Dating nowadays is suspect as shit and I’m sure dating next year will only be worse. The thing you should keep in mind during this interesting little story is that the word “date” was never mentioned before, during, or after any hangout session, and may never be, for all I know. *shrugs* With this in mind…

It has been the oddest feeling to have spent so much time getting to know a man without the intention to have sex with him. That is not to say that I have not had men as friends before, but that has been such a rare occurence since I left college that I have mostly forgotten that it was even possible to be platonic friends with a man. I have mostly given up the belief that men are even worth being friends with, after years and years of so-called “friends” waiting until the opportune moment to try seducing me or otherwise getting me on my back. Until him.

My memory is faulty and so I refreshed myself by reading texts of what could’ve been a casual flirtation, possibly, who the hell even knows? For it never turned into anything, even after a year. I’d been texting him long enough to have developed an easy trust een though we didn’t meet face to face until a few short months ago. That was weird, having spent all of this time being open with someone I hadn’t met in person and then meeting them and attempting to recall all of the things I was supposed to know about this person and really feeling like I knew nothing at all. Even with my fount of knowledge, I was truly meeting him for the first time. He was nothing like I imagined he’d be. Not that I remember spending all that much time thinking about meeting him as after a few months of texting someone, the novelty tends to wear off… and then regrow.

That was something I didn’t expect. How easy it was to be around him. How I didn’t feel like I was pretending to be nice just to get through the evening. I never once felt like I was forcing myself to be social and get out of the house when I was with him. I didn’t count the minutes until I could go back home and scrub off the failure of another evening and binge Criminal Minds in my sweatpants while patting myself on the back for trying to be social for once. “Men are awful and boring,” I almost always say, but when I left him I was smiling. I was ready to see him again as soon as he had gone and I was determined not to admit it.

I did see him again and he was as warm and easy to talk to as before. He understood where I was coming from, he didn’t cry when I said, “Men are trash.” He made funny references to some of my favorite movies and books, and, most important of all, he never once made me uncomfortable. He didn’t buy me dinner and slide his hand up my thigh with that expectant look that all men who think they’ve paid for you always give. When he hugged me, he didn’t linger to see how soft my bare breasts were beneath my sweater. He didn’t sit too close or ask for sexual favors (If that sounds forward to you, then you’ve been lucky. I don’t put shit past men anymore.). I could be myself without the crushing weight of sexual expectations to meet.

It was strange. The feeling of being around a man who seemed to actually respect me as another person and not see me as a vehicle for orgasms (or babies). I’ve had men as friends before…before, after, and while fucking them, but as I said earlier, I did not feel the pressure to be sexual. Of course, that could be due in part to my blessedly diminished sex drive (by way of some lovely birth control), but, as I have spent time with other men while under the influence of birth control and felt pressured, he must receive some of the responsibility for keeping me at ease.

It is a wonder then, lulled by the idea that this man had no romantic or sexual interest in me that I was blind-sided by a compliment. I like compliments like any other person and do generally smile when I have received one, so I cannot explain the reaction I had that night. He’d barely touched me the entire day, which, as I said, was his way and he did not touch me then either. But I could feel him staring at me as I talked, and when I asked him why he kept looking at me, he told me that I was beautiful. My face grew hot and my nipples hardened and it was the most sudden, out of the blue reaction that still confuses me. It’s been a few weeks since and I’d be lying if I said it was anything other than some sort of lust.

Lust has been a stranger to me over the past several months. And thank the gods for that because leaping pussy first whenever I was horny did little more than get me into a LOT of fucking trouble, and never the good kind. It’s amazing how men have the ability to suck the fun out of sex too. But my point is, I haven’t found myself attracted to a guy in a while, and even before, I know that my attraction to men was more about sex than anything else…except I feel like I know this man more than I do, and what I don’t know, I wish to learn. And there is the problem. I feel that I want to know him more because of this strange sexual attraction that I feel although I am not certain that he feels any sort of sexual or romantic attraction to me. I’m not sure if I really care either way. On one hand, getting to know someone new could be fun, exciting, take away many of the dry hours I spend harassing myself into doing more writing in stead of actually writing…but on the other hand, the darker hand, the thought of getting intimately involved with someone is somewhat nauseating and hella frightening. I don’t know if I still have it within me, the love, the energy, the care. I mean, do we come with an endless supply or do you have 100 gallons of “love” and need to ration it to make it last a lifetime??

But those are just musings I thought I’d share as they have been plaguing me. In the dark of night I worry all of my feelings to make sense and they refuse to cooperate. I have attempted some heavier flirtation and offered an invitation to see each other more often, but… that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Maybe he’s shy. Maybe it isn’t love. Maybe we’ll both just die and never know, but let’s go back to the theory of the “shy man”. These are men that, according to toxic masculinity, aren’t supposed to exist, but since they do and I have absolutely no clue of how to navigate any sort of sexual relationship with anyone but relatively forward, generally obnoxiously sexual men, and have no pressing desire to have sex (which clearly involves men who I’ve been mostly avoiding because they’re full of shit), I guess we’ll both just die and never know. Given another 7 days, I’ll have another of my “I want to be in love again” moods and will attempt to harass myself into inviting him to a movie or art event, but this could be what it’s really like to be platonic friends with a man that I actually think is intelligent and interesting (which is rare for me *cackles*).

I guess the advice that I will give from this situation is that you can either make sure of someone’s interest in dating you or lack thereof. You need to keep in mind that not everyone is able to live with the “what ifs”. I’ve had a handful of what ifs at this point at my life so I know now that no matter what happens, no matter whether years pass and I look back and wonder about this man with his impossibly dark eyes and warm smile, I’ll always be able to hold on to the positive experience of having this interaction with a man that did not leave residue on my heart and soul. To me, that is something that I hope to be thankful for. To have had fun and deep conversations in a warm car on a cool winter night and have gotten away without feeling a little more broken than I did the day before. Only you can know your own limits and what you can or cannot live with and I know that I can live with never knowing. I’ve had these few beautiful moments untainted by ugliness and unmarred by the complications and pain that romantic relationships always bring. Collecting these moments is a good thing that can restore you and give you hope that dating doesn’t always have to be traumatizing and that there are men who are good and worthy, and most of all, that you can find them. Have hope and find little bits of happiness to fulfill you.

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Maple Summers

Believes in freedom. Helping to bring openness to a sexually repressed country. Eradicating slut-shaming. Defending women of all walks. Encouraging explorative and healthy dating and relationships.

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