Sex, Love, & Vulnerability: Part One
We meet at my favorite wine bar. He’s sitting at the bar when I arrive, but he’s still wearing his camel trench coat, which I am grateful for because he looks devastatingly handsome in it. It’s not long before he mentions that I seem distracted. I tell him it’s been a weird week, but don’t really want to get into it.
He’s always calm. I’ve never seen him nervous or uncomfortable. Even on our first date. At times, this calm demeanor comes off as disinterested. I can’t tell if the composure or disinterest is what makes me actually want him.
I feel like I can’t, or shouldn’t, tell him about my week. Because it’s more than the week. It’s what a mess my life is, worse, what a mess I am. He doesn’t have anxiety. He never alludes to anything sad in his past. At first that felt fine, it was too soon to speak about that. But as we spend more time together, and text endlessly, my messes come up more and more naturally in conversation. He remains mess free. I still can’t bring myself to really tell him what’s going on in my life. It’s one thing that he’s not very vulnerable with me; he might not have scars like I do or he doesn’t think it’s appropriate to share at this point, both are fair. Maybe I would feel more comfortable if he was more affectionate or complimentary. But he hasn’t told me how much he likes me, or how beautiful I am, or made any indication that he wants to take it a step further. I’d like to say that this doesn’t bother me. It mostly doesn’t. I’m confident in who I am and know that he likes me without words of affirmation. But that feeling of apathy inside of me is just a sign that I’m used to be treated like this. I’ve grown accustom to non-adoring men. If anything, his lack of affirmation makes me more aware of how much I need to hide what a mess I am.
He sees the writing on my wrist. The quote that I write on my wrist with a Sharpie every morning: “I was born to do this”. I started writing this a few weeks ago because it was the only thing I could say to myself to keep moving amidst so much uncertainty, familial drama, and low self-efficacy. Joan of Arc reminded me that I wasn’t meant to live a simple life, and it gave me the energy to keep going. It gave me the energy to keep writing. It gave me the energy to start my business. It gave me the energy to keep loving myself. I owe my life to the scribble on my left inner wrist.
Once he sees it, I try to cover it by pulling my sweater over my hands, even though I secretly wanted him to see it. He gently grabs my wrist and asks what it is. I tell him I write it every day and how it motivates me. He seems intrigued or impressed or something, I can’t tell what he thinks. I never can.
Now that he sees the writing on my wrist, he understands why my week was weird. Without telling him I’m not speaking to my father because of a blog post I wrote, without telling him that I don’t know if the credit card I plan to use to pay for my drinks has a 70% chance of being declined, without telling him that every morning I wake up feeling clueless and I have no idea how I’m going to start my business. Without telling him anything specific, I tell him what a mess I am. I tear up and he wipes the tear forming under my right eye with the knuckle of his finger. And I almost feel loved. Because I’m almost seen.
I know that if we continue the conversation as it is now, I will inevitably word vomit everything. I want nothing more than to change the subject. But I know I can’t abruptly change the subject. If I were to change the subject to basketball or a question about him, he would feel obligated to say, “No, no, you can’t do that. Don’t change the subject. We’re talking about you.” And he’d force me to continue to talk about my messy life.
Thankfully, I’ve gotten good at this slight manipulation. I’ve learned how to make him think it’s his idea to redirect the conversation. I tease, “If I tell you why I am such a mess, you won’t fall in love with me, which you’re about to do very soon. You’re so close to falling in love with me and I can’t take the risk.” He laughs and lets me change the subject.
He’s warm now. I know he likes me and the five Manhattans stirring in my brain have made me confident. I grab the collar of his trench coat and pull him in to kiss. He kisses back, holding my face in his hand. The kiss is perfect. He is completely perfect.
He wants to come to my apartment. I protest. My apartment is gross but he insists. I show him around. He says he likes it, calling special attention to my gallery wall. He has great taste. I tell him the tour is over and we’re leaving now to go back to his apartment. He asks me why I am so impenetrable, as he straightens out one of my photos from Cuba.
He stays for awhile, but I don’t let him spend the night. When I drop him off, he tells me to text him when I get home. I don’t. He doesn’t text me the next day. Neither do I. I do not text him because I am nervous that he no longer likes me. I have a sick feeling all day. Everything that felt right the night before, feels weird now. The intimate tear wiping, it now feels wrong. Even though I didn’t share everything, or anything specific, I feel exposed. I’m not exactly nervous that he doesn’t like me at all, but I’m nervous he doesn’t like me enough to know the real me. The messy parts.
When four days have passed, without either of us sending a message, I remind myself that I have told him some things in the past. When we first started seeing each other, I called him one night; we had been texting for hours and I was sick of looking at my phone screen. I also thought that if he couldn’t sustain a 15-minute phone conversation, it was good to know now. But we talk for hours. Two hours and forty-five minutes to be exact. Asking each other questions and sharing stories. I told him about going to a wedding, where I didn’t know anyone by the bride, and I couldn’t find a date to accompany me. Not long after arriving to the reception, I had a panic attack. My tone is almost daring him to be scared. Knowing that this is the first vulnerable thing I’ve told him and it shows how crazy I am, I think this will turn him off. When I’m finished telling the story, he says, “Okay.” Confused, I ask, “That’s it?”. And like a prince, he says, “What? Did you want me to be scared? That doesn’t scare me.” He couldn’t see my smile, but I’m sure he could hear it in my voice the rest of the conversation.
But that was months ago. And I’m right to believe that something changed that night. While he responds to all of my texts, since that night, he has stopped asking me questions, in fact, he’s stopped reaching out first all together. And I can’t help but notice, he never asks to hang out again. His responses are kind but on the shorter side. After a week or two of me keeping the conversation going, I stop texting him all together. Neither of us has to say it, but I know it’s done.
After a month of silence, the dust has settled and because we never had a big blow up or grande finale conversation, we’re still technically on good terms, I send him a text, a photo of a teeshirt that made me think of him. He asks how my Thanksgiving was. We catch up and he tells me how busy he’s been at work. Eventually, I find a place to end the conversation and stop responding. I derive some satisfaction knowing that I can reach out to him for small talk and we’re not on bad terms.
Weeks later, I’m near his place and send him a friendly text telling him where I am and I thought of him. He surprises me by asking to get drinks.
To be continued.
Stephanie DeLacy unapologetically shares what it’s like to navigate the world as 20-something white girl, with humor, profanity, and raw vulnerability. Stephanie recounts stories of her travel, mental health, and the journey to loving her body. Her descriptions of dating are bawdy but incredibly relatable. She courageously describes her dysfunctional childhood, healing from trauma, and how she’s evolved as a survivor of sexual assault. At times, heart wrenching, her stories will evoke raw emotion and connect to you on the most guttural level. She hopes to inspire authentic living and human connection. Stephanie lives in Cleveland with her dog and two cats.