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.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

In search of a greater adventure

Frasier says I’ve lost my sense of adventure, and VJ thinks I need to meet strangers to find a husband (though interestingly, my temporary roommate said that the older you get, the more likely you’ll marry someone you’ve already met). Have I? Do I?

Most of my life I’ve had this fear of missing out. I’m not sure when it started exactly. Maybe in my childhood, when our bedtime came before dark in the summers. It was bad enough for a night owl to be sent to be at eight, but the indignity of lying in bed with the glow of dusk still at the window seemed too much sorrow for a tender youth. As I listened to the sounds of other children playing outside, their laughter seemed to confirm that being a Christian meant you were doomed to a lifetime of boredom.

This carried through to my freshman year of college, when I often struggled to find things to do on Friday night. When I transferred to ASU, I finally formed the requisite friend base to have fun weekends, but the secret fear quietly lingered. To safeguard against which I left most parties and weddings as close to the end as I could manage. But still … what of the places where I hadn’t gone? There were always people somewhere, at another bar or party, who stayed out later, had more fun, heard better music. The unknown always pretends to be far better than the known, though making its case on little more than bold assertion.

When I came to New York, you can imagine the torment it was, initially, to live here broke and jobless. The city infects your normal, latent restlessness and stirs it up into a full-bore, raging fever. And in your early twenties, it’s easy — and fun — to go along for the dizzying ride. No wonder I said yes to Ad Weasel three weeks into the move; a date meant dinner out, no need to worry what I could afford.

And no wonder I scorned good guys. Should one ever pursue and woo — then, God forbid, marry me — I feared he’d be guilty of making me bored, condemning me to endless evenings in before the night had begun. Better to fend off the frisky suitors whose children I’d never want to bear; at least they kept me too busy for such restlessness.

Except, finally, they didn’t. The heart can only be so long denied before it insists on having its way — and mine would only stand for so many fruitless dalliances before it was too much. Mine’s had all the short-term adventure it really needs in a lifetime, at least as a single woman. And seeing as how none of those one-night thrills ever led to anything permanent, I’m not sure what I miss out on, other than losing sleep and coping with my querulous heart when finally I stumble home.

As Paul McCartney sings on his new album:
There is a fine line
Between recklessness and courage
It’s about time
You understood which road to take
It’s a fine line
And your decision makes a difference
Get it wrong and you’ll be making a big mistake
Just because I’m shunning the sort of adventure I sought out in my first life quarter doesn’t mean I’ve settled for boredom. My real fear in all the restlessness was someday getting stuck, getting to a place where all grew stagnant. The urban adventure of nightlife might seem like it’s always new, but the mini rituals of gussying up, going out, getting drunk or hit on or hurt are all so repetitious in the end. What seems to be keeping you fresh or open to chance is really the very thing that ties you down, holds you back, mires you in, and keeps you from learning and growing to be who you could become.

When I began listening in earnest to the Rolling Stones’ song “Monkey Man” last fall, it seemed like an anthem for starting life in the post-bar stage: the perfect theme for climbing on a motorbike, kick-starting the engine and riding off to a frighteningly bare horizon as the wind slowly cleared my head.

I did — at least in the figurative sense. And in the months since then, while I have shed many tears, baked cookies I shouldn’t have mailed to some boy’s roommate (but did), and flashed my belly ring in a desperate attempt to incite jealousy, I’ve also grown more than in the previous three years in New York. It might not be the sort of adventure that leaves you sick and hungover, that gives you the sort of stories I started writing this blog with, but I think it’s unfolding a bigger, grander story than one blog could never contain.

Not that I plan to stop writing this any time, but I guess I’ve become the sort of woman it took to write my book — and that’s not the foolish girl who first threw up this blog. So. I could tell you, briefly, about my guerilla grocery shopping to track a half-cup of bean sprouts, or I could answer more of your questions on love, sex and dating. Anyone need my best stab at advice?