From the time I was 21, I’ve gone from one serious, committed relationship to the next with nary a breather in betwixt. Oh sure, a couple of times between those relationships I tested the sheets with a few non-relationship fellows—I think that’s common nowadays and, even if not, that’s what I did as part of my journey. But for the most part, my M.O. was as follows: meet man, have chemistry, have sex, move in, fight, break up, repeat cycle. The details could fill a boring, repetitive book. (I didn’t put all this tedium in my “Memoir.”)
After my split with my ex-husband, Nice Man, almost seven years ago now, I went through a rapid series of serious relationships; the kind where we planned our retirement years together while consciously denying the inevitable lack of compatibility to get us there. (Hence the ‘fight’ stage.)
Looking back, I can see how we were all desperate to make it work when really we probably could’ve been enjoying the intimacy for what it was: short-term Friends with Benefits (FWB). In fact, had we properly labelled it, we might have had the chance to actually become friends during those relationships instead of not until after the painful break-ups and healing time. We might even be real friends now. (See “Plus One Why Being with Mr. For-Now is Preparing You for Mr. For-Ever.”)
After my last boyfriend break up in December 2012, I finally made a smart, conscious decision: romantic and sexual celibacy. I figured I’d get through 2013 solo and free and figure my shit out. After five break-ups—including my marriage—in six years, it was time for a break from break-ups. Something wasn’t working, and I was the common denominator.
I want to spend time with whoever I want, male or female, and to answer to no one. I want to spend time with me and to answer to no one. I want to travel at leisure and flaky-flyer-girl change plans on the fly. I want to be solo. I’m a bird—I’m a butterfly—I’m a wildebeest! I need to be free not contained. And … I do not need sex.
If FWB means someone gets hurt and in my world someone does, then I’d rather not take the chance and instead be just friends. Either I get my heart broken or he does and either way, it’s not worth it. Plus, I can take care of myself on the rest and don’t have to worry about whether I’ve waxed my bits to anyone’s liking.
Yes, I do believe this time there will be no nookie unless and until I’m sure I’m giving up my cookie to one man for the rest of my life. And that means just friends first, until I’m really, really, really sure. (When I’m ready, which I’m not.)
I understand that most men and women are looking for something romantic, whether long term or short, and there’s really no point in wasting time with the opposite sex if there’s nothing in it for them. And, even just friends requires compatibility, and I know I’m not everyone’s cup of Yerba Mate. Not only that, but it’ll take a pretty confident man to be with a woman who is making a writing career out of an ongoing mid-life crisis. True dat.
I ask my housemate, Mermaid, who is tall, lives in the ocean, has a mass of curly blonde hair, is German, is an Eco-Nazi (love her!)—yes, I wrote German and Nazi in the same sentence, get over it, already … that was a long time ago; lead with love—anyway, I ask her if she’s ever done the FWB thing.
She laughs and huffs as though I’ve asked if a dolphin poops in the sea, “Oh, of course!”
Me: “How did that work out? Did anyone get hurt or were you both cool?”
Mermaid, “Well, with this one guy, I couldn’t get rid of him, but it all worked out. The girl holds all the power, you know.”
Mermaid has a pure soul, she’s no floozy, so I’m curious to learn more: “And you just hang out and then eventually it ends? I’ve never done this Friends with Benefits thing.”
Mermaid gasps while throwing her hands in the air and rolling her eyes exaggeratedly, which for her isn’t extreme at all—she’s quite adorably animated, “You’re kidding, right?”
I shake my head ‘No.’
Mermaid, “Oh honey, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
I ask, “Okay, fine, moment of truth. I tried it this past summer, sort of by default. He fell in love, quit his job for me the works. Now he hates me. Not that I’ll ever do that again but how does it work, what’s the difference between a fling and friends with benefits?”
She tells me, “A Fling and Friends with Benefits are two different things. Flings tend to be exclusive and can lead to something real, whereas Friends with Benefits is generally non-exclusive and only leads to the bedroom, or kitchen or well, you know—you get the idea.”
I tell her how I’ve met several gentlemen here in the Venice Beach/Santa Monica areas. Most I don’t hear back from when I give out my business card directing them to my blog or when I tell them I’m not interested in dating or casual sex, which yeah, now I pretty much open with that greeting, “Hi, my name’s Anna, I’m not interested in dating or casual sex” and “I think I’ll just get a t-shirt made.”
Mermaid interrupts, “That’s not how the culture works here. A girl will meet a guy and before he’s bought her a coffee, she’s giving him a blow job in the parking lot!” She laughs as my mouth drops open in shock. She continues, “Oh yeah! It’s that bad.”
I had figured the reasons the guys here lost interest so soon could simply be that we don’t have enough in common, or they’re not that into me, or they think (know) I’m nuts. I didn’t realize everyone here is so loosey-goosey. So it’s been easy to stay single. I’m okay with that. In fact, it’s perfect.
Whether you Fling or you do FWB, for those who can handle it, either option certainly has its up side: sex with a real, live person (or mutual masturbation as one fellow in L.A. so generously offered); sense of intimacy even if sheet shallow; way to pass the time if one’s bored; potential expanded social circle; exercise and release of feel good hormones that uplift the spirit and reduce Cortisol. (Excess Cortisol leads to belly fat.) I suggest the parties partying play by the rules, feel free to use these (or make up your own):
No PDAs (Public Displays of Affection).
Don’t fall in love.
You can see other people but must be ‘safe’ and respectful.
For a good time, not a long time.
What have I (re)learned?
Honesty is the best policy. This includes being honest with myself about what my needs really are. Being honest with myself and others also helps people decide if they want to move on to their next connection sooner.
Sometimes, what seems perfect on paper isn’t right simply because of timing. Best not to hold out hope, but there’s also no sense in throwing out a perfectly good friendship.
We can’t make someone fall in love with us. The perfect match is out there somewhere. (Not the perfect person, to be sure, that is unrealistic.)
Continue to do my thing, refer new potential just friends, male and female, to this part-of-the-real-complex-me blog, understand and accept that people come and go, do all things with love and in love.
Honor my needs, skip Flings and FWB, get button printed with “No sex for you!”
Try Yerba Mate (tea).