A few weeks ago I had amazing sex. I would have even gone so far as to say it was up in my all-time top ten. But it's hard for me to give him a secure place right now, actually, because I'm still mad at him. The thing is, even though there's no denying that I physically had a good time, I didn't even like this guy that much. He is the kind of guy who is a master at "mansplaining," and he didn't have a sense of humor about himself at all. Case in point, when I told him his pet rat was “steam punk” he took it as a compliment. He also talked endlessly in a highly affected academic way that is just not natural, and he never reciprocated any of the questions I asked him. He even interrupted me a couple of times, and didn't seem to notice when I never went back to my original story. Regardless, he was dead sexy, and that counts for a lot.
At one point in the evening he lifted his shirt up to show me a tattoo he gave himself in college and the brief view of his hip bone poking out over his belt buckle was enough for me to continue the ruse that I really cared about his antique typewriter. Which, why must there always be either a typewriter or a record player? (Or in this guy's case, both!) We went into his room and he walked me around the tiny space showing me his valuables just like he was one of the 7-year-old boys I babysit for. But then we laid down in bed, and he completely changed. Gone was the insecure emo-guy, seemingly unsure of his place in the world, and next to me was a man—a full blown, confident, I-know-how-to-give-pleasure-because-I-understand-how-to-receive-it man. When I came, everything went black, and tiny little red polka dots flooded my vision. Afterward, heaped together in a cloud of sweat and pheromones, he turned to me and said, “Looks like that kissing thing worked out.”
I still couldn't believe what had happened.
“Yeah, the kissing wasn't so bad either,” I managed to say.
But—and why is there always a but?—he eventually blew me off. This is the hard part to navigate, right? I didn't want to be this guy's girlfriend. Honest! He's destined to be with a lady who has an MS in library science, green hair, and wants to write a graphic novel about sleeping with her mother's best friend. All I wanted was to see red polka dots a couple more times before things fizzled out naturally. He jumped the gun on the fizzling out part. Moreover though, it very much disturbed me that maybe his experience wasn't as intense as mine. Can two people fuck and one person think it was earth shattering and the other think it was on par with good TV on a Sunday night?
This hot and cold business has become an uncomfortable pattern in my recent dating trajectory. Over and over, these dudes get really hot about me, texting, telling me “they want a tender moment,” and then when I give up the fight they drop off the face of the earth. And after this last ultra-confusing experience, I had to try to determine what this was all about.
I decided to have a "High Fidelity Moment.” In the novel High Fidelity, the protagonist has an existential crisis fueled by his latest break up, and decides to re-visit all his ex-girlfriends to figure out why they broke up with him. This has always been super-appealing to me. I would love to lay all my cards down on the table and say to someone, “Listen, we've got nothing to lose, because it's already gone. Can you please tell me what your side of the story is?”
So, I contacted my last boyfriend. Our relationship hadn't lasted that long. In fact, I ended it pretty abruptly because he was a total flake. But that didn't stop me from thinking about him for months. Our break up was amicable, and I thought I'd handled it maturely. Though we had great chemistry, we were a terrible couple with different expectations for what made a successful relationship. We had a bunch of break up sex, called it a day, but decided to stay friends. Or so I thought.
We did not stay friends.
He deleted me from his Facebook and Instagram, refused to answer my texts about picking his stuff up, shit-talked me to some of our colleagues, and—worst of all—ignored me when we were both reading at an event. Like, he straight up looked me in the eyes, and then left the room.
After that low-point, I just shrugged my shoulders and thought, “Well, that's life, you win some, you lose some.” But, I didn't understand what he was so upset about. In the first place, I only broke up with him because he was avoiding me. He was the one who pushed my hand. But after the great sex with the emo-man/boy went nowhere, I felt it was time to sit down with this past lover and ask him to tell me what his narrative of our relationship, break up, and subsequent falling out was.
I almost couldn't believe it, but he actually agreed to meet with me and talk about it. But then he kept changing the dates on me, and then wouldn't confirm until two in the morning the night before we were supposed to meet up at 10am. I started to remember why he got on my nerves. Finally, we picked up coffee and went into Fort Greene Park. I told him how I felt like I couldn't read people anymore, and how I had developed a little story in my head about why we broke up and why he was mad at me now, and I needed to know if it was true.
I asked him if he was angry about the story I wrote about him. He told me he'd never read anything I've ever written. This came as a shock. I wasn't insulted as much as flabbergasted. If one of my exes ever became a sex writer, I would read everything they wrote. He told me how depressed he was, and he apologized for not saying anything to me at the reading. “You were sitting in the corner talking to someone and you were wearing this amazing hockey sweater. Truth be told you were just very intimidating. But later on the train I felt like a real jerk.”
“Ok,” I thought, “this isn't going so badly.”
Then he said, “The other thing is, whenever I start dating someone, it feels exciting and new and I want it. I want to be liked and wrapped around in a happy love bubble. I even think maybe this time she'll be good for me. Maybe the love of a strong woman can change me.”
The he gave this weary chuckle. “But then it becomes real, and she wants something from me too and I freak out. All I want to do then is go home, be by myself, and smoke pot. Alone.”
And here I was thinking it was all about me.
He went on, “I don't really have anything to give to someone right now. I'm struggling to make a life I'm proud of. How can I share that with someone?”
Aha! This whole time, I thought I had somehow fucked up. Like if I had been more patient, more feminine, more Zen even about the whole thing we could have made it last, at least for a few more weeks. Even with the emo-man/boy, I thought I had screwed my chances of getting screwed again by texting him first. But now I see the whole hot/cold thing isn't about the fact that I weigh a good 20 lbs more than each of these dudes, or that I'm a neurotic that lays bare her obsessive tendencies in a weekly column for the whole world to read. If it's anything, it's that I like myself. I feel good about my place in the world. I'm confident about my future, and though I may not be totally grounded, I'm happy.
My ex told me he wasn't going to date anyone or have sex with anyone for awhile until he got himself sorted. I told him I'd done that before, and it was a good time to reflect. I had to ask him one last question.
“It's embarrassing, but I need to know. We had great sex right? I mean it was really good for me, and I don't know how you felt.”
It might have been the first smile I saw from him all day. “Yeah, we had great sex. In your tiny little room. With the mosquito netting, being a little stoned. It was great.”
At least we were on the same page about something.
Follow Lacy Warner on twitter @laceoface