The Gift of the Magi, Redux

Ever read O. Henry’s short-short story The Gift of the Magi? It’s the classic holiday tale of comic irony where a young, deeply-in-love husband and wife cannot afford to buy each other presents. Unbeknownst to the other, they each sell something they particularly value to get money to buy a gift for the other and — here’s the irony, folks — each of them buys something related to the exact thing the other has sold and no longer possesses. Womp. Womp.

It’s a sweet tale about doing things for those you love, and discovering what is really of value. But it’s also sort of a tale about the importance of open, honest communication — and what can happen when there isn’t enough of that. Recently, we pulled a bit of a Gift of the Magi, ourselves, by each trying to do something nice for the other person without making sure we were communicating well and fully.

Spoiler Alert: It didn’t go great.

One day, while talking about non-monogamous fantasies, Ess divulged to me that he likes the idea of public sex — of being seen. I then got it into my head to make that happen. Not brave enough for the kind of public sex that might get one arrested, I figured that a LS party with open playroom(s) would be the way to go.

With that in my head, I asked if we could attend a local LS holiday party that fit in our calendar. Not wanting Ess to think I was doing this as a favor for him, I decided to ask for the party tickets as my birthday present (my birthday falls in the month that preceded the party).

Ess told me yes and added that it sounded fun, so tickets were purchased and outfits planned and put together for our first sexy LS party.

Holiday gift box with glittery gold lid and snowflakes
photo | Freestock

It wasn’t until we were in the car on the way there, nervous and admitting to one another that this type of event really doesn’t feel like “us” — that Ess fessed up to not having been interested in doing this type of thing and admitted he had said yes and feigned enthusiasm because I had wanted it for my birthday — and I copped to mostly having orchestrated it as a way to give him a fantasy he had expressed.

Oh, Gift of the Magi, we have learned nothing from you.

Ah well. We acknowledged that the event probably would not be very “us,” in the end, but decided to forge ahead with the goal of having a good time and using it as a way to grow together and find out what a LS party is all about — and just have a good time. In the car on the way there we talked about our expectations and boundaries for the night. The idea was to have a sexy night with each other and possibly play with others, if it felt right to both of us. We went into it pretty open-minded, all things considered.

Close up of disco ball with blue lights reflected
photo | Paul Zoetemeijer

The party itself was fun and interesting. We have added details in the REVIEWS section for those in our area who might be considering attending one by this event organizer. I developed a serious crush on one of the hot young bartenders, who did an excellent job flirting with me throughout the evening. I like to think I am the only woman he flirted with all evening, and we both agreed to just let me believe that.

[We should make sure to say here that we were smart about our drinking, purposefully keeping it moderate and making sure not to over-do.]

We chatted with a few folks early on, without anything more than friendly interest on our part. There were several really attractive couples there, also on their own, who caught our interest for more — but we hesitated too long and what happened is that a couple that wasn’t on our radar sought us out, before we moved to talk to one of the folks we had our eyes on.

They were attractive and friendly. We chatted with them for quite some time and got along fine, but there wasn’t any major connection on our end. Still, when Mr. Other suggested that we go check out the playroom together, we failed to communicate with each other very well — again. Each believing the other was more into the idea than they actually were (and probably both of us just being super curious about the playroom too). We agreed, after just a brief right-there-at-the-table-with-them check-in rather than stepping away and talking about  it.

Listen. We know this is a classic rookie mistake.

Listen. We know this is a classic rookie mistake. But this blog is about chronicling our mistakes as well as our successes, so we have to ‘fess up. And, really, it was just fine. Fun and sexy. The sex was hot. The non-physical connection was just not fantastic.

The swap was fun. Being watched was fun. We enjoyed playing with them on a huge bed with a bunch of other people nearby and lots of people looking on from the VIP area above. It was definitely public. Also, I had the opportunity to play extensively with another woman, and enjoyed it a lot.

But, what this experience revealed to us is that we aren’t really in this just for sex, thrill-seeking, or physical fulfillment. We really want to feel connected to the people we share ourselves with. This wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty hot. It just felt…empty? I guess that’s the way to put it. And, that’s not us.

This is going to sound odd for people writing about non-monogamy to say, perhaps, but one of Ess’ observations the next morning was this: There were a lot of people there who just seemed sex-crazed and didn’t appear to care a whole lot who they hooked up with, as long as they hooked up. While that’s actually OK with us for other people — if that’s what they want — we don’t want that to be what this is for us.

There were a lot people there who just seemed sex-crazed and didn’t appear to care a whole lot who they hooked up with, as long as they hooked up….we don’t want that to be what this is for us.

Our take-away was still positive. When checking in the next morning, we agreed that neither of us felt even a twinge of jealousy or any other negative emotion in terms of our relationship. I was excited to have discovered that I enjoy and am maybe even pretty good at pleasing another woman. And, even though we’d just swapped with another couple in a huge bed in front of other people, we didn’t feel as if our relationship was at all diminished.

Mostly what we learned is that we need to establish some signals during meet-ups and dates so that we have subtle clues to what each of us is thinking and wanting,  we need to simply step away and talk more before agreeing to do things, and we need to never again say we are into something we aren’t just because we think the other person wants it. That’s doesn’t make for comic irony, in real life — it’s just a bad idea that could lead to not-so-comic effects in the long run.

These seem like simple things. What we’re finding is that, in the moment, they are not so straight-forward. There’s a huge human compulsion to not hurt other people’s feelings and “be polite,” but if we are going to more forward with the LS, we’re going to have to find ways to be kind to others while remaining true to ourselves.

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