Wisdom of the day: Never sleep with your roommates. Things get awkward.
It was summer. The little neighborhood beach by my house was alive with gorgeous women, couples walking their dogs, and friends having cookouts. To recap: after 24 years of interpreting myself as straight, my attraction to women had woken up and engulfed my existence after a hot dream and noticing a beautiful girl on the train, threatening to shipwreck my long-term relationship with my boyfriend.
Up to this point, I hadn’t thought about how my changing feelings would affect our situation or future. But by the end of summer, my desire to be with a woman was eating me alive. I talked to Mark about it. It wasn’t an issue he had expected to encounter, and he wasn’t keen on the idea of having an open relationship. “We can have a threesome,” he joked. But that was how it was: if I was involved with a girl, he wanted to be involved with her too. (I was ok with that – I’m pretty sure I would have reacted the same way if it had been the other way around.) And so we set out looking for the third person to our holy trinity.
We wanted more than just sex: we wanted her to become part of our relationship. We didn’t get around to contemplating exactly what that would look like, because the profile we set up online ended up just creeping people out. They didn’t hesitate to tell us. I don’t blame them. We modified the profile, created separate profiles, tried adding keywords like “polyamory.” Still no luck. I began to feel like the situation was hopeless…and it was.
I experienced a wide range of emotions during this time. I was torn between wanting to preserve my relationship with Mark and wanting to experience a woman’s love. I felt awkward and self-conscious in public and wondered if people could tell I liked women. (“Does the gay show?”) I had come out to myself and acknowledged the new feelings without much of a problem – but I had a harder time just taking myself seriously. Was this a phase? Was it just that my needs weren’t being met with this man, and I was projecting that frustration onto women? I had to trust that I wasn’t ruining our relationship over nothing.
One night, Rose came along as Mark and I went bar-hopping. We didn’t have much of a plan. My plan was to catch some pretty girl’s eye and hopefully she would come over and start talking to us. Yeah right! Rose offered to kiss me and/or buy me a drink to show the ladies I was into girls…but I told her that would just make people think we were a couple, or on a date. The whole evening was pretty lame. I was dressed to the nines. I was hot. We were all hot. I didn’t have the courage to drag them all to a gay bar, so we got a little table in the corner of a chips-and-guac bar next to the train. Some pretty girls walked in – my heart did a flip – and they found their way to their boyfriends who were waiting for them.
Rose spent the whole evening trying to psychoanalyze me. She still couldn’t believe what I’d told her the week before – that I was having feelings for women. After all, she’d known me since high school and had never heard me talk about anything but boys. “Look, Jenny, everyone had a streak of bi in them. It’s nothing abnormal. You’re just experimenting,” she said as she finished her second order of gin. (Not gin-and-tonic, not gin on the rocks, just gin.) It was infuriating. If my own friends didn’t take me seriously, how could I take myself seriously? Maybe Rose was right. But I didn’t want her to be right. I’m not some flake who gets excited at the thought of sexual experimentation but it means nothing. I’m not…well, I’m not Rose.
Finally, after a few more bars and feeling pathetically shy and game-less, we went home. It was only midnight. I sunk into a deep depression. Nobody understand me or thinks I’m serious. My desires will never be fulfilled. I’ll be stuck in this relationship forever. I changed into pajamas and sat down at the kitchen table.
“Hey, the party’s not over yet!” exclaimed Rose, walking in with a bottle of that awful whipped-cream flavor vodka and 3 glasses. She and Mark sat down. We all started drinking. “My sister told me this was a good flavor,” she said apologetically. “I couldn’t drink the rest by myself.”
We talked about religion, about our families, about the hopelessness of my situation. Rose laughed and grabbed my leg. “The offer still stands,” she said. “I’ll sleep with you guys.” She’d been making passes at me for years. She was sexually adventurous – I was not.
I rolled my eyes. “Hell no. That would be a terrible idea.” But a large part of me wanted to, just to have the experience.
Mark was watching us. “I think we should,” he said. “Would you just kiss her already?”
Never in a hundred years did I think I’d end up sleeping with my best friend. It was bad, drunk sex. But in the moment, it was all my dreams coming true. It wasn’t that I liked her that way, or that I fell in love with her. But after we shared our bodies with each other I felt a new kind of tenderness toward her.
We woke up at noon the next day, bleary-eyed and hung over. Mark went to pick up some greasy burgers for us, and I approached Rose with a stupid grin. “So…last night,” I giggled.
She looked at me like I was still drunk. “Yeah, last night,” she said, laughing. “What about it?”
She told me everything I needed to know with that response. In the days that followed, my eyes followed her and I wondered if perhaps she would sneak into our bed in the middle of the night. Or if Mark would come home one evening to find Rose and me cuddling on the couch, or sneaking off to one of our bedrooms. Or if, when Rose and I went out to lunch together as we sometimes did, because we were friends, if it would feel more like a date and less like a friendly hangout.
None of those things happened. What did happen was that Rose acted like nothing had happened. She also said, “You know, last night was great and everything, but I don’t think I want to do it again.” It might have had something to do with the fact that she’d acquired a boyfriend a couple months before we all banged each other. She claimed it was an open relationship, but she also felt guilty about cashing in on the “open” part.
For the first few weeks afterward, I tried hitting on her the way she had hit on me for years: brushing against her ass as I walked by, whispering random dirty things in her ear when we found ourselves alone in the kitchen, dressing provocatively in front of her. (It was not as creepy as it sounds, I promise. We had this kind of understanding, like friends who call each other “Bitch!!!” to their faces.) But as soon as I noticed she was no longer flirting with me, I felt ridiculous, and stopped immediately. There was a sort of coldness to her. She spent long hours locked in her room, writing, going on 4-hour running expeditions. And disappearing for entire weeks to her boyfriend’s place.
It was exactly what I feared would happen: our friendship would be lost if we had sex with each other. That’s why I resisted the idea in the first place! We did not talk about our feelings, either.
2nd piece of wisdom for the day: If you do have a threesome, or sleep with someone you have to live with who is not your significant other, TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. It may not change how they feel, but assuming everyone involved is a decent human being, it may at least raise their awareness/sensitivity to what’s going on in your head. It can take weeks for your feelings to surface and settle down. I was OK the day after, but I was not OK during the many months that followed. And Rose and I are still not OK.
So the whole atmosphere in our home was changed: the three of us never hung out anymore. We acknowledged each other but mostly just avoided each other. Once, while we were watching a movie, Rose told us that the “open” part of her relationship with her guy had been reasserted. “I might even sleep with a woman again,” she laughed.
I turned to her. “So for you, is sleeping with a woman more about attraction or more about breaking the rules?” (Rose was all about breaking the rules. She’d been too perfect the first 20 years of her life.)
She didn’t even have to think about it. “Breaking the rules, definitely,” she said.
I didn’t speak to her for a few weeks. It was like realizing I’d been played. (It’s not so much that anyone actively, maliciously betrayed me. But these things happen when you climb into bed with your roommate while drunk at 3 a.m. and don’t talk about it first, or lay out ground rules.) Rose had made it clear many times since then that she was completely straight, not at all interested in dating women, just in occasionally fucking them. And I was just someone she had fucked. Never mind the fact that I was her first woman. Never mind that I had tried to make it so good for her that she would want more. It was like I had turned her even more straight than she already was!
What bothered me more were her insistent comments that I was really just a straight girl experimenting, like her, and that I wasn’t at all queer. In coming out, I found myself having to defend the legitimacy of my feelings against people who doubted me. I’d like to know if this is common. Has anyone else experienced this? It felt like my sexuality became one giant joke to Rose – something to be taken advantage of when it served her purpose.
There would be a day in December when Mark sat us down with a bottle of gin and ordered us to talk to each other. I would tell Rose I was sorry for shutting her out and overreacting to everything, that she had a right to be straight and that I should not have put any expectations on her. She would say that she missed our friendship and that we should hang out again like we used to. That she was sorry for treating me like an experiment, but that it didn’t change her orientation. There would be many attempts after that conversation to repair our friendship. We would find that we didn’t connect as we used to because we had become different people.
But that day was a long way off.