so, I said, fiddling with my tea cup. "Everything at work is going
"Great," Julian responded brightly. "You sure you don't want another bite
of this crème brûlée? I'm going to finish it."
"I'm not a dessert person. Go ahead." I watched him. "Good, huh?"
"Not really. Overbaked, like scrambled eggs."
"Really? But you're going to eat it anyway?"
"Sure." He scooped up the last mouthful. "Check, please," he called.
"So you didn't like it. You ate it anyway, I see." I tapped my spoon on
the table. "I don't mean that in a bad way."
"Uh, I guess," he said uncertainly. We'd only been going out for a few
weeks, and we'd had a few conversations like these, those
getting-to-know-you stabs in the dark. Now I could see him mentally
wrestling, trying to see what road I was leading him down. "I probably
didn't need the calories. But I do bad things sometimes."
I stopped tapping the spoon and looked at him. "Like what kinds of things?"
"Dessert?" he asked hopefully. "I don't hold much expectations for a good crème brûlée."
I nodded, thinking. "I think we need to have a talk."
I'd been rehearsing this conversation in my head for some time now, ever since Julian and I had begun sleeping together fairly regularly.
The first time we'd been together, it seemed fine, if a little awkward.
True, I'd gone down on him, and he hadn't reciprocated. Okay, that's fine.
It's the first time, right? Anything can be forgiven the first time. You're
nervous, you're clumsy, you don't know what the other person expects. We'd
been tired that first night; we'd been groping for over two hours,
negotiating this panty here, this bra there. That first time, it'd be
lucky if one of you got off, incredible if it were both, and a virtual
miracle if it was simultaneous.
But the second time, still no reciprocation. Yes, he seemed willing,
eager even, to be with me in this compromising state of affairs, jeans
around our ankles and T-shirts thrown by the side of the bed. I watched him
watch me with a certain awe perhaps it was shock as if he couldn't
really believe he was with me, there, naked, in my bed.
Maybe it was inexperience.
He had let it slip that I was the most aggressive woman he'd ever been with. Aggressive? Julian didn't know the meaning of the word. The
third time, I asked him to go down on me. ( Honesty, communication,
openness, blah, blah, blah: all that stuff that's conducive to a healthy
relationship.) And while he acquiesced, was it just me or did I sense a
certain reluctance? As I lay there on my back, I made a mental note to look
up the definitions of "aggressive" and "assertive." Maybe Julian meant the
I started to ask him, "Julian, when you said aggressive, didn't you
really mean ..." How sexy, what timing. I'd had semantic discussions before
in bed, but never like this.
The truth of the matter is, as time went on, I simply did not think that
he was sexually attracted to me. Sure, it happens, but it had never
happened to me before, and I did not like it one bit. I knew he enjoyed
being with me; I knew in a general sense that I was an attractive person.
We liked going out for dinner, seeing movies, curling up on my sofa, and
maybe that would have to be enough. I wondered, would it be okay if Julian
never wanted to rip my clothes off and make mad passionate love to me on
the living room rug?
There almost always is one person in a couple who is more sexually motivated
than the other. And why should it always be the guy? I'd thought my libido
was no stronger than the average Jo, but maybe I was misinformed. Maybe I
was a nymphomaniac. A sex-starved, aggressive harridan, who would stop at
nothing to achieve her next orgasm, who cared nothing for the sweet, gentle
kind man who perhaps wasn't as concerned as he should be about getting her off but still loved
As I sat watching Julian eat his overbaked brûlée, the thought briefly
flitted through my mind that it would be too forward of me to stroke his
thigh under the table. He wouldn't like it. I watched the waiter set down
the check. He probably thought we were this romantic couple,
the dessert just a prelude to going home and making mad love all
It was no use, Julian and me, and I knew it. Perhaps if I were
the man in this relationship, perhaps if I were a different person
altogether, it would be negotiable. But I couldn't compartmentalize this
aspect of the relationship. Sex is too important to me, and I was feeling