I’ve been reluctant to write much about this new relationship I think partly out of some vague, superstitious fear of jinxing it but, I think, too, because I want to hold it close, keep it to myself, protect it. It feels fragile -- though less so every day -- and sacred. So forgive me for ratcheting back the level of disclosure of my intimate life, those of you who are used to that from me and enjoy it. (Don’t worry, there has been no lessening of the pleasure I find in talking about myself.)
Another reason that occurs to me, for not writing much about C. and me, is that I don’t feel at all up to the task of describing just how good it is: I could never get it right or convey how happy I am or how wonderful this man is. Even going back and reading that last sentence disappoints me, how thin it sounds compared to what these days are like.
I will share this, though. I -- the original love skeptic, the anti-marriage crusader, the free love tutor, Mr. Monogamy-Shmonogamy – have, for the first time in my life, made a vow to be sexually exclusive.
The notion that this would be something I might want, or want to try, didn’t strictly arise out of my feelings for C. I made a lame stab at it with M. in Austin. But that promise was more like, “Let’s be monogamous until we don’t want to anymore and at that point let’s be honest as we renegotiate.” The fact that M. betrayed that promise (not the promise to be exclusive, which of course we hadn’t made in any meaningful sense, but the promise to be honest) is what makes me both scared to try again but also eager to give it another shot because it wasn’t me who fucked up.
So I was ready. But I wasn’t sure how to implement such an arrangement. The problem I have with this type of vow is that it places expectations on another person. It seems to place conditions on affection. This is about me. I want to try this. I want to make this promise. But the promise loses it power if it is not mutual, so how do you start? I decided that I would just keep these thoughts to myself for a while, that I would make this vow for myself but not ask it of C. yet. It seemed like unnecessary pressure so early in the relationship. C. and I had only known each other for a month or so.
But then he said to me one evening, “I rejected someone for you today.” He told me that he had hailed a cab after work, and, as he was getting in, the driver asked where he was going. A man standing at the curb heard C. say, “Inwood,” and said, “I’m going to Inwood, too. Do you want to share the cab?” Since Inwood is an expensive ride, C. said sure, and they rode up together. Some time in the course of the ride, the man asked C. if he could call him and C. gave him his number. The man called as soon as C. got home, but C., I guess having given it more thought in the meantime, said, “This isn’t a good time. I’m seeing someone.”
That night in bed, I said, “I’m glad you rejected that guy for me.” It seemed unnecessary to keep my recent thoughts to myself after C.'s story indicating that he felt similarly, so I told C. that I wanted to be exclusive but was hesitant to make demands of him. He said, “Let’s do it,” and I said, “Okay.”
My argument against monogamy, a big part of it anyway, always had to do with what I felt was an unnecessary loss of freedom. Why put restrictions on a natural, healthy desire? It’s repressive.
But with that sacrifice, which at least so far does not feel at all like a deprivation, I’m experiencing a kind of freedom I never expected, never considered. As soon as we had that conversation, as soon as we made that promise to each other, I felt unburdened. I felt energized and open and free. I wasn’t sure what this feeling was about, but after mulling it over for a few days, this is what I think:
One, I feel free to be myself, to share the aspects of myself that I worry may be unattractive. I don’t feel constant pressure to be impressive, worrying that if I show C. a side of me that repels him he’ll leave me. The promise is not provisional. It can bridge those moments when we don’t connect. I am free to be unattractive because the option to look for someone else to fill those moments is removed. Yeah, yeah, nothing is certain, nothing is permanent, I know, whatever. But it’s certain enough. It’s permanent enough.
And, two -- and this may be more the cause of this feeling of relief, this feeling that I am breathing deeper and easier than I have since I was about 12 years old -- I am free of the relentless, grinding search for sex. I’m not going to have sex with the cute guy in line at the grocery store, or sitting across from me on the subway. It isn’t going to happen, so I don’t have to yearn for that encounter to be any more than it is: just noticing someone attractive. I can’t describe how much lighter I feel having released myself from that. There is someone at home who wants me. Someone who knows me, and wants me. (Even porn is boring. My boyfriend is sexier. My sex life is hotter.) I never imagined that it would feel so good to have fewer options. To know. I never imagined that it would feel so good.