Sex + Love

The Last-Chance Cuddle Puddle

If only I were a little more chill, everything would be OK with us.

Illustration by Marjainez

Illustration by Marjainez

In November, I met up with my boyfriend, Nigh, at Wolf House,* an anarchist commune in the mountains of Northern California. I went there to see what was up with commune life, and also so Nigh and I could repair our bruised and still rather tender relationship. This is a take on what happened.

***

The moment I walked into the Main House I felt my skin grow hot and my guts constrict. How was I not supposed to feel jealous when there was a drop-dead gorgeous punk sitting cross-legged in the kitchen playing Magic the Gathering, wearing nothing but a face tattoo of a bear claw, and an animal hide dangling down her back? In the days that followed, I’d learn that this girl wasn’t planning on putting on actual clothes any time soon—she was acclimating her body to the mountain air to prepare for the frigid dead of winter. Some days she’d accessorize her minimal costume with the dried-up faces of two skinned foxes worn like pasties, each face barely covering a nipple. How was I not supposed to feel insecure and angry when she would hover in full-frontal nakedness around the wood-burning stove as Nigh and I attempted to work on our very fragile relationship over morning coffee? Next to her, I felt like a terribly plain and lumpy square.

I am all for playing around with (lack of) clothing, and this girl did nothing wrong, so I did not feel angry at her. What I felt instead was a very hot sadness bubbling somewhere between my uterus and sternum. This sadness contained dread, a panickiness like my heart was slowly being squeegeed, jealousy, plus a nagging feeling of guilt for being jealous. After all, modern feminist women aren’t supposed to feel resentful towards other women, right? Moreover, hippies don’t harbor negative thoughts towards other souls…right? If only I were a little more chill, everything would be OK. But it was hard for me to chill when I knew that at any day I could be snowed in, stuck inside a house with my boyfriend and this naked babe for who knows how long. I suppose that I could’ve stripped down too, but man, it was cold, and I wore my hat and coat and scarf inside all the time. Even to bed.

The nudist left before the big snow hit, but then there were the yogis to deal with. There were other cabins at the Wolf, but because the Main House had hydroelectricity and a constantly fed fireplace—because it was the only warm and well-lit place—most of us spent all our time there. We called it “Town Square.” We learned to do our private work in public space. So this ridiculously cute contingent of small blonde dreadlocked girls would strip down to their long johns and flimsy cotton bras to do yoga. There wasn’t that much else to do, so it seemed like they were constantly contorting their half-naked bodies in the middle of the Square. They’d hold their hands in prayer, their bodies like arrows, before dipping into downward dog, their bums rising toward heaven, and then curve their bodies into cobra and flip onto their backs, thrusting their pelvises higher and higher… I could have joined them, but I didn’t. Instead I sat around and watched—and watched others watch, and watched Nigh to see if he was watching—like a moldy, grumpy, bubbly-guts-jealous creep.

You should see the the way Nigh cuddles Zebbie the goat or the way the pigs (who squeal and run from everyone) let Nigh touch them. The point is that Nigh is super-attuned to the vibrations of others, so he sensed my discomfort. (In retrospect, I don’t think I was too subtle at disguising my emotion.) And so Nigh acted like a Hassid forced to share sidewalk space with scantily clad hipsters in East Williamsburg: his eyes were constantly down.

Meanwhile, everyone else was cuddly. I should mention that there was a large crew of self-proclaimed witches wintering at the Wolf who lauded erotica and used sex-magic (spells involving sex and sex juices) to reclaim power over their bodies. (Their spokeswitch was Lola B’Moanin, a female-bodied person with an alpha-male personality who had done stints in the army and on fashion runways before she become a witch.) The hippies call one another “family” and lament the individual’s isolation in Babylon (what they call the outside world), which they combat with ample hugs and shoulder rubs. Also, there was an approximate 3:1 ratio of males to females at the Wolf, and as the days grew shorter and the snow piled up and the possibility of escape became more and more remote, the sexual frustration of the group grew increasingly apparent. At the men’s-group meeting, Nigh told me, it was agreed that things would be a whole lot better if there were more females. “It’s natural! It’s gross, but it is the natural balance of things,” said Crack, and Bluebottle admitted, “I’m soo-ooo lonely.” Even Sun—irritatingly blissed-out and enlightened Sun, who went on a spiritual journey in India and is always beaming a face full of light, reciting Hafez in his goofy rainbow-colored scarf knit with thick yarn—confessed, “You know, I seem happy, but I’m actually a pretty lonely guy. I’m lonely.” Frustration appeared in dry-erase pleas on the board hung above the dish rack: Klamath is giving out free massages for anyone on dish duty! Or: Cuddle Puddle tonight!!

Everyone was showering everyone else with Universal Love. Rated G, but still, the line between a friendly hug and a sexy touch was too ambiguous for my comfort; plus I didn’t like the idea of Nigh cuddling up on other girls. So we—the only young monogamous couple at the Wolf—kept our hands to ourselves. As someone who didn’t identify as a hippie or a witch but just as a confused human, I was already feeling pretty alienated from the kids at the Wolf, and the fact that Nigh and I weren’t part of the cuddliness only added to my feeling of isolation.


* Some hippies don’t like it when you take a photograph and they’re in it. They say it takes a piece of their soul, or something like that. So, out of respect for the commune and the communitarians, the names of the commune and its dwellers have been changed.

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23 Comments

  • rosiesayrelax March 18th, 2013 3:49 PM

    please could you just make this into a book series or something because its perfect and because i am obsessed with weird hippie communes and when i read this and your previous article it made my day

    http://rosieandthewolf.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Anna M. March 22nd, 2013 12:31 PM

      thanks! and thank you for all the nice comments, ladies. i am trying to make a book – that’s the Big Old Dream – thank yoo for the encouragement!

  • Mary the freak March 18th, 2013 4:15 PM

    This article… it’s beautiful.

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • forevernymph March 18th, 2013 5:05 PM

    This is so incredibly interesting. I’d love to try living like this for a while! Who knows? Maybe I’d even stay living like that.

  • stelliform March 18th, 2013 5:06 PM

    Is this a true story? It’s brilliant.

  • Ameliathistle March 18th, 2013 6:09 PM

    I need some advice…
    I am looking for a commune in the UK. None of the places I’ve found are actually hippie or truly communal. I’m looking for somewhere separate from the rest of the world, where freedom and love are priorities. However, I’m looking for somewhere temporary.
    Cany anyone point me in the right direction? Or know someone who could?

    • Katze March 19th, 2013 7:53 AM

      Have you heard of the Faslane Peace Camp? A friend of mine lives there and it’s a really nice place! It’s a protest camp against nuclear weapons, but it’s there since the 80s so today it’s more like a hippie commune and the people live there in caravans and shacks. The people there are always happy about visitors and you can easily stay there in a caravan for some time. And also I’m sure the people there can help you find more hippie places.
      Here are some links:
      http://faslanepeacecamp.wordpress.com/
      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Faslane-Peace-Camp/10143429717

    • Anna M. March 22nd, 2013 12:35 PM

      i would check out
      ic.org and wwoof.org

      ic.org is a listing of all intentional communities, eco-villages, et cetera. normally you can visit a commune so it’s just temporary, and then see if you want to stay longer (become a resident). wwoof is a listing of organic farms, where you can work and learn in exchange for room and board. also temporary.

      east wind is a lovely commune, so is acorn and twin oaks… there are lots lots lots of them all so lovely and so free and no money anywhere in sight just lotsa kombucha.

      • vanguardinspace April 2nd, 2013 11:12 AM

        I’m looking for something similar to AmeliaThistle, but in California. So many of the listings on ic.org sound lovely but I’m finding it hard to sort through them and figure out whether the environments would have the energy that I’d like. Suggestions?

  • Skatapus March 18th, 2013 6:16 PM

    This is very interesting, a great look into a way of living very different from my own, as well as an interesting peek into a relationship. I ended up just as curious about the other characters mentioned as I was about the narrator and Nigh, as it sounds like they all had super interesting back stories as well, and I was left wondering just how they all found their way to the commune. :)

    http://travelsocks.tumblr.com/

  • chloegrey March 18th, 2013 6:41 PM

    As a story about a decaying relationship and some Not Good Feelings this is totally sad and well-written and absorbing, but it also makes me want to go hang out on a commune even though it seems like the author didn’t have a very good experience there! I have to say my experience with polyamory is not super anything substantial but I’m in an open relationship now and when it first started being an actual ‘open relationship’ I felt kind of weird and like maybe if it didn’t work for me we would end things, but now it actually really makes me happy because it’s not full of pressure and if my lady friend is happy with some other dude or lady then she’s happy and that makes me happy and it means I can explore with other people and so… I think it’s a Pretty Cool Thing. Anyway A+ Anna this is totally beautiful.

  • Monica B March 18th, 2013 8:37 PM

    Wow. Thanks for this. Super duper beautiful.

  • spudzine March 18th, 2013 8:41 PM

    Wow that was so incredibly interesting that I can’t believe it’s real. But of course it’s real, because it’s the kind of stuff that can’t be made up.

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/

  • Melanie Hunt March 18th, 2013 9:00 PM

    oooo, randomest thing I’ve read this week!!!! didn’t know theses actually exsisted since the 70′s :)

    KissForYourCamera

  • StrawberryTwist March 18th, 2013 9:10 PM

    This is such an interesting article! I really enjoyed reading this! :) Thank you for posting this

    http://www.fashiononfire.org

  • Veronica Gunther March 18th, 2013 9:23 PM

    When I finished reading this I was really sad. I don’t know exactly why… I supposed it’s because I’ve tried polyamory before and it didn’t work.

    Trying to “save love” by bringing other people to the relationship doesn’t work. You see, to bring other people in, the relationship has to be already awesome. But frequently people look for polyamory when things are not working. And end up even worse.

    Today I know that I can’t be on a open relationship, but I know that we can “share” someone from time to time. As an ex-boyfriend told me: sex is perfect with 3 people, but love just happens between 2.

    People don’t understand that what is best for me, maybe it’s not the best for you. Polyamory is not for everybody and the same goes for monogamy. That’s why the first thing a couple needs to do when things are not working is to TALK. Really talk and open up. The answer is not outside, it is not in a hippie community.

    On the other hand, it was a good experience I guess. Try things out and discover what you DON’T WANT is very important. Actually, if I had’t experienced polyamory, today I would still have this doubt. And that would be terrible.

    ps: Sorry for the bad english, I’m brazilian!

    • lxmldrt April 11th, 2013 12:26 PM

      I was totally moved by this article. I guess I was a bit sad too. Your comment kind of cheered me up.

  • unicornconnect March 19th, 2013 4:46 AM

    This was so interesting. Please write more:)

  • wallflower152 March 19th, 2013 10:21 AM

    Hippie communes are fascinating! I’m reading Arcadia right now actually, Rookie recommended it several months ago. I wouldn’t mind living in some kind of commune for a while or maybe longer. I think the idea of living off the land and growing/hunting/gathering your own food is beautiful. Because in the end that’s all you really need–food, water and shelter. I’ve been working a “real job” for less than a year and I already know I’m NOT gonna live like this forever, I’m so restless for something different…

  • barbroxursox March 19th, 2013 6:37 PM

    I agree with someone earlier in the comments that you should make this into a book… It’s amazing! Hippies and communes are so interesting and I used to like idolize them. I love the philosophy, I guess, of hippies, but I’m not sure if I could ever totally live by it. But some summer, I do wanna try living on a commune, at least for a few days/weeks to get the experience. I used to want to live on a commune like forever, but I think I’d be too chicken and need to come back to “real” society.

    http://lizard-onawindowpane.tumblr.com

  • Nora Springer March 20th, 2013 7:59 PM

    Wow, this is amazing. I couldn’t imagine living like this, but maybe I should. I’m constantly stressed and strung out, and I would love some time away from it all, where I can try and stop worrying about what people think. It sounds like a beautiful place. Sad, and full of people healing, but beautiful.