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, April 01, 2006

If he, should you, could you?

This week’s question raises a topic I’ve actually been writing about in the book: when you think the best that could be in store for you is someone who neither pursues you nor meets all your standards. What’s a girl to do?
Dear Anna:

Question 1: Is it in any way a good idea to anonymously send a mix cd of songs that express the feelings I cannot and that are tearing me up inside to a guy who a. is in a relationship, b. shares the same best friend as I, and c. that I have had romantic feelings for for approximately 4 years or more?

Question 2: If said guy, who has professed his attraction to/desire for/interest in me at several times over the above mentioned approximate 4 years or more ever wakes up and decides to date me, would it be fair to expect him to be in, let alone understand, a sexless relationship with me? In other words, if we finally get together after years of hidden feelings, missed opportunities and various “misunderstandings,” how could I expect that this guy would be down for no sex? I don’t know his status as a man of God, other than that he is a very sexually experienced Catholic. Could/should I, in order to prove myself selfless, put aside my chastity to make happy a man that I think I could make so very happy in other ways, or stand my ground, even if it means forever missing out on him and us?

Conflicted Christian
Oh, honey. That’s a doozie, for sure. But the good news is, you can get through this, you will get through this, and someday you’ll look back with great relief that you didn’t settle for less-than-perfect Mr. Passive. Trust me. Married Man was my Mr. Passive (except more than taken, married) and now I shake my head to think I ever found him so essential to the future I thought I wanted. But don’t let me get ahead of myself.

First off: question one, the mix CD. Can I be one of your girlfriends for a minute? No, no, no, no, no, no, no! If you have to cloak it in secrecy, you know there is a problem. My advice: hone the perfect playlist and publish it on iTunes. But lest I sound too harsh, let me assure you I have been there. Been there, sitting at a concert, hearing a jazz legend, tears rolling down my face because I couldn’t call the jazz-loving man I liked and play him some of the show (I’d sent him a letter asking we cease IMing but had heard nothing in reply). Sitting there, crying, texting furiously to a girlfriend, asking if I could block my number then call him up. I guess you can tell she managed to talk me down.

So I know it’s hard, I know you’re going crazy, but you’ve got to find a way through this that doesn’t depend on changing your circumstances or trying to provoke something with him (would he really fail to guess it’s you?? Do you really want it that badly?). If you’re meant to say those things to him, to share those songs, the right time and setting will arise. There were things I once wanted to say to the Captain but never had a chance to. Then one day while we were talking in church a long while later, I had my moment. And that’s just one case; the pattern has been the same with various guys.

I know we hate to admit this, but things never work as well when they are forced. They just don’t. Either the right time and energy is there, and things work out because they’re sposed to ... or they don’t. My hunch is, things haven’t worked out with this guy because we both know — hell, maybe even he knows — that it wouldn’t be for the best. You don’t want a guy who would make you change yourself or your standards just to be with him! And this is not an issue of saying, “I need a man who dances” or something frivolous like that. This is a valid, sincere — and might I add, reasonable — standard to hold. You stick to your guns, honey. Just because you can’t see it now doesn’t mean God doesn’t have better things for you — and I’m confident He does.

Let me tell you a secret. I believed for years no man who wasn’t already related to me could love the real me — at least enough to stay in my life. Christian men never got close enough to see all the flaws, and secular men only wanted sex. But God had different things in mind, so finally he brought a friend along who didn’t run from my chastity ... or my then too-salty tongue. It’s a long story you’ll have to read the book to hear, but this guy is the first single, unrelated man in my life to unflinchingly call me on my crap yet tell me in the same conversation that he respects me. Sure, maybe he doesn’t have romantic love, but he’s been a true friend. If he could show such kindness and patience to me — a woman neither his girlfriend nor sister (except in a spiritual sense), how much more could a man who wants to grow old with me?

Four years is more than enough to stay locked in this box of hoping and waiting and secretly grieving because you know this falls far short of what you really long for. Feminism be damned, men still pursue when they really want something. The right man will, if there is one. And don’t look at this man’s passivity as a measure of your worth. He’s blind to your true value, sure, but maybe it’s a grace that he can’t see you for what you are.

I’ve never had a boyfriend, right? Handfuls of dates at the most, but nothing more. Christian men rarely ask me out, and secular men always dumped me because of my chastity. For a long time I considered that a history of rejection — which affirmed the broken view that I was worthless. But then one day it dawned on me that perhaps it was protection — which would say much about my worth in God’s eyes. So think about that. And when you feel yourself sinking down again, in despair, hold what you’re believing up to the light and see if it’s true or not — for truth will set you free, not keep you in bondage.