Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: The alternative lifestyle of intimacy without expectations

Last month marked a year since the first time I hooked up with a guy who has become one of my favorite regulars. The anniversary might’ve been opportune to finally ask him his name, but other priorities arise every time we’re together, and introductions remain irrelevant.

We met online during the second wave of last year’s Snowpocalypse, and no weather is as hedonistic as a blizzard. Everyone felt bad for the frozen souls who were trapped on the interstate for 19 hours, but I pity anyone who endures a dystopic snowstorm without having bucket-list quality sex.

I forget whether our first encounter was explicitly anonymous or if we simply didn’t make it to the part of a conversation when people normally exchange names, but I remember plenty else. Aside from the physical, which is its own category of highlights, I remember the harmony of our desire, our mutual satisfaction and the sincerity of our smiles while we were looking for our clothes.

Any conversation ended as soon as we were dressed. There was no prolonged small talk or anticipation of commitment—that afternoon, or the couple of dozen times we’ve hooked up since.

I know the names of sexual partners don’t count as “small talk” for most people, and that just as many believe anonymous sex defiles the soul. I’m thankful that has not been my experience.

My journey through my 20s was irreversibly altered, and immeasurably enriched, by one-night stands. Sure, there were objectifying episodes and unreciprocated emotions; but there were also flings who kept me from transferring colleges, or who briefly entered my closeted psyche, kissed my shame and left without closing the door.

The best booty calls span several years of hooking up, my longest dating back to 2004. I know most of their names – birthdays, too, but this column is already flirting with an NC-17 rating. The main reason I don’t know my anonymous anniversary partner’s name is because I rarely program numbers into my phone anymore, relying on previous text conversations to identify everyone.

A few years ago, my mother went through three cell phone numbers in about two months, and I got tired of updating her contact information. It took me more than a year to save her current number, and questionable as my morals may be, I’m not gonna subject my mama to a more rigorous review than someone whose name I will see in my phone in a few months and wonder, “Who the hell is Mike Kroger?”

Casual sex is almost universally understood to be an inferior relationship strategy to the sexless companionship bred by monogamy. It is often slandered as hollow and superficial, including by an LGBT movement that has positioned marriage as the Promised Land.

I don’t discount the nobility of forming a lasting bond with a single individual, although I believe it is foolish to consider monogamy the only, or even best, path to romantic fulfillment.

One of the things I love about being single is how regulars have a way of proving why they’re regulars—sexually, but also in their willingness to share intimacy without expectation. Affection does not require the wresting or surrendering of emotional dominion in order for it to be poignant and authentic.

“You’re the perfect person to get snowed in with,” one of my regulars said to me as we lay naked on the eve of one of the phantom blizzards that threatened Atlanta this winter. This particular partner often shows tenderness by lingering across my chest after climax, resting his head on top of my heart.

Knowing names is polite, but fundamentally, everyone is just searching for someone to know, to witness, that their heart beats, too.

Ryan Lee is an Atlanta writer.