We need help navgiating 2018 so we live freer than we did last year. There are few better people to help us through these times than Randa Jarrar, award-winning author of A Map of Home and Him, Me, and Muhammad Ali. Every other week, our new advice column “Ask Auntie Randa” will post on Wednesdays and be devoted to your questions seeking advice for life’s complexities especially health, sex, Muslim stuff, and identity (we extend an extra hearty welcome if the quandaries are about first- or second-generation living). Have questions? Send them along to Randa: email@example.com.
Dear Auntie Randa,
How do you balance your writing work with your social life and friendships, since they both require a lot of energy?
Thank you for your question; it’s an excellent one.
The amount of social life one needs will always vary from person to person. For example, I myself need plenty of down time to foster my own energy and, as an extrovert, I love and need the energies of others. But I also require lots of time by myself. I’d encourage you to first look into what you need, socially: by journaling, or talking to a therapist, or to a dear friend.
There’s definitely a boundary that I build around both my writing and my social life; for example, some days, I won’t check my phone until I’ve written a certain number of words, or I won’t check my email unless I’ve responded to my friends’ texts. I won’t check work email after 5pm in general. I’ve learned to figure out what I need in terms of social interaction: once a week, I may need to spend time with a group of people, or, in that same week, I may prefer one-on-one friend time. If I’m drained from my writing and teaching, I won’t be able to do the heavy work involved with one-on-one interactions, because they require intense listening and openness. So, I may choose to attend an event—a reading, usually, or a show—that lots of my friends may already be attending. I’ll use social media sites like Facebook to peruse events in my town and see which friends are interested in going; I’ll invite lots of friends to an event there, or start a group chat about a specific night I’m hoping for a group outing.
Writing a book requires a lot of time alone. A lot. If one’s goal is to write a book, that task usually takes two years. Sometimes, it takes ten. Sometimes, one. But two years is what I personally need for a draft. In order to meet that self-imposed deadline, I won’t socialize more than once a week. Some weeks, I’ll socialize even less. Some, more, depending on my needs. When I was raising my child—he’s an adult now—that time was even more restricted. I made choices about how I spent every hour he was at school and every hour he was asleep. Discipline was key, then.
Friendships, like all relationships, must be fed, nurtured, and grown. I choose anti-racist, body-positive friends who support me and love me unconditionally. I choose friends who have my back. I choose friends who are honest. I choose friends who respect my boundaries. All this, I reciprocate. Everyone in my old life who didn’t do these things or have these qualities is no longer in my life.
When Trump won in 2017, I decided I wanted to live more and work less; to walk my dog, to smoke my weed, to eat Ethiopian food with a lover, to swim in warm water, to breathe deeply, to cry, to drive to mountains, to drink tea copiously, to sleep next to my pets. To live. I realized that I had placed too much value in myself as a worker, an achiever. This might be because I’m an immigrant and daughter of immigrants. It might be because I’m a Capricorn. It might be because I spent years being a single parent.
All this is to say, socializing is overrated. Work is overrated. Finding what it is that you want, that you need, in friends and in your art, and putting measures and boundaries in place to make things happen: That’s the ticket.
Dear Auntie Randa,
I’m a woman of color, and I’ve found a wonderful lover who shares the same ethnic background as I do, which is rare in my city. We get along really well, have great sex, and are kinky together. There’s one problem: He stopped going down on me after the first few dates. We’ve been dating for about 9 months. He is usually very much “down” to try new things, and is very talented with his hands, which is why I’ve been okay without oral pleasure for so long. I asked him why he doesn’t go down on me anymore. He said he likes his food salty and his pussy sweet. This was a baffling response since pussy isn’t supposed to be sweet as a default. This is not the first partner who’s said they dislike the taste of my pussy. One partner said that my pussy tasted best when it was waxed and I had just taken a shower. Another said it tasted best after a bath. This is why I usually shave or wax, and always bathe or shower before sex. What should I do?
Wanna Be Licked
Dear Wanna Be Licked,
In the beginning, there was a point of infinite density—a small singularity. Our life on this planet, in this solar system, in the universe, is a result of that point taking almost 14 billion years to expand. Please don’t spend another millisecond of your life wondering if there is anything wrong with the way your pussy tastes.
Preferring a sweeter vaginal taste to a savory one is just that—a preference. Would you prefer that his spunk taste like a strawberry shake rather than a can of cream of mushroom soup? Maybe.
A lover who shares your ethnic background and is talented with his hands really is wonderful. And I believe you when you say that the combination is rare in your town. I won’t tell you what others might tell you: Stop fucking this moron and find someone who understands that vulvas aren’t foods.
And I won’t tell you to take probiotics, or check with your doctor that you don’t have a recurring yeast or Bacterial Vaginosis infection, or that you should eat pineapples or cut out red meat or douche or not douche.
I won’t tell you to decide whether being with this partner is more important than getting head. If it were that easy, you’d have made a decision by now.
This is what I’ll tell you: Your pussy and the way it tastes is 100 percent fine. There is absolutely, definitely nothing wrong with you. Like all sex, oral sex requires a certain level of trust and surrender. In order to enjoy it, all parties must feel safe. This means you can’t make your partner go down on you if he doesn’t want to, and you are unlikely to enjoy oral sex with him now that you know he doesn’t like the natural taste of your pussy.
You can tell your partner exactly how you feel. You can go taste flavored lubes together and see if he’d be willing to go down on you with the lube spread over your pussy. But that’s about all you should do. Your partner’s preference is his own. Your body is your own. And it is perfect just the way it is.
Dear Auntie Randa,
Can you read coffee grounds? My great-aunt used to read my mother’s cup, and then my mother read mine. But what she sees is usually pretty tame.
Curious and Caffeinated
Dear Curious and Caffeinated,
I can! And I would be happy to. For those who need more info here: Tasseomancy is the practice of reading a person’s fortune in the grounds of a cup of Arabic coffee. (Some call this Turkish coffee, I say the Ottoman Empire can suck it.) The coffee itself is creamy and thick—it’s not meant to be sipped to the last drop. Your tasseomancer takes your cup with the dregs, flips it onto its saucer, then waits. The bits at the bottom of the cup spread downward, and the impressions left behind are what I read, or interpret. My mother taught me how to do this. For me, it’s a playful, magical, and trusting interaction between the sipper and the reader.
Please send me a video or photos of your fresh coffee cup after you’ve sipped it, turning the cup counter clockwise as you record. Send videos and pics to: firstname.lastname@example.org.