When I read a piece recovering addict and humorist Amy Dresner wrote for The Fix a few years ago, I felt uncomfortable and riveted at the same time. Uncomfortable, I think, because of the brazen way she unleashed her ongoing compulsions and darkest moments, and riveted because of her honesty and vulnerability. Thanks to some social media kismet, we later “met” on Facebook, which led to meeting in real life, which led to this piece. I asked Amy to write about navigating sober love and sex in midlife, and sure enough, she delivered in raw, touching, singular form.
I’m a 45-year-old divorcee who’s single and dating again. Word on the street is that I’m pretty attractive and extremely well preserved, with a terrific body and a pretty great mind but…..I’m a little “nuts.”
[bctt tweet=”Sure, I’ve got issues, but what recovering addict with a dash of borderline personality disorder doesn’t? @via AmyDresner”] One guy pretty accurately described me as “part porn star, part little girl with Elaine Stritch’s voice and perfect Christmas Barbie hair.” I can be a little mouthy and a tad melodramatic so I’m pretty impressed by anybody who will stay in the ring with me for any length of time. It’s typically 4-6 months before one of us taps out. I also have major abandonment issues so I’ll be sure to dump you if I get the faintest inkling you might pull out. I half-heartedly joke that if you casually date me you can look forward to getting a text every two weeks that says,”This isn’t working for me. I’m out. Be well. Please don’t contact me again.” And then if you call me 2 minutes later, I’ll be bawling, pleading, “Don’t leave me.”
To be fair, I’ve never really dated. When I call my close friend/comic Tammy Jo Dearen complaining about the latest guy, she says: “This is normal dating. You never did this. You just fucked or got married.” Oh. So I guess now I’m dating….something I should have done in my 20’s and 30’s when I was too busy doing drugs and trying not to do them (i.e. rehab).
After a divorce you know a few things: nothing is “forever,” love is messy, and there are no guarantees. I wish that made me more gun-shy, but the risk-taker in me usually goes all in, always against my better judgment. “It will be a learning experience!” or “I’ll get some interesting writing out of it!” or “Maybe it will be different this time!” I convince myself. I will say I now know better than to get anybody’s fucking name tattooed on my body.
I don’t know if I’d say I’m more willing to settle. I’d like to think I’m more willing to try to meet and accept somebody where they’re at, instead of holding out for some perfect ideal. Because at my age I know nobody is perfect and neither is any relationship.
I’m in the best physical shape of my life. I’m more sexual, more uninhibited and more orgasmic than I’ve ever been.
I know what great sex is now and I also know that it’s important to me. I know what I like and what gets me off. I also know that kink isn’t my bag but I hate to admit I don’t always have the guts to say it. Even at my ripe old age, I still crave acceptance. I want you to like me. I want you to love me.
And sometimes I’ll try, badly, to be who I think you want me to be. But I’m a terrible liar and an even worse actress, so nobody is fooled. My charm, if you will, is in my no-holds barred honesty, my violent vulnerability. “Here’s all of me. If you can’t handle it, there’s the door.” Unfortunately, nobody has an investment at the beginning to overlook your 6 rehabs, 4 psych wards and an arrest for domestic violence. Sure, they’ll fuck you if you’re hot enough. But I’m learning that a) everybody has their baggage and b) you need to feed that stuff to guys in small amounts like a mama bird to her chick. You don’t just waterboard them with it off the bat.
[bctt tweet=”I know I look good for my age because Tinder told me so. via @AmyDresner”] Just like when I was younger, it’s easy to get laid and hard to find love. One-night stands make me feel empty but I’ll settle for having regular lovers who stay in touch and can carry a conversation. I know that sex is just sex. It doesn’t mean they love you, even if they spoon you after. And I’m kind of okay if somebody I’m seeing is sleeping with other people. It’s definitely not my preference and I’m not polyamorous by any means but sex is just sex. I’d surely like to be the only person you’re fucking in my area code or city but if not, I’d rather not know and certainly do not let me find out by accident.
I tried to fuck like a guy. No emotion, no attachment. I thought, “I’m empowered. I want to get laid. I don’t want a relationship with this guy…blah, blah, blah.” But no matter how I framed it in my head, if they don’t call me after, I feel weird. I get attached. It’s biochemical. Somebody is INSIDE your body. So there has to be some sort of communication, even a close friendship. I tried to use guys. I had my “sex addiction” phase and it almost destroyed me. I can’t do it, it’s not what I want, and that’s okay. I kind of wish I could but I’m too sensitive and needy and all that other shit. I want to get married again. I liked having a partner, somebody who had your back, belonging to somebody.
I look back now at photos of myself at 25 and think, “Holy shit, I was gorgeous.” But I was riddled with insecurity and self-hatred then and let’s be honest, everybody is fucking gorgeous when they’re 25. I’ll probably look back when I’m 60 at pics of myself now and think the same thing.
When I was younger, men thought I was “too intellectual, too aggressive, too analytical.” Too much like them, they said. “A man with a pussy. What more could you want?” I’d ask. But men don’t want a man with a pussy. They want a woman and that’s what I’m trying to become: soft, nurturing, receptive. A safe place for them but with boundaries to protect myself. I’m still working on the safe part and the boundary part. Right now I’m still more like a landmine and I need a guard dog, moat, and electrified fence to help enforce any boundaries.
I’ve fucked a few younger guys. They all want to “rip through a cougar.”
They are entertained, dare I say enamored, with my crazy stories of drug use and impressed with my….sexual “skills”. And they are oddly charmed by my chronic immaturity. Of course I was flattered by their youthful attention. But IN GENERAL, younger guys don’t really know what they’re doing in bed (I certainly didn’t at their age). And they can be….ummm….disrespectful. One guy I slept with texted me the next day with this: “What’s up big homie?” Big homie? Ummm, I used to be a CEO’s wife. Please don’t call me big homie.
I’m friends with maybe ONE person I’ve dated. It was the last one so hopefully I’m making some progress here but most people I’ve dated pretty much hate me when it’s over. I usually burn the bridge so I can’t go back over it. Not proud of that. If you have ever dated me or were, God forbid, married to me, you’re probably blocked on my phone, my email, and every social media. Hey, don’t look back, right? That’s not the direction you’re going!
I can be vulnerable now. I can tell you how I’m feeling and what I want or need and I’m not always screaming or crying when I do it. I still can’t cook (unless you count dope) but I’ll do your laundry. And after years of thinking a man could save me or fix me, I know that they can’t and if they want to, there is something seriously wrong with them. I don’t want to be controlled but I’m willing to do or refrain from doing certain things to make you feel comfortable and happy. Everything is about compromise and communication. And if a man can say “I’m sorry,” hold open the door for me, and sleeps in the wet spot…..well, my knees go weak.
Amy Dresner is a columnist for TheFix.com as well as a freelance writer for such publications as Refinery29, The Frisky, Unbound Box, Cosmo Latina, and others. Her pieces have been reposted by Salon and have garnered the attention of Glamour Magazine and the late David Carr. She’s been a guest on HuffPost Live as a speaker regarding the connection between creativity and addiction.