This post is a little overdue. There have been a lot of contributing factors, including me not anticipating this leg of the trip being challenging beyond my wildest dreams, some major changes happening at my 9-5 job, and, as a result of my eating habits in the South, my blood stream becoming 80% biscuit. I’m moving a little slower than usual.
Now let’s get into it.
I don’t believe in New Years resolutions. Many of the most popular ones involve measuring and equating your body or your mind with your self-worth. I want to always think of myself in ways that I am and how to strengthen those things instead of focusing on what I am not. And I don’t do well with rules because I always question them anyway.
That said, I made some promises to myself this year that I am determined to keep. And they are promises that honor myself, my time, and my worth. They include:
That last one seems like it would be pretty easy to follow. But what I’m talking about is fucking someone I feel meh about: I don’t hate them, but I’m not reaaaaally jonesing for them either. I’m only going to fuck people because I want to, not because I’m curious as to what sex with them would be like. Herein lies my downfall—because I’m a sex writer, sometimes I get myself into situations solely because I’m curious about them and not because they are true to my personal sexual desires. Sometimes I meet a hot guy and I’m like “I wonder what they’re like in bed” as opposed to “I am dying to fuck them.” Those two things are worlds apart. I encourage curiosity in all forms, but the sex I desire for myself is more based in want than solely just to sate curiosity. This is a huge lesson I've learned. A few years ago, sex-because-I’m-curious served me well! It helped me figure out what I like and what I don’t like! But now I know. I don’t need to wonder anymore.
Why is this relevant to Asheville? Well, because I have been presented with some opportunities to have sex out of curiosity (or because someone likes me) than out of actual desire. But here’s the problem: connection is necessary for desire. And I don’t connect with many people here. I lucked out with the booty call I initiated the first week I got to Asheville. After our hookup, he took a trip out of state to visit his primary partner, and with our mutual itch scratched, we agreed to hang out as friends and just be activity partners in the future. He was so cool about it:
So aside from that lucky friend find, there have been only two people I’ve agreed to go on dates with. Two. I’ll get into those later.
The thing about Asheville is that it’s small. Hellbent on never using Tinder again ever since I quit the app cold turkey three years ago (Tinder, for me, was more addictive than peeling sunburned skin, black tar heroin, and sour cream & onion Pringles combined), I used OKCupid and Bumble for the first few weeks here. For the first time in my life, OKCupid told me they had run out of people with match percentages high enough to recommend to me. I logged onto the site for weeks to see the same 30 or so people. And of those 30 people, let’s say I was attracted to 8. And of those 8, only one didn’t answer “yes,” to my top three dealbreaker questions:
“Are you okay with acting out a rape fantasy if your partner asked you to?” (I understand that this is contingent upon your partner asking you to, but if you can maintain an erection while pretending to rape someone, I don’t want you anywhere near me.)
“Do you own a gun?” (I don’t feel safe enough to sleep over a stranger’s place knowing this; I very rarely invite people to mine because I want to be in control of when I bounce.)
“Do you strongly prefer to date someone of your own skin color/racial background?” (I can’t tell you how many profiles had this question openly answered in the affirmative. WTF. THESE ARE THINGS I HAVE NEVER RAN INTO IN NYC. I’d say 20% of men in Boston had answered yes. Here, it’s around 90-95%. And when I ask people about it, they have no shame or remorse in answering yes. It’s FUCKED.)
Bumble wasn’t much better in terms of finding a large section of people; I recognized many of them from OKCupid. Eventually, I started talking to people here and being like WHAT GIVES. WHY IS THERE NO ONE ON THESE APPS, at which point I was politely informed that everyone uses Tinder here. Everyone. That is pretty much the only app that people use.
I never wanted to return to Tinder, but I had no choice. I used the strategy I did in NYC; I made something I knew would stand out. I used my initials instead of my name and didn’t list my job or university. It became very clear that everyone knew I was the new girl in town. And they were all excited to talk to me. Here are some things I noticed:
I don't mean to come across as an elitist (absolutely none of the things I've outlined above are negatives at all), but it's hard for me to connect with people here because my friend group in NYC is full of creatives from all over the globe. I won’t get into it, but men here don’t understand me. I’ve been called directionless, uneducated, and ("jokingly," according to one person) a cunt. Many use subtle (or even overt) misogynistic language when talking to me and it’s clear that they’ve never been called out on it. Ever. They don’t know how to process a confident, intelligent woman calling them on their bullshit.
God, that guy even made bitchy New Yorker Dana come out. But this one drove me absolutely nuts:
And so from such a small pool of people to choose from, when it came down to deciding who to meet up with, I narrowed it down to two people that seemed more socially aware, interesting, and kind.
And then I met up with them.
One was meh. I had met him on OKCupid. I’ve gotten into the habit of mentally noting if the person I’m on a date with asks me any questions about my life because all too often, the count is zero. This was one of those dates. The food was mediocre, the conversation was uninteresting, and it was made worse when he, out of nowhere, asked if I was wearing makeup. Confused, I said I was wearing some. I don’t wear much, but I do wear some. “Oh good. Because I don’t like when women wear a lot of makeup,” he answered cheerfully. And this was someone who self-identified as a man who respects women.
I wanted to get up from the table, but there were three things in my way:
So I stayed and said I don’t accept compliments at the expense of shaming other women. That I don’t give a shit if other women wear a lot of makeup. If a woman wants to wear a lot of makeup and it makes her feel good, I have neither the right nor the desire to judge.
“I mean, have you ever heard that song that goes ‘Went to bed at 2 with a 10 and woke up at 10 with a 2?” he asked, laughing.
I didn't even crack a smile. “Wouldn’t a man have to be pretty fucking stupid to think that a woman with a lot of makeup looks like that naturally?” I asked back.
That ended the conversation. Now, this was before I had my booty call, so I was, if you remember, unbearably horny at this point. He had made it clear throughout the night (and his communication after the date) that he wanted to sleep with me. This was a scenario where I could have sex if I wanted to. But at that moment with the makeup comment, I knew I did not want this person touching me at all. I stuck to my resolution.
The other was straight up terrible. A guy had driven an hour to Asheville to pick me up and take me to dinner. Before the meeting, he had asked me some questions about my sexuality, which I answered honestly. We seemed to like a lot of the same things so I had said if we vibed, a hookup was entirely possible. He arrived to pick me up and I knew the moment I saw him that he did not give me a lady boner. It wasn’t a physical thing; he looked like his pictures. For whatever reason (and I don’t even need to give a reason), I was not feeling it. But he wasn’t rude, he wasn’t mean—I absolutely was interested in having dinner and talking and just meeting a new person, but that was it.
Halfway through the date, he brought up sex. I steered the conversation in another direction. Towards the end of the date, he made it apparent that he wanted an answer: was he coming back to mine or no? I said no. He said he understood, but I could tell that wasn’t cool with it.
I don’t have a car in Asheville. And I had trusted this person with my address after telling him that he wasn’t allowed to come to my place without an invitation. And the restaurant wasn’t within walking distance, so I had to have him take me home. (Looking back, I should have taken a fucking cab.)
We’re about ten minutes from my place when he starts trying to sell the idea of me sleeping with him after I have made it explicitly clear that I was not interested. He literally uses the term “elevator pitch.” I start to feel nauseous.
“I don’t go on many dates.” [guilt tactic] [and not my fucking problem]
“I don’t get out much, haha.” [ditto]
“I drove an hour to come here. There aren’t many dateable people in [city he was from].” [ditto]
“But when we were talking before we met, I thought…” [I never gave explicit consent and EVEN IF I HAD, I am allowed to take it away]
And this one fucking took my breath away:
“I think that when you left the house tonight, before you even saw me, you knew you didn’t want to have sex.”
At this point, I am sick to my stomach. I can feel my heartbeat pounding in my head, and I am trying to keep it together.
As calmly and evenly as I could muster, I said, “I know the desired effect of your 'elevator pitch' is to endear yourself to me, but I want to let you know that it is doing the exact opposite. Because you are pissing me the fuck off.”
He threw up his hands in surrender and said okay. And then he proceeded to ask me multiple times if we were going to meet up again. At this point, I am feeling incredibly unsafe. I am in a car with a stranger in a town I don’t know and he is not taking my no to sex as an answer. I do not feel safe enough to give a flat-out "no, I never want to see you again." I have no idea how he will react--if he'll start driving me somewhere other than my home, if he'll pop me in the face, who knows what the hell else--because I don't know this guy. So I keep repeating “I don’t know” every time he asks.
When he drops me off, I tell him to text me when he gets home. (Because I wanted to know when he was an hour the fuck away from me.) And then I sent him this:
The next morning, my AirBNB host (who is a badass) asks me how the date went. I tell her. I know the make and model of his car, I know his first name, I have his picture, and I know his license plate number. We have a cop who lives across the street. It's downright sad that I even have to think about these things.
So those have been my dating experiences in Asheville. Can I move back to Boston yet?
Passionate about everything having to do with the body, Dana Hamilton writes about sex, dating, relationships, body image, and eating disorder recovery. She is a regular contributor to Playboy and her work has appeared in VICE, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and SELF, among other publications.