I Don’t Like to Cuddle

February 23rd, 2007.

I’m not a big fan of sleepy bedtime cuddling. I prefer cuddling when both parties are awake, fully alert, and properly engaged in an activity like movie watching or wine drinking. When it is time to finally drift off to sleep, however, I’d rather my partner back off and kindly let me have some space.

I wasn’t always like that.

My sophomore year of college, I decided to share an apartment with a few guys from school. Generally, I prefer male roommates to female ones. Men are less picky and don’t spend as much time in the bathroom every morning. Also, male roommates tend to have interesting male friends that may be inclined to spend the afternoon watching football on your couch. Shirtless.

Don’t judge me. I was in college!

Anyway, I came home from class one evening to find my roommates throwing a party. As soon as I walked in the door, a glass of something fruity and alcoholic was thrust into my hands and I was introduced to the group. One guy stood out to me. I learned his name was Tyler and he was an old high school friend of one of my roommates.

Tyler was slightly overweight with glasses and a sloppy haircut. He dressed like he was blind and he majored in Math. Obviously, Tyler was a bit of a dork. But, still, he stood out in a crowd and I’ll tell you why.

Tyler was fucking hysterical.

You see, it always makes me sad when self proclaimed ‘nice guys’ and ‘dorks’ start acting like arrogant, cocky, assholes because they think it will help them get women. Self confidence helps, sure, but that alpha dog bullshit will only take you so far. Men, if you really want to know how to woo a lady, you’d do better to remember 3 important words: Funny Trumps All. Back when I was a young college girl, if a guy made me laugh until my sides hurt, the panties were coming down.

That night, Tyler and I were inseparable. We spent the entire party talking, laughing, play fighting and just generally enjoying each other’s company. When the party started to wind down and people started to go home, Tyler and I had not gotten enough of each other yet. We decided to stay up and watch movies. I fetched a few pillows and blankets from my room and we snuggled up together real close on the couch like people are prone to do when they’re delighted to be spending time with someone they genuinely enjoy.

We stayed up very late that night talking and giggling and making fun of the TV, but eventually sleep got the better of us. Or, at least, sleep got the better of me. I finally dozed off with my head on Tyler’s shoulder.

I’m going to interject right here and now to say that I have always been a very light sleeper. If someone in the house wakes up to go to the bathroom, I wake up too. If my husband shifts a little in our bed, I wake up. Someone turns on the light? I’m awake. Someone sneezes? I’m awake. A car drives down my street? Hi! I’m up now!

So, when Tyler started touching me that night, I was almost instantly roused from my sleep. However, rather than jump up and hysterically ask him what he was doing, I kept my eyes closed and my breathing even. I figured if things got too creepy, I could open my eyes and tell him to back off. But, until then, I was curious and wanted to know how far he planned to take things.

Turns out, not very far. Tyler did not molest me in my sleep. In fact, he never touched anything but my face. With the very tips of his fingers, Tyler stroked the outline of my jawbone. He gently caressed my earlobe. He carefully traced the outline of my lips.

I have refrained from telling this story all of these years because I’m afraid it makes Tyler seem creepy and unhinged. But, I can assure you, that living it did not feel weird at all. Lying there, feigning sleep, while Tyler adoringly touched me like I was something precious and beloved made me feel safe and comfortable and happy.

I thought to myself, “Maybe Tyler really likes me. Maybe he wants to start dating.”

Then I sighed a happy sigh, wrapped my arms around him, buried my face into his chest and fell back asleep. I woke up the next morning with a light heart, excited to see how this thing with Tyler would play out.

My roommates start stumbling out of bed, rubbing the sleep from their eyes while simultaneously complaining of hangovers. Buoyant and in the mood to spread some joy, I announced that I was making everyone breakfast. I rustled up some pancakes for the guys and served them with orange juice and bacon. All of sudden, out of the complete blue sky, Tyler purposely insulted me.

I froze, confused. I wrinkled my brow and wondered if I had heard him correctly. Or, perhaps, I misunderstood and he was just messing around. I decided to play the whole thing off like it was a joke and I teasingly asked him if he was feeling cranky this morning.

“Whatever, bitch.”

This time, I was shocked. There was nothing the least bit teasing or playful in his tone. Those words were spoken downright venomously.

“Um, Tyler, did I…do something to you…?”

“No, but I would appreciate it if you’d quit fucking talking to me.”

As you all know, I’m a temperamental little bitch and all the soft caresses in the world couldn’t stop me from getting really defensive. I snappishly informed Tyler that he was in my house. And in my house, I would say whatever the fuck I pleased. And if he didn’t like that, he was free to get his rude ass up and walk it directly out of my front door.

The next thing I know, we were screaming at each other. The fight ended with Tyler tossing his plate of pancakes in the sink and storming out of the apartment.

I turned to my roommate with tears in my eyes, “He picked that fight with me. Why did he do that?”

My roommate answered, “I have no idea. Really, I’m just as confused as you are. That’s so not like Tyler.”

“We stayed up really late last night and everything seemed fine. I mean, he doesn’t have a girlfriend or anything, does he?”

“No, Tyler’s been single for over a year now. Did you guys have sex or something?”

“No, we just watched movies and went to sleep!”

“Well, I don’t know. But you guys are both my friends. I like you both. I hope you don’t mind if I just stay out of it…”

“No, of course not,” I reassured him, “Maybe the whole thing was just a fluke anyway. Maybe the next time we see each other, we’ll have a good laugh about it….”

But, we didn’t. In fact, every time I saw Tyler after that, he seemed intent on picking a fight with me. I would try to ignore him, but he knew exactly what buttons of mine to push. Our fights kept escalating in intensity until my roommate decided it was best not to bring Tyler over to the apartment anymore. They started hanging out together at Tyler’s house instead.

I didn’t understand it. I kept replaying the scenario over in my head, desperately searching for clues as to why Tyler turned so suddenly cold on me the day after he traced my lips with his fingertips. I wondered if I said something wrong? Did something rude? Made a joke he took the wrong way? But, I kept coming up empty. The simple fact was that one second we were getting along famously and the next second we hated each other. I felt incredibly foolish. After all, I woke up that morning convinced that Tyler and I were about to start dating. Turns out, the guy could barely stand to eat my pancakes.

Was it the pancakes? I mean, I am a lousy cook…

My roommate did an excellent job keeping us apart and it was months before I saw Tyler again. I ran into him at a club. He was hanging out with a group of guys I had never met. After a few hours of casually avoiding him, I decided to suck it up and talk to him. I took a deep breathe and approached his group. Tyler seemed amicable enough and introductions were made. Encouraged by this, I asked Tyler if I could speak to him alone for a minute. He obliged and we made our way over to a semi quiet corner of the club.

I started off by saying, “Look, Tyler, I’m sorry if I was a bitch to you. I really didn’t mean anything I said. The truth is I really like you….”

He interrupted with, “Yeah, whatever, V” and he walked away from me. Mid sentence.

The only way I could have suffered a more humiliating rejection would have been for him to take his dick out of his pants and slap me across the face with it.

I wish this story had a point. I wish I could tell you that Tyler and I sat down for a cup of coffee years later and figured out where we went wrong. I wish I could say that I confessed to him that I had been awake when he gently brushed my hair out of my eyes and I told him how happy and comfortable it made me. I wish the whole thing ended up being some big misunderstanding that I can spin into something funny and heartwarming now.

But, the truth is, I never saw Tyler again. I moved out of that apartment a couple of months later and I started running in a different social circle. I never figured out where we went wrong and I never mentioned to anyone who knew him what happened that night when I pretended to be asleep on that couch. Even worse, I have a feeling that the entire moment was something that was only significant to me and were I to someday confront him; he wouldn’t even remember what I was talking about.

I wonder if everyone has a little mystery like that in their life. A confusing situation that happened long ago that never became clearer with age or experience. A moment in their life that they’ll never understand, much less learn from.

Anyway, that was a long time ago. To be perfectly honest, I rarely ever think about it.

But sometimes, late at night, when my husband and I have retired for the evening, he’ll sleepily drape his arm across my shoulder in an attempt to pull me in close for a cuddle. Without fail, I’ll wiggle away from him or gently push him back towards his side of the bed. After that, I’ll roll over to my side of the bed, pull my covers snugly around me and shut my eyes tightly. I do not like to be touched and caressed as I doze off. I’m sleeping now and I need my space.

Times like those are the only ones that inspire in me thoughts of Tyler.

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