I remember the olden days when finding someone to have sex with was less like online shopping and more like a crapshoot. You had to put on make up to go to the store in case you ran into “the one” and he didn’t recognize you under the bad hair and the fuzzy pants. You had to pretend to enjoy bands you didn’t like because your friends were going, and because you might meet someone “cute.” When I was a lot younger, but just as horny, I would dress my enviably skinny frame in whatever I felt like without worrying about bulges, or wrinkles or whether my knees would hurt in heels. Then I would drink, or take whatever was on offer, not because I needed anything to lower my already perilously low inhibitions, but to drown out the shame I felt about not having any to begin with.
I seem to have come to terms with my exhibitionist tendencies, as well as my slutty ones. I have dated more than one photographer (usually voyeurs) and made somewhat of a career in stand-up comedy, mainly because I want to be “seen.” And yet, how many people really “see” us in a lifetime? How many people can reflect you without placing you in a box of their own invention, or a way to get what they want? If you’re lucky you had a parent who gave you this kind of unconditional acceptance. For everyone else, there’s Tinder.
Tinder is the app to find people around you to “meet.” Swipe left for no, swipe right for yes, solely on the basis of a photo and a couple word bio, usually referring to the guy’s height; another superficial criteria but apparently important to women, even though we are all the same height when horizontal. It is the most bizarre experience to shop for people, the way you might shop for shoes. “Nope, wrong size.” “Hmmm little timeworn for me.” “That’s nice, but do you have anything a little darker?” There is also a pattern that emerges in the way people present themselves. Guys post pictures of themselves with their dogs, “Oh look, he’s so sweet. He will certainly call me the next day. Perhaps he will send flowers. I shall casually tell him how much I love tulips…” Or the ones who take the serious intense half naked selfie in the mirror, “Look I have rock hard abs, but I probably won’t be up for a discussion on Alice Miller’s seminal The Drama Of The Gifted Child.” And then there are the dudes who post a picture with a kid and then add the disclaimer, “This is just my nephew.” Aw! You’re such a nice guy! Excuse me while I start picking out colors for our wedding reception napkins.
Not that that stopped me from hooking up with several people in the space of a few days, not to mention sexting with others. I’m interested solely in guys in their twenties, and perhaps it is because I am turning forty soon, or most likely because I love their optimism. As a depressive, this makes me feel more positive. I have zero shame about these encounters, and they haven’t interfered with my ability to parent, which is my yardstick for pretty much anything I undertake in life. In fact, I am a much better parent when I know I’m going to get laid. It makes all the whining more tolerable.
Tinder, on the other hand, is another story. Distractedly texting a bunch of dudes when I’m supposed to be having dinner with my kids is not optimal. Also, though I am a self-confessed slut, I am not a guy and I still want to cuddle after the act. Tinder is generally not the place to get a cuddle, unless it’s cuddling a penis with your vagina.
My attitude to sex is similar to my attitude to ice cream. Since I do not have an eating disorder (yet) I know that I can take or leave it. As much as I am craving it after a meal, you will never find me running into the supermarket, ripping off the freezer door, and tearing off the packaging to devour the contents of a tub of Chunky Monkey. Sure I have been known to overindulge occasionally, but I can still take it or leave it. Similarly, if the opportunity arises to have sex with someone who I feel is disrespectful, or intensely stupid or just has a bad vibe, I would much rather go home and play with my toys. Perhaps I am just a sexual foodie, but I prefer aficionado.
I found myself recently, heading home from an encounter that was the equivalent of junk food. I was sexually satisfied, but spiritually empty. And into that void came the pain of losing the men I’ve loved the most, and I cried all the way home, and in the shower I took afterwards. Sex is not my anesthetic; it wears off too quickly for that. Also it opens me up to feeling, instead of numbing me out. No one who is sober can escape the pain of a breakup, as they say “the only way through is through” and I am not seeking to escape my grief, merely get through it without killing anybody, or myself.
As a favorite hobby, sex sure beats the shit out of knitting. I love everything about fucking—the smells, the sights, the sounds. Mostly I love the attention. That moment when someone looks into your eyes and you can allow them to see you at your most vulnerable, perhaps that is what I’m addicted to. I am in no place for a true intimate relationship right now, but this kind of intimacy comes easily and is very gratifying… for a moment. Then it is back to life and the loneliness I often feel and making yet another meal for my kids.
Just as becoming a mother ruined strip clubs for me, as I now see a bunch of damaged daughters on the pole instead of a fantasy, it occurred to me at the end of my 48 hour Tinder spree that all of these people I was swiping left were somebody’s sons. (And daughters – I am bi so was looking to meet both.) I imagined my sons one day, on Tinder, their full glorious selves being rejected so casually because their selfie had the wrong lighting. By the time my sons are dating, perhaps someone will invent an implanted microchip homing in on potential hook-ups. Or even more fantastical, perhaps we could all get to know each other first, be seen in all of our human imperfection, no matter how badly we want to fuck that day. But then, I’m a romantic.
I gave a few cool people on Tinder my phone number, met a nice girl, and got a date lined up. Then I deleted the app with all of its information. I was a responsible slut and used protection, so I had no regrets, but hitting the “Delete Account” button felt as refreshing as a warm shower. Then I drove my kids to Little League.