Addiction, Blogging, dating, essays, Hot Mess, New York, Recovery, Sex Addiction, Writing

Save Me From The Things I Love

restraintwithpen.jpgA woman passes on the subway platform and I eyeball her chest.   Not because of her tits, which are formidable, but because of the slogan on her t-shirt: Save me from the things I love. I mentally collect subtitles for this blog, and that is probably my favorite so far.

There are many things that I love in spite of the consequences of loving them; from difficult men to risky narcotics, my favorite pastimes are the hazardous ones.  Even this blog is dangerous; it’s seeded with some unvarnished honesties, and as my sponsor likes to say, the more you tell the truth, the less people will like you.

I started writing the material for WYSD in 2013, after Sketch moved out.   I hadn’t just been broken up with, I felt like I was breaking up myself, like a voice over a shitty cell connection.    The blog, live since December of 2014, was a basket to put the pieces into while I drifted vaguely around New York humping strangers. When I write the blog, I feel the things that I want to feel in a relationship—honest, real, connected to other people. So I’ve kept it going. Almost five hundred pages of material later, it’s helped me to pin carefully constructed narratives onto a messy series of things that have happened.   It’s cheating, and I know it; the stories I tell are always true, but they’re too neat, too linear, too one-sided.   I bury the nuance in unpublished footnotes, with all the things that don’t fit my version of events.

Here are a few things that don’t fit the story I’ve been telling you: that the person I used to be still kicks to be let out, that I sometimes feel homesick for the fetid, roachy apartment where my ex and I fought and fucked and loved each other, that yesterday I had a meeting in the building where Sketch works and it made me miss him until I felt like sinking to the sidewalk and howling.

I thought if I only could find someone new to love I would stop missing him, but that was a lie.   Yet when I say these things here and hide them from Connecticut, my new boyfriend, I feel like I’m talking behind his back, and I don’t want that to be part of the story. Because this is a story about finally being truthful with someone, and the blog doesn’t fit.  It feels disrespectful, not just to him but to my newly-formed conscience, even as I continue to merrily type, self-justifying with practiced ease.

Connecticut and I are a mess, the both of us. We go to the Astoria carnival and play that game where you punch the punching-bag as hard as you can for points and, ultimately, glory. I have an overinflated sense of my own strength and I drop confidently into a fighting stance and throw a right, but I don’t stand far enough back and the bag hits me squarely in the face on the rebound.   Actions, and their equal and opposite fucking reactions.

Connecticut steps up to the punching bag to avenge me, decides to do some sort of spinning kick in his flip-flops and whiffs it, ends up on his back, bleeding at the elbows.   We have the best of intentions, but we both end up scraped and limping, felled by a children’s game.

We match. I am so glad that I found him. And if I sometimes have doubts about things and if I have fears, and if I sometimes look at my yoga teacher and want to have secrets, the blog makes it too easy to air them, to feed them and to keep them alive.

I don’t want to have things that I am telling everybody but him.

So I am breaking up with this blog.  It’s not you, it’s me.   I want to tell you that this is just a break, but that’s cowardly, so let’s not pretend this is temporary. Let’s just split up and walk away. I loved you, I really loved you. Leaving doesn’t change that. I just don’t think that you’re good for me anymore.

I write this post, and when I get up, I expect to feel lighter, but instead I feel like I’m carrying a dead pet in my arms. Stricken. Lost. I lose my shit and cry on the F train on the way home from school, losing my composure MTA-style for the first time since Sketch left. Supposedly, the train is where most people get their grief-weep on, because there’s nothing else to do while the subway shunts you to your destination, nothing else to look at but those advertisements for summertime breast implants, and you feel anonymous behind your sunglasses. If you drip, no one comments.

I get off at Broadway-Lafayette so that I can walk around the pet store there; my class hamster needs food, and looking at a bunch of guinea pigs and tortoises usually calms me down. But all the tanks are empty, the bowls turned upside down. They must be cleaning them.

I get a text from Connecticut; I told him that the blog is coming down, and he writes that I can always come and post things on his website . I feel sick, like someone tried to take me puppy-shopping with the dead one still cooling.

It’s not his fault, but I need a minute. It’s the distance from awareness to acceptance that hurts like a motherfucker, and I don’t want to tell Connecticut any of this, because I don’t want him to feel bad.   You can’t complain to the person you love about having to care about his feelings; I get to care about his feelings. I am amazed that I even can. Sketch was mortified by the existence of this blog, and I never offered to stop writing it, even though I loved him, and love him still.

Sketch and Connecticut never asked me to choose between having the relationship and writing about the relationship, and I’m deeply grateful to them both, and to all the men and women that I wrote about in this blog. Even that one fucker who threatened to sue me. I learned stuff from each of them, and it was interesting to try to come up with their pseudonyms.   If I’ve offended anyone in pursuit of a good metaphor, if protecting your privacy came in as a second priority to telling the story of how we got it on, I humbly apologize. I’ve done, as always, my best, even as it becomes apparent now how insufficient that really is.

So now, how to turn it off?   I imagine taking off the shovel necklace I have worn around neck for the last year and hurling it dramatically into the river, right here by the snags and rips of Hell’s Gate. But those Viking-funerals always go wrong, rings and photographs and small pets ending up marooned on the rocks along the East River. I think about tearing the whole thing down with my bare hands; I could delete the blog and forget my password and erase the files. But that’s just the drama talking. I think I will let it stand. Besides, the blog is subcutaneous. It’s under my skin. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and the most honest. Writing this made me happy. So thank you for reading it.

But the story here has reached an endpoint.

There will be other blogs. You’re not done writing, my friend Gabby reassures me.  I have a rough time with endings, and always read books from a series in the backwards order. I’d rather end with Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae still alive and fighting Indians, with Roland and his gang still intact and dreaming of the Tower.

And as for me, the school year just ended, and all the other teachers are glad to see the backs of the retreating kids, to get on with their summer travels, but I just feel lost and alone and left behind.

But the bald fact that it hurts doesn’t make it any less right to end it. Because maybe that’s what this blog has been all about, really. I thought it was about Sketch and the breakup and finding love, and it wasn’t really, and I thought it was about finding my way back to writing because nothing sucks harder than being a something that doesn’t do that something. But that wasn’t exactly the whole story either.

Maybe it was really about finding the space to care about another person enough that I don’t need to keep this room of my own open, whispering my secrets to the walls. Maybe it’s a mistake, but love always seems to happen that way, by accident and with plenty of pratfalls, like a punching bag that hits you back on the rebound.   The challenge for me has never been embracing something or someone new. I’m good at that part. The trick has always been letting go of these other things: these things I can trick myself into believing I can not live without, these things that cost me so much. These things that I love.

New York, 2016

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“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

–Gloria Steinem

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Addiction, Blogging, Breakups, Confessions, essays, New York, Recovery, Sex, Writing

Sex and Driving

images-65I love being in a car with a dude. Mostly. I made a single attempt at learning to drive when I was sixteen, rolling up on sidewalks with my stepfather shouting directions at me and learning that, under certain stress conditions, stop signs are completely invisible. And Bummer once let me drive his father’s car from Morristown to Teaneck, but when we reached our destination I couldn’t fit the car into the parking spot and, vexed with all the instructions I was being given and more than a little stoned, I plowed the car directly and purposefully into someone’s Cadillac.   A summer’s worth of waitressing tips squandered on a deeply satisfying moment of oh fuck this shit.

I never planned on being a driver, sort of idly figuring that there would always be plenty of more adult adults with cars and a working knowledge of what an alternator is to ferry me around.   As a teenager, cars were expensive-seeming but alluring, mobile bedrooms with cup holders, a place where you could listen to music and smoke pot and fuck people. Despite all the windows, cars always feel weirdly private, and that is probably why you can see so many people rooting around in their noses at red lights.

My junkie boyfriend Monster drove a red Volvo that we lived in for a while after paying rent started coming in a distant second to buying heroin. The landlord had changed the locks on our apartment one afternoon, and we were both too embarrassed to call anyone to let us in to get our things. That’s how I lost all these arty photographs I had of my sixteen-year-old self frolicking naked in the snow, but everything else in that apartment I didn’t care about. It’s kind of freeing, actually, taking only what you can fit in the backseat of a car. Of course the car was towed a few weeks later while it was parked illegally on Bowery and Monster and I were wandering around high, and that was the end of that. We never saw the Volvo again.

Since then, I’ve dated men with and without cars in New York, and while I will broadly purport to not to care about these big gassy symbols of American oil subsidies, secretly there is something enticing about a man who can give me a ride. I think about the fireman I dated, a big man who was into wearing women’s pantyhose, and who had heated leather seats that made my thighs prickle. I liked climbing into his behemoth of a truck, which he attached a plow to in the winter and had a permit to drive on the beach in Montauk in the summer, and I spun a lot of relationship fantasies around this truck, even if I ultimately wasn’t into the whole pantyhose thing. It’s interesting, really, how specific our kinks can be.

Living in New York, a bike and a metrocard are perfectly acceptable means of transportation. My bike is some kid’s discarded Huffy, slurry-green with bits of masking tape gumming up the frame and a little license plate with my name on it. I ride around at terrifyingly aggressive speeds listening to Tupac or Ministry, blowing off the red lights as suggestions. It’s a feral street bike so crappy that it lives out front chained to a pole and doesn’t get stolen; recently it was buried in a snowbank for about a month. That’s my ride.

So this driving thing might take a minute. A friend of mine, who shares a name with my stepfather but not his innate volatility, takes me to the cemetery to practice, trusting me with control of his car, and I’m all but of course. I slide behind the wheel on the driver’s side, adjusting the seat like I own the place, but under my sweater I am projectile sweating. I am pretty sure that after I fasten my seatbelt and carefully angle the mirrors, I will drive us directly into a pole and explode. Earlier I had texted him: Are you ready to go run people over? Why would anyone trust me with a giant rolling murder machine, ever?

The cemetery was a brilliant idea, though, because the people here are already dead, and no one laughs at me when I panic because there is an old holiday wreath lying in the middle of the lane and I’m not sure if you can run over it.   Also cemeteries are just awesome. When I was a kid, a cemetery was a place to hang out where no responsible person could see you and you could just hide behind a mausoleum and finger another teenager. I love cemeteries. The dead are so nonjudgmental.

Today, practicing my three point turns amid the graves gives me a rush of pleasure, which I didn’t expect. I always tend to think that other people can do things I can not do—own a home, drive a car, fix a problem, learn things.   But that’s changing.   I can drive myself places, and if the people behind me honk, I can handle it.

After I totally parallel park the car like a regular person in front of Starbucks, I text Connecticut to let him know about this bit of magic I have just performed.   We check in with each other a lot during the day, and it fills the gaping boyfriend-shaped hole I’ve been living with for these past couple of years since Sketch moved out. Connecticut and I make vague plans to road trip sometime soon (we’re talking Centralia, the mine-fire ghost town on both our bucket lists), but our plans are not about making out over the gearshift. It’s about driving with someone, that united feeling you get from having your eyeballs accelerate in the same direction as someone else’s. It’s about driving. It’s about finally getting a turn to fucking punch it.

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Alcohol, essays, Rape culture, Recovery, Revenge, Self defense, Writing

Oh Look, It’s Inappropriate Behavior

imgres-19A man walks up to me at a meeting. He is in his sixties, fat, tanned to the color of belt leather, and his nickname is the Mouth because he never shuts up. (A joke I heard recently: what’s a support group for people who talk too much? On-and-on-anonymous) I’m wearing something form-fitting under a loose cardigan, and he opens the sides of my sweater to get a better look, with an “aren’t I just the naughtiest” expression like he is stealing a cookie. Inappropriate goddamn behavior, but I just stand there, frozen. I think I might have whined a single mousy, “Dude, come on, not cool.” But the part of my brain that hits the klaxons when a moment of social awkwardness is impending was evacuating my wits, leaving me to laugh kind of weakly rather than roar my disapproval.

Later, of course, I was furious, not just with him, but with myself. Why? Why is my first reaction a worry that it’s going to be awkward? It should be awkward. If I walked up to a male acquaintance and pulled out the waistband of his pants to get a look at the goods inside, it would be very awkward.

Ten years ago, when I was still drunkenly snorting coke in the bathrooms at 12-step recovery meetings, I met this one slimy asshole at the spot that would one day be my home group, and he scooped my drunk ass up like I was money left on the sidewalk, whisking me back to his place, away from prying eyes. This kind of thing is generally frowned upon by people in recovery, the idea being that you ought to give a person a chance to dry out a little before offering them the opportunity to make some bad decisions for themselves.   People who go for sobriety newcomers are known as “thirteenth steppers,” and no one likes them. I once heard a particularly disgusting specimen of this type remark that you need to “bang them before the hospital bracelet comes off.” These are people that want punching.

I know I made the drunken choice to get in that dickhole’s car, and I know I made it in part because he promised to get me a job and I thought I owed him something, so there’s that.   And, shit, it’s been a decade, but every time I see him—squat, ugly, limping bemulleted– all I can think is how satisfying it would be to hit him with a stop sign. I wish I had, ten years ago. I wish I had said stop, instead of just thinking it really hard at him.

I once heard someone espouse the belief that rape is just a fight that you lost, but it’s such a specifically sucky kind of fight.   It is deeply sucky that someone should be enjoying themselves so utterly, sauntering off all satisfied, while you are left with all the rage (along with its dance-partner, shame. They are tap dancers, those two; you can feel their routine right inside of your rib cage).

Full disclosure: I haven’t had the experiences with trauma and abuse the way so many women I love have.   Through absolutely no virtue of my own, no has one ever knocked out my front teeth or dragged me into some bushes. No one ever slipped me any drugs that I wasn’t already eager to take. What did happen to me: coming to, wasted, in the backseat of a cab with the driver’s hand up my dress, or someone pressuring me into some shady sex and me being young and uncertain of how to get home on my own, or some dick at a meeting opening up my sweater to look at what was underneath. I don’t feel that I have a right to even be upset about these things, because they are not as bad as other women’s shit, and because I have been so complicit in allowing them to happen. A volunteer, not a victim.  Someone who rides her bike with no helmet and breezes the red lights, expecting other people to be careful. Foolish.

Also, the things that have been done to me are so fucking ordinary that they don’t even feel like a story.  The indignities of the patriarchy are as common and clichéd as something really common and clichéd. I have no words for talking about the wearying effects of everyday brutality towards women that haven’t already been used by better writers than myself. So I tend to leave the topic alone, along with other things that I believe are better left in the hands of professionals.

But the fact that the markers of rape culture happen so frequently that they have become a predictable and boring narrative makes it worse.   One in five women walks around with serious sexual trauma, right? Imagine if one out of every five people you knew were victims of amputations. If your chances of reaching middle age with all your limbs intact were less than your chances of, say, rolling a particular number on a die. Try to picture one in five people walking around minus a thumb or a foot or an ear because someone was a drunk asshole in college, or because a random d-bag just really strongly felt it would feel so good if they just removed your leg. This would be a national emergency. Kids would get taught about it in school by anthropomorphic puppets. A task force would be appointed. There would public service announcements about avoiding the chop. But what happens when the victims are mostly girls, and there’s no stump to stare at?

My sponsor, who by virtue of that relationship sometimes feels like the big sister I never had, is celebrating 18 years of being sober this week.   I joke that her sobriety could now buy a pack of cigarettes or a dirty magazine; it could vote. It could go to war. And I go to her anniversary this week, and there he is: my thirteenth-stepper. Still bemulleted and still limping around unsmited. The last time I ran into him at my meeting, I cornered him and I told him: I don’t know how you feel about what went down, but if you want to make it up to me, stay the fuck out of my homegroup. And yet here he is, large as life and twice as ugly. And every time he hails a woman who is my friend, I want to kick him until he is dead.

But I don’t. I pretend he isn’t there, I laugh a little too loudly with my friends, and I lie and tell people he doesn’t bother me, even though he does. Why am I pretending? Why is it so important to my brain to avoid an awkward confrontation? Why does his night get to be easy? Mine sure as shit wasn’t. Why can’t I just once look a man square in the eye without doing that laughing thing that I do when I’m uncomfortable and just say, Get the fuck out of here before I fucking kill you. Walk away or l will leave you to pick up your teeth with your own broken fingers.

You’d think by now I would understand that no one is coming to protect me. No one is going to be more invested in my safety than I am.  Not a sponsor, not a boyfriend.   When I told Sketch about the man who opened up my sweater to look at my tits, he went to go find him and bark on him.   But this was strangely unsatisfying. I took a self-defense class once, and in it, we practiced yelling at invisible attackers. A good yell is a decent defense, or so they tell me. I just hope that next time I can unleash it in time.

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The cloche makes this even awesomer.

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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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Cougars, dating, Photography, Recovery, Relationships, Sex, Writing

The Terrible Thing About Cougars

imgres-14I have an unusual name. Not a wildly rare name like Patches or Pequod or Persephone, but a name just unusual enough that I could never find one of those preprinted keychains or a novelty license plate with my name on it. Instead, tellingly, I owned a keychain with the dirt-common name of the boy I had a crush on engraved inside of a heart. At age 12, I liked to take it out and look at it.

I told all this to Dig, the emotionally-available man, after our yoga-date last Sunday, and when he shows up this afternoon for our second date he places a tin rectangle in my hands: a license plate with my name on it.

Some people are just naturally thoughtful, and Dig is a member of this tribe. Utterly unaccustomed to this sort of treatment, I am initially flummoxed when he comes over to the passenger side of his car. Does he expect me to drive? Is he lost? No, he is opening the car door for me. “I don’t care if you want to wear combat boots in August,” he says. “You are still a lady.”

Meeee??? The gentleness with which he treats me is so unexpected that I find myself looking at him with some side-eye, filled with pleasure and distrust. This is the relationship equivalent of someone ringing your doorbell with a giant check. What are you hiding behind that giant check, emotionally-available man?

Despite myself, I get invested and more interested, and conversation gets tougher as I begin to earnestly give a shit about what he thinks about my answers. He’s handsome: silver hair, silver scruff, jet eyebrows. He shows me a picture of a schnauzer he fostered when its owner was in the hospital for months and months because he is the kind of guy who would watch your dog if you had to be in the hospital for months and months, and he looks kind of exactly like this schnauzer.

It is highly adorable, and we kiss a long goodnight, but he does not try to fuck me in his car.

What the fuck is going on here? I’m used to it being about the sex, and I’m not sure what to do with all this unexpected intimacy that is not-sex. Maybe that’s why I tend to go for beautiful young guys. They are easily distracted by the potential for a blow-job and so they don’t ask me any tough questions. I can vanish behind all the innuendo.

Dig makes it hard for me to hide.  I tell him I don’t drink, and he asks if I am in “recovery.“ I can just faintly hear the quotation marks, and I dodge the question, mumbling “I just don’t drink.”   This, despite the fact that tonight I will celebrate seven years of just not drinking, in a church basement where there will be balloons and a sheet cake. Exactly how much truthiness do I owe someone after two dates and an hour of making out in the grass at the park?

Of course, two dates and a license plate with my name on it is not enough to make me pull my other irons from the fire. Squeeze arrives in New York in two weeks, and I have been merrily chatting online with this gorgeous young guy I know from yoga.   When I let him know that I am dying to wrap my legs around him and do all the things, he asks if we can take it slow.   When men who haven’t yet hit thirty yet are asking you to slow your roll, you know you have a problem.

There is, of course a word for women who mercilessly pursue boys whose generation starts with a totally different letter, and that word is cougar.   Gross. Despite a cougar being a sleek, powerful man-eater that people do not fuck with, no one wants to be called a cougar. A girl I know recently called me up crying, utterly devastated because someone called her a cougar on the street.   Cougars are women, not girls, the kind of women who own expensive espresso machines. A cougar wears dangly earrings and scarves to distract from the problem-area that is her neck and steps into $400 stiletto shoes. She takes cabs everywhere, showing a maximum stretch of leg when she gets out. She walks up to groups of young men and addresses them as boys.

There is something simultaneously frightening and comical about cougars. A cursory Internet search reveals a level of cultural fascination with them. There is that television show, and an entire dating site dedicated to them (CougarLife, which I think sounds like a prison gang). The men cougars date are referred to as cubs, which is kind of incredibly patronizing and icky.   But according to Urban Dictionary, the cougar “is not necessarily a slut, nor is she desperate. She offers sexual expertise and is open to new experiences… She will not attempt to trap her mate into marriage, children, or even an exclusive relationship. She is not interested in drama or games, as that would interfere with the pleasure she enjoys.”

Right on, cougars! But still: I identify more with the cubs. I don’t have my shit together, and I still feel like a teenager. Do I look ridiculous? Forty and I still dress like a kid: combat boots, a short skater skirt, a hoodie with cat ears.   I just never found my niche as an adult woman. When I tell a 29-year-old man that I want to throw down with him, it’s not as an older woman that will teach him about fine wines and make eggs benedict in the morning. It is as a contemporary.

Dig doesn’t feel like my contemporary. He is a grownup, with a car and a condo. I have literally no idea what is wrong with him, and it terrifies me because clearly there has to be something wrong with him. Kitten-dick is the theory that I am running with until I am proven wrong.

Whatever. I don’t really care about the numbers: how many inches, how much in the bank, how many texts he sends me, how many birthdays he has celebrated. I’m going to be nice to him. I’m going to make him motherfucking cookies, because cougars do not bake cookies. And no matter what happens, my bike now has my name on it, one more cue to help me remember who I am.

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Ew. Just… ew.

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dating, Men, Recovery, Relationships, Travel, Writing

Women Yelling

images-33There is a woman that I only know by the sound of her screaming. She likes to scream on the sidewalk four stories beneath my window after the slimy bar down the street slams shut. A woman after my own heart, she relies heavily on the rhetorical power of a good fuck you, you fucking motherfucker. Tonight, she wakes me up at two in the morning because some girl’s brother has hit her, and she needs to tell about it in her outdoor voice. I wonder if she was raised beneath an elevated subway line, or over a jackhammer factory, or by a pack of drunks who won her in a card game, and now she’s accustomed to shouting to be heard. I’ve never seen her face; I try to look out my window but the angle is all wrong. Sometimes I think about calling the cops, but I have been that angry, I have needed to be heard that badly. I know exactly how she feels, like there is nothing to do but stand under some windows and scream about it.

She wakes me up from a dream I was having where I was getting breast implants, and I startle awake like I’ve forgotten something. I feel a little lost without all my familiar dysfunction, without Sketch as an organizing principle for my angst. I go to a yoga class and see the girl I was recently obsessed with, but after throwing an admiring glance or two her way through the mirror, I go back to staring at my own abs. I don’t know what happened. Just a month ago, I was walking barefoot through her recently vacated spot in the hot yoga studio, wanting to roll around in the moat of sweat she left around her mat on the floor. I’m over it now, left with an absentminded appreciation for her beauty that is all abstraction with no intentions. Without my addictive purpose, I feel a little lost; I used to have one problem, and now I have many significantly smaller problems.

Push texts me a series of dirty emoji, collaging them so it looks like one of them is eating the other one out. It would have been so much simpler to ask me how I’m doing, but he has to pretend he doesn’t care about that, and I have to pretend not to care that he doesn’t care. I walk past his building on my way home like an arsonist revisiting the scene of their most recent conflagration. I can’t decide if I feel like ever seeing him again.

I still can’t find any pictures of myself for my stupid online-dating profile that I’m not completely disgusted by.   I look especially bad in selfies, the arm’s length distance a bad choice for my crooked face, which seems to be aging like time-lapse photography since I stopped drinking. Maybe the vodka was my preservative. In the recovery rooms, I meet a beautiful, chubby 25-year-old girl recently who tells me that the cut-off age for crop tops is 30. This is very easy to say when you are 25 and feel you are entitled to at least 5 more years of wearing crop tops. I parade my 40-year-old abs through the streets anyway, honed through a thousand yoga classes, my ribs like a rack of swords. I finish another Bikram class this morning, my pigtails dripping with sweat, before I climb on my bike and pedal away in tiny shorts with my headphones clamped over my ears. I am the oldest teenager you know.

Like a teenager, I am planning a backpacky trip to Europe next week. I’ll be bumming around for a month without much of plan except to see art, eat stuff, and of course, to meet men.   They won’t speak my language, but that’s OK; even here in New York, I don’t speak theirs either. I’m headed for Rome first. According my therapist, the men there really pay attention to a woman. “They will follow you down the street,” she tells me. “Especially once they find out you are American. They think American girls are easy.” To this information, I begin to emit a high-pitched squealing sound, like a puppy or a toddler with a particularly exciting present.

More than anything else, I can’t wait to be somewhere where I don’t have to make conversation. I don’t have to try to think up clever retorts, to explain that I haven’t had an STD test in a year, to confess that I am still in love with my ex.   It’s my birthday this week, and I wait for a phone call from Sketch.   I want to text him, but my friend Jeanine tells me: If you want a man to come to you, let him come to you. I wait, but he doesn’t come, and I wonder if he’s forgotten me. Eventually, I go down to my overstuffed, forgotten mailbox and there is a card from him: his familiar perfect handwriting, an inside joke tucked into the return address.

I’m starting to think Sketch and I need a long-distance relationship.  It would be so much easier to be his partner from another continent, an ocean the buffer between our bad moods.   We put the space between us, and I yearn for him across it. We need a longer distance than the East River, and knowing I am leaving for Rome on Tuesday makes it even easier to reach for him, to picture myself standing on the sidewalk under his window yelling my faceless love up to where he is sleeping.

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WYSD goes to Europe! I’ll see England, I’ll see France, boys will likely see my underpants. The blog should keep on rolling from abroad, unless something terrible happens to my plane on Tuesday. Kisses!

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Attention-Seeking, Competition, Contests, Recovery, Rejection, Writing, yoga

Loserish: Compare and Despair

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I submit some writing for a literary magazine to consider for an award back in January, and then I proceed to stalk my email for months and months. (I find the ratio of emails I get from Bath and Body Works to emails from real people I know very depressing. I also find it depressing that Facebook keeps trying to get me to go on dating sites it advertises as “NO YOUNG WOMEN ALLOWED.” God, I hate my demographic).  Anyway, this contest: the piece I wrote actually cracks the semi-finals before the judge, author Nick Flynn, picks a winner who is not me, and it is definitely another bullshit night in suck city. I actually, literally cry, and I am no longer a person who cries, having gotten it all out of my system back when I was drinking and my favorite pastime was sitting in the back of a Burger King weeping and drinking vodka out of a bag.

From the email I receive telling me that I lost, I arrive at the conclusion that men do not understand my work, and also that I am almost, almostbut-not-quite, good enough. Being not quite good enough is worse than flat-out sucking. It’s like waiting on line for something and having them sell out right before your turn, so you can watch the last good bagel go home with another woman.  Still sniffling, I go to yoga and take a spot in the front row, where a beautiful girl who is better than me transitions from a headstand into a forearm stand.  She manages to make this maneuver look effortless; when I do something difficult in class, all the veins stand out in my neck. I manage to get there, red and burping and wobbly, while the beautiful girl balances flawlessly on a single palm, all zen hotness.   I don’t want to be one of those women who treats other women like competition (NO YOUNG WOMEN ALLOWED, Facebook keeps promising), so I always make sure to talk to her after class.  She is a young, professional dancer with mile-long hamstrings, and it is fucking bananas that I’m trying to compete, but compete I do.  We all pretend yoga is not a competition, everyone will tell you that, but yoga is a TOTAL competition.    I’m an intermediate, which means I can do a couple of show-offy things but there is a good chance I will fall and take out the whole front row. Once I knocked one of the giant studio mirrors off the wall and left all the yogis ankle deep in broken glass. I still have the scar.

It’s all too much for me, and I leave class discouraged.  I am not exactly a loser, but I am loserish.  I am not the winner.  This deeply and profoundly bothers me.  In recovery, there is this whole emphasis on being one among many; it’s often parsed in the formula of “I am a ________ among ____________.”  A worker among workers, for example.  Another bozo on the bus.  The idea is to get into the middle of the herd and stay there, where the predators will be less likely to pick you off.  The point is supposed to be to grow in humility; I am not that big of a deal, and absolutely no one gives a shit whether I can get down in a full split or not.  Still, I look around at the women around me everywhere, comparing.  She writes better than I do. She is more flexible than I am. She is stronger.  She is married, her students like her better, she works harder than I do. She has more things.  She is prettier, more fuckable.  She is better than me.

I am not supposed to have these feelings, and so I pretend I don’t.  I make believe I am just a yogi among yogis, a blogger among bloggers, a girl who doesn’t care that you are prettier than me.  I pretend I am content to be anonymous in the dusty warmth of the herd, that I don’t chronically ache to be the center of attention, even when a predator is bearing down on the pack of us.

Speaking of the herd, I haven’t been to a sex-addiction meeting for a while, and it’s chilly when I return.  Same oddly kidney-shaped circle of chairs, same unfriendly stares. No one pays attention to me.  I ask the woman next to me if she is a nurse, as she is wearing scrubs, and then realize that this sounds incredibly sexist, so I throw “or doctor” in, but way too late, and she stares at me like I am retarded.  I drink my iced coffee out of the good side of my face; I’m still dealing with Bell’s Palsy, waiting for the right to come back online, still feeling like a monster. The fucking Phantom of the Sex-Addicted Opera.  I have been wearing my skirts extra short by way of compensation, my hair a mask over one side.  I want to share about it, and I raise my hand, over and over, for the entire hour– it’s a pitch meeting, which means whoever speaks picks the next person to talk.  Time and time again, eyes touch mine and slide away, picking someone else.

There is this exercise where you are supposed to invite rejection into your life, as a sort of aversion therapy.  Ask for things you know strangers will say no to: can I have a bite of your ice-cream, will you grade these papers for me, can I come live in your apartment with my rabbit?  Supposedly, repeated exposure to NO is good for your soul.  I remind myself of this, but as someone else looks at me with my hopefully raised hand, my too-short skirt, my hair in my face, and then skips on to someone else, I don’t feel like I’m growing.   I don’t belong, even with the people who don’t belong.

At school, the kids’ attention is a balm on bruised feelings.  My middle-schoolers are going through a cycle of clubs, and I run a yoga club.  I model a forearm stand, my feet dangling near the crown of my head in scorpion, and earn a single, gratifying whoa.  One of my girls runs up to tell me I need to do something about my pants; apparently my old, faded thong is sticking out in the back.

This is always the story; I wave my arms frantically for attention and fall off my chair, splitting my pants, the moment I get it.

Again and again, I put my hand up at this meeting.  I twinkle my fingers a little.  Pick me.  The meeting goes for an hour and a half, but I leave after an hour.  I know it’s immature, but I’m cranky and I wish I could drop a chandelier on the whole bunch of them.    I take the train up to Sketch’s neighborhood, but I don’t go up to his apartment, walking instead to Riverside Park, breathing.  I listen something acoustic through my headphones and look at videos of cute things until all the ferrets jumping in packing peanuts and baby bats eating watermelon have slowed my breathing and I no longer feel like yelling at strangers.

My friend Maryanne tells me about someone she knows who has Tourette’s Syndrome. I always thought Tourette’s meant that you called everyone cunts anytime the room got quiet. But apparently, not all Tourette’s is like that; Maryanne’s friend has this uncontrollable need to yell out “HOW COME?” at inopportune moments. I completely and utterly identify with this. Stuck subway train? How come?? Another day of fog that makes your hair look like you sleep under a bridge? How come? My crooked face, my inability to drink like normal people, my chronic insomnia? My need for attention, the one that feels like it might be satisfied if only I were the best at something? How come?

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I love old-timey beauty pageant photos.

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