You Don’t Have to Like Me

My favourite part of any romantic endeavour is the beginning. Early days when you have the ability to fantasise about what could happen; the period when you’re in a space that’s brimming with possibility and hope. The days before disruptive reality shows up and, like a playground bully, bursts that bubble. I’ve enjoyed a rich life of dreams and desires; I’ve lined up ‘what ifs’ like a series of dominoes only to sit and watch as they inelegantly fall and tumble into each other, all the while wondering what I’ve did wrong this time. What actions of mine caused the sudden, and undeserving, end of another could-be relationship? Did I say something wrong? Constant questions about why my love life has amounted to little more than a string of Bonnie and Clyde-style sex stops stretched out over months of clinging to possibility. Nights of having someone in my bed as we hurled each other around like backpacks, only to wake up and be greeted by a stingy absence.

Another lost lonely guy with questionable self-worth finds himself in the wrong self of hands. It’s not you, it’s me – right? Nope. It is definitely you.

Believe me. I know what I’m made of. I can list my faults as fluently as I can recite the alphabet. And for a while it didn’t matter if someone said something bad about me because the chances are I’d already said it about myself, to myself, and possibly in the last hour. Locating aspects of myself that are positive and endearing has always been a struggle for me. After every heartbreak and sudden silence post sexual encounter I blamed myself; I sheepishly shied away from confrontation and let the guys leave my bedroom and life with little-to-no explanation. Are you like this? Do you blame yourself for the emotional immaturity of others? It’s hard not to, I get it. After a cluster-fuck of bad experiences you begin to wonder if you’re the common denominator in all your failed relationships – I know I do.

The panic I feel when someone suddenly losses interest, or when they don’t message me back is akin to being asked to explain exactly where I’d been when a murder was committed knowing I have no alibi. I’m not saying this to be confessional or intimate, I’m saying this because I think it’s really sad that my fantasy is pleasing someone else. But what about someone making me feel good? What about someone making you feel like you matter? What about making someone come back, make them want to stay after the game is played? I know how to play the first half of the game. I know every step leading up to this one: Slim guy, dresses well, cute underwear. Brash assertive guy that will say aloud what no one else will. Brave creation who will show off his gym body in the middle of the day via Snapchat. Here I am, pretty, toned, and pale, and kind, looking at the guy I like with wide eyes; flirting subtly in crowded thoroughfares. Yeah, I know how to start the game; I know how to make guys interested. I just don’t know how to keep them that way.

No matter how many times I tell myself to take someone with a pinch of salt I always wind up surprised that I’ve wound up in another ‘come and go’ scenario. ‘No labels’ is pretty easy for guys to say. Any easy disclaimer before you use someone for sex. It’s easy to say, but it’s hard to accept. But what if you don’t accept it? What if you say, ‘You don’t have to like me’ and demand an explanation? It’s not harassing someone if you call them out for ghosting and ignoring you after you’ve slept together. You’re not ‘clingy’ for wanting a reason behind the sudden silence. You’re a person, with feelings, and you matter. In the gay world guys are pretty loose with labels. From previous experience I’ve been spoon fed lines like ‘Why do we have to label it?’ and the infamous ‘We’re keeping it casual.’ And these meant, really, that the guy didn’t want to be sleeping with me for much longer.

I’ve searched the catacombs of the dating world and always came up dry and that’s probably because I always dart off in the wrong direction with the wrong person. I’m tired of sitting cross-legged on the couch, after another derailed romance, thinking about what I’ve done wrong and the complexities of romance. I am so sick of being treated and spoken to like I’m a psycho because I want to treat the person I’m interested in right. I’m not in the wrong for wanting to spend time with someone I’ve slept with. This happens to a lot of people, and the victims of this need to stopping blaming themselves because the person they’re interested has the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone. You’re not at fault, those guys are just emotionally stunted. But that’s a result of the society we live in. We hop into beds and sexual encounters as casually as we order a cappuccino; we treat sex like a game, a hobby. Sex doesn’t feel like it’s more than just you and your decision at the time, but afterwards the emotions always come. During sex with someone I like it feels like me and my partner, afterwards when I realise they aren’t wanting anything else, it feels like me and my failures. Instead of excitement, or reflection, or the giddy sense of possibility, after I’ve slept with someone I’m into I mostly feel shame. I lie inanimate in my bed and hate myself for giving it up so easy; for letting lust win the race. Afterwards I muster up the courage to ask them on a date, or to even see them again, and before I know it I’m welcoming a string of half-assed excuses and guilt trips. I am so tired of it.

So what if we, the ones used for sex, the ones batted around like a ping-pong ball, start finding some control and self-respect? What if we start being the jackass to guys and ignoring them? What if we start taking single steps of our own, ones that don’t immediately help or pander to someone else’s needs? What if when the guy initiates conversations about sex we completely blank it? What if we make them work for it? It’s about time I sucked it up – we got it together –  and realised our worth. If the person loses interest because you aren’t playing the game the way they like, it’s their loss. That nagging voice in your head that tells you it’s your fault somehow?  Tell it to fuck off – Yeah, fuck off voice! What if stop blaming and start believing in ourselves? What if we say, not today, Satan.

What if we say, here I am and you don’t have to like me.

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