*Jenny Part 3:
The next day was our school summer fair. Everyone was there, including our exs. Treading the gauntlet of newly developing affection versus the fear of observation, we were immediately confronted with the potential for social catastrophe our relationship could cause. Due to the way the housing system at our international school works, Mina was still living with her ex, and she would be for the next few weeks. This, coupled with an understandable desire not to hurt anyone unnecessarily, until we were more certain what we were going to be, meant a prolonged period of secrecy. I felt swamped by guilt. Even though I knew both our exes were over the relationship and had been for some time, I didn’t know how they would take it. I didn’t really feel that my ex was my responsibility as he had made it clear we were not friends, but Mina’s ex had confided in me a lot about the details of their relationship and it’s break-up; I was worried she would see it as a betrayal. And thus, my life working at an international school became just like an episode of Sunset Beach. But without the sunset. Or the beach.
So over the next few weeks, we snatched moments on secret shopping trips to make-up stores and dog walks. Part of me was pretty confident that Mina’s feelings for me extended beyond ‘just seeing what happens,’ and I was happy to wait for her to catch up with her own emotions, but another part of me started to feel increasingly insecure. I told myself I was just being paranoid, but whilst she often responded to me in waves of affection, at times there seemed to be an almost indiscernible current of resistant. We touched, but I felt like I had to let her initiate it. We kissed, but she was always the one to stop first. We had sex, but alcohol seemed to be necessary foreplay.
One evening, a few weeks into ‘just seeing what happens,’ we went for a walk on the hill near her apartment. We stopped on a bench, kissed and just when I thought she was indicating it should get a little more heated, and responded in a way I thought she wanted, she became clearly uncomfortable. I was confused, but I tried not to let it bother me too much. We went back to the car, and she tried to explain herself. I only remember snippets of what she said, which went something like…she didn’t necessarily want to have sex straight away… she needed to feel emotionally comfortable… how her sister (whom she had just come out to as well) said she felt the same and that maybe her attitude towards sex was a more female one…. This made perfect sense to me, as I felt the same way. I digested the information calmly, but as I biked home that evening I found I was becoming increasingly upset and I couldn’t quite work out why.
Maybe it would have been easier, but this wasn’t the first time I’d had a partner with issues surrounding sex. At the beginning of that relationship we were talking about it, so at first I thought it was something we could work through. But over time, our level of intimacy became less and less. I tried both confronting this and ignoring it at different points in our relationship, but somehow it became harder and harder. Thus I entered a downward spiral of non-communication, feeling guilty over having a desire for sex and feeling increasingly afraid of discovering I wasn’t really wanted. This dynamic was ultimately fundamental in the destruction of our relationship.
So, although I logically understood what Mina was telling me, emotionally I felt rejected. Past years of feeling neglected and undesired suddenly caught up with me. Shouldn’t a new relationship be filled with unbridled passion?. Why was I entering another relationship where that wasn’t the case? Even though she was telling me it wasn’t, it was hard not to, once again, feel the nagging question, is it me?