Addicted to attention, Addiction, Bad Influences, essays, Sex, Texting, Want Monster, Writing

Return of the Want Monster


Connecticut is going to IKEA with a friend this evening, and I ask him to please text me pictures of pieces of furniture he would like to do me on. He complies, and then sends me an actual dick pic (not shot at IKEA.   That would be insane). A dick pic! What have I done to this shy person? Just last month he was still hugging me like we needed to save room for a Bible, and now he’s documenting erections and one-upping me on the filth I send him on my lunch hour.

He also sent me a text a few days ago in which he thanks me for reconnecting him to his humanity. I think by humanity he means getting blow jobs, but I am glad that this is working for him and that so far I am not making him miserable. Suddenly, after months of chasing him, he likes me; I can tell he likes me, but it feels like someone just handed me something heavy and valuable and slippery, and I’m nervous.

Getting Connecticut in my bed doesn’t feel like I thought it would. I thought I would finally feel contented; I thought it would be a break from the tireless want that constantly ruins everything like a spoiled child pointing at things in a store and yelling. But this doesn’t feel like contentment. Instead, I feel dizzy and glutted, like if you drank wine with bourbon or ate a fistful of gummy bears with piece of cheesecake. It’s too much sweet. It’s too much.

Also, there are scheduling problems, already. I go to see my parents for the Easter weekend, which just leaves Friday, and this is why it’s tough to really be involved with more than one person. Because sometimes you only have one night free, and then it becomes painfully clear who you like best.

It’s Sketch, it’s always Sketch, Sketch forever.  I go uptown to see him and put my phone on airplane mode so Connecticut can’t text at an inopportune moment, and Sketch and I walk across Central Park to go see the Edvard Munch exhibit at the Neue Gallery. I identify not with “The Scream” but with “Puberty,” Munch’s painting of a round-eyed, naked girl sitting on a bed, an enormous phallic shadow menacing the wall behind her. And walking home Sketch makes me laugh and I can’t stop admiring the way his shoulders fill out the back of his shirt, a back I want to climb up on like a raft, but there is this thing that’s going on in my life now and here we are not talking about it. And it makes me feel far away from him, like his voice is coming at me through a tube. In the morning we will have coffee at City Kitchen with three of his friends, two of whom want to sleep with him. One of the women calls him sweetheart. A long time ago she was the mistress of someone famous; she has the best ass I’ve ever seen. When she tells him goodbye, she tells him that she loves him, and I know I have forfeited any right to be jealous, but I am, and he’s not even sleeping with any of these people, at least not that he’s told me.

He doesn’t belong to me, and I don’t belong to him, and no one belongs to anyone, and I take my phone off airplane mode so I can see what Connecticut has texted me, and I kind of feel better for a moment until I realize that this is what coping looks like.   I am getting enough to get by, but this is not what I pictured for myself, not at all. My friend Jocelyn asks me over dinner, “In an ideal world, who would it be?” Something I am learning is that no one can handle your lack of monogamy, and I’m finding it hard to even talk about Connecticut with people, without feeling sort of apologetic and sheepish.

Time is limited, and energy is limited, and after a long holiday weekend with family I just want Sketch. I change the sheets before he comes over, because someone else has been here, and it’s impossible for this not to make me feel profligate and seedy, and he gets down with me on my new rabbit sheets. Some of the rabbits have sweaters. One is a wearing a scarf. One is turned the wrong way.

Am I turned the wrong way? I’m not even sure what the markers are for the wrong way, but I am being reminded this week that getting what I want is not necessarily the thing that makes me happy. Getting what I want doesn’t stop me from wanting something else, something different.

The next day I have one of those 12 step meetings to go to; I’m impressed that I’ve made it through the last few days without getting into my mother’s Xanax or turning up at some bar with my wallet and my bottomless supply of want, and so I can hardly begrudge the time I have to spend in church basements to make that happen. But because the recovery rooms are basically high school, I’m in a fight with someone there and now I don’t want to go. Connecticut goes with me and sits on my left and my leg drifts in his direction until it finds him, warm, on the other side of my jeans. He found a book of weird John Shirley stories for me at the Strand. It is a specifically thoughtful gesture, precisely the correct gift for me.

The argument rages inside my body about whom I am supposed to love, where I should be spending the energy that I have left, and the most convincing argument for Connecticut is that he is there, showing up next to me when I need him.

And Sketch is far away. The messages I get remind me of the texts I sometimes get from Lovesick, in Paris. Lovesick messages me this week, and we compare the states of high terrorist-alert in our respective cities this week. It’s raining in New York, I tell him. It’s raining in Paris too, he reports.  Sketch sends me a message in between art school and yoga, but when I call him, he does not call me back. It’s a good thing I like his back so much. I can see it now, retreating.

Addiction, Breakups, Masturbation, Phone Sex, Texting, Writing

All I Want is Phone Sex, and Here’s What’s Happening


Although by Friday night I am so tired from teaching that I need to keep reminding myself it’s left then right then left again as I shuffle along, and I’m ready to face-plant onto the first piece of furniture that doesn’t have a seventh grader on it, when Sketch cancels our prearranged Netflix-and-chill, I’m supremely bummed out. Now the evening stretches out, long and boneless, and I text him hi like eleven times, but he’s either off putting it to someone else or, more likely, is in front of his computer chain-smoking luckies and sighing with contentment that no one is bothering him.

Into this void I message Deal, gorgeous and far away and kinky and fun, because I basically am a gasping chasm of loneliness and need, and there is nothing like the unavailability of sex to make me feel like I am dying a thousand existential deaths.  If you get too close to me in my tight pants, you can hear a sucking canyon-wind sound from the places where I need attention. A week without sex and my vagina is basically a haunted house. Deal texts me: Can I call you, and I figure this is an appeal for phone sex, because no one talks on the phone, ever. I use my phone for messaging, and for taking pictures of myself that then depress me, and one time for killing a spider.

As of call time, I am naked, vibrator at the ready. I used to do this professionally, you know. It’s not hard—phone sex is just storytelling with an orgasm at the end. I ask him to tell me about some sex he had with some German couple in Central America. I want the details. I want specifics.

But I can’t quite get into the groove of it. He keeps asking me what I’ve been up to, how I’m doing, and I realize that only one of us is trying to have phone sex here. The other one is trying to drive to a date in La Jolla.   I’m finished in about 30 seconds after we get off the phone, but it is a frowning, faintly disappointing sort of orgasm.

None of my social interactions have been going as planned. The weekend passes in a blur of gaffes, stupid jokes, long uncomfortable silences, and awkward exchanges with counter help. I should probably stop trying to strike up conversations with people until this passes, but I’m worried that this is just how things are.

By Sunday I’m ready to take myself and throw this whole mess into the ocean, so I go with some friends to Long Beach for the Polar Bear plunge. The icy swim is an annual Superbowl Sunday tradition benefiting the Make a Wish Foundation, that organization that gives one day of awesome to terminally ill kids who normally have only day after day of unremitting suck. I love the Make a Wish Foundation and sort of think they should have one for grownups too. Grownups are much better at wishing and wouldn’t waste it on something dumb like meeting a fireman. We want to do other things to a fireman, or at maybe to get to knock out a crowd of people with the fire hose. I would pick the Black Friday shoppers queued outside a Best Buy on Thanksgiving.

Anyway, fifteen thousand people come out to Riverside Beach in Long Island, and a bunch of them run into the water whooping, myself with them in a black bikini and an enormous fluffy hat with ears. The experience is a weird medley of charity, bravado, and exhibitionism that fits right into the grooves and depressions of my personality like a key.

Sketch and I used to do the Coney Island polar bear swim back when we still lived together and did normal couple things like swimming in the ocean in February. I remember how tightly he held my hand, roaring come on, T and charging in.  The cold compresses your lungs so you can’t breathe, and your body goes into shock, flooding your organs with lifesaving blood, abandoning your extremities. Afterwards, we couldn’t stop laughing. I have a picture of us in the frosty water together. A picture of how things were before, when I was in a relationship.

Here’s a few snapshots of what it was like, when Sketch and I lived together.

  1. I was bad at sharing the closet or the refrigerator. I am like a gas; I fill up all available space. With the best of intentions, I joined a CSA and mysterious leafy things unfurled from every inch of the fridge, unwanted kohlrabi rolling out every time anyone opened the door to get out the milk. From time to time he would stage a vegetable purge, and the look on his face when he pulled out a limp parsnip rolled up in an old Forever 21 bag made me lose my shit.   It still makes me laugh.
  2. I do not squeeze toothpaste from the bottom. It always looks like it’s been accidentally stepped on or run over by a bicycle. I tend to lose the top.   This was frequently commented on.
  3. When he lived here, I liked to hide in my room. The electric blanket and certain doctor-sanctioned get-highs were in there, the prescription bottles hidden in my bookshelf. He told me recently that he always felt like I was ignoring him, but I wasn’t. I was just stoned.
  4. He was a fan of the snooze button, which I personally believe is how the devil pierces the veil to our world. All intelligent people understand there is no point to the snooze button. Sketch and I could not reach a compromise on this issue.
  5. We took a lot of walks together. Even once we were very firmly broken up and situated with other people, we would still hold hands when we walked. A friend was recently telling me about a couple he knows that always walks and holds hands when they fight; something ancestral about walking side by side makes it hard, apparently, to sustain a resentment.
  6. It was hot under the covers with him. I liked it best when I could fall asleep first and he would join me later.
  7. It was hot under the covers, so I liked to wake up before him and press my cold feet to his flanks while I read a book and drank a cup of tea in bed in the morning. Neither of us were big on morning sex; it’s too sunny in my bedroom and anyway the morning boner is like 90% pee.
  8. He always had something interesting to say. It didn’t matter what we were talking about. He could say something thought-provoking about traffic or the weather.   He was never not the smartest man I had ever met.
  9. He always told me I was beautiful. He always paid attention to me. He teased me in the exact way that I long to be teased. I always felt like I had his attention, utterly. I always felt important.
  10. He carried his past around with him with remarkable lightness despite the mantle of his history, of the infamy of the crime he went to prison for. He’s not dismissive of it, but he has a easiness about his relationship to his past, this ability to glance behind him and still keep trucking forward that I keep hoping I will pick up from him the way I pick up other people’s accents or fashion choices.

I’m impressionable, but I do not have this lightness when reviewing our history, so it’s generally been easier, not having this person who was my boyfriend around. And for the last few months I’ve been reveling in the roominess of living alone, seeing Sketch on the weekend, checking in on the phone. But a phone conversation is not the same as having him walk into the room where I’m reading and hold up an ancient celery knob and ask if we really need to keep this. It’s not the same as having the luxury to ignore him in favor of a book or to use his slumbering body as a piece of furniture. It’s not the same as knowing all the confetti moments that make up a person’s day. I miss having him around. I miss having a boyfriend.  Phone sex, it seems, is not sex.

But it’s hard to feel sorry for the terminal disease your relationship has when all around you are people swimming out into the Atlantic to support the wishes of children with actual terminal diseases.

Plunging in with my friends, I find myself thinking, this water is not cold enough. It numbs my arms and legs, but not enough to stop me from wanting to wrap them around someone.

I’m off from school the next day for Chinese New Year, and so I meet my adorable friend Connecticut for lunch.  I can’t stop sort of wanting to sit in his lap. “I don’t know about you,” I tell him, “but I am not generally friends with eligible straight males. It’s kind of weirding me out.” And I tell him about Sketch, a hastily abridged version of our story but one that is still true. That we are still involved, and that I need constant attention from men or I feel like I can’t breathe, and that I also need to mostly be on my own. I have to pee but I don’t dare get up, because if I have to start this speech over again I might not be able to resist the temptation to fabricate, to position myself in a more flattering light, to see Connecticut as the source of the validation I crave instead of as a human being who also has to pee, who also has competing urges for disclosure and for obfuscation.   I tell him that his texts are a bright spot in the afternoon, and that I have an emoji assigned to his contact name so that when his texts roll up I can spot it on the screen of my phone from across the room. Which one, he wants to know. So I text him the Conecticut emoji—it’s the winking one with its tongue out. I know, I know: this emoji needs to rein it in a little. But every time I see it, it’s a tiny wish granted. My phone flickers, sending me twenty or thirty characters of relationship, and a wink with a lolling tongue. It’s enough. It’s enough. Really, it’s mostly enough.


Russell Stover: disappointing girlfriends for over fifty years.

Happy Lupercalia  xoxo

Addiction, Attention Seeking, Blogging, dating, Holidays, New York, Texting, Uncategorized, Writing


images-65My computer has nearly had it. It’s sticky and clogged and that beach ball of Mac despair spins and spins onscreen. I am frequently informed that my Dropbox is full, which is like telling me how all the world’s bees are dying; I feel bad, but what am I supposed to do? Start an apiary in Brooklyn? Begin backing up? The cursor dangles just adjacent to my last sentence, and refuses to go where I tell it to go, like one of those carnival games where you have to shoot a target through a crooked sight; you can learn, eventually, to compensate. These words, for example, need to come out all on the first go, like a typewriter, because of the whole feral cursor situation. It makes me think a little longer on what I want to say. I deliberate, for a change.

My IT gifts extend only as far as restarting the computer and mumbling at it angrily, Be less shitty. This whole situation is not acceptable, because I need my computer. I have a careful fortress made of screens and electronic alerts set like bear traps and I need them, because unsurprisingly, I am the sort of girl who would rather text someone than talk to them.  I would rather blog than go to a party.  People are scary and I’m afraid of balloons. If only every time someone walked up to me at a holiday party, they could hand me a pad with their name and their intentions on it and invite me to write back in my own time, I would be much happier with all my social interactions around the chips and onion dip.   The screen is a buffer, and a delightful one; I like myself so much better in electronic chat then in reality, the place where I am accidentally head-butting people when we both go to reach for the same item, where the hood of my coat got stuck in the closing door of the subway from inside of the car and I had to get off at a later stop that opened on that side.

Things are not working this week. My stomach is expressing profound dissatisfaction with the holidays, burping and growling and being a nuisance. Eating has always been a problem, and that sucks, because aside from drinking and fucking, what else is there to do with other people? In my head, I am still the girl with the steak and the doublewide basket of bread and the glass of Glenlivet, and I don’t know how the fuck I turned into this person who is bitterly drinking a horseradish juice and picking fussily at a quinoa burger, no bun.   It sucks.

When I was twenty-four, I went to some hypnotist-spiritualist-charlatan type person who told me that there was a demon living in my stomach.  On the metaphorical level, I still believe it: some sort of internal Krampus propelling me from place to place doubled over, dealing with the bad behavior of other people’s children, eating charcoal tablets to try to deal with it and burping black clouds.   Some dark minion has taken up residency, and it looks to punish.

And I maybe need punishing. I am getting my flirt on this week with this guy I met in real life.  Met IRL, and immediately fell back, retreating behind screens. I scroll through six months of his Facebook posts, handling them like sheets of glass, afraid of accidentally liking something from last July and looking like a weirdo.  We lob texts at one another.  I don’t know anything about him except that he is good at texing, and he writes and reads and does music, and this is a wonderfully blank canvas upon which to fling bright buckets of need.   Every time I see a text from him, my heart lifts.  Attention.  It’s a Christmas miracle.

And all the meanwhile, I am sort of dying.  I spend the night at Sketch’s, and we have the sort of gymnastic sex that makes your toes splay.   I bruised my shin on a chair that was brought into the bed; it’s the kind of sex that co-opts innocent furniture.  And it’s good.  But after, my stomach hurts so bad I can’t even make conversation.  When he asks me if I am OK, I nod, try to pull my white lips into a reassuring shape.   I could be drowning, pursued by underwater bees, and I would still tell you I’m fine.

Definitely a demon, one that isn’t on board with all the fucking or the holiday cookies people are trying to give me.  My stomach bows demonically outward, twinging on high-alert every time the phone hums.  There is a sort of laser-sharp focus thing that happens when I like someone. Normally, I walk around sort of vague and forgetful, but when I like someone, and the texting thing is happening, I am on point. I am awake. I can feel the double-vibration signifying an incoming text from the next room, the way animals sense other animals on the savanna through the vibrations in their hooves.

But I find the suspense almost unbearable. There is something about thinking I might possibly have sex with someone at some point that makes me want to immediately have sex with them, because I can not stand the suspense of not knowing. I’m the same way with presents; I just want the cheerful wrapping paper that stands between me and the next disappointment removed and gone.

But life, much like my cursor, doesn’t allow for revisions. There is no going back. Once the pants come off, like gift wrap, there is nothing left but to look pleased and pleasantly surprised. So I deliberate, and finally just text this man a half-dozen dead-eyed Santa emoji, hidden behind my glowing rectangles, peering out and cringing at the mistakes I haven’t made yet.


Krampus: hates parties and is a terrible dancer.


dating, essays, New York, Texting


There are men of a certain age and disposition whom I am inclined to address as kiddo.  Broken was one of them.  I had lined up a date with him as an antidote to a work-related holiday party, a joyless function of baked cheese and that white-elephant game where everyone tries not cry.  I park my ass near the door, make talk of the small variety, and text Broken.  In his online profile, he is cute, but his head looks really small.

After being parked in one relationship for a decade, I’m finding that texting is one of the strangest things about dating.  It’s not a real interaction, but it’s enough of a fix that I have developed a Pavlovian response to the double vibration sound of incoming.  Also, texts are really easy to misconstrue.  After telling me he would be coming from a holiday party of his own, and thus wearing a holiday sweater, he texts the following set of symbols:   :o)   To which I ask, is that a Rudolph emoticon?  I mean it in a sweet, jokey sort of way, but then my train goes underground, with no further communication from me, so it ends up sounding more like a lip-curled bit of snark.  Is that a RUDOLPH emoticon? Followed by utter radio silence.

I try to atone by promising him that hugs and cookies await him in Sunnyside.  He texts back: Yay!   I love people who are not afraid to bust out with a yay.

He arrives at the bar in the promised holiday sweater, and I deliver on the hug and the cookies, which my roommate made but I shamelessly take credit for.   They are good cookies.   Over cranberry juice, I learn that he is homeless, is struggling with some physical disabilities, and is still devastated over his last break-up.  He hasn’t been having much luck with the online dating.  “Girls don’t care if you’re a good person,” he says, and I try to convince myself that I am good person, even as I sneak a look at the time.  He tells me about his passion for pro-wrestling, while I psychically flag down the waitress.

He doesn’t have the $5 to cover his juice.  I drag out my wallet and walk him to the subway, to make sure he gets there safely.   We will not text each other again, but I hope he’s OK, because I am broken too, and I get it; I hope he’s found someone who has him now, safely ensconced on her couch, WWF on the television, cookies of her own in the oven.