It’s lovely when a person asks how you’re feeling. They’re interested. They’re checking up on you. They’re ready to help if you need it. But there’s one question I find hard to hear: “How’s your love life?”
I usually fudge an answer. I’m polite about it. Rarely am I honest when I reply. But this is a blog, and I can be honest here. So here’s my uncensored response to that question:
How’s my love life? Lol. I don’t have one. I have a sex life. Ask me about my sex life. It’s pretty good right now, thanks. You know my sex life goes up and down. I’m often horny… and since I don’t have a regular sex partner, it can be hard (so to speak). But I had sex the other day with a new guy I met. I think we’d both like to do it again. He’s got a partner too, but they’re in an open relationship and they sometimes have sex with a third guy, so maybe I can be that third guy—that’d be exciting. I’ve had a few threesomes. I’d like more.
Oh, sorry, is that too much information? Sorry. But I’m gonna go on anyway. You need to hear this. You asked about my love life, and sex is a kind of love, so I’m telling you about that instead.
The thing is, there are lots of different kinds of love. I mean, it’s almost infinite isn’t it? I love my friends, and I love them all in different ways. I love Neil because he’s smart and because he indulges my impulse to analyse myself and others endlessly. We do that together. We share many political views. We have brain sex. I can tell him anything and he’ll understand, or try damn hard to. He was one of the first people I came out to, and his reaction was brilliant. We don’t touch, except to hug hello and goodbye, but last night he was drunk and he climbed into a hammock with me and called me his best friend. Neil’s a member of my love life. Oh, that’s not what you meant when you asked about my love life?
What about my sister then? She’s always there, she’ll always listen, even when we disagree. It’s she and I against our parents a lot of the time. For years we’ve dealt with their disappointment in us—we know it’s bullshit, and yet we still need each other’s love to get through it. If my sister thinks I’m OK, then I’m OK. This is unconditional love, right? She’s an anchor. The thought of not having her around is awful. We love each other, and it’s a bond we can almost actually feel. She’s in my love life. She’s part of my answer.
But I know you didn’t really mean that. You turn your nose up, because it’s almost as if I’m implying that I’m in a relationship with my sister—haha! It’s just that I guess I don’t have the kind of love you’re talking about. You’re talking about a partnership-love, aren’t you? The kind of love that bonds two people together in a balanced partnership and that has special status. The kind of love that gets extra recognition when it becomes a marriage. That’s the love you mean? Thought so. Well, I don’t have it. Maybe I will have it someday, but right now I don’t. And, frankly, it’s weird when you ask me that question—”How is your love life?”—because wouldn’t you know if I had the kind of love you mean?
The fact that you know I don’t have a partner and yet you ask me that question anyway implies that you think I want that kind of love. Or, worse, that I should have that kind of love. Haha. Please don’t have that view of me. It’s not a good look.
Instead, ask me a question about my love life broadly. Maybe find a better word? “How are all your relationships going right now?” Or “What’s been the most helpful relationship in your love life right now?”
If you really want to know how I am, and how I’m feeling in relation to other people, ask about the quality of the bond with my sister. Ask about my friendships, and the things I’ve discovered in them, and the ways my friends and I have helped each other recently. Ask about what sex I’m having or the sex I’m not. Ask about all the options I have for finding sex, the quick kinds of sex, the unfulfilling kinds, the surprisingly good kinds, and the time I didn’t have sex for 10 years.
Thanks for your interest, and thanks for your love. You’re part of my love life now.