The Father of My Children

I thought I was searching for the mother of my children, but I need to find their father first.

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My father never taught me this rule. He didn’t teach me much of anything when it came to women.

I didn’t have the kind of relationship with him where I ever asked him for much advice, and he never offered much. This rule was taught to me by my mother, and by movies, books, teachers, friends… it has hung in the air of our culture like a fog since before I was born, and I breathed it in every day of my life.

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This was not something I was used to. “The rules” didn’t have anything about this.

As the very strong drinks that they handed me at the open bar did their work, I began to think: perhaps this Very Attractive Younger Woman was interested in me. At least, she seemed to laugh a lot at even my more mediocre jokes, and she asked me a lot about myself and listened to what I had to say with rapt attention.

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Not her, but that’s about how she was looking at me.

I could have said any number of things to make Very Attractive Younger Woman feel okay about continuing to flirt with me and maybe more.

And she would have believed me, because she wanted to believe me. She wanted to believe that I was available to her.

Sex was missing.

Dee had been my college sweetheart, and at the time we met I was a virgin in the late stages of giving up the rules of my Catholic upbringing. Those rules told me that sex was for after marriage. A lot of my friends seemed to be breaking those rules though, and it didn’t seem to be hurting them any, so I bent them enough to do some pretty heavy petting with Dee when we started dating. I told her, though, that I still preferred to save good old-fashioned penis-in-vagina intercourse for marriage.

Dee had decided that we wouldn’t get married, and she was in charge.

I WAS inclined to get my dick wet, though, and I decided that I was willing to do it without getting married. Dee agreed readily enough: she was not a virgin and had no objection to moving from heavy petting to intercourse.

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Having the one person I loved and trusted most, whose acceptance I most relied on, reject me in such a fundamental way… I didn’t realize for a long time just how badly that fucked with my head.

Not until writing it down right now, I think.

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If you want to get more sex, maybe try making yourself more attractive.

This was still against “the rules,” of course. “The rules” said that she was supposed to “love me for who I was.” Still, a little self-improvement seemed harmless enough.

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Dee loved the changes in me. She wrote me a touching handwritten letter telling me how she’d never felt closer to me.

The vaginismus never fully went away, though. It was still a coin flip — or maybe, at best, a one-in-three chance — that any time we had sex, she’d wind up feeling some amount of pain.

Does this actually work? How’s that working out for you?

And when I did that, I realized a couple things. First, making myself more attractive was not enough to fix our sex life. Dee needed to get back to the doctor for her vaginismus, and if the first doctor she tried was less than helpful, she needed to find another one, and another one after that if necessary, until she got this problem under control.

If I wanted to get my needs met, I needed to try something different. I needed to try being in charge.

I broke our unspoken pact. I told her,

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I was like a starving man with a plate of poisoned food in front of me.

Going back to Dee didn’t lead to a happy life and a family and someone who accepted and loved me. It led back to the same hell I’d been going through the last two months. The one where she made all kinds of well-meaning promises when I had one foot out the door, and became sullen and withdrawn and shamed me for wanting to make love to her when I put that foot back inside.

The more I improved myself, the more I liked myself.

I liked being the Ben who was honest about he wanted out of life and was busting his ass to get it. Way better than being the loser Ben who dressed like a slob, had a shit job, and let his girlfriend be in charge. I liked the new Ben I was becoming so much that being alone as him seemed better than being Loser Ben with Loser Dee at his side.

My old ceiling has become my new floor.

I’ve been with a few different women who were very interested in doing the marriage-and-kids thing with me, and maybe I’ll tell those stories too. The truth is, in the years since Dee, finding the right mother for my children has become something of a secondary concern.

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Son, if she’ll agree to three years without intercourse, she’s not going to suddenly turn out to be a sex maniac just because you change YOUR mind.

Well, it sounds like she’s saying all the right words. But what’s she DOING? That’s what you’ve got to pay attention to, son. Her words don’t matter. Her actions do.

Son, quit worrying about whether she likes you enough to fuck you, and start worrying about whether you like yourself. Once you get that figured out, either she’ll fuck you or someone else will.

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You’ve let her be in charge of the relationship the whole time. Is that getting you what you want? How’s that working out for you? Sounds like time to try something else.

Son, it’s okay for you to want sex. It’s not okay for her to shame you for wanting sex. What she said to you was unacceptable, and if I were you I’d be seriously rethinking whether you want someone like that in your life.

That sounds like a good father to have. I didn’t have that father growing up. But if I work hard enough, my kids might.

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