Is there anyone out there who is good at keeping it casual? I’m not talking about one-night stands here. I’m talking about having someone consistently in your life whom you enjoy hanging out with, whom you care about, and with whom you occasionally engage in the sexy times. A “fuck buddy,” if you will: a person who is able to reap all the benefits of being your boyfriend/girlfriend without the actual label or “responsibilities” (the responsibilities usually having to do with the only getting to sleep with one person part). If you have an example of any time in history in which this kind of relationship didn’t end in a giant monsoon of hurt feelings and confusion, I want to hear from you, because I want to be able to understand it.
I’m a serial monogamist. I never feel a need to stray from the person I am with at that time. How do you keep your stories straight? How do you keep them all interested? How can you spend all your time with one person and not have feelings about their feelings? I’m a feelings machine. When I totaled my car two years ago, I cried for days because I thought it was so noble of the car to sacrifice itself for me. I get flushed with nostalgia whenever I check out of a hotel room. So to ask me to let you be in my life but to keep my feelings in check the entire time is a lot. However, because I am slightly masochistic, this has not stopped me from trying it out!
I was once entangled in a so-called casual affair for about a year. A year. And here we have the first complication of keeping it casual: how do you end something that didn’t start? That isn’t real? You can try to let it fizzle, but if you genuinely like the person and they’ve been in your life for a while, the fizzling becomes nearly impossible. Also we as humans are naturally attracted to routine. And so both of you get so used to your arrangement that you don’t realize at least one of you is miserable.
It starts off all well and good–pretty typically, actually. You make time for one another. Your heart still skips a beat and you can’t help but smile when you see you got a text. You feel yourselves lost in an expanding bubble of silly puppy love and it-just-doesn’t-get-any-better-than-thisitis. But then you get the 4th or 5th date and you start having questions. It looks like a relationship, it feels like a relationship, it smells like a relationship…but is it, though?
The thing is it’s going well. You’re happy. So why ruin it with the R word, with the talk, when things are fine just the way they are? Besides, how differently could he be feeling? You’ll get your answers eventually. Probably soon.
And then one day, a few dates later, when you walk into the bar to find him chatting up another girl, you get a pat on the head and a, “I just love how cool you are about this.”
One of the many problems here is that you are still slightly flattered by this comment. Like, “Yeah, that’s right. I can be cool. I’m a cool girl. I’m cool like dat. I’m not upset or hurt or angry or anything. Chill like dill, mofo.” The thing is now your bubble is popped. And so there is the first casualty of your casual relationship. Your bubble is popped and replaced by the bit of rage that’s starting to flow through you like mercury in a thermometer.
But you still continue in spite of your rage because there’s always that possibility, that glimmer of hope, that this particular guy, in a vast ocean of all the guys out there who would date you, will fall in love with you and have babies with you, because, to quote the most almighty quotable being, Albus Dumbledore, “Humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are worst for them.”
The guy I was with was incredible at the whole casual thing. Made an art form out of it, really: long gaps between messages, being non-committal about hanging out, keeping me very separate from the rest of his life. However, as I mentioned before, I am a serial monogamist, so perhaps the biggest problem was my inability to be casual back. How does one casually express that I just want to make you muffins and maybe cuddle a bit? So one day, I decided to change that. And don’t worry guys, I won’t suspend you in mystery: it was a terrible idea.
We decided we were going to do a local trivia night. A typical activity for us. I love a good, ol’-fashioned trivia night. Useless knowledge is my favorite (and perhaps only) kind of knowledge. However, why play with a team of just two when you can go up to four? Do you see where I’m going here? Do you see the disaster that is about to unfold?
While I can’t say that it happened purposely, we both kind of brought other dates.
Yup. The old your date brought another date awkward moment.
I can’t say I meant for the friend I brought to be a date per se. It’s just that I knew he was bringing a female friend of his and he was being so very laid-back about the whole thing, and I wanted to be the cool girl, and the cool girl probably has lots of good-looking male friends who she just chills with, the same way she just chills with her concubine. I can’t say I meant for it to turn into a blood bath. Truly at first, I was trying so very hard to be the cool girl. So naturally, as an awkward person trying to be cool, I was failing miserably, and in turn breeding more awkward. It was still civil enough…but the thing is about two rounds into trivia, she started sensually rubbing her foot on his leg… and she challenged me on the theme song to Murder, She Wrote.
I’m not normally the jealous type, and the truth is I had no right to be, in this situation. But we’d had several bottles of wine and you do not contradict drunk Jillian on classic TV trivia. You just don’t.
And that’s the problem with casual arrangements. Not only was I having feelings, they were feelings I wasn’t allowed to be having, which means they had spent the last couple of months fermenting inside me and getting ready to explode. It was one of the uglier nights of my life. I was slurring out insults and making drama, I was stumbling around and not making sense, she was calling me sloppy, he was calling me crazy, my “date” thought he’d help the situation by trying to hit on the other girl. It was the least and yet most myself I had felt the entire time we had been together. The good news we were on Long Island, so the whole debacle looked pretty normal to passersby.
So the lesson here is, if there is one, don’t bring a date to your date. You will end up drunk crying on your bedroom floor at 2am, texting your friends and asking them if you’ll ever be worthy. Of course you’re worthy, ya whackjob. Pull yourself together.
And I kept seeing him. Told you I’m a masochist.
There were times when I’d try to pull away, when I would try to end things, moments like when guys would ask me out or if I had a boyfriend and I never knew what to say. And he would say something sweet that would suck me right back in. Then there were times when he’d start to get attached, and he’d say it was over, only to call me again a week later. We both had our fair share of times when we thought it would be healthiest to stop, but we were inexorably drawn to one another. He’d tell me he really cared about me, but that he couldn’t be in a relationship. I’d say I understood. And I did. That didn’t make it the right thing for either one of us.
Then the day before he left for a month-long business trip, he told me he loved me. I told him I loved him, too. And that meant something to me. Those aren’t words I believe should be thrown around like a Frisbee. He said he’d talk to me when he got back. And I naively thought this was a game-changer. But I’d had no confirmation. Always get it in writing, ladies.
I guess it was when I saw the Facebook pictures of him kissing another girl was when I finally got my head on straight. I confronted him about it, very calmly. And he responded, very calmly, reminding me that we weren’t in a relationship, that he had told me repeatedly that he had never wanted anything serious, and he was right. And that’s when I felt my stomach fall out of my ass like a sea cucumber (that’s right, sea cucumbers can digest major organs! Told you I’m good for the fun facts). This moment was when I was finally able to sever the ties between my physical and emotional feelings for this man.
The whole shellacking turned me off to dating and men for a good amount of time after that. Until I realized it is just stupid to accept anything less thn what makes you feel happy and right in that time in your life. But I feel like crazy dating choices are a rite of passage for all of us…my quota is just, like, triple that of the average person.