I find joy in my on-again/off-again clinical depression. Depression causes me to lay in my bed in my room listening to my favorite sad songs thinking about myself. Obviously I would rather feel like a Katy Perry 3D movie than a Lana Del Rey music video, but once depression latches onto me, I struggle to let go, because sadness becomes masturbatory—pleasure I receive while alone.
Unfortunately, last winter, I entered depression without time to dedicate to myself. I shared a mold infested college dorm with a self-described “suburban girl” from “the suburb outside of Chicago Mean Girls is based off of.” As if living in a room with ancient fluorescent lights and an ugly blue carpet covered in past student’s gum wasn’t bad enough, my roommate wore Gap jeans, skyped with her mom nine hours a week about how much she hated men, and forced me to leave the room so she could sleep for fourteen hours a day. One time, she complained about dirty dishes and then screamed when I washed my plates at 3 pm on a Tuesday, because it was “too early to clean.”
I wanted to honor my crazy, but the suburban girl forced my world to revolve around her crazy. Seasonal depression lost its only element of fun.
My therapist said I should leave my room and talk to people, but my girlfriends will want to talk about their problems. Attention has always thrilled me, and I wanted to relish in depression’s delights. So I downloaded Grindr.
I had used Grindr before. The previous summer I worked as a rent-a-lifeguard at expensive condo buildings on the Upper West Side. Since my boss banned books and cell phones and Wall Street executives buy condos with pools to show off their pool, not to actually use it, I spent most eight hour shifts alone, looking at my reflection in the water. One day, my manager taught me to hide my cell phone in the binder where we logged pool chemicals. Lonely, I signed up for Grindr.
I never used the app to find sex. I just let guys message me, and sometimes I responded, to feel like I had companions during the shifts I spent alone. In the room I shared with bitch face, I used Grindr as a replacement for the attention I would have given myself. I relished in the flirty messages nineteen-year-old Italian boys and forty-year old marketing executives sent me.
One night, soaking up the attention, I received a message from a middle-aged man I’d actually fuck. In his photo he sat on a leather chair in a polo shirt and jeans; he looked like Bob Iger, the Walt Disney Company’s CEO. On a Disney blog, I saw Iger’s ripped arms; the website said the executive worked out at the gym every morning before he goes to the studio. I always have found workaholics sexy.
“Looking?” the middle aged man asked.
He might be using fake photos, I thought.
“More pics?” I asked.
He sent a photo of his erection.
“LOL. Like face pics,” I said. He sent photos showing the same chiseled face. “Hot.”
He described how he wanted to eat my cum. I fantasized about the idea but grew up in Florida and watched America’s Most Wanted every weekend in the fourth grade—meeting up with strangers leads to death. I told him I had to go and signed off.
The next day, winter ended. I walked from my dorm to the college gym in the sun, feeling the sadness hibernation spurs melt, and decided I needed to get out of my mold covered room, chatting strangers, and experience people as my mind doctor reccomended. I logged onto Grindr and messaged the Disney CEO look-a-like.
He responded immediately: “I’m free. But one question: Are you sick right now?”
“I’m STD free.”
“No. Like a cold. I have a marketing meeting I can’t miss tomorrow. I can’t get sick.”
“I have a runny nose, but it’s from allergies.”
“That’s fine. I’ll just blow you.”
I laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation—it’s so easy to receive a blow job—and felt happy for the first time in months. As usual, after three months of hiding in my room, I remember how amazing it feels to receive real attention—IRL attention—from someone other than myself.
I met the marketing executive in a park across the street from a church. He saw me outside the church and waved. He looked exactly as he did in the photos, except with glasses. I would be mad about his glasses, but I also wore glasses unseen in my Grindr photo. He introduced himself and extended his hand, as if he was about to make a business deal, not eat my twenty-year-old cum. I shook his hand and laughed, because I read about situations like this in my queer history class, and the situation seemed more like an anthropological experience, because I knew I would write about it since I write about everything.
On the way to his apartment around the corner, he asked about my studies and told me he donates to my liberal arts college where Ivy League families send their gay sons and lesbian daughters.
“Did you go there?” I asked.
“No, but a lot of my friends did. I’ll be at the donor party in May.”
Once I entered his apartment, I understood how he could afford to donate to the school. His love seat, his bar stools, his dining room chairs were leather; art work hung from his walls.
“Would you like a drink?” he asked.
Our conversation felt like a connection, but remembering America’s Most Wanted, I declined.
“Well,” he said, smiling, as he walked down the hall to his room. “Feel free to take off your shoes,” which is code for take off your clothes and come to my room.
His room looked like what my friend Lauren calls purgatory: Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The baby blue 1000-thread-count sheets matched the baby blue walls. I removed my clothes and lay on the bed. He smiled at me and stripped down to a jock strap.
He crawled towards me. He stopped in front of my crotch. “You don’t have to give to receive,” he said. With his teeth he removed my boxer briefs and then started to do what everyone does when they use their teeth to take off a stranger’s underwear. Every few minutes, he left my cock to grind his penis between my toes and feet. “That’s my dick.”
I contemplated saying, “No shit,” but instead just lay there.
In theory, he was great—he went up and down and all around—and the footjob I gave was weird—penises don’t really fit in between toes—but I felt nothing. I came to orgasm in his mouth, but I did not cum. There’s a reason this is an essay about sex and the actual sex part comes down to two hundred something words.
I showered in his shower, by myself, put on my clothes, and then said goodbye without a see you later, goodbye, or hope I run into you on campus when you come to donate money and drink wine with the college president.
A year later, I still wonder why I ejaculated without cumming. I think I’ve confused attention with connection. The world revolves around me when I think about myself and strangers message me to call me pretty, but I’m not connecting to them. Sex with strangers isn’t the friendship my shrink suggested. I’m an attention junkie, but like a heroin junkie, my addiction gets me nowhere. I’m still alone, in a sense, I’m depressed in summer. It’s probably better to give and receive and not just splurge in a guy’s mouth.
Follow Mitchell on Twitter @MitchSunderland
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image via So So Gay