And no, this was not an introduction to some Full Metal Alchemist fan art someone made. I just typed the title and that was the first thing I could think of.
I’ve said in the past that I have tried not to be jealous of my friends. It was something I definitely was during my teenage years which I have sought to purge from myself. But perhaps I have usually used the wrong word. Jealousy is feeling someone wants to take what you have. Envy is wanting what someone else has that you do not. It would be more accurate to say that as a teenager I was often envious of my friends. Most of them came from “comfortable” middle class households and had more comforts, and less worries and responsibilities, than I had. They also all had more social skills with women and had women show genuine interest in them. None of them turned 21 without having had sex and/or a few relationships under their belts. Pun intended.
I hardly even realized my own feelings of envy often propelled some of my often blunt wisecracks towards some of my pals as a teenager until I was in my 20’s and in college. I realized that was what I had felt, and that it was wrong to be so. It’s wrong to be envious of friends; I should be happy for them. As my friends, their joy and success is in a way, mine. So I took extra effort to purge myself of negative feelings towards them, to be happy for them when they did well as I should be. They’ve all gone on to be more successful and have much happier lives than I have, and I am genuinely glad for them. It can be a work in progress, but it is a work I feel I have gone a great way towards.
But occasionally I have set backs, at least with people who are more acquaintances than friends. One of the oddities of Facebook is that it allows you to befriend, follow, and chat with anyone, even people you hardly remember ever meeting. One of my online “pals” is a guy I’ll call “Skip”, who is at best a friend of a friend. I am sure I met him personally at some bar my friends took me to over the years once or twice at best. He certainly seems to have more fond or definite memories of meeting me. That’s always been one of the odd and frustrating things about my life. Men who I barely recall meeting seem to have fond connections about me and remember me forever. Women hardly know I exist. I easily make impressions on men without trying, but with women I may as well be a ghost. Such is life.
Skip is roughly my age (probably a little younger like most of my pals are), is a postal worker, is into many of the same geeky things, and keeps in shape. He’s coming off of a particularly nasty and sudden break up with either a wife or a fiance, which he has at times handled poorly. He projects a lot of stereotypical (at best) attitudes about women over it and clearly has some resentment issues. He’s been trying to move on and date again, but he misses that deep connection he once had. However, he has one tremendous advantage that he doesn’t seem to appreciate: women find him attractive. Skip sporadically shares stories online of when women give him compliments or flirt with him. This week, however, he “lamented” after a date about how “all these women want to do is hook up on the first date”.
To say that he was complaining about having too much water before a very thirsty man was an understatement.
I understood his plight – he wants a deep connection and some slow burn tension, not aimless hook ups – but I also stressed that being attractive to women was an advantage towards that goal that he could appreciate. But the more I typed, the more some of those hints of resentment and envy bubbled forth. It’s more complicated when you consider the secret that I have to keep close to my vest at all times – that I am a post-30 virgin. A few of my friends know, but he isn’t one, and none of the ones who do share it. I doubt many of them even think about it often, which I am glad about.
At one point I typed this:
I understand wanting a deeper connection with someone, especially after a rough break up. But at the same time, the fact that women are so into you at least physically at least means that your chances of finding it again are good, since you’re considered attractive. It’s a short cut towards finding some of those deeper connections. I mean, think of the alternative. Imagine knowing no woman would ever want to have you, even for a moment, in any sort of romantic way. I call times like that “being awake”. You at least know you can interest women, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you. That’s a tremendous advantage. It may be frustrating when it’s not mutual, but at least take advantage of it to find someone who does bring that passion to your heart again.
As you can see I tried to use myself as an example of the opposite end of the spectrum. Skip continued and revealed the women he just went on a date with (or another recent one) revealed that she’d been involved in a threesome within the first 20 minutes of the date before complimenting his eyes. He enjoys “the chase” and wants more of an “old fashioned” woman such as Julie Andrews (seriously), although he did find it “flattering” that women found him so attractive that they always wanted to “hook up” with him. In addition to this, I did have another friend (who is a genuine pal, who I have known since high school) giving more of what I can call “typical guy advice”, such as, “Take the ass if it has been a while to perk up your mood. Hell maybe it’ll even develop into something afterwards” and “Well, assuming she enjoyed the threesome she awkwardly brought up there is always that avenue if you’re bored and feeling energetic”. This other pal is currently involved with his 5th or 6th lover, at least.
Next to me they may as well be discussing quantum physics from another universe. Their love lives and their reactions to women may as well be from another universe compared to me. I’m not saying that it’s wrong for Skip to dismiss being considered “a hottie” because the feelings aren’t mutual, nor is it wrong for my other pal to encourage him to “take the ass” if he can or is “bored”. I mean if the women Skip’s with are that into him, nobody’s being hurt. There’s nothing wrong with casual sex or short lived romances. As my pal said, many times something deeper starts off there; people “hook up” and then later decide they have fun and get along out of bed too. That’s perfectly legitimate. And as I said, I know Skip has been through a rough bit and could use some happiness.
It was just striking a nerve with me, I guess, to see him complaining about achieving what I have always dreamed of. It took all I had to not reveal my secret and say, “Look, you could be like me; a 30-something year old virgin who no woman who was too young to sign up for AARP has ever desired, so be grateful for what you have”. But that’s a secret I never want to reveal until I have to; least of all because of an earlier incident on Facebook several years ago where some of my friends who did know enjoyed a little “in joke” about it.
In the end I did admit:
I guess. Maybe I’m just too far on the polar opposite of it. [Skip] wants something deeper and passionate and he’s stuck getting a lot of vapid sexual attraction. I’m the walking anti-hormone, where all sexual desire goes to die.
I know that while some single guys like me lament about how “nobody likes us”, it can be especially frustrating to have people you don’t like “in that way” be into you. In fact I’d argue the only advantage to being one of the great untouched is that I have never been involved in breaking a woman’s heart. I can’t imagine putting someone through that. I always assumed if I dated, I would be the one who was dumped. I can handle and survive my own pain; I can’t control how others handle or survive their own. I know what it is like to have attraction towards someone who doesn’t like or acknowledge you in any way; I would hate to put someone else through that. I would feel so much guilt. Of course, dating women because you don’t want to “make them sad” or prolong a relationship you’ve already emotionally checked out of bring their own problems to them. Like many things in life, there’s no perfect solution; just choosing which flawed one works for you.
I’ve heard it said that’s never good to measure yourself by how you compare to others. Our own stories are unique, we’re told, and comparing our raw footage to someone else’s highlight reel will always result in heartache. I would contend that anyone who saw the highlight reel of my life and didn’t consider it underwhelming and pathetic is either delusional or starving in a third world country. But it’s difficult when it seems that every peer around you effortlessly achieves what for you is impossible. I literally cannot imagine a situation where a woman I am into desires me, and all around me I have peers like Skip who make that seem a forgone conclusion. When their love life has so many options for them that they can dismiss many of them.
I, on the other hand, am so desperate that there is literally nothing a woman could say which would repulse me from her so long as I was genuinely interested. I cannot dismiss any opportunity because I hardly get any. I spent the last couple of months seriously questioning whether I should sleep with a 60+ year old woman who is my mother’s friend who I am not into either physically or intellectually simply because I have no other options to ever lose my virginity short of a trip to Las Vegas. Desperation is the anti-sex equation, but what is the alternative for an older virgin? Because if I told someone, “I was just waiting for someone as special as you to come along,” that would be a bold faced lie, and I don’t believe in that. Unfortunately, “you’re the first one who thinks I’m hot for some reason I can’t fathom” may be honest, but it doesn’t inspire passion.
Perhaps my outlook would be different if my friends had been like me, struggling to understand and interact with women. But instead they’re all normal guys and I’m the freak. And it’s a role that I sometimes tire of. I tire of being the Xander of the group, the Orko, the Snarf. The funny sidekick who for one reason or another just is not on the same level as the others, and who is utterly useless in areas where it counts. I may be able to make cute anime references or occasionally spout some wise philosophy or insights into people, but I’ve not forged out a good career or figured out how to attract people I desire.
I wish I was so attractive to women that they gave me compliments or I had so many opportunities that I had to fend off the worst ones to get to the best. Instead I’ll probably be lucky to have one lover in my life, probably when I am far from my physical prime. I do hope that Skip finds what he is looking for and at least intellectually understand his dilemma. I’m not exactly looking for one nights stands either; I just wouldn’t refuse one if it arose with someone I liked. I don’t think I’d ever lament women wanting to sleep with me on the first date, even if they weren’t my type. I’d stop at “flattered”. Especially since I’ve never felt that in my love life, ever. I’ve always felt like an outsider, and when I interact with insiders, it really shows.
The struggle with envy is a never ending challenge. I hope to master it someday, but this week probably wasn’t it.