I once had a boyfriend who couldn’t remember how many girls he’d slept with. Granted, his number was at least twice as high as mine, but the not knowing is inconceivable to me.
I’m a little fixated on my number. I’m neither ashamed nor proud of it, but I’ve always had a sense that it’s a number of deep significance—that every time it changes, I change. Within the first few moments I’m with someone new, the thought unfailingly crosses my mind, if only for a moment: you’re Number X.
When I was a kid, I collected things. At one point I was into key chains—I put every new key chain on a string and wore it around my neck at all times, even though it was long and heavy and I was 3’9”. I just liked having it with me. It was fun to look at when I was bored.
That’s a little bit how my list feels: each new experience is something I get to string onto the chain and keep, even after the relationship—or just the relation, as the case may be—is over. One sits comfortably against the next, and when I look at them together I can find patterns in the sequence.
As time goes on, the emotional power of each experience fades, and it becomes something I can digest—something I can work into a story and draw meaning from.
ONE was a sweet and innocent relationship with a bitter young pothead. He patiently chipped away at my resolve for six months of what must have been utter agony for him, poor thing.
TWO was quirky and lovable and not that interested in sex. His complacency was a difficult notion to digest, since ONE had spent the past two years trying to topple my naiveté complex. As soon as I knew that all guys would do anything and say anything just to get in bed with me, I met the boy with the headache who was tired. Accustomed to the five-a-day habits of bunnies as I was (I’m not talking about vegetables), I found him immensely frustrating.
With THREE I finally got around to losing my innocence, as I define it. He wasn’t my boyfriend, just a good friend. As we neared the inevitable, I felt an old familiar protest—no real reason, but the same hesitance that had kept ONE waiting for those six long months. Only this time, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to listen to that feeling—that I could go through with it anyway. And so the relic of a childhood protection mechanism began to crumble.
FOUR—The epitome of my type. I was so attracted to him. We spent three nights a week together, we cooked dinner and went running and rode his motorcycle to the top of Mount Tam. We weren’t seeing other people. But heaven forbid we call it a “relationship.” It didn’t make much sense to me, either.
FIVE—One of the most passionless encounters I’ve ever had; tampon insertion is more sensual. At the time I thought it so gracious of him to alert me to the fact (while I sat on his lap, gin fizz in one hand, condom in the other) that he wasn’t interested in a relationship and just wanted to have fun. As THREE liked to say, fun is fun—except when it’s not. And what’s the fun in sleeping with someone who initiates with a qualifier?
SIX—I’m not sure we ever kissed. He’d invite me over, and we’d share a bottle of Maker’s Mark while we watched violent and disturbing Japanese films. At some point, he’d wordlessly get up off the couch and collapse on his bed. This, I later learned, was his way of wooing me. I couldn’t figure out why he even bothered, but then, it takes two to tango and I was bothering too. I was always shocked when he asked me if I had come. So shocked that I answered yes. It was my first time faking it, and I didn’t even mean to.
SEVEN—Not hot. But really nice—or so I thought. This was my first and (I hope) my last experience with a “safe” guy: friends with everyone, good with kids, a little dopey. “Is this just sex?” I asked him one night. “Is that bad?” he answered, meek, sheepish, ever the nice guy.
EIGHT—Not much to report here. My one and only one night stand. It was fun. And then it was over, and so was the summer.
NINE—The only one on this list who I can still really call a friend. A best friend, in fact. If I could choose who I had chemistry with, I’d choose him. That I can’t is one of my biggest regrets.
TEN—A conquest that I like to think of as one of my greatest achievements.
ELEVEN & BEYOND—are beyond the scope of this project.
When I try to digest this meal and draw some nourishment—some meaning—from it, it gives me indigestion. What are all these disparate elements doing together on a single list? Supposedly they’re all united by one thing I’ve done. But was what I did with SEVEN the same thing I did with NINE? It seems a different undertaking entirely.
Some people say that sex is no big deal. That there’s nothing that distinguishes the guys who made it on this list from those who almost did. Sex may be like another three letter word, God—too big to really mean anything. And while I don’t know how I feel about god, I’m a big believer in sex.