I’ve written over and over about the phenomenon of feeling “special” in relationships – of my need to feel special, of the women I date’s need to feel special – and of the challenges presented to that feeling by the limited repertoire available in even the most versatile and flexible sexualities and romantic configurations.
I’ve also written over and over about my “perversity,” about the relatively fixed, limited ways in which I seek sexual gratification – about the way that my sexual encounters with different women tend to look – at least from the outside – very similar.
So it was not especially surprising to me when Charlotte wrote, at the end of an exchange about how she hasn’t felt all that safe with me recently, “I guess I just feel[s] very replaceable. When you do the exact same things with other women it doesn’t make me feel special. Even though, mostly, I know I am.”
I have a million analogies running through my head. All are imperfect. Some are offensive. But here are a couple:
Women, to me, are like food: I need them. At the end of the day, what I need is relatively generic, unspecific, and yes, replaceable. I can eat chicken or beef or fish or tofu or eggplant (though I really don’t like eggplant). My body will be happy all the same. It will receive the nutrition and the energy it needs to function, whether the food tastes good or bad, whether it’s well prepared or butchered. But. My mouth will feel very different. My psychic experience will be very different. I eat chicken, beef, fish, tofu, and eggplant with a fork and a knife (or sometimes, chop sticks). I chew them very similarly. The outward appearance of what I’m doing to, doing with, the food I eat doesn’t depend very much on that food. But. My internal experience is entirely different. And not just along a better-than/worse-than y-axis. Also, along an x-axis. And a z-axis. And maybe some other axes. Taste. Texture. Mouthfeel. Stomach-feel. Aroma/bouquet. Aesthetics. All of that varies. And, often, it varies along those various other axes without any real y-axis implications. Charlotte is a meal I very much enjoy. And I enjoy it (her) often. That doesn’t take away from the enjoyment I might feel from a different meal. Or a different side dish. Never mind the world in which we are sharing our dishes with others.
Women, to me, are like pizza. I love all pizza (except the really disgusting school-cafeteria kind). New York pizza is in a class of its own, relative to all the other pizza in the world. And, I have a particular pizza place I favor, at which I love eating pizza, and it’s my go-to. I go there often. But I also enjoy going other places. And I’m not one of those guys who believes “my pizza place is the best.” I’m not constantly comparing. Rather, I ask myself, “Do I like this pizza?” “Do I want more?” “Do I want it again?” No pizza place will ever displace my go-to place because, among other things, my go-to place is all of 200 yards from my home. And its location is, in fact, a big part of what I like about it.
Women, to me, are like sushi. (This one really is two analogies.) There are different kinds of sushi. And, there are different kinds of sushi. First, there’s the difference between the go-to place from which I order, and the super-fancy, $300+/head place that I go to a few times a year. Both are spectacular. They’re almost different things. But I love both very much, and neither ever will replace the other. [Even if the fancy place delivered and were cheap, I would still order from the other place, because so much of what I love about the fancy place is the fancy place – the atmosphere, the ambience, the service.] And second, there’s the difference between a piece of salmon sushi, a salmon roll, scallop as sashimi, and flying fish roe. I love them all. And while I might love a purely salmon meal, I also love a more omakase situation, in which I’m eating nice combinations. Yellowtail doesn’t feel slighted when I enjoy salmon; tuna doesn’t mind when I slurp down some delicious uni.
And, if I move away from food…. I love music. I listen to Krishna Das nearly every day. I listen to the Beatles a lot. There are times I blast Outkast. Or Eminem. Or Run DMC. Or George Winston, or the Furs, or the Dead. Fountains of Wayne, Leonard Cohen, Vivaldi, Aimee Mann. Nina Simone, Billie Holliday, Suzanne Vega, the Indigo Girls, and Elvis Costello.
You get the point.
And. I know the feeling of feeling replaceable. Of feeling undifferentiable. Of feeling commoditized, vulnerable, exposed.
As I wrote in an earlier post, the idea of being just another member of a harem is completely unappealing to me. Or worse. And/but, the idea of having a harem? That’s appealing.
But here’s the (or at least, a) thing: some women love the idea of being in a harem. (Some men do, too.) And some women hate that idea. I remember when I was dating Isabel and Rose at the same time. Rose was utterly content to drift in and out of my life, to be deployed in a threesome and to suck my cock one on one and to be (quite clearly) second fiddle. In fact, she kinda got off on that.
Similarly… I have the sense Sarah doesn’t particularly crave a special place in my harem. She had fun with me one on one. I think, I hope, she will (want to) do that again. And, she had fun with me and Charlotte. AND, I think, she was perfectly content receding when Charlotte needed that. What she was getting from the whole thing wasn’t especially affected by the fact that Charlotte and I demonstrably had an entirely different relationship than did, than do, than ever will, Sarah and I. She was fine, I think, and would be fine, I think, being part of my harem. If anything, I think, Sarah would resist being elevated in a harem. I think that would make her uncomfortable.
And, to take it one step further: in my harem fantasy, the apotheosis would be… a harem, presided over by my queen. For Charlotte to direct the action. To recruit the members. To implement my will. My perfect configuration would be for me to be in charge of Charlotte, and for Charlotte to be in charge of all the others. I proposed this on one or another of my bingo cards: Charlotte directs Sarah. But Charlotte doesn’t want to direct Sarah. And that’s a whole ‘nother thing. [Stay tuned for more on this particular thought. Charlotte tells me she would love to be the queen of my harem.]
So back to Charlotte/special: Charlotte has been feeling my ardor is undifferentiated, that I could swap her out and someone else in effortlessly. While it is true that my harem fantasy apotheosis could well be presided over by another woman – that it’s a fantasy not about Charlotte (or at least, not inspired by Charlotte, predating Charlotte) – it’s also true that my current iteration of that fantasy features Charlotte as the queen. And in that fantasy, Charlotte is irreplaceable. And what that means is that, in some structurally similar replica fantasy, with another queen, and another harem, while there might well be outward similarities, within me, it feels like a wholly different conception. Something nearly unrelated.
Charlotte feels replaceable. And in one sense, at least, she’s correct: if she leaves my life, I’ll survive. I’ll march on. And surely, some day not too long from then, there will be some other woman over whom I’m obsessing, about whom I’m writing – and about whom I’m writing perhaps even somewhat similarly. That’s true. Anyone who reads this blog can see the through lines in it, the ways I’ve used a variety of women to revisit the same experiences, the same questions. And/but…. anyone who reads this blog also can see how different I feel about every woman I’ve ever dated. How, while the sex acts may look similar, the tension, the obstacles, the conflicts, the excitement, all feels unique, different, in each case.
Charlotte fears being replaced, fears being replaceable. And I can offer only two responses, ultimately: her place is secure. And when she leaves me, eventually, whatever follows her in my life will have some structural similarities and yet be, and feel, entirely different to me.