on curiosity (and Vino & Vulvas)

There’s this group in Asheville that I’ve been involved with for the past few years. It’s called Vino & Vulvas…but don’t be fooled. Despite the fact that the name has both “vino” and “vulvas” in it, nobody is forcing wine on you and it’s not an exclusive club for people who have vulvas. 

Vino & Vulvas is for anyone who identifies as curious. 

Curiosity, to me, means you want more information and have a willingness to listen with an open mind, ask questions, and allow yourself to wonder about what you’re noticing. 

The founder and leader of Vino & Vulvas is Heather Edwards, who is a pelvic physical therapist, sex educator & counselor, and one of my very best friends. When I think of the word curious, Heather magically appears in my mind. And since this blog post is about curiosity and why it’s so important, I figured I’d take a moment to highlight this very curious experience we offer with V&V. 

Heather hosts a panel of experts once per month for a discussion on various topics about sex and sexuality. These events are held in a public space (currently UpCountry Brewing) where wine and food are available (if one wishes to partake). Heather uses the term “edu-tainment” to describe the experience she strives for - and the panel discussions often deliver both education and entertainment. Sometimes we are more serious than entertaining in the approach - because there are some important topics about sex that are not exactly fun and games, but very important to discuss. 

Vino & Vulvas is not group therapy. In fact, we want the audience to relax and observe without interaction - as if you’re going to a concert or a lecture. We have an hour for panel discussion, a short break, and then there’s an opportunity for folks to ask questions ANONYMOUSLY. We’ve learned from past experiences that things don’t often go well when people are shouting their questions to the panel. Having anonymous question cards offers a chance to ask a curious question without outing yourself and risking a vulnerability hangover. 

Find out more and sign up for our mailing list here. We sell tickets online ahead of time and they have been selling out. Asheville is quite a curious community. 

One reason I thought of highlighting V&V with curiosity is because I remember a moment on one of our panel discussions when Heather was talking about how to keep long term relationships exciting. She talked about how she likes to imagine her partner as an endlessly explorable island - acknowledging that no matter what, none of us can ever completely know anyone…and isn’t it more exciting to embrace curiosity rather than assume the same-old-same-old? 

It’s easy to take people for granted when you see them all of the time. It’s even easier when that person is a long term partner. It seems as if the closer we are as humans, the easier it is to forget about curiosity in our relationships. 

I believe that invoking curiosity can be a remedy for disconnection. If you are coming from a place of curiosity, you are reserving judgement. You are not taking everything so personally. You are able to tolerate whatever discomfort you might be having in your own experience of someone or something and ask questions. 

This works well even if you don’t have a partner. Consider your relationship with yourSELF. Are you judging yourself harshly, with shame, and maybe even berating yourself? Or are you in a place of wonder about yourself? 

I know it can be hard to tame our inner or outer critic and sometimes feels impossible - especially if you’ve been taught to dismiss or fear your own feelings or those of others. It can be helpful to practice this on your own by noticing how you’re feeling and intentionally shifting to a curious place about why you might be feeling that way. If the judgement is too harsh, try imagining that you are someone you love wholeheartedly (a child, a pet, a friend, a partner) and they are reporting these feelings to you. And if that’s too hard, try exercising curiosity with things that aren’t intensely emotionally charged first. 

When you are in curiosity with another person, use the approach to ask questions and learn more directly from that other person…rather than tell yourself stories that may or may not be accurate. (We are ALL guilty of telling ourselves stories about the actions or behaviors of other people - and sometimes we’re right, but we’ll never know unless we ask questions). 

Curiosity builds empathy and leads to increased emotional safety - which is one of the most precious things in any relationship. 

Does being in curiosity mean that you have to tolerate all sorts of behavior in all of your relationships? Hell, no! The next post will address the importance of boundaries. 

Thanks for reading. See you at V&V…

me & Heather at the AASECT conference in Denver 2017

me & Heather at the AASECT conference in Denver 2017