Nothing’s ever simple, is it? Take this week’s question, for example. On the surface, it’s an easy one: How can a woman start getting her freak on again after a dry spell. Slam dunk, right? I mean, I don’t wanna brag, but I’m so good at dry spells that I list them on my resume under “skills.” I’m MADE for this question! But as I’ve come to expect from you lot, even your easy questions are buried under a pile of tough-yet-relatable complications, meaning my slam dunks turn into, I dunno, full-court dribbling? Three-point shots? I said I was good at dry spells, not sports metaphors.
[Reminder: You too can stump us with your not-easy life problems! Just email them to [email protected] and we’ll… knock them out of the park? OK, I GIVE UP. Ask us anything but sports questions, I beg you.]
Here’s our question, which involves A LOT of necessary backstory, so strap in folks!
I’m a single mum who’s beautiful son has been living with me full time for the last 18 months or so. Prior to that he spent more time staying with Dad, but as he grew older he gravitated to the more chill atmosphere at mine, so now he sees Dad two nights after school for dinner and one day on the weekend and then comes home … this is working …. OK.
This is not about that though. About 3 years ago when I still had some time when my son was with his Dad, a guy who I’d been seeing months earlier and hadn’t heard from in ages came to my home one night uninvited. He’s a 6’5” ex-professional footy player, I’m a 5’11” ex-cyclist. I made him repeat “I will not try to have sex with you” before letting him in so there was no grey area. Then he did try to and I fought him off me tooth and nail and he left. He turned up the next day to see if I was OK (no) and I told him never to come near me again. He then came over the same evening to leave a four-page apology letter at my back gate. Motherfucker … well almost.
Two days later I related all of it this to two of my closest friends and one of them kind of smirked and said “well you need to accept some responsibility for letting him in in the first place”. I promptly burst into tears and left and haven’t seen either of them since. The one who made the comment sent me a text months later saying “I’ve been sitting on this for a while. I’m sorry if you didn’t feel adequately supported in your time of need” I sent her a snarky reply decrying her excessive posting of selfies on social media which was uncalled for but I was still pissed off and it was a rotten apology and that was the end of the friendship. In hindsight I should’ve just said “maybe we should chat face to face” - lesson learned.
After the whole incident I became depressed and shut myself off from all my friends and I haven’t let a man into my home since or been intimate with anyone. In the last few months, though, I’ve come out of my shell a little and reconnected with a few friends and apologized for shutting them out and not being there for them. One I told what happened and some have asked but I’ve clammed up about it.
Now I’m starting to notice people again - there’s MSG (Movie Star Guy) who I see some mornings when I run. There’s SHAG (Smoking Hot American Girl) that I’m vibing with at the local cafe - she even asked if I had a Mac charger on me the other day - when I didn’t she pulled out her phone to make a PHONE CALL and actually talked to someone! Such a turn on! There’s Beagle Boy who’s under the appropriate age range that I see at the beach, but he’s so cute and friendly and a Beagle! My point is, I think I might be ready to have fun times with a consenting adult again, but I’ve been out of the game a long time, and my self-esteem is still pretty crushed, plus now I have my beautiful boy with me most of the time except one day on the weekends and a couple of evenings.
Do you have any advice?
PS Online dating is not on the cards.
I’ll get to the heart of your question in a moment, but first I think it’s important to acknowledge that terrifying incident in your past, because it clearly is impacting your current situation. And for the record: You are not to blame, and any friends who made you feel otherwise are assholes (bungled apologies notwithstanding). If anything, as painful and scary as that night was, I’d also say that it proved your instincts are spot on and you should trust them moving forward. You knew something was off when he arrived on your doorstep, and while you tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, you also made your boundaries clear — so clear that you even had him verbalize them so there would be no doubt. He overstepped those boundaries anyway, and that is not your fault. But whatever gut instinct inspired you to take those precautions that night was ultimately correct — and that’s something you should take comfort in, and lean on in the future. Trust yourself and the red flags you sense… and then maybe carry a can of pepper spray too, if it’ll make you feel more comfortable.
Which leads me to the hurdles you’re facing as you consider making sexy funtimes with adults again. But first… YAY GOOD FOR YOU!
My favorite part of your letter is the nicknames you have for the various individuals who have captured your eye (and especially your follow-up email, clarifying that Beagle Boy is an actual human with an actual dog and not, I presume, some hybrid manimal). But the reason I loved this detail is because it shows how ready and open you are to connecting with other people, and how your brain is attuned to the possibilities around you. And frankly, that’s a pretty important first step. So keep paying attention, and as you find people that strike your fancy, try talking to them.
The only way to get comfortable with the dating game after an absence is to practice, and to start with, you can practice your flirting. I’m not going to question why online dating is off the table for you, but in its absence, you need to take advantage of other opportunities to make connections, and that can be as simple as saying hello to a friendly new face. If you have a good interaction, let it bolster your confidence — and if someone is unreceptive, don’t take it as a personal knock against you. They’re strangers with their own stuff going on, and that’s OK. But also remember that flirting doesn’t have to go anywhere. It can be just what it is — a friendly public interaction! And it definitely is not an implied invitation for anything physical. You seem very attuned to yourself, so don’t progress to anything more serious until you’re comfortable and ready.
If you need help exposing yourself to more new faces — hey, we’ve written a whole column about meeting new people! Sure, the tips are mostly about making friends, but that’s not a bad thing. Maybe you can broaden your social circle, and make new friends who have some single hot friends…? Just sayin’! But more importantly, whether you’re looking for friends or sex-friends, you need to get yourself into situations where you can meet people. So that means more hanging at cafes, or going to more community events, or volunteering, or just walking up to that hot jogger and saying hello.
As for your son, I’m not sure how old he is but it sounds like, at the very least, you have two evenings and one weekend day free each week to go out and meet people. Use those times to make connections, and when you get to the point where you might want to arrange a date (or a dalliance), arrange it for when your son is with his father. Eventually, your son may have sleepovers or other reasons to be out of the house, or be old enough to stay home with a babysitter, or you may be able to talk to your son about special one-off evenings with his father. And if you’re comfortable with it, keep the father in the loop regarding your plans, so he knows not to drop your son off until you’re home and ready. In fact, let a friend know your plans as well, and have them waiting for you to check in periodically. It’s nice to know someone is on the lookout for your wellbeing, especially if you are meeting someone for the first time.
I’m sort of assuming, based on your emphasis on consensual funtimes, that you’re mostly looking for sex right now as opposed to romance. But whatever you’re looking for, remember that your trysts do not have to involve anyone coming into your home. Go out for coffee or meals or movie-dates if you want to get comfortable with someone. And if you want a hook-up, then go to their place or a hotel. It may seem overprotective, but until you trust someone, they do not need to know where you live.
I hope this helps, Mum. I’m really impressed by your self-awareness and your instincts, and I think you have all the tools to get yourself out there. Be bold, be safe, and have yourself some adult fun!