“Afraid of me?” I was surprised. I felt like I’d restrained myself rather nicely. The day had been spent drinking wine at a massive tasting with a mixed group, so I hadn’t been excessively evangelical. Sure, my girlfriend Mae was with us, and she’d been introduced as such. Sure, I’d talked about Tristan Taormino and POSSIBLY about sex toys at one point. (The memory of the day DOES get hazy at times, perhaps due to the wine.)
She nodded and ducked behind the throw pillow, hiding the grin on her face that worked in conflict with the blush crawling up her cheeks.
“Why are you afraid of me?” I asked.
I suppose to emphasize the intent, one could add a whole lotta Os on the end of that. Sooooooooo open. I guess I am. I held hands with both Marilyn and Mae. I’d snuggled and kissed both of them, probably increasingly so once the wine really started to kick in. (I highly recommend 4 hour wine tastings, btw.) I hadn’t held back in answering the following questions: “Who is Tristan Taormino?” and the follow-up “What is a sex educator?”
Maybe I have reached that tipping point where being myself is simply being this open. To the point that, very occasionally, I may frighten someone who wasn’t quite ready to hear all about it. I don’t want to frighten people. But her grin beneath the pillow belied her fascination. It may not have translated into a desire to learn more that day, but I’m sure that’s down the line. Discussion and interest begets more discussion and interest.
Jack and Anne, our friends, her neighbors, HAD prepped her a little bit, though the extent of this prep is uncertain because I was informed of it late in the evening. (Post 4 hour wine tasting. I did NOT use a spit bucket.) I’m reasonably certain that they’d told her that Marilyn and I are in an open relationship, and that I would be bringing a girlfriend with. You know, so as not to arouse that “what the hell is going on” thing that people do when they’re not privy to the major info and a member of the group is snogging multiple people.
What I marvel about is the implication about me. Who I am now.
Not too long ago I discovered a journal from the summer after high school. (And by journal, I mean a book with about ten pages filled, and the rest scattered promises to write more in the journal spread out at ever-increasing intervals into the successive years.) Most of the material in it is entirely inconsequential, but there was one interesting and very short passage in there that amounted to “[Insert girlfriend at the time’s name] and I have decided to wait until marriage for sex.”
There wasn’t a lot of follow-up on this decision. And the decision itself didn’t last very long (as a future entry bore out.) This was the girl I lost my virginity to. The girl I was certain was going to be my “forever after.” At the ripe old age of 18, I’d had my entire life figured out. And this life was very simple. Marriage, kids, future.
That relationship lasted fourteen months. I believe we had sex a few months in. Which also means we were discussing the future and marriage at that point. And fourteen years later, here I am. A non-monogamist, certainly. Flavors? Swinger, with a side of poly. Jeezly crow. How does one go from “Waiting until marriage for sex” and from the surrounding prose believing that this was truly the RIGHT path, the RIGHT decision, all the way down the rabbit hole to “You’re just…so…open.”
Following the timeline forward a bit, out of the ether arises a saved email exchange (I’m an archivist of my life) with a girl who came after [Insert girlfriend at the time’s name] and was two years younger than me. Still in high school. Still 17. But far older and more mature than I to be sure. Within a back and forth exchange that followed our first date, she asked what my stance on monogamy was.
With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that she was open. And that she was far too much for my 19-year-old boy brain to handle indeed. I told her that “I’m a firm believer in one man-one woman” (something that makes me gag for entirely other reasons) “but wouldn’t presume to tell you how to navigate our” (then days old) “relationship.”
She assured me that she had no intention of looking elsewhere and the matter was closed. We dated for just around a month before she tired of me. And I can’t blame her. Knowing her now (what little I do know of her) I realize that she had opened the door a crack, only for me to quickly shut it again. I’m reminded of the Pink Floyd lines, catching a fleeting glimpse when he was a child, out of the corner of his eye.
And today, I am SO open, SO out, that I frighten “the straights.”
This lovely girl, hiding behind a cushion on Jack & Anne’s couch while I drunkenly try to deconstruct why she might be afraid of my openness. Because somewhere, at some point, things changed. SOMEWHERE down the line, I changed.
Thank whatever imaginary god might want to take credit for that.