Love letter to an infatuation (in two parts)

tattooPart 1. 3rd November 2016
This is the blog post I am too much of a coward even to publish anonymously to an audience of three people [until now]. By the way I love you you three people you are THE BEST.

This is the post about the man I’m currently infatuated with, written because, out of all the many people there are existing in the world, I know I shouldn’t tell him, for goodness’ sake. He won’t see it, because no-one I know sees it, because I hardly tell anyone where it is, and when I do it’s people who are almost certainly too busy to read it just as an exercise in letting me know whether my style is terrible.

He won’t see it, and so I can say that even though I am recently dumped (okay mutually separated), and have formally agreed with everyone who tells me I don’t need and shouldn’t have a boyfriend, I can’t stop thinking about him. He won’t see it, and so I can say that my memories of him have taken on a completely new direction in my mind and body and frankly, a life of their own. I can say that although I don’t know whether he finds me sexually attractive, he’ll certainly have to give it some serious thought if I get him cornered. I can say that one of the things that compels me is the way he can combine seeming to be really into me with being totally unbothered by the fact that now I am in a relationship, or that now I am single. I can say it is intoxicating to remember seeing him and feeling totally respected and cared for, without the slightest hint of enticement or aversion. I can say that his image in my mind is incredibly much like a really close, intimately trusted friend, even though from a textbook perspective we hardly know one another. I can say that I’m getting the most outrageous shots of energy through my body whenever I think about him. I can say that I am working double time to make sure that I take the steps I need to take to go forward with our friendship, knowing that it is one I want and need, without fucking it up by prejudicing its emergence so that it gets channelled by my behaviour to become either something sexual or nothing at all.

Because he won’t see this I can say that when I think about how he is, and what he’s told me, it forces me to rethink my fears and doubts about good connected platonic relationships between men and women being possible, and that in a blatant irony this is a huge turn on. I can say that the way he holds himself in his body makes me think he is fit and well and a good catch, that I want to fuck him. I can say that the way he engages me in conversations about things that I can’t stop talking about, and that strictly speaking I almost never get to talk to anyone else about, makes me think he is either really skilled at manipulating me to open up and jabber jabber jabber because he likes the sound of my voice, or my company, or that he finds my opinions interesting and shares them (or both), both of which are ridiculously attractive features for a human to have. I can say that if his interest in the things I am interested in, that I have barely begun to have decent conversations about, in spite of craving them for many years, is half as strong as mine, then if we did feel sexually attracted to one another, and we were able to act on it, that we would have something to explore that I have never had the chance to explore. I can say that that would potentially blow my mind. Good job he won’t see this because you know, no pressure.

Because he won’t see this I can say that the fact I don’t know where he lives or who with or how he spends his evenings or whether he can cook or whether he is damaged beyond repair or whether his anger management problem is under control or whether he is a recovering alcoholic or someone who just has to treat alcohol with respect or whether he hates all the music and films that I love, doesn’t matter to me, because I know how to find him, he can take care of himself, he has high standards and good taste, he has learnt when and how to protect himself, maybe even in ways that I haven’t, and he knows what is important in life, and he has laboured to heal himself, and he already knows how to be direct and touch my heart without sentimentality.

Even though I am getting tired and cold I have made another hot drink because I still want to say that I don’t want this moment of my mind to be wasted if we don’t become friends or if we do become only friends or if we almost become lovers and then fall out. I want him to know that all these things are true right now, and that most of them are always going to be true. I want him to know that even if I turn out to fuck this up totally it is not because I plan to barge headlong into his life and make assumptions about him being interested in me because he is a man and I am a woman and we are a similar age and we are, possibly, both single at the same time and because he has shown interest in my thoughts and smiled a lot and been there for me. I want him to know moreover that thinking about being truly, holistically, irresistably attractive to him makes me feel more certain than ever that I need to improve myself, in the sense that the abstract idea that one of the reasons that not being in a relationship is a good thing is that it gives me time to create greater trust in myself, to forge a deep sense of emotional independence, of self-love, to improve my physical fitness and explore my sexual body better, so that I can be a better lover in the future, better for myself and for a lover, less complacent sexually and more self-aware emotionally.

But I also want him to know that when I started to become infatuated with him I had to question these goals which I realised are really quite negative. I do want to become fitter, healthier, more productive; not like a pig in a cage; more agentic, more adventurous, more alive, more assertive, more in tune with my need to realise my dreams and my ability to make things happen. But I don’t want to use the idea that I’m not there yet as a screen behind which to hide myself from potential lovers. I don’t want to look for casual lovers so I can have sex and play with connection whilst maturely accepting that I am not really ready to be loved or worth loving by anyone with high enough standards for me to want them. I don’t want to play around with polyamory just so that I can tell myself it is okay however many times I get dumped for being not quite fit enough, a bit too passive, a bit lazy, a bit depressed, a bit smelly, a bit too poor, a bit self-deluded, a bit slow. I don’t want to look for lovers who I can be sure won’t want me for too long, so that they won’t be there to remember years later that the first time we made love I wasn’t as fit and strong and agentic as I aspire to be. When did it become okay to expect myself to be different in order to be loveable and able to love?

And if I’m loveable, if I am still however not supposed to get another boyfriend too soon, what are the criteria for being capable of taking care of myself in a relationship sufficiently, and who will decide when I am that? Am I an object of suspicion because no-one approved of my choices last time: because they understood my lover better than I did, or because they never understood him at all? Or is it a simple maths game: that I have been too long in relationships and too brief between them, and that the energy I have expended trying to sustain and protect those relatiosnhips has not only cost me dear, but has demanded energy from those around me, who I love and who love me enough to have to stay and participate? Or is it more important that I am ‘brilliant in my own company’ and therefore must not do or say anything that could create a situation where my gradually growing independence is reversed by a co-dependent relationship where my time is once again not really my own but a constant subject of negotiation, spoken and unspoken, between me and another who needs more than I am able to give or is present less than I need? Am I really at risk of being subsumed as a result of choosing to give myself over to a person who would not support me totally in doing what I need to do to become as fully alive and engaged with my passions as I can be? Can I hope to fully engage with and explore my passions while holding an arbitrary boundary around myself against passionate love?

And if I am friends with someone who I find attractive, I want to ask him, does that mean that one day I will suddenly know I am there, at the right time, because the boundary will fall away leaving desire clearly visible between us? Or does it mean that I will always fret about whether he is equally interested in me or not, and about whether while I am looking the other way, being brilliant in my own company and working on my goals and my intentions and my independence, he could be falling in love with somebody else?

Part 2. 11th November 2016
He can cook.

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Confession time Part 1: A crap idea?

And so to bed. I said I would start the ball rolling by sharing my own experiences of sleeping with friends without having sex, and so I will. Unfortunately, life keeps throwing up surprises that complicate and expand my mission.

Instead of living an interesting parallel between being in a sexual relationship, and exploring the ideal I talk about in this blog (being ‘free’ to expand bed/sleep sharing to any close friend as normally and easily as watching a movie together), I find myself bringing non-sexual elements more and more into my sexual relationship. As my lover and I get easier and more confident with one another, we talk about open relationships, the joys of snogging, and not-f*cking, and still I am nowhere even close to sharing a bed with a platonic friend.

So it’s time to get my own story straight: yes I have had non-sexual bed-sharing experiences; yes I have shagged friends as a result of trying to share a bed; no I have not given up sex nor have I any intention of doing so; no I have not asked a single embodied friend whether they want to share a bed from time to time (not since I started this blog, nor before then for that matter).

My heavenly ideal was that we could all become so free of sexual hang-ups, that we could fully enjoy the bliss of bodily contact with trusted others, without assuming sexual intentions. What I find on reflection is that we are too vulnerable to risk it. Is your friend in a couple? Then why on earth would they want to share your bed? Is your friend single? Then why would you confuse them by carefully explaining that you don’t fancy them but you do want to sleep with them? “You bastard, I thought you liked our great conversations and similar taste in movies, but all you really want me for is my body heat!?”

And how have I managed to do this in the past? Okay, confession time: firstly the one boy I have slept with platonically I had snogged on a previous occasion. We are very close, so after we snogged and it didn’t spark us up we both worked really hard to protect our friendship. We have since agreed to share a bed for convenience – because we had already invested so much effort in being close while not being sexual. Last time I stayed at his house he slept on the sofa. (Then again, this is moot, he has a single bed.)

Is that the best I can do? It pretty much is. The worst part of this confession is that it is only as I am writing this post that I realise that we avoided touching. The point of my groundbreaking night time experiment was always to increase our opportunities to touch and hug other people, not just to fill empty spaces in double beds.

A number of early conclusions present themselves at this point. 1. I can give up the idea of the sleep project as such; in here I can happily just talk about sex, or whatever else passes through my delirious mind that day. 2. I can try harder to sell the hypothetical benefits of my imaginary movement – a great uprising of “cuddle sluts” as Marnia Robinson put it – until slowly the first hand experiences start to trickle in – in maybe a year or ten. 3. I can widen my remit.

A blog whose purpose was to invite people to send in any stories at all about, er, bedtime, might be stretching the point a bit too far. But surely there is still room to think about increasing our overall cuddle output as a society – is being cuddled a recognised human right yet? The case studies in MR’s article all reinforce the fact that there is a problem: the cuddling they managed to create, or discover, came as a surprise, and they loved it. How can we possibly create a culture, from where we are at right now, in which being close to other adults at night doesn’t mean anything heavier than that?

Opposite sex friendships

One thing that makes me insanely angry is the unspoken assumption that women are not supposed to be friends with men other than their husband. This makes me want to kill. The logic seems to be that a woman only needs a man for sex (children), for money, a house, and to keep other men at bay so she can get on with her work and looking after her family. After that, men are presumably useless to her.

Maybe I am a little oversensitive about this. (A similar logic applies to ‘married’ men having female friends.) Neither law is written anywhere that it can be challenged, as far as I know. I read it in people’s faces, in the assumptions people make about me and my friends, and in the assumptions I make about other people.

In my reality men are often very interesting, and occasionally, loving, caring, intelligent, affectionate and helpful, even without sex or family ties. I don’t think a man has to be a brother or cousin in order for a woman to be safe if she is left alone with him (not that she always is of course).

That much said, I spend much more time making friends with sexually attractive men than I do with men I find a bit creepy, or slimy, or weird, or nasty, aggressive, sexist, homophobic, racist, massively capitalist, smelly or unable to stand or speak properly due to intoxication. I spend very little energy getting to know men who demand my phone number because their friend has just introduced me to them and I am not married or being stood over by some other man.

My closest male friends are gorgeous men, many of whom I would have sex with in certain hypothetical circumstances. The same is true of some of my closest women friends, although the circumstances are probably a degree more hypothetical. Because some of my friends are so gorgeous I would probably not sleep with them, and they know why. But I have some gorgeous friends who I could sleep with (and have) without being sexual. That’s why I’m writing this blog.

Ideally, we base our decisions about who we do and don’t have sex with on an understanding of the risks and rewards of having sex, and the rewards of not having sex. I am very fortunate in only having had one night stands with gorgeous men (very fortunate indeed), but I really don’t mind not having made friends with them. On the other hand, I would be gutted if I lost a close friend through badly timed sex.

If there was ever a time when one man could provide all the interesting perspectives on life a woman might ever want to hear, that time has gone. Close friendship often involves conversations that simply can’t happen when someone else is listening. We cannot treat a sexual partner as an elevated representative of the whole of the opposite sex – no-one can bear such a burden.

Hidden love

If somebody is in love with you and you have not noticed, you either don’t want to know or they don’t want you to know. If you don’t want to know, then you are not going to dig are you? If you are going to do Sleep Project experiments, do them with somebody else.

If they don’t want you to know, they are going to refuse to sleep with you anyway, unless they are a closet masochist. The worst that can happen if you ask is that you find out. Maybe that will save them several years of inner turmoil and allow them to get on with their lives. Or, they may say yes to the Sleep Project and then try to seduce you. Plan ahead if in doubt. What will you say? What will you do? Thinking about this is a good idea at any time.

Maybe secretly you want them to be in love with you. Are you secretly in love with them? Maybe you are curious because you are fed up with an existing lover. How fed up? Maybe you just get that they are keen on you and since they are very fanciable you don’t want to put them off, just in case. Fair enough I say, but still best not to sleep with them for scientific purposes. If you really fancy them, don’t torture yourself. Whatever reasons you have for not trying to seduce them directly, honour them.

I think people who could potentially be sexual partners have to pass through a sort of sexual sound barrier if they want to become friends. It’s part of getting to know somebody properly – finding out how deep their relationships with other people go, what they are based on and whether they are healthy or not, and then finding out how deep your relationship with them is likely to become, is the core of close friendship. We don’t have to be able to solve all somebody’s problems to be a good friend, but it matters that we know what their problems are.

Many times passing through this sound barrier (sex barrier? pain barrier? Barrier of Eros?) causes much trouble. With opposite sexes it gets translated as “there is no such thing as a Platonic friendship” and of course, made into countless movies. What does this mean? It means that when sex came up on the radar people either gave up or gave in. Sadly I suspect there are a great deal of cases where people do give up, or give in to sex which can’t last, or just avoid becoming close friends with person after person in spite of feeling that there are many rewards to be had – richer connections with other people are always valuable.

Partnerships which start up when this barrier is breached are only different to the extent that there is the space for them to continue being sexual. Lots of people get together through having had an affair, this is well known, and many friends who have sex manage to continue to be friends without falling in love or starting a sexual relationship. The Sleep Project isn’t about any of this. It’s about all the beds where people who are sure that they aren’t going to have sex can sleep together – because that feels good too.

Welcome to the Sleep Project

The basic idea behind this project is that sleeping together shouldn’t have to be sexual. It doesn’t have to be sexual. I get the impression that, while some lucky friends can curl up together and pass out happily after a drink (or drugs) binge, most of the time sharing a bed means having to deal with a bundle of sexual implications.

If you are caught in a situation where sharing a bed with a friend would be sensible – more comfortable for you both than the alternatives – do you find it easy to sleep together? Do you hug while you’re in there? Do you have a sexual partner who will feel anxious when they find out (or be jealous, or angry)? Will you have to avoid telling them?

If you decide that it is not a good idea, and so one of you sleeps on the floor/sofa/armchair, or staggers home, is that a way of saying: “If we sleep together in this bed tonight, at least one of us is going to have sexual feelings”? Do you say “It wouldn’t be a good idea would it?” to each other, and then laugh loudly and agree?

If you are lusting after each other already, that’s a different kettle of fish, and certainly, a lot of perfectly good sex happens because people find themselves in bed together and get horny (or lucky). Come to think of it, one of my sexual relationships did start this way.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not against sex – seriously. But I have come to think that sex gets in the way of a lot of perfectly good sleeping together. Couples have to negotiate with sex when they get into bed together; so do friends, it seems to me. I think a lot more affection and emotional and physical intimacy would be possible if it was widely understood that sex and sleeping together can be separated without too much trouble. My view is that the benefits are potentially great.

There are a lot more questions and answers that need to be added to this for a decent conversation to be possible. I will be adding some of these, but it is an open conversation, so please send your questions and answers, your opinions, and above all, your experiences.

And I am happy to be proved wrong from the off. If you have close or casual friendships, or tactile family relationships, and regularly bunk up with other people without giving it a second thought, I salute you. Please share your experiences – regular or one-off.