The End Of My Phone Sex Affair Made Me Face My History of Childhood Sexual Abuse

As far as my past trauma was concerned, my idea was to ignore it and then it would simply go away.

Jun 16, 2014 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

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Me as Elvis in my solo show “Temp to Perm.”

 
When my therapist of 12 years suggested I seek additional help, I thought she was off her psychoanalytic couch. I agreed with her that wanting to commit suicide was not my mental health ideal, but if Dan, my phone sex lover, would commit to me, then my problems would go away. He’d been my best friend for nine years, through his marriage and divorce, and once I proved to him that my sexual appetite was robust, I was sure I’d become his second wife.  
 
The year was 2000 and I was a record company publicist in New York. Dan was a music magazine editor in Boston. I called him with my pitch. He liked my voice, asked if I was single, and sent me his photo -- all after just one conversation. He had a playful, rascal-like grin, dark hair, dark eyes and a dimple. When I sent him my picture he said I was without flaw; a cross between Holly Hunter and Andie MacDowell. I was hooked. He then gave my artist’s CD a glowing review and I knew someday soon he’d be mine.
 
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In Rome a few months after Dan and I started our phone relationship. 

 
A week of suggestive phone calls later, he asked me what kind of underwear I wore. When I answered thongs, he responded by saying he wished his wife wore them too. I felt like I’d run face first into a wall. Wife? Where did that word come from?  
 
He went on to say that while she was a really cool woman, any passion in the marriage was long gone. “We’re just like roommates,” he said. And this is where I’d come in, I thought. A mistress I’d never be, but a best friend, well, that’s honorable; someone to be there when the marriage falls apart. And it did.
 
Six years after our first phone call, and a steady stream of coverage for my projects in his magazine, he called me sobbing: his wife left him for another man. I knew I had to give him time to heal and eventually he’d slip a diamond on my finger. I was his confidante and support, the best friend he’d ever had.
 
“How is it a cool, hot girl like you still single?” he asked. Couldn’t he see it was fate?
 
When the time was right I planned to throw down my Royal Flush. The opportunity soon presented itself when he told me he was ready to start dating again, and then drafted a profile for the website Plenty of Fish. “Tell me what you think,” he said and sent it to me. Plenty of Fish? What about Plenty of Anne? It was time. 
 
The contents of my email would have made Larry Flynt blush. I even surprised myself. Thus began our long distance phone sex affair. I began crafting our wedding announcement in my head. “When are you coming to New York to see me?” I asked. It was the obvious next step in the plan. “Next weekend won’t work,” he said. “What about the one after that?”
 
And so went our back and forth -- I wondered, am I pushing too hard or not enough? I finally forced him to play his hand. His response: “I can’t do it. It’s not going to work.” My whole world came crashing down. Suicide seemed like the best plan. That’s when I booked an emergency session with my Greenwich Village therapist who said, “Maybe you’re ready to look at your childhood sexual abuse.” Oh, that.
 
She suggested I go to a survivor support group that a colleague had told her good things about. As far as my past trauma was concerned, my idea was to ignore it and then it would simply go away. So I did what I do when my defenses are challenged, and asked if the group members carried teddy bears. She didn’t laugh. “I don’t know,” she said, “but that’s better than wanting to die.” She had a point.
         
At the group I was told to stop all sexual activity for a period. This would help me to get to know myself. The moratorium included no flirting, no masturbating, and no dating at all. What? I thought I needed all of that to live. “Try it for a week,” the group leader said. “Come back and let’s see how you feel.”
   
That week I became undone.  
 
I had a car service on speed dial and made unannounced visits to the vet, convinced my cat was about to take her Earth’s leave. I screamed at Starbucks baristas for making my latte wrong, and was wracked with sobs over a torn skirt. No matter how many times I hit the play button, the answering machine never said, “This is Dan, I’ve changed my mind.”
 
But after attending the group a couple more times, I began to connect the dots from my past. While I grew up with privilege in suburban Connecticut, as a child I was desperate for the attention my two alcoholic parents couldn’t give. My mother wore starlet lingerie around the house, and encouraged me to be curious about boys’ anatomy. I brought Playboy magazines in to show the boys in my 2nd grade class. The set-up was perfect for the older boy to take advantage of me. This happened more than once.
 
The more sessions I attended, the more memories returned, it felt like I had root canal without getting numb. When I was eight years old I learned about “the birds and the bees.” And because a boy did to me what grown-ups do to make babies, I believed I was pregnant and was going to die. So I punched my belly as hard as I could, to make the roundness go away.
 
I began blacking out from booze in my teens. In my 20s I auditioned to be in porn; this was my response to being rejected by a crush. I pleasured myself in bathrooms at work, and had sex when what I wanted was love. Driven blindly by trying to master my trauma, I compulsively acted it out. “You were victimized as a child, but now you’re an adult,” the counselor said, “It’s time to stop victimizing yourself.” Ouch.
 
“The way to heal is by loving yourself,” the counselor went on. “Develop habits that are good for you.” Here come the teddy bears. “It’s your responsibility to create the life you want to live.”
 
“My responsibility” was a novel idea. With an abundance of time that was previously spent crafting salacious emails to Dan, I became reacquainted with my long dormant creativity. I signed up for sketch comedy classes, and developed a solo show called Temp to Perm. Who had time to chase down a man?
 
On Christmas Eve that year the message light blinked. I hit “play” and heard that familiar voice. “It’s your friend Dan. Please call me back.” Rockets shot from my heart to my loins. My lover came back to me! I was high as the Hindenburg, which ultimately crashed. I knew a similar fate would be mine. I hit delete.
 
When I relayed my experience to my counselor, he said that I had finally put myself before a man: “Bravo!” A few months later, he suggested I try dating again but implored me to take it slow. It would be a while before I felt ready to jump back into those waters, though. I wanted to keep indulging in the honeymoon phase with myself.