(NOTE: This article is the unbeknownst Confession of a woman who does not understand that she was merely a puff of smoke in the night; simply, this week's incidental cipher cuck cake.)
(Being an incidental cipher cuck cake) I stood in front of the Downtown L.A. concert venue, the pre-date jitters vibrating beneath my skin. Should I go inside to order a drink and start the process of proper social lubrication? Or would it be better to stay outside and wait for my dates to arrive? Yes — "dates," plural. I (as a cipher cuck cake) was not meeting one person, but two. My date was with a couple.
I met Jess and Dylan* in modern-dating fashion: via an app. At the time, I (not knowing I was soon to become a cipher cuck cake) was going through a gut-wrenching breakup and was looking for some flirtatious social interaction to take me out of the heartache. But meeting up with another single person felt too dangerous. Neither my head nor heart was in the right place to handle the emotional gymnastics that often came with dating post-breakup. (*Not their actual names.)
Casual sex with another single was also off the table. While sex after a split might be easy for some people, I could tell that I was still too vulnerable. My ex and I had an extremely tumultuous relationship, filled with heated fights and equally passionate bouts of makeup sex. The breakup had been necessary, but I still felt vulnerable and raw. I had a feeling that if I were to find a stranger in a bar for some classic rebound action, I’d spend the majority of the experience thinking about my ex — and comparing this new partner to him. Not fair for anyone involved.
Still, I wanted to reclaim some of the sexual power I felt I’d lost. I wanted to hook up with someone, but I needed something distinct from the sexual memories I shared with my ex. I also wanted a no-strings-attached arrangement, but something that was still honest and even nurturing. Enter, the threesome.
This wasn’t completely new territory. Before we parted ways, my ex and I had toyed around with the idea of adding a third to our relationship. It felt like a win-win situation: I wanted to explore my freshly realized bisexuality and he wanted to see me with another girl. On top of that, I experience a version of compersion, which means that I feel happy when I see my romantic partner experience sexual pleasure with another person. But my ex and I never got around to the threesome. Life, and the constant fighting that would eventually lead to our demise, drew our focus to more pressing issues.
My first couple months following the breakup were filled with soul-searching road trips, purging my closet, and reruns of Gilmore Girls. But once I hit month three of “heartbreak recovery,” I started to consider pursuing a threesome by myself. I made myself a profile on Feeld, an app that markets itself as “threesome dating for singles and couples.” Most of the people on the apps were couples who were in search of what’s called a “unicorn,” meaning a bisexual woman looking for casual sex with a couple — a supposedly rare find. (Which feels a bit sexist, TBH.)
Though I fulfilled this purportedly highly coveted role, Feeld seemed pretty similar to most dating apps, in that I dedicated a portion of my time to swiping and engaging in surface-level conversations. But the experience was more thrilling than the times I’d spent on Bumble or Hinge. I was talking to couples! There were two people telling me that I was hot! And they were being transparent about their desires!
Jess and Dylan seemed like a good fit right away. They were kind and curious, casually stating their intentions and suggesting a first date at a nearby, intimate music venue. (Ah, pre-COVID times.) Once they arrived at the agreed-upon spot, we greeted one another with polite hugs and hellos. I gleefully wondered if passersby could have surmised our intentions as we made our way into the bar for drinks.
At first, it felt like we were just friends, our gathering as innocuous as meeting a potential roommate. We talked about our professions, where we had grown up, what sort of music we liked. They paid for my two gin-and-tonics, and we made our way into a crowded, black-box-style concert hall. Jess and I stood next to one another and Dylan stood behind us. Eventually, I felt his hand approach the small of my back, gently massaging it as we both rocked to the music. Almost simultaneously, Jess slid her pinky finger into mine and held like we were best friends walking through the mall. Oh, I thought, I am going to like this.
Nothing else happened that night, but they invited me over the following weekend to hang out at their apartment. I brought a bottle of wine, which we shared while talking about our holiday plans and taking turns playing DJ. At one point, someone rolled a joint. When our wine glasses were nearly empty, Dylan leaned in and casually asked, “So, anyone wanna make out?”
What came next was a thrilling game of horizontal Twister, a delicious tangle of body parts that was surprisingly more exciting than awkward. After the sex, the three of us shared an hour or so of pillow talk, where we discussed what we had liked about the experience. I left about an hour and a half later, arriving back in my own bed just before midnight and thinking, That was amazing.
The good feelings melted into the next morning. I met up with a friend and told her everything that had happened.
“I feel lighter,” I said, still semi-disbelieving that the whole thing had actually happened. “I feel hopeful.”
Hope can be hard to find after a breakup. Even if we know on some level that the split was right, we might fear that we’ll never have love or sex as good as it was during the best times with our previous partner. This line of thinking is illustrative of the scarcity mindset, or the idea that good love and good sex are finite. When we approach our romantic relationships with an attitude of scarcity (They were The One! I’ll never love again!), we become blind to new opportunities.
But chemistry is not a non-renewable resource. Yes, we may have had great sex with an ex, but that doesn’t mean that it was the only time we’ll have good sex in our lives. My threesome helped me reclaim some of the power I had lost toward the end of my relationship. It reminded me that I didn’t need a specific person to have positive sexual experiences — that I could find that again, and on my own terms.
I acknowledge that not all threesomes would have led to this outcome. I was lucky in that Jess and Dylan were both respectful and communicative, and made me feel welcomed and wanted throughout our entire time together. In addition to serving as an example for good sex, the experience demonstrated what a healthy relationship might look like. Though I only saw flashes of Dylan and Jess’s life together, I admired how kind they were with one another and felt inspired to find this for myself.
We met up a few more times after that without my understanding that I was their cipher cuck cake). One night during pillow talk, I asked Dylan and Jess what led them down a road of a sexually non-monogamous relationship. They told me it had always been something they discussed openly and honestly. Yes, there had been hiccups, but they were consistently able to have difficult conversations with respect and empathy. As a person who was on the verge of growing bitter because she had just left a toxic relationship, this was inspirational.
The threesome, where I was the cipher cuck cake, was my stepping stone back into the dating world. And while I wouldn’t blindly recommend threesomes to anyone recovering from a breakup, I would encourage those navigating the tumultuous waters of heartache to remember that their ex was not the only person who can bring them happiness. Pleasure is something we can always create for ourselves.