Loving Presence – A Small Ask

Perplexed. Perplexed is the emotion with which I currently struggle, and I’ll tell you why.

Earlier today I welcomed a new friend into my apartment. I lit candles, dimmed the lights, applied lipstick and powder and lingerie, and set the kettle on.

He arrived, stepping through the door as I settled a red velvet robe on my shoulders. I greeted him with a smile.

The next half hour is a bit of a blur. Shoes off, coat hung on a hook, envelope set on the bar, body directly into the shower. Every step abrupt. He’s nervous, I think to myself. It’s not unusual for someone with nervous energy to rush from one task to the next, but once we sit and have time to chat, the nerves will melt away, as they always do, into pleasant conversation, and on into an embrace and those things that follow.

He sat very close. Not unusual. He asked me about my family origins. Not unusual. He reached over to caress my hair. Not unusual, but awfully soon for such an intimate gesture. All of forty five seconds had elapsed.

He asked me what I do, other than this. Not unusual, if awkwardly worded. “I read a lot” I said as he moved my robe to expose more cleavage. Not…. Unusual? But not common. “Mostly for school”

“What are you studying in school?” The question may not be unusal, but that after each one, he shifts his gaze away from mine. Hands now on my thighs, tugging at the tie of my robe. Not unusual in itself, but it’s been barely two minutes since we sat down together and such entitlement so soon is off-putting.

“Is everything all right?” I ask, teasing. “I generally prefer to warm up to new friends and I find it difficult to talk and touch at the same time.”

For those of you who have met me, you know there is both a warming up period, and a reward for it. For those of you who have not met me, now you know. In the case of this gentleman, that reward is now lost forever.

“You work with computers. Do you ever find that the rigid logic of computer language effects your interactions with people?”

At first I thought he was offering an example. He turned 90 degrees to me, planted his feet on the floor, and began “this isn’t working out. This between you and me, it’s just not working.” I waited for him to illustrate the point. I waited in vain. “I’ve been here for half an hour. If I leave now and let you keep half the donation, does that seem fair to you?”

In stark contrast to the rest of that time, this moment stuck with me. I felt my throat, hot. My heart pounding. My hands shaking. I’ve never had this happen before. I don’t know what my feelings are, much less whether that seems fair or not. Take a deep breath. I think I feel sad? Rejected? But also indignant. No one else has ever put me in this position and I am not prepared. Do I think it’s fair? No, I don’t think so.

“I don’t feel like I’ve misrepresented myself.”

“There’s no way I could have know you would force me into conversation like this. I have 25 Oks on p411 and what you’re doing is unusual. I’ve never had anyone do this before.”

“Do you not like to talk to people before you have sex with them?”

“Not like this”

I have nothing to say

“Think of it rationally. You get to keep half.”

“I don’t want to do that, I want to take a moment to see how I feel.”

“It’s fair. You get half.”

I have no time to think, or feel. He’s impatient. He’s not interested in what I think, only in me agreeing.

“You know what? Fine. Go get dressed.”

I sipped tea while he gathered his belongings, marveling to myself at my luck. I’ve only once before had anyone make it through screening, only to screen themselves out after arrival. On that occasion, I had to force him to leave, stony faced, carefully controlled anger simmering. All I had to do this time was ask him to see me as a person before he saw me as nothing more than a mindless whore and he showed himself out.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out. Would you like a hug?”

I’m not sure whether what I saw on his face was horror or incredulity, but he declined. It’s a petty pleasure, but I enjoyed his struggle with my heavy door.

It is difficult not to harbor ill will. The phrase “the trash takes itself out” keeps recurring to me but I will always give people the benefit of the doubt. Most providers are accommodating. We are in customer service and giving our clients what they want is a critical part of that service. Many of my colleagues in fact prefer to skip the small talk and put on their show, leaving the difficult work of feedback for people in their intimate personal circles. That makes sense, and I understand it. What I don’t understand is how someone came to me expecting that, and then left when they didn’t get it.

Had this happened three or four years ago, I likely would have folded. It’s happened before. The pulling, the grabbing, skipping the moment of connection that precedes something more. Then the performance, acceptable to some, transparent to others, humiliating for me. All fake because there’s nothing real on which to build, despite my best efforts.

A core virtue of an excellent entertainer is timing. Tension and the release of it. Trust, respect, pleasure, arousal, climax, release, warmth. These things have their time and their order. You cannot skip one and expect the next to be as good. In trying to force the timing, today’s new friend lost it all. He never trusted, failed to respect, and missed out on the rewards.

I’ve spent all afternoon texting and talking with friends, industry and not. I dislike rejection and needed support. There’s selection bias, of course; my friends love and respect me, but the universal response was disgust. Disbelief. Horror. Bewilderment. Who would put up a thousand dollars only to be deterred by someone asking “See me. See my humanity first and then my full erotic power will come, pounding, in waves on your shore. Only first: see me.”

Today, I verbalized a small boundary that represented a big ask. Seeing someone is no small thing. People practice for years and still have trouble. I have a long way to go before I can do it with ease. But some people don’t even want to try. And in my asking, in my insistence on my humanity, it turned him off, and he left.