Sex and Relationships
The Single Girl: I could love the man, but I hate the sex
The thing about bad sex is that unlike the many and various other compromises adults make in order to keep a relationship workable — getting over his penchant for garish trainers, biting your tongue when he spends $70 on a UFC pay-per-view, calmly looking the other way when he calls his mum, mummy — bad sex pervades all other moments of apparent coupley normality.
The thing about those runners of his that look like Jackson Pollock puked on them, is that when he’s not wearing them, you can more or less forget about them — you cannot forget bad sex.
Par example: This week, I was walking with Stephen down Collins Street, after enjoying a soul-strengthening, if a little harrowing, midweek flick at the Kino. I was feeling utterly blissful as we walked, arm in arm, talking about how the alt-right had been influencing the American election, when he asked, entirely innocently, whether he was staying at mine that evening, or I at his.
My soul dropped. Visions of a salmon which had inadvertently flug itself ashore, and was thrashing around forlornly, its body and instincts useless in this alien new environment, flashed through my mind.
And then, I looked at him, those silly beautiful eyes, brown and hopeful, happy to be with me. They cast me, like that flippin’ salmon, into a new world, where all my old instincts, all I’d learned, were useless too.
I’m falling for the man with whom I’m having the worst sex I’ve ever had.
I appreciate that this is a dating column, and convention would therefore dictate that its content ought to be ‘relatable’, and I appreciate the problem I just outlined isn’t, probably, an awfully common complaint.
We went back to his, and the sex was awful. In fact I’m quite sure if sex could, it would sue me for defamation for calling what occurred between Stephen and I ‘sex’.
And yet, the next morning, waking to the smell of coffee and cologne, and the vision of Stephen swanning in carrying me a morning mug of coffee so good it almost put the sex issue into a fresh perspective.
He kissed me, slung his gym bag over his shoulder, and told me to have a lovely day. Swoon.
I lay there feeling so happy. And then I spotted my jeans, discarded in the corner of the room, and remembered the events that lead to their whereabouts. Just the thought of it made my skin tighten and crawl.
Romantic chemistry is a cliched concept. But in recent weeks I’ve become to understand more precisely how the word has come to enjoy the ubiquity it does in regards to physical attraction. It is just so accurate: When you have chemistry with someone, that is precisely what it feels like — like it’s beyond your control — that there is something about your particular mix of DNA which makes your connection literally inevitable.
And when its absent — the word remains uncannily accurate. Things feel neutral, lifeless.
I sat at work in a funk till lunchtime when Sue, sat opposite, managed to wrench her attention from the poisonous Google Review she’d been writing since 9am of some Ivanhoe Indian restaurant, to ask me what was the matter.
“What do you mean Sue?”
“Don’t get me wrong, you’re usually forbidding and morose,”
“I am not forbidding and morose!”
“Okay, but today you’re more just sad — I don’t like seeing you sad, dear,” she said, her eyes betraying for the first time ever, a maternal concern.
“It’s a personal problem Sue, I couldn’t possibly lumber you with it,”
“Well I can’t help if you don’t tell me,”
“Okay Sue, well don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Sue was right, I was feeling sad, very sad, because it seemed perfectly apparent to me that much as I didn’t want to, I’d have to terminate mine and Stephen’s fledgling l**e (can’t bring myself to type that just yet), and sharpish, before either of us got in any deeper, and the pain of splitting became all the more terrible. All of which, I relayed, in short order, to Sue.
“Well bollocks,” said Sue.
“You’re what? 29? I thought that there was no way, at your young age you were suffering from a problem I hadn’t encountered during my, let’s be frank my dear, very much more considerable tenure astride this mortal coil.”
“It’s a pickle,” I agreed.
“I mean, I just never saw the ones who couldn’t do it properly again,”
“Hindsight is always 20/20 Sue,”
“No sorry, you’re right, I appreciate that was unhelpful.”
“I could talk to him about it?”
“Nothing to lose going that route, I suppose.”
This felt like a resolution, but just to ensure there wasn’t another option I hadn’t seen, I asked Clem and Davo (who has finally resurfaced, newly single, and with, of all things, a new job) to a post-work pizza.
I was heartened to find not just Clem and Davo, but also Gerard, his unabrow in fine fettle, wiggling its little heart out. Though, I realised, this might make my original mission somewhat harder — how could I talk about Stephen’s sexual shortcomings with his friend there?
Handily, once the pizzas were in play, Davo, not knowing of the Gerard-Stephen connection, stepped into the breach. “So what’s this sexual quandary, you’re suffering with then?” he said, deploying the exact phrasing of my text message.
“Ah,” said Gerard with a resigned sigh, “that old chestnut.”
Wait what? Did Gerard know about Stephen’s sexual shortcomings. “That was the reason his ex, his big ex, broke up with him. I honestly just thought it was bullshit — she was with another guy too, you see, well blow me down,” he said, when called on to explain by Clem.
“I can’t believe you set up my best friend with a dud root!” said Clem, tactful as ever.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t think it was true,” said Gerard.
“Don’t apologise, Stephen is wonderful, in every other sense, I think I’m actually, honestly, I think I could be falling in l**e with him,” I admitted to a genuinely stunned silence.
“What a pickle,” said Gerard, eventually. A consensus clearly forming.
“Should I, and this is what I came here to ask you guys, should I talk to him about it?”
Their faces ran the gamut of emotion, from Gerard looking pensive, Clem looking aghast, to Davo looking like he was trying to remember the Latin name of an arcane genus of butterfly.
“Well, I mean, there’s nothing to lose right? I talk to him, it goes well, we work out what to do and things get better. If he blows his top and breaks up with me, then well, it saves me the guilt of being the one to do it.”
Suddenly what had been, if not a light-hearted at least a darkly comic atmosphere, took a turn down Serious Street — all in attendance straightened in their chairs, looked solemn, and ultimately agreed it was the only course of action open to me.
Stephen was playing cricket in Sydney this weekend, he arrives back tomorrow — I am going round to his, we are going to talk.
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