I met #193 when his band was supporting #207’s. #184 and I liked them a lot, so we spoke to him afterwards. He gave me a free CD and we had a couple of drinks. I got the impression that he was maybe Interested, but maybe I read it wrong. And me, I thought he was cool but if there was a crush I didn’t reciprocate it.
We swapped some e-mails after that and wound up drinking together on the night of the IDAHO gig. A friend of #185 and #192 got increasingly drunk and kept telling me that #193 was hot and that I should get off with him, and he and I both did our best to pretend this conversation wasn’t happening. After #192 made out with me, #193 and I said goodbye to the rest of them and I walked him over to his bike. I hadn’t talked to him enough all night. I said what happens now and he said I have no idea. Then I kissed him. Then I walked home alone.
I did a total bit flip on this one. It seemed to be a new kind of foreshadowing: one in which I didn’t even know my own mind. The following day, I sent him a disclaimer about how even the vaguest idea of dating is akin to getting married on my fear of commitment scale. Nevertheless, I secretly found myself thinking back to that night rather fondly. #193 responded that everything was fine and to chill out, leaving me feeling suitably anti-suave.
The night after that, I went to a gig that clashed with his, due to a fear that turning up to his would be akin to getting married (though seeing Frog Pocket was certainly no hardship). Since there was an outside chance that #193 might show up after his own gig, I was kind of twitchy any time anyone came in the door. Eventually I decided he wasn’t coming, and reasoned with myself that this was a good thing, because getting used to disappointment builds character; also, my fear of commitment was supposed to prevent me from caring anyway. Once this had all been processed, #193, of course, showed up. It was a flying visit with his bandmates, though, and I totally lunged at him when saying goodbye. He didn’t actually stop me from kissing him, so presumably it wasn’t the worst idea on the planet, but it was still pretty cringeworthy. After he’d gone, #184 made drunken pronouncements about how we REALLY UNDERSTOOD EACH OTHER, and made out with me when I was leaving, which was a shame because now all I could taste was cigarettes. I walked home in the rain feeling about twelve.
I sent #193 an e-mail to defend the anti-suave title for the second day running by explaining that actually, I’d figured out that seeing more of him might not be the most threatening concept on the planet. If he’d like. I spent the rest of the weekend trying not to go batshit crazy waiting for the response, which, when it came, was affirmative.
We went to see Super Adventure Club and I drank wine and someone gave me some whiskey and then we needed to think of something to do next so I said well you could come back to mine for tea, by which I mean tea plus making out. We collected his bike and started walking. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was probably fourteen and I asked to have a go on it and found it quite fantastic, even though I cycled in a very shaky manner and kept pulling on the brakes every two seconds. When I decided to stop, I promptly fell off and the bike collapsed on top of me. I was very gleeful about this too (“I fell off the bike! Hahaha brilliant!”). This is where most of my bruises came from that night, possibly all of them but it was hard to be sure. After that we were still walking along and talking and then I stopped and said hey wait are we going to make out yet? and he said no and so we did. It was nice, we were by the Meadows, there was no-one around, and then we walked the rest of the way back to my place holding hands.
I invited him to spend the night but I explained that I had a no-sex-with-boys policy, and that’s where things started to get awkward. I acknowledged that I have these complicated boundaries and that there are reasons for them, but also I wasn’t about to turn it into a counselling session; it was hardly the time to start going into detail. I wound up feeling a little insecure, because I liked him a lot, but I had these issues and I couldn’t quite relax, and I wasn’t sure how to navigate all that stuff without getting into TMI territory too soon. And I found myself wanting a bit more reassurance that he was still going to be interested in me, and I wanted to squash that neediness straight away, but once you’ve gotten a crush on somebody, it’s kind of hard to make it do rational things.
We spent one other night together and I thought everything was cool. He said that having read my zines, he could understand my relationship/sexuality/whatever issues better. I liked the way he kissed me, I liked that he understood French better than me, I liked that he’d make a few dumb jokes but mostly good ones, I liked that we were both into Catherine Keener and Cate Blanchett. I liked a bunch of stuff about him but I was also trying to ignore the fact that I felt nervous.
That weekend there was another gig. I was at it with #241 and another friend. I was standing there, watching the band, thinking hmm #193 comes here a lot doesn’t he, it would be weird if he showed up, I don’t know what I would do. This was swiftly followed by OH CHRIST #193 JUST WALKED PAST ME, HE DIDN’T SEE ME, SHOULD I GO OVER AND SAY HI AND STAND AROUND AWKWARDLY? OR SHOULD I JUST PRETEND NOT TO SEE HIM SINCE I’M THINKING ABOUT NOT STICKING AROUND ANYWAY. As my friend Lindsay puts it, I was kind of walking around in all caps for a while there.
Worrying about stuff like this is, you know, not empowering. It’s also kind of tedious.
He walked past again and I reached out and said hi. He gave me a hug, said do you want to come up the front and watch the band? Sure. I talked to the people he was with. #193 was saying this place is too hot, I’m going to go. Hug, no kiss. Somewhere between sleep and waking the following morning, I remembered a note he’d handed me when he was leaving, which could have been interpreted a couple of ways but it looked promising, it reassured me. Then I remembered he did no such thing and it was a dream.
I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted from #193 – not monogamy, not glorious coupledom – but whatever it was, it didn’t look like I was going to get it. This is why crushes are fucking awful. I did not want to sit around waiting for text messages and then sit around some more analysing the fucking things. Fuck being needy. I’d read him wrong – I had thought, here is a boy who likes me, and I might mess with his head; better issue a disclaimer. Now it seemed that he was fine and I was the one with the messy head.
The last time I kissed him was when we went for drinks at a pub near my flat. I drank too much; meanwhile, #193 is the only person I know who’s smart enough to match his alcohol consumption with an equal amount of water. This means that the ensuing conversations were blurry for me, while presumably recorded in glorious technicolor detail for him.
He came back to my place after the pub, but said he wasn’t going to spend the night because it was too frustrating for him if we weren’t going to have sex.
“I hope you told him to fuck off,” #187 said months later when I told her the saga.
“Uh, no,” I said sheepishly, “I gave him a blowjob.”
This would’ve been fine had I actually felt like it, but I didn’t. All of a sudden it was as if I’d just stepped out of the Just 17 problem pages. I did it because I felt like he was going to vanish if I didn’t do something. I’d bet it was in fact one of the least sexy experiences he’d ever had. #193 had never pressured me; in fact he’d overtly said he didn’t want to do that. But I felt like I didn’t have a huge amount of choice if I wanted to see him again. If he wanted sex, I guess I wanted intimacy first, and there didn’t seem to be any room for that to happen.
We hung out a few times after that, and I never made a move again, and neither did he – and it had always been me who’d made all the moves thus far, which hadn’t done wonders for my self-esteem either – and I quietly figured out that it was over and done with, and once my crush subsided I was okay with that, and able to just be friends.
But it felt all kinds of train-wrecky at the time. I’d done so much thinking about whether I wanted to have sex with him, with various flavours of implicit peer pressure hounding me: You’re thirty years old! Get the hell on with it like everybody else does! Other people you’ve been with may have been willing to wait a while, they may have had non-mainstream attitudes to sex, but that was then – don’t go expecting anyone to understand ever again!
There was no room in this stupid narrative for me to go, okay, you know what? Here’s some stuff I like doing, here’s some stuff I might be up for doing if I feel safe enough with whoever I’m with, and here’s some stuff I definitely don’t want to do at all. I guess looking at things that way was just overshadowed by all the shit I’d been afraid of running into again ever since things with #117 had been so goddamn awful.
So it was hard to just pause, breathe deeply, and bear in mind a bunch of stuff I knew already. Such as: Either you accept where I’m at and we get on with things, or if you have a problem you can go. I can’t say yes to something if I don’t really want to do it: I have done that before and there is no fucking way I want to do it again. If I’m going to change my mind about what I want to do, I’m going to need to feel really comfortable with a person and able to express my feelings, and I hadn’t gotten to that point with #193. I didn’t want to test my boundaries just to accommodate what somebody else wanted to do.
We did stay friends. We never talked about this stuff – I don’t think we needed to, and I was already horrified by my drunken tendency to turn into The Girl Who Needs To Process Everything. I see him once in a blue moon. I enjoy his company, and nowadays I can relax when I’m around him because I’m no longer looking for anything more than friendship. But I guess a small part of me is always going to feel a little reserved because of how this stuff went.