Thursday, July 23, 2015

Childhood Crush: Part One

I'm sitting at the bar of Night + Market, a popular Thai restaurant on Sunset Blvd, next to a guy I had a crush on in Middle School. He was 25 then. He’s 40 now. My 12-year-old self is doing cartwheels.

Childhood Crush and I grew up in the same tiny hippie beach town in Northern California. Recently when I was home watching the 4th of July parade with my parents, he cruised past with his crew of local kids on motorbikes. I spotted him instantly, as I always do, and felt that old familiar pang of a 15-year crush. He nodded in recognition, my name on his lips, and continued on in a cloud of exhaust.

In seventh grade I played Demetrius in our school’s production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (there weren’t enough boys and I was tall). Childhood Crush was friends with our director and filmed us doing the play. I think that’s when we first met and the crush was instant. He was at NYU film school and to me represented the glamorous world of filmmaking I so longed to be a part of. He was also short and wiry and blond and had that kind of white-rapper-ish aesthetic that is still totally my jam. He was a fast talker, a hustler, confident and energetic, and even as a kid I felt he would be successful. And he was. He went on to make several well-received documentaries, one about the modeling industry that I watched when I was considering making my own documentary about actresses in Hollywood and body image. On that project he collaborated with his girlfriend at the time, a gorgeous runway fashion model. I was very impressed with their work and reached out to him for advice about my own doc. That was 2011 and the last time we interacted before I saw him on the 4th of July.

On the night of the 4th, as I laid in my childhood bed, I did some lite stalking on Facebook and decided to message him.
“Hey! It was good to see you today. I was hoping we’d get a chance to catch up—I wanted to hear what you’re up to! Hope all is well…” Pretty benign, but I felt a flutter as I hit Send. Not long after, he wrote back. Apparently he was going to be in LA the following weekend helping a friend write a script. We made plans to meet.
“I’ll take you to Soho House,” he said.
“Fancy,” I replied.

So here we are, pre-Soho House, sitting at the bar of Night + Market. When we finally get the waitress’s attention, I order a lychee and vodka cocktail and he gets a Thai iced tea (he’s not drinking because he challenged himself to stop and now he’s seeing how long he can keep it up.) Apparently he likes to challenge himself—he tells me how he enjoys running up the incredibly steep hills of San Francisco, where he currently lives. He orders Pad Thai and I joke that he’s having “the white man’s special.”
“People have said I’m the whitest person they know,” he smiles. “Also the straightest.”
I order fried pigtails and he asks, “Wait, are you seriously ordering that?”

As an icebreaker, I ask him what his perception of me was when I was twelve.
“That in fifteen years you’d be hot,” he jokes. “No, you were bold. You called me and asked if you could be in this silly little student film I was making.”
“I had a crush on you, you know.”
“Really?” He seems completely shocked by this admission and it suddenly occurs to me that I wasn’t on his radar at all. This might sound obvious, considering the significant age gap between us, but when you have such an intense crush on someone as a child, it’s hard to imagine they don’t feel the same way. At least for me it was hard to imagine. I always assumed my crushes were reciprocated. Maybe because one of my mom’s big lessons to me growing up was that all the boys were in love with me and all the mean girls were just jealous.

As we talk, I’m struck by the fact that I don’t know this person at all—I don’t think we’ve ever actually had a real conversation. I had thought he’d be sophisticated and academic, and had even been nervous about coming off as not smart enough. This fear is quickly assuaged.

Childhood Crush lived in New York for eight years and now lives in San Francisco, and yet he is still someone who uses the word “fag” in all seriousness. (He only does this once, which is enough.) He also calls women “chicks”—I bring this to his attention and he seems to not realize he’s doing it. He calls me “dude” a lot and I’m reminded of Gaffer Guy, who used to call me “man.” This is not the only aspect of Childhood Crush that reminds me of Gaffer Guy. He talks a lot about his last girlfriend who dumped him out of nowhere, or at least that’s how he puts it. He qualifies this by saying, “I neglected her, I didn’t pay enough attention.” I can tell by the way his eyes dart around the room that this is probably true.

Mostly what I enjoy about his company is that we come from the same small town so he gets references that no one in my contemporary circle of friends would ever understand, and he knows all the same people from my childhood. He tells me about how he lost his virginity to this beautiful girl I idolized when I was a kid. He explains how she summoned him one day so he stole a rowboat and rowed across the channel from our town to the neighboring beach town, and then pretended he wasn’t a virgin when they had sex for the first time. He was thirteen. She was sixteen. We talk about the other kids we grew up with, about the ones who are married with babies now, the ones who went to prison, the friends of his I also had crushes on.
“Did you ever consummate any of them?” He asks.
"Unfortunately, no."
We talk about what a unique childhood we had because of where we’re from. Boys and girls played outside together, we biked everywhere, we climbed trees, we smoked weed. He expresses that he could see raising kids there. I’m not sure if I could go back.

Inevitably, we start talking about sex and it’s soon revealed that we’re both pretty big sluts. He tells me about how he had a threesome with his last girlfriend and a friend of hers.
“A woman?” I ask.
He scoffs, “That’s the only kind of threesome as far as I’m concerned. Two guys and a girl, I don’t know what that is.” I ask if he’s homophobic and he tells me that he’s not, he doesn’t care what other people do, but the thought of having his penis next to another guy’s absolutely disgusts him.
“Is that coming from you or the culture, though?” He seriously thinks about this.
“No, it’s coming from me,” he says finally.
He tells me that when his girlfriend went out of town, she told him he could fuck her friend. And he did. On Skype, so his girlfriend could watch and give him instructions. He beams.
“Yeah, I don’t know how I feel about monogamy,” I say, “I felt really different about all that stuff the last time I was in a relationship so it’s hard to know how I would be this time. I don’t know if it's for me anymore.”
“Well, I’ll tell you right now, I don’t want any chick I’m with to be fucking other dudes. No guy wants that.”
“So, you’re allowed to fuck around, but she’s not?” I ask.
He shrugs. He asks how long I’ve been single.
“Four years.”
“Why, no one will have you?” He laughs out loud.

Wanting to match his threesome story, I tell him about the Sex Club in Portland. He seems very interested and asks a lot of questions, but I also get the sense it’s making him uncomfortable hearing me talk so frankly about sex. I somehow feel like he doesn’t think it’s cool for women to be as big of sluts as he is. Regardless, I find myself unable to stop telling him things. I don’t know how to justify this except to say that the fact that he’s known me since I was twelve and that he’s from my hometown makes me feel oddly comfortable around him. I tell him about how I cheated on my first boyfriend with a 43 year old man who had a kid. He seems to deduce from this disclosure that I am incapable of being faithful and asks if I “cheated on [my] last boyfriend a bunch.” When I say that no, I never did, he doesn’t appear to believe me. He mentions cheating on a past girlfriend (the top model no less!) but concludes that she was probably cheating on him too.

He makes several joking remarks alluding to the fact that I’m a slut, but when I reveal my insecurity that he’s gotten the wrong idea about me, he says, “Girls are always so worried about that.”
“Yeah because guys are allowed to be as big of sluts as they want but if you’re a woman and you talk openly about sex, you get shamed for it.” He agrees that this double standard is “fucked up.”
He catches on pretty quickly that I’m a big sex-positive feminist, and seems wary of this. He says he grew up surrounded by feminists and it’s not that he doesn’t believe in it, but he doesn’t seem to understand quite what it means.
“You know all it means is equality between men and women, right?” I try to clarify.
“Yeah yeah, I know,” he says, sounding tired.

We leave Night + Market and walk to Soho House, where he is a longtime member. We squeeze through the incredibly loud, schmoozy crowd in the main bar and head into the quieter, plant-filled dining room to sit on one of the couches with views overlooking the whole city. He has a nonalcoholic beer and I’m sipping a Campari and soda slower than I would be if I weren’t drinking alone. At this point in the night, now on my second cocktail, I’m in the mood for some heavy canoodling. Unfortunately, any sense of flirtation we might have established in the restaurant seems to dissolve the moment we step into Soho House. He seems to have pivoted into “workin it” mode and, as his eyes scan the short skirts that surround us, I find it hard to keep his attention. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to come here after all.

Even as we sink side-by-side into the couch, I can’t tell if this is a date or a business meeting. Ostensibly, one of the reasons we got together was to talk about work, and Soho House feels perpetually like the place you go to “make a deal.” But if we were going to talk business, I feel like it should have happened earlier in the night. I mean, we’ve already established that we’re both sluts and I had a crush on him when I was twelve. What more information does one need to get this thing going?

Instead of leaning over to kiss me, he decides it’s time to start telling me about The Biz. He proceeds to monologue at me for a good twenty minutes about film festivals, sponsorships, how to get your movie funded, commercial viability, blah blah blah. I stare into space as he talks, leaning back on the couch, and consider closing my eyes. I play a game of how long I can go without saying a word to see if he’ll notice. He doesn’t. I’m not exactly sure why he’s telling me all this, but he seems to think it’s stuff I need to know—it might very well be useful information but I’m too bored and confused to really listen. While he’s talking, I decide to give up on the idea that my 12-year-old self is going to have any satisfaction tonight, and resolve myself that it’s time to go home. I finish my drink and say, “Shall we get out of here?”

He wants to show me the members-only screening room so we walk along a couple of abandoned corridors and enter a small-ish David Lynch-esque room filled with red velvet arm chairs and chests full of cashmere blankets. We lean back in the chairs facing the screen and talk some more, and I wonder why we haven’t called it a night yet. We both seem to be waiting for something to happen, and for whatever reason neither one of us apparently wants to leave the other’s company. I consider reaching out and taking his hand, just to do something different. But his energy is strangely uninviting. We just sit there, enjoying the quiet of the room, until another couple comes in and we leave.

As we walk back to my car, we pass a Jaguar dealership, and like a little kid, he jumps up on the cement block and bounces excitedly. “Jaguars!”
I laugh,  watching his tight, compact little ass move in his jeans. We get in my car and he asks, “what now?” I just assumed I was taking him back to his friend’s place, considering how he’s been saying he’s tired and he seems quite bored. Again, I’m reminded of Gaffer Guy.
“Wanna go up to Mulholland and look at the view?” He asks.
“Aren’t you tired?”
“I’m tired but life is short,” he says.
I laugh. “You should make a T-shirt.”
“I’m gonna put that on Facebook,” he announces and takes out his phone.
 I find myself irrationally happy that the night will not end here.

We get up to Mulholland and I park at a lookout with a view that’s blocked by bushes. He leans way back in his seat so it’s almost horizontal, and stares at the ceiling of my car. I do the same.
“What are we doing?” I ask, laughing.
He closes his eyes. Eventually I decide to make a move, so I reach over and start stroking his hand. He smiles, keeping his eyes closed. After awhile, I ask if he’s asleep. He wakes up. I wonder why he hasn’t tried to hit on me all night, I wonder what we’re doing up here. I take his hand and put it on my breast. This enlivens him somewhat and he starts stroking me. He gets his fingers under my shirt and pinches my nipple. He tries to undo my bra but can’t from this angle so, in one quick move, he swoops over me, unclips my bra, and lies back down. He fondles my breasts, but when I glance over he still looks like he’s sleeping. Eventually, as though resigning himself to the task, he leans over me and starts sucking on my nipple. He doesn’t try to kiss me and I wonder if he’s got a Pretty Woman thing about kissing. Too intimate for this seedy car encounter with someone he remembers as a child. Finally he does kiss me. And then his hand is down my pants and he’s fingering me. Then his cock comes out and I’m sucking on it.
“Do you want me to come in your mouth or fuck you?” He asks.
“I want you to fuck me.” Duh.

We move into the back seat and try to find a position that works.
“It has to be from behind,” I say and pull down my pants. A condom materializes and I appreciate that he’s taking care of that so I don’t have to worry about it for once. He fucks me for a bit, awkwardly trying to position himself. The windows steam up and it gets very hot and sweaty. He stops suddenly, throwing the car door open.
“I need to take a break,” he busts out of the car with his jeans around his ankles.
“It’s so hot and cramped in there,” he says, pulling up his pants. “I mean, not like I have a cramp, it’s just small.”
“So you didn’t throw your back out then?” I tease him.

We return to the car and I unearth my purse from the wreckage of the back seat to retrieve one of my Skyn condoms. We get into position again, but this time it’s even more challenging and he’s losing steam.
“I’ll just finger bang you for awhile,” he says.
“Let me get on top of you,” I move around, but he’s already out of the car. Too uncomfortable and needing air. This time we don’t continue. We laugh about what a high school moment this was—fucking in the car at make out point. I lament wasting one of my good condoms.

I drive him home and pull up in front of his friend’s house. He still doesn’t get out of the car. We keep talking and then he shows me some YouTube videos of Chris Rock doing standup. He thinks I won’t like some of them because I’m a “wretched feminist” (his words). I give him a head massage as we sit there—he still seems tense. He closes his eyes and enjoys it. I tell him that I’m trying to stop attracting men-children, but I guess I have this maternal instinct that continues to attract them despite myself. I tease him about dating younger women. We both know we have a problem. He says he’s never dated anyone his own age, that that would make him uncomfortable. I tell him it’s probably because he’d have to stop calling them “chicks.” It’s after four a.m. and we’re still sitting there. I wonder why. At some point, he says, “why am I looking at YouTube?” And he leans over to kiss me. It escalates. I suck him off and he comes. He smiles at me as I wipe my mouth, “Well, you’re not twelve anymore.” I tell him I need to go to sleep—he still doesn’t seem to want to leave my car, even after the blowjob. I wonder what more he wants from me tonight. He doesn’t seem to want anything, except to not be alone. I suddenly realize he is painfully lonely, and it makes me feel for him despite his abrasive personality. Underneath it all, he’s so vulnerable, and I’m still drawn to him despite myself. Eventually I say, “you have to get out of my car now.” And he does. We kiss goodnight and I drive home, finally getting to sleep at five in the morning.  

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