Devastated & Divine: A Week in Post-Breakup Fashion

On the day after her breakup, our lovely model Kate wears the same outfit she wore yesterday. 24 hours of crying, sleeping, and existential angst have rendered the ensemble charmingly worn-in – “heartbreak chic,” you might say.

Her green American Apparel tri-blend racerback tank is embellished with a chocolate stain from a Kitkat bar she bought because her best friend told her she needed to eat and chocolate was the only option that didn’t sound positively nauseating.

Adorning her black American Eagle leggings is a smattering of white hair from the cat belonging to her now-ex-boyfriend. The cat wandered in during the break-up conversation itself – sometime between “I don’t think we should see each other anymore” and “I still care about you a lot” – and though Kate mostly stayed strong, that was the one moment when she thought she might cry, because it wasn’t the cat’s fault she would never see him again.

Her turquoise Coach turnlock tote is stylish, yet roomy enough to fit a fistful of used tissues, a tearstained Moleskine journal, and a Kindle loaded with ebooks about the psychology of romantic rejection. The side pocket can even hold a plethora of condoms, as if she’ll have a need for those any time soon.

Kate’s royal blue heart-shaped sunglasses were a gift from a reader via her Amazon wishlist. Beyond just looking sharp, they also function as a shield to keep onlookers from realizing she’s just, like, constantly crying.

Her well-worn Frye harness boots are comforting and familiar, though now they are marred with the memory of how she clumsily crammed her feet back into them and practically tripped in an effort to get away as quickly as possible from the man who broke her heart. They need a shine, and maybe someday she’ll get to that when she’s no longer in a state of active distress.

Topping off the outfit is Kate’s Tarina Tarantino pink pavé heart necklace. Usually she wears a smaller purple and turquoise one, but the last time she had sex with her now-ex-boyfriend, he sidled up behind her afterward and fastened the purple pendant around her neck like the quasi-collar he understood it to be, and it was the last sweet and tender gesture he ever offered her – so, obviously, she couldn’t wear that one. Not today.

On the second day after her breakup, Kate wears a casually rumpled black tank top that was acquired at a local thrift store years previous and could probably use a wash. She defines her aesthetic goals today as “comfort” and “not wanting to fucking die.”

The red bandana tied around her head serves the dual purpose of concealing both her unwashed hair and her scalp infection, because depression is nothing if not glamorous. Red bandanas also symbolize fisting in the hanky code, a subtle, ironic sartorial nod to Kate’s ex, who would’ve been the first person to successfully fist her if he’d been decent enough to stick around.

Her red and black polka-dotted MeUndies boyshorts continue the color story from her red-rimmed, tearstained eyes. On her lips, Bite Beauty High Pigment Pencil in “Pomegranate” makes a bold statement: “I don’t intend on kissing anyone today. Or maybe ever again.”

On the third day after her breakup, Kate’s thrown on a black American Apparel tri-blend romper for her streetcar jaunt to an erotic massage downtown. The simple pull-on design and halter-neck ties make it quick to take on and off – ideal for getting naked on the massage table as well as navigating the bone-heavy apathy of depression. Easy-peasy!

On her radiantly unwashed face, she sports a pair of sunglasses she bought at a hotel gift shop the week previous, possibly the last purchase she made while happy. They seemed glamorous and eye-catching at the time; today they’re crimson-tinted armor. Pro tip: plastic frames are a smarter choice than metal ones while grieving, because tears don’t rust ’em!

Her heart necklace makes an appearance once again, because if a giant pink rhinestoned amulet can’t make her feel better, nothing can.

Ubiquitous Apple earbuds complete the ensemble, and rarely leave her ears these days, because what little emotional momentum she can gather is mostly enabled by the good-natured goofs of the McElroy brothers.

Later that day, blissed out and supple-skinned from coconut oil and orgasms, Kate slithers into a dark red Forever 21 tank top and tiny black H&M shorts for an evening at the local sex club. As she slings on a vintage Danier leather jacket and looks at herself in the mirror before leaving the house, she feels her first glimmer in days of something like happiness. Maybe she’ll flirt with a stranger tonight. Maybe she just won’t cry in public. Either would be a victory.

On the fourth day after her breakup, Kate’s ex is coming by to pick up the last vestiges he left at her house (a book and some bondage rope), so obviously she has to look good, even though she’s not actually going to answer the door because she’s either an emotional masochist or a massive coward – who can say! This is truly the ideal outfit for today’s activities: hiding under a blanket while rain pours down outside, and then trekking to a doctor’s appointment while blinking back hot tears. Busy lady!

Kate’s zebra-print fit-and-flare dress from H&M clings to her depression-dwindled curves in a manner that just screams “Help, I keep forgetting to eat, because my life is in shambles!” The wild-animal motif is an ironic twist, given that she’s barely left her house in days. So-near-y and yet safari, am I right?!

Today’s lipstick choice, Annabelle Twist-Up Crayon in “Vamp,” is the exact shade her mouth would be if she bit into the throats of the people who’ve wronged her and gnawed mercilessly until their pathetic heartbeats skittered to a stop, not that she’s planning on doing that or anything.

Her hair, still not washed, has achieved a strawlike texture that some people buy expensive salt sprays to achieve, probably.

On the fifth day after her breakup, Kate’s comfy-cozy in a Hole Punch Toys T-shirt she got on a road trip to Minneapolis. Wearing a sex toys shirt and headed out the door to write about sex toys at a café, she’s reminded of her competency, her talent, and the friends she’s made along the way. It’s perhaps too much to read into a T-shirt, but hey, when one is mind-numbingly depressed, one takes what one can get.

Her cheap H&M shorts are covered in dirt, food stains, remnants of her own sexual fluids, and the aforementioned white hairs belonging to the cat of her ex. She really needs to wash them, but when getting dressed feels difficult, it’s hard to part with something so sartorially versatile and easy to throw on for even as long as it takes to do a load of laundry. Plus she keeps thinking about how you could probably clone the cat using its hair. Not that she has access to that technology at present.

She’s finally washed her hair, but it’s been tossed up into a laissez-faire topknot, because today she can’t even.

Later that night, getting ready for an ill-advised OkCupid date, she slips on a lace bralette in “Lacklustre-Libido Lilac” and a Henley tank top in “Terrified-to-Try-Again Teal.” Her black velvet Forever 21 skater skirt creates the illusion of put-together elegance to impress her date, while really just existing to be comforting and comfortable. Joke’s on him.

Hours later, in a near-stranger’s downtown apartment, her Animal Hair internal clitoris necklace keeps falling into her mouth while she’s trying to give a blowjob to an unfamiliar dick. She notices herself falling back on the muscle memory of techniques her ex liked, purposely choking herself on this cock in a masochistic manner that is probably lost on this vanilla boy. It almost makes her cry, and then she almost cries again later when her one-night stand sees her necklace and asks, “Is that the Special K logo?” Her ex would have recognized it. And then he would’ve demonstrated his knowledge on her actual real-life clitoris. Ah, to date a proper sex nerd again.

On the sixth day after her breakup, Kate is so over it (over existence in general, you understand; definitely not over the breakup) so she pulls a hole-ridden, stretched-out, pilling Forever 21 V-neck tee on over her braless boobs. Free the Nipple, Free Women From the Shackles of Convention, Free the Chronically Sad Girl From this Mortal Coil, and so on.

Her berry lipstick creates the illusion of a confident, self-assured woman who has her shit together. Haha. Hahahahaha.

Her black faux-leather flats are practically worn through on the bottom, owing to the many long walks she’s taken recently, when it felt like she would fall into the earth and disappear if she ceased to constantly move.

Her wrists and throat are sparingly spattered with the Tom of Finland fragrance from Etat Libre d’Orange. On her skin, it registers as gentle, feminine, graceful and loving: all qualities she can’t quite remember, and hopes to rediscover in herself.

Today’s Tarina Tarantino heart necklace bears the image of Alice, as in Adventures in Wonderland – a figure with whom Kate strongly identifies, particularly now, as she’s a little girl traveling through an alien terrain without a Daddy to make sure she’s okay. She aspires to reach Alice’s level of confidence in that final courtroom scene someday.

One week after her breakup, Kate steps into a pink and turquoise Leg Avenue lingerie romper, ordered off Amazon back when she was happy. Her then-boyfriend would’ve liked it; it’s emblematic of the little-girl persona she often assumed around him, her Daddy. Maybe that’s the only reason he ever loved her. Maybe it’s the reason he left.

Her black ASOS skater skirt covers the lower half of the romper; the thought of going full-on little girl felt aggressively upsetting, so soon after being jostled from that role. Tonight her aesthetic is more akin to that of a grown woman who will someday tiptoe back into cathartic regression – when she once again has a partner she trusts to take her on that journey. Singlehood requires a fierce independence she feels she can’t cultivate when she’s little. Later tonight she’ll curl up with a carton of ice cream and a comedy podcast and allow herself to be gleefully small, but not where anyone can see her.

In her hot pink Kate Spade satchel, she’s got some business cards to pass out at the sex-themed variety show in which she’ll be a resident sexpert tonight. During the on-stage interview about vibrators and dildos, she doesn’t mention her breakup once. It’s the first time in a week that this recent heartbreak hasn’t felt like the central fact of her existence. Afterward, she even tipsily quasi-flirts with a cute co-performer. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Around her neck, she wears that Tarina Tarantino amulet again. It jangles and glitters when she gesticulates, casting candy-pink rainbows. Sitting on her chest all week, it’s come to feel like a part of her. Like a shield for her heart. It won’t guard her from future heartache – nothing can, not even staying inside her apartment, silent and uninvolved. But for now, she can pretend that she’s safe.

Heartsick & Miserable? Ask Yourself This One Question…

I read something recently that blew my mind, and if I may, I’d like to blow yours too.

In Lisa A. Phillips’ book Unrequited, she writes – having studied unreturned romantic obsessions, including her own, for ages in order to write the book – that it is important to ponder what an unrequited love is trying to tell you about your life.

When you are painfully obsessed with someone who doesn’t love you back, Phillips writes, you’re not really obsessed with that person – you’re obsessed with what is missing from your life, which this person has somehow come to represent in your mind.

I read this simple insight while flying back from D.C. to Toronto and actually gasped aloud on the plane, drawing stares from nearby seatmates. I couldn’t help it. It felt like Lisa A. Phillips had just shined a spotlight directly into my soul. I felt simultaneously called out and cleansed. Halle-fuckin’-lujah.

I thought back to the worst unrequited love of my life so far – an innocent-crush-turned-crushing-heartbreak centering on a person I met in 2015 and tortured myself over throughout 2016. While he’s indisputably charming, smart, funny, and lovely, so are a lot of people I meet. The question had haunted me for a while: why did I fall in love with him? What enabled him to get inside my head and absolutely break me? What made him feel so vital to my happiness on a basal, gut level?

I think it has a lot to do with when I met him, and what kind of person I was then. At that time, I had been single for nearly a year, having broken up with my long-term partner in 2014 – and I hadn’t dated anyone or had sex with anyone during that entire year. I was cripplingly insecure, uncertain, and shy. I worried constantly that no one would ever love me or want me again. That anxiety kept me from going out and socializing, which, in turn, kept me from meeting people who might want me or eventually love me. It was a self-perpetuating cycle of self-loathing.

And then along came this boy, dazzling and bright. He swept into my life with all the loud self-assuredness I’d later come to love about him. We went on two not-explicitly-romantic dates and I was immediately smitten: it had been a long time since I’d met someone this funny, confident, and effervescently charismatic. He made me laugh harder than I had in ages, with seemingly no effort. I felt glued to his words. He activated a lightness in me I didn’t know I could still feel.

On top of all that, he made me feel entirely focused upon. His attention was a laser, and when he focused it on me, I suddenly felt important and desirable – two feelings I’d lost sight of in my year of loneliness and celibacy.

As we became friends-with-benefits and then actual friends over the following year, I noticed myself falling into an unhealthy emotional cycle. It mirrored – and often triggered – the ups and downs I experience as part of my bipolar disorder. When I was around him, I felt starry-eyed, ecstatic, elated, like nothing in the world could possibly be wrong and I’d be happy forever. Nothing could touch me. But when we said goodbye – whether it was for a few days or a few months – I crashed, hard. The light he brought into my life had been extinguished, and I didn’t know how to reignite it myself. It felt like he contained all the humor and happiness I’d ever experienced, and I wouldn’t be able to get any of it back unless he was there with me.

And the trouble was, he didn’t always want to be there with me. He didn’t love me. He valued our friendship, but that’s all it was to him. I wasn’t angry at him for not loving me back, because I understood that he couldn’t help it – but I was profoundly sad, because it felt like he owned the key to my happiness and he would only lend it to me on a limited, conditional basis.

What I wish I had pondered more deeply is this: what was missing from my life? And how could I give that to myself instead of relying on him?

I think this concept was what eventually enabled my healing process to begin, though I wasn’t consciously aware of it at the time. My crush made me laugh more than anyone else I knew, so I started spending more time with funny friends, upping my comedy podcast intake, and cultivating my own sense of humor even further. My crush made me feel focused on and valued, so I sought more friends who made me feel that way, and also chose to focus on and value myself by amping up my self-care regimen. My crush made me feel sexy and desirable, so I started flirting with people more and going on more Tinder dates to generate more of those feelings (and got comfortable cutting ties with people who didn’t meet my standards in this way). The sex with my crush had been devastatingly good, so I tried to get better at asking for what I wanted with other partners so my sex life would improve overall – and I mixed up my masturbation routine to make it more fulfilling. Basically, I looked for holes my crush could no longer fill for me, and I filled them my damn self (vagina joke only partly intended).

It wasn’t until I started seeing my last boyfriend that I felt entirely divested of that old unrequited love, but I think the work I’d done on myself had laid the groundwork for me to meet such a wonderful person and accept him into my life. If I’d still been stuck on my old crush, I don’t think I would’ve been able to open myself up to someone new. It would’ve felt pointless, because how could someone new possibly be better than the person I’d been stuck on for over a year? But by divorcing that person from the joys he brought me, I became able to see that other people could make me happy, too, if I let them.

I wish I could go back in time and explain this revelation to my past self. Maybe it would save her a lot of heartache. But I think it’s more likely she wouldn’t even listen to me. That’s the nature of unrequited love: other people can spout lessons and truisms at you ad nauseum, and you won’t believe them; you have to learn these things for yourself, experientially. You’re always convinced your world is ending until it isn’t anymore.

What do you wish someone had told you about unrequited love when you were going through it?

7 Ways to Love Someone Who Needs Words of Affirmation

I remember when I first encountered the concept of love languages. I read about it on Gala Darling’s blog, where she hyped this idea as “one of the most useful — and simple — things [she’s] ever learned to help strengthen romantic relationships.” As I delved into researching the love languages, I quickly came to agree with her.

The basic idea of love languages – as laid out by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book on this concept – is that we all have one or two ways we predominantly express love, and that we tend to also feel most loved when we receive affection in our native love language(s). Some people express and receive love in different ways, but in my experience, most people show their feelings for you in the way(s) they would like you to show your feelings for them.

I’ve taken the love languages quiz a few times over the years, and it’s always confirmed what I already know: my two dominant languages are “words of affirmation” and physical touch, in that order. (Incase you’re wondering, the other languages are acts of service, quality time, and gifts.) Touch is important to me – as you might have noticed from all the mushy, starry-eyed things I write about sex! – but words are even more crucial to me. (Hell, that’s probably part of why I’m a writer.) When I like someone, I tell them so – and I don’t really believe someone likes me unless and until I hear it from them, in their own words. Ideally frequently!

When I’ve felt unappreciated in past relationships, it’s often helped to explain this concept to my partner(s). Once they grasp just how important words actually are to me, they can (and often do) adapt their approach accordingly. And I can shift the way I express my feelings to better suit their love language, too.

If you’re dating someone whose love language is words of affirmation and you’re not so good at expressing yourself verbally, don’t worry – I’ve got some suggestions for you! These work for me, and I can’t guarantee they will work for you or your partner(s), but they’re at least a good starting point. Here are some ways a partner can make a person like me feel loved and appreciated with their words…

Tell them what you like about them. You may think it’s obvious and goes without saying that your beau is smart, funny, attractive, and so on, but if their love language is words of affirmation, they need to hear this from the horse’s mouth! Try to use unique, deliberate language, rather than generic compliments that are likely to go in one ear and out the other.

Examples:
“Your lips are so pretty. Every time I look at you, I just wanna kiss ’em.”
“When I first met you, I was drawn to you because of how confident and self-assured you are.”
“I love that you’re so smart. Our conversations are always so interesting and thought-provoking.”

Tell them stories. For a person who values words, stories are often also important. Narratives help us arrange information in our heads and understand things better. You might think it’s pointless to tell your lover a story about your relationship – after all, they were there, too! – but they might find it thrilling and affirming to hear your perspective on something the two of you experienced together. It’ll help them get inside your head and see themselves through your eyes.

Examples:
“God, I was so nervous before our first date! You looked so cute on your OkCupid profile, and you seemed so much smarter than me. I practiced introducing myself in the mirror for like twenty minutes beforehand and changed my shirt three times…”
“Remember the first time we had sex? I was so excited to see you naked for the first time, and to learn how to get you off…”
“I remember the exact moment I realized I’d fallen for you. It was when we went on that date to the aquarium. You looked so stunning in the cool blue light, staring up at the jellyfish…”

Talk dirty to them. I’m not sure if a person’s “love language” is always also their “sex language,” so to speak, but in my case, it definitely is! A linguistically-oriented partner is likely to love it if you whisper in their ear about what you’re gonna do to them later, pay them a vulgar compliment while yanking their clothes off, and monologue filthily at them while you fuck. They’ll enjoy it not only while it’s happening, but also later, when they replay your words in their mind while masturbating, or breathlessly record them in their journal…

Examples:
“I can’t wait til we get home so I can throw you down on the bed and lick your sweet pussy until you come in my mouth.”
“Your cock is so perfect. It hits all my spots and feels so right in my throat. How did I get so lucky?”
“God, your tits look unbelievable in that dress. Bet they’d look even better smeared with my cum.”

Tell them about your dreams and fantasies. This, again, helps them get inside your head and understand how you perceive them and how you feel about them. Whether these are sexy or sweet (or both!), they can give your darlin’ a verbal glimpse into the deep pool of love you have for them in your heart.

Examples:
“Fuck, I had the hottest dream about you last night. You were sucking my cock in an alley, and then…”
“I was just thinking about how nice it’ll be when we move in together next year. I can make you coffee every morning, and we can cuddle in bed every night…”
“We should take a trip to Newfoundland together! You can drive and I’ll navigate. We’ll stay in a little B&B on the coast, watch the sunset every night, and have lots of quiet writing time…”

Give them words they can read and re-read. Texts. Facebook messages. Tweets. Old-fashioned love letters. Whatever your preferred medium, words in a tangible form are nice for a verbally-oriented person to receive, because they can (and will) treasure those words for a long time. As a bonus, this is a great approach if your partner struggles with anxiety or any other mental health issue that messes with their self-worth: when they’re feeling unloveable, they can go back in their screenshots folder or letterbox and read proof to the contrary. (Or you could just say more nice things at them!)

Examples (actual texts from my screenshots folder):
“I like you a lot. You’re very pretty and smart and funny. And you’re a very good girl for me all the time.”
“You’re beautiful, hilarious, have a contagious, sincere laugh, you’re kinky as heck in all the right ways for me (so far as I know), you seem to have an adventurous spirit, and your mind is sharp as fuck.”
“I almost tripped on the sidewalk and cracked my skull. Because of how much I want to sink my teeth into your butt.”

Say nice things unprompted. To a verbally-oriented person, what makes words of affirmation exciting is the knowledge that you wanted to say these things, that you are saying what you authentically feel, and that your feelings were strong enough that you just had to verbalize them. To that end, don’t always wait until your partner compliments you to compliment them back; you’ll take their breath away with spontaneous expressions of love.

Examples:
“Hi babe. Just wanted to tell you how gorgeous you are and how much I adore you. That’s it. Hope your day’s going great!”
“Jesus Christ, your butt in that skirt. Do I get to fuck you tonight? ‘Cause I really, really want to…”
“Has anyone ever told you you’re hilarious and brilliant? ‘Cause you are.”

Tell them how they make you feel. It’s all well and good to tell someone how attractive and wonderful they are, but that stuff’s all about them; your partner wants to hear about you, too. It’s exhilarating to know how you affect someone, and a verbally-oriented person will absorb this information best through words. I love seeing my appearance or behavior elicit a huge grin or a huge boner from a partner, but it’s even nicer if they verbalize what they’re feeling!

Examples:
“I still get nervous butterflies every time we meet up for a date. Hell, my heart’s beating kinda fast right now.”
“Pretty sure that selfie you just sent is giving my dick a heart attack. I need a cold shower. Or a dickfibrillator.”
“When I think about the fact that you’re my boyfriend, I get so happy and grateful, it makes me want to cry.”

What’s your love language? What are your favorite ways to flatter and uplift someone who digs words of affirmation?

The Tyranny and Temptation of the Second Date

One Friday afternoon in late April, I speed-walked toward a café in Leslieville, heart thudding in my chest. I was on my way to a second date, and I didn’t know why. How was I gonna get out of this one?

The week previous, I’d gotten a cordial DM from a faceless Twitter account, asking me on a date. The dude seemed cool and respectful, so I said yes. We agreed to meet up at Tell Me Something Good, for a low-pressure hang.

We chatted at the bar before the show, then sat together in the front row and listened to stories. I liked talking to him, but felt no immediate desire to kiss him, fuck him, or press my nose against his chest and inhale deeply – no immediate attraction, in other words. At intermission, a friend asked me knowingly, “How’s the date going?” and I replied in earnest, “I dunno; we’re having good chats, but I’m not sure how I feel, chemistry/attraction-wise.” That night, I didn’t invite my new acquaintance back to my house, or even invite him to make out with me in an alley, as I am wont to do when I have fun on a date; I simply said good night and went home.

We’d already planned an afternoon coffee date for a few days later, so I felt I had to go, even though I wasn’t particularly excited about it. On my way to meet him at the café, I idly rehearsed in my head what I could say to let him down gently, if and when I needed to. “I’m not really feeling a connection.” “I’m not in a good headspace for dating right now.” “You’re great, but I don’t think we’re a match.” I arrived at the café and stood outside for a moment, steeling myself. And then I walked through the door.

First dates have their own unique magic which has been discussed to death – but there’s little written about second dates. The thinking behind this, one can assume, is: the first date is where all the nerves and uncertainty congregate. By the second date, you’ll feel more comfortable, more certain, more excited. Right?

Maybe some people feel that way, but I sure don’t. Second dates stress me out arguably more than first dates do, in part because they imply committal feelings that I don’t necessarily have. Going out with someone a second time seems to say, “I like this person and want to see more of them!” but I’ve rarely been that sure about anyone by a second date. Am I just a weirdo, or does everyone secretly feel this way?

Here are two things I deeply believe. First: my attractions take time to develop, and I often need to know someone a little while before I’m able to see what’s hot and interesting about them. And second: when I meet someone I’m attracted to, I’ll know right away. It’ll be like a meet-cute in a movie. Oh. Yes. You.

I believe in both these ideas so strongly, but they directly contradict each other. The problem is, sometimes I know right away that I’m attracted to someone, and sometimes it takes a while. I’ve never had someone turn my “definitely not” into a “yes please,” but I’ve certainly been ambivalent at first about people who later won my heart. Hence going on so many second dates: I never want to throw away a potentially good connection – even one from a Meet and Fuck Site – unless I’m certain it’s not going to work. But where is the line between “hmm, maybe!” and “probably not, but let’s see what happens”?

After my first date with the man who would become my serious boyfriend of three and a half years, my overwhelming feeling was: “What the hell just happened?” I knew we’d had great conversations, and that I liked him and he seemed to like me. But we hadn’t kissed, or really expressed any kind of physical attraction or affection, so I was unsure if I liked him as a romantic interest or just as a fun person to talk to.

Contrastingly, by my second date with an unfeminist, sex-shamey dude who was irrefutably bad for me, I was already asking him if he wanted to be my boyfriend. I rushed headlong into a thing that felt dazzlingly exciting, my inexplicable feelings blinding me to all logic. See: my gut feelings about people are often wrong, which is why I second-guess myself so often now. I don’t trust my gut. It doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

Back to that reluctant second date in a Leslieville café. The dude introduced me to his friend who owned the place, and made my drink himself. We settled into comfy chairs in the back corner, where we launched into philosophical conversation and an intense game of Scrabble. We played with a house rule where you got an extra 10 points for any “sexy” word; he played the word “plead,” and I made an involuntary turned-on sound.

He kept grinning at me every time I made a good joke, like a dorky schoolboy with a crush. Some friends of his stopped into the café, and he not only introduced me to them but also bragged about me to them: how smart I am, how funny and accomplished. We talked about sex, kink, feminism, and literature; he was careful and thoughtful and smart and self-aware. I was swayed.

Toward the end of our second rollicking Scrabble game, I pondered how, just a couple hours earlier, I’d been plotting how to pre-emptively escape from this date – and now, here I was, wishing it would go on longer. “Wanna go do something else?” he asked, and I couldn’t help but giggle. He hadn’t meant to evoke sex, but sex is where my mind went. He giggled back at me.

I mean, not no,” I admitted.

He smiled. Was he surprised? I was. “I live very close to here and my roommates aren’t home,” he said, real casual-like.

We walked around the corner to his house. We had a brief and respectful negotiation – what we were and weren’t willing to do in bed that day. He rolled us a joint and we smoked it. And then we had sex for five and a half hours.

When finally we slowed down for long enough to catch our breath and check our phones, I realized I was late to meet a friend for a 10PM comedy show we’d agreed to go to. I wondered how I could possibly have been having sex with this boy for that long. Neither of us had even had an orgasm and the sex had nonetheless felt like its own universe, stellar and self-contained.

We threw our clothes back on and he walked me to the bus stop. “Wanna get dinner next week?” he asked me, the hood of his black hoodie pulled up, his hands stuffed in his pockets. He seemed oddly shy for someone who had just fucked the life out of me all day – like he genuinely wasn’t sure how I’d respond, and if I said no, he’d be sad but not surprised.

“Yeah!” I gushed, and meant it. The bus pulled up, and I kissed him good night, wishing I didn’t have to. Wishing our afternoon-coffee-date-turned-evening-sex-date could morph into a sleepover, and then a cozy morning, and then a Relationship-with-a-capital-R.

When I got to Comedy Bar, my friend asked me conversationally how my day had gone, and I told her with disbelief sludgily slurring my words, “I just had sex for like six hours.” She didn’t know what to make of that. Neither did I.

Now it’s months later and that unassuming Adonis in the black hoodie is my boyfriend. I’m still trying to puzzle out what the hell happened, and what it means. How could I have been so ambivalent about someone who was obviously meant to cross my path? How could I have looked at such a sweet, babely human and thought, “Ehh”? How did I not see the supportive, world-shifting partner he could be to me?

I’m still suspicious of second dates. They still stir up questions I don’t know how to answer, and get me up close and personal with my crippling indecision and hatred of confrontation. But I think this experience has taught me, for once and for all, that if I’m not sure about someone, I should go on that second date. If the idea of seeing them again intrigues me on any level, even a little bit, I owe it to myself to give it one more shot.

When you do this, maybe nothing’ll come of it. But maybe you’ll laugh your guts out over Scrabble, have sex for five hours, and feel your stomach flip in that way that means you just met someone you could come to love.

 

Note: this post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own.

How to Disclose Your Non-Monogamy on a Dating App

While I’ve been “non-monogamous in theory” for years, I have limited experience being non-monogamous in practice. I recently started dating someone who has been polyamorous for a while, and has two steady partners other than me – and while it’s been difficult, I’m viewing it as an invitation to step up to the plate and take on the challenge I’ve claimed to want for ages. I am finally going to learn some real-life poly skills and see if I can hack it.

One of the first challenges I’ve come up against – other than my old friends, jealousy, greed, and anxiety – is figuring out how to pursue other dates ethically and honestly. I don’t want to downplay or lie about the existence of my boyfriend, but I also don’t want to make new potential beaux feel like there’s no room for them in my life. I don’t want to spend too much time and energy explaining polyamory to diehard monogamists, nor do I want to exclude people who’ve been monogamous thus far but are curious about their other options.

So many considerations! So let’s start with something small: how to communicate on your dating profile that you are, indeed, polyamorous. Here are some suggestions…

Choose your venue wisely. OkCupid and Tinder are full of young and/or socially liberal people, so you may have better luck with those than you would with services geared toward older folks seeking a marriage-track relationship, like Match and eHarmony. If you want to skip the hassle of disclosing your non-monogamy altogether, you could join a dating site designed specifically for non-monogamous people, like SwingTowns.

Consider what level of privacy you need. Whether because of your career, your family, or some other factor, you might not feel comfortable telling the entire internet that you’re non-monogamous. If that’s the case, it might be best for you to use dating sites where your profile isn’t publicly visible, or that have that option (on OkCupid, for example, you can check “Only allow other members to see my profile” in the settings panel). You could also try mentioning your relationship status within your first few messages instead of disclosing it publicly on your profile, though this is likely to be a lot of extra work on your part when monogamous folks decide to respectfully (or not-so-respectfully) ghost you afterward.

Use the app’s built-in relationship status feature, if it has one. Some dating sites allow you to set your relationship status alongside other relevant info like your gender and sexual orientation. Indicating your non-monogamous status makes it easier for monogamous people to filter you out of their search results, and communicates your “deal” to any profile-lurkers at a glance. However, some people don’t read this info (and some dating apps, like Tinder, don’t even have a structured way for you to provide it), so you may still need to do the legwork of explaining yourself in messages after all.

List your important identities upfront. Lots of people I asked on Twitter said this is their main strategy in online-dating while poly: they roll out their most vital identity words in the opening paragraph(s) of their profile. This might look a lot like my current Twitter bio: “Cis bi kinky non-monogamous femme feminist.” I think these are all important things for people to know, especially if they’re considering dating me. Front-loading this info makes it likelier that your potential paramours will actually read it, and will hopefully spare you some grief and lots of time and energy.

Define your terms. Some people don’t have a precise idea of what “polyamorous” means (let alone other non-monogamy terms like “swinger,” “polyfidelity,” “solo poly” or “primary partner”), so it’s helpful to explain exactly what you mean. For example, my Tinder bio currently includes this: “I’m poly: dating someone rad, and looking for dates/adventures/potential relationships with other cuties.” This hopefully reduces some of the stigma, anxiety, and confusion that might fill someone’s head when they read the word “poly” and aren’t sure what it means. It’s a succinct summary of how I am currently doing poly, and what that might mean for my partners.

Be prepared to explain yourself. Even if you think you’ve been clear in your profile text, folks still might have additional questions. Of course, you don’t have to answer missives you find rude, invasive, or exhausting – but it is part of ethical non-monogamy to ensure people know what they’re getting into before they get into it. (Informed, enthusiastic consent, and all that!) These convos might happen in your first few messages, or on your first few dates, but they should happen at some point. Set boundaries, establish expectations, talk about feelings. It’s all part of the process!

Unmatch ruthlessly as needed. Some people will be jerks about you being non-monogamous. That’s just a fact of life as any kind of “sexual deviant,” unfortunately. But you don’t have to put up with it. Hit “unmatch” or “block” or “report” or whatever the site-specific equivalent is, and move on with your day. Fuck the haterz.

Non-monogamous folks: what are your best tips for disclosing and discussing your non-monogamy on a dating site/app? Got any horror stories or success stories to share?

Heads up: this post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own.