Dateless-Man vs. Incels

“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda, “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”, 1999

Here we go again. At least that’s what I and many others around the world think and feel when the latest atrocity by a “lone” maniac makes the rounds. While it is easy to paint it as merely a problem of the United States, due to our heaps of readily available guns, it’s not that simple. In case you haven’t heard, April came to a close with a massacre taking place in Toronto, Canada. This time the weapon of choice was a van, not a gun, but the death toll reached 10. Yet it isn’t just the horror of the event itself which has captured the media’s attention, but the supposed motivation of the killer (whose name I won’t type). Because the media love to advertise the motivations of the various lunatics and serial killers who enter history on stacks of bodies.

Much like the murders at Isla Vista, California less than four years ago, it’s shined a spotlight on the “incel” online community. Short for “involuntary celibate,” it’s a movement coined around a term which, ironically, was originally created by a bisexual woman. Once again, older male virgins are in the news, and that coverage isn’t healthy. To say that it is a hostile community is an understatement. Most forums run and organized by that “movement” are rich with some of the worst of misogyny and hateful speech you may find. Yet because the notion of older male virgins seems salacious to the media, the more writers and pundits focus on that and not anything else. Some of those who do this even entertain arguing about the “incels” on their own terms. Others merely exploit the subject matter to grind their own personal axes against women, or liberals, or Tumblr, or atheists, so on. The apex of this is a piece from the lofty New York Times that suggests that such murders might be stopped if liberals embraced “redistribution of sex” the same way people argue about the redistribution of wealth, or medical care.

Suffice it to say for obvious reasons, incidents like this always run chills down my spine. It isn’t just for the sheer horror and randomness of it, even though that’s plenty. It’s because I always feel as if I am on some spectrum with these nut jobs. I understand the frustration and loneliness of being an older male virgin, and of being single for what seems like an entire lifetime. I understand, and have felt, the moments of anger or bitterness about it. I also understand, and have felt, the sheer emotional anguish and self loathing over it. If I didn’t, I doubt I would have started this blog as a method of self-therapy and expression, nor maintained it for almost four years. The fact that I have anything in common with them, like gender, is bad enough. But having a shared life experience makes it seem even worse. “We’re not so different, you and I,” is a cliche line of dialogue from a villain to a hero, and that’s not always because of lazy writing.

But we are similar, are we not? I mean, to avoid being hypocritical, one could say calling myself “the Dateless-Man” isn’t far removed from calling myself an “incel.” I often have typed lengthy essays about how I am uniquely and distinctly different, in a bad way, from other men and the society around me. I’ve been accused more than one (on another forum) of succumbing to the fallacy of embodying a negative self identity. I say that I do it out of a sense of irony, or that at one point in college I considered making a comic strip about a character with that name which was going to be a sort of satirical autobiography (despite the fact that I can’t draw). But not everyone buys it, and sometimes even I can be full of crap, even about myself. I vent my thoughts and foibles online, and I have sought out a community to not feel so alone more than once. Add the fact that I’m certainly among the “wizard” class (older male virgins over 30) and I certainly have some troubling or at least counter-productive beliefs about dating and women despite my best interests, and it is easy to see how we could be two sides of the same coin. And that’s distressing and disheartening to me.

It certainly doesn’t help shake the negative beliefs and stereotypes about older male virgins that abound. It’s bad enough if other people see me as lame or a loser if they found out — especially women. But them thinking of me as a ticking time bomb or being dangerous atop of that is even worse, and even more unhelpful. It makes the subject of my sexual status into more of a secret to keep at all costs, to never share with any living soul under any circumstances without the convenience of physical distance and an online alias.

There were times when I thought I was in danger of snapping. Of being wound so tight that one really, really, really bad day could send me off the deep end. While that’s always a risk, I think I am more content that such a thing won’t happen now than I was in 2014, or when I was younger. And there are other times when I wonder what exactly makes me different from these “incels,” what separates me from them. Is it really some sort of strength of moral character on my part? Was it growing up being raised by a single mother who, despite it all I do love? Or was it due to convenient timing that when I was at my most vulnerable in high school and college, this “online community” was either non-existent or in such infancy that I never found it. Or was it my inner cynic, refusing to believe anyone who promised easy answers?

After all, while the “incel” community wasn’t around when I was at most emotionally vulnerable at the top of the 21st century, I could have sought them out later. And part of the lure is that they offer something which many people find themselves lacking, virgins or not — belonging. Loneliness is itself a dangerous thing, capable of causing physical an mental harm to someone over time. That’s why solitary confinement is considered torture in some circles (and countries, and states). I had various pet gerbils for over a decade, and as social rodents, they will literally die very shortly if left all alone, regardless of food or other resources. In ancient times, the idea of someone dying over “a broken heart” or “in despair” was treated as a common fact of life; nowadays some new think tank has to rediscover such things (the same way that the clitorus was “discovered” by academia multiple times).

Yet the problem with “incels,” at least as I have observed from a great distance, is they’re founded in toxicity. They use mutual trauma as a prison to keep each other in line, and the group together. It’s encouraged to focus such dark feelings outward, and to blame others — especially women and men of color — for all of their troubles. In social-psychology, this is called “groupthink,” where a group of individuals soon cease being individuals and become part of a group mob. In the business world, this happens in boardrooms; on the streets it can happen as a riot. Details include coming up with insular dialogue and words that only members in the group understand. The most well known ones are “Chads” (dumb hot men who get sex), “Normies,” “Stacies” (pretty women) “Beckys” (aggressive “feminists”), embracing the idea of alpha and beta men, and the terms get grosser and more disgusting as you go along the glossary. I won’t dignify these with definitions, nor some of the others, since their terms for men of color (or Middle Eastern descent) get even uglier. There’s an extreme conservative bent to this movement, since in many ways there is overlap with Neo-Nazis and militia gun-nuts. Yet if you strip away the racism, it isn’t too dissimilar to cults and toxic groups from other countries. After all, didn’t Al Queada famously offer “77 virgins in heaven” to “warriors” who died for their cause? Didn’t they also take advantage of lonely men with no hope and hordes of toxic attitudes and egg each other on? Extremism is extremism; only the details and demographics change.

The sad thing is, I understand all of it on an intellectual and even at times personal level. I understand the feelings of loneliness, bitterness, even envy at others. I understand the social shame that virginity can also feel like. One thing I never did, however, was aim those negative feelings outward. I never blamed women, whether specific or general, for my ills. I may blame society on a grander scale, but more often I blame myself. And this isn’t hyperbole. Check out some of my older postings from 2014-2016. If you took a shot every time I typed words such as “freak,” “loser,” “lame,” “circus freak,” or even “pathetic” to describe myself, you’d be plastered before you got ten posts deep. I had to hold back to “merely” list ten flaws about myself, yet struggled to find ten strengths. I have been down deep pits of depression and I know how easy it would be to let go and give into hatred. And that’s what is at the core of much of the “incel” community; a mutual hatred.

I do feel anger at a group of people sometimes, and it isn’t women, it is toxic men like the “incels.” If women are hesitant to trust “strange” or “offbeat” men, it is because most if not all men they’ve encountered like that hurt them. They face more risk of death, abuse, and rape just in everyday life, after all. It is types like the “incels” who make life for the rest of us Dateless-Men and Women harder, because they enforce the stereotypes of virgins being weirdos and freaks. I’m a freak, but I’m a friendly one, like Disney’s Quasimodo. I grow insulted that they would use a pain that I and many others share, and use it as justification to lash out at the innocent, and everyone but themselves.

If there is one thing I have learned, it’s this:

Everyone suffers. But what separates heroes from villains is that heroes use suffering as an inspiration, and villains use it as an excuse.

I may often use my faults and virginity to excuse myself from trying to change, especially since I rarely feel it would be worth it. I doubt I would succeed or have the heart to see it through. But I have never used it as an excuse to lash out at others, to justify an act of selfishness, cruelty, violence, or gender bias. As shameful, frustrating, and lonely as it cane be to be a dateless older virgin, I say it’s even worse to be seeped in hatred for entire genders or ethnic groups, or be involved in online cults which are this close to being recruitment forums for extremists. And it is even more disheartening to see the media even cede any logical or moral ground to their philosophy by even entertaining the notion that sex can be “divided” like a commodity. Heck, thinking of other people as “things” is arguably the cause of most human misery throughout history. Many “incels” do not have reasonable ideas about gender or sex. They merely have found a crowd that eggs on the worst side of their venting, and have turned their anger and frustration outward. Or, they’re avoiding the very real work of trying to adapt to the world around them or learn more about themselves. And the fact that so many media outlets or commentators — by sheer coincidence, all men themselves — even entertain some of the ideas that most “incels” project or rant about symbolizes just how deeply entrenched sexism and misogyny is in our society. The irony is that it is these deep seeded notions of what men and sex should be often lead to the feelings of shame and isolation that older men feel.

After all, most of the rules of society, and especially when men should or shouldn’t be, are crafted and enforced mostly by other men, to the benefit of other men (in power). Are there women who embody some of those attitudes to? Of course. But they weren’t the originators. And lord knows women throughout history have faced issues regarding around their virginity being seen as something more than it is.

There is a part of me that wonders if a part of what motivates some people to give the “incel” movement a try isn’t just deep seeded hatred or misogyny or even loneliness — even if all are big motivators. Is there an element of frustration not only from the situation, but from a lot of the bad or lame “advice” that is often given (and usually sold, and not cheaply) to dateless men? Many “incels” tried the whole “pick up artist” thing — which is itself draped in a lot of sexist macho man ideals — and are bitter that “the rules” didn’t work out for them. As I said in my blog post about “virginity advice“, most of it is either rooted in insulting macho man dogma that reinforces negative self hatred, or is seeped in Pollyanna milquetoast philosophy which is well-intended yet often unrealistic or naive. This lack of any “ideal” advice isn’t an excuse; I just wonder if it is a mitigating factor.

But ultimately, the hows and whys of the “incels” may not be the real thing to worry about. The thing to worry about is trying to protect the innocent from being victims of sprees from angry men with nothing to lose. Because no matter the shame or loathing that comes with being alone, it never justifies hurting another person, under any circumstances. Change ultimately comes from within, and I ultimately always believed in trying to be the best version of myself. If that version of myself has to be alone and untouched by any woman, so be it. And if that makes me “beta” or “a white knight,” then I would rather be such things than a coward who attacks the world for my own failings and insecurities. I, and men of reason, need to reject this movement and try to return such rantings and ravings to the dustbin of history where they belong.

I may be a Dateless-Man, but that’s better than being a Hateful-Man, or a Soulless-Man. And the world has too many hateful and soulless men out there.

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And Then there was One

Time to another installment. For a brief recap, I am still in the probation period of my new gig, and have just crossed the 6th month line. This is midway through the time frame needed to go from “conditional” to “permanent” (or close to it) at my new city job. It already feels like an eternity. Between micro management, poor luck and the sense that provisional employees are treated like canon fodder, it feels like a lifetime. But, if someone had told me a year ago I’d have a job like this even for this long, I’d have called them crazy. I still feel the zen, and that’s about all I feel in terms of being touched by others. I still get less play than a vinyl record of gangsta rap in Esperanto.

In between of this, of course, I remain the Dateless-Man; possessor of the “anti-hormone” where seductive energy can neither enter nor escape. Yet while I continue on my routine, life moves on for those around me. Last month I attended an impromptu reunion of my best friends based upon the brief visit of an old high school chum. Yet among the cast of characters, there was one friend who was missing; my old friend “T”, who is often busy with being a police officer. I wish I had come up with a better nickname for him back in 2014 like I had for the various women in the flashbacks. I’ll expand it to “Tee.” He’s one of my oldest friends, having met him in junior high. During my high school and college years it was rare to go even two weekends without seeing or speaking to him. He was actually among the pals who “convinced” (more like playfully threatened to blackmail) me into joining Facebook in 2012-2013. The idea was to make it easier to communicate, especially for semi-monthly gatherings.

Yet in recent years, it’s been Tee who has been scarce. He barely shows up online anymore and I actually haven’t seen him in person since sometime in 2016. That’s the fate of pals sometimes; schedules conflict and life gets in the way. But that all changed last month. All of a sudden he was back on Facebook, and he wasn’t alone. Just like that, Tee’s status changed — he was married.

Married. I’d barely heard he was engaged, and all of a sudden within the span of 48 hours he was spamming the internet with wedding and honeymoon photos. I’d met most of his past girlfriends — even befriended one of his exes — yet I’d never even heard of his new wife until now. Tee certainly looks happy, and as buff as ever; as a former “fat kid,” he’s since become a champion weight lifter. It wasn’t so much that I thought he could “never” get married or anything like that; he was a serial monogamist. It isn’t that I was jealous like some friends get when others marry and suddenly have less time to hang out; as I mentioned, I’d hardly seen him since the end of the Obama administration.

What took me back was the suddenness of it, as well as the addition of Tee among the ranks of my “married friends.” Out of my main circle of “guy friends” who I met in junior high and high school, most of them are now married. One other is engaged in all but name. Even the pal who visited was with someone steady. The only one of my pals who isn’t is the one I dubbed “M****“, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he announced something similar at random any time now. Many of my friends who are women are married, but in a way that’s less of a shock. This is probably for social conditioning reasons, since even to this day women are expected to “settle down” quicker while men are encouraged or allowed to be free wheeling bachelors as long as they want to. Yet the realization that among my pals, I was practically the only one who was not either married, engaged, or seeing someone long term despite being the eldest in the circle (even if by a few months), hit me. Heck, even many of my more casual acquaintances are married now.

Married. While I have had three dates in my life. Have never been kissed. Have never been touched. The other day while wedged in the train commuting to work during rush hour, someone accidentally touched the side of my hip. It’s the sort of thing which accidentally happens during the crush of commuters. Yet it made me do a double take, as if I’d been electrocuted. I wasn’t sure what it was for a moment until I realized. I am not used to being touched by anyone, especially below the belt. Even something casual or accidental can feel jarring and foreign, or at least unfamiliar.

This isn’t a feeling of envy. I don’t want to be married right now. The very notion of fatherhood terrifies me, and at least one of my friends (not Tee) is a father now (which feels all sorts of weird). Nor is this a feeling of entitlement; I don’t feel I am “owed” a wife or a lover, nor do I feel “denied” anything by birthright. It was merely a reminder of how “behind” I was in terms of social romantic experience, especially for people my age. It was a sign of difference, of otherness and separation. Around some of the circles I travel online in what some could call the “dating advice” community (or, bluntly, the website of Doctor Nerdlove and an unofficial spin off message board), people preach the idea that there are supposedly no such things as “norms” for romantic experience. That it is folly to compare your experiences with those around you because “you’re comparing your unedited footage to their highlight reel.” That everyone lives and loves at their own pace, that nobody ever pays attention to media expectations or peer pressure, and all sorts of Pollyanna baloney.

Yet in living my life and interacting with the pals who know me best, I cannot help but feel like someone or something else. According to at least one recent survey, the “average” number of lovers that people in America and the U.K. sleep with in a lifetime is between 4-7 different people. That isn’t “stud-muffin” level, that is average. And to a man, all of my close pals match that. While I don’t keep firm stock of their love lives and I may have missed a fling or two, all of the married ones match in line with that figure. Even my one pal who is engaged who could be considered the one who “got around the most” isn’t beyond that range of 4-7 different people. It isn’t just the male ego’s drive to “rack them up”; the search for an ideal lover to settle down with is a marathon, not a sprint. The ideal trend is that as the journey begins, people “experiment,” learn how to handle relationships, or at least have enough that they know what they truly want.  Now, like all averages, there are outliers. There are people who still marry their first or second lover for whatever reason, and there are those who carry the same mistakes and baggage into dozens of relationships. But those sorts of people are outliers, and the latter group are usually seen as dysfunctional.

I am older than all of my friends. Yet, barring divorce, they are at the end of their romantic journeys. They muddled through the teen years, being young adults, and then career professionals (for the most part). They “sowed their wild oats” and settled down. They learned enough about what they want in long term lovers by actually having a few. And I haven’t even begun that journey. I have never been kissed. Touch for me is so rare that an accidental pass on a subway train can cut through me like a chilly wind. This doesn’t mean I am a better or worse person, but what it does mean is that the romantic road ahead is likely to be more difficult, since I am starting later than average. And that I may not have many opportunities if and when I did, and therefore more pressure would be on them unintentionally. It means I am different and unusual, against the norm. I may have missed a window of opportunity that I may never have a chance to reach. Or if I do, it may be akin to the journey of anyone who starts late and behind schedule — full of stress, half measures, and overcompensation. Not exactly what I look forward to.

The cheese stands alone. And apparently, so do I. I just hope I age a little better; I’d hate to become runny.

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.”

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.