Finally we’re starting to get a Fall chill in the air and when I say chill, I mean something in double digits.
You know how at certain times of year, you just naturally start remembering things that occurred at that time in years long past? I woke up this morning with such a feeling of freedom. Yesterday, unexpectedly, all of my clients wanted to move appointments which made my day off switch from Thursday to…today. I feel like I have a snow day in this 80 something degree weather.
After completing my 70 squats (had to get that in there) and cleaning /prepping my kitchen for soup making, while grinding my coffee beans, I became consumed with a memory of a very very long time ago. From my late 30’s in fact. I started thinking about this old love who I will just refer to as P. P is or at least was a very well respected OB/Gyn. In fact, he delivered one of my good friend’s baby back in the day. She’s the person who encouraged me to date him. She said “I’m not sure if you will be attracted to him because honestly I don’t know if he’s even straight but you two have so much in common, I think you should give him a chance”.
P was a short, balding, bespectacled, chubby, bow tie wearing kind of hip nerd. I fell in love with him on the first date over sushi, naturally.
not him obviously but you get the idea–although less hot, more ordinary looking
He was funny, charming, smart, interesting, a great cook and creative type as well as an Ivy League educated physician.
He was also very VERY recently separated. As in a matter of weeks. He shared with me early on that he was sort of busting on the singles scene after 18 years of marriage to his high school sweetheart. A marriage that, like many, had fallen in to boring routines and asexuality. Part of P’s busting out included exploring pornography, going to Las Vegas to “sex clubs” and hanging out with a Nurse Practitioner he’d has his eye on for awhile. He shared “yeah the rumor going around the practice was she got caught in bed on a cruise ship with her friend and one of the crew members and I thought ‘that’s the girl for me’ “. He was , as he explained, exploring a field of sexuality he’d never gotten to during the normal phases of a person’s life that they do that as he was married so young, then invested in medical school and….blah blah blah.
I fell for it all. I’d come out of my own asexual marriage a couple of years earlier so I was looking for someone with a pulse. But I was also smart about things as we were sincerely falling in love. I wouldn’t let him even in my condo. I would only make out with him in the car on dates. I dated him for months before I would get involved sexually. I just said “that’s all fine and good but unless you want an exclusive sexual relationship with me, we’re just going to date”. Of course I increased his desire for me doing it that way but I was just protecting myself. I understood his kind of “busting out” phase and he was in a major transition so I could ride it out. Or so I thought.
We would meet for coffee, wine, nice dinners out. He was an amateur photographer and I was in to ceramics at the time so we talked about creativity a lot. It was a nice. fun, stimulating relationship. And one, as you can imagine, I was in total denial about.
He was so clean cut, so Harvard, so nerdy that it didn’t even occur to me that the kinds of behaviors he would describe to me were indicative of a problem. Staying up for hours watching porn, engaging in group sex, frequenting adult bookstores where back room anonymous sex occurred. Primarily with men on men. None of this as it peppered occasionally in to our conversations hit me for what it was, well, until it was all over. Then it all came crashing down like an avalanche.
P was a sex addict.
He’d also shared that his first sexual experiences were being abused by a male babysitter along with his brother. His parents would take long trips in the summertime and leave the two boys in the care of a young man they’d met once on a cruise ship. As he said “as soon as the door closed behind our parents, the games would begin”. P was in therapy (another good sign to invest in him) but still didn’t recognize the impact of this on himself, although was able to in terms of his brother. P’s brother had grown up to also live a double life in the suburbs with a wife and teenagers and an online alter ego as a “Master”. P showed me his website, after he’d had a serious surgery, where his “slaves” had created a place to share their concern. He had these slaves all over the country and would travel for “business” but hook up all over the place. While his Laura Schlessinger loving wife was at home raising the kids totally in the dark. That is until the day she tried to kill herself by throwing her body in front of a train (she survived).
Even I, as a former Psychiatric nurse, was so blinded by my love for P that I didn’t see the glaring warning signs there.
Finally, after months of dating, on my birthday, I let him in to my condo. He arrived with one of his framed photographs with a beautiful inscription on the mat, a dozen roses, a crisp suit and champagne as we embarked on a date with fine wine and multiple courses to the swankiest restaurant in town. And landed back at my place, after. At that dinner he proclaimed “I’ve gotten all that other stuff out of my system and I’m now afraid of losing you, so I’d like you to consider a one on one relationship with me”. Done. We were official. His playtime phase was over.
It was bliss all through that Fall, then Christmas where he took me away and gave me a cashmere sweater and a diamond necklace. You can imagine how having a nice Christmas felt for me and the prospect of a lifetime of Christmas’s I could look forward to vs. dread.
New Year’s weekend we stayed at his place as he was on call. He said “you’ll have to see just how it is living with an obstetrician on call — it’s a lot of staccato rhythm”. No problem I thought as I stayed at his place all weekend cooking, picking up, waiting for him to come back from delivering babies. It was so domestic and honestly, blissful. During that weekend we talked about our leases coming up and moving in together. We drove around neighborhoods looking at houses, floor plans, making our own plans for the near future.
P came home that weekend from one of his calls and stripped off his scrubs and crawled in to bed. Yes we did a lot of staying in bed that weekend too. Sex was always great between us. Later when he’d left again, I emptied his pockets to throw his scrubs in the wash and found an odd appointment card dated for that day. With his name on it. It was for a massage parlor in between his home and the hospital. I was first incensed as I owned a massage studio at the time. Why would he go somewhere else? I rationalized it thinking it was on his way and he didn’t want to upset me that he ran for a massage between deliveries. Until I called the number.
“We will satisfy you inch by inch….” the breathy voice said.
And do you know, to this day, P doesn’t know I found that card. I went immediately in to denial. We were looking at houses for God’s sake! This was my future right here!
Two nights later, P took me to the very sushi restaurant he’d taken me for that first date and nervously said across that platter of raw fish “I don’t know if I’ve ever loved you”.
I don’t think he and I ever had one fight. It wasn’t some kind of conflict that came up. It was an earthquake.
I walked right out of the restaurant and sat on the curb sobbing.
He took me home and we then embarked on one of the stupidest, most self denying plans I may have ever engaged in. We agreed to continue seeing each other as he’d decided “I guess I didn’t get that single stuff out of my system after all. I mean you knew the risk you were getting in to with me”. Yeah, like somehow I’d gotten in to this recklessly. For once I was smart about it and this is what happened? I was devastated. But still thinking we could salvage this somehow. It was just all so shocking. That wall of denial is an inpenetrable surface sometimes.
So we separated but continued seeing each other occasionally. I was a mess. Pretending to be ok with it all. Yet he was masterful at keeping me right there. Like on Valentine’s Day, he prepared a four course gourmet meal, invited another couple over and he showered me with gifts, a ruby heart shaped necklace–a book of Spanish love poems inscribed with “to the first of many Valentine’s Days together”–a heartfelt card and great sex. Until the next morning when it was clear, we were back to the disconnect. It was totally disorienting.
I finally ended it that Spring, just before his 40th birthday, when he picked me up for a date–a play and dinner. P was usually impeccably groomed but this time was disheveled, distracted and anxious. At the play I saw one of the gay theatre workers flash him a second glance and P glance back awkwardly. It was bad enough feeling jealous of women your man may have been playing around with, but that night I realized it also included men. He was just out there.
We went to dinner and he nervously spilled some story that he needed to get off his chest. “You’re my best friend and I have to talk about this to someone”. It was a strange story that really didn’t match with his level of panic about meeting a woman from online in a bar, taking her back to his car, getting involved in some heavy petting and somehow him thinking she was going to accuse him of raping her. He was asking me questions like “what if she goes to an emergency room and gets a rape kit?”. This whole thing made no sense coming from this seasoned gynecologist. He was terrified he was going to “get sued and lose everything”.
Something had happened that scared the wits out of him the night before but to this day I don’t know what it was. I don’t think he raped anyone or anything like that. I do think he got caught in something terrifying–maybe a hooker, maybe a man, maybe a patient’s husband or wife or something that terrified him to the core. It was all over him. Panic.
Finally after listening for awhile to this mumbo jumbo I said something like “you do realize it’s me you’re telling this all to, right?”.
For God’s sake. And I sat there listening to it, quietly, not just walking out away from this lunatic.
He apologized saying “I don’t have anyone else to talk to about it with”. Whatever.
The next day I received a sickeningly sweet apology and invitation to go to Las Vegas with him to see the Rolling Stones for his upcoming 40th birthday. I stuck to my guns and declined as we were not being intimate and I was certainly not going away with him to stay in a hotel room. He got snotty with me and fired something passive aggressive back and just like that I ended it. In an email. Done.
I had that one smart thing I did to hang on to as I set about recovering. It was excruciating. It was a very tough breakup on me primarily because I’d spent those last months losing so much of myself in the process. Giving up and putting up with way more than I ever should have.
I’ll never forget, during that recovery time, sitting at my computer up in the loft with Oprah on downstairs and she had a show about sex addiction on. There was a check list at the end.
You know this person is a sex addict if they have 5 of this list: type of thing.
I sat there dumbfounded as P had every single one of those qualities from that list. The porn, the group sex, the double life/hiding it, the sabotaging his current life/career, history of sexual abuse etc. etc.
He was a full blown sex addict.
This nerdy, chubby bow tie wearing Dr. was living a double life in the most seedy layers of society acting out his pain. And loving it. This man wasn’t “getting anything out of his system”. This was his system. I remember once he got glazed over and this dreamy eyed look describing going to a sex club in Vegas as he oozed “I felt like I found my people”.
I’m sure he did. At least his people in the part of his life that I had no inclusion in. The one he was constantly hiding, telling stories and lying about. About it all being over. Why not just find a girlfriend from that world then?
I learned that a sex addict often gets more of a buzz if what they are doing is naughty, hidden, bad. So it’s not unusual that they keep a “good girl” in the picture, lying to her, simply for the amplification of their buzz. It’s the double life they get off on as much as the sex. Ouch. That realization also made it easier to stay gone.
I went forward from this a more educated person and with a more jaded eye. As if I didn’t already have enough jade in these blue eyes, now I look for signs of sex addiction. And double lives.
I don’t know why people feel the need to do that. Live a lie like that. As evidenced by this blog, I live my life as much as an open book as I can. Maybe that makes me a sitting duck for that kind of dynamic, I don’t know. But that style of living confounds and deeply saddens me. I guess it’s just all addiction and hiding, lying, splitting off like that is part of what fuels it.
How exhausting. How destructive. How selfish. How cowardly.
The post script to the P story is funny, poignant and sad.
Many years later, I’d found a new gynecologist, who , after my first appointment moved to a new office. So as I drove to the second appointment, I realized he’d moved in to P’s old office suite. That exact office. Damn.
The same one I’d go visit him at and make out in his back office. The one I knew he was sending me sexy emails from. That one. Damn.
I steeled myself and walked in, my stomach in knots all those years later. The body never lies.
Picture this. There I am, literally up in stirrups with this new Dr. all up in my whatnots and his nurse, an older woman, sweetly holding my hand.
The Dr. was very charming and friendly and making conversation asks “so did you have any trouble finding the new office?”.
I replied “no I’ve been here before”.
He asked “ohyeah? Did you go to that practice before?”.
I don’t know why, maybe the open book thing, maybe my legs being splayed open like that invited a full frontal honesty but I blurted out “yes I used to date Dr. P”.
This kind, good man blurts back to me “oh I heard he just got married!” not realizing what he’d just done.
Yes his hands are all up inside me and that’s how I found out P. had gotten married to someone else. Right in his old office.
The nice nurse flashed him one of those glances like “OMG shut UP!” as I’m sure she felt my hand go in to contraction in hers.
He then made matters worse by saying “oh well, he had to move out of here because his practice was really failing” and whatever else he said as the white noise took over.
I have to say though I walked out of that office laughing my ass off at the irony of that.
I called a friend who’d just gone through some kind of ex husband humiliation and said “ok I ‘ve got you beat now” and we both couldn’t stop laughing.
It did bring some closure to me on that whole thing.
The following year I called to make my annual appointment and oddly the front desk person said “let me get you his nurse”.
The nice hand holding nurse got on the phone with me and said “you don’t know, do you?”.
Just a couple of months prior, days before Christmas, my Dr. was headed with his wife and son up North for the holiday. The son was driving. The car flipped and the only survivor was his wife, trapped in the car upside down, alive for two days before she was rescued.
This overly honest, transparent, kind man, my Dr’s life was ended just like that. Leaving a husbandless wife and sonless mother behind.
Now that puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
In memory of…and in the spirit of The Gods of Transparency.
I’m a big fan.