I heard the canned speech most recently at a Middle Eastern restaurant, about how I’m so special, really, and any guy would be lucky to have me, but he’s just not in the market for anything serious. I’ve heard it in all its iterations and from all kinds of guys. There was the shaggy haired guy with sweet guitar skills in high school who was leaving for college. The nerdy chemistry genius who took ten whole minutes of non-stop talking to deliver his break-up message, most of which I tuned out by staring at the baseball game flashing on his TV. The gorgeous European man who managed to fit it into a 160-character text message.
At least this guy did me the honor of paying for my kebab dinner.
The amazing thing is that I agreed with his every word. I wouldn’t pursue anything serious with him either. A guy recently mistook my claim that I love being single as a nice way of saying I enjoy semi-intimate interactions with the opposite sex without any form of commitment, but that’s not what I meant. I wanted to say, “I have learned to enjoy life as a single woman because I can’t find a guy that works for me.” I didn’t say that because he didn’t strike me as a smart one and I didn’t feel like explaining myself any further, so I let him assume I was game for casual sex and went home with him.
I do this often.
I had sex for the first time one hazy Saturday night when I was 19 with a stranger and it fucked me up forever. The experience was everything I wanted at the moment and the ideal scenario for such an awkward milestone. He was well-endowed and taught me a lot about sex, and I didn’t feel pressure to make it special because I was just another girl for him and I could choose to never see him again. I needed to be in control; I wanted to be able to completely disconnect the primal act of sex from love. Except now I can’t ever put them back together.
The slightest tinge of love consumed me after having sex with a lovely bespectacled guy when I was 20. He was the first person I had dated for more than two weeks, an accomplishment considering how I had trained myself to detach. I lay in his twin extra-long, panting and wrapped in his flannel sheets as Andrew Bird nearly lulled me to sleep.
This was the closest I ever got to it. The split second I felt sex and love come together in his bed was an epiphany that ended as soon as he told me I should go so he could finish his homework. He broke up with me a week later, and it took me months to convince myself that I could never have loved someone I slept with for two weeks.
Every sexual encounter I have had after that has been a search for something: a diversion, an orgasm, a means of passing time, a connection. I have seldom found anything, but many have found all of those things in me. My French lover even tried to convince me to stay in Paris for him as he drove me to take my plane back to Boston. Knowing that he could find love (or something like it) in sex with me while I couldn’t do the same doesn’t stop me from trying with others, or from jumping into bed with guys in hopes of running into one that sticks. If anything, it fuels the desire.
The fact that I am the walking, breathing cliché of a girl looking for love in all the wrong places does not escape me. We’re mass-produced emotional messes.
A nervous breakdown recently caused me to admit to a friend that I don’t enjoy sex anymore despite having it so often. Part of the allure was thinking that perhaps some sort of affair could bloom from it as it did with the French guy. But they can’t get rid of me quickly enough, making the trip from Hoboken to Times Square in ten minutes flat, leaving me before the Sunday paper hits the doorstep.
She suggested I stop sleeping around. There’s one I haven’t heard before.
I am well aware that I am settling for mediocre (that’s what my peers call it); nobody ever lets me forget that. I am a classic catch; an attractive, smart young lady with a bright future ahead of her. I should have no problem finding a guy who will want more from me than just my body. (This sometimes makes it into the canned break-up speeches.) But I do.
All I can do is blame guys for my failed attempts at romance. All they ever offer me is sex with a warning, “I don’t want anything serious,” and I have no other choice but to accept it because I need some sense of intimacy—in other words, a girl’s gotta get laid. And while I enjoy the interaction, at least while it lasts, some level of commitment would be nice. No exchanging of vows or promises to love each other forever; just someone who sticks around long enough for coffee in the morning; someone to help me pick my produce and to listen to me explain French movies. None of these, I believe, are unrealistic expectations. Yet men make me feel like they are, as if I’m a fool to expect something—anything at all—from them.
My feminist self loathes how I settle for sex when I want more, especially with all this talk about how I’m encouraging guys to remain non-committal by making just-sex sex readily available. But I’m still human and I still have hormones that drive me to lust, and I go back and forth between congratulating myself for being a “liberated woman” who has sex when she feels like it and feeling like I’m getting the short end of the stick. I’m letting guys dictate all the terms of our interactions when I’m the one with most at stake; I’m the one whose heart could break. It makes no sense, but I still do it.
This is mostly the reason why I, at the ripe old age of 21, have decided to jump ship. I renounce dating, friends with benefits, pity lays, faux-meaningful conversations with guys I meet at cafés, and all other forms of interactions with men that marginally satisfy my need for emotional intimacy. Because people always seem to have the solution to my dilemma and I take their advice, and I wind up on horrible online dates with guys who tell me upfront that they won’t see me for more than two weeks, as if I have my expiration date stamped on my forehead. Because my friends gush about how they know the perfect guy for me and then I figure out they were trying to get rid of someone by passing him on to me. Because even though I come off all sorts of dramatic, the truth is I am exhausted and I’ve realized this idea the world sells me that every single person on the planet is destined to find someone they fit well with is a sad sack of crap. But I’m jumping ship mostly because I had used sex to find love and now I use it because I can’t find love and frankly, neither of those is a healthy attitude.
And, of course, I’m only 21 and what the fuck do I know about life and love? Admittedly, not a lot. But as it pertains to me, the way things are going is not an incentive to push through and to rough things out. I’d rather pull the sails down and focus on other things. Maybe some of us are destined to just be really smart and work high-paying jobs and have huge apartments and never do the dishes for anybody but ourselves and have sex for pleasure, not for love.
The nightmare of every woman, ending up alone, sounds like a field of daisies when I think about what its alternative entails. Dating requires such enthusiasm for meeting men, such optimism, that more often than not it leads to disappointment. The time and energy that I’d have to put into many men to find just one suitable partner feels a more worthwhile investment when spent on my friends, my family, my career, or my general happiness.
After deciding to stop pursuing men beyond the physical and to just focus on making myself and my loved ones happy, accepting that it’s okay if I end up being nothing more than a career woman, I felt better about my attitude regarding sex. I can have sex just for the sake of it and turn the game on its head: If sex is all men are willing to offer me, I’ll gladly take it. They just better not hope for coffee in the morning, because, to borrow a line from their book, I don’t want anything serious.
Back at the restaurant, the guy who had just dumped me was surprised I didn’t react turbulently or try to bolt. He apologized profusely, but I appeased him. I knew why he was dumping me: he thought that any girl he saw more than a few times would develop an infatuation for him. He was trying to minimize his risks in the game and trying not to lead me on and end up looking like an asshole. And I totally get it—I opt for keeping things casual to reduce potential losses, too. Doing things my way allows me to get the satisfaction I want without the pitfalls of getting disappointed. I would have told him all of this, that I would have liked to explore a casual fling with him, except he’d probably get offended that I just wanted him for sex. I’m so used to being used for sex sometimes that I forget guys don’t like being objectified, even when it serves their interests.
We hailed a cab and he dropped me off at a bar in the Village. I never saw him again.