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The challenges of negotiating your sexual history

The challenges of negotiating your sexual history

Last year I found myself discussing my sexual history with a man I really liked. Actually, a more accurate description would be I found myself talking about my sexual history completely by accident and then desperately tried to dig myself out of a bottomless pit while feeling like a completely foolish woman who should’ve known better than to get herself into that situation in the first place.

Let me go back to the beginning. This man (let’s call him Nate) and I were talking about my book and I was sharing my mother’s reaction to reading a recent draft. You see, my Mum has been a strong supporter of my writing journey and I’d finally decided my manuscript was ready for her eyes.

You can read my full description of her response here.

Anyway, Nate was always interested in my writing so I began telling him about her reaction. Basically Mum said, ‘I thought it was very well written but I don’t think I really want to read about all the men you’ve had sex with.’

It was as these words tripped off my tongue that I realised I’d put myself into a sticky corner by even beginning the conversation with a man I liked. And then I made it worse. My following comments were along the lines of, ‘I explained to her that I haven’t slept with all the men in there and that’s why it’s called The Men I’ve Almost Dated…not that there’s been that many anyway. Not that it would matter if there was…’

I also realised that I’d begun telling a man I liked (who I hadn’t even dated yet) about my sexual history. I believe the following words travelled through my brain at this point, ‘Oh fuck. This is not good.’

My words continued to vomit from my mouth as I dug a hole further into the ground. You see I’m a feminist and firmly believe my body is mine to do with what I wish. I’m not a prude about sex and I believe you should have as much or as little as you want whether you are male or female. I don’t believe in antiquated notions of one night stands making you a slut or that I should ‘keep myself nice’ and wait for the right man. I’m too old, too independent and far too open about who I am to buy into any of that stuff.

Yet there I was, a grown-up of 42 years, suddenly stumbling over my words like an embarrassed schoolgirl as all the limiting cultural conditioning that still permeates our society about women and their sexual choices arched over me like a tidal wave and threatened to engulf me.

Before I knew it I’d said, ‘…not that there’s been that many’ again at which point he turned to me and said calmly, ‘You’ve said that three times now.’

With his eyes fixed firmly on my mine I honestly wanted to flee the building.

‘Um, look, I can’t be having this conversation,’ I said. The unspoken words ‘with you’ hung in the air after I uttered this sentence. ‘Can we please talk about something else,’ I added (I daresay there was more than a hint of desperation in my tone at this point).

Nate studied my face for a moment with what can only be described as an inscrutable expression (something he does amazingly and annoying well; I swear he’d make a killing at poker) and then obligingly changed the subject.

Thank God!!

When I thought about it later I was seriously disappointed in myself. There I was, with all my modern beliefs about sex and women’s sovereignty over their own bodies, and I jumped immediately into justifying my sexual history. It’s not as if I would ever have expected him to do that, or anyone for that matter.

So why did I take what was simply an amusing story about my mother’s reaction to my book and expand it into this awkward, lumpy ball of discomfort?

‘Well obviously, duh! I liked the guy so I didn’t want him to get the “wrong impression” of me,’ I thought. This was followed swiftly by a, ‘Hang on a second, when did I become a 1950’s version of myself and why on earth would I feel the need to apologise or justify my sexual history to anyone?’

The truth is I don’t think I’ve had the ‘sexual history’ talk with anyone I’ve dated. I’ve only ever had it with my former husband and, as he was my first sexual partner, you can appreciate it was a fairly short conversation.

However, I know that not everyone has my liberated views about sex. I’ve had conversations in social situations where a man has told me that his girlfriend had been a ‘good girl’ (i.e. not slept around a lot) while the complete reverse was true for him!

I’ve also had men tell me that a woman who would have a one-night-stand with them wouldn’t be a woman they’d marry. Yet those same men believe they themselves are eminently marriageable…even though they’d had one-night-stands.

The double standards of these men (and some women who agree with them) still pervade many parts of our society. So I guess in that moment of nervousness, in that conversation with Nate, I reverted to reflecting some of the restrictive and outdated attitudes still expressed by some people about women and sex. However, I think it also arose from a very genuine desire on my part to not have my history misinterpreted by someone in my present (not that it should’ve mattered anyway!).

Nate and I never did get around to discussing that conversation further. It was simply superseded by other topics  and was never raised again.

I would love to know what he was thinking that day. I’m sure it must have been an interesting and perhaps entertaining sight to see someone who is usually so confident start to spin herself into a rather undignified and tongue-tied mess.

Perhaps I’ll never know what was going on in his head behind that inscrutable mask. But just for the record, I haven’t had sex with all the men I talk about in my book. Not that it matters anyway!

The Men I’ve Almost Dated is now on sale through online retailers. Find out more>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revealing the darkness beneath

water-swirlingA good friend called the other day to see how I was and I ended up sobbing like a crazy person on the phone.

I was having one of those days when everything was going wrong and I just couldn’t see how I would ever get my head above water.

I was an emotional mess.

After an hour of talking, sobbing and laughing at the ridiculousness of life, I got off the phone, threw on some fresh clothes and my knee-high boots, redid the make-up and headed out to meet another friend for dinner.

As I sat down, Susie* commented on how great I looked. When I told her the real story she nodded knowingly and said, “Oh, you put on the mask. I do that too.”

I’d put on my mask of being a ‘together person’ before I’d left the house and clearly Susie had done this a few times herself.

I’ve become pretty good at it. I guess working in public relations for more than 10 years has made slipping on the mask a lot easier. When you’re trying to be all things to all people in your job sometimes you’ve just got to pull on the mask and get on with it.

Unfortunately, you can get a little too good at it. And sometimes you don’t let people see there is a mask at all – they just think that’s who you are.

When you’re dating someone, sooner or later you have to let your mask slip and let them see the swirling darkness and beautiful technicolour beneath. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll be brave enough to do that again when the time comes.

I know my mask hides a whole lot of really wonderful things. But it also hides a lot of dark and complex stuff too. And too many times the wrong man has taken one look and sprinted for the hills.

But I’ve decided next time that I’m going to take my mask off and let him see the real person underneath. The trick of course is to do that without fear of judgement. That is the real challenge.

But I’m willing to give it a go. I’m even going to be optimistic and believe maybe, he might even like the darkness and complexity underneath my mask.

After all, stranger things have happened and anything is possible…right?

You have to love yourself first…blah, blah, blah…

Image courtesy of www.oprah.com

Image courtesy of www.oprah.com

If you’ve been single for any period of time, you’ve probably found yourself confiding in a girlfriend about how lonely you are and they’ve comforted you with that tried and true statement, ‘you have to really love yourself first before the right one can come in’ or ‘you have to be comfortable with yourself and not care about attracting someone, and then the right one will just fall into your lap.’

And I’m sure you (just like me) have said one of these phrases (or something similar) to your single friends on numerous occasions.

Now while I acknowledge this is no doubt sensible and very rational advice I also (being the contrary woman that I am) say FOOEY to it all.

Because I, like so many others, have spent a lot of time being really comfortable with myself. I’ve gone out and lived exactly the life I’ve wanted, gloried in my independence and loved myself for just who I am.

I’ve been comfortable being in full possession of the remote control and attending all significant social events without a romantic partner for years now.

And that’s all fine.

But hey, guess what! I’m still single.

And so are a lot of other women out there.

And while I don’t mind being single most of the time, I do occasionally think it would be really nice for someone take me out for dinner or better still, cook me dinner.

And it would be nice to be in a loving relationship with a good man I’m attracted to and have things in common with.

And on these occasions (which I confess sometimes last more than a few minutes), I don’t feel comfortable with just being me, alone. I feel the exact opposite in fact.

And I guess that’s just life.

So, what is the point of all these musings?

Well I guess my point is this…when you’re a single chick who’s (mostly) got it together, you will have times when you don’t feel that great about being alone. You will feel lonely sometimes.

And honestly, it’s pretty clear that loving yourself isn’t always a prerequisite for attracting men – I know a lot of women who don’t like themselves very much but they are still married, dating or living with someone who is quite lovely.

So perhaps that theory doesn’t quite work for everyone all the time.

What I do believe is the right people come into your life at the right time. And you can’t force that to happen – the universe has it’s own timetable.

So if the right man hasn’t shown up yet and you’re feeling kind of low and lonely, just remember the feelings will pass.

And soon, in a few minutes, hours, days or weeks, you will remember why you are fabulous, just as you are, just on your own.

In the meantime, enjoy your comfort food of choice (I’m off for some chocolate ice-cream).

Online dating craziness

Is it just me or is there a sudden glut of online dating commercials running on our televisions these holidays?

As soon as the lights were snuffed out on Christmas Day, BAM, suddenly I can’t watch a program without a new and allegedly fabulous dating service being rammed down my throat.

Bizarrely, one of the ads doesn’t even feature people. Instead all I saw was an  animated man and woman being all smiley and happy on my TV screen.

I was confused.

Aren’t we even pretending to date real people anymore? Or can the site build me the perfect animated man to service my every whim and desire?

And is this just another symptom of our rapidly diminishing ability to relate to and/or meet people without the buffer of technology?

I was so incredulous I forgot to write down the name of the dating service so, if you come across it, please let me know so we can share it with everyone.

In my search for the TV commercial online I came across some other sites that disturbed me just a tad.

Unfortunately, these ones included that derogatory term I detest…the ‘cougar’. Apparently there are all these cougars out there looking for cubs this season…and vice versa.

The mind reels!!!

But really, I suppose it’s no different from the sugar daddy sites, the hook up sites and the sugar momma sites that abound online. They are all advertising the promise of love (short and long-term).

And I guess we are all looking for that, in whatever form suits us.

At least going online means we can be more specific about what we do and don’t want. Although sometimes I wonder if we’re all getting a little too specific about our ‘love requirements’.

Online dating means we fill out a form (or ten) and a computer decides who matches best with whom. And I have to say, based on my previous online dating experience (see http://lucyandlife.com/?s=Eat+and+run&submit=Search), sometimes it all goes terribly wrong.

Does that mean we actually say we want one thing but we really want another? Or is the computer just completely clueless?

I have friends who swear by these dating sites and some of them have now married (or hooked-up) with their online matches. But I remain unconvinced.

And honestly, maybe it’s just the thought of filling out the profile paperwork that turns me off.

How do I make my interests sound interesting to a complete stranger? And what profile picture should I use? Do I want to seem mysterious, sexy or intelligent…or all three of these? Do I want a blonde man, a tall man, an average man or just any man?

Sigh. It’s all a little too exhausting for me to attempt today. Maybe I’ll try again in the New Year.

In the meantime, for all you singletons out there…good luck with your dating adventures in 2013…whatever method suits you.

And don’t forget to steal a kiss from that random stranger standing beside you when the clock strikes 12 tonight.

Happy New Year!!

Walking through the past

I finished the first draft of my book last month. Yep, there is 62,907 words awaiting my editing hand.

And although I’m a bit concerned about its quality (particularly as the last bit was completed during an all-night writing frenzy), I still feel pretty good about it.

My Dad read the first 10 pages recently and said it made him uncomfortable (and he hasn’t even read the sex chapter yet!).

‘I felt like I was intruding on your life,’ he said.

I can understand why he felt that way.

A memoir is always personal. And an honest writer will sometimes shine light on parts of his/her life that make you shift uneasily in your chair.

Hell, some of it makes me uncomfortable…and it’s my life!

I’ve recalled things with laughter one minute and then reopened old wounds to check they are clean the next.

It hasn’t always been an enjoyable process.

A friend told me she doesn’t write about her life because she thinks it is better to leave the past where it is, behind her.

But I’m not like that.

I started scribbling notes about my single life to help me make sense of it all; to help me understand all the ridiculousness and the joy and the utter heartbreak I was experiencing.

‘Has it worked?’ I hear you ask.

‘Do you understand now?’

Well. I may not understand everything. But it has definitely helped me make sense of some of it.

I’ve written my way through a history of exes, tears, adventure, sex, misunderstandings, joy and disappointment and I’ve discovered things I couldn’t see at the time.

It’s also helped me let go of things too.

For example, today the unbidden memory of an ex popped into my mind.

I hadn’t thought of him for ages and I’m not sure why I did now.

Once just the thought of him would’ve caused pain.

But my book has helped me let go of that and I decided to check out his Facebook page to see what he’s been up to.

From his status updates it looks like he’s doing the same things he was doing when I knew him.

He’s still out there being the life of the party, making sure the people around him are taken care of, and he’s still drinking too much. And he’s probably still fleeing intimacy and not being as kind to himself as he should be.

I had to laugh when I reread that last sentence.

If he saw it he’d probably fix me with a piercing gaze and say, ‘Are you trying to psychoanalyse me Lu?’

Probably.

But isn’t that we all do?

Time passes and you’ll be reminded of someone from your past. Months or years may have passed when, for some reason, you will look back and see something different.

And it will all make sense.

And so my book has helped me do that.

I guess I’ll have to write another 62,907 words to help me understand the next decade.

Turning 40…the new frontier

I turned 40 last week.

I didn’t look forward to the birthday. I even considered hiding under my bed with chocolate and wine until it was all over.

But, that didn’t happen. Instead I celebrated by eating chocolate with my Mum, teaching my students and then finally enjoying some cocktails and dinner with a good friend.

So it felt like turning the big four-oh was actually not so bad after all.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling so great the next day. But it wasn’t a hangover that was dragging me down. I guess you could say it was the post-birthday blues.

But just as my ‘pity-party for one’ threatened to consume me, I decided to reflect on all the things I’ve learned, achieved and enjoyed in my thirties.

Here are the top 10.

1. It’s always better to be alone than with the wrong person.

2. Buying and renovating a house on your own is a liberating experience. And watching a bulldozer tear up concrete can generate a bubble of excitement that lasts all day.

3. Being single should never, ever stop you getting on a plane and seeing the world. If I’d waited for a partner I would never have looked into the eyes of an old elephant in Thailand and felt its quiet but overwhelming wisdom. Sometimes magic can only happen when you are making a solo journey.

4. Being single can be really great…or really suck. It’s all about perspective.

5. New and beautiful friends will sweep unexpectedly into your life when you need them while older friends will sometimes drift away quietly or depart in a huff. Real friends will also love all your quirks and flaws…even when you’re acting like a crazy person.

6. It’s easier to put on weight than lose it in your thirties. But feeling guilty about what you put in your mouth is pointless. And remember, most men prefer women with curves not jutting ribcages and pointy elbows.

7. It’s impossible to feel bad when you’re wearing fabulous shoes. And when you add great hair, you’re unstoppable.

8. A pussycat gently placing its paw on your knee will always make you feel better when you’re sobbing over a broken heart. Pets don’t judge and always understand you.

9. Every man who has loved me, left me or made me horny has taught me a lesson about life. Sometimes I haven’t enjoyed learning those lessons…sometimes I’ve enjoyed them too much.

10. Don’t ever regret your past decisions or wish you had lived a different life. Your past has made you who you are. And your future is the next frontier.