It's over. The longest relationship I've had since becoming a single mom has ended. I met 42-year-old Jim on Match.com a few months ago. He was emotional, like me, and seemed devoted to his two kids. But as the months went on, I started to think that maybe we weren't a match after all.
I was frustrated by a number of things:
- He was not divorced, even though he and his wife had been separated for years (unfinished business);
- He often showed up late for a date (lack of respect);
- Our parenting styles were radically different (whereas I'm like a therapist, he's like a commander-in-chief).
In the end, however, what really broke me down was that he came too fast.
The first time I invited Jim over to my place, my four-year-old daughter, Mae, was having a sleepover at her girlfriend's house. (Her very first sleepover, mind you.) I had left her in tears. I almost dialed Jim's phone number to call it off.
During the drive home, I repeated various mantras to myself to alleviate the guilt: It's okay if she cries a little. Tears are healthy, right? She's in good hands. But the closer I got to home, the smugger I got: It's about time I got a break! I deserve this. Don't I get one night off from being mom? I also tried to replace images of Mae in tears with ones of Jim seducing me. He was almost six feet tall, with dreadlocks and pumped-up biceps. I loved how gently he held my face when he kissed me.
Over the preceding few weeks, Jim and I had been all over each other, although not yet inside each other. We'd made out at the park in mid-afternoon, on his sofa after going to a jazz club, and in his car before a poetry reading. I was almost business-like the way I'd prepared for the real thing. Did you get your HIV test? Check! Is my birth control prescription ready? Check!
At home, I slipped on my pink see-through lingerie under my dress. The phone and lights went off. I lit six candles. It was an unusually warm night, so I opened my bedroom window an inch. (My bedroom is half of the living room. Mae has the one bedroom in our apartment.) There was a knock at the door.
I flew down the stairs with a big smile. This was it! This was my night. It was my chance to forget about the day-old milk in the fridge, the dishes coated with macaroni and cheese, the Barbie shoes strewn across the rug, and the unbalanced checkbook. I was going to let myself go. True, I masturbated sometimes but that moment of liberation just isn't the same solo. Nothing compares to having an orgasm with someone you adore.
Our clothes quickly fell to the floor. My world was wet and wide open. But just 10 minutes and 40 thrusts later, there was a loud groan. His head hit the pillow. His eyes were shut.
"What about me?" I said.
"Hmmm?" he mumbled.
I shook his shoulder. "What about me?" I asked again, annoyed.
Pre-baby, I was the kind of woman who came easily. But when Mae turned seven months old and I became a single mom, I shut myself off from men. Instead, I focused on nursing, bathing, playing peek-a-boo, editing textbooks and mopping the kitchen floor. Having an orgasm was not part of my daily routine. Four years later, I felt that she was ready for a night away from home. No, actually, I was ready!
Night after night, I tried to guide Jim to relax and slow down. Part of the problem seemed mechanical: he was moving so fast that he wasn't really present with me. His hard-on directed the show: sex became an overexcited monologue, instead of both of us playing complementary parts on stage. He told me that no other women had ever complained about being dissatisfied. But I wasn't trying to damage his male ego. All I needed was 10 minutes, only 10 minutes before he let the dam burst. Yet, time and time again, just when I was ready to go over the edge, he was gone.
I held tightly to my fantasies. I wanted to yell his name out loud as my body shuddered. I wanted to feel his sweat roll off me. But it wasn't just about sex. I imagined blending our families together one day, and buying a house with a backyard swing and a huge playroom. Still, each week, Jim came over, and boy, did he come. I didn't. My fantasies were flooded away by fury.
Then, one night three months into our relationship, it happened. It was the middle of the night, and he was half-asleep. Perhaps this made for less pressure to perform. Perhaps it was just luck. But I climbed on top of him. He hardly moved, and I actually climaxed. In that moment, every doubt I had disappeared into the darkness. I wanted to marry him on a mountaintop. I wanted us to take a bow together.
But sure enough, a few days later, he showed up an hour late for our date because he was dropping his kids off at his wife's place -- "Uh, I mean, my ex-wife's place." For the next few weeks, I invited him over every weekend, eager to repeat our performance. But time and time again, he was coming fast and I was running high on frustration. The very last time, as soon as he started to snore, I was out of bed, on my knees picking up Barbie accessories from the rug. With that last plastic high heel put away, I knew this was over.