Addiction, dating, Distance, essays, Love, Sex, Writing

Comfortably Kinky? Plus: A Guest Post by Connecticut

FullSizeRender-27How long does it take to get really comfortable with your new lover? The sort of comfortable where you can stop hinting and just flat-out ask for a dog collar, or for the angle you like the anal at, or for the names you like to be called? The kind of comfortable where you text a reminder to bring zip-ties over the same way you’d request a gallon of milk? I would argue that it doesn’t take that long to build a routine around kinky, but it does a few months to stop feeling a little weird about it afterwards, to ease up on all the hyper-vigilant monitoring and just enjoy the good fortune of finding someone who likes the same shit you do.

Last week I wrote about insecurities, thick on my hull as fucking barnacles; maybe this is how long it takes to start to shrug them off, to pee with the bathroom door open because we’re in the middle of a conversation, to be OK with being an imperfect person in an imperfect shell and still want to tell Connecticut that he owns me.

So here we are, after three months of applying my wriggliness to this other human, and it seems like a milestone. Maybe because, inured as I am in 12-step culture, there is a mythos that surrounds the 90-day mark. The recovery rooms give you a token after 90 days of not drinking (one that I hear certain predatory bars will accept as drink-payment for falling face-first off the wagon). After 90 days, you get invited to go up to the podium and talk a whole bunch about yourself .  Three months has weight. It has significance.

Some of this is probably rooted in the folk-science of it taking 90 days to forge a new habit. Supposedly, it takes less time to break an old habit than to make a new one; I’m not so sure. It’s been eight years and I still want a cigarette.  But this week marks three months since Connecticut finally crossed the vast distances of the couch to put his talented hands on me, and he has written a guest post for WYSD to help mark the occasion. I feel it’s only fair that he gets a turn at the mic.  You can read my version of the same events here.  They say all stories have three sides: your version, my version, and what really happened; this doesn’t mean narratives have to compete, just that it’s nice to let someone speak for himself once in a while.

So, guys, meet Connecticut, telling his version of the first time he kissed me.

No need for introductions, I suppose.

I remember sitting on a couch, perched on the edge. My legs were spread wide, elbows planted firmly into the meat just above my knees. I had fashioned myself into a pyramid of bones. It was unconscious, but looking back, I was attempting to both take up space and offer no softness: a defensive position. 

If you ever catch yourself using the term “man-spreading,” know that you’re talking about the posture of fear.

Two or three feet away—easily within arm’s reach—she was lying, all curve and happy slackness, dress creeping up to reveal legs I was too frightened to touch. Those two or three feet could easily have been hundreds of yards of minefield and barbed wire, the way I was reacting to it.

I had had some bad experiences. I did what I had been trained to do when I was a child: constrict. Control. Clamp down, dig in and stubbornly refuse to do anything that might open myself to harm. There’s a decent amount of hurt in my life-story, both real and imagined.

Perched on the edge of the couch, I begin to try to explain. After chuckling at me and throwing me her beautiful, slightly skewed smile, she pointed out the ridiculousness of my posture, my sweatiness, and mostly my use of air-quotes. I tried to tell her how I put my heart on the shelf for safe-keeping. I hid it in the back of myself, where the seldom-used cans of spices go in a pantry. Perfect spot for my emotional core, right next to the Dillweed. She didn’t seem to get what a big deal this is. And that’s alright.

I couldn’t tell her what a big deal it is, because to do so would be to acknowledge that I a) have feelings and b) have them in her direction. It would mean breaking down a dam, and letting all this… stuff spill out.

This stuff, roughly speaking, was an amalgam of stolen glances and perceived understandings. Intimacies. Secrets. Seeing her across a crowded room a long time ago, bright blue eyes under an Annie Hall hat. I remarked to a friend at the time that I thought she was cute. Not that I’d dare do anything about it. Then, months later, hearing her talk, sharing that I sometimes feel like a werewolf and her saying she knew what I meant. I shook her hand and felt a warmth that went beyond mere physical contact. Not long after that, seeing her in her own neighborhood, on her own soil. Telling her about myself, indirectly, as I addressed a room full of people. Watching her—and mostly just her—out of the corner of my eye as she laughed at my self-deprecating remarks and nodded sagely at the best understanding of myself I could muster.

And then, friendship. Long and slow acquisition of knowledge about one another. We shared coffee and the giddy joy of discovery. We were—and still are—sometimes like two archeological digs that happen to be next to each other. “Look at this weird thing I found from the Teenage-zoic period!”

All of this was rumbling around behind me, as she told me to sit like a normal person. Not long after that, I said “Fuck it” and managed to cross the two or three feet that felt like miles of wasteland. Turns out it was just two or three feet after all.

There’s been much since there. Maybe I’ll write about that one day. For now I’m just enjoying my good fortune.

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It’s really hard not to annotate, to add marginalia, to clarify with tiny cartoons.  But maybe 90 days is the right amount of time not to need to chime in every second with my own thoughts and opinions.  His side, my side, and we find a way to touch each other, in the middle.

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Addiction, Awkward Moments, essays, Getting Honest, Love, Sex, Social Anxiety, Writing

Junkies Suck at Making Decisions

imgresI go uptown to see Sketch and he is forty minutes late, but still I am infinitely glad to see him.   Every time he walks through the door, it feels like seeing the bus you need, cresting the hill toward your stop, coming to take you out of the cold. Home. He still looks like the way home.

I cling to his neck for a while, but something isn’t right. We go back to his place and have a Szechuan picnic on the rug, hand-pulled noodles and cucumber salads, but that thing is happening with us where the conversation doesn’t come easy. Misunderstandings stick out like briars and sometimes we are both quiet and then we both start talking at the same time. “You go,” he says.   “You first.” One thing about Sketch is that he always lets you talk first. But I keep saying the wrong things; we talk about his brother’s weight loss and recent tattoo choices and I venture the opinion that his brother is foxy now, and Sketch gets irritated. My social-appropriateness filter sucks balls. I don’t know that he’s much better. He tells me about some lame chakra workshop he had to go to today, and he makes me laugh, but all his stories from the week are studded with exotic women’s names, and he tells me about some chick at yoga teacher training who is sexy, and how none of the other girls like her. He was partnered with her this week, and it was, I take it, a gratifying experience for him. I nod with practiced equanimity. Cool. My throat chakra sealed tight.

Sketch is not mine, and he is never going to be mine, not in this lifetime. Connecticut, however? He offers me the pen, and waits to see if I will sign my name on him, claiming him for my greedy self. Awareness of this tilts things right in his favor, and I am thinking about him anytime I stop moving. It feels like love, but this might just be the oxytocin talking.   On Saturday, getting ready to go uptown to see Sketch, I take out my best underwear, consider them for a moment, and then lay them to the side. Saving them for Sunday, for Connecticut. Maybe this is the best indicator of where I am at with all this. How can you tell who you actually want the most when you are involved with two people? Answer: the perfect black silk lingerie gets set aside for the one who matters the most.

We are both gamblers, Connecticut and I. Connecticut is betting that I can change and love only him, and I am betting that he can accept me, broken and hungry and questing. I am gambling that he won’t judge me for still loving my ex, for still being scared to let go, for believing boyfriends are like kidneys; you don’t need two, but it is nice to have a spare for when one inevitably craps out.

Connecticut knows where I am at and he wants me anyway. I go over his house and he applies his naked body to mine for four hours straight until my ears ring with my own cries. In between orgasms, I do some looking around, because you learn a lot of things about a person when you go to their place. He makes things here, cuts glass and carves stone, and there are dead leaves on the kitchen floor that blew in from outside. I see his pajama pants on the floor, and they have Grinches on them, and I am filled with unspeakable tenderness. Waves of oxytocin move me further from shore and I do not care. In bed, he plays me a Tom Waits song on his guitar, laying on his back with me, wild-haired, in the crook of his arm. He doesn’t look at me when he sings and I am glad because I always think that is creepy.

We only get up to shower and dress because I have to go to a late-night 12 step meeting where I promised to share my recovery tale. I’m not drinking, but my footing feels uncertain from too many hours spent in a prone position. I feel better when I face all the other drunks and junkies. At the best of times, these things feel like we’re all gathered around the warmth of the same campfire, and what I end up mostly talking about is the importance of finding at least one person you can be honest with, that you can trust with your shit. And I look at Connecticut and feel feelings.

At least one person. Sometimes you get more than one. But the sexual teeter-totter with Sketch and Connecticut is not going to last forever, me balanced in the middle, smiling at each of them in turn. Eventually one person always bails, and you go crashing to the ground on your ass.

The thing is I don’t have a lot of trust anymore. I don’t trust myself, that I can get through another breakup. In my life, ever. I think it is possible I will just lose my shit, turn to a life of doll collecting or serial killing or poetry writing. And I’m still not sure Connecticut really knows what he is getting himself into here.

Here’s some things he doesn’t know: that I am secretly short-tempered, particularly around copier machines and elevators, that I get horrible stomachaches all the time and need to be left alone to get through them, that once every couple of years I get Bells Palsy and half my face falls further behind, that I think I am ugly and instead of this making me more accepting of physical flaws in others, it makes more likely to notice them. That I care what other people think, and I am selfish and aggressive with getting the last seat on the train or the biggest piece of cake on the tray.

He doesn’t know these things, but I feel like I could maybe tell him eventually and see what he does. With Sketch, I spend a lot of time trying to walk back some ill-considered thing I just said, but Connecticut listens, nods, is still mine. I am selfishly hanging onto both these men, hopelessly indecisive.   A voice in the back of my head announces it is nearly closing time. I am grabbing for whatever I can get with just these two hands, what I can pinch between my knees, what I can hold between my teeth.   My stomach is in a knot, and I want and I want and I want. I want the one that I want, and I also this other one, that I can actually have, and I’m making my way to the door with my arms overflowing.

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Friendship, Horror, Love, Writing

Rejection!

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This is what rejection feels like: like substantive proof of all the things I am most afraid might be true about myself.

It’s not the first time I’ve had someone look at me like I’m a werewolf.   For the last year, one of my closest friends has been edging away, trying to fade out of the room without me noticing.  Her conversation with me had become the verbal equivalent of a warding off gesture, showing me her palms with her voice deliberately pitched low.   No direct eye contact. I finally text her (I know, bask in my maturity) to ask what is happening. She texts back: Just feels like we’re going in different directions, careful verbiage that I know someone coached her on. This is not a thing you can argue with, or even apologize for; it would be so much easier if I could identify something I had done, a sum of money I had borrowed and not returned, or a time I had chased her through a forest and tried to eat her. Some clear explanation for the way she is looking at me, a gypsy curse I could blame it on. But it’s not. She just doesn’t want to be friends anymore, for reasons she isn’t sharing.

It’s weird, because I talk about breakups all the time, but talking about the conclusion of a friendship is harder somehow. It feels lame. Embarrassing, like an odor, or hair growing in places it shouldn’t. Not something to call attention to.

I haven’t lost a friend like this in twenty years. I lost friends at Columbia all the time, because I was in a rolling blackout and my favorite pastimes included going through your medicine cabinet and spending brunch in the fetal position under the table. I sobbed drunkenly on answering machines. I made shit up. I got high and put my hands where they didn’t belong. I made people’s boyfriends uncomfortable.

Friendships have always been tricky. When I was in seventh grade, I had these two girls I thought collectively of as the Bestfriends.   One of the Bestfriends was blond, and the other was brunette. They had one personality. We were friends because we needed friends and we had the same homeroom teacher.  The Bestfriends were camouflage in the lunchroom and a place to go after school, but I was twelve and losing my mind, and I started finding myself on the receiving end of whole lot of side-eye. I wanted to talk about being depressed, and the Bestfriends looked at me like I was handing them a birthday cake filled with carnivorous spiders.

I had always thought I was smart, but seventh grade made short work of that happy fiction. Science and math got suddenly, precipitously hard; my math teacher was 4’11’’ of concentrated leprechaun meanness who liked to tell me that when I ASSUME, I make an ASS out of U and ME, but I assumed I would fail algebra, and I actually was 110% right.

Worst of all, no boys liked me, and the one I particularly liked had started dating this horrible, popular hatchet-faced girl in our class; they held hands in the hallway on the long walk to the woodshop.   At home, I couldn’t get along with my parents or my sisters. I was suddenly hyperaware of being a sexual person in a body that crackled with potential orgasms, and I didn’t I didn’t want anyone in my immediate family touching me– which meant that no one touched me, pretty much ever.

The Bestfriends would pass me notes in the hallway, folded into origami footballs, and sign them with love, dearly but not queerly.

The one unconditional ally I always felt I had was my stepfather’s mother. When I was younger, there were walks in Hedden Park, and sleepovers. She let me eat as many slices of toast in the morning as I wanted and praised my appetite, and she never failed to tell me how much she liked me. She was awesome, but cancer came and took her out with astonishing swiftness. She was just gone, with barely a ripple. It felt more like a crocodile attack then an illness.

At the wake, I couldn’t understand why people weren’t howling and breaking shit and beating on the floor with their fists. They were just standing around, chatting. American funeral traditions are appallingly bereft of ritual, except the one where we put too much rouge on our dead. That one we are very committed to.  My grandmother looked ready for the leading role in a high-school play. I wore the same sweater dress I had worn to a particularly mortifying middle school dance a few weeks prior, sitting alone, picking off the sweater pills. My eyes were stuck on swollen.

So I decided I was done. Out of here.   Fuck you guys. It was about a month after the funeral that I went into the bathroom and swallowed pills and pills and more pills.

As I am not writing this from beyond the grave (that would be a much cooler blog), I clearly succeeded only in spraying my entire bedroom with vomit.   The night was spent at the emergency room, where I tried to act like I was as utterly baffled about how I had gotten into this state as everyone else.   The next day I called one of the Bestfriends. I can’t remember which one, probably the brunette. I’ve always been partial to dark hair.

“Guess what?” Back then, I started all my conversations with guess what. I never gave you time to guess what, though. I just plunged in. “I was in the emergency room all night.”

The Bestfriend asked why, and I told her. This was proof of how much I had suffered. This was sure to leave me in the middle; there were three of us, and I had been feeling that the other two Bestfriends were closer to one another than they were to me, an isosceles triangle that left me a little too far from the campfire. They were both talking about going out for cheer squad, which I couldn’t really see the point of. They had parents who would let them sleep over one another’s houses on school nights.

There was a long pause on the phone. “Um, I have to go,” she mumbled. “My mom needs me.” And just like that, the Bestfriends never spoke to me again.

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After I got the text from my friend this week, I sat with it for a while, drawing conclusions about myself. I’m upset enough that I think about calling Sketch, but I don’t. Years ago, I would have called him first if something was bothering me, but today I call him fourth, or fifth, or not at all. I am worried he will just tell me to relax, to be easy, and I am not easy. Getting from breakfast to dinner without murdering eleven people is not easy. I pull a muscle in my shoulder and still try to go into my downward-facing dog with one arm, because I lack adult coping mechanisms and I can’t seem to think straight unless I am upside down. I feel like I am full of broken cogs, a watch that tells the right time only twice a day, accidentally.

I don’t know what I want anymore, but I feel like I am rapidly approaching a state of being done with people I can’t be myself around. I go to a state fair last month, where the sign next to an outlandishly oversized rabbits reads, I am cute but I may bite. I want to wear this sign, and then you won’t be able to say that you weren’t warned.

Rolling over in bed with Sketch this weekend, delighted to see him back in the familiar setting of my pillows, my brass shovel necklace catches on the pillowcase and breaks. I haven’t taken it off in months, and it’s taken on superstitious dimensions. I try to fix the necklace first by glaring at it and then by making small whining noises, to no avail.

I bring the broken thing to my friend Scott. He is the person who helps me when I want to put in my air conditioner without flattening anybody on the sidewalk four stories below my window, or when I’m in some kind of jam which requires power tools or a driver’s license to straighten out. He is a competent adult and the most trustworthy person I have ever known, the only straight man I am unambiguously friends with, and I love him the way I love anything that proves me wrong about the things I am afraid of. He is married, and he asks nothing of me, just fixes my necklace, and leaves me the needle-nose pliers, tools that I might one day learn to use myself.

I want to know how to repay this person for existing in my life, and I ask him for his thoughts on how to do that.   “Just keep helping people,” he tells me. Helping? He sees me as someone who helps. Not a werewolf that might bite your face.   Not as a whirling cyclone of chaos and hurt feelings. A helper! I feel better than I have in days; I tuck my shovel into my shirt where it’s safe, and I make my monstrous way forward, looking for some way to be somehow useful.

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Addiction, Closer Examination, Love, Personal Ecosystems, Travel, Writing

All Bodies Are Time Travelers, Part I

imgres-18On Friday, flattened from work, I lay on the couch with a headache, halfheartedly texting the Roman. I want to see you, I write, and then add: Sometime. I am hungry for touch, but not hungry enough to shower over it. I can’t tell if this is progress or depression.

Anyway, I’m fairly certain that the Roman gave me a bacterial infection the last time we got it on. I went to my smoking-hot gynecologist yesterday, and she told me that men should be washing their hands and brushing their teeth before they apply these parts of themselves to the resounding need between my legs.   It sort of seems like it would kill the moment, to tell some guy, I want you to go down on me, but I need you to floss first. Speaking of floss, she also told me you can get a vaginal infection from a thong. So apparently everything is trying to kill my vagina.

“The mouth and the genitals are the most bacteria-laden places on the human body,” my gorgeous gynecologist tells me, inviting me to scootch down.   “You put those together and you create a whole new ecosystem.” My ecosystem. I like that. I want my ecosystem to have poison frogs and like maybe flying kangaroos. It’s a great, tropical-sounding word, like I’m carrying around a whole other planet within me.

She asks me questions about Sketch, while doing the pelvic exam. These sort of questions, difficult to answer at the best of times, are impossible with someone swabbing at your internal cogs, and I make bland, noncommittal noises.   I texted Sketch last night, and got no reply. Now it’s Friday, and he has more energy than I do, so he’s probably off somewhere bounding around with some Tinderella, while I look at the blank face of my silent phone, baffled and disheartened.

My roommate comes home and I pounce on her, eager for company. “You should enjoy your own company,” she suggests. And I do; there was a bath and a facial, accompanied by the steamy piano music I love, and some vegan dinner (the more I am alone the more I want to be a hard little kernel of a person; my friend Vera warns me: “You don’t want to become one of those women where it’s like fucking a bicycle frame”). I eat on the couch while watching Cosmos, where the host, Neil Degrasse Tyson, reassures me that the Halley’s comet that last swung around when I was in sixth grade will perambulate back for a second visit when I am in my eighties. I love that these things move in predictable circles. Miss it the first time and you might catch it the second time around. It takes a lot of the pressure off, as Sketch and I cycle once more in and out of togetherness.

There was one other man I did this dance with. I called him Monster in the spirit of one of those adorable plush creatures with striped horns from a Maurice Sendak book. Let the wild rumpus begin!  He had espresso colored eyes and thick black curly hair, alighting my passion for Italian men and their hair. From Monster, I got my first orgasmic sex and, also, an introduction to heroin.

But I was mostly impressed with the orgasms.   No one had ever given me an orgasm; orgasms were something I gave myself when no one else was looking, or things that I cleverly faked with a lot of scenery-chewing and writhing around. But with Monster, it was as easy as falling. After he came up from between my thighs, I stared at him like he was a magician, and then we got high.

I didn’t so much move in with him as I sort of came over one day and then forgot to ever leave. It was a basement apartment on Laurel Street in New Brunswick, about fifteen brisk minutes on foot from campus, past a long gauntlet of bars I was newly entitled to drink in. Monster didn’t like me drinking in bars, didn’t like me drinking, full stop. “I think you have a problem with alcohol,” he suggested, passing me the mirror and the straw. Drinking was a thing I did, out, with other people. Getting high was a thing I did with him, and naturally he favored nurturing my fledgling habit, which seasoned dope-fiends kind of sweetly call a chippie. A chippie: it sounds like a children’s snack but is actually the place where you watch all your principles and self-respect begin to vanish.

I don’t know why hard-drug connoisseurs like a mirror with their powdered recreational substance of choice. That is a whole lot of your face to confront with a tube protruding from your nostril like a proboscis. It was my senior year, and I don’t know how I sold myself the story that this was all playful experimentation, but somehow I managed. Monster and I graduated to needles in the spring, and I had my first overdose that summer. Monster and his ex-girlfriend, a gorgeous girl we were both sleeping with at the time, had to carry me out to the car, convulsing.   I came to on the drive to the emergency room as he leaned on the horn, blowing through red lights at six in the morning. Who the fuck is honking at us? I croaked grouchily from the back seat, where someone was cradling my head. I was annoyed. I had been having a dream.

Monster cried, and his ex-girlfriend made me promise that I wouldn’t use anymore.   I promised, and I meant it, the way you always mean promises.   It’s the sincerity of promises that always astonishes me, and how transitory they are. Monster went home to get rid of what was left, and he was gone for a suspiciously long time. His ex-girlfriend stayed and held my hand, while professionals came in and said judgey things. I tried to stonewall, but she wouldn’t let me, telling the doctor exactly what I had been up to while I tried to signal ixnay to her with my eyes. I never trust doctors.

“What should we do for her?” she asked the doctor.

“How about don’t let her do any more cocaine or heroin?” the doctor said snippily.

“I love you,” she told me when he went away to dispense medical judgment on someone else’s lifestyle choices. “Please stop. I don’t want you to die.”

“I will,” I promised. It was all very teary and heartfelt, and I meant it until the next time I wanted to get high.   After that day, I wouldn’t see her again until Monster’s funeral. He had less than a year to live.

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(Part II will be up in a day or two.  Over two-thousand words really seemed like it was pushing your patience.  How long, exactly is TLTR??  Uncertain.  But on another note, just wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to RAGE readings in Astoria.  Amazing.  You are my favorites.)

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dating, Love, New York, Photography, Reading Series, Travel, Writing

The Middle Spot

In-BetweenAfter months of it being easy, I’ve been struggling to write. Everything coming out of this keyboard right now sounds like a lie or like an excuse, like some bullshit you would offer if you were stalling for time. Partially this is because the blog has recently been subjected to some unexpected scrutiny, and as I live the kind of life that pairs the psychotic questions, Why won’t you look at me with what the fuck are you staring at, I’ve been left feeling paranoid and stalled. I’m stuck in the in-between space, like some embarrassing item hastily crammed halfway between the couch and the wall when guests arrive. Ask me how I am and I panic.

It’s easier to report on what I’m doing than how I’m doing, and what I’m doing is thinking about Sketch a lot. Last night I talked to him for an hour, our conversation once more a vast web of in-jokes and private references, allusions, pronunciations of words regional to the two of us. It is deeply and profoundly comforting to talk to him, although we resolve nothing. I can’t even report this conversation to my friends, because it will go like this:

Me: I talked to Sketch last night.

Well-Intentioned Friend: What did you talk about?

Me: …

What did we talk about? I have no idea. It’s not that I wasn’t paying attention, it’s just that it wasn’t the kind of conversation you can synopsize, at least not with any degree of honesty.

Our only plan for going forward is to have a weekly thing that we do together, something other than sex, although that is the thing that I want to do with Sketch most: to go home with him and have him pound me flat. I miss the tone of voice he uses when he talks to me in bed, low and inarguable, telling me things to do. I miss the taste of the inside of his mouth.

Instead, we’re supposed to come up with a weekly shared activity, and I’m pushing for some kind of do-goodery. I can picture us cutting carrots side by side to feed the homeless, or walking a pack of worm-riddled dogs for an animal shelter. Even if we can’t figure our shit out, at least we’d be doing something.   We need a task, something to keep us focused. We need a goal: I idly entertain the idea that we could train for something together. A marathon, or a swim across the Hudson, a dance competition.

“So, you’re back together?” people keep asking, trying gamely to follow along. We are not back together, I explain patiently, we’re just sort of talking again, sometimes. This is the in-between place, and I stand shifting in front of my phone with time to kill.

Squeeze, the adorable man I met in Paris, finally made it to New York, and he and I exchange a brief, painfully polite volley of texts before he lapses into silence. Although this makes my life easier, I hate the way I find myself justifying and making excuses for his disappearance. He just moved here, he must be really busy. Or maybe he still has jetlag. Or probably something happened to his phone. I make a big show of telling people that I am awesome with rejection, and I appear to be because I court it so avidly, but in reality, I draw the same conclusions every other woman on the planet does: the adorable man did not text me back because I am inherently unlovable and will never have a partner who will give me what I need because I am not pretty enough.

Rejection doesn’t feel great, and in this sticky environment inappropriate crushes flourish like bacteria. A man I work with, or men the generation beneath me, or someone else’s boyfriend are all fair game.

Someone else’s boyfriend always looks better from the outside of the relationship: planning a surprise for you, doing your chores, showing up at the sort of social engagements I have to weather alone.   Flowers bloom on your desk, and I see them on Facebook. You don’t report the other things, the fights and the misunderstandings, the frustration of being tied to another person who doesn’t do exactly what you want every single hour of the day. I only see the ice sculpture your boyfriend carved you for your birthday. And I am jealous.

I have to watch myself around these boyfriends, because I want to get in close. I wouldn’t sleep with your boyfriend, not unless you were into it and maybe not even then. But I get in too close.  You have your arms around each other and I am trying to insinuate myself in the middle where it’s warmest. Some of the affection might fall in this direction, or I might learn how you manage to make it work with a person without breaking up every ten seconds because you both think there might be something better just over the horizon.

I have to watch myself, because these days I am starved for attention. I get asked to participate at a reading series in Queens next week, and I knock my chair over in the rush to email back YES, YES to have the chance to hear someone say my name and maybe clap. And then, yes, because I am crazy person, and because I want more, and because I have the insatiable need to know and to be known, I invite Sketch to come too. He agrees to come and hear some of these things that I have written about him, and I hope that maybe after we will know some new things, or at least I will be closer to one side or the other. I overthink everything: the things I write, the words that have already come out of my mouth, the ways I love. At some point, the only thing left to do is to pick a direction at random and head for it like it’s the right one.

 

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Getting Naked, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Writing

Heads Down, Thumbs Up

images-45 I know that I am a crazy person, because Dig and I are supposed to hook it up on Sunday when he gets back from Fire Island, and when I haven’t heard from him by noon, I am convinced that he fell off the ferry and drowned. He will be found with a half-composed text to me on his phone.  The harbor police will contact me, and I will always wonder What Might Have Been.

“I don’t like this,” I tell a friend. I am returning a pair of purple Timberland hiking boots at Century 21 because no. Sometimes I try to buy things to cram in the man-shaped hole in my life, but I just got my credit card bill from Paris, itemized proof that euros indeed are real money and also that I am an incredibly irresponsible person. I am such a child; every day that I don’t cash in my pension and go buy a bunch of candy with it is a minor miracle. Similarly, my emotional spending is profligate. I don’t like this at all. I want a dimmer switch for my feelings, instead of the toggle I am stuck with. I’d like to dial it down to thirty percent of this craving, this need to talk to Dig and to bask in his attention as he reflects my adorability back at me. It’s too much.

After I’ve gotten my $80 back for the purple hiking boots, Dig texts and I restrain myself, barely, from asking if he fell overboard and then following this up with questions that zombie-Dig would not be able to answer. We shuffle some plans together, and he comes to get me later that afternoon. I still can’t get over the fact that he waits for me beside, not inside, his car.

We have yoga plans and we have dinner plans, but mostly we have plans for him to come over and meet the rabbit, to finally spend the night at my house and have a bunch of sex with me. He packs a bag that is so heavy that as I experimentally hoist it, I wonder out loud what is in it. I will later find out: screwdrivers, a flashlight, a pair of pajama pants, and a big bag of marijuana which he had hoped I would smoke with him.

I get that not everyone understands recovery and my whole abstinence thing, but I am still surprised that someone would bring a bunch of pot into my house without asking. The baggie looks as out of place as chainsaw on my coffee table.

I suspect he wanted me slightly impaired, and I don’t blame him.  It’s always awkward and weird, bringing someone into your house for the first time, knowing that you are about to take your pants off in front of them. It’s not that I mind being naked in front of someone else, it’s that awkward moment of hopping around on one foot, trapped in your outfit. It’s taking off your socks and how your feet are sweaty and there are red sock-lines around your ankles.   It’s seeing another person naked and having to act all blasé, and not be all so THATS what your dick looks like!

When I was five, I was dying to see a naked man. I stalked relatives and drew myself pictures of what I expected a penis would look like. My visualizations were a little off; I got the phallic shape, but I thought it would have rings around it, like a ribbed condom. Also, I did not know what testicles were, so when I pictured a naked man, I envisioned all meat and no potatoes.   This error would persist until my sister and I found a glass in our babysitter’s wet bar that featured a man wearing an old-timey bathing suit that disappeared when you held it up to the sun, revealing his flaccid, heavily-furred anatomy to my deep fascination. Armed with this enhanced understanding, I went to school and told my fellow first-graders that I saw an actual naked man in the girl’s bathroom, describing his penis with terrifying accuracy. This started a complete panic at my school and for the next few years you were only allowed to go to the bathroom with a buddy, which always seemed foolhardy to me. If there was an actual pervert in the school bathroom, wouldn’t he be twice as happy with two first-grade girls?

Anyway, I still love to see naked people, but I always get a stomachache before the first time I get naked with someone, and my stomach starts cramping as soon as we walk into my building.   Dig chuckles nervously as I show him around the three recently-scrubbed rooms where I keep all my shit. I tried so hard to make it look like I’m a normal person who dusts and washes dishes with some degree of care, but when he takes a glass down from the cabinet, it is broken. Everything I own looks ready for a street-rumble. My rabbit chews on the bars of her cage, feral-eyed, but when I release her, she streaks straight under the bed, lodging herself under the place where some truly bad sex is about to go down.

Dig takes his clothes off, and with each item that he removes, I am suddenly, horribly, terrifyingly less attracted to him.  It’s like a magic trick: the Vanishing Lust. By the time he takes his pants off, I know I have made a mistake. But you can’t have someone come upstairs and when they take their clothes off, tell them that you changed your mind. Or maybe you can, but I personally can not. The only way out, it seems, is through.

He is a nice person who wants to please me, but I never noticed just how teeny his hands are until he puts them on me and starts doing his thing.  He asks me if I want to remove my necklace, a tiny brass shovel with my initials engraved in it that I bought myself when my blog turned six-months old. I stubbornly tell him that I never take it off, and as we get it on it digs into my chest, in which my heart is banging like a sneaker in a dryer.

How did I let this happen? My only conclusion is that I clearly have some highly specific form of mental illness. How else can a man look so utterly different to me in the span of just of a few hours?  Just this morning, I was involuntarily hugging myself with excitement, and by moonrise here I am making warding off gestures and feeling like I can’t breathe. Why?? I wish there was some clear explanation I could point to, as I now pedal backwards away from Dig, the stone-cold nicest man I’ve ever made love to. Something is clearly wrong with me. Maybe there is a whole bouquet of tumors in my head, and an MRI could give me the answer. I want Oliver Sacks to take a crack at explaining it for me: the girl who mistook a man for a boyfriend.

Nice or not, Dig doesn’t comment on my naked body, before, during, or after sex; I can’t understand why some men are so taciturn this way. This is like going to someone’s house for dinner and saying fuck-all about the food, indicating that you think it is horrible. Silence gives contempt. I like my body but I know a lot of guys will think I am too skinny, too muscular, too rangy and weird. We sneak looks at each other’s anatomy, poker-faced, mutually pretending this is all no big deal. He puts his clothes on after, and I leave mine off. I’m not attracted to him anymore, but it is still important that he is attracted to me, and I follow him around the apartment naked, persistent as a street vendor. He doesn’t comment. He does not compliment my body, no matter how many different ways I drape it across the furniture like a stolen watch.

What Dig does make a big deal of is my rabbit, getting down on the floor to feed her a piece of kale.   “Her cage could use some cleaning,” he says, drawing a hard look from me. I cleaned the fuck out of this apartment, rabbit enclosure and all, before he came over, but there is still some ground-in chaos here. Down on the floor with the rabbit, he can see all the shit I crammed under the couch.   I would consistently rather read a book then clean out a cabinet, and over time, things start to feel out of control again. I had forgotten how mortifying it is to have people in your house.   You can’t look in things, dude.

Or under them. Under my bed, everything is lined with diatomaceous earth to discourage any colonial bed bugs looking to set up a bed-bug Jamestown under my pillow. Although I swept it up before Dig came over, powder lines the metal bed frame beneath the mattress, and when he bends me over to hit it from behind, white powder goes spraying everywhere, the mattress like a giant atomizer.

If Sketch were here, this would have been comedic fodder for days. We would have tried to make the biggest dust cloud. We would have made dirty snow angels on the floor.   But Sketch is not here, and in the morning, it is still Dig under the blanket with me.

Generally, one of my favorite things about having a man in my bed is waking up hours before him, and then propping myself up against his warm, inert body, while I drink a cup of tea and read a book, tucking my cold feet between his legs.  I wake up in the morning and beside me, Dig’s eyes snap open simultaneously. He is ready for another round of terrible, dusty sex before he will get out of my bed and leave. He has a tendency to jackhammer, and I don’t know what is wrong with me that I can’t just tell him: I don’t like that or you are getting your sweat in my eyes. I say absolutely nothing. What am I going to say? I have been more or less speechless since he took his pants off.   When a man pulls out the smallest penis you have ever seen, there is absolutely nothing you can say. You have to pretend it is ok, or else you are a terrible person. The penis is the teacup elephant in the room.

“How small?” one of my most adorable friends asks, her eyes wide and round.

“Like a crayon.” I am getting ready to return to school, as evidenced by bad dreams and a tendency to compare the size of a man’s anatomy to school supplies.

“Ugh, thumb dick?”

I give her a thumbs-up and a crooked smile, because what else am I supposed to do?   It is the thumbs-up of a driver who has just gotten out of racecar after it barrel-rolls across the speedway and bursts into flames. I am OK, but it is not OK. The whole thing is depressing. I liked him so much right up until last night. Now I am mystified and uncomfortable with myself, and my rabbit seems to be looking at me in a judgey way.

“Hey, I’m learning things over here,” I try to explain. She stretches out in the diatomaceous space under the bed, just out of reach.

This is not just a line to placate my rabbit. I am learning things: how I want to be treated, the questions that I need to ask a man and the questions I need to ask myself. Also, that I am psychic. I called “kitten dick” two weeks ago; in the future, hopefully I will not doubt my own abilities.

He texts me the next morning to wish me a nice first day back at school, and I do not respond, sinking into silence, submerged up to my eyeballs in antediluvian shame. What verb would he use to name me, if our roles were reversed and he was writing this story? Flee, maybe. Or Flake; I am small, and I disappear easily. We hate when men pull this shit, but here I am, two days later, dragging my electronic feet.  Finally I text him, days later, and my text is a mumble of apology and excuse. I thank him for being so nice to me, and say goodbye. Unsurprisingly, I don’t hear back, and I don’t reactivate any of my trusty dating apps. I shouldn’t be dating, the way that blind people shouldn’t be driving cars—this is not to compound their woes, but to protect all the men on the sidewalks.

The first time I had sex with Sketch, he took control of my body like a lifeguard pulling someone out of a riptide. There was no hesitation in this man. “I’m going to kiss you now,” he said. His body all prison-built muscle, his eyes locked hard on mine: I could see, barely, the shine off them in the dark.  There was no part of my body he didn’t examine and comment on. He told me I was built like a lick of flame. Thirteen years ago. I wanted to read his entire life, I wanted to slice into him like a tree and count his rings. I wanted to see his scars and to show him mine.

His body was a delight, all hard angles like a jungle-gym built for me to clamber on, but it was always about his stories, even more than the pure physical perfection of him. Some of them were prison stories, populated by people with names like Lunchbox and Body Parts and Goat Boy, and the lengths men will go to in prison to eat a decent meal, or to extract justice from an unjust universe, or to try to give themselves a blowjob. But sometimes he just told me stories about his commute that day or a conversation he had had with his building super, who showed up wearing a sweatshirt Sketch had just thrown out in the garbage. Sketch was never not the most interesting and intelligent person I had ever met.  

I’ve been looking for some motherfucker that engrossing ever since.

It’s been commented on: Tippy, why do you curse so much in your writing? It’s because FUCK is a bulwark against the encroachment of sentimentality. And maybe this is why I write so much about sex. Because it is easier to rhapsodize about a great orgasm, or hunt for metaphors to describe a recent encounter’s birth-defective penis, than it is to stand here naked and say that I am lonely and scared.

“We’re not going to tease you,” the man who runs my writing group reassures, while I wonder, as ever with every man, what he is getting out of it. I don’t fucking trust it.  And so I write about things the way that a man takes his pants off for the first time, chuckling nervously, trying to act like it’s all no big deal, hoping you will not notice my inadequacies.

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dating, Fantasy, Love, Travel, Writing

Quick, Hide Your Feelings Behind Some Witty Banter

images-40 The first serious crush I ever had was on this boy who sat next to me in the fourth grade. He had light brown hair, the kind we used to call dirty-blond, and wore a lot of buffalo plaid. Let’s just call him Peterbilt for the sake of this anecdote; things the kid loved included trucks, sports cars, and holding his pencil at crotch level under his desk so it looked like a boner. I thought he was hilarious.

After weeks of plotting, scribbling feverishly in my Garfield diary, and not learning any math because I was busy making Peterbilt tell me he loved me in my head, I had a friend of mine call him into an unsupervised classroom at recess one day. I popped out of the closet wailing with preadolescent lust and kissed him, wrapping my arms around him so he couldn’t get away, nine-years-old and already livid with the need to touch and to be touched. My lips landed somewhere between his lips and one of nostrils, and when I released him and ran he made theatrically exaggerated gagging noises, scrubbing his cheek with his plaid sleeve.

For the rest of elementary school, he kept a safe distance from me, while I watched him creepily from the outskirts of the playground. My favorite song that year: “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. I can’t explain what I found so captivating about Peterbilt; I just remember that his eyes were darker than his hair and that he had all his adult teeth in early and that he made me laugh. I would cry myself to sleep, luxuriating in the adultness of being in love, wanting him to love me back.

Being in love, I remember reflecting, is when you want someone bad enough that it makes you cry.  This would be my functioning definition of love for years to come.

In adulthood, I have developed a weird reflex to this sort of unreturned affection. I can be totally into someone, but if I get no response from that person, I lose all interest almost immediately. It is a strange, self-protective thing, as sudden as if a hook had been inserted into my heart and the infatuation yanked out.   I don’t chase people who don’t want to be caught.  Only at age nine was I tough enough to want someone who showed no signs of wanting me back.   The possibility of unrequited love today is too scary and too painful.

And yet, I’m back in New York now, and I can’t stop thinking about Squeeze and our last night together in Paris. I just love the narrative of it; we first crossed paths near the Louvre, we kissed on the Seine.  I’m already mentally drafting the deeply satisfying story of our relationship to tell some casual acquaintance I will meet in the future. It’s just so different that my usual dating arc, which is usually along the lines of we first crossed paths on Tinder, we kissed on the sidewalk outside my building next to some trash.  It seems only right that this story continues with Squeeze moving to New York, where we can fall in love under the turning leaves. Then, a white space, followed by our wedding in his hometown of Venice.

When I have this fantasy, we’re not actually getting married; in the fantasy, I am telling somebody about getting married. The fantasy is about what an incredible story it would be, as I float off in a gondola with this man I know absolutely nothing about. Not knowing him makes it so much easier to tack all my hopes on him; there is plenty of room for all my projections.

I keep reminding myself that Squeeze is a person, not some actor put here to speak the lines I want to feed him.   We have texted since I got home, and his texts are perfectly nice. He wishes me a safe flight home, for example. Polite. Perfunctory. I do not want these things; with one date between us, I want passion, I want a pet name, I want exclamation marks. I look at his picture so many times that my phone burns out in the middle of the day.

I am burning.

I do not like to feel this hot, this bothered. I don’t want to want somebody this badly. It is too risky. Better to divvy my attention up between three or four men that I will tell people are alright “for now.” I am plagued by the sense that Squeeze is simply too elegant, too worldly, too beautiful for the likes of me.   Insecurity stacks on top of insecurity like a tower of boxes, each housing something I don’t like about myself.

You would never guess the depth of my infatuation from the studied casualness of my texts to him, which say things like: Enjoy your last week in Paris! Try to make it to the Catacombs before you leave. The single exclamation mark is my only concession to the subtext of this message, hidden subtext which reads I LOVE YOU AND YOUR FACE PLEASE COME TO NEW YORK AND BE MY BOYFRIEND.

Hope kind of sucks. Hope hurts. It’s hard to want things.  It feels greedy, to want Squeeze to want me back. It should be enough that I found him, and spent a night with him in Paris. What do I expect? Waiting for him to come to New York, fantasizing about a future that likely exists only in my head, I feel like I am back in the fourth grade hiding in the closet, waiting for the boy I want to come so I can spring out and kiss him.

I do a little Facebook digging, to see if I can find Peterbilt. I want to see what he looks like now, the sort of man he has become. I want to find out if he grew into his adult teeth and if he ever managed to acquire the sort of sports car that graced the cover of his Trapper Keeper.

Instead, I find out that he died the year after high school, drunk, behind the wheel of his very ordinary vehicle.   We don’t always get the things we want, or the endings we deserve. We don’t always get to see people again, and the narrative arc is not always satisfying.   Sometimes it’s just an ending.

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