Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

The masochist’s refrain

Normally I try to take a kind of “Sabbath” from blogging on the weekends, but I guess because I wrote so little last week, the ideas just keep coming. So now for this week’s Spooning Fork.

‘Jim’ from Desert Island Disks: Sarah Vaughan
Although I like to think I know a little bit about jazz, lately I just keep discovering new voices that I can’t believe it took me so long to appreciate. Nina Simone. Sarah Vaughan. (And I’m sure the list will go on.)

This song initially came to me through the same Angelique Kidjo playlist for iTunes that introduced me to Stevie Wonder’s “As,” Miriam Makeba, and my first aural experience of Serge Gainsbourg. On first listen, it’s just another melancholy slow song — the kind you listen to on lonely, quiet nights when you feel like indulging dark emotions (for East Coast folk, this happens a lot in winter time).

But as the words sink in, they prove to share the non-existent logic behind the Missed Connections section on Craigslist and all the other women like me who do crushing for the long-term. To be a marathon infatuate takes hard work, you see. But it’s all part of that character-refinement required for love if you subscribe to something a girlfriend and I recently dubbed “Romantic Arminianism.” I haven’t worked out all the particulars, but I’m pretty sure that worldview accounts for Sarah’s song:
Jim doesn’t ever bring me pretty flowers,
Jim never tries to cheer my lonely hours;
Don’t why I’m so crazy for Jim.
Jim never tells me I’m his heart’s desire,
I never seem to set his heart afire.
Gone are the years I’ve wasted on him.
At least he’s not leading her on! But still, Sarah insists on throwing good love after bad:
Someday I know that Jim will up and leave me, but even if he does,
You can believe me, I’ll go on carrying the torch.
Why am I wasting these precious years? Why am I crying these bitter tears?
It’s all because of Jim, it’s all because of Jim.
Like Sarah, I don’t have a fall-back fuck buddy or a friend I can call up and marry when we’re both still single in our thirties. I have a fall-back infatuation. But this is key, you see. For the Jim-lovers in the world, the only thing worse than being single is being crush-less. And truthfully, we’re secretly somewhat fond of all this pining. It’s like one character says in The Alchemist:
I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living. … I’m afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.

The crush is stable, the crush is safe (because, God knows, that guy is never really going to come around for you and start challenging your precious ideas of who he is). And isn’t pining like a Kegel for your heart? It helps prepare for you the love to come. And if you’re a Romantic Arminianist, clearly true love won’t arrive until you’ve earned the right to have it and proven you’re good enough at loving to be loved. (Which sounds strangely like the lyric from Dean Martin’s opener to Swingers, but I’ll save that song for another Spooning Fork.)


Sarah Vaughan with Clifford BrownSerge Gainsbourg
Couleur Café
The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream
The Alchemist

A Fable about Following Your Dream