A young man asked me:
“Many lovers or many loves? What is worse baggage to have when entering a new relationship? A numerous amount of people you have slept with but had no serious feelings for or a fewer number of partners but all of whom you have loved and had feelings for?”
First, there are no “answers” only “understandings.” What I offer is one understanding of many.
Take no interest in dating another person who thinks that your sexual history defines who you are. Suspend any judgement you have about someone’s sexual history. “Baggage” is not found in one’s sexual history.
I remember how it used to be at noon, spring time, the campus sidewalks full of students like myself let loose from the cold classroom buildings between Grand River and Albert avenues, the dull swaddling of winter finally cast off, almost everyone wanting everyone else.
It was amazing how we contained ourselves to the degree we did; bringing desire back to our off campus apartments or on-campus dormitories or to our part time after-class jobs. Desire was always running—quiet—like a good engine.
I’d linger on days like those, strike-up a conversation with a female, and talk for a while. Then I’d loaf closer to home or to my favorite hamburger joint. Or wander into the coffee shop where I might fall in-love with the barista even if only for the time it took her to make my coffee drink.
Desire was everywhere in those years. Desire was so enormous it couldn’t be reduced to one person at a time.
I lacked the confidence to be even close to promiscuous. Though secretly, that was exactly what I wanted.
When I met the woman I later married, I lost desire. I lost that desire altogether. I don’t remember how it happened. I followed a script. My eyes were fixed on destination alone. I was driven to follow that script. I stayed driven for many years.
By the time I landed into my late 20s, the clouds parted and desire made its grand return – burning with intensity, brimming with confidence. All my “desire senses” came rushing back almost overnight. Everyone was interesting. Every glance conjured a life of its own. This feeling was so strong that I ended my marriage to follow this conjured life I fantasized about. It was during this period of time I learned the joys of loving sex without strings.
Life didn’t end once my marriage did, it became vital, energetic and (finally) filled with enough sexual partners that I felt satisfied.
I was enjoying the sex life I wish I’d had the confidence, knowledge and willingness to explore when I was younger before I decided to get married.
Then things changed again. A relationship that had once burned bright, burned out – like an exploding star – and for a long period of time everyone who was once interesting now represented pain, effort, work. I survived on cynicism. I closed my heart and opened the throttle on my drive to reach a certain destination.
But once again, it was desire – as if having no memory – came rushing back into my life.
This time, despite desire’s return, I had changed. Which is to say casual sex had become something I no longer felt constitutionally suited for. I simply didn’t get turned on by women I didn’t like or have an emotional connection with, however good looking, however intriguing, however willing. Without an emotional connection, sex seemed pointless at best, and demeaning for us both at worst.
Once I was split up from my most recent ex, I confirmed these feelings through an ever-so-brief series of unenthusiastic encounters with women I barely knew.
It confirmed that casual sex, however tantalizing in the heat of the moment, left me feeling tainted rather than satisfied.
It became clear that monogamy was what worked for me.
During that period of time, I took pleasure in short-term relationships (hovering around three months or so) which, despite not ever lasting the distance, were emotionally, and consequently sexually, satisfying.
Experiencing these things, learning about myself and getting a lot out of my system through the years, while bringing confidence and experience born from it with me, will make the “forever” relationship I hope I’m fortunate enough to experience, all the richer.
Long may we love and lust. Life is wonderful.
“It takes no time to fall in love
But it takes you years to know what love is
It takes some fears to make you trust
It take some tears to make it rust
It takes the dust to have it polished…”
Photo: Getty Images