It was the first time I'd been invited to join a threeway.
"Hey, handsome," Sam began in a private Facebook message, "you seem like a lot of fun."
A certified-platinum approval addict, I bit into the hook like a fish desperate for seven (or eight) inches of worm.
"I like to think so," I answered, fueling a flirtation that had e-messages flying faster than a boomerang for more than two hours. Upon viewing Sam's public Facebook profile -- which, admittedly, I did after our online romance had taken bloom -- I made note of a few interesting points. First, he lived nearby, and I can get behind (as it were) a geographically desirable man. Second, we had a number of friends in common, a cyber "background check" of sorts. And, third, he appeared to have a husband.
"Um, Sam," I said, "did you forget to mention anything? Like a partner?"
"Oh, that," he typed, "yes, I'm married to a great guy named Bradley. You can have the two of us. The more the merrier!"
"That's quite an invitation." I cut to the chase.
"It definitely is; I've shown Bradley your photos, and we would love to hook up with you," he said, "but we'd like to have a 'get-to-know-you' drink first." It was what I call a "rent-to-own" proposition: see how it feels for a little while before actually taking it in.
Having written a book called Porn Again, I understand that my "brand" begs these sorts of conversations, but I hadn't, until now, allowed them to live beyond a quick Internet exchange. Sam and Bradley, though, seemed like lovely people who wanted to add a little spice to their 10-year relationship -- and the drought in my bedroom was a near-match for California's frightening water shortage. It could scratch an itch for all of us.
The common ménage-a-trois- fantasy, however, didn't quite firm up for me in real life. Yes, I had hired porn stars in the past for threesomes with my one and only ex-boyfriend, but those men were, quite literally, paid to love us and leave us. Rentboys didn't appear to favor Gavin (said ex) or me because their job was to provide satisfaction in equal measure. Plus, when the hookers pulled up their pants and went home, Gavin and I still had each other. Neither of us was the odd man out, the one to leave feeling empty, on his own.
Accustomed to the shame attached to years of schoolyard bullying because of my homosexuality, I moved into adulthood with a near-crippling fear of rejection. Sure, no one likes to be made fun of, told no or to be turned down, but I learned to sabotage potentially fulfilling situations in attempts to avoid the suggestion from anyone -- regardless of the degree of importance that he or she held in my life -- that I was somehow not wanted. Sam and Bradley were double trouble, two possible rejections for the price of one. (My eyes could envision the sign at Smart & Final, but my penis can't read.)
Sam and Bradley served a glass of a sweet-tasting wine -- the kind that comes in a case for a very reasonable price -- and homemade banana pudding, and they sat with me around their kitchen counter. Sam was 38, with a beefy build and an easy, familiar conversational style. Bradley was 31 and had a smooth, boyish face; his tall, slim body was appealing, but his manner seemed cold and indifferent. Sam had done all of the talking online, and, in-person, the dynamic wasn't dissimilar.
"Am I making you nervous?" I asked Bradley, taking control and directly pointing to the proverbial poop on the living room rug.
"Not at all," Sam said, jumping in with an answer before his husband could even own up to the cool air he was circulating through the room.
I got the message; Sam was attracted to me; Bradley was not. If any sexual activity was going to occur, it would be Bradley's "gift" to Sam. It wasn't going to be because we all had our, um, heads -- six of them, to be exact -- in the game.
I was turned on by both men, and I considered just letting things unfold on their king-size bed. For a brief moment, I thought I could detach and just enjoy the ride without any damage to my self-esteem. With the last bite of dessert, though, I came to my senses. I realized that I would be the one leaving their apartment at 1:00 AM, heading home alone to see my disheveled outfit and post-coitus hairdo in the lonely pool of my own bathroom mirror. Also in the reflecting glass would be a man who had become a plaything to a guy who didn't seem to value my feelings enough to fake interest -- even for the sake of his husband's enjoyment. At the end of the day, Bradley did me the favor. I went home with achingly blue balls but a perfectly clear mind. Yes, the sex might have yielded physical pleasure in the moment, but the release would most certainly collect on its loan later -- when I'd be home by myself, marinating in the hurt of feeling unwanted by another human being. For once, I didn't sabotage the fantasy before exploring the idea of a threeway with Sam and Bradley, but I hit the brakes the moment I was made to feel undesirable.
"We loved meeting you," Sam texted no more than 10 minutes after I left their apartment. "We got past the 'meeting' stage and can move things forward when we see you next."
I smiled to myself, as I drove the short distance back to my house. Not because Sam was horny enough to speak for himself and Bradley yet again but because an "indecent proposal" -- one that never even became a reality -- wound up strengthening my soul. My stereotypically male desire for sex wasn't a match for the sense of self that I finally started to develop at 40 years-old. At last, I began to know what made me desirable to myself.
I have pulled off the "threeway" and am traveling on quieter streets at the moment. I don't get the immediate gratification of arriving places quickly, but I enjoy the scenery a whole lot more.