In the Cards is a monthly advice column by Carly Boyce, a queer and genderqueer femme witch based in Toronto. With a background in community-based sexual health, grief work, and suicide intervention, in addition to several years of tarot reading, she brings gentle advice and the wisdom of the cards to your questions about life, love, and feelings of all sorts. To submit a question, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Ask a Feelings-Witch. Questions will remain anonymous, and may be edited for length.
Q: Dear Feelings-Witch,
I’m having a raging long distance boner and brain crush on a woman who is moving much closer to where I live. She’s so smart, quirky and I can’t stop thinking about doing juicy things with her. She’s been having a hard time with a bunch of things in her life and I find myself in an emotional support role with her. When I last saw her I confessed my lusty admiration and said that I wasn’t going to act on it because she’s in a hard place. As a femme who sometimes identifies as a Mommy, this is a bit of a lifelong pattern for me. I’m tired of lusting after bois who need a lot of caretaking and not taking care of my own needs. I’ve joked that I feel like Wendy with the Lost Bois from Peter Pan.
How do I honour my boner and my boundaries? How do I take care of my emotional and sexual needs?
A: Oh. Femme. You are speaking my language, and your question is so epic. Thank you for asking it!!
First—get one of these, and if you haven’t already (or haven’t recently), read this. Also maybe this! Feel free also to assign any of these as homework to people you do care work for. Emotional labour is so often unseen, undervalued, and unpaid, and so so often flows in a direction that has a pretty clear relationship with gendered power dynamics. It sounds from your question like you see and know these patterns, and want to shift them some for yourself, but feel somewhat stuck about how to do that. Let’s see if the cards have some questions or nudges for you about how to move some tectonic plates around in your heart (or your pants) a little.
Heart of the Matter: Mentor of Feathers/King of Swords
The Mentor of Feathers is a wise bird who knows how to share their gifts and stories in ways that are healing for them personally and also for the folks who are lucky enough to hear their genius words. Femme, you have a lot to give, and you like giving it. Your gifts—time, energy, sex, space, safety, comfort, alongside your other unique offerings—have deep impacts on the people you share them with. You have a deep generosity in you, and that is a beautiful thing.
Emotional labour is magic. It’s the lube that keeps social groups, workplaces, relationships, families, and organizing groups running. I know in my own life, being explicitly paid for emotional labour has had mind-melting impacts in my ability to recognize and value my own skills. The labour itself is not the problem, I think. The problem is when that work is assumed to be available (especially from femmes, even more especially from femmes of colour, moreso even from femmes of colour with disabilities) at will, to anyone, for free, and is unseen, unacknowledged, or underappreciated.
This card makes me wonder what you get out of giving so much care. Do you get joy from it? Do you feel a sense of pride about participating in someone’s healing process? Does it make you feel valued? Is that value conditional on continuing to care indefinitely? What makes you feel like the care you give is seen and appreciated? What would perfect appreciation look like? Do you want to be thanked? Do you want to be adored? Do you want to be paid? Do you want your boots shined or your dry cleaning done?
A femme friend of mine blew my mind open a few years ago when she described an interaction she had with someone who wanted support from her. She basically said to this (masculine) person: I have those skills and I would be happy to share them with you; what are the skills you can share with me? They negotiated that the other person would carry her groceries home and build her a shelf. I wonder if the boi you’re lusty for has something she can—or even wants to—give you in return for what you’ve given her. I am curious about how she responded when you confessed your desire, and also your boundary. How did her response sit with you? Did it feel familiar? Did it match your expectations?
I don’t know if this will resonate with you, but I want to share a little about some of the pitfalls of doing deep care work that I have experienced in my own life. I have fallen into patterns of giving a lot of care for two big reasons. The first is a feeling that if I don’t do it, no one will. This over-responsibility for the wellbeing of everyone intimate or otherwise has sometimes left me burnt out, resentful, exhausted, and leaning hard on a few people in my life for support that I then wasn’t able to return in kind. There is a small narcissism in this; most of the time, I am not the only person who is capable of providing the support someone needs. Every so often, there is a situation where that legitimately is the case, but if I treat all scenarios that way, I might not have the juice when I actually *am* one of the few who can step up to the plate. I have come to believe that the kindest and most supportive thing we can do for people we care for who are having a rough time, is to be as honest as possible with ourselves and each other about what support we can and want to provide, and then follow through.
The second way I have fallen into patterns of overcaring was tied to my own understanding of my worth and the connection between that and my *attachment stuff*. Doing deep care work for people that I love has been a way to (attempt to) ensure that they wouldn’t leave me. Wendy, you are more than what you do for other people. You matter and have value beyond what you give. If you never took another lost boi under your powerful, gorgeous wing, you would still be lovable, wonderful, and deserving. I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t offer care to this person you feel a meaningful connection to, but I do encourage you to get really clear on your motivations and desires! If you can identify what you want, you just might be able to get it.
What to do: Chance/Wheel of Fortune
The Chance card is a reminder about the inevitability of change, and also about the cyclical nature of life and human learning. We play out the same patterns and dynamics until we learn (or unlearn) what we need to from them. This pattern of people seeing your gifts and showing up wanting is not done with you yet. The good news is that every trip around the wheel is actually different, even if the themes are similar. You are different every time you go around. You can make different choices, micro and macro, about where you sit on that ferris wheel, how self-protective you are, what you know and communicate about your own needs and desires, and what your benchmarks are for knowing when a situation is or isn’t good for you.
Chance is also about surprises! Are you anticipating and planning for this person’s reactions to your desires? To your care? Are you imagining that they will act as others have before? Do you have evidence to support those assumptions? What is this person showing you about who she is and how she is, with you and in the world? I think that Chance is encouraging you to do some light experimentation with your approach, and let yourself be surprised. I can’t promise that the surprises that come up will be ones you hope for, but I can surmise that they will be transformative—you have data to collect about your own patterns, triggers, and boundaries.
What does your crush want from you? What does she expect? What is she offering you? What has she shown you about her skills around communication, setting boundaries, and stating her desires? Do you feel swept away, or like you are taking steps together as a team? I think Chance is asking you to loosen the reins on your stories and expectations, and to challenge yourself to see the ways you have grown, changed, and become more powerful. It’s also a reminder that a certain amount of surrender comes with the territory of relating to lovers and friends. You cannot control what will happen or where you will end up, but you can try to enjoy the wind on your face while you get there.
What to think: Apprentice of Bottles/Knight of Cups
The Apprentice of Bottles is an open hearted risk taker. She throws caution to the wind and dives in when her heart calls. If this card came up in the “what to do” place, I would be encouraging you to take a leap and let the chips fall as they might. In this position, however, I think it’s a call to contemplation around your patterns of leaping (which could still culminate in a decision to take a plunge off that sexy diving board in your finest frills, femme).
I believe that desire is medicine, that what we crave points us towards things that need healing. Maybe this is an opportunity to rewrite the ending of the stories you’ve told yourself (or have been told) about care work, sex, and reciprocity. When was the last time you leapt into something with someone? What were you leaping towards, or away from? How has this pattern brought you joy and learning about yourself? What wounds do you carry from not being cared for reciprocally in the ways you desire? What makes your heart feel open? What about scooping someone into your caring arms makes you feel sparkly? Can you identify a moment when you knew something was going to go badly but you didn’t pay attention to that knowing? Can you find that feeling in your body and keep your eye out for its return? Is there a middle ground? Can you leap with a parachute, or set up a soft place for yourself to land? You deserve care and protection, Wendy, from yourself and from the people you decide to relate with.
A risk of the energy of this card is an overemphasis on immediacy, which can lead folks to misestimate their capacity in the long term. What do you feel pulled to offer *right now*, and how does that align with what you think you might be able to give in two weeks, or two months? Do you feel a sense of urgency in this connection? Where is that coming from? What would you risk or gain from being slower than your heart wants to be? I think the Apprentice of Bottles is asking you to pause and reflect before you jump, and be intentional about if and how you do it. She wants you to think about pace, and protection, and the patterns you are working from.
What to avoid: Seven Bottles/Cups
This is a card that’s about denial, or operating under illusions or misconceptions. Are you ignoring some red flags, or seeing them but misreading their importance? What might be blocking you from being able to see the truth of the situation in front of you? If you’re going to enter into a relationship of whatever kind with this human you’re lusting after, these cards want you to do so with open eyes and clear expectations of yourself and of her. What do you need to know about her capacity and intentions to feel safe? Do you trust her, in her current state of emotional overwhelm, to be honest and direct with you about her needs, desires, and ability to meet some of your needs?
You gotta be meeting some of each other’s needs—relationships are about reciprocity. They don’t have to be the *same* needs, or necessarily evenly distributed. Do you know how to notice when your needs aren’t being met? Do you feel like you are allowed to have needs in situations where you find yourself doing a lot of care work? Your identification as a sometimes-Mommy makes me think that you are someone who is able to eroticize care work, and possibly also the negotiation of care in the context of those relationships. Explicit consent and structure can make an imbalance okay, or even hot. Have Mommy/boi dynamics made you feel safe and seen in asymmetrical care relationships in the past? Or have they set up expectations of you that were hard to meet? Or a mix of the two?
Wendy, your guts are really wise, and the seven of bottles wants you to remember to check in with your body and heart wisdom in an ongoing way in your relationships. The energy of a juicy human can be exciting in a way that can turn down the volume on your worries and your needs. But also if you want to be sturdy and seen, you have to stay in touch with yourself.
Femme, these cards want you to know that you are powerful. You can make active choices about how to engage (or not), what needs and desires you have and share, what circumstances or boundaries make you feel safe and seen and valued. Some parameters might help create more safety for both of you! You can’t control all the things, but you can be sturdy in yourself, even in the swirl of sexy crush energy. The care you offer is magic, and you don’t owe it to anyone.
I’m gonna say that last part again, for the folks in the back: You. Don’t. Owe. Your. Care. To. Anyone.
I hope you can co-create situations where both your boner and your boundaries are seen as the awesome gifts that they are.