The “Sex” Proposal
My most shocking private yoga session request yet.
I have long legs.
Very long legs.
Yoga leggings fit my legs very well. Leggings are perhaps the most comfortable piece of clothing I own — but they are also the most attention-grabbing.
Over the past 15 years of teaching, I have had many eyes stare at my legs as they demo poses. I am unphased by those stares— that is until they bore through me.
Some stares stand out.
Some eyes linger a little too long.
Perhaps you know you know the linger?
The one filled with longing and lust?
Yoga stirs up all kinds of sexual energy. And for the student with lots of repressed desires— well doing a few hip openers has the potential of turning them on — a lot.
I recently got an email from a man I taught a few times and practiced next to on several occasions. When I saw his name pop into my inbox, I thought, “Oh boy, this oughta be interesting.” My gut told me he wanted something physical. Yet his words were so innocent. “Would you be open to giving me a private yin yoga session?” It was easy for me to read between the lines. My mind went back to his constant glances towards me when we were in the yoga studio. I remember during one practice, the feeling of his eyes lingering a little too long, so I made it a point to look for his wedding band when we were in a downward-facing dog.
There it was, that gold glimmering band covered in beads of his sweat. And seconds later, there were his eyes scanning my yogic form.
After one hot yoga practice, he asked me about yin yoga. I felt his desire to understand yin was far from authentic. He wanted something more — something I didn’t have to give.
It took me days to answer his “Meet me for tea to discuss yin yoga” email. When I finally replied it was a very formal, “Here are my rates, what do you want to know?” He insisted on tea and paying me a consultation fee. Consultation I could do. Suddenly I felt safe.
A week later, I walked into the cafe (Yes, I was completely ignoring my gut instinct to watch out) with my notebook and laptop in tow, mentally prepared to make him a home practice plan to help heal the recent injury he wrote to me about. As soon as I walked over to him, he stirred nervously in his chair. When I said down, he took his glasses and hat off and seemed to stumble over his words. He offered to buy me tea and avocado toast. “Sure,” I said with ease, wondering why his previously calm, cool, and collected self seemed so nervous.
Over tea and toast, he spoke the words I felt between the yoga class stares and vaguely worded emails. They shocked me in a predictable sort of way.
“I have something to tell you that may surprise you, but hear me out.”
“Okay…” I said in an unruffled sort of way, though I was doing WTF flips inside.
“My sexual relationship with my wife — it isn’t so great. Tantra. It’s something I’ve tried a bit. I wonder if you’d be open to exploring it with me?”
Inwardly, I was shocked and frozen. I’ve lived this before — when I was 23 and newly grieving the loss of my sister. He was my friend’s father. I trusted him. I respected him. I felt emotionally safe with him — until I didn’t.
“No, I don’t do that kind of private lesson. What made you think I would? I’m curious what gave you the courage to ask me such a question?” I said matter of factly. I said it as much for my 41-year-old self as I did for my 23-year-old self who didn't know how to say the word no.
My emotional discomfort pulled me quickly into the therapist role. It was safe there. I could be kind, courteous, and neutral there. As I commended this asshole on his vulnerability and courage, I was inwardly seething with rage.
The thoughts running through my head were the very thoughts that ran incessantly through my 23-year-old head.
Am I asking for it by the way I dress?
Should I cover up my legs and wear baggy clothes?
Am I giving off some kind of sensual vibe?
Was I too friendly to him in those yoga classes? Should I have been cold when he tried to speak with me?
Should I not wear make-up when I teach so I don’t look more appealing?
Is it my fault?
Sadly, I know I’m not the only human who has had these thoughts.
My mind made this guy nice in order to make him seem less harmful. I wanted to please him in order to protect his feelings.
But what about my fucking feelings?!
This deceptive, selfish, hornball didn’t deserve the right to see my true feelings, so I hid them behind a friendly exterior until he sheepishly shook my hand and left the cafe.
When he left I started to shake. I wanted to run up and down the hill across the street. I wanted to walk briskly in the woods and clear every ugly emotion from my body and every self-blaming thought from my head. But I didn’t want to give him that much power over my emotions. Besides, I was going to hot yoga in an hour. So, instead of running or speed walking, I took my laptop to another part of the cafe and I started to write it all out.
I wrote his last words to me:
“I’ve never asked this of anyone in this way before. I was just so attracted to you when I met you; I think you’re beautiful. I never had the intention of asking you what I asked you today until recently. I don’t know why. I just feel like you’re a kindred spirit.”
Kindred spirit? What about my feelings? I felt no such kindred-spirit attraction to this douchebag.
Mind you, he spoke these lovely words to me after he told me he felt unappreciated by his wife but never cheated according to his conscience. “Cheating is me making love to another woman. I’ve never done that.”
I’d heard this tale before. It was way too familiar. The puppy dog eyes. The glum face pleading to be saved. “Life is so short and I don’t want to miss out.”
Yes, life is too short, honey. Too short to be bullshitted.
While I said no, plainly and matter-of-factly, I did spend an extra half hour listening to his sob story because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. (Note to my future self: I will not waste my precious breath trying to appease the feelings of someone who has little to no concern for mine).
At 23 I didn’t say no because I needed to be needed too much.
At 41 I said no with a phony smile on my face. It was nice of me to do it that way, wasn’t it? Perhaps too nice. When he walked away from our table, I bought my 23-year-old self a matcha tea and flourless chocolate torte and we got real together. The memory of a younger me finally mustering up the courage to tell my friend’s father to “Get the fuck out of my life” fired through my psyche like a torpedo. I remember feeling scared shitless to mutter those words. I felt so frightened I’d lose the hope I’d rekindled after my sister’s death.
“Woman, I’m proud of you for saying no and respecting your own boundaries. You owe him absolutely nothing. You owe yourself the goddamn world and you don’t need him to help you receive it.”
My 23-year-old self took a bite of the torte and said, “I’m going to wear yoga leggings from now on and not feel guilty or ashamed about it.” Licking her chocolate-covered lips, she looked shyly up at the ceiling. “I think every time a man has called me beautiful, I’ve felt like I’ve owed him something — like an extra lear at my ass or a big smile or a thank you. But you know what, I don’t owe a man who calls me beautiful a damn thing — and it feels really empowering to acknowledge that. So thank you for reminding me that I’m enough.
When she said those words my whole being lit up. Suddenly she and I were one.
I took my 23-year-old self with me to yoga tonight.
As we stepped onto the mat, I felt the urge to cry. As I breathed and sweated my way from pose to pose, my tears turned to rage. I looked around at the other men in the room with fear and anguish and disgust and hope. It was the hope that brought me peace as I noticed their eyes never wandered off of their own mats. For 75 minutes, my body was my own. At the end of practice, I laid down, resting one hand on my bare belly and one hand on my chest, and fell deeply in love with the skin I was in.
After practice, I needed to tell my story. I called a man I am learning to trust. As I shared my tale he said, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. He told you he wanted one thing and then presented you with something completely different. How awful.”
His words, “I’m so sorry that happened” were all I needed to hear.
I’m sorry it happens to anyone.
I’m sorry for so many humans in this world who don’t get a chance to speak up when it happens to them.
Speaking up takes courage. And practice — the practice that begins with loving the skin that you’re in.
The next time a man calls me beautiful I’m going to remember I don’t owe him an extra smile or a bonus lear or a thank you.
The next time a man calls me beautiful, I know I don’t owe him a damn thing.
But it can’t hurt to say what I would want my 23-year-old self or my daughter to say:
“And I’m smart too. Smart enough to say no when I need to. Now that’s beautiful.“
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