Thursday, October 1, 2015

#TBT: The Mayor of Kittentown and Being Bi for Realsies

As I've mentioned a few times, I'm in the process of turning the first year of The Kitten Calendar into the first book of a memoir trilogy, and that means I've had to fill in parts that were missing from the story the first time around. As much as I STILL sometimes wish I could simplify everything by being a lesbian, it's important to remember what to took to get in the habit of being true to my penis-loving self.

I named him The Mayor of Kittentown because he was the first man I had PIV sex with in seventeen years, (oh, whoops, spoiler alert!) and also because he mentioned on our first date that he’d been named Mayor of White Castle by Four Square. I was attracted to his profile because he mentioned Mystery Science Theatre 3000, had long, silky-looking dark blonde hair, was taller than me, and had a son—I have such a thing for dads. I told him that I had fond \memories of snuggling up with my goth, indoorsy Nineties boyfriend and watching “Manos” The Hands of Fate. I didn’t hear back right away. (Meaning not within a week or so—this was before everybody had the app on their phone and the process sped up.)

It was almost my default emotion in those days to be frustrated. I was in a meeting of my (Unitarian) church group processing irritation at a party-kissing-related near miss when MKT finally texted. He asked if we could get together sometime and a warm feeling wrapped my shoulders like an afghan made of sex-hope.

I was working in the library at the time and my boss noticed that I was ready for a date. She said she’d noticed a glow ever since I started going after guys, like I was coming into myself. I wore more makeup than I usually do (red lipstick=confidence) a red top that showed off my cleavage a little, my cute red girl-about-town raincoat and fake-Chucks sneakers because I had to take the bus.

Ah, riding the 23 bus to dates—45 minutes of feeling pretty and hopeful and texting my various two-person support groups for courage. The night I went to meet MKT it was a miserable, gusty October night—bitter and rainy. I felt awful for the Occupiers as I walked past their encampment and hoped they were bundled up warm in their tents. I made a mental note to mention them to him as a way of gauging whether he was an asshole or not—if he was mean about them, he would be out.

We were meeting at the science museum to watch “Eight Legged Freaks” MST3K style. When I saw him across the cosplay-dotted lobby, he looked snuggly but shy. I was delighted to see that he really was taller than me—I’m 5’ 10” so that’s hard to find! He felt nice to sit next to while we waited for the movie to start. He was a tech-guy early adopter who brought an iPad on a date so we scrolled through his photos, which I deemed sufficiently soulful: leaves, water, an inexplicable pile of decaying stuffed animals by the river.

He didn’t even make fun of me when, after I visited the restroom, the belt of my raincoat was hanging down and had clearly dipped itself in the toilet—a rom-com moment if there ever was one.

We walked through downtown to a diner after, my lifelong favorite way to eat. When we passed Occupy, he told me had a Lego display on his desk (a few blocks away in the tallest building in the city) of Star Wars characters carrying signs like “These are not the spending cuts we’re looking for,” “Occupy Tatooine” and “Tax the Hutts.” Of all the things I’d imagined potential dates saying about Occupy, this was not one of them.

With both of us being all of the awkward, conversation over French silk pie was stilted, but there was this: Both of us has worked at Great Adventure in the summer of 1993. Because I was slackersome and didn’t try for one of the better jobs, I was on the cleanup crew, sweeping up trash and cigarette butts and charming male workers into cleaning up roller coaster barf. He worked on the Demon Drop, which is exactly what it sounds like. You go up really high and it drops you, and you scream with delight. The thing is, though, I’d had a crush on the operator of that ride—I’ve always had a thing for the glasses/ponytail combo, but especially in my grungetastic teen years.

With that little coincidence, he seemed like a good prospect, until, almost to the bus stop, he mentioned that he frequented the nearby nude beach. I saw absolutely nothing wrong withit, but I said “Oh, I’d be way too shy for that!”

“Oh, I have body issues too.”

“Um, why would you assume I have body issues?”

One of the major psychological and actual barriers to me dating men has always been my size.  I’m 5’ 10” and a size 20, so as one former boyfriend remarked, there is nothing little about me. In the context of my own little world I can feel powerful and goddesslike, but it’s hard to avoid feeling fat in the eyes of men—part of me assumed that a man could NEVER find me attractive, so I looked for evidence of that, and almost always found it. Until I didn’t.

In follow-up emails I mentioned his statement and he was horrified to know that’s how I took it, telling me he did in fact find me nice to look at. He was by far the most promising candidate yet, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and invited myself over to his house to watch MST3K.

It took a little bit of juggling, but we found a Friday evening that worked. I had another datelike thing that afternoon, a walk through the local state park with a nice librarian I’d met through friends. It was the perfect picture of a fall day, like an advertisement for being alive. We took the less-trodden trails and found Narnian bridges and falling down stone fences. There’s a fancy inn in the park and we had apple crisp and spiked cider. I didn’t feel a spark with the librarian but it put me just in the right frame of mind for my MKT date.

What scared me the most was driving there. Though Sweetie was agreeable and encouraging about it, I had this idea that I might crash her car on the way and thus become the official worst person ever. She was a terrible backseat driver so it was always hard to find confidence, but I think the driving fear was just a way of feeling anxiety over being disloyal. Even when you’re bi and sorely in need of a penis, it’s very hard to transition to playing outside the marriage.

His newly-trendy neighborhood was very parked up, but I found a spot (pretty far away, it turns out) that I could go frontways into—parallel parking has never been my favorite thing.

From outside, his rowhouse (which he owned!) looked impressively adult—two well--kept arbor vitae framed the door and the window had a lovely beveled glass design—not so different from what I imagine my Grandmom had in the olden-days version of this city.

When he came to the door, I handed him the cupcake-taker (he’d requested lemon) and surveyed my surroundings. Toy-collecting divorced guy can go in many directions, but for him it was a somewhat tasteful one. There were toys on the mantle—a Peewee Herman doll, Gypsy from MST3K. There were Legos that looked decidedly untoylike, as they’d been built into tiny but intricate architectural structures, including (and this was a major selling point in his favor) Fallingwater (which, as I Google it for capitalization check, I notice comes in a kit.) All of his dishes seemed to be plastic, which I thought was endearingly single dadlike.

He had a beige two-people-can-recline couch, how could we not recline. He selected Red Zone Cuba for our MST3K and we settled in to our marooned astronaut (I think the Joel episodes are the only real ones) and his wisecracking robot pals.

He was easier to warm up to when we were alone than when we were out in public, and I easily snuggled into his lap. Somehow, we two must awkward of people took off our glasses and went from snuggling to making out.

In all of the years (seventeen, all told) that I’d been almost exclusively with women, what I missed most was the decadent teenage sensation of dry-humping, the feeling of straddling someone and finding something there. When I gathered the courage to climb into his lap, that rush came back to me with a surge of joy. He was big and hard beneath me, but what felt even better than that was the vitality of him—his whole body was shot through with pure life, and he smelled like aliveness, too, sweet and clean and strong.

Though our pants stayed on that night, we surged into each other like a waterfall. He took off my shirt and ran his hands over my shiny red bra, pet then gently over my back and through my hair. I wanted his hands in me, wanted more, and there was this completely new feeling of being of being utterly in charge and utterly at home.

But I wasn’t at home, and I never stopped being conscious of the digital clock next to the TV screen. I’d told Sweetie I’d be home around 11, and I counted the hours left in my head the way you do when you can’t sleep. When it was close to time to go, I had a few sips of soda so I would be alert for the drive home.

He grumbled about how far away I’d parked in a way that made me question his chivalry a little, but he walked me there nonetheless. We kissed goodbye and I drove home in a dizzy haze, changed.

After that, MKT and I fell into a routine. With my school stuff and his family obligations, we found time for each other every couple of weeks. I’d park far away, we’d watch part of a bad movie, catch up in kind of a cursory way, and then make out. The night we watched my favorite one, “Manos” Hands of Fate, found me splayed on the couch with his hands inside my favorite pink lacy underpants. The moon was big that night and when it was time for me to go, we couldn’t stop making out at the car, just like that couple at the beginning of the movie.

Ravenous though we both were, he was patient. He knew I hadn’t had PIV sex (or what most of the world simply calls “sex”) since a little after my twenty-first birthday in 1995. It that I’d been abstaining or anything,  I’d just been single for most of my twenties and then met Sweetie, been perfectly satisfied for a few years, then spent a handful of years being dissatisfied but not doing too much about it. I liked the idea of the kind and gentle MKT being my first-in-a-long-time.

Our relationship was somewhere on the friends with benefits spectrum, but I adored his penis. After three years of research and much, um, reflection I’m ready to pronounce it the best one. It’s difficult to believe that someone who’s walking around with something that amazing could be so meek and unassuming—kind of seems like a miracle! He was magnificent: long, thick, cheerily pink and perpetually hard. He apologized that his antidepressants made it difficult for him to climax, but that meant so many hours of good, hard enthusiasm.

The night I planned to go all the way with him (such an old timey term, I know) I was meeting him to see the new Muppet Movie—the one with Amy Adams and my imaginary boyfriend Jason Segel. Because I’d be taking the big step of staying over, I left the car for Sweetie and took the bus all the way across town. It was early December but not too cold so I could wear my red coat again, but with a teal beret and mittens. They were the kind the kind with flap and the the button on the back so that they were both mittens and gloves.

I was excited to see both MKT and the Muppets, but I felt a little bit off. There was someone else on my mind, someone you’ll meet in the next chapter, someone more Domlike, the appraising look he would give me if he saw me dolled up. I liked MKT and he liked me back in a way that (because I am the worst) Made me just a little less turned on by him. He was nudist at heart, wouldn’t care about the lipstick or the pretty shoes I walked 9 blocks from the bus stop in.

MKT did, in fact care about the lipstick. He had a little girls-are-icky moment of worry that is would get on him as we kissed hello. The other guy had no such compunction—our relationship was pretty much based on his ability to demolish lipstick.

Nonetheless, MKT was the perfect person to watch the Muppets with (re-watch, actually—I’d seen it with my family on Thanksgiving) and as we bussed over to his neighborhood, he wove his hands into my mitten/gloved ones. Because of his deadly shyness, there was always something excruciating about being in public with him, but he was fundamentally sweet and I was fundamentally ready for him.

He was radiant with health and life. Even though it was time for his Lego Christmas village to be up and running, he still shined with beach light—every bright smile I would learn to smile naked on a beach was in there and I still can’t think of a more welcome guest, a more welcome friend.

I’d been ravenous for a penis inside me for many years, but I’d also wondered if it was a forbidden fruit situation—did I only want it because I couldn’t have it? Would I get a man inside me and discover I was a true blue lesbian after all? I half hoped for that, it sure would have uncomplicated things.

But as he slipped the condom on and pushed inside me, I felt a great heave of relief and happiness. Joy came out of my lungs in great gasping wails. I loved it so much. I paused my caterwauling long enough to ask if the neighbors would mind, and he said he didn’t care.

We didn’t get to snuggle in the morning, because he had a Lego convention to get to. To catch the train on time, we had to be out of the house by 8:45. I had a having-a-hard time feeling of being claustrophobic in my own skin, but also the sanguine feeling of having an inner suntan. Every memory of him feels a little beachy, even if we never made it to the beach together. There’s rosy cheeks and sand in my hair when I think of him.

We were a little early for the train, so we stopped at Dunkin Donut to get breakfast. As I ate I prattled a way about poly and sex and Sweetie and he started to look worriedly around like he didn’t want anyone to overhear.

“Are you…ashamed of me?” Vexingly, tears came and I lost all semblance of friend-with-benefits-playing-it cool-ness, if I’d had any to begin with.

“What? No! I’m just not used to people talking about this stuff.”

I sniffled and felt myself sink inward, away from him. I spread cream cheese on my bagel and stared down at the table while he reached for my hand.

“I’m not ashamed.”

“Because if you are…” I set my jaw and tried to be brave, but I was sad to be so close to a dealbreaker, sad about everything, ashamed myself. I’d trusted him, it has felt so good, but what if he was someone who couldn’t like me for what I was? I mean, I already knew we weren’t long term, because of the whole he’s-not-poly thing, but I also knew that I wanted something darker, deeper, more permanent. I wanted to be spanked and dominated and owned, but most of all, I wanted the crazy, cracked romance I already felt for another character.

MKT walked me to the train and made sure I was really okay—my warmed-up body felt opposite to my heavy heart, and what I wanted most was to go home and get into bed with Sweetie. It was a long trip from his side of the city to the bus that would take me back home. I felt wistful for all three of the people on my mind and cheered myself by texting updates to my friends. This morning was both an accomplishment and an ending, both a triumph and a betrayal, but I covered the complication with bravado.

When I finally got home and got in bed with Sweetie, she tried to embrace me but I felt her body stiffen and then sigh into sadness. With tears in her voice she said “You smell…different.”

In the rush to get MKT off to the convention, I hadn’t showered. The smell I wanted to keep with me and mull over was hurting the person I loved most. I said I was sorry.

“Nono, I don’t want to make you feel dirty, like you HAVE to shower, it’s just…”

The wind went out of my sails and I felt so trapped and frustrated. It had felt so good. the shirt he’d lent me, a bit of tech conference swag that said “Heck yeah!” on the front was expressing how part of me felt, how all of me wanted to feel. Here in my own bed, I was so far away from the joyous shouts of the night before. I was a tangle of warring sensations as I lay there and dozed with Sweetie.

Overtaking it all was the unassailable physical well-being that went all the way to my core—if it had had a voice, it would have sounded like this: “I’m bi! I’m bi! I’m bi! I’m really DOING this, can you believe it?”

My limbs were soft and warm and my belly felt full, full in a way I’d craved for so long—it wasn’t that I’d been empty without him, but I was empty without that part of me finding expression.

Then there was the guilt—as much as I wanted to love what I was, to find a way to fully inhabit myself and really bi up a storm, it was heartbreaking to know that I’d hurt her, that this was one in a series of so many disloyalties. I’d already hurt her so much by not being gay, and I would hurt her so much more (and only sometimes in a fun way.) It would be years before our relationship would be at peace, and even then only after monumental changes.

And then there was the loss. I loved my life with Sweetie so much, it was so full of snuggles and birdwatching and Sundays in bed, and I knew what I’d done, what I’d admitted I WAS would change our relationship forever.