There’s a circular bed under one of the bay windows. Otherwise, it’s a pretty normal living room. Couches, a few sparsely populated bookshelves. One set of the windows look out onto Geary, at the traffic that whizzes by, the Muni buses and commuters. They leave their curtains open.
I’m seated on a couch with Miri, and Ben is in an armchair across from us. On the windowsill next to me, my tea casts a shadow on the glass.
“Have you ever done anything like this before?” Miri asks.
“Not sober,” I tell her, which is the truth. Miri and Ben cast each other a look. Theirs is a dry home, one of the many things that make it a nosey establishment to me.
“We can, um, go grab a bottle of wine or something?” Ben offers. It’s a concession they’re willing to make, but I can tell they both feel a little uneasy, the way their eyes keep meeting, attempting not to meet.
“No, it’s ok. Adults, like, take ownership of their wants, right?” And they laugh, thank God, they laugh because I feel so weird and awkward, like my own desire is an unwieldy thing. But it’s true. I do want to be there.
It’s then that Miri smooches me.
This is my 2nd date with Ben, but my very first with Miri. A week prior, Ben and I met at a cafe in Rockridge, near my apartment, for coffee. We’d met online — they’d messaged me from an account that looked like it was Miri’s, but listed pictures of both of them. They’re a gorgeous duo, married for years. Both of them emerge squarely outside my league. So when, on our very first date, Ben told me he was a competitive triathlete, I just laughed. Of course he was. But when he told me they were both hookup therapists, I was genuinely astonished.
I asked a lot of questions, but I still don’t indeed understand what their session-to-session work life is like. Nor do I entirely understand the reason for having the circular bed in their living room. That’s where they practice, that much is clear. This is also where we all have hook-up together.
Adam, my then-boyfriend, now-fiance, also had a lot of questions. He was nosey about the mechanics of our encounters, down to the smallest detail, and not for the reasons I originally suspected. I suspected it thrilled him. Ultimately, I learned, it was his way of attempting to understand my desires. At the time, we were still attempting to be polyamorous — having realized we were in love, but also dubious of monogamy — and while the endeavor made us both awkward we were also both deeply invested in seeking an arrangement that suited us. Honestly, and wholly. And part of that entailed being fair about the need for varied sexual attention.
Coincidentally, Adam is also neighbors with Ben and Miri. Now, since I’ve moved in with Adam, we’re all neighbors. I’ve only seen Ben once, fleetingly, in the market. I could tell he spotted me too, in a moment of passing. But it was truly momentary, and we passed like people on the street pass one another daily, with only a flickering spark of recognition.
“Whenever we find a fresh female,” Miri tells me, on maybe our fourth date. “She always finishes up getting married. And then we have to find a fresh one all over again. It’s such a anguish.” She only has the energy to date women sporadically, that much Ben makes very clear — and it had been fairly a dry spell, dating wise for them as a duo. He’s excited she’s willing, again. But from the sound of it, there have been slew of us, over the years.
“All she wants is for someone to go shopping with,” Ben says.
Miri smiles. “And to fuck.”
What she actually wants, I’m learning, is for someone to keep Ben company. She wants to go shopping and fuck, too. But much of the time, dates begin or end without her there. She has a hair appointment. Or a friend in town. She’s much busier than he is. And while Ben is congenial, and flawlessly pleasant, I embark to get the feeling that he’s a little bored. Much of his time is spent keeping house for Miri, who makes more money than he does (they’re both so frank about this fact), and so Ben is responsible for keeping the house clean, getting dinner on the table. And also, finding and vetting unicorns.
I like sleeping with them. After each date, I feel the urge to call someone, to tell them what I just did, to brag. That I wished to do something that seemed porny, unattainable, and weird. And I got it. I’m getting it. I’m getting it on the regular. It’s the most overtly sexual life choice I’ve ever made, and it’s joy.
I am less sure that I want to be Ben’s entertainment when Miri isn’t home, however.
“Your energy is different,” Adam tells me. From anyone else, this would elicit an eye-roll from me, but it rings with the tenor of truth from him. It’s true. I’m emboldened by my capability to get what I want, and it translates to how Adam and I sleep together, too. Because if I can arrange for regular threesomes, what CAN’T I do, truly, when it comes to hookup? This, I tell him. I want this. I want it this way. I want to do this, to you. And he and my figure prize me for it.
It wasn’t, I learned, the threesomes that I most craved. They were joy, but already, about a year later, I don’t reminisce them that well. If you asked me, specifically, what we did, I could very likely only provide you with the broad strokes. What I indeed wished, what I truly craved was ownership of my own sexual desire, in a context free of pretense.
It is no surprise to anyone reading here that women feel shamed for having carnal appetites — that we are instructed, just as we are instructed with food, that wanting these things (to eat, to fuck), that being gluttonous with our desires, is a disgraceful thing. Don’t get fat, don’t get horny. We pretend, always, not to be as thirsty as we are.
But we are thirsty. I am greedy. And what a ease it is to feed.
My relationship with Miri and Ben fizzled out. Or rather, like an immature asshole, I stopped returning text messages. It only took two unanswered texts before I never heard from them again. My guess, but not my excuse (there is no excuse, only the explanation of cowardice) is that they have played this game before. My disappearing act was not a novelty to them.
My relationship with Adam, on the other mitt, escalated. Quickly, joyfully. I think often about what Miri said, about how the women they dated always got married right after. With a fresh engagement ring on my finger, I wonder if dating a duo may be a indeed excellent way to transition into a more serious level of commitment with a fucking partner. I intimately witnessed the interactions of a pair who own and share their sexual desires, without pretense, with one another. I slept with them as a unit, not as two separate people. I enacted their desire, and found the assurance I needed to directive my own.
More than that, I learned to actively seek the satiation of my own appetites. To face the truth of my own cravings, and to make the fulfillment of them manifest in the world — even just to speak to them, to call them by their name. And this fresh skill has made my capability to treat a wholly fair relationship with Adam attainable. Presently we’re what’s known as monogamish — we sporadically invite people to join us, but don’t date or act without one another.
Adam often texts me while I’m at work — he works from home — usually practical things, often logistics. Today is no different. “Ashley is coming over Sunday,” he says, and I smile. We are greedy, now, together. And it feels so good to be total.
This story by Maggie Tokuda-Hall very first appeared on Ravishly.com, an alternative news+culture website for women.
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