My Savage night

On Saturday night, we were feeling like the epitome of the old married couple – slightly bored and desperate to get out, but having no clever ideas of where to go. After much thought and hand-wringing we decided on dinner and a movie. (Feel free to copy that brilliant idea but make sure to mentally thank me when you do.)

After eating dinner at our favourite sushi restaurant, we headed downtown and grabbed some movie tickets. Since we still had an hour before the movie was to start, we window shopped to kill some time. Unfortunately by the time we made our way back to the theatre, the only available seats were in the very front row. Apparently we had severely underestimated how many other people want to get out of their houses on a Saturday night. And based on our experience out in the world so far, frankly we weren’t sure why.

We were grumpy enough about this to actually get back in the giant line-up at the movie theatre and get a refund for our tickets. Defeated, we started to meander back to the train station to go home. As we approached Granville Street, John casually said “Isn’t that Dan Savage show on tonight?”


Just in case you don’t know, Dan Savage writes the sex and relationship advice column Savage Love, which is found in independent weekly newspapers around North America and many other parts of the world. He is perhaps best known in the wider culture for starting the It Gets Better campaign in an effort to tackle the high rate of suicide among gay teens. He is also an opinionated voice in politics and isn’t afraid to froth up controversy. In short – he is awesome.

We had seen a poster for his show a few weeks earlier but hadn’t really pursued it, mostly because we are cheap. Some subconscious part of my brain pulled up the knowledge that the show was at the Vogue theater – which was just down the street from us – and my shame at slinking home at 8:15pm on a Saturday night gave me the motivation to say “let’s head down there and check it out.” Which we did, despite some skeptical looks from John.

The area around the theater was completely empty (bad sign) but the box-office was open (good sign). I asked the woman behind the glass whether the show had started and if tickets were available. She said they were just getting started as they were running late and yes, tickets were still available. Then she said she had two single tickets that had not been picked up from will-call that she could give me for free. They were not together but both were great seats – one in the second row, the other in the front row of the balcony. Umm, yes please! I was so taken aback that I didn’t even thank the woman with the profuseness warranted; I was expecting someone to take the tickets away from me at any moment so I just wanted to get inside immediately. HOLY CRAP, WE JUST WALKED RIGHT INTO FREE TICKETS TO SEE DAN SAVAGE!

John, knowing of my political and intellectual hard-on for Savage, let me have the second-row seat. I stumbled in the dark to find it as the show had already started and then proceeded to grin for the next two hours while he answered audience submitted questions.

He was brilliant live, as I knew he would be. Smart, witty, heart-felt. While I do not relate to his advice on foot fetishes and nipple clamps, I find his views on relationships to be a breath of fresh air in a world that feeds us a lot of bullshit about the nature of love. Here are some of my favourite philosophies of relationships according to Dan Savage:

  • There is no settling down without settling for. Or like he said at the show “There is no ‘the one’ – there are hundreds of thousands of potential ‘ones’ out there – or more like 0.64’s that you round up to one.”
  • Relationships come with a price of admission. That price might be a partner who never picks his socks up off the floor or it might be one with an insatiable desire for pies being shoved in his face (this is apparently an actual fetish, basically anything you can imagine being fetish-ized, is – along with a lot of things you can’t.) Ask yourself at the outset if that’s a price worth paying for all the lovely things that person brings into your life and if it is, then accept it.
  • Sexual exclusivity shouldn’t be the cornerstone of marriage. You only have to look at the high rates of infidelity (or Newt Gingrich) to see how hard it is to meet this requirement for four or five decades of marriage. Savage’s suggestion of sexual openness in marriage is often interpreted as disrespectful to the institution and threatening its very core, but he argues that his is actually a very conservative view: he wants marriages to last. And allowing a little bit of sexual freedom – even if just in theory – might preserve a wonderful marriage that provides emotional support, raises children, and otherwise makes you very happy. I should also add that Savage is all for monogamy when it works (as it does for us) and believes you should keep that promise once you make it – but does question the weight placed on monogamy over everything else. Read more on that here.
  • People who are in long-term, exclusive relationships are allowed to find other people attractive. Contrary to popular opinion, being in love does not obliterate all of your other senses and feelings; while you are a living, breathing human being, you will find other people attractive and admitting that’s ok might just make you a little more sane.

The underlying message is one of realistic expectations, hopefully leading to more honest and lasting relationships. Many of these topics are entire posts on their own and I may not have explained them sufficiently in my summary, but I’m curious to hear your reactions.

(Click image for source).

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Posted on January 24, 2012, in Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I just finished reading Savage’s book “The Commitment” and LOVED it. (ahem, Forrest questioned the wisdom of spending $12 on a Kindle book that took me less than 2 days to consume…)

    I always find his argument that sexual exclusivity is not a cornerstone of marriage super interesting. Intellectually, it makes so much sense to me–I don’t think there is another thing that we expect our partners to exclusively provide for us (except romantic love) so why expect them to be our EXCLUSIVE sex partner. I like his stance that a stable loving relationship doesn’t have to be defined in the ways that we’re use to it being defined. (Does this mean I have to admit Newt got something right? That was able to create his own rules?)

    But on an emotional level I can’t grasp it. I just can’t. But I guess the point is that if I could and needed some openness that it would be better to talk about it and agree to something than to end the relationship? I just can’t see it, I really can’t. Not for me/us anyway.

    • I’m with you 100% – it sounds great in theory but practically speaking, I’m not there. But I like having that thought in my head – the knowledge that maybe being married doesn’t have to mean no sex with anyone else EVER. And I think that’s what Dan says a lot too – that sometimes just knowing that can make you look at your partner differently and not view them with resentment over time.

      And I still argue Newt did everything wrong. His wife (or wives) wasn’t in an open relationship – only he was. That’s just being a lying scum bag.

    • You know, I don’t think you have to admit Newt got it right. He made promises he wasn’t keeping, and tried to change the rules to fit his whims … not something his partner(s) had discussed or was(were) on board with. I think there’s a very big distinction there.

      That being said, I <3 Dan Savage. So much wisdom in that man … and just enough irreverance to make him accesable. I had the chance to meet him a few years back and have nothing but good things to say about him. =)

  2. I <3 <3 <3 Dan Savage, even though I'm like the most vanilla sexual person. It freaks my husband out how much I love his column. His memoir books are great too.

    I had to laugh though when you described yourself as "cheap" after going out for sushi & a movie! That sounds like quite an expensive night to me!

    When we are bored (well, before we had baby), we would go to random dive bars and play pool or darts.

    • Oh not in this case – we go to the cheapest sushi place in the neighbourhood (it’s Vancouver, we have two on every block – it’s our fast food) and if I’m being totally honest, we thought we had some free movie coupons we could use ;-)

  3. I really love Dan Savage. I listen to his podcast at the gym, and I’m always quoting him at home. I love what he has to say about a family’s relationship with their gay relatives and the price of admission and the spectrum of issues he discusses. I feel like I’ve lived a fairly sheltered life and listening to him has definitely expanded my world view.

    I agree with Beth that theoretically his opinions about monogamy make sense to me but on an emotional level I can’t imagine it in my own life, but that’s what I love about him. He makes me more aware and accepting of others’ choices.

    • LOVE the podcast. It gets me through workouts and commutes – though I sometimes feel a bit strange listening to him talk about anal sex or something while on the bus…

  4. I know of Dan Savage but I’ve only read a little of his work — I think your descriptions above are the most I’ve ever read of his philosophies of relationships. Like others have already mentioned, I personally can’t wrap my head around the concept of a successful marriage that allows for infidelity, but maybe that’s just because that’s what I’ve heard my whole life, that cheating is BAD! But I suppose it ain’t really cheating if each partner is on board. For two people who both want that, have talked about it, are okay with it, and are enjoying themselves, I’m just happy they found a way to make it work for them. I do think society’s approach to traditional marriage and children is outmoded — it needs to be rewritten for all walks of life.

    And! I’m so happy for and jealous of your SUSHI! We have that here, too, but all the cheap places are really effing bad. Which means that twice a year we get to go have really good sushi.

    • Yeah I can’t wrap my head around it either. I guess I’m just not the kind of person for whom sex matters enough to risk a relationship over. But I think for a lot of people it does, and Dan Savage makes a convincing case that some openness can exist in a strong marriage and be preferable to divorce.

      I didn’t realize quite how lucky we were sushi-wise until I traveled a bit more – I took it for granted that you could eat a platter of great sushi for $5.99. I figured anywhere along the west coast would be decent – bummer it’s not.

  5. yes. this. 0.64’s that you round up to 1’s. although i’d probably say i found at least a 0.75… :)

  6. Free tickets?!! How awesome is that! I love when things work out in such a serendipitous way. And you can never go wrong w/sushi in my book–that’s usually where we go when we want to eat out (either that or Indian or Thai).

    I’ve never listened to Dan Savage’s podcasts, but I’ve read and enjoyed 2 of his books on his own relationship/marriage/child-raising. Lots of rational thoughts on topics that, as you mentioned, are swarming with false assumptions and unrealistic ideals.

    As others have mentioned, I think he has some interesting, illuminating views on monogamy even though (and I know this is hugely cliche to say), I don’t think B or I could probably handle non-monogamy… at least right now, maybe not ever?… but I respect couples who grapple with those desires in an open, honest way.

    • We have the exact same take-out menu! Mmmm…. curry…..

      And I would definitely recommend the podcast if you’re into listening to those – obviously not as thoughtful as his books but he’s very good off-the-cuff and goes into all this stuff.

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