A few months ago, I went on a date with a * sitcom actor * who really, really cares. He cares about intersectional feminism, and environmentalism, disability rights and fat activism. I know this, because he posts about it. Almost every day, the sitcom actor goes on Instagram to tell his five million followers what he knows about race, class, and - more often than not, women.
At one point, during the height of Trump’s presidency, the sitcom actor appeared beneath the following headline. “Is this actor the answer to toxic masculinity?”
I met the actor on a dating app for people in media and people in tech and also people in nothing. His profile said he was looking for women “invested in their own transformation and dedicated to destroying ALL systems of oppression.” Beneath his photo was a quick line about being polyamorous, his commitment to kink culture and his preferred role in the bedroom.
At the time that I matched with the actor, I was two dates in with an English boy who I liked so much I left my keys in the front door. It happened twice. We’d go out and we’d talk and we’d have one drink and feel drunk, and then in the morning, I’d wake up and realize my keys were in the front door. He’d still be in bed, or drinking coffee on my sofa. And I’d be standing there, taking my keys out of the front door.
And then he’d leave, and when he was gone, he’d be skating, or surfing, or skiing. Three activities you can’t do while texting. His responses were always slow, often because he was on a board, or a foot underwater. When he did reply, it was a thumbs up or if I was lucky, a “ye.”
To make things worse, he had his read receipts on. Not for everyone. But just for me.
So the English boy left for another weekend on a mountain and I got [Read, Read, Read] so I, in turn, messaged the actor.
He replied immediately.
I told him I was grateful for his work. He said he appreciated that :). What was I up to? I said reading (false). He said he loved books (nerd emoji). In fact, he’d seen a female friend that day, who said that every book the actor recommended her was (dot, dot, dot) life changing.
Giving books, he told me, was one of his love languages.
Did I want to know any more of his love languages?
By the following afternoon, I was on FaceTime to “meet” the actor. I put on a Diane Von Furstenberg dress to look like I was coming from work. He put a piece of tape over his camera so he could focus on me, rather than on himself.
I was looking at myself when he told me this.
And then he just laid it all out. He wasn’t looking for one, primary partner. He was looking for lovers. He wasn’t interested in a relationship escalator. He would never marry, have kids, or cohabitate with another person. He did have one semi-regular lover, another actor who he saw every ten days. They’d recently said “I love you.” He smiled at me when he said this. She was so, so awesome.
Now when it came to the actual sex, the actor was here to teach. As Daddy, he would be nurturing and dominating, supportive and controlling. He would know better, and he would tell me what to do to reach maximum pleasure.
All I had to do, was listen to him.
For the next week, I heard from the actor daily.
He wanted to know how my day was, if I was enjoying the sunset, if I was adjusting ok to seasonal affective disorder (it was November). He wanted to know if I needed any book recommendations. Or wait - did I have a favorite cocktail? I drank tequila sodas. He needed to know that too.
There were also memes. Daily memes about what it was like to be in bed with Daddy. How I might feel like a brat, or a baby, a drama queen, or a pleasure slave. How I might want to feel fear, or “smallness.”
His texts were always full of exclamation points, and always ended with an emoji. Most often, the pink flower (gardenia?). Soon, I realized that the gardenia emoji was just a little garnish. He could be kinky and dominating but then - oh, stop, a little gardenia.
We’re just having fun.
By Friday, I made my way to a sports bar in West Hollywood for our first date. The bar was a last minute decision. He was feeling - uncharacteristically, he admitted - a desire to leave the house. Would that be okay with me? That was fine. Before I left my apartment, he added one more detail. “And just so you know, absolutely no sexual expectations on this date. Consent and check-ins every step of the way.”
Sitting three-feet apart from each other in a corner booth, I drank the tequila soda he bought me and made a joke about the pandemic. He laughed, sort of. I asked how he was. He said he’d been at the beach, doing a grieving ceremony. I asked what he meant by that. Did somebody die?
No, he said. His primary partner had fallen for another man. (Pause). A monogamous man.
Did we want to leave the bar?
Did I feel okay going back to his?
It was very loud. We left the bar.
As we walked, he told me about her, his lover. He’d been coaching her, helping her become more confident and better understand her boundaries. This new guy, he didn’t make sense. He didn’t fit into her growth.
I wanted to ask him how he knew this but by that time we’d reached my car. So instead I drove up the hill, to his house above the city. Where the streets are all named after Greek gods.
At his house, the actor asked if I wanted a glass of wine. He remembered that I drank wine. I said sure. He asked if I would be okay, not drinking it while I sat on his sofa. It was just a boundary he had. He didn’t want me to spill. That would be hard on him. Could I drink it on the floor? No, that’s…wait, what about a compromise? Could I drink it over the coffee table?
He went to the bathroom.
I took a large sip of my wine, over the coffee table, and wondered why interior designers organize books by the color of their spine.
When he came back, the actor needed to tell me something.
He wasn’t feeling sexual tonight.
A longer pause, then a sigh.
I wondered if something had happened in the bathroom.
Look. He was enjoying talking to me, and it was nice connecting with me. He was having a good time, he felt like our connection was good. Was I Having a Good Time? I was.
Good! That’s great.
He felt like we were really getting on.
I thought of the English boy, who, when asked to reflect upon our first date, a 14-hour make out across the East Side, said, and I quote…
Pause. Long pause.
I returned to the actor, who was sad. It was his grief, he explained. He’d invested a lot in his partner’s growth. How could she give it all away to this one man, just because he wanted to be monogamous?
I asked who the one man was. Could we Google him?
The rest of the night went like this. I sat on his sofa, drinking wine over the coffee table. He sat next to me, or on the floor. And we talked. Mainly, about his partner. But then, because he was a Man Who Asked Questions, we talked about me.
I, I proudly told him, was giving my most recent sexual partner space. I- Ugh. That’s the sound he made. Ugh. I was making the actor very sad. Already? I was sorry. The patriarchy was so deep in my head. He could tell I was trying not to sound crazy, to not want too much.
Did I have good boundaries? He asked.
He had a book for me.
By 1am, I yawned (loudly) and said I better get back to mine. He walked me to the door. And that was it. There was no almost-kiss. No even-kiss. There was just a hug, and a nice to meet you. From me, to the actor. And from the actor, back to me.
The next morning, I sent the actor my convenient #thanks #for #having #me #by text.
He didn’t reply until the following evening. I wasn’t offended, because I was prepared. He had texted it to me, and he had told me in person. The actor only texted his lovers. I wasn’t his lover anymore. So he wouldn’t be texting me, like that. And that was okay.
I had gone on a date with a heart that arrived with an instruction manual. That told me exactly how we would begin, and how we would end. That would avoid any miscommunication, any ghosting, anything left unsaid. That would never respond to me with a “ye,” because just like me, he needed real, honest communication.
So why didn’t I want it? Why didn’t I say - hey, I know you’re having a hard time today but what about next…
By Tuesday, I was back on my couch with the English boy. He’d brought me an apple strudel and a bouquet of flowers to apologize. He was sorry, very sorry, because the night before, he asked that we just be mates.
He lived by the beach, and I lived by the mountains. He wanted someone who lived by the beach, and not by the mountains. But then, he changed his mind.He didn’t want to just be friends. He just, wasn’t ready to be in a relationship.
I ate the strudel in two bites.
The English Boy left at 5am the next morning to drive back to the beach. By 7am, I was on Instagram.
February 2019, his last post. The month he moved to LA. A single ski lift in Big Bear. Had he gone alone?
Five tagged photos. 2018. A beach in Sicily, reposted by a travel blog. He had never mentioned Sicily to me.
2017. Pints in a North London pub. His ex-girlfriend, next to him.
I zoomed in on her face and wondered what it was like, when she taught him. If she was kind, or if she was stern, when she taught him how to ask before flipping her over.
Because he was always asking me, before flipping me over.
After our strudel, I tried really hard to be right. I said fuck it, to the patriarchy, and called the English boy whenever I wanted. I said fuck it, to texting, and got comfortable with long pauses.
I told him sweet things. He told me sweet things. He said he had BIG BIG feelings for me. I said, do you wanna go eat Armenian wraps and cups of green tea?
We walked in circles around the Reservoir. I pretended to push him in front of a car. We watched YouTube videos on my TV. He pushed popcorn down my mouth and I sent him a notebook for whenever he felt like I dunno.
At 2AM, the English boy finally turned over and told me that I was the only woman in his life.
I asked how the archaeologist was, the girl he’d matched with who lived in Texas.
He said she stopped texting him.
Well probably because she lived in Texas.
I laughed and shook my head, laying my face on his chest. And he squeezed my arms and kissed my forehead. And we lay like that, until we both fell asleep.
In the morning, I woke up early and made him a cup of tea from the box of PG Tips I bought for him. And then I added the whole milk that was also just for him.
When he woke up, we sat on the couch, and he read his book aloud to me. At one point he told me to get off my phone, and I said one second, I have to like the sitcom actor’s post about boundaries. There’s a gardenia in the caption. Well I didn’t tell him that, but I thought it and I liked it in support. And then I put my phone down.
When we were done, I drove the English boy to Sunset so he could shop for Christmas presents. He bought two soy candles for his mom and a queer animal coloring book for his brother-in-law.
Two days later, I asked my first friend from college if he wanted to get a glass of wine.
He had moved from Brooklyn, where people do things all the time and are always stopping by. In LA, he was always wondering what I was doing and why I was never stopping by. We settled on a wine bar by my first friend’s house. I drove, and my first friend paid the meter.
And then we walked through the patio, and we had to stop. Because I saw him. There, through the glass window of the bar was the English boy. Sitting right by the door, next to a woman.
He jumped up. Out of his seat. Hugging me. Sophia! Wow!
And he introduced me to her, but only by her first name. I don’t remember it.
And I told myself - oh, here he is, with a colleague. A new colleague who wanted to get to know him. And then I said oh no, here he is, with a friend of a friend from London. Here he is, making new friends. That’s good, for an English boy.
But no, that wasn’t it at all.
She was a woman who lived by the mountains. And he was a boy who lived by the beach. And I was standing there, with my first friend from college. Who was unfollowing the English boy as I said, “well…we better sit down then.”
We thought about leaving, but instead we sat at the bar, facing them. And we ordered a bottle of wine.
And I sat there, and I thought.
Sorry, this is when the wine came.
And I sat there. And I thought.
Well maybe this would all have been so much better.
If only there’d been instructions.
For how this would end.