Love & Sex

How a Sexless Relationship Saved Me

Pin it

It was an unusual predicament: we were both too emotional and emotionless to have sex with each other. 

by Sarah T. Schwab

Nick was my best friend during our three-year relationship. But some people aren't meant to be together. It was a mutual decision that we would remain friends but date other people. Things are fine and dandy now. But there was a four-month period where I felt totally forlorn.

"Get laid," friends encouraged me. Sure, multiple orgasms with a handsome stranger is generally a cure-all. But it was a complicated time. I was swishing around the ever-conflicting tide of "breakup emotions": despair, hope, nostalgia, anger, horniness… I talked to men in bars; I went on dates. But I wasn't interested in taking anyone home. I'd recently finished the nonfiction read Germs by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad, so my mind was buzzing with facts about bacteria, viruses and biological warfare. Perhaps this is why New York's infamous hookup scene left me dry. Or maybe I just felt bad about myself in general. Even though the breakup was amicable, I still felt like I failed.

But I needed human contact…

One particularly sweltering night in early August, I turned to the Internet. Specifically to the "men looking for women" section on Backpage.com.

There was quite the breadth of ads: "My favorite dessert? Looking for a female to satisfy my cream pie fetish" (ew), "Generous submissive wimp seeks Bratty Humiliatrix" (I can be a cunt from time to time, but no), "$$Sugar Baby Wanted Tonight$$" (not a whore). There were some affectionate ones too: "True love is all I need and all I have to give," and "Lonely widower seeks friend." But these weren't for me either. I was love logged; I had nothing to give; I wanted to be selfish.

After scrolling through weeks of ads, I found one that piqued my interest: "Bedtime Backrubs. No Sex. No Strings." There was no photo attached. But the person described himself as a "Clark Kent lookalike." He worked in finance, was "smart and sane," but wasn't looking for a girlfriend. He simply wanted to, "massage a beautiful woman."

"This is WAY too good to be true," I thought. But it was late. And I was starting to feel that third pour of Laphroaig. So I replied.

"What's your deal?" I asked under the guise of "Lola."

He responded the following afternoon:

"Hey Lola! Love your name! The 'deal' is: I'm looking to make a beautiful woman feel good. That's it. No sexual contact or reciprocation. Want to discuss in public?"

First, I put a lot of thought into my nom de plume. It's short for the Spanish name Dolores, a name taken from a title of the Virgin Mary: Virgen Maria de los Dolores, or Our Lady of Sorrows (a pretty accurate description of my sad state). But it also had sensual associations, such as the "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets," from the musical Damn Yankees (holler). Secondly, Clark Kent could spell. Major brownie points. Thirdly, he was willing to meet in public. How nuts could he be?

A few days later – a bustling Saturday morning of my choosing – we met at a midtown Starbucks. He'd be in jeans and a navy polo, I'd be in a white strapless dress. I'm cursed with being fifteen minutes early, which is a pain in the ass in a city that's perpetually fifteen late. So I was thrilled to see that my potential masseur was already there. He was easy to spot, the thirty-something, six-foot-five CK lookalike standing in line. My heart clenched; he was gorgeous.

"Keep it together," I thought. "So was Ted Bundy."

He spotted me back, gave a warm smile of relief, and asked what I'd like to drink.

"So what's wrong with you?" I said while my Chai tea bag steeped in hot, honeyed water.

He laughed. Took a sip of his Doppio. "What's wrong with you?"

I described my situation. He said he was going through something similar. His fiancée had called off their engagement a week before the wedding.

"Why do you want to massage someone? What's in it for you?"

"I don't know. I'm not looking for sex or anything. I just want to make a girl feel good."

I assumed this deep-seeded need to please a woman was rooted in his presumed inability to please his ex. It was sad, but certainly an issue I could handle.

"Does it have to be at 'bedtime'?" I was a bit apprehensive about meeting a stranger at night. CK said he worked during the day, including weekends. It was a legit reason, so I asked when he could start.

"Tonight? Around ten?"

I called my best friend Kat after we parted ways.

"Are you fucking with me?" she said. "He's totally going to kill you."

"He's nice." I described his situation (and his body). "He's like me," I justified. Heartbroken. Lonely.

"Dude…"

I understood her concern. But how was this more risky than meeting a random man at a bar and bringing him home after one-too-many Taliskers? Sure, it's the Internet, and the possibility of meeting a loony is greater. But I sifted and screened. I felt confident in my decision.

To put Kat's mind at ease, I promised to text her every twenty minutes after he arrived. I also promised to booby trap my place.

That evening – after showering, shaving, and spritzing Burberry on my wrists, neck and behind my knees – I hid a butter knife behind the toilet, under the couch cushion and in my underwear drawer. I also bought two "Mace PepperGuns" and placed one under my pillow, the other in the kitchen sink under a flipped mug. I vacuumed, lit scented votives, and set my Pandora station to Massive Attack. Then I slid into black lingerie that I'd bought from Victoria's Secret after Starbuck's that morning.

CK rang my buzzer at ten on the dot.

"Wow," he said upon entering which, admittedly, looked more like Prince Jefri's harem than a Yorkville studio apartment.

"I went all out."

"Ah."

"So… have you done this before?"

"Given a massage?"

"To a stranger?"

"Oh. No. It's weird, only prostitutes replied to my ad."

"Really?"

"Yea."

"That sucks."

"Eh. I met you. And you're not a prostitute." There was a slight pause. "Right?"

I laughed. "Do I look like one?" It was then that I realized I was standing in my bra and underwear.

We had a drink to ebb our nervous chatter. Then I sprawled face down on my bed while he got into his boxers.

"Let me know if I'm hurting you," he said. "Or making you feel uncomfortable."

He stood at the foot of my bed and started with my feet. Then he worked up my calves and thighs. He moved to the side of the bed to massage my back, shoulders and arms. It was pretty straightforward. There was no talking, besides my sighs of pleasure. He had strong hands that felt amazing. I was more relaxed than I'd been in months.

"Text anytime," he said before leaving.

"That's it?" Kat asked that night over the phone. "He didn't try anything?"

"Nope," I replied. "He didn't even massage my ass."

"That sucks."

"I think he was trying to be respectful."

"Still…" She asked when I'd see him again.

CK and I got into a fairly regular routine the rest of August. He came over twice a week. Afterward he thanked me and I slept like a baby.

By mid September we got more comfortable with one another. I began taking off my bra when he massaged my back, and he started straddling me. We still we didn't speak, besides initial and final formalities. And no sexual lines were crossed. It was lovely. We were getting exactly what we wanted from each other: human contact, minus emotional messiness or diseases.

"Would you mind taking off your underwear?" CK said one evening.

I gave him a cockeyed look. "Why?"

"I promise not to try anything," he said. "I'd like to look."

I was weary. But he'd been a gentleman. Plus the thought of being on voyeuristic display was kinda hot. So I slid off my bra and underwear, and let him go to town.

The vibe was different that night. His touch was deeper, more sensual, and I felt desired, wet. Especially when he massaged my ass for thirty minutes. He kept his word and didn't try anything. But he broke our routine silence. "You are so beautiful," he said. I could feel he wasn't lying.

Unfortunately things didn't go anywhere after that. CK stopped answering my texts, which pissed me off. After two weeks of being M.I.A, I called. My tone probably resembled an addict in need of a fix. "What's the fucking deal?" I demanded.

He apologized. Apparently his ex-fiancée wanted to "sort things out." And like a Stockholm victim, he was going back.

"It's stupid," he admitted. "But I love her."

He thanked me for our bedtime massages, and for restoring his confidence.

After a week of shit talking about him with Kat, I started to think more clearly. How realistic was our tantra-esque relationship? Things tend to escalate once underwear comes off, and we knew that road was a bristly one. It was an unusual predicament: we were both too emotional and emotionless to have sex with each other. Maybe it's the "cuddle hormone," but people in this state tend to go crazy afterward: Why didn't he call? Was she faking? Is he sleeping with other people? Has she really been tested? Am I ready for this?

The arrangement worked because we weren't dating or hooking up; a limbo that filled our voids of touch, while healing our issues with intimacy. I don't know what ever happened to Clark Kent. But once that seed was planted in me, it began to propagate into an awesome thing. I began talking to men at bars again; went on more dates. And finally, invited someone home.