By Michael Love
Community leaders come in all forms… some people teach classes and hold workshops, some own clubs, some are artists, and theater producers. I feel that it is important that we not overlook the hard working people who give their time to organize and run events that bring us all together. Most of the time, these people are not compensated at all for their efforts, they simply create, organize, and run their events for the joy of doing it.
Nancy founded and co-hosts one of the longest running meet-and-greet events in the Portland area. Her events have been known to pull in crowds in the hundreds… and feature a group of people diverse in age and experience.
I was delighted to feature her as one of my guest interviews. Her story is more fascinating than I had imagined, and I’m excited to share it with you!
Tell us a little bit about the VAMP group for people who may not have heard of it.
It’s a once-a-month get together of people who are either in the lifestyle, curious about the lifestyle, or maybe for those who are thinking about getting back into it who been out of it for a while. I like meet and greets because they’re in a non-sexual setting and that relieves people of a lot of the pressure feeling like they are going to be approached when they might not ready to be approached in that manner. It’s a great place for people to meet people, exchange information, and flirt.
It’s also a way to keep people connected who are in the lifestyle who don’t necessarily want to pay to go into a club, or aren’t ready to go to house parties or other functions, but they want to start meeting people in the lifestyle.
For informational purposes the meetup is held at…
It’s held in Vancouver at the Silver Star Saloon on Fourth Plain. We meet the fourth Saturday of each month, January through October from 7 to 9 p.m. We normally switch it to the third Saturday in November if Thanksgiving comes right before the fourth Saturday. We don’t do an event in December; we figure people are busy with holiday parties,Christmas shopping, and family stuff and we don’t want to interfere with that.
Every time someone comes to the meet and greet who’s never been there before we take down their email address and add them to our mailing list and their swinglifestyle screen name if they’re on that site. On the Wednesday before the meet and greet, I send out about six hundred emails out reminding about the event.
How long has this meet and greet been going now?
The VAMP Meet and Greet has been going for almost ten and a half years. It started in February of 2008.
How did the VAMP Meet and Greet get started?
People who have been around for a while will remember a club called the Ace of Hearts. There were a lot of people who patronized the Ace of Hearts that stopped going when there was a change of management, rather suddenly. I had been to a number of meet and greets and had been kind of interested in maybe starting one up. When that change of management at Ace of Hearts occurred that was my catalyst to go ahead and do it because I wanted to keep people connected who would no longer going to be running into each other at that club. It was never intended to be a 10-year engagement. It was just going to be something to keep people connected until a new club opened up and we could all have a place to gather again, but people just kept coming to it and it kept growing. I decided that there was clearly a need for it and people enjoyed it, so I just kept doing it.
It’s kind of the longest-running meet and greet in the Portland area isn’t it?
Yeah I don’t know, at this point it might be one of the longest running meet and greets.
What would you say is the dynamic of your group? Are they primarily swingers? Would you have any idea what the percentage of people are swingers to poly?
I think the predominance of people are swingers. I think a lot of swingers kind of fluctuate between poly and swinger and I think we get some people who are just curious. They’re not even sure if it’s even something they want to do and I feel this is a safe place to explore that option a little bit without actually doing the deed.
What kind of activities do you do at the meet and greet?
Up until recently we’ve always had a whole bunch of adult toys and clothing and novelties that were donated to us by Taboo in Vancouver. Taboo has been a huge supporter of the meet and greet and now we’re giving out gift cards that they give us, so people can go in and shop using the gift cards to get exactly what they want. We also give away free passes for couples for Club Privata and the Velvet Rope. For a while there I had a few passes from the Sanctuary but I haven’t had any lately.
I make sure that I get around to every person in the room and thank them for coming out to the meet and greet and if they’re new, I make sure that I get their names and their email addresses if they’re wanting to be on the mailing list. My co-host Jeannie is very good at pointing out new people if I don’t find them and will literally wave or drag me over to meet people if I haven’t made it over to them yet.
A good use of a meet-and-greet is if you’re looking to meet up with somebody in a less threatening environment than just meeting them in a bar randomly, because if it doesn’t work out there’s other options for them and you.
I feel like most of us know within 30 seconds of meeting someone if there’s an attraction or not and then there’s that awkward moment where we have to say “okay this isn’t really going to work for me, but maybe there’s someone else in this room who might be more suitable for you.“ That’s what I really like about the whole meet-and-greet idea, that there’s all these other people that you can introduce someone to if you invited them there and it turns out they’re just not your cup of tea.
I occasionally have dates with single men, and to me I like to use it as a bit of a test. If I invite them to the meet and greet and they show up then they have passed the first part of the test because they put out a little bit of effort. If I invite them to the meet and greet and they don’t show up and they don’t email or call, then they pretty much get scratched off the list… strike one you’re out [Laughs] If you can’t make it to a meet and greet then you’re obviously not going to be able to put out the effort that I require… it’s definitely a good weeding out process.
So let’s talk about you a little bit then.
I grew up in the Woodstock and 70s mentality. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, right? That’s always been kind of my motto if you will. Until I met Lyle, I don’t think I was ever monogamous and I was married twice before I met him. I don’t think I ever remained monogamous for more than about 2 years at a time in those relationships. Inevitably I would stray, I like variety.
How would you say that you identify?
I did not know that about you. Describe what that looks like to you.
I would say that I am probably more swinger than poly, but my husband and I have had some relationships that would probably be considered more poly.
For me, maybe I’ve got it wrong… I have a male friend who I have some strong feelings for maybe not in love, but definitely enjoy their company besides just in the bedroom. So for a couple of years I had a boyfriend and at the same time my husband had a girlfriend. I would say about twice a month the girlfriend would come to our house, My husband would cook her dinner or take her to a movie or take her out dancing and eventually they would end up in the bedroom. On those nights I would also have a date with my boyfriend I would just spend the whole night with him… Maybe he would cook me dinner or we might sit on the couch, cuddle, and watch TV before going to bed to play, we might eat our favorite ice cream and listen to my favorite music. So yeah, we had a really nice arrangement for a while and then both of our lovers met people who they got engaged to who are not in the lifestyle and they moved on. Fortunately that happened at about the same time for both of us, so one of us wasn’t left out in the cold while the other still had a regular playmate.
I think it’s funny that our community puts such strict standards on what is a swinger and what is polyamorous to a point of where you have to make a statement of “I’m not sure if what I am is poly, Maybe I’m wrong.”
I believe you kind of set your own definitions for what you are. That’s why I asked when somebody says they’re poly, I say “what does that look like to you?” Because if you feel that way, there’s a good likelihood that there are readers who are struggling with how they identify as well. Part of what we’re trying to do with the magazine is to help those people realize that the way that they’re feeling in the way that they’re identifying is not really all that unusual, because the way you’ve described your romantic dates with your partners… romantic dates being the key thing, and consistently over time, in my opinion qualifies as a form of polyamory. I think most people fall in between extreme polyamory and extreme swinging.
I think the other thing is that when we had the regular ongoing boyfriend-girlfriend situation, we still went to the club and “swang” on occasion. The one thing is that were very cautious about diseases and and so when we’re swinging we are making sure to use condoms. When we establish a relationship with an ongoing partner then we have that conversation about “Okay, can we all be fluid and make sure we communicate if someone has a situation that needs to be discussed?” I think that was for us the beauty of having that ongoing relationship with one other person because it would get to the point where we could say “OK the condoms can come off and we’ll all get tested regularly and we’ll all behave ourselves when we’re playing outside of the circle” and that’s kind of nice
I love that we’re having this conversation because it’s such a taboo topic in our world and what I have learned here recently is there actually a fair number people out there that are entering into these kind of arrangements and agreements. I feel like if it’s something that is done right, you really are not putting yourself at any greater risk having that fluid bond connection with an established partner than you do with your primary partner that is also playing with other people. The margin of risk is only slightly higher, but it is definitely a taboo topic in a world where exclusive condom use is the rule of the land.
How long have you and Lyle been married?
The irony of our relationship is that we lived together for 11 years before we got married and we were monogamous for those 11 years. We actually had discussed the lifestyle and we’d been to visit the Ace of Hearts a couple of years before we got into the lifestyle. At that point in time it was creepy and kind of dark and grimy and we thought no, this isn’t the kind of place we’re going to be hanging out.
When we decided to get married, we went to Hedonism, and we went there with the idea that if something happened, and it felt right, then we might get introduced to swinging. If something didn’t happen we would have a great time with each other and get married while we were there anyhow. It turned out we met a nice couple and got introduced to the lifestyle the week before we got married. So, we literally became swingers and then got married that same week and invited a bunch of people we had met at the resort to our wedding and made a bunch of new lifestyle friends.
So you didn’t just pop your cherry it kind of exploded all over you?
Actually that first situation was pretty awkward… The first night we were sitting at the dinner table and we’re talking to a couple and we’re feeling this connection, and we’re thinking that we’re all going to go to a room. The husband goes to the men’s room and he never came back. Then we see him across the way walking off with some other blond and he left his wife with us. Lyle looked at her and says, “Have you ever done a 3-way?” She says no, and he says,“Do you want do you want to try one?” [Laughs]… And that was our first experience… taking this other woman to our room and doing the threesome thing.
The next day we were talking to her and her husband and I was kind of feeling like chopped liver or something because he left with this other woman and didn’t want to play with me. We talked about it with them and he was like, “We can play tonight.” So later that night I went to their room with the husband and she went to our room with Lyle. It turned out that the husband was really good at oral and manual skills, but he couldn’t get an erection. Here again… I’m like is it me? Or is it him? Cuz I’m brand new at this, I don’t know that this is a common occurrence in the lifestyle. I had a good time with him and we played around for awhile and then I said, “Well do you think we should go check up on Lyle and your wife to see how they’re doing?” He said, “Yeah, let’s go over to your room and see how they’re doing.”
I thought this was pretty intuitive of me to ask him if it was going to bother him to see his wife with another man, because they only been in the lifestyle like six months and come to find out they had really only played with this one other couple. I’m brand new, except that I’ve dabbled in the lifestyle before this husband so I’m not “brand new” brand new, but it’s been a while.
So I asked him, it’s not going to bother you to see your husband with my wife is it? He said, :Oh no I’m fine, so we open the door and they’re kind of cuddled there in the afterglow. I couldn’t see his eyes because he was behind me, but Lyle said his eyes were as big as silver dollars and it was obvious by the look on his face that he wasn’t expecting to see his wife cuddling with another man and it did seem to bother him. They disappeared and we literally didn’t see them for 3 days. We felt terrible… we thought we had done something wrong and ruined their marriage or something. It turned out that they just needed to take some time out. They ended up coming to our wedding and made us this beautiful wedding album and sent it to us after we got home from the trip. We stayed in touch for like a year and emailed back and forth after that, but they didn’t come back to the resort the next year and we never saw them again… It was an interesting experience.
This was all in 2006 so it’s been about 12 years ago when we went to Hedonism and got married and started swinging all in the same week.
So that was how it all started?
When we decided that we were going to do this thing… When we got back from Jamaica, we went down to the Ace of Hearts and we joined… the grimy club of two years earlier, where we were like, ‘eww this place is creepy’ was under new management and had been cleaned up a bit. We went into it thinking it was easy for couples to meet other couples and we discovered it’s actually really hard to find a couple where both the husband and wife are attracted to the other couple… so that was one misnomer that we had going into it.
I know people who read Swinging 101 and do all kinds of research before they get into this. We just jumped into it… we didn’t do any fucking research, so we made lots of mistakes and played with lots of people that we would never play with again. There were definitely lots of one night stands in the beginning. When we went into it we just decided that we were going to have the attitude of, it’s just sex… as long as we’re all playing safe everything was ok… just because you fuck somebody once, doesn’t mean you ever have to fuck them again. Now we prefer to enjoy who are you with and not go through so many awkward situations.
Tell me a little bit about your philosophy about ethical non-monogamy and what that means to you
Ethical non-monogamy to me means we have no secrets toward each other about who were seeing, when we’re seeing them, what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it. Our phones are open books, we don’t do secret communications or meetings, for us that’s the biggest thing about it.
I think the other thing for us is that there’s quite an age gap between my husband and I. He’s 15 years older than me. It’s a lot easier for me to find playmates then it is for him. In general, it’s easier for women to find playmates then it is for men to find playmates. I sometimes have to curb my enthusiasm to be considerate of his feelings. To me, that’s part of what being ethical is… always remembering your main partner and considering how things are going to feel to them. Making sure that they know that they are the most important person in your life and that you are going to enjoy other people, but always making sure that you’re protecting that primary relationship.
Being honest with the people that you’re playing with is also important. If you have any STIs or if you have any history, it’s important to share that with your partners.
What has been your biggest struggle in the lifestyle that you’ve ever had to deal with?
When we were doing the poly thing, I would say that he got more attached to his female playmate than I was with my boyfriend. There were times when we would play together, the three of us. Without going into great detail, let’s just say there were times when we had to remind him who the alpha bitch was, because he really fell hard for her. I never felt like my marriage was threatened, but at times I felt forgotten.
Fortunately she and I were on the same page and we communicated well, so whenever she felt that he was getting a little too attached and maybe neglecting me, then she would gently remind him that I am his spouse and he always needed to remember.
So the reason why I ask this question is because we all learn from each other’s experiences. Talking about the difficult experiences are always the hardest conversations. The next question I was going to ask you is, how you worked through that struggle? It sounds like you had good open communication with this partner?
Right… it helped that she had been around the lifestyle quite awhile herself. Even though she felt very strongly for him, she respected me and our relationship, and she and I had a good bond. We would sometimes meet up and have coffee… just us girls. She had never been married and when she met the man she was going to marry, she basically thanked us for showing her what a loving relationship looks like, because she’d never been in one. She wanted her relationship to look like our relationship, except that she married someone who is monogamous, but all the other aspects from how we treated each other to how we communicated… It was rewarding to us to know that she admired us as a couple, and that we were a positive influence in her life.
I want to loop back around, you talked about the first couple that you were with and the first situation that you were in with them and how awkward it was for you to run into that situational ED. As someone who’s been in the lifestyle for years and years how often do you say you run into that with a male partner?
I would say maybe 50% of the time and I’m talking about the first time with someone. If it’s the first time with someone who’s been wanting to get into your shorts… for lack of a better phrase, someone who’s been thinking about it for a while and probably fantasizing about it whatever… I think when that reality hits them, sometimes it’s a lot of pressure and it affects them. I usually don’t hold it against somebody. I’m lucky because I don’t have a penis, I don’t have to get hard… they make lube if I don’t get wet.
Back when the Ace of Hearts was still open, there was this couple where the wife was playing with guys at the club, and the husband was basically her lube and towel boy. We ended up playing pool with this couple one night and I found her husband attractive. Later that night, I ended up in a room with him and my husband and her went to a room. That’s when I discovered that he had this issue. I just happen to like strap-ons and almost always have one in my bag if I’m at a club… I mean that was really my original fascination with girl girl play was me being the “boy” and so I just happened to have my strap-on in my bag that night. I was feeling exceptionally turned on and needing to get fucked so I told him that I’m okay this is happening but how would you feel about putting my strap-on on and using it on me? He said “as long as you don’t ever tell anybody…” So I won’t divulge his name, but we had a great time.
I played with him a number of times after that… Finally he started talking to other guys at the club and they said you’re too young to be having this issue, maybe you have a medical condition that you’re not aware of. He ended up going to a doctor and finding out that he had a glandular condition. He started taking medication for this condition and suddenly things started working again…
I noticed that him and his wife kept coming to the club a couple of times after he got his situation remedied, but then she took him out of circulation [Laughs] she been playing with the other guys for a few years when he didn’t realize that the situation could be remedied and then when he started playing successfully she took him out of circulation…
I’ve encountered it enough to not judge someone about it or take it personally. In the beginning I kind of took it personally like “what I’m not sexy enough for you?” But now I don’t take it personally. If it’s an ongoing, recurring situation because I played with somebody two or three times and they never get an erection, then I’m probably not going to continue playing with them, because I do like cock, but I like it hard… And it doesn’t have to be huge. I’ve been with guys who only had a 3 inch penis but it got hard as a rock and I only need 3 inches… I’d like more but I can get off with 3 inches, I can get off on 5 inches… 10 inches is too much… it’s like too much is too much. For me it’s really about hardness and the angle it hits me at.. And if you let me get on top and ride it… that’s where my screenname comes from… RideEmCowgirl… it’s not like I have horses… [winks]
What would you say you enjoy most about the lifestyle?
One thing that I really like about the lifestyle is the dressing up. the fantasy and costume play. I enjoy a reason to put on my police woman outfit or my cowgirl outfit. There’s something about looking sexy and strutting around in heels and dolling yourself up that’s sexy. People are putting out the effort to make themselves desirable no matter what age they are.
If you had advice for someone who is new coming into the lifestyle what advice would you give them?
First of all, don’t take things too seriously. Yes, you need to be serious about protecting yourself and you need to be serious about taking care of your primary relationship, but the kind of stuff that happens that you can’t foresee like someone not getting an erection or unforeseen things that come up… just roll with it.
We had some really weird first experiences and it’s because we were so enthusiastic and excited we were like kids in a candy shop and we had this new toy… So in the beginning, we were not anywhere near as selective as we are now. Like if somebody wanted to play and they’re reasonably height weight proportionate… we were on. We’ve gotten much more selective over the years because that newness thing is gone now, and now it’s really more about finding quality playmates and not so much about how many people can we play with this year. In the beginning we got kind of crazy with it… like run home every day and check your computer to see who’s talking to you on the adult website… And now if I check it like once a week we’re doing good, it’s not the new toy anymore.
What does your relationship landscape look like now?
Relationship Landscape… I’ve never heard that term before… I have a date tomorrow night with a male friend whom I’ve been seeing on a regular basis. We can’t get together as often as I like because he doesn’t live in Vancouver all the time. He lives in another country part of the time. When he’s coming back to Vancouver, we always communicate before he gets here and I usually manage to get a date with him the first week he’s in town. Even though we don’t see each other often, I would classify him as a boyfriend… We don’t get to see each other enough that we still make sure we use protection when we see each other because we just aren’t able to maintain that kind of relationship. He’s got his own business and he travels a lot for business and for pleasure. We always connect when he’s here, but I haven’t gone to visit him in another country yet…
Yet? Yet being the operative word? Is that on the bucket list?
When I retire next year that could very well happen, who knows?….Getting back to your question about my relationship landscape though… I’m pretty busy because I work full time… As much as I would like to play in between weekends I will suffer at work if I do. However I do manage to get out on Thursday nights occasionally and that seems to be my “hall pass” night. I don’t get a hall pass every Thursday, but pretty much if I want a hall pass on a Thursday I can have one. That’s when I basically go play with a single male.
The main thing is my husband is always concerned about my safety, so when I’m meeting someone new we meet for coffee or a beverage in a bar and if we’re going to play, we play at the club where people know me, where I feel safe, and where I’m not going to be in some stranger’s hotel room or home then then find out after I get there that they are a freak and want to hurt me.
There’s three or four men that I see on a somewhat regular basis that kind of rotate around… But nobody is super steady. I have more playmates than my husband does now, so kind of like I was talking about that whole “allowing yourself to have the freedom in the play time and yet still respecting your partner and the fact that they maybe they aren’t playing as much as you and how much you’re going to leave them sitting at home while you’re out playing”. I feel like I’m getting enough play time in, while still respecting those boundaries because he’s only got one or two other playmates right now and he doesn’t get to see them as often as I get to see mine.
And that is because of the whole disparity between males and females in the lifestyle, and his age?
Yeah, even though for an older guy he’s still got it going on.
Us guys have to work a little harder…
Yeah, but I do have to say there’s been times that I have gone to the club as a single woman, with no pre-arranged date or whatever… and I’ve left the club without going to a room and without playing and not for lack of asking someone… so single women get rejected too.
Does that hurt your ego?
It does yes, it really does cuz I’m an old cougar you know…
Oh, so you’re going for the young guys…
I fancy myself a cougar at times [Laughs]… not necessarily that it was a younger guy that said “No maybe later–” to me… “no maybe later” really means no … so, just say no… don’t say “maybe later” because that’s a no…
So you don’t think it’s an easy pass? To say “No maybe later”
No, I think you either want it or you don’t….
It’s one I hear often and I take it the same way… it’s a “kind” way of saying no… because saying no is a hard thing to do
It is I know. It is hard for me to say no unless they’re an asshole…
Then it’s easy… but when they’re genuinely nice and they’re being kind to you and they’re paying attention to you and all that and then they make that move– it takes a lot of guts to make that move– and then for you to go “oh yeah, no” it’s a hard thing to do…
I guess… is it better to say “you’re just not my type?” Would that be better to say then “maybe later?”
You know as a guy, I don’t mind the “maybe laters”… and I take it the same way you do. I take it as a “soft no”… like… “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I’m not going to say yes”… and that’s okay because I’ve been around a long time and I know how hard it is to reject someone, I would much rather someone reject me in whatever way works for them than have someone feel like they have to play with me because they didn’t have the courage or the words to reject me.
What’s on your bucket list? What have you not done yet that you’re just itching to do?
You know that’s a funny… I couldn’t wait to do a gangbang… I’ve done plenty of those now. I think I have to be in a real special mood for that. I’ve done the threesomes both ways so that’s off the bucket list. I still have some curiosity about the more sensual things… like Tantra, like going away to a week-long retreat where you just build your relationship with your partner and maybe learn some skills that you don’t have. That’s something that I think would be kind of fun to do.