Chapter Fourteen – Let’s Talk Numbers

“Seriously though, you’ve slept with two people in your entire life! You aren’t happy in this relationship. How do you think this is going to play out? Are you going to have children and get married and finish school with this guy who is already driving you crazy and hurting you? You need to get out there!!! Two people?!?”

This was my great and insightful input into Devi’s personal crisis a few years ago. I mean I cannot fathom the idea of getting to be twenty-four and having had two very long and very serious relationships compose all of my sexual experience. At that point, even Angie said: “Well yeah, two seems so little. But chica, whatever makes you happy, we love you and will support you!” She was always much more diplomatic than I ever will be. I kept thinking of the shame it was! Devi is an amazing girl. She is tall, gorgeous and smart. She commands attention and most importantly she is freaking hilarious. What a catch! I get how the men in her life would want to keep her around. I do not get how she got stuck with them. To be in a relationship is a fantastic feeling, and sure I have had my moments of daydream, with the children and the beautiful life ahead of us with a couple of men. Those dissipated with a single touch of reality. This is why I had a hard time relating to Devi’s decision making. I could not seriously think she was considering spending the rest of her life without having tried what is out there, without any comparison. It just seemed like blind trust, or fear of being alone, or naivety. She never struck me as a hopeless romantic either- she is quite the realist. In any case, she left the guy and got into another, happier serious relationship shortly after. Some people are made for that I guess.

Yet that fight between Devi and her ex sparked a most interesting conversation between the girls and I. “What is your number?” I asked Angie. It seems like the question of our time when it comes to sexual morals and acceptable behavior. It is a question that surfaces into my life time and time again, across various cultures, religions, languages and oceans. What is your number? What is the appropriate number? What makes it usually more acceptable for men to have higher numbers? What do we do with women with morally unacceptably high numbers? This seemed to be on everyone’s minds. Women ten years older than me were struggling with it worse than I did I think. One of my friends in Belgrade brought it up around the dinner table in front of our respective families. She was just telling us a story about how funny it was that every man wanted to know. “I tell every single one of them that they’re the second one.” The second one in Serbian also means the other one, which gives it an air of affair and misconduct that is ever so attractive. She said it further took away the pressure of being the first without leaving a second-hand taste in their mouths. She clearly spent a lot of time bargaining with herself. Being in your thirties, single and childless in Serbia renders you pretty much irrelevant even in our day and age. Let me just say that I do not envy her position.

Angie started counting and so did I. Angie was probably at the average number I would say. Above ten, but way below thirty. She had had more flings than serious relationships. The only time I had ever known her to be committed was with Peter. In any case, I kept listing and listing… It took me three days to come up with a definitive number and not without help. I was at twenty-eight. The girls and I agreed a “dirty thirty” party was imminent and necessary. You know with penis-shaped paraphernalia, best and worst recounting, etc. That party never happened. #29 turned out to last quite some time and fuck with my head more than I expected. He permeated all sides of my life with drama. Some guys are like that, due to little fault of their own even. They fail to or miscalculate every single one of their own moves to the point where their baggage and intentions and story start looking like a web of crap, tangled in dramaturgy and need, wrapping you up until you lose sight of who you are and hate the person that you have inadvertently become. The point here is plans are quite useless and rarely come to fruition.

My number has not stopped increasing since. At times it gives me vertigo. Reminiscing over my experiences makes me smile, and cry at times, but I feel they are part of the riches I will always have as my own. No regrets, remember? I still struggle with understanding our society with regards to this. My male friends who know this about me keep saying they would hate me if I were a dude. They ascertain that the facility with which I “pick up” is all they ever wanted. Yet they make sure to also repeat their reluctance to dating girls like me. What is this bullshit double standard? You want a lady in the streets, but a freak in the sheets. You want to be “the second one.” You want to have someone who knows her way around life, but is innocent enough for you never to feel threatened by her, I told them. Awkward silence and guilty looks were always exchanged at this point. My guy friends recognized the logical validity of my points, yet were unable to translate it into their desires and behavior. I really do not think of myself as much of a feminist, if at all. Nevertheless the manner in which men respond to my being a “women with the morals of a man” appalls me. It is 2013 people. The mottos of our society is fulfill your individualism, maximize your potential, live your dreams. How is it then that sleeping around, taking full advantage of the pleasures of life, eating, drinking, smoking and sex is so morally reprimanded? I am not talking about excess to the point of illness. I am talking about healthy, responsible, consensual and sensual pleasures. I refuse to believe that I would need to give any of these up for a “man.” Yet I still believe in love. The right women-respecting, confident, intelligent man-slut must come around for me. And he will.

I say he has to be a man-slut not to be offended by my baggage. I may be wrong. At this point of my life however, having little emotional baggage but a large number of sexual partners seems to be a disadvantage in the quest for true love. Yes, because my knowing more moves than others and being upfront about sex is definitely harder to handle in a relationship than a lunatic ex-girlfriend, or confused unresolved emotional issues. Sure. I’ll buy that. In any case, #30 turned out to be quite memorable, as you already know, and I think that was party enough for me. It reminds me that I never did install a mirror on my ceiling like I had planned. Am I afraid of people judging me if I did? Perhaps. Oh how hypocrisy rears its ugly head. Even I cannot refrain from hiding my inner slut from the public. Slut is the wrong word, I know. We just do not have a word for “girls like me”, yet. Maybe then I will get to have my sex mirror, and be proud of it. When language and society permit it.