Recently I went out for drinks with a woman I had just met at a party the week before. We didn’t really know much about each other, but quickly developed a sassy rapport, and I knew we were kindred spirits.
At the bar, she turned to me and asked, “Have you ever heard of a seven-year-long booty call? Because I’ve been having casual sex with the same man for seven years. And this man…I don’t know anyone better than I know him. I know exactly what he’s thinking all the time. Doesn’t mean I like it, but at least I know. This guy has picked me up off the bathroom floor when I was crying, and I’ve kicked him out of my apartment in nothing but his boxers, we know each other so well. But still I don’t want to be his wife—I don’t even want to be his girlfriend.”
I turned to her and said, “That’s not a booty call, that’s having a lover.”
I hate the term booty call. I also hate the term friends with benefits. It reminds me of this terrible MTV documentary that was just a bunch of people eating cheap take out in their sweatpants, and they couldn’t even try to be a little sexy because they were all such good friends. Gross. But even though I hate those terms, I really like casual sex. It’s just that I want the guy to make an effort. Just because we both know a relationship isn’t on the table, doesn’t mean I don’t want to be impressed. It doesn’t have to be a permanent relationship to make a lasting impression.
The best lover I ever had was over a decade ago when I lived in San Francisco. He was ten years older than me, and was only the second person I had ever slept with. And, by the way, I firmly believe that the second person you sleep with is almost always more important than the first, because that’s when you discover that sex is never the same, and can be different with different people. This guy opened me up to a variety of sexual possibility that I didn’t even know existed. He was the first person I ever met that was kinky in any way. But we both knew it was only an affair. Thankfully I was leaving in a couple of months (it’s always good to have a deadline with anything casual) and we both wanted to get in as much of each other as we could. Somehow I saved myself from fantasizing about being his girlfriend, and I just went with the flow. I knew he didn’t love me, but I got off on the fact that I would be on his timeline of important lovers. When I left, I snuck a pair of my panties (he really loved the smell of my underwear) into the glove compartment of his vintage baby blue VW Bug. He drove me to the airport and I never heard from him again. And that was ok, because I didn’t want to. I was perfectly content with the memory of that summer. I didn’t want to push it any further. If I had heard from him, or called him, it would have been the relationship equivalent of jumping the shark. Everything would have been ruined.
Fast-forward eleven years later though, when I’m now older now than he was when we first met, and I ran into him on the street. That’s right. He was walking down MY street in Brooklyn, with a baby strapped to his front and a wife on his arm. I could not believe it. This was the man who showed me how to put a cock ring on.
Later, a good friend (also a carry over from the San Fran days) asked if I thought that should have been me on his arm?
Without hesitation, I said, “God, no. He always wanted very different things from life than I did. But I did think about him naked.”
When I met this man, he was crazy. He had actually been on MDMA when we first bumped into each other at a bar. We had sex everywhere—in his car, in alleyways, he even fingered me during a reading at City Lights. He was the life of the party, and always knew how to get me off. But I never felt like we could have weathered any serious storms together. I would never have asked him for advice about my life path, and I definitely couldn’t imagine bringing him home to meet my parents, because I would have spent the whole visit hoping they wouldn’t notice his frequent trips to the bathroom to do another line.
Yet there he was—eleven years later—a family man. I was genuinely happy for him, and didn’t feel wistful for him at all because he has clearly lost the bad boy sheen that I once found (and I guess still find) so attractive. I am just not turned on to the more grounded, content version of him. I only lusted for the turbulence of our affair, which is how I know that it was just an affair, and not a relationship.
But then again, even people in relationships obviously aren’t immune to affairs. My mother told me about an older friend of hers who has been happily married for thirty years. She says her husband is her soul mate. But, for the last fifteen of those thirty years, my mom’s friend spends one weekend each year in Bear Mountain with her lover. Only one weekend a year. She says her lover isn’t better sexually than her husband, and certainly wouldn’t be a great life partner, but is an excellent opportunity for space from her regular routine. Perhaps not incidentally, this woman’s daughter died in a car accident, and the woman said that she was unable to cry about it with her husband. His pain was too familiar to her, and she resented having to look after him, when all she wanted was to be looked after. She also hated that his grief was a constant reminder of her own. So she went to Bear Mountain and started healing in this other man’s arms.
I can really relate to this because I don’t think that one person can emotionally or sexually fulfill me. And I think that’s why you take a lover. At all points in my life, there’s been someone that has helped me grow by being there for me sexually, and I think it’s like that for most people. I had it at age twenty in San Francisco, and my new bar-friend has had for almost all of her thirties, and my mother’s friend didn’t start until she was well into her fifties.
It’s depressing, but sometimes I feel like there are only two options for sex these days: being monogamous and peeing with the door open, or texting a neighbor while wearing sweatpants and no bra for a late night snog. Somehow sex has lost its sexiness. But I know there’s an in-between, and that’s having a lover. It’s someone who cares enough to wear nice shoes, and also provides some vulnerable pillow talk. This type of relationship isn’t easy to find, and it takes a lot of self-confidence to know that though you might be sharing something special, that doesn’t mean this person is a good partner for you. There are plenty of people I wish could have been my lover, but I got too attached—I wanted to see them with the flu, wanted them to only be with me, and I definitely wouldn’t be happy for them now if I saw them with a baby strapped to their front. What makes a lover unique is that ultimately they’re your friend. I’d like to think that my past lovers would always want the best for me, even if that meant not being in my life.
Follow Lacy Warner on twitter @laceoface