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, August 31, 2005

nightBlogging: the dating advice episode

Updated, 2:02 p.m.

Later this week I hope to work in a bit of the trademark wackiness (reports on my allegedly “Hassidic Christian” chaperoned-by-parentals double date, perhaps? Or maybe the latest in neighbor-sex habits ...). But meanwhile, another reader question.
Dear Anna,
I’ve recently been consorting quite happily with a girl 10 years younger than me that I met while working as a waiter and I turned her entire table onto my website. Her and her best friend both went to my site, left comments, joined my myspace friends list, and gave me their im names, in a matter of like 2 days. So I spent the next few nights talking to young love on im till 3 in the morning for like a week straight. Then I took her to church with me 2 weeks in a row, 2 starbucks visits, and one lunch date before she went back to school in Nashville. She’s quite Christian, very ironic, and seems to see the world through a similar prism as I do. My only other relationship was a long distance one a long time ago, so since then I’ve always tried to figure out how to “get it right” so to speak. I’m just so afraid of screwing this up somehow. I fear if I wait too long to tell her I like her she’ll find someone else and start telling me about him , and I would hate that. And of course if I tell her I like her, then she might get scared and start thinking about the reality of the situation like how she has 2 years of school left and is in a state very far from here. and oh yeah like how I’m 10 years older than she is, and I have to limit my conversations about things to 1998 till now. Anna please help. Is it too soon to work the best friend angle? I really think I have something good going on here and I want it to develop gradually, but at the same time I’m really scared. What do you think I should do?

Still Waiting
Well, dahling, first of all we need to untangle the many issues imbedded in this email. So far I make out about five:
  1. age-difference
  2. long-distance
  3. strategic use of best-friend alliances
  4. speed of relationship
  5. Young Love’s knowledge of your affections
Knowledge of affections. Let’s start with the last, since it may prove the most critical to your suit (forgive me if I slip into a distinct drawl here). Given the scenario you have described, it is extremely unlikely Young Love interprets your behavior as mere “friendliness.” I know, you tried to be low-key, but guess what? Women basically interpret any male action that involves us to be motivated by interest. I mean, men on the street look at us based on interest. Why else would you talk to us/IM/hang out with us one-on-one/take us to your church? Clearly you’re sizing up the potential of our conveniently childbearing hips for birthing your babies. With the possible secondary agenda of trying to guess how good or bad we’ll look in 20 years. It’s not like you’re looking for a girl friend or something!! (Slaps knee several times.)

OK, well maybe I exaggerate. I concede some male-female friendships have been known to exist. But as a general surmise, Young Love probably not only thinks you like her, she may be already referring to that string of innocent encounters as a “relationship” — if not “dating.” For reals, as we used to say (I think she’d still get that jargon). And that bring us to issue #1 ...

Age difference. As long as you’re fine with it, I’m not convinced this is the worst of your troubles. Older men have long had a certain mystique to women — particularly when she’s her age and you’re yours. Somehow, most women have a hard time talking with guys their own age. In fact, it’s only recently I’ve even remotely considered in a romantic sense men less than 6-7 years older than me.

The one caveat here is that men close to 30 — such as you — can be in a vastly different place than young women just coming out of their teens. Guy Friend #1, for instance, is dating a woman about 8 years his junior. From what I can tell, he’s considered marriage more seriously in this relationships than any he’s had previously. But while he’s getting closer to a point where he’d finally like to settle down, his girlfriend has tended to still be more in the young, swingin’ single girl stage — which I didn’t leave until about 26. On the other hand, though, I tend to think women stay longer in this carefree, don’t-tie-me-down stage when we’re living in urban areas (perhaps a way of coping with the equally delayed marrying age of most of the eligible men; everyone here tells me I’m quite “young” to be afeared of a spinster’s fate at merely 27).

Plenty of girls I know back in Arizona and the midwest settled down right after college. Depends on where your girl is at — assuming it gets that far. But we’ll get to speed-of-courtship in a minute. After all, even a speedy car would be hard put to make quick work of the drive from your town to hers, am I right?

Long distance. This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker in my book, but it may test your ability to write romantic love letters. No? Well then, the real challenge may be trying to maintain some semblance of reality apart from the already-existent use of electronic communication. IM and email can be great, but as Harvard Lickwit very wittily put it while oozing charm to my parents ... “Don’t write when you can speak; don’t speak when you can nod; don’t nod when you can wink.” (And dahling, if you’re reading this: utterly brilliant, as always.) So try to balance it out a little. The great thing is, if both of you are comfortable pursuing a long-distance relationship, the pacing of such may work well in terms of her finishing up school. The real question is whether a 29-year-old such as yourself can handle seeing your woman so infrequently for two years. Mayhap you’ll want to get to know the story of Jacob well ...

Best-friend alliances. Since we’ve already covered the likelihood Young Love guesses at your affections, I’m not sure how necessary leaning on her gal-pal will be. Unless you’re reluctant to make explicit your feelings without knowing how she feels in return. If such attention to your website and blog have been shown thus far, though, she’s probably not (yet) thinking in terms of restraining orders. Which brings us at last to:

Speed-of-relationship. You’re wise to think in terms of taking it slow. No sense putting the playlist before the iPod ... or something like that. ;) If you’ve already imagined the entire relationship in your head — from giddy beginning to miserable end — you’ve likely fallen into the trap that was John Cusack’s wake-up call in High Fidelity. If you haven’t, congratulate yourself on still possessing some shreds of sanity. Weave those into a nice fall coat and wear it the next time you see her. When you should initiate a ... (duh, duh, DUNH) ... define-the-relationship talk. Or whatever it needs to be. The terms aren’t important, but you do want to clarify — explicitly — what your intentions are, where you’d like this to go, and what she thinks of your yet-unvocalized imaginings. But you sound like a comely chap; I imagine you know how this goes. So get with it while you have the chance! And if she’s already departed (and if you’re still pining), for God’s sake, call her, man! It’s a wonder she hasn’t put “Call Me” as her MySpace theme song.

Yes, really. I hear 80s music is hip these days (though God knows why); she may actually know who Blondie is. ;)

Good luck ...


Monday, August 29, 2005

When seeing is deceiving

Dahlings, continuing last week’s examination of love-life challenges encountered in a relationship, today I address a married reader’s query:
while I am happily married, I also do find that I am easily attracted to many of the opposite gender. i’ve not acted on any of that, and believe it wrong to. while temptations and feelings are just a part of life, i’m wondering if u can think out loud w/ me on a few things. what have u found helpful to manage feelings of attraction (besides a cold shower)? where do u draw the line btwn flirting and impropriety? is it ever safe to talk about feelings of this kind (attraction, romatic sparks) w/out jeopardizng relationships?

-Easily Attracted
Dear Easily Attracted:
First off, I commend your honesty. If you are this candid with your wife about such struggles, there seems to be a good chance you will remain “happily married” a long time. In keeping with my suggestion to Almost Bored, however, I do think it’s important to be careful about the attitude in which you share this with your wife. Hopefully you have already done this, but think through how your honesty can be a means of drawing you two closer together as a couple, and dealing with issues and friction between you. If you are committed to your marriage, but find that you might use disclosure to hurt your wife and increase the distance between you, take a serious look at why you consciously or subconsciously desire to hurt her. Bottom line: honesty is crucial, as long as “truth” is wielded and disclosed for the sake of unity and intimacy, not harm and a grab for power.

As to the substance of your question, I’m tempted to quote my father, who has often remarked, “my body doesn’t know I’m married.” Depending on your integrity and commitment to marriage, that’s probably just as vexsome and grievous to you as it is to him. For it means commitment to your marriage will require a fair degree of ongoing self-control. Given how often human desires are practically worshiped as some sort of internal psychic (the goal being to eliminate whatever background noise prevents us from accurately interpreting said cravings/needs/appetites), self-control might seem repulsive and oppressive.

But surely we all have some positive experience base of mastering our bodies to good and healthy results. Good posture doesn’t come as naturally as slouching may, but the simple discipline of holding in one’s gut pays off in reduced injury and better quality of life in the latter years. (I’m sure a chiropractor or doctor could more fully expound on the virtues of erect carriage.) Likewise, a person who desires optimal health learns to avoid overeating. As part of this, he or she learns to stop eating before the body registers a feeling of fullness. The body has various protective mechanisms in place to prevent us from egregious abuse, but we have to work with those mechanisms and respect the time involved to experience their benefit. That takes self-control and a degree of self-knowledge. You learn to know the reliability and limits of what your body, your needs, your desires can and cannot tell you.

As you seem to recognize, the ease with which you are attracted to others beside your wife does not necessarily mean anything is wrong with your marriage. That’s key. But also crucial to safeguarding the perpetuation of your current happiness is keeping in mind the end goal. Friday I talked about how I have come to avoid activities that would lead inexorably to orgasm. If your goal is to maintain a happy marriage and to avoid ever falling into a full-blown sexual affair, it’s not enough to ask where the line is “between flirting and impropriety.” Every other woman might as well be like a sister, mother or daughter or to you. Surely you would never flirt with any of them, would you?

Even flirting involves a degree of sexual energy. Don’t we all know this? It’s why so many guy-girl “friendships” have a tendency to fizzle into nothing once one or the other gets into a relationship. The now-dating person no longer needs the friend as an outlet for sexual energy, so if that’s all that was binding them together, nothing will remain. Likewise, the more that the so-called friendship was defined by a fair degree of unacknowledged, sublimated sexual tension, the more likely to produce jealousy on the part of the new partner — further reason for contact to die out between the one-time “friends.” Be very careful how you conduct interactions with other women. Just as a marriage can collapse under the pressure of meeting all your relational and emotional needs, it can be damaged by draining the cup of sexual energy only your wife should be allowed to drink from.

Now I realize, at this point, you may be inclined to say, “But Anna, what about my desires? I want to deal with them honestly!” While I agree with that in part, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about envy versus gratitude. For a long time I didn’t think I had issues with envy, which I considered akin to coveting — jealousy for someone else’s impersonal goods or status. But more and more I think envy is just the desire for things you don’t have — the very engine of our capitalistic system. Desire, that is, which lacks the ballast of deep gratitude for all one has.

Think of this something like living in a high-rise apartment building. It’s very spacious and comfortable, fitted out with another number of adequate amenities. But I see this lovely, abandoned shirt hanging out on the neighboring fire escape of a vacant apartment. And by God, I really want that shirt! Reaching out to try to get it is not so bad in and of itself, provided there’s enough holding me back into the apartment where I live. But as that desire hardens into envy — as I become convinced I must have that shirt in order to be happy — I become reckless. I may reach so far out of the apartment window that the gravitational ballast of gratitude and common sense cannot hold me back from exiting the window. I may come closer to the shirt but possibly lose in the process all the good things I had.

Certainly there are times it’s worth taking risks and giving up what you have for an uncertain reward. To some extent my move to New York was like that. But if you want to stay in this marriage, it would be better served by focusing on all it provides that you can be truly thankful for. The more you focus on gratitude, and dealing with the real issues even any healthy marriage will have, the more I think you will find the desires which threaten your marriage losing their strength to pull at you. They will never totally leave you alone, but whether or not you let them master you has much to do with your focus: is it what you have, or what you lack?


Friday, August 26, 2005

How far will mar?

Apologies for my delay today, dahlings. Now that I’m nearly a bonafide, full-time freelancer, I seem to have slipped into that West Coast time-zone operation again. Which is appropriate, given the location of my main client. Unfortunately, though, this “home office” business hasn’t been without its headaches. :( Don’t talk to me about faxing right now ... or cell-phone signal ... or monitor backlighting ... or unrequited love (phew! That’s got us back on topic now).

Indeed, as promised, today’s post will continue with questions concerning those in relationships of some sort.
I read the piece on you and others in Rolling Stone and one of the fellas interviewed was asked if every sex act is off limits. Your thoughts on this?

Dear Amanda:
First of all, it depends on why limits are imposed, and by whom. For instance, as I learned in a very informative article this morning, oral sex is still technically “off-limit” in Singapore. Even more liberal governments usually restrict sex to consensual acts between adults. Motives for such laws range between protecting the welfare of a state’s citizenry to, well, perhaps a desire to control what are perceived as otherwise dangerous passions (presumably, to the interests of the state more than the practitioners of oral sex themselves).

Religious institutions are another common source of limits, obviously, and motive can cover a similar spectrum from practitioner’s well-being to authority’s self-interest. The difference is that, at least in this country, adherence to such limits is usually voluntary and consequences for violation are at worst excommunication (I suppose governments impose fines, jail time or other sanctions). Since the article focused on Jesus freaks and our alleged chastity/virginity, let’s leave aside the Singapore case (or Muslim countries that penalize adultery), and focus on religious limits.

In the case of the Bible, it is claimed that sex was created by God for procreation of the species, unity and intimacy between partners (not to mention, shared pleasure, as sketched in Song of Solomon), and to reveal something about the character of God and the divine community on which human relationships are based. All restrictions on sexual activity are based on this threefold purpose. I can’t speak as knowledgeably on other religious sexual ethics, so I won’t discuss them here.

Notice that this purpose highly esteems sexual bonding. From a biblical perspective, Nine Inch Nails got it somewhat right with the lyric “You bring me closer to God.” Thus, the limits are related to that high view and intended to preserve the beauty, sacrality and yes, purity, of sexual relating. Think about the protections you might likewise institute regarding a piece of valuable jewelry or a nice suit when working in the kitchen (wearing an apron when cooking, taking off a ring to wash dishes) or getting it washed (not using hot water, taking it to the dry cleaner, etc.). These are likewise “limits” that you impose — on when the valued object is used, the conditions in which you place and care for it, and so on.

How fine the line
Your question is essentially, “How far is too far?” but notice that probably you don’t act the same way with that nice ring or piece of clothing. You don’t turn the water temperature up in the machine to within a degree of the shrinking point, right? And you don’t add dish soap to within a few drops of the tarnishing point. The spirit of your “law” is protection and preservation; legalism would seem rather silly.

So I would say, adhering to the biblical standards about sex is somewhat far removed from questions of penetration or not, and whether things like anal sex or oral sex are OK. That’s because the Bible as I understand it deems the relationship primary, the experience secondary. The experience serves the relationship; it is a means of building, reinforcing and intensifying it. This is one of the primary ways the Bible’s limits here are counter-cultural. Most people separate the experience entirely from the relationship in which it occurs. Thus we can have sex casually (no need for examples here) or independently (by jacking off, using porn, etc.). If you focus on the experience itself, sure, you can break it off, divide it into segments, decree which parts can be consumed on a first date, which once engaged, and which on the honeymoon. But notice how important the orgasm becomes in this approach. Isn’t that the goal of almost all sexual experience? You have to get off, or the whole enterprise has failed. And if the woman conceives, far more than just a condom has failed.

When the experience is subsumed to the relationship, however, the orgasm is less forced (and therefore may be a more genuine ecstatic experience) and less essential. The experience hasn’t necessarily failed for the partners if one or both doesn’t get off every time (though it may say something about areas where they need to grow in serving each other or communicating) ... and it likewise hasn’t “failed” the couple if they do or don’t conceive a child as a result.

OK, all that probably sounds a little theoretical, right? How this has looked in my life is thus. For a long time I was really frustrated because I didn’t have a relationship. But I didn’t just want a relationship, I wanted the experiential benefits it would bring (it’s much easier to focus on the few things you don’t have than the many good things you do). Because it’s easy to do, easy to get in our society, I chose to dabble in the experience separated from the relationship. But then one night I had a wakeup call — as somewhat accurately depicted in the interview. I realized that this dabbling was connecting me to my partners whether I liked it or not.

Ad Weasel wasn’t at all the type of guy I wanted to have a relationship with, and ironically I had gone out with him precisely because he seemed so safe in that regard — I could have fun, a little experimentation (maybe, although I didn’t really plan on that, at least consciously), and never run the risk of emotional intimacy. The trouble was, our physical intimacies were progressing rapidly toward a level that would become emotional. An orgasm was never the goal, but precisely because it wasn’t, it was a warning sign. If we shared such a moment, I knew I would be deeply, irrevokably shaken.

For me that has meant no sexual act that results in orgasm is part of my life as a single woman. And because you can’t accurately predict when such an experience will happen, I can’t push the limits or play the game of seeing how long I can remain unburned. I didn’t always see it this way, but I have concluded that merely following the letter of the Bible’s law involved blatant disregard for its spirit. If that was the case, why bother at all? Since I did want to bother, very much, I have had to revisit the core purpose of sex and seriously re-examine its implications for my relationships with men.
  • Am I prepared to give myself wholly to a man? If not, then why tease as if I will?
  • Am I prepared for a relationship with him that becomes creative, leading to shared community and possibly even children?
  • Am I thinking about how this relationship demonstrates the character of God, or is God a being/entity/concept I’d like to forget for the next hour or so?
It’s a harsh stance, I acknowledge, but a more honest one in the end. Notice I haven’t laid out a 10-point spectrum like some writers do; in that sense there’s much more freedom. Ironically, submitting your conscience to the spirit of a principle can be a much sterner taskmaster than a “no hand-holding” law might be. That might be what Jesus was getting at in his statement on lust and adultery. After all, the Bible is most concerned with the heart motivations behind even our most-pious actions.

Whatever authority you submit yourself to, whoever you are serving (as Dylan sang about), it’s going to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can’t “sort of” work for someone, sleep with her or him, halfway board a plane or jump out of a burning building. You do it or you don’t.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

As mentioned ...

Such link love this week!
  • First a coveted hyperlink from the Village Voice — oh yes (though the context appears rather crass).
  • Then a nice little industry mention, as posted by my upstairs neighbor (not the noisy one; they got new digs). “Chaste party girl” — heh. Think that’s the best I’ve gotten yet ...

One to daydream, two to disclose

Six summers ago, a radio station playing at the site of a temp job kept talking about “the songs of summer,” somehow reinforcing an attentiveness to the songs I was hearing then, that summer.

Ricky Martin had a hit, and all summer long my Bible study pals and I would launch spontaneous “Copa de la Vida” dance parties in someone’s bedroom. Followed, invariably, by “Son of a Preacher Man” from my Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Girlfriend #1 was dating one and I liked one, so what better way to let loose and just be silly? It was a summer mostly lacking in levity, after all. Barenaked Ladies’ Stunt was also out, featuring aptly moody anthems like “Call and Answer” (“I’m warning you, don’t ever do/those crazy, messed-up things that you do/if you ever do/I promise you I’ll be the first to crucify you”) and the even-darker “In the Car.” And since I was still obsessed with swing dancing, I bought Harry Connick Jr.’s Come By Me mostly for the infectious title track. I shared the coveted central bedroom, overlooking the back courtyard of the big house where all we project kids were housed. The room had floor space enough for me to amble across the boards pretending I had a partner to dance with.

The other communal space for music-listening was the great, glorious kitchen full of cupboards and sunlight from the grid-like glass-paned windows (novel to a suburban Arizonan) that swung out to overlook the best coffee shop I could ever dream of living across from. In the kitchen we listened more to radio than CDs. Aside from Santana’s steamy “Smooth,” the most-memorable single of the summer was Tal Bachman’s melodic ode to resignation, “She’s So High.” It must have been playing everywhere, those familiar opening chords and Bachman’s winning falsetto. I’m sure I heard it sometimes at the defiant little Gap store jettisoned at the top of Telegraph Avenue, north of all the more Berkeley-worthy local shops.

The chorus was well-suited to listener harmony, an exercise in quasi-community making similar to the appeal of the weekly praise night that brought Poster Boy to the house (not that his presence hurt, of course). In those days I was still big on such sing-alongs since my voice was the one instrument I continued to use with some regularity. And as an inveterate sight-reader at the piano, I was always in awe of those who could improvise and read chords.

I bought Tal Bachman’s record that summer, probably on some trek down to the vast, mysterious innards of Amoeba Records — that curious East Bay amalgam of gritty record racks and sunny high ceilings. One left feeling slightly warm and dirty all at once. The record didn’t get much notice other than that single, but it’s a fairly sturdy rock album wrapped around a strange combination of generational themes (various songs seem written to an aging grandfather) and anthems of doomed love (the catchy, sarcastic “Romanticide” remains a favorite).

So I threw the album on again the other weekend, when I needed courage. And that’s about when it hit me, this trend in my Spooning Fork selections: “Do I Move You?” “You Need Love,” “Help Yourself,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’ or I Will Kill You,” “Heart of Mine” and “Let Me in Your Life.” (Clears throat.)

In the interest of spicing up the relational diversity on this blog, this week’s queries for advice will focus on the challenges when you’re actually in a relationship. And to start us off, a question from Almost Bored:
At what stage of a relationship does one relate past foibles to a prospect/significant other/mate?

Obviously “coming out,” if you will, too early to a prospect can be unnecessarily devastating. Depending on one’s denominational persuasion, you’ll have varying opinions on the obligation of human confession. On one end, it’s only fair that a person’s mate know up front what they are “getting into,” so to speak. On the other hand, not every gross detail of one’s past will be of benefit to the relationship’s future.
Well, dahling, since there can be no better position from which to answer this than mine (that is to say, ignorance), let me jump right in.

Disclosure in any relationship — unless it follows the shrink/therapist-patient relationship — calls for a sort of tennis-like approach. You want the ball to keep bouncing back and forth. It’s not some session with a ball-spitting machine so you can practice your serve. And ideally the goal is to have a good game, not blast your opponent to smithereens — how much fun can that be?

In other words, the game (that is to say, relationship) should be governed by a degree of reciprocity. A situation where one person regularly shares deeply and the other person shares almost not at all isn’t that healthy. The open person may be too inclined to talk freely and fill up the silences with chatter, and the quieter person may struggle with letting others in. These are things you need to talk through and (in your case), pray through — particularly for wisdom about when it’s appropriate to share certain things.

Also think about the goal of your sharing — Am I testing the other person to see if he/she will still love me? Am I sharing this to be hurtful? Am I sharing so as to obligate the other person to open up? Is it easier for me to talk than listen and ask questions? Am I sharing so as to control the flow of information and avoid awkward or difficult questions? Or sometimes the reverse may be true. Am I asking questions so as to control the conversation and avoid being forced to open up? Am I asking an honest question? Am I asking out of love? Am I asking because of selfishness, jealousy or some other intention to wound?

Bottom line: be honest with yourself and with each other, and take it one step at a time.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Thwarting courting

Despite my recent silence, ya’ll have kept me nicely stocked with questions to answer. My thanks. However, as one reader recently advised me not to let go my trademark wackiness, I think it best to start this week with a look inside the recent Broadway family visit ...

Yesterday I rang up Grandma Broadway (the flirty, single one — she of facelift fame), lately retired at last from years of full-time work. Having days ago departed from Chez Broadway (Brooklyn), the parentals are now ensconced in Chez Broadway (Michigan), where Saturday they celebrated their 28th anniversary. As any dutiful oldest daughter would, I rang them up for day-late congratulations.

They were still lunching with a sister of Grandpa Broadway, whose dramatic storytelling I must take after (it’s hard for me to remember, but I hear he was quite expressive). Instead I caught up with Grandma, who was perplexed when I mentioned needing parental consult on my love life. As details were disclosed, this sounded dangerously close to marital arrangements.

“You can’t expect your father to find you a man!”

“Oh, no, Grandma ...” I went on to explain how, in fact, Rolling Stone had found me a man — indeed a few of them. But as the bulk of these seemed guaranteed to sneak around my well-honed blocks to intimacy (all professing love for Jesus, even some fondness for their alcohol), I needed back-up.

Not that men are the enemy, of course, but once the crop of suitors reached a critical mass ... of two ... it became clear I needed a stronger line of defense. How could I possibly be expected to relate like a sober-minded woman in the presence of a church-going man not deeply wounded and emotionally damaged? I do quite well with that sort, really. It’s been a most-effective strategy for aligning myself with hot men while avoiding any threat of actual intimacy.

When men who were neither freaked by Jesus nor evidently possessed of freakish hearts came on the scene, I knew I had a problem. Could my deepest dream by on the verge of realization?!! How terrible! Whatever would I dream about then?

A crisis of this magnitude called for dramatic intervention. Clearly I could not be trusted to sufficiently discourage these men since I had, after all, suggested that advances such as theirs, expressed in a bold manner ... such as theirs ... would be welcomely received. What better way to finesse these delicate social politics than by bringing in a man known for speaking his mind come hell or fly-swatter? That’s right: the father from whom I got my trademark frankness, maybe even my tongue (he was, after all, a sailor once).

As I told Grandma, Dad would be guaranteed to have a protective interest in my case. Where self-protection fails, bring in dad-protection! And whereas it might be awkward for me to ask the difficult questions (“How do you feel about missions — of the non-Mormon, extra-bedroom sort?”), Dad could reasonably be expected to grill my pursuers. There once was a time when Sis Broadway could have done the job, but seeing as how she spends her days “out in the field” giving “ass-chewings” to her in-subordinates and toting men more than her weight through the mud ... Sis cannot be relied on for these last-minute, not always long-distance matters. Sniff.

Dad, I hoped, would channel her scowls and deep suspicions toward any man sounding Pittish in my proximity (which behaviors could include: a) demonstrations of sexual interest, b) announcing readiness to have children, never mind the wife required to do so, and c) inquiring as to my compatibility with his hopes to marry).

While Grandma began to come around once I had put things thusly, Dad did not muster the fierceness I think my sister would have. Instead he and Mom proposed to initiate meeting the nearest suitor. Cue: Anna Broadway’s first-ever double (blind) date. In which the Broadway parentals lapse into a mostly chaperone role.

Since their visit presented such a rare opportunity to meet men, I made sure to introduce them to the whole panoply in my life, including might-be suitors, one-time suitors and lookalikes (just to confuse the matter). Sunday night after church they met Tall Drink O’ Water, who invited us to join a sushi party and was promptly shut down (Pops doesn’t care for fish, much less the raw kind). Then Tuesday I conveniently had a run-in with Jose No Dinero (observed by Mom, introduction to whom seem slightly heavy-handed; she settled for noting the rendesvous in her journal).

And for the real bang-up conclusion to Broadway’s Tour of Men (I mean, New York), I dragged them to a regular, secular cocktail hour replete with men who’ve dated or tried to drool on me. (Well, OK, maybe the last part’s me practicing that book-promo art of spin. So convincing, no?) Harvard Lickwit gave the folks full wattage of his charm — with shockingly long duration (perhaps his stamina’s improved since dating me?), while Blogfather and Tim Robbins Type said hellos.

Toward the end of the night, Pops started to finally find his protective-father rhythm. On our way out of the bar, a whipster friend embraced me with enthusiastic congrats on recent good news.

“Who’s this man hugging my daughter?!” Dad demanded.

We’re getting there, I think. Slowly, perhaps, but off the blocks nonetheless. Maybe by the time I get over my fear of relationships, Dad will have figured out how to vet the men who come calling.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

iBaby protests neglect

Dahlings, whether it be the recent break from blogging or an untimely tumble from the arm of my futon, iBaby isn’t doing well these days. The backlighting’s been failing for a while, but now the monitor flickers frequently. Sometimes dying for upwards of ... well, maybe 30 seconds. Bad. Makes it very hard to read or send emails and ... gasp ... blog.

So, while we’re working through these break-up pangs (a new iBaby is planned for sometime this fall), I may have to continue the Sexless hiatus. Hopefully some quality time will remedy things a bit. Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sexless hosts parentals

You know it’s bad when readers start inquiring after your health ... Sorry for the mostly unexplained silence, dahlings. My parents have been ensconced at Chez Broadway since last Thursday, rendering blogging all but impossible. They leave tomorrow, so more Sexless coming soon — including a coffeeshop run-in with Jose No Dinero!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A correspondence conundrum

Best Friend coined this phrase a while back, to describe the men who don’t call when they say they will — or just stop calling. They don’t get over you, they don’t get hit by a taxi or suddenly join the Marines ... they go to the Island of Lost Men.

We’ve had many such casualties to that place over the years. Francophile Filmmaker, definitely (though I barely noticed his departure), the Funny Man, 5% Man and so on. Jose no Dinero was definitely one of those casualties ... until Monday.

Monday, when he mysteriously responded to an email sent to him nineteen months ago. The email I sent in response to a charmingly long and rambling phone message he left from the airport en route to, well, his country. The phone message he left in response to my phone message left in response to ... well, nothing, actually, except his silence for the week after we exchanged peck kisses and phone numbers.

But you see, his hotness was so great, and his eligibility so blue chip (hell, he even told me the primary reason he lives in New York is to find a wife! This from a former pro-soccer player, no less [fans self]) ... that I simply couldn’t let things go at that. (Control issues? Me? Nevah ....)

So ... when it turned out text messages from Best Friend were mysteriously not making it to my phone, what was a level-headed girl to conclude but that her phone was in the midst of serious malfunctions? Serious malfunctions which, surely, prevented her from receiving voicemail notifications.

And what if Jose no Dinero had actually called? What if the silence was not based on actual silence on his part, but the malfunction of my phone?!! I wouldn’t want him to think I was insensitively blowing him off, after all. Not after talking and sharing pizza until 3 a.m. Not after bonding over burlesque. Not after exchanging a fairly chaste peck kiss!!

So, readers, I did the only honorable thing possible in view of my phone difficulties. I called him up, explained that my phone was malfunctioning, and therefore any messages he might have left for me had probably — gasp — vanished to the cruel caprice of technology.

Of course I got his voicemail. But my message was enough to prompt his rambling phone message, in which he left his email address, to which I send sent my rambling and whimsical message ... to which he responded with silence, for the first nineteen months.

Even he acknowledged the oddness of such a message as he sent Monday. But hey, as his signature reminds, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

The question is, readers, what am I to make of this? Is he more desperate than ever in wife-seeking? Has he learned a few secrets about that girl he let get away? And then there is the most pressing question: what am I to write? Do I keep it strictly professional, yakking about his business? Fill him on the latest with my sis (whom he met)? Remind him that I keep in touch with the Comedian, the bud in whose documentary short he has an appearance? Inform him of my book deal? Or keep it short and casual?

The possibilities are endless. I just might have to wait 19 days before I hit on a suitable reply.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Blog post?

Was I supposed to blog today? Oh, it’s been one of those days. Hell, one of those weeks! Not in a bad way, entirely ... but strange. So, since I posted yesterday, I’ll post tomorrow and maybe Friday or Saturday. The parentals descend on Brooklyn tomorrow night, for a week in sweaty chez Broadway, so there may be some disruptions in my usual blogging schedule. Shall inform accordingly.

Coming later (perhaps): Jose no Dinero responds to a 19-month-old email, Anna’s old love-life counsel makes a surprise (re)appearance, and the Broadways dabble in courting. Plus: Flagship Recordings swag added to the Sexless prize box! Contest details coming soon.

xoxo until then ...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sexual balance, pt. 3: Romantic caution

Dahlings, my apologies for the delay in this week’s blogging. But now to continue with last week’s theme, a return to Sincerely Curious’ response to last Wednesday’s post. He goes on:
... [W]hat about those connections with people (presumably beyond mere friendship and familial bond) that also include romantic attractions, aka chemistry, skyrockets, etc. ... I guess your response might be, fine enough, if after 2 years a relationship is hitting on all the non-physical cylinders, then get married and get going on the physical components. Give yourself — entirely — once and for all. Is this your reply? Fair point, if it is. Although, I guess in all honesty, I have to say that, first, I think those non-physical depths can be achieved in far fewer than 2 years and, with a person that might or might not work-out in a long-term way. And secondly, I’m sorta repulsed on a gut level that 2 people would get married for the primary reason of being able to have sex “according to the Bible.” Seems to reduce the marriage license to a sex license.
Dear Curious:
As always, dahling, no lack of issues to address here! :) First off, let’s talk about your implied progression from singleness to marriage. It starts with romance/skyrockets, progresses to deeper intimacy and involvement, concluding with a solidification in marital bonds. Somewhere between stages B and C there is evidently a period of consideration to determine/reaffirm the suitability of the romantic partner/intimate for the lifelong (or at least longer-term) partnership of marriage. Analogized to the business world, this is similar to temp-to-perm hiring situations, or other arrangements whereby an employer tries out an employee for a period of time before formally committing to a fully vested relationship (including benefits, retirement, vacation, etc.).

Now since your model proceeds from the notion that attraction leads to commitment, let’s talk about attraction/desire/romance. The presumption seems to be that attraction can solidify into commitment, or that it’s a good harbinger of the commitment-worthy. You will be attracted to what’s best for you, in other words. Does it really work that way?

Not in my experience — at least not generally. In the course of my attractions to men I have been attracted to: a man who messed around or slept with another man’s fiance, an actual adulterer, a man who paid for his ex-girlfriend to get a boob job (suffering under the mutual delusion this would somehow resuscitate her ego), a serial womanizer, and a host of other men who had issues with intimacy, confrontation and so on. I am by no means claiming to be less than seriously messed-up myself (after all, these men all exerted varying degrees of appeal to me), but these aren’t exactly banner candidates for husband material, now are they? They all had some serious issues of character, judgment, courage, communication, and so on. Which is not to say that they couldn’t experience growth and change in these areas — but as one person I heard once said, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half-closed thereafter.”

Some people may have better-honed relationship radar than I do, but if we were all to look through our romantic pasts, how many of those broken relationships would be due to bad timing, and how many due to bad judgment? I can only think of maybe one or two cases I’d chalk up to to the former.

And here’s another thing: sometimes we tend to be attracted to someone because we’re either a) so miserable in our current state that any escape will do, or b) looking for a relationship in general and this one is the first (or likeliest) candidate to come along. For instance: my freshman year of college, I had the dubious fortune of attending a very small school in rural Iowa. Not quite the ideal setting for an urbanite such as myself, no? Conditions proved so miserable that after a year I transferred to a large public university in a sprawling Arizona suburb. This was a marked improvement, but by no means the cosmopolitan NYU surroundings I had once dreamed of learning in. I had five good years in Arizona, but the whole time I knew I wanted to get out. And so every time I went on vacation, the places I visited always held out an exotic allure.

After trips to Berkeley, London, Denver and Singapore, I started to get a little dizzy. So many places! So many places that seemed very cool! How was I to know which had a legitimate call upon my heart? Which place really made sense for me and would satisfy and stimulate beyond the initial glory days of vacation? My heart was unreliable, for it proved seduceable by any larger, cooler, cosmopolitan city with more of an urban core than Phoenix.

It was about this time I introduced the index of desirability. Drawing off some tips from an old copy of What Color is Your Parachute? I drew up a list of qualities my ideal city would have. I didn’t even weight them (though this could be advisable; weather might matter more than good museums). Some twenty items later, I began to put my various cities through the index. I rated them on each quality, giving a score of 1 to 5, then found the city’s overall average — its index of desirability. Not surprisingly, Phoenix got a paltry 2-point-something. However, New York rated over 4.0. So too did Berkeley, but at that time I didn’t feel ready for that town again. So I chose New York.

I had visited the metropolis, and certainly liked what I saw, but the initial phase of decision-making was made much less by New York’s romantic appeal for me, and much more based on its practical virtues — what I deemed important to a city. While I have never claimed to love New York, I generally have been very happy here. Thus, my index proved a fairly good predictor of the romantic appeal that resulted. Furthermore, my period of pre-commitment consideration largely preceded the romantic phase.

So let’s circle back to the commitment question. When we first meet someone, it’s easy to ask questions like, Would I want to get to know this person? Would I want to sleep with this person? But I’m coming to think such questions aren’t very useful. Since what I really want is to marry and have a family, it makes more sense to ask, Would I want to have children with this person? Would I want to grow old with him and be part of who he will be in 20 years? Those questions may seem unromantic, but they have everything to do with trust. And I’m finding that who I trust enough to show the uglier parts of me is more crucial to whether or not I could give my whole self to that person than whether I want to wrap myself around him and make out for a while, pushing cups and saucers off the bar table to make room for us. To give oneself with abandon requires either very deep trust or considerable carelessness.

To come back to your original question, I am more and more of a mind to say the initial phase of a relationship might be fairly serious-minded in structure — concerned with these fundamental questions of compatibility, suitability and practicality. The more this can be hashed out in the presence of community (those who know both parties well), the better. I don’t know how long that consideration stage would take, but after the couple has decided to proceed, I see no reason movement toward engagement and then a reasonably brief engagement might commence. If one plans to spend a lifetime with someone, surely there’s no need to rush the romance (which will blossom in its own right soon enough), but how long does a determination of suitability really have to take?

I agree marriage should not be a license for sex, but I think where that is the case, far too much emphasis is being put on the fireworks and romance to begin with. It all depends on what you want. I want marriage and a family, for which things intense romance is not at all the most important ingredient. This is not to say I’m ruling out attraction, either. But here’s where (for me as Jesus-freak, anyway) a little trust comes in. One of the hardest issues I’ve had with trusting God on relationships is that I thought He was somehow opposed to romantic delight and good sex. Sure, the Bible claims He invented that stuff, and made sure erotic poetry was included as part of the sacred text (i.e., Song of Solomon) ... but really, how could God know what I like? I put the fun before the obedience long enough and so far I don’t have much to show for it. I figure it’s about time I reverse that order and trust God to secure the fun. After all, if He supposedly knows what’s best for me, doesn’t that include the sexual best? Either He does know what’s best (and that includes sex), or He doesn’t — in which case I’ve got way bigger problems than all the supposedly great sex I’m missing out on.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Blog press

Are you a Sexless junkie? Have a blog of your own you’d like to make more successful? Dragging through a very slow morning at work? If yes, read my interview on Sight — An Oraculor Insight. If no, wait for today’s “real” post later on today. Had a two-day proofreading gig this weekend, so Monday’s more my day of rest than usual.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sexual balance, pt. 2: Sensual healing

Wednesday’s post provoked such debate within the comments, I’ve decided to pull one of Sincerely Curious’ replies out to address here.
... your point about friendship and familial bonds being sexless relationships, yet still “deep, meaningful & intimate” doesn’t completely convince me. My point is this: what about those connections with people (presumably beyond mere friendship and familial bond) that also include romantic attractions, aka chemistry, skyrockets, etc. My point is about how those sorts of connections, over time (perhaps after 2 years, as you suggest), can become deep, meaningful and intimate in all the non-physical ways, and that I question the notion that it is in the relationship’s best interest (or the individual’s best interest) to artificially divorce the concomitant physical components of our humanity (i.e. our “whole self”) on the basis that the relationship has not entered into the bonds of matrimony. ...
Phew! Lots there. First of all, I should probably clarify that in characterizing familial and friend relationships as sexless, I don’t mean either that they’re a) non-sexual (as all relationships are affected by our sexuality and the difference being a man or woman makes in how we approach, experience and understand the world) or b) non-physical. On the contrary! Such deep relationships tend to be filled with hugs, hands to the shoulder and non-sexual regions ... even holding hands and kissing cheeks (in some cultures). That’s because your affections for the other person or people run so deep, it’s impossible for those feelings to remain disembodied.

Tragically through a combination of developments — including, I would argue, the increasing litigiousness of our society and need to legislate against sexual harassment in offices — touch between persons is increasingly defined as sexual for some strange reason (notably excluding handshakes). But frankly, I think that’s in some respects just a weird American thing.

Another factor is the increasing denial of our bodies themselves. So many things and inventions are about minimizing use of the parts, denying or controlling use of the senses. White-collar work is increasingly disembodied, focusing physical activity on a very limited bandwidth of functionality: sight (though our eyes are often used far more to absorb information than to appreciate beauty) and the small-motor coordination of typing. Strange as it may sound, one of the biggest reasons I enjoy certain types of housework and DIY projects like the stripping I did last summer are the whole-body experience of it.

And it’s not just our jobs. We want cars and highways that minimize as much as possible all sensation of flying over terrain at high speeds: no bumps or vibrations, no sound of the other cars flying past beside you, or the wind rushing over the roof. But sometimes I think that encourages recklessness and an ability to disengage potent causes or actions (dangerously high speeds) from their potential effects (brutal smashups on the road). In some cars, there’s little difference between 60 and 90 miles per hour. But in my Eunuch ... man, you could feel the difference between 45 and 50. And until I got the tires balanced properly, coasting along at 70+ turned that rattletrap into a regular vibrathon! Not to say this was an ideal state of transportation (the car was a sure deathtrap, if ever one existed), but it did at least provide powerful reminders to me of my changes in speed and consequently increasing fragility.

My point in all of this is that I think many of us — regardless of our sexual habits or appetites — have lost the ability to appreciate and exercise our sensuality. This is why exercise is so good. It wasn’t until I started running a few years ago that I began to understand that. Which was weird for a nerd like me, to realize what a difference there was between hearing about something, reading about it ... and actually experiencing it in my body. But depending on how fast and hard I push myself, there’s a difference in the way my body feels. There’s a state I can only briefly maintain in current fitness where, at a certain speed, it’s like the entire surface of my skin is suddenly suffused with blood. Push myself to that pace, and immediately I become intensely aware of the whole epidermis in a way that never ever happens otherwise. Or take walking. When was the last time any of you kicked off your shoes or sandles and treated your soles to a patch of spiky grass?

Now to bring this wild and rambling tangent back to your question (for there was, theoretically, a point to my diversion), I conjecture that if we had a more fully developed and broadly indulged sensuality there would be less pressure on sex (as in intercourse and its precursors) to satisfy the bulk of our bodily hungers for sensation. Thus, for those refusing to have sex without a marital commitment behind it, it would be less the transition from a disembodied life to a fully embodied life. Unfortunately, that’s often what the Protestant church implies the move from singleness to married life should be. Look at our worship, for God’s sake! In most churches you stand there like a stone (God forbid your hands get ideas) and if your hips should twitch, well get-thee-behind-me-Satan, there’s a devil at work that taught Elvis how to swivel!

So, bottom line, Curious, I agree with you. I don’t think the physical should be cut out of our relationships. The problem is that we have mostly understood the physical as purely sexual. And if I may so say, the more bookish and nerdy we may be inclined to be (your advanced degree suggests you may somewhat resemble me here ;)), the more limited our understanding of embodiment probably is.

I’ll come back to more of your remarks next week. Thanks to all for making this such a lively discussion!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sexual balance

Before getting into the meat of today’s post, a few observations.
  1. I should really hire an intern to come pelt me with ice cubes at strategic intervals. It is hot in this damn town today, and the airflow in Sexless blog HQ is practically nil. Since iBaby has no wireless card and the battery needs viagra, there is no recourse to a ceiling fan-cooled room, alas. (Faithful Roommate, however, has been dispatched to Target on a mission that may hopefully result in the carting home of a larger and more-powerful fan for the living room. And I only have to make her guacamole! Plus share some of my swank German beer, more than likely.)
  2. I must be an easy mark, love-wise, because I am heels-over-head addicted to OK Go’s infectious pop and I don’t just mean that great video! Tall, gangly lead singer dude (not the baldy in “A Million Ways”) looks like a younger, hotter Mick Jagger in one of their older videos, a saucy Warholesque frolic that shows off the band’s versatility. The music starts, and my shoulders gotta dance ...
And now that you know how Anna’s doing today, a reader question.
I’m so completely intrigued by this anti-sex ascetic you have adopted – it’s just so completely Desert Fathers-retro. Completely ironic at this cultural moment.

But, seriously, isn’t there a case to be made for developing all facets of a relationship in balance, i.e., over time, as one person moves closer to another emotionally and spiritually, ought the physical follow, keeping all facets of our humanity in balance? I mean, in my life and experience, relegating the physical to the forbidden wound-up stunting the physical/sexual dynamics of the relationship – in ways that ultimately ended in divorce after a 5 year marriage. I mean, we dated for 5 (long) years – with zero intercourse and only the slightest petting – I swear to God, no orgasms.

And I don’t think that was healthy or honoring to the fullness of our humanity. Do you think a relationship can truly be healthy if it has gone deep in every area except the physical orafaces?

— Sincerely Curious
Dear Sincerely:
I agree with what you’re saying about balance, reciprocity, etc., but that’s actually part of why I’m so committed to taking my time. As I may have mentioned in previous posts, most men I’ve been out with started getting to know my body when we’d barely even begun to explore a basic banter, much less exhaust such conversation. Generally, physical intimacies were considerably out of step with the knowledge in the rest of the relationship.

I also think our sense of what is “deep” in a relationship can be misguided. We live in a very bizarre moment where much of life is expected to follow a peculiar formula:

raw ingredients --> machine [performs special magic] --> desired result

For instance:

weight-loss drug --> pudgy body [performs special magic] --> instantly sexy body!

books & assigned reading --> brain [performs special magic] --> “knowledge” (signified by degree or great test score)!

passengers --> airplane [performs special magic] --> doors open on the tropics!

internet-profile/blog data --> mind of the lover/obsessee [performs special magic] --> deep and intimate knowledge of the “beloved”!

Doesn’t that seem a little weird? Personally, I tend to think deep knowledge of a person comes when you reach a point where you can get past their PR to start recognizing tendencies, strategies of communications, patterns of behavior not even they themselves might be aware of. I know in my friendships with most women — even those who have functionally been my best friends — I don’t usually reach that point until at least two years in.

And that’s another thing: it’s possible to have deep, meaningful, intimate relationships with people of the same sex without it becoming sexual. The difference, I think, is the nature of the interaction and whether or not you’re actually giving yourself to another person. That doesn’t happen in friendship the way it does in a romantic/marital relationship. In the latter, there’s a possibility of giving your whole self to another — but that very notion, whole, implies that it can only really be done once. Thus, friendships and familial relationships strongly imply that yes, it is possible to have healthy relationships without sex, and that withholding sex can have a positive, healthy motivation rather than one that sees sex as bad/forbidden/etc. (Note my language; I’m not naive enough to claim this happens all the time!)

As to the case you mention, why exactly did you wait five years? That sounds a little long. The problem is, sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a comfortable relationship which we like for its present noncommital state; to be reluctant to either push to the commitment of whole-self-giving or acknowledge that no such commitment will ever transpire, hence the relationship should probably be broken off. Either way, it takes a lot of courage. Generally, I tend to think the less physicality ties a couple together, the more incentive there is to decide where a relationship is going, and the more clarity you have about whether you like the person in more than just a sexual, you-give-me-access-to-fun-experiences kind of way. In your case it sounds like there were a range of issues going on.

Breaking news: A breeze has come to Brooklyn! Woohoo!


Monday, August 01, 2005

Loving the distance?

Over the weekend, a reader asked about the feasibility of long-distance relationships. In this moment of internet meeting and dating, it’s surely a salient question. But dahling, don’t forget you’re addressing a persistently dyed-in-wool romantiholic here (gulp). Few things inspire as does the idea of a love that overcomes all miles — the more of them, the better. And forget not that my youthful paradigm for romance (drum roll here) included a significant period of long-distance correspondence. A bicoastal relationship, no less (carried on between SoCali and Massachusetts). Cause baby, it’s ain’t love unless there’s almost a full continent between you. Could I have confused God’s love for mankind as a model for human romance, perchance?

Long-distance love is possible, but as the love thrives the distance will surely have to diminish. If both of you are firmly entrenched in careers you cannot easily abandon or relocate, be prepared to face some major sacrifices … or to someday wind up loving the one you’re with since you can’t be with the one you love. It may eventually come down to a question of how much you value the relationship versus what it would cost you to pursue it. That said, long-distance relationships probably aren’t very practical unless you’re on the path to marriage or convinced this lovah has the makings of a soulmate. Unless you like the idea of a low-maintenance relationship, that is. But for your garden-variety dating and mating scheme, I don’t recommend commute-intensive romance.

Ah, but how do you know if the spark involved is the Olympic-torch variety, or the brief flicker of summer fireflies? Kinda lotsa pressure to impose so early on, is it not? Coffee Pal would say it’s forcing one to take dating far too seriously, perhaps.

First of all, it’s important to verify said spark is not just a thing you’ve nimbly dreamed up. Back in the early days of the internet, I caught the eye of a chap I call Stalker #1. I had the luck to be one of his local-area matches on a proto-idating website I signed up with on a lark. At first the emails we exchanged seemed promising. But then, it’s easy to read whit and charisma into a few lines of a still-novel form of “talking.” Which mythos survived until the phone call phase.

That first time we talked, however, I heard not the husky, mellifluous tones of a sexy male bass … but the cadence and pitch I associated with geeks. Now, I may be quite the nerd myself, but I’m vain enough to classify myself among the geek-chic part of the crowd. And though I was only aspiring geek-chica at best, that senior year of high school, I knew this guy was the type to indulge in decidedly uncool geeky pursuits. There was a certain lack of irony — and probably fashion taste as well. I’ll spare you the painful details that confirmed this voice hypothesis, but suffice to say the mystique was forever — and rightfully so — gone.

Application: in an internet-facilitated relationship, phone contact should be commenced fairly early on. It’s great if you can banter and joke on IM, but what’s the talking like on air (so to speak)? After all, the goal is presumably to progress to a phase where voice-to-voice if not face-to-face contact is the primary means of interacting. If the email or IM banter is great, but you both flounder over a cup of coffee, it may be your avatars or usernames that ought to get it on, and not the two small Wizards divested of wind machines and all the other get up for fooling (and ruling) Oz. Small exception: If the online banter’s that good, and the first face-to-face not terrible, it may be worth pursuing a second or third albeit casual connection. I can personally vouch for instances where I was so overcome by the gentleman, I lost much of my usual sparkle and moxie, responding with gulps and resorts to primness in the face of playful retorts like, “Does that also apply to sex?” Sometimes it just may take a little time to relax around each other and discover the person who’s so attractive and funny when you’re online.

Second application: like it or not, the cost of pursuing a long-distance relationship requires more upfront frankness for both parties than may usually be the case. Gentlemen, you cannot pursue a sudden “friendship” with a lady where none has existed before and not expect her to get ideas (the reverse is probably true as well). Men rarely pursue friendships with women as it is. If you find her conversation so compelling you don’t care how far away she is, maybe some soul-searching is in store about just what you’re looking for from her. Don’t fault her for sending back a vibe if you suddenly get quite attentive, distance be damned. As a married friend recently said, when a guy realizes there is interest on the part of a woman, he is obligated to make clear if that interest is justified (i.e., returned) or to be discouraged. You can’t let things drag on in ambiguity; at that point you’re just using each other for attention and/or dooming the friendship to an unnecessary instability. So long as the nature of the commitment to each other remains undefined, that is (and in a long-distance relationship, friendly or otherwise, the question of commitment is particularly keen, given the effort required for contact).

In a long-distance relationship you can get to know the other person in a more meaningful way than might otherwise be possible, but it’s also possible to confuse knowledge of facts about the other (such as personal history disclosed on a blog or website) for the day-to-day knowledge built up through repeated conversation, shared meals and rainstorms, encounters with traffic and the homeless, and so on. Bottom line: keep it real and cut the bullshit — most of all the lines you feed yourself.


Monday morning laughtrack

When you go to see the Letterman show, they keep you entertained before the taping and during breaks with footage of “super-funny,” but silent segments from previous shows. I won’t subject you to my archives while you’re waiting on this morning’s post, but do check out this laugh-yourself-silly video from Sexless find-of-the-week band OK Go. Play, laugh, repeat!

And when you’re done with that, ponder: should there be a revival of the Sexless monthly contest? Reader responses really dropped off there for a while, after Poster Boy took the first Blog Reader World Series title ... but I’m thinking we might be ready for a round two. Thoughts on this, dahling? Last year’s winner would be excluded from competition, just to give you a fair chance, but we might bring ’im back for a concluding round to take on this year’s champ or something. Should he be amenable to such proposal. But that’d be months from now anyway, so for today just put your minds to the contest-revival conundrum. Yes? or No? Check one, please.