For Best Hookup Results, Use Your Words, O.K.?

I laughed nervously. “Of course not.”

Finally, he answered: “Not really, no. I mean, I wouldn’t turn sex down, but I wouldn’t go looking for it, either.”

After a minute, I asked, “Do I come off as a slut?”

His voice softened. He wrapped his arms tighter around me. “No, not at all. You actually come off as a lady.”

Maybe he wanted it to sound like a compliment, but my doubts about his sincerity made it feel more like a blow. I wondered if he was lying to make me feel better or to ensure more sex later.

As a child, I was always told, “Use your words” — shorthand for saying precisely what I mean and what I expect from people. As an adult, I’ve noticed that a lot of people aren’t very good at using their words, especially before and after hookups. Few ever seem to say precisely what they mean or what they expect.

Regardless, I smiled and said, “Really? Thank you.” I kissed him on the cheek, the temple, the forehead. “And you come off as a gentleman.”

And he did. But I secretly hoped that he was the same as me, that his chest also simmered with hidden indiscretions, and that the speed with which we slept together was as typical for him as it was for me. Because if it wasn’t, I would have to wonder if, upon discovering the truth, he would recoil. I would have to wonder if he would think of me as dirty or morally deficient, even though he already said he found me gentle.

“Wow, you’ve got a beautiful smile,” he said, idly stroking my waist, my stomach, my hips, my thighs. “You’re really the full package.”

“You don’t have to say that.”

“I know I don’t,” he said. “But I mean it.”

He told me I was smart, funny, creative. “You’ve got good karma, Gab,” he said.

I said, “You see things in me I didn’t know were visible.”

I don’t know why I fell for it, especially when I hadn’t even gone looking for it. For some reason I’ve always been susceptible to thinking my life would be vastly improved by the solution to a single problem. In high school, I thought, “It will all get better when the braces come off,” or “when my skin clears up” or “when I go to college.”

And now, older and supposedly wiser, I find myself thinking it will all get better when I find romance. When I have a man who wants me despite how fallible, loud or political I can be. Someone who, with a kiss, can snap me out of my self-pitying reverie. I think about how long…

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