Dateless-Man vs. Random Reunions and Related Ramblings

“I’m an old man. My life is really over.” — Al Bundy, “MARRIED…WITH CHILDREN” episode #112 (“If I Could See Me Now”), circa 1991.

With March about 2/3rds over it’s time for another glimpse into the modern world of Dateless-Man. To think when the blog first started in 2014-2015 I sometimes got 2-3 posts within a month — especially if I was feeling low. These days I sometimes struggle to hit once a month. My new job and my work with comic-related articles online often keep me busy. I’ve hit a lull for this start of the week so I figure now may be the last shot at this.

As of this writing, I am nearing my 5th month at the new job. I am still seven away from passing probation, and every week is nerve wracking. It isn’t so much the job itself, which is stressful enough. It’s all the micro-management and nit-picking rules within the agency which are bogging me down. There are so many pratfalls, so many technicalities to cross or opportunities for reprimand. After working a job with fellow oddballs and outcasts for over six years, being surrounded by so many “normal” people also doesn’t help. “Normal” people have no imagination and little empathy; they see trees, not forests, and never really consider the bigger picture. Even planned acts to try to build morale at the lowest employee levels are just focus-grouped programs on a spreadsheet. It didn’t help that I learned via co-worker gossip on an elevator ride home that one of my fellow workers in my section — who had about 2-3 months on me — was randomly and unceremoniously sacked. The anxiety that comes with every commute, every shift, is worse than even the highs and lows of a sales job in a less-than-stable industry. But, hey, it’s a job with decent salary, promotional opportunities and, gasp, benefits with a pension. Therefore, in America, those are the sorts of things that can only be had after a lot of nerve wracking.

Therefore, it was an interesting time for a bit of a high school reunion. Back when I was in high school I was pals with a clique of geeks and freaks, and while I may have been the most stiff of them, we had fun. We cut classes together, played table-top RPG’s (some of which I made), watched anime, went to movies, hung out, etc. About midway thru high school, one among us left for Florida and it’d been about 20 years since he’d been back in New York. Just being old enough that I could literally think, “I haven’t seen a friend in nearly 20 years” is still the sort of thing I can barely get my mind around. I need a nickname now so I will go with “Billy.” He came from a troubled home, often at war with his mother and often dabbling in things from self-mutilation to constant use of drugs like acid. Thankfully, a change of scenery, maturity, and distance from a dysfunctional family mellowed him out. I’d interacted with him extremely rarely online, even after I joined Facebook. That was a switch since back in high school, he was on AIM all the time. It was the week of his birthday and he’d taken the trip with some co-workers of his, and was sharing a Airbnb with them not far away for the week.

Most of my closest male friends were there. M**** from “Rolling as the 3rd Wheel”, and most of my pals from “The Everyone is Doing Better Than You Party”. Due to schedules and whatnot I hadn’t seen most of them in over a year. It’s said that men are often more prone to leading more solitary lives once college ends and careers begin, and that’s been mostly true. The fact that people move is one factor; only M**** is within walking distance anymore, and that adds to the scheduling factor. The other is they can’t plan a gathering worth crap. Whenever we’d rally the gang for a movie I was always the one who had to plan it. Despite over a week’s notice, they waited until the day-of and after work to finally tell me when a gathering was happening, and where.

Naturally this is all happening around when my birthday was. The period from October to March used to be my loneliest time of the year but these days it barely registers. The routine of my workweeks helps eliminate it, and the other is that I am less depressed about myself than I was even in 2015 or 2016. I mentally prepare myself for reaching yet another year older months before. And I don’t make a big deal about it. However, an evening out with pals with a couple of beers and some nostalgic mingling was timed for it. And without it being an overwhelming bar experience with dozens of people, it was possible to actually be heard and not feel as left out.

It was a Latin themed food-serving bar in a hipster area of the city. Naturally this was midweek so it was fairly empty. I was the second-to-last to arrive out of the group, and a few of them had been drinking for at least an hour. It was great seeing Billy again, even if he was quite hammered by the time I got there. He was grateful to all of us for making his teen years more bearable, and the drunker he got, the more earnestly he thanked us. I was reminded of how much more my pals drink than I do, even though it is much less than they were younger. I nursed two beers all night, while the rest easily racked up over $300 worth of booze among five people and two bars. Billy had been closer to some of my other pals than me, but he (repeatedly) mentioned how I got him into anime, and having run those table top games, displayed a lot of storytelling imagination. In addition to talking about old times, we updated each other and talked about life, and general joking around. I was reminded that so long as bar crowds are not overwhelming and music is not blasting, I actually converse quite well.

We were not the only people there, nor the only group celebrating a birthday. There were about five young women in their mid 20’s doing the same at the table just to my right. One of them was wearing novelty “Easter bunny” sunglasses at times. Naturally, telling the staff that it was someone’s birthday and naturally slipping a twenty led to a an off-key crooning rendition of “Happy Birthday” with a serving of vanilla ice cream. By the time the night was over, the bar staff had to sing it about 4-5 times within the span of about 2-3 hours (including for Billy). By about the 3rd time I happened to catch a glimpse of one of the waitresses who just had an utterly priceless “Oh god I am so done kill me now” face in the middle of her joining the obligatory sing-a-long.

It felt good to have a “better” job at this gathering. Being surrounded by my pals who were all continuing with careers and who were all either married or engaged, it felt good to not be the obvious loser of the group. Unfortunately, my pal M**** was currently unemployed, and dealing with that occasionally put thing in perspective. I’ve been there, I know what a slog it is both financially and spiritually. Yet by the end of the night, as the bar had mostly cleared out around 9-ish and some of us (not me) were about to head home, one of my other pals dropped something interesting, and blog-relevant!

He casually mentioned that, “I was going to try to hook up you or M**** with one of those girls to the side,” but apparently they’d had eyes at two of the others in our group who were already taken. I was floored not just by the casualness of it, but by how utterly unfocused and uncoordinated he was about it. He claimed that two of the women were single within that group. He never thought to pull me aside or notify me, or try to coordinate any sort of “wing-man” plan. What kind of technique did he even have? I have never seen him try to “hook” me or anyone up with any woman. One time, over a decade ago during college, he and my other pal “T” once met with me on the street on a random day to claim they knew of a woman from one of their colleges who was single and they were going to “set me up” with her. Literally nothing came of it; not a word, not a gathering, not a name, not a detail, absolutely nothing. It probably was for the best, however. I don’t need witnesses to my failure, and as difficult as it would be to try to ask out a stranger at a bar alone, it would be nigh impossible to do with my friends within ear and eye shot. It would become the defining memory of our lives. I’d have to hear about it forever. No, thanks.

It isn’t that I think some of my pals like to jerk me around concerning my eternal singlehood. There was one time most of them mocked by virginity online, but that was an anomaly. I doubt these hapless half measures are deliberate. I just think they’re pretty bad at it. Working a social grapevine among strangers or even associates to casually introduce someone to a single party and try to talk them up and schmooze a date without it seeming weird or desperate, or a prank, is not an easy skill. Plus, if it doesn’t work out, there could be guilt about getting a pal mixed up with it. And I think they’re just bad at it. While my pride would feel pretty worthless with having to be handed a girlfriend by a friend almost out of pity, it isn’t like I had anything else going on. Plenty of people meet lovers through friends or associates. I never did, and I always saw it as a failing within myself. I was just so much of a loser that nobody ever crushed on me. But maybe it wasn’t quite so complicated. Maybe it was just all luck and being just slightly less able to capitalize on rare opportunities than my pals were. Maybe instead of internalizing all of that and making it personal, I should have just chalked it up to a fluke and kept plugging away. I think one of the other milestones of being in your 30’s, besides being able to say things like “I haven’t seen you in 20 years,” is finally being skilled enough at social skills to want a do-over of high school, because this time I’d kill it. But unfortunately I’m not Benjamin Button.

The unintended side effect of a night which waxed a lot about the shared youth of a group of pals, and one of them thanking the rest, is it reinforced the idea that my best years were behind me. High school felt like an awkward fueled hormone slog at the time, but looking back, were those the best years of my life? Was that peak Dateless-Man? Nowadays I have more maturity and slightly more money, sure, but I have a lot less free time nor that bold, ignorant spirit or youthful hope that I had even at my lowest ebbs of teenage depression. I’ve been there and done that. I know my problems won’t be cured by age. I know “growing up” isn’t some magical rite of passage, it’s just the passing of time.

On the positive side, hanging out with pals like a normal person now and then is fun. And it felt good to have made such a positive effect on a pal of mine at his most vulnerable. The sharing of drunken feelings was at times awkward, but usually alcohol is the only time men are “allowed” to feel things, especially about other men, without it being “weird”. My whole life in ways I felt I didn’t matter and life passed me by, so I would do things to try to matter. Among them are, well, typing wordy crap online. But it felt good to have made a tangible thing for a buddy, even without realizing it.

So in the end it was a fun, humbling, slightly awkward night out with pals which ended in me not getting laid. Some things never change! I hardly expected that, though, and it was a rare night with close friends, especially one I hadn’t seen in “about a minute” like the kids today say. My friends trying to wing-man for me would have just made it more awkward. I went home late on a work-night because I didn’t want to leave, which says a lot. And unfortunately not long after, I learned the latest management company in my building (the 3rd within 10 years) wants to illegally evict my mother and I to jack up the rent, so I may quickly have more to worry about than a job and/or being a virgin. Again.

But for the moment this was an interesting experience that was worth sharing. As well as the proclamation of another year where the period ending in March was no longer my “loneliest time.”

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Dateless-Man vs. The Three I’d Monster

I alluded to this installment back in December, and I finally have some free time to dig into it. I spent 2014-2016 on the blog delving into my notable past memories of my interactions and feelings revolving around dating, as well as my own feelings about my self worth in relation to it. 2017 was mostly spent on random thoughts and achieving, or attempting to achieve, a period of Zen without as many “hot” periods of depression or self-loathing. This isn’t to say that I suddenly am a model of confidence, especially around women. But I’ve reached a state, at least for now, where it just doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. Unfortunately, it sometimes gets hard to come up with topics, especially topics where I feel I have something to say, or at least something within myself worth exploring in text.

I could always reveal my mysterious “minor fetish” and try to come to terms with burying that angle of myself. But I’m nowhere near ready for that, so instead I’ll delve into a major manifestation of my own esteem issues and woeful romantic confidence. In many ways I alluded to this a year and change ago in “When Imagination Is The Enemy”. But first, an introduction. Isn’t it weird how I am SO long winded that even my introductions have introductions? But I digress.

From 1978 to 1983 across two TV networks, the sitcom “TAXI” entertained audiences and won 18 Emmys, and was co-created by James L. Brooks, who would go on to co-create a little show called “THE SIMPSONS”. By the time I was starting to remember things (call it 1985-1986) the show was in syndication, but at that time my world was all He-Man, Inspector Gadget, Spider-Man, and Smurfs. Many years later when I was a young adult, one of our local channels aired it in syndication again and I watched a bit of it. I could go on about all of the actors who would go on to become bigger stars after, but instead I’ll focus on one episode, and one scene, which basically embodies my own negative self loop in terms of dating. Late in the first season was an episode in which the series’ female lead, Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner), goes on a date with a bumbling politician played by Jeffrey Tambor. His character, Walter Griswald, is a sad sack and walking putz, who gets set up on a date by the rest of the cast practically out of pity. As their first date ends, things have obviously gone bad, which culminates into this exchange:

Congressman Walter Griswald: “I’m sorry, Elaine. It’s just the same old story. A girl goes out with me, I embarrass her. No wonder they never want to see me again. I never want to see me again.”

Elaine Nardo: “I didn’t say I didn’t want to see you again.”

Griswald: “Yeah? You want to go out Saturday night?”

Elaine. “Oh, no. Saturday night I’m baby–”

Griswald: “What about Sunday?”

Elaine: “No, I take the kids–”

Griswald: “Uh-huh. What about Monday?”

Elaine: “Monday’s a bad day.”

Griswald: “Uh-huh. Tuesday!?”

Elaine: “Well…It’s fine.”

Griswald: “What!?”

Elaine: “I’d love to.”

Griswald: “You want to go out with me AGAIN!?”

Elaine: “Yes, Walter.”

Griswald: “What’s wrong with you!?”

— TAXI, Season 1 episode 17, “Elaine & the Lame Duck”, aired Feb. 1979

That scene always stuck with me. In that one scene Griswald goes from exasperation from yet another “bad date” to being utterly flabbergasted someone actually liked him. I imagine part of it was because it hit close to home. It took me years to realize that while I certainly had poor luck and a mountain of flaws and insecurities heaped on me in the arena of love, that I rarely did myself any favors. More to the point, out of the whopping 3 dates I have ever been on, it could be argued that I undermined myself in two of them — based in large part due to disbelief. I was in utter shock and awe that I was even on a date, that a real life woman who I was attracted to or potentially attracted to had deemed me worthy to date, that I was awestruck on the dates themselves. I kept expecting a shoe to drop, a gag to be revealed, a camera crew from “CANDID CAMERA” or “PUNK’D” to emerge. I acted stunned and startled that I had gotten a date, during the dates themselves.

I alluded to this a little bit in a previous installment, “When Imagination is the Enemy”. It focused on me being literally unable to imagine what it would be like to experience mutual desire, or at least being desired by a woman I was into. Even when I try to imagine a situation in my mind, just for pure mental role playing exercises or to psyche myself up, I never entirely buy it and tear it down. Well, now I’ve given a name to it, and I call it “The Three I’d Monster”.

Pick any of my posts at random, especially from 2014-2015, and you’ll find a lot of self loathing. Essays and essays of how woeful I am, what a lame lover I am or could be, how I am a freak, a sideshow clown, the lowest man on Earth. That I consider romantic rejection an inevitable, foregone conclusion based due to past experiences. And I do think my body of past experiences as listed here are, at best, not optimistic in that regard. A large part of why I haven’t done much dating in the last decade is because I do believe in that equation — if rejection is inevitable, all I am doing is wasting my time. Yet if I am honest with myself and really dig in there, I realize that my initial reaction to the opposite of reaction wouldn’t be healthy either. A lot of this is due to having no positive reaction in that regard — I’ve had practically no romantic success while watching peers and strangers alike achieve it with considerably less effort. It’s hard to trust something that is so rare it may as well be a mirage. However, from a woman’s perspective, it comes off as being very needy and needing endless validation, which isn’t a joyride for her either.

If a woman rejects me, whether directly or just with polite disinterest, while it stings, it’s what I am used to. It’s all I have ever known. If anything, I’d agree with her. My initial, Id reaction is, “I don’t blame you,” or words to that effect. But what would my initial, subconscious Id reactions be to the opposite? To a woman on a date reacting positively, eagerly, even setting up that second date herself? In a normal, healthy person, it would be something akin to joy, or even relief. It would be the beginning of some fun. But not for me. My Id reaction, that inner “Three I’d Reaction”, would (irrationally) think or assume one of three things. Each one begins with an “i”, hence the name. And I apologize in advance, as one of them may be offensive. But, in the name of honesty I am keeping it there.

The (irrational) initial reactions of the Three I’d Monster to any potential positive reinforcement, if I am brutally honest with myself, would be:

1). “She must be Ignorant.” One reaction would be to assume it a fluke of ignorance on her part. She simply doesn’t know me well enough. Via random happenstance, the law of averages, good lighting, or a momentary lapse in optical function, she hasn’t quite realized what she’s gotten herself into. As someone who isn’t a user or a leach, the idea of taking advantage of someone’s ignorance for my own benefit feels wrong. After all, I’m “inside” myself all the time. Nobody knows me better than myself, and I know I’m not all that. I’ve seen myself naked, after all. Sooner or later she’ll come to her senses and realize she’s got a dud, and then she’ll be disappointed (if not angry) and I will feel guilty and dishonest. If taken to an extreme, I’m probably more likely to talk a woman out of kissing me than I am to ask her for one. Ignorance is fleeting, although it’s easy to see how this reaction becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

2). “She must be an Idiot.” This is the offensive one, because I don’t think of women in this way very often. If anything, I’m harder on men and eagerly acknowledge my opinion that most are morons (or jerks). The cruelest “i” of the monster, it’s basically an extreme version of the first. Ignorance is fleeting, but a perceived “lack of intelligence” is more permanent. I haven’t capitalized on a lucky streak or a fluke of fate; I’ve merely run into a real life Kelly Bundy who is genuinely not smart enough to see me for the loser I am. Much like the first, I would feel like I was “taking advantage” of someone who couldn’t help themselves, and that’s not a healthy thing to think either. Part of this perhaps born from an inner smugness I sometimes have. People have told me I was smart since I was a kid, even if I rarely believed them and have spent most of my life thinking I was a moron. But then I out-think someone in front of me on a fast food lane or master some task at work in record time, and wonder if they weren’t wrong. And obviously as “Wile E. Coyote, SUPER-Genius,” nobody could know more than me about myself.

3). “She must be Insane.” The last of the three “i’s”, it’s the Id conclusion that there’s a perfectly valid reason why she is expressing interest — she’s just nuts! Reality is optional for her, or she’s so traumatized by other men or in life in general that by sheer comparison I come off better. But regardless, since no sane woman could consider me sexy, that clearly means she’s not so. The irony is that out of the three, this one “feels” more workable to me even when it isn’t. I see myself as having a few bolts or two loose myself, so meeting a fellow crazy person at least means our conversations won’t be dull. And while my Id can be a monster, my Super-Ego just wants to help everyone deep down, so if I thought a woman had some sort of genuine mental trauma she had to work through, I’d eagerly (maybe too eagerly) jump in to try to “save” her. It’s a consequence of never having a real father and only having TV dudes like He-Man or Spider-Man to look up to as male role models. However, it’s ethically impossible to be someone’s therapist and lover simultaneously. There’s even a hint of pity to this one — “You want to go on a second date? You poor dear, what terrible things have men done to you that you honestly think I’m appealing?” Or, on the dark side, I’ve found a Harley Quinn looking for her Joker, and I’m nowhere near that nuts.

Now, I am nowhere near uncouth enough to admit or actually SAY any of this in real time to a woman I am on a date with or view as a potential romantic interest. Nor am I so deluded that I don’t realize these are Id reactions, and therefore made up more of manifestations of my own inner doubts more than anything I am experiencing. But it becomes background radiation in my demeanor, yet another thing (in addition to my inexperience, my lack of confidence, etc.) that I have to bottle up and suppress in real time. One bit of advice that EVERYONE under the sun gives to people is to “be yourself” (or “be your genuine self”, which is the New Agey version). Well, it gets hard to do or be that when I am busy bottling not only all of my faults in fear of rejection, but a Three I’d Monster in fear of acceptance. As a result it becomes a No-Win situation…more so for a potential date than myself.

After all, the Three I’d Monster represents ugly, hurtful and mutually destructive things to ever think about someone I “like”. It’s projecting my own baggage onto another person for the “crime” of proving it wrong. Not all dysfunctional men who leave a lot of hurt, bitter, or traumatized women in their wake are just typical alpha-males, but a lot of them have issues similar to mine and reactions akin to the Monster. Even if they’re actually successful in real life, they can never outrun that beast within. I mean, objectively, I am a guy with a job and a college degree who takes care of his disabled mother, doesn’t have any kids, ex-wives, credit card debt, a criminal record, or any addiction to drugs or alcohol. I’m reasonably intelligent, can make almost anyone laugh, and literally fantasize about cuddling. At times I imagine a woman around my age or older reading my posts and going, “And THIS is the guy who thinks he’s untouchable”, especially after spending an hour fending off crude advances on OkCupid. Intellectually I know I am not the literal worst — I’ve met the worst and I’m not him. But once emotions become involved — once romance is on the table — the Three I’d Monster is there, making sure to remind me why I can’t trust my lying eyes, unless it’s a rejection.

The terrible irony is that the “Three I’d Monster” actually represents a case of internal cognitive dissonance. A great deal of my lack of confidence with women, as well as my belief in my own inefficient qualities, it due to my inexperience. How can a virgin be seductive without being full of crap? How can a man who’s never had anyone convince someone to have him? Logically, that means that the dilemma could be improved with experience — “Once he gets a few lays or a relationship or two into him, he’ll sort himself out”. Yet if the first HINT of positive reactions from a woman in a romantic situation can bring nothing but active and passionate internal disbelief, then doesn’t it show that experience isn’t that important? It logically gets harder to devote so much weight to inexperience if it can’t even be lessened by actual experience, right? Unfortunately, like a lot of things, figuring something out analytically doesn’t always much to resolve it emotionally or spiritually. All it feels like sometimes is being an animal that sees the gates of the farm, or a puppet that is aware of the tug of every string.

The world of dating involves a lot of numbers and a lot of false-positives. It involves a lot of fortitude and a thick skin. The romance gurus are quick to note how nobody, even those with peak physical looks and confidence, never gets rejected. I’d argue it’s all a matter of odds and perspective — someone who is rejected 20% of the time can have an easier time shrugging it off than one rejected 98% of the time — but that’s another digression. But dating, or anything, isn’t just about learning how not to lose, it’s also learning how to succeed. Were I to try dating again and get a string of rejections, it would be a bit crushing, to say the least. My depression might return in earnest. Yet as much as I would hate that, I would hate it more to self-sabotage any glimmer of success. As my histories reveal, what few romantic opportunities I had, especially ones which even hinted at being positive, and rare, fleeting, and finite. It’s taken me at least a decade to even try to so much as tolerate myself for botching my one or two chances in high school, and that aforementioned date in college. I simply don’t have the time to get over screwing up an even rarer opportunity were I to try now. It’s not high school or college now; the world of adults is crueler and more unforgiving, in part because adults have less time to waste. Lord knows I have little time in a day or week to spare, and I don’t have as tough a job or a bunch of kids as some people do. To enter any endeavor where failure is acceptable but success is unbelievable is doomed, as well as a colossal waste of finite time, for both me and potential dates. Until I can overcome this Three I’d Monster, it seems ludicrous to date again.

The one disadvantage of the Zen is that without the urgency, my will or desire to bother has diminished greatly in this regard — and it was hardly peaking before. And all the Three I’d Monster has to do is outlast me. Before I knew it my 20’s were over and the end of my 30’s gets closer with every year. And while this time of year (October thru March) used to bring about great depression, I’ve been able to breeze past it for the past year, and I am just enjoying being able to do that.

But if the Three I’d Monster reveals anything, it’s that the task of convincing myself that I am worthy of a woman is probably more of a challenge than doing so for actual women I were to encounter. And dating past 30 isn’t easy even for veteran daters! The question which becomes obvious is, “What would a woman have to do to make you genuinely believe that she liked you?” And my obvious, honest answer is that I have utterly no idea. Few things in life make me more suspicious than a woman liking me. And that’s not a good answer, because no one has time to waste trying to win an argument with a dude who’s trying to talk anyone out of dating him. Trying to gut through it on the fly in mid-motion could lead to dysfunctional relationships and many hurt feelings, and people. Yet doing nothing like a monk, while a valid choice, can sometimes be a lonely one.

Incidentally, in that episode of “TAXI”, Elaine and Griswald do date briefly, and it boosts his confidence. Yet while Elaine likes Griswald as a person, she’s not passionate about him enough to make any long term plans. So while she does sleep with him (against her better judgment), they do split up. Yet Griswald leaves the relationship stronger than when he entered it. And while it’s only a silly fictional comedy from ages ago, I wonder if that path could be possible for me. Could it just be a matter of finding one or two very patient women? Or one randy enough to literally sleep the issues out of me? I have no idea. What I do know is that considering the litany of faults and disadvantages I would have to flawlessly overcome and act in spite of, it’s merely one more boulder atop the pile. Yet no one said the path to Zen would be easy.

Whew, this was a long one! Thanks to everyone who made it this long. I’ve had this buried in me for a bit and I will have to digest what it means to finally get it into another medium. The act of that alone can sometimes bring some clarity. And clarity can sometimes be the most important thing of all.

Dateless-Man vs. Older Virginity Advice

A new year means a fresh slate of at least 10-12 blog entries here, at least ideally. As a minor update I am still at my new gig, officially three months in. Only another nine before I am past probation, and the pressure is high. But that isn’t what I want to talk about here. Nor do I especially want to take about my own “older male virginity” specifically (although due to the subject, I am sure I will at some points). After all, I’ve already bleated a lot about it in this space already. I have a couple of other topics gestating in my mind that I want to get down, or out, and I’ll come to those soon. One, thematically, fits better for February. The other…who knows. While this is basically a glorified journal chronicling the embarrassing feelings I harbor regarding romance I dare not tell anyone, I do like having some sense of flow, or leaving a few cards off the table.

What I want to address here is something which gets under my skin sometimes, and on my nerves. The reasons are obvious, and very subjective. It all started when I happened to come across a link to a link to a link, you know how Internet rabbit holes go. I wound up at “Mum’s Village,” a page which seems to be about yet another online guru offering perspective and advice on stuff relating to romance, sex, etc. At some point within the last year for her advice column, she got an email where a woman wants advice for her friend, who is a real life “40 Year Old Virgin.” The advice “Mum” gives (mostly via video) was fairly shocking to me, if only from who it was coming from. It was fairly typical advice that one might hear from “bros” in a bar, only it was coming, albeit in a different form, from a woman of color in her 30’s or 40’s. Her advice implied that there was something shameful and wrong, and that this guy had to find a way to resolve it fast. She suggested, to paraphrase,

“he go to a college bar and throw some money around and ‘practice’ on women who were 21, 22, 23…maybe 24 years old, who don’t know any better. Don’t bother with women his own age, they don’t have time for him, they’re raising kids and building businesses.”

Now, I am not a prude or someone ignorant, nor do I even feel Mum was being heartless or anything. Even though going to ANY bar and “throwing money around” sounds like a good way to get mugged to me. But I felt this was an example of the sort of troubling advice that I have seen for older virgins (and especially guy ones) which I encounter online all the time. If you think love advice in general can be contradictory and insane, it gets even worse if you look for advice about older virginity.

I often say a few times I am not looking for advice, and that isn’t because I’ve never sought it. It’s because I have been given every line of advice from every angle that could exist. Naturally, as someone who clearly can be uptight and defensive about his inexperience, I sought advice that was offered for virginity. And boy howdy, is a lot of it messed up. I would say a majority of it (perhaps slight but still a majority) seems to fall into two extremes. The first embraces all or most of society’s norms and expectations that older virginity is terrible and wrong, and a disgusting shame to be hidden and undone at any cost as soon as possible. This line of advice often embraces the crudest and most “blunt” advice in regards to trolling bars, clubs, and/or living at the gym to make yourself a physical god. In the effort to be “blunt” and “real,” it often has the effect, at least on me, of reinforcing all of the negative self loop that many older virgins have in their heads. That they really are freaks, that there really is something wrong with them, and that this is a problem which isn’t easily fixed, and if is, it comes from becoming someone you can’t be easily. Many gurus who utilize this technique of advice also enforce and repeat a lot of regressive stereotypes about masculinity, and often use taunts or insults to trigger a response, drill sarge style, which are aimed to cut to the bone.

The second, however, is just as infuriating. The alternative is to go so far into the other direction that it risks denying the experiences and feelings of those people it seeks to help. In the name of being “progressive” and striving for a world free of masculine stereotypes — a laudable goal — it tilts towards Pollyanna baloney. This alternative line or reasoning is that virginity is all in the mind and can be erased with the right positive attitude. It pretends that the last century of society can be undone just with a click of the heels and some slogan from a DOCTOR WHO or BUFFY episode. That concerns about older sexual inexperience being judged negatively or at the very least seen as a “red flag” by most if not all potential suitors are foolhardy and self destructive. That despite having no evidence to the contrary, you should act like a master of ceremonies. Virginity, to these gurus, doesn’t even exist and should be of no more concern than what kind of aftershave you use. Any concerns about how it will be interpreted or whether to reveal it at all are just distracting noise or “excuses” to these gurus. While they don’t preach the philosophy of “practice chicks” like the first philosophy, they preach that despite the inexperience, you’re on equal footing with any date or lover. I mean, they have their anxieties too. Heaven forbid, some fret about laugh lines. And while not as crude, rude, or macho as the first philosophy, gurus of this one can get plenty self righteous, passive-aggressive, and pretentious when they meet someone who doesn’t swallow the Kool-Aid as quickly as they’d prefer.

I often felt caught in the middle. One line of reasoning would confirm all of my own self doubts and fears, and the other would talk down to me like an idiot for having them. And here and there I could see that I wasn’t alone. Too many men, I think, shift towards the extreme “he-man woman hater’s clubs” of Reddit, MRA, MGTOW, and 4Chan precisely because while a lot of those guys are vile and cater to the ugliest of stereotypes, they at least often sympathy in the short term. Being in a circle jerk with Neo-Nazis is horrible, but I imagine some guys don’t feel being lectured to feels much better. They’re hungry for understanding, for someone or a group of someone’s to not talk down to them or smugly hand-wave their concerns as trivial pursuits, and they seek it out with the extremes of the Internet. I like to think that I, being a loner who rarely trusted anyone who promised they had all the answers,  would be immune to those temptations. But I also acknowledge that when I was at my most emotional and depressed as a teenager and young adult in my early 20’s, the Internet was a different place and these dark corners were not as easy to find, or widespread.

And honestly, the fact that there seems to be no line of advice for older virgins beyond these extremes, or varying flavors of them, underscores the dilemma that it is. For examples, GoodLookingLoser, Frank Kermit, the Playboy Adviser, and even Steve Harvey are varying degrees of the first philosophy. GLL is firmly in the “all problems in life are solved by lifting, bro” camp, but the other two are only slightly more sophisticated. Part of it is that both Kermit and Harvey are in their 40’s to 60’s, and therefore bring in a lot of cultural norms from those previous generations. I.E. women are “naturally” the more passive & nurturing of the sexes romantically, that a man should be game for any and every romantic opportunity, even towards someone who disgusts him, so long as she’s willing, and so on. Hell, a large chunk of Kermit’s advice to virgins is saving up their money so they can literally build a “sex pad” to bring women to, using his own example of having a disco ball in one of his old pads. GLL is the cruder of the three, but all of them use belittlement or at least some slight degree of “tough love”.

On the flip side, Doctor Nerdlove is an example of Pollyanna territory. While well meaning and admittedly more understanding than some of the other examples, in the end it preaches mind-over-matter to a ridiculous degree. It denies real life experience or on-the-ground public opinions for attempting to forge a better world somewhere in the future, just over there. It seeks to tell people who have never had romantic success that it’s all a matter of succeeding without even trying. Just live your life and be you, and it will come when it’s meant to. Despite all of the lofty goals, it boils down to what everyone’s mother says about it happening when you’re ready. Platitudes are nicer than negative reinforcement, but they won’t keep you any less lonely at night. I’ve been living my life and being me for roughly 25 years. It’s never just happened, and expecting it to just by psyching myself up enough won’t make it so.

It’s at this point where I wish I could come up with some masterful advice which manages to do what these gurus can’t. That manages to be comforting without delusional, and realistic without being dehumanizing. And if I could…I’d write it into a book, sell it for $9.99 a pop, and be a guru too. All I do know is that both angles never worked for me, and I think leave a lot of people feeling underwhelmed. While I am not saying there aren’t people who haven’t been helped by one or the other philosophy, I do think there’s a gap in the market, or at least people who fall through the gaps. Does that mean we’re unable to be helped, or that the options stink? All I know is that for me, I had to struggle to find my own path which, while I can’t say “worked,” at least has resulted in me being less depressed than I used to be. I call it the, “I’m a loser but who cares” philosophy.

I sometimes wish I could be the guy who could figure out a middle ground, an ideal philosophy about all this craziness. Maybe then all of my own pain over these years would have had a meaning, some grander purpose. All I know is that for me, I just couldn’t embrace the philosophy of the gym rat club goers. It felt wrong to be something I wasn’t, or to build a facade to con people with, or to plunge forward with rare opportunities even if they felt wrong. I faced such an opportunity last year, and I decided it was not worth it for me; the price was too high. Yet at the same time, attitudes about virginity are not mere figments of imagination, nor does everyone who considers it a red flag for their own taste some unworthy, misinformed, or terrible person. My own experiences of emasculation and unworthiness over my virginity cannot be undone or erased just by wishing on a star. They cannot be forgotten; the world will remind me every day if I let it. It is legitimate, and only a fool would pretend others don’t feel otherwise. There truly is no way to catch up on missed opportunities. Yet after many years, shredding myself to emotional ribbons over it got old, got numb. Just because I am an abysmal lover doesn’t mean I have to be an abysmal person. Maybe I will have sex and/or a relationship someday, and maybe I won’t. That doesn’t mean I have to be miserable about it, or not pursue my hobbies and interests. And if I grow old and die without having ever known a woman’s touch or caressed her in kind, well…it could be worse. I could have been a televangelist.

I just wish better forms of advice existed for those who sought it, and I wish I didn’t sometimes get so frustrated when I surf online and see someone being served a heap full of something either unhelpful or self destructive. Maybe in the end we all have to find our own ways through life, and in reaction to it without the aid of gurus selling books. And we all have to learn to carve our own paths in life, or at least become comfortable in the forests we find ourselves in.

Dateless-Man vs. 2017

It’s been a wild and wacky year over here at the Mattress of Solitude. On paper I worked for three different companies within 10 months, after steadily working for one for over 5 years. This latest position is one for a city organization, which boasts things like union representation, benefits, and promotional opportunities. As an update from the past post, I have made it past the training phase, as well as a month long “nesting” period. The first month after training isn’t a grace period, but a period where screw ups aren’t put on the permanent record and extra supervision is given. From this point on I have to last another 10 months before my position becomes permanent, and before I can even consider any promotional opportunities. Most people who moved up usually worked on the initial rung for 2+ years anyway.

My trainers liked me. My supervisor thinks I’m near perfect even when I make an err or two. Much of the job is self explanatory, to the point that the most stressful part of the day is logging in on time during a mere 3-4 minute window when I have to fight with software. I have fine tuning to do, but I am getting the hang of things as best I can. While this position may be new, my experience in my previous jobs has helped tremendously. Above all, it’s a job that isn’t centered around sales, but more geared with trying to do some good (along with customer service). Once upon a time I went to college with the ideal of wanting to help people. In some ways I am the same person, yet in others that person may have been from another life compared to now. And the irony is that person that I was has informed a large chunk of my experience with women.

Every day, and every week, at this new job brings with it a mix of feelings. Confidence with each shift, mixed with anxiety for the future. I am grateful for the opportunity yet petrified that I will screw it up and it will come crashing down. Very little in my life has genuinely gotten better; it often either stays the same or gets worse, albeit often in different ways. Managers and supervisors offer mixtures of open armed understanding mixed with warnings of dire consequences for too many write-ups. The job can seem almost blindingly easy and frustratingly difficult within a few minutes of each other. However, for the moment things seem to be going well there. Which means I am always in a state of near panic that it will change in an instant.

I imagine none of my co-workers, or supervisor, or anyone of the people I trained with would suspect my deep, dark secret. I am a different person at work than I am outside of it. I am gregarious, always able to get in a joke or offer my viewpoint without going too far. In the position I give off an air of experience despite being a newbie. A couple of them are women and while I would never seek to try to date anyone at work — because it is often more drama than it is worth — a few of them are my type. College Dateless-Man, who I mentioned before, would be wrapped in angst-knots about this. “Woe is me, for being surrounded by babes I can’t or won’t approach,” I would have lamented, and buried that lament until years later when I would have written it for the blog. Now I have a bit more experience and perspective. Plus, it helps that I’m not a creep who doesn’t respect women or can’t work with them. And the irony is with the specter of romance totally removed, I don’t seem to have a problem talking to them. I’m a funny guy, I can make almost anyone laugh without even trying. It’s almost unconscious timing.

Besides this recent update, the theme of 2017 has been Zen. The idea of finally having embraced — no, accepted — my status and no longer being emotionally burdened and agonized by it. Part of the consequences have led to gaps in posting. I think 2017 saw about 10 blog installments, which is a historic low. I try to average at least 12 and I know 2014-2015 averaged way more. And maybe it comes part in parcel with the theme of growing and moving on. The first year or so of the blog, 2014-2015, was mostly focused on expressing my own experiences with women and romance (or lack thereof) that for the most part I had never told anyone. Just to get them all down into another medium and express my thoughts on them outside my own mind. 2016 in many ways dealt with me absorbing some of what I expressed as well as some newer experiences. I groused about my own virginity semi-frequently. And the theme for 2017 has been acceptance of my romantic void while actively seeking change in my career.

This isn’t to say that I never have pangs of regret or frustration regarding my lack of romantic success or any sort of a love life in the past. Acceptance isn’t pretending something never happened nor never feeling any residual emotional feelings at all. The mind doesn’t work that way. In some way I do think about bring a virgin every day. The big difference is that it doesn’t make me feel as bad about myself as it used to. It could be acceptance, it could be over familiarity, it could be becoming numb to it after so many years, I don’t care because the net result is less angst. My birthday is coming up in another 3+ months and that naturally will bring me another year closer to being the 40-Year-Old-Virgin. There are times I genuinely wonder what it would be like to experience mutual romantic emotions, or to make passionate love. But unlike in college, there’s less of a sense of entitlement or lament and more of an scientific curiosity.

Part of the problem isn’t mere inexperience nor having zero game or romantic charm (or a place or opportunity to practice those skills without being judged as a man-child). Much like with work, while I have a fear of failure, short term success also petrifies me because it is something which seems rare and uncommon. It also doesn’t jive with my own poor self image, so there is a little cognitive dissonance going on. If a loser starts to win, is the loser now a winner? Or just on a lucky streak heading up for a colossal loss to end all losses? And while I seem able to successfully hide that anxiety at work, I don’t know if I could do the same on the dating scene. Because while I consider dating failure to be a foregone, predetermined conclusion, it would probably be the opposite which would bring the most pressure and suspicion. The most stressful thing a woman could say to me after a date wouldn’t be, “You’re a wad of human filth and I hope you die,” it would be, “I actually had a lovely time and would love to do this again.” I’d be in uncharted territory, where now failure will be worse because it came at a higher stage.

For a brief moment, I even got a little more open minded about legalized prostitution, such as in Las Vegas. I don’t have the funds for it now, but if I stay where I am at at work, I will eventually get vacation time and a bump in salary. And I realized the irony is that while I would be second, triple, and quadruple guessing anything said or done on a real date, there’s one advantage to a sex worker. I would KNOW for a fact anything she was telling me was just a ruse for more money. And she would know that I was just there for a good time. No pretenses. I wouldn’t have to find triple meaning to every word said or not said. I wouldn’t have to wonder whether a compliment was genuine or ambiguous; I’d KNOW it was just filler for a better tip. If a woman on a date were to tell me, “I think you’re the cutest guy in the room,” my initial reaction would be to question her ability to see at all, or fret she was being sarcastic or that I was taking advantage of ignorance. If a sex worker says that, I KNOW it’s baloney for an extra $100 or whatever, so there’s a bit more freedom to relax and enjoy the experience without anxiety. Ultimately, however, I still am unlikely to pursue this option. Not because I have anything against sex workers, but that ultimately I feel it wouldn’t do me much good in the long term even if short term it would take some of the edge off. But in the long term it wouldn’t teach me the skills I’d need to navigate a normal, mature romantic relationship or even the motions of entering the dating scene, which are skills most people at least have moderate experience in after college. Unfortunately beyond this option or other for-hire dating services, there are no short cuts.

But the big chance that Zen has brought me is the lack of this experience no longer fills me with existential dread, at least anywhere near as often as it was in the past, or even 2014. It’s just something it’s a shame I never experienced or had, like cable TV. I just hope there’s less fine print than cable TV.

I had a post planned where I plan to examine what I call “the Three I’d Monster” of positive reactions, which I didn’t get to. But I have to have something planned for 2018. I’d like to thank everyone who has stuck with the blog another year, I always appreciate it. The idea of other people potentially reading this was what ultimately got me to write this stuff at all, and I think it has ultimately brought me to a better place. I just wish I’d gotten to this place a decade ago, or even five years ago.

Dateless-Man vs. New Gig & Therapy?

I’ve been scarce again lately. Hitting that once-a-month-at-least average hasn’t happened again for the second time in 3-4 months. Most of this is due to me being focused elsewhere. As I stated in my last post, my employment situation has changed. Last April I took a test for a city job. Some 14 months later, they got back to me with an interview. Long waits like that for city or federal jobs are not rare. I made it past all three interviews and submitted more paperwork, and signed more forms, than I thought possible. By the end if they asked for a notarized photograph of me in a giraffe costume juggling cats in front of Macy’s, I would not have been shocked.

In theory I am overqualified for the position. The requirements were either a Bachelors or 1-2 years of experience in a similar gig. I have the degree and over 6 years of such experience. I am midway thru a 4 week training course. After that is a 4 week “nesting” period where most goofs I make will be expected and forgiven. Beyond that, I have to make it another 44 weeks to make it past probation. It’s a salaried, union position – a rare thing in America these days, even New York. In fact I just attended my first union meeting today. I was bombarded with a ton of information and yet more paperwork. I’m being lectured on stuff regarding retirement and I’m barely a fortnight in. It adds even more pressure.

In a lot of ways, I consider myself a screw up. I haven’t always made the best of whatever opportunities I was given. This blog has extensively covered my foul ups in regards to dating. I often tell myself I “never had a chance” or “no woman ever liked me,” but deep down I know that’s not true. It’s just easier to feel that way. The reality is my opportunities were far and few between (perhaps more so than others), and I botched them all for various reasons. But I also feel I botched other areas as well. I didn’t always capitalize on educational or economic opportunities. When I was unemployed, I was distracted by depression and tending to an ailing grandmother (alongside my chronically ill mother) and didn’t use all that time wisely. Suddenly I’m in my 30’s and behind most of my pals in the progress of life. Now I’ve been given an opportunity, and every sign I get is this is my last chance. A job like this does not come easily. I do well and I can have a pension, and plenty of promotional opportunities. Flop out, and it’s back to jobs for misfits. It feels like so many areas of my life — where I feel I have no margin for error. It’s either 100% or nothing. It adds some stress and anxiety, even as training gives me more confidence.

At the union meeting, the various reps went over all of the various options and services they provide. The one which inspired this post was free counseling services. The job itself is stressful to workers, but they mentioned personal stresses too. I haven’t been to therapy since I was about 18, and I was nowhere near ready. The last time I had access to counseling for free was college, and years later I regretted bypassing it. But as they mentioned it, I wondered how willing I am now to go thru with it. How willing I am to tell a professional a hint of the innermost anxieties and issues I have been willing to vent about anonymously in this blog. To tell a real live person, even on a confidential basis, of how ashamed I am of being a virgin. Of how it may or may not effect my confidence. Of how I have spent years of my life burying or learning to accept whatever pain that comes from that. I’m better now than I was last year, or 5 years ago in this regard. Or to discuss some of my apathetic or at times nihilistic moods. How willing would I be to address such issues to a male counselor versus one who was a woman, or vice versa?

Much like the economic opportunity, it too feels like a last chance. I’ve got some time before I hit the big 4-0 but it is closer now than when I started this blog. I’m already at an age where the public perception of men who are still this romantically inexperienced are religiously motivated, circus freaks, or serial killers. I’ll never get a do-over of my youth, and to a degree I have accepted that. Yet my time to make a serious go at it and have any sort of success, heaven forbid with more than one lover, is also coming to an end. So, hey, no pressure or anything.

Yes, there are some women who are my type in the training class. But mixing romance and work is often an unwise combination. I don’t even consider such a thing an option. It’s been both a boon and a bane that one of the trainers is a woman who is into the same geeky comic stuff as I am (and is married). Great conversations between lessons or tests, though. Four years ago I’d have angsted more about that. It still reminds me occasionally of something I have yet to experience.

So, I am not ditching the blog. For all I know I may need it more than ever soon. But giving an update and where I am now. Life is moving a little more positively for me than it did 1-2 years ago, and that sometimes makes me anxious for a shoe to drop. And I get a lot of pressure in the make-or-break department. Hopefully this time I don’t screw it all up.

 

Dateless-Man vs. A Forum Ban

“I’m a victim of circumstance!” – Curly Howard, “The Three Stooges: Disorder in the Court” (1936)

A bit of a disclaimer before I get into this. This is easily a topic I didn’t expect to cover here, and it may actually be the most immature thing I have typed up for this blog. I actually missed posting an installment in August, and missing a month is something I dislike doing if I can help it. I actually have some good news to report on. Last year I applied for a city job, and last month I actually had an initial interview regarding it. It went well enough that I’ve been invited to the second step of “the process” (their term, not mine) of landing this position. If successful, training begins a week before Halloween. It’s been an interesting experience, since I have rarely applied for a job while I currently had one, or at least have gotten further than just shooting a resume and cover letter into the Internet or taking a test. Nothing is set in stone yet, but it alongside having to renew my health insurance and other work related things have taken up a lot of my spare time.

As a further disclaimer, it’s possible that I may be 100% in the wrong about the situation and circumstances I am about to report. The only side of a story I can usually state with total accuracy is my own. I do my best to understand another side or motivation, but I am in my own head more than others. A part of me hesitated to even make this a topic, since it comes close to chest thumping. It comes close to bad-mouthing someone online at a forum where they cannot defend themselves — even though I have linked this blog once or twice, and it’s easily found on Google once you type “Dateless Man” — seriously, it’s the third link that pops up. If anyone from the other venue wants to chat about this below, I welcome it. And in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not a huge deal.

However, I’m overdue for an article, and this made me feel things. It’s related to the topic of the blog, and it’s either this or share memories about The Mask. So let’s dig into it.

As I have mentioned earlier this year, I’ve been participating on a discussion on reply forums hosted by Doctor Nerdlove. He’s an online love advice guru for geeks online, and probably the only one whose advice I would actually come close to recommending. There are an endless amount of love advice “experts” online, in bookstores, and on TV and radio. Many of them may offer free tidbits online, with the ultimate goal being to sell you on some books, audio tapes, CD’s, a newsletter, personal coaching services, and so on. Other examples I have stumbled upon include GoodLookingLoser.com and Frank Kermit. Heck, even talk show host/game show host/comedian Steve Harvey has gotten into the love advice game. Harris O’Malley, a.k.a. Doctor Nerdlove, also sells books, but he offers considerable services online. He has a weekly blog, podcast, and has an advice column via submitted letters once a week on his own website and every 2 weeks on Kotaku (a video game website, of all places). He’s been at this since 2011 and has a steady and healthy community of commentors in his weekly reply section. So much so that he used to offer weekly “open discussion” posts just to allow people to talk about topics outside of his article that week.

As he tells it, Doctor Nerdlove (DNL) struggled with romance as a youth. He didn’t have sex until he was 19, and even afterward considered himself someone who was “no good with women.” He entered the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) scene and while it helped him have sex and meet women, he didn’t like who he was becoming to do so, nor a lot of the toxic attitudes that are a part of the philosophy and scene. He’s since become a romantic adviser who has sought to subject some of the few “good” elements of the PUA scene and put a more understanding and even handed spin on it. Most often, it means issuing tough love to “truths” of manhood. I don’t think I stumbled upon his website until 2014, and I didn’t begin reading it semi-regularly until late 2015 or early 2016. During one of my “woe is me for I am virgin” fits at the time I googled one of his articles about older male virginity and it began from there. While I’ve heard more advice on dating than I could ever retain since high school from dozens of sources and while I hardly agree with him on everything, DNL comes as close to being a romance adviser whose take I usually respect. Reading his work has helped me gain some perspective in addition to my own work here on the blog, purging myself of feelings and memories I don’t tell anyone.

His website hosts a comment section after every article, much as WordPress does. It naturally features “regulars” and it often became a community forum of sorts. I lurked there for a while and eventually decided to comment myself and become a part of it. It would be the first time I was becoming part of a forum revolving around my romantic issues since college. The format at the time was “IntenseDebate” (it has since become “Discus”) and it was possible to hook it into a WordPress account. For login ease, as well as a bit of cross promotion and continuing along the the theme, I naturally used the same moniker there that I do here. At the time I thought it was innocent enough, but in hindsight I probably should have seen how it would lead to being misunderstood. Yes, this is foreshadowing.

DNL himself rarely interacts on the forums much, at least since I was around; he did sporadically in 2015-2016 and that has dwindled to almost nil since. He’s understandably busy and therefore has to designate moderators to police the forum. As with anything involving romance – especially involving unpleasant truths men need to hear – the forum gets a steady stream of trolls, troublemakers, lunatics, Men’s Rights Activists (MRA’s), GamerGaters, and all around malcontents in between genuine advice seekers and givers, and opinion sharers. The forum once had roughly 3-4 other moderators, but over time and circumstance that had dwindled to one acting moderator. For the sake of not wanting to call someone out where they can’t really respond easily, I’ll therefore call him “The Mod” (or “the Mod” or “Mod”). The Mod had been serving this role for a while but over time, instead of making up 20% of the forum’s “ruling body”, he soon became 80-100%. DNL can overrule him on things like bans or opinions but rarely if ever does.

I bring all this up because when I got on the forum, I was pleased by it’s open mindedness and stream of ideas. I never solicited advice – merely sought to offer my own opinions, takes, or experiences – yet naturally I got plenty in turn. In hindsight, that being the theme of the website made it obvious. And for a while it was interesting, being able to have more discussions about things regarding my state and related topics outside of the blog. I mean I have great commentors at this blog too, and I’m grateful for all that. But the balance of position is different. It’s my own blog – all those who reply are guests. There, I was a guest like everyone else. Unfortunately, over time I made one enemy, and that was The Mod.

Without airing his dirty laundry, like most people the Mod had to overcome a lot of adversity in his life, including a physical handicap. He also works and has worked professionally in the helping industry. He helped moderate the forums for years, and while his intentions were always good, over time I feel he developed tunnel-vision. He had seen and interacted with so many lonely men with issues with strange screennames that they all began to blur and gel. It’s human nature after a while to categorize people under that circumstance almost immediately. He determined my alias meant that I saw my virginity as an identity and it implied I didn’t want to change. I told the Mod that it was a name chosen due to the convenience of my blog, and due to my own fondness for superheroes and it being the title of a comic strip I once toyed with writing and drawing in college. The Mod never believed me, however, and from then on his views on me would steadily become more rigid. From then on, the Mod determined that I refused to accept the (unsolicited) advice given to me, despite there being no way to prove what I retain and what I ignore. Over time he would consistently inform me of what I was doing wrong and why I shouldn’t be posting whatever I posted. None of my posts were angry or insulting or had any sorts of vulgarities or so on – which I imagine frustrated him because it made me a hard nut to crack. Older male virgins were a dime a dozen there; but one who wasn’t angry at women or spoke in crude terms about them? Less so. First it was that I posted too much about myself, so I must be selfish. Then when I would offer more objective opinions or takes on situations without bringing up myself, I was an ill informed hypocrite who didn’t know what I was talking about. The Mod would insist that my posts should get shorter, and simpler, and more sparing – first in nicey terms (“Brevity is the soul of wit; women like wit”) and later in more blunt and hostile terms as if I had violated an unspoken rule. Finally, he would insist I was repetitive. I would ask what topics where my opinions would be more acceptable, and I never got an answer.

I suppose this would be fine were it uniform; if the Mod merely treated everyone like this. But he didn’t. There were a handful of long term regulars whose opinions were valued more than others – who could even be critical of him on occasion without fear of a lecture or ban. Others would be allowed to issue insults or devolve into nasty arguments which the Mod would allow to fester for random intervals. Some of the regulars were active woman-haters or frequently cursed people out during disagreements. But the biggest case of all was a poster who, for above reasons I will dub “The Pal” (or “the Pal” or “Pal”). The Pal was someone who would brag of posting while drunk or stoned, and offer crude, lewd, and occasionally rude missives which would showcase that this was no exaggeration. Jokes about women’s genitals were hardly rare, for instance. He would even brag about topics such as deliberately sleeping with “ugly girls” he didn’t like just because he could, or that he deliberately drove while under the influence more than once. He would often suggest excessive alcohol and/or marijuana as romantic stimulants. Whenever someone was offended, the Pal would brush it off as a joke due to his substance habits.

The Mod, however, never policed his behavior. The Pal could get away with posts which would issue warnings at least and bans at most from anyone else. As the Mod told it, the Pal was a longtime member of the forum. In the past he’d been a malcontent and been banned. However, he took some of the advice to heart, had more romantic success, and then returned. When he got flack from longtime posters for past ills, the Pal took it in stride. And for this, the Pal was untouchable. The most the Mod would do is intervene after some argument the Pal haphazardly provoked got too nasty with words to the effect of, “C’mon man, you’re making me look bad.” The Pal, to his credit, always knew when to apologize or placate, but it was a predictable routine. And the only reason I know all this was because one of the longer term regulars called the Mod out on this special treatment, and rather than belittle them, the Mod responded honestly. One argument or one misspoken word or misunderstood joke could get anyone banned for a week to a month, if not forever, except for the Pal. The Pal could make a crude joke about “smashing” some vaginas, go “my bad, I’m just stoned tee hee” and that was that. Ad infinitum.

One of the themes of DNL is to become a good man rather than a “nice guy.” That means standing up against toxic male behavior and being an ally of women. After one advice column, where an angry older male virgin had started a fight insisting everything was wrong and tearing into women and feminism, I jumped in. Like a lot of guys he was dismissing the opinions of women, and poo-pooing experienced dudes as “not knowing what he went through” and all that. I felt I could use my experience in this instance to rebut him, and add to the chorus against him. Demonstrate that I lived some of the philosophy of the site, and my own life in general.

The Mod chose that time to try to pick another fight about my avatar name and undermine me. Even one of the respected regulars replied, “Dude, seriously!? Do you think now is the best time to get into that?” In a rare show of grace, the Mod relented.

Things came to a head this spring when an advice column regarding an older virgin triggered me to reply. I often did when that topic came up, since I lived it. Among the things I tend to disagree with DNL on is his underestimation of how difficult older male virginity can be to overcome. He often advises, “It’s all in your head, just try, etc.” in longer words, and while I get the positive spirit of it, I usually tried to offer my own experience. The Mod took umbrage with a lot of my replies and started taking things out of context. Casually mentioning “never going to the prom” as an example of life milestones which I lacked due to inexperience which made me difficult, I sparked a whole argument about what’s mainstream. Mentioning the word “mystique” once in regards to my friends losing shyness with women from experience somehow got the Mod to determine that I was a sexist in so many words. It became obvious by now that any statement or argument I made, the Mod would interpret in the worst possible way. It got so extreme that I could have probably said it was raining cats and dogs and he’d criticize my flippant defense of cruelty to animals. The Mod then began suggesting I had to apologize for misstatements for “weeks” despite some apologizes I made after being misunderstood within posts from a 7 day period, or one week. Frustrated, I applied the same anal retentive technicality hair splitting to him that he offered to me, while suggesting he didn’t need to think like a hammer and see everyone the same, and that I felt he was a good mod. Against my better judgement, I decided to see if he could accept any criticism from me, even if I wrapped it around a blanket of kissing his ass. Also against my better judgement, after several salvos of his blunt and aggressive criticisms and judgments of me and anything I said, the Mod randomly chose to relate to me when I mentioned growing up with a chronically ill mother who I still have to tend to. His own parents struggled with illness you see. I suppose in hindsight, I should have swallowed emotion and accepted the token olive branch. Instead, I noted how the Mod suddenly was treating me with dignity only after I offered something he could relate to from his own life.

His reply was, “well, **** you then,” and later banning me for a week. Only he never calls it bans, he calls them “vacations”.

From then on posting became a stress game where I never knew when the Mod would beam in for another round. Where anything I posted would get dissected, misunderstood, and told it didn’t belong while some MRA specialist could whine about a lack of pity sex and it allowed to go on for dozens of replies, or while the Pal could make another stupor-inspired statement. Last week I made the error of criticizing that the Pal suggesting that marijuana was the answer to stress induced impotence (due to an off handed remark by DNL in the column) triggered an argument with a few people suggesting I was a harsh anti-drug zealot on par with “Reefer Madness”. I sought to reaffirm my stance (that suggesting substances, especially ones not prescribed, to deal with emotional issues, can be a slippery slope to addiction for some people), and while most of us agreed, somehow I was coming at it from the wrong angle. And then the Mod came in with tirades that featured some of these lines:

“The cherry is that you refuse to actually do anything about your own life while telling other people how to improve their lives, as if you actually know a thing about doing so, and on top of that you routinely spread BAD INFORMATION and bad advice about literally everything you talk about.”

“You’ve got a blog you can pass out bad information and play coy with people in the comments”

“I know you don’t want to improve your life, but that’s sort of the thing here, so for a host of reasons; goodbye, gawd bless, and enjoy a nice long vacation from this section.”

The Mod gets paid to counsel people for a living.

And so went the permanent ban. Most posters who don’t curse people out, deliberately insult them, or advocate for rape rooms (seriously, sick guys come up) maybe get a second finite ban, maybe a month, before a third strike. I just got two. Even the Pal replied, “Aww dude that’s cold.” I’ve since joined a spin off forum formed by fans of the column which isn’t officially sanctioned by DNL but has many of the same people. The Mod is not a mod there, which is good. I get along with everyone else. However, the pace is slower as it’s not a site linked out much nor driven by the latest advice column or article. I was contacted by another poster who confirmed that from her angle my treatment was a little strange and that some of the issues regarding the Mod and his abrasive style and bizarre hypocrisy were not just me being petty or biased.

So, yeah, an entire diatribe about how someone was mean to me online. I said this would probably be one of the most immature things I posted here. Experiences such as this were not uncommon in the past, I guess I figured since I was older and the people there were too, that I could commiserate with people there about my feelings regarding relationships without being recruited for the latest he-man woman hater’s march. Unfortunately, online forums are always privy to personal politics and interpersonal hypocrisy. I know the Mod probably didn’t hate me insomuch as he hated “yet another ignorant older virgin man,” and that it wasn’t personal so much as having a hammer and seeing himself surrounded by nails. But it was still a little frustrating, and only highlights why I usually chose to be a lone wolf when it comes to being open and honest with how I feel about this sort of stuff. Much the same way as I became yet another symbol of angry virgin men to the Mod, he may have become another avatar of the sorts of holier-than-thou men I have dealt with who talk a big game about authority and righteousness yet prove to be just as petty and hypocritical as anyone else.

The zen is still here. I don’t feel lower about myself for being single or a virgin over this. I have to admit, I did have an immature, emotional reaction of wanting to dive into OkCupid, successfully date and even get into a relationship or two just to be able to return with a new name and tell the Mod to stuff himself. I’m a man, which means sometimes my emotional reactions are the same as a seven year old’s regardless of age. Disbelieve me? Just look at Congress.

On the plus side, I am headed into a second interview for a better job next week. I am very anxious about it and any number of things could still go wrong. I just felt my latest unsuccessful foray into seeking a sense of togetherness regarding my relationship status. And sometimes I wonder why I have ennui. I know this was a weird one, but thanks for reading. Hopefully future installments won’t be as political.

A Summer of Relative Zen

“I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.” — Popeye the Sailor Man

It’s almost the end of the month, and I like posting here at least that often. Partly for my sanity (whatever there is of it) and partly so it doesn’t seem like I abandoned the blog. Far from it. I’ve been busy with work, both my day job and my night job writing about comic books for a website. But it may be worth it to compare myself with where I was one, two, and three years ago. This is the 3rd anniversary of the blog, after all!

It’s officially been a year since the last website I wrote for closed down, and I must say I like the new online digs better. The money’s about the same — not much. But I feel more important, with a more hands on editor there. I’m one of the stars of the website, providing a bulk of material. I feel appreciated, not another cog in a machine. It took losing the previous website to realize just how much I enjoyed writing about my hobby in a semi-professional manner. In addition, I survived my day job’s restructuring last year as well, and while I am technically working for a new company, it’s run and owned by the same people (for the most part). Things certainly don’t seem as troubling as they were last July.

In terms of my endless angst about being the Dateless-Man, an end may be in sight. No, I haven’t found anyone or tried dating again. The day that happened, everyone who reads the blog would know — it’ll be the day there’s a nuclear holocaust or some other world shattering disaster. But, once again, compared to July 2016, and especially July 2014, I feel in a different place. In August 2014 I wrote an installment called, “Another summer of Discontent,” and while it’s only 3 years ago it feels like much longer to me. What felt like a raw gaping wound in my soul which would trigger pain sporadically no longer seems to be there. It’s another sign that my search for “Zen” — just not giving a damn about being a single eternal virgin — is closer than it has ever been. That’s been a theme to 2017 which I haven’t minded at all.

I wouldn’t exactly say I am happy or gleeful about my status. Occasionally there are pangs of regret, or twinges of, “wouldn’t be nice to ____” and so on. But so far it hasn’t led to any emotional cycles. While this saps a lot of will for angst-posting, it is better for my mental health. I’ve either come to accept my lot in life as the Dateless-Man, or I’m too comfortable to risk change. Either way, the difference is more in semantics. I have entertained potential near interest in giving OK Cupid another try (as I’m not really the type for app/swipe type online dating, most of all since I lack a consistent iPhone device), but nothing beyond that. I still don’t think I have the will, the drive, or the time to devote the time I need to make that work. And that’s alright. Maybe it’s accepting a negative self image to my core at long last, but so far the only symptoms are less emotional despair and no longer giving a damn (or at least as much of one) about this particular area of my life. I’ve lived without fulfilling this area of my life for so long that the lack of it no longer seems foreign or alien. It’s just part of me, like the lipoma on my back or the freckles on my skin. I probably care more about the comic book article I am putting off writing to post here than about whether or not I will still be alone by Labor Day. I KNOW I’ll be alone on Labor Day. There’s no mystery. What else would I be doing, holding court at a bordello? Now what’ll I be having for dinner on Labor Day, that’s the question.

This era of not giving a damn feels like looking at things through new eyes. I look back at a lot of my past memories and exploits, misadventures and failings with women, and kind of wish I didn’t take it so serious. I wish I’d have had that attitude back then. “Oh, she’s not interested? Of course she’s not. Who cares. What’s in the vending machine?” That attitude would have been SO much better in college than me moping for years because of jocks and stoners. Maybe I didn’t need confidence to ask women out; maybe I just needed to not give a damn when and if they rejected me. Unfortunately, I think I have reached this state at a time and place in my life where I don’t have the energy or location to pursue anything romantically.

It’s totally possible that my newfound Zen is just a layer of emotional defense mechanism I’ve managed to seal myself into for years. It’s very possible that the first hard rejection on the dating scene could crush me like it did in college. I don’t know, and I am not in a rush to find out. All I do know is College-Dateless-Man hadn’t lived through what current Dateless-Man has. He wasn’t a social worker for a while, then unemployed. He didn’t go to the mat helping his disabled mom keep his grandma out of a nursing home to die in peace for years. He didn’t take a sales job out of sheer desperation and then prove to be totally okay at it. He didn’t get the chance to make some cash and earn a few convention press passes typing about the hobby he loves for years. Maybe the only difference is that College-Dateless-Man hadn’t lost enough or struggled enough to realize there was more to suffer in life than being lonely. I accept that whatever a woman is looking for in a lover, that isn’t me. That doesn’t mean I have to be sad, or angry, or bitter about that. I spend a while giving a damn about it, and it sucked. Now I’m kind of done, at least for now.

This is the blog’s 3rd anniversary and I don’t plan to stop now. There are some topics I’d like to broach when I have more time. As well as there being no way of knowing what the future holds. For all I know I could save a hobo on the subway tracks, become Internet famous and suddenly have women asking me out. It’s as likely as anything else. For now this blog acts as a safety net, and maybe having one after all this time in life has made that tightrope a little easier to manage. Thanks for all the readers and commentors! That potential for an audience, whether small or large, proved to be the last element getting me to put thoughts to paper about my love life (or lack thereof) years ago when I’d never been able to do so before. And that, along with just getting older, has done me some net good. The path ahead, just not bearing so much of that weight from years past, already looks a little bit brighter than it did in 2016.