Are you a retrosexual?

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  January 22, 2009

"The flip side," he continues, "is when you actually do make some sort of move, you'll be able to be really bold, because you already have a certain comfort level." As a result, all those superficial worries — Who will pay? When will she call? Was that brush of the hand a mistake, or was it intentional? — become less nerve-racking.

Another complication can be the inevitable shared-friends group. Not only will the retrosexual duo make waves depending on how, whether, and when they spill the beans about their rendez-vous, they'll also likely grapple with knowledge of their partner's past intimate experiences. (In fact, this might lull some people into a false sense of security — as though knowing part of someone's sexual past might make sleeping with them less of a health risk.)

And the better you know someone, the more dangerous it is if something goes wrong. Josh, 28, who sheepishly shares that he's recently retrosexed with at least three women, acknowledges both the benefits and drawbacks of hooking up with someone you've known forever.

"The best part of that is the comfort level you have with someone beforehand," he says. "Because you know the person, and if the timing's right, it can be pretty cozy. The danger, though, is that afterward, things can change, and if you're not careful, you might lose your friend. Which sucks."

That is exactly what happened to Ellen, a 35 year old who recently found herself tangled up with an old friend from her junior-high days. When they first bumped into each other downtown, it was amazing, she recalls. They laughed and had a great time. When they finally had sex — once — it was awesome.

But Ellen had recently emerged from a four-and-a-half-year relationship, and wasn't ready to jump into something new. She told him so. The dude's extreme negative reaction (we're talking aggressive e-mails, misogynist talk) was a shock, which made Ellen realize that, while he might be a cool friend, his romantic persona "wasn't the sweet person I'd thought he was. We simply cannot be friends." Perhaps if they'd never retro'ed, they could have preserved their relationship by avoiding romance.

Look at me now
As exciting as it can be, retrosexing isn't all fun and games. The emotional implications of these blasts from the past can run deeper.

In some cases, retrosexuals seek to achieve something like vindication, or triumph, through their experience. Consider an accomplished, sexy woman who felt significantly less confident in high school — and allowed that lack of self-esteem to color her relationships with guys. These days, if she rekindles an affair with someone who shunned or mistreated her, she revels in having the upper hand. At the very least, she makes sure it's an even playing field.

"A lot of it is about . . . feeling like I can correct for 'mistakes' in the past," explains Suzanne. "Not just showing off an adult sexuality, but also being able to alter and correct for the power dynamics of years ago. With both S. [the heartbreaker] and J. [the Vegas fling], [her modus operandi] was kind of a, 'Look at me now' thing, like somehow, by virtue of seeing them and sleeping with them again and not caring about it, I was reaching back and repairing the hurt that had been done to me in the past."

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