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, October 31, 2005

Settling or seeking

Well. Your reactions to Friday’s post were a bit like the closing scene of Seinfeld where Jerry’s attempting some prison standup and the inmates won’t have any of it. I have to confess, with as much on my plate as I have, it’s getting harder and harder to carve out two-plus hours every Mon/Weds/Fri for these things. Sure, there’s a reader query been waiting for my response several weeks now, but it’s easier to just dash off something lighthearted and only mildly worthwhile. Thoughtful advice takes more time.

But, since my goal this year was to move away from such Anna-centric writing ... and since my other projects deserve the time allotted for them ... Sexless in the City will become, as of November, a weekly blog. Look for new entries posted Monday or Wednesday; I haven’t figured out the day yet. Since this is a transitional week, I’ll blog twice: today and sometime later this week. And one final business item. Last day to get your contest entries in! Submissions accepted through midnight PCT.

It’s Anna. I’d like my lips back.
In The Music Man, some character sings about how it’s “the sadder but wiser girl for me.” These days perhaps I should be looking for a man who’s looking for a girl like me — I mean, like that. Maybe not sadder, but surely wiser. And (last Thursday notwithstanding), a good bit mellower.

One way I’ve wised up is smokers. I know — sounds strange, right? Well, Saturday night while working at the local junk joint, I got talking to a fellow worker. He was grading papers, I writing curriculum. We found a good enough rapport that he started reading quotes to me now and then from his students’ papers. At one point he said he’d been teaching seven years. “Wow, you must be older than you look!” He was 35. That reminded me, somehow, of the O-zone King (whom he resembled just a tad). Funny thing about never seeing a man in daylight: sometimes you don’t see all the marks of age which, with the O-zone King, included copious lines from hours spent out in the sun while rock-climbing (not to mention, smoking).

But as soon as I’d mentioned “this bartender I used to like,” I realized this talk, too, could possibly lead in that direction. Not to a crush, perhaps, but at least an exchange of numbers. And suddenly I knew I didn’t want that. The thing is, Brent, giving out a number becomes — inexorably — this sliding journey down a hill until some point when the bruises and bumps are sufficient and I holler, “Stop!” A number usually leads to a date (if he calls). And considering I’m lousy at the kiss dodge, a first date usually leads to a kiss.

Sure, I’ve now got Poster Boy’s words ringing in my head — “Just don’t make out with him” — but frankly sometimes I’d like to ask him for my lips back. Not that his words might protect them anyhow. Like I said, I’m bad at dodging kisses — even from smokers. Guess I’m like the romance-novel heroine who owned a shirt that said, “Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.” She promptly fell for the swaggering, smoking lead in the book. I fell for (and kissed) the O-zone King, fell for (but didn’t kiss) the Captain ... and flirted with falling for Pink Floyd Man. Who was working the junk joint Saturday.

He’s still as cute as ever — we even sparred over whether my mocha was really a mocha since it was decaf — and he still smokes. There was a time when I let little things like that slide, but no more. Dodging what it is my heart really longs for won’t make things better. Either I own up to what I really want — however hard it may seem to find — or I settle for a life of eating (so to speak) but never having what it is my body’s truly hungry for; of being clothed, but never by garments that really fit as they should.

In search of a higher bar
I remember this Ally McBeal episode once where a heavy guy engaged to an equally portly woman fell for Ally. So Ally, trying to avert disaster, attempted to persuade him that sometimes “settling” is just the practical thing to do. I’m not sure she won anyone over beside him. Nick Hornby makes a better case for prudence in High Fidelity. There it’s a matter of seeing the difference between “standards” that are an unattainable fantasy, and good things you’re overlooking.

The movies are full of cautionary epics about the people who choose to settle and then must cheat when at last their “true love” comes along in a whirl of passion and poignant theme song. Perhaps because we’re both so convinced that a) getting our deepest desires is essential to our well-being, and b) we can determine with great accuracy what we do most want, I can think of fewer tales about the woes of aiming too high and missing the full life that awaits. But I am well aware of that other folly.

There was a time when love and marriage were my gods; they were the things without which life would be unbearably bleak. In that state of mind a terrible tension grips you. Holding out for the “real” satisfaction is paramount. But so too is not holding out so long that you miss the window of time in which those dreams could be fulfilled (if children is part of that dream, for instance). I’m still young enough that the latter is not an issue yet, but I see other women who face that, and I grieve for them.

Strangely, however, I don’t think I will grieve for myself if I never find love and marriage in this life. Deep down I doubt I will truly die a spinster, but the lies that used to bind me in fear of that fate are losing their power. I think the idols to which I have been so long enslaved began to die last week — or at least I finally began to feel free of their yoke.

There are greater things and more ultimate joys than simply marriage and family. Not to say love and marriage aren’t due their status as very good things, but they aren’t ultimate. My heart longs for ultimate things, and I think it’s finally starting to find an ultimate goal worthy such devotion. Which leaves me free to enjoy life equally with or without marriage — and, most importantly, to enjoy love/marriage/family for what they are without choking them in my need that they be the ultimate thing they can’t.

For that change in perspective I owe in part a thanks to you. Yes, really. For without readers, there would have been no blog. And without this blog I’m not sure I would have had all the character growth the last 16 months have seen.