Illuminating exits and entrances

light trails on road at night

During the safety briefing on a plane, we are advised that lights on the floor will illuminate the exits, making them easy to find in the dark. In some ways, exits themselves can be illuminating, making us more explicitly aware of what we do and don’t want. In the course of two-plus months, the appearance and disappearance of several people did just that and I am thankful for the lessons they provided as I continue along this journey.

Ever since our date at the Standard Hotel, Andy continued to text and occasionally telephone me. His texts and conversations were almost always overtly sexual and while I enjoyed the tantalizing nature of them, it was a bit intense for me to receive from someone I didn’t know well.

As the months progressed, these interactions were happening within the context of the Kavanaugh trial and numerous FB posts from friends outing their attackers and generally describing their own sexual assaults. While I applauded their bravery in confronting the past, it was extremely triggering for me, reminding me of my own past. I sharply recalled those situations in which I had allowed myself to be used or taken advantage of sexually, which further heightened my concerns (and instilled a bit of a flight reflex) when it came to Andy.

In an effort to clearly manage expectations, I continually let him know that although I was interested in being intimate with him, but I was not yet ready to engage in sexual intercourse. He referred to these expectations as my “rules,” which ruffled me a bit. However, since he assured me that he understood my intentions, I was confident that we were on the same page, even if his reference to them seemed a bit dismissive. But, I should have seen it as a red flag.

After numerous texts and phone calls, Andy finally proceeded to make plans with me. An avid roller-disco dancer, he invited me to join him at an event that coming Friday. He advised that he already had his ticket (and his own skates) and that I would need to purchase a ticket + rental. Since the event started at 6:00 PM, I asked him what time he planned to arrive. He responded that he would be there between 7:30 and 8:00 PM, after tending to his kids. While I respected his need to take care of his children, a 30-minute window is a bit large when arranging to meet someone…on a date!

The more I engage in these interactions, it becomes clearer that my intuition is spot on. If I feel that something might be off; it is! Full stop.

It didn’t feel right, but I decided to take a chance and say yes to the unusual plans. The ticket price itself wasn’t very expensive and I thought it might be fun. But, when I proceeded to purchase my ticket, I discovered that there were no more skate rentals available. I knew that he already had his ticket in hand and was committed to going, so I made alternate plans for Friday night. But, now that I had experienced his planning approach, I knew I needed to be upfront about what I wanted and needed from him.

I texted him the next morning, “I had been looking forward to seeing you on Friday, but after we hung up the phone, I looked into the tickets at the Roller Disco event and discovered that the skate rental tickets were sold out. Since you said that you already had your tickets, I have now made other plans for Friday evening. Sorry to miss you, but frankly this particular plan did not feel like a real date and I should have spoken up at the time. If you would like to try again to meet up, I would kindly ask that you make an actual plan for us rather than leaving me to fend for myself and then meet you somewhere at an approximate time.”

Andy immediately texted back three emojis of hands waving goodbye. Clearly, he wasn’t up to treating me with the care and consideration I want and deserve. Admittedly, his quick dismissal of me stung, but I truly knew that it wasn’t a good fit between us and that he couldn’t (or at least, wouldn’t) provide me with the level of respect and attention I desired.

It was an illuminating moment for me: I will no longer accept crumbs.

Meanwhile, since Hank and I had left things friendly, I had reached out to him at the start of the school year (he is a teacher) and wished him all the best for the new semester. Among our conversation, he noted: “Hope you are well. If you are open to hanging out, I am down.”

Thinking that we might remain friends (he’s generally a nice person), I responded favorably, advised him that I would follow up after my vacation, and, a few weeks later, asked if he wanted to meet me at a wine var near his apartment. He consented and we made plans. However, on the Saturday before our Monday night meeting, he cancelled, citing his wish to find a girlfriend. I was very confused since I thought we were merely meeting as friends, but I guess I was wrong. (At least in my book, men can have female friends and still pursue a relationship.)

So, I said, “Sayonara,” to Hank, again! But, we clearly don’t communicate well, so it was all for the best, too. Again, just another opportunity to permit myself to get clarity (aka illumination) on what I do and don’t want as well as determine what behavior I find acceptable or not.

Interestingly, amidst all of this, I started dating a long-term friend, Dan, who continually provides a counterpoint to all of this bad behavior. When planning our dates, he asks me what I desire, makes a specific plan, checks in with me, arranges for transportation to the date and then makes sure I get home safely. In receiving his attention, care and consideration, I have realized that I want to be wooed and taken care of in this way; it makes me feel wanted and special. Further, I am even more aware of my need to slowly ease into things, especially sexually. I so greatly appreciate the fact that Dan does not rush me sexually or make me feel uncomfortable, yet he still makes me feel desired. It’s truly illuminating!

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While happily married to my soulmate for 20+ years, after years of body shame and sexual shutdown, I am ready to step into my sexual power as we open up our relationship and explore the possibilities.

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