By Olivia Ford
“Honesty does not always bring a response of love, but it is absolutely essential to it.”
Well, it’s happened again. New city, new guy, same old story.
Let’s call this one Mr. Times Square because that’s where we ended up on our first date. Pretty romantic, right? Even more romantic was that we kissed there, right in the middle of those infamous city lights. Less romantic, is that I haven’t heard from him since we slept together 12 days ago.
What really kills me is that I knew better. My friend who set us up warned me that he had just gotten out of a relationship and that I should just focus on being friends with him. He even mentioned it himself the night we did it, a three-year-long relationship that only ended a month or two ago. Apparently, nothing puts me in the mood more than emotional unavailability.
This is disheartening, not because I expected things to go very far (although, it is possible part of me hoped it would against the odds) but because the whole ordeal lacks a common decency that I have seen far too often this year. To be frank, and perhaps even crude, when did it become the standard to cut off communication with a girl after you’ve been inside of her? I expect this of the guys I go home with only hours after meeting them at a bar, but not from the ones who take me out on dates and introduce me to their friends and, worst of all, speak in the future tense (“My friend Louis, who I’m sure you’ll meet eventually…”). With them, the effect is so traumatic I start to feel as though my vagina is some kind of Bermuda Triangle. Men go in, but never come back.
And yet I realize I am just as much at fault for this. Friends tell me all the time not to give it up so easily. If men mysteriously disappear after I sleep with them, then why do I keep doing it? Why not hold out until I’m sure it’s the right guy? Well, a large part of me is unsure if I’ll ever know when it’s right. This time I only waited four dates and thought that was enough. If you scoff at my naivety, know that once I waited four years to sleep with a guy I liked and even then he blew me off.
Certainly, circumstance plays largely into this. While four dates might have been enough for a guy who seemed genuinely interested in me and didn’t just get out of a long relationship, the fact remains that Mr. Times Square and I are at very different places in our lives. In fact, we need exactly what the other is looking to get away from. After three years of commitment, he should absolutely be out messing around and having fun and not worrying about checking in with a girl everyday. But after four years of doing just that, I’d like to slow down for a while and get comfortable with someone.
I knew this all very well 12 days ago when I slept with him. In fact, I knew I should have said no. So why couldn’t I?
This question haunted me all the more when I heard something truly terrible. When I called my friend who set me up with Mr. Times Square to update her on his apparent change of heart, she trumped my petty drama by confessing she had been at the hospital all night with a friend who was raped. The girl invited a guy home with her but didn’t want to have sex with him, but he took advantage anyway. I know there are people who will say she is partly to blame. If they were drinking and she brought him home, what’s the big deal? Wasn’t she asking for it? The big deal is, she showed up in hysterics at my friend’s door in the middle of the night because at some point, she said “no” and he didn’t listen. The big deal is she spent hours at a hospital because someone felt it more important to have his way than to respect her body. The big deal is, there’s a big difference between casual sex and sex without consent.
Perhaps the hardest part for me to swallow was how similar I know this girl to be to myself. When my best friend met her, she called to tell me how we look and speak alike – how happy she was to have found the substitute version of me while I was away at school. But beyond any physical resemblance we may share, I’ve shared the same predicament. I can think of at least two times when I made out with a guy, decided I wasn’t that into it, didn’t want to go further, but slept with him anyway to avoid the confrontation and awkwardness of speaking up and stopping things. I know that our situations are not the same, but they also are not so different. After all, wasn’t there something in my unenthusiastic and hesitant demeanor that should have said “no” to the men in my situations? And is it because of girls like me, who don’t say “no,” that some guys stop listening for the word at all?
I’ve been telling myself for years that sex is no big deal. I hate the idea that our physical actions can’t be separated from their emotional weight. The number of people we’ve slept with isn’t usually the number of people we’ve loved – but maybe it should be. It wasn’t until I received that rude awakening of what betrayed intimacy looks like at it’s worst, that I was able to recognize its appearances in my own life. I like to think I’m ready for a relationship and that I deserve better than I’ve been given, but how can I expect more when I can’t even ask?
I’m not surprised Mr. Times Square hasn’t called me, because he disclosed his history with me. And it’s no surprise I’m upset, because I did not disclose my history with him. Because it’s not easy to say to someone that while they were deeply in love, I was sleeping around. Because it’s even harder to say “no.” Because that’d be confrontation and because apparently I’d rather let something unpleasant happen to me than make a big deal.
I do feel used and misunderstood, but mostly by myself. I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for myself and I couldn’t feel guiltier that someone who was was treated so cruelly. In a lot of ways, I feel like it should have happened to me, and I sincerely hope I learn to say no for myself before it does.
Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this column, Ms. Ford has received word from Mr. Times Square and plans to be more upfront and honest with herself, and any participating parties that may come, about her readiness for intimacy.