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.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Beyond boredom

Continuing the topic of Sexless-in-transition, a blogger I usually don’t read had a curious rant not long ago:
... We’re starting to suck.

Aside from a few daily decreasing exceptions, we [bloggers] all say the same things, about the same things. ... I’m so not surprised by anything anyone writes. Even Instapundit was boring today, just going through the motions. They’re not having fun anymore, and neither are we.
At a recent social mixer, there was even talk of bloggers taking down their sites; deleting their blogs — just one click on a link: poof-gone. To which one might respond: “What gives?!!”

A while back, the Oxblogger David Adesnik remarked to me on a George Packer column in Mother Jones:
Both the late-night character of blogging as well as the constant searching for better links bears a rather remarkable resemblance to internet porn ...
My sense of the porn/fantasy culture (at least) is that no growth occurs ... in a psycho-social-spiritual sense. ;) With such repetition comes the dullness Riebling describes; an increasing desperation (in the case of fantasy) with drumming up new stimulants and fresh excitement, recreating the initial titillation. Blogging perhaps (in some cases) records such an approach to the internet.

The culture of restless click-throughs writ large
And indeed, when it comes to dating and relationships, some people seem to have the same approach to each other. Don’t get rooted; keep on moving; find the next hit once the current high starts to tank. If nothing else, keep one eye on the prospects for when this thing goes south. I once heard a man remark that the first time a woman reached for her zipper was the most exciting. Good luck with marriage, pal!

For most of us with under-demanding white-collar jobs, where high-speed web access is given, I suspect we survive with frenzied web surfing and chat. “Strategic inefficiency,” I once called it. The way you get through endless day after day of eight hours that doesn’t quite satisfy or push your gray cells to get their aerobics. That’s why you come here, is it not? ;) I see the way my stats drop on the weekends.

But the trouble, I’ve discovered, is that this habit of “professional” existence has a rather dismaying drawback: I lose all capacity for long-term focus. Gone is the mental tenacity needed to finish a master’s thesis. Maybe that’s why I don’t read books much any more (gulp). Easier to take along a knitting project for the train than something that requires concentration. After a while, though, such a life leaves me drained and slightly frantic. All the multi-tasking produces a kind of psychological jitters akin to that point several sips into the latte you didn’t need after all and which now is sending you into caffeine overdose. Ugh.

One of the great things about grad school (though those “halcyon days” were admittedly rather brief and far from the norm in life) was finally feeling as if my life revolved around a few core things. All the classes I was taking fit together, for the most part. Even my job seemed to relate to what I was learning about! My head cleared out like a runner’s on a mini-marathon jog. Suddenly I was able to do things I’d never accomplished before. I refined my writing many levels past the undergrad A-levels of night-before first drafts. I cranked out a thesis, painful draft after draft, some 123 pages in length and a few thousand words. And I was proud of it.

Last summer someone asked me if I thought blogging interfered with work on the novel I was then pretending to expand during my “sabbatical” from full-time, permanent work. To the degree blogging puts the pressure on to maintain initial titillation, I’d say: yes. You lose perspective. You start to focus on short-term goals and one-time click-throughs rather than a long-term, loyal following. You produce a series of punchy witticisms, none of which may add up to much wisdom or perspective. To me that would ultimately be a failure. Unless the wash of entries fits together in a coherent story, what’s the point of preserving all that history? Rather, I would hope, the point of all that blogging is what it teaches you - in which case, the lesson learned may mostly eclipse the journey.

In recording that history, however, blogging may at least produce a healthy discipline. Likewise, I hear, married people actually have better sex because they’re getting lots of practice learning how to please each other (that is, if they have the mindset of humility and openness to learning; otherwise, God help ’em!). With consistency, any discipline gets easier. Your skill grows and you get stronger, better, faster. They may not be the sexiest values, but diligence, persistence and patience are marks of a maturity our culture is in great need of attaining. Besides, it’s such maturity that can take you above the level where all you do is get bored to the next stage where the challenge is fresh and new.

Since I can’t yet apply this advice to sex ... I’m trying it out with this here blog. Entertainment was the last challenge; entertaining advice will be the next. Which leads to two applications:
  1. Once I get closer to a solid draft of the book version of this blog, I’m taking much old content down. No one reads it anyway; why clutter up my archives with a lot of meaningless drivel? The best stuff will survive in memoir form. And as for the future ...
  2. With your help (which is to say, your questions), I hope to turn this blog in a more reader-focused direction. Spiced up, of course, with occasional anecdotal sidenotes to some yet-unmined portion of my past. ;) Send in your questions! Or mention me to your relationally troubled friends.