Love in the Time of Viagra, Part 1: My Favorite Mistake, by Sara Davidson

In Part 1 of this multi-part series, a woman shares her first encounter with … Billy the Bad.

Editor’s Note: Sara Davidson, author of the bestselling books Loose Change and Leap!: What Will We Do with the Rest of Our Lives?, has contributed articles to The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Harper’s, O the Oprah Magazine and Rolling Stone. She’s written and produced TV dramas and in 1994 was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” Sara now lives in Colorado. Visit Sara’s website by clicking here.

Many have had a Billy in their life – a relationship that’s thrilling and excruciating, that takes you to bliss and dumps you into hell and thereby hooks you. No matter how wise and experienced you may be, you ignore your inner voice, ignore the red light screaming “Stop!” and the sage advice of everyone you know. When it ends badly, as you knew it would, the pain can be so engulfing that you wish for oblivion. I ended up literally on my knees at a meeting of SLAA, saying, “I’m a sex and love addict, and I am not in control.”

For Sheryl Crow, it was Lance Armstrong, whom she called “My Favorite Mistake.” For me it was the man I named Billy the Bad, and I resolved that he would be my last mistake. Because Billy did not do me in; I did that myself.

I’ve lost money, had professional flops and humiliating reviews and I get over them quickly and move on. But loss of love cuts deeper and causes more anguish than anything I’ve known. As Tolstoy wrote, “Man survives earthquakes, epidemics, the horrors of disease and all the agonies of the soul, but his most tormenting tragedy has been … the tragedy of the bedroom.”

I’ve been a seeker for decades, and know it’s an illusion to expect that a relationship – no matter how wonderful – can fill the emptiness inside. And yet I can’t stop the yearning. In telling the story of Billy, I want to unravel the whole ball of yarn – to take a clear-eyed look at love and the way it lives in the body and the heart and, with your participation, come up with insight and guidance so I can get off the bloody wheel.

If not now, when? I invite you to join me.

From the Beginning …

I agreed to meet Billy at the Grizzly Rose, a famous saloon and dance hall midway between Lone Tree, CO, where he lives, and Boulder, where I do. He’d sent me an e-mail via match.com, but I’d been on the site long enough to conclude that most people on it have some dysfunction with relationships (this reporter included). So I was skeptical and did not take the bait. But he was persistent for several months. We finally spoke on the phone. I found him boring and said I didn’t think we had much in common. He said he was certain we did and would I at least meet him? I agreed, probably because he wouldn’t accept “no,” which is seductive.

I had trouble finding the Grizzly Rose and when I did there was no place to park. Kenny Chesney was performing and crowds were storming the doors.

I stopped my car near the entrance and called Billy on his cell phone. He came out of the Rose, got in the driver’s seat and said he’d find a place for my car. He was wearing a large black cowboy hat and I couldn’t see his face well in the dark. Driving up and down the rows, we found the lot totally full, but there was one space where an old couch had been dumped. I considered asking him to move it, but thought, I can’t ask that. What if he has a bad back? He hit the brake and said, “I’m going to move that couch.” He walked over, raised it vertically and held it balanced on its side for a moment. He was long and lean, silhouetted against the sky. He looked around, and then pushed the couch into a muddy ditch behind the cars. And as the couch fell, dear reader, so did I.

We walked back to the Rose and he led me through the crowd and into the hall, having tipped the guard. We made our way onto the floor, but it was too crowded to dance.

As I stood in front of Billy, facing the stage, he pulled me back against him and we began moving to the music. A jolt of energy went through me, so intense I could hardly stand. What’s going on? I thought? I had written off this guy. I’d checked his profile on match.com, where he said he had operated a cattle ranch and founded a fence construction company, then sold it, retired and was writing a play. “I have a tux and a tractor. I can work with my head or my hands. I can write a poem or a contract.” Then came the red flag: “I have not succeeded at everything, however. I have failed to be truly loved by a woman, and this is what I desire most.” That stopped me. He was 58, had been married twice, dated untold numbers of women and never felt loved?

As I drove home to Boulder, though, I was about to run right through the red light. Billy called twice from his cell phone and when I curled up in bed, I was so electrified I couldn’t sleep. He’s sexy, funny, smart, solvent … I thought, This could be something.

Tell us below: How would you see Billy’s statement that he’d never been truly loved? What do you think about using the Internet to meet people?

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