QUICKIES – short stories in 5 minutes or less
There are times when what we all want is a quickie – a short, hot, sexy, down and dirty escape. So here are sexy, sizzling mini-stories to arouse your interest and whet your appetite. Enjoy! And try our erotically intriguing short stories (lunch hour reads), serial novellas and novels.
Table of Contents
Scroll to find the story you want.
- Sloane’s story: Threesomes (true story from Three Women)
- Lina’s story: Unrequited Affair (true story from Three Women)
- The Happiness Curve: Three “midlife crisis” stories
- Friends? A friend with benefits isn’t always a benefit
- The Woman Whose Roommate Won’t Stop Having Men Over
- Sexual Distancing: Romance, Sex and the Virus
- Ending a marriage with dignity and grace
- Olivia wanted more sex than Patrick, until …
- Laurie defaults to the vibrator
- Camilla’s orgasms are few and slow to come
- Gray Rape: Alica’s story of hooked up, unhooked and sexual assault
- Backseat baseball: No home run but he’s an MVP
- My best sex ever was … with my online troll
- I found my Valentine in a universal change room
- I can emotionally detached – a diary entry
- Grieving Sex
- My best sex ever was … with a Christmas stranger
- The Architect With Multiple Secret Boyfriends
- The Pet Groomer Who Thinks She’s Probably a Sex Addict
- The Woman Who Finds a Suspicious Bobby Pin at her Boyfriend’s House
Sloane’s story: Threesomes
(7 minute read)
[Excerpt from Three Women by Lisa Taddeo]
Several weeks later, she found herself alone in the restaurant with Wes. There were other people, actually, busboys and such, but they didn’t count in that they weren’t part of Sloane’s social circle. Richard had just kissed her good-bye. He was taking their children out for barbecue.
Sloane had recently gotten a new tattoo. It was near the bikini line. The spot was tender and the sensitivity made her excited.
She found Wes filleting a fish. His face was always darkened by stubble. He always looked a little sloppy. Sloane was flirtatious by nature and at the same time her sexuality was finely calibrated. At given moments, she found herself amplifying her nature or toning it down. With Wes she didn’t really move the meter in either direction. She was turned on by the fact that she could be herself.
Hey, she said.
Hey you, he said, looking up. Between her legs she felt a pulse.
I got a new tattoo.
They both smiled. She asked if he would like to see it. Richard and Sloane’s house was just next door, where Wes had often come to drop things off or have a coffee. Bringing him back to the house felt very safe and normal.
She texted Richard. She told him what she was about to do. She knew she had his blessing. She also knew he liked it when she took the initiative this way, after he’d made a suggestion. She knew he liked to abdicate his power. She was happy to please him.
In her bedroom she pulled down the waist of her pants to show Wes the tattoo. He knelt down by her hips. She felt his breath on her skin, and then she felt the points of his stubble.
They both had orgasms as though they’d been having orgasms together for many years. But the feeling of normalcy was spiked with understanding that they were still behaving illicitly. Sloane felt high and happy. After they dressed, she turned to her phone. She told her husband how it had gone. Richard wrote back that it was very difficult to have such a hard-on and be out to dinner with the kids. She smiled and then she and Wes spoke about life in general, children, the restaurant, what so-and-so did at family meal. Nothing had ever been so organic.
That encounter was followed by several months of the most comfortable and blissful sex of Sloane’s life. Richard’s, too. It had never been easy to find the right type of third party. The right type of man. Interesting, good-looking, quality men of their age were married, or otherwise not interested in the type of setup that Richard was looking for. Beyond that, Sloane had been often put off by fucking strangers. By their grunts and idiosyncrasies. The way that, when a man was behind her, he might hold her hip with one commandeering hand while the other would be daintily moving his dress shirt behind his rear, pinning it there. Things like that turned her off. The measure of violence in some men, the stink of some others.
But with Wes none of those issues were present. There were no complications. It was hedonistic and also caring. They both fucked Sloane a lot, together and separately. The kissing was sensual. It was wonderful to kiss her husband while a stunningly attractive man was down between her legs. Or the other way around. It was nice to fuck another man while her husband watched approvingly. She never felt unclean. She felt loved. She felt that her and Richard’s desires had finally dovetailed in a way she hadn’t thought was possible. Most of all, she felt present.
Sometimes the sex lasted as little as thirty minutes. It wasn’t a marathon affair with silk sheets and candles. It would last as long as it had to for each party to come. Usually it took Sloane the longest, because even though she might have been fantasizing about this very thing for days, when it was actually happening, her nerves would get in the way. So she would call it. She would say, Okay guys, I’m good. After Wes left she would then bring herself to orgasm, perhaps with Richard, or by herself, thinking about what had just happened on their bed. After every interlude, if they had the time, the three of them would dress and have a cup of coffee. It was the same if it were just Sloane and Wes. They would engage as though they were at a dinner party.
Since they’d started this new relationship, Wes did not speak much of his partner, Jenny. Sloane was used to that in men. They erased their women around her. But she imagined that Jenny knew. She assumed, because Wes was a kind man, that he was making the right decisions for her.
Sloane was afraid of anything upsetting what they had. Wes had brought an unforeseen joy to her marriage and to Sloane’s sense of self. She had two heterosexual men waiting for her, wanting her all the time. She felt mighty.
One evening Sloane said to Wes, Have you asked Jenny if she might like to join us? They’d been having a great time when she made the suggestion. Laughing about something a friend of theirs had done. But by the way Wes reacted, Sloane could tell that Jenny didn’t know exactly where Wes was on this evening, or on any of the afternoons and nights preceding it.
Later, when it was just the two of them, Sloane said to Richard, I don’t think she knows.
She must, he said.
I don’t think she does.
Richard didn’t want to ruin what they had. Sloane didn’t want to either. But a switch had been flipped and she couldn’t flip it back. It was like the lighthouses she could see through her window—they were never turned off. She felt uneasy. She felt it in her gut. For a long time she lived in a sort of stabilized fear of finding out that Jenny didn’t know. That Jenny was at home, baking cookies with the children, weeding her garden, worrying about money, and not knowing the things her partner did some evenings, some afternoons. Sloane lived in fear of being found out, of being called a terrible person. And eventually she was.
It was winter but not freezing. Sloane was walking a neighbor’s dog down her street. Richard was overseas. She missed him but felt cool and gelled. Taking care of the house, reading, seeing her friends. Later, she’d decided, she would go to the market for something fun to bring home for her children. Something they could bake, plus icing and sprinkles. It’s often during those moments of careless joy, she would later realize, that an anvil hits you on the head.
Right near the bend where she could see the ocean, her phone dinged. A message read, I have Wes’s phone. I saw your texts. I saw the photos
The message was in reply to a text from Sloane to Wes when they were arranging to see each other. Sloane had written something flirtatious. Can’t wait for later . . .
The street, suddenly, felt full of eyes. The winter berries on their prim twigs. Sloane felt naked and disgusted with herself. She did not feel like a mother, or a wife, or a business owner, or even a healthy body in the world. She was a dark clot.
Worrying she might faint, she gripped the leash of the dog tighter. She tried to concentrate on the dog. This animal that was unaware of the type of person who stood in front of him. The shame was enormous but beyond it there was nothing. Sloane felt nothing inside. She was garments, a poncho, and a good pair of jeans. Had she died again?
Though grieving the person she’d wanted to be, she understood it was best to write back quickly. She looked around to see if Jenny was on the road, in a parked car, watching her.
It’s not what you think, Sloane wrote. She saw the words on the screen and hated herself.
Sloane knew, as she imagined Jenny knew, that it is almost always what you think.
As she stood there in the road, her self-loathing grew taller and stronger than any weed, any tree. Prior to today Sloane had thought, Maybe it’s cool, maybe she knows. Maybe she only kind of knows but someday we can include her.
But Sloane could no longer pretend innocence. In fact, right then Sloane realized that she had known all along that Jenny was in the dark. She had just been trying to convince herself otherwise.
Another text came through. Jenny said she never wanted to talk to Sloane again, did not want to see her or hear a word about her. But she needed to know if she was safe, medically speaking.
Sloane’s stomach hit the floor. She knew she didn’t matter but she wanted to try to salvage Jenny and Wes. She wanted to
protect Wes. Help him, she thought.
Sloane didn’t reply. Jenny pushed. She needed to know, she said, if she had any diseases. She needed to know now.
Sloane denied it once again. She said they had flirted inappropriately, that was all. That was all, she wrote. She looked at the words on her screen. The dog did not pull on its leash. He sat and waited.
There were two truths. The first was that she didn’t think she’d had to consider Jenny, that Wes would be making the right decisions for his partner. The second truth, perhaps truer than the first, was that two men don’t think about things as much as a woman does. Perhaps Sloane was being sexist, in a way, but she knew men could be selfish. As long as certain needs of theirs were being met, they didn’t consider the cost. It had been on Sloane, as a woman, to make sure the other woman was in the fold.
There was also a third truth: Wes’s presence in her life had wholed Sloane. He’d made what she did with her husband okay. In some ways, she didn’t know how she would exist without him.
Contact was cut off almost immediately. Sloane wanted Richard to talk to Jenny. Richard said he would think about it. Then some time passed and he said it was better to leave it alone, to let the bones cool. Let’s not get involved in another couple’s affairs, he said.
But, Sloane said, we already did.
For several months Sloane didn’t know if Wes and his partner would stay together. She was worried about the family, the children. The rumors were simple and direct, that Sloane had had an affair with Wes. The rumors, as usual, didn’t take into account the complexity, much less the truth.
Sloane was heartbroken. She missed Wes, this man who’d made her feel safe and as though her lifestyle were not too aberrant. Richard was her mainstay, of course, but Wes had been someone on the outside who helped legitimize her choices. He had become a close friend. And he had made what Richard wanted of her feel less sexual and even more loving.
What she really wanted was for Richard to explain to Jenny that he’d pushed her to do it, which was the truth. She wanted him to say, Look, this isn’t Sloane going after Wes; we were confused about your relationship. This is something we both did as a couple. It wasn’t Sloane. She’s not what you think.
It wasn’t actually Sloane who thought of this. It was her best friend, Ingrid, who said, Richard needs to go to this woman’s house. That’s what has to happen.
A few months later, Sloane saw the whole family on the ferry. She was alone and she felt acid rising in her throat. A great fear. Fortuitously, Jenny was looking in her handbag. Wes and the children were talking and looking out at the water. They were pointing to something in the water and then Jenny was looking, too, and they were all laughing. Sloane saw that they were happy. It was nothing, she thought. It has passed. Nothing bad has happened. She thought Wes caught a glimpse of her, but if he did he made no sign of it, and neither did Jenny, and they continued laughing and talking like a blissful family and Sloane quickly got into her car and stayed there for the rest of the ride. She felt an extravagant relief. She did wonder if Wes had seen her; it seemed as if he had, though of course it was possible he had not. It was possible nobody could see her at all.
[Reference: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, p. 217, ebook version]
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(5 minute read)
[Excerpt from Three Women by Lisa Taddeo]
They had never talked so much. They walked out of the bathroom together, just talk talk talking. They moved to the edge of the bed and absently watched television together, laughing occasionally about something on the screen. They sat very close.
He began to lean his body into hers and her pelvis heated up. She was tingling all over. She badly wanted him inside her but at the same time she didn’t want the moment to end. She worried that fucking might erase it.
He looked at her then, in a way that made her nearly cry. In fact, she’d caught him looking at her a lot that night and it made her feel so good that she figured he’d never really looked at her before. She laid her head down on his lap because she couldn’t handle having his eyes on her. His gaze made her heart thrum violently against her ribs. She considered every move she made; she tried to quantify how much of it was her thinking about what the best thing to do might be, to keep him engaged, versus what her body naturally wanted to do.
He bent down and kissed her. He kissed her ears and her neck and her lips. It felt like crystals exploding under her skin.
He leaned over and propped himself up on his big arms, right over her chest, and began to kiss her deeply. She caressed him as he kissed her all over. He brought his mouth to her ear and whispered, I want to lick you.
She moaned loudly, nearly coming at the words alone.
She sat up and took off her shirt and her bra. He knelt at the end of the bed. All she wanted to do was watch him. He slid her closer and closer to the edge, like a gynecological exam. He spread her legs to the sides and started kissing between her thighs. Little, gentle kisses that she couldn’t have predicted a man of his heft would perform. He slid his hands up to the outer parts of her thighs and up the sides of her waist to rub her breasts and brushed his fingertips over her nipples. He gently squeezed and massaged her breasts. His mouth never stopped sucking and kissing. He twirled his tongue on her clitoris, then squeezed it inside her. He pulled her clit with either his lips or his front teeth, she was not quite sure which, but she felt herself grow very hard down there and every time he tugged she felt a shock, a tiny electric orgasm. She jerked like a subject in a scientific experiment.
He was down there for a long time until there was a knock at the door. He rose, his whole face wet and smiling like a wolf’s. She scooted up to the headboard and used two stiff pillows to cover her naked body. In the floor-length mirror by the door she saw the reflection of the food deliveryman. She caught him looking at her. She smiled and flushed and covered her face with the corner of one pillow.
Aidan closed the door and set the food down on the desk. He climbed onto the bed, crawling up between her legs, but she pushed him off. She rolled him over so that he was lying down. She sucked him for a long time. He gently fingered and rubbed her while she slid her mouth and hand up and down. She stopped and climbed atop him. He hesitated a little, which made Lina think that maybe he’d wanted to have only oral sex. She figured he probably made little deals to absolve himself of some guilt. She was hurt because she always wanted to go all the way with him; she was never satisfied until they imploded into each other.
She took his penis like a gearshift and ran it between her legs to lube him up and then slid down on him deeply. After a few minutes he started to moan. She’d never heard him moan that way.
Oh, Lina! Lina, Lina.
He looked at her and she looked back. She usually averted her eyes. She couldn’t handle the intimacy. She loved him too much to have intimate moments during sex that would dribble down the shower drain after they were done. She was also self-conscious about the way her face looked up close. She had averted her eyes when they were kids, too. But this time she fully looked at him as they fucked and she mourned all the times when she had not. All that wasted life.
At one point he paused her motion, steadying her hips, and asked, Best you ever had?
She nodded slowly. Yes of course. She rode him a long while and he asked if she was about to come and told her he wanted her to. The fact that he wanted her to come made her feel she would explode.
I’m close, she said. Her eyes were closed and she was biting her lips. She was focusing on riding him well, on acting hot. Stop it, Lina, she said to herself. Lose yourself, Lina.
She said, Mmm hmm. Her eyes began to involuntarily squint and her mouth broke open in a puff of pleasure. She was coming but it didn’t feel like herself coming. It felt like some other woman. A woman who wasn’t as scared or lonely. She screamed out, moaned as though the old Lina was dying and a new one was being born. An animal version, a smooth-skinned, tough-gutted calf. He rolled her over so that he was on top and began to kiss her violently. The kisses were not as romantic as usual; these were deep and wet, almost uncontrollable because of his intense thrusting and heavy breathing. She liked these new kisses. She felt she was cheating on their intense and connective French-kissing, and this feeling turned her on.
I love you, he said, I love this pussy, I love you. I love you, Lina. I love your pussy.
Her ears rang. She couldn’t believe what she’d heard.
He softly asked, then, if she wanted him to come inside her, or where.
Yes, she said, that’d be great, or anywhere, I just want to make you come so much.
He began to come inside her. She felt his whole body plunging itself, discharging its energy. Then she hurriedly said, In my mouth in my mouth!
He said, Hunh-uh, because he couldn’t make it there in time. It was so charming, his boyish faltering. She loved it.
They held each other. Her body was misted in the most glorious sweat. She felt safe. Nothing hurt. After a good long time, he said they should probably relax and eat now.
I am as relaxed as can be right now, Lina said.
Uh-huh, he said, as if it was very true for him as well. He cleaned up in the bathroom. Then Lina went and did the same. She got her pajamas on. She cleared a spot on the couch because his things were strewn all over the place. He cleared it more for them. They sat and ate fries and chicken sandwiches. They didn’t use any condiments. She was still eating when he went and lay in bed. He closed his eyes off and on. She’d look over and he would look back at her now and then. She went to the bathroom and washed her face. In the mirror she smiled at herself. Even the imperfections looked good; she looked like a happy, loved woman. She returned to the bed and checked her phone to make sure the kids were all right.
Suddenly Aidan opened his eyes and really, really looked at her. She felt her instincts take over. She could feel the smile on her face. She cocked her head to one side. She knew she looked cute and sexy at once, and she could feel him seeing her. Truly seeing her.
Finally, for the first time in her life, Lina felt sated enough, cared for enough, to let herself be still. To be present. She got into bed and they slept. She fell asleep easily, painlessly, with his body beside hers.
She woke at 4:15 A.M., dressed, and got ready to go. Before walking out, she sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed his arm. Then she bent forward and kissed his forehead. He didn’t wake up and she didn’t need him to.
She started the car in the dark lot, where the air was equally warm and cool. She’d forgotten how beautiful April could be.
It was too early to call anyone, she knew, but she couldn’t keep it in. She needed to let some of the pleasure out before it exploded and killed her.
In the parking lot, with her breath steaming up the car all around her, she called a friend, knowing it would go to voice mail. She didn’t care if the friend would think something was wrong because of the early hour. She knew that people were concerned only about their own lives. She didn’t even care to tell this one friend, in particular; she just needed to say the words out loud.
The voice mail clicked. She barely waited for the beep.
“He said, I love you, I love you! Of course he also said, I love your pussy. But he said it! He told me he loved me!”
Then she put the car in gear and drove all the way home, smiling so much her face hurt.
[Reference: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, p. 178, ebook version]
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The Happiness Curve: Three “midlife crisis” stories
(5 minute read)
[Excerpt from The Happiness Curve by Jonathan Rauch]
Consider the stories of three people I interviewed: Randy, Mary Ann, and Margaret.
Randy, at forty-four, is an example of someone who feels the undercurrent of disappointment all the more keenly for having had smooth sailing. His emotional set point is healthy, his external conditions comfortable, and his personal choices wise, but his sensible steadiness has given full rein to the effects of time. He achieved his career goals and has a happy marriage and a thriving son, but, for the reasons we’ve seen, arrival didn’t bring satisfaction. Going by the statistics, he has been on the downslope of the curve for a few years and might not hit the upturn for a few years more, and so he is in that particularly difficult period near the bottom when disappointment seems eternal. When I asked him to characterize his forties, he replied: tired, fatalistic. Why fatalistic? “I’ve been in the same job more than ten years. In the field that I’m in, which is downsizing and changing rapidly, I’m feeling that things are now less up to me to change and they’re more predecided. In my twenties, I felt I had the power to do what I want to do and try new things and experiment. Now I feel like if I want to stay in the kind of lifestyle that I have, which is a nice house, supporting a child, saving for college, going on vacation with my family, here’s what I’ll need to do: I’ll need to stay in a job that’s well paying, even if I don’t always enjoy it. That’s what I mean by fatalistic. There’s less room for experimentation.”
Does he ever have escape fantasies? “Of course.” On a vacation in Mexico, kayaking on a beautiful lagoon, he admired the sunset. “I thought, I want to do this: pull up stakes and live in Mexico and look at the stars at night.” Sometimes he fantasizes about retiring early. “Can I really do this for another twenty years? Am I going to get up at six a.m. every day and keep doing what I’m doing? I just have to shake my head. No. I don’t want to. So I am trying to imagine what else I can do.”
I asked: “Are you having a midlife crisis?”
“I’m at midlife. But a crisis seems to me something that’s sudden and then suddenly resolved. There’s probably a better word for something that’s long-lasting.” He said he imagines an uptick in his life satisfaction a few years hence: from six to maybe seven. But in the next breath he acknowledged that his optimism is, to some extent, forced. “I try to stay optimistic because, if I didn’t, there wouldn’t be much point in going on. By whatever means, I’ve been able to develop a pretty strong core to deal with things.” To me, this sounded less like optimism than like soldiering on.
Talking to Randy, I thought of what Hannes Schwandt said: On the one hand, you feel all this disappointment about your past. And then also your expectations evaporate about the future. So in midlife you’re feeling miserable about the past and the future at the same time.
Randy isn’t miserable. When I see him interact with his affectionate wife and his exuberant eleven-year-old son, I know he isn’t clinically depressed. I believe him when he says he realizes he’s lucky. But he is at that wearisome juncture where the past feels like a stream of accumulating disappointments and the future is still around the bend.
Randy’s case contrasts tellingly with that of Mary Ann. Like him, she is a forty-four-year-old professional. Unlike him, in midlife she encountered the kinds of catastrophes we all dread. The result, though, is that she seems to have shifted her disappointment curve—thereby advancing the realism and acceptance which people with fewer problems rely on time to bring.
Unlike most people I interviewed, Mary Ann is someone who embraces the term midlife crisis, and it is easy to see why. In rapid succession, her mother received a cancer diagnosis; then Mary Ann herself received a cancer diagnosis, which was a false alarm; then she received another cancer diagnosis, which was not a false alarm. Meanwhile, her husband ran into an exotic and hard-to-treat health problem, and her father-in-law died.
“I’ve hit my midlife crisis,” she told me. “All the sorts of things that are supposed to precipitate midlife crisis hit—poof—in my forties. You come smack-dab slamming into the concept of your own mortality. It makes you feel really old, really fast. You’re facing mortality, you’re feeling old, you’re thinking there are more achievements behind you than ahead. These are the hallmarks. I’m textbook in some ways.”
Mary Ann’s feelings are complicated, though. Describing her forties, she used the words: anxious, reflective, appreciative. Why, amid all the jolts, appreciative? She and her husband are healthy now, and her expectations have been reset by their ordeal. “Once you come through, you think: my god, I do have a great life. I’ll just sit outside sometimes when the weather is nice and think: yes!” On the Cantril Ladder scale, she rates her current life at seven: down from the eight she gave her twenties and thirties, but not bad. She sees the future as unlikely to bring the kinds of adventures she once had, but she seems to be making her peace with that. “I don’t feel so old that I don’t feel surprises are possible,” she said. “I don’t rule out the possibility of big shifts. I just don’t expect them.” And is that okay? Again, a mixed answer. “No one’s happy about coasting or sliding. But I’m not flipping out about it. I’m too old to sweat the small stuff.”
Mary Ann actually is not old at all, but she uses the phrase too old to refer, not to her objective age, but to her subjective position on the happiness curve. Schwandt suggests that the presence of objective difficulties in midlife—things like health crises—can mitigate emotional difficulties by helping people understand and accept their disappointment, thereby protecting them from a negative feedback cycle. I would not for a moment say there was anything desirable about Mary Ann’s bruising trials, but her encounters with mortality and suffering may have boiled off unrealistic optimism which otherwise would have taken longer to leach away. Her family’s crises seem to have taken her on a shortcut to the mature realism of the latter portion of the expectations curve. Her chronological age is the same as Randy’s, but her life-satisfaction age seems, perhaps, ten years ahead of his.
If the transition to realism sounds dreary and gloomy, take heart. The draining away of unrealistic optimism, although a grind when underway, can cast a freshening light on life. Take Margaret. An Australian in her early fifties, she has rounded the bend that probably lies a few years ahead for Randy. Her forties brought uncertainty, unsettledness, a series of jobs that didn’t feel right, but her fifties? Industrious, settled, are the terms she uses. When I probed, I learned that by “settled” she means that she has settled down, but also that she has settled for. Her job still isn’t quite the right fit, but it is pretty good and she can settle for it. “It’s good enough. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ve accepted an area of work that’s not my ideal, but it’s still very satisfying.” Meanwhile, she finds satisfaction in pursuits which might have seemed less worthwhile to her younger, more ambitious self. A piece of jewelry broke, so she took a jewelry-making course. She learned to knit. She took sewing lessons. “I come out of it feeling so refreshed and relaxed, like I’ve had a big rest. It’s using a different part of the brain. I feel like there’s more of a balance.” She describes herself as happier than she has ever been. I can tell that Margaret is surprised by the pleasure she is getting from what she calls her “little courses.” She uses the word awakened to describe her life.
On Hannes Schwandt’s map, Margaret has passed the crossing and reached the place where expectations are realistically low and satisfaction surprisingly high. On Thomas Cole’s map, she is out of the rapids.
* * *
Talking to Jasper and Randy and Margaret, and to many others, it dawned on me that we don’t have a good vocabulary for the rich and ambivalent mixture of emotions they are encountering in midlife. Clinical words like depression and anxiety don’t fit; dramatic words like crisis don’t fit, either, at least not reliably. Malaise is pretty good, but it is one-dimensional and needs fleshing out. I hear fatalism and resignation from Randy, something like acceptance from Mary Ann, and something closer to satisfaction from Margaret. I hear, in Randy, a note of mourning for optimism lost, but in Margaret, a note of relief at letting go of the ambition that is optimism’s burden (Jonathan Haidt’s “heavy backpack”). From Mary Ann I hear notes of sadness, but also notes of lightness. And so on. The feelings my midlife interviewees describe are too complex and rich to fit easily into any standard emotional box.
[Reference: The Happiness Curve by Jonathan Rauch, p. 105-108]
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A friend with benefits isn’t always a benefit
(6 minute read)
From the book, Laid by Shannon Boodram
Story from Stacy Rees, 22, Florida
JOSH AND I STARTED OUT AS LONGTIME FRIENDS. I HAD always had more guy friends than girls anyway.
I worked for his parents, we went to the same school, he was dating a girl in my circle of friends, and we even lived on the same street. We were inseparable, and I truly believed he could do no wrong. Josh was a senior, about eighteen, and I was young for a junior, only sixteen, but in a town this small, that really didn’t matter—he was my best friend and I was his. I helped him through the breakup with my friend, and even though he ended up hating her, our friendship lasted.
I remember very vividly the day this all changed. When I think back on it now, I realize that I carried a huge crush for Josh the whole time we were friends but never openly admitted it to myself or anyone. In my mind, he was the embodiment of everything I thought was cool and special. Thinking about that day now is like watching one of those horror movies where you want to yell at the main character, “Don’t do that!”
A whole group of us had decided to skip school and go to “the Creek,” a small river area, to party. We were all down there swimming and drinking, no problem, but then one of my friends became very ill. Josh offered to leave early and take her to my house, because my grandparents were out of town and she could sleep it off there without getting in trouble. When we got to my house, I took care of my friend and tucked her in to the extra bed. Josh and I were supposed to be at school, so we had time to kill. I was tired and told him I was going to lie down. And that’s what I did, and moments later he joined me to do the same. I wasn’t alarmed—this wasn’t the first time we had shared a bed—and besides, this was Josh. I fell asleep.
I woke up to his hand rubbing my stomach. He was spooning me and had lifted my shirt to rub my bare belly. I had no previous experience with any kind of sexual physical contact with a guy, so I was shocked. I turned over instinctively and he kissed me. I must have looked as shocked as I felt.
“Are you okay?” he asked me, like this was a normal, everyday thing.
What could I do? This was Josh, the best guy I knew, right? So I nodded yes and began kissing him back. Soon we were both naked and he was doing things to my body that, if I’d been thinking clearly, I would have realized were horribly embarrassing. I mean, I had never even so much as made out with a guy, let alone been naked in front of one. But I kept telling myself that this was Josh and I trusted him not to do anything that would hurt me. Looking back now, I see that I was the only one worried about someone other than myself. I hate to admit this, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, This changes everything; from now on we will be much more than friends. This is a big step, and he must care a whole bunch about me to be doing this with me. I was guilty of the same thoughts that I had ridiculed other girls for having. Sex to some changes nothing; it’s simply a physical act. Who was I to think my circumstances were special?
“I’m going to try and put it inside you now, okay? I think you’re ready,” he said, looking at me like I had some kind of clue what was going on.
But everything so far hadn’t been bad; some of it had been very nice. So again I reassured him I was right there with him: “Okay, if you want to.” I whispered those stupid words with a wobbly smile and no idea what I was saying. If you want to?! What was I thinking! What about what I wanted? Somehow I had completely left one of the biggest decisions of my life up to someone else.
He pushed inside a little bit, and I’m sure my gasp of pain must have penetrated his lust-hazed brain, because he said, “It’s better if we do it all at once. Just relax.”
Relax? What was he saying?
Obviously, the position we were in was not going according to his plan, so he situated my legs differently and then, when he was satisfied with where I was, he tried again. Josh, the guy I had trusted with all my secrets, gave one impossibly hard thrust and it felt like my insides had ripped apart. The pain brought instant tears to my already foggy eyes. It was at that instant I knew that this wasn’t just “something” to do. This had been something big, and I had just wasted it. He began to move, and the pain gradually faded into nothing. After that point, he made no more efforts to make it more pleasurable for me—he just kept going until I felt his body tense and I knew he was done. Josh rolled off me and went into the bathroom to clean up, I guess—hell, I had no idea what he was doing. I just lay there and thought, Okay, he’s going to come out here any minute and explain what happened. He’s going to tell me things are going to be different between us now.
He came out talking, all right: “It’s way later than I thought it was, and I have to meet my parents for dinner. Umm … you might want to shower; I imagine you’re pretty messy right now. I’ll talk to you later.”
With that last comment, he walked over and kissed me on the forehead before walking out of my house. I lay there with a vacant mind for a few moments before I sat up to go shower. I looked down at myself, only to learn that I was bleeding. I wasn’t all panicky about it, because I had heard some girls do. What was appalling was that he’d just left me there, knowing that this had happened. Messy, he’d said. What an understatement.
Much later, things like pregnancy and disease came to mind once I realized we had not used protection. I then did what all girls do when in distress: I called my best friend, Anna. Since I wasn’t the type to be upset over unimportant things, she rushed over to my house. She walked in and saw me bundled up in sweats on the couch.
“What in the world is wrong with you?”
“Anna, I messed things up real bad, I think.” I couldn’t even look at her as I said it. For something I had never really given much thought to, my virginity had suddenly become a big deal on the very same day I’d lost it. No, I won’t say “lost,” because it’s not like I woke up and I had misplaced it—I had willingly and foolishly given it away.
“I had sex with Josh.”
She just looked at me. Here we were, two opposite sides of the coin. I had never really been taught to give much thought to my virginity, and she was a good Christian girl who was waiting for marriage. Anna sat down beside me and held my hand. “Tell me what happened.”
I told her everything, all the while thinking it sounded like a dream I had imagined. Questions like: Does this make me a slut? Is he going to tell everyone?
Anna, of course, said all the sensible things, like, “Josh should have taken the time to talk to you. He was the experienced one, so he should have had the sense to use protection.”
She offered support without judgment. All I can say is, if a situation like this arises, tell someone—someone you trust—and tell them the truth, because keeping it in will undoubtedly cause the guilt to eat at you. I told Anna, and I know that her words and understanding salvaged some of my self-worth-not all, but some.
I then went on to convince myself that I was in love with Josh. I pined after him, still playing the role of best friend, letting myself be heartbroken every time he dated another girl. In between his girlfriends, I would let him use me as a sexual doormat, only further tricking myself into thinking we would end up together one day. Never once in all those years did we ever talk about what had happened. Honestly, the thing I regret the most about the whole situation isn’t losing my virginity; it’s the fact that I didn’t hold him accountable for his actions. I certainly didn’t do it by myself. I should have talked to him. After all this and all the intimacies we shared, we still have never talked about that day, or any of our sexual encounters.
I truly regret what I gave up in adolescent stupidity. I let myself be used and, in a sense, abused by a selfish person under the guise of friendship. But in hindsight, not all the things that came of this were bad: Now I realize how much stronger I am and how much more I am worth. I feel no shame for what I did, only a twinge of regret at the wasted opportunities to talk.
Josh and I have a tentative friendlike relationship currently, and I am working on being less of a pleaser. Now, whenever younger girls ask me about my first time and what should they do, I say, “It may not seem like a big deal to you now, and you might not realize how much it will change you, but it will. So hold on to it as long as you can, but if you do decide to have sex and it turns out not to be love, talk about it with him, whoever he may be. Let him know how you feel and what you’ve done. There is no reason why you should carry the burden alone.”
Like they say, it takes two.
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The Woman Whose Roommate Won’t Stop Having Men Over
(6 minute read)
From NY Magazine, The Cut:
This week, a woman has FaceTime dates with strangers, considers a threesome, and fights with her roommate: 25, single, Downtown Brooklyn.
9:30 a.m. I wake up before my roommate. Katy and I have been friends since high school, and we’re really close. We’ve been drinking a lot, smoking a lot of weed, and sleeping in. I think we are on a bender. I read somewhere that CVS has vibrators, so I’m gearing up to go there and buy one. I won’t tell my roommate about that, even though we are best friends.
10 a.m. It’s terrible out there. There’s bad energy everywhere. I put on my mask and walk into CVS. (I have masks because I had a small surgery last year and stole masks from the hospital on my way out — I have no idea why, but I’m glad I did.)
10:15 a.m. Vibrator bought. Hopefully I did not get the virus in the meantime. Orgasms are not worth dying for!
4 p.m. Groundhog Day here. We are stoned and watching documentaries. Katy suggests we invite Trey over. We had an amazing threesome with Trey just before the pandemic hit. It was not the first time my roommate and I had a threesome together, but it was definitely the best. We weigh the pros and cons of hooking up with someone right now. I suggest texting him to see if he’d even be into it …
4:15 p.m. He is into it.
5 p.m. We don’t know what to do. We open some white wine. We decide to FaceTime him again.
6 p.m. Trey swears he’s been on lockdown and has had zero exposure to anyone sick (as far as he knows … which, as we all know, is impossible to know). He’s so hot and his dick is so big and I’m really horny, but I use my better judgment and tell my roommate we can’t do it. She seems annoyed that I’m being cautious. Oh, well.
8 p.m. I’m pretty high and decide to use my new vibrator and go to sleep.
7:30 a.m. Here’s where things get crazy. I wake up from almost 12 hours of sleep and see Trey in our kitchen trying to make coffee. He says “good morning” to me as if there’s nothing wrong with the situation. “What are you doing here?” I say, trying to put the pieces together in my mind. “Katy told me to come over,” he starts to say. “Oh, shit. You didn’t know. Okay, no drama …” I am not typically a drama queen, but I storm to my room and shut the door. There is so much wrong with this situation!
8 a.m. I text Katy from my room. WTF? She is still sleeping. Here’s why I’m pissed: it’s not that she fucked a guy who I’m kinda into. We’ve both treated Trey like a piece of meat up until this point. Neither of us ever discussed feelings for him, although I was starting to catch some. It’s that she made the choice to invite a person into our apartment, in the middle of the coronavirus, when she knew I was uncomfortable with it. That really pisses me off!
9 a.m. I’m still in my room. I’m starving. I find a protein bar in a pocketbook and eat it under my sheets. I’m actually scared to leave my room. I’m not scared of Trey. I’m scared of germs.
12 p.m. Katy is awake. I hear her. I finally leave my room, but with a scarf wrapped around my face. Trey is gone. Katy gives me an “I’m sorry!” look. How can she not see what she did was so disrespectful. We get into a big fight. She doesn’t get it. She thinks I’m pissed because she had sex with Trey without me. She’s missing the point.
1 p.m. I order a large pizza and bring it into my room so that I won’t have to leave for the rest of the day.
7 p.m. I have been on and off Tinder for six hours having fun flirting from the darkness of my room. Not thinking about Katy or Trey or the darkness that is the world.
9:30 a.m. Katy and I are fine. We get in lots of fights, never really talk about it, and then move on. Not sure if that’s healthy or not, but it’s our pattern. It’s hard being cooped up with someone for this long. I’m lucky I don’t actually hate her. She just drives me crazy.
11:30 a.m. I’ve been flirting with one guy, Omar. We have a FaceTime date and smoke a bowl together. He’s really cool. I can already tell he’d be a great fuckboy. Or more. I’d love to have a boyfriend, but I don’t want to obsess over finding one. I don’t want to be that girl. I ended my only serious relationship about a year ago. He didn’t treat me well, and it was hard to break away emotionally, but I’m glad I did. Katy really helped me move on from him (even if it was through a lot of hard partying), so I have to remember to be thankful for that when I want to throw her out the window.
3 p.m. I introduce Omar to Katy. This makes me nervous and excited at the same time. Katy is really beautiful. Men love her, but then they realize she’s kind of a train wreck. I think she makes me look good to guys at first (because it’s like, Oh, she has hot friends — she must be cool!), but then she’s a liability because she either flirts with them, or convinces me to have a threesome with her, or something just backfires. I have to hold myself responsible for this stuff and can’t blame Katy for everything, but she’s definitely not insignificant to my flings and potential relationships.
7 p.m. We are getting stoned and watching Tiger King. I’m quietly thinking about Omar and wondering if I’ll ever meet him in real life. He’s at his parents’ house in Westchester for now.
9 a.m. Groundhog Day.
10 a.m. I actually have to do a little work. I’m a personal assistant for a CEO who isn’t really working right now. I mostly manage his social schedule and, since everything is canceled, there hasn’t been much for me to do. So far, he’s still paying me. He really likes me, so I’m not worried about losing my job. Today, he asked me to send a handful of his contacts boxes of chocolate to cheer them up. He spends like $300 per box of chocolate. He tells me to order one for myself. I love this man. Katy is in grad school to be a teacher, so she’s been doing a little work and studying from home, but mostly blowing it off.
6 p.m. Omar FaceTimes to see if I want to have a virtual drink with him. I love this man, too!
8 p.m. I’m making vodka with lemonade and talking to Omar. Katy keeps trying to chime in, which annoys me. Later on, I text Omar some of my issues with Katy. I make sure to delete the texts after I send each one. I’m kind of scared of her.
10 a.m. I wake up with a familiar anxiety — wondering whether a guy will text me or not. I want to hear from Omar again, and it’s only 10 a.m. This feeling always disturbs me because it usually means I’m going to like someone a lot, and start acting like I like them a lot, and then they stop liking me. I try to get ahead of the issue by watching ten hours of Real Housewives to distract myself.
10 p.m. Twelve hours of Real Housewives is done. Good night!
9 a.m. Katy and I put our masks on and venture out to the grocery store. The market is pretty good about social distancing, but it still feels nerve-racking. Katy doesn’t really care. This makes me angry, but I choose to live and let live. We stock up on a lot of Lean Cuisine, beer, and gourmet ice cream. We’re so gross.
10:30 a.m. On the way home, Katy tells me she’s super-horny and wants to have Trey over later. It’s such a complicated thing for me because I’m mostly annoyed that she’s still having humans come to our apartment (he says he walks here, but I have a feeling he takes the subway), and I’m also just annoyed that she basically claimed him as her own. I’m worn down by life and Katy and New York City, so I just shrug and say, “Whatever you want.” Then I tell her to please disinfect the entire apartment after he leaves and that I’ll be in my room the entire time.
3 p.m. I text Omar from under my sheet and tell him that Katy is fucking someone in her room right now, and I can hear them, and that it’s really disturbing. I need someone to vent to, and part of me is hoping this will turn him on. It doesn’t. He tells me that it all sounds pretty childish and that he has to go and watch the news. I feel embarrassed and regret telling him anything.
7 p.m. Trey is in the living room, and I still haven’t left my room. I’m out of snacks and hungry and annoyed. I text Katy that he has to leave. Shortly after, I hear her kick him out. Then I text her to remind her to disinfect the apartment. She’s pissed at me now. I hear her stomping around and cleaning up, then closing her door.
8 p.m. I hate everyone.
8:30 a.m. I wake up with the biggest pimple. I only break out when I’m stressed. I feel crappy about life right now. I miss my job and my boss. I miss the city. I miss the outdoors. I miss being 25 and free to live my life and have fun. I can’t watch the news because it’s too sad.
4 p.m. I have not heard from Omar and don’t think I will. I try not to care. And I promise myself not to contact him again. Appearing desperate will not help. I blew it.
5 p.m. Katy and I make quesadillas and eat the Doritos and drink the beer. My pimple is so big I can see it from my eye. We are laughing about it, and laughing at ourselves. That helps. We promise that tomorrow we’re going to be healthy. There are so many free exercise classes online. We say we’re going to turn our apartment into a wellness center.
8 p.m. We drink tons of water, watch a little TV, and say good night. Our new lifestyle starts tomorrow.
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Sexual Distancing: Romance, Sex and the Virus
(6 minute read)
I’ve always be a scaredy-cat, since I was a little girl. Always thought there was a boogey man under my bed who was going to come out and get me. Now that I am twenty-five, I’ve learned that most men who climb into my bed to get me are boogey men. Not all. But most. Until Eric.
I only met him four weeks ago but got kinda crazy about him, real quick. Like date three. Actually, date one. But I didn’t sleep with him until number three. I couldn’t hold out any longer. And I think if I had, he might have left. At least that’s what I was afraid of. Like I said, I’m a scaredy-cat. And a bit of a prude, thanks to a devout catholic upbringing with a strict, god-will-take-care-of-everything dad, a bipolar mom, a bullying older brother and a cuter-than-me baby sister. That left me short in self-confidence department and constantly looking for reaffirmation. So, I went out to get it, to find what would make me feel better about myself. At sixteen, I tried sex. It didn’t really work but the more I tried the better––maybe just easier––it got. I wasn’t a slut, by any means, and I could, and did, say ‘no’––a lot. But when I liked the guy and thought he really liked me––usually getting it wrong–– it was good … well, okay.
Moving to New York––I’m from small town Indiana––was an escape from my stupid boundaries and religious chains and I became a freed new woman. I was twenty-two with a world of ambition, a B.A. degree, a major in American art, and an internship at the Met (Museum of Modern Art). I was ready for the world. Six months later, I was fucked. The coronavirus closed down New York City––and my aspirations. I was depressed. And damn near broke.
That’s when I met Eric. He had a job. And was good looking. And smart. He was a lawyer. On our third date we went back to his place and … OMG! It was so spectacular I almost peed my pants. No kidding. He later told me his father owned it––as an investment––and he got to live in it, rent free. Nice! It was on Fifth Avenue, almost opposite where I worked––used to. It was decorated, by his mother, in the most ornate, garish, vulgar imitation of an over-the-top Marie Antoinette that I didn’t even want to sit down. He poured champagne, kissed me––deep, wet, hot––and next thing I knew we were in his bedroom. I do remember the bedroom. Modern. King size bed, wooden headboard, black duvet, white sheets, sexy … and exquisitely firm. It was all a fabulous blur. And has been since. It was romantic and torrid. New York was my oyster––and we tried oysters to see if they really were aphrodisiac food. I couldn’t tell, the sex was always good.
Until the coronavirus. Again, it fucked me up.
I was scraping by. My parents sent some money, I had unemployment insurance, my landlord delayed my rent and Eric was buying most of my meals and all my drinks. I spent most of the time at his place but went back to my hole-in-the-wall every few days, just to pretend to keep my independence. When he suggested I move in with him, ‘temporarily,’ I dropped my independence for dependency. But what moved me decide more than anything was my scaredy-cat psyche. COVID-19 made New York a scary place and living alone made his offer both a safety net and a romantic hideout. Despite my need to be a self-determining woman, my insecurity made most of my decisions for me. I moved in.
But it didn’t turn out as I––we––expected. What might have been an adventure in love and romance became a cloistered hell. Handsome, hot thirty-something guy, needy, insecure twenty-something woman, Fifth Avenue apartment … my god, a fantasy come true, a $5 million pad, ready-made to reaffirm my deepest, most lustful needs. Except, he had to self-quarantine. Two people in his law firm had the virus and we had to spend two weeks together, six feet apart. So much for romance and sex.
Fuckin’ virus. What do you do? I had two choices. Either jump off the eighteenth-floor balcony or figure out how to live with a hunk of a guy and maintain a Platonic relationship. He was young and healthy, hell, as virile and in shape as any athlete––ran five miles in Central Park every day––but could be a carrier. We agreed on the sexual distancing, which is a fuck lot harder than social distancing, and I slept in a second bedroom. In the mornings, we used separate bathrooms and stayed our distance in the kitchen. He worked from the dining room––was on the phone all day long––and I mainly read, in the bedroom, living room or on the balcony.
It was agonizing. For me, the sex had just begun to get good. We may have had sex … I don’t know, maybe thirty times and he was finally starting to pay attention what I needed. At first, it was just raw. Good, but raw. I loved his sexual hunger. He tried the after-his-orgasm stuff, touching and bringing me to orgasm, but he wasn’t very good at it. I came a few times but mostly faked it. I didn’t want him to feel bad. We did quite bit of oral sex, mainly me. He was more into getting it than giving it. I was okay with that. What the hell? For now.
A funny thing happened one night. I’d been reading a raunchy book about sex in the 18th century, Justine by Marquis de Sade, and all the wild things they did and the way they had sex. Multiple men and women, all kinds of instruments, I mean real debauchery. So there we were, keeping our distance while sitting in his mother’s vulgar living room, he in a Louis XVI chair facing me, slouched on an incredibly uncomfortable settee, reading him passages from the book. He was in a T-shirt and pair of athletic shorts––his favorite hangout clothes––me in sweats and T-shirt. As I read the sexual romping about chains, whips and multiple partners, I saw his excitement. His bulging shorts. I went wet. I looked away for a moment and when I glanced back, he adjusted his engorgement. It was fucking exciting. I asked, “Does that feel good?”
His gorgeous green eyes didn’t look as innocent as his question sounded. “Com’on,” I said. “This stuff turns me on too.”
“You mean me?”
“Hot and wet.” I watched as he eased his hand under his shorts. I was ten feet away from a tall, strapping man with the most mesmerizing smile, perfect mouth and the taut, angular body of a marathon runner. I was getting more excited than anytime I’d ever been under or on top of a naked man. It was the distance. The inability to cross the divide. Sexual distancing was turning sexual freedom into the forbidden. It was crazy. I slipped my hand inside my sweats, I wasn’t wearing underwear. His eyes were fixated on my hand. His hand moved slowly, deliberately.
It was odd and natural, at the same time. We said nothing. Something unspoken was understood. I slid my butt to the edge of the narrow settee and tucked a finger inside myself. His legs splayed and his motion became rhythmic, but unhurried. I mirrored his posture. Our out-stretched legs pushed our feet within a foot of each other. His face went through the same expressions as when on top of me, gazing, grinning, grimacing. He wasn’t touching me, but I could feel him, deeply. My body, my muscle memory sensed every inch of him. His eyes burned with desire, need, demand, force. They were raping me. My whole hand grasped my heat, two fingers stirred my wetness. I could hear the sweet sound of my lust. He lifted his gorgeous hips and pushed his shorts below his knees, kicking them off as his stroking intensified. I touched my clitoris … OMG. She was ready. So ready. So soon.
Just before things went wonderfully dreamy, I pushed my sweats to my knees. Then slid to the floor, spread my legs and felt my feet touch his. I saw him lean into a pounding tempo. His feet bumped up against mine, pushing me back into the settee. It hurt. I loved it. His face was fury, eyes shrieking with desire, every muscle throbbing with need. I watched as he went where I couldn’t go, into his own ecstasy, his own salvation. I was crazy hot, dimly aware of my own churning need rising with his, seeing him explode, and then … going with him, reaching for his deep guttural release as it shattered the Louis XVI silence.
Before dragging our pleasure-filled butts into separate bedrooms, we chatted about the wild thrill we had both experienced. He kept saying, ‘Wow.” But I stumbled an attempted explanation. Maybe trying to understand, maybe just reliving it. I said, “Seeing you separate from me brought me closer. I was more into you than when slammed up against you and you ploughing deep inside me.”
He said, “wow.”
“I loved watching. Your engorgement never looked so wonderful. And seeing, and not being able to have it was … painful. Painfully beautiful. When I touched myself … I was gone.”
“Me too,” he said. “Wow!”
I didn’t tell him that my orgasm was maybe the best I’d ever had. Really. Better than any he’d given me. Any guy had given me. Better than any I’d given myself. I wondered if it tapped into some lingering vicarious need I had for affirmation that ten years of sex had not yet satisfied. Whatever it was, I wanted more.
With more than a week of isolation and sexual distancing ahead of us, we had a repeat performance the next evening. And the morning after that, he in the kitchen––soaking wet from a shower––me watching and participating from the dining room. Then that night, just when I thought I could get very used to this, our sexual distancing became an Amber Alert. I was leaning against the dining room table, another Louis relic, and following his lead as he sat spread eagle in a kitchen chair, pleasuring himself. Slowly, his eyes changed, his face changed. I couldn’t tell if it was anger or … desperation. Then he went kinda blank. Stood up. His magnificence firmly gripped. But he stopped. I stopped.
He was huge. His entire body went rigid. Then like a stalking animal, he took two strides across the sexual distance, pushed me back on the table, grabbed my ass … and raped me. Or so I fantasized.
I loved it. He filled me with affirmation. Fuck sexual distancing.
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Ending a Marriage with Dignity and Grace
A story from the book, State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel (non-fiction)
(5 minute read)
Our culture views divorce as a failure, and even more so when it is precipitated by an infidelity. Longevity is seen as the ultimate indicator of marital achievement, but plenty of people who stayed “till death do us part” have been miserable. A successful marriage doesn’t end only at the funeral parlor—especially in our era of increasing life expectancy. Sometimes a relationship has run its course, and in such cases, when I can, I try to help it end with dignity and integrity. I see no contradiction in asking a couple about the success of their breakup. Hence my check-in with Clive and Jade.
I first met them as newlyweds, twenty-two years ago, when I led a workshop for mixed-race couples. They were carefree, full of promise. Two decades, three kids, and one affair later, their marriage was on its last legs, and they came to me for help. Clive had recently come clean about his secret relationship with Kyra. He felt terribly guilty, but had resolved to move on and make a life with his new love. Jade was desperate, fighting to hold on to him. I remember her hanging on to every word, gesture, and smile from Clive, but all of it was in vain.
I felt it was my responsibility to decrypt the message that was right in front of us: “Jade, he’s not coming back. Your sadness makes him feel guilty, and that guilt instantly morphs into anger at you for making him feel bad that he’s making you feel bad. He may not be gone, but he’s not here, either.”
I told him, “You keep waiting till you can leave without guilt, and that’s never going to happen. It’s time to set her free.” He vacillated between being paralyzed and wanting to run as fast as he could, for fear that if he didn’t bolt, he’d get stuck again. Yet I thought they needed to take the time to say a proper goodbye. So I suggested a separation ceremony.
Just as we have marriage ceremonies to mark the beginning of a union, we also need rituals to mark the end. A marriage is the nexus of an entire life—history, memories, habits, experiences, children, friends, family, celebrations, losses, homes, trips, holidays, treasures, jokes, pictures. Why throw all of this out and treat the relationship, in the poetic words of Marguerite Yourcenar, like “an abandoned cemetery where lie, unsung and unhonored, the dead whom they have ceased to cherish.”
Rituals facilitate transitions. They also honor what was. Clive and Jade once exchanged vows; now they are tearing them up. But just because he fell in love with another woman doesn’t mean their entire past together was a fraud. Such a summation is cruel and shortsighted. The legacy of two decades of a shared life is larger than the legacy of the affair.
When a couple arrives at the finishing line, drained after two years of back and forth—his confusion, her false hopes, his guilt about leaving, her holding on—it’s easy to undervalue what they’re leaving behind. The purpose of the ceremony I suggested was to not let Clive’s affair eclipse all the positive aspects of their otherwise good marriage.
Sometimes departing spouses are reluctant to shift their focus to the good things in their relationship because they are afraid it will take the wind out of their sails. It’s as if they feel the need to trash what they had to justify leaving. What they don’t realize is that by doing so, they simultaneously degrade their own past and all the people they shared it with—leaving a trail of angry children, parents, friends, and exes.
We need a concept of a terminated marriage that doesn’t damn it—one that helps to create emotional coherence and narrative continuity. Ending a marriage goes beyond the signing of divorce papers. And divorce is not the end of a family; it’s a reorganization. This kind of ritual has caught the public imagination in recent years, dubbed “conscious uncoupling” by author Katherine Woodward Thomas.
I invite couples to write goodbye letters to each other. Letters that capture what they’ll miss, what they cherish, what they take responsibility for, and what they wish for each other. This allows them to honor the riches of their relationship, to mourn the pain of its loss, and to mark its legacy. Even if it is done with a cooled heart, it can nonetheless provide solace.
When Clive and Jade came in for the following session, they had their letters on their iPhones. One click and the reading began.
Entitled “What I’ll Miss,” Jade’s letter was a ten-page list, divided into categories, wistfully evoking the multilayered tapestry of their history. Their personal sayings—Hola, chickly . . . Dame un beso . . . the baaaaaby. The early days—love notes, mixtapes, salsa and more salsa, dog parks, parking meters, the opera. The food they loved. Their friends. The places that held meaning for them—from Martha’s Vineyard to Paris to the Cornelia Street Café to apartment 5C. Their “sexy spots.” Their “firsts” . . .
No one else will ever share the particular meanings these everyday things hold for them. She listed the connections she’d miss: “feeling protected, safe, beautiful, loved.” Her final category was simply “You”: “Your scent. Your smile. Your enthusiasm. Your ideas. Your hugs. Your big strong hands. Your balding head. Your dreams. You, next to me.” When she finished reading, we were all in tears and there was no need to trample the tenderness with any extraneous verbiage. But it is important for the scribe to hear her own words read back to her, so I asked Clive to do so. Then he read his own pages.
Hers was a love letter; his, a diplomatic farewell, thanking her profusely for the life they had shared, expressing regret for having fallen short, and assuring her that he would always treasure their bond. He was kind and caring, but his tone was purely formal. His opening and closing sentences say as much: “Thank you for being an amazing person and a truly wonderful force in my life over the past twenty-two years” . . . “I want you to know that despite its outcome, I see the good in our marriage, and will always cherish it and hold it deeply within my heart.”
A year later, when I follow up with Jade, she emphasizes how the ritual of uncoupling helped her to see the writing on the wall. “At first I thought it was a little new agey, but I was also proud to be doing it and even shared it with some friends. We were doing something right despite all the wrong that had come before. I often wondered, how is he going to leave? Is he just one day going to wake up, say, ‘Okay, bye,’ and walk out the door? The separation ceremony put an end to my ruminations. I desperately needed a way to help me accept that he loved another woman and it was really over.”
Some affairs are temporary side stories; others are the beginnings of a new life. Clive’s was the latter, and no amount of waiting on Jade’s part would have changed that. The tone of his letter made that all too clear to her. “It wasn’t a ‘what I’ll miss’ letter,” she says. “It was a ‘we are over’ letter. He said some nice things, but this was definitely a man no longer in love. It struck me right then and there that while I was still suffering, still very much in love, he was gone. It hurt, more than you know, but it opened my eyes.”
Next I caught up with Clive, who remembered the ceremony as “emotional and effective.” Guilt was turned into gratitude, denial replaced by memory. Gradually he was able to simultaneously hold his attachment to Jade and his children and the calling of a new life with Kyra. “Until that moment, it hadn’t felt real. The symbolism gave it a seal of finality.”
This cathartic closure proved to be the right ritual for this couple. But sadly, many spew out a long list of curses rather than a list of sweet memories. Wherever I can, I try to help people create narratives that are empowering rather than victimizing. It doesn’t always involve forgiveness, it makes room for anger, but hopefully it is an anger that mobilizes rather than keeps them trapped in bitterness. We need to go on with life—hope again, love again, and trust again.
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Olivia wanted sex more than Patrick and the stress made it worse. Until they changed the rules
Two stories from the book, Come As You Are by Dr. Emily Nagoski (non-fiction)
(3 minute read)
Stress and sex – getting rid of one, makes the other better
“I needed something to blame for my anxiety, and cultural brainwashing made my body seem like a good target.”
When Olivia was stressed, her interest in sex increased—and it was a source of conflict in her relationship with Patrick, since when he was stressed, his interest in sex went down. And worse, sometimes the stress-driven sexual interest made Olivia feel out of control.
How can she manage that feeling?
By practicing completing the cycle.
My technical description of Olivia’s out-of-control experience is “maladaptive behavior to manage negative affect”—which just means trying to cope with uncomfortable emotions (stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, rage) by doing things that carry a high risk of unwanted consequences. Compulsive sexual behavior is one example. Other examples include:
- using alcohol or other drugs in a risky way
- dysfunctional relationships—for instance, trying to deal with your own feelings by dealing with someone else’s
- escaping into distractions, like movie binge-watching when you have other things you need to be doing
- disordered eating—restricting, binging, or purging
Of course, all these things can be done in a healthy way. It’s when we do them instead of dealing with our Feels—that is, instead of completing the cycle—that they bring the potential for unwanted consequences. Some of those consequences are fairly benign . . . and some are could-kill-you-tonight dangerous. And they’re all intended to do one thing: manage the underlying feelings. We might do these things when we don’t know how to complete the cycle or when the feelings just hurt too much.
As a teenager, disordered eating was Olivia’s maladaptive coping strategy. She would binge eat and then exercise, binge and exercise. As she recovered from her eating disorder, she came to realize that her behavior wasn’t really about the shape of her body—“I needed something to blame for my anxiety, and cultural brainwashing made my body seem like a good target,” she said. Instead, her compulsive behavior was an attempt to deal with feelings that felt too big for her to handle.
She’s been symptom-free for several years. Still, she told me, “I sometimes walk through doors sideways because I think I’m too big to fit. When I catch myself doing it, I make myself go through straight, because what I learned is that it’s not my body that I’m worried is too big. It’s my anxiety.”
Now she runs, both to manage her stress and as a productive outlet for her intensity and energy—and she limits herself to one marathon a year because, she says, “I tend to go overboard, and it helps if I set limits.”
“I think you’re doing something more profound than just setting limits,” I said. “I think you’re allowing exercise to help you complete the cycle instead of hitting the brakes. And you can do the same thing with sex.”
She chewed on her lip and nodded her head. Then she said, “I don’t see it.”
[She’ll see it in Chapter 5 of Come As You Are]
Desire: Actually It’s Not a Drive
“One of the rules we set was I had to ask for permission before I had an orgasm. And he did not always say yes when I asked. Um, we’ll be doing that again.”
It’s a basic fact of their relationship that Olivia wants sex more often than Patrick does, so she ends up initiating most of the time. But Olivia’s experience of being the target of Patrick’s placebo-powered rampant lust the previous night had given her a powerful insight: It had felt good to be open to sex, without feeling driven to have sex. It had felt good to allow sexual desire to pull her gradually and gently toward sex, rather than feeling like it was pushing her.
So as the next step in their experiment, they tried flipping their usual dynamic on its head. They set a “date night” and then didn’t do anything to prepare; they just showed up that night in their usual states of mind—Olivia ready to go, Patrick not disinterested, but not actively interested either.
And they made Olivia follow her partner’s lead, while Patrick started to explore what kinds of things he could do to shift himself into active interest. They spent a lot of time “preheating the oven”: kissing and talking and massaging—and, surprisingly, a little adventure, moving from the bedroom to the kitchen to feed each other. When Patrick was in charge with full permission to do whatever occurred to him, they tried new things and played together. They learned a lot about what context worked for Patrick, because he had to create that context, had to ask for what felt right.
They learned a surprising thing about Olivia, too: When she stayed still enough to move at Patrick’s pace rather than her own naturally faster pace, the gradual buildup and the sustained arousal and the necessity of holding herself back created a context that wasn’t just as good as the context that worked for her. It was unbelievably better.
Olivia emailed me: “One of the rules we set was I had to ask for permission before I had an orgasm. And he did not always say yes when I asked. Um, we’ll be doing that again.”
In other words: Creating a great sex-positive context for the lower-desire partner resulted in a context that was mind-blowingly, almost painfully erotic for the higher-desire partner.
[Chapter Seven in Come As You Are is about why and how that works]
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Laurie was stuck, in love with Johnny but not wanting to have sex with him. She defaults to the vibrator
Two stories from the book, Come As You Are by Dr. Emily Nagoski (non-fiction)
(Each less than a 2 minute read)
Laurie hadn’t actually wanted sex with her husband, Johnny—I mean, really craved it—since before their son Trev was born. At first she figured it was the pregnancy. Then she figured it was a postpartum thing. Then she figured she was just tired. Or depressed. Or maybe she didn’t actually love her husband. Or maybe she was broken. Or maybe humans just aren’t meant to stay erotically connected after the months of cleaning baby puke off each other’s shirts.
They’d had a great run. Right up until she got pregnant, their sex life was the kind of thing you find in romance novels—hot, hungry, passionate, sweet, loving, and just kinky enough to give them something wicked to think about as they locked eyes over his parents’ Thanksgiving dinner table.
So maybe that was all they got. Maybe the rest of their lives would be sexless. Still, they’d been trying. They’d bought some toys and massage oil. They’d tried tying her up, tying him up, using flavored lube, videoing themselves, playing games . . . and sometimes it worked, all this exploration. But mostly it didn’t. Mostly Laurie wound up feeling sad and lonely because she loved Johnny, loved him so much it hurt, yet she couldn’t make herself want him, not even with all the novelty and adventure available to them in a twenty-first-century world of technology, fantasy, and permissiveness.
One side benefit of this whole situation was that Laurie found she could have an orgasm in about five minutes with the vibrator, and that made falling asleep easier. So she’d go to bed early and buzz herself to sleep. But she hid it from Johnny, because she was pretty sure he’d be unhappy to learn that she was having orgasm on her own but not with him. It puzzled her, this interest in solo orgasm, when hardly anything could prompt her to want sex with her husband. So she felt stuck and confused and crazy when she sat down to talk with me about it.
Her perception of the situation—and her sense of hopelessness—changed completely when she learned what’s in this chapter: Your sexual brain has an “accelerator” that responds to sexual stimulation, but it also has “brakes,” which respond to all the very good reasons not to be turned on right now. [The answers to Laurie’s story are in chapter 2]
Camilla said orgasms are “few in number and slow to come.” Can this be changed?
Camilla, the artist, is smart—smart and curious. One of the things she’s curious about is sex. She doesn’t just read books about it; she reads the original research. And she has struggled to reconcile her intellectual hunger for knowledge about sex with her contrastingly small desire to actually have any sex.
That day when we were talking about images of women, she mentioned this puzzle, especially noting that she never seemed to experience “out of the blue” desire.
I wondered if she might have a sensitive brake, so I asked her “inhibitors” questions: Do things have to be “just right” in order for you to get aroused? Do you need total trust in your partner? Do you worry about sex while you’re having it?
Not really, not really, and not really.
Then I asked “excitors” questions: Do you sometimes get aroused just by watching your partner do something (nonsexual) that he’s good at, or by his smell, or when you feel sexually “wanted”? Are you aroused by new situations? Do you get turned on by fantasies?
Not really, heck no, and . . . what fantasies?
Camilla’s low SES. This doesn’t mean she’s not interested in the idea of sex; it means her body requires a bunch of stimulation in order to cross the threshold into active desire for sex. I asked about orgasm.
“Few in number and slow to come,” she said, “and they don’t often seem worth the effort.”
She finds she’s most reliably orgasmic with a vibrator, and that makes perfect sense—mechanical vibration can provide an intensity of stimulation that no organic stimulation can match. But for her, orgasm is sometimes more of a distraction than a goal with sex. She loves being with her partner, she loves playing and exploring. But sometimes she’s just as happy cooking with him as having sex.
“Henry isn’t the most sexually driven guy in the world,” she said. (Henry is her husband. He’s a super-nice guy.) “But he’d love it if I initiated sex a little more often. Is this something a person can change?”
Yes it is. Part of Camilla’s solution is in chapter 3, but we’ll have to wait until chapter 7 to get to the heart of it.
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‘Gray rape:’ Alica’s story of hooked up, unhooked and sexual assault
From the book, Unhooked by Laura Sessions Stepps (non-fiction)
(8 min read)
Two events in the second half of her sophomore year damaged Alicia’s fragile sense of self-control. The first involved her sorority formal. She had needed a date, and three sorority sisters suggested Kevin, a junior in the same fraternity as their dates. Fresh from breaking off a short-term relationship, Alicia was not interested in hooking up and assumed that Kevin wouldn’t be, either, because he had a girlfriend at another school. She asked him to be her “platonic date” and he agreed.
Early in the evening, Alicia arrived at a friend’s dorm and changed into fancy clothes. She left her jeans and a T-shirt in Kevin’s room, and she and Kevin joined the three other couples at an off-campus apartment for food and booze. They arrived at the dance a bit drunk, although not “sloppy wasted,” as she put it. At the end of the dance, Kevin accompanied her back to his room so she could pick up her clothes. They started to make out and she warned him that she didn’t want to have sex.
His reply, she recalled, was: “Then give me a hand job.”
She did, but before she could finish, he pushed her down flat on the couch and positioned himself on top of her.
“No. Stop,” she said softly, but he ignored her, clamping his hand over her mouth. As she tried to turn away, he forced himself inside her. He was not wearing a condom. She tensed up and then tried to go numb, to mentally escape. “I watched it happening from above,” she said. “I just wanted to detach from my body.” He fell asleep afterward, and she left for her dorm “having this dirty feeling of not knowing what to do or who to tell or whether it was really my fault.”
What upset her almost as much as the assault was Kevin’s reaction over the next few weeks when he saw her on campus. He would nod and try to start a conversation as if nothing had happened. “It hurts to know he doesn’t think he did anything wrong,” she said in an e-mail six months after the assault.
In that same missive, which was eerily similar to the e-mail from Shaida months after her incident with the lacrosse player, Alicia mentioned another attack that had taken place only a few months before Kevin’s. Pat was someone she barely knew; she met him at a party in her dorm. They drank and then went to her room, where they started stripping and making out. He asked her if she wanted a massage, but before she could answer, he climbed on top of her. He mumbled about getting condoms and she told him not to worry, that they weren’t going to have sex. He kept trying to get inside her and she panicked, asking herself, How do I get myself out of this? Eventually he managed to force his penis into her mouth and start thrusting. Summoning what strength she had, she pushed him off, kicked him out of her room and ran into the shower, crying.
She and I met for coffee a couple of weeks after I received her confessional e-mail. When I asked her for details of the two incidents, she shrugged her shoulders and didn’t respond. Had she reported what happened to campus authorities? I asked. No, she said, she had not. Why not?
“There’s not much to say,” she finally said in a voice so low I had to lean over the table to hear. “It happens to everyone, I guess.” Over the next few months I would learn that she blamed herself for not saying no enough times or with enough force. “It’s hard for me to understand that they did something wrong,” she told me. “I considered them assaults, but…they fell into the gray area.”
Oh, the gray area—that insidious “if I hadn’t gone to that party” place, that “if I had only stopped after one beer” place, that “if I hadn’t worn such a revealing top and come on to that hot guy” place where young women go when someone they probably know lays siege to their most private parts and everyone assumes it was at least partly their fault. More than half the time, they’re drunk and can’t remember details, and most of the time they don’t press charges. The incident with Kevin was clearly rape, but some defense lawyers and even some students have taken to calling such episodes “gray rape” out of a mistaken belief that when both partners have been drinking heavily, responsibility for what happened falls into a gray area.
This is one of the most egregious, and least-talked-about, implications of the hookup culture. In gray rape, the girl who may have come on like a hunter becomes the hunted. Whose fault is that? For older generations, it seems clear that it’s the guy’s if she resists in any way or is drunk. Girls like Alicia and Shaida aren’t quick to say that, so reluctant are they to see themselves as powerless. Faculty sponsors of the Duke report on gender, which looked at issues of security on campus, were surprised by the number of female students who wanted better protection from stranger rape (increased patrols in parking lots, for example) but were ambivalent about needing protection from their own classmates. “Students expressed both support and blame for students victimized by acquaintance rape,” the report said.
My students at GW, most of them female, engaged in a lively discussion around this question and were, in fact, the ones from whom I first heard the phrase “gray rape.” A couple of students supported the current legal standard. Revealing clothes, stiletto heels, flirtation and making out are not an invitation to an open house, they said. Guys know when they’re stepping over the line.
Most of the students, however, were unwilling to give young women a bye. Immersed in a party culture centered on drinking and hooking up, they shrugged off encounters such as Alicia had as unfortunate instances of poor judgment and miscommunication on the part of both partners. Their questions ran along the line of, How’s a guy supposed to know that a girl wasn’t being coy when she said “No” or “Not right now” or “We should stop”? If a girl regrets what she did the next morning, does that make him a rapist? Sarah, who at twenty-two was one of the older students, summed up their attitudes in an e-mail:
I feel that it is a woman’s responsibility to look after herself and not get into a position where she is uncomfortable or loses control. You can’t operate on the assumption that if you want things to stop, the person you are with will respect that. In an ideal world, that would be the case. But we don’t live in an ideal world. There are a lot of assholes out there—people who aren’t going to care if you change your mind once the clothes have come off. If you make the choice to leave the bar with the guy, then you are also creating the opportunity for something to go wrong—I think that is the point that needs to be driven home to everyone who participates in the hookup culture. Yes, you can practice safe sex. Yes, you can have sex without strings. But this isn’t a behavior that doesn’t carry risk.
One student told the following story about a friend I’ll call Amy.
When Amy arrived at GW as a freshman, she wanted to lose her virginity to someone special. She started hanging out with a guy from her chemistry class and had one of those “in between” relationships so common in the hookup culture—not quite dating, a little more than friends. They would go to parties and kiss on occasion.
One night, her chemistry colleague came over to her dorm room very late and somewhat drunk. He told her he wanted to have sex and brought a bottle of wine to “loosen her up.” They drank and started fooling around, but she told him she wasn’t ready to have sex.
However, he was. He started by pinning her arms down, ripping off her panties and forcibly inserting his fingers into her, rupturing her hymen as he whispered, “Just relax, and you’ll like it.” When he began to bite at her neck in drunken lust, she screamed and pushed him off.
“Tease,” he said, wiping his bloody hand on the bedsheet before he left. Amy could not discuss the incident even three years later without trembling.
“It wasn’t really assault, because we had been drinking,” she said. “And it wasn’t rape because we didn’t have sex.”
Well, then, what was it?
“It was just a bad situation.”
Most college codes of conduct, as well as criminal law, would say that what happened to Amy was a crime, not a misfortune. Rape occurs when a person penetrates the anus or vulva of another person without that person’s freely given consent. Sexual assault includes rape as well as unwanted sexual touching, again without a stated “Yes” or equally strong signal. The one giving consent must be coherent; if she or he is too drunk to make a choice, consent cannot be assumed.
In Alicia’s view, assaults against girls take place because guys don’t know how to negotiate what they want, and so resort to demanding or trying it. They also think of themselves in competition with other guys, she says.
“I’ve had so many guys say you’re going to give me blue balls if you don’t get me off,” she notes. “I wonder what they’d do if I said, ‘Go jack off in the bathroom. I mean, it’s not pleasant for me to get worked up, either.’”
So why doesn’t she say that? For girls like her, as smart and assertive as they appear, the answer has to do at least in part with a poor sense of self-worth, she thinks. “I’m always scared the guy won’t like me if I don’t give him satisfaction.” She may say no once, as she did with both Kevin and Pat, “but they didn’t listen and I didn’t know how to say it again. My fear of being worthless outweighed my fear of being raped. How messed up is that?”
Duke, like many campuses, offers round-the-clock assistance as part of a comprehensive program to help assault victims. Yet even then, girls like Alicia try to recover on their own—and later find that they haven’t. They figure their odds of winning a court conviction are slim, and they’re right. According to the U.S. Justice Department, acquaintance rapists are rarely convicted.
“You want justice,” psychologist Jean Leonard, Duke’s coordinator of sexual assault support services, wrote to Duke students in the spring 2005 edition of a booklet titled Saturday Night: Untold Stories of Sexual Assault at Duke.
But what are the odds? You struggle with the rumors that no one has ever been found responsible at Duke (not true), and the belief that large numbers of innocent decent guys are being accused of rape (also not true). And between you and the possibility of justice is the process of recounting every horrible detail of the violation, in front of a board of strangers and the one who harmed you. And the realization that even the “right” decision, the one in your favor, doesn’t erase the pain. No matter what, you still have to live with the memory.
Alicia, like Shaida, denied at first the impact the assaults on her had had. She sought out new partners over the rest of her sophomore year. That summer, between sophomore and junior year, she made a visit to Korea partly in an attempt to find her birth mother, which failed. She hooked up with three guys while she was there.
It was only later that Alicia was able to write to me:
I can still picture [Kevin’s] face and feel his hand over my mouth holding me down into the couch after I told him to stop. I still panic when a guy is on top of me and positions his body so that I feel restricted; even if we are just cuddling or making out. I have punched people when they (innocently) position themselves in the wrong way and I panic and can’t get out. This happens even in completely nonsexual situations. I don’t think about it every day or when I’m having sex with other people…but it’s still a memory.
One out of five girls in college will be raped on campus, according to a Justice Department study. Between 85 and 90 percent of the assailants are known by the victim. For some of these young women, life becomes so unbearable that they stop doing their schoolwork, or turn to drugs (particularly cocaine), or attempt suicide, or, like Alicia, quickly start seeking out sex partners again. “They think that this is the way they can prove that the assault didn’t affect them,” said Catherine Busch, a psychologist who works with victims in suburban Washington, D.C.
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Backseat Baseball: No home run but he’s an MVP
by Charles, 20, California
From the book, Laid edited by Shannon Boodram
(5 min read)
“CHARLES, DID I EVERTELL YOU HOW HOT YOU ARE?” asked Joanne, while she was blowing cigarette smoke out of her mouth.
We were sitting outside of a party, both of us trying to get some fresh air after being enclosed in a room of sweaty bodies, loads of alcohol, and ear-popping music for a couple of hours.
I starred into the night sky, trying to regain my senses after having had too many shots of vodka and rum. I turned toward Joanne to better face her. She was wearing a gray tank top that displayed her cleavage and low-cut jeans, causing the straps of her G-string to spill over her pants. I let my eyes run over her body—I love summer.
Joanne, I know I told you that you’re hot because you look hot every time I see you;” I responded with a distinct slur of words, trying to make as much sense as possible.
She laughed after I made my remark, then kissed my cheek, holding her position, pressing her weight into me for a couple of seconds until she retracted. I noticed that she had been drinking as well. Her face was a little on the red side and there were tiny bags around her eyes.
“Aw, you’re so sweet,” she said.
Out of one part instinct and two parts gratitude for her drunken flattery, I leaned in and kissed her on her cheek as well. My lips felt good when they made contact with her warm, soft skin, and as soon as my lips left her cheek, she quickly gave me a long kiss right on the lips. All of a sudden, a simple exchange of thank-yous turned into a full-on make-out session. With our tongues screaming for more, my mind began to race, trying to figure out where we should make our moment of lust a little more discreet. You see, I’m the type of person who isn’t into PDA, or watching other people’s PDA. I racked my brain for an after-party spot for Joanne and me; we couldn’t go back into the house party because every single room was occupied by at least ten people; the back yard was out of the question because rolling over a spot where someone threw up isn’t one of my favorite things to do. All of a sudden, after mulling the thought over for half a minute, my drunken brain came up with the obvious destination: We could go to my car.
I pulled back from her lips. “Hey, let’s go to my car.”
“Why, how come we can’t stay out here?” she asked me quietly, as if we were doing something wrong.
“I just don’t want people to notice and start pointing fingers at us or anything. Plus, we’re able to talk more in my car.” Of course, the last part was a lie—I wanted to use my mouth, all right, but not for talking, per se.
“Okay, that sounds like a good idea.”
And off we went to my car, which was parked a block away. Holding hands tightly, we quickly walked down the empty street as the rush of excitement grew between us. The thought of doing something sexual with her at that very moment filled my mind like air in a balloon, while the rest of the things—including my good old morals—were deflated.
The walk was shorter than I remembered, and just like in those old movies, Joanne slid neatly into the passenger seat while I got behind the wheel. Closing the doors, we instantly began to make out once again. I suppose both of us were feeling the same thing about each other at the time—the feeling of pure lust.
But shortly after the doors closed and the kissing began again, my mind started to plan what to do next. Kissing each other passionately was cool, but did she want to take this to the next level? That was when I decided to take my chances and find out. Foreplay was something I enjoyed because, to me, it was like getting the luxury of happily passing three of the four bases before hitting a home run. I was already on first, and now it was time for me to make my way to second. The position of my hand slowly and smoothly changed from holding the back of her head to exploring the area of her vagina. My fingers did all the work, by unbuckling her belt and unzipping her pants. I constantly checked to see if she didn’t want to go through with it, but she didn’t say a word or make a motion that she wanted me to stop.
Hearing her moan and say my name increased my excitement, and I knew I was ready to experience those feelings for myself. Lucky for me, Joanne quickly grabbed my leather belt and began to do the same thing I had done just a few minutes earlier to her. She did everything in such a hasty and somewhat violent fashion that it made me feel like I was in one of those movies where the two main characters are about to engage in an intense lovemaking session, violently tearing their clothes away from their bodies as fast as they can in order to get down to business. Once my privates were exposed, she began to do a little foreplay of her own while I made my way to third base.
With things moving in all the right directions, the only thing left was the predictable ending of sexual intercourse. I took it upon myself to lure Joanne to the back seat of my car. Sex was definitely the only thing that consumed my thoughts at that point.
Here’s a quick sexual education lesson for you folks: Now, typically, when guys are presented with a chance to engage in a sexual act with a good-looking member of the opposite sex, they will take the offer faster than a race car with a full tank of gas. I was just doing my job as a male to do whatever was necessary to accomplish the ultimate goal of getting laid. And it seemed Joanne was on the same page.
I stripped her of the clothing I’d admired in the beginning of our encounter, and in turn she assisted in taking off my clothes. Putting on a condom was an obstacle in itself, being that the amount of alcohol in me was a little above my limit. But once I was able to put it on properly—after a few fumbled attempts, I admit—our sexual activities ensued. And yes, home run.
Well, more like hitting the ball out of the park but being stopped before you run around the diamond. We were only a couple minutes into it before she told me to stop. At first I thought she realized it was time for her to go home—she was still living with her parents, since she was only eighteen—but that wasn’t the case at all.
“Charles,” she panted, trying to catch her breath, “we can’t do this, it’s not right.”
“Why not?” I asked in confusion. I thought it felt right to me.
“Because … I have a boyfriend,” she said with an irked expression on her face.
Although she looked beautiful in the nude, she was absolutely right. She did have a boyfriend, a commitment that I knew she took very seriously, because before our little incident she’d been talking about how great a guy he was and how he treated her well, something that she wasn’t used to. I let out a long, heavy breath and got ready to move, but then I noticed that she wasn’t budging.
“What?” I asked in response to her stare.
She paused for a brief moment. “Don’t you have a girlfriend, Charles?”
It was then I realized that I’d made a terrible mistake; I had honestly totally forgotten that I was committed to someone else. Even though my girlfriend and I had been going out for only a little less than a month, cheating was cheating, and I don’t think it is right to cheat on the person you’ve agreed to have an intimate, loving relationship with. But there I was, caught with my pants down in a moment of my own hypocrisy.
“Let’s just keep this between us, okay?” Joanne said meekly, a far cry from the sexual vixen I’d been humping moments before.
“Okay, will do.”
I went home that night feeling smaller than a dust mite. Months after our rendezvous, both of us were single. I didn’t know why Joanne broke up with her boyfriend, nor did I want to ask her. The reason why my relationship ended was because I lost interest. That, and I made out with another girl at a nightclub. I guess you could say my inability to keep my dick in my pants has been a problem in many of my past relationships. But I’m starting to see things for what they really are now, and in all honesty, even though I thought I got a home run on that night with Joanne, I have realized it was actually a strikeout. No one won and nothing was accomplished.
Read Laid Book Review >>
My best sex ever was … with my online troll
How hate turned into one night of angry passion for Nisha*
The internet can bring out the strange in people. I found this out last year when a troll targeted me after Love Island finished. I was an Amber and Kem fan. He wasn’t. This, it appeared, was enough for him to keep commenting on my Instagram account long after the series was over. At first it was banter, things like “I can’t believe you could show your face after voting for them” on selfies, but every now and then it got vicious. He called me “chunky”, would comment that I needed to get my roots done, and once wrote “I find it hard to believe you can read” after I posted a picture of the book I was enjoying.
It got to the point where I dreaded getting notifications. My stomach would lurch if I saw one from him. My friends thought I was mad for not blocking him, but I just decided to ignore his very existence – until, after I posted a picture of some tickets for an intimate gig I’d got my hands on, he wrote something fairly normal. “Didn’t realise you were a fan,” he wrote, adding that he had a ticket for the same show.
“Surprising what you can learn about somebody when you get to know them,” I quipped back.
When he liked my comment, I decided to take a peek at his profile. My mouth dropped open in shock. With his peroxide-blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, he was gorgeous. I followed him back.
At the gig, my eyes scanned the venue for him. During the interval, the crowd scattered and I clocked a flash of blonde at the bar so I tapped him on the shoulder.
“You?!” he beamed, clapping a hand to his mouth in shock.
“The one and only,” I said sarcastically.
“You look amazing,” he said, drinking in my curves and cleavage.
“So you are capable of being nice then,” I huffed. He looked crestfallen, and to say sorry for trolling me, he bought me a drink and we got chatting – in person his sarcasm was quite sexy. I began to think that maybe he’d been flirting with me the whole time, that perhaps I’d taken his comments way too seriously?
For the next round, he bought us shots… and after that I found myself in a taxi on my way back to his.
The minute we stumbled through his front door, he was greedily tugging at my top, accidentally tearing off a button. I decided to seek my revenge by literally ripping the expensive-looking shirt off his back.
I pushed him off and straddled him
“Oi!” he moaned. “That shirt practically cost me a month’s salary!”
Then he pushed me onto his bed, pulled my thong to one side and went down on me. Just as I was about to orgasm, he climbed on top. But, stubbornly, I pushed him off and straddled him.
Unable to agree on anything, he claimed back dominance by flipping me onto my belly and sliding inside me from behind. Moments later, we came at the same time.
The morning after, I left him asleep as I scooped my clothes up off his bedroom floor and left without even finding out his real name.
But it didn’t matter. I knew that I didn’t want anything more to do with him. And I guess my disappearing act must have really knocked his confidence because he never commented on my pictures again.
*Names have been changed
I found my Valentine in a universal change room
By LORI HUGHES
I had no idea how universally great universal change rooms could be for my sex life
I love to swim, always have. I find it both hedonistic and masochistic, even narcissistic. I swam competitively in school and won a bunch of swim meets, in backstroke and breaststroke – the former because I have long arms and the latter because I have small breasts. I mention narcissism because I’ve always been conscious of, and conscientious about, my athletic body – good genes, my mom was a university track star – and swimming has kept me in shape physically and emotionally. I like my body and have proudly, and discreetly, “loaned it out” in that eternal sex game men and women play, ‘women giving sex, men getting it.’ For me, discretion in sex has been a guide. Which meant, until Valentine’s Day last year, I’d probably had less sex than a lot of women my age.
I don’t share intimate information with anyone but my best friend, Adele. We’ve had awesome conversations about our sex partners and now that we’ve passed the ‘big-30,’ we are, according to statistics, a little above ‘average’ when it comes to the number of sex partners. Until last year, I’d had nine partners, two long-term loves – two years and four years. The rest can be measured in months or a few weeks and two, one-night stands. All good. Except one of the one-nighters. Big mistake on my part. I’d had too much to drink and was pissed off at the world, actually my boss. But that’s another story. Adele is over a dozen. I remember when she hit the dozen, she called it her ‘dirty dozen.’
On Valentine’s Day last year, things changed for me. I jumped from nine sex partners to a baker’s-dozen in a couple of months and now, as another Valentine’s Day approached, I was at seventeen.
That Valentine’s was what I call ‘the perfect sex storm’ – swimming, hunky guy and the universal change rooms at my aquatic club. I had joined this new club because it’s spectacular and I had just received my annual bonus. I’d never heard of universal change rooms before and even though I was told there were ‘private change cubicles,’ I was a little uncomfortable when I first walked in. Men, women, kids all around, all together. My first thought was, fuck, I want my money back. Instead, I tried it.
The 35-meter pool looked fabulous and the kids were in the kiddie pool, so I jumped in and did a quick half-mile. I would have done more except it was my first swim in over a month and I was having a drink with Adele in an hour. As I climbed out, I noticed this guy standing at the end of the pool waiting to dive in. Except he wasn’t diving, he was looking at me. I glanced but he was staring – not leering – just a curious, inviting, blue-eyed smile. I looked again. He’s a swimmer.
The lean, angular body, long legs, flat abs and snug-fitting Speedo were familiar images and triggered fond memories of past swim teams. I was comfortable – swimmers are like family – so returned the smile. Slight but genuine. He could be Scandinavian? Blonde, short hair, boyish face and blue eyes as mesmerizing as an endless summer sky. Can’t be more than twenty-five.
Adele would be waiting but I didn’t head for the change room … those eyes. I grabbed my towel, bent over and toweled my hair. I could feel his gaze. I liked it. Then he was next to me.
He said, “Hi, I’m Peter, Peter Kier.”
I tingled, straightened up and kept toweling my hair. “Hi … Cedes.”
“Cedes? That’s different.”
“Short for Mercedes,” I said.
In the next twenty minutes we swam a half-mile together and hung on the side of the pool chatting. Adele can wait. He was awesome. A delight. Warm, funny, bright, brash – he made a couple of sex-loaded remarks – and was one helluva swimmer. We did a few more lengths and he looked like he was coasting. He’s Swedish – he said, ‘from the land of the Vikings.’ He’d been an alternate on Sweden’s Olympic swim team.
Back in my twenties I had a ‘love-at-first-sight’ event – lasted ten months – but this was different. It wasn’t love-at-first-sight, romantic, yes, but it was also ‘wanna-fuck-at-first-sight.’ Really. He was yummy sexy. Adele would say, go for it. His aura was sexy. The glint in his eye was sexy. His voice, the way he talked, the things he said – honest flirting … easy, fresh, direct. Sexee. They say Swedish men are more open with women, being from a more sexually mature society they go right past all the coyness and bullshit. As we talked and laughed, he touched me and every time I tingled. He said he was visiting on a grad-student visa, doing a Ph.D. in biology, and when he said he was returning to Stockholm next week, my heart sank and my vagina shouted, no … I want him.
This time walking into the universal change room was exhilarating. His locker was across the room from mine and when we separated the tingle in my core became an ache. Sadness. I hesitated undressing and toweled my already-dry hair, again. I peeked from under the towel. OMG! He’s coming over. He was next to me. He touched my arm and the tingle became a quiver.
“Cedes, you said this was your first time in a universal change room, you know we have them in Sweden. And unisex washrooms. They’re great.”
“Great for meeting people. Great for getting’ past all the bullshit. Ya’ know–”
I put my hand on his forearm. “What bullshit?” He moved closer. The heat was obvious, the desire honest. It wasn’t a new feeling for me. But he was new. Exciting. Romantic – in a fantasy way. Despite the crowded change room, I couldn’t deny the soothing, hypnotic force of his presence.
“Cedes, in Swedish we say–”
“Jag ved … I know.”
I knew he knew. He put a hand on my waist, turned me, slid it to the small of my back and eased me toward a change cubicle.
He asked, “Do you know?”
“Yes,” I said effortlessly. I’d had sex in the afternoon before – liked it – but never with a bunch of people on the other side of a flimsy curtain. I was not an exhibitionist but had fantasied about sex in public places and Adele and I had talked about how and where. But this?
When he closed the curtain and pushed me against the wall, the people and my inhibitions vanished. I surrendered to his boldness, to the lust. I stepped out of my bathing suit.
As a hazy image of the crowded change room drifted across my mind, a voice in my head said, I don’t give a fuck. As his powerful hands gripped my hips, the voice became fuck me, fuck me, fuck me … Not a word was spoken.
I arched my hips and invited my conquering Viking in, to plunder my pool of sexual desire. His fingers stroked my clitoris.
The cubicle was small and I couldn’t see his face but knew those hungry eyes were burning with want. But he contained his need, controlling himself until I had one, two … and another orgasm. Then, as I shuddered into exhaustion, he muffled his voice and succumbed to the fire in his magnificent Swedish body. I had my Viking.
In the lobby, we said good-bye and with a sweet kiss, he left. I felt conflicted, sad and happy. I saw a poster on the wall that said, “Happy Valentine’s Day … share your heart.” It was Valentine’s Day and I had shared. It might sound crazy but the excitement and spontaneity, were romantic. My heart was into it. It’s a part of my sexuality and my sexuality is a big part of me. We shared a Valentine’s gift. The sadness waned, I was happy – with me.
Peter returned to Stockholm and I never saw him again. But the universal change rooms changed my sex life. Over the past year, since Peter, I’ve indulged in four more uninhibited sexual encounters – all good swimmers. Very good. For me, the universal change room turned swimming into a whole new sport.
This Valentine’s Day, I don’t have a special Valentine to share with, so I’m going swimming … you never know how the universe might unfold.
Read more of Lori’s short stories, novels and novella at Lori’s Erotic Collection >>
I can emotionally detach
A peek into a 38 year-old, married women’s diary.
Wow! This story sounds almost ‘normal,’ at least a rationalized normal. In fact, you be the judge as to whether the entire diary entry is one big rationalization or is it a peek into a candid, mature way of dealing with a half-assed loving marriage – half-assed in the sense that partners get half their pieces-of-ass in the marriage and the other half elsewhere.
“So far, it’s working out pretty good [sic] for us.” – diary entry
Then an opportunity comes up for our lady to see an “ex” she “once loved” and things get a little dicey. Her husband’s “openness” isn’t so open and she writes, “My husband is not thrilled with this for a few reasons.”
It’s a honest look into how an open marriage works, or doesn’t.
From New York magazine, The Cut’s Sex Diaries (5 min): Read more >>
by Elizabeth Joyce
(5 minute read)
I had never been around anyone who had just lost someone – as in death – and it was unsettling, uncomfortable. Even though I was crazy about Ben, I wasn’t sure how to help him or what to do in his time of grief. At first, all I did was follow him around and hold and kiss him. But his kisses were … ah, dead. He was hardly there. His eyes, usually as warm as maple syrup, were … dead. His body, his spirit, usually a cornucopia of life was … dead. But he was putting on a good front, being stoic, strong. But was he just playing strong for me? Because there wasn’t anyone else around.
We were in New York on the weekend before New Year’s Eve, taking in the festive season, right after a not-very-festive funeral – in Brooklyn. For him, the weekend was an attempt to escape the grief. For me, it was to do some shopping. The grief didn’t affect me much, except for how it affected him. He was doing it to immerse himself in something other than the drifting stench that death had dumped on his heart.
The death of his ex-girlfriend, Penny, was tragic. It was a week ago and the pall was hanging around longer than the silent void that lingers after a lovers’ quarrel. He was hollow. Going through the motions. Going through something I didn’t understand. I get that he has to grieve. But I don’t have to like it.
Suicide is terrible. Inexplicable. Such a waste.
Penny had been fairly recent – the relationship – and when he and I first met, I considered I might just be an on-the-rebound fling. But he was so scrumptious, so charming, so rock-handsome … and those fathomless eyes. WTF Bianca, go for it, at least the fling will be memorable. I dove in, actually jumped into bed on our second date. I would’ve had sex with him on the first date, but he was such a gentleman – attentive, respectful, flirtatious but not aggressive. I didn’t want to be too forward, look too anxious. But when he kissed me in the restaurant, in the corridor to the washrooms, little did he know that he could’ve pushed me into the men’s room and taken me right there.
We’ve been together three months now – Ninety-seven days to be exact – and I certainly wasn’t a rebound according to what he’d said, ‘Bianca, you’re absolutely necessary to me.’ And I felt it. Until Penny’s death, seven days ago. It was fucking awful. All of it.
They’d split up about a month before we met – thirty-four days to be exact (I keep a calendar, not a diary, of everything important that happens to me) – and although he’d convinced me it was over, it had been a serious, long-term relationship – over three years. He talked about her a few times and didn’t seem hung up on the breakup. He said he was, ‘way fuckin’ over her.’ And everything about our outrageously wild and crazy – and oh-so-hot – ninety-seven days had convinced me. I was special. He was special. We were special. Well … except for the last seven days, which have been oh-so-painful, and cold. Cold like a mausoleum. Empty. Together but apart. And not so special. And no sex.
I went along with the grief, but after seven days, my caring, kissing and smiling had morphed from sympathy to empathy to drifting to drowning in my own fake sorrow. I didn’t get why Ben was so mired in it. He was more pathetic than sorrowful. He smiled a lot but was withdrawn, languishing around and hanging out like a flaccid penis. After three months of fucking each other into exhaustion every day, literally, I was alone in a sexual desert hoping for some relief from the grief, and every time I hugged and kissed him my desire surged. But his didn’t.
Maybe it was guilt? But why? WTF has he got to be guilty about? Apparently, he was ‘way fucking over her.’ So what’s with the grieving? I get it. If one of my ex-boyfriend’s had committed suicide, I’d feel bad. But I wouldn’t go in the tank for days on end, especially if I was with someone new, who was ‘absolutely necessary to me.’ No way. Maybe he wasn’t over her?
When we were alone, I tried to penetrate his stupor and arouse his feelings with lingering wet kisses, a searching tongue, a squeeze of his butt, even a loving lift of his precious equipment. But nothing. He was polite, kissing back but never shedding his dank shroud. His body was half-dead. But not his junk – more than once I’d felt the blood flow.
I was being worn-out by the grieving – his – and it was tough to know what to do. It was like being a non-smoker in a smoke-filled room and wanting to scream, ‘I can’t breathe, open a fuckin’ window.’
In the hotel room in Manhattan, we were getting ready to go and see Cats on Broadway and he’d just pulled his pants on over his sexy, blue boxers and was buttoning his blue shirt – he was yummy in blue. In that moment, he looked his magnificent self – dashing, daring, impulsive, spontaneous. Wearing only red panties, I stepped next to him, brushed the back of my hand across his cheek and slipped the other hand under his package. I held, gently. Lifted slightly. His pulse quickened. A discernible throb. I took his lips. Mine were burning, his were cool. I was hungry, he was … another throb. He stepped back.
He might not be interested but his best friend, and my favorite fuck buddy – we called him ‘B,’ for Ben’s Beast – was most definitely interested. Despite the grief and pain, somebody needed pleasure and relief.
I let him finish dressing while I slipped into a white robe and went to do my makeup in the elegant bathroom with its marble counters, twin sinks, jacuzzi tub and a window seat overlooking 57th Street, with Central Park in the distance. We had booked a suite as part of our New Year’s self-indulgence, hoping the extravagance would make us feel better. It hadn’t, and the self-indulgence hadn’t included sexual indulgence.
I was struggling in this prolonged wasteland of too much grief and no sex. For how long? For what? For who? For Penny? No way. This man had become deeply mine, not only by his own admission but by his unbridled abandonment. Sex every day, anywhere, anytime. Never enough. Until the grief.
He walked into the bathroom, looking gorgeous, with one of his spectacular ties around his neck, still untied.
I said, “One more kiss before I put on a little lipstick.” He didn’t like lipstick.
He smiled. “Shall I tie my tie first?”
Enough. I undid my robe, slipped my fingers inside my panties, pushed them below my knees and stepped out.
Those beautiful brown eyes stared at my nakedness. He seemed passive, but his eyes weren’t. The maple syrup was stirring, ever so slightly. He started to tie his tie.
I dropped the robe to the floor.
He stopped tying his tie. He looked lost. Stuck.
I held his eyes. Then reached out and cradled his balls in one hand and slipped the other around his cock … and squeezed. He pulsed – in my hand and in his eyes. The deep brown grew dark, almost black, his cock grew bigger, almost hard. I felt urgency, saw anger. I was not going to let go, not let him relinquish his anger to the grief. I wanted his anger.
I grabbed his tie and pulled his mouth down on mine. Hard. Wet. Open. And squeezed him again. Hard. Hurting. Angry. He broke.
It was almost violent. Ferocious. Ripping. Desperate. It hurt. I wanted it. Loved it. The pain, his pain, was my pain. He grabbed. Lifted. Pushed me onto the marble counter. I tore his pants off. Grasped his engorgement. He bit my neck. Tugged my hair. Clutched my breasts. His thick thighs splayed my legs and his powerful hands dug into my buttocks, yanking me to him. I lost control.
His voice was a guttural cry – grief exploded … “Bianca …”
I muffled a scream, “Yes Ben … yes.”
The pain was numbing. Everything hurt. The marble, the sink, the faucet, the edge of the counter, his ravaging hands, his ravenous teeth, his relentless cock. He slammed, thrust and furiously ploughed deep into my inner desire. It hurt. I loved it.
He didn’t stop. Couldn’t. He was consumed somewhere between the depths of grief and the heights of ecstasy.
I was his way out … I was absolutely necessary to him.
I was separate from his grief, his anger, his agony. From his force and dominance and the physical pain he was inflicting on my body, inside and out. Hard. Harsh. But my ache was just a silent bystander to his surging, soaring, flight from grief. His swollen need relentlessly pounded toward the promise, engulfed by the euphoria rising from the crucible of joy – me. I delayed erupting into rapture as long as I could. Then couldn’t. My heat released, my spasms flooded, my explosion embraced him. He gave me everything. I claimed him – and his grief.
Ecstasy had exorcised grief. The healing had begun.
Read Elizabeth Joyce’s short story Physical Education at Lori’s Erotic Collection >>
My best sex ever was … with a Christmas stranger (2 minute read)
Charlotte recalls hooking up with a festive stranger – a gift to herself as an early Christmas present.
“Before I had time to question if I could get away with having sex at work, he was close enough for me to smell his aftershave and when his hand brushed mine, I shivered. I knew I had to seize the moment …
[From The Cut, the New York’s Sex Diaries series asks anonymous city dwellers to record a week in their sex lives — with comic, tragic, sexy, and always revealing results.]
“I wonder why he isn’t enough for me. Why do I have to be such a terrible person and go behind his back?”
From The Cut: Read more >>
The Pet Groomer Who Thinks She’s Probably a Sex Addict (5 minute read)
[New York’s Sex Diaries series]
“What people don’t understand is that a night like this is enough for me. Sometimes I get really lonely, but sometimes a day of work, family time, and sex is all I need. Honestly, I don’t know if I’m extra simple or extra complicated.”
From The Cut. Read more >>
The Woman Who Finds a Suspicious Bobby Pin at her Boyfriend’s House (5 minute read)
[New York’s Sex Diaries series]
“He’s really not being affectionate, and we haven’t addressed the earlier topic. I want to have sex, but I won’t initiate it given his current body language.”
From The Cut. Read more >>
Coming soon … more down and dirty quickies.