About two years ago, my friend invited me to a staged reading of a new play he was producing. I, of course, said yes because I am a stellar, supportive friend. The play was totally great, and I was not AT ALL distracted by the fact that this dude I had been involved with a year before was in the cast. I also was not AT ALL flattered when said dude smiled, walked up to me, and asked me to lunch after the show. And there was no way AT ALL I was going to go to lunch with him, because I was still mad at him from the year before. NOT AT ALL.
Okay okay. You caught me! I’m lying. I was totally flattered and I definitely said yes to lunch.
A few Easter Sundays ago, the same friend invited me to an opening night of this Broadway play I knew nothing about except a very famous person-who-plays-a –famous-character-in-famous-movies-based-on-books-alluded-to-in-the-heading-of-this-paragraph was the lead. So although it was obviously the most important day of the Christian calendar, I was more concerned with which necklace to wear with my strapless dress and, of course, where to Easter Brunch. Which had nothing to do with the opening night except that I did order granola instead of pancakes (This is so stupid. Why do I remember that I ate granola at that brunch? I’ll tell you why: BECAUSE I STILL REGRET IT. That dress was a princess cut. Was I scared of a stomach bulge that no one would even be able to see five hours later? Ugh. Anyway. More expensive granola on Easter Sunday brunch is NEVER WORTH IT. Get the pancakes, for He is Risen). Anyway, I got ready and hoped to meet the Parry Hotter by the end of the night.
The show was amazing, Parry was incredible, and it was time for the after party! I did get to meet Parry, but he left quickly after. Apparently he doesn’t like parties. How sad for him (and me). Later, at the bar, however, there was this very unassumingly beautiful guy making eyes at me (unassumingly beautiful guys are the worst. You think they’re kiiiinda cute until you start making out and then you are like HOLY SHIT I AM INTO THIS. Anyone else? Okay, well just trust me here, it happens). He starts chatting me up and charming the pants off me (literally). At some point in the evening I find out that he is in fact the understudy of Mr. Parry Hotter, and also he’s totally into me (Ummm, what are the freaking odds? Set out for Parry Hotter, ended up with his understudy. Who’s surprised?). Well, Mr. Charming invited me back to his room, and I am very nervous. First of all, how is this guy into me? He’s like two years younger than I, making his Broadway debut, understudying for PARRY HOTTER, and I am still trying to master the art of not stress eating my roommate’s peanut butter. Secondly, I don’t want to have sex with him. I wasn’t super sexually active at this point so the thought of sexy times with a stranger still kind of freaked me out (I have since circled back to this approach. STRANGER DANGER). Luckily, he was really cool about it, didn’t make me apologize for not wanting to go all the way with someone I had just met, and then we had a great night of 3rd basing! Was that too much information? Is this the internet?
I know it may seem like “well if you didn’t want to have sex with him, of course you should have told him!” But am I totally alone in feeling VERY proud of myself when I’m able to successfully communicate my boundaries and feelings around sex to the person seducing me? Don’t shake your “come on, Mattie Jo” head at me. This shit is difficult! Men are the worst! You can like tell them you don’t want to have sex and they don’t believe you, or pressure you into it over multiple tried attempts, OR (my personal favorite) get whiny when you’re finally like “Okay, I’m leaving.” And I wanted this guy to like me, so I was obviously very insecure about how to navigate his response to my courageously saying “no, thank you” to intercourse. In the moment he was totally chill about it. Later on he sent me text after text pleading we become friends with benefits***, but making sure I understood WE ARE JUST FRIENDS. He didn’t want a relationship…
This setup never turns out the way I want it for a lot of reasons. I often ended up feeling stupid and used, which I knew I was being for letting some dude convince me that friends with benefits is a thing when WE AREN’T EVEN FRIENDS IN THE FIRST PLACE. This is a terrible arrangement just don’t do it. Or do and figure it out yourself. But like, think of all the things you could be spending energy on instead of this? You could be making brownies, making pot brownies, talking to your parents about making pot brownies, anything!
Wait, where was I going with this? Oh, right. Mr. Charming Pants had to make sure I knew exactly where we stood as friends with benefits because he was not interested in a relationship. And then he got a girlfriend the next week and didn’t speak to me for a year. Kewl. That doesn’t totally feel like “You’re good for sexy times, but this girl is ‘relationship’ material” at all.
***This is only my theory based upon pretty ample experience. So please, ladies, gents, zookeepers, feel free to argue the point with me. “Friends with Benefits” is a made up concept by men to manipulate women into thinking they have some sort of confidante who will also stick it in when she feels physically lonely. The name alone makes us feel more comfortable because it’s like having boyfriend perks without having all the commitment. Which sounds SO AMAZING, right? Only problem is, this is actually men just projecting their desires onto us. In my experience, if I want sex, I will go have sex. And I won’t do it with a guy I’m already super close to; aka a person who is an ACTUAL friend. Because: 1. Most of them are gay, 2. The remainder of them have girlfriends, 3. I am not sexually attracted to men I keep around as confidantes that’s why we’re able to remain friends. Okay this isn’t true. I do definitely have men as friends who I find very attractive and if the opportunity presented itself, I would totes bangy bang. But that usually just results in someone getting their feelings hurt, jealousy, blah blah NO THANK YOU complications. And since I don’t want to get my feelings hurt or hurt anyone else’s feelings, I think in general, it’s good not to fuck your friends. Remember people, men and women can’t be (just) friends.***
Maybe I lost you in that friends with benefits rant. Let’s bring it back to Mr. Charming Pants asking me to lunch after his show. I would like to tell you that I was so pissed at this guy for his actions in the previous year that I just couldn’t even bear to see his face, let alone go out to lunch. But this is 23 year-old Mattie Jo. And this guy was really cute. And crazy talented, and, like, ugh SO CUTE. So, all I REALLY could think was, “Maybe he’ll like me this time. Have I lost weight?”
A few weeks after lunch, we ended up kissing in an elevator. If I’m remembering this correctly, I almost fainted. Pheromones have got to be a real thing, because my attraction to this guy took me to another planet- a stupid, senseless planet that makes you a way less cool and/or intelligent version of yourself, which is why you should never actually entertain attraction like this in the form of a relationship. Something about this specific attraction is built solely for sucking face and sucking other things. And I really wanted to do that. UGH WHY MUST MY BODY BETRAY ME? HE IS NOT COOL, MJ (the amount of times I have felt this way. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a body. My beautiful soul could just float around and people would encounter and love it and JMAC would write songs about it. Sure would save me a lot of frustration. And money on a gym membership).
But if I was going to suck face (and other things), I needed to feel safer about the outcome (tehe). So, I revisited that courage I implemented a year ago, with a “Mattie Jo wants to bone” spin. I needed to know that he would: 1. Respect me. Just like, treat me like a person. This isn’t some selfish act. There are two people involved here, let’s make it good for both of us. And don’t make me feel like garbage about myself afterwards ie get me a cab if you’re not into “cuddling” and keep me over until all hours of the night. Which leads me to 2. This can’t just be a one and done thing. Basically, “Can I take you up on that friends with benefits proposal, sir?” I did not want this to be a one timer. I thought it was about time I actually practiced sex with a person instead of doing it, never speaking again, and wondering if maybe they died or something.
Look, I realize my standards weren’t that high, but this was progress for me! Basically, stating my fears and asking him not to make them a reality. YUGE!
A few days after our (semi) adult convo about sex, we had the best sex of my life (up until that point at least). And the next morning I helped him run lines from some VH1 show he had a callback for (In hindsight, this is so funny. Maybe my TV show will contain an iconic morning after sequence per episode. Run lines for callback, get local bagels, discover white raincoat covered in vomit. Very normal).
You know that Michael Bublé song “Feelin’ Good” that is definitely about getting laid, but I used to think was about getting saved? Yeah well after that night I totally walked to the tune of that song in my head for a solid 6 days. Until I came to, and realized I hadn’t heard from Mr. Charming Pants in that time. “Oh, no. Why haven’t I heard from him? Did he not enjoy himself? Was he faking? Don’t be silly, MJ, only women do that! WHAT DO I DO?” So I did the scariest thing possible. I reached out to him, completely vulnerable and honest about my feelings. Was I crazy? Am I crazy?
Me: Hey, I just haven’t heard from you in a few days and I’m feeling kind of insecure about that considering all the conversations and what not that we’ve had. Is everything cool? Am I overreacting?
NO RESPONSE FOR HOURS. Kewl. And then…
Mr. Charming Pants: Hey Mj. No. You’re not crazy. I’m so sorry. Neither of us could have predicted this happening but I actually met someone and I really like her. So that’s why I’ve been so distant.
Um. Buffy style dagger in the heart.
Was this guy for real? Strike two. Doing the exact same thing he did a year ago?
What I should have thought: What a dick! You’re a dick, guy!
What I actually thought: What is wrong with me?!?!?!?!
What I felt in that moment was total rejection, disappointment, and shame. I mean after not once, but TWICE standing firm and verbally expressing my needs, boundaries, and desires, only to still feel used for my sexy time and then get ignored? UGH. I guess I really thought that if I was honest in my communication around sex, the outcome would be different. I told him to respect me. I told him not one-and-done me. And he didn’t do either of those things! Where were his listening ears?
The Emancipation of MJ
Okay, this is a really long story to basically tell you: 1. I hooked up with a famous person’s understudy which makes me famous twice removed, and 2. One of (far too) many stories where Mattie Jo lets some dude’s actions consume way too much energy and negatively alter her self-perception.
In my much wiser, enlightened, post-fully developed-brain years, I have found a few minor fallacies in my previous thinking. Look, someone else’s actions do not have to affect your self-perception. You actually have complete control over this! This dude’s rather unfortunate response to these huge mature leaps I felt I was taking in efforts to be in control of my sexuality, made me feel like total shit. His response- “meeting another girl (twice)”- did not mean that I wasn’t good enough for him. I have no idea what it meant on his end, but that’s none of my business! He found someone else and good news! It’s not me. Just walk away, MJ. Don’t stick around and beg him to change his mind. Or even worse, mull over the events in your mind for a year and try to change what happened. All this did was make me cripplingly insecure. And no one likes that person. Besides, why would I want to be with someone who doesn’t think I hung the fucking moon? This means I get to move on with my life, kicking ass, and have one more down on the list of men who will not be kicking ass alongside me. Process of elimination is a great thing.
Also, I know I’ve said this before, I have no idea what was actually happening in his life. Maybe he was in the middle of filing bankruptcy, maybe he got in a fight with his mom, maybe he has multiple personality disorder. Who knows?! Doesn’t make him a villain, and again, none of my business. All I can do is take care of me. Spending your life insisting people react and behave the way you would is exhausting (see: this election and my stress eating sautéed broccoli habits). Just try to extend sympathy, love, and go at a good punching of a pillow. That’s all you can do.
Moreover, and this is a big one, if you can’t trust someone to care for whatever your personal version of honesty, vulnerability, and confidence is, maybe don’t do things that require honesty, vulnerability, yaddha yaddha with said person. Being emotionally or physically exposed is scary as hell. Once you’ve figured out that a person doesn’t find these things about you important (or dare I say, precious), MOVE ON (am I saying don’t entertain hookups? If it’s going to make you hate and question everything about yourself afterwards, yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying).
Meeting a person, getting excited about them, trying to be cool and the person you think you should be so they’ll like you, getting totally naked and doing the hanky panky a few days later, freaking out about whether or not they’re going to text you (or venmo you for that Plan B), them not texting you and finding out they have a girlfriend, and then hating yourself for being a dumb dumb IS SUCH A WASTE OF ENERGY. Insert literally any other scenario, and you’ve got a better use of energy. Go home and brush your teeth for the full two minutes, marathon Carpool Karaoke on Youtube, even put your name on that family physician wait list for January when you really need to get a physical in like a month before you go on tour, anything!!! Your energy, honesty, and vulnerability is precious. Don’t spend another second giving any of this to someone who doesn’t see it as such.
And finally, don’t fuck the understudy. Go big or go home.