NB: I am still catching up on old entries. This is (ahem) quite an old one.
I had a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. I invited Ned and Olivia, and Sweetheart Daniel. We sat at my foldaway wood table from Target and ate roast turkey, baked sweet potatoes, cranberry applesauce, salad with pecans and goat cheese, string beans with shaved almonds and gingerbread. Not an exhaustive menu, but a reasonably expansive one for a Tuesday night dinner party of four. We watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Dancing With the Stars (my new favorite TV show). After Ned and Olivia left, I settled into my new wooden bed next to Daniel.
Was he wearing cologne? Ever since we started hooking up again I’ve been puzzled by his scent. Because I remember being almost intoxicated with the sweet, musty smell of his neck, but now, while I still like how he smells, it unfamiliar. I sniffed him: “Are you wearing cologne?”
“No.” I think Daniel’s a little bemused by the amount of attention I pay to the hollow of his throat. It just seems important to me.
I curled up next to him and rested my head against his chest. Although I wanted to have sex, I felt sort of distracted—like maybe we could just go to sleep and fuck in the morning. I was tired. I kissed the side of his mouth, and then his mouth, keeping my mouth closed.
“I’ve been thinking,” said Daniel. I gave him an encouraging nod. “It’s not you or anything—” he squeezed my shoulder. “But I think I should take a break from casual sex.”
Well, that was unexpected. “You should?”
He grimaced. “Well.” He paused. “I’m trying to kind of get things in order, and maybe look for a serious relationship.”
“Oh,” I said. “OK.”
I mean, I was OK with it. Though I don’t think that having casual sex with someone precludes you from looking for a serious relationship with someone else. (My fellow blogger Badman has been discussing this here.) But if that’s how Daniel sees it, then that’s reasonable.
We settled back against my headboard, in talking rather than making out mode. “Are you seeing anyone?” he asked.
I sighed. Besides Daniel, and Aaron and, one occasion, Jed, “I see Dean,” I admitted. “And it’s sort of hard.”
And it is hard, but not cause it’s a constant battle to keep from tearing his clothes off or anything. It’s hard, I explained, “Because he gets my jokes and we get along and he’s smart and nice and we’re comfortable,” I said glumly. I know there’s no future and since we’re not sleeping together—despite his persistent, not very strenuous efforts to get me naked, which I find flattering if uncompelling; we make out and he tries to feel me up—I feel then opportunity for inflicting emotional damage is limited. On the other hand, seeing him is distressing. Again, not because I miss him (which I do) but because, frankly, I think he’s throwing his life away and it’s heartbreaking to see an intelligent, talented, good natured guy squander his talents due to pique at not being as successful as his brother. He’s sacrificed a career to his ego. Which makes me want to hit him. Last time I saw him I told him he was going to end up bitter, which he took with good grace and every semblance of having heard me. But really I doubt it’ll have an effect. But, as my co-worker Ashley says, this is no longer my problem.
I said some of this to Daniel and he squeezed my shoulder again and told me I’d meet someone else soon. Well, yeah, probably. I don’t need that kind of reassurance, I want some other kind, I thought fretfully. Or maybe I just want sympathy. Or, you know, dick.
“Well Daniel,” I said. “I am sort of surprised that you waited until now to tell me.” I meant his decision regarding casual sex with me. All that time making conversation with Ned and Olivia! All the time he’d helped me glaze the gingerbread and watch The Simpsons. He’d known all along but hadn’t said anything. That felt weird, and I felt strangely embarrassed. As if I should have been embarrassed for not knowing.
“Well…” said Daniel. “It just didn’t seem like a good time.”
We sat there quietly for a bit longer, and then Daniel said he had to leave. I wasn’t sorry. When he left I curled up alone under my thin quilt, waiting to fall asleep. I didn’t feel like I had the right to be angry with Daniel, or the right to feel anything in particular.
On Sunday night my other twentysomething boyfriend, Aaron, came over. I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks and I felt a little shy when he showed up at my door, his skin cold from the wind. He kissed me lightly on the mouth, and I was pleasantly flustered.
But over dinner we each had a drink and by the time we’d finished I was relaxed and looking forward to getting at his mouth—smelling his neck, sucking him off—all the tings I like to do to boys I find attractive. We ambled back to my apartment and sat on my bed, and then Aaron said, “Are you seeing a lot of people?”
Dean had gone AWOL recently, which was just as well, and Daniel had cut me loose; I’d been on one date with a guy I’d met online. We’d met at a bar and he’d left his belt hang loose around his pudgy waist after a trip to the bathroom. This man had recently sent me an unsigned text message on my phone, and I’d had to thumb through my date book to find out who it was.
“Um, sort of,” I said finally. “Never mind. Are you?”
“Well,” said Aaron, “I’ve been seeing about four people…” He went on to talk about having all these sexual experiences (with Jefferson and others). I nodded emphatically, but it took me a good three or four minutes to realize what he was getting at: he was dumping me! I was being dumped again!
“Listen,” I said at last in my most mature, woman-of-the-world voice, “We don’t have to hook up.”
He smiled, looking mighty relieved. “See, one of the people I’ve been seeing … she never said she wanted me to stop seeing other people, but now I feel guilty … and you know, even if you only see someone once a week…”
I tried to look like I was listening hard, but I was thinking, “I’m not going to get laid again?!” And frankly, part of me though he could have done this via email. By traipsing out to my apartment, he’d gotten my hopes up for sex and a fun evening, even though the visit showed he was trying to do the right thing by breaking things off in person. And of course if he had just disappeared, or dumped me via email, that would have been really disrespectful and I’d have been offended. But here we both were, all awkward, and me sexually frustrated to boot. So we hugged and when he left I stared at my face in the mirror, having been dumped by two younger men in the space of five days. If I keep this up, I’m going to start to think I’m undesirable. I grinned at myself hideously.
I told my co-worker Ashley about this. Ashley is a genius. She is extremely pretty, with long, fine blond hair, deep blue eyes and perfect, poreless skin, with what Fitzgerald would have called “a lovely high color” (pink cheeks). When I first met her, she was so well-groomed I pegged her as a former Delta Gamma pledge chair, but in fact she is not very sorority-like, though she does play beer pong and occasionally says “Dude!” in all seriousness. Anyway, mostly we chat about our boyfriends and our diets. She’s awesome.
I relayed to her the demoralizing dumping by two younger men. She gave me a you should know better look: “The universe is telling you to date someone age-appropriate,” she said.
“I don’t want to date,” I said, horrified. I want to meet someone, fall in love, plan my low-key, semi-formal afternoon wedding and have a few kids (one boy, one girl)—not make small talk and worry that I’ve got something orange in my teeth. Then I sighed: “You’re probably right.”
If my interlude of casual sex with amiable younger men was over, it was time to get serious. It was time to go after what I claimed to want. It was time to go back online, to cut Dean loose, to polish my manners and shoes. “Urfh,” I told Ashley.
She looked up and gave me a crooked smile: “I know,” she said.