I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I was sitting in the back lounge when he came on the bus. He was loud and obnoxious but with a kind of disarming friendliness that made you smile when you were around him. I was introduced to him while we were baking under the summer sun selling in merch tents situated next to each other. He was brash but with a likable innocence that made you want to hug him and rough him up like a good-natured clumsy dog that doesn’t know it’s own strength.
“I’m Chris,” I said. “What’s your name?”
He laughed in the way where he seemed equally proud and embarrassed by this nickname.
That entire summer and all of the following years I knew him I never once saw him wear a shirt. It was always a filthy vest if we had to go inside anywhere remotely respectable. His hair was matted and in the beginning stage of an unintentional dreadlock phase, he smelled of beer and sweat, and he always looked like he just crawled out from underneath a dumpster. But he was one of the most charming and enjoyable people to be around. A virtual one-man party.
As the weeks went on, we swapped stories under the sun to pass the time. I never asked him about his nickname because I thought it was self-explanatory. I mean, all you had to do was look at him for a few seconds to say, “Yep, that name perfectly suits you.” But it wasn’t until one evening when we were sitting in the back lounge, taking a break in the air conditioning when I learned where the name really came from.
“I mean, why do you think they call him Dirty?” The guy in the band said.
“Uh, because he’s filthy?” I responded.
“No, dude.” My friend snickered, “It’s because he’s banged over 60 chicks.”
“Come on,” I said in disbelief. “Sixty different chicks?”
They called Dirty into the room and asked him to confirm this claim which he did in the kind of shy way you respond when your parents call you over to the dinner table to brag about your third grade report card.
I remember being in awe. Slightly envious, because I mean, who wouldn’t want to have sex with that many women but also a little leery because I knew he almost certainly had every disease on the planet. But it was something that stuck with me. How could someone have that much time to have sex with so many people was insane to me. At the end of the tour, I asked him more about the number and he said that the number didn’t matter. That he was over just banging random chicks and all he wanted was to settle down with “someone rad.”
Fast forward ten years and we don’t talk much at all. I hear from him about once every few years and like most friends, we drifted apart to concentrate on our new responsibilities. But I still remember that conversation on that bus and the way I felt when he said that number and how it left me envious. Ten years later, I understand what he meant. The seriousness in his eyes. The way he lingered over the word “rad”. As if he was slowly fading away into a fantasy of a woman that could come wash the filth from his life, point him in the right direction, and give him a new outlook.
Between those 10 years I have been on a journey. One where I wanted to explore and get to know myself better. I did this by traveling, by meeting thousands of strangers, by writing books filled with my insecurities and speaking about the trauma in front of crowds of people. I did this by examining what truly makes me fulfilled. By cutting negative and unhealthy people out of my life and I did this by dating women, by starting and ending new relationships, and by exploring my sexuality. I went out and put myself in precarious situations that I only read about in the dark corners of the internet. I wanted to get a better understanding of what I truly found compelling and what I did because I was trained or guilted into feeling. And yes, I had sex with women and I learned how to communicate better sexually and how to make someone feel good.
Somewhere along the line I woke up from a daze and I realized how all of the one-night stands were impacting me. Most were healthy exchanges between two adults looking to satiate a momentary craving – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as no one is preying on insecurities, being lied to or manipulated. But what I found was that the one-night stands began to give me the illusion of temporary intimacy. I began to use one-night stands as a way to hide my heart and keep it safe from being stepped on if I just hooked up with someone and never had to see them again. It kept them at arms length and there isn’t much damage you can inflict from that distance.
Is it possible to have one-night stands with multitudes of people and still maintain a healthy sense of self-worth and dignity? Absolutely. There is validity in the even and equal exchange of sexuality and I truly believe that it gives us a more well-rounded understanding of who were are, what we desire, and how to understand our partners. But for me, it grew beyond the innocence of a fun roller coaster ride with a stranger and turned them into an accomplice to a fugitive. It was easier to distract myself with women in dark alleys and bathrooms in bars or with a 4am rendezvous than it was to open my chest and allow another person to quite possibly stomp all over me once again. And at that time, I simply wasn’t strong enough to handle the disappointment of falling in love with someone who would or could fuck me up in the ways my ex-girlfriends did.
So one after another, I would allow myself brief moments of affection. Nameless women in the night inviting me over after knowing little more about me than my age and my occupation. They momentarily filled the gaps of familiarity and helped me feel again. Maybe we both did, but truthfully, I never stuck around long enough to know their story. And once those old wounds began to heal I found myself hanging out less and less with strangers from the seedy parts of the internet. I simply didn’t need it anymore. But more importantly, I began to want it less and less and I was reminded of the tone in Dirty’s voice when he said, “Someone rad.” Because that tone is important. It is a small but strong declaration that your heart is healing – and that it is read to get back in the ring.