People might judge me for this, but when I started dating, I was petrified of being intimate with someone else. Not for any physical reason – just because people who are married for decades eventually get to know each other’s bodies like the combination of a bank vault. We all know if we do this, make this noise, rub here and pull their hair just right, it sends them, and it is over – marital duty fulfilled. To be sure, women experience this feeling more often than men. It would be comical if it weren’t tragic how many married men think they can get their wives off at will, and yet the wives know that it is, in fact, their special “friend” that gets them off. The rest is just an act. Most wives eventually learn what sound they must make that will accelerate their husband’s orgasm. Because the unspoken secret of most heterosexual men is that they will come faster when they think their partner is having a great time because it strokes their male ego.
So being aware of all of this and somewhat uneasy about not knowing what American women’s sexual expectations are, I found myself at a place where I asked a female friend if she would have sex with me. We met on a dating site. There was little compatibility and not much chemistry, but we were good friends. We both felt that tension, the uncertainty of having been with only one person for decades, and it seemed practical. Afterward, we concluded that we had nothing to worry about and the evil spell was broken. It was like I felt my testosterone surge; I knew that if I met someone I liked, that sex would not be something to worry about. Innocently I thought that I had figured out the dating game…
This is the place where I think it would be appropriate to share a part of what I have written before. It is raw and honest. It comes from a place and time when there was a lot of brokenness in my life. And yes, it is redacted because some details are just too personal. But it is real – very real.
“On a social level, I decided that sitting alone at home was not achieving anything. I decided to date… Scary words! For a moment, I realized that the last time I dated I was nineteen… thirty years ago. Everything was different, I was older, much older. Online dating is a thing, and I am in a strange country with a different culture. I had some good, some bad and some “batshit” crazy experiences. And sometimes I would still miss her… Loneliness was something I was fighting because I did not want to end up with someone, settling they call it, just because I did not want to be lonely. My heart was fucking scorched earth. Women felt it, a distance, especially whenever they wanted me to feel something. Some were hurt even though I did not want to hurt anybody. Even here, I was deeply aware of my own flaws. One terrible night, the person started weeping in the middle of making love. Or should we call it sex? One thing is true, there is no “making” love out of sex. Yet, the crying was disturbing. I looked at her in shock. “Your mind and heart are not even in this fucking room with me,” she said. That is the problem with dating a fellow empath. You can’t hide that shit from them. And then I will miss her, the love of my life, and feel terrible for hurting another person. Just stumbling through the dark – a flawed journey, based on questionable objectives and executed poorly. But I would also meet other “me’s” – people who were gutted by the loss of the love of their life and when we compared journeys it would be like different verses sung on the same tune, different and yet so similar. These individuals would stick around, would not mind that I was sometimes emotionally absent because so were they. So, at my age, I finally experienced the whole friends with benefits phenomena. Booty calls when someone was lonely or horny or lonely and horny. Temporary but shallow relief. Flawed, and most certainly a type of journey many would judge… except those in the situation, that get the complex set of emotions. What did Dire Straits call it – keeping the beat in bad company. Beat my ass, my body is fifty years old, and it takes a certain amount of chemicals to be able to get through the day and satisfy a lover. But middle-aged men and women share one other emotion, and that is the mercy and understanding that in the middle of the flying circus that is our life and searching for love, or meaning or to feel again, our bodies are also failing us. So many broken people on this earth and many of them lied in my arms weeping, just wanting to feel safe and nurtured.
But here and there I noticed a green leaf push through the scorched earth of my heart — days of feeling at least neutral, not missing her. Then a song guts me, and I sit at a bar weeping and drinking and missing her. But another leaf pushes through. What I thought might be dead forever was showing signs of life. Here and there I was having fun and found myself able to joke a little about the journey. “I think American women fucked me back to life,” I joked with a female friend on Facebook. “I think you give us too much credit, but ok I will take it,” was her response. God, I don’t think I have an ounce of judgment left in me after this journey. I now understand every person that makes mistakes and give up and try again and stumble on in life as best they can.
“When will I be able to feel something for someone again,” I asked a psychologist friend one day. “When you desire it,” she says. Peculiar answer! “So, our hearts first yearn for it, and then it happens?” “Exactly,” comes the answer. And I was yearning for it. Sick of cheap sex and empty feelings when you wake up next to a person that looks way less attractive in the daylight and now that you both are sober. Empty looks as either you or she make your way home, that is after you figured out whose home you ended up in. And so, I longed and yearned to love again, to feel alive again. More green leaves were pushing through the solidified lava.
Sometimes you meet someone online, another lonely soul. First dates had a predictable excitement about them. Excited, yet petrified – is about the best description I can give it. Sometimes after these fleeting relationships had run their course, I noticed another phenomenon – another bit of grace that those of us in the situation give each other. That is, we manage to stay friends, just friends. Not even sure what you call that – ex-friends with benefits? People who truly understand the situation and choose to just be there for the other person and cheering them on and celebrating a new person in their life and getting drunk with happiness if one of us find love. Like a “casevac” out of the killing fields while the rest of us stay behind waiting to slaughter and be slaughtered again and again. And slaughter it is because two fifty-year-olds have a century of baggage between them, so trying to find one you can get just along with is like threading a needle.
The real hurt is sometimes not the one that sleeps with you and not loves you but the one that never lets you into their lives and yet screws around with your emotions just for their entertainment. Killing fields…
Part 4 to follow