Friends with Benefits, in Four Acts.
It all began late one night in Cameron's mother's garage. We kissed and I followed him down to his basement bachelor pad.
He took off my shirt and I promptly shut down everything.
I climbed off of him and sat next to him. I sat upright, hoping the severity of my posture would translate into something.
I said that we needed to talk.
I told him that we were not going to date and that there could be nothing emotional between us.
I told him that I was going to be gone most of the time.
If either of us wanted to see other people then this could end without hurt feelings.
I made him agree and then repeat these words back to me, almost like a pledge or ceremonial induction.
He then reminded me that we were two consenting adults and, upon my agreement, clumsily removed my bra.
As we were taking each other's clothes off, I felt a wash of calm power. I was finally participating in sex that was consensual.
Not that I had only been raped previously. I had never had sex that I genuinely wanted. I traded sex for love; or at least, I tried to trade sex for love. But now, in this moment, I wasn't getting an unattractive guy off in the hopes that he would love me. This was for me. This would be sex, not a transaction.
He wanted me more than I wanted him. I had the control.
Everything, everything in my life it seems, changed the moment that we first intertwined our bodies.
For the first time sex was a good thing. Sex was beyond pleasurable. I didn't go into a dissociative state during the act. I didn't cry hysterically afterwards. The world didn't feel like a sinking, spinning hole about to swallow me. My soul was intact. I didn't feel the sharp pain from a freshly excised piece of flesh. The flesh I tore out for him, a sacrifice that I had all too willingly made in the past. All I felt was that glow and a soft bed underneath me.
A man respected me, cared for me, considered my needs and desires. It was like my prince had come.
My prince, of course, was a 24 year old ex-con living in his mother's basement with no driver's license, no car, no job and no real life plan. To his credit, he was taking a few online courses on video game design and helping his single mom take care of his special needs sister who needs full time, involved care.
I could go on for years about his wonderful qualities. He is by far the kindest, gentlest, most respectful, thoughtful, patient and loving man I've ever met. This translates into amazing insight and depth when he finally lets it surface. He is quiet, which makes his few words even more wonderful. He would do anything for anyone if they asked. (It's gotten him in real trouble.) He is practical and level-headed. We have sex in just our socks because he worries that my feet will get cold. (Cosmo be damned!) He doesn't ask me what I'm thinking when we lay together. He makes me calm. He is a presence of quiet strength and comfort.
But I think that knowing I didn't have to love him and that he didn't have to love me was what made him and the whole situation so amazing at first. I have terrible trust and attachment issues. I don't connect with people easily or well. I loved him, but only when we were together in bed. His bed became a refuge where I could feel the peace and love missing in my life. But I had the comfort of knowing that as soon as I rolled out of bed and found my scattered clothes, it would end. But I could easily forget him and then pick up where we left off weeks later. It felt like a superpower after a long a chain of co-dependent relationships.
It was obvious that he loved me.
The way he touched me, looked at me made it clear. Occasionally he would slip up and start to say things that you would only say to a serious girlfriend, just short of, "I love you." I would nip it in the bud.
He told all of our friends that "we were a thing" after our first night together. I was shocked to learn about this a few months later. He tried to take me on dates, but could usually be persuaded to get in bed instead. He always wanted me to spend the night. I always left. I knew that I had to enforce some boundaries if I was going to maintain the emotional separation necessary for being friends with benefits.
This has carried on as a lovely FWB situation (more like girlfriend/boyfriend without the titles) for nearly two years now. But about a year ago we both moved to different cities and the relationship has been mostly a possibility rather than a reality.
About a month ago, I became bored and lonely, so I started looking for another man. I met a guy and went on a few dates with him. It seemed promising. After the second date with this dude, I texted Cameron to tell him that he couldn't count on me being in his bed during Thanksgiving break as I was kind of seeing someone else. He was offended that I had done this over text. I had obviously misjudged the gravity of the situation. I promptly called to apologize and talk further.
I was genuinely surprised at how affected he was. He doesn't show emotion often, yet he was slightly choked up.
He said that he wanted us to be more and that he regretted not making that move sooner. He asked if that would have made a difference.
I said no. I told him that long distance relationships are too painful for me to handle.
(I left out how I wanted to be sure he had gotten his shit together.)
I told him that, "I had never been that available to you, anyway."
(I'm still not sure exactly what I meant.)
He said that I was still welcome in his bed whenever and mumbled a sort of good bye.
Three days later, I went for my long overdue yearly gynecological exam.
That night the new guy dumps me via text.
(It was poetic justice, in retrospect.)
The next morning the doctor's office called.
They told me I had Chlamydia. I had only slept with Cameron since my last exam, which both came back totally clean and was done about 4 days before we started sleeping together.
I called him to tell him that I had Chlamydia, I got it from him, and that he needed to get tested/treated.
(He had it before he slept with me. I know he never slept with anyone else, despite the lack of stated exclusivity.)
I cried on the phone.
He had never seen or heard me cry.
I told him I regretted all of it - which I did.
He said that hearing that I was seeing other guys "crushed" him.
Both of us wanted to say more, but we are both pretty closed off emotionally.
(I also cried because now I was the kind of girl who gets STDS, but I didn't tell him that.)
I then went out with two more guys over the next 2 weeks.
The last guy and I nearly had sex. Had I let him take off my pants, we would have been there.
But I kept feeling his hands and looking at his face and feeling so disappointed and almost repulsed.
It felt violating. I wanted Cameron. I didn't want anyone to touch me except for Cameron.
I tried those men to see if I could fill that void that Cameron left.
I have realized that I love him. And it's making me crazy.
I feel more like myself when I am with him than when we are apart.
The problem is that Cameron is potentially not totally capable of forging an adult life himself.
Things may have changed over the last year. Maybe our time apart has been long enough for him to find his stride.
He left his mother's home. He now works, takes some college courses and lives with a few roommates. He is living off of loans, but he is doing it himself, I suppose.
He will be perfect as soon as he grows up.
So, it's been 2 years of the best sex of my life. It's been 2 years of fighting my feelings for him. It's been two years of something glorious. It's been two years of walking a tightrope.
I would say the FWB thing worked out.
But now, how does it all end?
I think about him nearly constantly now that I know no other man will fill this need.
(I wish I could apologize to those boys I used as guinea pigs.)
I've made arrangements to go visit Cameron for 4-5 days next month during fall break.
Here's my plan:
(1) I will evaluate how much his life/outlook has changed. (I expect to be happily surprised as he is employed, living with roommates and taking classes.)
(3) I'm going to try and make him my boyfriend. This shouldn't be too hard; it's what he's wanted all along. The hardest part will be getting both of us to admit to emotions.
(2) I'll break the news that by this time next year I'll be moving across the country for graduate school, probably to California.
(This will permanently end our relationship unless he moves with me, I get rejected by almost every school I apply to, or one of us gets enough money to buy hundreds of plane tickets.)
If life were a rom-com, his lack of strong ties to his fledgling adult life would allow him to follow me to grad school next year.
I daydream about him going with me and sharing an apartment in graduate housing. We will be poor and so very happy. I don't want kids and he lives very modestly, so as long as he can pay his half of rent/bills then we won't have any money issues. He is so laid back that I think even my most intense furies couldn't create a genuine, serious fight.
I wonder what would happen if I suggested that he come with me.
I'm still shocked that I love him.
At the beginning I knew that I wouldn't, which was the appeal of the FWB arrangement.
But, I love him.
And if I had to pull a moral out of this story, it would be this: you will never stay just friends with benefits.
It's messy: late night kisses, embarrassing karaoke performances, unspoken yet overwhelming feelings, sex beyond comparison, hurt feelings, STDs, and logistics management to rival UPS.
edit: It's now three years since it all began and it's amazing to revisit this. We became an official couple on the Boxing Day after this write up was published. We dated intensely and seriously. We met each other's family and I made salami with every living member of his family in the traditional manner. I got accepted to my first choice of graduate school and was offered a TA position, which I accepted without hesitation. I invited him to move with me and it was understood that I would carry the burden as my career is taking off. He declined rather ungracefully. He was unemployed, taking only online classes from a school with a nearby satellite campus, his lease was about to expire, and had no reason not to go. It turned into a week-long, messy break up full of tears and yelling. I know that my family has not really forgiven him but is somewhat relieved. I cannot imagine how things were on his end. I'm considering starting dating again, but it seems daunting still.