Anna was in a melancholy mood on our most recent date.
She was sitting with my head in her lap, stroking my hair. I felt very relaxed and not a little sleepy, having had an early morning with the kids.
She has been thinking of me a lot, she said. Not as in “thinking of you,” but giving serious thought to how I am adjusting to my new life. She is trying to understand what makes me tick.
“I’m not that difficult to figure out,” I said. “I mean, I’m pretty open about my inner mechanics.”
I know you are, she said, but I don’t think you fully understand all that goes on inside. You don’t understand how hurt you still are by the divorce. You don’t understand how that hurt affects the choices you make, the things you do.
I listened, eyes closed.
She talked in a low tone at great length, dissecting the pain and confusion the attributes to me. She said that sex is a nice balm on my pain, but warned that promiscuity will only leave me feeling hollow inside.
“What experience have you had with promiscuity?” I teased.
“I’ve been busy this week.”
I opened my eyes. Her face was serious.
She told me that she had meet a few guys online in the past week, and had sex with all of them.
“And did you enjoy that?” I asked.
She shrugged. “One of them is okay. I may see him again.”
“You don’t seem too thrilled about this,” I observed. “If you don’t like it, why do it?”
“You’re not the only one who can fuck around, you know.”
I remembered last week, when she announced that she had had sex with another man, saying that now we were both nonmonogamous. Now she had seen several men, saying that now were both promiscuous.
She wasn’t just thinking about what made me tick. She was synchronizing her clock to match mine. In trying to understand me, she was emulating me. What’s good for the goose may be good for the gander, but what’s good for me seems ill-suited to her.
I closed my eyes. “You don’t have to do as I do.”
“I know. But it does give me insights.” She went on with her analysis of me. Her words wafted over me. I felt passive, sinking as she spoke. Was she being promiscuous as an experiment to better understand me?
I waited for her to end this. She knows that I am not comfortable talking in detail about other people I see, and yet she brings it up almost every time we meet.
My answers are always the same. I am bisexual. I am seeing other people. I am very sexually active. Beyond that, I don’t provide details about specific people—she will only try to determine if someone else holds a higher place in my heart.
It’s fair enough that she wants to talk about our relationship. But her persistent return to studying my psyche so closely—in some ways on target, in some ways off the mark—leaves me feeling inert.
I escape into my eyelids.
As she spoke, in a low even tone, she touched my leg. “Don’t you agree?”
“I asked if you agreed that we are both free to do as we want?”
“Uh, yes, I agree.” I’m not sure she believes that. My body and mind were limp.
I’m not sure what she is after in this ritual of analysis and release.
She wants to get behind my defenses to bring me intimacy and pleasure, yet I don’t know what defenses she rails against. She seems to believe that my disinterest in monogamy is a rampart put in place to insure that I won’t be hurt again. She assumes that I avoid commitment to one person so that I won’t risk the pain of losing that person.
Her assumption is based on the premise that anyone who is not interested in monogamy must be avoiding commitment, as everyone wants to be loved by that special someone.
She doesn’t get it when I explain that I am not avoiding anything. Monogamy has plenty going for it, but it isn’t what I want now. I prefer honesty. I enjoy having multiple partners. I enjoy sex with men as well as women.
She doesn’t get it. My choices don’t square with her paradigm of happiness.
“Do you want to sleep?” she asked.
“No,” I replied.
We went into the bedroom and shed our clothes.
She left in high spirits. Her melancholia had shifted to me.
Over the weekend, as I parented sick children, she dropped off a box containing children’s novels, animated movies and—for Dad—a bottle of bourbon.
A care package.