After I ended my 12-year marriage, I wanted to fall in love with men. In the school pick-up lane, on my morning run, sitting in a Lyft—I’d close my eyes and imagine kissing a man on that spot where the jaw meets the neck, feeling the bristle of hair against my lips. Or maybe he’d be clean shaven, and I’d follow the angle of his mandible with my tongue. I didn’t care which. I’d see a man, and I’d imagine singing in the car with him. Pressing my face into his shoulder. Scratching his head while we watched a movie.
It was the fall of 2017, and a very bad time to be in love with men.
On October 10, the New Yorker published its story about Harvey Weinstein, in which women called him out as a sexual predator. The #MeToo movement, which social activist Tarana Burke had started in 2006, took off on October 15, when the actress Alyssa Milano told women to share their own Weinstein-like stories. Stories about Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Mario Batali, and Lorin Stein leaked out. More followed. Women broke at once, and out from the cracks of us came the stories we’d been holding in—the stories of what men had done.
I was working for a magazine at the time, editing. Soon it seemed that every submission was about a woman, hurt by a man. I would edit them and cry. I’d think about my sisters, my mother, myself. Each of us had a scar. One we’d believed had healed, but was now split open.
I was also in the middle of a divorce, and receiving a barrage of emails from my ex-husband telling me in no uncertain terms how horrible I was. That season, I read the news, the emails, the pieces for my job. I couldn’t escape the constant torrent. A Greek chorus of women across America spoke with a single voice. “Men are bad. Men are trash,” the women said. And yet, all I wanted to do was touch men, taste them—I craved them.
I was raised Evangelical and homeschooled. I was a virgin for a long, long time. I was raised to believe men only wanted sex and that I should stay away from them. I was raised to fear men and all the things they would demand from me and my body. Until I married one, of course. And then I was told to give him whatever he wanted. I carried these messages in me, even as I grew older.
I didn’t date much. In high school, I’d had crushes, but no one ever asked me out. I was freshly out of homeschool, plus a speech and debate nerd, who liked to wear jaunty denim caps. I never had the gumption to ask anyone out.
In college, I dated the man so many of us dated in college. He played the guitar and video games. I made out with him on a futon while we listened to Smashing Pumpkins. He made me a mix CD with Ben Harper on it. But he was mean—always making fun of me, my glasses, my body, my large ears and crooked teeth. When I broke up with him, he slept with every single one of my friends on my dorm floor. Then I dated a man I met through debate tournaments. He was funny and charming; a perfect dream, who did impressions of a wookie having an orgasm. But he didn’t seem to like me. I was confused, so I broke up with him. Years later, I learned he married his partner, who is also a man. I was so happy for him I wept.