CA votes on bill for safety and accountability in adult film industry, performers plead to keep stringent industry health protocols and privacy

This morning, California voters are faced with a vote regarding regulations in the adult film industry. Sponsored by Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation introduced by California State Assembly member Isadore Hall (D-64th), AB1576 would require adult film industry (AFI) performers to use condoms at all times. It also includes a controversial government mandate on testing and requires all producers to keep health records of their models’ results indefinitely.

“[It] will look to make all adult filmed in CA require mandatory condom use and will criminally penalize anyone charged with violating it. This is not just professional shows; this includes ALL webcam models, amateur performers and personal web content trade,” AFI performer Steven St. Croix wrote on Facebook. “We have to stop the intrusion of the government in our personal, private and professional lives.”

More than 500 performers have signed a Free Speech Coalition petition opposing the bill. Independent groups representing adult film stars, such as the Adult Performers Advocacy have joined the petitioners and the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry trade group, to oppose the bill. The petition will be presented in Sacramento today at an Assembly Appropriations hearing.

Lorelei Lee is a performer and vocal opponent of the bill, calling it “insulting and paternalistic.” In a YouTube video by AFI performers that encourages voters to oppose the bill, Lee said that the bill would require CDC requirements for testing that, according to her, are much less stringent than the requirements in the industry. “And these are performer-developed requirements, performer-development safety and health protocols that have been extremely effective,” she said.

FAIR (For Adult Industry Responsibility) claims that AFI performers have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) than the general population. According to FAIR, a 2012 study found 28 percent tested positive for gonorrhea or Chlamydia.  In 2011, a study found performers 34 times more at risk for Chlamydia and 64 times more at-risk for gonorrhea than the general LA County population. Female performers were also 27 percent more likely to have a repeat infection in one year. They also claim that 23 performers employed by the AFI tested positive for HIV between 2004 and 2010.

“On porn sets in the last decade, there has not been one onset transmission of HIV, despite what you may have heard,” Lee said. “Active performers who have tested positive have done so after an exposure in their personal life. And the moratoriums that have been put in place after those positive tests came to light prevented the HIV from being spread to other active performers.”

The state Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media cleared the bill for vote on April 29.

“For too long, the adult film industry has thrived on a business model that exploits its workers and puts profit over workplace safety,” Assembly member Isadore Hall said. “The Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media soundly rejected the opposition’s arguments because they were based on fear, not facts. The fact is adult film actors are employees, like any other employee for any other business in the state. A minimum level of safety in the workplace should not have to be negotiated. We need to begin to treat the adult film industry just like any other legitimate, legal business in California.”

Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that at least two adult performers, Cameron Bay and Joshua Rodgers, became infected with HIV in the last year while working in the industry. Both Bay and Rodger testified in favor of the bill.

“AB 1576 expands and broadens worker protections for all California’s adult film workers on a statewide basis,” said Weinstein. “We are grateful that Assembly member Hall has shown the courage—and the vision—to recognize that workers in the adult film industry are entitled to the same safeguards and worker protections that any employee in California is, and we will do whatever we can to help pass this legislation.”

Weinstein has been in hot water with AFI performers since he fought the FDA approval of medication Truvada for use by people at high risk for HIV—including sex workers—to help prevent transmission of the virus. Weinstein allegedly called the HIV-prevention pill “a party drug,” and used plentiful resources to fight the drug’s approval.

Nina Hartley, a performer and registered nurse, called the bill “a solution in search of a problem,” during testimony before the state Assembly in April. “There has not been a single case of HIV transmission between performers on a regulated adult film set in over ten years, and yet they treat us like a threat to public health, using shame, sexism and fear-mongering to dismiss our concerns about privacy, discomfort, rights and safety.”

In the video featuring AFI performers who oppose the bill, Christian Wilde said that the AFI performers are safe and careful, and “don’t need outsiders telling them how to do their jobs properly and safely.”

Performer Anna Fox said, “I feel that every performer should have the right to choose whether or not he or she wants to use protection. And I feel that our testing definitely works for us.”

Wilde opposes AB1576 for imposing on his privacy. “[The bill states] that every performer would have to disclose very sensitive, personal and medical information to every studio that they shoot for. And not only that, the studios could keep that sensitive information and on file indefinitely,” he said. “And I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a very drastic break of personal privacy.”

In another PSA, Lee expanded on how the bill would impact performer privacy. “If our personal medical records are being kept by a content producer, that means not just a very established organization, like Kink.com, where we have airtight record-keeping,” she said. “It means anyone in the Valley who is shooting porn out of their bedroom and keeping your medical records who knows where.”

According to Stop AB1576, the bill would compromise performer safety and privacy, as well as choice. It would also drive adult production out of California, with a loss of a multi-billion dollar industry.

“This bill is written by people who have no understanding or knowledge of the way the industry actually works and what regulations might actually be helpful to performers,” said Lee. She added that performers lack a voice in this bill.

“The actual effect of the bill would not be to have condoms to suddenly appear in all porn films,” she said. “What would more than likely happen is that the industry would move to Nevada or underground. And if the industry moves to Nevada or moves underground, what happens then is the degradation of the health and safety protocols that we performers have spent over a decade getting into place…So this bill would make us less safe.”

Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition said in a statement, “Performers shouldn’t have to give up control over their bodies. We are a small community, and not always the most political, but outrage has come from all areas of the industry — gay, straight, trans, fetish, studio and independent — to fight against a bill that criminalizes sex between consenting adults.”

Lee added, “This [bill] shows a total disregard for performers’ autonomy and threatens a vital safety infrastructure that we have spent ten years building…If the bill becomes law, it will, in fact, harm the people it claims it will protect.”

Wilde said that by voting no on this bill, AFI performers can “continue giving you the quality of work that we are destined to give.” He added, “We need our voices heard. We need our advocates out there—our fans who love us and watch our work—to take this into their own hands and help us get out the word…To say ‘absolutely no, thank you’ to this bill.”

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Are You Really Ready to Love In Sickness and In Health?

Are You Really Ready to Love in Sickness and in HealthA Picture of Illness in Action is Worth a Thousand Words

In the year and a half that the Warrior Poet and I have been together, I’m managed to keep this part of me hidden from my love. It wasn’t a conscious decision for me to hide it from him; it just turned out that way. He just happened to catch me in a mostly good spell. And while I had occasional flare ups outside of his company, I had never showed signs of my movement disorder in front of him. He never had to see me at my weakest.

I never had to ask him the question I’d wound up having to ask several men before him: Are you really ready to love in sickness and in health?

Read the rest of my article at Singles Warehouse to find out if WP is ready to step up to the plate:

http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2013/11/really-ready-love-sickness-health/

The Effect of Being More Independent in Your Relationship

moreindependentmeFor three years, I have navigated the dating and relationship world without a license. I know, at the age of 35, it shocks me that I’ve been able to endure it for so long too! It has tested my independence (and patience), as I’ve had to rely on my dates or my parents to transport me, which means that someone else has largely dictated when, where and how long I will spend time in someone else’s company. So how will my life and my relationship change now that I am getting my license back?

Being more independent in your relationship makes you a better, more complete you!

Read more about The Effect of Being More Independent in Your Relationship in my column for Singles Warehouse.

 

 

My One Week Countown to 35: Dedicated to the Ones I Love

living-with-parentsDay 3 is Dedicated to My Parents

1. I am grateful to my parents for taking me back into their home when my health got too bad for me to live on my own (with or without a partner). And for the times when live-in relationships deteriorated… 😉

2. I am grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they have made occupationally (my mom transitioned to telecommuting full-time to keep an eye on me when my seizure-like episodes were at their worst, happening a dozen times a day), financially (when money was tight for me, they made sure I had my medication, gluten-free and dairy-free foods and the most important bills—when they discovered they were delinquent—paid) and with their time (healing from a seizure-like disorder, I am unable to drive until I have six consecutive months without an episode, so my folks have been driving me to doctors’ appointments, to run errands, to see boyfriends and friends and for social and work events—when I was editor/reporter for my town, my dad drove me everywhere in my town to cover news almost every day of the work week.)

3. I am grateful to my parents for making me feel safe and supported during the scariest point of my illnesses. If I fell, they were there to catch me. If I needed someone to help me care for myself in day-to-day living, my mom fed, bathed and clothed me. If I needed to vent my frustration, they were there to give me a shoulder to cry on, arms to fall into.

4. I am grateful for my dad’s unflappable belief that I would get better. While fear caused temporary blindness at times, he always had faith that I would keep getting stronger and find myself back on my feet again. He was right. He encouraged me to keep fighting, to keep looking for answers, to never, ever give up. Both my parents have always believed in me and been my biggest cheerleaders, and I credit much of my successes to the faith they’ve had in my talents and abilities.

5. I am grateful that my mother has not only been a parent to me, but also one of my best friends. I go to her for advice, for cheering up, for reassurance and unconditional love. I love that I can also be an ear for her, that she trusts me enough to share what she’s feeling when she is comfortable doing so. I am so thankful that our together time is as important to her as it is to me, whether I am 3000 miles away or a hallway down from her.

IMG_0535Day 4 is Dedicated to My Friend Carly

1. I am grateful to Carly for becoming that friend I can talk to every day, beginning at a time when I felt very alone with the challenges I was dealing with. I believe we’ve helped each other a great deal to get through our health battles.

2. I am grateful that Carly is the kind of person who will pop up and surprise me at a doctor’s office because it’s been too long since we last got to see each other. She had recommended I see this highly regarded specialist, who is located closer to Carly’s home than mine, and she wanted to make sure that everything went well. Seeing her face touched me more than words can say.

3. I am grateful for the way that Carly always tells me exactly what she thinks and feels about something. Even when it’s about my behavior, and it’s not always something I want to hear, it’s usually something I need to hear. That honesty is absolutely refreshing and invaluable in a friend.

4. I am grateful that Carly always calls to check up on me after a big event, whether it’s a first date or a chemo appointment. She remembers when my niece was born, the significant relationships I’ve had since and before we’ve known each other and she always asks after my parents. I don’t ever have to guess whether she cares or wonder if she knows what’s going on in my life.

5. I am grateful that Carly puts up with my moodiness and occasional reclusiveness. I know it can be very tough for her as it’s very important that there is daily connection with her closest friends. I appreciate her giving and forgiving heart.

My One-Week Countdown to 35: Day 2

Better late than never:

Later this, I will be turning the big 3-5. I know, it’s hard for even me to believe it, but it’s true. While I know it’s not exactly over the hill, as a never-been married woman with no kids, it makes me feel pretty damn old if I think about it too much. So to silence the ridiculous screams of “spinster” and “cat lady” in my subconscious, I’ve decided to count the days until my birthday with 35 reasons why I am filled with gratitude that I am a perfect age.

Each day I will be listing off (at least) five reasons why I’m thankful to be me at this particular point and time in my life. They will be in no particular order. For the last week, I’ve been thinking of 10 things I feel grateful for each day, so I am hoping this will be no sweat. If you feel so inclined, let me know what you think.

1. I am grateful for the kindness of strangers.

The-Kindness-of-Strangers-mdnI am a proud bookworm who frequents our small-town library easily once a week, if not more. I’m a familiar face to all of the librarians, and I became friendly acquaintances with several of them while I was editor/reporter for a town publication, as I covered events at the library frequently. When I grew too sick to continue working that job, the librarians were concerned as I stopped coming in. When my parents would come to collect books for me, the librarians would express their best wishes and hopes for my continued recovery.

Once I was back on my feet, my regular visits to the library resumed and the women working there expressed joy to see me doing better.  One of those women soon became especially friendly. As soon as I walked into the library, she’d walk back to the book holds to get any books borrowed from other libraries that were waiting for me, and she always greeted me with a smile and friendly words.

One day during snowy weather, the library was still open and I got a call that some books were ready for me to pick up. This librarian offered to drop them off at my house, saying she drove by my house on her way home anyway. Surprised and grateful, I watched as she walked quickly through the wet precipitation with books and CDs in a plastic bag to hand off to me. I thanked her warmly for making such a kind gesture.

She just did it again when I had no transportation to get to the library all week. When I saw her, she said, “Any time you don’t get her for a while, I figure I can just bring your items on hold to you. I drive by your house every day to and from work, and bringing my son to school and back. It’s my pleasure.” Someday soon I will have to think of something very thoughtful to do for her.

2. I am grateful for the generosity of friends

It can be difficult to maintain friendships when your health (and sometimes mood) has so many ups and downs. Plans get canceled necessarily at the last minute. Some friends become frightened by what they don’t know—as I’m overcoming a seizure-like disorder, friends have anxiety that they’ll have to deal with an episode and not know what to do—while words like chemo can be triggers for other friends. Add that on top of the already hectic schedules that arise when the majority of your friends are 30 years and above, navigating marriages or long-term relationships, families, either working at home or at an outside office and other societal obligations.

Anyway, there was a local woman in publishing who had been keeping her eye on my work for a couple years. When she started a group for getting alumni together and allowing them to keep in touch and tied to their hometown, I was mildly curious, but I noticed most of the people involved were much older than I. Finally, this year, this woman reached out and encouraged me to come to one of the monthly events, promising that they were young at heart. So I did.

It turns out that this woman is one of the most giving and generous people I know. She’s driven me around when I haven’t had rides, helped to find me a music gig to get me back to performing again, plus she’s constantly going out of her where to do kind things for all the people she cares about in her life. She’s a networker who connects people because she truly enjoys helping people make their dreams come true.

She’s a giver of the greatest kind. A night owl, she’ll get up especially early to drive you to a job interview at 9 a.m. She’ll think of you when she has extra tickets to an artistic event she knows you’d be interested in. She’ll even drive you to the hairdresser just so you can look especially nice for your boyfriend and a large holiday party. I am so grateful to her for generous spirit—not just because of everything she’s done for me, but because she inspires me to keep giving, whatever position I happen to find myself in life.

3. I am grateful for the Soul Beauty challenge.

A fellow health coach and another great inspiration to me, Christy Foster, runs Soul Carrot Health Coaching at http://soulcarrot.com . As part of her own birthday, Christy ran an empowering, uplifting and enlightening program called Soul Beauty, which invited women to dig down deep inside themselves, to address their insecurities and fears, acknowledge what makes them unique and special and to be bold about their own beauty—from the inside out.

The sense of community that has grown from this program continues long past its official end. I continue to learn and grow from other women’s journeys and by answering some of the questions posed, forcing me to shine a light on my own blocks. Most recently, Christy posed the following question to us: If there was ONE thing you could do without feeling judged, what would it be? I had quite a few things that came to mind, but for the last few months, I’ve been itching to play around with my appearance. Apparently a lot of other women in the group felt similarly. We shared similar concerns—we felt we that we were “too old,” that changing how we looked on the outside too “radically” might not fight into a professional environment, or that dealing with more conservative friends and family who disapproved were a deterrent.

PinkHairA tattoo, something I could hide more easily, is too expensive right now. I am being extremely particular about the design, which will be more of a mosaic of tattoos. So while going to get my hair done on Friday, I got into a conversation with the hairdressing talking about the challenges of doing certain hair procedures on dark, naturally curly hair like mine. That’s when she mentioned an extremely convenient, newer option for bringing new life to my hair, at my own pace, in my own home. It didn’t take much for me to say, “I’m going for it!”

This is what resulted. I got overwhelmingly positive response. And best of all, I feel amazing. And, as Christy said to me, it looks like ME.

4. I am grateful for the unconditional support of friends like @thecrazymagnet.

Though we live 30000 miles away from one another, I feel like he is one of my closest friends, and we can share more intimate details, as well the everyday happenings in our respective lives. Though I know it can be hard for him to give objective advice when I come to him frustrated over different things going on in with me, especially with regard to dating and relationships, he still listens like a trooper, gives me his brutally honest opinion and is there to support if things don’t work out as I had hoped or expected. He’s also been great at keeping me entertained during those days when I couldn’t much more than leave the bed.

5. I am grateful for my improved communication skills in my relationship.

Last week, the boyfriend and I got into a disagreement, mainly because I was feeling taken for granted, mainly neglected, during a time that meant a lot to me to feel connected. I also felt my intelligence and experiences within the same discipline that he also is exploring, albeit in a different direction, were not recognized, honored, and therefore, when he spoke of his study, he spoke down to me as if I couldn’t understand the same underlying process our two passions. My frustration was building up over this and a couple of other things for maybe a week and a half before I had a talk with @thecrazymagnet, and I realized I couldn’t wait until I saw the boyfriend on the weekend to communication.

"ms. understood", conceptual fine art photography ©2006 kelly angard

“ms. understood”, conceptual fine art photography ©2006 kelly angard

Normally in the past, this would be considered as confrontation. I’d be too frightened to talk to my own boyfriend about my wants and needs for that either he didn’t really get it so couldn’t fix it, or that he did get it, but wasn’t really willing and able to do anything to change it—“That’s just how I am.” Unfortunately, we used the workday, which is the worst way to hash out a discussion, especially over IM. After some miscommunications and both of us equally frustrated, I finally took a breath. This is what I mean to say…I felt hurt that you did this because…I worry that you don’t take me as seriously in our conversation topics as you used to…And then I listened. Because the best thing I have learned while being int this conversation, is that when you’re with someone with whom you can so honestly and openly how you feel and what you fear, you are increasing the chances to be understand. Instead of just communicating to be understood, be both strive to really hear and listen so that we can understand. Makes a huge impact on the health of our relationship.

Is the Fear of Change Keeping You In Your Current Relationship?

Recently, a good friend of mine and I were discussing how bewildered she was by her conflicting feelings toward her long-term boyfriend. One day, she was ready to call it quits if he didn’t stop his controlling tendencies, the next, they were seriously considering marriage.

She and I were talking about the ways they could compromise and communicate better when she dropped the following bomb:

“I know part of what’s keeping me in this relationship is the fear of dating again. How do I overcome that fear?”

Want to know the advice I gave her? Read about it on my latest post for Singles Warehouse:

http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2012/08/is-the-fear-of-dating-whats-keeping-me-in-this-relationship/

‘Twas A Bittersweet—More Sweet than Bitter, Bitter Than Sweet—Year

For me, 2011 was the year of truly living SingleInMy30s. At age 33, it was in fact the first time in my 30s I was not involved in some exclusive—usually long-term—relationship for the vast majority of the year. The V-Man and I finally ended our second attempt at being together a couple months into the year…and from then on, I was free.

I can’t say that it was an easy year. My body slowly stopped allowing me to beat it into submission, to work it day and night with little to no rest. Soon my dream job became a nightmare job for my immune system, and I was left facing four months of chemotherapy.

I was forced to go on medical leave from my job, and when I wasn’t back on my feet fast enough, I had to leave it outright. To be honest, I think that hurt more than saying goodbye to V-Man, though those losses are somehow linked. Still, saying goodbye to that old dream, that exciting chapter of my life has led to an awesome new career path and wonderful opportunities I would never have expected.

Most importantly, it re-taught me something I thought I already had down cold—how to listen to my body. Now I truly do understand it’s not worth Hurtling Against the Brick Wall—again. My mantra for 2011? Find your balance.

From the dating perspective, I enjoyed dating a variety of men, broadening my horizons a bit more than ever before. There was the Ballroom Dancer, the Christian Rocker, the Cop, the Karaoke Crooner, to name but a few Up Next On the Stage… I didn’t regret every single one, though there were a couple of opportunities for a bruised ego–most famously, the experience captured in The Appeal of the Exotic Woman. Yet I didn’t allow myself to get too involved in the hunt. Timing was certainly off in 2011.

With all the time I had for myself this last year, there was plenty of time for self-reflection. I dealt with the love I’d left behind in 2010 and finally learned how to say goodbye, with A Letter to a Love Lost & A Lesson Learned and several other entries. I gave the bird to societal expectations of where I should be as a woman of a certain age, Tossing Out the Ticking Time Clock, and embracing my own unique path.

I also focused on my self, recognizing my own faults and weaknesses, and embracing my new strengths, while acknowledging the me-ness that I sometimes allow to get buried behind bitterness/reticence/resignation or tucked under the plastered on happy face for show. With a little help from surprise, surprise Shania Twain, I was reminded about Finding Your Voice Again.

And then finally, sweet romance did sneak up on me when and where I least expected it. We fell hard and fast. Since it is my love life, it couldn’t stay smooth sailing for too long. So I wound up the year with the realization that I wasn’t actually in a relationship. It looked like one, smelled like one and tasted like one, but apparently it wasn’t one. And after that was established, it acted even more like one…conveniently for the holiday vacation anyway.

So I’m not sure where that leaves me in 2012, except that I’m not looking to bring drama from 2011 into this year. I am a survivor of last year. I more than survived, I thrived and feel more alive than I have in a really long time, and I plan to only go up from here. Nothing and no one is allowed to take me down.

30-Day Blogging Challenge, Day 1: Me in a Nutshell

Inspired by Miss Jess Downey, I have decided to start the 30-Day Blogging Challenge. Most of my readers know I tend to write long, emotional entries about the ups and downs of my dating life. I thought this would be a nice alternative to get me in the habit of blogging more regularly and to perhaps allow me to reveal a side of me that you don’t often get to see.

So first, a little about me: I am, as my pseudonym implies, single in my 30s. This is a rarity. While this blog has revealed a serial dater, I am more a serial monogamist. Except for brief interludes, I have basically been in serious romantic relationships since the age of 17…until more recently, hence this blog.

In addition to blogging about dating and relationships, I write about health and wellness. It’s a subject I know more intimately than I ever expected I would, and I have turned it into my strength, rather than a weakness. I also am on leave from being the editor/writer for online daily hometown news.

I currently live in Connecticut again, where I grew up. With my parents, and there is an extremely good reason for that. I also live with my 5-year-old cat, who is not my substitute child, though he sure is loved.

And now for 15 interesting facts about myself.

1. I have lived in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Connecticut, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Yes, Las Vegas, baby!

2. Up until grade 5, I wore my hair in braided pigtails nearly every single day of school. I was long known in my hometown for those and my begged-for tumbling displays at recess.

3. After locking myself in the bathroom when I was a kid, I never close any door at my home all the way shut…unless the niece and nephew are sleeping over because I need those precious hours of sleep in the morning.

4. I have traveled cross-country several times and been to Toronto, the Bahamas, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, England, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, Thailand and Nepal. Has that satisfied my wanderlust? It’s only just scratching the surface.

5. The reason I went to Toronto was to meet a man I stumbled across on the Internet…back in the ’90s. We had spent a couple months IMing, video chatting and talking on the phone beforehand. I still count it as one of the best weeks of my life.

6. While I have had multiple sprains and strains growing up as a competitive gymnast, soccer player and track and field athlete, I only broke a bone once. It was in Germany when I was 16, insisting on playing soccer with the boys just like I had since I was 5. After the hard fall, I kept playing, and in fact didn’t get treated for it until I was in France several days later.

7. I am 5 feet and have been a lightweight most my life, but I am very strong. I have literally pulled down trees, yanked out bushes, and carried sheet rock more than twice my size. I was an indoor rock-climbing maniac thanks to my arm strength. In middle school, I broke the record for doing the most pull-ups for a girl. A little more than a year ago, I finally broke my own record. Not bad for an ole’ gal.

8. I was 17 when I had my first real kiss. I was 17 when I had a lot of other firsts.

9. I am the proud aunt of an almost 4-year-old nephew and an almost 2-year-old niece. They are adorable, funny and incredibly smart.

10. I have a strong fear that I will never be able to have children of my own one day, biologically or otherwise.

11. I tend to organize potato chips by size and M&Ms by color before I eat them.

12. I am a true melting pot, with African, Bulgarian, English, French and Native American heritage (and probably more.)

13. I haven’t been legally been able to drive a car since January 2010 for health reasons. It is one of my biggest frustrations.

14. I hate reading directions, but I am a great troubleshooter, creative cook and baker as a result.

15. I have recorded an album, become a professional writer, traveled to incredible places, swum with the dolphins and knocked off so many things from my “bucket list.” But I still think that bucket list won’t carry much weight for me until I find that lifelong love. In spite of everything, I’m still a romantic, so sue me.

Tossing Out the Ticking Time Clock

Couple in Love by fajridet

They call me SingleInMy30s, and I am a serial monogamist.

It boggles my mind to think that I have spent 13 of the last 16 years of my life in a serious, committed relationship. Beyond that, for one year I mourned the loss of the four-year relationship. And the remaining two years of my adult romantic life (if we start at age 17 ½), I spent dating and searching for the partner who would stick.

I have been looking for that best friend and passionate lover and tender partner who would stick by my side through thick and thin, through the ups and downs of the rollercoaster of life. Stick with us through courtship and marriage, family shenanigans and creating a family of our own and supporting each other through the inevitable transitions we each would go through over the course of life.

At times, I have been so busy looking for that, I have sacrificed looking to find my own self. I believe I know who I am, what I stand for and what I believe. However, years of dating man-boys with domineering personalities sometimes threatened to extinguish the spark that was the unique spitfire of me. In a way, being sick and single while I am forced to make my recovery has been my salvation.

I read whatever I want to read—be it serious literary fiction or young adult graphic novels, critical commentary on the Western food diet or books on how to have a strong spiritual life—for as long as I want. I can explore all these interests without anyone batting an eye. I can stay up until 3 a.m. in the morning reading without anyone complaining. I can write my missives on whatever topic strikes my fancy at whatever hour it pops into my head.

I can watch political documentaries in the middle of the day and blog about them in the afternoon without someone saying, “Are you getting paid for that?” I can watch marathons of entire seasons of Brothers & Sisters, Parenthood, Game of Thrones and Small Ideas for a Big Planet. If I get hungry in the middle of the night, I grab food to snarf in bed.

If I were not on leave from work, I’d have all the time in the world to cover the bevy of cool events that occur over the weekend—events I always missed spending my entire weekend at a boyfriend’s house.

I can talk to my friends and see them when my body allows, without feeling like I am stealing any of my time away from my boyfriend—with limited energy for many years, I constantly had to make choices about who to squeeze into the few blocks of time when I was able to be out and about and social. Inevitably, someone was always being left out.

Now, I have plenty of time with my family, and I can appreciate them more as individuals instead of “characters” to complain about in a story to other people. I can find time to support my friend as she embarks as laughter yoga instructor. I can go over my musician friend’s house and jam with her and other female musicians—once I am feeling stronger.

There’s time. So much time. Maybe too much time. My mind is always thinking, plotting. What am I going to do with the next stage of my life? I’m not tied down anymore. As I begin to heal, I want to go back for my master’s. But there are steps to take before then, but how will I go about doing them? Where will I do it?  Which program is best for me?

I’m a 33-years-old single woman. Probably the most single I’ve been in a very long time. I know that I might not be 100 percent healthy in my lifetime. I recognize I will probably have challenges having children. I realize the clock is ticking for certain things.

Or maybe, if I am brave enough I will have the courage to just take the batteries out of the clock, and look at the journey in a completely different light. It’s a bit terrifying, but also incredibly exciting. I can’t help feeling a sense of exhilaration thinking, What’s next?

Does No Mean Bring Me Chicken Soup?

I was about 10 minutes into the latest disappointing RomCom. Not so disappointing because it had the predictable arc of boy meets girl, girl resists boy’s charms, boy falls in love, girl denies she’s in love and breaks things off, boy moves on, girl realizes “wait, I’m in love with boy,” but it’s too late…or is it? I honestly did like the sex buddies twist.

It was more disappointing because it starred Natalie Portman, from whom I’ve come to expect great things, for the most part (cough, certain Star Wars movies).  While she brilliantly played her dark role in Black Swan, the last film I’d seen her in, I would certainly never choose to see that twisted movie again, and I was looking forward to seeing how the beautiful and talented actress could tackle comedy.

Anyway, I was just settling into Natalie’s recent foray in romantic comedy when the doorbell rang. It was nearing 9 p.m., we weren’t expecting anyone and we very rarely had unexpected guests, unless you’re counting Jehovah’s Witnesses or lawn maintenance guys trying to sell their services. We all—my mom, visiting brother and sister-in-law, and I exchanged quizzical looks; no one knew who this could be. But I had a sinking suspicion that the person on the other side of the door was probably looking for me. The question was, exactly who was doing the looking?

My brother gamely went to answer the door, and I continued chomping on my second dessert of the night. Hey, I was celebrating No Rapture Day. Then I heard his voice.

A near anxiety-attack inducing déjà vu flooded my system when I heard the unmistakable Philly accent of Karaoke Crooner snake around the corner. “Is SoloAt30 up in her room?”

Not another one. Not again.

I knew I had to stand up and face the music, as much as I wanted to sink into the sofa. “I’m in here,” I said with heavy resignation. In he bounded in with a plastic container of chicken soup—fresh from the grocery store.

“I brought you some soup since I know you aren’t feeling well,” he said, too afraid, I noticed, to look me in the eye. “But I didn’t know you’d have company,” he said hesitantly (and accusingly).

“Karaoke Crooner, my brother and sister-in-law,” I introduced.

“Do you want to go outside and talk?” he asked.

“Um, no, I’ve had a rough day, and I just want to relax as I’d planned for now,” I said. “We’re watching a movie. You’re welcome to watch, if you want.”

Chick flick with the girl’s family. I could see the wheels spinning in his head. He decided to stay. Throughout the movie, he was obsessively doing who-knows-what on his smartphone. Trying to ignore his presence, I kept thinking to myself, “What is he doing here?”

The situation almost immediately made me sick to my stomach. Okay—that may have had more to do with the apple-filled doughnut I was eating when he came in, but he certainly wasn’t helping. (Tip: fried foods and chemo don’t mix. Hope you don’t ever need to know that, but just in case…) My body went into uncontrolled spasms.

He showed no concern for me or my health, except to say, “I can leave if you want,” in between fiddles on his phone.

Yes I want. “It’s up to you,” I said with an unmistakable tone—I could give a rat’s ass if you walked right out that door right now, and I never heard from you again, chicken soup or not.

The movie ended. “Do you want to go outside and talk?”

Ugh, no. We opened the door. Thankfully it was pouring rain.

Not to be deterred. Karaoke Crooner suggested going to his car. “Help!” I tried to send vibes to my mom, but she was leaving me on my own this time. I grabbed my raincoat, ignored the hand he held out for me as we went down my front steps and walked to his car.

He told me how he figured he had to drive over here, or we’d never break this cycle of not seeing each other again. Smart one. “I didn’t know if you’d think ‘how sweet, he brought me soup,’ or if you’d think I was being a stalker…”

He said he knew he was ‘messed up mentally’, but he was really a nice guy. I agreed that for the most part, he’s a fairly nice guy. He wouldn’t intentionally hurt anyone. He holds the door open for people. He tries to be polite when he’s not spinning in his own world of depression and/or anxiety and/or extreme OCD or whatever cycle of the bipolar condition he happens to be at the time.

He said he felt bad for getting irritated and picking fights when I wasn’t able to get together before, when he should’ve said what he was really feeling. Which was, “I miss you.” Oh no.

I can’t remember the entire sequence. He grabbed my hand and tried to rub it. He hugged me and tried to pull me in for a kiss.

I pushed back. “No. I don’t want this.” Damn, I was proud of myself.

“Come on. You can’t give up this gorgeous specimen of man,” he joked. Tall, missing a front tooth, face frozen in clownish expressions, though when I still had favorable feelings toward him there had been a boyish charm to him. Now that I knew him better, there was just nothing I found too appealing.

He worked a maximum of 15 hours per week on the clock in medical sales so he could still collect unemployment (he was a certified high school teacher in PA, and has been just shy of getting a master’s degree for several years.) Instead of using gas money to go to the other office location on certain days, he would take the day so so he could drive further away at night to get drunk with his friends at karaoke.

His vision of being a karaoke venue reviewer was pretty much frozen because he was caught in a really bad mental/emotional cycle, but he had refused to pick up one of his most important medications for more than a week. This guy didn’t need a girlfriend—he needed a life preserver.

“Are you sure you really meant it when you said you just wanted to be friends?” he said coyly, trying to pull me in again. “Seeing me again doesn’t change your mind?”

“No,” I said as honestly as I could muster. For my health, no!

“No, as in you don’t want to stay just friends or no as in—“ he said with a cocky grin.

“No as in, I haven’t changed my mind,” I said as gently as possibly. “I don’t want to be any more than friends.”

I tried to steer the conversation away to other things for a couple minutes. Then I told him I was tired and needed to lay down inside. After desperately trying to lock another date commitment out of me, I told him I was going back in. He hugged me and of course tried to give me more kisses.

I finally pushed him away. “That was sweet of you to bring chicken soup,” I said. “Have a safe drive home.”

He texted me when he got home, asking me to let him know when I got up. I didn’t.

Readers: seriously, what do you do when someone in a really fragile state of mind really doesn’t take no for an answer?