love. week six.
city. new york city
I have an interesting story this week. It all started when I matched with Mari on Hinge last Tuesday. Here’s a transcript of our chat:
December 1: 7:07 AM
Me: Good morning :) Some early morning swiping lol
Mari: Morning! Yes haha I’m an unwilling early bird lol, I usually wake up around this time for work, and now I wake up this time on my days off too.
Me: Is today a day off??
Mari: Yep. So really, I shouldn’t even be up right now lol
Me: Vacation day! Let’s celebrate
Mari: haha well I do love vacations. How was your weekend?
Me: Pretty good. But maybe too long. It’s hard to get back to work.
Mari: Oh I feeeeeeel that. Lol, going back to work after quarantine was the absolute worst.
Me: Want to do something today? Like, together lol
Mari: I have plans for today but I’m free later this week!
Me: Ok :) What are your plans for today?
Mari: Spending as much time with my family before everything gets shut down again! Lol
Me: Nice! Totally feel that. Say hi to them for me :) also, here’s my number 646-991-5454 feel free to text me there and we can arrange a date!
December 2: 9:49 AM
I receive a text.
Mari: Hey! This is Mari :D
Me: Good morning!
Mari: How’s your morning going?
Me: Pretty good. Went for a run, which was nice but wayyyy too cold lol You?
Mari: I’m incredibly impressed by that lol, tbh, running is probably my least favorite form of exercise. I’m definitely more of a biker, I applaud you haha
Me: Aw. What would you like to do on our first date? :)
Mari: I’d be open to anything! Though, hopefully it’s warm lol
Me: Haha how about a movie night! I can provide popcorn and weed. I know that’s pretty lame, but warm covid dates are hard to come by :/
Mari: Hmm, that’s fair, though admittedly for a first date I’d rather we go somewhere else, there are a couple places with warm outdoor seating that I know of. Are you in Brooklyn?
Me: Oh great. I’m in the city but I’m cool to head to bk
Mari: There’s a decent bar near the Williamsburg bridge (bk side though) it has a big indoor space, but also a roof and outdoor.
Me: Let’s try that then. I can just walk over the bridge
Me: Ok I’m going to say something crazy but pls hear me out. I feel like there’s a huge chance you’ll misinterpret this, but let’s give it a shot. I’ve been experimenting recently with new ways of interacting with my environment. It’s all part of this “love project” ive been doing. It would be cool if we could try something actually radical, together, before we get to know each other (and after too lol)
Me: So, what if we were completely naked on our first date? I’m actually not sure what it would be like, and I suppose it would be very uncomfortable, but i’d be willing to try it.
Me: It’s not a sex thing. I’m just trying to think of strange interactions. I’d also do a first date where only one of us can talk. And then the next date, the other person talks.
Mari: I’m open to doing practically anything, even that, I just wouldn’t want to do it at my apartment. Lol
Me: Cool! I’ll check with my roommate to see when he won’t be home and let you know.
Mari: word, let me know! How has the experiment been going so far?
Me: It’s been going well. I’ve actually been documenting it on my website if you’d like to take a look. But so far I’ve kept girls out of it haha
Mari: Great! Looking forward to figuring this out with you. I’ve been reading your posts, and I admire what you’re doing, and that you’re actually documenting your experiences. Keeping girls out of it is a funny phrase lol. Mostly because I think that in the pursuit of love, we usually start by chasing after other people. Lol. In your experiments, it sounds like by starting with yourself you’re having a more fulfilling experience.
Andddd that’s how I ended up sitting across from a completely nude stranger last night, while we sipped tea and talked about the rise of homelessness in NYC.
It actually took a bit of logistical planning to figure out how she would arrive naked (I left the door ajar and stayed in my room until she changed out of her clothing and met me in the living room), but we pulled it off.
Now, I suppose there are two (sets of) questions to be addressed. The first question is why I wanted to do this? What was I trying to learn/accomplish? The second question is what I actually learned.
1. I’ve always been interested in nudity. I’m personally rather self-conscious about my body, but I’ve had an inkling that there was something strange and perhaps unhealthy about my (and society’s) need to cover our bodies. (We’ve all had those dreams of appearing in class, only to look down and realize, much to our chagrin, that we weren’t wearing any clothing.) I thought that covering our bodies ironically does more to focus attention on the body (as something concealed, protected, special), and that if everyone was nude, we’d actually be far less enthralled by the human body and correspondingly less self-conscious/ashamed of our own body. Just as with our romantic partners, we’d soon grow used to the naked body and find it not nearly as interesting as we currently do. It’s almost as if the idea of the body (or what the body could be) is more seductive than the body itself. (Or maybe I’m just a wayward philosopher).
Aside from my interest in nudity, there was also something interesting about turning the whole concept of dating on its head. On a normal first date, the goal (for some people) is to eventually, if you’re lucky, get the girl to undress. But what if the girl was already undressed? What would the date be about then? Would it relieve the sexual tension and allow us to connect on a deeper level? Would it heighten the sexual tension? Something else?
Third, there’s the question of vulnerability. Would a sense of physical vulnerability lead to greater emotional vulnerability? Or maybe, conversely, we would want to make up for our physical nudity by erecting fresh protections around our emotional selves, further distancing ourselves from each other.
(I think there was one last point, but I’m failing to remember it right now.)
2. Turning to what actually happened (or as Ranke would say, “wie es eigentlich gewesen”), the first thing I was struck by (and I confirmed this with Mari) is just how normal the date was. Sure, there was the initial nerves, excitement, tension, shyness, but once we sat down and just started talked, etc, the fact that we were naked didn’t really make a difference. Actually, every 20 minutes or so one of us would randomly giggle, realizing once again that we were both naked, and this was in fact NOT a normal date.
Also, I did feel like I was perhaps more willing to be emotionally/intellectually vulnerable with Mari, but I’m not sure if that’s because we were naked or because she’s just the type of person who I would feel comfortable opening up to (she’s super open-minded, kind, and affectionate). In any case, we were lucky enough to have some great chemistry. We wondered what it would have been like if we just didn’t get along…
The last thing I’d mention is that the normal sequence of events was indeed shaken up. For example, almost as soon as we sat down, I had an impulse to lean over and kiss her. She seemed like she’d welcome it, and I was tempted. But, more for the sake of the experiment than anything else (since the façade would then be shattered), I fought against that impulse in order to see what could unfold in this space, or lag, between vulnerability and intimacy.
Also, once we did kiss, there was no pre-established, pragmatic sequence of events that would stagger our advances. In other words, the steps between kissing and fucking had been narrowed down from several (or so) to essentially zero. In order to make up for this lack of practical spacing, I (we?) then had to create our own, purely internal, series of steps. In plain English: we enjoy dragging things out, rather than having sex immediately. But once you’re both already naked, you have to be more creative about how to do that, since the option to just go ahead and fuck is immediately and clearly available.
“You said something very true the other day: that for us, nudity begins with the face.”
– Simone de Beauvoir
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
– Genesis 2:25