I shouldn’t have been surprised when the guy who sat next to me on the bus earlier that day texted me as I crawled into bed. I did give him my number, after all.
His name was Ben and he was boyishly cute with curly hair and dimples. “Hi,” I responded. I knew I was skating a dangerous line. My boyfriend of three years was out of town and I was home all alone, but what can I say? I’m a full-fledged addict, a glutton for punishment, an attention whore. What am I addicted to? Men. Meaning, it’s extremely difficult for me NOT to respond to a guy who’s clearly showing interest in me. I’m a junkie and I need the hit. Just a few texts, get in, get out—no one gets hurt. Right?
Because it’s not just a sweet text from a stranger that gets my heart racing. I love the thrill of a first kiss, the brush of a thigh, a moment pressed a little too close on the dance floor, the whispered promises and passions. Most of the time I walk away if anything progresses further, but every so often, I’ll really fall for the attention of someone who’s not my boyfriend and unfairly string him along for months at a time for my own amusement and benefit.
I’m not oblivious to the fact that I’m a monster. I know that every time I go looking for a hit, I end up hurting a lot of people, including myself. Sometimes I wonder where this addiction came from? Some people might point to daddy issues, which is fair, since my dad was never around. Others might say it was my sex-starved mother who was also addicted to male attention her entire life. I grew up watching her use men to get what she wanted, so I certainly learned from the best.
But let’s back up a bit.
In high school, I was the girl every guy wanted to sleep with and every girl wanted to hate. I had a thin waist and full breasts and I knew how to use my body to get what—and who—I wanted. By sophomore year, the only thing I was really good at was courting attention from boys. Even now, 12 years out of high school, it still amazes me how easy it is to get what I want with nothing more than a wink and a wiggle.
I know what you’re thinking. Shouldn’t a loving and loyal boyfriend be enough to keep me searching for validation elsewhere? Why isn’t his dedication enough? I know plenty of single girls—my best friend included—who would give anything to mean the world to just one person, so who the hell am I to be greedy and go after what I can’t (or shouldn’t) have? I’ve told myself it’s because I’ve been in a relationship for so long that I forget I’m still worth pursuing. And when you live with someone for a while things get boring and complacent, whereas illicit flirting is cathartic and refreshing. Not to mention I’m still young, so what if someone better IS out there? Sure, what I have now is good enough and could probably last a lifetime, but what if?
I’ve had to become increasingly selective with each new man I find because I run a higher risk of getting caught. I live in a small town and with the way social media is these days, it’s easy to see who knows who. My relationship could be up in smoke with one wrong move.
The irony is I’ve never wanted to be the “easy” or “slutty” girl, which is probably why I’ve stayed in a serious relationship for so long. That, and when you tell someone you have a boyfriend, you become a whole new challenge. Suddenly, the man sitting across from you is trying his hardest to impress you knowing you’re off the market. It’s a conquest thing. I love hearing “Your boyfriend’s a lucky man.” (I choose not to respond with, “Aside from the fact that I’m sitting here talking to you instead of at being at home with him.”)
I know my addiction is gross. But I also know I’m not the only woman in the world who uses her sexuality to manipulate men. I wonder sometimes who I would become if I weren’t a serial monogamist with a constant need to be adored. Is that the M.O. from which strippers and porn stars are created? The truth is I’m a pretty normal girl: day job, a couple of dogs and a Netflix addiction. But with someone new in front of me I can be anyone I want to be. I can weed out all the boring, day-to-day stuff and be the girl who gives flirty looks, touches someone’s hand a little too long, whispers a little more slowly, hints at things I’d like done to me. One of the hottest things a guy has ever said to me was that he had masturbated to the thought of me doing wild and crazy things. Not the me I am when I’m at home, sitting on the couch eating my third bowl of cereal.
Weirdly enough, these outside flirtations have actually helped my relationship. The sexy exchanges get me riled up and excited to have the weight of another body on top of mine, so I’ll flirt for awhile and then come back home, all amped up, and give my boyfriend the best lay of his life. He deserves it, too. He’s the one that knows I eat three bowls of cereal in my underwear at 3 A.M. He’s the one who’s happy to hold my hair if I get sick. He’s the one who puts up with my shit when I’m on my period.
Because Ben from Friday night finds me wildly interesting and sexy, maybe my boyfriend finds me just as intriguing. After all, the man I love was once a stranger sitting across from me at a bar.