As a male writer in New York City, I’ve come across no shortage of women-scribes who aspire to be the Carrie Bradshaw of urban media. The seductive lifestyle of record release parties, open-bar velvet rope events and celebrity sightings has drawn plenty of talented ladies into “The Industry”. Before marrying six years ago, I even fell in love with a few of these starry-eyed sisters. My fellow Aidans and Mr. Bigs never seem to share our own stories of love, sex and city life; instead, our voices are typically relegated to the locker-room topics of politics, music and sports. “Common Sensual” breaks that silence. Listen up if you dare.
Recently I spoke with an actress homegirl of mine—a “friend with benefits” in a past life—who said she’d never really been in love, or even had what she considered to be a serious boyfriend. She’s 38. I was surprised by the news. Not only because of her beauty and talent, but because I’d managed to fall in love at least three times before marrying my wife six years ago. With that kind of luck, you start to feel like falling into loving relationships isn’t all that hard. I personally might’ve worked more at maintaining them if I hadn’t taken for granted that another love was right around the corner. Still, all those ex-girlfriends taught me valuable lessons for my marriage, and one of the most important was learning to separate love from lust.
Headed to work early one morning some (youthful) years ago, I spotted somebody who woke me up right away. She was in head-to-toe black with the exception of a colorful Indian sari peeking from underneath her overcoat. She wore goth-girl combat boots. Her full mouth was daubed with the type of dark lipstick Foxy Brown was blowing up at the time. A bindi dot decorated her forehead, her face crowned by a wispy Afro. Did I mention her nose ring? We caught eye and I thought immediately, “Why can’t I attract women like her?” That afternoon I saw the same curvy college-age girl walking down the corridor at my office. She laughed and I spied a silver barbell pierced through her tongue. My physical excitement, ahem, was pretty instant.
The dangers of office romance is a whole ’nother column. But it turned out that Bangladesh (let’s call her)—Jamaican rude gal by way of Miami—worked as a fashion assistant at Honey magazine, cubicles down from my desk at the rap mag XXL. We staved off the attraction for a while, but banging Bangladesh was going to happen, we could both feel it. She’d stop by often to borrow things (“The rumors are true,” I flirted, “I have a big dictionary”), and I eventually invited her out to a premiere for Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam. Soon afterwards, we were hanging out at the Brooklyn house party of a mutual friend from the office. We slipped out together without notice and took a cab to see my brand-new sleigh bed.
By the time rumors spread at work, I’d left for a job at Vibe, and the “I love you” talk started. Bangladesh dreamed of visiting India, obvious from all her various vibrant scarves and the navel jewel in her naked belly. Fresh from a travel-column trip to St. Barts myself, I taught her how to finesse a free jaunt to New Delhi. Bangladesh was able to bring somebody along on the big trip, and she quickly passed the ticket to one of her homegirls. I ended our relationship about a month after they got back, but the break had nothing to do with her subtle dis.
Truth is, I got bored.
“Show me a beautiful woman and I’ll show you a guy tired of having sex with her” is a harsh truth, but it’s repeated for a reason. The sex itself never got boring per se (at least not for me). But after the original heated desire for lifting her sari to explore underneath, and the added thrill of keeping everything secret from coworkers, it became clear that I mistook lust for love.
Genuine friendship with the women I dated seriously was always key. Sure, I really wanted to sleep with Bangladesh, but I always honestly cared about her wellbeing, before and after our breakup. Confusing that concern and our animal attraction for love wasn’t enough to see us through the hurdles of our relationship. Barely five months in, I called it quits. She convinced me to give things another try a few weeks later, but she finally broke up with me after seven more months of ups and downs, agreeing with what I figured out at the beginning. “You can’t have sex with your brother,” she deduced eventually. We ended up much better off as friends.
Have you ever mistaken lust for love? Stayed in a dead-end romance because it just seemed good enough? Sound off!