Thursday, January 7, 2016

Growing Pains

“I used to consider myself like this agent of change for men in unhappy relationships. But I don’t know why I assigned myself that role. I don’t know why I made that my responsibility.”
“Well, that’s a very mature question you’re asking,” says the therapist. When she says this, I feel like a child.
“I haven’t been acting very mature lately,” I respond.
“You’re 29 years old!” She exclaims. I just turned 29. It’s a week after my birthday and I’m in a therapist’s office. It’s been a rough week.

The night after my birthday, I go to my local bar at last call and John the bartender is working. This time, from the moment I enter the bar, the game we have been playing no longer feels like a game. In fact, when I park myself in my usual spot in front of John’s register, he goes outside and I can see him talking to security. Moments later, a bouncer awkwardly comes to tell us it’s time to leave, which is unusual because we are always allowed to stick around after hours. I march outside to confront John and he explains, “You make me a bad person, I can’t be around you.”
He says that because of me he now has to, “lie to someone I love for the rest of my life.” He is referring of course to the fact that the last time I saw him, on Halloween, I sucked his dick in the women’s restroom. Since then, over Thanksgiving when I was up in the Bay Area visiting my parents, I met up with John’s Brother for dinner and sex. I had been excited to see the look on John’s face since my encounter with his brother—to see if he knew. I still thought the whole situation was hilarious. Apparently John didn’t know or care that I had seen his brother again—now he seemed only concerned about saving his own relationship by getting me the hell away from him. I tell him I want to be friends and we hug, pressing our pelvises together. He’s smirking under his resolve, and between telling me to leave him alone, he rubs his finger on my nipple, hard underneath my dress. Due to the mixed signals and because I can’t take no for an answer, I continue to push myself on him until he warily relents and lets me and my friends back inside the bar.

Later, I follow him into the storage room and suck his dick again while he’s distributing his coworkers paychecks in their cubbies. He says, “you really are crazy,” and drops a check on my head. Then he tells me he wants to “see something” so I pull up my dress, pull down my stockings and underwear and take my boobs out of my bra. I rub my butt on his crotch, and then he watches me as he jerks off to completion on the plastic mat covering the floor. These are the cliff notes. A long night of back and forth precedes this, a lot of John saying “please stop” and then, “I want to fuck you so bad.” It all culminates in this moment in the storage room, and then it’s all downhill from there. After he comes, John is visibly flooded with remorse. I feel bad for making him feel bad, and attempt to drunkenly convince him it isn’t a big deal and now that he’s come we can all move on with our lives. He looks at me like, yeah right. I follow him to the bathroom where he desperately tries to wipe the cum off his jeans. I tell him I don’t want to leave him alone, he seems so upset. He tells me that it’s not my responsibility. That’s true, so I walk away. John emerges from the bathroom and basically tells us the party is over and to get out. As we stalk outside, I see him yell at his fellow bartenders: “I’m so tired of no one listening to me. When I say everyone out, I mean everyone out!” He looks distressed and angry and sad and I’ve never seen him like this before.

It’s not until this moment that it dawns on me that this isn’t fun for John anymore. Maybe it never was. It’s a struggle for both of us, to be sure, but I thought that’s what was exciting about it—I thought it was a game. To him, I suddenly realize, the stakes are too high and my sexual whims are really fucking with his life. The moment I realize this is when I start to feel really awful about the whole thing.

I wrote a version of this story that was all chase scene and sex details. I gave it to my best friend to read and she wanted to know, not for the first time, what kept me going, what was I getting out of this? Why did I persist when John told me over and over in no uncertain terms that he did not want to cheat on his girlfriend? I justified my actions by telling her of all the mixed messages I had been receiving from him all along. The fact that when I touched him he told me to “keep it under the bar.” That between telling me to stop and enlisting my roommate’s help in keeping me away from him, he would lean into my neck and whisper that he wished we had a time machine bubble and could just have sex one time without any consequences. I told her about how I’d asked him how his sex life is with his girlfriend and he convincingly said it was good. To which I wondered, “so you just want variety then?” And he said, “I’m a very sexual person and I love women.” I told him it sounded like he wasn’t naturally monogamous. He asked if I was into girls, and said he wanted to see his girlfriend eat me out. I told him I am very sexually open and would try most things. He asked if I’d hooked up with my roommate, said he’d like to watch. I tried to express to my best friend that it was hard for me to listen to all of this stuff and then to walk away, that it’s my nature to pursue something to the bitter end even if I see the end looks dicey.

The next day I feel more depressed than I have in a long time. I spend the day sleeping and crying and feeling like garbage. I can’t stop playing last night’s events through my head and the look on John’s face at the end of the night is imprinted on my memory. I hate that my actions have turned this happy, good-natured guy into someone who looks like he hates himself. It was never my intention to make him feel bad, and that’s what I ultimately did. In a weird attempt to find some closure for myself, I go to John’s brother’s Facebook page (John is not on Facebook) and look through the photos of every single one of his female friends, searching for John’s girlfriend. He doesn’t have that many friends, so it doesn’t take that long, but it’s still insane that I do this.

What I discover only makes me feel worse: his girlfriend is really cool. Smart, funny, pretty, someone I might be friends with—a performer with plenty of online content I can absorb endlessly to feed the masochistic chasm that has suddenly opened up inside of me. I watch video after video and cry and feel even more sorry for myself, and also stupid, because for some reason I had assumed that his girlfriend was this mousy, boring person and now in the depths of self-loathing, I feel that I have discovered evidence that she is actually better than me.

I suddenly feel the unquenchable need to talk about this with anyone who will listen, but I also know that I am close to exhausting my friends on this topic, and I feel like I need to talk to someone who doesn’t know me. It is fascinating to hear the difference in perspective from the women in my life versus the men. My male friends, in particular Best Guy Friend and ex-boyfriend, are like, “boo hoo John, you got a blow job.” They laugh when I imply that I feel like a sex offender—both say he is a big boy and could have shut it down if he wanted to. The women in my life, by contrast, tell me that John sent very clear signals that he didn’t want to cheat on his girlfriend, and they all wonder why I persisted anyway. My social worker roommate rounds out the two perspectives by musing that because men have their sex organs on the outside of their bodies, it’s harder for them to control their urges, and that while his head was probably telling him to stop, his body was full steam ahead. This explains the mixed messages, and temporarily makes me feel better.

I decide I need to talk to a therapist. My best friend agrees.
“I’m very pro-therapy,” she says. She suggests I Google search “sex positive therapists in Los Angeles.” I don’t really know what to look for in a therapist, but this gives me a place to start, and finding someone who advertises themselves as sex-positive makes a lot of sense to me. My friend Paula recommends this woman who is into Jung and dream work and archetypes. She sounds cool and is nice on the phone so a week later I go in for a consultation. I am late getting to her office because I go to the wrong address and park and then walk around in the gusting wind desperately trying to find her and feeling sorry for myself and already like I might cry. I eventually find her and, within minutes of sitting down on her couch, I burst into tears.
“I know this is supposed to just be a consultation,” I gasp through the waterworks, “but I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
I tell her about Saturday night, and how bad I feel about what happened, that I don’t understand why I always have to push it so far. I don’t tell her about internet stalking John’s perfect girlfriend, or about the fact that I wrote him a remorseful letter and left it in the mailbox of the bar—a move that I now regret and actually went back to retrieve the letter only to find it was already gone.
“It sounds like you’re outgrowing this older version of yourself. This old idea you’ve had about who you are.”

I think about this, about the possibility of saying goodbye to this person who throws herself at men in relationships whom she’s decided are not happy. I wonder who will take her place. I haven’t seen the therapist again. I plan to, I just haven’t had time and the acute pain has subsided. Now I just feel lonely and tired. I wonder if I’ll ever meet someone and find a connection with a man that isn’t just about sex—the longer I go without it, the more distant it feels. I’ve stopped drinking for a month because I’m going to do ayahuasca at the end of January and you’re supposed to not drink, do drugs, have sex in preparation.
“You want to pack light for the journey,” the woman tells me on the phone. “You don’t want to be carrying any extra baggage.”

I’m hoping this journey will give me some clarity about where I’m going and what I’m doing. This final episode with John definitely felt like a wake up call. Even as I was sobbing on the bathroom floor on Sunday night, I had the sudden clarity that this must be progress, that something good must come out of all this pain, that I must be growing or it wouldn’t hurt so much.


  1. I love you, SF. I hope whatever growing you do doesn't drown out that voice in you that says, "Jump NOW!" But men definitely need a little help w their external drive. Maybe slightly more compassion? But.....grow with abandon!!!

  2. Thanks, Nancy. I will keep jumping, hopefully into some better situations! xSF

  3. SF - John is a dick. And you are so much more. Keep writing. x

    1. Thanks for that. Starting to let go... Writing is what keeps me going! And readers like you :-)

  4. I used to think of myself as the same
    I also would say to myself "he pursued me and I should not concern myself with his gf/wife". Then after having one relationship blow up in my face and he went back to his wife -- they came into a restaurant I was having lunch at and she burst into tears 3 years later. She ran out. I saw how much I hurt her and vowed never to get involved with anyone in a relationship again. I don't want anyone to burst into tears when they see me. Kit. Ps: would you pick up some Trojan-xls already?

    1. Yikes. I obsessively think I will run into him and his gf, which never happens. Your life sounds like a movie!

      I went to get tested and asked the clinician if there was a more fun option available than condoms. He gave me some female condoms so stay tuned on how those work out... xSF

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Female condoms are awkward and I think as a woman you feel it and it keeps moving around. I am a bit of a sex pert and find men are irresponsible so taking the power out of the situation by insisting on condoms keeps me safe. No man has ever refused. ;-) Movie yes. (The sex offender is still trying to get me to come over...) kit

    4. Good to know! The instructions alone are quite intimidating. I'm getting tired of being irresponsible with condoms and then having morning after panic attacks so looking forward to 2016 being the year of better habits! xSF

  5. And congrats on therapy. I love my psychiatrist. Especially for those of us that live in out head and express ourselves better writing. Kit


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