The Upside to a Life Not Lived…

All our times have come.

Here but now they’re gone.

Seasons don’t fear the Reaper, nor do the sun, the wind or the rain. We can be like they are.

Come on baby, don’t fear the Reaper.

Baby, take my hand, don’t fear the Reaper.

We’ll be able to fly.

Don’t fear the Reaper.

Baby, I’m your man.“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” Blue Oyster Cult, 1976.

Almost the end of June, and I try to get in one post a month now. Back in 2014-2015 I tried to make it two, but eventually I ran out of flashback stories, and work schedules took their toll. For the past year it’s been less about that and more about my handicapped mother and I facing a lengthy eviction proceeding at the hands of our cruel slumlord. It’s stretched over a year and two proceedings, but a trial date is now imminent. It’ll either be in mid July or, at best, sometime in August. And without an attorney I expect this to be a kangaroo proceeding. While we pay our rent, our landlord has claimed we are “hoarders.” The apartment isn’t the prettiest, but that’s mostly because there have been some 50 violations within it which were not fixed for the past 6-plus years. Only in America, or New York, can a landlord demolish your apartment with neglect, then evict you for having a messy apartment. I expect we’ll get a nice trial. And the be evicted. It’s all about formality and delaying the inevitable.

Technically I was homeless once before, but I was about a year old, and so thus don’t remember it. Being homeless twice in under 40 years is pretty damn crappy, to be blunt. Our lives are worth nothing more to the landlord than an extra $21,000 in annual revenue from new tenants without rent control. Considering he (or at least his limited liability company) is involved in ownership of some 30 buildings and likely makes multi-millions in revenue, it seems a paltry amount of money to destroy lives over. But, it’s New York. Greed is good.

This post is more of a sequel to one I made in November, titled, “Vs. a Life Not Lived.” I waxed philosophical about what my life may have been like had some things shook out differently, and of being tired of the grind. But lately the more I have thought about some things, the more I see one advantage to how things have shaken out, at least in regards to the intended premise of this blog — my love life, or lack thereof.

I got to thinking how my life will now enter a phase; how it was before being homeless, and how it will be after. I see the end of the road coming faster now, as I will enter an era worse than death, or imprisonment. After all, inmates have rights, such as free legal and medical care. I expect to find myself wearing everything I own, in a shelter alongside ex-cons, getting nostalgic about that time in my life when I had things like a door that closed or personal space. It’s the kind of era where it is easy to think back on all the things I never got a chance to do, and now likely never will. That includes being in a relationship, or having sex. My odds were bleak before, but now will be all but nil. Even if I manage to claw back, it will likely cost me, at best, the rest of my 30’s. No man — NO MAN — outside of fiction has had a satisfying romantic life which didn’t begin before forty. None. At least not without having to pay for it.

But the more I thought, the more I thought of the downside to if I’d been more successful in love. If I’d had one lover, one relationship, then the odds of having more would have been statistically higher. And the odds of being in the middle of one now — when I have been going through such horror — would also be higher. As bad as this is for my mother and I, and some of my friends, imagine how horrid it’d be for a lover of mine. The stress alone would likely end the relationship in an ugly fashion due to arguments. Over the past year I have seen myself get angrier, more bitter, more frustrated with my lot, and have much darker and more cynical thoughts in general. It would be terrible, for me and a lover, to put her through such emotional anguish. Even if I handled it like a saint, it’s a rough emotional thing for her to have to watch a boyfriend go through. I wouldn’t want to put someone I am dating through that, whether we’d been dating for years or weeks.

Even worse, desperation and circumstance may have forced my mother and/or I to move in with her, were I dating someone. And if that happened, I’d become even more of a stereotype of the modern dysfunctional man. The fact that most men STILL believe “most women” and “gold diggers” and are only after money is a laugh. Because with modern times and the economy, it’s more like the reverse. Men are more likely to be underemployed and/or under-educated compared to women. I’ve seen far more gold digging men both on TV and in real life (to a limited degree) than the reverse. Even some of my best friends who are coupled up, their wives usually are the breadwinners. But even worse are those guys who move in, become a drain on resources, and feel entitled to that. It’s an ugly cliche for a woman nowadays to fall in love with a loser who almost immediately moves in and won’t leave, citing one calamity after the next. That, along with the appalling way that men usually treat women, is one of the primary reasons why women are so hesitant to date, and why any hint of a “red flag” is bad for them. They’re not intolerant; they’re being careful!

And I suppose at this point someone might say something like, “Well, Dateless-Man, if you were dating someone decent, they’d love you and WANT to help you out, and how dare you not let her make that decision for herself?” To that I would say that you’re missing the point. I wouldn’t want to put a lover through that, to even make such a decision on her part a possibility. I do not want to even appear to be a leech and a mooch to another person, much less a lover. It isn’t simply pride; it isn’t right, period. Lovers should be partners; whether long or short term. They’re not supposed to be carrying someone’s weight. To even bring this heap of drama on a friend is heavy; on someone more intimate would be even worse. I would not want to bring such a decision to her doorstep, and it would tear me up inside to even do so.

I felt like a failure of a man for not being able to make love like one. Now, I feel like even more of one because I was unable to pull myself and my mother out of poverty despite a college education and briefly having a city job. At every turn I have failed, and any time I seem to gain a step, the floor collapses under me.

Looking back, the best window I had when I should have pursued that “last chance” at dating would have been 2014 to about spring 2016; after that is when job instability began. Perhaps when I landed the city gig at the end of 2017 was the last gap. Because I cannot imagine having a chance now. But you know what? I am glad for that now, glad I won’t be tearing a woman up inside over having to go through this with a dude she’s shagging. The fewer people close to me means the fewer people ripped apart by my failure and shame. It’s for this reason that I haven’t bothered with a GoFundMe for aid. Beyond the humiliation of begging for money online, to what end would it accomplish? My friends are broke, or investing all they have in children. If everyone I knew gave $5, I doubt it’d come to more than $1,000. That is too small a sum to be of much use, yet it would kill me to ask, and feel even worse for being so desperate that I’d accept such a scrap.

It is kind of a shame that this blog is not ending on a more positive note, but in a way that’s also fine. There are too many people who see older male virgins as being hapless schmucks who exaggerate their failings and “choose” to be miserable. Many don’t believe that some of us are uniquely cursed, and that our feelings of anxiety or frustration with poor luck aren’t entitlement, but actual human — or animal — emotions. Maybe that is my fate, to serve as a cautionary tale that failure and doom despite the best of intentions and efforts through outside actions by others is a remotely possible and legitimate outcome. That life isn’t all about positive attitude and repeating some New Age hipster baloney about positive attitude or “good vibes”. That sometimes you can hold your head high and march ahead with all the confidence in the universe, and still be hit by the train of life.

It isn’t the end yet, but it feels like it is close. But at least being the Dateless-Man means that I won’t be bringing down a Dateless-Woman with me. Ironically, my reluctance to date has spared some poor women from  being drug into the abyss of financial destitution, or the stress of dealing with someone who is. I chose not to be a leech who attaches himself by his baggage to anyone nearby with a death-grip. At least if I die, I have that dignity with me. It would have been nice to have had a relationship, to have had an attempt at making art through lovemaking. But hey, in another couple of months, I’ll be getting nostalgic about having a shower or toilet paper, or clean clothes.

I just hope through my writings, that at least some of what I have gone through won’t have been for nothing. If at least one person who was a little miserable about their own love life and/or virginity gained something out of this blog, whether understanding or even a good laugh or just the relief of seeing someone who had it worse, then my job is done. And while I am disappointed that my life hasn’t turned out anywhere near what I imagined it would — even 2 years ago — there is a part of me which feels it is about time it has all come crashing down. I can’t take another 10-40 years of disappointment and misery. Best to let it end while I can still comprehend it.

I no longer fear the Reaper. I just wonder what’s taken him so damn long.

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That time Dateless-Man revealed his name on a Podcast…

Not a joke, or an imaginary tale! This really happened!

So as I have mentioned a few times, over the years in periods of despair or depression I sought various sources of online advice or camaraderie. This led me to various message boards, websites and advice columns, which I mention at length in my “Virginity Advice” rant last year. Pretty much the only one I found even remotely worthwhile, either as advice and/or providing some semblance of a supportive community was Doctor Nerdlove. That isn’t to say I always agree with him or anything, but out of all of the advice I’ve waded through, he may be the least “full of it” to me. That and I get a vibe that while he, like many “geek male love advice” gurus online, he is peddling books and coaching services, that he genuinely wants to help others.

Doctor Nerdlove, or Harris O’Malley, or “DNL,” has tried doing a podcast at least twice since he turned up online in 2011. His first attempt around 2012 or so was a failure, but his second attempt over the last 3 or so years has been more successful. He does “question answering” advice columns in text, and usually does advice lectures in the podcasts. However, he’s wanted to do a call-in style podcast before, yet he can’t or is unable to do a live stream sort of call system — especially since he usually brings in a guest when he does those. So at the start of the year he set up a voicemail and asked people to call in and ask a question. So in the spirit of knowledge, as well as to bring the topic to a wider forum as a part of that group, I left a message sometime around February or early March.

Not only did DNL choose my call, but it was the first call he picked! The show is about an hour but my call comes in at the 2:10 minute mark. DNL and his co-host Crystal Donovan spend about 6 minutes on it. There also is another caller named Patrick who presented a call with similar themes, where I am referenced again, at the 28:40 mark.

dnl

So, yes, that is my voice (from a crappy cell phone), and that is my real first name – Al. Now, of course, “Al” is the short version for several names, and I won’t reveal which one that is. Alfred, Alexander, Alphonse, Alfredo, Almundo, Alowishus, so many possibilities. I sounded a little anxious because I’d never called into a radio show before, even one that wasn’t really “live.” After going back and forth about it for a few weeks I just decided to be impulsive. I also apparently say “you know” in every other sentence when I speak without realizing it. Other common verbal tics of mine that I have noticed in the past are “like” and “dude,” which I attribute to being a kid in the 1980’s. I also know most voicemails have a “limit” of about 2-3 minutes and I wanted to cram in everything I wanted to say without going over. As it was I had about a minute or so of dead air after since there was no prompts to hit a button to end the message or set the priority, as many voicemails have. I used to leave them for a living, so I got used to cramming in a crap-ton of info into about 1-2 minutes.

First off, I am pleasantly surprised and honored that DNL and Crystal chose my all, much less as the first one. I tried to carefully craft it in a way where it would be appealing and invite some conversation without going off the deep end (which I can do sometimes). I even tried to phrase it a little in the grander scheme and not me personally. I was inspired a little by this incident from 2016, where some of my co-workers made some general “virgin jokes” in the course of trash talking and I had no response. I did like their overall responses and overall, I enjoyed having my viewpoint put up there in audio/visual glory. I’ve actually considered doing a podcast myself for a variety of reasons (either for my usual geek hobbies of comics and anime, or for this, what I call my “Lonely Man Blog”), but never have. As DNL demonstrates, most podcasts are better with a co-host and I could never find one for either subject. I also don’t have the tech, the funds, or the know how at the moment.

Secondly, while I hardly want to “debate” DNL here on a far lessor viewed blog where he’d have no way to respond, I wanted to state for full disclosure that I disagree with at least 10-15% of his views about older male virginity and the stigmas that come from it. He restates many of those views in the video and I knew them already from his column, so they weren’t surprising. I feel our area of disagreement is that while he comes from a good place and would rather inexperienced dudes get out there and date more — as a coach, it’s literally his job to say whatever he has to to encourage that reaction — that he underestimates the stigma both in general society for “older male virgins” as well as the stigma that said society can end up placing on the men themselves. If society teaches you a certain thing is wrong, or off, or taboo, or unusual, it is a very tough nut to crack, nor is it easily overcome in others.

DNL feels he can relate because he didn’t lose his virginity until he was 19 in his second year of college, and with all due respect to him, that’s nothing in comparison to someone who is in their 30’s, of any gender or orientation, facing it. Losing it during college, even if at age 20-21, is right at the edge of “normal” in the usual bell curves, according to most research on the subject. Even I didn’t start freaking out about it or thinking something was seriously wrong with me until I hit 20. After all, at 19 I was still a year or so removed from my first date in high school, so I still had some degree of hope.

Again, with the best of intentions, DNL feels that virginity is no more or less a flaw in someone’s dating history than not having any other experience. In the podcast he compares it to, paraphrasing, “punishing yourself for not being able to contribute to a conversation about quantum physics.” Talking about quantum physics, versus at least a reference in casual conversation to a previous lover or even picking up on those subtle cues or having general familiarity with things like kissing or first base is quite different. Now, the advantage to dating after college is that outside of that setting, or high school, absolutely no one would even “guess” or hint that the reason for someone’s shyness or general awkwardness with dating are due to virginity. The social norms mean that even if someone is a complete introverted mess, the other party by general assumption will assume they are not a virgin. The dilemma that this raises is that then that person will have to assume other reasons for those reactions — for instance, that the man is just terrible at kissing/body contact/taking cues in general, or that anxiety is a character trait. Now, there are men (and women) out there who may be awful in bed despite dozens of partners (in fact, one reason why the count is so high is because no one comes back for a second or third “helping”), but  being a virgin is at least a legitimate excuse for not being any good at it right off. Even removing all social assumptions from other people, reaching an older age and going into a dating situation knowing it is complete unexplored territory where there’s no positive experience whatsoever can be hard to get past.

I forget if DNL mentions it here, but he also believes that people sleep with other people for reasons which have nothing to do with the other individual’s traits or qualities. Reasons include to make a third party jealous or envious, or even for their own egos (i.e. proving they “still got it”). And while this is certainly true, I think DNL overestimates these instances and sometimes fails to realize that even in these situations, there has to be at least something appealing with the other party besides proximity and timing. Even if in some cases it’s as simple as, “I liked your shirt and you seemed friendly.”

I just feel that DNL underestimates the steeper hill to climb that exists for older male virgins and it isn’t anywhere near as easy to overcome them either mentally or with social interactions in dating itself. He operates under the philosophy that “hard” and “impossible” are drastically different, which is very true. But “hard” is HARD and not everyone will succeed. I get why he feels that way and I don’t hold it against him, but there it is. I don’t feel telling them that it’s no bigger hurdle that not being experienced at quantum physics is either true or helpful. A person could, in theory, positively spin a murder conviction to a date — inmates and ex-cons get laid all the time. It is very difficult to spin romantic inexperience at an age well past 30 without either lying (even my mother has told me to lie and say it was for religious reasons) or being confident on a delusional basis. DNL says that other people take their cues from us, but it does strain some credibility. If I express confidence in my romantic abilities and my ability to please a woman on a date, I am not confident; I am DELUSIONAL. An ape with a pick ax has a better chance of pleasing woman than I do. And a woman who genuinely liked me enough to forgive or look past my romantic shortcomings would make me either worried for her own mental health or suspicious.

I suppose it is worth a mention that while DNL didn’t like my self depreciating joke about “Virgin airlines,” which is an old joke I’ve told since 2015, Crystal found it cute and thought if I went at it with that ability of confidence it wouldn’t matter. I doubt it’s that simple, but considering my sense of humor is my strongest social attribute, it’s encouraging at least. I wouldn’t outright tell a date I was a virgin (unless she asked, which is extremely unlikely), so nobody outside these circles would hear that joke.

My question was about how to combat the social stigma without standing on a soapbox, and by and large their advice was to live and embody that image in oneself. They also stressed not to compare oneself to others because we’re all on our own romantic journeys, which is supportive, but…I feel it’s a bit Pollyanna. Clearly the romantic journey of a person in their 30’s who had, say, 2-4 lovers during their youth and have now settled into a long term relationship is seen as more socially normal than someone who is in their mid or late 30’s who hasn’t so much as kissed anyone. And no one sees or expects the journey of the latter to end up well or satisfactory, at least on a romantic level. There have been many historical figures who were virgins, but I’d like to not have to invent clean energy or lead a social revolution to not be seen as a romantic failure.

Well, I guess I did wind up debating DNL in absentia after all. Like in Shakespeare, anytime someone says, “I will be brief,” prepare for an extended monologue. It was great to be a part of the podcast and to help bring these themes and issues to a wider audience. I’d love to be able to comment as an expert witness on dating topic beyond older male virginity, but that happens to be my major, and it’s too late to trade in that diploma now. And I have more pressing concerns with housing and economics lately than dating, which only adds more years to the clock against me. My odds of having more than one lover and having it be satisfying for either or us, nor obtaining any measurable degree of happiness romantically are low, and I suppose I’d be satisfied if some expert told me that, rather than get wishy washy on me claiming all I needed was to wish upon a star, have a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye and then I, too, am just of worthy of a roll in the hay as that dude with six pack abs, a killer smile and a thousand dollar suit. Because we all know that’s a crock. It’s just poor business for the dating advice circuit.

So, anyway, that’s my real first name and that’s what I sound like. I cited my voice in my list of positive traits — am I right? Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone!

Dateless-Man vs. The Mask!

“All I ever wanted to be is someone else.” — said by me, in one of my posts from 2014-2017.

This is definitely an installment I have been talking up or referencing since about 2017. As my life situation seems to have periods of rest in between periods of spiraling out of control, what with an eviction proceeding still wavering over my head along with never knowing whether my current “temporary job” will become permanent — and if so, how permanent — I find myself struggling with my Id. I find my thoughts becoming darker, angrier, more bitter, and if I am not careful I can lash out at people, even friends. At work I am fine, and when alone I bottle up. But there are times when I have felt dark things and I fear that the experience of the past year — being fired from the last job I had with a future, plus the real threat of becoming homeless before or after my mother dies of chronic illnesses — are beginning to twist me into something I am either not, or don’t want to be. The struggle to be a “good guy” has rarely been harder.

So now may as well be an ideal time to talk about a character, and a franchise, which once provided an escape for my young mind. A character who appeared more or less as I was suffering what I thought was the worst time of my life — being bullied in 7th grade — and gave me an outlet. I am talking about THE MASK, which came out in July 1994 and helped cement Jim Carrey as a superstar actor who could command $20 million plus per film (alongside ACE VENTURA and DUMB & DUMBER). In an era before the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” existed and the only big comic book superhero franchise around was Batman (after Superman fizzled out by 1988 after a third sequel), Dark Horse Comics seemed to be behind quite a few “hits”, or at least comic book films that got made. TIMECOP, TANK GIRL, BARB WIRE, MYSTERY MEN, and even DR. GIGGLES from 1992-1999 were all based on or around Dark Horse Comics franchises. Yet out of all of them, THE MASK was clearly the peak. It was not only a monster commercial hit, but it spawned an animated series on CBS (which ran 3 seasons) as well as a (very very crappy) sequel 11 years later, SON OF THE MASK. I saw that. It’s bad. I pretend it doesn’t exist, just like audiences did.

themask

The film is drastically different than the original comic which inspired it, as crafted by Mike Richardson, Mark Badger, John Acurdi, Chris Warner, and Doug Mahnke from 1987-1989. Only the basic premise and the names of some of the characters remain the same. In fact, the comic itself was originally called “Masque,” and the title character was usually referred to as “Big Head,” and was far more graphically violent. The film chose to focus on the first wearer of the Mask, Stanley Ipkiss, and drastically recreated him (more or less letting Carrey bring in personal touches). It’s also notable for being Cameron Diaz’s first acting role, at only 21-22 years old.

Since I (shockingly) realize that this film may have come out before many internet travelers and blog readers were either alive or remembering movies (I know I didn’t remember much about movies I saw until I was about 4-5 years old), I may as well recap it. Carrey stars as Stanley Ipkiss, a repressed hopeless romantic who works at a bank clerk and whose only real friends are his genius dog Milo and his VHS sets of classic cartoons. His boss is a spoiled brat who arguably commits white collar fraud, and his best friend Charlie is a seeming “ladies man” lounge lizard who waxes between being supportive and flaky, and spits out a lot of regressive opinions about women. His landlord, Mrs. Peenman, never misses a chance to yell at Stanley and literally keeps a shotgun within arms length of her front door. He lives in a fictional metropolis called “Edge City” where mobsters rule, the cops are incompetent, and the pollution is so bad that the biggest public park is literally named after landfill, and views of the air pollution are akin to a cosmic event.

The only positive thing in Stanley’s life is Tina Carlyle (Diaz, who was roughly 10-11 years Carrey’s junior as the female lead here). They meet when she enters his bank, seemingly to open an account, and they bond over lame jokes and rainy weather. Unfortunately, she was originally there to case the joint for her mobster boyfriend, Dorian Tyrell. She’s the new head singer for the COCO BONGO club that Charlie’s fond of, which is also owned by Dorian’s mafia boss, Niko. When Charlie offers to take Stan to the club one night, things seem to be moving for him. Unfortunately, some local car mechanics rip him off and offer a collapsing lemon as a “loaner.” The club’s bouncer won’t let Stan in, and Charlie is too busy (or selfish) to notice his pal literally being thrown into a gutter. The rust bucket stalls out over a bridge, and Stan gets himself soaked trying to rescue what he thinks is a drowning man, which turns out to just be trash vaguely in humanoid shape.

Part of that heap is a strange wooden mask, which has magical powers (later theorized to be from Loki, the Norse night god). Released from a treasure chest at the bottom of the ocean by a random scuba-man, it transforms Stan into a green headed manifestation of his Id desires. As a hopeless romantic with an obsession with cartoons, as well as a desire for vengeance, “the Mask” pranks Peenman, a local street gang, and trashes the mechanics. While no one dies, the Mask is willing to use firearms, and anally violates the mechanics with car parts (off screen). Police Lt. Kellway and his bumbling partner Doyle quickly zero in on Ipkiss, but beyond his awkwardness and lame pajamas, have no clues. This changes when Stan becomes the Mask again to see Tina at the Coco Bongo. Needing money to bribe the bouncer — and wanting to avenge himself on his boss at the bank — the Mask robs it. By sheer coincidence, he arrives just as Dorian and his boys were trying to rob it, prompting a shootout with the cops (which one of Dorian’s pals dies in) and stealing the money from the mobster first. The Mask has a wild and wacky dance with Tina, before going thru no end of Looney Tunes tricks with Dorian. Unfortunately, when one of Dorian’s bullets cuts the Mask’s tie in half, it transforms back into a piece of Ipkiss’ lame pajamas — tipping off Kellaway.

Dorian puts out a bounty on the Mask, as Stanley struggles with his duel identity. He starts to yell at his boss as if he were the Mask, and doubts Tina would ever like the “real” him. Not even advice by disinterested TV psychotherapist Dr. Neuman (Ben Stein) helps, as he disbelieves the Mask is real and tells Stan to see Tina as both personas. The one person who Stan reveals his secret to, romance columnist Peggy Brandt, ultimately betrays him to the mob. As time goes on, it seems clear to everyone but Stanley that Tina prefers his own genuine personality over the oversexed overtures of the Mask. After the Mask escapes a police dragnet with his “Cuban Pete” song and dance routine, Brandt delivers him to Tyrell. Rather than kill Ipkiss, he delivers him to the cops to pay the rap for the bank robbery while claiming both the cash and the mask for himself. Dorian’s Mask is a brute, merely enhancing Tyrell’s physique and making him bulletproof.

Tina is fascinated (and more attracted) learning Stanley was the Mask, but now wants to leave Tyrell since he wants to kill Niko and take over the mob, and is basically an aggressive and domineering creep. Fortunately, thanks to some dumb cops and Milo (who is arguably as smart if not smarter than Lassie), Stanley escapes in time to save Tina from Dorian at the Coco Bongo, a wild climax witnessed by Mayor Tilton and Peenman. It’s the ultimately power fantasy for awkward nerds as Stanley manages to beat Dorian to a pulp even without the Mask. Milo even dons it briefly before Stanley reclaims it and literally flushes Dorian away. Despite a ton of circumstantial evidence, a grateful mayor demands all charges be dropped against Stanley (and honestly, a club full of notable witnesses seeing Dorian as the Mask would have made prosecution difficult). The flick ends with Stanley driving off with Tina and tossing the mask into the river; Charlie dives after it, only for Milo to out-swim him and get it first. Cue credits.

To say that I adored this movie would be an understatement. It arrived just as I was being bullied severely and I immediately related to Stanley Ipkiss as a lovable, often put down upon “nice guy” who finally gets to eke out a little revenge, beat the bad guys and get the girl. It was an ultimate power fantasy for me, especially since I imagined with my own romantic repression and love for cartoons and comics, my “Mask” would be similar. In the original comics, Ipkiss is killed off quickly and anyone who dons the Mask goes on violent slaughter-sprees akin to Deadpool, or Lobo. The film version was much more sanitized for mass market appeal, and that included me. I grew up poor and my household didn’t even have a VCR until about the mid 90’s, so THE MASK became one of the first dozen or so VHS tapes I owned, and I rewatched the hell out of it. I probably saw it at least 2-3 dozen times over the span of a few years, and I knew all the catch phrases. There were even times I imitated the Mask’s laugh or the way he kicked his leg up before dashing off somewhere. It even triggered a partial fascination with swing and jazz for me, which I mentioned once before.

During the low lights of my 7th grade bullying, around when half of my front tooth was knocked out after being tripped in the street and I felt humiliated by about a class full of tweens on a daily basis, I even vented by writing my own “version” of the story. I’d long wrote stories, and in elementary school I used to read them to the class, sometimes with puppets. Even as a kid I saw writing as an emotional outlet for me, a way to vent or express thoughts I couldn’t or wouldn’t say out loud. It took the power fantasy to it’s ultimate conclusion; a fictionalized account of me gaining powers similar to the Mask and killing all of my junior high tormentors, and even wreaking some wrath on the teachers and school. It wasn’t exactly the same — if memory series, the “powers” came from a crystal and not a mask, and “my” face in the story turns purple instead of green, since that was the headband of my favorite Ninja Turtle, Donatello — but it was close enough. Keep in mind this was maybe 4-5 years before the Columbine shootings so looking back on it now it actually horrifies me that I was driven to such anger at such a young age that I fantasized that. The only saving grace, besides the fact that this story was never shared with anyone — I would read it when I had a rough day at school due to bullying to regain some emotional strength or masculinity, at least once or twice while in tears — was that it was such an over the top fantasy that it couldn’t be seen as “real.” I had no access to weapons and it wasn’t any sort of realistic “plan” for them. Still, to this day I am glad I didn’t live in a house, or state, where such weapons were so easily available.

THE MASK: THE ANIMATED SERIES debuted on CBS as part of their Saturday morning line-up the year after, 1995. It loosely followed the events of the film, with the catch being that Stanley retained ownership of the mask (presumably when Milo returned it to him, although that’s never stated or even implied). Charlie is promoted above Stanley to assistant manager at the bank, and is even more of a selfish passive-aggressive jerk to him. Tina’s forgotten while Peggy Brandt becomes the female lead, as she’s eager to report on the Mask’s exploits to the tabloid she’s working for. If the idea of a red headed lady reporter hanging around a weird green faced vigilante sounds familiar, it should; the original TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES cartoon was still airing on CBS then. The cartoon also eliminated the Mask’s limitation of only working at night. But it added some elements and characters from the comic. Lt. Kellaway was closer to his comic roots here, even though Doyle was even dumber. The main villain Pretorious (voiced by Tim Curry) was designed after another character from the comic, and the mute, nearly invulnerable Walter also came from there. The third season finale was a crossover with a cartoon based around another Jim Carrey vehicle, ACE VENTURA.

maskanimated

The cartoon was silly stuff, but was a good star piece for Rob Paulson, legendary voice actor. But it had a few episodes in its first season which struck at the heart of things for me. Much like the Hulk, the Mask represented (crudely) the repressed Id and wanting to do or be all the things that we’re not supposed to be, or can’t be, as well as mete out some revenge against oppressors. That was easily the angle which always appealed to me. In the 8th episode, “Double Reverse,” Dr. Neuman (Ben Stein reprising) suggests that Stanley act AS the Mask even without wearing it, and his alter ego will disappear. He does, and things go his way; the sexy new co-worker is turned on by him, and he even gets promoted. Unfortunately, a new super villain turns up, and the Mask is now utterly powerless, since “Wacky Stan” is now being all he can be. Stanley has to choose to remain a sad sack loser in order to give the Mask the power back to save the city. And in the first season finale, “Split Personality,” a former grade-school bully of Stanley’s gets a job at the bank, and proceeds to pick up where they left off. The mask gets split in two so they both wind up fighting over it. Once again, the franchise seemed to pick up on themes of bullying to me. I would have loved to have a “final showdown” with one of the punks who belittled me in the past. But life isn’t a scripted fictional episode, or film, is it?

I wound up rewatching the first season of THE MASK cartoon last week or so. It makes some sense that amid a lot of the turmoil going on in my life, with the eviction threat, my mother’s health and not knowing how permanent this latest job will be, that I would turn to my old tween-age hero. Lord knows if I had the mask, I’d probably never want to take it off and be myself again. The problem these days is whether or not my own Id is getting darker, angrier, more frustrated than it was before. Just the other day I snapped at someone online at another forum I post at after she gave me some deserved criticism about some of my views about dating. I realized how out of line I was and apologized, but it was profoundly out of character, and not something I’d have done pre-2018 when this mess started. These are partly hypothetical questions of course, but if I were to gain the powers of the Mask now, would I still be similar to Stan, just becoming a lovesick pun-obsessed do-gooder? Or would I become like I imagined back in 7th grade, someone who was vengeful and willing to act out on those feelings. The hatred I have felt towards my landlord has been something I haven’t felt towards another person for as sustained a period of time as an adult, and there is the danger that it is the sort of thing that can twist someone.

But of course, the moral of it all is that the magical artifact never actually improves Stanley’s, or anyone’s, life, and at best just complicates their real problems. Short of winning first prize in the lottery, there are few quick fixes in life. But when I was at my most vulnerable as a pre-teen, THE MASK was there as my ultimate escape. It was nice to imagine that I could stumble upon some magical thing and transform into a near invincible cartoon-man who could get the girls, and allow me to avenge myself with all the slapstick humor I wanted. To a degree it’s still nice to imagine that. THE MASK may have been a bit of a flash-in-the-pan franchise, but it will always remain a part of me, and my youth. I still feel like a put down upon loser, and I still feel as if I am being oppressed by different, more dangerous bullies now. I still have no luck with women, and despite my sense of humor am very repressed. The challenge now, besides avoiding being homeless, is making sure my own Id doesn’t become something twisted and evil, and remains at worst just a lovesick joker.

Above all, I’d love to just be able to stop being myself anymore, and be able to become someone who was not only confident and unstoppable, but a winner. But naturally, such things can’t be done with a magic mask. Until I make those changes or come to the end of that journey, I am all I have, and am stuck with myself. I may not be the worst,  but I am not the best either. I have to make do with what I have and what I am.

Dateless-Man vs. the MAGA Man (or Envy, Part 3)

CLAYTON: “Be a man!”

TARZAN: “Not a man like you!” — Disney’s “TARZAN,” circa 1999

It’s March, the month of my birth, too many years ago. I still have my temporary (maybe to permanent) job that I gained in November. My slumlord has once again begun the process to evict both me and my handicapped mother, and the dark limbo of potential homelessness continues. But that’s actually not what I want to talk about. Instead I have another doozy, which will tie into some older postings on the column.

MAGA, of course, stands for “Make America Great Again.” Such sentiments in politics are rooted in sentiments of toxic masculinity, white supremacy, and elitism. Unfortunately, they have once again become all the rage for a segment of the population, even in a blue state like New York. Politics have become more divisive than ever, as our country creeps closer towards autocracy and oligarchy (if it isn’t there already). It seems like everyone has had to confront some relative, or friend, or associate, or even lover, in regards to some delusional ideology based on emotional prejudices rather than facts. And a few weeks ago, I had my turn. Thankfully, it wasn’t with a relative (I have to pick my battles with my mother) nor anyone I would consider a close friend. It was with an associate, someone I had written about back in December 2016 who I dubbed “Skip.” At the time, I was envious of him briefly because he was, essentially, complaining about having too much success with women, at least in terms of solicitations for casual sex he didn’t want.

To recap, we all have that pal on Facebook or social media, right? That person we “friend” who we barely remember ever meeting in real life, if at all. This guy was at best a friend of a friend I maybe met at a bar once. Another dude with a big ego with a love of t-shirts who thinks sweats go with everything. In NY that’s standard. And while he was never a champion of equality, he was on my feed and we’d share likes or jokes about wrestling or comics or Dragon Ball Z, that sort of stuff. But then a couple of years ago he went through a very nasty breakup in his long term relationship. I am fuzzy on the details (which likely involve infidelity on the woman’s part, and I am unsure if they were married or engaged) but they ultimately don’t matter, because afterwards I watched Skip in one status after the next become more and more hateful, of women in general and “liberals” in particular. I suppose many people would comment that this “change” was really no change at all; he’s just showing his true colors now. That with the advantages of being a straight, white man, I could entertain such lofty ideas that he’d “changed” or even that he was “going thru a phase.” So I didn’t call Skip out very often — the few times I did I got seething online rants so I picked my battles. I watched him wrap himself in hypocrisy — he hates “socialism”, yet he literally is a postal worker and thus benefits from one of the nation’s strongest and longest lasting unions — day in and day out and be the only part of my feed which was filled with garbage that I ignored.

I didn’t want to be that “snowflake” who ditches someone over differing political views. I mean we disagreed a lot but he wasn’t really someone I cared much about. I ignored him because I could, held my tongue (or fingers, since it is typing). Again, he was no one I ever recalled meeting in person; just a face on a screen who was friends with my REAL friends. And even worse, he symbolized a lot of “dudebro/alpha man” tropes. He works out, he’s traditionally handsome, and appears popular with women despite of, or even because of, his “manly” views. There were times I was envious of him, I am ashamed to admit. Then there were times I pitied him, since he actually wanted another long term relationship, but all he could get were dates with women who wanted short term sex — who he naturally derided as “whores” of course. He is far from a virgin and the opposite of me in many ways. I decided, perhaps stupidly, that invading his feed to do some sort of intervention or reckoning or “debate” so I felt better about myself for being one of those “good men” who is supposed to talk back about broken ones wasn’t the right place. So I put it off for months and months, even years.

Then I wrote a comic review last month about a heroine who is about to get a movie and whose politics he’s been ginned up to hate because of the right wing news cycle he is wrapped in mixed with his own issues, and he started bringing his crap to my feed directly. And then one of my elementary school friends got into a pretty personal and ugly debate with him. The writer of the comic is a woman and someone I have tagged and reviewed work of many times. It was time not to stand on the fence for one excuse or another. I considered it, but I was annoyed that he brought this on, that he was tainting my work, and above all I wondered if this was one of those critical online moments where one either shows to be an “ally” or not.

So I jumped into the debate, and at first I probably showed too much grace, trying to argue facts or even go with the idea that was just a misguided good person. But when those didn’t work and it became obvious it was going to go on and on (by now Skip was using classic MRA lingo like “beta male”), I deliberately chose to get personal and hit him with all his baggage I’d learned from his feeds. I brought up the fact that he’d been dumped, and that all of his hatred of women or feminism or “liberals” were borne out of his own very personal angst and issues, and that he was a hypocrite at best. I didn’t expect to “win”, but to drive him off. I called him out on his crap and it felt sort of wrong…but liberating. Yes, he was a guy who had his heart ripped out. But he’d had 2 years and replaced it with something ugly, at best.

He threw my own past at being dateless at me (“This is why you’ve never had a girlfriend”), literally blaming me being “beta” on being raised by a single mother. I don’t know whether Skip knew I was a virgin from our mutual pals or just the endless hints I made in the past, but he tossed that one out there. But I didn’t even care; I dismissed an insult from someone I should see as beneath me. Surely in the circumstance no one on the feed bought it. Those who know me at all should probably be in shock that someone called me a virgin somewhere as an insult and I couldn’t have cared less in the moment. He may as well have called me a “doody head”. He made his excuses for his ego and left. But the comic writer I was afraid would see me as a fence sitter if I did nothing “liked” some of my replies. And I felt more dignified by finally getting it out.

The entire experience gave me a mixture of emotions. While I had to acknowledge my envy of Skip in the past, my disgust for his political and gender viewpoints had negated much of that. It wasn’t just his embrace of “MAGA” values, or his obvious venting about women because one dared to break his heart. Skip had, at best, outdated views about transgender people, and endlessly considered underage boys who had been molested by teachers he considered “hot” to be “lucky.” It may surprise few that Skip had a profession which put him within the mechanics of authority or government — he’s a postal worker. The USPS literally has one of the biggest unions left in America, yet he railed against socialists about as often as Archie Bunker used to.

In the past I felt pity for him, but after it all blew up I felt I had no one to blame but myself. I could have confronted him and “unfriended” him from my feed months if not years ago. As I said above, I had the luxury of being able to ignore him, or the ability to make excuses for Skip to myself because he was a guy I knew, and even envied once. He symbolized what it was to be a “typical” American male, for better or worse. Skip is conventionally handsome, in good shape, fond of alcohol, and felt women were best when they was attractive and submissive. Any woman whose philosophy he objected to, he dismissed — and literally considered all feminists to be “ugly women.” I stood on the fence with him and never got into things because I didn’t want that drama from a casual associate, and because it was comfortable for me to stay on the fence. But in the end I enabled him, and I hadn’t realized that my article would “trigger” him.

It was galling that Skip chose to make his hill to die on an article about a comic book. They are my passion, my hobby, one of the only rewarding things I have in my life. My work reviewing them online has brought me meager money, but more importantly, it has brought me satisfaction. Quite a few comic creators like my articles, and I was once or twice quoted in PREVIEWS or other book blurbs. Perhaps I imagined Skip realized this unspoken “bargain” I had made with myself regarding him, and he wouldn’t have challenged my online space. Even to the end, I was probably kinder to them than I should have been, asking him twice to seek therapy and stop drinking. But in the end behind all of the bravado and boasts, Skip is just a typical little man who paints all women with the brush of one who dared wrong him. A woman who does that to men, of course, is some horrible “feminazi,” but men who do that have their opinions supported or made palpable by society. To day nothing is to condone.

I was most surprised by my shrugging off of Skip’s insults towards my romantic inexperience. Even 1-2 years ago, it might have represented a doomsday situation. An enemy “exposing” my real identity with my “Dateless-Man” one, and trying to hurt me emotionally with my own inexperience. And in 2013, I was hurt emotionally by that — from actual friends. Skip was a few degrees removed at best, and I had little emotional attachment to him. His barbs had no power over me. Thankfully, Skip had revealed himself to be such a delusional and hypocritical creep that I doubt his allegations against me were believed by the comic writer, or the grade school pal, or anyone else reading it. But even if they were, so what? It is better to be a Dateless-Man than a bad man.

But maybe there is a lesson in that. I put a lot of angst on dating, especially on my inexperience. I fear a woman finding out or at least suspecting that “something” is up with my awkwardness and unfamiliarity with such things like casual touch, kissing, and of course the “full Monty.” I have waxed and waned about revealing my inexperience to a woman at some point before intercourse, or to go with the flow and keep it to my vest. But maybe the incident with Skip shows that it only has power over me if I let it. Maybe at my age, if I did date, I should focus on quality over quantity. I may only have 1-2 lovers  in my life (the average for American men in a lifetime is 5-7, but then again, the average man in America has lost his virginity by age 18), but maybe they’ll end up being really good ones. If a woman rejects me for my inexperience as if it were a cancer (or a felony record), maybe it isn’t a sign of my failings, but of her judgmental nature. Maybe I can be a sexual notice compared to a guy like Skip, but come off as more appealing anyway because of my personality. Maybe all those lame magazines and self help books were right.

Or maybe I just tore into a jerk who commented on an article about a comic book with his right wing lunacy, and said jerk had it coming. Maybe it is just a lesson to not put off important things like inevitable political fallout with casual followers, because the longer it festers the uglier it gets. And that while this was a small battle, it was still a battle where I picked a side when it mattered, and for once I feel it was the right one.

I have no hatred for women, despite all of my text about being woefully inappropriate in terms of dating them. I do hate bad men, whether they are the slumlord who plagues my mother and I, or men like Skip who tar us all with their filth. The entire reason why most women are wary of men with secrets or red flags or any sign of a personality flaw is entirely because they have been used, abused, traumatized, and irritated by slogging past endless guys like Skip (or worse). I have heaped tons of self loathing upon myself for not “fitting in” with the mainstream, for never being one of the normal people. Skip was more normal than I’ll ever be, yet he devolved into bigotry and prejudice, as well as self serving delusions, rather than deal with his pain or try to explore it beyond alcohol or shifting blame. Is this what men are “supposed” to be, all bravado and no substance? Shams who preach the virtues of strength and male harmony, yet will be shattered by one negative experience with a woman or consider any men who doesn’t agree with them as lessor life forms? Skip, ultimately, is a manifestation of the same types of people who bullied me in the past. And I am almost as tired of dealing with men like that as women are.

Spending a life never being touched by a woman, or being able to caress or hold her in return, is a life with some regrets and lamentations. But a life spent as a hateful online troll chasing after misconceived shadows of the past is worse. It wasn’t fun watching a devolution over less than 3 years, but maybe it was a case example of the slippery slope of our current body politic. That it relies on weak, vulnerable men looking for excuses like hating someone or something else as an answer to their own failings. My own pain may  bring me to my knees, or even tears on occasion, but it will never bring me to the point where I raise my arm and hail a leader who promises to punish others to allow me to avoid dealing with my own failings. It will never cause me to hate an entire gender, or race, or creed, or religion. And while I may not be eager to have to fight for those beliefs, when and if I have to, I will. And I’ll even be willing to fight as dirty as they will. Hey, even Batman cheats sometimes.

Maybe men like Skip are on the way out. Maybe the social winds are finally shifting away from them, and this moment is a last, desperate gasp. And maybe men like me will endure and be seen as desirable in the near future. It may be too late for me, but I don’t mind being the last of the dinosaurs if it means witnessing a better day for others. I don’t build my value on the suffering of others. I would be fine with being the last to do so.

This is going to be an interesting birthday season. Thanks for reading.

Dateless-Man vs. Butt-Land

It’s just after Valentine’s Day, and I remember when this period — from October to March, covering Halloween to my birthday — used to be my peak period for depression. So many holidays would expose me to feelings of loneliness and regret. But then came the year of Zen (2017), and then the year of horror (2018). I guess the advantage of nearing rock bottom — and a near year-long battle with a slumlord to avoid becoming homeless alongside a disabled mother — means that any other rough landing feels soft by comparison.

(In hindsight, the article where I mentioned the “only Valentine I ever got” would have made more sense here, than in November, but cut me some slack. I was more desperate a few months ago.)

In case anyone is wondering, I am still experimenting with article titles. The sheer endurance of “My Embarrassing 2nd Base Story” is staggering. It’s my blog, and during junior high I was literally the “headline editor” of our crappy school newspaper. So I am experimenting with my inner J. Jonah Jameson and gauging reactions to some more creative article titles. Don’t worry! The title will make sense in a bit. But don’t be surprised if along this line, comes the headline: “Dateless-Man: Threat Or Menace!?”

Here, I am using a recent lunchtime conversation with a co-worker (who, as it happens, is an attractive woman who is “my type”) as a centerpiece. For years of time, I have operated under the assumption, based on experience, that I was “no good with women.” That I “couldn’t talk to them” or that I didn’t “know how to flirt.” Now, I am not saying I flirted with this co-worker. Beyond real fears of losing my current job (which for the moment is temporary) or being sued for sexual harassment, the idea of trying to date a co-worker can get messy even for experienced stud-muffins and daters. I would need to get laid just to be a novice in dating. Co-workers are off limits to me; we all are there to work, earn a paycheck and leave without going insane, not leer at our peers. But I had a chat which I think symbolized the ease of my current ability to have conversations, and how what is and isn’t flirting may simply be tone or circumstance.

One of the aspects of call center jobs (which I have had since 2011) which no one tells you about in any training is how utterly ridiculous some people’s names (or email addresses) will be. There is plenty of training on customer service or navigating whatever phone system there is — less on not laughing when talking to people named “Donald Dickey,” “German Falcon,” or anyone with the last name “Fuchs,” or who have emails like “gunsNmore” or “blackrhino.” It’s immature but as a rep you never see them coming. Thankfully I have a lot of experience so that stuff doesn’t phase me. They just become fun stories for pals or relatives later on.

I had just spoken with three people on the same call with the last name that was the same as the one in the title — all that was missing was one “t” and the hyphen. They avidly corrected me when I mispronounced it as “Boot-land.” I deliberately do that when someone’s name is spelled like something “risque” so as to not offend someone. If a caller insists, “My name IS ‘Shithead,’ GET IT RIGHT!” then who am I to argue? I was on a break and I ventured to the lunchroom, and a lady co-worker who I am familiar with from training was there. She’s a woman of color, and I must say the fact that I am crushing on more women of color now than when I was younger is a positive sign of my own maturity and a more diverse setting. We’ve chatted before so we were familiar with each other. We were shooting the breeze, and breaks are usually where we de-stress from callers. This exchange happened, more or less:

ME: “That’s nothing, I talked to someone a few minutes ago with the last name ‘Butland.'”

HER [chuckling]: “Really?”

ME: “Yeah. Only one ‘t’. But said just like that.”

HER: “Oh my god!”

ME: “Yeah. And not just one person. I spoke to three generations of ‘Butland.’ That’s a lot of buts!”

Seriously, I do talk like this, and I swear it sounds funnier than it reads. As I have mentioned sporadically, one of the few social skills I am good at is making people laugh. I have an almost unconscious ability to make some wisecrack or just say something in some tone of voice that makes people at least smirk. Only the most humorless are immune. Context is king, of course. I’ve had people tell me since high school I should have been a stand up comedian; had I been bolder, I may have tried it out. Hell, my best friend from junior high once said I could read the phone book and “make it funny.” Regardless, it was fun a little chat with a co-worker and that line just came one. Neither one of us were offended; in fact, she usually gets far more blunt and risque with some other co-workers.

But it hit me maybe a few seconds later how, with a different context and maybe with a different follow up, that could have been flirty. I mean, here I was talking with a woman and I brought up the imagery of rear ends — long a source of attraction and/or a sensual zone. And I did it innocently; I didn’t or wouldn’t say something crass like, “Nice ass on her!” or something like that, I created a double entendre. There was a perfectly innocent explanation for it all. Double entendres are fun to craft; it takes some imagination, but that can be sexy, I guess. But from what I know, a large chunk of flirting isn’t the line, it’s how it is said and what context. And as someone who feels that he is hopeless with even attempting to flirt or have risque conversations on a date to signal my romantic interest in a way which is mutually fun, here I was teetering close to it at work without batting an eye or even missing a cue for a punchline.

So what was different? Context; this was work, not a bar or a club or a speed-date or, heaven forbid, a solo date. Work is established as a no-romance zone. Therefore, no conversation has that sort of expectation or pressure for me, nor should it for anyone else. Without those expectations, I can be free to just…be. And the person I am, or at least have become since 2011, has been someone who has an easier time having conversations with people and who is more aware of my ability to make people laugh.

On dates, whether solo or speed, there is that expectation and pressure for me. I fall into a loop of wanting to express interest without expressing interest, since expressing that I “like” someone is the first stage of rejection — in my eyes (and due to experience). And rejection brings things to a grinding halt at worst, or makes things awkward at best. I have so little positive interaction with women that sometimes I just don’t like ruining it with such ultimatums. Even on a date where there’s no hope for more, I usually am just enjoying being out with a woman, engaging in conversation, and/or doing something. I don’t know if there’s a way to pivot back once it becomes obvious there’s no hope of a future. “Whew! That’s a relief! Now that we’ve already established I’m not your type, can we finish our conversation? ‘Cause all things considered, it’s been a nice time. Don’t worry, this isn’t manipulation. I am fine with you not caring for me. I’m cool with not being your type. I’m nobody’s type. I knew that going in. It’s a relief to get it out this early.” I doubt that would fly.

Furthermore, on the few dates I have been on, beyond the blind one, it was my own disbelief which undermined me. I acted dumbfounded I was even on a date, on the dates themselves. I botched the initial reaction and I was probably more stiff and boring on the dates themselves. Granted, I was also a LOT younger and less experienced with life in general, and with socializing. One of the advantages of all of the telephone gigs since 2011 is that it forced me to have to get better with talking to strangers. Social work in 2008 helped to a limited degree, but 7-8 years on the phones, whether for sales or customer service, has made it more automatic. The big caveat is that on the phone, I don’t have to worry about body language or facial expressions — mine or theirs. But on the other hand, I’ve experienced the ability to have a better idea of when someone gains or loses interest even in “real life” off the phones. I watched an annoying acquaintance of mine gain, then lose, the interest of a woman on the train before my very eyes, and it was as obvious to me as a neon sign. I don’t think I would have noticed that as a teen.

This blog has, in part, been to present a body of evidence to myself, and the universe, that my own feelings about my lack of success or potential with women were not just figments of my imagination. That it was not just a “bad attitude” or some other easy platitude. That I legitimately did not have the tools nor opportunities most guys had, and the few I did get didn’t work out — entirely BECAUSE I had had too few of them to practice. But the more I look back, the more I wonder how much stock I can or should take on “evidence” that is so old. My last solo date — which was a blind date literally set up by a friend of my mothers who, it turned out, harbored a creepy Dorian Grey style crush on me since I was a child — was almost exactly 11 years ago. It was before Barack Obama won the President election, and before my birthday that year. Even the last speed dating event I went to at the New York Comic Con is almost 3.5 years ago at this rate. I am certainly not the same person I was in 2008 — still a bit of a puppy who hadn’t even gotten his first big job after college. Even in 2015 I was only working with 3-4 years of call center experience. I wasn’t as old, hadn’t suffered as much as I would later on, thru a knee injury, switching and losing jobs (again), and facing a prolonged eviction.

After all that, it’s just hard to care quite as much about being a single, lonely older virgin quite as much as I did even in 2017 with all that “Zen.” I’ve faced worse, and worse wasn’t in a rear view mirror anymore. There is no rejection, nor anything a woman could say to me, which is worse than when I have already experienced or know. While I know I don’t usually horrify women, I know I have never crossed that “divide” — the chasm between “you are a fun guy who makes me laugh when we talk” and “I want to ride you like a pony.” I genuinely don’t understand how that even happens, on a purely logical or scientific level. I don’t understand how a woman’s perception of a man shifts so that point, nor what triggers it or why. What is that event horizon between acquaintance and lover? What does it look like and would I even notice it if I saw it presented to me, about me? After all, 13 years ago I had a woman call me “cutie” on OkCupid and then reveal on the date itself that she’d done nude photography, with ZERO prompting from me, and I didn’t recognize that she was at least initially romantically interested, and was probably waiting for me to make ANY move forward in that direction. Nowadays at least I realize that was an obvious tell — congratulations to over a decade of hindsight — but there is absolutely no way I am going to meet a woman that blunt again. It was college, we were both in our early 20’s. Now, I am aware that for some women, a man might start on that opposite end of the spectrum first. Rather than “build up” from schmuck to stud in her eyes, he starts out as “her type” almost immediately and then it’s on him to basically justify that initial interest. I suppose this is the advantage of online dating — a woman has to at least have momentary, initial interest in your pic & profile to even be willing to be seen in public with you — but would I buy it if presented again? Despite all my experience, the feeling of disbelief remains. I cannot fathom a woman having a universe of men to choose from, even for a cup of coffee, and out of all of them choosing ME. I just don’t buy it, intellectually or logically. I am a cynic, and I think the jig is up. And that viewpoint hasn’t changed since college. I’ve written about it a lot.

Now, see all those paragraphs of angst, analysis, and over-analysis? Doesn’t happen in lunchroom chats with attractive-but-off-limits co-workers where I find myself telling borderline flirty jokes about butts. I can just go with the flow without those expectations and nerves, without the pressure of trying to succeed where I have never succeeded before, in a fight against time. Not I think women are lying when they have told me or typed online that a man’s inexperience doesn’t bother them if they like him enough, but I just don’t think any of those women have ever really been in that sort of situation lately, or with a guy quite as old as I am. And the canard of “it isn’t the virginity that’s the problem, it’s how the guy acts” since inexperience usually CAUSES those sorts of triggering actions. Sure, Tim Tebow may act like a stud despite being a virgin, but his virginity is self imposed; he could be knee deep in the ladies the moment he went atheist due to looks and finances. In a world where some people almost have sex during high school or college by accident (and no, I don’t mean assault), remaining a virgin this long without it being willfully means something is wrong. And people, frankly, don’t care as to why. No one cares that I can’t kiss properly because I spent my youthful years tending to sick relatives, and my not-so-youthful years focused on jobs, bad luck, or education. Literally no woman cares, or has an ounce of mercy or understanding for that sort of thing — not in a world where simply being in proximity to the wrong kind of man can get her assaulted or killed. She literally cannot take any chance on a guy who even hints of a red flag, for her own safety or sanity. And while it would be great to be in a world without the sort of toxic masculinity that forces women to be so careful with dating, that world is likely a long way off.

On this latest occasion of “Sucks To Be Single Day,” I find myself in a weird place. I think, emotionally and intelligently, I could be in a good place to date again. I’ve faced too much to be crushed by the rejections, and I don’t really care so much if women don’t find me attractive enough to have more than date with. I already know this; I have nothing to lose. I have not only seen the worst case outcome, I have blogged about it for over 4 years. However, so long as the issue with the slumlord is unresolved for good, I feel weird trying again. But then again, “couch surfing artist/musician” is a genuine boyfriend cliche — as is someone trolling for dates or sex just before being deployed. While I genuinely don’t think I have anything romantically to offer, I don’t care as much anymore and on an intellectual level wouldn’t mind some more updated evidence. The problem is I don’t have as much free time, nor more importantly, the time to endure blunders. It’s not the rejections I fear most; it’s another fleeting success that I ruin due to my own baggage. Next month I will grow even closer to being a 40-Year-Old-Virgin, a threshold which cannot be crossed without Hollywood or sex workers. I do not have the time to screw up if I manage to find someone who, due to insanity, ignorance, poor vision or fluke thought I was hot. It’s no longer cute to tell stories about how I didn’t catch on that the lady who bragged about nudie shoots liked me “that way” for some reason.

The challenge, then, would be to somehow go on a date with romantic expectations without having romantic expectations. To somehow express interest in a subtle not so creepy, blunt, or sleazy way yet to do so that it is noticeable to the other party that she is liked that way…without putting anywhere near as much pressure as typing that sentence did. To date, without dating. To woo, without wooing. Is that what MeetUps are? I may not be a butt-man (a woman’s face and chest, in that order, turns me on more), but I somehow have to be able to get to “Butland” on an actual date and then take it to that level…without freaking out about having to do it. To do it as naturally as I can when I am not thinking of doing it. Beyond having my pals plan an elaborate set up where I go on a date without knowing it is a date, I just don’t know how to do that.

Quite a lot here to chew on, for all of us. Thanks for reading. I’ve never had a Valentines Day with a lover, so I shrug them off like regular days now. Hope some of the readers here had a good one.

Dateless-Man vs. Sex Island

It’s a new year, and I am still cringing from an old one. Just a few updates and then something I would have typed a post about last year, had life not been more pressing. For the moment, the eviction proceeding that I’d faced since May 2018 is over. It was discontinued without prejudice, which means the landlord lost, yet is free to try again, which he will. Considering this ends the involvement of my former union attorney (who began the case when I still worked for the city and thus had to continue aiding me, even 4 months after I’d been axed), a fact the landlord bragged to my mother that he is aware of, this could be a case of winning a battle but losing the war. But for now, a respite.

In better news, the new gig I got around mid-November is still around. The training is over and I am officially on the telephones now. After some first day jitters things are going about as well as can be expected. I am still green in terms of the company, but that’s expected. I haven’t had any supervisor meetings about performance, which are common in call center jobs. My immediate supervisor briefly claimed I was “near the top of my class” but I am trying not to get ahead of myself. I am trying to take it one week at a time and while a permanent gig there would be terrific — the job isn’t hard and the commute is a dream — I thought ahead at the last job and that cost me. For now I’ll ride this out until April or May and anything beyond that is a gift. I’ve seen what happens when I dare think of a future for myself, again and again.

There actually is one co-worker who I trained with who is definitely my type, but as with the previous gig, I usually consider co-workers off limits. I used to get angst ridden about fellow college classmates, but that was due to inexperience and nerves. Dating co-workers may be common, but it’s also something that even veteran “playahs” admit takes more skill to navigate without making people uncomfortable, being fired, or causing office gossip. We haven’t chatted as much as “Dinah” and I had at my last job, but she is definitely my type. Part of the problem is unlike with Dinah, our desks aren’t nearby and we never talk without 3rd or 4th wheels. But, again, it’s usually a bad idea to pursue co-workers. Really the only beneficial side to this is it helps prove that I am flexible with the types of women I consider attractive. Some men tend to date certain “types;” for example, my pal “Tee” typically only dates fellow Italian-Americans such as himself. My other friend, a Jewish-Asian-American, tended to mostly date those with similar Jewish roots. On the other hand I have another pal who has dated mostly white women, but was getting pretty steady with a woman of color the last we met. Now I can’t back any of my own flexibility up with actual relationships, since I’ve never had one. But the last two co-workers I considered my type were not the same as some of the women I’ve written about in past adventures — who were all or mostly white like me. Nor were they of similar heights or body types. I think it’s healthy to have flexible dating tastes, and I think I possess this.

Now, for the title. I’ve been examining my various hit tallies and the articles which seem to get the most. And by and large, between now and July 2014, my most popular article is far and away “My Embarrassing 2nd Base Story.” I have utterly no idea how or why this is. It could be the titillating title, or the fact that the story itself is a key example of the hard luck awkward clumsiness that is (or was) my love life. I think this one article makes up about 25-35% of all the hits my entire column here has gotten by itself. It has something like 4,000+ hits and the next closest competition for it isn’t even half that. Now, the point of this blog wasn’t to become popular or scream for attention; in fact I rather like how it remains a rather quiet and intimate thing, where the same folks like and comment in over the months or years and I don’t have to worry about floods of people clogging the comments. I am just fascinated, almost on a scientific level, quite why that post over all others is the clear reader favorite. There are ones where I poured my heart out a bit more than that one, or I thought were riskier or had more substance. But, the people like what they like. Sex sells, and that’s perhaps the closest I ever got to it.

Anyway, this was a story which hit the Internet around November-December 2018. Apparently once or twice a year there is this real life thing called “Sex Island.” It sounds shady as hell, and is believed to be held off the coast of Columbia — that bastion of legality. The gist is that it is somewhat secretive and “guests” who manage to track it down and pay about $6,000 spend a weekend on a Caribbean island filled with drugs and prostitutes. The UK paper The Sun broke the story in 2017, and more reports came in a few months ago. There have been efforts to crack down on this and arrest the organizers and/or the drugged out horny johns, but at last word there was a New Year’s Eve 2018 shindig.

So how did I stumble upon such a raunchy story? I stumbled upon a related story where a 16 year old “won” a ticket to this event when he “borrowed” his father’s credit card and entered the event. He went on to lose his virginity to a prostitute there, who he wants to marry. I usually keep abreast of stories involving people in a similar boat to me, although a 16 year old is hardly what I would call an “older male virgin.” Even I didn’t start to freak out about it until I hit 19-20.

I bring this up since it made me think about my own “evolvingstance on the notion of employing a sex worker to finally make a man of me and end my shame. When I started this blog, I was firmly in the camp of while it is tempting, it would cause more harm than good. And to a degree I still thing this. While it would allow me to physically have sex with someone I was at least physically attracted to, it wouldn’t teach me anything about how to relate to women, socialize, or seduce. And as much angst as I have about having to hide the fact that I am an older virgin to any potential woman I was to date — at least short term — the stigma against sex workers is far worse. Revealing my inexperience, or even that unspoken fetish (which I consider more shameful) is bad enough; but few women would want to know they were dating someone who’d slept with a sex worker.

Now, I have been told many times that women don’t view dating as a job interview and typically don’t ask about previous lovers. While I don’t disagree, I have seen enough people casually interact and mention previous lovers and/or exes enough to know that it would seem weird before long for a woman to date a man who never brings it up if he is beyond a certain age. A man my age (in my mid-late 30’s) who never mentions an ex-wife, a former girlfriend, or any sort of previous activity with a previous lover when compared to the average woman (who usually references an ex or at least some previous encounter or her tastes therein if she gets relaxed enough in a prolonged date conversation) may seem odd. It may even come off as being “standoff-ish” or “distant.” Of course if confronted about that I could coyly lie and say, “I don’t kiss and tell,” but that’s only technically true. Hell, many men a decade or so younger than me already have kids they share visitation with.

But now that I have experienced the near end of my life financially, and the specter of being homeless became very real, there’s emerged a sort of lack of care about other things. One of them is some of the stigmas that I used to fret about. By this point it is abundantly obvious that without either a dramatic stroke of luck or outside intervention, I will never have sex. Now, that in and of itself isn’t such a bad thing to live with anymore; if my recent eviction and unemployment have done anything, it’s remind me of how trivial my love life can seem to be in the grander scheme. I also had that brief encounter with someone online recently where I learned that it felt nice to be flattered, even in a totally artificial situation where nothing was “real.” It felt nice to imagine a woman somewhere was “into” me or at least recognized something about me, like my imagination. It was nice to see the words, out of context, even for a moment.

But much like my fascination about a particular blog entry’s performance, there is a part of me still curious about what sex would be like. What it would be like for a woman to at least pretend to like me for a little while, and tell me what I wanted to hear? It would be nicer if it was a “genuine” situation, but on the other hand, if it were, I am likely to nitpick and over-analyze it to death. Out in the wild if a woman I am interested in actually felt the same way about me, my immediate reaction isn’t “Yay,” it is “Why!?” There’s none of that with a sex worker; I know it is fake and all about the money. I can accept that an attractive woman wouldn’t be anywhere near me without me paying for it; it makes sense in my mind. But an otherwise unattached woman who I was into actually choosing me over any other man, anywhere? That’s unfathomable. I could find better for her than me just by spinning a bottle and directing her towards whatever man it pointed to.

And honestly, there isn’t a vast degree of difference between a consenting sexual encounter with a sex worker in an area where it is legal (like Las Vegas) and “hooking up” with some random woman at a keg party whose name is forgotten. The only difference is the amount of money changing hands, the context, and the social stigma. Trolling for “randos” in a bar is fine, but paying for it is sleazy. While I wouldn’t gain any emotional or social experience, I would gain at least a basic familiarity with a woman’s body and what I did or didn’t like in terms of sex. Some of the edge would be off. Any random date wouldn’t have to be making up for some three decades of futility in quite the same way anymore.

The wildness of a “Sex Island” sounds like something out of a sleazy 1970’s grind-house film, and not something which I would ever seek to entertain. I’m not into drugs, for one, and it sounds like many of the women there are likely all but slaves of cartels. I am not into exploitation or harming women. But it made me think of my own “evolving” opinions on sex work. Maybe it’s only due to my own horny self interest; maybe it’s due to a change of opinion or even desperation. Maybe it is because I probably share more than one thing in common with Holden Caulfield, the lead of Catcher In The Rye (who infamously hires a sex worker, than merely talks with her). Who knows.

There is a part of me that regrets all this introspection. I may have been better off just chugging hardcore into online dating for the last 4-5 years instead and hoping to have gotten more experience out of tenacity. I especially should have let go of a lot of the emotional baggage I carried with me from high school and college regarding my dating woes, and not taken some of them so personally. For better or worse the person I am now is not the same, almost to the point of the irrelevance of comparing performances. Older me would have taken different choices, or not let certain things eat at me so long. But on the other hand, I think I have done a lot to let go of some of those woes, and figure out where I need to go and what I need to fix within. I would like very much to make some genuine connections, have feelings for a woman who actually felt them back to me, and experience genuine love making together. But the realist in me is realizing that I may never get that chance, or if I do, I may only have one shot at it because I am unlikely to have another at my age. So I have to keep all options on the table.

Aside for sex islands. That can be the realm of pop singers or 16 year olds.

Dateless-Man vs. 2018

I was sent down to Earth to show you a reason why you should live, but I can’t think of one darn reason. — “Married with Children,” 1989, “It’s a Bundyful Life, Part 2”

This has been an absolutely terrible, awful, no good, completely rotten year.

There’s really no way to sugar coat it, nor a reason why I would. I’ve been doing these annual round ups for the last 4 years and without any doubt this was the worst year I’ve had while running the blog. I’d argue that my emotional angst regarding my lack of a love life specifically was at its peak in 2014-2015. Last year, I reached a weird sort of Zen. Yet as I’d noted in my “vs. Life” entry, hindsight usually leads to me realizing that as miserable as I was and as bad as things seemed, there is always worse. I never hit rock bottom. Every time I feel I have experienced the worst my life has to offer, in comes another horror to correct me.

To recap, my mother and I have been engaged in an eviction proceeding set against us by our slumlord of a landlord since May. While I didn’t really want to bog down this blog with a topic which, theoretically, has nothing to do with my yearns for a love life or reflection on past or current failures with women, ultimately it became hard to ignore. It’s hard to land a date, after all, if I am homeless. In addition to this, the city job I had landed last year axed me at the end of September; barely 3.5 weeks before I would have become a permanent employee and thus gained more union protections. While I had made my errs, it turned out they had a quota and fired many more “transitional” employees from my training class of October 2017 — including one who was damn near perfect in every way. Next week the eviction case that was opened will be dismissed on technical grounds, but nothing will prevent the landlord from opening a new one, beyond his own impatience and irritation with legal costs. I won’t get into specifics, but let’s say the landlord could have a future playing Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice. The only difference is that in the play, Shylock loses in court. In real life, big landlord may be delayed, but never denied.

About the only bits of good news is landing a temporary position after being unemployed for only a month and a half. At this stage I am at the end of my 6 week training course, and will be “hitting the floor” so to speak and handling live callers again on a new system and dealing with a different kind of job sometime this week — possibly as soon as Wednesday. While I have worked on the phones for a living via sales and/or customer service since 2011, I haven’t really taken a full live call in about 2 months and fret about being rusty. After all, even pro athletes who miss that much time need to practice and warm up before hitting full stride again.

The company says all the right things about permanent employment. About how they’re growing and can use the new blood. That the job may not end in April or May and for everyone to think of themselves not as temps, but as future permanent employees. Hell, they’ve been surprisingly candid about how badly they need the help to cover the tax season which is coming up. But I’ve heard all this before and after the fix that was in for the city job, I am not getting ahead of myself this time. Even if I get axed in April or May, that’s still a job for 5-6 months, and that’s fine. It’ll allow me to go on unemployment again, and it will look good on my resume — especially the training. My trainers like me and everyone is claiming I am a natural in class, but, again, I have been here before.

About the only shift since the last posting which vaguely relates to the topic is in regards to what I have dubbed “The Kink Panther.” To recap, on another forum which deals with the fetish I admit to having but will never identify, another poster contacted me at pure random and wanted to do text role-plays with me. There’s nothing sexually explicit in them, even if they relate to the fetish heavily. This has been awkward for me not only because it delves into something I have even more of a taboo about than my virginity, but because the women is quite a bit younger — far younger than I would ever dream of pursuing.

Well, it turns out she lied about her age when we first interacted. When we began I all but made her acknowledge being at least 18. That’s the age of consent in my state, and I did not want to be entrapped; I’ve seen To Catch a Predator on TV. Well, while our interactions have become far more limited than they were over the summer, she has admitted to only being 16. I was frank about how uncomfortable that makes me feel, even though our role-plays, again, are not specifically romantic — albeit not for her lack of trying. Ever since the beginning she has been incredibly flirtatious and has sought to blur the lines between our “character interaction” and online interactions. I have always been polite but never fully engaged her on this. And unfortunately, even admitting that I am uncomfortable and don’t want to lead her on or even hint at anything improper has only increased her opinion of me. It’s just my luck; I finally meet someone of the opposite sex who is actually turned on by integrity, and it’s a teenager from Spain. I suppose I could just cut her off cold turkey and never reply again, or specifically say “this is the end,” but considering we barely interact more than once every 1-3 weeks anymore, I haven’t. Again, nothing about our role plays is sexually suggestive; it’s only the specifics of the fetish which even hint at that. It’s like if the fetish was about gloves and our role-plays were about two characters whose interactions and adventures always involve gloves a lot. And no, gloves are not my fetish.

I can say from this experience how some men seem to genuinely seek out teenagers. The lack of inexperience combined by a teen’s desire to be adventurous makes it easy to be seen as more than you are. I’ve done nothing to “lead her on” beyond display an imagination, integrity, and some romance-neutral compliments. The golden rule for dating is that if a man doesn’t want to seem weird, he shouldn’t date anyone younger than “half his age plus eight,” or so I have read. At this rate that puts it squarely at age 25-27, and ideally I’d prefer someone a bit older. On the other hand, the fact that this is a teenager and therefore no way of making this more than it is could be a good thing to prevent going in too deep. If this was, say, a 30 year old who was this eager, it would be more difficult to not justify getting more personal. At least this way I know there is a wall where I will stop and go no further in our interactions. No lines getting blurred now.

If 2018 has taught me anything, it is that there are scarier things than being alone, and being an older male virgin. I’d rather die a virgin than become homeless. But I didn’t need this lesson again; I’d learned it before I even started this blog. My life has been full of hardships and tragedy, especially after I graduated college, and especially after my grandmother died in 2010. I didn’t need a bigger, badder, and more dangerous sequel version of learning about perspective. And I suppose that considering there are homeless dudes who date — “couch surfing musician” and “starving artist” are boyfriend tropes for a reason — I don’t feel comfortable even thinking about pursuing it when my own situation feels so tenuous. There are men out there who are users, who get their hooks into someone — often a woman — and exploit her for financial gain. I am not one of these men and I don’t even want to accidentally be mistaken for one.

In a way it has helped burn through a lot of the fear of dating and rejection. “I’ve faced housing court, sweetheart; you think I care if you think I’m a geek anymore?” Unfortunately, I doubt when, or if, I will ever get another chance. I am tired of living han to mouth, and tired of all the misery. For once, I would genuinely like a “happy” new year.