Just the Tip is a sex and relationship column hosted by queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. Here you will find interviews with sexuality researchers and educators as well as smart and compassionate responses to anonymous questions. If you have a sex or love question you’d like Jera to answer, email email@example.com or DM Jera on Instagram or Twitter @thejerabrown.
This is the first of a series of posts Jera is writing for the column about dating while traveling full-time in their RV.
In February, I left Chicago, my home for the past seven years, ready to start a new chapter. My roommate/chosen brother made the move with me. We signed a six-month lease in a small city in Indiana where rent was significantly cheaper and we were close to family. Neither of us planned on staying there long. Jake was saving up to buy a house. Meanwhile, my plan was to buy an RV and travel the country and write those books I’d been putting off. Just me and my dog, Winnie.
I’d actually dreamt up this plan at the beginning of 2020, right after getting out of a toxic relationship. And I would’ve acted on it much sooner had I not fallen right back into another relationship that, at the offset, appeared to be much healthier. I was wrong.
So long story short, there I was, a year later, temporarily living in Indiana, having just gotten out of two back-to-back toxic relationships. To put it lightly, I was very much not interested in dating or having sex. I’d been celibate since my breakup in October and was focused on writing, saving money, and healing my heart.
At first, things were great. Every day, I worked, I hiked with Winnie, and I wrote. And overall, I was pretty damn happy.
But I had another problem. My dog was super lonely.
My giant dog was well over 100 pounds and still growing. In Chicago, he’d had more friends than I did — other puppies who’d grown up with him and didn’t realize they should be intimidated by his size. But in Indiana, I couldn’t find him a friend.
After much trial and error (setting up various doggie play dates and even attempting to adopt several adult dogs), I realized I was going to have to raise him a friend. I was going to have to get another puppy.
And here’s where things got complicated.
In May I got Murphy, a seven-week-old German shepherd/Husky mix. Also in May, my body decided I’d been celibate long enough. This felt like very bad timing, because dating and having a puppy don’t go well together.
If you’ve ever raised a puppy, you’ll know just how time-consuming and exhausting it is. They’re babies. They don’t sleep through the night. They need a lot of attention. They need to be trained not to make messes or eat things they shouldn’t. Having a puppy is a full-time job.
When I got Murphy, I stopped getting enough sleep. I stopped being able to go on long hikes. I stopped being able to properly take care of myself. I stopped writing. It makes sense then, that a couple of weeks after taking Murphy home, I started feeling lonely again. I tried ignoring it because I didn’t want to start dating. And, it felt like the worst possible time to try.
But then I started having sex dreams. Like every night.
At the time, I thought my body was simply telling me that it had gone long enough without sex. Looking back, however, I realize that my body might’ve also been telling me: you need to prioritize me. It was just sending me the only signal it knew how to send.
I came to the conclusion that someone else could provide a new source of energy (through cuddles, sex, romantic energy) that I’d been missing. What I know now is that before I tried to find someone to offer me that energy, I should’ve first tried to nourish myself. In May, sleep-deprived and horny, I hadn’t put that together.
But there was something else that made me think it was a good idea to try dating again. I was planning on moving into a camper full time in August … with two dogs … one of whom still freaked out when I left the room without her … and I had absolutely no idea how I was going to have sexy time in that situation.
Logically, it seemed to me to be a good idea to get some needs met while I still at least had an entire house to invite someone back to. Even if that house contained a two-month-old puppy and a 140-pound dog.
Having made this decision, I reactivated Tinder and went on two dates in two weeks.
Highlights of the first date:
- 140lb doggie scratch marks down my date’s side as soon as he walked through the front door.
- The best sushi of my life (thank you dear brother for pup-sitting!)
- Me casually cleaning up puppy pee while my date waited for me.
- My very loving giant dog pushing my date off the bed trying to get closer to him.
- Mournful dog cries from the other room having been kicked out of the room. (Spoiler, I can’t kick out a puppy … so we waited for her to fall asleep for sexy time).
- Me politely recommending my date should cum quickly when two little puppy ears emerged on the side of the bed (cue end of sexy time).
- Me casually cleaning up puppy vomit while my date was trying to sleep.
- Me texting my date “I hope my dogs didn’t scare you off.” (Spoiler, he called them adorable distractions).
Highlights from the second date:
- Manically searching for dog-friendly spots in Indianapolis and changing my mind every five minutes about where we should meet. (Yes, I took my two dogs on a first date with me.)
- An AMAZING brewery with a built-in dog park I highly recommend to other dog owners in Indianapolis
- Being interrupted every five minutes by someone new wanting to pet my dogs (I don’t blame them. My dogs are great).
- A very wet kitchen floor after my dogs spilled all the water my date graciously offered them (yeah, we decided to take the date to his house to at least be able to talk uninterrupted)
- Driving home in a hail storm trying to find an open fast food restaurant after I realized that as lovely as he was, there wasn’t any chemistry.
And although neither date resulted in a second, I learned some wonderful things from the experience.
1. Be Upfront About What You Need
When I started dating again, my profile read something like, “In town through August. I have a very young puppy. Only open to hikes or Netflix and chill-type situations where she can hang with us.”
When I started talking to someone, I’d explain the situation. How Murphy can’t be left alone yet. How the house might smell a little like puppy pee (I couldn’t tell anymore). How, although I was leaving soon, I still wasn’t interested in a casual hookup.
Now, If you’re like me, dating kicks up all those primal insecurities about wanting to be desired and chosen. And this particular round of dating left me feeling incredibly anxious and afraid. I was afraid that my situation was going to be too much for anyone to handle and that no one of substance would be interested.
2. It’s Okay to Be Complicated
I know I’m not alone in these insecurities. Have you ever wondered whether already having kids is going to scare everyone away? Or being sober? Or having a trauma background or mental health issues? Or significant food allergies?
For any number of reasons, dating can lead to this deep fear that you’re too much work or not the right kind of person.
So if you relate to this and find it’s so easy to blame yourself when someone loses interest or swipes left or rejects you in some way, then hear this: If someone isn’t willing to accept your life situation and what you need, then they’re not going to be a good date or lover or partner. They’re just not. And it has absolutely nothing to do with you not being a lovable, sexy beast.
Relatedly, in a post about dating while disabled, Kirsten Schultz talks about why she sets boundaries around her accessibility issues before a first date. Schultz’s point is if someone isn’t willing to put a little work into the first date, they’re not someone you want to date at all. And that is true for all of us.
3. Waiting Is Better Than Settling
The truth is: for some of us who are beautifully complex people or are in unique/challenging situations, there might be a much smaller pool of people who are worth pursuing. Which sucks. Because it might mean you have a choice to make: settle or wait.
And when we’re looking for someone to validate our worth, our datability, etc, it’s really really easy to settle.
When I’m feeling desperate for sexual or emotional intimacy, I stop listening to my gut. I swipe right more frequently. I agree to more first dates when I’m not really a “hell yes.” And these situations rarely end well.
Waiting isn’t easy. It can be lonely. It can be scary. But your patience will be rewarded. I don’t know when or how. But it will.
I know this because I truly believe that when we have faith in ourselves, good things will happen. This, right now, is my guiding light.
See, when I started dating in May … yeah, there was the puppy and the puppy pee and the 140-pound dog ready to jump on you to say hi … there was a lot to deal with. But looking back, the thing I was most afraid of was that, by traveling full-time, I was signing myself up for a life of shallow connections with people by not being around long enough to truly make lasting commitments.
I officially left in my RV in October. I’m now officially a full-time traveler and being brave enough to live on the road means having faith that I’ll know the right people when I see them and they’ll know me. You’ll see over the next few posts how this self-faith has been tested. A lot. It’s a seed I’m continuing to protect and nurture. And I’ll share with you all of the lessons I’m learning about how to heal from heartbreak, how to be comfortable being alone, how to find the right people to let in, and more. Stay tuned.
Next up: How to handle being ghosted. Want to follow along on my journeys? Follow me on Instagram @thejerabrown.