There are a few details you should know about me. The first thing is that I react strongly to drugs. For example, when I drink a cup of coffee, I feel high and my hands start shaking. Also, I have ulcerative colitis. This means my immune system attacks the lining of my colon, creating open wounds and causing diarrhea. Sexy, I know. In order to combat a recent ulcerative colitis flare, my gastroenterologist prescribed a steroid called Prednisone. The last thing you should know is that a few months ago I broke up with my boyfriend of six years. He was the only man I had slept with in my entire life.
With ulcerative colitis, no one knows you are sick. I do not say this to garner sympathy—I want to give you an insight into the double life of a visibly “okay" young person who is suffering from chronic illness.
After my doctor told me I had to take Prednisone, I laughed off his warning of side effects, said I would be fine, then proceeded to sit in my car and cry. As a previously healthy 20-something, dealing with this newly diagnosed chronic illness felt like I was drowning inside, but there were no visual signs to indicate that I needed help. With ulcerative colitis, no one knows you are sick. I do not say this to garner sympathy—I want to give you an insight into the double life of a visibly “okay" young person who is suffering from chronic illness.
So, yes. I was nervous about some of the Prednisone side effects that I had learned about from online research: mood swings, weight gain, chipmunk-swollen face, random hair growing on your body. But at this point I had already resisted taking the steroids for a few months, and my stubbornness caused me to become so weak that I was lifting my legs out of bed in the morning with my hands. My invisible weakness made me stop and lean on a jeans display while shopping with friends because I felt I would faint. The gradual loss of my muscles (because my body couldn’t retain nutrients or water) was at first actually kind of welcome. I was finally skinny! How cool! That small thrill faded quickly, once being skinny and sickly became debilitating. I yearned to be my sturdy, strong self again. Give me those drugs, doc.
I started with 30 milligrams per day, to be taken on a full stomach. That first week I felt high. My fatigue was replaced with a clear-headed alertness. Instead of not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, I jumped out, ready to see friends, to eat, and to heal. My body started to retain nutrients, the color came back to my face. And I started to get horny.
I went to sleep that night frustrated with the app and embarrassed that I was using it. Did I have no strength at all? Was this a desperate attempt to distract myself from the emotional pain of a breakup? Maybe, but I was also hornier than a high-schooler, abnormally distracted from daily life.
This sexual desire was different than what I normally felt like when I was turned on. This new desire felt aggressive and I felt weirdly confident in my sexual powers. It was also constant, instead of rising and falling like my normal libido. I didn’t want the emotional pieces of a relationship, I just wanted to fuck someone and be fucked in return. Maybe part of this was due to feeling better. Now that I didn’t have to run to the bathroom right after eating, I wanted to sleep with someone immediately. This seemed reasonable, I thought. Regardless of where it came from, my desire had to be dealt with because I could not focus.
Oh, Tinder. Only a few short months ago we were complete strangers. I was living abroad with my ex when the big breakup happened, and Tinder did not exist in this foreign land. My sexy male friends and random new acquaintances had ushered me into singledom, with the old-school methods of whiskey and romance rather than cell-phone apps. Upon my return to California (the birthplace of such illicit apps) Tinder was on the lips of my peers and poked its head into almost all of our conversations. Initially, I resisted. No, no—there was no way that I, the late adopter of smart phones, the firm believer in face-to-face communication, would ever be interested in a "hot-or-not" hookup app. That is, until I started taking prednisone.
One night, alone, cuddled up in bed, I downloaded Tinder. It was easy—just choose a few pictures from your linked Facebook account and bam, done. On the market. I didn’t even write a bio. Why didn’t I put on some pants and hunt at the bar around the corner? Laziness. Also, it seemed like there would be better odds of meeting someone with similar intentions on Tinder than sorting through the array of reasons someone could be at a bar. I naively expected instant gratification, like ordering a pizza. I soon found out that I had to wait for guys to select me, too, and that if we matched, someone then had to start a conversation. Ok, I thought, so there is some effort involved in this process, even with the built-in laziness allowance.
I went to sleep that night frustrated with the app and embarrassed that I was using it. Did I have no strength at all? Was this a desperate attempt to distract myself from the emotional pain of a breakup? Maybe, but I was also hornier than a high-schooler, abnormally distracted from daily life. So I kept using the app, engaged in a few banter-filled conversations, and finally went on a real date.
My heart was pounding when he got out of his four-door sedan in one of LA's ubiquitous suburban neighborhood parking lots. I was meeting a complete stranger who I’d joked with the night before about the President’s State of the Union address and the NSA listening in on our conversation. Let’s call him Ahmed. He was gorgeous, intelligent, and mysterious. I got in his car and we drove to a tea shop nearby for a game of chess. The veneer of our innocent behavior contrasted beautifully with my carnal intentions.
As he quietly gazed at me across the chessboard, his sparkling eyes told me much more than his stoic face. He asked, while almost cornering me into checkmate, “So why Tinder?” I deftly repositioned my queen and responded, “For the sex.” He smiled, sheepishly, quickly hiding his surprise at my forwardness. He made another move, never lessening his offensive. “I'll have sex with you.”
Let it be known, I took precautions both times, telling a close friend the who/where/when of these encounters. I’d text that I was fine after I determined the stranger was not going to kill me. Also, no alcohol was consumed by either party during both encounters. That made the stakes even higher, the adrenaline more acutely felt.
Thank God the chain-smoking proprietor of the tea shop helped me defeat Ahmed at chess. With that much sexual tension, I could barely remember the rules of the game. Ahmed kissed me in the parking lot, then drove me up into the foothills for a throwback high school car fuck. Did he satisfy me, not really. I had more fun talking with him than sleeping with him. My newfound, steroid-driven desire was not quenched, not in the least.
Back to hours of swiping, usually left for “hell no, I would not touch you” and sometimes right for “get ready, because I’m going to fuck you, good luck." Those were my simple, clear intentions.
A few nights later, I matched with a nerdy, sexy man—let’s call him Javier. In my first message to him I laid out that I was traveling through the area and just wanted to sleep with him. Surprisingly, to my one-track mind, he said he “wasn't that easy.” What? Just my luck, he actually wanted to get to know me. Most of my girlfriends complain about the opposite behavior. Alright, alright. So we bantered, I made him laugh, and he finally agreed to meet up with me the next night. Phew.
This was my second foray into meeting a complete stranger to hook up with. Let it be known, I took precautions both times, telling a close friend the who/where/when of these encounters. I’d text that I was fine after I determined the stranger was not going to kill me. Also, no alcohol was consumed by either party during both encounters. That made the stakes even higher, the adrenaline more acutely felt.
Javier peppered me with questions at his favorite late night coffee shop. What were my career goals? My family? What books do I read? Gracious, he really did want to know me. I stayed on my game, answering as best I could to keep his attention and asked him my own litany of questions. He turned out to be a fascinating human, an extremely hard-worker who put himself through school and made his own Captain America costume for Comic Con. However, I really just wanted to fuck him. Please, quickly, tonight—how many more questions do you have?
That night I had one of the best sexual experiences of my life. All of the stars aligned—my Prednisone made me feel invincible, Javier was skilled and energetic, and my stomach didn't hurt. If this was what life as a chronically ill person would be like, maybe I would find happiness once in a while after all.
We walked down the street, me in my leather boots and jacket, proper armor for a night vixen, he in a conspicuously clean cut collared shirt and sweater combo. Finally he pushed me against the side of his favorite neighborhood bookstore and kissed me, passionately. Yes! We have chemistry. I asked if I could still come over, and referenced our earlier conversation about my intentions. Thankfully, he acquiesced.
That night I had one of the best sexual experiences of my life. All of the stars aligned—my Prednisone made me feel invincible, Javier was skilled and energetic, and my stomach didn't hurt. If this was what life as a chronically ill person would be like, maybe I would find happiness once in a while after all. The next morning as he walked me to my car, my head was high, my body was tired, but I was finally at peace. Javier had a difficult task and he succeeded. That night sated me for a week.
Slowly, the Prednisone was healing my colon by suppressing my immune system. I stayed on my strict, colon-friendly diet of sweet potatoes, chicken, eggs, and rice. I avoided all raw vegetables and fruits. No alcohol, no sweets. High excitement. As I felt my body healing, I started to taper off the Prednisone, per doctor’s orders. Soon after I started tapering, I moved cross country to DC.
On meeting, it felt too transactional to just walk back to my place without any conversation, so I asked if he wanted to get a drink first. No, no he did not. It is a strange feeling, making small talk with someone who is trying to peer through your clothes to make sure he wants to sleep with you.
DC’s Tinder pool is vastly different from LA. DC has more military uniforms, cigars and lacrosse action-shots. A few fellows stood out from the pack of grown-up fraternity men. Serdar caught my attention, with his wavy brown locks and mischievous grin. His weird, witty style of banter engaged me. We met up at a lovely dive bar—beer for him, soda for me.
We got along swimmingly and I was attracted to him. We kissed outside the bar, me leaning on my bike, which elegantly crashed to the cement as the make out session heated up. Unfortunately, those initial sparks didn’t manifest into sexual chemistry in the bedroom. I did a bike of shame back to my place in the morning and didn’t text him again.
My libido was still raging, even more it seemed after not being satisfied by Serdar. So I spun through the stranger Rolodex on Tinder with only one specification—do I want to have sex with you? That matched me quickly with Ryan. No time or need for banter, I asked him if he wanted to come over and hook up.
He did. We met outside a bar by my house, a public place to make sure we were both who we purported to be. On meeting, it felt too transactional to just walk back to my place without any conversation, so I asked if he wanted to get a drink first. No, no he did not. It is a strange feeling, making small talk with someone who is trying to peer through your clothes to make sure he wants to sleep with you. I understand the situation might've seemed to good to be true, a pretty lady who just wants to have sex with no strings attached. What was the catch, he must have been thinking.
A few seconds after walking into my living room, we started kissing and simultaneously disrobing. Luckily, we had good physical chemistry. How awkward would that have been if we didn’t? He tired me out over the next hour, and I was sated, finally. He asked if I wanted to be his hookup buddy—I replied, “maybe.” That meant: this might not be what I want, after all, this animalistic distraction, devoid of complex, rich emotional connection. Goodbye Ryan, thanks for coming.
Meeting total strangers and sleeping with them, totally sober, felt at its best euphoric, and at its worst, woefully unfulfilling. I’m glad the shift wasn’t permanent, but I’m also grateful to know what I am capable of. Even though the Prednisone gave me a sense of infallibility, it was still me at the core. I have experienced the power of confidence, which I had not felt since being diagnosed.
If Javier was at the climax of my prednisone libido high, Ryan found me on the decline. Over the next few weeks I noticed my Spiderman-like alertness and unusually high self-confidence began to decrease to a normal level. Although my body looked the same, maybe even more toned, my usual self-doubt about my attractiveness slowly started piping back up, nagging behind my forehead. As I experienced the drug’s decreasing effect, I realized what role it had been playing in my sex life. No, I had not turned a new leaf in my sexual prowess. Instead, this was a rare side effect that didn’t even make it into the small print on the prescription packaging.
Although I miss the high-confidence part, I do not miss the overpowering urge to have sex all the time. I wonder if I received a window a man’s world for a few weeks—that stereotypical world where men constantly have sex on the brain. Or maybe some people just have much higher libidos than others based on a series of chemical reactions, regardless of gender.
Meeting total strangers and sleeping with them, totally sober, felt at its best euphoric, and at its worst, woefully unfulfilling. I’m glad the shift wasn’t permanent, but I’m also grateful to know what I am capable of. Even though the Prednisone gave me a sense of infallibility, it was still me at the core. I have experienced the power of confidence, which I had not felt since being diagnosed. As a young, chronically ill person, you often feel like damaged goods, and this constant awareness erodes your sense of being attractive or good enough for someone to want. To have that heaviness lifted for a few weeks was priceless—and excellent fodder for girlfriend brunches.