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Fumbly Nights and Foggy Mornings: Love & Lust in the Modern World

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Illustration by Robert Liu-Trujillo

This originally appeared in SF Sounds.

When you’ve been in San Francisco or Oakland for awhile, it’s almost impossible to date someone who hasn’t fucked somebody you know. Like it or not our fingerprints are all over each other’s lives. Our histories are tangled up in each other’s sheets. Our shadows are etched on each other’s bedroom walls, left over from whatever detonated – the heat of which may have lasted for years or just a single night.

You can’t spell San Francisco without a few exes. You’ve probably read that line from me before, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s incredibly true. When you’ve spent years tumbling through beds, searching for something that you can’t quite define, sometimes you accidentally find it. One morning, you wake up and the person next to you is still sleeping, breathing in a Morse code that can only be deciphered by the telegraph machine inside your ribcage. And fucking becomes making love, and hanging out becomes dating, and this person becomes your person. I becomes we, and you become part of each other.

Then one day (in the vast majority of cases), it all crackles apart and you have to sand down that jagged edge where the two of you were connected. You have to solve possibly the hardest math equation in history: Us – You = Me. All the while knowing that the person whose scent was the only thing you consumed each morning before coffee is out there doing anything but being with you. Plus, they still have your favorite hoodie.

Everyone you meet has at least a little bit of somebody else’s broken heart permanently caked underneath their fingernails. The longer you live in The Bay, the more likely it is that you’ll know whose heart that was. If you care enough about that person, you let their ex pass on by and if you don’t, then you let your heart — or your loins — lead the way.

Sex isn’t always about love, though, and dating in the 21st century, especially in the Bay Area, means blurry boundaries and muddled histories. Being in a place where everyone is separated by only a couple degrees means having to make interesting decisions. Turning down a good friend’s recent ex is a no-brainer, but what about the person your friend was just casually sleeping with? Is there a grace period before it’s ok? And how important is it to ask? What about the ex of someone you don’t even like that much, but who you know you’ll see around? Banging your frienemy’s ex is certainly satisfying, but isn’t having a frienemy complicated enough to begin with?

We live in a time and place where boundaries around sexuality and relationships zig and zag depending on the souls involved. A monogamist in one relationship can become a polyamorist in the next. Casual lovers can become life partners, and exes can become someone you continue to sleep with every once in awhile for years. Fumbly nights become foggy mornings, and the previous evening’s flirtations become today’s “what are you looking for?”. And if you’re dating multiple people, who do you spend Valentine’s Day with? The only thing that stays constant is that fucking your roommate is a stupid idea.

The science behind sighs is imprecise. The space between the head and the heart is often miles apart. And every time I find someone I want to fall in love with, they’re already in love with somebody else. Sometimes just in love with themselves. Sometimes just in love with the idea of love.

So we move on and keep swiping and texting and going on first dates, all the while wondering what the hell we’re actually looking for.

This is where we stand in 2017. Or in this case, this is how we lie down.   

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.