“By going the way of your wishes, from one to another, from first to last. It will take you to what you really and truly want.”*

This post was written on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, a day after Loy Krathong. I’m currently in Luang Prabang, Laos.

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When I opened up Facebook on my phone at three a.m. today, a message from the FB team was waiting for me on my news feed. Turns out, since the social media service knows where I am at all times, it Spidey-sensed I was in Thailand, and wished me a happy Loy Krathong.

When you’re drunk and tired and your contact lenses are glued to your eyes, and Facebook wishes you a happy holiday you don’t know, you stare at your phone like a dog stares at humans when they try to speak long complicated sentences to it.

Derp?

So I Googled “Loy Krathong.” On the night of the full moon of the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar, Tai cultures (Thai, Laotian, and people from various parts of Myanmar), launch krathong on a river, canal, or pond, and make a wish. Krathong can be anything but is usually a little boatlike basket made of banana leaves and containing incense, a candle, and sometimes a coin. Some folks translate loy krathong to “to float a basket.”

A large part of me wished I’d spent the night launching little banana-leaf baskets onto a river instead of drinking vodka out of a plastic pail more suitable for sand-castle–building children. A smaller part of me now wishes I’d made a Kaitlin-size krathong and floated myself somewhere, just to see where I would go.

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The first time I went to Southeast Asia, I cobbled together vacation days, sick days, and personal days at my nine-to-five in order to take an eighteen-day trip first to Cambodia and then to Thailand. Before I got to each of the six cities I’d crammed into less than three weeks of traveling, I read up on what I should see and how to see what I wanted to see, and when I got there, I was hungry and I was listening. My mouth and ears and heart were open, and my expectations were low. I stayed in hostels. I walked everywhere, maybe even places I shouldn’t have. I talked to people, tourists, locals as best I could. And all I hoped for was that I would figure out a little something about myself and my life, and if I didn’t, I at least went on a kick-ass trip, one I worked hard to take, and one for which I was grateful.

Of course, if you know me, you know I figured out more than just a “little something.”

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So far this trip has been different.

I took a minibus to Ko Pha Ngan’s half moon party my first night on the island, but after that, the farthest I’ve been from my hotel (not a hostel) has been about three-tenths of a mile. I haven’t met anyone I’ve spoken to again following our first meeting. I’ve been working, copyediting, yes, as work doesn’t stop just because I’m in Thailand, but when I have had time, and when I considered venturing out, scared wasn’t the word I’d use to describe how I felt. Reluctant, maybe, or apathetic. Uninspired, for certain. So far I have used paradise as the backdrop for my work, my daily routine, and have all but ignored it, its people, and what it values. Hope. And making wishes.

I’ve always liked the concept of making wishes. The word making implies effort, creation, and I think that wishes are more often silent pleas for the strength to achieve a wish, instead of the wish itself on a platter. I worked on a poetry book recently in which the author said that dreams don’t come true but are made true, and wishes, I think, are fashioned much in the same way as dreams.

Embarking on this trip, I saw it as an opportunity to get a lot of work done, finish my book, and really start creating my business, which is, if I haven’t said, dating advice and coaching for women. I expected—no, more like demanded—that Southeast Asia drop a pat of inspiration and motivation on me (as it had the last time), while I shuffled around the grounds of my hotel, didn’t make a single friend, and vowed that tomorrow, yes, tomorrow, I’d stop making my first question in restaurants, “What is the Wi-Fi?” and then reading on glamour.com about what Reese Witherspoon’s real name is. My mouth and ears and heart have been closed, and I’ve sat like a fat cat, trying to get an entire continent to write my book for me. And I have been, up until now, ungrateful for its unceasing beauty, lack of frivolity, and smiles.

Tomorrow I take a ferry to Ko Samui, where I’ll get on a flight to Bangkok, and then Luang Prabang, Laos, a city known for markets, coffee (ahhh), and quiet, the bars closing early. No full moon parties. No half moon parties. No neon T-shirts with Kanye West sunglasses on them and quotes like Sex with me = free breakfast. I haven’t yet said to myself, Things will be different in Laos, as they will be different only if I make them so.

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On December 2, Todd and I will fly, I from Laos and he from Thailand, to Siem Reap, Cambodia, the country I went into loving and hugging, from which I asked nothing, only to receive everything I didn’t know I needed. And there, I’ll float, my arms open, no expectations, pushing a banana-leaf boat with my wish to the fore, poised to ride the current of an inspiration entirely of my own making.

*From The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende

Photos: View of Laos from the plane; full moon party on Ko Pha Ngan; the Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 2013; the moon at six a.m. over the Ko Pha Ngan port
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Don’t Judge a Woman by Her Assless Chaps*

I wrote this post at six a.m. on August 19.

A debate surrounds the famous linguistic study that Eskimos have far more names for snow than non-tundra-surrounded cultures, but true or not, it’s hard to deny that an onlooker can tell a lot about a culture by the words it uses for what they love—and, of course, for what they hate.

I have a friend in Vegas, about whom, if you didn’t know her, you’d make assumptions regarding her life style and behavior. She has a lot of tattoos and several piercings, and a good word to describe her clothing is sparse. (Though, to be fair, given how I personally like to dress plus how fucking hot it is in Vegas, I’m given to dressing sparsely too.) My friend is a stripper, but she also has an art degree and paints murals for corporations and draws dogs and cats (including my long-gone kitty, Ollie) in her spare time as she works on building her career as a painter and an illustrator. She is, in two words, a complex human.

But anyway, per her recent Facebook status, she was on a plane back to Vegas when she got into a fight with a mother who was “talking smack” to her daughter about my friend’s dress and purple lipstick. I’m not sure what exactly was said, but my hunch is that it was something to the effect of:

Now, little Dandelion Eliza, that is what you don’t wear if you want to be a lady.

I don’t really know what parents are naming their children these days, but I thought Dandelion Eliza had a nice ring to it, especially for the day when that child goes to EDC wearing only dandelion pasties on her nipples.

This is baby me, back when I looked like a male version of Little Orphan Annie and didn’t know what stilettos were.

The words that exist to call women nasty nouns (slut, hussy, etc.) are about equal in number—if you’re in the thesaurus section of the bookstore—to the nasty nouns for men (Casanova, womanizer, etc.). The difference, to me at least, is in the connotations of (aka our gut reactions to) these words. And aside from whoremaster and lecher to describe “slutty” men, the male nasty-nouns-that-aren’t are . . . actually sort of pleasant-sounding. Casanova? Romeo? Gallant? Amorist?

A lot better than bimbo, chippy, wench, and tramp, and, of course, the ever-popular fancy woman. That one, as I suspected, first came into use just shy of the Victorian era, when everyone was trying to be superproper when they spoke about their whores—and also because they were too stifled creatively to come up with slore.

This is me now—on my best behavior.
Hi, Mom!

Words aside, when I read my friend’s status update, I felt . . . wronged. I’ve often sat on planes, wearing a short dress and heels, heavy black cat-eyed liner around my lashes, and had some woman pointed me out to her daughter as the kind of woman she shouldn’t grow up to be, simply based on how I was dressed, I would be furious. I’d want to say that if she doesn’t want her daughter to be an educated, well-traveled business owner with tons of friends, a great boyfriend, and a kick-ass relationship with her parents, she’s the meanest mother I’ve ever met.

Men might sometimes slobber over us, figuratively and literally, and shout out such compliments as “Nice tits!” but other women, not men, are women’s biggest enemies.

I wrote a blog last summer about why women shouldn’t be afraid to be sexy, or to want sex, and why women name-calling other women has to stop. Here I am again, not because I’m out of ideas but because I’m impassioned, talking about the same subject, albeit from a different angle.

Believe it or not, although I am in an open relationship, and my boyfriend and I don’t plan to get married, we both want children. At (almost) thirty-two—ack!—I have many friends who are either pregnant or who already have a child or children, and so lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ll approach certain topics when I have my own kiddos, including the topic of this blog.

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My “office” a few weeks ago, plus the sun hitting at a nice angle (Runyon Canyon).

If it were true that our professions and attitudes always rubbed off on our children, Jessica Simpson and Katy Perry (both daughters of ministers) would be nuns, so I’m neither deathly afraid of nor pushing for my unborn children, the children of pickup artists, among other talents (remember: complex humans), becoming Casanovas and harlots.

I also can’t imagine ever, ever pointing out someone like my friend and telling my daughter that the tattooed lady on the plane is the wrong kind of woman to be. But I’m not a mother, and one thing I never like to do is pretend to know how I’ll act in a situation in which I’ve not yet been.

Vegas, as usual, just being fucking weird.

Vegas, as usual, just being totally fucking weird.

But what I hope, then, is this: I hope when I have children, be they boys or girls or someone in between, my guy and I are good role models for how to act as plain old people in general, regardless of gender. I hope we stress confidence, strength of character, bravery, independence, drive, and open-mindedness, and encourage both passion and compassion, empathy, creativity, adventurousness, and innovation.

I’m also okay with encouraging purple lipstick.

But . . . shit. That sounds like a lot of work! Good thing I have an excellent work ethic—even if you wouldn’t think so by my outfits.

*And no, my friend was not wearing assless chaps on a plane. But how fun, right?

If you can’t figure out who the Yoko Ono in your group is, you’re the Yoko Ono.

This post was written on Monday, April 20, 2015.

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Here’s Todd looking at the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago.

This morning when I woke up, I told my boyfriend (his name is Todd, by the way, something I’ve never actually mentioned on here): “I think I’m your Yoko Ono.”

He laughed and, because he’s not familiar with nor does he give a shit about pop culture, said, “I sort of get that reference.”

So if you, too, are a pop culture novice or abstainer, know that many fans repeatedly blamed Yoko Ono for breaking up the Beatles and negatively influencing John Lennon’s music and career. Some people, even decades after the Beatles’ dissolving and John Lennon’s death, hate her guts, and celebrities from Courtney Love to Taylor Swift have been labeled Yoko Onos after having allegedly sabotaged or muddled the careers of their former significant others.

When I don’t feel great about myself, I don’t write, and if I do, it’s slop. So, judging from the lack of posts over the last several months, things haven’t been too shiny for me in this glitzy city. When Todd was abroad working for five weeks, I squandered away an opportunity to go out, make friends and join social groups or clubs, finish my fucking book, and decrease my dependency on him, instead opting to cuddle up under my comforter like a hermit, copyediting and, only occasionally, writing some slop.

Most of my friends know what Todd does for a living. Or, more accurately, they have a fuzzy idea of what he does. I told him this morning that I can’t remember who I’ve told which snippets about our relationship and life together, because I decide what information to divulge based on my determination of how accepting—or not accepting—each person might be.

My boyfriend teaches and practices pickup, or game. The art of seduction is his passion and area of expertise, and he teaches men how to be more engaging and interesting, more sexual, more aggressive (in a non-creepy, non-molesting way), and more alpha, in order to free them from clinging to the first girl who eye-fucks them and obsessing about what to text a girl and when and how much and Wah, why doesn’t she like me? He and his coworkers see sex as necessary and nothing to be ashamed of for either sex; one-night-stands as something men and women want; and sleeping with hundreds of girls as good practice, the ultimate way to find out what you want and don’t want, and also, as pretty fun.

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Hakkasan last Saturday night.

Our relationship, it would make sense, is open. This is okay by me, because I don’t have a preference about gender, and our arrangement allows me to explore that side of myself solo or sometimes with him, without that sedimentary guilt sitting in my gut as a result. If you’ve ever cheated on someone, you know what I’m talking about.

But, of course, because he does this for a living, it’s out there. And I mean, way, way out there. Not just on his social media and his company’s website, but on his YouTube channel, which boasts videos laced with pickup concepts, theory, and in-field footage, video of my boyfriend talking to, picking up, kissing, touching, and sometimes bringing home women. One video exists in which he very clearly has sex with Not-Me in a club.

It would take a pretty secure woman to be cool with all that, right?

While my confidence has never been described as sky high, it has been pretty good since I’ve been with Todd. When you date a guy who can have a Playboy model (because he has) and yet he picks you, you do kind of feel like you’re the shit. That doesn’t mean, though, that the visceral response I get to seeing him kiss another girl—or more—ever goes away.

My version of Yokoness comes out here. My insecurities, my jealousy, my Where were you last night? or Did you fuck some girl? questions don’t really help a pickup artist want to keep doing or teaching pickup. It makes him afraid of hurting his girlfriend at every turn, and it makes him dilute what he does both when she is and is not around. If our relationship were monogamous, the red flags would be obvious.

But it’s not. And Todd has been under the impression that I’ve known for nearly two years now what he does for a job and that I accept it, and he is right to have assumed both. For a while now, though, I’ve let my evaporating self-esteem, my dependence on him, and my inability to truly be open with the people in my life about my life . . . break up the band, so to speak.

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Synonyms make me happy (the bathroom at Little City Grill, Boulder City, Nevada).

Todd also said to me this morning, “Kaitlin, one of the reasons why I’m a pretty happy guy is because I don’t have any secrets. I’ve put myself and what I do out there for everyone to see, and I couldn’t erase it now if I tried. And I don’t want to.”

A long time ago, when I cheated on someone (this blog is the honesty blog, in case you haven’t noticed), I stopped my online writing. I didn’t tell my friends what had happened, and so I stopped making an effort to hang out with them, because I felt like what I had done had been splashed across my face. That it was oozing off me. That no matter what I did or said, I was a fraud because a small part of me was hiding.

So what Todd said made me think about my life, his job, and our life, and how my tolerance—or, I guess, intolerance—impacts me. When he first told me what his job was, I confided in my mom only a few days later. I didn’t tell my dad for more than a month and a half. With other friends, I wrote e-mails instead of telling them in person. That way, I could huddle behind a virtual firewall when they told me I was crazy. When I meet new people, I usually tell them Todd is a dating coach/motivational speaker (which is, on a very basic level, true). And when they say, “Like Hitch?” I just nod and say, “Yup. You got it. Just like Hitch.”

It definitely makes things easier.

If you ask my grandmother what Todd does for a living, she’d probably just say that she still can’t believe he wore sweat pants the first time he met her. We’re going to strike her opinion from this blog.

A friend once said to me, “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway.”

I’ve thought about what some of my friends, acquaintances from high school or college, or my parents’ friends might think. My aunt in her seventies. My cousins. Anyone, really. But the thing is, if I can’t tell people what my life is like without sugarcoating it or smothering the little dirty parts, I have no business living my life, and in many ways, I haven’t been.

Maybe now I can start.