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.

Friday, April 07, 2006

All that she wants is to be his lady

A number of you latched onto my remark from last time that sometimes what seems like rejection might really be divine protection. The reason I say that is a funny pattern: the men I liked the most, whom I was most willing to bend my standards for are the ones who pursued me the least and dropped me sooner than anyone else. But the ones I liked less (which relative disinterest was a protection in itself) hung around a lot longer and pushed to see how much they could get from me.

I realize that could sound like me just putting a quasi-spiritual, fairly superstitious spin on mere coincidence, but consider the deeper truth. As much as I thought I sort of liked any one of those guys at the moment, as a sum total they were space-fillers. Pretty much every one left something unsettled inside — even the good ones I liked for months. I always sensed a reason, a flaw, bad timing — something — that accounted for me not getting my way. So to call all that “rejection” was just my self-pitying way of complaining when God didn’t give me what I wanted, on the schedule I thought He should.

And many times, the liking was as much about my thirst for drama, for promise of something exciting and unexpected, as it was the guy himself. I didn’t know how to get through life without a man on the horizon. The only difference between me and other serial daters (who rarely have a break between relationships) is that my current guy was rarely more than a crush. In principle, though, we faced life the same way.

So the final reason I can’t really call it rejection is the in-retrospect test. When I look back, do I wish I’d had a relationship with that guy? No. In the secular cases, I wince at what I did with my dates. And in the case of the crushes, I realize we weren’t in a place to be good together. Even if we both had good intentions, neither those guys nor I was ready to be in a relationship leading to marriage. And that’s all I ever wanted. I never dreamed of being a girl who had a thousand dates or legions of boyfriends, who needed five memoirs to catalogue all the men she knew (thankfully, that isn’t who I’ve turned to be either). I just wanted to be someone’s wife and make family together.

Rejection implies that what happened to me was a bad thing, that my life would be better if it had turned out differently. No question, some men have hurt me and they did in fact reject me or my standards, but even that was protecting me from something I thought I wanted that really wasn’t good for me. It’s appetite confusion: sometimes you don’t really know your needs or desires at all.

So what about the pain they inflicted, am I somehow calling that good? No. But pain is not the surprise in life, it’s the given. The glorious thing is that sometimes pain and tragedy become a soil in which good and even growth sprouts up — like daffodils. Those have always been my symbol for redemption, you see, ever since the saga with Married Man. He was, I thought, all that I had ever wanted in a man ... except not a Christian, not single and so on. But somehow I got it stuck in my head that he was my tragic fate.

Pain, anguish, heartache. Eighteen torturous months of it. One day I realized it was as if I’d been given a longed-for sandcastle only to realize it wasn’t made out of sand at all but shit. Someone had made me a giant present of a mockery of my desires. The only hope I could find at long last was the knowledge that even shit gives birth to flowers in a way that sand could not have. Perhaps my shitcastle would be redeemed someday by exploding in riotous color as it turned into a flower castle.

That still hasn’t happened, but neither do I still feel the pain of that crush. And each spring that I’ve lived here more and more daffodils have sprung up — as if to symbolize the hope that God is good and faithful and hasn’t forgotten those longings of long-ago. Last year there was one daffodil that I spied in my backyard, surely left there long ago by a now-departed gardener. This year there are three or four plants at least, though no one has tended the sod but God. As I’m learning now that we compost at the local community garden, it takes time to transform waste into a soil that feeds new life. But just because my compost is still decaying doesn’t mean God won’t eventually reap a harvest from all my mistakes and pain and waiting.