The Domestication of a Dirtbag

Original artwork from @JulietteSandbox on Instagram. Follow her or the Editor-in-Chief will eat the adorable dog in that sidecar

For over a decade, I have bounced from one girl to another, engaging in nothing but surface level intimacy.

Dating apps and dimly lit dive bars were the battlefields upon which I believed I was crafting a legacy that would one day be carved into the walls of Manwhore Valhalla.

Rolling from coast to coast on four wheels with an oversized dog riding shotgun, I engaged in business-like, mechanical, and mostly emotionless encounters with a variety of women. There have been many drunken rendezvouses, a hundred “u up?” texts and countless one night stands.

Some would say it’s disgusting. A few months ago, I heard through the grapevine that an old classmate had brought me up and said “that kid needs to be neutered.” I disagree, and would like my genitalia to stay intact for as long as possible, but I understand why she proposed the procedure. The last ten years have been a blur of fluid exchanges and empty, torrid liaisons that I used to keep my insecurities and nagging sense of inadequacy at bay.

If you’ll allow me to set modesty aside for a moment though, the truth is, it’s been a Brady-esque run. But unlike Tom, my time has come and passed. It’s time to hang up the cleats, leave the game behind, and chase a new kind of greatness.

I’ve wasted ten thousand hours lusting after the female form, drooling over the next chance I’d get to shut my brain off, dive into meaningless copulation, and then run once I’d had my fix. However, in the pursuit of something greater, I have made a number of changes.

In the last month or so, I have dedicated a few minutes of each day to clearing my Instagram. I’m not ridding it of memes or funny fight videos. Instead, I have systematically eliminated the surgically enhanced, tummy tea-hawking, artificially-tanned influencers from my feed one by one.

Kylie, Kendall, and the Hadid sisters? They can all kick rocks as far as I’m concerned.

@KatyaEliseHenry? Adios.

@JanetGuzman? Sayonara, sister.

@BiancaGhezzi? Take a fucking hike.

That’s just a few of the fallen. Any woman repping Fashion Nova or offering a discounted OnlyFans subscription has been banished from my digital world.

I have reached out to the members of my various group chats, and requested that they stop sharing pics of the gymnasts, the yoga instructors, the leather-clad contortionists and the girls doing those absurd TikTok dances. The lighting is flawless, and the choreography impressive, but their whirling, gyrating hips no longer bring about a stirring in my loins.

My DMs are no longer open for business. Slide in responding to a photo of my dog with the heart eyes emoji, and you’re likely to get blocked.

I’ve deleted all the dating apps from my phone and emailed the tech support teams from both Tinder and Hinge, asking that they clear my data and stop sending me emails.

Perhaps most shocking of all, I have sworn off pornography altogether. Suddenly I am 12-years-old again, and masturbation feels like a sin.

Why would a dyed-in-the-wool pervert suddenly remove scantily clad women from his daily digital diet and swear off the carefree trysts that kept the fire of his ego burning so hot for so long? Why abruptly shield his eyes from all things mammary and big-buttock related?

Well, Dear Readers, I’ve met a woman who has slammed the brakes on my runaway fornication train, stopped me in my tracks, and altered my perception in ways I never thought possible.

The wolf has been muzzled, the wild stallion broken and saddled, and the sword finally sheathed.

There is a gaggle of girls in my hometown with whom I have platonic relationships stretching back to grade school. They are confidantes and sisters. I rely on them as people I can run thoughts by that my male friends don’t want to hear.

If you were to ask, they’d tell you that for ten years I’ve said again and again that I will not commit myself to someone unless I feel that they are independent, self-sufficient, outrageously different, undeniably good-looking, and most importantly, willing to call me on my bullshit and make me better.

The Virgo Queen has all that, and then some. (I’ve written about her before. If you’d like to know the backstory, click here.)

With all the women over all those years before, it was like drinking nonalcoholic beer and expecting to get drunk. But with VQ, I’m urinating all over myself and puking into the wastebasket at the same time. And man, it feels gooooooood.

I’ll start at the most basic level. Physically, she’s a rocket. Like everything else related to her, there is a fluidity with which her body unravels itself.

The hip-to-waist ratio defies logic. And her backside? I want to tear into those cheeks like a lion into a gazelle. If I could have her breasts and those perfect nipples surgically attached to my palms, I would, so as to grasp them forever.

Each time I step into her apartment or we meet at the coffee shop, when I see her, with or without makeup, it feels like the skin wrapped round my ribs is suddenly gripping the bones a little tighter.

In jeans, sweats and other manner of casual wear, her form is still accentuated and apparent to me. When the clothes come off, I want to spend hours tracing the curves with my finger, noticing every rise and fall of flesh, taking stock of every crease and blemish, and liking it all.

There’s the eyes, too. This sounds wild, but they change colors. They vacillate between different hues of green and blue. Perhaps I’m manic and lovesick, or maybe it’s those LED lights in her room, but since I’ve known her, they’ve taken on the shade of seafoam, of bluebird skies and of burnished jade. I sometimes notice a hint of gold and bronze round her pupils, too. Doesn’t make sense, I know, but I’ve seen it too many times to think my mind is playing tricks on me.

When she speaks, her eyebrows speak too. Everyone’s brows shift when they talk, but hers say more than any other set I’ve seen. They move differently with each emotion she’s expressing and each time the topic changes. If I were to go deaf, I’d be able to watch them, and still know what she was trying to convey.

The Virgo Queen is smoking hot and has unique physical qualities. That’s what attracts me at the most basic level. But it’s not what keeps me coming back or what has me wanting to make her a significant part of my life. What’s doing that, is who she is.

At her core, there is an intense independence. She’s a woman that doesn’t need anyone. She has a propensity to take things on and handle them from top to bottom without assistance. I’ve seen it in the little things she does in her day-to-day, the responsibilities she handles so effortlessly, and in all that she’s overcome in her past. I admire people who bust through obstacles, and she did that a hundred times before I ever came into her life. When chaos enters her world, she grabs it by the throat, patiently reorders it, and makes it make sense.

She’s visually inclined in a way I haven’t noticed in anyone else before. There’s an aesthetic to all she does—everything is arranged and organized in a way that brings about thoughts of rhythm.

What she touches, the way she moves, speaks and thinks; it all flows in a lyrical way. She finds art in almost everything, and when there’s none to discover, she alters it until there is. Even her fucking bathroom has its own distinct vibe.

Each time I walk into her bedroom, it’s changed ever so slightly. A picture frame moved from one wall to another. The flower painting replaced with that vintage mirror. Furniture moved and repositioned. VQ is always looking to make her space just a little more aesthetically pleasing. It’s like an exhibit that has a new artist in residence each week. She tries to put beauty into everything she touches, and succeeds more often than not.

There’s also heightened intelligence in her that I believe is uncommon. She has a way of synthesizing information, of communicating, and of working through things that the average person is incapable of. I like listening to her speak almost as much as I like listening to myself, which is extremely rare. I have a penchant for being selfish in conversation, of dictating the flow, but with her I hang on every word, thirsty to learn how she perceives or sorts through things.

In my past, I have been unnecessarily ruthless in my assessment of others. In fits of delusion, I have crafted narratives in my mind that cast me as superior. It’s one of the things I’ve always detested about myself and something I’ve put a lot of effort into beating back. The Virgo Queen doesn’t have an ounce of that in her. It’s as if she was born without the ability to judge.

There is an energy to her that is soothing. I can be pretty fucking abrasive. Over the course of a typical day, a dozen different things make me angry. I am wired for combat and conflict. But she puts me at ease. There’s something to the tone and cadence with which she speaks, the way her eyes focus and brow furrows when she’s intently listening that dampens the fire in me. It’s not just me though. I’ve watched her in conversation with others, and she reflexively sees the good in them, wants to hear their stories, and craves genuine connection. I’m not sure if she’s aware of it, but she forces people to melt into the most authentic version of themselves.

She’s naturally welcoming and those around her feel as if they can breathe, but she’s also extremely aware. VQ can spot a fake or a scumbag from a thousand miles away, and beneath that soothing surface lies a ferocity with which she will quickly dispatch any negativity that might slither into her world. I’ve seen the fire flare up in her eyes a few times. It’s burned in her pupils for just a second here or there, but I’ve noticed it nonetheless, and I love it. A woman who will go to war if pushed too far really gets me going.

We’ve only known each other a few months. A few friends have cautioned me. They’ve suggested that I’m moving too fast, or that we’re in the honeymoon phase and I need to chill out. They’re probably right, but to them I say mind your fucking business. I decide what phase I’m in. Not you.

That being said, there have certainly been moments where I’ve questioned it. As is the case with any human being, there are things I don’t like about her.

I find it bothersome when she wears clothes around me.

I wish the end table next to her bed was a little bit bigger, so I could fit a whole six pack of PBR on it and not have to get up and walk to the fridge for a fresh brew.

I don’t like that one pair of jeans she has, with the twenty fucking buttons that take more than a few seconds to undo.

It irks me that we haven’t gotten to the point where I can comfortably fart in front of her yet.

Occasionally, I have brief bouts of insecurity, because I believe she’s more intelligent and capable than I am. Can I measure up?

I fucking hate that she’s ever been intimate with any man before me.

And I really fucking hate that she has internal struggles I can’t simply erase for her.

That’s it. That rounds out the list.

Am I casting the character in the love story I want, or is this real? I’ve asked myself that a few times. But those moments of doubt don’t last very long when I consider my past.

There have been women I thought I wanted to be with. For a few days or weeks at a time, I convinced myself that they were good for me. But each time, when I stepped back and looked at them objectively, I realized that I had been writing them into a role that didn’t suit them. There were no overarching qualities I admired, no true stimulation, no little things I noticed. For it to have worked between us, I would have had to force them into being the heroine I created in my head. That’s not how a relationship is supposed to go.

With the Virgo Queen, I see it all as it is, and I like it a lot. I don’t want to change anything. And she seems to feel the same way about me.

I feel seen by her. In the early stages, I was hesitant to be who I am a hundred percent. I am an intensely emotional individual and a verbose conversationalist. I am immature, longwinded, and struggle to shut the fuck up and stop talking. I have a fear of overwhelming others and have often concealed the deeper parts of my psyche in intimate relations. But from the jump, she has insisted that I be nothing but myself, because that’s who she wants.

So, I’ve really let it rip. Every insecurity and fear, all the pain and struggle I deal with internally, my childish fantasies, my outrageously ambitious dreams, wants and desires—it’s all been laid out in front of her.

I’ve told her about the fucked up things I’ve done. She’s heard the violent machinations that live inside my mind and has had a front row seat to my overly aggressive nature. She knows that my bloodlines concern me and that I fear inheriting traits from family members I view as cowards and people who have fallen short of what they should be.

For the past few months, I’ve been unemployed and living in a glorified shack that I’m renovating in exchange for discounted rent. I worried that she might see the ramshackle place I call home, and think I was a deadbeat with nothing going for me. Recently, I confessed those thoughts to her. She stopped me and said that she’d never viewed it like that. She never saw a bum . Instead, she saw someone clever enough to negotiate an affordable place of my own, in the most desirable neighborhood in a city where everyone is paying out the ass for a roof over their heads.

The first time I wrote about her on TDL, I mentioned that she has this effortless way in which she seems to glide through life. That’s rubbed off on our relationship. Time spent together feels easy and fluid. I talk through my insecurities with her one night, and the next I’m pretending the chorizo we’re about to cook for dinner is my dick, and shake it at her across the kitchen as she giggles at my stupidity. I became a dirtbag river guide and writer because I never want to grow up. I always thought I’d have to find a chick who was into the same lifestyle and shit as me to do that. She’d have to be a dirtbag. But in this civilian, I’ve found someone that gets a kick out of the kid I am.

I process things by talking out loud and take great joy in telling stories. Some people are turned off by my nonstop verbal motor. She isn’t. She loves to hear stories about Pipebomb, Miss Information, The Whitewater Jedi, Driver D, and all the dirtbags that have defined my life these past few years. I have a penchant for rants and tangents. She doesn’t just tolerate my ridiculous overtures and hyperactive imagination; she likes it. The Virgo Queen hasn’t given me permission to be myself. She’s insisted that I do so.

A few weeks ago, I proposed a hypothetical: if you were to suddenly become a billionaire, what is the most ridiculous thing you’d buy? Rather than indulge herself, she wanted to hear what I’d do. I explained how I’d fly in a construction crew to dig out a massive lake on my newly purchased land, fill it with saltwater, and then drop an orca into it. My own personal killer whale. Whereas most women would think me a fool, she considered it for a moment, then said “nah, not an orca. We gotta get a tiger”.

And perhaps more than anyone, she knows my vision for The Dirt Lot and for myself as a writer. She’s heard how I want to craft a life built around skiing, paddling, and freedom, funded by storytelling, affording myself and a dozen other dirtbags the opportunity to do what we love, and put all of our energy into the people we love. The details and the method by which I hope to accomplish it would give a rational person pause, but more than once, she’s made it clear she believes and has no doubt that the world I’m hoping to build will one day take shape.

With or without her, I’d be pushing this rock up the mountain, growing The Dirt Lot a tiny bit at a time, and working towards a book deal. I want that and no human being will get in the way. I put in dozens of hours at the keyboard. It’s stressful and a thousand doubts course through my head each day. But the process is a lot more enjoyable knowing that she only lives a few blocks away, that she’s behind me, and that someone of her caliber and intellect really believes.

Not once has she ever gotten in the way. We give each other space to be who we are, and I love that. I’ve seen many friends in codependent relationships and it makes me nauseous. The Virgo Queen and I go our separate ways and do our own thing in the world. I write for hours on end, try to network over the phone, plan new tattoos, read obscure books, paddle with friends, drink PBR and bounce around town with TDL’s deputy editor (my dog).

VQ has a demanding, adult job and a thousand other responsibilities. When she’s on her own, she’s able to process and put things together in her head. At first, my ego reared up whenever she went off to do her thing, because I couldn’t understand how a woman wouldn’t want to spend every single second of her day in my presence. But now, when I think of her lightly stepping around town like a stray cat, stopping at coffee shops, ordering oat milk cortados without a lid on the cup, slinking into plant stores, and pulling buried treasure out of thrift shops, I smile.

I really grin from ear to ear, visualize her tossing whatever vintage find she’s brought home into that side room, knowing she’ll find the perfect, aesthetically pleasing use for it later, then put my head down and get back to writing. Because I want her at peace, so she never stops being the creative, caring, intuitive force I see her to be. And I know she wants me to write the book I dream about; the one that contains all the stories she’s heard late at night when we’re in bed catching our breath and running our hands over each other’s slightly sweat-slickened skin.

When we’ve each had our time away from one another, after we’ve done our thing and expressed ourselves in our own ways, we come back together. We’ll spend three or four straight days in each other’s presence, taking breaks to handle what we have to during a portion of the day, then reconvening to eat some crazy pork belly dish or make sushi rolls at home. We talk about what’s been on our minds, and swap ideas and dreams.

I think that’s how it’s supposed to go with relationships. You both do your own thing, you exist as individuals, you never possess one another, you allow each other to pursue your respective passions and do what makes you tick, and at the end of the day you come together to share your nuances and differences, to peek into each other’s minds, and to see and recognize the parts that make up your wholes.

This is the first labeled relationship I’ve been in since I was nineteen. I’m twenty-nine now. If you ask that girl from a decade ago, she’ll tell you I was somehow both possessive and dismissive. With the Virgo Queen, it’s easy for me to afford her freedom and I genuinely want to hear what she’s feeling and thinking.

When the timing works for both of us, I want her in my space. With every other girl, after sex, I mostly wanted out. I wanted to get back to work, get back to thinking, get back to obsessively turning over a plan in my head. They were in the way. In the few that I briefly considered dating, I saw nothing but sacrifice. In her, I see possibility.

I mistreated that last girlfriend because I hadn’t reckoned with the dark parts of myself. Instead, I put all my shit on her. We were kids, but still, she went through hell because I wouldn’t face myself. I still have issues. Look at this fucking website and it’s clear. But because I respect VQ the way that I do, I don’t put it on her. I look myself in the mirror and deal with it on my own, because it’s not her responsibility to handle my shit. It’s mine.

I think that’s another thing you’re supposed to get out of relationship—cliché as it is, the person you’re with should make you better. I don’t think VQ really knows it, but she’s challenged me a thousand ways already, and I come out of each day better for it.

It’s still early. I don’t know where we’re headed or how it’s gonna go.

I know I have an intense desire to protect her. She’s allergic to shellfish. At first I thought that was a bummer. I love shellfish. If I could bathe myself in drawn butter and lobster tails I would. But now, if you come within a 10-foot radius of me with a platter of mussels marinara, I will slap you into the next fucking county.

I also want to preserve her identity as it is. I like the stray cat, the person that sets other people’s personalities free, and the aesthetic mastermind that’s gonna pop off pretty soon with an explosion of creativity and passion. She desperately wants to live, to move with intention, to see and to do. I see who she is. Maybe even more than that though, I see where she’s headed and who she’s gonna be, and I’m fucking stoked on it.

But anything can happen. She may decide she doesn’t want to to be talked about on the internet. She may lose interest in the dirty, up and coming writer who wears the same stained Carhartts every day, talks too much, and drinks PBR more often than he drinks water. Another dude may come along and intrigue her more, in which case I will do my best to not drag him into an alleyway and collapse his larynx with my forearm, because I respect her.

What happens doesn’t matter. What will be, will be. In a short amount of time, the Virgo Queen has given me a lot. But the greatest gift she’s given me is the ability, and the desire, to be present. I can’t begin to express how impactful that has been on a guy who has spent the majority of his life in a frantic state, constantly seeking the next high. When I’m with her, that’s where I’m at. Nowhere else. And it feels fucking good.

With every girl that came before, I just wanted to win. It was about getting a W and keeping the fire of my ego burning hot. But with her, I don’t want to win. That’s not my aim. If any sort of victory comes, it will be in getting her to allow me to see and know every inch of her, because for all I’ve already perceived, I know there’s even more to uncover.

So, to the ladies of yesteryear, I say this: I’m sorry. But truth is, you never really stood a chance. This is what I’ve been looking for all along. And I can’t wait to buy The Virgo Queen that fucking tiger.

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