I’ve been on a self-imposed celibacy kick for a few months now, starting right around the time I decided I seriously needed to stop drinking less. It’s not that I regret being promiscuous or that I’m going to, I don’t know, save myself for marriage from here on out (I don’t and I’m not respectively), it’s just that I’ve reached a point where just fucking around has put a strain on me mentally to where it’s affected my ability to pursue a healthy relationship.
Not that sex isn’t healthy! Not that even casual sex isn’t healthy! Thing is, though, the last committed relationship I’ve been in was four and a half years ago. Oh, I’ve dated a few women since and been exclusive to them and still even care deeply about them as friends, but I was exclusive out of choice, not an expected arrangement. I don’t know if they were loyal to me; I didn’t care, I didn’t expect them to be. But boundaries set and established monogamy for both parties? It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a girlfriend. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been anyone’s boyfriend.
Anyway, to understand where I’m at with this celibacy thing, it’s probably best to understand where I am in terms of how I view sex and sexuality.
I grew up in a modest household with a Christian grandmother and a mellpw grandfather, but I had addict parents and a step-father who owned and ran strip clubs. My mom was a dancer, and my dad was sort of a player when he was young. There was a very liberal mindset on the fringe areas of my youth that fascinated me. I was never taught to body-shame. I was never taught to be ashamed of myself or my sexuality. I was always taught to be respectful of people in general, but especially women.
Anyway, at some point growing older, it all seemed simple to me: if you’re being safe, if you’re being honest with your situations and everything is consensual, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Your sex life is none of anyone’s business, nor is theirs yours. Feel free to save yourself for marriage or for a select few or however many you want. As long as you’re safe, honest, and clearly consenting.
Now, I’ve never been good with women. Romantically, I mean. Our relationships either failed due to infidelity (theirs), depression (mine), differing plans for the future (ours) and probably countless other things that I never even noticed. I’m a great friend (or I try to be) and I’m a romantic at heart, but I’m terrible at picking up on hints from interested women and I constantly (or have in the past) feel like they’re going to wake up one day and realize they could be doing so much better.
Anyway, sex. Because sex has seldom been a problem over the last 8 years and yet, AND YET when it all began, there were all the indicators that I would be fucking miserable at mixing sex and relationships.
I lost my virginity when I was 15 to a girl my age who was not a virgin and who I liked very much until she cheated on me a week later and wound up with three kids before she was legally allowed to drink. I was distraught, temporarily, as teenagers are wont to be, but found solace in the arms of someone else not long after, albeit briefly. This woman I loved deeply and her family was close to me.
But this isn’t about love, silly, it’s about sex, and I didn’t have much of it. Like, count on one hand the times total in the three or four months between when I lost my virginity (it was an early February) to the last instance (late May? June? Shit, it might have been an October, this was over ten years ago) and then I didn’t have that kind of contact again for years.
I had opportunities, don’t get me wrong. I partied a lot, a lot, and people get frisky at parties, but the only two people I had slept with I cared deeply about, I was super-duper depressed in general, and so – back then – I WAS saving myself. I just didn’t know for who or what.
I was really into this girl when I turned 18. She introduced me to a bunch of weird music that I liked but would never have discovered otherwise, and we would end up at each other’s houses fooling around but never go all the way. I liked her a lot, man, and I constantly asked her out but she wanted an open relationship (the other guy’s name was Kenny. My first name is Kenneth; this pissed me off to no end). I didn’t want an open relationship – she was the only woman I wanted – but I was willing to make an exception if it was the only way I could get her. Then she FLIPPED OUT on me when I went on a friend date with a friend-girl.
You see? Healthy relationships. I told her that I couldn’t handle the double-standard, especially when I was being yelled at for a non-romantic relationship with a friend who had been there for me through some heavy shit. I broke it off. I was headed to Europe in three weeks and while I would have been faithful had we been in a relationship, I wasn’t about to start one just to leave right away.
Here’s the thing, though: 18 and single or not, I still knew jack shit about talking to women. A few email addresses and drunk kisses aside, my trip abroad was sexless. This did nothing to detract from the incredible experience I had, and I was more concerned with the hand I paralyzed and spent two months fixing, but my hormones were out of control and I grew frustrated.
When I finally had sex again, it was terrible. I was so bad. I felt so bad for her for agreeing to that. Holy shit, let me tell you, I’m astonished that word of that didn’t spread, that I wasn’t mocked in the streets, that I ever regained the confidence to give it another shot.
I ended up in a relationship not long after that, though, and she was a lot more patient with my inexperience. It helped that there was an actual relationship involved, too. There is strength in an emotional connection to support a physical relationship.
That relationship did end, eventually, though. Not prettily. I’ve found break-ups are seldom neat and romantic notions don’t help for shit when someone tells you they don’t love you anymore.
A strange thing happened then, and I’m not sure how or when: where I failed in relationships I began to excel in flings and one-night stands. Now, I have never misled a woman for sex. I’ve never lied about myself or the situation. If I wasn’t interested in a relationship, I would make that clear and if she was uncomfortable with that arrangement, it didn’t happen.
There were a myriad of reasons for the experiences. Mutual attractions. Mutual emotional desperation. The need for release or just to have fun. Though I’m not friends with most of them now, the reason why has almost never been because of that.
I mean, I love women in general. I love the first time a woman and I come together because there it’s incredibly intimate. Even if, in the large scheme of things, it means nothing, there’s an intimacy to the whole experience. You discover each other’s likes and dislikes, the erogenous zonez, everyone kisses differently, wears their hair differently, puts on a different perfume. It’s exciting, it’s fun. That’s the point.
Then it stopped being fun for me. Not because of the sex or the women, but because all of these other aspects of my life were falling apart and I felt like a piece of shit. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically, I was withdrawing from all of my friends, I wasn’t writing hardly at all and I hadn’t been for months. My life lacked substance beyond the day-to-day and I started realizing you can only live in the moment for so long when you’re not doing anything good for yourself.
I decided to be celibate while I figured myself out. This is weird for me for two major reasons:
1. It’s difficult for a guy who was super shy and awkward and didn’t have sex through 99% of high school to pretty much always having options to go back to not having sex at all. I realize that it had reached a point where I was doing it less because it was thrilling and more because I was desperate for companionship, but, again, I was pretty honest about that up front and it took me a long time to see that as a problem.
2. People really want to have sex with you when you really don’t and some of them will get offended when you turn them down. If you’re reading this and you’re one of them: I’m terrible in bed. Just ask anyone.
Anyway, this focusing on myself shit has been really good. I’m drinking a lot less, saving a little more money, and writing a LOT more. I’ll be putting another book out at the beginning of next month. I’ve been waking up rested after having been more productive and I would say 9/10 mornings I wake up generally happy. I’ve been focusing a lot more on trying to make time for friends, online and over the phone if I can’t do it in person.
I’ve started trying to date again, too. Like, seriously date. Dinner or coffee or a movie or fucking anything that involves me spending time with someone I like and find interesting, and it’s nice because I can go into it with a clear mind, a better understanding of myself and my goals, and comfortable in trying to develop a relationship of real substance.
It hasn’t gone well so far.
Soooo on a lark, I signed up for OKCupid. I’m not even mad about it. I’m not embarrassed. Shit, I dished out $50 bucks so if anyone likes my profile, I can see who it was because I am genuinely bad at noticing.
So it works like this, this online dating shit: you fill out your profile. What do you like? Your favorite foods/tv/books/movies, what are you working on, etc. Message me if: this and that and here or there. Then you can answer from this endless stream of questions. It asks you a question, what you’ll accept out of someone else’s responses, and how much it means to you (a little, somewhat, very).
The more questions you answer, the more it can tell you who matches your interests, likes and dislikes, and whose interests and opinions oppose yours. I’ve had it for a week or two now, and I have to say: it’s ridiculously accurate. I’ll see a profile with a 90% match and they’ll list off a dozen books, films and shows I like, list hobbies that line up with my own and so on and so forth. It’s exciting and frightening all the same.
Things I’ve learned so far:
1. My best matches seem to be in Los Angeles and New York and looking for people in their general area only. This seems to confirm things I already know.
2. Women who match me 55% or less locally have been blowing up my profile. I can’t imagine why.
3. I’m hesitant to reach out to someone locally because Anchorage is a place where mouths like to run and I seem to have cultivated a much more negative opinion about me than positive, some of which is justified, some of which is from years ago, and some of which is completely false.
But there has been some rumblings of interest and that’s refreshing and a bit encouraging for me. So we’ll see how it goes, and maybe I’ll meet someone at a bookstore or something, if not online. Maybe the woman of my dreams will send me a private message.
Anyway, I’m not sorry for having been sexually active or for being open about my sexuality, and with one exception (an incident which was not my fault), I have zero regrets about that part of my life.
And I’m no saint now. My libido is high and I doubt that will change. Growing up requires introspection in every part of one’s life, though, and I’ve seen that mine lacks a good amount of healthy, supportive, communicative relationships. It so happens that certain aspects need to change in order for me to change that, and I’m happy to have made those changes.
My relationships with my friends have improved dramatically over the last few months because I finally had enough courage to ask for help, to ask for someone to talk to, and to ask for a few encouraging words when I’ve needed them.
I want to be able to share the love for life and art and this world and so much else with someone, too, and I want to do it without these knee-jerk thoughts and impulses and feelings I’ve had for strangers that catch my eye. I’ve had a pretty shitty track record with that.
Will OKCupid work in the long run? Who knows? I have a couple friends who got married off of it. I’ve had two other friends get married after meeting online in other ways. Right now, I’m taking it a day at a time without the pressure of sex or awkward silences, and with a good amount of information about me (and her) already up front to parse through.
Worst case scenario, nothing happens and I just made you read about my sex life.