Last summer, at the ripe old age of 42, I had my first summer Fling.
From the time I was 21, I’ve gone from one serious, committed relationship to the next with nary a breather in betwixt. Oh sure, a couple of times between those relationships I tested the sheets with a few non-relationship fellows—common nowadays, I’m told. But for the most part, my M.O. was as follows: meet man, have chemistry, have sex, move in, fight, break up, have (great) make up sex, repeat cycle.
Looking back, I can see how we were all desperate to make it work when really we probably could’ve been enjoying the intimacy for what it was: short-term Friends with Benefits (FWB) or long-term Flings. In fact, had we properly labelled it, we might have had the chance to really become friends during those relationships.
After my last break up I made a conscious decision: romantic and sexual celibacy. I figured I’d get through 2013 solo and free and figure my shit out. After five break-ups—including my marriage—in six years, it was time for a break from break-ups. Something wasn’t working, and I was the common denominator.
Mid-year I meet a guy and break my own contract. We hang out for the summer.
I told him, casually, in our first conversation, “I’m committed to a year of celibacy—romantic, sexual, etc. I need a romantic health break!”
His reply: “Yeah, until I’m done with working out of town, I’m no good at relationships.”
But it seems we have an understanding here, and to be sure, later I text him: “So even though we’re not going to have sex, do you want to be friends?”
Cut to next scene: Sex in the small town city. I’ll spare you the details. Nonetheless, we establish the rules of the playground.
1. Don’t tell anyone. (You’re not being used for sex if this is a mutual agreement!)
2. No PDAs (Public Displays of Affection).
3. Don’t fall in love.
4. We can see other people but must be ‘safe’ and respectful.
5. For a good time, not a long time.
Most guys reading this would be all, “Hell, yeah! Where do I sign up?” And he was, too. But, like a cheap, commercial, waxy, chocolate, Hollywood, sell-out, Rom-Com, mutual attachment formed, albeit looking back it was situationally enhanced. (We were both hanging out in our home town biding time and riding it out for our departure.)
We amended our rules to reflect the fling we were really in.
1. It’s okay to be open and public but don’t post couple-looking photos on FB and don’t change your FB relationship status—Hello!
2. PDAs okay if/as mutually agreed on.
3. Be honest with each other about where our feelings are headed. Falling in love might happen, but isn’t a requirement—Hell no!
4. Monogamy agreed on unless/until mutually agreed otherwise. Nonetheless, play safe, wrap it up.
For whatever time feels good for both parties.
At the end of the summer, we parted ways. And even though there might have been potential for a relationship, I needed ‘me’ time. No commitments, no obligations, no pressure, no Face-timing, no checking in, no ‘who did you meet today,’ no courting, no trying, no expectations, no wondering, no shaving, no nothing.
Ultimately, I think most people are looking for something romantic, or, intimate, whether long term or short, and there seems to be no point in wasting time with the opposite sex (assuming you’re heterosexual) if there’s nothing in it for them.
I ask my housemate, Mermaid, who is tall, lives in the ocean, has a mass of curly blonde hair if she’s ever done the FWB or Fling thing.
She laughs and huffs as though I’ve asked if a dolphin poops in the sea, “Oh, of course!”
Me, “How did that work out? Did anyone get hurt or were you both cool?”
Mermaid, “Well, with this one guy, I couldn’t get rid of him, but it all worked out.”
I ponder the idea and determine that a Fling and Friends With Benefits are two different things. I categorize Flings to be exclusive with the potential to lead to a monogamous (or otherwise mutually agreed to) relationship, whereas Friends with Benefits is generally non-exclusive and often only leads to the bedroom, or kitchen or hallway or well, you get the idea—they have an expiration date.
Whether we Fling or do FWB, both options have an up side: sex with a real, live person; a sense of intimacy even if sheet shallow; a way to pass the time if we’re bored; a potential expanded social circle (more so with FWB); exercise and release of feel good hormones that uplift the spirit and reduce stress. I suggest the parties partying play by the rules, feel free to use mine, as noted above.
For the ladies: Prefer a banjo solo show? Here’s a page from my intellectual playlist for self-administered foreplay: things I would like to do with you in my bed.
What have I (re)learned?
1. Honesty is the best policy, don’t assume. This includes being honest with ourselves about what our needs really are. Being honest with ourselves and others also helps people decide if they want to move on to their next connection sooner.
2. Sometimes, what seems perfect on paper isn’t right simply because of timing. Best not to hold out on hope, but there’s also no sense in throwing out a perfectly good friendship; if there was something real in the relationship, maybe just friends is enough. Bonus, expanded social circle can lead to finding your ideal mate!
Before these rules are relevant, find your fling (mindfully):
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum