Can there be such a thing as a spiritual one night stand?
It’s a Thursday night and I’m in a dimly lit bar, downtown, on a date. We’ve already moved on from our first stop of the night: sushi; and despite myself I’m leaning across the table while he passionately argues his disdain for astrology (oblivious to the fact that I adore astrology). Suddenly two women pass and murmurer a familiar hello to which he brusquely replies, the tension lingers for a second (Ex-girlfriend perhaps?), and I’m suddenly eager for the night to end.
I can count everything I know about him on one hand, name included, and I find that even though I don’t predict a second date in our future I’m appreciating him in all the cliche ways one can appreciate only a potential partner they barely know. He has a nice smile, he paid for dinner, his college major was Philosophy, he has a full head of dark messy hair and he’s in a band (OF Course!).
Fast forward to 40 minutes later and we’re kissing in a way I have never kissed anyone. All pretenses gone, stripped, and it’s as if I’m truly meeting him for the first time that night. The last 3 hours melt away and we’re so in-sync, so aligned, I’m half convinced I’m going forget how to stand and fall into the lake to my right. It’s gentle and passionate and sweet and tender and honest desire all wrapped up into one lip to lip, body to body connection.
And later, when he asks if he can stay the night and I say yes, in the moments that follow my whole understanding of sex changes forever. It’s not self seeking with a race to the finish. It’s not solely about the other person and making them happy so I can feel desired, worthy, or wanted. It’s not fueled by a long-term love or mixed with lingering obligations. It’s me being fully in my body and enjoying my body. It’s connection, and passion and joy for the sake of joy. It’s real and beautiful and strangely…spiritual. Cue Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”.
I wake up the next morning not the same person I was.
Up until this point I had spent most of my life as a serial monogamist. I didn’t date. I didn’t consciously believe there was anything wrong with promiscuous behavior as long as people were consenting and safe. But, on some level I unconsciously shamed others. Sexual freedom was something I didn’t understand.
Sex was a tool for co-dependency, manipulation, pleasing others and when I was pleased: shame.
I grew up not owning my body. How could I? I was surrounded with images and messages (even the well meaning ones) telling me how I should look, act, be. In 2nd grade, I was taught physical pleasure was shameful. Soon after I learned doing what others wanted could gain me acceptance and friends. I played sports but often got teased for how clumsy I was (not exactly an empowering experience). In my late teens, I discovered that getting attention for my looks was thrilling and also potentially dangerous. I never stopped to wonder why.
I just went on carrying my skewed understandings and shame with me and it took a one night stand at twenty-seven to make me think any differently.
Being sexual isn’t bad and my body isn’t bad. We’ve become friends and it has been a beautiful relationship to experience. It isn’t just focused on physical pleasure but learning to really listen to my body. To appreciate my body, to take care of my body and forgive it any conceived imperfections. It’s an ongoing process, a daily commitment, but it’s worth it.
Questions linger on my mind: How often do we really listen to our bodies or appreciate them for what they do every single day? How often do we shame others who do?
And, what about the next generation? How do we teach them to have healthy relationships with their bodies, to feel empowered and to have healthy relationships with others?