Plus Ca Change…

I’ve been single again for two weeks now. It’s weird and complicated and my emotions rise and fall like roller coasters surrounded by signs that scream “Not for the faint of heart or stomach.”

That simile works especially well because roller coasters are designed so that you end up right back where you started. The tracks are unchanging, and if you’ve ridden once or twice or seventeen times you learn the bumps and jolts.

I didn’t think I’d been here before. I thought that this was a new kind of heartbreak, accompanied by a new kind of disappointment and a new feeling of foolishness. Reading over my posts from my last round of life partner auditions just shows that I don’t learn from the mistakes I make. I fall for the same people – ones who excite me enough to think I can fix them, or bore me in ways that makes their inevitable rejection hurt less.

And I don’t know how to change that.

My breakup with Eleven can be summarized by quotations I’ve already written on this blog:

“At the time, I was living with Harold, and we were doing the typical things that couples do during the slow death of an unhealthy non-monogamous relationship. That night involved coming home after having eaten separately, lying on the bed and spending silent hours on our phones until either bedtime (when we’d each decide if we wanted to have sex), a stream aired a west-coast basketball game or one of us would pick a fight.”

or

“Spare me the self-flagellation, Catch. You wanted to ignore something until it went away and it’s not working out very well for you. The people in my life ALWAYS do this; the “I acknowledge my obviously shitty behaviour, point to a personality flaw upon which I can hang everything, and call myself an idiot before doing absolutely nothing to change my behaviour” thing. The men in my family PRACTICALLY INVENTED that crap.”

That might be the saddest part of all of this. It’s not the loss of the future I imagined where somehow Eleven worked as hard for us as I did. It’s not the loss of his wonderful family, or that he knows everyone and will have no trouble moving on because no one will hold him accountable.

It’s that I’ve had enough power to take myself out of these situations before, and I didn’t this time. I was so unhappy – we broadcasted what Carly Lewis calls, “the sort of chic pseudo-polyamory that conflates dishonest promiscuity with ethical non-monogamy and seems to propagate my peer group.” Meanwhile we were loveless and sexless and desperate to hide it, as if we cared what others thought. Eleven resented that he couldn’t act single while benefiting from all of my emotional labour, and I resented that he kept moving the line of what *I* had to do to satisfy him. Still, I stayed. I didn’t even PLAN to leave. I usually have backup plans upon backup plans, and the explosion two Mondays ago was especially devastating BECAUSE I was had no recourse.

What is it that Chvrches sings? “I never promised you anything I couldn’t do, and you never promised me that you would see things differently.” Lauren Mayberry, the goddess she is, says we should “Bury it and rise above.” I assumed the chorus was about putting a toxic relationship in the ground, but Genius claims otherwise.

Sorry to my fellow Scottish feminist princess, but I am sticking to my interpretation. This relationship is six feet under (and I can grieve as much as I need), but the lesson is the same: I bury it, and I rise above. I just have to fucking learn from it this time.

#Solemate

Between Lindsay Lohan’s freakout over matching with her brother and that amazing Conan O’Brien video with Dave Franco, we know that there are celebrities on Tinder. Even though I live in a pretty star-studded city, it hasn’t been especially common for me to match with anyone famous in their field. The guitarists of a few buzz bands, a moderately successful male model and about a dozen fake Drake accounts are par for the course for any of my friends who’ve been on the app for more than a week. One of my favourite Tinder stories to tell involves my only famous match: A since-traded player on my local NBA team.

At the time, I was living with Harold, and we were doing the typical things that couples do during the slow death of an unhealthy non-monogamous relationship. That night involved coming home after having eaten separately, lying on the bed and spending silent hours on our phones until either bedtime (when we’d each decide if we wanted to have sex), a stream aired a west-coast basketball game or one of us would pick a fight.

I had my Tinder app powered up, swiping right and left based on whatever nonsense criteria were important to me at the time. That was when I saw the profile of a deep bench player (we’re talking three minutes a game, if that). I freaked out, showed Harold and took a screen shot. He didn’t say anything about his occupation or height, but the pictures on his profile included himself dressed for a game in his home jersey. I swiped right. He did not.

I was only a little bummed. My team has a reputation of being a big family-oriented group of dudes who work hard and then go home to their kids, so not matching with one who is publicly married/a dad was fine by me.

The next night, Harold and I were back at it, pretending to be okay with spending time hanging out around each other. I was swiping my life away when another NBA player popped up. This guy was as deep-bench as it gets. Like, 700 twitter followers at the time we matched. I shared the profile again with Harold and we laughed. He had a picture of him holding a fish he’d caught and one of him with his grandmother. I screencapped and swiped right.

It was a match.

“Oh my GOD, T. Can you even IMAGINE having sex with that guy? Like, having him on top of you?” Harold went into more graphic detail than I dared consider without growing really uncomfortable. “Oh my GOD think of the shame-bragging you could do.”

I had no idea what to say to this NBA player. A quick google search showed that he isn’t married or a father, so I felt okay with initiating a conversation.

“Hey,” I started. “What’s up with all these Tinder dudes holding fish? Is it a big inside joke that women aren’t in on?”

“Hey,” He replied, pretty much immediately. “I dunno lol i guess it shows were good providers.”

“Makes sense. Up to anything cool tonight?”

“Naw football in my condo. go *NFL Team* lol”

I quickly asked Harold for some quick facts about his handegg team, and briefly talked out of my element about a recently injured quarterback.

“Oh u like sports?”

“Yeah, I’m a big basketball fan.”

“Me to wish i played more often lol.”

We talked for a little bit about how difficult it can be meeting new people in this city, and I got the sense that he was another self-described lonely dude.

Why anyone would pretend to be this guy over the other more recognizable players is beyond me, but I wanted to make sure he was who he said he was. I invited him to watch a hockey game with me at a very public bar downtown – walking distance from the condos the one year contract players lease near the arena.

He told me that, as there was a noon game the next day, he couldn’t go out drinking. I asked if he wanted to change the plan to grabbing burritos.

“I like burritos :)”

“Me too,” I replied. “Is that a yes?”

To which he replied “If ud like to come and pick some up and eat them up here with me then maybe i could do some eating of my own ;)”

To reiterate: An NBA player asked me to buy him a burrito in exchange for oral sex.

It was almost DEFINITELY the highlight of my tinder experience.

“Tempting!” I replied. And it kind of was? I quickly ran through every possible scenario. What if he wasn’t who he said he was? What if I go over with burritos and things start happening and I freak out? Am I going to be assaulted? What if shit just gets weird? Would this be worth it just to tell the story?

And that was when something clicked for me: Is something worth doing only for the story? The past decade of my life has been defined by that question, and I’ve always taken for granted that an interesting story is worth more than anything else to me.

It’s why I spent my teen years archiving everything that happened. A flurry of coincidences will one day make my life interesting. I think my life is pretty interesting now, but while my current partner and I have told and rehearsed our “how we met” story to near death, it’s weird living your life in hindsight.

And that’s what this NBA player would have been. A tale of groupie conquest (not that there’s anything wrong with that) wherein your Tinderella exchanges a jumbo steak burrito for sloppy bearded oral sex from a man twice my weight and four times my muscle mass. Not even glamourous.

“Well, I have a policy about meeting Tinder suitors in a public place first. For safety reasons.”

“makes sense,” he replied. “another time mabye.”

I didn’t publish the conversation online. He seemed respectful at least of my basic boundaries, though in our second conversation he called back to the possibility of toasted Mexican goodness.

“i just saw the worst movie ever!” He sent me, in response to nothing.

“Oh? I’m curious. What are you up to now?”

“lol im in bed.”

“I’m jealous! I’ve been working for hours!”

“And u still won’t bring me food. should i sweeten the offer?”

“Did you mistake the Tinder app for the Just Eat app? :-P”

“I just love food”

I’d already decided that I wasn’t going to go for it. It started feeling really sad, and Harold was taking entirely too much joy in the thought of his primary partner burrito booty-calling a man who could easily have squatted two of us on each shoulder. I was in a stage where I wanted to do exactly the opposite of what Harold wanted.

The last message I ever sent him was when he moved to a different team. I wished him all the luck and more playing time. He never replied.

Almost immediately after that, he started posting pictures on his instagram account of a gorgeous woman using the hashtags #solemate (SIC) and #onewomanman. I believe he is now married and according to all of the groupie forums (yes, those exist and they are a cesspool for self-hating women) they are very happy.

He and I won’t show up on each other’s list of regretful Tinder hookups, but you know my motto – “Je ne regrette rien.”

Mon Grand Slack

I don’t get out of my city very often. I have a job that forces me to work weekends and I don’t get paid vacation time, so the cost of a weekend trip is often more than it’s worth.

But I said “to heck with it!” and let a friend whisk me away to Montreal for a few days for the basketball game (I ADORE basketball). I also thought it would be a good opportunity to try Tinder in a new environment – somewhere where I’d meet people with zero mutual friends; where I might get to play the tourist; where I’d get to flex my atrophied Francophone muscles.

I woke up on Saturday morning and told my friend “I want to go for brunch! Do you think I can make a Tinder brunch date happen within half an hour?”

She laughed. She’s heard all my best Tinder stories and assured me that if anyone could, it would be me.

I swiped right at anyone attractive, with text under their photos and who’d been online in the past ten minutes. I had ten matches within five minutes, but based on conversation I wasn’t especially excited by any of them. Then I saw him.

Lanky as fuck, with floppy light brown hair and enormous blue eyes. Pouty swollen Lana del Rey lips and a bio in French with the line “Parce que prendre des bières/cafés avec des inconnus c’est souvent amusant! … Also pretty decent English with classic Québec accent!” I read that to mean that he looks at Tinder as an adventure to take with strangers.

I showed my friend his picture after I swiped and matched and said “I want this one!” When Tinder is involved, I very frequently get what I want.

“Cuuute! But he looks like Catch.” She said. I shrugged. I have a type.

I sent the first message, in French, inviting him out to brunch. No preamble.

He accepted, with the caveat that he’d never met anyone on Tinder before. I promised I’d be gentle. He told me to meet him at his favourite brunch spot near the Mont Royal metro station. I hopped on the subway, a little giddy.

When I showed up, I looked around and asked the waitress in French if he’d already been seated. She brought me to him and he was even cuter in person. 6’3 with a cyclist’s physique and a pink t-shirt under a grey h&m hoodie… the same Chucks as mine but twice the size.

I said, in French, “Welcome to your first tinder date!”
He blushed, and asked me to keep it down.
I said “Oh, sorry. Oh man isn’t it cool catching up with each other for the first time since we were in jail together?”
He laughed, and I could tell he was super nervous.

We ordered, and I asked questions about his life. Between the two languages we could understand each other perfectly. We talked about travelling and math and consent and music and family. When we realised that we we’d finished our meals, we ran in the rain to a microbrewery and drank samples of every beer that they had to offer so that we could talk more.

He taught me some Quebecois curse words (all of them religious) and said that there weren’t a lot of gendered slurs. He identifies as a feminist (swoon!) and we got to talk about the power behind the word “cunt,” which was really enlightening coming from someone whose first language doesn’t have an equivalent.

We talked about online dating and how he doesn’t get many matches. I didn’t believe it, and he said “I’m not everyone’s type.” I told him he was mine. “Ahhh,” he nodded, “T’aimes les Grands Slacks.”

He explained that Grand Slack is the Joual term for a tall lanky dude. He kept gesturing to his own physique as I touched my knee to his.

He slipped his hand onto my thigh and said “You know… I don’t live far from here…”

“Oh, Grand Slack,” I said suavely, “I have a hotel room.”

His eyes flashed like goddamned sapphires as he dropped a handful of cash on the table and guided me to the bus stop. I sent a quick “clear the room please!” text to my friend and we were on our way.

As we sat down, he kissed me. Just a small stolen bisou, but it had been just long enough since I’ve had any kind of PDA that I melted into the royal blue seats.

As we walked (holding hands) from the bus stop, he sighed and admitted he didn’t have condoms. I said “It’s a good thing I’m not going to fuck you, then.” He admitted he only had an hour and as half before he was due to eat family dinner in the suburbs. I told him that just making out doesn’t take that long.

I don’t remember much about the elevator ride up to the 8th floor (I hate elevators, so it’s easier than making out in the stairwell), but I remember opening our suite’s door and throwing him onto my bed.

We kissed gently at first and I started undressing him. I asked him to be cautious of my fresh tattoo and he was very gentle; as it’s a French phrase, he joked that he’d proof-read it for me. I couldn’t keep my mouth off of his near-flawless skin, and I kissed him up and down his lean, firm torso pausing only to ask him in French about a few scars (a cycling accident in Vietnam).

When I finally saw him fully naked I kicked myself for not running to a pharmacy beforehand. We made complete messes of each other and I asked him to teach me different sexy phrases in French.

He showered quickly after we were finished and ran off to the suburbs. I have him on Facebook, but it was a beautiful novel encounter with a beautiful novel man. I invited him to chat me up if he’s ever in Toronto (I hope he does) but even if I never see him again I will look at this like the the most linguistically educational travel hookup I’ve ever had.

Grand Slack may rank with Gunner and Catch for my favourite first Tinder date, and that’s pretty great.

She’s a Marshmallow…

I’ve gone on about fifty first Tinder dates in the year I’ve had the app. That’s more than the number of times I’ve seen my lifelong favourite band in concert (though not by much). That’s more than the number of other first dates I’ve had combined.

I’ve had a lot of fun and met some truly adventurous, hilarious and interesting people, but I’ve only been limerant of two of my Tinder paramours: The first date, and the most recent.

The first, whom I’ll call Gunner, deserves a post of his own. I adored him but put him through hell because he was my first partner after Harold and I opened up our relationship; a failed experiment at his expense. He jumped through so many hoops for me in the few months we gave it a go and I like to think I helped him work through some resentment he had over his ex. It must have worked, though, because Gunner is making one of my best friends very happy – they celebrated six months together recently and I take full credit. (note: they do not give me full credit, but we all know I set them up, okay? okay.)

The second though? Ooof. I’m calling him Catch. Not just because he is pretty much an ideal person (at least on paper) but because I know that when he breaks my heart I’m going to relate way too hard to this song:

(Allie X is a treasure, btw, and you should listen to everything she’s ever done)

His profile made him sound like he just wanted to show off – he stated his (impressive) profession, his height (excessively tall), and his favourite dessert (also my favourite dessert). His pics were typical: suit pic, pouty selfie, darkly-lit guitar pic… but Catch looks like every unrequited crush I’ve ever had, from the former frontman of my favourite local cover band to my favourite basketball player with a little bit of my high school best guy friend thrown in; like Jeff Winger from Community meets Robb Stark from Game of Thrones. He is very educated in fields semi-related to mine and has one of those jobs that impresses moms. He’s well-rounded (plays guitar! and sports too!) and is as obnoxious as I am. He’s also not on social media, which is frustrating but I’ll deal with it. I’m convinced I Weird Science’d him into existence.

My profile asks people to talk to me about glasses if they need an icebreaker, and he asked me a question about stemware as a wedding gift for his sister. After dozens of “So… Tell me about glasses lol” first messages, I was all about it.

Most importantly, he likes Veronica Mars, which is possibly the most attractive quality any person can ever have.

Our first non-tinder text conversation involved covert references to favourite video games and old flash cartoons from 2002. He got every reference and we accused each other of being hired by our friends to heal us from our fairly recent breakups. He texted me the next day and said “I can’t stop thinking about you.” I felt the same way, so we met up for midnight milkshakes at a diner halfway between karaoke, his work (where he’d just finished his rotation) and his condo. We talked until 4:00 am. He offered to let me crash at his place and was a complete gentleman (though I later found out that it was because he didn’t have condoms).

The next day I texted our mutual friends who had only glowing things to say (with the exception of an ex of mine whose other ex was Catch’s roommate and remembered only bad hair and combat choreography).

We had to wait for our second date because he had to go home for a bachelor party (they played Diablo III the whole time and he texted me every time he won). I was the first person he saw when he returned and I showed him my favourite downtown parks where we exchanged Community quotations and discussed the cultural significance of The Simpsons. I got to use the “You’re more handsome than the guy who’s famous for being handsome!” line and actually mean it.

He had sent me a text beforehand saying “This is going to sound RIDICULOUSLY presumptuous… But I have not had a chance to get to a drug store or equivalent… so if sex is at all on the table… You should maybe bring something… Don’t tell me if it’s on the table though! That way I can still have the joy of being all ‘Will we? Won’t we? What if she’s changed her mind? etc.’ (Yes, I know, I’m romantic to the core).”

So we went back to his place where we had amazing, safe sex in an overwhelming number of positions. Like, the kind of sex that could ruin sex with other people. I climbed him like a tree and he gave me the best workout I’ve had since my last bike ride out to the 905.

He confessed he doesn’t generally do the casual sex thing, and I told him that I’ve been over it for a while but haven’t met anyone I’d want to date exclusively in a long time.

I spent the whole next day with a big stupid grin on my face, even if sitting down was the best kind of uncomfortable. My coworker called me on it and had no idea how to handle it; she knows that I don’t gush about my dates.

The third date happened after I received this text:

IMG_3406

SO Catch, in one text, made a pretty compelling case for heteromonogamy.

I took him to my favourite pizza place, we watched the movie, he insisted I spend the night…

I woke up the next morning to him sitting on his couch, playing “Odds Are” by the Barenaked Ladies on a beat-up teal acoustic guitar. I sang along and thought about how perfect that moment was.

I’m trying not to read into this too much, but I’ve always been on to talk myself out of anything good. I’m at least using this giddiness as a sign that I should pare down the less-exciting people in my harem. I don’t have time to spend making out with people who don’t make me smile like a doof every time I think about them.

But no pressure, Catch. I know how hard “ideal” is to maintain. 😉

007: You Only Live Twice

“Hi can we cool it on the hookup front? I have some feelings for someone I’m trying to work out.”

Goddamn I hate iMessage first thing in the morning sometimes.

“I’m not just going to call you in two weeks when it blows over, don’t worry.”

That’s what I would do if the situation were reversed, and I think he knows that.

I’m trying to figure out exactly why I’m bothered by this, because I am. I’ve heard it a dozen times in my life from many different people, but I’ve never been on the other side of it. I want to say it’s because I can handle casual hookups. I don’t know if that’s true, or if it ever was.

The radio played “Do I Wanna Know” as I got dressed for work. I’m glad this song wasn’t around four and a half years ago, when 007 first gave a sexual friendship a try. It was more applicable then, when I was looking to be in a relationship with him; when I thought everything he did was art. Learning that 007 is human with flaws and insecurities and a guilty conscience made me more comfortable with him. I think he liked being with me because I know how hard he works to not be the person he was back then. I’m not the same person I was at 22 either.

“Yeah, no probs.” I replied, “Hope it works out! She’s lucky, whoever she is! :)” Completely fucking honestly. He is, above all else, a completely solid friend and a dude whom I am lucky to have in my life.

I have a weird expectation for myself that I say what I mean and mean what I say. That I hate the grey areas that exist when open communication doesn’t. I am excited to spend time with 007. I am excited when we’re at a house party full of people who don’t catch us checking each other out; I’m excited when we watch episodes of TV shows he wants to share with me; I’m excited clothed, naked, eating twizzlers, drinking tea and any state in between. 007 passes Mark Manson’s Fuck Yes! test. He passed the Fuck Yes! test even when we were seeing other people and he tutored me through my academic upgrading. 

Shuffle managed to play “Heartbeat” on my commute. This is more like it. An ex of mine used to tell me that 007 reminded him of a white Donald Glover. “I’mma flirt with this new girl and I’mma call if it don’t work.” I’m guilty of that.

Every part of me is screaming “THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU, T.” And I want it desperately to work out between him and whoever the girl is.

And if it ends, I want him to take me climbing again. Because I know I’ll still be into it. I’ll still shout “Fuck yes!” Even when I find someone else with a sexual charge as strong as his, I’m going to proposition platonic baseball games or long bike rides with him, no expectations of a happy ending (of either kind).

In the meantime, I’ll be on Tinder.

007: For Your Eyes Only

Almost immediately after my most recent big breakup, I started sleeping with a friend of mine. I don’t care that it might be a bad idea, because every rebound bingo card needs a “Greatest Hits” square, and (though I hate to rank former flames), as far as sexual connection it’s been 007 and Harold (my most recent ex), a deep chasm, and then everyone else.

007 and I met half a decade ago through a friend who’d been infatuated with him in high school. We went home together the night we met, and though it’s been years since we last kissed I always had vivid erotic flashbacks to showering together or the way he’d roll my stockings down while undressing me. It lasted only a few months (and we both got hurt in the end – it inspired the friend who introduced us to write a song!) but I’m sure everyone I’ve dated since my dalliance with 007 could tell that I was comparing them, and that they usually came up short. We stayed friends, though. He tutored me through the entry exams for my program and let me pay him for his troubles in baseball tickets and food specific to his dietary needs. He quit drinking and has been a solid dude to me for many years.

Sure, our New Years kisses would linger a little too long. And we’d *like* every vaguely scandalous social media picture. And his friends would say things like “Tinderella is no stranger to dick blindness – she dated 007, after all!” but that was our deal. We kept our hands to ourselves. I will always defend him, because I adore him.

It wasn’t what I intended to happen when he invited me to his climbing gym one Sunday afternoon shortly after I gave my ex the boot – I just let 007 teach me how to scale lumpy walls the way I let him teach me math, or how to kiss. When I’d slip off, he’d catch me, even though the mats would have broken my fall rather adequately. He stretched me out at the end and we’d blush at things that weren’t necessarily sexual (“Whoa one of your hips is way more flexible than the other, T!”) We grabbed falafel and he invited me to watch a movie.

After we watch all of Beauty Day, I say “Hey 007, what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking about sex.”
I sit there, blinking. I’m thinking about sex as well but I expected to have to tiptoe around it. “I don’t know how to respond to that.”
“Forget it,”
“No. I just… it’s really soon. But I want to. With you, I mean.”

I am the most awkward person alive.

We put on Adventure Time, and I snuggle closer.

“It’s been a while for me,” he confessed.

I kiss him. We are frenetic. He carries me over to the bed; I’ve forgotten how strong he is. No, I haven’t. I’ve willfully ignored how strong he is until right now. That willful ignorance was the only thing keeping me from losing my mind when I couldn’t touch him for years. I can’t get close enough. It’s exactly as good as I remember, if not better.
“I forgot how…” he starts, panting.
I cut him off with a kiss. “I didn’t.”

The next few hours are a blur. Everything we try works. We fit. We are sweaty and sticky and we’re down for whatever the other suggests.

Every subsequent sleepover date has been just as satisfying… to the point where I get aroused even seeing a new iMessage from him, because an iMessage means he’s thinking about me and wants to know what I’m up to and maybe wants to know what I’m doing later.

The few friends who know are very hesitant, and have expressed concern. I understand why. This whole post (keeping it from our friends; my need to justify it; the GUSHING! all in spite of our past) is a long series of red flags.

But for all the sexual experiences I’ve had since my breakup, ones with 007 are the only ones that don’t feel empty; where the conversation doesn’t suck and the sex is challenging and constantly changing.  Other partners make me feel like we’re only together until something more appropriate comes along, but I have no expectations either way about this.

It’s what I need right now. I don’t need to be loved; I don’t need to be romanced or plied with drinks. I especially don’t need a bunch of men I don’t know sending me dick pics (so no, I will not add you on SnapChat, random Tinder bros). I need a laugh and a handful of volcanic orgasms, but maybe if it keeps going I’m also going to need a way to tell our friends without them freaking out.