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, September 12, 2005

Why Italian’s no good for the (dance) floor

Welcome back from the weekend! Before we get into the meet of today’s post, a few business matters...
  1. The Sexless monthly contest is back! 18 days remain to determine your answers. And don’t be put off by mention of donations; the friend who suggested it had in mind the $.25-$1 range.
  2. Don’t forget to keep sending in your questions for advice! Reader Q&A archive updated this weekend to give you inspiration.
  3. If you wanna show your love in other ways, help me earn some free iTunes from OK Go! Almost as easy as (eating) pie: click here, enter your email address, click send, then click through the email to hear the song or see the vid. Sign up to invite your friends too! One free iTune for every 10 listeners.
Now then. Those who checked in since last Friday were most interested (and in some cases, concerned) about my foiled rendesvous with Tall Drink o’ Water. Reader VJ expressed great dismay that I might be setting the gennelman up for an unjustifiable gauntlet. Can’t two people simply have a casual cup of coffee?

On one level the answer is, yes. But in general I’m inclined to be very Harry/Sallyish about it. I can think of some cool guys I met casually in the last 6-12 months. We even had some sort of beverage together. But you know what? There will be no follow up. There may be occasional email exchanges now and then, but if what we truly desired was casual friendship I predict that will henceforth be satisfied in impromptu group hang-outs. It’s exceedingly, exceedingly rare that men and women seek each other out for companionship without on some level exploring romantic possibilities or trying to satisfy the hunger for Companionship until the real partner comes along.

Guy Friend #1 is the one exception to this model, but he has a) an exceptionally high need for female attention and b) achieved a kind of older-brother status in my life, reinforced by his acquaintance with almost all the Broadway siblings. On account of this, we share that rare, quasi-girlfriend need to occasionally catch up on each other’s lives and commiserate about our follies. Tellingly, these meetings occur much less frequently now that he’s in a serious relationship than when he was still single. Also, his relationship puts clear boundaries on our friendship. When both people are single, the ambiguity of that unspoken “What if...” is almost always there, in at least one person’s mind.

For women that’s especially dangerous. As soon as the “What if” thought has infected our brains, we tend to start operating as if the “What if” is. We start giving our hearts to the guy as if he were more than a friend, trusting him the way we’d like to someday trust a boyfriend or husband. Which is partly why, at least in the Jesus-freak tradition, there is this concept of guarding one’s heart.

This is not to say emotional aloofness is idealized as a virtue, but that unduly overstepping a sibling-like relationship is approached with caution. And frankly, such caution is in the best interest of mystery, if nothing else. If I freely bond emotionally with any guy as long as he’ll be my “friend,” how does such emotional promiscuity prepare me to give myself wholly to a husband? How much is there to give that man exclusively?

And this is why I think a chap like Tall Drink o’ Water is good for me. I see him regularly but infrequently, and have few means of initiating contact with him (which, considering my track record with the Captain, is a mighty good thing). Our chats always occur at church, and revolve mostly around my book — a safely nonintimate topic. There’s enough possibility in these exchanges to lend a frisson of tension, but I’m learning to guard my heart with him. I don’t seek him out, I let him come to me to chat me up (though I may linger longer than necessary to facilitate this).

It’s like learning to dance, really. Too often I’ve either had spaghetti arms, allowing the “gentleman” to pull me along much faster than I’d prefer, or I’ve responded to a spaghetti-armed partners by pulling him harder and harder my way. With Tall Drink I’m learning to keep the tension roughly equal to what he’s giving me. If he’s only pulling slightly on me, I’ll only pull back slightly on him.

Truth be told, I doubt he’ll prove the sort of partner to seek me out more deliberately than this, but that’s OK. For far too long, I’ve had such tension mismatches with the men I’ve “danced” with, no quality partner would probably have had the patience to seek me out for more-serious commitment. At this stage in life, my main love-life focus should be learning to keep the appropriate tension with a nice, decent, could-be-something-more Jesus freak. With my record, that’s a helluva good start.

I’ll say more on life stages Wednesday.