THE 13th STEP: ROCK BOTTOM
Oh, hai, thanks for stopping by. Guys, I have a problem. I’ve been through so many guys, yet had sooo little sex. It’s demoralizing. I think my count at this juncture in the space-time continuum is 16 in the past year-and-a-halfish, though, whatever, time isn’t linear, exactly. Kidding, that isn’t my real problem. I mean, it is. I’m lonely. I lack human contact. It isn’t even sexual desperation or horniness or whatever, anymore. I mean, I could take care of that, easily, if that were actually the problem. But maybe not. Because I’m picky and according to the events of this past May I have needs of which I wasn’t aware. I think this is the time when you welcome me to the well of affected typeface that represents human remains, whatever abstraction remains of what was once considered human cognition, “Hi, Genie, welcome to the internets.”
1) SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?
I spent the days following our encounter debating about whether or not I wanted to see Jonah again. On one hand, the sex was kind of torture. On the other hand,
a) VAG ISSUES
Whatever vaginal issues were ailing me must be temporary. I also experienced random internal pain with The Explorer So much so that after a few thrusts, a position change, and a few more thrusts, I told him that we had to switch back to oral. After we were done, he asked me if his dick was weird, like an unusual size or shape. Nope. I can’t explain it, but it’s only happened those two times, so I’m unconcerned.
b) PENIS SIZE
Big penises are bad news for me. I’m not sure how accurate I am at estimating relative penis sizes, but he can’t be bigger than Clyde He just can’t. What is bigger than an elephant? The internet tells me a big whale and giant squid. And now I’m thinking about tentacle porn. Here’s the thing, even though Clyde’s body broke my back, my vagina was unharmed. Now that I have fewer internal organs, I can totally accommodate elephant cock. Therefore, Jonah’s relatively smaller penis must be able to fit inside me without doing any serious damage.
Whatever we had seemed to have fizzled out. But the guy had also fallen asleep on me on the subway ride back to my place. Attraction is so context-dependent. Maybe we couldn’t recreate the party pick-up vibe. But to some extent our attraction could be rekindled.
d) THE 50 BEFORE 30 CLUB
16 penises in a year-and-a-half is too many! Let’s be honest: It’s not them; it’s me. Granted, three of them disposed of me and a few were so morally reprehensible that there was no way I was seeing them again. The others I probably could have given second chances.
2) SECOND TIMES
I’m very sexually picky and once I’m grossed out I’m grossed out. But it doesn’t have to get to that point. I have to remind myself that second times are usually better than firsts; I need to leave room for improvement.
I thought back to my experience in Amsterdam. On my first date with The Dutch Man, we went to two bars, then a sex show, and finally he asked me if I wanted to get another drink and I said I was done drinking for the night. We had dilated time well with all of the location changes and I enjoyed our conversation but it seemed like it was dwindling. Plus, I’m not so into alcohol. He walked me part of the way back to my hotel and when we were about to part I stalled, wait, I’m not tired yet. So, he asked again if I wanted to get another drink. If there was any possibility that we were going to have sex, I really didn’t want another drink. However, it didn’t seem like he was angling to go back to my hotel with me. I invited him over as an alternative to drinking more. My odds seemed 50-50. Kinda a long shot for a sex invitation. If I didn’t invite him back I was going home alone, so it didn’t have anything to lose. He accepted.
The truth was, I didn’t especially want to have sex with him. He had everything going for him and we had a pleasant time together, but I can’t say I felt a ton of physical chemistry or drive. Here was my thought process: I like sex more than alcohol. He’s offering me alcohol and I think I can do better. It sounds silly because I like sex more than most things and when people offer me most things I don’t counter, “Let’s have sex instead!” It’s the same logic I used when I decided to vomit for sex. Even though the timing was less than ideal, I was like I’d rather have ginger sex than masturbate! Ergo, ginger sex. Ergo, vomit. When we pit choices against each other like that, the decision-making process becomes distorted. And the Dutch and ginger situation aren’t actually analogous to one another because I was crazy about the ginger—crazy! Only the timing was positively preposterous. With The Dutch Man, it was more like I was living life according to my mantra: if you don’t know what to do with it, put it in your vagina! Bottoms up!
Over the next few days The Dutch Man made it abundantly clear that he wanted to see me again. The sex was okay and afterwards we had a mature chat about my blog that made me gain a lot of respect for him. But I still had an overwhelming feeling of indifference. Which turned into ambivalence when I realized how few days I had left in Amsterdam and how many options there were. A guy I found far more intriguing sent me a message on okcupid. While objectively guy number one was more of a catch, guy number two was more my type. He was skinny and pretty; had ear piercings, highly stylized hair, paisley bow-ties, and pocket squares; had a hard-on for Nietzsche and Foucault; and fancied taking it up the butt. HERE IS THE BEST PART. Okcupid Q: Would you like to have someone strap on a dildo and put it inside you? A: Yes. It’s very exciting play-wise, plus men have tons of hot spots there, so get over the homophobic/gender tosh of male ass-play being gay or not manly. I wasn’t sure I was ready to lick a stranger’s asshole (Q: Under the right circumstances, would you allow a partner to lick your anus? A: Yes. Allow? Love it.) but fucking a guy with a strap-on has always been my dream! And it seemed safer in Amsterdam where people are less diseased. I fantasized about simultaneously being a geographical and sexual tourist. Considered how I could rearrange my life to squeeze him into my schedule and squeeze myself into him. Is it wrong to have buttsex after one cleanses herself literally and figuratively in a floatation tank? Before she hops on an airplane for the final leg of her trip? Will being the insertive partner require more vigorous thrusting and thus break my fucking back? Couldn’t work it out.
I opted to overlook bowtie butt’s message and reunite with the original Dutch man. Here is how I worked that out: I spent my summer lamenting pitiful prospects and actively abstaining. Let’s say there is a 1 in 4 chance that I wanna bone some dude I go on a blind date with, and out of the dudes I bone there is a 1 in 3 chance that it will be mindblowing. 1/4×1/3=1/12. There is only a 1/12 chance that this new dude will be better than the original Dutch man. Better stick to what I have. Look, I’m not such a frigid bitch that I actually did the math at the time. It just became obvious that I should not fix what was not broken and at very worst I would have a nice time with a lovely and worthy man.
My decision was a sound one. If decisions are outcome-dependent.
He led me all over town, wanted to give me a taste of nightlife he thought I’d enjoy. Even took me to an Art Deco theater because we had spoken about my interest in modern art and he figured I’d appreciate the architecture. Though it was closed for a private event, I found the gesture to be incredibly thoughtful; I appreciated him. He walked me back toward my hotel and the night ended much like our first night together. He didn’t seem especially inclined to have sex with me. I had to explicitly invite him over and once we were back in my room, he didn’t act receptive to my advances of orienting my body towards his, touching his leg, looking up with longing eyes. I wasn’t sure I wanted sex until we were making out and he pulled back with soupy eyes, “Glad to be back.” I returned the smile and affirmation, “Glad to have you back.” Women like enthusiastic consent, too. Perhaps he was just shy or didn’t want to come across as pushy.
Things progressed so much more naturally and effortlessly than the first time. He was a quick study, remembering all of my preferences and orchestrating them masterfully. With a destination in mind, we got to skip past most of the boring formality of kissing and feeling each other out. Against my better judgment, alas, I let go.
As he was fingering me, I dissolved into his hand, crumbled like a stoic statue losing her footing. Normally when I cum into my hand my hand becomes a cup of cum, but I overshot his, went out of bounds, and I couldn’t feel or see but I knew I was spraying all over my bed, the right-hand one. I thought, thank god for Ernie and Bert bedding, I will be sleeping on the left-hand side tonight. Letting the steam whistle out from my hollow heart and sing a simple melody, I slipped away before finding myself. Just as I suspected I wouldn’t be able to glue the pieces together and might drown to death in my own lake, I stopped him. We switched to sex. After a few minutes of riding him I announced I was close, assuming he had enough time to get himself there. He looked at me in awe and told me to make myself come. I leaned back on his cock and looked into his eyes, two more thrusts and oh shit closer became coming. It rushed through me unexpectedly. I was a windsock flapping in a gust, falling backward and then forward. He caught me with his firm wrists and as we leveled into free-fall together, I continued to contract around his cock. Make yourself cum, baby.
Let’s call that moral luck, baby. Bad decisions are outcome-independent. We had two days in between our first and second encounters. During the first day, I debated about whether I wanted him or bowtie buttsex. During the second day, I did mushrooms and when I was coming down I tried to summarize all of the not-so profound things I learned during my trip. The insights pertaining to him, though intended more generally: 1) Just because you’d rather have sex than do anything else doesn’t mean that’s a good reason to have sex, 2) Maybe it speaks more about the lack of stimulation in your surroundings than of the enticement of sex, and 3) It isn’t exactly a compliment if someone decides to have sex with you because how bad can it be. Clearly I’m telling myself to quit it with all this stupid sex. But the very next day I go for round number two. Which I don’t even know that I want until we are already back at my place making out. I like to analyze decision making using the paradigm that Tom Nagel proposes in his paper Moral Luck. Which I haven’t read since summer 2005 but I think I still remember the gist. There are 4 possible decision-outcome combinations:
1) Someone drives safely. Hits nobody.
2) Someone drives safely. Hits someone accidentally.
3) Someone drives drunk. Hits nobody.
4) Someone drives drunk. Hits someone accidentally.
I think we’d all agree that person number 4 is the worst of the worst. And it’s best to be person number 1. Person number 2 we feel sort of sorry for. Even though he/she had a more unfortunate outcome than person number 3, he/she is less at fault. Person number 3 has moral luck.
Sex isn’t as polarized as these dichotomous actions and outcomes. Usually I feel sort of indifferent about my sexual partners at the onset and the sex ends up being sort of meh. But I think it’s still useful to consider which role I take on in various sexual scenarios. Since I had sex that I wasn’t enthused about but it ended up pretty awesome, I’m going to label myself person number 3. Obviously it is better to be person number 1 regardless of equivalent outcome. But it’s hard to never get fucked, man! And you can never truly predict an outcome until you are already naked together.
This paradigm does not even account for the aftermath, which you cannot assess until it arrives. Andrew would have been a category 1, my decision felt so right at the time and the sex was mindblowing. YES, I exclaimed. I can finally guzzle massive loads of cum forever and leave a river of swimmers behind wherever I go. I have been reincarnated as a cum dump!!! Except I crashed hard when he disposed of me. What is a dried cum dump, anyway? A drought? A brushfire? The aftermath was undoubtedly worse because of how good both the decision and outcome felt. The higher you fly on dopamine the harder you crash. Sex is complicated and brutal. Deeep sigh.
3) UNWANTED SEX
I’ve had so much unwanted sex recently, and when I say unwanted I don’t intend to imply through coercion or even convincing. The guys are almost mystified that I want to sleep with them so soon. Almost. No one argues; they enable me. As I pursue my compulsive need to scratch the seedy underbelly, sniff all the crotches, explore every crevice and crack. An endless quest to expose nothing in particular. To unearth. Out of curiosity or boredom. For better or worse. In the words of Elizabeth Wurtzel, I am the bad crowd.
Remember that blog Reasons My Son Is Crying, featuring reasons that sound absurd to functional adults? I should compile an analog called Reasons Genie Put Something In Her Vagina. And by something I mean either men or objects. If those are distinct categories. Kidding! For sure, it would sound absurd to anyone who has any inner resources. The only thing I have inside me are grippy, toned muscles. Winning!
If I have a creative talent, it is misusing sex (upcycling feelings!). This blog should actually be called How to Expel Your Feelings from Your Vagina. Or, more accurately, How to Stuff Your Feelings in Your Deep, Dark Vagina Hole. (If only they could escape!) The sexual equivalent of gluttony. Well, call me morbidly obese!
I have always eaten what I wanted, which has amounted to not all that much food, because when you satisfy your desires, they turn out to be surprisingly slight, or at least reasonable. It’s deprivation that creates hunger. My only understanding of this idea when it come to nutrition is in relation to my own feelings about love: if some man gave me precisely what I needed, it would probably not be all that much, but the famine of feelings make me needy and desperate.
—Elizabeth Wurtzel, More. Now. Again., pg. 316
After careful consideration, I decided to text Jonah, given that the a) vag issues, b) penis size, and c) attraction all seemed like manageable hurdles to surmount. My decision was heavily weighted toward the realization that I’d be in the 100 before 35 club if I kept dismissing guys after just one time. So text him I did, and I didn’t hear back right away. While waiting, I worked myself up over nothing. Is he gonna text me, is he gonna text me not? Does he love me, does he love me not? I spent hours eyeing my phone every few minutes, checking my phone even though I turned the volume on so I would be notified immediately if and when he did respond. After a few hours of this nonsense, when it was still within reasonable timeframe that he might actually respond and just hadn’t received my text yet or was busy, I was like, HOLY SHIT, what the fuck is wrong with me? A few hours earlier I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see him again. I had to rationally convince myself I should give him another shot. He was mostly a novelty fuck, anyway. Now here I am panicking that he may not want me.
I have so little in my life that sex has become a game to me. And it’s a mentally exhausting game because it seems personal like so much is hinged upon a guy liking me, though the actual sex I’m having is pretty much as impersonal as it gets. And maybe rejection wouldn’t be so rough if anyone ever wanted me, but you can only be thrown to the ground so many times before it is confirmed that you are piece of trash with scuff marks rife for stomping on. Then it occurred to me that the last few guys I’ve been with have contacted me past the time period when I was interested in communicating, and I felt a sense of revulsion. As in, I was annoyed that they assumed I had any responsibility toward them once our physical communion was over, and I couldn’t understand what they wanted from me beyond my body. One lives overseas, for Christ’s sake! I only gave him my contact info so he knew how to find me if he ever decided to visit the city or I ended up in Amsterdam again or whatever.
When they don’t text, I wonder, “Why don’t they want me?” When they do, I get exasperated, “Why would they want me?” I can’t win—when it comes to balancing abstractions of feelings in a famine of feelings. Meta data about our interactions. Always a critic, never a participant—I can never just be present. I become anxious about the game aspect, not the people involved, and work myself up into a frenzy until it becomes so unmanageable that I push them away so I can discontinue engaging with my own feelings. Content falls by the wayside when to text or not to text becomes the question. I’m playing my own game, I’ve created my own rules, and I’ve finally learned how to suspend my disbelief!
“So you overreact to nothing, but that overreacting is not feeling—it’s reacting. If you just sat there and said to yourself that it hurts and there’s nothing you can do, you’d get through it. Instead you drive yourself crazy wishing these things didn’t hurt. You feel stupid and bad about yourself for being bothered and then you drive yourself crazy. The feelings come out in strange ways.” She pauses. “That’s what’s inappropriate. Before you even know a guy well enough to be attached to him, you feel deeply, because you are so desperate to feel something, and then you sabotage it. You don’t give it a chance to get to the point where real feelings would be appropriate.”
“I never get that far.”
“Because you are too busy getting worked up about all kinds of things that don’t matter so that you don’t get to the point where it does.”
—Elizabeth Wurtzel, More. Now. Again., pg. 192
Working myself up, waiting, catastrophizing the self-created, plotting the demise of only me.
Before he even has the opportunity to not text me back, I want to rescind everything we’ve done together. I want to beg him to start over, to retract the sex, to wait until the third date like conscientious human beings who are not so jaded as to pound away their feelings immediately. To get to know each other first, whatever that means. I vow to apologize for rushing things, if only he texts me back. It will be my first act of vulnerability. After ascending and descending the 13th step, I think I’m ready for at least that.
Though I’m normally unable to flip a switch and change how I feel, once I realize how disproportionate and misplaced my freak out is, I cut it out immediately. I accept the situation as a lesson learned.
5) SHIPWRECK SHORES
I think of how Paul told me my blog is a shipwreck and I’m the rock; he can’t imagine why guys knowingly continue to sleep with me. Or, as Andrew put it, Why then bother dating at all if we know how it ends? I take sensible situations and annihilate them with my murderous mind. Genie’s vagina: where dicks go to die. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
It’s true that the stories I share here are fucking disasters because there is comedy in tragedy. But those accidents are crash and burn. Actual tragedy is sullen and infinite. It’s too expansive to be quantified and explained in tidy narrative form; it smolders and simmers holes in places you’d least expect them. And you don’t realize you are lacking points of reinforcement until you try to stand and it comes crashing down in thunderous waves. The real shipwreck is the one that leaves you forever adrift. That can’t be set ablaze and compounded into a box of ashes to put on a mantelpiece with framed family photographs. Instead of marinating, I let my feelings fester.
I’ve begun to feel as if my readers and real-world friends are dependent on me for laughs. Comic relief. When I should just be like, Get. A. Life. To destroy.
Once upon a time a guy referred to my blog as an “outlet.” At this point I conceive of it as a way to create something out of the rubble of my life, and I suspect that which I feel the most emotional resistance to is the most critical to share. It wasn’t always like this. In fact, I never consciously decided to have a sex blog—to publicly mock people with penises. I was simply the resident storyteller among my peers and they thought my misadventures should be recorded. Then distributed. I had very little control between steps one two of the process. I wrote for them. And then them became their friends and friends-of-friends. I’m not trying to recuse myself from responsibility. Just trying to say that this whole project became larger than me, larger than my initial intentions which were actually other people’s intentions to begin with. After a year or so of writing, my sex life and writing became hopelessly entangled, in part because the clowns with whom I consorted totally encouraged my nonsense and I felt like I had to perform for them. Of course they had stake in watching me make a fool out of myself, and I suffered myself as a fool gladly because I felt a definitive dissociation from the character we created. Best of all, I got to fuck haplessly and be praised for it! How many women can say that?
I quit my blog for a few years when things started spinning out of control and I wanted space to explore without being critiqued. I needed to eliminate the social motivation without throwing out the baby in the bathwater. And here I am years later, estranged from the group of friends who were once my primary enablers, still fucking away—fucking my life away. Now that my external motivation to fuck has decreased, I do feel like I’ve gained insight about myself that I wouldn’t have if my social and sexual desirability were inextricably entwined. But I still can’t help but think of my life in narrative form, and I don’t think this is a problem most people experience. Maybe other people aren’t ridiculous enough to engage with the absurd and stage their lives as Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes. Maybe they think of adventuring as an occupational hazard. Those people don’t know how much sex you can have and how much havoc you can wreak without actual, permanent consequences.
It’s silly to think that art is about what is depicted rather than a projection of the artist herself. I realize I’m especially prone to overstepping the life-art divide and sometimes I’m conscious of it in real-time. For example, when I feel the need to own a room that probably means I’m playing a character. Or maybe I’m coming into myself. Who knows.
After all has been said and done, I wish I had taken MORE risks, not fewer. But I also know it’s time to drop the sexual affectation. The world of casual sex is something I conquered long ago and I’ve been stagnating for a long time now. There is nothing brave about that. Plus my friends think I’m an asshole. And I think I’m an asshole. One of them, Parker, has explicitly stated that he prefers me when we’re alone and I’m being for real, even though we met when I was steeped in my sex blogger persona. Whenever I’m out and about with my friends or orate old school-style stories, I think I feel judgment from them, like they believe I’m pathetic yet continue to humor me. And I realize I’m projecting self-judgment. Plus Parker’s. With which I don’t always agree. But in this case he’s right: it’s time to grow up and move on.
I was always able to reduce whatever craziness I’d experienced into the perfect anecdote, the ideal cocktail party monologue… Even at my worst… I would try to keep the atmosphere light by saying something like, So, did I tell you about the accidental blowjob?
Anyway, I thought this ability, to tell away my personal life as if it didn’t belong to me, to be queerly chatty and energetic at moments that most people found inappropriate, was what my friends liked about me… most of them let me know, one by one, that while they didn’t mind that I said things that were thoughtless and out of line, they excused this behavior as a sad flaw… I was actually just good to talk to, even a good friend… They’d be just as happy to see the affectation go.
—Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation, pgs. 326-327
I pretend I don’t know what will come of me if I drop the act. What am I good for if not sex?
Here’s the secret: With The Dutch Man I was on my best behavior. We didn’t talk about sex at all. I mean, I talked about public health policies and outcomes and my volunteer job and job aspirations. And after the first time we fucked we had that earnest conversation about how writing about people you know alters the course of your life and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. But I didn’t shock him with stories of sexual shenanigans; that’s sort of an aggressive conversational control tactic, anyway. I turned it off and still managed to be engaging.
And, like, this whole ‘I have nothing else going for me’ thing is silly. People I work with like me. My classmates like me. My family likes me. And not just because everyone’s family tolerates them and everyone thinks their own baby is the most beautiful. But because I’m actually funny in real life without employing cringeworthy frame-controlling techniques. Without telling away my personal life to disown the embarrassment, to make it not mine. Time to discontinue the humane fuck-and-release program. I can cease entangling myself in these ridiculous situations if I wish not to be associated with them. Sex for me is just a nervous tic. Tick, tick, tick…
6) ROCK BOTTOM
I was forever puzzled by the okcupid question “Is there such a thing as having had too many sex partners?” What do they mean by too many? Too many to fit in the 365 days of the year? Too many to fit in your orifices simultaneously? So many that you are constantly sore? If only.
How about so many that you are eternally dissatisfied by and so distracted by cock and the commensurate bullshit that you don’t have the breathing room to step back and see over the trenches. You are measuring one mediocre experience against the next with blinders on. Everything becomes dim and indistinguishable. Iterations of anguish.
There is a price for 16. My sexuality has become performative. And by now I am the only audience member. How many partners are too many partners? At a certain point your soul fractures from the stress and strain of stuffing them all in. It doesn’t matter if individually they were insignificant experiences, some lovely some icky. It doesn’t matter if you achieve a balance such that collectively in theory they should cancel one another out. There is a psychic price. Eventually. The balance strikes you.
I’ve been through so many guys and gotten so little. It is demoralizing. I always though rock bottom was an extreme you hit, a zenith or trough. Not an eternal hover in purgatory. Here is what rock bottom is: when you’ve been at the bottom of a canyon stuck spinning your wheels for six months consciously, waiting helplessly for help. Which is where I’ve been dwelling since around the time of my 30th birthday in May. In fact, leading up to the infernal thirty, I began writing about this very topic. But I absolutely could not get myself to post it. I couldn’t accept it nevertheless admit it out loud.
Until I experienced it firsthand and for a prolonged period, I figured loneliness was silence. Much how I figured depression was flatness than neither included emotionality nor lability. Instead loneliness has proven to be a void excavated from an inverted scream. It is my ability to fend for myself sucked out of me until I’m left lying deflated and limp.
These guys are numbers to me, not people. I’m thirty years old and my life has amounted to nothing. I have spent my twenties collecting samples and failing to make a purchase.
At first, after my series of surgeries, I wanted to be fuckable. Now I just want to get fucked. It’s like, YES WE CAN, now where are the fruits of my labor? The messiah never cometh.
7) RANDO SEX
I’ve outgrown sex with randos; once it served a purpose. Recently I’ve begun to feel like my life is a series of disconnected events. I’m afraid I’m falling into the trappings of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s one-night stand of a life.
Drawn in by its instant gratification allure and lack of complications; disabled by my failure to decide on flawed constancy. As she asks, “[H]ow many lost connections make up a life?” Only thirty, and most of my friends have already moved on, moved away, moved period. In constantly rotating an ensemble cast of characters, I’ve lost any semblance of a narrative and made way for the haphazard. Which is part and parcel of living in New York—a city in flux—but mostly due to my failure to accept my and others’ imperfections. To work through the tough times in order to experience the good ones as a unified team. To abandon my fierce independence in favor of composed connection.
I’ve spent so long relying on myself. I’m not sure how to trust. To take a leap of faith. To believe in the good intentions of others. If even my own body has failed me, how can I depend on an entirely separate being to reinforce my weak spots?
Ignorant people have the misconception that because I’ve been with a lot of guys (more than Ophira Eisenberg!) promiscuity is my preference. This could not be further from the truth. It’s easier for girls to get laid and easier for guys to find relationships. Because I am especially candid and laidback about sex, guys throw themselves at me. Making choices is an exercise in self-restraint, though an imperfect process. You can never accurately predict what you’re getting yourself into until you’re already naked. So, yes, I’ve disposed of a lot of men. But I far prefer the familiar.
Here is the saddest thing you’ll hear me say, and I say a lot of sad things: I miss being 24 and fucking all my guy friends. Sure, you can describe them as mutual pity fucks. At least there was a certain permanence. And I wasn’t expendable. The guys accepted my flaws. We joked about failed sex with other people together. And then we had failed sex. Together. They helped me contextualize where I had been and provided a narrative arc, connecting my past to my future. Though not an aspirational destination, they offered a resting place for my weary head and not-yet worn out vagina. Sex was restorative and recentering. In fact, wasn’t having much more sex then than I am now, but friendsex interspersed with randosex was significantly more fulfilling. Between my active sex life, social life, and work life, I never felt abject loneliness.
I used to LOVE being single in the city, the freedom it granted me, the colorful palate of experiences to which it exposed me. I thought people in relationships were fools. Women could have it all. I had my cake and got eaten out too! I got the best of my dude friends without the worst of them. I milked them for what they were worth and moved on to the next one whenever they exceeded my annoyance ceiling. The girls they dated were stuck with them, flaws and all. Joke’s on you, dumb bitch! I fucked yo’ boyfriend and jumped fences with him and his dumb friends, and don’t have to sleep next to his slimy ass!
Finally, I’ve realized not dealing with people’s bullshit means no one is there to absorb mine. So much of why I’ve been fucking randos as of late is because it’s harder to disclose real shit to my actual friends. It’s been easier to spread myself over the city, distribute the burden. Once upon a time, I didn’t have emotional needs and could simply filter my feelings through my vagina.
When I began laying down the tracks for my book, I planned on mostly including stories from my blog, only transforming my blog into narrative form with the progression of my digestive troubles and my gradual “coming out” process as the thread. Really, though, Allister is my narrative thread. If he isn’t an actor in each story, he is a commentator in most. To some extent, he has been with me throughout this all. There was an element of connection, caring, and intimacy in our casual relationship, an unspoken commitment. He always followed up and apologized if insincerely. Essentially, that’s what I’m missing in my life now—commitment, implicit or explicit. I’m not going to air our dirty laundry; there is some. Not a hamper full, a few stray pieces strewn across the bathroom floor. I always knew this would happen at thirty. Guys get into relationships—guys even less qualified than I—and I’m left to languish as a banged-up, once-loved doll forgotten at the bottom of a toy chest. I’m not sure whether I’ve outgrown rando sex or I’ve been outgrown. Either way, it’s time to move on. Or to learn how to grapple with life as a series of disconnected events, to accept other women’s chewed-up leftovers. I know I don’t want that. Because I’m not an insane person. I need to make sense of things. I need to make decisions. As a twenty-something horny coed, I believed decisions narrowed outcomes; now I understand that possibilities open up when you don’t exclusively deal with the world on a superficial level. I had that adolescent defect where I wanted to FEEL IT ALL, and as a result I’ve felt nothing.
After my conscious celibacy of summer, by September I felt sad and desperate. And could not even fathom how much sex I would have to have with my hand to approximate a perky penis. So I was like, I SURRENDER. And texted Davey, duh. For one pity fuck. I believe he was genuinely confused by the intent of my text because we are adults now so it was sent substantially before 2 a.m. when I was stone cold sober. This is Genie’s vagina speaking, not alcohol. What, you don’t recognize its husky voice? Er, cracking voice?
Me at 7:44 p.m.: Hey, what are you up to?
Davey: Hey. Just sat down to dinner. What up?
Me: Not much. Just having one of those days where I feel like I’m going through puberty again and was in your neighborhoodish.
[“ish” is right. “neighborhood” would be a very liberal description of the radius. What I really meant is, I can land on your cock in 15 minutes.]
Davey: Haha. Got it. The old rent-a-dick. He’s not currently available. Sorry
Me: Aw, too bad.
Like, gross. I mean that type of objectifying language is par for the course with us, but sometimes I even gross myself out.
By the way, for contrast, here is our tinder exchange from last December, a mere ten months prior. Obvs we’ve bumped into each other on every social media dating platform.
Davey at 7:20 a.m.: I want to be inside you
Me: That’s charming
Davey: I thought so
Fuck, dude, I think this guy just single-handedly confirmed my suspish that for girls it’s all over AT 30.
In my old age, I have delusions about how I could totally live with an Allister. Not Allister himself, because I’m not really attracted to him, but an Allister. One of my shittiest guy friends. A serial cheater, a white liar. You know, the kind I choose for sex so I don’t get attached. When it comes down to it, I’m no better than they are or we wouldn’t be in cahoots, and besides they are not so bad. I don’t even really care if the guy sleeps around and lies to my face. As long as he gives me the attention, affection, and acceptance I crave. Lowering my standards one penis at a time.
8) PREMATURELY DISMISSING
When you’re in trouble and disgusted and disengaged, sometimes only the comfort of strangers is available. The only confidant you can handle is someone peripheral to your life… I can’t bear to have a conversation with someone I am really close with…
—Elizabeth Wurtzel, Once. More. Again., pg. 101
I have this nasty little habit of prematurely dismissing guys instead of letting them decide for themselves whether they’re too good for me. Same goes for letting friends decide if I’m a burden. By not giving them enough of me, I never let myself become too much. Swiftly I’m off to the next one before things have a chance to go wrong. I stay on top of my game by being flighty and self-sufficient. On top if the name of the game is being alone but not unwanted.
Briefly I had two separate blogs, one for sex stories and one for shit stories. But I merged them when I started to feel like my life was fragmenting. I’ve essentially fallen into the same trap with my dating life, though I’ve been transparent with guys about my shitting problems from the very beginning. Over the past year and a half, since “coming out,” I’ve sprayed my figurative shit all over the city. I gave everyone the same graphic story, the same brave-faced image, then moved on. No one got the whole picture, just that little suggestive piece. That’s one way to hide your inadequacies, to never let it get to the point where they’d become visible. Most of the guys were left thinking, if I could only get a little bit more of her. Never, she’s too much for me to handle. Or even worse, she’s too emotionally deficient and will never be enough. Unfortunately it’s also a good way to spread yourself thin, by giving yourself to know one and everyone all at once. By becoming the flimsy, outer shell of your self. A picture-perfect editorial. I managed to bite my own bait, to entice myself with the lure of my outer layer. Which is so much more glamorous than the guts and gore that lurk beneath.
Classic low self-esteem: feeling resistance to pursuing things with a lovely man. Because you wonder why he even bothers to like you. It’s too good to be true, too uncomplicated, and thus unsubstantial. And without allowing myself any affirmation, my feelings of inadequacy persisted.
Let’s not pretend I’m actually functioning and not just passing. Because I’m thirty and have not been in a real relationship since college. Which was voluntary for a while and partially due to having lived with a serious and invisible illness from a young and tender age. But let’s not fool ourselves: I’m a fucking mess. And manage to pass for normal only because, despite my deteriorating body, I’m ostensibly a hot girl who has maintained the illusion of a social life and an active sex life.
I get fucked for realz. It is unsatisfying for realz. I’ve liked like two boys this year and they both disposed of me swiftly before shit had the opportunity to hit the fan. Before I got to express my feelz. Before anything really developed. Not-so-secretly, I don’t believe that anyone could ever really want me. Because I don’t want myself. How can I annihilate myself without killing myself? Unclear. Nebulous. Complicated. It’s kind of silly to talk about being unwanted, though, because the truth is: more often than not I dispose of the guy first. Ignore his advances. Politely extricate myself from the situation. At a certain point I realized I might be plotting my own death and blaming others for my assassination. And here is that point.
9) GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
I was having a conversation with my social worker friend who facilitates the medical support group I attend monthly.
Carmen: Do you ever feel like you put a lot of pressure on yourself? Like you spend a lot of time sitting around and feel like you should be doing more. Then you realize you have a serious disease and other people who have to deal with way less are far less productive than you are?
Me: Yeah, all the time. I feel that way about sex. Like I’m thirty and I force myself to go out and charm new guys because I should want to have sex. But I don’t really.
Carmen: I know what you mean. Sex. Sometimes with our diseases you just feel so unsexy, anyway. It’s hard to believe that the guys even want it. It feels ridiculous. Like when my boyfriend sees me walk out in my diaper and he makes jokes about it and he’s so sweet.
Me: I know. And I just go through the motions. I want to do what people my age are supposed to want to do. But I feel like an imposter. And it isn’t like the guys even know. Men are so stupid. When we part they ask me when we’re gonna see each other again, and it’s like…
Carmen: On the twelfth… of never!
Me: Exactly! Never. I’m a figment of their imagination. A sexy dream. This charade can’t last much longer.
Carmen: Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break.
Here’s why I feel like I should be having sex:
*I’m thirty and a cute girl. This should be the prime of my sex life. Despite my apparent disinterest in rando sex, I’ve gotten awfully good at orgasming with strangers. I feel like squandering this body is a tragedy! I’ve worked so hard to get back to where I am physically. I’ve been through so much. I deserve this! Yet I cannot seem to find someone I enjoy having sex with who feels the same way.
*I’m specifically not on anti-depressants because I CAN’T FUCKING HANDLE NOT BEING ABLE TO ORGASM! Whoops, I didn’t mean to yell that. It’s just that that’s how ragey it feels when you are pounding away at your cervix and an orgasm doesn’t fall out.
*For years I was so physically ill that I was unable to experience pleasure. Nothing kills your sex drive like steroids, nothing makes you feel more unsexy than having Cushing’s syndrome from prolonged steroid use, and nothing makes it more unpleasant to get off than bleeding out of your ass then subsequently having your rectum cut out of your body. I’ve overcome all of these enormous challenges! I’ve had some wonderful sex since recovering! It is suffocatingly sad to think that after all of this, I no longer want sex. How could I now voluntarily abstain after experiencing the perils of forced abstinence?
*My life for the past few years has been all about delaying gratification. Taking degrading, irrelevant undergrad science classes so I can get into med school. Having a series of major surgeries to remove my colon and rearrange my lower GI tract so I don’t have to be on corticosteroids and chemo meds for the rest of my life. And for what? My life is still shit. When you’ve been really, really sick you realize the present moment is all you have for certain. Instant gratification becomes increasingly appealing.
*When I was sick but not so sick that I knew I wouldn’t get better and when I was recovering from my surgery, I used sex as social proof that I was okay. If guys still wanted me, if I could pass for normal, than I was normal. How can I tell I’m well without social proof of my desirability?
*Living in small-town Vermont, for the first time in my life I experienced loneliness as a crushing, gnawing feeling. It became an active sensation rather than an absence. I realized how much sex is about acquiring physical affection and not just about getting off. That was what I was missing in my rural isolation and this persisted when I was home in NYC and isolated by illness. I talk in this post about how being handled medically is the height of dehumanization. It’s amazing how powerful even holding a patient’s hand affectionately or giving a friend a real hug can be when they’ve been physically designated a science project. Touch is healing. Even Jesus is on board! As my medical struggles continue, I fear for the lack of physical affection I am about to be saddled with. I think of alternative sources like physical therapy and even mani-pedis.
However, I’ve been struggling with sex because:
*Sex has become a contrast filter or an illuminator. It accentuates what I don’t have: real intimacy.
10) …BUT NOT QUITE YET!
A week after I had sex with Jonah, I interviewed the fourth and final spinal surgeon and scheduled surgery with him for two weeks later. Phewww. My back will finally be fixed. Phewww. I get a medically-imposed break from sex to sort my head out. Three days before my surgery date, after I had gone through all the pre-surgical questioning and blood-letting, I received a phone call saying surgery was cancelled until payment was worked out with my insurance company who kept requesting additional info to indefinitely delay the process.
You better hold on to your promises
Because you bet you’ll get what you deserve
—The Cranberries, Promises
One reason I’m upset about surgery postponement is because of an easy promise I made to self: I CAN TOTALLY MAKE IT TWO WEEKS WITHOUT TROLLING FOR SEX!!! Yes. We. Can. Now that there are an additional six weeks tacked on to the beginning, I wonder how I will make it to the end. Two weeks plus six weeks plus four to six weeks of recovery is a lot of fucking time to go without sexytimes.
It would be so irksome if I clocked in more hours after sending my letter of resignation to HR The 13th step was the consummate pre-retirement fuck—a serendipitous narrative flourish! Someone give me a fucking gold watch so I can count my days and nights sans sex! Tick, tick tick…
The truth is, I’ve gone through this sexual restriction bootcamp before and failed miserably. The year between grad school and Vermont, when I stopped blogging, I was not nearly as disgusted and disenchanted with my sex life as I am now. But I felt like I was getting caught up in all the ego bullshit associated with casual sex, the gamification aspect as discussed above. Not that casual sex precludes people from pursuing more meaningful sex, just that I am easily distracted by dick at the expense of connecting with people. So I promised myself that I wouldn’t have sex with someone if there were no chance we could ever be in a relationship. This seemed like a realistic downgrade from promising myself that I would only have sex with someone if I thought it was likely we’d end up in a relationship. It eliminated approximately seventy-five percent of prospective partners. Sounds like a reasonable criterion, right? Well, not exactly. First of all, it left me open to pursuing things with men to whom I wasn’t physically attracted but who seemed like they’d be good long-term partners to somebody—not me. Sex is a substantial part of what makes romantic relationships work for me, so this was ultimately misguided. I guess I figured if the sex was good enough, that attraction would build. Without any chemistry, it’s difficult to have good sex. Second, I don’t think I actually ended up having sex with fewer people over the course of that six-month span; I just rationalized worse situations because I was so fucking desperate to play with penises. Jaclyn Friedman says it best in her essay My Sluthood, Myself:
I’m thinking of one particular instance in which I had what was for me a very painful dry spell: a year and a half in which I barely got to kiss anyone, and didn’t get to do anything other than that at all, sexually speaking, with anyone. It… yeah. Didn’t feel too good. Made me feel like I would never be touched or loved again. Made me feel, in a word, desperate. You know what’s not a great emotional state for making important life decisions? Desperation.
—Jaclyn Friedman, My Sluthood, Myself
I definitely considered being in relationships with guys who were all sorts of wrong. For example, Jake Douchebagg, J.D.—that guy who threatened to sue me for intellectual property infringement and horribly patronized me—was the guy I ended up dating for longest during that time span. Sure, I couldn’t tell in advance how cruel and spiteful he’d turn out to be before I initiated the “I’m not sure if this is working” conversation. However, it was clear early on that we were at least incompatible. He had no friends, was a total homebody, had only had sex with a few girls because he had no sexual self-confidence, was extremely rigid and regimented, etc. If I hadn’t become dependent on him for sex, out of denying myself casual encounters even though we never had any exclusivity chat, it is unlikely we would have made it so far or that I would have felt as broken when things ended badly. When I’m in a casual sex mindset I don’t get caught in the trap of trying to make things work if they obviously aren’t meant to be. Sleeping around protects me from making legit poor decisions, ones that have implications beyond one night. Once again, Jaclyn Friedman captures this sentiment perfectly:
Even now… when I am actually ready for and wanting a more emotional connection, sluthood keeps me centered. It keeps me from confusing desire and affection with something deeper. It means I have another choice besides celibacy and settling. It means I won’t enter another committed relationship just to satisfy my basic need for sex and affection. It gives me more choices, it makes room for relationships to evolve organically, to take the shape they will before anyone defines them.
—Jaclyn Friedman, My Sluthood, Myself
It’s easy to rationalize things you want to do! Once I started fucking up the no casual sex thing, I began negotiating with myself! And I’m so gullible when it comes to people I trust.
My first line of bargaining was granting myself exceptions, or failing to assimilate the situations presented to me into the concept of what kind of sex I had consciously eliminated: It’s fingering on a dance floor; it’s not sex. He has a girlfriend; it’s not sex. He lives in California; it’s not sex. It’s Halloween; it’s not sex. Thanks, President Clinton, for granting me semantic flexibility in defining sex sex. They all seemed to me like situations that wouldn’t interfere with my ability to pursue meaningful sex because they were momentary and isolated incidences. You can’t get distracted by a dash of dick!
My second line of bargaining was it’s so much easier to make the same mistake twice. What is one more dick in light of sixty plus? I’m already in penis plus sizes. Might as well enjoy a fleshy Big Mac, juice dripping down my chin. It’s analogous to how Sam Irby, a self-proclaimed fat person, justifies eating more junk food:
There’s freedom in a double-digit elastic waistband. It’s like, what’s a handful of Milk Duds if you’re already fat? Who cares whether or not this Coke is diet if you’re already at the far end of the BMI?… I’m already wearing maternity yoga pants, let’s see how far these bitches stretch!
—Samantha Irby of BitchesGottaEat, The Tapeworm Diet, Meaty
Awwww, yesss, the impunity with which ruined women get to fuck. How many more pathetic penises can I stuff into this loose vagina? Thank gawd for elastin!
In the self-effacing words of Pee-wee Herman, I meant to do that!
Besides being hesitant about restricting myself sexually because of past failure, I’m afraid that even if I do successfully restrict myself I’m not sure how to implement what I actually want. Reckless sex isn’t the problem; lack of intimate and consistent connection is. Just like how in the TRAJECTORIES section of the “Rape Rape” story I didn’t know what a guy caring about me would look like, I’m not sure what a guy liking me would look like. What constitutes a situation with romantic potential? What steps do I have to take to turn that potential into actuality? How much of my inability to enter into a relationship stems from my personal inadequacies and how much of it is guys being fickle, unsure of what they want, and poisoned by societal expectations that I don’t agree with? There have been so many false starts this year. Guys who appear to be pursing me more fervently or equally. And then just fucking disappear. Suddenly. Except not suddenly enough. The result is discontinuous with the trajectory we’ve been coasting on, but they drag out the end, phase me out. As if that somehow softens the blow rather than introducing confusion. No one ever offers a useful explanation even if I explicitly ask. I’m thrown back into the sea with no life preserver, swarmed by ambiguity and self-doubt. Better luck next time! Play again!
I’ve felt more emotional resistance writing this post than most. It’s taken an entire month and required index cards arranged in physical space. Putting my misgivings about my behavior on public paper substantiates them. Holds me accountable. Saturday night I stated my intentions to a casual friend. His response, “Genie, are you going to be able to do this? Your sex drive is too high.” Not exactly the encouragement I was seeking but just the permission I needed: the permission to fuck up. It reminded me of when I was in high school and bulimic. I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions or resolutions at all. That year I felt I needed to. I’d only throw up once a week, I proposed. Or maybe only on weekends. Because on weekends I had to maintain the façade to my mother that I was eating normally whereas on weekdays I only had to get through one meal a day of feigned normality—normality theater. I revealed my intentions to my best friend for accountability. And it seemed to me like a realistic goal. Later that week I confessed that I had already slipped. She said, “I knew you would.” I heard: I love you in spite of your faults. Not: You’re pathetic. It was a statement of support and solidarity. Not disappointment. When you give yourself a cushion to land on, you slightly truncate your shame spiral. Beating yourself up less gives you less of an incentive to indulge in bad coping mechanisms. It’s so easy for me to drown my sorrows in sex. It’s so self-justifying and self-perpetuating. I can always narrow the cognitive dissonance gap by saying my intentions were misguided in the first place. It’s easier than admitting to a small failure.
A few years ago Annie told me her New Year’s resolution was no sex on first dates, and I found this vaguely hilarious. The truth is, no sex on first dates is tricky. Whenever I go out with a new man, I tune out and concentrate on the blurry outline of his head and the gestures he makes while talking, like when a newborn who can’t yet focus makes out her mommy’s hairline and scent before latching onto her nipple. I orient myself toward the one part of him I believe I can latch on to, penis: mine. And the rest of the date revolves around strengthening my grasp. It isn’t that I don’t think I can get second or third dates without putting out; I can. Once you’re physically separated, though, it’s hard to rally for someone to whom you’re largely indifferent. While they’re still in front of you, it’s like: What the fuck else am I going to do with the rest of my night. Can either impale myself on my dildo or him. Let’s seal this before we run out of conversation and incentive. Sexual yeses have an exaggerated appeal when you plot them against their immediate alternatives. And it’s hard to say no to sex with cute guys. I like sex and I like cute guys. So judge away.
I want so badly to say to the next guy: Even if it isn’t that good and even if nothing will come of this, I want to continue having sex with you. For the constancy. Which is not nothing. In a sexual landscape where I’ve gone missing—suspended in space between guys—it is the narrative thread that will hold my broken body together.