Skippy Boy Genius part 4
Skip and I can't bring ourselves to break up, but we can't reconcile this open relationship thing either.
After everything that happened with K, I really don't want to go through anything like that again. K was right, I'm really not cut out for an open relationship. It's been seven years, but I'm still not totally over it. I thought after ten years, I would be ready to forgive him, but I'm not. He broke the radio silence rule that one time, by sending me an email that happened to arrive the night before Buttboy's hernia surgery. I told him to fuck right off. I haven't talked to him since then, although I heard from a mutual friend a few years back that Monica finally dumped him, which was somewhat satisfying.
Sarah is just about the only person who supports me in not wanting an open relationship with Skip. Everyone I know in the Sub Rosa Society talks about how they have evolved beyond jealousy, as if the problem is that I'm too old-fashioned and narrow minded. If only I could give Skip what he wants, I would realize how boring and limiting monogamy is.
Skip and I continue to act like a couple, spending time together on the weekends, but we can't stop arguing about this. On a Sunday morning, we go for brunch at a popular restaurant where we're seated in a tightly packed row of tables. We talk in endless, tiresome circles for more than an hour over strawberry pancakes.
"I'm very loyal," I boast. Of course, most of my relationships ended before I had a chance to be tempted, but while I was with K or Rollerboy, I never once felt interested in anyone else. It's not what Skip wants to hear though; he just looks pained. "But I'm not a prude!" I insist. "I don't mind if you look at porn. I'll even watch it with you if you want."
Skip is unimpressed. "Please, that's just a given."
I'm slightly hurt that he won't even acknowledge that I am much more open-minded about sex than most women.
"Ok," I try again. "I think I could deal with it if you wanted to have some no-strings sex with other people, but it would have to be like five years in the future, after I felt more confident in our relationship."
"I don't want to wait five years. That's the whole reason I got divorced. I'm not putting off what I want any longer. And I don't want just a secret one night stand. I want the freedom to see whoever I want, whenever I want."
"But I thought you loved me!"
"I do! Come on, why do you think I'm even still here?"
"I'm telling you, from my own real experience, it never works out. Like, not even on a the most basic level. There are a limited number of hours in a day, and you can't be in two places at once. Someone always ends up in second place."
He sticks out his jaw. "It doesn't have to be like that."
I sigh and sit back in my chair.
Just then, the middle aged woman sitting at the table next to us stands up to leave. As she walks out, she drops her folded receipt on our table right in front of me. I open it up and look. On the back of the receipt she had scribbled a note to me:
I laugh in disbelief, and show it to Skip.
"What the fuck!" he fumes. "What kind of nosy bullshit is that!" But it's too late for him to tell her off in person; she's gone. In the car on the way home, he constructs a hypothetical Missed Connections ad on Craigslist telling her to keep her nose out of situations she doesn't understand.
It doesn't even occur to me to take her advice.
But it's clear even to me that we can't continue on like this, no matter how much I love him. When Sarah suggests a trial separation rather than breaking up outright, I jump at the idea. I call Skip right away from the café where I am hanging out, with Sarah sitting right across from me.
"We'll break up for one month," I explain to him. "During that time, there's no commitment. We can each see whoever we want, do whatever we want. And we won't meet, or talk on the phone, or email, nothing. Radio silence. At the end of the month, we'll talk again and see how we feel--if we want to get back together and be monogamous, or have an open relationship, or break up or what."
"Um, ok. Are you sure you're ok with that?"
"Yes." Really, what choice do I have?
"I'm going to miss you."
"I'll miss you too," I say, starting to tear up.
"You sure you'll be ok?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine. I believe in you."
Now I can hear him crying a bit over the phone. "No one's ever said that to me before!"
We both cry and reassure each other for a while longer, but eventually there's nothing to do but hang up.
I repeat the entire conversation again to Sarah, even though she was sitting right there. She looks encouraging, and even though I'm sad about it, I feel relieved in a weird way. At least the endless, exhausting circular arguments are over.
The next week I try not to think about Skip, to just go on with my life. But at rehearsal, I tell Marty about our trial separation, and he blurts out, "You know Skip has a blog, right?"
I didn't know. As soon as I get home, I look it up. It's a very plain site on Geocities, that he seems to have started a just few weeks ago. I pore over every entry, looking for some clue about how he's doing, but it's all boring shit about what video games and comic books he's into lately, what clothes he bought, what food he tried to cook. There's a long post on the sexiness of vinyl bodysuits. I'm hurt that there isn't even the slightest mention of me, but at least he doesn't hint at seeing anyone else either. I start checking his blog obsessively every day. I thought there would be more distance between us during this month break, but suddenly I'm getting more detail on his daily life than I did when we were together, even if it is nothing but trivia.
The separation is torture. I'm so miserable, I feel like I want to jump out of my own skin. I can't even write Betty DeLuxe stories anymore, which used to be my main form of escapism. I sorely regret allowing him into my private fantasy world, not just by letting him read it but also encouraging him to write and become a character in the story. Kara and Nam are sympathetic and offer to start a new story arc but I'm just not feeling it. Skippy Boy Genius is now part of the Betty DeLuxe world and writing more of it without him is too painful.
When my mother calls for the weekly Sunday chat, I pour out my heart to her. After all, she met Skip, so I feel I have to say something.
"I just feel so angry at him!" she blurts out. "What a jerk! Why can't he understand how wonderful you are?"
"Ugh, Mom, please!"
"I'm sorry. You know, I used to be frustrated that you never share anything about your love life, but now I think it's just better not to know."
I make a mental note not to share anything about my love life with her ever again until I'm engaged to be married.
To numb the pain as I sit around my basement apartment staying up too late every night, I read the internet endlessly. One of the kink-positive SM friendly websites I read has an advice column. Feeling like I have nowhere else to turn, I write a letter over email.
I've been seeing this great guy, and we're both in the BDSM scene. He wants an open relationship, but I tried one years ago and it didn't work for me. He keeps telling me that I can get over feeling jealous if I really try. Everyone else in the scene is telling me the same thing. I feel like there's something wrong with me for wanting a monogamous relationship. How can I be kinky and exclusive?
To my shock, the next day my letter appears on the website with a short reply.
Dear Mistress Prude,
There's nothing wrong with wanting monogamy. You might find later that you are ok with an open relationship, but on your own terms. Don't let anyone pressure you into something you don't want. There are kinky guys out there who want to be exclusive. Go find one!
I read the response with mixed feelings. To be honest, I was secretly hoping that Emmie would give me the secret code to fix my relationship with Skip, but of course that's not possible.
Almost immediately, though, a link to my letter pops up on Skip's blog, with an angry note.
What stupid bullshit is this? he writes.
I'm mortified. He thinks I posted this as a sort of backchannel message to make him feel bad or something. But the truth is I had no idea he reads this advice column. I didn't intend for him to read it. I can't believe my desperate note into the void is being taken for junior high level note-passing. I resist the urge to post an angry justification in the comments. That would only make it worse. I redouble my resolve not to contact him, and vow to stop checking his blog.
But then at rehearsal that week, Marty lets it slip that he saw Skip at the Sub Rosa Non-Denominational Holiday Costume Ball that weekend with some other girl.
"I thought for sure it was you at first--she looks just like you!" Marty exclaims. "But when I went up to them to say hello, I realized it was someone else. It was so weird! I thought for sure you would be there with him."
"No, we're, ah, taking a break for a little while," I remind him. Marty shrugs. Men! If I were talking to a female friend, she would ask how I was doing, but he's just like whatever. "So who is she?" I can't resist fishing.
"Oh, I've seen her around at Sub Rosa events before. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen her with Skip a few times over the past few weeks. I never realized until just now how much you look alike."
"That asshole! I can't believe he started seeing someone even before we agreed to a break!"
Again Marty just shrugs. "She seems nice."
I can't help it. I start reading Skip's blog again, and sure enough, he starts talking about some chick he calls D. Not a lot of detail, but it's clear she's more than just a play partner.
I'm so frustrated by the stupid melodrama my life has devolved into, but I just can't stop thinking about Skip. It feels like K, or like Patrick the Fireman all over again. I think I find the perfect guy for me, he tells me how much he loves me, only for it all to go horribly wrong. It's all the more galling to hear that she looks like me. Am I really so easy to replace?
In the middle of all this, for Christmas and New Years, I go to visit Kara and Nam at Kara's parents' house. I'm continuing my tradition of skipping the holidays with my own parents--when you're Jewish, it really doesn't matter. We enjoy a quaint holiday in her parents' Victorian cottage with snow outside and lots of home-cooked food. It's the perfect distraction from my stupid problems.
Kara and Nam have just gotten married a few months ago. They've been together for ten years, but finally decided it was time to make it legal. Now they're moving back to College Town and looking into buying a house. I'm happy for them, but also more than a little jealous. Kara is living the normal, adult life that I want but can't seem to make happen.
"What is wrong with me that I keep attracting these guys who don't want to commit?" I whine to her as we sit on the couch, drinking hot chocolate and watching the snow fall outside.
"It's not you, it's where you're living," she replies matter-of-factly.
"Come on, there are normal guys in Raser City."
"No, all the crazy ones gravitate out West. You need to come back to the Midwest and meet a nice, normal guy with a good head on his shoulders. None of this polyamory nonsense."
I just shake my head. That seems like prejudice, and besides, she was there for my relationship with K, a nice Midwestern boy who engaged in far more polyamorous nonsense.
"I don't know," I sigh. "I still keep hoping Skip will come around and realize he wants to be with me."
"Why are you even putting up with this crap?" Kara demands, direct as always.
"You don't understand! He's going through a hard time too. He says he still needs to find himself."
"Please. That's usually just an excuse for a lot of navel-gazing."
I sigh, because I know she's right.
"Why are you so hung up on this guy? He doesn't even have a disability!" she teases me.
"Yeah, but we can pretend, you know? He seemed into it. It's just so hard to find someone even remotely compatible."
"Why can't you settle for a guy who has, like, a slight limp or something?" she asks, as she always does. I just shake my head. I love Kara, but she really doesn't get it.
As the month-long trial separation with Skip draws to a close, I get more and more agitated. In the final week, with every passing day, I get more and more worked up. I thought a break would help, but the suspense is just feeding my obsessive fixation on him.
The night before The Day, I'm home alone as usual, blowing off my schoolwork and worrying about what he will say to me tomorrow. What time will he call me? Or am I supposed to call him? Or send an email? Or what? We never specified. What is he going to say? As the hour gets later and later, I just can't stand it anymore. I call him.
Skip sounds surprised to hear my voice. "I thought we agreed to talk tomorrow? I was following what you told me," he says, sounding a bit chagrined.
"Who cares," I say with some irritation. "Tonight, tomorrow morning, it's just a few hours."
"So?" I demand.
"What do you want me to say? It's not like anything has changed."
Argh, but the whole point was he was supposed to realize how much he misses me! Instead he's realized that he's happier without me. I yell and bluster for a while, then cry and complain, but there's really nothing more to say. It's over.
The next day, Skip comes over to pick up the stack of comics he lent to me that he wants back. I decide I don't want any reminder of him in my life, so I take the opportunity to give back every present he has ever given me.
"Um, that was for you," he says, eyeing the figurine of Prof. Farnsworth floating inside a plastic alien from Futurama.
"I'm giving it back," I insist with what I hope is a cutting tone, but instead he just looks confused. He walks out the door, and I'm left standing there, feeling like I'm replaying Rollerboy's departure a little less than a year ago. Fuck, why am I just spinning in pointless circles?
Sarah apologizes for suggesting the trial separation, but it's not her fault. It's mine for being so stupid. I should have just broken up with him a month ago like that lady at the pancake restaurant said.
After rehearsal the next week, Marty takes me out for a drink.
"I can't believe I went along with this 'I need to find myself' bullshit," I rant at him over our pints of hard cider. "Why did he have to torture me with that open relationship crap? Why not just say he met someone else?"
"Oh yeah, D____," Marty says. "She's really nice."
I shoot him a death stare.
"What?" he shrugs. "She is nice. I'm not gonna lie just to make you feel better. But she is kind of, I don't know, simple. If that's the kind of girl he wants, he would never be happy with you."
"What is that supposed to mean!"
"It's just that you're, uh, complicated. He seems like the kind of guy who doesn't want someone who will challenge him."
"He doesn't know what he wants! He also keeps saying that he's a switch but I can tell he's really a sub."
Marty cocks an eyebrow at me. "Wow, your mindreading skills are impressive."
"I see that gleam in his eye when I'm topping him. It's the look of a true masochist," I insist, but I know Marty is right. The whole time we were together, Skip kept telling me who he really was. I just didn't want to hear it.
"What about you?" Marty asks with an aggressive, mischievous grin. "You know they say all doms really want to be subs. Why not admit you want to switch too?"
"Knock it off. I'm not going to sub for you," I shoot back. He just laughs and shrugs.
"Ok, fine! But you really should come to a munch." That's a monthly meetup where Sub Rosa members meet at a bar for non-sexual socializing, to get to know each other and meet potential play partners in a casual setting. "Female dommes are rare. You'll be really popular with all the guys."
"Hm, sounds nice." We order another round of drinks. "I want to get more involved in the scene, meet more people. But it's not the only thing I'm into."
"Oh really? You have some other kink? Tell me!"
"Have you ever heard of devotees?" This is not a word I use even with close friends, but I figure if anyone will know what it means, it's the Director of the Sub Rosa Society.
"Yes, I have. So you're like, into amputee guys?"
I blush dark red. "Yeah, also blind guys, guys in wheelchairs." It feels good to be recognized, but also embarrassing to say aloud. My mouth still has trouble forming the words.
Marty stares at me like a birdwatcher who's just spotted an extremely rare species for the first time. "For real! Wow! I've never met one of you before. So have you dated disabled guys?"
I squirm on my barstool, not sure if I'm pleased or annoyed to be added to his collection of rare kinks. "Yeah, a blind guy and a quadriplegic. Also I've been on a few dates with some others but nothing long term."
"That's so cool!"
"Uh, thanks, I guess. But having these kinks makes it really hard to meet anyone. There just aren't that many disabled guys out there."
"Huh, I guess you're right. I never thought about it that way."
"It sucks, man! I'm so fucking sick of dating! I don't want an open relationship or friends with benefits or play partners. I want to get married and have kids."
Marty waves his hand. "You've got plenty of time for that. You're what, twenty-four? twenty-five?"
"I'm thirty!" I know I should be flattered that I look younger than I really am, but it just bugs me that everyone thinks of me as a kid when I'm so ready to be an adult.
"You'll meet someone. My sister just got married last month at the age of thirty-eight. We all thought she'd be single forever! Ha ha!"
"Argh! I don't want to wait until I'm thirty-eight to get married! I'm really to settle down now!"
Marty gives me some advice on attracting men, which mostly boils down to emulating porn stars in both appearance and demeanor. This whole conversation is depressing as hell. Now I feel worse than ever.
"You really should talk to Lulu," Marty advises as we are paying the bill and getting ready to leave.
He rolls his eyes at me. "She's one of the sopranos in the chorus. How come you don't know her already? You two have a lot in common. You really should be friends."
As we walk out the door I promise to talk to Lulu at the next rehearsal.