The fourth man confesses his weakness for prostitutes. Until she didn't get one of my jokes, or I spotted the tiny mole behind her left knee. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I didn't enjoy the thrill of the chase. I was bleating about my sufferings to my sponsor from Alcoholics Anonymous one night, as I'd bleated about many of my sufferings since I quit drinking alcohol and using mood-altering drugs 20 years earlier. Was my AA sponsor the best recipient of my anguish, demanded the demons who convened regularly behind my eyes and served as my closest advisors?More specifically, young, slender, tall prostitutes. A minor-to-most-but-heinous-to-my-jeweler-louped-and-ever-vigilant-eyes deal breaker. I'm not the "lucky dog" so many of my married male friends call me, or the "bad influence" their wives warn them about. I wanted to exceed my three-month limit by oh, say, the rest of my life. I suspected that my (very) serial monogamy was fueled not by choice but by compulsion, by a frantic need to dodge a threat I couldn't even name. My sponsor had taught me that seeking revenge was usually a bad idea and that apologizing was almost always a good one; that drinking or getting high was unquestionably a horrible notion; and that in the moment when I felt soul-crushing existential dread and a tingling, radiant certainty that I should quit my job and move to an island, or propose to the woman I sat next to in the coffee shop—the one who was reading , I'd do better to help another alcoholic. Well, wasn't the kind of emotional turmoil I was enduring exactly what often led alcoholics back to the bottle?The person who used the language should not take this personally, as we simply want to provide a safe place for everyone."The first man to share says he wants to stop cheating on his wife but can't. "I called one the other day," says the man, tall, lean, blond, wearing a soft blue bespoke suit that must have cost ,000. The trouble is, I spied scores of flawless diamonds. I spied the rare gems in impish grins, in the world-weary melancholy that shone from soft brown eyes. I smelled them in the delicate scent of summer nights and cotton candy wafting from the pale, freckled shoulders of a woman buying prosciutto at a deli counter in Harlem. If the sparkly jewel responded to my overtures, we'd date, and if that went reasonably well, sleep together.The next is a compulsive porn watcher who doesn't cheat on his girlfriend but thinks about it for hours every day, and then there's a man who "eye-f--ks" every woman he sees but can rarely manage the genital version of the act with his wife. I could feel the discoveries in my gut, and my groin and my chest. And then it was just me and my sad-eyed, laughing, cotton-candy-shouldered love, my flawless diamond, happy together, forever.Before I could interrupt, he assured me that there was nothing wrong with starry eyes, or strangers across a crowded room, or some enchanted evenings, for that matter.But I was chasing them the same way I chased booze: to escape myself. And that while I was thinking, maybe I should lay off dating altogether. Instead, I shifted my attention from female alcoholics to online dating, where I sidestepped candidates whose profiles contained words such as "sane" and "optimistic." I pursued cyber-sirens "comfortable with ambiguity" and "seeking, always seeking." One prospect told me she could see my aura, and it fit with hers, "but there might be danger." Another, over cookies and coffee, told me she liked to be whipped ("Like with a real, um, whip? She also told me I was "vanilla" and "adorable" when I asked her, after we had sex, if she'd like to sleep over. She didn't return any of my subsequent calls; I made seven.
There was no doubt in my mind that I would get her into bed.
Flicking backwards and forwards in time and jumping all over the globe almost as if he were on LSD, he favorited articles to read the next morning and soon, he was calm and tired and went back to sleep.
But imagine him lying there in the dark, face illuminated by a screen, scanning his Twitter feed for something to soothe his nerves, which connected to his brain, which had been rewired by a life on the Internet.
Why did I cling to those women like an orphaned koala cub clings to the nearest branch, no matter how slippery or knotted, after his parents are shot by heartless Australian poachers wearing ironed safari shirts? My sponsor was silent for what seemed like minutes. Then he suggested that I was transferring my thrill-seeking and pursuit of oblivion from alcohol to unavailable and unbalanced women.
Maybe, he said, I couldn't stop my sincere-but-weasel-ish deep dives into shallow affairs because I was jonesing for the jolt of what I wrongly thought was love but was something else entirely.