Being Naked When You’re Sober Is Hard, Damn It
Of course, when you’ve been in a relationship with someone for awhile, sober sex is really not that big a deal. You love each other, know each other, know and adore each other’s various bumps and crevices. And sometimes it still takes awhile, still takes having a glass of wine or two or turning the lights of, before you’re fully comfortable with each other. But having sex with someone for the first time ever, sober, is crazy nerve-wracking — you’re looking at them and they’re looking at you and you feel a weird combination of scared and turned on and electrocuted but you’ll be damned if you tell them to stop. In other words, you clearly definitely want each other and can’t even blame it on the whiskey. It’s 100% honest.
Sober sex is a tricky monster. On the one hand, it can be the most amazing thing you’ve ever experienced, every touch, every sensation made sharper by complete hyperconsciousness; on the other, it can be one of the most horrifying — the stark, strange realness of the beautiful inexplicable human body, smacking you straight in the face and demanding you pay attention.
And the main reason I’ve been avoiding it is because being naked sober is hard, damn it. At least for me it is — I still have all the body issues I had as a teenager, only now I’m able to identify them. I even pulled all the sheets off the bed in horror and collapsed under them when my boyfriend walked by as I was exiting the bathroom naked less than two weeks ago (yes, I’m that much of an insecure freak). So if I’m totally sober and showing you my body, you must be pretty effing special. I don’t like what my stomach/ass/thighs look like but I’m going to let you undress me because I trust you that much. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t — I’m not really someone who has a problem saying no.
I know all this in theory, but I never realized how totally unprepared I was to do it until I slept with someone in AA. I never realized how much I relied on dousing my nerves prior to getting intimate until I didn’t have the option, how much I wasn’t used to getting acquainted with a human body without blurring the lines first. But this time, besides the blue Christmas lights emitting a cool fuzzy glow in the darkness of her room, nothing was blurred. I was blatantly, painfully, aware.
And terrified. It’s not like she took my clothes off just to take them off, get them out of the way. She genuinely wanted to see my body. She was running her hands over my curves, deliberately examining my tattoos and all I wanted to do was be like “Nope, nothing to see here!” and dive under a blanket. And then I realized sober sex was probably really strange for her too; she was probably just as nervous as I was, if not more. So I relaxed and I let her.
You know when someone undresses you and looks at you, really looks at you, and you have no choice but to be nothing but yourself in front of them, stripped bare in more ways than one? And it’s scary because it’s so truthful. It’s so just… there. Instead of your eyes rolling back in your sockets in a vague hazy ecstasy, you’re forced to open them, really open them and connect with the person whose hands are on you. You’re totally transparent, and if you’re someone who tends to go through life with a perpetual poker face, that’s when you’re vulnerable.
And you feel all kinds of things. What usually feels like some blind searching nebulous friction on your nether regions when you’re drunk is sharp, salient, and completely deliberate when you’re sober. You can’t help but feel. Every muscle contraction has a meaning; you hear the intonations, the significance of every sharp intake of breath. And it can be really powerful, knowing exactly what you’re doing. Being conscious and saying “I want you exactly the way you are” is a really powerful thing. And needless to say, a huge relief – there’s no chance of being surprised at who you wake up to the next morning. Which is one less thing to freak out about when you’re done and start overanalyzing what just happened.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.