I normally blog about my Burning Man experiences in a moment by moment fashion but I am not going to do that this time. I was there for 12 days, and I honestly don’t remember the exact sequence of events for every single day.
This year had some very distinct themes for me, so I am going to write about those.
1. Female friendship and support: This year was the first time that I teamed up with a close female friend to make Burning Man happen. In the past I have always camped with a group of near strangers and a partner if I had one. For years I haven’t wanted to put myself in a position to risk disappointing or being disappointed by a female friend. This essentially meant that I haven’t been close to any females. But that has changed over the last year or so. J1 and I joined the meal plan of a bigger camp at Center Camp and had our own little two-person camp about two blocks from there. We built a dome almost entirely by ourselves, in which we had a hammock, a chair and my tent. J1 decided to keep her tent outside of the dome since she had alternative sleeping quarters on the playa where she spent most nights anyway. We were on pretty different schedules and constitutions but ran into each in the dome about once a day, at which point we would chat or have a snack or go get our vaginas cleaned in one of the spa camps together. It was great to have a girlfriend to share triumphs and bounce various freak-out moments and other playa struggles off of. I also spent quite a bit of time with another female friend, J2. She worked at the same place pretty much every day, so I was able to stop by for visits often. Together the two J’s felt like my family.
2. Masculine vs. feminine: The struggle between the sexes has been a big topic for me of late. For one, I am aware more than ever of the oppression and objectification of women that has been going on for millennia, and I am fucking angry about it. For two, due to my own personal relationships with men throughout my life, it is hard for me to trust men. I long for deep, meaningful, sexual relationships with men, and at the same time I fear and distrust men. For obvious reasons, this is an unfortunate place to be.
I decided to use Burning Man to help me heal the chasm between the masculine and feminine in my world. While I wore tiny skirts and shorts with huge boots, showing off my long legs, like I normally do, I decided that I wasn’t going to allow myself to be objectified without respect for my soul. This was difficult because while I want to be sexy and attractive, I don’t want to be just that. I want to be more than that. I allowed a man to tell me how sexy I was and to touch my arms and legs, and I told him not to have any expectations of more. I also cried in front of him after a particularly tough night. I also cried in front of another male friend and told him that I wanted to hold hands and snuggle but nothing more. This was profoundly healing for me. I need men in my life who can handle my emotions and boundaries. I need to show myself that just because I allow a man to touch me, I don’t owe him anything.
On Friday afternoon I went to a three-hour workshop called Emote-a-thon. There, men were present to hold space while women expressed their emotions. Each woman got a turn to go into the center of the circle, choose the man she most trusted and then emote. One of the most powerful aspects of this experience for me was looking into the eyes of all the men before choosing one. It felt so good to have all these men looking at me, being there for me. When I picked my man, I took his hand and led him to the center of the circle. Then I said, “I don’t know if I can ever trust you, ever ever ever. It feels absolutely impossible. I have these longs legs and these boobs, and I know that you like them, but they are going to change. Will you still want to talk to me when my body changes? What if I didn’t have any hair? Would you still look at me? Would you still look at me if I had a screaming baby attached to me all day long?” Then I cried and asked him if I could hit his chest. He said yes. I hit it. He asked me to hit harder and again and again and harder. Then he said, “Is that all?” and it wasn’t, and I kept hitting him. Then I said “How do you like me now?” and I laughed. And he said “I love you.” Then I hugged him and cried in his arms. He said “What else, love?” And I said “You really seem present now but I don’t know if that’s going to last. What if you drink or take drugs or another beautiful lady walks by? Then you might not be there anymore.” And I cried again, and he held me. And he whispered some soothing things into my ear, not all of which I actually understood. One thing he said was “Give me all your tears,” which made me giggle. Then I put my forehead against his, and he said more sweet things. Then I took his face into my hands, which felt so good, and then I touched his chest and his arms, and then I squeezed both of his hands with mine and thanked him.
After the workshop I noticed myself feeling increasingly attracted to men with beards. I took this as a sign that I wasn’t as threatened by the masculine as I had been.
3. Being a baby: My niece was born to my sister on August 18, and in the days leading up to this birth I realized that for a long time I had wanted to be treated the way a baby is treated. I wanted to be touched and held in a non-sexual way, to be able to scream and cry whenever I want to and to be able to sleep and rest whenever I want to. I wanted to be important and the center of attention, just like a newborn. My sister had been born when I was still a baby myself, and by the time my brother was born another two years later, my emotional needs weren’t getting met. And that’s how things stayed all of my life because somehow I didn’t think it was okay for me to have needs because I wasn’t “a baby.” I was the oldest. I never learned to ask for what I needed because it didn’t seem okay to do so.
The day after the Emote-a-thon I went back to that camp because I had been told that there were always people that were “there for you.” When I was connected with someone, I told him “What I want more than anything right now is to be held like a baby.” He took me to the “cuddle dome” and held me like a baby, and when that started straining my body, I curled up on the floor, put my head in his lab and he stroked my hair. It was lovely.
4. Being loud: Two days in a row I participated in a voice workshop in which I got to grunt, moan, hum, sigh etc. It was liberating. It also resulted in me being extremely loud while taking down our dome by myself at the end of the week. That was liberating as well. Next, I am going to get a megaphone and stir some shit up.
5. Taking up space: I received a lot this year and didn’t give a lot. I needed this imbalance. One night I hogged a trampoline for about two hours and didn’t let anyone else on it. While I was playing around on the trampoline, a lot of men noticed me because I had a lot of energy. But this wasn’t about them; it was about me. I realized that in the past I have needed another person’s permission to be playful, to be sexual, to be physical. Not this time.
After an uncomfortable and unfair confrontation with someone on the last day, I felt violated and angry. I used this anger to fuel some dancing. I hadn’t really been dancing all week but finally the anger was like a drug. I decided that I was not going to keep myself small anymore. I was going to take up space, whether other people liked it or not.
6. Love and hate: There are some things I love about Burning Man and some that I hate. There are some people I love at Burning Man and some that I hate. For example, I am kind of tired of the ritual of having to get out of the car and hug the greeters. What if I don’t feel like hugging anyone right now? This year I listened more to the things I hate, and then I didn’t do them even if other people really wanted me to.