One time I went on a date with a man who was 41 years old. I was 20. I’d had an all-encompassing desire to fulfill my fantasy of being ‘had’ by an ‘older man’. So, amongst the pages upon pages of available people in Toronto on OKCupid I found a pepper-haired, barrel chested man who vaguely resembled George Clooney.
We had a few interesting and exciting experiences together… And than this happened (sidenote, when I write journal entries, I write in third person… Don’t ask):
She watches him undress in her room with a low ceiling and pink floral bedspread. She is sober and the contrast is heavy: she can see age on him, and it is highlighted by the intense youth of her bedroom.
She has had a lot of boys and men in this room. She has seen a lot of nudity between these walls and within those sheets. But there is something stark and blunt about the nudity her older man is unknowingly show-casing to her as he prepares himself for sleep.
A vulnerable kind of nakedness that people are usually reluctant to show, or otherwise too worn out to care about showing at the end of the night, when there is no sex or play involved, but just one tired body disrobing it’s tired self.
“Can I cuddle you?” He asks, scooting into the middle of the bed.
She wants to say no, “Of course.”
This interaction with him was never supposed to be this intimate. She listens to him snore for half an hour before she escapes and goes to sleep on her couch. Lying side-by-side with him allowed her to discover just how wide the distance between their ages was- she was struck and a little taken aback by the dysfunction of the body when age hits.
There’s a nice thing about youth- things like snoring, and stumbling when you remove your pants are seen as cute and quirky. But what she hadn’t expected was how differently these quirks look on someone 20 years her senior. Just as, perhaps, he may have expected her to always look desirable, she had engrained the expectation that he always be debonair.
The gap between them, the generation between them, hit her quickly and swiftly.
Two months later, after calling it quits, a good friend of mine receives a message in her dating inbox along the lines of: Remember me? I was one of Caitlin’s experiments.
Now, as someone who throws party’s to celebrate naked bodies, it is important for me to mention the difference between being happy and supportive of someone’s relationship with their body, and being aroused by that person’s body.
“The sex therapist Margaret Nichols observes that though your partner may still love you if you gain fifty pounds and shuffle around the house in bunny slippers and a stained T-shirt, he probably won’t get hard for you (and she won’t get wet).”
– Esther Perel, “Mating in Captivity”
Arousal is often co-existing beside objectivity (to balance that statement: humans ARE complex and intriguing creatures and often times it will be a truck ton more than just objectivity that comes along with arousal). I am not physically attracted to everyone I find to be an awesome person, and this is okay and a handy tool in your future endeavors within relations. You’re ability to say ‘No Thank You’ is your guiding light.
But, dear 40-something silver fox, I would like to thank you for the experiences you gave me, and perhaps remind you that dating in and of itself is just one large science project.
At some point around the same time I had decided I wanted to be a canister of sexual power and deviance, I had agreed to go visit a male I had very few face-to-face interactions with but who had given my heart much comfort. This happened (Preparation, I’m about to get a little dark and heavy and slightly vulnerable… If I have learned anything within this sexual growth process is that story-sharing is very likely the most important element to connecting with others – in a sexual manner or a hanging out with naked chicks manner. And lord knows, it is probably very likely that something similar has happened to you at some point in your life or that you can relate in some way… So, here it goes [also – reiteration for complete and utter respect and love for all people who I anonymously reference – it is unlikely this will happen, but if it does, know that I wish you all the best and I thank you for this experience]):
“I don’t want to just be another number” he assures her time and time again within every conversation they have.
She tells him he couldn’t be. That she cares about him as a person too much, that she values his concern for her well-being more than she could ever value a jockified high school acquaintance that slapped her ass one summer’s eve.
She tells him: “I just want hugs. Many hugs.”
“If I hug you, I’ll want to kiss you” He tells her.
In her mind a kiss is no big deal. She has kissed plenty of people. To kiss someone who cares about her would only enhance the kiss, she imagines.
She boards a train headed West to suburbia with a naive hope for a pg-rated evening she really needs.
He sits in his car waiting for her at the platform.
She is enthused to see him and gives him a hug and a warm smile across the interior of his car but can’t help but immediately noting how un-attracted she is to him: He has shaved off his beard and now looks pre-pubescent, making the heaviness of an overweight face more strikingly obvious. With nothing to hide behind, he is undeniably unappealing. He sparks similarities to Tweedle Dee (and Dum) in her image bank. But she overlooks this for the moment, because she knows how much he cares.
He takes her for sandwiches and they give each other updates on their lives. He speaks while he eats and she is having trouble divorcing her eyes from the food that gets stuck in his teeth even when he washes everything down with a super-sized coke.
Back at his house, she takes on the personality of an excited squirrel, darting in and out of roommate’s rooms, opening books, flipping over pillows, checking out pictures, drawers, movie titles, all while he is standing silently at the door of the room, waiting for her to settle, waiting for her to notice him. And she can feel him. She can feel that he wants her full attention, expecting it. And he wants it so badly it puts her on edge. This little shell of sexual dynamite is full of shakes and quakes of discomfort; a kind of shrapnel in her stomach.
“I need a beer.”
“I don’t want you to be drunk with me.” She swears at him in her head, thinking “Drunk is the only way I can be with you right now”. She opens the fridge and pulls out a bottle of Corona, opening it with her teeth.
She hops up onto the counter top and he stands too close to her.
“Are you attracted to me?” He asks her.
She side-steps the question to avoid being dishonest and to avoid hurting feelings, “You aren’t my type. But your personality makes you slightly more attractive to me, I guess.” It works. So well that she can tell he still wants to kiss her, and she has no where to escape to.
She is stuck in this house of his in the middle of suburban Hamilton, and it only has the potential to become even more awkward if she tells him “NO. I AM NOT ATTRACTED TO YOUR OVERWEIGHT, UNHEALTHY BODY YOU RAGING BALL OF PENT UP RELIGIOUS HORMONES.” But you make her feel safe.
Correction: You MADE her feel safe.
“I feel like we need to kiss to break the ice.”
“Because this is awkward.”
“IT’S ONLY AWKWARD BECAUSE YOU CAN’T TELL THAT I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING TOUCH YOU.” She screams inside her head.
She downs her beer and quickly goes for another. At this point she is purposely trying to give herself beer goggles. Maybe she won’t have to mind. Maybe she can enjoy this.
He sways her to sit on a couch with him and then tells her, “I’m going to kiss you now.”
She has no where to run to. His lips hit hers.
The only logic she can form in her mind at this point is to close her eyes tight and turn into her sexual dynamite self, finish him off, and then hopefully repel him with ‘I’m too tired’ for the rest of the evening.
After a few moments of tentatively allowing him to ram his tongue in her mouth, she saddles up, takes the reins and gets er done in a wee 10 minutes flat. But he decides he wants to do his duty, and his hand slides down the front of her shorts, in search for a clit that he will never find, and holes he will never enter. She pushes him away when she can take no more.
She lies topless on his couch with her beer in hand.
“Can you be normal, not topless you now?” As he zips up his pants.
She feels more used by this boy who tried so hard not to make her feel used than she ever has before by those who didn’t hide the fact that they were using her.
Now… There are a handful of things that, as a reader, could make you potentially uncomfortable whilst reading that story.
Deciding to be intimate with someone is an ever-evolving decision that can rapidly change from one moment to the next. I was quickly learning that although I considered myself to be a sexually liberated female in a contemporary society, I also didn’t know how NOT to be a sexually liberated female. I had not been told or taught the importance of being able to say ‘no’ or WHY it is important.
YOUR ABILITY TO SAY ‘NO,’ GIVES YOUR PARTNER THE ABILITY AND FREEDOM TO ASK FOR WHAT THEY WANT. And vice versa. You can read more about consent here.
To be content and calm to decline one’s invitation for intimacy. To be aware that you are not becoming an immoral, ugly person for not engaging in sexual activity because you are not attracted to that person, is okay. Better than okay. It’s honest.