How An Interplay Session Pushed Me To Trust Myself Again
I wholeheartedly believe in the "move in silence" philosophy. I'm stealth like a jaguar, silently entering and exiting rooms without being seen or heard unless someone turns around and catches me in the act. It's mainly because I don't want the scrutiny, inquiry, and critique. This also means that I won't generally do anything that would cause anyone to direct their attention to me. So for the life of me I don't know what convinced me to participate in interplay last weekend.
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Now before you go pick up your phone and ask, "Siri, what is interplay", I'll tell you what it is not. It isn't a new-age take on foreplay. It's actually an introspective, therapeutic-type practice that incorporates moving, storytelling, and voice inflecting. It also has many health benefits including decreasing stress, lowering anxiety, building and improving relationships, and boosting self-awareness and confidence.
Ironically, I walked into the building with my cousin feeling hella stressed and anxious because I didn't quite know what to expect.
The best way I can describe an interplay workshop is that it's improv-ish.
When we entered the classroom, the eight punctual students were paired up in the midst of a "babbling" exercise in which they talked about absolutely everything and yet nothing at the same time. The object was for the person to freely express herself while the other person remained fully present and listened without making a single interruption. Then they switched roles.
The subsequent tasks, which seemed pretty simple, included activities like concocting a convincing story based on a made-up word and telling another story in a child-like voice. Every task lasted 30 seconds, but some felt much longer than others. My only concern at that point was my ability to fictionalize something so elaborate with such ease. I mean, was I an undercover liar? But before I could ponder a rational response to that question, I realized we were only in the warm-up phase and the interplay leader was truly about to test my comfort zone and stretch the limits of my vulnerability.
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She told us to think of something boring and then sing about it in an operatic voice. And if that wasn't horrifying enough, she divided us into two groups so that half of us could observe the other half!
My group was given the word "light". Then, our interplay leader played music for us to dance to while we created a three-sentence story and delivered it to the other group.
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I frantically looked at the clock. It was only 3:20 p.m. Only 20 measly minutes had gone by and class wasn't scheduled to end until 4.
I glanced at my cousin and gave her the it-is-time-to-go-NOW eye.
She grinned back at me.
The music began.
The five-year-old me would have thrown a tantrum and cried. I didn't sign up to feel humiliated and exposed. I didn't want to be a songstress, an actress, or a ballerina. I wanted to be an observer. A wallflower. The person who had to see what something was like first or how someone else did it before she decided that she wanted to join in, too.
The 45-year-old me wanted to flee.
I tried to come up with a step routine disguised as an escape plan, one where I'd actually glide across the room, down the hallway, and out the front door. Too bad I was a passenger and didn't drive there. So in that moment, I vowed I would never return. But I thought about that decision. I didn't want to be that student.
I didn't want to be the one who didn't apply herself.
I didn't want to be the person who ran away the instant a situation grew unfamiliar or uncomfortable because that doesn't work in either our personal or professional lives.
And I didn't want to be a quitter.
I made the choice to dig deep and I uncovered my soprano, baritone, and bass to describe the boring peach curtains with the autumn leaves that complemented the hideous peach walls. I two-stepped and swayed my way back to the time when I lived in a studio apartment in Boston and the only time it saw sunlight was for an hour shortly after sunrise. It always seemed extraordinarily bright.
"There's no such thing as too much or too little light," I began.
My "audience" was in awe at the impromptu stories I told throughout the activities, and something inside me clicked.
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GoodTherapy, an online mental health resource, defines interplay as "a practice based on the premise that play helps people unlock parts of themselves they have psychologically buried over time." For the last few years, I've been trying to live up to everyone else's standards and expectations of me. I've been playing it safe because I'm so afraid of further fucking my life up and disappointing all the Iyanlas who think they have all the solutions to fix my life.
I've also developed the tendency to overthink and create crises that aren't even there or conversations that may not even take place. But when I think about the choices I want to make because they feel right to me, I instinctively feel compelled to defend my choices like a dissertation because I already know they don't mesh with what everyone else thinks I should do.
I used to be a bit more spontaneous. I was a risk-taker, an independent, unconventional thinker, and a big dreamer. I moved differently. I do not flourish when I play it small. I grow stagnant, oftentimes feeling like I'm suffocating or regressing rather than progressing as I simply go through the daily motions.
Interplay forced me out of my head and discomfort zone. It empowered me and pushed me forward. It reminded me that my intuition is my God-given compass, not the guidance of someone who's traveling down a path I'm not even meant to go.
Interplay even reignited my creativity. Last week alone I've written seven articles in five days! On the surface that may sound insignificant, but I haven't even written seven pieces within a whole year in a very long time.
I refuse to keep suppressing who I am and dismissing what I really want to do. And I don't have to explain it or do it based on approval and consensus. I still won't be that person to announce her every move but if anyone catches me making these moves, I won't downplay them or shrink and hide. I'll just stand a little bit taller and let people witness this glow up.
xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I write about lifestyle and women's health and wellness. When I'm not in front of a computer screen crafting stories, I'm in a kitchen crafting cocktails. Follow me on the 'gram @teronda.
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From Monogamy To Polyamory: 'I'm In An Asexual Poly Marriage With My Husband Of 7 Years'
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be asexual and in an open marriage? Relationship Coach Mikki Bey shared her first-hand experience with us as well as answered some of our burning questions.
Like a lot of people, Mikki met her now husband, Raheem Ali, online. As soon as they met, they instantly fell in love and got engaged on their first date. Just 90 days after they met, the couple tied the knot and have now been married for seven years. Raheem and Mikki aren’t your typical married couple, and despite being married for almost a decade, their marriage is anything but traditional. Mikki and Raheem have what she calls an "asexual polyamorous marriage."
Defining Her Sexuality
It wasn't until last summer that Mikki found the language to define her sexuality. "I didn't have the language for it until last summer," she explained to xoNecole. "Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing.”
Mikki always thought she was broken because she had no interest in sex. Mikki noticed after her friends came to visit and started discussing their sexual fantasies that she realized something was different about her. “At that point, I knew something was definitely different about me since I do not have sexual fantasies at all. It was truly news to me that people are at work thinking about sex! That was not my experience.” This led to Mikki researching asexuality, which she soon realized fit her to a T. “It felt like breathing new air when I was able to call it by name," said Mikki.
"Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing it."
Asexuality refers to people who experience little or no sexual attraction, experience attraction without acting on it sexually, or experience sexual attraction differently based on other factors. Like most things, asexuality falls on a spectrum and encompasses many other identities. It's important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always synonymous: some asexuals may reject the idea of sexual contact, but others may be sex-neutral and engage in sexual activity.
It's possible that some asexuals will have sex with someone else despite not having a libido or masturbating, but others will have sex with a partner because it brings a sense of connection.
From a Traditional Marriage to Kitchen Table Polyamory
Although Mikki never really had a high sex drive, it wasn’t until after the birth of her son, that she noticed her sex drive took a real nosedive. “I never had a high sex drive, but about a year after my son was born, I realized I had zero desire. My husband has a high sex drive, and I knew that it would not be sustainable to not have sex in our marriage at that time.”
She was determined to find an alternative to divorce and stumbled upon a polyamory conversation on Clubhouse. Upon doing her own research, she brought up the idea to their husband, who was receptive. “It’s so interesting to me that people weigh sex so heavily in relationships when even if you are having a ton of sex, it’s still a very small percentage of the relationship activity," Mikki shared.
They chose polyamory because Mikki still wanted to be married, but she also wanted to make sure that Raheem was getting his individual needs and desires met, even if that meant meeting them with someone else. “I think that we have been programmed to think that our spouses need to be our 'everything.' We do not operate like that. There is no one way that fits all when it comes to relationships, despite what society may try to tell you. Their path to doing this thing called life together may be different from yours, but they found what works for them. We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us,” Mikki explained.
"We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us. We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sex partners to lifetime partners if it should go there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it."
She continued, “We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sexual partners to lifetime partners if it should get there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it. Our dynamic is parallel with kitchen table poly aspirations.”
Kitchen table polyamory (KTP) is a polyamorous relationship in which all participants are on friendly terms enough to share a meal at the kitchen table. Basically, it means you have some form of relationship with your partner’s other partner, whether as a group or individually. A lot of times, KTP relationships are highly personal and rooted in mutual respect, communication, and friendship.
Intimacy in an Asexual Polyamorous Marriage
Mikki says she and her husband, Raheem, still share intimate moments despite being in a polyamorous marriage. “Our intimacy is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, although non-sexual. We are intentional about date nights weekly, surprising and delighting each other daily, and most of all, we communicate our needs regularly. In my opinion, our intimacy is top-tier! I give my husband full-body massages, mani-pedis and make sure I am giving him small physical touches/kisses throughout the day. He is also very intentional about showing me his love and affection.”
Raheem and Mikki now use their lives as examples for others. On their website, thepolycouplenextdoor.com, they coach people interested in learning how to be consensually non-monogamous. “We are both relationship coaches. I specialized in emotional regulation, and Raheem specializes in communication and conflict resolution. The same tools we use in our marriage help our clients succeed in polyamory."
Mikki advises people who may be asexual or seeking non-monogamy to communicate their needs openly and to consider seeking sex therapy or intimacy coaching. Building a strong relationship with a non-sexual partner requires both empathy and compassion.
For more of Mikki, follow her on Instagram @getmikkibey. Follow the couple's platform on Instagram @thepolycouplenextdoor.
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