Over the weekend, I spent some time with my dear friend Jack, a frequent contributor to Nerve.com, where he writes the column "I Did It for Science." Jack is absolutely frighteningly brilliant--or at least, I'm always half-terrified, when I'm with him, that I won't be able to keep up: He has a B.A. from Brown and a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from Duke. And yet, he's no geek: When he talks, you're mesmerized by the stories he tells, amazed by the books he waxes so eloquent about it, and laughing at the jokes he's always making. Plus, he's so rakishly handsome--with a thick swirl of ginger hair, a toothy smile, and high cheekbones--that I always have a moment of elevated heart-beating when I first see him again. As if all that weren't fantastic enough, he is a huge sweetheart: in addition to being attentive and sweet when we're hanging out, he also goes out of his way to help me in any way he can.
Why am I not completely in love? Good question. I do have a little crush, of course--but Jack had already fallen hard for someone else before I met him. His long-time girlfriend. Oh, and incidentally? Jack's girlfriend has another boyfriend. See, they're in an open relationship. She has two boyfriends, both of whom she's in love with. Jack's only steady is her, and he worships her--although he also occasionally sleep with other women.
So ... you see the dilemma here, in terms of Jack and me.
* * *
On the sunny afternoon that was this Saturday, we sat in a park and ate Vietnamese sandwiches as children played on the swings; and adults smoked cigarettes on the benches; and pigeons lurked, waiting for a choice bit of food to be dropped.
"I think I need to have some no-strings-attached sex, Jack," I said as I tossed a bit of bread, causing an avalanche of dirty birds. "The only problem is, I always get attached. With or without the sex. How can I enjoy the physical aspect of intercourse, while keeping my emotions out of it?"
Jack agreed to give me some pointers. But first he had a caveat: "Casual sex is not for everyone. But if you've got the itch especially bad at a certain point in time, and you feel it's necessary to scratch it ... well, then, you might want to heed my advice."
So now, without further adieu, here's what Jack had to say on the matter:
#1: Pick as your sexual partner someone who drives you crazy--in good and bad ways. Is there a person who really gets under your skin? A person to whom you feel powerfully sexually attracted--and yet completely infuriated by? Maybe he's the cocky banker who went to college with a friend's husband. Maybe he's the hot idiot guy who works in the marketing department, who always seems to want to get into some inane conversation with you over the water cooler. Maybe he's a crazy conservative and you're a wacky liberal, or vice versa. If he's kind of annoying--BUT you have sexual fantasies about him nonetheless--that person would be a good candidate for a casual-sex partner. He himself will be a constant reminder about why the relationship could never work out. The minute he opens his mouth, the reason will be clear.
#2: Make it clear to the other person--and yourself--up front that what you're having is a tryst. How to do this? Don't go out for dinner with the person, or for drinks. Do away with all the trappings of a romantic relationship. Give your sexual partner a small window of time during which you will be available--say, during your lunch break, or late-night on Friday--and use that time for sex, and sex only. Don't sleep over, and don't let him sleep over either.
#3: Repeat to yourself before, after and during sex: This is not about love, nor will it ever be. Remind yourself that all the pleasure and happiness you are feeling is a CHEMICAL response. You are not special to the person who are shagging, and he is not special to you. The two of you do not have some huge personal connection. What you're doing is not related to "happily ever after." (It may not even last a full three months.) It's simply about sex, purely a physical release, and there's no real future in it.
#4: Try to make it as hot and wild--even kinky--as possible. If you're tied to the headboard, or he's wearing a dog collar, the act itself will be a reminder that what you're doing isn't "making love" but having crazy sex.
#5: Don't put up with any crap. Just because you're only having casual sex, that doesn't mean the dude can treat you badly. He should arrive when he says he's going to; he should respond promptly to your communications; he should be working to hold on to the awesome gig you've given him, as your part-time temporary lover. In fact, feel free to make certain demands of him. Perhaps what you want is for him to bring over Thai take-out every time he visits; maybe it's lattes; possibly you want him to rip you a copy of whatever new album he has recently downloaded. Whatever the case may be, remember: He is SOO lucky that he gets to have no-strings-attached sex with you.
#6. Remember that the true goal is to have an intense personal connection with someone--and to let the great sex follow from that. But if you haven't found the right person yet, why not enjoy sex while you keep looking?"
* * *
My conversation with Jack ended--of course--with us joking around about how WE should have casual sex. Ha, ha, ha.
I'd love to.
But as much as I think Jack's suggestions are brilliant--and will probably work for lots of other people--I still don't think I can do it! I don't think I can have casual sex.
Ladies ... do you think YOU can?
dear commenters: ... Edwinna! You're back! Phew. I was wondering where you'd gone off to, in fact. And I agree with you, and Raye, and Kay: I should spend some more time with ol' Arlo. Absolutely Kay, I think you make a good point about when settling is really settling--and Raye, I dig your line about leading with your instincts and (positive) emotions, not insecurities. (In fact, I would like for you to embroider that on a pillow and send it to me so I can keep it under my head every night in the hopes it might sink in!) ... All the same, I might ultimately be with Natti: It just didn't feel right, romantically. ... Although, also: Jenny Powers? That was one helluva smart observation you made. Um, what do you do for a living? Want to become my shrink?