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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rejection, dejection inspected

Friday I lost my long-term temp assignment, bringing to a close my two months as an admin. at Ad Co. Not that this was a complete surprise, mind you. They’d made it known a few weeks before that, alas, I did not make the cut as far as what they wanted in a permanent assistant.

But was this really such a tragedy? On the face of it, sure, I was losing perks like the on-site bar and free-beer parties (of which there were two in my time there). Similarly, getting dumped by the Lickwit gave a definite sting in the ego region. But to wallow in endless self-pity that I’ve been deemed less than worthy is an indulgence in both selfishness and deception. First it puts me and my pride at the center of the universe (never producing wise decisions), and second it overlooks key facts. For instance that my boss might be entitled to seek an assistant happy to stay with him for many years. Or that Lickwit might be better suited by another woman.

And it even overlooks facts concerned with my well-being. Perhaps committing to work for Ad Co. would have cramped my style in other ways or kept me from working on my book (should it ever sell). Perhaps in dating the Lickwit I would’ve missed a far better man. Or take your life: Perhaps that girl who shot you down at the bar would’ve made your life quite miserable. Perhaps without some failure you never would have developed character in certain ways, or had to revive a long-forgotten skill.

Bottom line: because rejection immediately attacks our pride it can distort our vision by bounding the world too tightly — suggesting we’ve been denied the best and the rest are merely dented remainder stock.

Dejection has a similar but converse effect. You get down and depressed about a situation, the self-pity and depression start to cloud your vision. But this time instead of thinking “the best” is that one thing we can’t have, we think that everything we can’t have is better than this — indeed that anything might be better.

Sometimes that’s true, but often that’s also a denial of reality. Take my little brother for instance. A few weeks ago he started to tell me about his forays into internet flirting (which I say because, thankfully, he never made it to face-to-face encounters). The minute I heard of this cockamamie scheme, I burst his bubble. “But bro,” I said, “you’re not even ready for a relationship! You just got back to Texas, you’ve just found work; you’re still settling in.”

But of course he wasn’t thinking that way; he was ... restless (ahem). And in the short term perspective, trying to scratch that itch was the first thing he could possibly think of. Leaving out, perhaps, that one is advised to wash one’s hands before scratching itches when one’s been working on a greasy engine or, say, chopping jalapeno peppers. And perhaps the itch in fact might call for cream instead of scratching, as the scratching might encourage an infection.

In any case, a relationship will clearly complicate his life right now. And as his big sister I felt little need to say this gently. Luckily he conceded I was right on this point. “Well yeah ...” and then he went on to tell how, when talking to a girl he planned to meet he began to realize this. “You know, I really don’t think I’m ready for this” — a pre-emptive “it’s not you, it’s me” kinda spiel.

Even I must concede I’m probably in a similar place right now. But if I focus on my “neediness” the ego-spiking sense of loneliness that sometimes intrudes, things get distorted. Only with a clear head can I acknowledge the instability in my life — indeed the busy-ness. I don’t really have time for a relationship and all it might require. I haven’t figured some key things out yet.

So I’m tasting my rejection and dejection for a moment, then I’m mustering up the courage to face the truth. My life’s not really as bad as my pride would have it, and things might go better (in the long run) for having these temporary fits of pain. Besides, what man ever sought a cocky woman?