Sex in the City
Like any young twenty something woman in the early 2000s I was hooked on the show Sex and the City. Like any young twenty something woman in the early 2000s I wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw. The idea of living in a rent controlled apartment in New York City, my best gal pals and I hitting up all the hot restaurants and finally ending up with my Mr. Big - that was THE dream. The expectation versus the reality was not "too far off". I did have my own version of Mr. Big - he is happily married with a child to someone else and I whole heartidly wish him and his family all the best. I stay up to date on all the hottest resturants and coffee shops in the city - living my full stereotypical millenial life with brunch being my favourite time of day. I even live in an apartment with a closet walk-through from the bedroom to the bathroom but it definitely isn't filled with vintage designer clothes or $40,000 dollars worth of shoes (and I am 1000% ok with that), typing stories on my MacBook.
There was something about that show that shaped my relationships with men. This fantasy life that the writers wove into every episode - the expectation that everything is going to turn out alright in the end, that we will find our Mr. Big. Rewatching the show I sometimes let my conscious self slip back into the fantasy but I have promised myself that my subconscious mind won't. The line between fantasy and reality has been drawn pretty deep in the proverbial sand lately. The reality of how toxic Carrie and Mr. Big's relationship actually was and how we were drawn to idolize those characters as being the “ultimate couple”. When really, let's be honest, Aiden was the best boyfriend written and Carrie's fear of intimacy and relationships hit a little too close to home. I couldn't help but think, if Carrie can get back on the dating field after some of her relationships, why can't I?
I wondered what dating would look like after the unearthing of past truama and wounds from earlier this year. I'm not going to lie - the fear was real. The biggest question in my mind was how do I navigate letting someone into my world, sharing my story with them and wanting to be intimate with someone - and I'm talking basics like even holding hands. I also couldn't help but wonder, what if something was said or someone did something and it was a trigger for me? What if something happened and I spiralled into a space I was in last year or earlier this year? I know I shouldn't let this freeze me up like it was, I just needed to find a way to take the first few steps and I should be fine. I read so many different articles and blog posts on the net around life after sexual assault and continuing dating, all I really got from it was everyone is different. I did decided though that I will only let people in when necessary, when I decide that it is going to be worth it. Well, that wasn't as easy as I had anticipated.
The first few dates I went on in the summer were....ok. Things were going great at the start. Lots of conversation and being flirty over the phone. I introduced him to Kind Ice Cream and we sat at chatted at the summer sun set. I really felt like he was different that most of the boys I had dated in the past. SO I moved forward. On the second date however, he made a comment that eluded to taking advantage of women, sexually. I immediately froze, my eyes began to tear and he knew something was wrong. I took a step back and let him know that those types of comments are not welcome in my house as I am a survivor of sexual assault. I let him know that I understand his reference was in jest and in the moment, but I don't accept that behaviour. He immediately apologized and said he had no idea - like how could he, honestly. We then proceeded to have a chat around how common this is and how it's just something we, as a society, don't talk about. We then proceeded to have a great rest of the evening and went on a few more dates. It eventually fizzled out. Between his vacations and mine we just didn't see each other enough to keep it alive…and maybe something about that night when I cried on a second date had a little something to do with it.
It's exactly what I didn't want, someone to see me as a survivour of assault.
I realized after that encounter that this was going to be much harder than I thought. Not only was I navigating dating again - I mean it's been over seven years since I last called someone a boyfriend, but also trying to navigate me in this new mindset. This new understanding that I have of myself. How do I allow someone to get to know me while I'm still trying to get to know myself all over again? Like Carrie Bradshaw once said, "After All, Computers Crash, People Die, Relationships Fall Apart. The Best We Can Do Is Breathe And Reboot." So that's what I was going to do, reboot.
Later in the fall I was introduced to someone new. The first date was an awkward one - it was a group date and I don't recommend those for people who are trying to get to know one another. It was just awkward to have friends watching you to see if their match making skills were working on the first meeting. We decided to meet a few days later and just hang out by ourselves. I mean it was fine, sitting across from him and chatting. Conversation flowed but I was wondering why the whole time. Later on that evening I found myself slipping back in old ways and not sticking true to new boundaries. I couldn't find a way to end the night without feeling like I could just say no, goodnight and walk away. It was just making out but I still donned the old Sasha mask and acted like everything was ok.
We hung out a few more times and every time things started to escalate I would just feel gross - like it wasn't right. I would pull away and feel like I being suffocated. This is not what dating is supposed to feel like. When I would talk to people about it, they'd often respond with, "well give it a few more dates and see, it doesn't always happen right away". So, I went on a few more dates. There was this one particulate day when we were settling in for an all day binge adventure of the latest Netflix trend. I could feel him trying to make moves the whole day and I was just itching to get out of there. I mean when a guy lays on top of you trying to get your attention because you keep brushing him off and all you want to do is knee him in the crotch that should be telling enough right? But in that moment it wasn't - all I could hear were the voices in the back of my head from other people saying, "give it a chance, you're not giving him enough credit".
On the drive home it dawned on me - I was grappling with the old me and the new me. I knew I should have stopped seeing him awhile ago because I was starting to feel nauseous when he would touch me but the old me was like, "be a nice girl, give him the benefit of the doubt, he's really nice - he's a good guy." I decided on that drive home I was going to tell him.
We only hung out two more times after that, once I explained to him what was going on in my head and what I had worked through ten months prior. He was a little in shock, as I assume most people will be now. And he mentioned that everything was fine and to take things in stride. He came across as really understanding and it was like huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt a little more free after that. I thought - maybe this was the problem! Maybe I was fighting with when to tell my story and journey and I should just bring people along if I'm investing so much time in them.
Well....Carrie said it best with, "A Relationship Is Like Couture; If It Doesn’t Fit Perfectly, It’s A Disaster." And this turned into a a beautiful disaster. The last time I saw group blind date guy was around the one month period of when we first met. I just shared my story a week earlier and felt like maybe I could take it up a level. When things started getting a little more frisky, he took my hand and moved it down towards his crotch. Something clicked for me - it sent me down a mini spiral of actualization. THIS! I hate THIS! I hate when men do that, it's like taking away my choice to go there. I pulled my hand up as soon as he let go and I pulled away. I looked at him and asked him to communicate with me and use words and not grab my hand. The look on his face of confusion and WTF made me recoil and begin to cry.
The thoughts of "how could you put yourself in this place" raced across my mind. I had flashes of all the times I had said no or felt like I needed to go somewhere sexually I didn't want to go because I didn't want to hurt his feelings, or the nights where you just got to a different place mentally while having sex because you don't want to be there.
Once I gathered myself and went back into the room to see him, his whole demeanour changed. He went from the caring and understanding guy the week previous to the deal with your own shit, I have zero patience asshole I have seen so many times. In our conversations I keep hearing the words, "you need to finish dealing with your own shit, I can't be a part of this, you need to go back to your therapist." All of it was code for: this is making me uncomfortable and I don't wanna deal with it - I just wanna get laid. In that moment I saw every boy I dated in the past in his face. Every boy that made me feel like I was nothing - not human, not good enough, not worth it.
The beauty part of this disastrous attempt of being in a relationship is that I walked away with a stronger resolve in my intuition and in myself. I know that I'm not looking for a man to carry my baggage. I just need him to hold the door open for me, and maybe every now and then hold my hand.
I walked away from these last few months with an understanding that there are no more Bergers or Aleksandr Petrokvskys or Mr. Bigs for me. So, back on the search for my Aiden. Time to reboot and keep going. After all, Carrie did say it best, "I do have faith...faith that I would one day meet someone who would be sure that I was the one."