Love, sex, and a whole lot of confusing other stuff - Part I
I’ve been thinking about love. Mostly because I say “I love you” to ALL my friends, and so I’ve said it to Don a few times, but it makes me really uncomfortable, because I project onto him that it makes him really uncomfortable. Actually, it did, at first. He said he didn’t want anyone to like him. I’m not exactly sure why, since even if you don’t want to be liked, people are going to like you. Especially if you’re interesting, a bit eccentric, and an underdog. (My favorite type of person.) So I think it’s a combination. He doesn’t think he’s worthy of love, and he’s afraid of what will be expected of him if someone loves him.
Since I’ve explained the different kinds of love, and what love means to me now and how I use that expression, maybe he’s not so uncomfortable. Maybe I’ll ask him. But maybe he’ll say he still doesn’t like it, then I’ll be obligated to not tell him I love him, and I do. In a specific way. Which I’ll attempt to describe here.
Love has meant different things to me during the different phases of my life.
When I was very young, I had a lot of crushes. I mean A LOT. But I was never tortured by them because they were never actual interactions. Like Greg Manning in kindergarten, with whom I’m connected on Facebook. So, ya, that cracks me up. He’ll never know how much I loved him at age five, unless he ever Googles his name. But then all the famous people named Greg Manning will come up first, so I think I’m probably safe there. And it’s unlikely he’d feel uncomfortable about what didn’t happen between us in kindergarten…
I was pretty clueless about love as a teen. I had a lot of fantasies, and I had a lot of hormones, and I was doing a lot of masturbating, but my fantasies weren’t about sex. They were romantic fantasies, which I actually was able to orgasm to, which is weird, because that sure wouldn’t work for me these days…
Then this kind of interesting, really smart, very cute boy kissed me under a tree in the neighbor’s yard when I was 15. My first kiss. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to have been kissed before I turned 16. He told me he loved me almost immediately, and that was just so fucking cool, I said it back. But I didn’t love him. I just liked being loved by him.
We made out a lot, and there was a lot of up the bra and down the pants stuff. A fair amount of dry humping. But I didn’t want to have actual penetrative sex. Because somehow, I didn’t think I was having sex. Which is really stupid, because when my nieces were adolescents, and we talked about sex, I told them when the genitals appeared, sex had commenced. But mostly I just lectured them about birth control.
So, my high school boyfriend forced me to have sex one day when I was 16, so I don’t really count that as losing my virginity. Bad shit there. No birth control. Painful as hell. Afterwards, I quickly dressed and biked home. I was sick until I knew I wasn’t pregnant. Then I was sick with the guilt of it. And horribly betrayed by the fact it had happened the way it happened. But, as is my usual style, I stayed with him.
We didn’t have sex again, but there was a lot of other stuff. The usual stuff. Which I still felt incredibly guilty about but I was learning how to override that feeling and do it anyway. The rape sort of killed me, numbed me out. That’s when I really started to deliberately self-sabotage, and deliberately fall into harmful behaviors because it was easier, it felt good, and it felt good to be wanted. It was also exactly in line with the messages I’d gotten from my father’s sexual abuse. So, it felt right and wrong at the same time. I just tamped all that down and carried on.
He was two years older and went into the Air Force right after he graduated. Things ended shortly after that, when he met someone else. Of course he did. So far as I know, he’s been married three times, and last I heard of him, about three years ago, he was married but had a girlfriend. So far as I know, he has one kid, whom he had when he wasn’t married. He’s getting way too much space, here, space he doesn’t deserve. I'm rereading the last few paragraphs and realize I haven't even given him a name. Interesting.
Then there was college. There was my first love, Dale. That was the real deal, and truly, he was the only man I’ve ever loved like that. I count him as my first Great Love. I’ve had two more Great Loves, but they don’t compare, because not only was Dale my first love, he was a really really good man and he treated me really well and we had a lot of sex. I count him as my first, because my first time with him was magical. I need to write up that story. Actually, I did, a few years ago. I’ll have to find it, dust it off, and post it. It’s a great first Great Love story. It wasn't sustainable after I transferred to Western. Plus, I was 19 and he was 21. We’d see each other occasionally, still had sex occasionally, but lost touch when I was in my early 30s.
For a long time, most of my adult life, I considered him the right guy, wrong time. But I’m connected to him on Facebook, too. Nope, as it turns out, not the right guy. Our lives have gone in such different directions, we have little in common now. But it’s nice to see pictures of him and his family. He’s happily married for about 30 years, with two grown kids, and he really likes his wife. That is a very cool thing.
Then there was Eric. I was 24 when I met him. Red Flags All Over The Place. But I didn’t know enough to know. I knew, though. You always know in your gut. But I proceeded regardless. Because I wanted to fall in love, get married, and have children. And he loved me. I didn’t love him, but it felt really good to be loved and wanted. My kryptonite. I would say Achilles heel, but Don told me a bit ago that words of affirmation and affection were his kryptonite. And I thought that was a rather creative use of the term, so I’m stealing it.
Eric was the first physically abusive man I'd been involved with. (Not counting my father.) We lived together, then I’d move out, then move back in, then move back out. We had a wedding planned three times, he backed out three times. I was with him for seven years.
Somewhere in the middle, there, Eric got a vasectomy. I wanted children very very much. So that was really hard. But as is my usual style, I stayed. After he backed out of the third wedding, I broke it off. Within a couple weeks, he’d met someone else. She moved in with him and they married nine months later. That really hurt. Another bullet dodged, but that one really hurt.
There’s a whole lot more to that story, but again, Eric just doesn’t deserve the space. I never talk about him, rarely think about him. It’s sad I wasted my prime years in such a sick, dysfunctional, and abusive situation. On the other hand, I don't believe time is ever wasted. I always learn. The bad things make me better.
Between 31 and 42, I didn’t really do much of anything with men. I worked very very hard, I built a pretty fabulous career, and I traveled a lot. I didn’t have sex. I thought I’d been so bad, God was punishing me by not sending me The Guy. So, I was good, chaste, tried to go to church, repented over and over for my sins. It took little effort to stay out of trouble. I was very overweight, and although my particular body type has proven quite the draw in my 50s, during those years, not so much. Or else I wasn’t open to the fact men might be attracted to me so I missed the cues.
I had weight loss surgery at 42 and dropped from over 400 pounds to 265. It wasn’t that I became so beautiful with the weight loss. I was always beautiful. But I liked myself more, and because confidence is by far the sexiest trait anyone can possess, I attracted men. A lot of men.
I refer to that time as my first "brief period of extreme promiscuity". I was still racked with guilt. Hadn’t figured out yet that sex is a normal part of life, that I wasn’t going to hell for breaking the rules, and that, in fact, there is no hell at all. Hadn’t figured out yet that you don’t have to be in love in order to justify having sex.
It’s hard to understand that mindset now. But I was still so ensnared in those extreme conservative Christian beliefs. I believed God was disappointed with me, had turned his back on me in disgust, and my unhappiness was just and deserved.
I drank a lot, and I had a lot of random sex. I took a lot of risks, put myself in some very dangerous situations. Yet, no man ever took advantage of me during that time, when I was so incredibly vulnerable, and still so inexperienced. It was during that time I started gambling. Then I gambled, A LOT. And I really really hated myself. And it was pretty awful. But I was killing it at work.
I met Vance during that time, whom I reluctantly do count as a Great Love. We dated off and on for about six years in my mid-40s. Sometimes I was so consumed with love for him I thought it might kill me. And other times, I was so disenchanted, I’d see other men, and occasionally I’d have sex with one of them.
Vance was also seeing other people, far more frequently than I was, regardless of whether or not we were having a good spell or bad. I knew he was cheating, which is what I considered it then, but it didn’t trouble me much. He suspected I cheated sometimes, and he was incredibly jealous, but apparently, I’m a pretty straight-faced liar when it comes to self-preservation. I denied any accusation vehemently. Half convinced, he’d let it go and we’d move onto the next thing.
I did love Vance very much, but not in a way that could have sustained a lifelong partnership. I knew that from the get. We were not equals in any way. He couldn’t hold down a minimum wage job. I was making skads of money and paying his rent, buying him groceries, and buying him a lot of things he needed and didn’t need, because he was very sweet when he was grateful.
I paid his rent because if he was homeless, I would have felt obligated to have him live with me. I knew that would be not only a disaster, but incredibly dangerous. He was a horrible alcoholic. He was very abusive when he drank. He got hauled off to jail twice that I recall. He’s another one I don’t think about much, except to feel a great deal of pity. Although we've stayed in touch. I do that with ex-lovers, when they are amenable.
I haven’t talked to him in a few months, but he’s dying of cirrhosis, living in a hotel on a very dangerous strip of Pac Highway, and being carted off to the ER periodically to have the fluid drained from his abdomen. Last we spoke, he was drunk, and proud to tell me he was still drinking a pint a day. He’s never seemed able to grasp the connection between his alcoholism and the fact he is dying. Or chooses not to acknowledge the connection. The latter. Life has never held much draw for him. It’s the slow kind of suicide.
I could go on. But I won’t. It’s not that Vance doesn’t deserve the space. Without the addiction that stole his potential, and is now costing him his life, he might have been a very successful artist. He was incredibly talented. He was very very intelligent, an expert on all things WWII. I learned a lot from him. And we had fun, part of the time. And there’s no doubt we loved one another, but, but, but…
I’ll stop here and make this Part I, only because it’s so long already. This post was supposed to be about love, and it’s become a long, rather ugly account of the history of my failed relationships.
I’m not cutting away here because I’m sad to relive these memories, these rather troubling admissions from my past. I’m not sad for me, inside of me, to put this all to paper. It’s sad objectively, which is how I am able to frame it now, but I don’t feel the horrible sad that is going to hit me when I get to writing Part II.
[Initial publication: 7/23/2022.]