Keeping it Nice: People you should not sleep with

(published as Good Bedfellows, Herald Sun, 30/01/10)

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my choice of bed friend. In many ways I’m an idiot. I have even wondered if I have Aspergers, except without the brilliance. The honest truth is that I’m one of those people who leap before they look. I take risks all the time, and some of those risks pay off but some of them don’t. In most areas of my life I am highly disciplined; I go to the gym on a regular basis and have done so for years, I continue to write and develop film scripts when most people would have given up, I floss my teeth once a day. But men are my shortcoming. They are my Achilles heel. Just like a sweet tooth and lollies, I don’t like living without one for too long. But mistakes of the heart are not that easy to fix, and for me, and many women I think, casual sex is often anything but. Unlike men, whose dancing parts and heart seem to belong to different bodies, for us, the heart has a strange way of opening to an intimate touch. Which means it needs some protection. I have now officially hung up my bow and arrow, but for those of you still on the prowl, let me ease your way by sharing a few hard-won insights.

Beer goggles

This one is so obvious I have to put it up front. There’s been a whole lot in the media recently about the levels of alcohol we are currently consuming. Drunken violence makes it into headlines, but there are lots of other stories which don’t make it to the front page, but can do just as much damage. Try to limit how much you drink, and stick with good friends who can help keep you all safe. Someone might be impossibly handsome in the dark of the night, but that someone special will still be special in the daylight, on a proper date. It’s horrible to wake up in the wrong bed, and to have to scramble around for your knickers and self-respect, both of which got dropped on the floor sometime during the night, you just can’t remember when.

Don’t bang your buddy

Sometimes that sexual connection has been fizzing away for a long time, but the best advice is, let it fizzle. This friend and I had had a drunken (see, there’s that old alcohol again) embrace at my best friend’s 21st birthday party, before she threw me out of her bed so she could continue where I’d left off. That is where it should have ended, filed away under silly nights of my youth. Our mutual but fairly disinterested flirting throughout the years was fun, but it seems pretty clear in hindsight that if anything were going to happen, it would have many years ago, when we first met. A long friendship with him made it clear that although he is funny, chaotic, and fun, we would be hell together. Still, a barren period persuaded me, and like most men, he didn’t put up a fight. What followed was a short but intense period of conflicting emotions – I wanted to go there again, but luckily some intelligent part of me stopped me, knowing that I was only seeking pleasure, not a proper relationship. Did it damage our friendship? It sure did. He was confused and hurt at what appeared to be my cold-heartedness. (Actually, I was cold-hearted, lets not pretend). I do know people who turn friendships into relationships, but I just wanted touch, so I should have thrown the net wider.

Don’t screw the crew

Put this mistake down to youthful exuberance. Trouble is, I had to then spend considerable time and effort trying to stop this particular colleague from mentioning out aloud a personal piece of information, which only someone who had seen me without clothes would know. Obviously he was an idiot, but the whole experience was frustrating and stressful, and I quickly regretted my liaison. If you are going to bonk someone you work with, make sure first they either appear to be the love of your life in the cold sober light of day, or choose someone who can be discreet. Water cooler talk is not pleasant, and even in our liberated 21st century, reputation matters. It’s surprising how many people are still judgemental about those of us who have bed buddies, especially the ones in sexless marriages. Freelance work is very helpful in this way, as you move right along, hopefully leaving the man, and night, behind. This is why the film industry is full of inappropriate shagging and broken marriages.

Groping the groupie

Oh man, I really am trawling back into my past here. Close proximity to stardom is a very bad news for any vows of chastity and good taste, and I imagine I am not the first woman, and will not be the last, to divest herself of clothes and self-respect for the bass guitarist of their number one favourite band. In my youthful, and once again, drunken state I imagined that sex is the horse which comes before the relationship cart. In my head I almost had us happily married off, but like most of these kinds of horses, this one just ran off into the wind, neighing annoyingly. I think that might be a hard lesson some of us have to repeat a number of times before the message sinks in.

Don’t make like the cuckoo

The cuckoo is the bird who pushes other eggs out of the nest, so the brooding hen hatches and then feeds the cuckoo babies, not their own. Getting together with someone who is already living with someone else, or married, is not the great start to anything. I know some people make it work, but I couldn’t. I think there was too much pain and grief and guilt swimming around. This section could also be called ‘don’t rekindle an old flame’. In this instance he was an older man, someone who had been very keen on me when I was younger. I was entering my crazy-for-a-baby years so I am tempted to plead reduced responsibility, but in reality I was as sane as the next man-hungry female. Anyway, long story short, I initiated contact with someone I knew from years back, blew on the flame, which quickly turned into a roaring fire, then flew back to NZ and into bed with the poor chap. Everything looked rosy for a few months. He confessed to his partner, moved out, and began living under the (totally reasonable) assumption that we were now on. But the rosy glow quickly faded for me. I discovered that I had hold of a fantasy, which was fast dissolving in the face of a much more complicated reality. He turned out to be someone who needed his partner to support him financially and emotionally. Well, let’s face it, there’s only room for one starving and neurotic artist in any relationship, and that’s me. This is all something I should have discovered as a matter of course during dating, but because of the fraught and hothouse nature of the start of this affair, things got much uglier much faster.

The men your girlfriends fancy

That is, if you want your friendships to last. I reckon this is one that men just don’t get. I think it’s open slaver for men, but for us, there are certain rules that can’t be broken, and this is one of them. But this rule also comes with a caveat – I mean if you are dead set certain he’s the one, then maybe you should sacrifice the friendship for the love of your life, but think long and hard. If you are just playing like a kitten with a mouse, then keep those claws sheathed. This very bad behaviour caused a major rift in a very close friendship, one I was able to repair only with time and perseverance. My boyfriend was in NZ, I was bored and looking for some attention, and when an attractive man at my girlfriend’s party paid me some, I took it with both hands. Never mind that I later fended the poor chap off after what he must have considered a most promising start, and lay awake all night in his bed with a massive attack of the guilts. But the damage had been done, both to my boyfriend and my friend, and also to this man.

Don’t cradle-snatch

I know men do it, especially if they have money and power, but for us, I think it often ends in tears. I once had jolly good fun with a Scottish backpacker who had a wicked sense of humour, but in the morning I made the stupid mistake of admitting my age. It was less fun watching his face fall, and fairly humiliating how fast he made his exit. A good match is one where you are both pretty even in what you bring to the table, in terms of money, attractiveness, and social power. For reasons that are completely unfair, a young man has much more social power than an older woman, unless she is famous, stunning or rich. So save yourself the pain and find someone around your own age.

Relative are a complete no no

I am not kidding. I did know someone, also adopted, who spent the night with her blood brother shortly after they first met and they didn’t play chess. I don’t think she regretted what happened, but I know it was a total once off due to the many strange and strong emotions which get stirred up by meeting your birth family. I know, for me too, this is a bridge too far.

Let’s take a look at some men you won’t get into bed, but cannot figure out why.

Men who like men

My gaydar is completely useless and I have been known to throw myself at men who will never be interested. Some discerning sober questions should quickly sort out which team he bats for, before you go making a complete dick of yourself (like I did).

The super-friendly guy who must fancy you

A couple of my friends have had this experience, and it’s painful. He’s so lovely and friendly and you laugh and kid around and he never reveals he’s got a live-in partner, slash wife at home. Until the night when you finally pluck up the courage to make the move and it goes very badly indeed. You’ve probably heard of the book, or film, He’s Just Not That Into You. The gist of that, and I can totally vouch for it, is that men will make a move if they like you in that way. They are used to being the one to make the move. They grew up with the expectation that they should make the first move. Yes, not talking about partners, or saying ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ in answer to your innocent but probing question about what they did on the weekend is having a bet both ways, but rest assured that if they are keen, they will make it known. If it never seems to quite happen despite your hints, then he doesn’t want it as much as you do. Move on.

And finally, men who might insinuate themselves into your heart before your brain has had time to yell NO!

Perverts, womanisers and selfish men

These guys are a common breed, but sometimes it’s hard to pick them. My best advice is to be alert for behaviour and verbal hints, and to know what you will and won’t like or at least put up with. Once I went on a promising date with a man who told me that he found all body hair repulsive. I imagined how that would translate to where and how he lived. I also imagined his negative response when confronted with my normal body, because I am not doing even the Brazilian for anyone. So he never got to date number two. Watch the men who obsessively talk about themselves. You want to be number one in their life, not bobbing up and down for attention around the sides of their ego. In my youthful ignorance I did take my clothes off for some quite unattractive characters, but commonsense luckily got me out of there before my heart became involved. Counting the men that I have actually loved, none of them has cheated on me (I think!). This may be because I don’t trust very handsome men, there’s something creepy about them and their self-confidence. There are a lot of very beautiful women out there, and being someone with slippery morals, I know that some of them would not hesitate. Do you know the saying that a marriage (read relationship) works when the man loves the woman more? I think that men are natural ‘strayers’ who will peer over the fence just to see what or who is on the other side.

Who was it that wrote that ‘with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world’? Yes, I know, it’s mawkish and obvious, but somehow true. So try and keep your own sham, drudgery and broken dreams to a minimum, by keeping your wits about you, and your knickers on.