Love And Dust- How My Relationship Survived Burning Man
we’d communicate it. We figured out what sort of arguments we might have and negotiated how we’d process our emotions. Generally, we’ve had the “water-snacks-hugs” strategy, that if one of us is pissy, we go through that three-item checklist and make sure all those needs have been met first. It serves us pretty well in London, and we figured it’d be just as good in a duststorm. And, of course, we talked about what we wanted our Burn to look like, what sort of boundaries we had, and what we wanted and didn’t want to do. We agreed that if either of us weren’t feeling like doing a recreational substance, we wouldn’t push- and we’d make a point to accept any trips we did take the way they were. No drug decisions while on drugs.
Finally, we had both agreed that, well, we had fought before, and would fight again, so a fight wasn’t the end of the world. This was both realistic and really helpful, because our experiences arguing meant we knew exactly what we needed to do to move past our strops.
We were over-prepared.
In many ways this was the most chill Burning Man I had gone to. I went to bed early on multiple nights, didn’t wander all over the playa, and reduced my substance use drastically. I didn’t feel like I needed it. Sure, fixing the tent in the rain was a pain in the ass and we had a spat about it... but then, we also had a double rainbow to make up for it. And yeah, the dust storms were crazy, but we stayed in or wandered our neighborhood. It was really the first time I felt ok not trying to go to lots of events, not trying to make plans with everyone I knew at the Burn, and trying to see all the art- and that lack of pressure I put on myself meant that I was much more relaxed and had a better time. The boy found some of it amazing and some of it waaay too hippie for his tastes, but discovered that to be a lot of people’s experience on the playa, so felt ok about it.
Burning Man did a lot to improve our relationship and make it stronger. The boy went exploring on his own, and went to workshops and events without me (two that come to mind was finding his power animal and learning about deep throating and pegging). I got to have naps in our camp’s hammock. When we were tearing down and I was feeling pretty ill, he agreed to stay up and help so I could get a full night’s sleep in preparation for the drive the next day. I found us working together at Burning Man more than we had before, problem solving in ways that worked for us both. And I realized that when he went to do things without me and could come back and tell me about them, I enjoyed hearing about it without feeling a pang like I should’ve been there. I even spent a night hanging out with a friend of his while he went to bed early, which was really cool.
The Relationship Survival Guide warns Burners about to go as a couple that these things can go either of two ways—you bond and become closer, or you never want to see each other again. I’m pleased to have found that the boy and I became closer. We didn’t have loads of sex out there—and that was ok.
As my previous article on sex on the playa states, I generally don't. Too dusty, too hot, too cold, too busy. I'm pretty picky about the perfect times for sex! But I will say that there was one morning where the temperature was just right, and the boy looked so cute with his glasses and his stubble, that we just went at it like crazed monkeys. The orgasms were great, though wiping up the mess with baby wipes lacked a certain classiness. As did the post sex eating cold soup from a can. But that which doesn't kill you makes your relationship stronger, yes?
We didn’t hook up with other people for play—that was also ok. I learned I could trust him, in a city filled with people into experimenting and hooking up, to respect my boundaries, which was a huge step for us. And he learned that he could take care of himself and find his own fun, which put the bounce in his step he needed. At the end of the week, we got playa married, in between tearing down our camp- and it was perfect. We’re already looking forward to next year... together.
Burning Man is not easy. You will argue. Your bike might get stolen. You might get cracked skin. You might realize that the one food you really crave you don't have. You might realize the closest port-o-potty is very far away and you have to go RIGHT NOW. It's easy to take out frustration on the person beside you. But, similarly, when you get through it, and realize you're on the same side, it can be incredibly bonding, healing, and magical. And that doesn't have to stop on the playa. I just got back from sharing the new experience of a mani-pedi with the boy, a luxurious way to pamper yourself after the harsh environment of the desert. I feel like our love has matured and deepened. I've never been so glad to push past my fear and jump anyway.
And the boy? He's gotten to experience working a bit on a big art piece, being part of a theme camp, fishing for ravers, riding on an art car in deep playa, being gifted bacon bloody marys by a gay man in a jockstrap. We've yet to see how it will have changed him, but I can already sense him being more grounded. We survived Burning Man, and look forward to the next challenge with a sense of adventure. Cause, well, we're probably not going to be run over by a flaming art car on our next adventure!