Slow Burn

There is no sex hotter than the sex you almost had.

We almost had it. But the timing wasn’t right. Time was not on our side. Out of time. Time to go.

So we took to our phones and made up for lost time.


There is no sex hotter than sex you picture for weeks before having it. Months, even. In slow-unfolding sext-a-thons and wandering phone calls. In café daydreams and bathtub reveries. In subway imaginings too carnal for public consumption.

Do they know? Do they know I’m thinking about you?

Do you know?

I’ve considered your body. A body I don’t know well. I’ve considered its weight.

I’ve been crushed beneath you in my mind a thousand times. A myriad of melting me’s, acquiescing in sequence. I’ve looped the mental tape like a well-loved song. Your kiss is catchy. Your eyes, an earworm. Your heart, a hook. And I’m hooked, and I’m helpless.


They say a memory’s not just a memory. It’s stacked with neural residue from each time the file’s been reviewed. Date Modified: Today.

So the image of your touch isn’t really your touch; it’s the ways I’ve remembered it, the ways I’ve reshaped it by remembering it. I wish I’d made duplicates. I wish I had the pristine originals, tucked away in a lockbox deep in my limbic system. But even those, I would take out too often and muck up with dust.

A few days after our first date – that blazing conversation over coffee, and the rough kisses that unavoidably ensued – I texted you, “I wish I had paid more attention, even though I was paying very close attention. I wish I had it memorized.”

“I wish I took notes,” you wrote back. “I wish I had it recorded somehow. I wish I could rewatch it.”

So we replay it in micro-detail, a back-and-forth volley of “Remember when…?” and “Then you…” and “I thought…” We layer and re-layer memory engrams, like neuropsychological Jenga. We fill in every blank for each other until our first date becomes not just a story but a legend. Not just an anecdote but a prophecy fulfilled.


Sometimes you think you know tiredness, because bleary-eyed yawning is part of the fabric of your life – but then one day you come up against exhaustion, and it’s a different beast entirely. Its maw opens unendingly and draws you down, down, down. Habitual tiredness is not exhaustion. You know exhaustion when you feel it.

Just like you know desire when you feel it. You can go through life developing quaint crushes, flirting with people in elevators and bars, and spouting wink emoticons like an addictive currency. But those things are no more desire than a handful of potato chips is a meal. You know desire when you feel it. It knocks you over like a truck smashing through glass.

You know it because you can’t ignore it. There are so few unignorable sensations in the world, so few experiences we can’t tune out if we press our brains to the grindstone. Desire gnaws and needs and needles you. It chases you down neural pathways. It whirls pointlessly in your periphery. Stop, you say, and it laughs and says, Naaah.

I’ve considered your body. A body I don’t know well. I’ve screamed into my pillow while considering it. I’ve grasped uselessly at places where you weren’t. I’ve dragged more orgasms out of me than I thought possible, clinging to the notion of your face. And still it’s not enough. And still I desire. And still, I can’t be still.

I hope to find my mind again someday, when the smog of want has cleared. When this slow burn snuffs into smoke. But I hope – my secret, darkest hope – it stays alight a little longer.

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.

Unmistakeable: Myths and Realities of Attraction at First Sight

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It’s funny how sometimes, the beliefs you hold most firmly are the ones you most need to dismantle.

I have a core belief about relationships that’s probably stunted my romantic possibilities on many an occasion. That belief is: if someone is meant to be my next beau, I’ll know it. I’ll have a good feeling about them from the first. The sight of their face, the jokes they make, the words they use, the energy of their presence – these things will all feel immediately captivating and right to me. I’ll have a hunch, and if I trust that hunch, it’ll lead to good things.

A few weeks ago, on a romantically distraught evening, I wrote this prayer of sorts in my journal:

I am ready to let go of my unrequited crushes and welcome a new person into my life.

I am ready, but I need that person to incite feelings in me that are unmistakeable. I need to be SURE – in my gut if not in my overzealous anxiety-brain – that this is a person I could and should be with.

Their presence should light me up, set my sparkly heart ablaze. I should crave them, but not in that NRE-soaked way that’s clearly a flash fire headed toward burnout. I should want them because of my neurons, not just my neurotransmitters.

They should embody the word “crush” for me, take up space easily and obviously alongside that word in my life. Zing, bang, boom!

This preference for immediate attractions even shows up in how I navigate online dating. Lately, when I swipe through potential matches on Tinder, I do it mostly based on gut feelings about people’s pictures. Some part of me believes that when I see someone who would really make me happy and enrich my life, I’ll know. Like one of those movie moments where two protagonists meet serendipitously, look into each other’s eyes, and are rendered speechless by their sudden mutual attraction.

Writing that journal entry put words to this idea I’d long held, and those words punctured holes in my logic. I’d never thought about it before, but those “zing, bang, boom!” moments have actually been almost nonexistent for me – even with regards to people I adored, who became crucial to my life story.

My first girlfriend was one of the most intense crushes I’ve ever had, but the first time I saw her, I didn’t have romantic feelings for her at all. She was giving a presentation in ninth-grade English class. Though she was funny, smart, and adorable, I didn’t notice those qualities until I looked back at that memory months later through my newly idealistic lens.

Similarly, when I went on my first date with the man who would become my first serious boyfriend and my first love, sparks didn’t fly right out of the gate. I was intensely anxious about the date and didn’t even want to go. We chatted easily for three hours and I liked him, but I wasn’t sure about him, not by a longshot. We didn’t even kiss until the end of our second date, because it took me that long to figure out how I felt about him. And he ended up being one of the people I’ve loved most in my life.

My unrequited attractions haven’t been instantaneous, either. My biggest high school crush didn’t ensnare my heart until, weeks into improv team practice, he sat down at a piano and started playing Vince Guaraldi tunes. My favorite podcast host, whose voice makes me swoon every week, didn’t capture my attention til I noticed his stellar pun skillz a few episodes in. The cute local theatre actor whose career I follow avidly didn’t turn my crank until after I’d seen him in a few different roles.

It’s obvious, when I look at the actual evidence, that my attractions are rarely immediate. In fact, off the top of my head, I can’t think of a time that an initial “good feeling” about someone led to anything substantial. A bad feeling about someone is usually worth heeding, but I can’t identify a future life-changing individual when I see one.

It’s easy to get swept up in myths popularized by romance novels and cheesy chick-flicks. We want to believe love is simple and binaristic: someone’s either right for you, or they’re not. But as with many facets of human existence, the truth is somewhere in the grey area. The love of your life could be hiding behind a face you wouldn’t give a second glance.

I grew up precocious and too smart for my own good, and sometimes that does me a disservice. I can be so sure I know what I want, what I need, and what works for me – but those notions get turned on their heads time and time again. It’s like the universe keeps trying to teach me the importance of staying open and going with the flow. It keeps teaching me, because I keep forgetting.

You think you know what you want, but maybe you don’t. Maybe your next big adventure is hidden behind the door you never would have chosen. Maybe your perspective is skewed, your lens is dirty. Maybe falling in love is best when it’s like a literal fall: terrifying, unexpected, but rewarding as hell if you survive it.

These days, I’m trying to give the benefit of the doubt to the world and everyone in it. I’m trying to give people a fair chance, even if at first they don’t seem to be what I’m looking for. I’m trying to accept that I don’t know everything, and that sometimes I should let fate take the wheel instead of desperately clinging to it myself.

That means saying yes to invitations from people I might’ve said no to before, and sometimes swiping right when I’m tempted to swipe left. It means setting aside my prejudices about how people look, and choosing to find out more about their brain and heart before I decide how I feel about them. It means being open, which is the scariest and loveliest way to be.

But I’m still a baby, at just 24. There is still so much about love that confuses and defies me. What are your experiences with attraction at first sight? Does it mean magic is about to happen, or is it a red herring? Were the greatest loves of your life a slow burn, or an instant inferno? Did you ever see a face on a dating app, think “I could love this person,” and find out later just how right you were?

What Aesthetics Turn You On?

Isn’t it weird how attraction works?

There are sometimes specific reasons you can point to: clear answers to the question, “Why am I attracted to this person/quality/feature?” And sometimes the answers are less clear.

It can have to do with our formative experiences. I’ve had a thing for fauxhawks, particularly dyed-purple ones, ever since my first girlfriend at age 15 rocked one in the Facebook profile photos I pored over during many a lovelorn late night.

It can have to do with what makes us feel sexy. I know my predilection for staring at 1950s-inspired lingerie is all about my hyper-femme identity: when my eyes roam all over babely pinup models in product shots, I get turned on not because I want to fuck those women but because I want to be those women. And I know I feel beautiful when I wear what they’re wearing.

The line gets blurry a lot. I have occasional days when all I want to wear is impeccably tailored pants, beautiful silk neckties, crisp collared shirts, and shiny lace-up brogues – and I’m not sure whether that comes from my own gender fluctuations or from a fundamental desire to fuck people who dress like that. It makes me happy to tart myself up like a dapper dandy from time to time, so I don’t question it too much.

I have a vision board (also known by its technical name, “a corkboard with a bunch of pictures pinned to it”) which I created to evoke the feelings of my ideal relationship, and how my ideal partner would make me feel. It’s covered in pictures of cute people (boys, girls, androgynes, and others) variously wearing geek glasses, plaid flannel, leather jackets, V-neck cashmeres, Pucci bowties, and sharp blazers.

But I also get dark stirrings of something like lust when I see feminine ladies rocking thigh-high socks, bouncy pigtails, tight striped sweaters, fit-and-flare dresses, perfectly-applied red lipstick, platform wedges, and/or neat little hair bows. I’ve never particularly wanted to date or fuck a rockabilly femme in real life, but they own permanent property in the fantasy-visuals sector of my brain.

Oh, who knows why we like what we do?!

What aesthetics turn you on? What clothing, accessory, or hairstyle makes you want to climb someone like a tree? And do you know where those feelings come from, or are they just sorta random for you?

Image credits, clockwise from top left: Beautiful illustration by Cameron Stewart. Leather-and-gingham street fashion photo via Costin M. Photo of Andy Samberg and Joanna Newsom (babeliest couple ever?!) from the Independent Spirit Awards via People StyleWatch. Screencap of Olly Alexander from the God Help the Girl movie (watch it, it’s visually and sonically stunning). Santiago and Diaz illustration by Celeste Doodles.

Sharing the Sexy #7

• Here’s the 7 dumbest myths about gay sex.

• Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson is launching a company that sells stylish bowties to benefit pro-gay rights organizations. I don’t know about you, but I love being able to buy cute things and support my favorite causes at the same time!

• This dildo is apparently spiritually charged. Would you buy one?

• This theory of attraction purports to explain why we get into certain kinds of relationships with certain kinds of people.

• This headline is so ridiculous, it requires no commentary: Man Tries to Rape Raccoon, Gets His Penis Bitten Off.

• Got a vaginal infection you want to cure naturally? (I am so amused by the suggestion to put garlic in your vagina. I’ll definitely try this next time I get an infection…!)

• This guy’s penis inhaled a condom…?! “Basically you know when the tip goes inside out and inside your penis? That’s it.” Uh, no, I don’t know if I’ve seen that one before.

• I made a list of examples of how our society actively encourages women to suppress our sexuality. Can you think of any more?

• The Pervocracy writes about that age-old battle: vibrator vs. penis. My thoughts, as someone who owns a zillion vibrators and has a wonderful boyfriend with a wonderful cock? Both are satisfying. Both are immensely pleasurable. And both have their time and place in my life, absolutely.

• Feeling generous? A Steampunk’s Guide to Sex is taking Kickstarter donations.

• In sex-positive circles, we spend a lot of time discussing all the kinky and out-there things we’d like to try… but what don’t you want to do in bed? My list: scat (but I’d give watersports a shot), armpit-licking, group sex with four or more people, ass-to-mouth, and getting fucked with anything over 8 inches long (sorry, huge dudes!).

• This man cut off, cooked, and served his own penis. I’m speechless.

• In honor of Bi Visibility Day, Carrie wrote about being an out-and-proud bisexual. Hell yeah!

• Rush Limbaugh is seriously blaming small penises on feminists. What the fuck is wrong with this guy?