The problem with being known as a sex diarist? Your reputation precedes you. Not so much in the ‘what a slut, shagging all those blokes’ way (although I still receive obnoxious emails and comments to that effect – hello, haterz!) but more in the ‘I have certain expectations of you and those are pretty fixed’ presumptions people make. So, when I meet guys now and am introduced as “Girl with a one track mind, the sex blogger”, their reaction to me tends to be in one of two ways: either extremely sexual (and often inappropriately so), or extremely cautious. The former is not such an issue for me: since I’ve embraced my online and offline lives I have, ironically, also taken a step back from casual sex. It’s easier to maintain my privacy that way, but also, I’m looking for more than just a one-night stand now. So men can make all the advances they want, and whilst it sometimes boosts my ego a bit when it does happen, I don’t take them up on it, nor do I take it personally: they’re interested in Girl, not me. What I do take personally, however, is when guys react to me in a hesitant way, as if after shaking their hand I’m then going to attempt to grab their cock; as if I would make a move on them immediately, or otherwise, write about them. (Which is why I, half seriously, had this t-shirt made.) These men assume that my primary interest in them is for sex and if they’re disinterested (or even if they might like me) they then relate to me at arm’s length. And given I’ve lost the ability to know whether a guy’s chatting to me because he’s being friendly, because he’s interested in me, or because he wants a Girl tick on his damn scorecard, none of this makes for easy communication, or, sadly, dating.
In a conversation some weeks back, the man I was chatting to made an offhand comment that he hadn’t read my book; I then made him promise that he wouldn’t. ‘Why?’ he asked, ‘Surely there’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about? We all have sex.’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘we do, but I want someone to get to know that side of me, as well as all the other aspects of me, by getting to know me –Zoe– and not by reading it in a book. And I want to get to know them on an equal basis too.’ He nodded and agreed and promised not to read it, and most likely didn’t take the hint that I was actually referring to my wanting to get to know him away from all the book stuff. We continued discussing public vs. private lives and the effects of Internet ‘celebrity’ and I sat there gazing into his eyes, wondering what it’d be like to kiss him and hoping that he didn’t realise how much of a crush I had on him. Pathetic, I know.
And this, for me, is the crux of the matter. I’m not even able to be me, anymore. The flirtatious me. The talkative, wanting to get to know someone because I find them really interesting, me. And definitely not the sexual me. I’m left so insecure by the guys who think I’m just after sex, that I find talking to men a serious challenge now: I’m so desperately trying to not be The Girl that I can’t even communicate properly anymore.
Picture the scene.
Three years ago:
Me: ‘Hey, let’s have dinner sometime!’ Him: ‘Dinner?’ Me: ‘Yeah, you know, that thing you do where you eat and talk?’ I nudge him with my elbow and smile. ‘I’ve heard it can be fun.’ Then either – a) Him, grinning: ‘Heh. Ok then. When?’ b) Him, grimacing: ‘Thanks, but I’m kind of seeing someone.’ Then either – a) Me, grinning: ‘Great. Next week?’ b) Me, sheepish: ‘Well, no harm in a girl asking, right?’
The situation now:
Me: ‘Um. Would you like to have dinner sometime?’ Him: ‘Dinner? Hahahaha.’ Me, making sure my body language remains neutral, for fear that I may be perceived as being sexual: ‘Yes, you know, food. And conversation. Maybe some wine?’ Him, frowning: ‘Zoe. You’re asking me to dinner. Seriously? Just you and I?’ Me, blushing, stuttering and unable to maintain eye contact: ‘Yes. I mean, as friends, obviously, I wouldn’t want you to think it was anything else. Although if you liked me too that would be really nice, but god, I don’t expect you to, because you probably only go for really beautiful women and I mean, yes, sure, you’re a nice guy, um, you’re very handsome and everything, but this is just dinner, no pressure, and you really don’t need to worry that I would jump you or anything because even though I’d love to, I think you’re worth much more than a quick shag, plus I really want to get to know you because I think you’re really interesting, and I thought it might be nice to hang out sometime, away from the crowd and… oh look, forget it, I know it’d probably embarrass you to have dinner with me and our friends would gossip and then people would judge you and you’d probably just do it for the novelty factor because you clearly wouldn’t be interested in someone whose sex life has been so public and look, why don’t we forget this conversation ever happened? I’ll just grab that cab over there and be on my way…’
I jest, but it’s not far from reality. I’ve no idea how to move beyond my current fear. I would like to let a particular man know that I find him interesting, enjoy his company and would love to get to know him some more. I’d really like him to know that I find him attractive, but even though I’d love to jump into bed with him and fuck him senseless, I don’t want to just add him to the Girl scorecard. I’d like him to find out that I’m more than the sum of my book, that there are other parts of me and my life, that are much more likeable than the ever-shag-loving Girl. And I really, really would like to ask him out for dinner, but I am way too terrified to do so.