Resources for dating in small communities

For most of the decade from 2007-2017, I lived in West Marin. Bolinas was home for most of that time but I also spent a lot of time in Point Reyes Station (where I rented office space for a couple of years). These small towns are nestled amongst some of the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes upon, much less had the privilege of living in.

West Marin’s relatively small population presented (and still presents, I assume?) some challenges in the realm of intimate relationships. Though serial monogamy seemed to be the norm, it wasn’t the only relationship structure practiced within in this constellation of towns. We dated one or more of our neighbors; we became exclusive and shacked up for a spell; we broke up, moved away, and/or moved on to new partners… and not always in that order.

The web of current and former relationships grew ever-more complicated with the turn of each season. Through it all we still attended all the same social gatherings and were more or less friendly to each other in public, no matter how strong the jealousy, resentment, and anger raged in internal or private conversations.

I was frustrated by the lack of direct, open, compassionate communication about what was going on. At some point I wondered if it might be helpful to develop a set of tools — cards perhaps? — that would both acknowledge the scenarios we kept finding ourselves in, and provide some model language where there seemed to be none. I thought about it for a while, then actually created a few and shared them with a few friends for feedback. They liked the concept enough to encourage me to share these cards more widely.

I nicknamed the project “Cards for Community” as a nod to Cards Against Humanity, a game we used to play at weekly West Marin game nights. For a while I anonymously maintained a website with the new “cards” I created (I think you’d call them memes nowadays), complete with a form inviting contributions or requests for cards that would address additional scenarios. Nobody responded, most likely because nobody knew the project existed and I was hesitant to shout about it at the time because: small towns! When the domain name came up for renewal and I decided to save the $13 rather than keep the site going.

But I never really stopped thinking about this project. If anything, I feel even more strongly that we need better language to identify and communicate, with ourselves and others, the feelings that come up as we engage in a variety of relationships… regardless of where we happen to be living. That’s a project that I consider ongoing, even if I’m not trying to create memes for it anymore.


If you’ve made it this far down the page, you might be interested in the following books, listed in order of highest rating on GoodReads:

Though I was willing to look past the absurdly hetero- and gender-normative cover art, I did NOT find much inside to redeem Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. The author is a public-relations machine but I simply cannot glean anything useful from her writing… maybe you’ll have better luck though?

This is certainly not a definitive list and I haven’t actually read the first one; I recently discovered co-author Franklin Veaux on Quora (after answering a question about YouTube, of all things!) but from what little I’ve read of his, I’m a fan.

And. AND! Thanks to him I now know that Xero Magazine was “a small-press print magazine devoted to cyberpunk, industrial, BDSM, and psycho-sexual themes,” which I find highly entertaining, of course, as an employee of a company called Xero.

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