Ophira Eisenberg On Her Journey To Monogamy
At eight years old, Ophira Eisenberg was the first among her friends to have a boyfriend. And in middle schoool, Eisenberg had her first kiss.
“It really was like a drug. I felt chemistry. I felt all these things. Things started to make sense, music started to make sense, all of a sudden a little bit of the color was added to the world,” Eisenberg recounted. “I was like, ‘I love being with people!’ I love that feeling of connection, that romantic thing — I was like, ‘This is my thing. I want more of this. How do I get more of this?’”
Eisenberg sought out that connection through one-night stands and short-term and long-term boyfriends. She chronicles her romantic journey in her new memoir, “Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way To Monogamy.”
“I really felt like I thrived on connection when I met these people — and the seduction, the thrill, the chase, that was important to me,” Eisenberg explained. “And there was loneliness. I’m not going to say I was a perfectly formed person…The physical stuff was very nice, but I wanted the connection.”
Through relationships and sexual encounters, Eisenberg learned a lot about herself.
“I defined myself or figured out who I was by relationships,” she said. “I really was drawn to being with people based on thrill-seeking. I realized at some point in my life — I think by the time I got married — that I’d been with a lot of people, and they were, for the most part, fun. I learned a little something from every person. I took a little nugget from every boyfriend and every encounter, and I really kind of figured out who I was through that because I didn’t know who I was.”
Eisenberg likened dating to the process of trial and error, and hers comes with a hopeful ending.
“At the end, I found I was able to identify the right match for myself — let’s hope it lasts forever,” she said of her marriage.
“Ask Me Another,” NPR’s new program blending brainteasers and local pub trivia night with comedy and music, comes to Boston for the first time for a live show on Monday, April 1, 7 p.m., at the Wilbur Theatre.
Excerpted from “Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy” by Ophira Eisenberg, with permission from Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2013.
The names of the men in this book have been changed because most of them are named Dave.
And there are a lot of names in this book. Then again, it is called Screw Everyone, so I’m delivering on that promise. You might wonder if the quantity of men indicates that I possess a special talent or I’m some sort of knockout. Au contraire, my friend. I’m not effortlessly pretty, but I do clean up well. My real gift is that I’m not fussy. If we were talking about food, I’d be considered “adventurous,” in wine circles, “unpretentious,” and in dating terms, “a slut.” If there were such a thing as Lady Scouts, I would have easily earned the booty-call badge: an embroidered silhouette of a girl ordering two drinks at last call.
When most people think of a slut, they envision a woman who is a lost soul, wildly insecure, mentally unstable, and possibly dumb. Au contraire encore! I might not speak great French, but I am not dumb.
And I didn’t set out to be a slut; frankly, I didn’t even realize I was one. I just thought I was being nice.
Call me an enthusiastic consenter, or a fairly responsible hedonist, but sleeping around was often the by-product of getting what I wanted. I felt empowered going against the accepted “rules” of society by intentionally going home with a guy. They weren’t just random guys. I picked them. That being said, I was an advocate of equal opportunity hook-ups, with everyone from jazz musicians to blind albinos.
Right from the start, I planned and strategized my potential romantic encounters like a veteran criminal. My quest in life went beyond wanting to “try anything”; I wanted to try everything. Sex and relationships became my drug of choice. What turned me on the most was the seduction, the thrill of trying to get someone to like me, and seeing how far I could take it. Rarely was it a problem to get the ball rolling; the issue was how to control it once it picked up speed. By my estimation, dating was 1 percent confidence and 99 percent troubleshooting.
And then there is the simple case of efficiency. Say what you will about going all the way on the first date, but if you want answers about compatibility faster than what Google can provide, it’s the best way to go.
Plus, I like men. I never considered them “the enemy” or an unsolved mystery to be analyzed to death. I had too many other things to worry about. I didn’t relate to any of the classic dating rules, either. If you believe you can master your romantic fate by playing games, like waiting three days to call someone or pretending to be busy on a Friday night when you’re really just watching Prime Suspect with an overpriced bottle of Chardonnay, then fantastic. But I think the only person you’re fooling is yourself. I’d rather slip into my favorite pair of jeans and head over to the local Pig and Whistle pub for a quick pick-me-up. Experience showed me that if there was anything I could count on in life, it was another beer and another boyfriend in my future.
After thirty years of intense study in Canada’s school of relationships, I graduated by moving to New York City, which baffled me on every level. Much like affordable apartments, relationships were not easy to come by. I retaliated by boldly claiming that I didn’t want to find “a relationship.” I didn’t believe there was such a thing as “the one.” I wanted to have a good time and enjoy my freedom with guys I consciously didn’t want to get to know. Underlying this was the fact that despite gender stereotypes, I was the one with an intense fear of settling down. I was sold on the idea that letting the same someone in, year after year, would stagnate my personality.
When men have this problem, it’s called “commitment issues.” When women have it, it’s referred to as “hitting the jackpot.” At least that’s what most of the guys I dated thought.
As luck would have it, eventually I would be faced with a new challenge: I was introduced to someone who didn’t respond to the brash and freewheeling character I’d invented for myself. Moreover, he wanted the real thing: marriage, commitment, stability, old-fashioned love—which, like a spray of DEET, repelled me and made me want to fly as far away as possible. Unfortunately, I’d already done that by moving to New York. So I stayed. And this is the story of how I discovered myself, conquered my fears, and even found the “real thing”through promiscuity. That may sound as backward as saying “cocaine saved my life!” but it’s true. I traveled from flask to flask, futon to futon, gathering data, figuring one day I’d put it all together, and like a mad scientist, build my own perfect Boyfriend Bot. It’s not the ideal plan for everyone, but I give it four gold stars.
I know I gave away the ending in the book’s title, but I guarantee you that by the end you’ll still be surprised that I got married, and a little that I’m still alive.
If you’re wondering, is this book for me? Well, if you’re the kind of reader who orders another round just to see if you can seal the deal with the depressed bass player because “Hey! I’m sad too! We have so much in common!” then the answer is yes. If, when you’re on a first date, your guy finds an “old hit of acid” in his wallet, and you immediately agree to wash it down with an espresso, then not only is this book for you—it’s also about you. And if you fell in love with your high school sweetheart and you’re living “happily ever after” in a castle converted into condos, you need this book more than ever. It’s how you’ll deal with your next marriage.
If you’re a guy whom I hooked up with in the past and you’re now madly flipping through this book, wondering why you can’t find your story, I need to tell you that unfortunately, not everyone made the cut. I’ll let you know if I ever need to do callbacks.
Kidding aside, I’m very grateful for the men who populate the pages of this book. Not one of them could be classified as a true-blue asshole. They had their troubles, they had their habits, they had questionable haircuts, but with few exceptions, the guys I spent my bedtime with were totally worth it. Most were navigating through life as messily as I was, often unsure of what direction they were headed. So we slept together to see if that shed any light on the path. Some batteries just had a shorter lifespan than others.
These are the highlights of my relationship resume, from my newbie days as a tween to my efflorescence as a (mostly) willing brideto- be. But before all those Daves, at the ripe age of eleven, I met my inspiration. A boy named Brad . . .
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