We both woke up, strangely simultaneously. He turned over to face me. “Are you going to write about me?” he asked.
This early in the morning, it took me a while to process all that the question meant. So he had figured out my last name, from the few details I had given him: graduating year, university, love of sandwiches. Then he must have Googled me and seen it all: my blog, my sex column, my Twitter — all of which I've made a very conscious choice to keep public, whatever the cost. I am responsible for my digital footprint, which includes more than one article on hand jobs. I don't regret it. But that doesn’t make this part easier.
I buried my face in the pillow. I gave a muffled “No.”
“Good,” he said.
He went to take a shower. I grabbed the red wine under the bed and took a swig. He kissed me and left for his law school class.
With him gone, I could hobble over to the kitchen and snoop around in his fridge. Bacon? Perfect. I made myself buttery grits, scrambled eggs, and about a quarter pound of bacon and sat myself in front of The Colbert Report.
I knew I would never see him again. When I left, I scribbled “thanks for the bacon” on a Post-it.
There are many ways men react when they find out I write about sex. The first, and most common, is a quick mental move: In less time than it takes to change facial expressions, I've been swapped from my original box to the "novelty" box. The "this-should-be-an-interesting-night" box.
“It’s like that Joker quote from Batman,” a guy told me once. “'I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it.' That’s how I feel about meeting a sex writer.”
“You know, you probably shouldn’t tell people, at least not right away,” he later said. “It makes guys weird.”
It does make guys weird. I wish it didn’t. But here’s the deal: I wouldn’t ever want to be with a guy who had problems with the fact that I’ve written about oral sex, and booty tweeting, and masturbation. This just means I get to weed duds out sooner, rather than later.
I don’t tell guys right away. It’s not part of my shtick, even though it makes a wonderfully lively conversation topic. Guys find out on their own, in the privacy of their computers, or I’ll tell them, eventually. Either way, I am re-arranged in their minds, and my label — whatever it had been before — is erased and re-written, usually to “Interesting Sex Writer I’ll Sleep with for the Story.”
What does that mean? Well, if they're not completely scared off, the sex is always different. Either they are hugely emboldened and eager to try everything they were formerly to shy to propose (she's a sex columnist, of course she's into everything!) or, they become more passive and reluctant, terrified of making a sexual misstep and then being publicly shamed.
However they react, I am perceived differently, in all cases. What hurts the most is the assumption that I sleep with people for the story, that I make novelties out of people. I reject that. People don’t begin as stories. The stories come after, when the people are gone and all that’s left is wisps of narrative and vague disappointment.
I'm not in the business of shame or humiliation or revenge. I'm not really in any business. I wish it were easier to separate my work/creative life from my personal life, but it's almost impossible when you write about something as personal as sex.
To Bacon Guy: I didn't mean to write about you. You weaseled your way into my head and this was the only way I could get you out. Also, thanks for the bacon.
Image: Sex and the City/HBO