Magnet

Though I’ve had seemingly infinite crushes in my short, limerence-loaded life, few of them were magnetic in the way often described in pop songs. Usually my physical attractions are clipped onto the sides of more romantic lures; it’s rare for that sexual pull to exist loudly and fully as its own boisterous thing.

But three times in my life, I have met a magnet. I hope I meet many more.


“I wanna touch your knee, but very casually. I’m gonna get so near you, so I can hear you, silently sitting very, very close.”

The cute boy in my improv class is ruining my entire academic year.

His open face and unreserved grin, his sloping shoulders and sharp collarbones, his long fingers and strong arms, his tall stature, his dirty sneakers, his tight jeans, his barking laugh. I can’t handle any of it. I can handle exactly none of it.

He is very fucking distracting, in a molecular and neurological way I’ve never quite experienced before. One day I’m journaling before class begins and find my pen wandering off the page as my eyes drift toward him. He’s not even doing anything important, just goofing off with the other boys using props lying around in the classroom, but my gaze stays affixed to his form. I feel like a fucking creep. I am a fucking creep. I don’t know what to do about it.

Another day, I’m talking to some friends in the hallway, and suddenly he walks by. I absorb a cloud of his teenage-boy cologne through deep inhalations and lose my words completely. “Kate?” a pal asks me. “Kate, you just trailed off mid-sentence. What were you saying?” I can’t fucking remember what I was saying. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is the way his shoulderblades look, pressing sharply through the lines of his sweater as he saunters down the hall. Fuck.

We perform together in an improv set, and between scenes, I sit beside him in the wings. I am infinitely, uncomfortably aware of his warm thigh alongside mine. I can feel my body singing, humming, buzzing at a frequency that aches to match his. My molecules purr meltily and moonily at his. But he doesn’t even notice. I am nothing to him. I’m just some girl he kind of knows. This pull I am feeling exists only in my body and I just can’t understand how that can be true.


“I’m a magnet. And you’re a magnet. And we are pushing each other away.”

My second magnet is someone else’s boyfriend. Nothing to be done about it but feel it, and try not to feel it.

This time, at least, I am certain he’s feeling it too. We sit close together at a party, our chairs side-by-side so our eyes don’t quite meet, because that would be Too Much. Other partygoers engage us in conversation and we laugh and talk and sip our drinks, but the inches of air between us are warm and whirring. I want to get just a little closer, feel him just a little more, but I don’t. I can’t.

Flirtatiously, tipsily, I admit to him in a low tone, “I really want to make out with you, but I don’t think that’s allowed.” He smiles like the sweetest little imp and neither confirms nor denies – which is, of course, a “no.” I figured as much. I’m fine. I’ll be fine.

Once or twice, I get up from my seat, beer in hand, to totter to the bathroom. Opening the door afterward, I half-expect to see him just outside, forehead pressed to the doorjamb, mumbling, “I just had to come kiss you.” But he doesn’t. He is good. For the most part.

Past 3AM that night, when I’ve long departed the party and am half-catatonic in bed, I get a text from him: “I really wanted to make out with you tonight too.” I know he did, is the thing. It radiated off him like waves of heat. What an awful, wonderful, terrible thing.

I start avoiding parties where I know he’ll be, because resisting that magnetic pull is possible, but not pleasurable. I’m tired of torture. One evening of aching was enough.


“What is the centre between two centres of attention? Is there a centre between two centres of attention? Or only tension between two centres of attention?”

Sometimes you don’t recognize a magnet right away when you meet them. Sometimes the magnetism has to sublimate, stagnate, before it roars to life.

I meet my Sir in a Manhattan coffee shop, before I know he’s going to be my Sir, before I know he’s going to be my anything. He’s wearing a blue button-down that sets off his cornflower eyes, and the excited-but-guarded smile you flash at your Twitter crush when you’re nervous they’re not gonna like you IRL. I suppress my swooning, because we are in public, for fuck’s sake.

We’ve been talking animatedly for almost an hour before I realize the boy across from me is, indeed, a magnetic forcefield. “Would it be too intimate,” he begins, slowly, watching my eyes widen, “if we traded phones and looked at each other’s podcasts?” And then he leans across the table, ostensibly to show me his screen, but really it’s to dial that electric current up to eleven. My eyes want to slam shut as he gets that close to me, because I feel it, I feel the pull, and it’s such a rare and marvelous thing that I want to savor it in every fizzing atom of my little body.

“Love a good table-lean,” I say to him weeks later, over the phone, making fun of him for those perfect flirtations on our first date. But I know it wasn’t so much purposeful flirting as it was his desire to get closer to me. I know this because I wanted that, too.

Our second date comes after weeks of planning, sexting, flirting, and dirty-talking over the phone. I’m so nervous, I sweat through my winter coat. I’m so nervous, I swill his peppermint tea from a paper cup I’m clutching with trembling hands. I’m so nervous, I start exhibiting actual goddamn panic attack symptoms at dinner. He talks me through it all, and holds my hand, patient and forgiving and endlessly kind.

After dinner, we wait in the restaurant’s entryway for our Lyft to arrive. It’ll take us to the hotel where we’re going to fuck each other’s bodies and minds all night – but all moments until then are torture. He steps toward me and gives me a soft kiss, quick, like he’s releasing a little air from a valve so the whole machine doesn’t fucking explode. I whimper and keen and swoon forward against him, my whole body wanting the kiss to continue, but it doesn’t. Not yet.

“I feel like a magnet,” I mumble, and it has never felt more true. The heat of my skin and the knot in my gut and the twinge in my heart are all insisting: Touch this boy. But I am good, and I wait.

“Me too,” he says, the bridge of his nose pressed into mine, and then our car arrives, and we get in, and I pray for the invention of time travel solely so I can skip this goddamn car ride and be naked in bed beside this perfect boy in an instant.

I meet his eyes in the dim backseat, and I can see my smoky desire mirrored back at me. I can feel our pulses pounding in sync. I know what’s going to happen. And I know I’m going to like it.

12 Days of Girly Juice 2017: 6 Journal Entries

Once again this year, journaling was a core part of my mood management toolbox. It helped me through countless emotional snafus and cognitive difficulties. In conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy and good social supports, it’s probably saved my life multiple times this year. I combed through my Moleskine journals from 2017 and picked out 6 of my favorite excerpts…

March 25th

Feeling casually miserable today. I’m sad about C___ in the sense that mild C___-sadness has been a baseline of my mood for the past year and a half. Wanting him feels like a permanent feature of my heart at this point. And it’s not like I want him passionately, irrationally, like I used to – and it’s not like I can’t be around him with wanting to cry or say “I love you” – but it’s still there. It’s melodramatic to say I’ll always be a little bit in love with him; I don’t think that’s strictly true. But it’ll probably be a while before I stop mentally comparing all romantic and sexual interests to him and finding that he invariably wins in all the ways that matter most deeply to me.

April 15th

Went on a dinner/drinks date with that guy T___ last night. He is a mega-dork, very polite and gentlemanly and respectful. We had a good long conversation, but I wasn’t entirely sold on him; however, then we made out in a dark alcove and I felt… swayed by biology. He just feels good in my senses. He smells and tastes and feels good to me, just his skin and his essence. Ungh.

He’s also a gooooood kisser, which I’ve become increasingly aware is an important thing to me over the past few years. I remember how K___’s makeout skillz kept me hooked even though he was demonstrably a bad-for-me weirdo, and how V___’s overzealous tongue was the nail in the coffin of any attraction that might have been. T___’s lips felt thick and soft, and he alternately cupped my face and groped my ass, and he’s tall enough that I feel towered over but not so tall that we can’t get all tangled up and breathlessly close. (I keep having to take breaks while writing this to sigh dramatically and smile like a goon.)

Occasionally people would walk by and he would stop kissing me because he knew I was uncomfortable with the PDA (such a gentleman) but he would still stand so close to me. “They’ll just think we’re having a heart-to-heart,” he said, and I laughed into his suit jacket.

May 3rd

A New Relationship Energy vignette in point form:

-There are bite marks on my neck, hip, breast, shoulder, and thighs.

-Last night G___ took me to have drinks with some of his friends because it’d be “a good way for us to do a thing together that involves other humans and isn’t sex for a minute. Before we go back to mine and have sex.” I like his friends and we had fun.

-This morning he had me lie over his lap while he gave me a long, thorough spanking. He is really sadistic in ways that I love. It’s so nice to not have to feel like a partner is administering a spanking because I want it, but rather because we both want it. Ahhh.

-We went to the café around the corner, where he made me a soy latte with his impressive and hot barista skillz and then we played Scrabble while occasionally smiling like idiots at each other.

-I was about to get on the streetcar when we started discussing the possibility of making out in a park or an alley somewhere, because neither of us had anything important to do today. We walked by an alley and I said, “This could work,” but he kept walking and said, casually, confidently, “I was thinking we would just go back to my house and I would fuck you.” Uh, he is very very good.

September 24th

Q. What have I gained since my relationship ended?

A. An even clearer idea of how much my friends love me. A print byline in Glamour magazine. My first apartment. A greater sense of independence, and also a greater knowledge of on whom I can actually depend. A new kinda-beau. A new set of nipple clamps. Thousands of dollars, and additional shameless confidence about how much money I make. A huge full-length mirror in which to contemplate my own beauty. More blog readers, Twitter followers, admirers. A ton of smart, funny, insightful writing about what I have just been through. The knowledge, ultimately, that even someone I love breaking my heart cannot really break me; that the things I most fear are never actually that bad. An increased ease of breathing, now that the constant fear of being dumped doesn’t loom over me anymore. Much more time to myself, to write, read, rest, listen to jazz, enjoy my own company, go to shows, go on dates, imagine the kind of life I want. The freedom to ponder, unfettered and unbiased, what degree of non-monogamy I want my future relationships to involve. An increased frequency and enjoyment of masturbation, fantasies and all. Money I would have spent on him, available to be saved, or spent on things that make me happy.

October 11th

It’s been 2 months since my break-up, and over 9 weeks since the last time we had sex. I am plagued by nostalgic sexual fantasies about him. My horndog brain replays all the orgasms and hot encounters ad nauseum and tells me I’ll never find sex that good again, I don’t deserve to. I know that’s bullshit but also it gets all tangled up with nonsexual break-up sadness (of which there is much less than the sexual kind, at this point) and that makes what happened feel insurmountable, still stupidly absorbing, even this long after.

I still – frequently – fantasize/daydream/hope/dread that I will run into him in a public place, that he will be filled with regret and lust and grief and desire, and that we will have sex again and everything will be solved. I know realistically that even if sex with him were to become an option again (which it will not), that I could not go deep into kink and immersively good sex with someone I know I cannot trust anymore with my delicate heart. I desperately miss fucking someone who knew all my buttons and exactly how to push them, but that person can never be him again, and there will be others. I know. I know.

October 18th

Was talking to C___ today about our respective romantic obsessions du jour – his, a cute girl who he fingerbanged after their first date last night; mine, these thus-far fruitless and pathetic crushy pangs toward N___ – and we both kind of cynically half-acknowledged how prone we are to brief, fiery fixations that burn our lives down and then dissolve in a puff of smoke.

This is, I think, one of the core kernels of our enduring friendship: this shared tendency to over-rely on romantic and sexual stimulation for validation and happiness, and a problem staying interested in people once we discover they don’t solve every problem we’ve ever had. It’s hilarious how similar we are in this way. And it’s nice to have a friend in my life who directly understands this quality of mine, unlike people like Bex and Cadence, who (although I love them very much) are too level-headed to really ever take my mega-crushes seriously. (Not that anyone should necessarily take them seriously. I mean, for heaven’s sake, I’m sitting here at the sex shop imagining what it would be like to be used as a footstool by a man I can’t even find the courage to talk to. I am a joke and it’s hysterical.)

I’m an Obsessive, Intense Weirdo and I Wouldn’t Trade It For Anything

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Today as I write this, my body is heavy with depression. My thoughts feel foggy and it’s been hard to move all day. It took enormous energy just to write to my best friend and tell them what was going on with me, and their gentle prodding from afar was the only thing capable of rousing me from bed. I slogged to a café, ordered something peppy to counteract my sluggishness, but even robust espresso can’t shake my sads off. I have bipolar II and this is how my depressive episodes are, sometimes: a deep and inexplicable sadness I feel in my mind and my body, and just have to ride out.

When I ask myself how my life would be different without mental illness, the temptation is to think: “I would be so much happier and more productive!” And while that might be true, I also wouldn’t wish my bipolar disorder away. Because the manic episodes are worth the depressive ones for me. My occasional mania is key to my personality, a perky prism through which I sometimes view the world. Most of my best ideas, my finest work, my biggest contributions to the world, originated in mania. It’s my superpower.

Back when I was in high school, and hadn’t yet been diagnosed, my emotions confused me. It always seemed that I felt things more deeply than the people around me. When I was sad, I wept for hours and journaled endlessly about my feelings. When I was happy, I giggled hysterically, distributed hugs freely and couldn’t keep a big dumb grin off my face. I noticed details more than other people seemed to, fixated on them for longer, and remembered them more clearly. When I liked someone, I really, really liked them.

This is still how I am now. Getting a diagnosis gave me some answers, but it didn’t really change anything. I still seem to experience emotions more strongly than most people I know, and that can be very isolating – especially romantically. I get addicted to and obsessed with people in a way that’s supposed to be special and rare, but is just par for the course for me. If I’ve ever been romantically or sexually interested in you, I guarantee there are pages upon pages about you in my journals, dozens of complimentary musings about you in my chat histories with friends, and elaborate fantasies about our future married life floating around in my brain.

Media narratives tell me that this kind of fixation occurs only when you’re deeply, truly in love with someone – but that’s not consistent with my experience. I obsess over potential beaux regardless of the longevity or validity of my feelings for them. It’s like I’m drowning in a sea of New Relationship Energy, except it happens with everyone I’m interested in, whether or not they’re new to me or we’re actually in a relationship.

As you might imagine, this brain problem makes it hard for me to engage in casual sex, or to approach romantic encounters with any degree of “chill.” When I had casual sex for the first time last summer, I journaled lengthy missives about the dude’s perfect dick and top-notch sense of humor, complained to friends about how he would never be my boyfriend, and then wrote a song which contains the lines, “I don’t have the strength/ to keep you at arm’s length/ I fall for all callers to my bed.” And, truth be told, I didn’t even like the dude that much. After he’d left my life and the dust had cleared, I saw that we’d never been that compatible. (He openly hates puns and musicals, and loves sports. I mean, really!) I’d seen him through rose-colored glasses, because my brain is addicted to romantic and sexual stimuli. Dick, any dick, lights up my neurons and makes me feel desperately out of control of my emotions.

Writing this is embarrassing. I am sitting in a coffee shop and cringing as I type these words, because I know someone will read them who I wish wouldn’t. At least one person reading this right now, inevitably, is someone on whom I have turned my laser-focused headlights of infatuation at some point. Maybe they are recoiling in surprise and fear, shocked to learn how deep my feelings went – but it’s more likely they’re just nodding in recognition. I am not good at hiding my feelings. Faced with a crush, I dissolve into a blushy, giggly, dorky mess. It is not subtle and it is not “cool.” Sometimes folks are okay with it, and sometimes they’re not and I scare them away. Either way, I am always profoundly embarrassed by how strongly I feel my feelings. There are times when I wish I could shut down my heart, so I could, at last, become chill and detached like everyone else.

But, deep down, I know I would never do that, even if I could. My strong feelings are what make me me. When I write corny love songs or impassioned blog posts, that art stems from my bottomless well of emotion. If I’ve ever written anything about desire or heartbreak that you found relatable, it’s only because I’ve been flooded with those feelings so completely for so long that I know them inside and out. My heart is in a constant cycle of passion, joy, desperation and despair, and though I’ve been down this road a thousand times, it hasn’t gotten any easier. But that intensity makes my life exciting, my art compelling and my world vivid as hell.

Maybe one day I’ll get tired of it. But for now, after 24 years of living inside this crazy roller-coaster brain, I’m still pretty at peace with it. At least, as much as you can be “at peace” with anything while riding a roller coaster.

Why – and How – to Show Someone You Like Them

A good percentage of my posts emerge from revelations I have while journaling. I’ll blather on about a problem for pages at a time, and suddenly, the answer becomes crystal clear and spills out of my pen, almost of its own volition.

I had one of those recently, and it was the dumbest, most obvious thing: when you like someone, it is okay to act like you like them. Fuck what John Lennon says: you don’t have to hide that shit away.

See, when I was in high school, I got rejected by someone I really, really liked. This is a totally common, normal experience – especially for men, who are socialized to be romantic and sexual initiators – but something about this particular rebuff really messed up my flirt-o-meter. I see now that after that letdown, I deeply internalized the idea that if you show romantic or sexual interest for someone, and they don’t return those feelings, they will be grossed out by your advances. They will lose their esteem for you and want to avoid you as much as possible. In short, you will have fucked up whatever scrap of a relationship you had with them previously.

Of course, there are cases where this is true… like if you’re being genuinely inappropriate, or if the person in question has been burned by a creepy suitor before. But for the most part, everyone likes to feel liked and wanted and so you’re not going to horrify anyone by acting slightly-more-than-friendly in their direction. (With the caveat, obviously, that you put an immediate stop to that shit if they tell you to.)

Pre-epic-rejection, I was a lot better at this. I frequently told people they were cute, purely because I thought so and thought it’d make them happy to know that. I didn’t get anxiety about whether or not it was “too much” to favorite people’s Instagram selfies and clever tweets. I didn’t phrase my texts in the most benign, noncommittal way possible.

The other day, I got waaaay overanalytical while composing a message to someone I like, and it hit me: why am I trying to act like I don’t like this person? If anything, I want him to know I like him – not only because that will help move things forward more quickly but also because I know it will make him smile. Who doesn’t want to feel desirable and desired?

It will probably take some more practice before I fully get this idea through my head, and get back to being flirt-happy the way I was in high school. For my benefit as much as yours, here are some low-risk, high-reward ways to fawn over your crush without weirding them out…

 

Give them a really good compliment.

Like, the kind that is slightly above and beyond what you’d say to a friend or a random acquaintance you happen to admire. Compliment something that is integral to who they are, like their sense of humor, confidence, or charm. Or keep it classic and compliment a (non-sexual) part of their body, like their sparkling eyes, shiny hair or strong arms.

This kind of compliment pushes the boundaries of casual friendliness ever-so-gently. If they scrunch up their eyebrows and say, “…Thaaaanks?” then you’ll know to maybe dial it back a bit – but if they light up, blush, or giggle, that’s your green light, baby.

 

Make an effort.

When I want to figure out how someone feels about me, I pay attention to what they do, not what they say. People can spout all kinds of platitudes and excuses, but if they like you, they will make a consistent effort to reach out to you, make plans with you, and make you smile.

…Or at least, that’s how most non-shy folks operate. If you’re like me, your anxiety sometimes tricks you into thinking that the most innocuous of “What’s up?” texts or “Let’s get together!” DMs could be construed as overbearing. Unless you’re pestering the person with message after message, don’t fret – there’s no way they’re as annoyed as your anxiety-brain tells you they are. Drop ’em a line, ask them to hang out, keep in touch. Nothing can happen if you don’t keep those channels open.

 

Remember things they tell you.

“Hey, how did that late-night shift go? Was it as horrible as you thought it was gonna be?”

“I saw a trailer for a movie I thought you might like, because I know you’re a big Anchorman fan…”

“Did you end up buying that skirt you were thinking about getting?”

These are such mundane examples but I’m honestly getting a little swoony just contemplating them. It is so flattering when someone cares enough about you to remember the dull details you mention in passing. This tells them three things: 1) you are a good listener, 2) you find them interesting, and 3) you were thinking about them in the interim between your last meeting and your current one. You might as well be wearing an “I Like You!” sign on your chest… but this strategy is much more subtle than that. Win!

 

Touch them.

Okay, you gotta be able to read your audience on this one. Have some common social sense. I am not telling you to get touchy-feely with people who aren’t into it, or to cling onto someone the whole time you’re with them. But let’s be real… Those “flirting tips” you read in magazines for teen girls (no? just me?) are spot-on when they say that light, casual, occasional touch can act as a strong I-like-you signal without seeming strong.

Those magazines often say stuff like, “Lightly push his shoulder playfully when he makes a joke,” or “Reach out and touch his arm when you’re making a point.” I always used to read those tips and wonder how I could possibly make that kind of overture seem natural and non-weird. But now I’ve spent time around some terrific flirts and have discovered that this kind of touch can be played off in a natural way, and it also works a treat.

Touching someone gets their attention, gives them a little boost of happy neurotransmitters, and makes it that much easier to transition to other kinds of touching later (hugging, kissing, and on and on…) – so you should give it a shot, even if it feels awkward at first. (But, again, I need to stress: read the other person’s cues. Don’t get all up in the grill of someone who is clearly not into it. When in doubt, ask.)

 

Is this incredibly basic-level flirting advice? Probably. But I’m still a flirtation novice, even at age 23. I’m out of practice because I let myself learn a fear of being flirty. That’s gotta stop. People should know when I think they’re cute – if just because it might make their day a little happier.

What are your favorite ways to show someone you like them? Have you ever struggled with feeling it’s “not okay” to flirt?

 

Ask These 3 Questions & You Might Fall In Love

Earlier this year, the New York Times wrote about 36 questions that strangers can supposedly ask each other, which will make them fall in love real quick. You alternate asking each other the questions until you’ve gone through all 36, and then you stare into each other’s eyes silently for four whole minutes. By the end of this process, you’re sure to feel more connected to the other person, if not full-on in love.

I was reminded of this article when I last went to Body Pride, because, in the midst of sharing all these intimate emotional details with one another, I started to feel like I was… kinda falling in love.

Those feelings haven’t particularly persevered, but then again, those aren’t people that I see very regularly. I think that if you developed a crush because of the deep and sudden intimacy fostered in environments like Body Pride, and then you kept spending time with the person on a semi-regular basis, those initial crush-y feelings would inevitably develop into something deeper.

My questions are different from the ones suggested in the NYT article, but they have the same aim. I think if you asked someone these questions, and really listened to their answers, some kind of magic would happen.

1. What are you passionate about?

I can’t imagine a sexier quality than enthusiasm. Everyone reaches their peak cuteness when they’re talking about something they find fascinating and exciting. It doesn’t matter if it’s fashion, photography, blogging, bowling, triathlons, trigonometry, web design or witchcraft: if it turns their crank, then watching them talk about it will be a delight.

True, a relationship might not have long-term legs if the other person’s passion bores you. But if you can’t get excited about the topic of their tirade, you can at least get excited about the way their eyes light up and a smile blooms across their face while they ramble at you about fancy stationery or rock operas or whatever.

2. What are you insecure about?

As a culture, we’re obsessed with the notion that confidence is attractive. And it’s true, it is. But that doesn’t mean insecurity is always a turn-off.

In fact, talking frankly about your insecurities requires confidence, or at least bravery. Whining about your least favorite body parts isn’t hot; projecting your own shit onto other people isn’t hot; refusing to take any risks in life because you hate yourself isn’t hot – but owning up to your issues? That’s hot. Especially if owning up to them makes you decide to actually do something about them.

In my life, I’ve only had maybe two or three really open, honest conversations with people about our mutual insecurities. And far from whiny or boring, it was revelatory. There is something incredibly powerful, for your own self-image and for your relationship, about discovering that other people have the same bullshit negative self-talk that you do. Like the NYT article says: “mutual vulnerability fosters closeness.”

3. What was the last thing that made you laugh really, really hard?

Occasionally someone will try to tell you a story or a joke, but they’ll start laughing so hard that they can’t even finish a sentence. Their face goes red, their voice gets hoarse, maybe some tears stream down their cheeks. They keep going back to the beginning of the sentence to try and get through it, but they just can’t, and it’s hilarious.

It’s also fucking adorable.

We all spend most of our time fairly stoic, moving through the world in a calm and orderly way, even if we’re total freaks and weirdos underneath. When you meet a new beau, it might take several dates – or even several months – before you really break through that crust of composure and get to the kooky good stuff underneath.

But if you ask them about the last time they laughed so hard they couldn’t breathe, and then they tell you that story… you’ll get a little preview of their zaniness. A glimpse of how it looks when they let loose, lose control, lose their shit. And that’s cute as fuck.

Bonus reading: Alexandra Franzen has some good lists of 100 questions to spark conversation and connection + 10 of the best first date questions ever.