful teenager, more or less compromised my way through my college years, lived a confused and unsatisfied married existence and plumb gave up on this standard when the marriage went south.

What I had a problem with is the apparent dichotomy or adversarial relationship depicted between Jesus’ standard and our bodies’ desires. By this literal standard there should be a lot of us walking about missing eyes and handless. It’s difficult for me to look at human nature and hold to this standard. I don’t know, it is a fine line between admiring and acknowledge the beauty around us and flat out “wanting it” in a carnal way. But I have a hard time setting up my nature, my drive to physically be in union with another, and simply identifying that as evil, worthy of being literally cut from my existence and life. And having gone from merely admiring to actively “partaking” I stand guilty as charged.

Actually, one thing that I take from these first four verses (beyond the blatant prohibition) is not necessarily the cutting off of various body parts but the vision that we do not have to be merely subject to the whims of our physical nature. For me, that is, in fact the point. It isn’t the evilness of our physical existence. It’s the removal of our social cloak of holding the law but breaking the law and the charge that our bodies are meant to serve us and not the other way around.

One of the things that I believe, or have come to believe is that a way “around” some of these prior difficulties in not the “I am evil” approach, but recognizing the god-given intent of these drives and endeavoring to live as a whole person. There is a reason for this and the extreme is this dismemberment but the idea, I believe, is that we shouldn’t have to take it that far. There is a grace that is stronger than that. That is my hope, at least.

Then we come to the admonition against divorce. It almost comes down to, there’s the way things are “supposed to be” and the way things seem to turn out. The blunt force of the verse is impossible to ignore, but in fact, it goes much deeper than a simple prohibition to divorce. Something I hadn’t previously noticed, something that seems to be all the more real to me, it’s the sense or role of community in these verses, including the last admonitions about anger. This is not solely about personal piety but about the role and effects we have within community. In fact, given that refocus this isn’t just about divorce, but juxtaposes the “ease” of divorce (all one needed was to say “I divorce you” three times in a public gathering from my memory of Islamic tradition), to looking at the result of what happens when one severs a marital relationship. In my way of thinking this isn’t a verse entirely about divorce, but about the man facing the responsibility of sending his wife away. At a time when women had virtually no civil-rights the prohibition can be seen against the man’s “right” to simply dispose of his wife.

As I’ve told someone before, divorce is the emergency glass one breaks when the building is aflame. I do not doubt the miraculous capacity of God’s grace, but it still seems to come down to two and when there’s only one pulling the marriage forward it would seem to no longer really be a marriage. In a sense, I guess the one thing that we can agree on is that both marriage and divorce need to be approached with the same caution, seriousness and deliberation. One does not merely throw away ones spouse.

Interesting that the writer would have Jesus follow up his comments about divorce with a slam against the use of oaths entirely. What then is the point of swearing with an oath when one cannot in fact “pay off” the oath should things not go as one promised? Instead of building a fortress of promises, one simply must keep to what one agrees to. Actions speak louder than words, basically. And again, this isn’t entirely about ones own actions but the net result of ones words and actions within the community. Say it as simply as possible and simply do it. No oath can secure the outcome of a deed never intended to be done. There is value and strength to our words, so we have to be careful and straight forward when communicating our intents. JBB 05.11.2003

Music: Same Changes – Sam Phillips – Martinis & Bikinis