"Here's a little trend I thought you might be interested in," my friend Rex said on the phone. "I have a press release in my hand. Dr. Judy reports in the July issue of Penthouse that 'an increasing number of women are going for no-strings attached sex.' And that 'one of the safest ways to pull it off is to have "buddy sex."' But" -- Rex's voice dropped down to a dramatic whisper -- "Dr. Judy also says, 'For buddy sex to work, there are rules it's best to follow.'"
I was silent for a moment. "I don't know which to attack first," I said finally, "the idea, or the grammatical structure of that sentence." Sitting down on my sofa, I looked accusingly at the phone. "What rock has this woman been living under?"
"Just thought you should know what your colleagues were up to," Rex said lightly. As a Hollywood agent, he's staked his life's blood on what his colleagues are up to.
"Press release, eh?" I cradled the phone between my ear and my shoulder. "Is that a new variation on 'I just read it for the articles'?"
Rex harrumphed. "I could fax it to you."
"What is this Dr. Judy?" I started to frown as the information seeped into my brain. "She says that women have recently discovered no-strings attached sex? Who does she think men have been having no-strings attached sex with all these years?"
"Hey, don't kill the messenger," he said. "Anyway, I'm married, remember? Sex is but a distant memory."
Buddy sex, or the more colloquial "fuck buddies," is, of course, nothing new. If, according to Dr. Judy, heteros are just recently stumbling upon this phenomena, they are light years behind the gay community, which sorted all this out eons ago. Not to be confused with friends with whom you have sex, fuck buddies live in their own special little stratosphere. They're people you like to have sex with, but not necessarily like to talk to. You respect their commitment to the gym, but not their commitment to political causes. In fact, the less you have in common, the better.
The last fuck buddy I had was a year ago, when I was researching an article on a music trend. I knew there was an electrifying quality about Russell the minute I talked to him on the phone, but the form it took at that stage was simply maddening. I was trying to get him to say something -- anything -- lively and quotable, but he (who would later profess a hatred of journalists) steadfastly refused, uttering instead the type of monosyllabic responses that threaten any writer's sanity. Later, when we met, the conversation -- if you could call a series of pointed interrogations followed by reluctant grunts a conversation -- would take the same course.
We went out to dinner. He hated everything I ordered. I hated everything he ordered. I disagreed with his comments, his clothes, his political stance. He disagreed with my pronouncements, my irony and my leather jacket. I thought him dozey and ineffectual. He thought me aggressive and nervous. Clearly this was not a match made in any heaven.
But there was something else going on between us that made our disagreements a bit more rabid. I couldn't stop wondering what it would be like to kiss him, and later, fuck him. Because as much as I didn't really like him, per se, I had to admit that physically he did something to me. It wasn't his body or his movements or anything I can even remember. It was plain old sexual chemistry.
Without much preamble, we became fuck buddies -- an arrangement I'd toyed with a few times in my 20s, when the emotional stakes weren't as high and expectations were fewer. Naturally, all the previous emotional clashing with Russell simply escorted us into a higher plane of sexual tension, and the sex was intense and gratifying. It was one of the few times that I felt like a pure animal -- not a human with thoughts and feelings and wishes and hopes -- but rather more like a weasel or a mink, or one of the mammals featured on a PBS nature show.
The fact that we weren't friends seemed to make it all the more easy. He never drifted into my circle, so there were no explanations to be made to the gabbling gallery. For his part, Russell seemed stunned that I wasn't playing the "chick who settles in order to manipulate her way into relationship" game. We didn't talk very much either before or after -- talking, after all, was so dreadfully unsatisfying with him. And we'd never, ever spend the night at one another's apartment -- also a complete anathema ("Imagine if you had to see him floss his teeth," Rex commented). I'd call him up, or he'd call me up, usually late in the day, and we'd arrange a time and place for later and that would be that.
But sooner or later, emotions will always pop up, gopherlike, in the flat terrain of sexual intercourse. In my 20s, it would be one or the other (usually me) who would start to feel slighted and more needy (if I wasn't his girlfriend then why wasn't I his girlfriend? That sort of thing) and then the invariable discussion would follow, sounding the death knell of the fuck buddy arrangement.
In your 20s it's easier to get away with just about everything, and sex is no exception. But what might seem healthy and exploratory at 22 starts to feel a little twisted, strange and bordering on sick a mere 10 years later. In your 30s, the internal dialogue goes something like this: It's so great to have this fuck buddy, because both of us like sex and we don't have the emotional complication and hey, for some reason neither one of us has a significant other. But ... why don't we? End of the fuck buddy arrangement. Eventually, I stopped calling Russell and he stopped calling me. It ended as suddenly as it began.
I told this story to Rex, who listened to it without many asides, apart from an occasional "uh huh" and "oh, yeah" and "mmmm, those were the days." Afterwards, he said, "I always tended to think that men's sexual responses are binary." I heard him take a gulp of coffee. "That is, it's either on or it's off. I don't think men have that much interest in cuddling, to tell you the truth."
"No, fuck buddies -- male or female -- don't have much interest in cuddling," I corrected him. "Just out of curiosity, what's one of those rules that Dr. Judy espouses?"
"Here's a goody." I heard some papers crackling in the background. "'Rule No. 3: Allow for the possibility that you may just fall in love with each other and let it happen naturally.'"
I burst out laughing. "Are you sure that's not Dr. Laura with a pseudonym?" A memory of Russell popped in my head -- the disapproving glare at my leather jacket, the cringing shudder when I ordered a veal chop. "That's where she loses all credibility. True fuck buddies may do many things, but they never, ever fall in love."