Monday, September 22, 2014

The End of Acting Out

I have a long history of acting out.

At age 19, I moved to London for a semester abroad just a couple of months after having gotten my first boyfriend ever and having lost my virginity. At some point, I figured out that there had been some overlap between me and another of his girlfriends. Subsequently, the second guy I ever had sex with was a drunken Irishman in the ladies' bathroom stall in a pub in Galway.

There were plenty of other college indiscretions, of course.

The year I moved to New York City, I spent Halloween night judging a kissing contest between three guy friends. When the winner spurned my subsequent affections, I started hooking up with another one of his friends. When that guy spurned my affections, I hooked up with every fellow member of his band except one (and a few of his other friends).

My parents didn't allow me to date in high school, but they also didn't teach me how to respect myself. They abandoned me emotionally and left me to my own devices. What else was I supposed to do?

I self-medicated with random dalliances.

I manipulated people.

I turned them over to the dark side.

I never learned how to have a healthy relationship. I didn't even know how to start one. (I still don't.)

I jumped from guy to guy (and sometimes from guy to girl to guy) trying to fill this huge vacant space inside of me, and it kind of worked. I had plenty of stories to tell. My phone was always buzzing. I rarely had to be alone if I didn't want to be.

New York City is like that. Sex is in the air.

If one guy rejected me, I could walk down nearly any street and find another. I knew which bars to go to, and at which times. I stayed until they closed and the doors were locked with me still inside. I drank and I got them drunk. I didn't always know their names. I didn't always remember their faces.

Although I began two years of sexual avoidance in 2008 after disastrously falling in love with two different people who would never love me, I bounced back with a vengeance in 2010, and I started pursuing nice guys with the same obsession that previously targeted bad boys. I had my groove back, and my hands full. It seemed healthy – just having fun, celebrating life, celebrating my new body after a recent dramatic weight loss.

And then I moved to LA.

Life hasn't been easy in the three and a half years since moving here, with two layoffs, inconsistent work and money, and persistent loneliness. The romantic and sexual interest once felt so strongly in NYC has since been timid, hidden, or non-existent. I've had to work much harder for it. No longer does anything just fall into my lap, so to speak.

I mean, I've had my moments in LA for sure – a couple of bartenders, a late night hot tub, a rock star. When I lost my first job in LA, I ran directly into the arms of someone who was completely emotionally unavailable. When he spurned my affections one night, I hooked up with his housemate.

But I've made progress. I ended things with a cute guy who'd only call me at 2 a.m. I cut off the guy who was weirdly obsessed with what he considered my fat body. I stopped dating the guy who never acted like he liked me in public and then expected sex at his place at the end of the night. I refused to be the other woman. I finally asked for what I wanted, rather than just accepting whatever came my way.

Still, old habits die hard. When I recently realized that the person I'd been faithful to hadn't been faithful to me – and probably had no intention on being faithful moving forward – my first inclination was to act out. I texted former lovers. I went on Tinder. I joined OKCupid. I was desperate to find somebody else to make me forget, to help me punish him.

I've only had a few days now of putting myself "out there," and you know what? I'm done. I don't want this. I don't want some other guy in my apartment, in my bed. I don't want to have meaningless chitchat with somebody new. I don't want to take my clothes off, though they used to come off so easily.

I want the love that I felt when I was with him. No crazy sexcapade is better than falling asleep with his head on my chest as he whispers, "I love you."

I hadn't been with anyone for six months before him, because I'd been looking for someone like him. Maybe he wasn't a perfect match, but I'm not going to settle for something else now.

And maybe that means I'll have to be completely alone for a while.

Or maybe I just have to get used to the idea of being alone forever.

Related Posts:
These Unavoidable Regrets
Pacific Standards
The Love I Deserve
This Kind of Fool
Open Letter to My Potential Matches