I suppose what I’m learning is that there’s no graduation ceremony for life. I’d sort of hoped that there was.
I had sex with a man twenty years my senior, is how this story starts. Ends.
It happened somewhere in the middle.
Days before, I’d said to a new friend – an incredibly charming Austrian – “No. I’m done dicking around. I’m looking for my husband. I’m serious about love.” And that felt like a brave thing to declare, because this guy, the Austrian, he was saying how girls just need to relax. Stop putting pressure on themselves. Enjoy sex without expectation, like “men” do. So it felt like a bold thing to do, to show my cards to the table that way, because it’s emphatically not #chill. And you know what? For a really fucking long time I played the Chill Girl card. I’m mortified to admit that, but I know I’m not alone. (Tell me I’m not alone?) In a weird way, though, despite myself and what I know to be true and real and right, I wanted this Austrian’s approval. Wanted him to think I was cool. So I could’ve agreed. An earlier version of myself might’ve.
(It took several more conversations with said charming Austrian to ascertain he wasn’t, actually, charming. He was a chauvinistic misogynistic egotist, and nobody has the right to tell you you’re “putting too much pressure on sex”. The end.)
The Chill Girl, she’s “down for whatever”. She’s “not like other girls” because she’s self-assured and has a ton of things to do, so “whatever”. The Chill Girl doesn’t get mad if you don’t text right back, don’t do what you said you’d do. The Chill Girl is laid back and easy, says what she means and means what she says, so you don’t have to wonder. There’s no “games” with the #ChillGirl, aside from the fact that the whole act is a game.
Because I do care. I’m not chill. I don’t want to “just see”. I don’t want to “hang out”. I don’t want maybe. I don’t want to “just be sleeping together”. None of that. I want balls-deep, head-over-heels, can’t-live-without-each-other love with my best friend and confidante and with that I want the slow unfolding, the romance, the delicious courtship of it all. I want deliberate and purposeful love and sex and relationships, in the same way I go in for deliberate and purposeful with my work, career, family, friends, travel. Life.
My new year’s resolution – to sit at the grown-up’s table – included the caveat no men under 30. I arbitrarily chose a cut-off point where I thought there might be a difference between who was looking for the #ChillGirl, and who might be looking for a woman becoming herself.
So there was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it… dalliance, with an older man, because what? I thought I’d hang out with his two kids and ex-wife, because that sounds grown-up to me? No. I don’t know. I guess I thought an older man would reveal different sorts of secrets to me, and I mean – fucking shocker – he didn’t. You don’t get to a certain age and have it figured out.
I want to prioritize love. And I mean that not in terms of making room for it with other people, but to adjust the way I make room for it within myself. Because saying I’m looking for my one is different to following through with my actions. So by prioritizing love what I actually mean is admitting – to myself, out loud, on the internet – that in this active pursuit of love, I do an awful lot of self-sabotagising.
I’m a huge believer that you don’t have to be broken to be interesting, and that presenting our messiest parts is a sort of weird “no-holds-barred” way our generation, in particular, gets to know each other. We bond over being fucked up, swapping tales to play Who Has Been Hurt Hardest. And… and maybe I’ve been guilty of doing that, too. Of in the same breath talking about just how hurt I’ve been before, like that makes me fucking special, and then whatever we can just fuck because like, I can’t take the risk on heartbreak 2.0.
I can, actually.
I can take the risk.
I’m re-writing my story, you guys.