Once, I met a woman on the streets of Midtown Manhattan. The two of us were drunk and it was 5 AM. I asked the woman if she wanted to get a six-pack. She suggested that I lead the way. We went to a deli; we bought a six-pack. We bought a four-foot Christmas tree, which we took to my apartment along East 92nd Street.
This woman stood 5’5, with drooping eyes and dirt-blonde hair. She was tan. We decorated the tree, and then we had sex. Two hours later, we ran out of alcohol. We took a cab to the woman’s apartment which was located in Queens. We bought another six-pack, and then we had sex.
It was the weekend now, and the woman had an appointment to get her BMW inspected. We drove the BMW to a dealership, where we got high with a mechanic. We split a six-pack while we were sitting on a parking block. We drove the BMW back to the woman’s apartment, and then we
Around 3 PM, I spilled an Anchor IPA on my jeans. The woman gave me a pair of Nike sweatpants to wear. The woman’s mother called and she invited us to come and visit her on Long Island. We bought a six-pack, and we pulled the top down on the woman’s BMW. We hit the expressway. It was 49 degrees.
We were driving east, toward Suffolk County, which – in my delirium – I had mistaken for us driving south, toward Suffolk, Virginia. We pulled up to a ranch house. The woman told me that she loved me. We were smoking cigarettes. I responded that I loved her dress.
We went inside. The woman’s father poured us shots of Wild Turkey. Night was falling and the woman’s mother recommended that we go out for a nice dinner. The Nike sweatpants violated a dress code, the woman’s mother explained, and so she provided me with a pair of jeans.
The restaurant was formal and dark and over dinner the woman’s mother began confronting her about bringing home somebody whom she had met on the streets. I excused myself, and headed off toward the restaurant bar. Twenty minutes later the maitre d handed me a server book containing a dinner bill for 115.
I couldn’t pay. I had left my wallet and my cell phone at the woman’s apartment back in Queens. I rushed outside, to where the woman and her mother had continued arguing. The maitre d gave chase. He started threatening to call the police.
The woman’s father paid the check, and then he drove us to the ranch house. I drank a beer while the woman’s parents went to sleep. Around midnight, the woman led me down into a basement, into a guestroom that had been constructed like a bunker. The woman was wearing an old pair of her adolescent pajamas. I was still wearing a pair of her mother’s pleated jeans.
I passed out, and then came to during the middle of the night. I could smell the fragrance of a woman beside me; I could picture her face without remembering her name. It was dark now, like a chasm, and the only way to keep from trembling was to clutch down on the sheets. I leaned my cheek against the woman’s ear. She tilted her head back and we kissed. My stomach churned, and I could taste the dry rot in my mouth. We were in it now, the post-drunk period of arousal, and the woman whispered that her parents’ bedroom stood immediately above us. The woman mounted me; a squeaking bedpost proceeded to gavel. I tried – and then failed – to have an orgasm. I kept fighting back the urge to just throw up.
That was December 4th, 2011 – the most recent time that I’ve had sex. Was a 30-hr. binge uncommon? Yes, but only insomuch as it occurred without the benefit of sleep. My pattern – for more than two decades – had been to drink until I could work up enough confidence to approach any woman. After that, I would either maintain or continue self-medicating until I bottomed out. I have never been a habitual dater, I have little confidence in my appearance, and I can chalk almost all of my first kisses up to alcohol. When I quit drinking (less than two weeks after the aforementioned incident), I assumed that I would have to re-acclimate myself to the hook-up process. To that end, I went on a date, and I kissed somebody. A month later, I responded to a late-night text, and I wound up sleeping in a bed with one of my previous sex partners, three-quarters clothed. I found both of these experiences to be exhilarating. Yet neither one went any further, and I imagined this to be for the best.
Over time, I became less responsive whenever contacted by an ex-sex partner late at night. Our paradigm had shifted, and, as such, I would do a mental work-up of the M.O.: How long has it been? What was the nature of our relationship? Did we date? Did we share a one-night stand? Did we find each other engaging? How did we leave things? And why? Why is she contacting me? Is the manner in which she has chosen to reach out consistent with our past dealings? Is this an invite? An overture? If I respond, will it be like putting something back in spin? Is it worth setting aside whatever it is that I am doing? Is it worth setting aside work or sleep or a chess game or some great book that I am excited about finishing? Is it worth hailing a cab? Taking a subway? Hopping a train? Is it worth the conversation? The push-n-pull? Is it worth stifling every cough until I can leave at break of day? Is it worth the guilt? The misconceptions? The back-and-forth? And do I make the mistake of assuming this was ever actually about either one of us achieving an orgasm after all?
As a result of my skepticism, I was becoming more cognizant of all the ways in which I have mistreated women, all the ways in which I have violated their trust. I felt embarrassed without having lost any urge. To this day I continue to sext and instant message. I frequent porn sites and jerk off. I am not chaste, nor am I promoting abstinence. This is not a “step,” nor am I in the throes of being reborn. I am not suffering from performance issues. I am not closeted or gay or otherwise confused. I am not currying attention, nor am I carrying a torch for some great woman who I knew. I have simply shifted gears. I feel increasingly fulfilled.
Looking back, my sexual progression traces its way up through my childhood, through a catholic education, through an initial gateway into hook-up culture, through several all-night parties and a constant needling to get laid, through objectifying conquests and rewarding acts of chauvinism, through promoting an extracurricular hierarchy based on drinking and athletics and sex, through establishing a bacchanalian persona that left me feeling faithless and depraved, through it all until my thirties, at which point I had been repeating – and exacerbating – the same-old tired cycles for so long I suffered a break. This is not to confuse the issue, as I had a lot more eating away at me than how I had elected to get it on with chicks. But it is to express that I had developed a mental illness, and that my long-term health depended on a much more stringent accounting of what had precipitated that type of event.
The male sutra of my upbringing fashioned its whole creed upon fraternity. Groupthink was essential; collusion became a part of the deal. For every female I knew who’d been sexually assaulted I knew a male who was potentially guilty of having committed a corresponding offense. Transgressions took on the auspices of an in-joke. The more macho the circle, the more comfortable people became with recognizing – or even encouraging – a mutual level of shame. Among the familial, a contingent of females that earned its keep by feigning complicity. Hooking up represented the first – and sometimes only – aspect any confidant might ask about after a night spent on the scene.
Understand that I am not above this culture, I am of it. With the exception of newfound love, I can chalk up every major spike in my sex life to a period during which I felt inescapably without purpose. When I quit drinking at 38, I committed to writing nonfiction. I had no aptitude for this. A quick look back at the first two seasons of Moving On will bear that out. But I kept at it, and by the beginning of 2013 I was writing and revising for 14 hours a day, running and reading and meditating and seeking out other forms of inspiration in between. The lack of dating allowed for a deeper state of focus, a dynamic which was reflected via a 2011 Archives of Sexual Behavior study which found the mere possibility of interacting with a woman negatively affected the average heterosexual male’s intellectual performance.
Having put the drinking aside, I am more forthright in my dealings with women. Women, in turn, seem more receptive to me. The women who I am interested in (romantically), well, let’s just say that they are aware of it. Beyond that, I am 42 and poor and unattractive and effectively alienated from almost every social strata. I am not what the majority of females would consider eligible. Am I DTF? Youbetcha. But only if the circumstances are in alignment, or if I fall in love and that type of intimacy make sense. I am not actively campaigning for either.
Recently, I had occasion to revisit working in an office, the first time in eight years that I had done so. Within days, I grew aggravated … the routine schedules, the prep-school dress code, commuting via the 4 Train for an hour and 15 minutes, back and forth. I was stationed alone in a back-corner supply area, completing all of my assignments via a hand-me-down laptop that had no resources, not even Microsoft Word. Three weeks in, all of that displaced energy – a sudden lack of running and calisthenics and upper-body workouts, combined with unhealthy eating and an almost-obligatory malaise – began to channel itself into arousal. A woman’s pencil skirt, the passing scent of strong perfume. I did not pursue sex, but I wanted it. I was reverting to old habits, mistaking the distraction for a need.
(Moving On is a regular feature on IFB)
©Copyright Bob Hill
Member, American Authors Guild