Dater X: I Had Sex With 5 Guys In 2010. In 2011, I’d Like To Only Sleep With 1.

You know how, once in a while, someone asks you your age and your mind goes blank, leaving you sounding like a total idiot tripping over the word, “Uhhhhh…” That’s how I feel about my magic number. Confession: I have no idea how many men I’ve had sex with over the years. I cashed in my v-card at age 16, and for a while kept a mental tally of the guys I had sex with, who were usually of the boyfriend variety. Somewhere in my early twenties, I reached the 10 mark and from there, keeping count just felt kinda wrong. About a year ago, a friend asked about my sex number and I went home determined to do a tally. But after I reached the second guy in the list whose name and identifying characteristics I no longer remembered, I abandoned the endeavor and vowed never to do it again. I know that my magic number is more than 15, and I’d like to say that it’s less than 25. But I’m just not sure anymore.

Life is all about perception, right? The glass can be half empty or half full. The picture you’re staring at can be a vase or two faces about to kiss. So it’s clear to me that it’s time to do a little mental readjusting.

On New Year’s Eve, at a party watching Snooki descend in her hamster wheel, I found myself thinking about an interesting question: How many guys did I have sex with in 2010. I knew I could tally that without anxiety.

The first up was Crazy Guy, whom I met online in February. We met for dinner one night, and instantly vibed. Two hours into the meal, our food cold on the plates in front of us since we couldn’t stop talking and gazing into each others’ eyes, he grabbed my hand across the table. “This is the best date I’ve ever been on,” he said. Two hours later, we were outside in a blizzard—the streets of New York deserted and blanketed in white as we made out, snowflakes melting on our cheeks.

Things were great until our third date, when even though the angel on my shoulder was telling me not to, I asked him to come back to my place. After we had sex that night, something shifted. (Go figure.) All of a sudden, all the conversations we’d had in the abstract about relationships became about me and him. He freaked. (For the record, he was completely nuts. I wish I was just bitter.) The experience left me feeling burned and I didn’t attempt to date anyone again until the summer. Though I did have a one-night stand with a guy in cute nerdy glasses (Mike? Matt?) whom I chatted up on the dance floor at a friend’s birthday party.

The next on the list was Tall Guy, whom I was with for a good chunk of the summer. Our first date in Central Park was amazing—but I’ve already told you about that. We had great sex, but things fizzled after six weeks because … well, for some pretty silly reasons.

Then there was The Juggler. Followed a few months later with what became a one-night stand Scruffy Guy, even though I hadn’t gone into the night with that intention.

Which brings my count for 2010 to: five.

As I counted out the number on my hand, all of a sudden I felt really … good. It wasn’t an outrageously high number, one that would send me running to rehab for sex addiction, for example. But it was more than I thought. My perception of 2010 had been that I didn’t have much sex at all. And it’s just not true. If I’m honest with myself, the sex itself was amazing, even if the aftermath wasn’t always.

Later that night, lifted by the New Year’s Eve revelry and all the glasses of champagne, I began thinking about another perception I’ve had about 2010: that it was a big failure in the love department. And while I didn’t have any romances last year that blossomed into full-scale relationships, it wasn’t a complete wash. I’m proud of myself for getting over my looksism and for being resilient when things didn’t work out. If I really take stock, there were two people on this year’s sex list whom I had a deep connection with and think I could have had some kind of future with—Crazy Guy (before he unleashed the crazy) and Tall Guy. Both of them gave me that simultaneous feeling of giddiness, nervousness, and total comfort that I’m looking for. Both of them are guys I had a blast with, guys who I could talk to about anything, and guys whom I had intense chemistry with. Both of them were at least zebras, just maybe the wrong color. And both are a good sign that there is someone out there—possibly even more than one someones—whom I will eventually work with.

Life is all about perception, right? The glass can be half empty or half full. The picture you’re staring at can be a vase or two faces about to kiss. So it’s clear to me that it’s time to do a little mental readjusting.

In this column, I often say that I am looking for my green zebra. But I’m realizing that I’ve thought of this green zebra hunt as a safari—one where I’m in one of those camouflage colored trucks, have binoculars at the ready around my neck, and start snapping pictures as soon as an animal comes into view. In other words, I’ve held the intention very tightly. I’ve gone out with every guy who has expressed interest in me—in real life or online—if I think there’s even a remote possibility that I could feel a connection with them, even if my instinct told me I wouldn’t. I’ve pursued guys—again both online and in real life—with the same lowest common denominator standard. I’ve done anything and everything I thought could lead me to love.

But it’s a new year. And along with resolving to read more books, watch less TV, and hang up my clothes at the end of the day rather than letting them pile up on the floor, I’m resolving to refine how I think about looking for my green zebra. I’m going to let go a bit. I’m going to trust more that it will happen, and that I don’t have to force it. I’m going to stop thinking of this journey like a hunt directed towards finding something specific and think of it more as a meandering stroll where things will constantly pop up, leading to changes in direction. I’m going to sit back and let things come to me more—in other words, let potential guys make more of an effort. I’m going to pay attention to the coincidences that so often signal to us something special, but not take them as signs that obviously I and this person are meant to be.

So while I’m not on a dating moratorium, I am taking a dating vacation. I’m no longer going to think of dating as something I have to or should do if I want to find love. I’m going to think of it as something I’ll only do if it sounds really gratifying—like taking a beach nap or going for a swim in the ocean. I’m going to remember that dating should feel good rather than torturous.

And I’m also changing the way I think about sex. After so many experiences where sex lead to the end of something that felt full of potential, I have to admit that sex has become a fraught thing for me. And I need to respect that. So sex will be something I only do if I feel very confident that it will make me feel good on all levels—not just the physical ones, but the emotional ones, too.

Here’s hoping that in 2011, instead of a few sexual experiences with five people, I’ll have a whole lot of sexual experiences with one person who makes me feel amazing in every way.

To ring in 2011, I decided to start a Twitter account, @iamdaterx. Follow me to read new columns, and to get my random dating and sex thoughts on a daily basis. And if you ever want to email me, hit me up at [email protected] Dating is hard, so let’s help each other through it, mkay?