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Sex and the Single Man March 1, 2001
He may seem desperate...
bumped into Colin in a local club. I wished he would go away, until I realized it wasn't I who had attracted his attention. He rudely elbowed me away from the bar counter as he shifted in position to chat up the woman standing next to me. Instead of shoving him over, I hung around to gloat in his anticipated failure. Five minutes into the conversation with his latest prey, I saw Colin scribbling a telephone number - and wondered if she had given him the wrong number. When she left, he turned towards me and there was no hint of flustered shame in his face.
An acquaintance and neighbor, I have given Colin a wide berth ever since the night we went out together and he embarrassed me by chatting up every woman in the club. His mission was so obvious, his technique so raw. If a woman spoke to him for fifteen minutes, he would kiss her.
Now I asked: 'How many women have you spoken to tonight?'
'What's the point? You never get sex.'
'So when I'll meet the right one I will know.' I stared into his face, but saw no indication of irony or mockery.
'But it never works,' I chuckled. 'You are too direct, and that scares women off. You got to be subtle, then maybe something happens.'
I had hardly finished the sentence when Colin drifted off to stalk the next woman that crossed his gaze.
Perhaps my annoyance with the way he preyed on women stemmed from the fact that for a year I had played a milder version of Colin's hounding game. After my last relationship broke up, I went out looking for sex and romance several times a week. Was I seeking physical intimacy to fill the lonely vacuum within?
Of the ten women I met - all of them strangers in a club, inebriated or drugged - I had full sex with two; it was drunken and feverish, then flat, like a pricked balloon swishing through air before collapsing lifeless. I had playful sex with another three. The last five all took me home to bed. We shared beds for a couple of nights but they had pajamas on. They held back sex as if to tempt me along. Within a week all of them left me because I was too intense with my pretensions of instant intimacy and that scared them - or because we didn't have much to say.
Finding myself in the cold from these experiences, I resigned in defeat. I stopped chatting women, went out infrequently, and sunk into introversion. I even started feeling stable and sane in my enforced celibacy. In clubs I hung around the edges, though I wasn't completely oblivious to women. My eyes were open; I was observing.
The night I ran into Colin I had gone out for a drink to escape the claustrophobia of my apartment, where I work and live. Five drinks later I could not muster the will to go home: there were too many women, and although I would not make a move on anyone, I was alert. I prowled and loitered, trying to catch someone's eyes, flash the hint of a smile - you never know... The club was an experience of elbows. Voices slurred unintelligibly, eyes drooped and rolled - high on Ecstasy or alcohol, throngs of people tottered and swayed. The chaos staged a setting conducive to courtship, but hardly the genteel type. I remember thinking that the reason most people get high is to rise above social inhibitions and leap beyond the evolutionary programming of the long-winded mime of courtship. Intoxication speeds intensities, and perhaps jumpstarts love...
I was dancing feebly when she caught my eyes and smiled. We talked for the rest of the night, but when she mentioned that she had done Ecstasy I balked: the comedown could be awkward as her dazzled perception turned melancholy. When the club closed, she invited me back to a friend's house. There were eleven of us sprawled in the living room. Sally and I blabbered awhile, then a tired silence grew between us. When it became clear we were going nowhere, I left.
The next day I felt guilty about my inability to call it a night sooner. Why do I have to stick until the end, ever hopeful? I read the newspapers, pottered all afternoon and planned an early night.
Then at 10 P.M. Tammy, an occasional friend, called. We hadn't seen each other for about eight months. She sounded recklessly confident; she said she was drinking vodka with water. I told her I was wasting time. She said: 'My flatmate is very horny. Get a taxi and get your arse over here. Bring two bottles of wine.' A dawn of hope...
An hour later I was sipping wine with Tammy and Kay. They had been talking about lovers, and asked me whether a woman should be upfront if she wants someone.
'Yeah, it makes things easier,' I said. 'But you have to be subtle or men could feel intimidated.'
'It's the same for us,' Kay nodded.
Tammy said, 'How are you coping with being single?'
'OK, although sometimes I miss the sex.'
She said, 'I miss kissing.'
'I miss cuddling,' Kay said.
Now they were drunk and blunt, both flirting with me; I guzzled wine to get drunk instantly. We guffawed and joked, and I felt outnumbered and overwhelmed by that half-suppressed female sexual energy. Then Kay went to bed, and Tammy and me proceeded to finish the wine. I was observing, trying to catch the whiff of sexual tension.
Tammy announced she was going to bed, and said: 'You can sleep in my bed if you like.'
There was a time when I would have been fried by sexual desire, but now I held effortlessly to my side; within five minutes I was slumbering.
I stirred awake and found Tammy on my side; I was falling off the bed. It was dark outside and she moaned twice tenderly, then rolled back to her side and fell asleep again.
I lifted a tentative hand, but found myself short of resolve and momentum. If something happened, the exit in the morning would be awkward and the illusion of intimacy messy to deal with. If Tammy waved me off, the rejection would make the friendship ambiguous with unspoken thoughts. Besides, I was getting used to sleeping with women without having sex. In the absence of a relationship, intimate but non-sexual friendships may be the cleanest, sanest state. At least we were sharing a bed, and that certainly beats cuddling a pillow.
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