I sat back on my knees a little, tracing patterns on his inner thigh, slowly moving up.
My body was elated with the touch of this stranger. My chest rose and fell in sync to the kisses I laid on his stomach.
I’d pulled up into the parking lot of a somewhat dilapidated motel right by the interstate and texted the room number to my best friend. But I sat in my car for a bit considering again if this was something I really wanted to do. This man could turn out to be a serial killer and I could be the next evening’s news.
But I got out anyway. …Maybe I’m a little insane.
Jason drank me in when he opened the door and stepped aside with a friendly smile so I could come in. He looked exactly like his pictures; he was beautiful. The tv was tuned to a show I liked, so my nerves settled a little. The heavy curtains were drawn tightly so just a single line of light fell on the pink carpet. Jason gave me a hug, like we were old friends, and we chatted a bit about our common interests, flirted even, before he kissed me.
His hands ran over me like waves.
This is an open letter to the men of Craigslist, like Jason. The ones I met through a glowing screen in my dark room who illuminated and enlightened me.
You could say I am addicted to Craigslist. I love Missed Connections, I love Rants and Raves. I love Casual Encounters. I became good at being online, realizing there were some gems out there among the weeds; attractive, intelligent men who wanted me.
I have been with 23 men I met through Craigslist. And they have ranged from wild to passionate to crazy to sweet. Most were one- or two-night-stands spread out between things going on in our real lives. A few became ongoing encounters, friends with intense benefits. I even fell in love with one.
Before them, I was always tugging at the hem of t-shirts to make sure no one would see my stretch marks; I couldn’t look at a handsome stranger and smile flirtatiously, invitingly, from across the room. I was raised on fairy tales and thrived off extreme romantic notions, unable to differentiate normal and reality from idealism. Really, I was just a mess of insecurities and splintered bones.
But slowly, through the kisses on my neck, the hands on my breasts, the whispered compliments, the thirsty smiles, it began to occur to me that I was, in fact, beautiful. And desired. That I could walk around with confidence because I should like the body and mind and heart I have—that just the way I have preferences, men could have preferences too but that didn’t make me any less. They fed me the things I needed to fuel myself. So that when they said, “God, you’re beautiful,” I could stop looking away giggling and start saying “thank you” and “I know.”
They were cruel and fascinating. Some were cheating on their wives. Some were virgins. Some would disappear without a word. And some wouldn’t let me go. But all of them taught me something. They let me unleash my sexuality and encouraged me to explore it. They jaded me and they fixed me. They made me feel alive and they emptied me.
They eventually taught me I was unbreakable, that there was a part of my heart I had welded together with titanium. That I could keep my vulnerable, tender heart, but I could also be strong. I learned to assert myself, ask for what I wanted, and finally learned to say no. To be real with people because that’s what people deserve. And to be utterly myself. Through these men, I learned what I wanted and didn’t want in a future, serious mate; things I would have never even considered until they showed me. They taught me about love in all of it sizes and shapes, about people and their strengths and short comings and not to beat them or myself up too much for the times we trip up. I learned about forgiving and letting go. I learned to embrace being alone. I am thankful for these men who gave me pieces of themselves, even if it was just short spurts of what they could afford to give. I have seen great love through them, in snapshots, even if that then led to great heart ache. It has built my confidence, it has made me stronger in myself, and it has taught me that men really do come and go–they are like the tides that way–but I am the steady constant and I’ve gotten better at letting them flow over me, taking the good from them, learning from the rough parts, and moving on.
So when Jason placed his hand on my neck a few months later at that same motel, his thumb running over my lips, and he said that I was a rarity…I finally believed him. But more than that: I didn’t need him to tell me for me to know it was the truth.