I got the welcome message one year ago: “Hi, I’m Alice. I work here at OkCupid and thought you should have a few pointers to help get you started.”
I had turned 40 in March. Celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary in May. And yet, there I was, on a drunken Saturday night with my beloved husband. We were sitting on the sofa, side-by-side, laptops in laps, creating new Gmail accounts and trying to come up with clever profile names and debating whether or not to include photos of ourselves. (I went with a hedgehog wearing a sombrero.) I was nervous and excited and freaking the fuck out.
How did we end up there? It had all started on a previous drunken Saturday night, with a conflicted husband trying to convey his need for SOMETHING MORE. I didn’t know what that meant. “Is there someone else?” “Do you want a divorce?” “Are you gay?” It took many conversations, hours upon hours Googling terms such as “polyamory” and “open relationship” and an apprehensive trip to the local bookstore — where the clerk looked at my copy of “The Ethical Slut” and remarked, “I love this book!” as I sighed with relief and realized that maybe I wasn’t alone in this scary new world.
But back to OKCupid. I was convinced that no one would be remotely interested in me. No one wants to date a 40-year-old, married woman with a few extra pounds on her, right? (Yes, I now realize how naive I was back then.) I was convinced that someone I knew would see me and would somehow track down my family and reveal my “secret” life to them. Or that a coworker would find out. Or that my single, monogamous friends would stumble across our profiles and judge us or maybe even hit on me or my husband.
I’ve disabled and reenabled my OKCupid account countless times since that night. I’ve read through the seemingly endless parade of messages ranging from the punctuationally challenged (“hi how are you”) to the sweet (“My god, you’re ridiculously cute”) to the creepy (“Beautiful eyes you should never shut em even when you go to sleep”) to the perverted, which are usually immediately deleted. (Maybe I’ll start collecting those for a future article.)
I’ve fallen in love. Twice. The first time I waited weeks to consummate the relationship and nearly eight months to tell him I loved him. The second time? I took him home on the first date and less than two weeks later we were saying “I love you” and after three weeks we were talking about moving in together. (Most definitely a topic for a future article.) They couldn’t be more different and I continue to love them both madly and deeply.
I’ve watched my husband fall in love, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But he seems happier than he’s been in a long time, maybe ever. And that’s all I can and should want for him.
I know what it means to have a “friend with benefits.” He is funny and smart and sexy and I could listen to him ramble on about obscure comic books, bands and movies for hours.
I’ve had the best sex of my life. I’ve dated a woman. I’ve discovered proclivities and aspects of my sexual identity that I didn’t even know existed. And I’m still uncovering them.
My conversations are composed of an entirely new vocabulary these days. Compersion. Fluid bonding. Polycules. Ethical non-monogamy. NRE. BDSM. Triads. And yes, even unicorns.
I’ve met girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, partners, partners’ partners, partners’ partners’ partners, kids and parents. I’ve made some of the very best friends I’ve ever had in my life. I am surrounded by people I love and people who love me.
I’m going to therapy for the first time in my life. And it’s actually working.
Of course, the past year hasn’t been all unicorns shitting rainbows and glitter. Mistakes have been made and there have been missteps along the way. That beloved husband of mine has put up with untold hours of shit and negativity and jealousy from me. And yet, he is still my best friend. We are figuring out what that means for us now. Because everything has changed. And that’s OK.
Right now there is a lot of uncertainty ahead of me. How/when do I “come out” to my family? Can my husband and I truly remain best friends even if we split up? Who will get custody of the dogs? Am I making a huge mistake moving in with a sexy, sweet, heavily tattooed, underemployed guitar player I’ve only known for a month?
What I do know is this: I wouldn’t recognize the frightened, unsure woman I was on that drunken night one year ago if she were standing in front of me today. Nor she, me.
And I am totally fucking fine with that.