The last week was rough for me. In non-sex news, there have been problems with my healing — I broke my neck back in August, and while I was lucky enough to survive without paralysis, it’s a long and complex recovery process, and I recently learned that I’m in worse shape than we thought. So I’ve been in kind of a sad mood. Then, in sex news, a guy I really liked did the Let’s-Just-Be-Friends thing.
Let’s be clear here — I was not even close to officially “dating” this guy. We’d hung out a couple times, and hooked up once. But damn, it was such a hookup. We went to see a ridiculously awesome matinee, and then we literally sat around and talked for 13 hours. Literally. Seriously. After the movie we went for dinner; after dinner we went for coffee; when the coffeeshop closed we went to a bar; we were still talking a mile a minute when the bar closed. This guy is into art, and he’s into feminism, and he’s into all kinds of other esoterica just like me … so it was easy to talk for 13 hours. By the time we actually started making out, it was dawn.
I have to say, though, that I had a gut feeling he was feeling uncomfortable and unsure about … something. I wasn’t sure what. We chatted about S&M and open relationships and all kinds of stuff, and he was cool and interested in all of it, but I still felt that he seemed … unreliable. Thus, partly because I believe in careful and direct communication — and partly because I could tell that he was uncertain — I tried to be very upfront and direct about how I approach relationships. I talked very carefully about my expectations around open relationships, and I encouraged him to talk openly about what exactly he might be into S&M-wise.
So what sucked, when we met for coffee and he did the Let’s-Just-Be-Friends thing, was that he said it was because of how I communicated. He said: “You know, I really like talking to you, and I liked having sex with you, but I feel like you have really high standards for relationship communication and I’m not sure I can meet those standards. Can we keep hanging out, but just be friends?”
On the bright side, he did his best to convince me that he really does want to be friends, so that made me feel good. As usual, though, the rejection still stung. I did my best not to take it personally, but that’s always difficult. I tried to keep in mind that people are different, but sometimes that’s difficult too. For me, the take-home message seemed to be: “Hey Clarisse, quit trying to actually talk openly about your relationships! You’re unnerving even the guys who you have everything in common with.” I mean … Jesus Christ, if I can’t seduce artsy feminist guys, then who the hell can I seduce?
Those of us who teach about sexual communication often hear people say things like: “Direct communication is so hard, there must be ways to get around it,” or “If you talk about sex too directly, you’ll ruin it.” And I do believe that people communicate in many important unspoken ways. I also believe that people play many ambiguous, tacit, flirtatious interpersonal games that are totally fun.
But even though I’ll play those games sometimes … honest and direct communication is also an important facet of my beliefs and my character. I truly believe that they’re the best way to get what you want, and the best way to respect partners’ boundaries.
So, you know … it kinda felt like my core character had been rejected. By someone I really, really like. And also, my neck hurt.