In romantic contexts, I’ve often heard people say thank you to their lovers for teaching them what ‘love’ really means. Today, I want to thank the man who taught me the true meaning of ‘fuck buddy.’
I’ve written about this guy before: way back in the mists of time when I was too unimaginative to give people names, and worried that the names I chose would give too much away about the people I’d slept with. Instead I gave them numbers, and he was number 16.
Number 16 was my fuck buddy. We would fuck, and we were also buddies. Friends.
I chatted to Franki Cookney about this recently on the Second Circle podcast – listen to episode 1 of series 3 here and go subscribe, because it’s a fab podcast for people who like thinking (and overthinking) about sex. Having the discussion with Franki made me realise I’ve never written properly about this here before, so I thought I’d have a go at explaining what was so awesome about this particular fuck buddy: he was equal parts ‘buddy’ and ‘fuck.’
Most of our evenings would begin with a text: “Rough day. Pint?” or “Bored. Pint?” And we’d do just that: go for a pint. We’d sit, and chat, and catch each other up on our lives, buying rounds in turns the way God intended. We’d tear open packets of peanuts and dump them in the centre of the table, offer each other smokes when we nipped outside, and swap advice on our work and love lives. I think I once helped him rewrite his online dating profile, and was incredibly proud of myself when I managed to increase his reply rate.
He wasn’t the only guy I had this kind of relationship with, but he was the one with whom it came easiest.
It’s not all about the fuck
When I was single, I found there was often a weird distance between me and my fuck buddies. The ‘fuck’ part was easy, but the ‘buddy’ part was strained. Men who I’d been clear with about my intentions (sex: good, relationship: unwanted) would still hang back a little when it came to simple affection – as if my desire to not get entangled in romance would fly out the window if they offered so much as a hug. As if they were frightened that they were so compelling I’d be unable to stop myself falling in love with them. They didn’t talk to me about their lives the way Number 16 did, choosing mostly to be coy about other shags or dates, in case it would spark any jealousy.
I don’t blame them: they’d been fed the same bullshit as I had about women wanting relationships more than men, and men generally having a fear of commitment. I used to tiptoe around men for this reason too – worried that the very mention of anything emotional would send them running for the hills.
I missed out on a lot because of that, I think. I’d bite my tongue if I felt myself wanting to say “you look hot today” or “I’m feeling quite down, cheer me up?” I’d pretend to be more aloof than I actually was, because I worried that displaying any emotion might frighten them off. As if men are small woodland creatures who’ll bolt if they see you getting close.
What ‘fuck buddy’ means to me…
With number 16, I’d get to share secrets and sex. We’d tell each other things we were either too frightened or too embarrassed to tell anyone else, then we’d sneak off from the group we were drinking with to go have a quick shag at his flat round the corner from the pub, returning just in time to pick up a round of shots. At one point, we toyed with the idea of starting a business together, before realising that it was a comprehensively terrible idea. When I was sad, I could tell him, without either of us worrying that emotions were drawing us too close: we liked being close. We were mates.
He had a brilliantly pragmatic view of the world, and repeatedly comforted my late-20s worries by assuring me my 30s would be better (cheers, mate! They definitely are and you were 100% right!). He knew what he wanted and what he didn’t, and unlike most people you’d say that about, he was able to articulate his needs and desires with kindness rather than aggressive entitlement. He was gentle and smart and funny.
Some people will read this and say ‘a-ha! It sounds like you loved him!’ and yes, I did. I loved him. He was a really good friend, and if you can’t love your really good friends then what is the point of even having the concept of love?
I loved him. I miss him sometimes. When I think back to that time in my life, I have some brilliant memories of the time we spent together chatting shit, swapping dating stories, and fucking on his always-pristinely-made bed. But I didn’t love him in the sense that people mean when they ‘A-ha!’ like that: I’m not carrying a torch for the idea of ‘us.’ I never felt romantic about him, the way I do about my current partner, or any of the few significant dudes who have managed to spaff their way into my heart.
I’m sad that we don’t hang out any more, but I can’t be too down about it: the reason we don’t hang out is because he moved on with his life. He went to good places – achieving the dreams he’d often told me about when we chatted across sticky pub tables, or huddled in beer gardens sharing cigarettes and sheltering from the rain. I wasn’t in love with number 16, and I’m glad we didn’t have a romantic relationship. But framing it that way seems small and defensive and cold – entirely unreflective of the way I felt about him. I don’t want to define my relationship with him by what it was not, rather by what it was.
I loved number 16. He was a good, kind friend. And I’m lucky to have known a fuck buddy who was just as much a buddy as a fuck.