i was 25 (i'm older and wiser now) and visiting my best friend in Montreal when I saw the bikini in a shop window. The light-purple fabric shot through with gold threads and the ultra-revealing cut met all my definitions of sexy. I bought it on impulse, deciding to ignore the strictures of my ultra-tight budget. I had no idea what a ruckus that bikini was about to start.When I got into bed that night I realized I wanted to put it on. Once I was outfitted and back under the covers, my thoughts began to gel around a man I'd recently met. For the first time in what had been three extremely stressful and illness-ridden years, I found myself enjoying a sexual fantasy.
While imagining delicious laughter erupting between us, I had one of the more memorable comes of my life. It was only my third orgasm ever and the first in roughly three years. Since I'd only become sexually active in those three years (that includes self-pleasuring!), I'd just been through a very long spate of utter frustration. Suffice it to say that after my ordeal I believe the sexual repression and shame taught by some organized religions can be fatal, and that bikini helped save my life.
The orgasm was also memorable because of the gushes of beautiful cool energy that shot through my body. I still only get orgasms like that occasionally, a special treat that I've yet to figure out how to access more often.
I will never forget that orgasm, because it opened to view a huge abyss in my psyche. The vivid sense of shared delight and laughter with this man, plus the depth of physical pleasure I felt and the fact that thinking about him had somehow unblocked my path to orgasm convinced me that I was in love and he was my ideal partner. And that's when I first started to learn the meaning of the word "unrequited."
Chalk it up to being young, very inexperienced and still in my emotionally dysfunctional years. On returning to Toronto, I bared my heart to him only to find that he didn't share my feelings. I couldn't grasp the situation. Hell, after the bikini incident, I remember coming once just standing there talking to him. How could such passion not be shared? It was inconceivable to me.
He became my obsession, filling my waking hours with daydreams and sexual fantasies, my nights with vivid dreams. Every day I refined my theories about the nature of the psychological damage preventing him from seeing the truth of our love. To add to my burdens, he wasn't exactly emotionally together himself, and in those encounters we did have (to be fair, usually because I insisted), I became increasingly aware that I was not being respected. I felt by turns manipulated, teased and dominated.
On the one hand, I yearned for the tender togetherness I knew we could share if he would only give me a chance. On the other, therapy sessions were birthing in me a growing self-esteem. The situation came to a head one day when I wrote down the word "defiance" in my journal and decided that was exactly how I would respond each and every time I felt badly treated. It was the first time in my adult life that I decided the risk of losing the one I loved was worth it if it meant I'd have greater self-respect.
So I was starting to learn good stuff, but four years after it all began I was still not getting what the word "unrequited" means, or the word "reality" for that matter. For years I woke up in the morning expecting that this would be the day I'd finally receive his declaration of affection. The call or visit never came, and every day I worked through a cycle of grief and acceptance. One rainy evening we went to the old Duke of Connaught on Queen West, and over a glass of draft I asked him to marry me. Even though we'd never shared so much as a kiss, when he said no I was devastated and cried for days.
Another five years saw me take a dip in the waters of suicidal despair before his final spiral out of my life, and by then I'd also fallen hard for another unavailable man.
It was somewhere near the end of that one-way affair and the on-again, off-again drama of it (slightly improved because at least he would have sex with me every so often) that I began feeling curious about this unrequited love habit of mine. Carefully and slowly chewing over the situation made me aware that pursuit of the uninterested meant I didn't have to face my terror of actual flesh-and-blood intimacy. That was the day the reality of "unrequited" started to lose its sway.
I pieced together a strategy for dealing with my unreturned passions. I practised accepting my feelings as they were without expecting anything in return for them. In other words, I disciplined myself to compassionately accept my reality and the other person's reality without expecting either to change. I also told myself I wouldn't play the waiting game for a minute. It was time to give up my romantic notions of female self-sacrifice.
Slowly but surely, my embrace of life as it is rather than how I wanted it to be began leading me into mutually chosen intimacies, and, as I suspected, this kind of love brought me terror on a regular basis.
I would never trade today's two-way relationships for the agonies of unrequited love, but I'm ever grateful for the adventure that orgasm in my purple bikini started. Had my chosen one been willing, could I have learned what I know now? Maybe his refusal was the love he gave me - call it unrequited if you will. My struggle to stay true to my feelings for him while still respecting his implicit demand that I accept him as he was - uninterested in me - eventually called from me a deeper, truer understanding of love than I'd ever known before.