I went on a crappy date. Yes, I call them dates. The 27 year old I “dated” insisted it was the first date of her life. She begged me not to tell anyone we went on a date. We went on the date. I know for a fact she’s not a virgin, since earlier penetration ensued.

I was craving a date. Taking a girl to a movie, while holding hands, a little bite to eat and a good night kiss at the end of the night. It didn’t matter we already had done IT a couple of times. I had an epiphany about being single and divorced and 40 years old. I don’t need to play by the new rules.

What are the new rules?

After roughly 15 years of monogamy I found the new rules are:

A cup of coffee is not a cup of coffee. It’s a human way to smell each others’ asses to see if we’re going to fuck. Most likely right after coffee unless you fart.

When did coffee become so sexual?

One night stands are easy. There are hot ladies who want to get their rocks off every night on the streets and in the bars of San Francisco.

For about 10 days I tested this phenomena. When I was 38 I had only slept with one woman my whole life. A few weeks shy of 40 I had slept with eight women. For some reason my brain clicked onto this theory that I had to be in double digits before I was 40 or I’d be a loser.

Time was running short.

And my mom was staying at my place, so in order to have animal sex with someone I had just met, I would have to get to her apartment.

At the first bar there was a woman who was sexy and smart and we were talking. I gave it a try. She was with a dude. I asked the guy when the woman went to “freshen up” if they were together because I would leave the bar if they were. He assured me they weren’t together, so I went into full pursuit.

And here’s the line I used for the next 10 days:

I’d love to talk to you a little longer, let’s go to your place, but I can only stay for 30 minutes. Should we grab some chips and beer on the way?

It worked EVERY time.

Girls like time limits, I know this. It’s an OUT if things aren’t jiving at their place, though we were usually naked before the 30 minutes were up and some hours later I was searching kitchens for coffee filters.

Another hurdle: I’m agoraphobic and the symptoms manifest themselves at odd times. I have even had panic attacks during sex. So, leaving the next morning, or as “they” call it, the walk of shame, usually included a panic attack or two on the way back to my apartment.

But, I inched to double digits. (Pun intended.)

I asked this tall blond girl on a date. We met while we were drunk a week or so before. I misunderstood that she was a librarian, it turned out she was interested in becoming a librarian. On our date, she was so happy about her temp job and that her boss said she was doing a good job answering phones that they were going to keep her.

“I thought you were a librarian?”

“I’d like to be one, but it’s so much schooling.”

The DATE went horrible and I dropped her off at BART at midnight, horny and alone. Within one hour I was naked with another lady I had just met and we were back at her place.

I used the line, 30 minutes, beer, chips, talking.

30 minutes definition: nudity

beer definition: vaginal penetration

chips definition: it’s hard to cum with whiskey, but I can ride for days

talking definition: do you have a clean towel so I can take a shower?

And it happened and I had sex with 13 women before I turned 40. That’s counting penetration and not evenings that turned into oral or hand play.

It was fun, getting naked with strangers and being physically intimate way too fast. But it also felt empty and I felt a little used. And, I realized that my pathetic line only worked because the girls already knew they wanted to fuck me and had pretty much gone out to get fucked.

So, I turned 40 and stopped one night stands, dates, and women and getting laid. A couple of the one night stands actually turned into repeat visits which turned into, yeah, let’s stop getting naked and be friends…actual friends where we got drinks and hung out. But I was done with the new rules.

Girls would give me their phone numbers without my requesting them. I’d thank them and drop the number in the trash on the way out.

No more random fucks.

I wanted to be single, yet unavailable. And women smelled it on me. They’d ask if I had a girlfriend and my answer was, I’m not available.

It wasn’t to be noble or righteous. I had just been monogamous too long and needed my head cleared, to take a step back as a single dude, to figure out what was good for me, not what everyone around me was doing.

Back to my date gone wrong, or my number 8.

Before the film we went into a deli to get sandwiches to eat during the film. It was an industry screening, so they’re lenient on bringing your own food, beer, etc.

I paid for my sandwich and I didn’t put money in the tip jar.

My date flipped out.

“You would give a bartender a dollar for mixing you a drink, why won’t you give a tip for someone who makes you a sandwich?”

“Because it’s a deli. Bartenders and waiters make their living on tips. It’s a damn hard job, I did room service and waited tables for years. Just because someone puts a tip jar on the counter doesn’t mean I’m supposed to tip.”

She tried to convince me on the way things were. But I’m 40. Five years ago there wasn’t a tip jar at a deli. These tip jars are appearing everywhere.

She begrudgingly held my hand as we entered the screening room. That’s when I realized it’s easier to fuck a girl than get her to hold my hand in public. I should have put a couple of bucks in my hand.

Here’s how I think of it. Do you tip the popcorn vendor at a movie theatre? They make the same wage and have to deal with douchier people than someone working at a mom and pop deli.

OR, what about those poor people who work fast food joints? The bottom of the bottom of service jobs. Have you ever tipped someone for a Whopper?

OR, what about a divorced 40 year old dude who just wants to hold your hand and watch a film?

 

To bring you up to date on my life with the ladies, I now have a girlfriend. We have lots of “beer” and I don’t buy “chips”. Intimacy is so much more fun in a relationship.

 

Cherry Picking

By Brin Butler

Essay

“What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

There’s a poor orchard town near where my father grew up in the countryside. It’s one of the poorest places in the country. Most people found out about it when it got some attention in the newspapers after a famous serial killer and child rapist named Clifford Olsen passed through and beheaded a child and left the trophy to be discovered by school kids in the river that flows next to the highway that runs through the heart of the town.


We drove through that town on the way to visit our relatives since I was a baby. I remember driving when my parents were together and after they’d parted ways. I think it was one of the first places I used as a marker to measure certain feelings that upset me. When I was very small we nearly always stopped to pick up fruit to bring over for my grandmother to use in baking pies. After she died when I was five, we still stopped to pick up fruit, but usually just enough for the last stretch of the car ride. Memories aren’t photos in an album, they change every time you fondle them. I was getting good marks and then I wasn’t anymore. Holes weren’t filling in with certain things that bothered me. When I was big enough, we pulled off the highway and visited one of my favorite bridges in the world called Red Bridge.

You could climb inside the walls of that one-lane bridge and get up to the top staring a good fifty feet over that icy, glacier-fed river.

At the best of times I’m pretty lousy with heights. I was 21 before I had the courage to jump. I had a boyfriended girl up there with me, originally from the town, who I’d met in the city. She knew the parents of the beheaded kid and we’d been talking about how creepy and exciting the river felt knowing that such an awful thing polluted it.

The first time I stepped into a river when I was two or three my dad told me that you can never put your foot into the same river twice. That was a good fit as far as I was concerned. I almost drowned once floating down a river and after I quit struggling it was the most peaceful feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. You’re caught under something and struggling and struggling to get to the surface and grab some air and then you actually hear another voice ask why?

She’d never had the guts to jump and thought anyone who did was crazy. I wanted to impress her. At first it hadn’t worked out so well. I’d chickened-out over and over again maybe 20 times, but when she gave up on me and went to collect the little blanket we’d spread out up there I went for it. I figured suicide was the biggest decision you can make that you can’t ever regret.

She made a beautiful sound when I jumped over her and off that edge. I could hear that sigh-scream all the way down with my arms flapping like a maniac before plunging into the water and falling so deep I touched down on the pebbly river bottom.

The next time I visited that town I didn’t pass through, we stopped to visit that same girl’s folks.

We stopped by a friend of hers who had an apple orchard. The orchard had a pretty story behind it:

The parents of that friend who owned the orchard had wondered for years why all the pickers went to one particular tree on their lunch break for their own apples to eat. Finally they went over to that tree and tried one of the apples for themselves and discovered that the apples looked and tasted different. They had a distinctive creamy color. As it turned out, it was a new strain of apple which they named Ambrosia apples that became so popular that they became quite wealthy.

I’ve taken nearly every girl I’ve really liked through that town and bought them some of those apples from the roadside fruit stands.

On the flight back from New York with my wife a couple days ago, I was thinking about one of these girls.

On the trip we had together through that town she picked up the slack from my grandmother and used those apples to bake a pie.

I published a story about her in a magazine a while back. I gave some slippery details about her finding out I’d written a novel about her without ever having had a meaningful conversation with her. In the story I’d given myself a first kiss with her. 10 years after high school she’d read it and flew over to be with me. That was what happened.

But I’d left the piece open-ended.

Sometimes I’m interested in people who think leaving out vital material isn’t the same as lying when it achieves the same purpose.

It’s a different feeling getting away with a lie.

Different motivation too, I think.

It’s weird writing the happy part of a story that you know ends badly.

I’d left it optimistic and nostalgic and hopeful between us.

It had ended abruptly, severed with a warning she issued in a shrill tone: “You’ll always regret this. You’ll look back and regret this for the rest of your life.”

Most women I know that complain about their choice in men talk about how unsuccessful they are in finding a good match rather than succeeding in choosing assholes.

Every writer zeros-in on who their best muse is, who they’re really writing to or who they feel is looking over their shoulder. I’m not good with a Thinking Cap on my head. I end up feeling like Whitney Houston when I’m trying to sound like Billie Holiday.

Crack isn’t heroin.

The woman who published that story asked me how the story played out after meeting that girl. Was I still with her? “C’mon, she’d moved from Europe to be with you!”

That wasn’t entirely true. More to the point, she’d moved to be with an idea of us that had nothing to do with me.

I have a considerable mean streak that I try to hold back when I write about women because I know how ugly it is.

Most likely it stems from the fact that I’m scared of women. All varieties. Old, smart, dumb, literate, young, moms, daughters, wives, mistresses, whores, girlfriends, sisters, political leaders, receptionists, dental assistants, nurses, poets, writers, actresses, pornstars, nuns, book club members, lesbians, cocktail waitresses, bus drivers, wrestlers, folk singers, talk show hosts, hobos, models, anorexics, pregnant, career-women, soft, cookie-cutter, snowflake—you name it I’ll raise my hand and bow my head in shame.

I’m scared of women because I’m so drawn to them. I’m obsessed by women in all their roles and sides and facets and devious complexity and radical ambiguity and appetites and narratives and surfaces and depths and noise and silence.

I know less about them as a whole the more I meet.

Punching your weight is a good rule.

I don’t bring much to the table. I like my femininity in the cute and dirty variety, like those first video game fairies with the glittery X-rated eyes despite G-rated roles.

Cuteness is depravity’s defense mechanism: Japan only overdosed on cute after getting nuked.

I think of women emotionally the same as I think of men, only I think of them emotionally as men who are drunk and high. After all, women have purpose.

“Love is blind, but stalkers often have an eye for detail” is how I opened the piece.

Before I started the piece, I had a few pages of notes that included several pretty lines meant to hide other elements I’d left out.

Salinger had this line about “letting all your stars come out” or something. I wonder why this is so scary to do.

When I look at them, relationships seem mostly about addiction. Chemicals. Junk. Power. Submission. Domination.

Even with all the little stuff.

Telescopes and microscopes uncover what you can find.

She’d said she looked forward to baking pies after we got married and had our own family and grandchildren.

I like opening my eyes underwater in a lake or in the ocean when I can’t see anything.

She knew she was going to live to be over a hundred, she assured me.

I love fortune cookies, but not for their wisdom.

She was glad I thought she looked the same as when I’d first met her at 13, but she was most pleased that I loved her eyes, because the rest of her would “perish” into old age and “decay” but “my eyes will always remain.”

It was speeches like these, the chilling inflection and frightening vocabulary, that first broke the spell.

Then there was the preemptive self-flattery: “Everywhere I go others inform me that my breasts are divine.”

Pleasant would have been my choice of words.

“My bottom attracts attention like you wouldn’t believe.”

She was on the mark with that one. I didn’t believe it. And even more so after just breaking up with a Puerto Rican dancer whose ass moved like a wrecking ball down New York streets in terms of the attention from men it commanded.

“Don’t you fancy how quirky I dress?”

From her attire, she looked a girl who proudly lived in a giant shoe.

I left out that I was so nervous before meeting her that about 8 hours prior to picking her up from the airport I accepted the offer of a perfect stranger for a random meeting and presumable “booty call”.

I think it’s the only time I’ve ever been the one not chasing.

This random girl somehow got very turned on discussing books. She was boyfriended also. It didn’t really matter except that he was a very respectful boyfriend, which in all areas except sexually pleased her just fine. “That’s my main problem with this guy. I want a good person who can really demean me. He can’t. We can connect emotionally and intellectually and he’s not intimidated by someone with my education and career and outspokenness. You know what I mean? He just can’t bring himself to really give me what I want sexually.”

“What do you want sexually?” I asked.

“A guy who isn’t afraid to come on my face, you know?”

“Right.”

It’s liberating in a slightly unsettling way to be attracted to a woman yet having no interest in fucking her. It’s not a state you’d like to occupy all that often, but it’s valid somehow too.

“Are you gonna fuck me or what?”

“Nope.”

“So you’re using me?”

We’d met on top of a hill with a really spectacular view. She’d laid out a blanket.

She asked about the girl flying in. She asked how I felt about the circumstances. She gave her point of view. She asked me if I knew who Mr. Darcy was. She asked if I had any intention of contacting her after that night. When I gave her a look, she informed me that she was making a joke.

I told her after that night I would never speak with her again and she saw very clearly that I meant it.

She asked if I was joking.

“There are no jokes, the truth is the funniest joke of all.”

—Muhammad Ali