Addicted to attention, Confessions, dating, essays, Labels, Sex, Writing

Relationship Status

IMG_3792Connecticut has a lot of female friends. All those sexually tense months before he finally reached for me, I thought I was the only person getting witty text banter, but that is not the case.  There is this woman he’s close to, and if I was uncharitable, I would say that he’s been leading her on; she clearly likes him, and he hasn’t told her that I am his girlfriend.

I get it. I do. I get it from both their perspectives, but it profoundly bums me out, that we’re still a secret to some people.

The Facebook relationship status is a pretty good indicator of willingness to go public. My friends list cuts across a broad spectrum of people I know and have known, many of whom have had their genitals in my mouth at some point, some of whom would be upset to learn about my new boyfriend through fucking Facebook.  And then there’s Sketch’s friends and family: I haven’t deleted any of those associations yet, and I am friends with Sketch’s mother, and she is only friends with twelve people, and it feels mean to unfriend her. Or Sketch’s sister-in-law: I’ve played with her daughters, Sketch’s nieces, since they were babies. I used to crawl drunk into their play-tent. I used to give them hazardous, galloping piggyback rides down the stairs.

You never get to break up with someone else’s kids—you just completely vanish on them and they are left with further proof that adults are as unreliable as mirages.

I like seeing these people on Facebook. And I like seeing Sketch’s friends. It makes it feel less like a whole piece of my social circle just got sheared off and flung into space. Even if it’s just assigning a like to a post, it feels less like exile.

The habits of being single and hoarding crumbs of attention, like an orphan or a refugee, are hard to break. So I get why Connecticut is hesitating to tell this woman about me.

Is it important to you that I tell her, he asks. And I don’t want it to be my decision, so I tell him to do what he wants, but there’s no way to tell someone to do what he wants without sounding petulant. She’s moving to Southeast Asia in a few weeks anyway.   This woman is alternate reality Tippy, traveling and doing cool shit while dragging around feelings for Connecticut. That’s the way it could have gone for us, too. I could have gotten a lengthy email from him, explaining a new relationship, and I would have wanted to kill him and then myself even as I kept my voice level.

I walk around the next day feeling insecure and uncertain, and hating it. I didn’t have any of this to deal with, back when I was splitting my time between Connecticut’s bed and Sketch’s; if one of them was too busy to pay attention to me, I just called up the other. I always had a back-up plan.

I hate this, I tell Connecticut. I hate feeling this way. Jealous, and scared, and insecure. It’s the first time in our relationship when I have ventured a look down, and I don’t care for the view. It all feels like a preview to a plummet.

He goes to see this woman, who is getting ready to move and thus selling a bunch of her shit, and he comes back with a pair of creepy lithographs and the news that he told her about us. I told her about you by name, Connecticut says. She and I know each other, peripherally, from around the neighborhood; she told him that she was happy for us.

That weekend, Connecticut and I go to the movies to watch superheroes punch the shit out of one another and I pull snacks out of hidden compartments in my bag. My life is full of hidden compartments and trap doors, it seems like; I love a hiding place, even if I’m not hiding anything more subversive than carrot sticks.

Connecticut checks in on Facebook, tagging me as being with him. He writes: FINALLY. As in finally going to see this movie that apparently everyone else has seen already, but to me, it’s finally, as in finally time to just come clean with everyone, and with ourselves, that we are together and that we love each other and that there isn’t anybody else.  It’s kind of a moment.

Our check-in gets seven likes.  I’m not sure our friends get the significance.

We are in bed that night when I look at him and tell him, “You are my person.” Followed by a flood of remorse and feelings of disloyalty. Because Sketch was always my person, and that’s what I called him, especially once I could no longer call him my boyfriend. My person. The human that goes with me.

It’s hard, in the new relationship, not to use the vocabulary of the old. Because that is all I have. I am trying hard to write something new, but when I look at Connecticut, I sometimes think that his eyes crinkle like Monster’s, and that he is smart like Kick, and that I love that he reads books, like Bunny. He reminds me of the men I have loved already, and so I know how to love him, but he is also new, and unknown, and frightening. It’s the fear more than anything that makes me realize: holy shit. I am in a relationship.

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Addiction, Arguments, Bad Influences, dating, essays, Labels, Sex, Sex Addiction, Writing

Fighting Men and Their Known Associates

images-71I gravitate to violent men. When I first met Sketch thirteen years ago, he was fresh from a ten-year bid at Attica, all biceps and easy confidence, and I could tell from the sure way he negotiated the sidewalk that he could handle himself in a fight. Kick, the last man I loved, or at least claimed to love in an increasingly insistent voice, was a skilled fighter, and everything he did was charged with aggression; he came at me like a suitcase full of bricks, slamming me back on the mattress, my teeth rattling like dice in a cup. The roughness always made me feel like I had his full attention, even though I secretly worried I would end up in a dumpster somewhere with a broken neck. In the end I had to cut him loose: I want a man who is scary but who is nice to me. Like having a pet dinosaur for a boyfriend.

I was just telling Connecticut my whole theory about how you can’t get dumped if you don’t have a “boyfriend,” and that this is why I’m done with boyfriends, and he jokingly proposes a different label for us: associates. I like this, think it sounds appropriately sinister. As in, that guy? Known associate of Tommy the Neck. People with troubled pasts have associates; violent people have associates.

Connecticut did a lot of boxing in college, with a minor in bar fights, and he shows me how to punch, half naked in his bedroom: hooks, jabs, upper cuts. You don’t really make a tight fist until the last moment, he tells me. He shows me how to drive the impact with my legs. But it doesn’t look like it would hurt that much, if he actually hit you.  He’s not scary.

He’s rough, but not in the intense, Tyler-Durdenish way that gets the dysfunctional side of my personality wet. Rather, he’s rough in the unfinished way of a thirty-four year old whom no girl has ever taken through Gentleman 101. He doesn’t think to open car doors for me, or to offer me a drink when I duck into his basement apartment (I am, it seems, doomed to love men who live in holes). When he drops me off late at home I turn around to wave at his car after opening my lobby door, and discover he was already driven away. I mentally compose a note from my killer: Thanks for driving away so quickly so I could get right down to cutting this girl’s head off. I’m into deep throat, but only from the other end. But I don’t text it to him. It seems a little mean to tease him. He’s a sweet person. He’s too sweet for you, whispers a voice, insistent as an obscene phone call in the back of my head.

Maybe I can just tell him. Come on, dude. Be a little meaner in bed. Get your shit together outside of it. Someone has to tell him, because he doesn’t know things like you can’t spank someone like you’re just kidding, and also you need to keep more than one clean towel in your apartment in case you have a guest. But my system is so jacked up with oxytocin that I can’t get it together to explain this to him.

He’s a kid, painfully cute and terribly awkward in equal parts, and I am reminded of the campsite rule of dating younger people, with thanks to Dan Savage: leave it nicer than you found it. And here I am, a camper with loose matches and a penchant for littering, my libido an unleashed dog. If this were a movie, you’d be shouting at the screen for him to get away from me.

He just doesn’t know things yet. He is only 34; when I was 34, I was still shoplifting lipstick from the drugstore, still siphoning pills off the top of other people’s prescription bottles, still lying to anyone who would listen. I still preferred comic books to novels, and I was still wearing enormous patent-leather platform heels and rainbow thigh-high socks to go run errands.   I would routinely commute on the subway with a bearded dragon lizard perched on my shoulder like a crazy person. So Connecticut is doing alright. He’s got more going on then I did at his age.

We meet in Long Island City and go to that amazing ramen place that only has one large table and doesn’t take reservations, and we split the bill. This is always an awkward thing because I never know whether I am unmanning someone by offering to pay my half of the check, but I feel uncomfortable with someone buying me a meal unless they are older or wealthier and Connecticut is neither of these things. Afterwards he stays at my place and I have to fight, every time he makes me come, not to say I love you. It feels like love, but what I actually love are orgasms. I am old enough to know this.

There is deep power in those words. I love you. Magic. I always say it first, and then often. I tell a lot of people that I love them. With men, it’s never about hearing it back. Sometimes they look a little at a loss for words; the worst is when you tell someone that you love them and they thank you.  Ugh. That’s a weird thing; they may as well just say, “I don’t love you, and now it’s awkward.” Every man I’ve ever professed to love, I’ve declared it before the orgasm had cooled off, but I’ve promised myself I won’t do that with Connecticut. I keep my mouth shut tight.

Because I still feel like running. I can’t fall asleep with Connecticut in my bed; he wraps his arms around me until I can’t move, trapped, and I want to tell him, I love you, but can you please just fucking stay on your side of the bed? I can’t sleep, my brain making that whining noise it makes when I’m about to have a panic attack. When I shift into a hypervigilant semi-doze, I’m woken first by a fight outside on the street, and then later by bloody dreams and the vague sense that something terrible and bloody has happened to Sketch.

I love you, I want to say. Mostly because I like saying it, to anyone. But you don’t get to unsay it.   And there are diminishing returns each time you repeat it, because when I tell Sketch that I love him, it feels less and less like magic and more and more like conversational filler. I like it best when Sketch grabs me hard, and there is no more talking.   I like it when he puts his hand over my mouth.

Connecticut wants to talk, and I can feel a big conversation coming. I don’t want to hurt him, but I know that my answers to the questions he has will hurt. Maybe this is the real truth of why I am drawn to tough men; I like people whom I can throw the full weight of myself against, all my lust and greed and momentary love, certain that I will not break them. I’m confident by now that I know how to reattach my own pieces, but I don’t know how to put you back together.

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dating, Girls, Labels, New York, Nudists, Sex, Spa Day

Girls, Girls, Girls

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There is this girl in my yoga class, young, muscular, and green-eyed, who I sometimes look at the way an old dog will look at a rabbit. That’s mostly behind me now, chasing girls—I spend five minutes examining that adverb, taking it out, putting it back in. Mostly. The truth is, the reality of sex with girls is no longer something I have the energy for, but it was once so important to my idea of myself that I still sometimes feel flickers of interest. My body is haunted by bi-curious poltergeists, knocking quietly to see if I will knock back.

When I was adorably twenty, I was surrounded by all these gorgeous women, and there was something delicious about being the pursuer instead of worrying about whether or not I was being pursued. Not that I was shy around men (There was this one unspeakably sexy fry cook in the restaurant where I worked who only liked big girls and had no interest in my skinny ass, but I was always sidling around corners and trying to press my bones against his.   I flat out asked him to do me in the walk-in after work. He declined.) With men, it all felt like a lot of waiting around, waiting for them to respond to my hints and suggestions. But with women, I spoke with fewer question marks. I was grabbier, more insistent.

Now, I have been on the pressured end of sex, the one who gets wheedled into having sex she doesn’t really want; Prickle-Dick comes to mind. But I have also been on the offensive line, pushing through hesitation for something that I wanted. This is not a comfortable fact, but it is a true one. I drew on an arsenal of guilt, flattery, and Quaaludes to get my way. For a time, I was even a member of one of the queer quasi-political action groups on campus. It was called, embarrassingly, BIAS. Short for: Bisexuals Achieving Solidarity.  I find this acronym mortifying, by the way. Boobs I Am Seeking would have been much more honest. I went to those meetings to look for girls.

I went to the women’s college at Rutgers, so I knew plenty of lesbians, but they somehow knew to steer clear of me. There was a dyke bar down the road, and I borrowed someone’s ID to get in, but it wasn’t like the lesbian bars in the movies; it was just a lot of older women having a beer with their friends, laughing at me, the underage girl in hot-pants looking hopefully around.

Bisexuals are the agnostics of sexual world; I don’t think I have ever met one over the age of thirty. They have a tendency to drift to a side: men, for the women, and men, for the men. I find this depressing, because girls are awesome and beautiful and amazing and sexy.   But it wasn’t even a consideration when I started online dating last year, checking off the boxes for what I am. Dating women now feels interesting but unlikely, like learning Mandarin or mountain climbing. I am not motivated enough to buy the gear and keep from hurting myself.

When I was an undergraduate, back before online dating was a thing, I once answered a personal ad in the Village Voice. I read the Village Voice mostly for the personal ads; I particularly liked the open-ended permissiveness of the “Anything Goes” section (“Anything Goes” is just code for threesomes, by the way. It was never, like, some dude looking to get it on with an octopus and a birthday cake). The personal ads thing took forever; you had to mail in a letter and a photo to the newspaper, and wait for the mailman to deliver you a response.   I realize this is all sounding like a perverted version of grandma’s kids-these-days-don’t-walk-to-school-in-the-snow spiel, but stick with me. What I’m saying is that I think my brain was wired differently back then; it already knew that gratification would always be delayed, and somehow things ended up meaning more because of it. I went horseback riding with that woman whose personal ad I answered, and I still remember that afternoon, not because the date was so amazing but because I had waited weeks for it. Waiting is a thing that makes you remember.

How much of my interest in girls was about the reactions I got from men who heard I got down like that? Bummer was obsessed with my bisexuality, and even Kick, as recently as last year, wanted to hear all about it, and wanted me to talk slow.   Sketch has been a notable exception; he goes with me to yoga and I introduce him to the girl I like to look at, and he raises a single eyebrow at me before dropping the subject.

Sketch isn’t working this week, so we head to Spa Castle for the day. Spa Castle is this Korean day spa in College Point; it has sort of gotten increasingly ghetto, but the series of saunas and hot tubs do leave you feeling perfectly out-of-body, and it’s nice to bask with Sketch on a wooden plank under an infrared lamp like a pair of French fries.  He’s been begging me to slow down for weeks. We hold hands and I try not to look at my phone.

The place is weirdly sexy. Weird, because when you go in, they give you these oversized shorts and t-shirts, blue for boys and pink for girls. The uniforms, despite the gendered colors, are completely sexless, an invitation to a day of walking around with your hair in a sweaty ball and no makeup on.  You can wear a scrunchy and eat sushi with your bare hands and no one judges you. But the place is sexy; outside in the pool in my bikini, I wrap my arms around Sketch and get why they have the sign at check-in about public affection. I want him, right here, right now; I wonder how many other couples are rubbing their junk together beneath the turbulence from the bubble-jets.

Downstairs in the gender-segregated locker-rooms, there are more baths, but full nudity is required. More signage here; the signs down here warn against competitive breath-holding. Why are women so frigging competitive about everything? That said, this is an experience I rarely have in my more buttoned-down life today, in which strip clubs and group sex no longer constitute my usual: communal nudity.

Communal nudity is kind of amazing. One thing that I get reminded of is that other girls have small boobs too; in the world of clothes, everyone runs around in padded bras and I think I am the only flat-chested woman in Queens. In all their chaotic variety, women are beautiful. I do look around; there is a pale blond creature who floats from whirlpool to whirlpool with her hollow little limbs and perfect lips. Exactly the type I once went for. But I don’t try to catch her eye, like I would have once, a lifetime ago. We share the water, and I do nothing. Doing nothing is awesome. I hang out with the girls, white bodies like ghosts, floating among strangers for a few minutes longer.

 

 

 

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