The end of the year is always a time when I reflect on what’s happened over the previous 12 months—positive and negative—and what I’d like to do better in the next year. Looking back, I see many ups and downs in my dating life: those highs when you meet someone new and are smitten with them and lows when things end unexpectedly. Those are the parts I tend to focus on, though really, most of this year has been more in the middle: some ridiculously hot, crazy, wild sex—and a lot of time on my own trying to figure out what I want.
I’d like to say I’ve sent holiday cards to all the people I slept with this year, because in my head, every one of those relationships or friendships has been tied up neatly and can be summed up in a few lines of a card, but that’s not the case. I wouldn’t quite know how to summarize my feelings in a card—though with the few I did send, I kept it short but sweet. The cards I didn’t send are perhaps more telling of the things I wish I could say, but can’t.
It’s been a very up-and-down year for my personal life. I ushered it in by puking on the subway. I was in a very bad mental place, and I’ve slowly lifted myself up out of it, but the ups and downs of dating have made me reassess in major ways as I try to figure out what I did right and what I did wrong in 2010 so I can make healthier sexual choices in 2011.
I’m probably a little more cynical than I was starting out the year. Getting dumped by surprise will do that to you. I also learned that I’m still not as comfortable in my skin as I’d like to be, and therefore am overly flattered when someone says they like me. I don’t quite have the critical distance yet, even at 35, to be able to step back and assess whether I’m interested in them beyond their interest in me.
There’s still a light bulb that goes off in my head, almost like a warning: Someone likes you! Beggars can’t be choosers! Don’t just be flattered, act on what they’re saying before they get to know the real you and decide they don’t actually like you all that much.
I hopped into bed way too many times with people who made it clear from the outset they didn’t want or couldn’t provide the kind of relationship I’m looking for. That doesn’t mean the sex was bad, per se—quite the contrary in some cases. But in a way, good sex with someone who’s not the right person for me is almost worse than bad sex because I know eventually it will have to end.
It’s sappy, perhaps, but the moments I remember most are not necessarily the ones that include wild sex, or almost getting naked with my ex in his hallway, or the date that had one too many extra people involved and never should have happened. Instead, it’s the quieter moments that I tuck close to my heart, the moments when something changed for me in the way I saw a particular lover, when they did something that made me think, Wow, you are capable of surprising me.
I’ve also learned to be a lot more discerning about the “L” word. In November, someone told me they loved me, and I told someone else I loved them, and the truth is, I don’t think either of us really meant it. I’m sure we meant something, but I think the man who wrote it to me meant it as a way to make me like him the way I used to, and I texted it as a way to hold on to someone I’d lost months ago—someone that I never really actually had.
I’ve learned that I don’t want to be with anyone who finds me through my writing; That is an evil trap I cannot quite escape from, but it is a false version of me they are seeing and falling for. I want to be with people who can see past that, who can see that writing is what I do—and I put a lot of myself into it—but it’s not, at heart, who I am.
I’ll be writing more about sex and social media, but suffice it to say, this year has forced me to reckon with the fact that what I do for a living will ultimately draw many of the wrong people to me, and drive away some with whom I think I’d be a great match. I’d caution anyone before using their real name in their sex writing to think long and hard about that decision, because it can come back to haunt you.
I got my first tattoo this year. It’s on my back and says “Open”. It’s meant to be a reminder to me to be open to new people and new ways of seeing myself and the world, but I fear that I’ve been too open and need to pull back.
I don’t want to just sit passively and wait for “the one” to appear before me, and certainly this year, with my first forays into online dating, has proven that I can meet people and be proactive. Yet online dating felt a little too proactive, like I was so desperate not to be alone that I’d do anything to avoid such a fate.
Lately, though, for the first time in a long time, I find I both like being single and being alone. I don’t want to go to parties or meals out; that seems overwhelming—like I’m not up to the task, and when I do, I feel like I’m just playing some role, skimming over the surface of my life and those of my friends rather than digging deeper and going under the superficial surface.
I’m embracing “working on myself” in ways I haven’t before and trying to push myself not just to do the bare minimum, but to do enough that I can look in the mirror and be proud of myself. There is a lot I have to take care of in my home and professional life before I can truly be the kind of girlfriend and sexual being I want to be.
I’m torn about the idea of making a New Year’s sex resolution, because I’m probably very likely to break it, especially if it’s something like, “Don’t sleep with anyone I slept with in 2010.”
Part of me would love a clean break, a formal starting over, where I actually put my sex life on pause and focus on those tasks that are holding me back in my personal life, like having a clean apartment. At the same time, there are people in my life I’m attracted to, and they’re much easier to give up in my head than they are in real life. So we’ll see. For now I’m looking back and hoping the lessons of 2010 are ones that come to me at the precise moment I need them.