Dating story: Shame

We met online and he requested that we speak on the phone before we met. He sounded quite sweet when we spoke, but wanted to know if I would potentially be up for ‘some fun’. I didn’t think much of this question so just said yes, to keep things simple.

So we met and it was nice chatting with him. Conversation included slightly pervy things we’d done as kids. He had quite a insistent way of directing questions at me, and an intense gaze. I think it was then, in the pub, that he asked me if I’d seen the film Shame, and said that he saw, in some ways, some of himself in the main character.

We kissed a bit and I decided it would be okay to have sex. I actually had to go out somewhere else first, so it was a complete booty call. He came to my door around 11pm and we went into the bedroom and did it.

I’m of the view that the first time you have sex with someone, there’s something fairly perfunctory about it. This is perhaps a more female perspective… Even if you know a someone really well, by doing something sexual, you are now relating to each other body to body. Before that day, their physical self/identity is strange to you. Like there’s another person you haven’t met yet. Having sex with someone is learning something new about them. Don’t get me wrong, it can be perfectly pleasant. But there’s an element of watching and absorbing. If you do like them, you retrospectively add meaning; your affection for them as a person merges with the physical experience, and every touch exhilarates.

This initial encounter began a pattern of him coming to mine once on the weekend and once or twice in the week (though not staying over on a weekday). He liked to be tactile and close and we chatted a lot, sharing some personal stories. One morning we had fried breakfast and watched telly. He commented on how much he enjoyed just hanging out like that. He said that he felt we really clicked as people and liked talking with me.

I liked him. He didn’t text a great deal in the week but the knowledge that there was always a next time made it okay. Then one weekend, I felt messed around. He’d said we should meet up but didn’t respond to my prompt to make plans. By midday on Sunday, I had passed through various waves of emotion – each one rolling into the next, and I was prepared to let go and move on.

To my surprise he wanted to come round. It was a wintery dusk when he arrived. I told him how I felt. I said that I wasn’t saying we had to call this a ‘relationship’ – although that is what I am ultimately looking for. I said I had been hurt that day by the lack of arrangements. He looked so very sad. Along with some gentle questioning from me, he explained it all. It seems he had been suffering all of this time – lots of emotion all locked up inside of him. His last relationship had become very unhealthy, he said, and if he was completely honest, he was depressed. He sought comfort and distraction in sex, but knew that his behaviour wasn’t ‘normal’. The thought of letting himself have a relationship was unimaginable. It would make him feel vulnerable. I remember him struggling to find the words to express it – to emphasise it enough. A relationship would somehow open something up in him which he wouldn’t be able to control.

I did try to persuade him a bit, or at least explain that I really wasn’t going to be any trouble. And how it could all be so simple. But then maybe what he feared was letting himself love someone, and then losing the plot so much that the other person couldn’t cope and would have to escape. Who can say exactly…

He wanted to know if there was a way for us to keep in contact. I explained why not. I said I might send him a letter in a couple of days’ time because there might be other things I’d thought about and wanted to say. There wasn’t much to add after that so he left – in that surreal way when you’ve agreed something in theory, but it won’t hit you until afterwards.

I was sad for a long time after that – probably made worse by the letter, though I didn’t regret writing it. Perhaps just under a year later, he decided to text me, to see if I fancied having some more ‘fun’. I didn’t reply and though how very strange it was, after all that had been said and everything he’d shared with me.