This past year, I left my job as a middle school teacher in Brooklyn to pursue a master’s degree abroad. I’d been particularly unhappy—overworked, a bit depressed, and tired of the monotony of my life. That was the main reason for my decision to pick up and move over 3,000 miles from everything I knew. But if I’m being honest, a large part of my loneliness and depression came from the fact that I was extremely single, and had been for a long while.
About two weeks before I was set to leave, an old coworker of mine, let’s call him Thomas, texted me. I was a bit surprised, because it had been weeks since I had left work. Furthermore, I only ever talked to Thomas as a coworker. We’d never really hung out outside of work functions, or texted unless it was work related.
On the other hand, when I’d first started working at that school, my best friend, as she always does, asked if there were any hotties among my coworkers. I’d told her about Thomas. He wore the perfect “hipster-chic” professional wear, (hey, we worked in Brooklyn), even making sure that his button up shirts were just tight enough to show off his broad shoulders in a way that drove a girl wild. And his crystal blue eyes–to quote Seth from Superbad, looking into his blue eyes was like the first time I heard the Beatles. However attractive he was, I’d gotten over my crush pretty quickly. He taught a different grade level than I did, so we didn’t really run in the same circles, so to speak.
This only made it weirder when he texted me. I initially chalked it up to curiosity about my impending move, and the fact that our school had just returned from the summer to start professional development. I asked him how that was going, and he asked me about how my summer had been. It was late, and he ended the conversation with something akin to ‘I should go to sleep, before I get in trouble.’
I laughed this off, thinking he was referring to waking up early. However, the very next evening he texted me again. Even though the conversation started off work related, I could tell he seemed to be steering the conversation in a certain direction. A sexual direction.
I was hesitant to respond to the flirtation. To my knowledge, he had a girlfriend. I’d even met her once, at a work happy hour. Yet, even as I deflected, he continued to steer the conversation, to the point where I had to flat out ask. Thomas, don’t you have a girlfriend?
“I do. Fortunately, you and I are in different states currently,” he responded. (I’d moved out of Brooklyn to save money for my year abroad).
“Don’t you think she’d be a bit upset with this conversation?” I asked him.
His response was that he was definitely getting himself into trouble, and we said goodnight for the evening.
That night, I lay awake thinking about Thomas. I’d obviously found him attractive when we worked together. The question for me, however, was why would he be trying to sext me if he had a girlfriend, especially one as perfectly attractive and leggy as she was. Let me rewind for a second and put this into perspective. While I don’t consider myself outrightly ugly, I’ve never been the girl who walks in the room and turns heads. I’d also been on a steady incline in the weight department, as teaching often means grabbing whatever is around as I race the clock to plan lessons and produce material. And, you know, since college I’d stopped exercising on a weekly basis. (No free gym, and no free time.) A lot of my loneliness from the previous year had probably come from a lowering of my own self-esteem.
As I previously mentioned, I had been single throughout the entire previous year. Coupled with my lower self-esteem, I don’t think I ever really stood a chance against Thomas. Of course I was thrilled that Mr. Blue Eyes was interested in me. In a weird way, it made me feel validated as a woman. I’d always had trouble with guys, and I’d never imagined I’d be someone Thomas would look at. And now I found out he was looking, and had been looking all along.
At the same time, I felt gross inside. I knew Thomas had a girlfriend, and had had one for quite some time. If I responded, I would somehow be betraying womankind. I’d feel so angry if some woman sexted with my boyfriend. In fact, I’d probably hate her.
But then I thought about how he had clearly started it. I wasn’t seducing him — I couldn’t even actually sleep with him, given the plane ticket dated for two weeks that was currently sitting on my desk.
Even though I knew it was wrong and that it would make me feel guilty, the next night, I was the one who started it. And so, for the next month or so, we sexted. Sometimes it even happened night after night. It evolved from words, to pictures, and he even sent me a video once.
But as it happened, I continued to wonder. What would his girlfriend think? Why was he doing this, especially now that I was in another country? The guilt ate away at me. There were even nights when I couldn’t sleep because of it.
Eventually, I decided to stop. I told him that I felt too guilty, and that we should stop the “sextual” relationship. My moral compass finally realigned to due north, and I felt much better about myself.
Then a few weeks later, he texted me again. It was the middle of the night his time, and I could tell he was probably drunk. He told me how much he wanted me to send him a picture, flattering me in ways that he knew would work.
“Where is your girlfriend? Text her,” I told him.
“She’s away right now.”
He continued to tell me how much he missed staring at me in the staff room. How sometimes as I would correct student essays, he would try and peak down my blouse. How much it turned him on, and how much he wanted me.
I caved. We sexted that night again.
I felt awful. At this point, I knew he was using me. I’ve always tried not to measure my self worth on how guys looked at me. But that dark part of my brain kept saying, that’s because guys don’t look at you. I felt like he could hear that part of me, and he was exploiting it. How did he know I would be such an easy kill? Was it written on my face? Why hadn’t I been able to resist?
I’m guessing some of you are asking why I was making such a big deal out of sexting. In this day and age, it’s sort of par for the course. But I think the reason why I was so upset was that I had let him get inside my head. He somehow spotted my weaker side and pounced. It made me feel like a victim, even though I was complicit in my own victimization. The next time he texted me, I flat out didn’t respond. I felt better about myself immediately. He’s tried to text me a few times since then, but I usually don’t respond. I know what he wants, and I’m not in the mood to give it to him.
Dating is so strange in this digital age, that some people don’t consider sexting cheating. As the virtual other women, who was wracked with guilt despite, I wonder if there will ever be a day when dating gets easier. I don’t have much optimism, considering my experiences with dating abroad has not been anymore hopeful, but that’s another story entirely.