On March 31st last year, Nina went on a date with Andy, having agreed in advance that he would be allowed to kiss her – once. Here is her account of the event.
The waiter pours the wine, just a drop, and I watch with amusement as Andy swirls it and breathes in the aroma. The only thing he knows about wine is that it shouldn’t have bits of cork floating in it. But I’m his girlfriend tonight – which means, I guess, that I’m not supposed to laugh at his serious and knowledgeable expression. I bite my tongue while the comedy plays itself out.
I’m trying, I really am. I’ve even put special effort into making myself pretty – manicure, pedicure, legs waxed, pubes shaved into a heart and dyed pink (never done that before – can’t decide whether it’s kinky or just daft). Of course, I do most of this stuff anyway when I’m out on the pull, but tonight isn’t about picking up a stranger for a night of hot sex.
Which is not to say tonight isn’t about sex – it bloody well better be. Tonight is different because Andy is my friend, perhaps my best friend, not merely one of my lovers (the man does have serious talent). We’ve been out for meals before, as friends, but usually to Pizza Hut in the cinema complex before watching a movie, dressed casual in T-shirt and skirt. You know, two friends out in town, grabbing a bite to eat, nattering away about sex, movies and what not, with the optional extra of oral naughtiness in the back row of the theatre.
In other words, fun. Unlike this. He says he loves me, and I love him, I really do, but we’re on completely different wavelengths. Just having him around makes me happy, and the sex is a bonus.
The waiter departs, having half-filled our glasses. Andy and I knock them together, saying, ‘Cheers!’ It’s a nice Sicilian red. He reaches across the table to take my hand tenderly in his. I try not to flinch.
‘Thank you, Nina,’ he says. ‘It means so much to me that you are willing to try this.’
Things were perfect until he started getting all romantic on me, wanting to kiss me and hold me and spend every waking minute with me. Why do people do that? I take a sip of wine to try and calm my nerves.
‘Blame Sarah,’ I say. ‘She seems determined to make this relationship work.’
Andy laughs, but seems disappointed with my answer. He takes his hand away from mine, and I try not to show my relief. Maybe he wanted something more intimate and encouraging. Dating is so stupid. As friends we could just chat. As strangers I would just make sure he knew I’m not wearing knickers. But no. I’m sitting here in this stupid flowery dress trying to figure out what a real girlfriend would say.
‘I want this relationship to work too,’ I add. ‘You and Sarah are the only good friends I have, and I almost never see her these days.’ Sarah and I used to live together. She really helped me to come to terms with being aromantic. Growing up in a village, an early eagerness to pursue sex for its own sake, not really understanding that I was supposed to be looking for more, meant that labels like ‘easy’ and ‘slut’ stuck to me quickly.
I still don’t really understand why sex gets so complicated by relationships. But it does. I see a cute guy and ask him back to my place (I feel safer on home territory) only to hear him say, ‘Slow down! Let’s get to know each other a little!’ Sigh. I don’t want to get to know you, I’m left thinking. I just want to fuck you. No kissing or cuddling, thank you. In fact, why don’t you just bend me over the pool table and stick it in me. Your friends can have a go too…
Okay, so maybe I am a slut – inside my head, anyway. But I really love sex. It’s the relationships I have a problem with. This weird experiment with Andy is the closest thing I’ve ever had to one.
I reach over to take his hand in mine. It feels so staged and unnatural. I’m embarrassed. ‘Andy,’ I say. ‘Kiss me.’
‘Now?’ he says, startled.
‘I was planning to kiss you when we got back to the flat.’
‘Oh.’ Can I last that long? ‘I… Can we do it that way next Saturday? Only it’s driving me a bit nuts thinking about it, and I’d really just like to get it over with.’
‘That’s so romantic.’ He grins, and I can feel my cheeks glowing. ‘God, look at you. You’re a wreck. Shall we just call the whole thing off?’
‘Don’t you dare!’ It’s almost a shout. Half the restaurant is suddenly looking at me.
He squeezes my hand gently. ‘Okay,’ he says, and stands. I join him, our faces held hesitantly apart. It’s strange that in the heat of sex I have no difficulty touching him. I have bitten his lips, licked his nipples and tasted his essence, but now I’m terrified of a simple kiss?
Just do it, Nina, I tell myself. It’s just a kiss. It doesn’t mean anything.
But it means something to him, I argue with myself. For a romantic like Andy there’s nothing more important.
Before I can reply, Andy leans in and our lips touch, soft urgent pressure. I’m sufficiently skilled at the mechanics of kissing to follow and return his exploration, and it’s not entirely unpleasant.
When he breaks at last, I resist the temptation to wipe my lips. He looks very happy, though. ‘Satisfied?’ I ask, genuinely curious.
He smiles warmly. ‘I’ve been wanting to do that for ages. Thank you. How was it for you?’
I shrug. ‘Okay, I guess.’
‘Can we do it again?’
‘Can I kick you in the balls?’
He laughs, and sits down. ‘Next Saturday, then.’
‘It’s a date.’