True Stories: Triangulation
I've had way more threesomes than dates.
My first sexual anything went down in a threesome, and yes, I am well aware of the masturbatory power of drunken teenage lesbian threeways. But it wasn't really like that.
It was like this: I was a few months into being the awkward new kid in a town where spray tans and obscene wealth were the norm. My inability to surf was surpassed only by my inability to fill a push-up bra. Cara was new, too, and due to some superficial similarities and a miracle of freshman-year scheduling, we were instant besties. She was really tall, like me — a yeti — and people often mistook us for sisters or a couple. I didn't know Jane very well; she was an old friend of Cara's who, at barely five-feet tall and maybe ninety pounds, had the look of being too delicate to touch. Short, beautiful girls have always scared the shit out of me.
We're fourteen. I'm several margaritas deep, nestled in the corner of Cara's bunk bed. The three of us are sprawled across one another, Jane with one hand on my thigh, the other on Cara's breast. "You guys are so hot," Jane says. Over and over, she says it. No one has ever called me hot before. Sexual histories are revealed, and I lie and tell them I've kissed girls before because I'm worried that not having ever kissed anybody makes me more of a dyke than I might actually be.
Jane looks at me, then at Cara, and says very firmly that she thinks we should probably kiss. So we do. Jane is watching, approving, alternately reaching down my pants and her own. This is followed by an earnest discussion of who should go down on Cara, during which we debate the relative merits of this person's tongue and that person's fingers. In the end, Jane goes down on Cara while I kiss her ears and neck. It was an awkward morning-after — "Oh man, I don't even remember last night . . . " — and we never mentioned it again.
Since that night, however, threesomes have defined my sex life. I'm now twenty-three, and I've been propositioned for far more threesomes than I've ever been asked on ordinary dates. I don't know exactly how many; suffice it to say, we're well into double digits here. For reasons I can't fully explain, I, of the gangly posture and the socially awkward tendencies, am seen by many couples as the official go-to third.
In the beginning, many of these threeways simply felt like the natural product of a horny environment. One summer, I lived in a communal house. Every night there was a bonfire in the yard, cases of Charles Shaw and dozens of young, sun-drenched youths declaring how this was perfect, we were all so perfect. And we were correct: it was, and we were. One of my housemates was Brian, aggressive, with an annoying, endearing habit of using his Eastern Bloc accent to manipulate. Aimee was from my part of Los Angeles, a world-traveled Cali girl who shared my pretensions. She and Brian had an open relationship, and I'd been smooching him on the regular — it was a cooperative, after all. Sharing was a part of the deal. One night in the kitchen, Aimee had her arms wrapped around my neck, swaying dreamily to the Czech-gypsy rap on the stereo. She started nuzzling my neck, and Brian slid his arms around us both. There was no conversation about should we, or how, or what it would mean. It just happened, first on the kitchen floor, then in my room. In the morning we got up, made breakfast and went to work. Aimee and I still joke about it, how Brian was the luckiest dude we know, and what a shame he doesn't remember half of it.
As the years passed, such propositions kept landing on my doorstep. I didn't mind at all. In fact, I came to realize I was more attracted to couples than I was to individuals. I might not remember some of these people at all had I hooked up with them one-on-one. But as a pair, I would fall in love with their familiarity; their affection for each other got me off. The most recent couple I fell for, James and Noël, were rock stars, straight up. They were reckless drunks, bursting with manic energy as bright and chaotic as their tattooed sleeves. After five minutes with them, it was clear: they were it for each other — and I was smitten. I found myself flirting shamelessly with both of them, slyly working to command their collective attention and approval. When they briefly broke up, I was crushed, unable to muster any interest in their lives. When they finally got back together, I felt like I'd gotten something back, too. Maybe this is why I'm asked into so many threesomes. Maybe I'm subconsciously signaling these couples, guiding them toward me like an air-traffic beacon. I look at them and see a comfortable little nook to cozy up in, where the awkward beginnings have already been sorted and shelved.
Those awkward beginnings are why I've historically been reluctant to date. I don't want to have to explain who I am, what I've done. I've found that once the person you're fucking knows you're sexually flexible, their perception of what you have to offer becomes reductive. Which is another thing that makes a threesome so appealing: the rules for what constitutes multiple-partner sex haven't really been written, so any hang-ups I may have when I'm sleeping with someone disappear when that someone is pluralized. The kink and experimentation I dream of in my one-on-one sex life emerges with ease in a threesome. Bondage, exhibitionism, toys — broach the subject in a threesome, and it's on. But with a boyfriend? A girlfriend? Not a chance. Some things are way too personal.
The first time I realized how hard my odd sexual history was going to make regular dating was two years ago. I was in bed with a boy I'd been friends with for a while. We were talking about old roommates, graduation. Out of nowhere, he asks, "Did you ever hook up with Noël and James?"
"No. Why?" I said.
He got flustered while I propped myself up on one elbow, staring him down for an explanation. Maybe he was hoping I'd have a story about something that was hotter than the sex we were trying to have together.
"I don't know," he said. "It just seems like something that would have just . . . happened."
A few months later, he was shocked when, after a party, I turned down his suggestion that we "go join them," unsolicited.
"I don't want to fuck them," I said, "I want to fuck you." But his disappointment was palpable, and I didn't, not that night. We broke up shortly afterward.
It was a turning point. The social politics of coupling and self-identification had begun to creep into the picture. And now, I've started to notice that the relationships around me — the twosomes — are more fortified, less porous. The propositions have begun to change. I'll be drinking with a couple, and one of them will nervously chuckle something to the effect of, "Yeah, we were talking about our hypothetical threesome wish list, and you're totally our number one. Isn't that funny?"
These aren't invitations to sexual exploration. They're requests for a favor, wherein I'll be a one-time antidote to this particular couple's sexual ennui: I push from the bumper while they pop the clutch. This doesn't do much for my self-esteem, as you can imagine. Now that I'm older, I can't help but dwell on the possible reasons I've been asked on lots of threesomes, but actual dates not so much.
Part of it is reputation, sure. Part of it's just me placing myself in the likely situations. But there's also that vibe — just as I can sense when a couple is angling for a threesome, they can sense I'm in, too. Even if I don't really want to be anymore. Half of me wants to grow out of this, find a single, solitary person and hunker down for the long haul. The other half can't let go of that ideal, the nostalgia for the time when being the third meant being a significant other.