The Kink Panther Leaves amid Co-Worker Rumblings

It’s nearly the end of the month so it’s time for another blog post. The most pressing update is my housing situation. The saga, or sham, of housing court continues. It has been adjourned again to mid October. It feels like waiting for my economic life to come to an end in slow motion. And until then there is little I can do but take work one day at a time. I’ve had plenty of”real life”things take my focus away from dating or my own non-existent, premature, failure of a love life, but this takes the cake. I genuinely don’t want to see what gets worse than possibly becoming homeless. I’m on month 11 out of 12 for probation, and still expecting to be axed any day.

But until that happens, thanks to sublimation I can comment on other things more in line with the stated purpose of this blog. And both of these updates and segments are bits which might be too short to make their own proper installments individually, but together may produce a proper length. I don’t have a text minimum or anything, I just like expressing myself with the proper wordage. “New month, not dead yet,” doesn’t quite fill up a screen too well.

The first update stems directly from last month, which maintains a sense of flow. While I haven’t planned the order or subjects of posts so often since I ran out of meaty past memories a few years ago, I do like when the subjects fit together from month to month. After all, I imagine myself a writer. Back in August I reported on a slightly significant development in terms of the subjects of this blog. To recap, I’d stumbled across a younger woman online whose fetish taste happened to match up with mine, and we’d spent the summer doing text RP sessions via instant messages. And no, I am still not going to reveal it openly here. Anyway, I went at it from all angles, mingling my fascination with ANY positive experience with a woman in any medium with concerns over her age (she was in college) as well as pondering if maybe I divide segments of myself too much out of shyness and shame.

Well, like many things in life, it’s ended anti-climatically. The two of us would IM several times a day, or at least daily, from June thru the top of August. Yet for the past month or so as summer has waned into fall, she fell off. It wasn’t just our “roleplaying,” it was also our chatter between each other on the forum where she’d first reached out to me. By about mid August I was lucky to get 2-3 exchanges in a week. And now it’s been nothing since about Sept. 9th. The Kink Panther may have been stirred, but now it is time to slumber once more.

I’m actually not terribly disappointed about this. It’d be creepy if I was, since all this was was a little text role-play online — “CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE” with a partner where nothing got beyond PG. Nor did I especially want it to. As I said, while it was genuinely flattering and ego boosting to have a woman compliment me or call me “awesome” or flirt with me, even via text, the age gap was a bit distressing for me. It was nothing illegal — I all but demanded she acknowledge being over 18 before any of this started — but still beyond any age gap I was really comfortable with. While we both indulged our fetishes in our shared fan fiction, there were lines I wouldn’t cross. The distance between us was another factor — she lives in Madrid, Spain — but the age was the biggest factor. I felt like I was straddling the line of what was acceptable for someone in my position to do considering my age and morality. And all of this was over wordplay which was less risque than the average romance paperback at most chain pharmacies!

It’s possible (even likely) that she was investing more emotion in this than I was, and lost interest. I return compliments every time, but it never got as flirty as I think she wanted it to. She often blurred the line between “her” and “her character” more than I was willing to. Again, on my end this was another symptom to her being much younger. I did not want to take advantage, or lead her on, or give her illusions I had no intention of fulfilling, even in as small an interaction as we had going. Were she, say, at least 25-26 maybe things would have gotten more complicated. I may have pushed the envelope more. But younger than that and I feel like a vampire, or Dorian Grey.

It’s possible she lost interest because, well…she’s at that age where that happens. It’s possible school season’s kicked up and she has far less spare time. Maybe she was RPing with some other dudes closer to her own age who played the game more to her liking. Or it could be a combination of these things. Regardless, I do consider it a learning experience, and an unexpected bright spot on a summer which has been pretty stressful and terrible overall. I learned that it was possible for a woman to be receptive, even enthusiastic and complimentary, of a part of my sexual identity which I am even more ashamed of than being a virgin in my 30’s. I once again learned what I am willing to do and not do to “scratch my itches,” albeit even in limited forms such as text and shared imagination. I will not exploit ignorance to get pleasure from a woman, at least not comfortably. The disadvantage of a younger woman, especially one in her mid to early 20’s, is she doesn’t have enough life experience to realize what a loser I am. I do. And if I capitalize, then I take responsibility for misleading someone.

Amid all this, I have a somewhat interesting dynamic relating to a co-worker. I haven’t talked about any of my co-workers often, since my last job in 2016. This new city job has produced a new mass of co-workers to have to interact with, but they’re not the same. Most are too “normal,” too focused on career to have much imagination, and too cutthroat to allow any difference or abnormality to emerge without trying to score brownie points gossiping to a supervisor. It gave me a bit of pause to become face to face so many times with that which I have punished myself for being unable to become — a “normal” person. So lacking in passion, understanding, empathy, or anything beyond a spreadsheet and mindless protocol. I may hardly be much of a freak, but next to the norms I may as well wear a gimp mask and dance in a cage.

No, that is not my fetish.

There are also more women at this new job, and the co-workers I got the closest to were the ones who did training with me last October. That makes sense, since the shared environment and experiences were very much like a class. All of us were bundles of nerves, together. And all of us got thrown into the fire of “the real job” at the same time. The one I have probably gotten the closest to is a woman who will now get an alias. How about Dinah? (For those who may be new or haven’t kept up with previous chapters, I use aliases for women that I specifically talk about in my life in which I take the first letter of their first name and come up with an alternate name around that.) I’d noticed her not long into my training, but midway thru it they switched our seating arrangements so we sat together.

The frustrating thing about myself is despite all of my bleating about being an outcast or bad at talking to people, I’m fine so long as romance is off the table. I’ve actually gotten better at it since mid-2011, when I first began my “career” of telephone customer service/telemarketing. I HAD to. I had under $20 in my bank account at the time and no other jobs were happening. Matched with my own natural inclination to use humor and wisecracks to interact with people, and it actually gives off the impression that I am way friendlier and/or socially hip than I am. And since I don’t see the workplace as a dating service, even though I may encounter women who are “my type” at a particular job, I don’t have illusions or delusions about that. As my experience with, say, exploring a fetish under an alias online (as well as my dating angst) shows, I am fine with sublimating and dividing segments of my life. Perhaps too good. Anyway, what this ironically means is that I probably have an easier time revealing my “genuine self” or closer to it to someone with which I am not actively trying to woo.

Dinah didn’t immediately seem like the sort of person who might like my often cynical sense of humor, but she has. But then again, most people do; I say it a lot and it translates horribly here, but in real life it isn’t hard for me to make someone laugh so long as the timing is appropriate and they’re not humorless in general. We often sit near each other on the work floor (since we have to sit as near our supervisor as possible) and even our lockers are pretty close together. Any work dealing with the public, whether by phone or live, means some in between call banter to de-stress and we do that sometimes. And we talk if we run into each other at the end of the day in the locker room (which, obviously, are co-ed with lockers exactly as crummy as high school lockers).

Now, however, we’ve reached that point in my interactions with any woman I get to know for any length of time who may be “my type” where I wonder what is genuine friendliness or interaction and what is a sign she may “like me” in some ways. Usually, from what I have learned from the Internet, TV, and urban legends, it’s some deviance from the routine. There are times when I feel she goes out of her way to get a chance to talk to me, although it’s hardly an everyday thing. During one period when our schedules and seating arrangements resulted in zero contact for about a week or so, I entered the locker room with her there and she said, “I was JUST thinking about you.”

No woman, who wasn’t a relative or teacher, in any circumstance had said anything like that to me in at least a decade, if not ever. I had to stop from either gasping or doing a double take. I am not exaggerating. Positive interactions with women I am even remotely into are more rare than an honest televangelist. “R-Really,” I believe I stammered. “Nothing bad, I hope.” It turned out to just be that we’d been passing ships lately.

The wrinkle of course isn’t just that it is work. Dating at the workplace or among co-workers is often considered forbidden fruit for a variety of reasons. Guilty corporate men fearing lawsuits is one of them. Another is that if things go badly or are misunderstood, at best it can make the workplace awkward and lead to distracting gossip. At worst, it could lead to a complaint to HR or a supervisor. Dating co-workers is considered “expert level dating” for this reason alone, and even many ravenous stud-muffins will draw a line at it. But at my work place in particular the added wrinkle is the element I described earlier; other co-workers or supervisors seemingly eager to complain or issue a write up for even the slightest perception of a rule violation. I don’t fear if I made a move at Dinah and our wires were crossed she’d personally run to make a sexual harassment claim. I fear that any supervisor or random co-worker who gets wind of it would do so. My position is the lowest rung of the totem pole, and a “probie” is lower than even that. And this job never lets me forget it for even one week.

So this keeps me from getting my hopes up or desiring this to change realms from professional to personal. So it, ironically, keeps me at ease talking with her. Because I am a guy who can be myself at work, and a masked virgin here, and a masked fetish explorer elsewhere. But there are times where I wonder if dividing myself, as well as burying things about myself that I dislike, is really the best way to live. Were I younger I would be moaning and groaning at how cruel fate was regarding this situation with Dinah. But as an older adult with perspective I know it’s just one of those things. It is what it is and I am comfortable with where it is and so is she.

So anyway, that’s where I am at in between housing court drudgery. Sink your teeth into that one. And no, that’s not my fetish.

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The Kink Panther

It actually is a bit of a shame that this blog, much like my entire life at the moment, is under the specter of homelessness and/or economic despair despite still having my city job (month 9 out of 12 of probation is in the can). Not just because of homelessness being bad, but because I had a genuinely interesting development related to this blog’s topic develop more or less ever since my last installment was posted in July. In fact, in many ways it dovetails with a segment from 2016. It’s always good when this blog has some sense of narrative flow, especially since it is totally unintentional.

Rather than summarize that last installment, I’ll just get to the gist. In addition to being a hapless older male virgin, I also have a sexual fetish. Quite what it is I shall never reveal. Should anyone even guess it, I would deny it or decline to comment. Suffice it to say, it’s nothing illegal and it, like many of my “darkest desires,” is probably tamer than the average prime time TV show. It was something which developed alongside my sexual development during puberty. I likely feel certain degrees of shame around it, and perhaps this helps fuel a lot of my romantic shyness and anxiety. After all, a virgin in his 30’s is weird and bizarre enough; reveal he has a fetish too and suddenly it risks being seen as a creep. “Oh, so that’s why no woman will touch you! You’re a pervert!” I imagine the hordes screaming. It’s bad enough being seen as a potential mass shooter in waiting.

Ever since the Internet became a part of my daily life in college, I’ve sought to dip my toe into exploring it in the usual way I explore things. I use an online alias to keep my identity a mystery, and I separate it from my “everyday” life and identity as much as I can. I’m a man behind a mask, but I wear more than one mask. Perhaps the way I compartmentalize everything in my life is another quirk or problem. My “real friends” are here, my “work associates” are here, my love life is in a box over there, and the fetish trunk is off to the side. Never the twain shall meet, yet they’re all elements of who I am. Maybe it doesn’t get easier to explore or move forward in any one direction when I am already split up in several. Yet on the rare chances there is a risk of overlap, I found it very disconcerting at best, and nerve wracking at worst. The world is complicated, and my life has been a chaotic mix of poverty and tenacity, so I try to inject as much order and purpose as possible. Even where none may be possible.

At any rate, in this other “community” I am one of countless people behind a fake name and an avatar image on a screen. And I interact with people, yet my interactions are far more limited than my efforts here, or over at Doctor Nerdlove’s spare forum. At some point at pure random another user — a much younger woman — has reached out to me in private messages. Quite why she chose me I have no idea, but we got to talking and now we essentially role play our fetishes via instant message texts and shared imagination. It is sort of like CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE with a partner.

To say this is a bizarre situation is to put it mildly. Before we began, fearing some sort of set up or misunderstanding, I insisted that she acknowledge being at least 18 or over in text (which I saved). The last thing I wanted to do is stumble into a pedophile’s trap. And while this does revolve around a fetish, none of our actual roleplays themselves are strictly erotic. It isn’t like what used to be known as “cyber,” where two people online basically describe having sex with each other via text. In fact, while if looked at objectively, the fetish would be obvious, the material is little different than a lot of pop fiction which is rated PG or so. It’s content which may check off the fetish boxes for those who share it, but to outsiders is hardly what any would consider pornographic. No mention of genitals, and our “characters” never take off clothes in our “adventures.”

I’ve engaged in message board role playing as part of my daily routine since 2002. Yet much of this until now has been centered around the universes within comic books or anime that I like, or games created by some of my friends. It’s an extension of the tabletop RPG’s my friends and I played in high school (character sheets, dice and all). I’ve interacted with players much younger than me before as part of this, and this hasn’t been a problem for the most part. Yet this is something quite different. Much as people who know me as the Dateless-Man know me first and foremost because of my shameful secret, this is someone who knows me first and foremost because of a shared fetish. It’s the first detail which we knew we had in common, and the rest is extended from that.

Yet because of my own woeful inexperience and my segmenting of aspects of my life, she has become the first woman in my entire life who has interacted with me regarding a topic which at least vaguely sexual. And not just sexual, but a part of my sexual identity which I both acknowledge and consider taboo. In this small, baby step way, I have met someone who approves of and wants to interact with at least one aspect of my romantic self, albeit in text, across vast differences (since she lives in Europe), and in a format which is far tamer than I am making it seem.

Part of this is difficult. Because she is quite a bit younger than I (a college freshman), I am very careful with my responses outside of the roleplay. I do not want to scare her off or appear mean. On the other hand, I do not want to lead her on or make this into more than it is. The other part of this is that she’s quite…enthusiastic about certain things. “Out of character” she flirts and offers compliments (i.e. it isn’t rare for her to call me “handsome” even though she has no idea what I look like). Because I have a vivid imagination and a clever grasp of wordplay (as well as a quick wit, it seems), I have somehow emerged as near the peak of those she has roleplayed this stuff with — at least so she claims. We collaborate a little on the basic premise of whatever roleplay she wants and then I essentially come up with all the details, including character dialogue, virtually on the fly. Somehow she sees this as magic, or above average. She has called me “awesome” many times, for instance. I assume a lot of this is due to her own inexperience compared to my experience. I’ve had years to practice how to write, after all. I’m a college graduate and I have been both role playing online and writing in general a long time. And then she has escalated to the point where, on her own volition, she sent me pictures of herself. They’re standard Facebook style picture, nothing suggestive or anything, but they were still unprompted and I do worry she is maybe making more of this than I want to. So I play a bit of a game where I want to give positive responses while also being vague on details and I wonder if this is better or worse than just going, “Look, I am thirty-[BLANK] years old and while the RP’s are fun it isn’t developing into anything more.”

Yet on the other hand, I know what it is like to be weird and lonely. I suppose by now I should come up with a patented nickname for her, so I’ll go with “Ellie”. From how she describes things, men her age where she is don’t appreciate “geeky” girls. And our forum is one revolving around a fetish, which most people keep under wraps. I’m not the first person she’s RP’d like this before (she’s implied she’s done this with at least two others, whether currently or in the past is unknown). She does blur the line between her “character” and her sometimes, perhaps in the similar way that I go online and only talk about my fretting about being a crusty old virgin as “the Dateless-Man (TM)”. While she teases about meeting up and cosplaying, the distance makes that doubtful. Nor would I engage her if it got to that level. She is simply too young.

This interaction with Ellie reminded me a bit of some of the advice I have been given over the years. More than one person, including one of our regular commentors, suggested I go after younger women rather than ones my age or older more or less for this reason. That their inexperience matched with their current development phase (often still in the “fooling around/exploring stuff for the sake of exploration” age) means they may be more down with stumbling upon an old unicorn like me rather than a woman who is 30+ with a kid and two jobs. Yet to me that feels awkward at best, and taking advantage of naivety at worst, and I do not like to take advantage of people deliberately.

A part of me wonders just how “awesome” Ellie would think I am if she knew I was a 30+ year old virgin who still lived with my mother who was THIS CLOSE to becoming homeless. I only seem clever or sophisticated because I have better text wordplay and imagination than the mostly teenage dudes she’s been used to — go me, I can outwit men half my age (or more). It’s easy to pretend to be suave or charming via the written word; you have all the time in the world to come up with the perfect line, and can look at your own archives in black and white to think about each subsequent response. Whereas the real life experience is far less eloquent or elegant. It’s a conditional and temporary phase, one which she or others in her situation may one day regret doing if things go too far. While I would never, say, search for people this young were I to make a serious go on OkCupid again, it isn’t impossible for me to stumble upon someone age 21 in a bar. The last speed dating event I want to at a comic convention was full of women who were, at best, a day over 21. And while over 18 is over the age of consent, does that entirely mean someone aged 18-21 or so is incapable of offering it? Is it wrong of me to deny someone autonomy if it just sort of happened? Is is wrong to be that “cool older guy” even if I know objectively it’s a phase? Where does the line between taking advantage and capitalizing begin? Sure, ideally I shouldn’t even consider dating anyone under 25-26 under the “half your age plus 8” rule, and even that’s awfully young. Yet am I once again overthinking even theoretical stuff just to stay miserable? If a gal wanted to add “witty older virgin” to her Pokemon badge vest, is it being controlling to insist that I know better?

There are parts of this, while still in the realm of not being pornographic or seductive, that I wonder might end up being good practice or showcase what sort of lover I could be. Being that these are role plays based heavily around a fetish, I have an idea of what she likes (especially since in our planning sessions she’s more or less told me in so many words). There is one aspect or angle that isn’t quite my bag, but I am willing to compromise about in small ways within the shared narrative because I know she likes it. Plus, my years of running less kinky role plays has taught me that it isn’t about being a parasite, but a give and take. A “player” is willing to have more fun and stick around if I give them what they want sometimes, rather than be inflexible or make it all about myself. And adapting to a narrative curve-ball in a session is kind of fun. And when they have fun, I have fun, because it is a shared experience.

Perhaps most importantly was showcasing my ability to compromise in the “fetish sessions” with one instance where I crossed a line. Without knowing it I had written some angle which to Ellie went a little too far. Again, this is nothing pornographic or involves genitalia, but the sort of unique quirks and tropes of our fetish. I stumbled into a bit which wasn’t her bag, completely innocently. Ellie made it very clear this was too far and basically asked me to redo it. And did I get defensive and obstinate? At best I plead my case for one line before capitulating. It’s the overall session which matters, and us being comfortable. Ellie not liking it was enough, and ultimately it was hardly a big deal, especially in the imaginary world of text role playing. Yet I hear in the world of real sex and romance, being able to be flexible and adaptable with shared interests and making a well intended err are good qualities. To me they’re just automatic reflexes.

In another post about temptation from 2015, I wondered how I would react upon hearing certain things. While I have been complimented by women before, even by those I was or could have been romantically interested in, this seems different. Perhaps because Ellie is part of a world which I and many others lock in boxes and don’t share with the world out of fear. Or at least perhaps because I do. The very idea that someone could know this one detail about me and still consider me “awesome” is kind of flattering. It is absolutely rare when I feel that emotion around women, or anything that hinted at something kinky or risque. I usually feel invisible at best and like a freak at worst around women, or situations which even tease with being romantic or kinky.

At least until I remember the reality. This is a young woman who is a world away, who is too young to realize how lame I am, and who I am a different cohort to. Our interactions are fun, but ultimately the sort of online baby steps of exploration that most people in their 20’s or so have long since moved past. Ellie is right on track in her development, while I am akin to a gnome under a bridge that time forgot. I may be a nice gnome, and we may have a good visit for a time, but ultimately this is a fleeting experience. Ellie has the world ahead of her, of which I am a very small part. I don’t mind having been part of a positive experience for someone else, especially a geeky kid who feels peers can’t relate. But on the other hand, I know of the limitations, and that my own development has forever been stunted.

Perhaps something constructive could have been learned from this. Perhaps my failure in online dating in college was not due to me being terrible, but the fact that I barely gave it full gusto, and that my writing skills have had over 11 years to develop. Maybe there is a way to capitalize on this in text, with people my own age. And even if I failed, maybe I would improve over time. But what then? What if I wooed someone with wordplay, only to be “Herp, derp, do you like stuff” in real life due to insecurity? Is it wrong to use my writing skills to project a version of myself that I in no way, shape or form could live up to? What about doing so with my voice? I’ve technically made a living with it via telephone jobs for 7 years. There are chat-lines, although they are not cheap.

This is a fascinating development. For a fleeting moment I have a little positive vibes around an element of myself that I am even shyer about than being a virgin. Such a shame that it has arisen at a time when my own economic instability may make all of this academic. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Dateless-Man vs. Life

July marks the 4th anniversary of this blog. Both I and this space have gone through a lot. I began this journey needing a place to vent a lot of my frustrations, memories, and theories about the opposite sex. It took a while to burn through my history of major interactions with women — not all interactions, but most of the critical ones. A part of me is amazed it took as long as it did, considering I’d only been on three dates in my life and still am flying Virgin Airlines. June went by without a post, because I’ve been busy with life.

Unfortunately, not much of it have been good. I am still working at my new city job, having just passed the 8th month threshold. Only four left until I make it past probation, and therefore my job becomes harder to lose. They already feel like a century, although back in the spring I would have been psyched to make it this far. I hate twisting in the wind, where every mistake or misstep seems like an unforgivable offense. But the worst part of it is that my elderly, disabled mother (and I) are facing eviction from our slumlord. Our tenement apartment building gained a new management company in December 2017, and they officially assumed command in January. This was the 4th management company overseeing the building since 2009 (when the original landlord was murdered). The building is a den of disrepair and health code violations, and has been run by varying batches of mobsters, retired mobsters, and white collar criminals since as far back as I could remember. Such is the state of real estate in New York. Because my mother and I have been in one apartment since 1983 — and won a lawsuit which froze the rent a while — we likely pay among the lowest rent in the building. Furthermore, we’re also the 2nd longest serving tenants there; half the building has barely been there 2 years, by design. So the cross-hairs are on us, and we’re going thru the merry go ’round of housing court and various agencies which never help. Even my union lawyer does slightly more than nothing. Despite never missing rent, and despite living in a hovel which has black mold and where the pipes don’t work, and half the ceilings are cracked or look like they’re about to collapse, the odds of me being homeless around Labor Day, or at best Halloween, is even.

I was technically homeless within the first year of my life; thankfully I don’t recall it. The notion of becoming homeless for the second time in less than 40 years is not only scary, but is pathetic for someone who lives in “the richest nation in the world.” Suffice it to say, my fretting or philosophizing about being a single virgin took lower priority. Not to say that the oncoming catastrophe has made me never think about it at all; it’s simply become “one more thing.” Something to cast aside until times improve, if ever. Yet my enemy remains time itself.

And that got me thinking. There isn’t much to do when you await a meteor to hit me, at least economically. I think to the previous tragedies in my life, or my mother’s life, which resulted in having to cope, or recover, or adapt to a new change, which pushed my love life to the curb. In summer 2016, for example, a knee injury was an obvious example. But that was barely a drop in the bucket. So for my sake and your reading pleasure, I’ll list a few by year. The challenge will be doing so without revealing my age.

1994-1996: My mother’s health was waning, I was taking more responsibility, and her own failing health and sanity led Grandma to spend more time with us. I literally shared a room with her 75% of the time by this stage.

1999: My mother officially and legally becomes handicapped and can no longer work. Money becomes tighter. I have to grow up faster.

2000-2005: My mother becomes a basket case for a bit over some of her own relationships that end badly. I wonder if this effected me? Some of these years include my peak depression years in college.

2005-2008: Grandma’s health declines and America’s botched health care system begins ruining her. Home care attendants don’t cut it anymore, and tending to her becomes my mother’s full time job, and my part time job.

2009-2011: I am unemployed for 2.5 years (and unemployment insurance barely lasted for two). I have been devoting 1-2 days a week of full time duty tending to Grandma (and my own declining mother) from 2008-2010. Grandma dies in the beginning of 2010. Our building has been sold from its original owner (who was murdered) and the shenanigans begin in earnest.

2012: Finally working full time again, yet still broke a lot. Apartment construction took a lot of time. Around this time, mother and I never leave the apartment unoccupied.

2013-2014ish: For an 8 month period, the door breaks and literally won’t lock.

2016: Injure my knee briefly. Work drastically changes, am unsure if I will cut it and plan month to month.

2017: I cut it, but the company folds. Immediately found new company with co-workers and management, yet still unsure how long it will last. I learned that in the industry I was in, a company can go from “normal week, full payroll,” to “everyone’s fired” within a weekend.

2018: Facing eviction. Likely the end of the economic road.

Some of the years are fudgy but you get the point. After all, I don’t review what year the bullying happened. For a large chunk of my life, especially post-puberty, I was reeling from one thing or another. And amid all this I was still trying to have a life, hang with friends, date, do hobbies, etc. But for large chunks of time it took a back seat. It seems unfair to date, for instance, when I am broke. Or spending most of my time on relatives. Or morbidly depressed. Or worried I am about to lose my job any week. Or, in 2018, expecting to be on the street sometime after August.

Now, these sorts of woes are nothing compared to what most people have faced (although in my defense, this list is the Cliff’s Notes of Cliff’s Notes). And there are plenty of people who have dated thru tragedies. War, death, hell, sometimes tragedy is the motivation for a pointless rebound fling. Lord have I considered quitting my job, cashing in unused sick/vacation days, going to Vegas, and becoming a man (and going on a drinking binge) for a week or so. But ultimately that’s only a distraction and won’t solve anything. But I never felt comfortable dating when the background radiation of my life was hardship. And the shame of it is that hardship is all I have ever known. It’s relative, of course. I have never been raped, or suffered a stint in a hospital. I don’t live in a third world country. I imagine most kids in Iraq would consider my life paradise. But that doesn’t negate the fact that for me, it has always felt like my dating woes were more than just my inner lameness, or lack of charisma, or even poor luck. That life itself was organizing against me. That any time I took a step forward, I was knocked five back. I have adapted to more in my time than most of my male friends will ever know, or comprehend. It would have killed them in a week. But there are times I wonder if not all of me made it, if a part of my soul hasn’t come out whole since childhood.

And I wonder if my desire to write is born out of nothing more than an attempt to be remembered when life finally knocks me back hard enough that I fail to get up. So that whatever wisp of a life I had or didn’t have didn’t just vanish altogether. So, to quote the best line from Blade Runner,

“all those moments won’t be lost in time. Like tears in rain.”

I was the Dateless-Man, and I was here. Hardly anyone noticed, but I was here. And for now, I am still here.

The annoying thing is, before this eviction mess began, I actually had some interesting anecdotes to add to the blog! I ran into an old friend, however briefly, who invites a topic about dating mothers. And I have a development relating to the fetish I reveal exists but never talk about! And that long awaited lecture about a film which meant a lot to me at a terrible time of my life. I hope to share all of these with everyone reading the blog soon.

Assuming I am not writing it from under an overpass.

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.

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.