I have started going to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings—the acronym is SLAA, pronounced like the chopped cabbage sidedish that a friend of mine once declared only straight people eat. Which means that the other program I belong to , the so-called “beverage program,” would be pronounced “AHHHHHHHHHHH!” That sounds about right to me.
I sit in the chair and I build a parapet around myself: coffee cup, water bottle, sweater, second sweater, handbag. No one can come near me. An elderly woman with birkenstocks and a Eugene Levy brow sits down beside me and I peep at her from behind the privacy curtain of my hair. She is a sex addict, I tell myself with wonder. I am mentally pointing.
There is no way to announce that I am a “sex addict” without feeling like a parody of myself. Before the meetings, I apply strata of red lipstick and pull my skirt up higher in case someone good wants to relapse with me—I can’t help myself, I am a sex addict. In my head, I am supposed to smolder at the eyes and stick out my chest as I say these words, like I’m in a Tennessee Williams play and I’m all depending on the kindness of strangers.
The meetings are strange and confusing. Unlike other 12 step jams where there is one specific thing you do not do, ie. drink alcohol, pound crystal meth into your veins, etc., the recovery process for sex addiction involves an end-goal of having sex. I can sit in church basements at meetings until I’m numb, nothing is ever going to turn me into a girl who can one day sip a lychee martini and then go about her life. Whenever I hit the bottle, there’s always going to be apartment fires and losing my shoes on the walk home and waking up to a bedroom full of squirrels and no idea how they got there. So this idea of moderation is radical. I sit in the sex meetings with people who brand themselves sex addicts, love addicts, fantasy addicts (I picture an apartment full of Gandalf posters, unicorns, those 12-sided D&D dice), affection addicts, and codependents, and I mentally bookmark men I find interesting.
I nod my head, listen, do the identification thing. And then about a week later I order myself a happy ending massage.
Aaron is a personal trainer and a friend of my friend Annie’s; she tells me that he is trained in tantric massage and buys me an hour. He is cute, but oddly compressed looking—square shoulders, square jawline. He looks like he someone used him to move 2x4s around on when he was little. Annie had warned me that he stammers, especially when he’s nervous, and he is clearly nervous as he rings my bell. I offer him a glass of water, unsure of exactly how one makes small chat with someone one is paying for an orgasm.
Guaranteed two orgasms, Annie had promised.
We don’t talk much—he’s into UFC, and we talk about jujitsu. I should be worried that something will happen to me here, but it feels pretty much like any time you go to get a massage. There is the moment of awkward when the masseuse leaves the room, and you’re laying face down in your underwear, but it has the curious quality of surrender. You are paying for someone else to pick up the burden of your body for a little while.
I put a sheet down over my bedspread, and will be glad I do once the oil is flowing liberally. The sheet will be ruined and I will have to throw it away.
I am chronically sore from yoga, so I love having my muscles pushed on. I don’t have to talk or do anything; I just close my eyes and stop thinking for a while. He does indeed give me an orgasm, and then goes back to working the knots out of my back.
The whole experience is surreal and disconnected and kind of awesome.
I get a text from Aaron a couple of months later, letting me know he’s running a sale. I don’t end up responding, nor feeling that I have to.