I love men. I do. If I could spend all day every day with a man I would. Talking, laughing, shooting the shit. At bars, coffee shops, restaurants, at the kitchen table. I’ll go anywhere anytime with a man and just feed off his vibe. But there’s one place I won’t go. One place that will immediately shut me up and shut me down. Where I get so uncomfortable that with any new boyfriend or casual partner I will do anything to avoid that one fucking most popular piece of furniture in the room: the couch.
I’m not that cool with touching, ok? I was never ok with physical affection. It goes back to my formative years. I grew up with a father who put me in the position to be freaked out by a man’s touch and a mother who didn’t know how to offer a woman’s. I was never held as a child. I was rarely hugged. For as long as I can remember I’ve found ways to avoid the loving caress of a boyfriend. Not ass grabs and tit pinching - that's another story - give it to me boys. But tenderness, care, no thanks. I refuse to hold hands. When mine is taken I sit with it for thirty seconds then just slip right out. I’ll deal with some kind of hand to the shoulder or leg, but my heart beats a little faster. Not out of love but a bit more from panic. I have no doubt that when visiting the doctor my pulse and blood pressure are always recorded at higher levels than their average because when the nurse touches my arm, puts her fingers to my wrist, my chest beats louder and my breath shortens. I start to feel a little dizzy. I know I can now finally attribute this to a history of abuse that I’ve neglected to acknowledge for an entire lifetime. But for so long my fear of the couch and all of its inherent intimacy just seemed like a personal preference.
I blame my distaste for watching movies with others on way more pretentious and self-important particulars. I claim that I’d rather have conversations instead of sitting in silence, that I hate picking up on bad editing and writing, that movies are inauthentic and frustrating, that flaws are too noticeable. True, I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie even solo maybe for these very reasons. Or a TV show other than House of Cards (shit’s brilliant) when I need to zone out and music isn’t distracting enough. These are all real aversions. But when proposed by a friend or a boyfriend - what kind of fucking asshole says no to a social activity that every normal human does with someone they like in order to just chill. It’s because of the couch. It’s because of the goddam couch. This is usually what it looks like the first time I share that space with someone: The man sits in the center, slouched, legs slightly spread, relaxed as fuck. Maybe an arm draped around the back as some sort of invitation. I’m pressed against the edge sitting straight up knees pulled to chest, fixated on the screen scared to death to look over. I eventually start to make him uneasy. He stiffens. The tension builds. It’s only released once he’s smart enough to make a move and my comfortability with sex breaks the fear that I may actually have to be still with someone for a moment.
I dated a guy once who didn’t give two shits that I didn’t like it. He told me up front, after about a week, that I was emotionally unavailable. I mean. We’ve been fucking for a week. What do you expect. It was with this man that I coined the term Coyote Trap. We’d set out to watch a movie. Pop in that DVD. Sit down side by side on my big black leather sofa. The music would start, opening credits rolling, and suddenly, without warning, I’d be taken down. He was 6’2” all arms and legs. He’d wrap that shit around me so tight, lay me down on my side, head on top of mine just fucking breathing. Not only am I watching a movie sideways, but I’m having to deal with someone else’s head, his body, and his breath while he steals away mine. I was trapped, both physically and emotionally, with no escape. I was encapsulated in the arms of a man who was just never letting go. It was suffocating. We didn’t know each other too well. So not only was I forced into intimacy, I also didn’t feel intimate enough with him to say that it made me uncomfortable. He put so much closeness, affection onto me, with so much expectation for me to just sit there and take it, and therefore give it back, and being too early for me to even have the connection with him to object I was now restricted to a level of seriousness that I had never anticipated, and felt no relief.
My relationship with the Coyote Trapper was brief. Not because of any hostility or drama, we just didn’t work. In the end it probably clicked that his openness didn’t jive with my inability to move an inch. And for the following two years I hopped from bed to bed wiggling out of lesser versions of forced cuddling. Allowing a man to fall asleep while he begged me to lie on his chest, or even worse, SPOON, no less while we barely knew each other and only after 2am. I’d hear the deeper breaths, the slight snore, and slowly, tenderly, raise his lifeless arm just enough to slide out and turn face down on the pillow arms above my head. Or I’d just leave all together. You know some of those assholes weren’t even worth sharing a bed with. Why they needed my affection well… I blame it on my perpetual habit of picking up the man who just wants to fuck his mother.
I talk about my inability to show physical affection a lot. Probably because it’s so obvious I feel the need to acknowledge it as some sort of way to move beyond one barrier in order to express a real feeling that’s less obvious. I met a man a few years ago that I ended up, for the first time as an adult, falling in love with. This didn’t come with an automatic flip from an entire lifetime of aversion to touch though. Rather, I gradually came to find safety in his arms, something I’m not sure he ever knew. A non-drinker, a couple of times when I did choose to get drunk he’d grab my hand while we walked home claiming “this is more for me than it is for you” knowing that I’d be more vulnerable to his grasp. I was. And I liked it. The man knew me too well. Maybe he did understand my final cravings for his affection seeing the progression from knees up on the end of the couch the first time we watched Point Break together to falling asleep in my underwear stretched out on top of him every time he’d put on some boring shit like Lord of the Rings or Star Trek. Last February I was in New York for work, having been stuck outside in 12 degrees in a lace skirt and 6 inch heels I found myself in the hotel bed still shaking after 45 minutes. Though we had already broken up and were trying not to communicate, I sent him a picture of this outfit complaining about my situation. He responded with two words: “Coyote Trap.” That I actually needed him the next day being locked out of my apartment on Valentine’s night and he told me no way, we’re not dating, he was out trying to get laid, broke my fucking heart. It was the true tale of what I had done to him - forced a man whose first instinct is to save me out of my life because of the fear of what fucking does to us. I’m dangerous. I’m cold. He wants to warm me in that freezing bed as my numb feet continue to shiver. But when reality hits - am I ever going to give back? Do I even like it? Do I appreciate his warmth?
I’m enduring an emotional hardship right now that I’ve never had to face. Since I was a teen I’ve had periods of depression, extreme anxiety, breaks from reality. All handled on my own and usually without anyone’s knowledge, the results were often disastrous. I’m no longer in a position to self-destruct. But having grown emotionally, having the ability to feel feelings, I’ve also developed the need to bring others in when I need them. I’m not one to show everything to everyone, even to close friends. But I was overwhelmed with a desire yesterday that felt unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It was strange to have to even say, write, that this is something I finally want. As dark as the day was, as much pain that brought this out, it was a relieving thought. All I wanted yesterday was that trap. I wanted that trap that I had learned to trust and to finally understand. And I wanted the man who could always get me to just shut up and lie down in his arms to actually be here and tell me to shut up and lie down in his arms. It’s devastating to realize how much I told him to fuck off with all that shit. That I constantly denied that I did in fact actually want it. That he had to always say “I know you hate it but I’m going to have to Coyote Trap you.” I didn’t hate it. I looked forward to it every day. I would do anything to get it back. And if I got it back, I’d fucking give something in return. I’d reach out for your hand and hold that shit. Sober. Which is always. Daily. Without even a thought or a regret. It’s not just for you, it’s for me too. And it always was for me. Because that changed me. I had no idea, but for the first time in my life I felt cool with touch. And my heart didn’t beat faster because I was anxious or panicking or uncomfortable. It fluttered and flew because I felt something that I had never felt before - I felt connected, I felt safe, I felt love.
Though the man who taught me how to accept physical affection may be gone, this gives me hope. I can long and long to have him back now, in these dark days, to comfort the fucking bullshit that I’m dealing with. But I can also just appreciate that I may know how to love a man more than I think I do. If I just let myself. And maybe he repaired a lot of crap that my father had damaged. Maybe my ex was only in my life for that purpose, because there’s no way I could have both struggled with learning this whole new set of emotional skills and also used them properly. But maybe the next man I meet can benefit from what he taught me. I can always regret what happened with him, and I probably always will. But I can also remember why it was so amazing and what he did for me which is the best gift that I’ve ever been given - he gave me the Coyote Trap. For the first time he gave me a reason to understand the safety, warmth, comfort in what isn’t actually a trap - it’s just being held. And there’s nothing suffocating about a person holding you, it’s actually pretty nice. It’s actually a pretty damn good feeling to know that you’re loved. Instead of reaching out to him and saying I’m sorry, I miss you, I love you, really all there is left to say is Thanks. Thank you for trapping me for as long as you did. That couch is looking a lot better now. And if the movie sucks, at least I have some company. Because people need people. And it’s kind of cool to finally want some people. And to know that maybe I’m a person. Hey people, I’m a person, no longer the lone hunter running the ridge searching for prey and breaking from the pack whenever winter comes in order to ensure survival. I’m not a Coyote. I’m a real fucking Person.