And then things start spinning. I’ve been here before, but I still don’t know what I’m doing. I’m dizzy again, and I try to catch my breath, but it’s barely working as we lie here together. I am nervous. I don’t want to be here for much longer. I want to go. I want to be alone. I want to be in my house alone where I can be sad and let my lumps of flesh protrude uncouthly all over the place, instead of here where I try to smile and repose with good posture. I don’t know what to say or how to act to make things feel comfortable, so I opt to say nothing instead and wait for the other person here to get things going. It is easier to be quiet and small and hope that if I try hard enough to disappear, eventually I will blink my eyes and wake up, fully clothed and fully ready, bright eyed and on my way to work. Instead of here, and the millions of miles that stretch between right now and me as soon as I set my foot out the door. The things I will have to do as I unwrest myself from this tangle of sheets and skin: I will have to wiggle my way from out of his arms, quietly so he doesn’t say anything If he says something, I will have to smile and squint and say something funny before dashing off to the bathroom, and my head is not filled with funny things right now. My head is filled with panic, and also I do not want him to try to pull me back in as I escape from his grasp. I do not want his eyes to be open as I scurry out of his bedroom door and down the hall, at first naked and with unkempt hair and it is possible that there is mascara like raccoon eyes all across my face because we passed out right after fucking. I do not want him to see my like this, a bit of wreck, a bit hungover, sloppy and slovenly and uncomely at this ungodly hour of 10:30 am. I will be scrambling around, seeking desperately for my underwear and a sweater, perhaps some socks, but at least the majority of my outfit and all the contents of my purse so I can abscond to privacy behind bathroom doors. I do not want him to know how much time I am spending in the bathroom as I sit on the toilet and secretly vape away while checking my phone and checking for bruises or any other undignified markings left over from last night’s fucking. At least seven of this minutes will be spent with me, bared ass hovering over the cold toilet while I let my best friend know that, yes, I am still alive, and, meh, it was okay. I will brush my teeth (because good girls like me always bring their toothbrushes with them) and fluff my hair and scrub off last night’s make up, splashing water over skin that is pebbled with the wear and tear of too much drinking and too much fucking and then falling asleep with my foundation still on. I will rue the fact that I don’t look flawless, and, in fact, I look quite flawed, with all the eyeliner and pretty lipstick washed off and instead replaced with the bareness of my face, which is probably too much for a hungover guy like that to behold after a night of fucking and saying too much and meaning too little. Eventually, I will emerge from the bathroom, probably with a laundry list of things that I have to find before absconding this sordid scene. Where is my bra? Did I leave my phone charger in there? These questions will result in me, shamefully sneaking back in to pick up the last of my things. Ideally, I would slip out without a sound, leaving him wondering where I went so early in the morning. But mostly this will set off the chain reaction of awkward AM interactions, which can go either way but will leave both of us feeling weird. He will either wave me away, which will inspire feelings of emptiness and rejection, or he will do something nice like offer me coffee, which I will invariably refuse, which will in turn make me feel callous and cold for not accepting the token affection of someone I was naked and thriving with just a few hours ago. Regardless, we will both feel awful, partly because of the booze, partly because of each other, but it will take a minimum of 45 minutes for me to untangle myself from last night’s bad decision and then carry on with the rest of my life. It remains to be seen if the rest of my life will be negatively or positively impacted by decision to let this Tinder date go balls deep last night, but most likely I will continue to engage in similar activities with different people, following up intermittently with text messages and subsequent sex. I will tell myself that this is empowering, or this is exploration, or I am learning more about myself and other people. But mostly I am just dabbling in sex as a pleasant distraction, and while everyone else will point at women like me and say things like, “See how unhappy she is? See how miserable all this makes her?” I would like to say to those people: well, what is your better solution for me? It is easy to point and stare and say “How dare she do those things.” But it is difficult to solve a problem whose root is not in something as passe as daddy issues and whose solution is not as simple as “Maybe you should slow down and find a boyfriend” because I guarantee you that a boyfriend won’t fix any of this. Sex isn’t the problem here. Sure, neither is sex the solution, it is merely a symptom. But it’s a symptom that, for the most part, I’m enjoying, and if you want to waste your time pointing at my symptoms and telling me that I’m happy, what I’d like to know is: what are you doing to fix the problem? Probably nothing, because I bet you don’t even know what the problem is.
“My boyfriend likes to watch porn for women. But I like to watch the most brutal, weird, BDSM porn. It’s weird.”
I’m talking to my girlfriend about her porn habits when it occurs to me that so called “porn for women” isn’t really porn for women, it’s actually just porn that people assume women will like. The implication of “porn for women” is that it’s soft focus, romantically plot driven, and not focused so much on intense penetration. It’s also known as soft core porn, and the association of all things soft core with women is just a cultural standard these days. However, it seems like my friend and I are not the kind of girls who like porn that is specifically geared towards us. This isn’t because we dissociate from the idea of a woman’s identity as intrinsically linked to the softer side of life, but rather because (well, I speak for myself here) my real life experience of real life sex has hipped me to the fact that fucking has nothing to do with romantic plot lines and mood lighting. There is rarely Al Green playing in the background, and the men I fuck tend to not be big, strong, sensitive men with a yen for communication. And while I understand that pornography is supposed to be about fantasy, in none of my fantasies does sex look like it does in porn for women. Because I’ve had sex before, and I know that soft focus angles isn’t about fantasy, it’s about a total detachment from the reality of the messiness of sex.
That being said, that’s just me and my opinion. Apparently (according to my friend) soft focus angles and mood lighting does appeal to certain people, and certain of those people are men. To go against yet another cultural standard, it turns out that not every guy out there is dying to watch a woman get face fucked until she pukes and men point and laugh at her. Who would have known! On the other hand, I’m sure that there are women out there (hi!) who do like that kind of thing, which makes me wonder: is porn for women based on the cultural assumption that women on some level don’t like sex and by extension find porn to be morally objectionable? Sure, there was a part of the feminist back in the day that decried pornography as necessarily violent against women, and while there is something to be said for consent and fair payment and making sure everyone is of age, but for some reason nowadays people tend to think that women just don’t want to see porn because it’s yucky. That, however, is not the case, and it turns out that we women like seeing the crazy, intense, violent porn just as much as the guys do. Because, well, if you think about it: it takes two to tango, and companies like Kink.com wouldn’t be putting out heterosexual BDSM porn, making a profit and paying their employees if women weren’t there, consenting to participate and on some level enjoying it. It also seems like not all men are getting ensnared in the Internet trap of porn addiction and can moderate themselves and opt to consume sentimental and romantic porn. So I guess what I’m saying is: if you’re going to make porn for women, it’s probably just going to be regular porn because women like all sorts of porn. Y’all just think that we don’t because you don’t fully understand the breadth and depth of female sexuality and how its roll in modern sexual culture is 50%. So please respect that.
I look her in the eyes, and I see nothing there, so I shudder and I look away. I am having difficulty having this conversation with her, so I slam my way through it and wait for the perfect opportunity to jolt up and leave. I know that I should be nice to her, and I’m trying, but there’s something in her eyes and in her face that is making me cringe. She has the look of a cult member let loose from a cult and trying desperately to find a new cult that she can join. She is a lost soul. She is broken, too, but not in that beautifully broken way that I crave in women. To me, there is something majestic about a woman who has survived years of strife and trauma and still managed to come out the other side mostly intact and fleetingly gorgeous. But not her. Even though for some reason despite the fact that I don’t know her at all, I do know that she has one of those painful childhood trauma stories – and now here she is, sitting next to me at a cafe saying things to me that somehow are missing the mark as I find myself lost inside the echoing abyss of her. There is something about her that I just can’t pin down. Something I can’t name. And I consider myself to be good at assessing and analyzing people and what they want within moments of meeting them. Her? She has no discernible sense of self, and it is driving me crazy. She has no identity that I can place my finger on and give a name. She is a lost soul looking for a home in another person, or perhaps even a group of people, so that she can attach herself to a sense of purpose and meaning. That’s probably what bothers me so much about her – I am not the person to whom she can attach herself in order to attain fulfillment, and because of that there is nothing I can do to save her. And because I cannot save her from her selflessness, there is nothing for either of us here. It occurs to me that I could try to attach her to one of my petty little causes, like trillwave feminism or evening out the power struggle, but I do not have the time or the patience to train a member of the cult of me. That is for someone else to do.
In the meantime, I will be sitting here, shocked to be in the presence of someone who exists like this.
“There’s nothing casual about the way you’re ruining my life.”
We’re sitting there, and I’m seething. I can’t tell if I’m yelling or if it’s just that I’m so angry and face is so red and my skin is so hot that everything just seems bigger when I’m feeling like this. I don’t like feeling like this. I also don’t like being this person, as he’s sitting there, and I can’t tell if the look on his face is bashful or indifferent. But all I know is that it’s not what I want from him at this exact moment, which, in an ideal world, would be him grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me and telling me, “No, but I love you!”
But that’s not happening, so instead I’m sitting there, saying mean things about how I think he’s an awful person who is selfish and terrible. I hate saying these kinds of things. I hate being this person. Especially because I don’t particularly believe in consequences and I find the concept of punishment to be morally reprehensible. I merely believe in revenge and retribution. I believe that I should be able to exact as much pain out of other people as was inflicted on me, and I want to do it with a minimal amount of effort. But I haven’t figured out a good way to attain that with this guy, so instead of hurting him, I just keep talking.
“Look, I just wanted to have casual sex with you, and then you ruined my life. My life is in shambles now because of you! And all I wanted was to get laid! You got the pleasure of ruining my life out of this, and all I got was a couple of orgasms. I fail to see how this is fair to me at all.”
He looks at me and he shrugs. I know that the reason that I want him to tell me that he loves me is because I want to reject him. I want to turn him down. I want to be the winner in this situation, but the fact of the matter is: I’m not. I’m never going to win. Not with him. Not ever. So I yell until I can yell no more, and then I leave, and scuttle through city streets looking for my next victim.
I type out this text message with the remorse of a widowed bride, but I do not dare hit send. I have managed to sum up my emotions in one neat little bubble, with its grammatical errors and its hidden pleas for mercy. I am about to be exposed. I am about to be naked on my back, as I have been before, but this time it is different. This time my heart is racing. This time I am sick to my stomach. This time I am calculating the exact velocity of this loving risk, and the outcome is inconclusive because this might not work. So instead, I sit here, my phone like the scion of my impending doom or my upcoming salvation. My phone, which is really just an electronic box that I stare into for hours at a time but is somehow also elevated to the status of magic ball, giving me the future that I so strongly crave. I have the power to make things right, and I have the power to ruin things even more. I’m not sure what hitting the send button will do: will this fix everything once and for all? Or, as I am steeped in this anxiety, will this nightmare only continue to spiral out of control. I won’t know until I hit send, although I could never hit send and deal with things the way they are now, spurred on by apathy and inspired my keen desire to avoid all conflict at all times.
I have been spending too much time lying down. That’s it. Just lying down. Sometimes the TV is on, and sometimes it is off. Sometimes it stares at me blankly while I look away. This is the demon of my depression, and it holds me softly between sheets of despair. I am swaddled in blankets and my mind is empty as I let time drift over me. When is it tomorrow. Why is it today. Is the world still happening, and is everything okay without me. Sometimes I stand up. I show up to work on time. But mostly I wait for the moments when I am lying down and absolutely nothing else is happening. This is what I live for: my own emptiness. My own stagnation. My own inability to move. I roll over to one side. I bury my face in the pillow. I can’t imagine why time is still happening to me, when really I would like to rot here slowly forever.
I am afraid that one day I will look in the mirror, and I will no longer have a face. That I will look back on my bed and see my nose and cheeks and lips and eyes smeared on the pillow like old make up. And I will merely be a head with no face, a body with no features. I will be evaporating into the atmosphere, still tethered to this fetid body but as no one in particular. I am disintegrating, and it is a painful process. A slow one, too. I cannot wait until the day that I stand up, and I am no longer me. That will be a joyful day, and I have a feeling it will never come.