Dateless-Man vs. Envy

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.

envy

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.

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Steve Harvey: Master of Dating Advice?

And now for something completely different!

Now that we’re through with my vault of dating misadventures, and there’s a lull in fresh experiences to recount, it may be different to mull over a more minor reaction I had to something which relates to this blog. My job demands atypical hours (that is, not “9 to 5 Monday thru Friday”) and I’m a bit of a night owl to boot. Therefore, I’m usually awake in the a.m. hours and watching TV as I eat my dinner. Last week, I was channel surfing and happened to click onto NBC for a split second, which was airing a rerun of the “Steve Harvey” afternoon talk show from earlier in the day. I would have kept on going when the promo caught my attention for a reason which will soon be obvious. Apparently a man who was 30 years old and had never kissed a woman before (and was naturally also a virgin) had agreed to come on the show for advice, and Steve Harvey was going to help him. Apparently, Steve Harvey is more than a stand up comedian and game show host now; he’s a love guru. Considering some of the places I have sought dating advice online (or in print), I figured I would watch the segment and see what, if anything, was applicable or I thought may work for me. I also was morbidly curious about the entire spectacle.

I may as well give a little summary about Steve Harvey for those unaware, fresh from the “Dateless-Man Computer” (i.e. Wikipedia). He’s a stand up comedian who has been working the circuit since the mid 1980’s and was in some TV shows and movies during the 90’s but who has found greater success at the turn of the century. After hosting “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” and landing his own sitcom on what was then “The WB Network” (titled, “The Steve Harvey Show”) from 1996-2002, he toured with “The Original Kings of Comedy” for a stretch. He also began hosting a daily radio show in 2000. However, his star seemed to rise even beyond this in 2010, when he began hosting the syndicated game show “Family Feud”.

The Feud may still be famous for its original host, Richard Dawson, who was (in)famous for kissing EVERY SINGLE  WOMAN WHO EVER APPEARED ON THE SHOW. Other men have hosted it since, including Louie Anderson, Richard Karn (who’s since gone on to sell hoses in commercials) and John O’Hurley. I’m not a huge game show fan and “Family Feud” is usually a show I neither hate or enjoy. Being a cynic, I usually feel the families are too nice and when it comes time to pick two members for the final round, they always seem to pick the stupidest member of their brood (almost as if to ensure that nobody wins the $20,000 and/or the car too often).  Most viewers would get a better “family feud” eavesdropping their neighbors around Thanksgiving. At any rate, Harvey and the Feud seemed to click, and the ratings have gone up drastically ever since.

Knowing when to strike when the iron was hot, Steve Harvey utilized his buzz to get himself a daytime talk show in 2012. Considering the daytime talk show market is full of the graveyards of people who couldn’t hack it (not even Tony “The Boss” Danza), the fact that it’s going on four seasons is impressive. Steve Harvey’s since retired from stand up and ventured into other areas. A born again Christian, he’s started a dating website for women and often has themes revolving around relationship advice on his show. Last year, he famously botched the crowing moment of the “Miss Universe Pageant” (which he was hosting), which became a meme. Steve Harvey may be pushing 60, but he’s apparently at the top of his career right now.

This is hardly Steve Harvey’s first foray into the topic of older adult virginity on his talk show. I found two clips on YouTube from previous shows going back to 2013-2014. The first deals with a grandmother asking for advice for her 25 year old grandson who is a virgin (and who she wants to “hook up”). Harvey suggests that she leave that to the men in the family and jokes at the end that they “get him to a strip club” or words to that effect. The second has a woman who asks at what point is it weird to still be a virgin (as she is 28). After joking that she’s “at that point now”, Steve Harvey makes sure to stress that what she has is “a gift” who she should only grant a man who appreciates it. Now, I am not posting these to be overly critical; surely Steve Harvey makes less fun of these situations that many comedians would on TV. But simply as evidence that he likely has what could be considered a “typical” opinion on older virgins – that is, if it’s a guy he’d better lose it fast, and if it’s a woman she’s got something extra that only someone worthy should get (sort of like Thor’s hammer, only not a hammer). I’d seen these clips before watching the episode and they were in the back of my mind.

Apparently it is a regular bit on Steve Harvey’s talk show for people to send in requests to come on the show for advice for related topics and for whichever one is vetted the best by the producers, they get a segment. Hey, filling five days a week is tough! At any rate, the “30 year old kiss-less virgin” (as he would be called on Reddit or 4chan) was only identified by his first name; I forgot what it was so I’ll go by “Mitch”. He was exactly 30, so a little younger than me, and apparently was a paralegal as well as into playing tennis. For the record, he was white. It’s tough for me to gauge a man’s looks since I don’t look at men the same as someone sexually oriented towards them would, but he seemed about average in that regard; neither Hollywood handsome nor hideous (although his teeth were perfect). Height is also something tough to gauge on TV, as I have no idea how tall Steve Harvey is for comparison. It was quickly obvious that Mitch (who was dressed in a blue suit) was nervous, although whether because he was an anxious guy by nature or because he was on TV in front of a live audience (of mostly women) which would soon be broadcast to millions around the world wasn’t known. Naturally, revealing that he had never kissed a girl and that he was still a virgin came off pretty awkwardly; so awkwardly that when Mitch revealed that he’d already been on eight dates this year, Steve Harvey was genuinely surprised. Mitch described a typical first date as going out for ice cream and him trying to make sure there were no awkward silences by talking a lot.

The gist of the segment was Steve Harvey giving him pointers and then observing as Mitch interacts with a (presumably) single woman they’ve set up for him backstage. Throughout the segment, while Steve Harvey naturally had a little fun with things, he did try to encourage the audience to have sympathy for Mitch by saying “he’s my dude” and that “he was gonna set him up” and so on. Then came the advice. Harvey naturally stressed having “swag”, which is modern lingo for “confidence” and/or “charisma”. He suggested a jazz club as a date option over ice cream (“I don’t care if you like jazz or if she likes jazz; take her to a jazz club. You’ll come off as different from other guys”) since Mitch expressed nervousness about how close to sit with a woman  and when to touch her during conversation. Harvey claimed jazz climbs encourage close seating and the music fills space in conversation without being too loud. He also said that “chivalry wins women over” and stressed that Mitch should go out of his way, from getting his date’s seat to menus and so on. Upon seeing how Mitch seemed to awkwardly flail his arms around when he spoke, Steve said he should “cut it out with the arms, man” (which led to comedy as Mitch then almost sat on his hands). Steve then demonstrated a “move” he used to do at clubs when he was single with a middle aged women in the front row of the audience; he’d take her hand and seem to kiss the top of it, but in fact would just kiss his own hand and go, “That’s just for now, when we know each other a little better the next one’s for you”. The audience whooped and howled; I thought it came off as very corny and without “swag” it would likely be laughed off, and not in a good way, today. Mitch brought up that he wanted to “have his first kiss with someone special”, while Steve Harvey suggested that “have his first kiss with anyone he can” because getting beyond it was “the promised land”, which Harvey stressed he was having no part of.

As if this wasn’t awkward enough, then came the part where they brought in the woman from backstage for “practice”. This consisted of the pair being seated on the stage maybe a yard from Harvey and trying to go through the motions of small talk. The woman was attractive and seemed very upbeat about it. First, Mitch failed to get her seat for her, and then during their awkward small talk, asked her what shows she liked on Netflix. The impression was that this was leaning close to “Netflix and chill” territory – which is modern slang for going over to someone’s place to sleep with them. The woman asked, “Did you tell him to ask me this?” and Steve replied, “I didn’t tell him to talk about no damn Netflix!” Mitch justified it as wanting to know what shows she was into and later on brought up “Xena: Warrior Princess”. They both mentioned tennis (with Mitch offering to play a match with her) and while Steve Harvey seemed to be a bit wary of Mitch’s “game”, I do have to say the woman did her best to encourage him and seemed upbeat about it. Later on Mitch once again had to be reminded to take a date to a jazz club. Whether they went on a date or not is unknown.

I could sense the nervousness from the TV and with a twelve hour delay from Mitch the entire segment. I suppose one could say being willing to go on TV and admit to being a virgin, even without giving away one’s full name, is gutsy. Unfortunately, Mitch’s nerves made it difficult to tell for me as a viewer whether he was really like that or if he was like that because HE WAS ON TELEVISION with a FULL AUDIENCE and talking to A FAMOUS PERSON. Even some extroverts would get a little anxious under that circumstance. I also was wary of the advice; Steve Harvey comes from a different generation and I wonder if some of his “swag” would be outdated for someone half his age to try. Chivalry is nice, but it alone doesn’t cut it. Not being a guy who slams doors on someone or doesn’t offer to get a chair is the bare minimum. I can also see how going to a jazz club despite not being into it can backfire. If the woman doesn’t like jazz, and later learns (or suspects) that her date doesn’t and just brought here there for proximity, it can leave a bad impression. Probably the only real decent advice I got out of it was Steve Harvey suggesting that “normal touching” on a date begins with a tap on the arm or elbow at a high point in conversation; I’d read that before. The ambiguity of the woman who was brought in was also strange; was she a local single? A coach? An actress or other guest who was going to roll along with it for the sake of the segment? Or was there an awkward connection on TV in front of the audience? While I related to the man involved, I didn’t think the segment offered much practical advice for men in that situation and while Harvey hardly brought him up there to mock, naturally the impression was that this was a bit different from the norm. There was no vibe of “come look at the freak” (that’s “Jerry Springer”) but naturally the promos stressed he was 30 and had never been kissed.

Believe it or not, I have sought advice and guidance from many places online and off. They have ranged to the “Doctor Nerdlove” site to the Playboy Advisor, and plenty of TV shows or online clips when I have been able to find them. It always feels strange, looking up advice on things that most normal people seem to “get”, such as how to flirt or what to do on a date or how to kiss or so on. It all seems very mechanical, like I am an alien trying to learn how to be human via studying books and texts. There’s knowledge to be had, but it’s not the same as doing or being. And life isn’t a sport; while there is some leeway or benefit of the doubt for learning many new skills later in life, such as sports or art or computers, dating seems to be considered a lost cause after high school. While there are relationship coaches and therapists, these things are still looked down on. A part of me wondered what I expected to learn at all. Instead it is something else to file away under the boxes of advice which I don’t think cuts it inside my mind. I sure know if I tried that weird hand kiss move, I’d either get decked or laughed out of the room. “Swag” is important, but that’s basically charisma; and if you don’t have it, you don’t have it. It can be faked or acted around to a degree, but I genuinely don’t think it can be learned.

I am naturally petrified at the idea of anyone knowing my status as a virgin over 30 who has never been kissed, either. I couldn’t imagine going on TV and revealing that or talking about it, even if I was wearing a mask. A few of my friends know, but they number in single digits and it is hardly something I eagerly discuss. Most of my guy friends seem to have caught on that talk about women or relationships is a bit “ixnay” for me. I never bring it up and neither do they. There are times I am tempted to make a Facebook post about it, seeking to retake control of my own anxiety by admitting it. “I AM _____ AND I AM A ____ YEAR OLD VIRGIN!” and typing out my feelings towards more intimate people than folks on a blog. Just to imagine what the freedom of not having to hide the secret might be like for a second. Fortunately, then reality sets in and I know it would be something I would have to live down. Eventually my co-workers would learn and it would become the talk of the office. My friends might even be embarrassed for me. I would get platitudes and pity that I do not want. It would not go well and I would ultimately regret it. I’m not even ready to meet one person in real life who isn’t a longtime friend to reveal the secret (or knows it through the blog). Group therapy sounds scary in that regard. TV? Not unless I was getting a seven figure paycheck out of it, and maybe not even then. I may be circus freak, but I’m not quite ready to admit it and embrace it. All I ever wanted was to be normal, to have a normal life. People who stumble and bumble their way towards things I have to study up on just to comprehend just don’t understand what it is like to be on the outside of life. To look at it as something you can see and even be a witness to, but that you can’t ever touch or be a part of.

It was an awkward viewing which I didn’t expect at maybe 2-3 o’clock in the morning. It made me glad, at least, that I had kept my secret and not been desperate to be on TV somewhere. There was no way I could crack it. I also imagined that there is likely better romance advice out there than that offered by Steve Harvey. It’s not bad, but there’s got to be another five answers up there on the board given by a survey of 100 people. It’s nice that I am not alone in this regard, but I already know that. The quest is to find a way out of it without destroying what is left of my esteem.

Either that, or learning to like jazz.

Faults Addendum & Dateless-Man’s Strengths

Who knew that an article listing my top ten dating faults would prove to be so popular? I want to thank everyone who replied and of course an extra thanks for those seeking to buck me up and/or flatter me with what they saw as my strengths. Considering one commentor suggesting I do a fault list got me inspired enough to do it, it’s only fair that I attempt to balance it out with a list of my dating strengths – especially since at least 3 or more commentors suggested I do that. I’m a bit of a pessimist, but even pessimists should bow to peer pressure now and then.

But first to get it out of the way, I thought I’d insert an addendum (or addition) to that top ten dating faults list. I’ve had some time to think about it and absorb some of the comments, and some of you out there disagreed with some of my faults. In particular, some of the ones towards the bottom of the list (such as “No Car” or “Not Tall”). To this I submit one which I suppose could be a side effect of some of the other ones (such as “Negative Attitude”), and that would be a “Bad Temper”. While I am not a walking rageaholic, I do have a bad temper when it is riled. I’ve known about this since I was a kid so I usually spend a great deal of time bottling it, as I do with most of my emotions. I tend to be so reasonable and patient that I imagine most people who know me would be shocked if I claimed this; some have never seen me angry or if they had, it hasn’t been since I was a teenager. Unfortunately, due to my lack of confidence I seem unable to summon it forth when it would have been useful – such as when I was being picked on during 7th grade or even high school. My own fears and anxieties seem to counteract it. Usually when I do vent it is in safer places or against lessor issues, and never against women. I’m not violent and my temper never lasts long, usually a few seconds. Because I know about it, I take active steps to make sure I don’t lash out with it and can manage it as best I can. But it still exists, and it arguably is more of a red flag than not being tall or not having a car. So for those who objected to some of those flaws, insert this one in the list instead!

Unlike the list of flaws, which I sort of did a first draft of years earlier in a spiral notebook, listing off my strengths (at least in terms of dating) ventures a bit more into uncharted territory for me. Although there are a few things about myself that I have some pride in, I try not to be an arrogant person or someone who overestimates themselves, especially in areas like dating where I objectively know that I’ve routinely failed. In the 1973 film “Magnum Force”, which is the second of the “Dirty Harry” film series, Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood) famously adds to his list of catch phrases with the line, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I certainly always feel that I certainly know mine, which sometimes prevents me from getting in over my head. Add in “Negativity Bias“, a psychological theory which suggests that negative things feel more “honest” to some of us than positive things, and listing positive dating traits can seem like a more challenging and dishonest exercise. After all, clearly no woman has thought any of my strengths outweighed my flaws enough that she became romantically interested in me. It can feel like listing off the positive traits of a car that is a lemon, and being a used car salesman trying to unload…myself. “Sure, the engine catches on fire and there’re no seat-belts, but check out the nifty cup holder!” And while I’ve never said that I have zero positive qualities, the trick is having ones which are genuinely romantically appealing to other people in enough ways that they counteract the “red flags” that I have sticking out of me. While I think over them, a part of me almost always seeks to counteract them with caveats. I suppose I could have asked some of my friends who are women, but without knowing the context it might have seemed like I was fishing for compliments. And I haven’t told my friends that I write a “lonely man blog” during some of my free time.

But, enough dawdling! Let’s see how deep I get into this. Remember, these may not me my sum total of positive qualities as a person, but the ones which I feel via experience or interaction are my most positive traits towards women I would like to date.

Dateless-Man’s Top 10 Dating Super Powers!

1). Sense of Humor

This is a no-brainer for me. I all but over rely on my sense of humor to be sociable with people. I seem to always be able to come up with some sort of quip or wisecrack about something in my environment or life when I have to. This isn’t to say that I can’t have serious or straightforward conversations, but there’s a reason why I attached to Spider-Man as one of my favorite superheroes as a kid. It is because of this that people who know me seem to doubt I am shy or afraid to talk to women at all. What I lack in confidence, charisma, good looks, or anything sexually appealing I usually try to make up for in laughs. At the last speed dating event I attended at the New York Comic Con last year, I surprised myself by how well I was able to utilize this, even when things got awkward. Unless someone is a fairly humorless person, I can usually get almost anyone to laugh. It’s almost an unconscious ability; I’ve always been able to do this. I usually stick to more PG stuff until I get to know my audience, and I’m hardly a stand up comedian (even if I have had no end of people suggest I try it out since high school). It’s a useful skill for life in general; it can be a very cruel and depressing enough place without being able to find something to laugh at, even something dark. My own dating exploits and lack of game would be utterly hilarious if I wasn’t the one experiencing it, after all. This used to fade when I got nervous, but I think in recent years it’s become more formidable.

2). Understanding

To the best of my ability I try to be reasonable and understanding towards other people, women especially. I don’t judge a woman by her past, or her profession, or her hobbies, or her libido. Being a social worker for a while allowed me to better learn how to be more of an empath towards others, to be able to place myself in their shoes as best as I can to be better able to understand where they are coming from. But to be honest, I think I was able to do this a little even before I went to college. I’m not the sort of guy who would judge a woman by her ex’s or by abuse she suffered, nor have any misconceptions about her based on whatever she was into (at least when compared to the average guy). In fact if I liked a woman, there is little she could tell me about herself which by itself would scare me off. “You hide bodies for the mob? Well, I’m a telemarketer, so to each their own.” As a part of this, I do not have a “Madonna/Whore” complex like a lot of men I know, including many of my friends and co-workers. It’s hypocritical, among other things. I imagine because of this, it’s been one reason why I’ve been able to have friends who are women without getting too mixed up over feelings for long. This isn’t to say that I’m perfect or don’t have trouble thinking women all think as a “hive-mind” or can get mired in stereotypes about gender (especially since growing up in the 80’s I was fed a lot of them in media), but I do my best to avoid being stuck in that quagmire all the time with everyone.

3). Intelligence

I hesitated for quite a while before I put this one on. But, I thought about the people who knew me that if asked this question, would likely note that I was “smart”. It always feels vain and misguided to claim this about myself to such a degree – I feel like those animated shorts when Wile E. Coyote faces off against Bugs Bunny and makes sure to always introduce himself as “super genius” before he gets flattened or blown up. And for someone who has been told by others for as long as he could remember how bright he was, I always felt like a blithering idiot who just couldn’t figure out how to fit in or do what was expected of me all the time. Nor am I intelligent in a terribly useful way – such as about computers, engineering, or finance. While intelligence in a woman certainly is something appealing for me, I wonder how appealing it is to women if it isn’t projected in a way relating to economics or identity. Mark Zuckerberg’s intellect is easy to see as attractive; he’s used it to make himself wealthy and famous, and to connect untold millions across the globe to each other. That all said, I’m at least aware that my deductive reasoning skills are usually above most average people. That actually hasn’t made my life any easier; I can certainly understand how the saying, “ignorance is bliss” arose. And to be honest; if I was a total hunk with a huge bank account, even if I was dumb as a post, I’d never go home alone (and vice versa; if anything I’ve known plenty of men who seem to actively dislike women smarter than they are). Naturally, this includes being articulate and being able to type well enough on a blog. But, if only to fill out the numbers, let’s just put this on and move on.

4). Sensuality

Although I have never had sex, or even had a make out session, before (and at this rate, probably never will), I do believe I am sensual. Supposedly, women like this. By this I mean that I am not looking to merely mount someone, thrust a few times, and then roll over and go to sleep. When I fantasize about sex or making love I imagine it as a completely sensual affair. Kissing, cuddling, holding, caressing, massaging, and so forth. I am not looking for physical interactions with a woman to be short or quick. I envision it as a sort of physical art if done right. And all art is subjective, dependent on the whims of both the artist and those experiencing the art, and has to even adjust and change towards those whims and expectations. What each person deems as sensuality differs, but I think everyone to a degree wants it. As badly as I would like to have sex, I don’t consider it as a completely one sided affair; I would want her to get pleasure out of it, too.

5). Does Not want Sex at All Costs

To some limited degree this probably helps stifle my attempts at dating (alongside sheer cowardice and inexperience), but overall this means there are lines I would not cross in order to sleep with someone. I do not believe in drinking to excess nor taking advantage of someone who has. I don’t play manipulative pick up artist games (like “negging”) towards dating. While I would not oppose a “one night stand” or going behind hand holding on the first date, I’m not aggressive about pushing someone’s boundaries. Consent is key, end of story. As much as I may desire somebody, I still respect them as a person with their own desires and needs, chief among them to feel safe and comfortable. While I have been tempted with ideas involving seeking out a sexual surrogate and a legal brothel in Las Vegas, ultimately I would refuse to utilize either even if money were no longer a roadblock towards them. I don’t see women as flesh to be conquered, and I don’t subscribe to the “all’s fair in love and war” motto. The irony is that when the topic of me doing a list of strengths came up last month and I replied in the comments section, I wrote that I’d struggle to list more than a few and jokingly included, “not a date rapist”. Well, here we are. Regardless, I would not want to pressure someone into sleeping with me and would want such a choice to be something they were actively enthusiastic about – even if such a thing would probably make me suspicious (or concerned that they were misinformed about me). Obviously, I am not one of those guys who subscribes to the “she didn’t say no” mantra and instead go with the “she has to say yes” mantra instead.

6). Self-Awareness

I’d argue I have this to a fault, but lack of it is definitely a problem with many men. They seem ignorant of their own faults and/or ignorant of how they come off to other people, especially women. While being acutely aware of all of my faults (or at least most of the ones I’ve identified) may cripple me with asking anyone out, it also allows me to attempt to compensate on them, work on them, or at the very least not bombard someone with them deliberately. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, after all. That also means that I’m not looking towards a woman to identify my flaws and work on them for me; that’s a journey I’m already on which is independent of her. I know I can have a temper, so I am work on it. I know I have a negative attitude, so I work on it or acknowledge it, etc.

7). Loyalty

I’m a loyal friend, so it stands to reason I would be a loyal lover. I don’t imagine myself ever cheating on someone, and not merely because I sincerely doubt two people would ever be interested in me romantically in general (much less at the same time). While I’m not avidly looking to settle down with or marry the first woman I date, and would like to have some experience before I made that plunge, I’m also not looking for a harem either. I feel it’s wrong to juggle romantic relationships as if they’re rubber balls. Once I’ve made a connection with someone, I don’t scare off easily. If she has some faults or demons, I’m willing to face them with her. In real life this doesn’t count for very much, nor is it sexually appealing, but I do think it is worth a mention.

8). Not an Addict

I am not addicted to any substances. I am not an alcoholic nor am addicted to any other drugs. While I am willing to have a drink or two in social situations I don’t avidly drink to excess nor do I rely on it as  a crutch. To a degree this is bad because most people in their 20’s seem to live to get plastered and I could probably use some “liquid courage” (to the point that a few times my pals have remarked, “the bug up his ass slips out when he’s buzzed” about me). But I know the danger of relying on it too much; alcoholism runs in my family. In fact my awareness that I am an “addictive personality” means I limit what I become addicted to. For the moment it’s the Internet, comic books, anime, and chocolate, and I intend to keep it there. Many men out there are addicts to something or other and I know that can be a major red flag (and/or an inevitable relationship killer). I have many red flags, but this isn’t one of them. I also don’t judge a woman who enjoys some alcohol or some recreational drugs (such as pot) so long as she isn’t an addict either.

9). Decent Voice

This is definitely reaching, but at least it allows me to list more than seven. While I certainly don’t have a perfectly seductive Barry Manilow/Keith David deep voice, I don’t have a high pitched or terribly nasal one either. My voice does technically aid me in earning a living. At worst my voice sounds like a recording one gets for “Moviephone” or the announcer on the Staten Island Ferry. While I do have a slight “Nu Yawk accent”, it isn’t as pronounced as it is for many others (to the point that not everyone notices when I talk to them out of state for work). Hey, if I was willing to note “Not Tall” as a flaw, I may as well note “Doesn’t Have the Worst Voice” as a strength, darn it!

10). Likes Cats

Firmly in the “reaching” territory, but it’s apparently important enough that online dating sites such as OKCupid have a specific section for it. While there is overlap in regards to the “cats vs. dogs paradigm”, the cliche is that men prefer dogs and women prefer cats. I’m actually the exact opposite (to the point that I have a phobia of large dogs). Some women fret about being seen as a “crazy cat lady” if they have more than two; to me I just call that a “pride”. I used to have a cat as a kid and they always remind me of a simpler time in my life. In fact the only downside to this is (and please forgive the dirty joke that is coming) if I was invited to a woman’s place and she had a cat (or cats), I might be distracted wanting to play with the wrong kitty. In general I am pro pet and I don’t get envious about them; I know some insecure guys may fret that “she likes a pet more than me”. Pets are family; most lovers come and go. I’m gung ho for and not repulsed by even “unusual” pets like snakes, ferrets, lizards, or spiders in general.

It took me a while to go over this (which is why this entry wasn’t published in April) but this is honestly the first time I ever went over such a list with any sort of thought and also the first time I did so and managed to reach a tenth one. I don’t believe I left any major ones out; unlike with the flaw list I couldn’t endlessly come up with things I neglected. To a degree I am adaptable to the point that I’m willing to engage in a woman’s hobbies even if I’m not initially into them, but that’s fairly standard. Relationships are supposed to be two way streets, right? I also feel I am flexible in terms of what attracts me compared to the average guy, but there’s also no canonical way to prove that.

So now there’s a yin to the yang, a light side to the dark side. The question now is, what does it mean and what to do from here? Do I honestly believe that these strengths accurately match or compensate for the flaws within me? No, I don’t. And clearly I’m not alone in this reasoning since I’m in this dateless state. In theory these are the things which I am supposed to lead with in dating, whether online or in person. I’ve never been especially good at doing so, least of all because it always seems patently dishonest to me. I know in sales you use the positives as selling points and omit the negatives, but life isn’t supposed to be sales. It feels like seeing to promote ignorance about myself, or capitalize on it. I know everyone has their own faults and imperfections both in themselves and in relationships; that’s normal. What isn’t normal is to have no relationship or romantic experience past age 30, which is where I am. At best I am beginning a journey which for most began as teenagers and where most are now reaching its end. I am woefully behind schedule in a world which has little pity for such things. Dating in one’s 30’s is difficult even for those with plenty of experience; with zero it’s almost impossible. It’s dating on “hard mode”, and I can’t even get past “easy mode”, and there are no shortcuts, cheat codes or guidebooks to help me.

It isn’t as if no woman has found me funny; I’m just not funny enough to be romantically appealing. More than one woman has found me understanding; I’m just not understanding enough for that to be sexy. And that’s the ultimate disclaimer with this strength list; none of them individually or combined have ever been enough. Maybe that’s part of why it is easy to have a “negativity bias”; the flaws in our lives seem to be more potent and challenging, worth more “points” on the unofficial character sheet of life. It doesn’t matter how funny or understanding I am if I have poor confidence. It doesn’t matter if I want to be a sensual lover if I have a negative attitude or zero charisma. Until I can either fix or negate my flaws, the strengths are just details. They’re decent wrapping paper for a hollow or unappealing present. They’re tasty icing on a bland or repulsive cake. It’s not a fact which I blame women for or have any resentment or anger towards them for; the faults are mine, as are the strengths.

I think this has been a decent exercise for me. The question is where to take it. My least worst option is OkCupid and I doubt I have the fortitude for the long hard slog it takes to get anywhere with it. I know from the experiences of others that it’s very possible to go on dozens of first dates which never go anywhere. “Warm approaches” would be ideal but my social circle doesn’t go deep enough for it (and even if it did, I’m too embarrassed to all but beg friends to do the work for me). Yet clearly I’ve been unable to truly accept my perpetual loneliness despite my best attempts and intellectual desire to do so. I’d love to just flip a switch within myself and abandon all emotional and spiritual desire for companionship or love forever, but I don’t think one exists short of hypnosis (and maybe not even then). Chemical castration is expensive and dangerous, and likely wouldn’t aid in this regard; the longing isn’t due to lust exactly, but something within which I can’t fill in or wall over despite my best efforts. I don’t know what it would take to do so; perhaps some tragedy which I don’t want to face.

Anyway, those are my Dateless-Man super powers. Thanks for the suggestion, everyone, it’s been an interesting experience. They may not be good looks, confidence, or charisma, but they’re still mine all the same. I’d still prefer nigh invulnerability, though.

Dateless-Man vs. General Virginity Opinions

It seems that when you’re  what is termed an “older male virgin” (that is, an American man who hasn’t had sex by age 21 or so, or in my case, by age 30-plus), not only are you up against a variety of factors (such as time and inexperience), you’re up against general social norms. Greater society (men in power) seeks to classify everyone and sets up rigid rules which everyone is supposed to follow or embody or live up to. Those who don’t tend to be seen as deviants at worst and at best “a bit off”. Even if you follow as many of those “rules” as you can, sticking out in even one or two elements can place you in an area apart from others where you’re on the outside looking in. And often when those of us who have the secret of being “older male virgins” express feelings such as anxiety, fear, and even frustration about our state, it is common for those responding to claim that it’s not as insurmountable a status as we think. “Nobody has to know unless you tell them,” is one platitude I’ve heard; another is, “It’s all in your head.” And as one thinks about things rationally, these platitudes (or to be fair, perspectives) can sound sensible.

But sometimes you encounter an example within everyday life where someone you know, by complete accident and in a completely impersonal way, reminds you that these social norms do exist. That being one of that “community” of older male virgins does place you in a position of difficulty or lowered status compared to most other men out there. And that perceptions about you, should you reveal your secret, face greater odds of being negative.

(For the record, I haven’t typed a post directly related to my angst about my virginity since the start of August, so I’m about due.)

This anecdote takes place earlier this week at work. I’ve been hesitant to reveal exactly what I do for a living but I will say that it involves a lot of talking on the phone. So much so that I imagine if I did reveal it all, someone would reply, “My god, you can do all that and you can’t talk to a woman!?” To which my reply would be, “Give me a set script, a list of rigid rules of engagement and no other avenue but my voice and then get back to me.” At any rate, it was a full night shift towards the end of the week and as usual, my supervisor was trying to keep the morale of the office high and the energy positive, without distracting anyone from working hard. And as my line of work usually attracts various types of “characters” to the office, he was engaged in some banter with one of the top men in our department (who I’ll dub “Ned”). Ned is an ex-con in his 40’s with plenty of experience, and an ego which far surpasses it. Yet that ego and confidence are part of why he does well, and trash talk is a part of his demeanor. Since my office employs mostly men (and most of them under the age of 25), such things are common. Ned and my supervisor go way back, and while they trade a lot of barbs against each other, it’s always in jest and never personal.

At one point in their never ending game to out-diss each other, my supervisor was responding to one of Ned’s many statements of self congratulation and arrogance around the office with, “Please don’t be a 40 year old virgin like Ned is! Please, please, PLEASE do not be a 40 year old virgin guys! Take care of that!”

Naturally, the joke was that Ned is far from a virgin. He has a daughter with a woman he’s not married to, and even in the time he’s returned to the company over the past 3-4 months he’s seemed to go through at least two lovers (and briefly lived with one). And naturally, “The 40 Year Old Virgin” is a famous Steve Carell movie from 2005 which has become part of pop culture. I’ve heard good things about it, but I never watched it in part because I feared it would hit too close to home and upset me. But naturally, my supervisor giving that line (and the thunderous laughter it got from the entire rest of the office) showcased that sentiment about older male virgins. It is that they’re lame, defective, bottom of the pecking order, lower than other men, and less desired by women.

What did I do? I faked a smile, but I didn’t laugh. I didn’t feel personally insulted, as I haven’t revealed my secret to anyone in the office and the line wasn’t directed at me. I’m sensitive, but not that sensitive. My supervisor and I get along very well, even if like most people he likes to joke around a little. Once several years ago he played a minor prank on me in which he tried to convince me that one of our co-workers who was a woman liked me (and in which she was a willing accomplice). I initially smelled a prank and refused to believe it, even with the two of them trying to convince me that it was true. It was only by about the fourth round of, “No, seriously, she likes you” did I appear to almost swallow it and allow them to get to the gist of the joke (she made sure to tell me she had a boyfriend, and that it wasn’t her idea). I can take a joke and I had no hard feelings about it, even if I hardly laughed (and, ironically, I did have some crush on her). But that was years ago, and that co-worker had long since left the company. My supervisor, and no one in the room, could have any idea of how close to the mark a line like that was for me.

Which is the point. Being a post-30 virgin is so rare that it does seem like the stuff of improbable comedy cinema. And while this was an office full of men, the opinions of most women on the subject aren’t a whole lot more flattering. There are far worse secrets to have to keep to one’s vest, but this situation only reminded me that my “scarlet V” is really the “secret shame” that I sometimes term it, and it is genuinely something I have some merit to fret about.

Dateless-Man vs. New Year Doldrums

Just like that, an old year is over and a new year has begun. And just like that, I went a month without a post. I genuinely try not to do that – as ideally I like to get in roughly two posts a month – but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Now that I have gone through my mental vault of previous memories and failures with women, and considering I have waxed on about many related topics more than once – especially my own virginity – there sometimes isn’t much use in typing up a blog entry which is essentially “same ol’, same ol'”. But now that it’s at least February I at least have enough to grouse about for a few thousand words.

As stated some time ago, I consider the period from October to March to be the half of the year where I am usually at my most morose and/or depressed. The change of season from fall to winter can do that to plenty of people for a variety of reasons, such as less sunshine. For me it usually is because from Halloween to Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and ultimately my own birthday, I am faced with a multitude of “special days” which only remind me of my own loneliness and the seeming futility of my own state in that regard. I can honestly report that since beginning this blog in summer 2014, in the name of aiding in my own mental health via expression, I’ve felt less of these negative feelings this year than last. I do believe that having vented a lot about my own past and foibles with women, as well as simply knowing I do have a “safe space” to type about my own  frustrations where I won’t have to fear anyone I “know” finding out about it is helpful. This isn’t to suggest that I’ve suddenly become a joyful optimist singin’ in the rain, but that at worst, having this blog (and those who read it and contribute to it) has at worst done no harm and at best given me an extra cushion to my own frustrations or thoughts.

But that’s not the only thing you’re hoping to read, is it? You want some updates into my adventures (or lack thereof)!

There has been a development involving a recent online situation I had with a woman I dubbed “Carrie” in “The More Things Change” back in November. It involved me becoming online friends with an acquaintance who I also realized was a friend’s ex who I naturally developed a crush on (and just as naturally, saw no viable way to reveal this without pooching things). As the months wore on, Carrie would continue to chat with me via Facebook, albeit mostly to vent to someone about her own woes with relationships and dating. I usually did my best to comfort her and offer her advice, which she seemed to appreciate (even if I did note the irony of it coming from me of all people without revealing my own secret). She’s commented how I “make everything seem so reasonable” and “give the best advice” more than once.

As we continued to chat, and I continued to weigh my options, she finally told me of an episode where she was considering revealing her feelings to a longtime friend who she believes likes her, but never made a move until one drunken “sort of” kiss. She stressed how she usually likes to keep “friends” and “lovers” as apart as possible most of the time, which was why this was bugging her out (in addition to her own esteem being shot by a few rejections). As someone who adores her I of course can’t imagine why any man would reject her but naturally I keep this to my vest (while bucking her up with compliments). Once Carrie got into how out of wack it is for her to consider dating a friend, especially one who wasn’t me, I realized that any sort of revelation of my own would likely do little more than complicate matters. It was something I feared back in November but as the new year happened, became more of a sure fact. According to her Facebook updates, Carrie is now dating someone – whether it is that friend or another dude, I have no clue – and appears far more upbeat than she was at the end of the year. I’m genuinely happy for her. While it certainly would have been nice for her to have “chosen” me or been more receptive to that potential, in the end we are going in two different directions. She is over 30 and looking to settle into something more long term, and I am even further over 30 and have barely even begun to have a love life. In all honesty she deserves far better than an inexperienced man-child virgin with a crappier job like I am, and I know it. I am stuck in this void in which I hardly want to settle down, but I’m not entirely eager for one night stands either – as if I could get either. Still, that’s not the direction Carrie is headed. I’m mildly disappointed but overall not surprised. My romantic life has never been that easy or clear cut before, why would it be so now?

Relating to my most previous installment, I am still planning out the best “imperfect strategy”. To this end I have begun reading some advice columns here and there across the internet. Two of them can also serve as the best examples of what is often out there for men in my situation (outside of standard “pick up artist” sleaze). There is Doctor Nerdlove, a former PUA artist who encourages a lot of progressive ideas with both his articles and the community of people he fosters in his forums. Another is “Good Looking Loser“, which essentially tells you that all you need to do is work out and keep plugging at online dating until something gives. The former is a very welcoming place and many of the people there give good ideas and advice, even if it sometimes can be almost too understanding. If you don’t think you have what it takes to slog through it (like me), everyone is cool with just chilling until you’re 100. The latter, of course, will scream at anyone to just hit the gym and hit up enough women, or you’re a weenie. As always I feel caught in a crossroads.

My least worst option is giving OkCupid a genuine try. I decided (or rather, was convinced) not to hand over money to the website to see my “likes” because many of them could be outdated; merely a total since I first joined in 2006. The best idea is to restart from the ground up with a new profile. Research shows that keeping it short is usually for the best – no more than about 97 words a section. Ideally having at least one profile shot which is taken professionally (as in, by a paid and/or trained photographer) is best, with selfies-via-mirrors to be avoided. But most of all, it requires a slog. Ideally, only 1:20 or 1:30 or 1:50 (etc.) will respond, and out of those maybe 1:20 or 1:500 will agree to a date, and out of that maybe 1:20 or so on will want another. Online dating is perhaps the best and easiest way to make one last gasp at making up for lost time, but it can also be just as frustrating and daunting. I didn’t have it in me when I was in college in my 20’s, or even in my late 20’s when I began my latest job. Now that I am facing down another year, getting another year past 30, being another year of old baggage, I genuinely don’t think I have what it takes to go through with it, to grind it out like I have to (especially without messaging people I genuinely have zero interest or compatibility with just to make up numbers). I am sure I can avoid coming off like a creep in those “private messages”, but I doubt I will come off beyond mediocre either. Yet I am not getting any younger, and as hard as it is now, it won’t be any easier when I am over 40, or over 50. This really, really, really, REALLY is it. I either make a shot sometime soon or I may as well never bother, ever, anywhere. And I am not sure what I want, or what I have the fortitude for, and whether I have any attributes which would help me for either.

So, 2016 begins much like 2015 ended. At least so far.

 

The “Back to the Future” day blues

Yesterday (if only by a few hours) was the day in which in 1989’s “Back to the Future II”, Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty McFly went into “the future” of approximately 30 years from their present time of 1985. As the classic film trilogy became more of a sensation and ultimately a nostalgic franchise, much attention has been brought to the date of October 21, 2015 and seeing where the film was right and wrong. Plenty of films, TV shows, comics, and books have glimpsed at the future and were right or wrong to varying degrees. Flying cars aren’t commonplace and the Chicago Cubs won’t be going to the World Series (much less winning it), and the “Jaws” franchise mercifully stopped well before the 19th installment. As part of Universal Studio’s push for promotions (and to sell a new blu-ray of the trilogy), there have been videos shot about the film, cast reunions, a new comic series, and a lot of media attention both online and off about it.

I enjoy the trilogy overall and normally am all about celebrations of geeky things I like. Yet today’s celebration of “Back to the Future” reminded me of my own reunion with the films several years ago. I got an unexpected feeling of depression and sadness from it around 2009-2010, and some of those feelings returned today. I suppose it was “triggering” for a brief period.

The sequels were great fun (even if “Back to the Future Part III” is usually considered the poorest of series) but those feelings arose when I re-watched the original 1985 installment those years ago. I won’t summarize the film, but the gist is that Marty McFly has to go back in time to when his parents were teenagers in the 1950’s and ensure their romance blossoms to keep himself from vanishing from the time-stream after an experiment with Dr. Brown’s famous Delorian goes wrong. The film has everything – drama, comedy, big ideas and a lot of imagination, and music. Yet in “fixing” the past, not only does Marty ensure his own birth, he also alters history enough that his father George McFly goes from being a simpering weakling who is stepped on all the time towards being far more confident (in particular, by socking his lifelong bully, Biff Tannen). It changes his entire life and the entire dynamic of Marty’s family. In addition, Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love” song is a key theme of the film, and naturally Marty himself is “Mr. Cool” of the mid 1980’s, with a girlfriend, a skateboard, and a fun, aloof demeanor. He goes through development to overcome his recklessness in the sequels.

At the time, I was not only still a lonely, single virgin, but I was also unemployed and pretty much watching my grandmother die by inches (and my mother’s health worsen as we both tried to care for her until the end came). My life had hardly gone how I’d imagined or hoped it would have, and still hasn’t. There were so many stories about time travel and altering history that I’ve seen that I didn’t bat an eye. But for some reason, that movie at that time made me so depressed that I was almost in tears. The characters are all down to earth and likeable enough (aside for Biff, one of cinema’s best villains, of course) and it seemed to twig on me that George was a hapless loser until he got a second chance through a fluke of science (and his cool son). I thought about myself and realized that I was similar – I was a hapless loser who seemed to be at the receiving end of life. I was bullied, and never stood up to the bullies out of fear in junior high. Women didn’t notice me and the few who did usually didn’t respect me. The confident, aggressive guys who walked all over me as a youth continued to do so as a man. I guess I related a little more to George than I expected, only unlike him…there’s no time machine in real life. I won’t get a second chance to fix the mistakes of the past. There’s nobody coming from the future to make sure I got the life I should have had or became the man I should have been. There’s no do-over, no retry at life and the hands I was dealt, or played poorly. I’m stuck as the loser I am, with the useless traits and tools I have, and there is no quick fix out of it. Even if I scrape together something better, it will never be anything like a happy, healthy, successful and romantic life. The fact that I never felt “the power of love” and likely never will didn’t help, either. I didn’t want to be stuck as the Dateless-Man, but it is how things shook out, and all I can do is trudge forward until it ends.

If I could go back in time and talk to my younger, pre-teen self, I’d tell myself so many things. Or, I might wind up acting out my own self loathing and muck up the time-stream. When I was 12, I’d have hated to be told by own future counterpart what a loser I’d be if I didn’t do this or that. I’d have also hated to learn that I’d still be messed up as a man over 30; at least when I was young I had hope that things would change. Now? There’s an eastern saying I like, “Hope is a bird with no feet.” It can fly, but never land.

Thankfully, today’s depression reminder didn’t last long. I’m over it, and I still have another essay about my latest go around with speed dating to type about. But since I have no other venues which I feel comfortable with writing about my bouts with depression and loneliness online than this blog, I figured this would do. At least this week I’ll hit my two posts a month average for October!

My longest term “female friend”

By and large I don’t like using the term “female” to describe a woman. It’s clinically true and I imagine its heavy use by those in law enforcement, science, and the military – and media centered around such figures – helped lead to it becoming part of the common vocabulary. It always seemed too clinical and robotic for me, even for someone as anxious as me. I sometimes struggled to come up with something more acceptable; as a teenager in college I once got roughly half of a “Psychology 101” class to all but glare at me by referring to women as “chicks” more than once. But, I use it here because the term “female friend” seems to be the one best used for the instance where a man has a friend who happens to be a woman. Because society at large (and by that I mean, mostly men) seem to pit the sexes against each other a lot and because it’s seen as rare when men and women can be friends without one or the other seeking something romantic directly, such a term remains distinct. It’s darker twin is the term, “friend-zone”, which I typed about disliking back in January.

Boy, did I allow that introduction to lead me off track a bit! Let’s start to get to the meat of it. This is an entry which I have talked up since the start of the year. It is the last major recollection of a dynamic I had with a woman during my past which is relevant enough to cover more than a paragraph. I saved it for last for one very key reason; it was easily the longest lasting dynamic I’ve ever had with any single woman who wasn’t family in my life, which dates back to the end of high school. As promised, the woman I have dubbed “Sonia” will finally be getting her own entry after her cameo in “The Everyone is Doing Better than You Party”. This blog is non fiction, but I have made some attempt to put some forethought into the posts so that they have some sense of flow or theme beyond the ramblings of a lonely madman. That’s the benefit of flashbacks, after all.

As with many of the people I’ve met in my life, Sonia was someone I didn’t directly seek out to meet, but was someone who began in the periphery of my social circle. She was the close friend, roommate, and occasional lover of the girlfriend of one of my pals. We met during one night where I and a few of my friends were just aiming to hang out and wander the area seeing what hit us. By now I was in my late teens and either completing high school or months shy of college, but since I was older than some of my friends they were still there. I was with two of my friends and we went to pick up one of their girlfriends, and her pal was tagging along. We hung around her apartment (in her room, mostly, as they played metal music on their computer and we chatted amid a few cats) and that is when I met Sonia. She was roughly 2-3 years younger than me, had several piercings, and her long curly hair was dyed either purple or red, I forget. She’s both Polish and Latin and is proud of her heritage, and her bisexual status seemed to be known almost immediately. She liked tight jeans, black nail polish, “goth” colors, and a lot of mascara and eye liner. I was in this odd position in that I frequently teased my friends for dating girls younger than they were by more than a grade, yet despite being of similar age if not older, I would have done the same had I been given the chance. In other words, I was a raging hypocrite then, although I tried to hide it (mostly by not being aware of it). I met Sonia and did what I usually always did at hang outs and gatherings – try to act all aloof and too cool for school while ultimately being a bit awkward and stand off. One example was by not sitting down while we were hanging out, so I’d be the only one standing. I would talk and joke around, but I usually tried to act like I was the sagely man of wisdom around my group – which usually came off as me being the stick in the mud.I don’t recall many specific exchanges during this meeting, but Sonia and I seemed to make a few exchanges with each other, as if she found me perplexing and didn’t quite buy the layer of baloney that I always projected. It didn’t raise to the level of “bickering”, but there was some ragging on me a little. Naturally, I found her attractive, and naturally, I made no attempt to betray any of this to anyone.

After a while we left the apartment and walked about a half mile away to a pool hall. I didn’t know how to play pool so I watched and engaged in the conversation as best I could. The hall also had an air hockey table, and that I knew how to play, so I engaged in a few rounds with one of my friends. A few hours of that, and we walked a few blocks further for some pizza and more neighborhood wandering before it was time to split up and go our separate ways. Sonia made an impression, although at the time she was only an acquaintance at best. Not long after another acquaintance of mine – a short long haired, bearded fellow who had earned the nickname “Jeebus” – was having one of his semi weekly binge drinking parties in the basement of an apartment building owned by his aunt. Most of us couldn’t legally drink at our ages, but that never seemed to stop anybody. It wasn’t my scene even then, as I didn’t care for it and felt it was not only a slippery slope of a crutch to rely on, but I found it aimless. Naturally, my friends didn’t agree and seemed to always want to encourage me to go out and drink more with them. On one occasion I went to one of those parties, and Sonia was there. As usual, there was a crowd of a baker’s dozen in attendance (if not more) and a lot of heavy metal music blasting from boom boxes. A small TV was on and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” happened to be airing. This sparked a conversation between Sonia and I about a shared love of Mel Brooks films, and despite my usual sensibilities I’d had enough to drink that I was “buzzed” at the least, if not slightly tipsy. Sonia was just as far gone as I was if not more. As my friends used to say about me at the time, “When he’s drunk, the bug up his ass slips out.” Such a fact was likely proven true since I seemed to have no qualms about reciting many of the lines from “Spaceballs” (which is my favorite Mel Brooks film) that I knew from memory, which seemed to amuse Sonia. This second interaction with her seemed to go a lot better and we both seemed to enjoy each others company more. After a while the party ended and Sonia wanted to go with a group of them to a diner for food to sober up with. For reasons I forget (likely a lack of money) I opted to return home and cook my own food, but I hinted that I might try to drop by the diner later as they left. I made it hope and put on some hot dogs to cook, but I quickly fell asleep for a while and was only awoken by the burning food about two hours later. By the time I got to the diner they were gone, and I chalked it up to another wacky teenage outing.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to mention that Sonia had a “reputation” with some of the men that I knew. I don’t recall ever asking, but it being freely told (in low tones) to me by friends or other associates that Sonia was “loose” or “a slut”. This naturally meant that she seemed as willing to engage in sexual activity as is normal for guys to do; just as a woman (and especially one who was openly bisexual), she got more flack for it. Despite my hypocrisies, this was not a philosophy I believed in. I saw no need or fairness in denigrating women who slept with whomever they chose. These statements never shaped how I saw her as a person. I didn’t exactly stand on a soapbox and preach about feminist ideals as I avidly defended her honor, either. But I did not agree with or engage in that sort of rumor mongering. It was just noise I happened to overhear.

I actually got to know Sonia a lot better after talking with her online. When I got to college and had access to their library and computer labs, I got to spend a lot more time online than before. Before long I had my own username on AIM and through the social grape vine, Sonia got it. Less than a year later, she instant messages me out of the blue, and we began one of countless online conversations. She had moved to New Jersey, was going through a lot and needed someone to talk to, and had chosen me. I guess she had a positive opinion of me, and my efforts to come across as sagely seemed to sink in. In truth I always tried to be fair and helpful amid my sarcastic wisecracks when I could. I won’t go into the sordid details of Sonia’s life, because this blog is about airing out a lot of my baggage, not other people’s. The Cliff’s Notes version is that her past involves family turmoil, sexual abuse, and a lot of struggles with her self esteem and seeking the comforts of others, only to usually wind up mistreated or venting at them. Yet despite all that, Sonia often tried to have an upbeat and sassy demeanor. It was a past similar in some ways to that of my mother, which is probably a major reason why I try to have more empathy towards women in general. I became aware at an early age that they usually face a much different world than I did, even as someone who was bullied and didn’t easily fit in anywhere, either. It was quickly obvious that Sonia needed a friend to vent to in a safe manner who wouldn’t judge or reject her for it. I chose to be that friend to her, partly because by then my major was in “mental health and human services” so it was something I envisioned myself doing professionally. The other part is that I’m just that sort of goober sometimes. I never had a father, so it was those over the top good guys like He-Man or Spider-Man who filled that role, and I wanted to feel like I could save people (even if my world didn’t reward me for it as theirs did). And with that, our online correspondence began.

Not long into it, Sonia reminded me of that time at Jeebus’ basement when we bonded over mutual intoxication and a love of Mel Brooks. The added wrinkle was that she added quite a pivotal line, to the effect of, “I started to develop a bit of a crush on you.” It certainly surprised me, to say the least. It also wasn’t lost on me that she had phrased it in past tense. By this point she was dating someone and part of her current angst or turmoil, besides talking about her issues of the past, were issues with him. We talked daily or every other day for years of time. Even as the years wore on it was often once a week, or twice a week, or at furthest once or twice a month. Due to a variety of circumstances, Sonia moved a lot; typically to New Jersey (where she had family) and other areas of New York many miles (and hours) away from me (such as further upstate or on Long Island), since I can’t drive. Although she’s bisexual, she seems to prefer men, despite the fact that dealing with them can sometimes “trigger” her, among other complications. Unfortunately, like a lot of troubled people, she tended to fall into a lot of abusive or otherwise toxic relationships. It quickly became clear to me that I was one of the only friends she had who she felt genuinely listened to her without judging her or trying to get into her pants. Which naturally made me feel terrible every time I realized I was also attracted to her. I never mentioned it and I never acted upon it. She needed a true friend (among other things) more than she, or I, needed a lover.

Sonia would visit the “old neighborhood” now and then. One of the first time she visited during our online chronicles, she came with one of her friends, and we met up at Penn Station before heading back to the old haunts. Subsequent visits were usually more sporadic and unannounced. A couple of times, she’d turn up at a few bars where my friends and I were known to go on occasion on some of the rare occasions I was out with them. Her life always seemed to have a of tragic ups and downs. Every time Sonia would try to dig herself out, some new complication would arise. She’d try to go back to college, or to land various jobs or reconcile with her family, but things tended to not work out for her. Without a stable home environment for any extended period of time, it was hard for her to get out of certain ruts. I did what I could to help, but unfortunately there was a limit as to what I felt I could do. All I could do was try to be there for her online when she needed me.

About five or six years ago, Sonia settled (briefly) in an area somewhat closer to where I was so I could visit her on a sporadic basis. Once again, Sonia was living with another boyfriend, but this one seemed more long term and serious. They spoke of being engaged many times, and shared the same interests (video games, DC Comics, anime, horror movies, etc.). Sadly, as time wore on it became clear that this was another toxic relationship, although it reached a point where it was near symbiotic. As much as I liked being there for Sonia to vent to, I was always hesitant to give her advice many times. For one thing, she rarely asked for direct advance. For another, I always feared getting some situation wrong and being the cause of further turmoil if someone followed my advice and it didn’t work out. Secretly, I imagine that my own feelings for her caused me to second guess some of my own instincts. Could I accurately judge one of her relationships as toxic if I myself had feelings for her, even if I never acted on them? Besides, ending a toxic or abusive relationship is rarely so simple as to simply state what it is and tell one or both parties to leave. There’s entrenchment, there are deep emotions involved, and sometimes efforts to do so can wind up causing one or more people to dig in their heels. In the end all you can do is try to convince someone to see it for themselves.

Not long after she moved back to NY, I landed the job that I still have (as of this writing), I suggested that Sonia try for a position as well, since she needed the money and it was something she could do. She took me up on the offer and despite the long commute she worked for the company for roughly a month and a half through the end of 2011. Considering the ratio of male to female workers (with the men tending to be young), I did warn her in advance that while nobody would harass or trouble her, it was likely that someone would flirt with her at least once. Sonia was fine with this, as she seems to have a flirty demeanor herself. In an odd way, I probably should have warned myself. One of my co-workers (who then had seniority on me) developed quite a bit of a crush on her and even asked her out (which she declined), and she proved to be quite popular with the staff. Despite our long history as friends and my desire to keep it there, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t find myself becoming jealous for brief, fleeting moments. I never felt that way around her then boyfriend (who I’d met and hung out with a few times), perhaps because I knew of the sporadic turmoil the two had. For much of 2012, I wound up visiting Sonia at her place once a week (or every other week) to hang out, watch DVD’s or play video games, and in general to keep her company as her boyfriend often worked on the road for long, odd hours. Around this time they’d supposedly worked through their latest rough patch and were engaged once more. Yet despite this, they still argued and bickered quite a bit, and Sonia took to drinking more. Her boyfriend once said that, “You’re one of the only guys I trust to not try anything with her”, but his possessiveness usually couldn’t be hidden for long. Sonia would often defend him, citing her own temper issues and mental health woes. Once more, while I did my best to be there for her, and tell her that their relationship was toxic more than once, she had invested both time and what little money she had into it, and was reluctant to leave. I did have some temptations to throttle the guy, but of course this isn’t fiction and that doesn’t work in abusive relationships.

It didn’t help that while I had vowed to myself to keep things as platonic as possible with Sonia, that I had developed feelings for her over the years that I did my best to bury. Despite my long reservations about seeking to date someone who already has a boyfriend (for perfectly good reasons), I don’t know how I would have reacted had Sonia sought to come onto me or seek to initiate…something. More than once, Sonia suggested that I stay the night, since I usually left very late and mass transit from that area is spotty past midnight. I often refused, citing plenty of reasons while being mum about potential temptation for either of us. One weekend, however, I was simply in no mood for a walk and a wait and took her up on her offer. Her boyfriend was working an overnight shift and I knew that the risk for such a “something” was highest now. I suppose having feelings and conflicted emotions was normal, but I didn’t like that I had these feelings or conflicts, seeing them as a moral failing to even consider. It boils down to wanting to be better than most people, yet here I was caught between eagerness and dread that Sonia might seek to capitalize on the opportunity. Despite cheating on previous lovers (and this boyfriend being suspected of cheating on her, even as he was possessive), Sonia would have deeply regretted it and I like to think that had some sort of temptation happened, I’d have been the stronger, wiser man and shut it down. I like to think that, but I’ll never know. And I am glad I never got the chance; I wound up sleeping in a spare room abandoned by some roommates that’d skipped out on them, with a full living room and closed door between bedrooms. It was a restful night amid a bare mattress and oodles of cat and dog hair. Did I mention that Sonia’s an animal person? She almost always has multiple cats and a dog, if not more animals, anywhere she lives.

Sonia and her beau went with me for one of two days I spent at the 2012 New York Comic Con, which was a fun outing aside for yet another argument the pair had. When I was irritated with catching my friends having a laugh at my expense over my virginity on Facebook (“The Dark Side of the Internet”), I spent my 2013 birthday with Sonia and her boyfriend as well, and the three of us had a nice dinner. Not long after that, Sonia finally split from her toxic boyfriend and gave living with her family another go for a while. Unfortunately, that didn’t take and she’s currently somewhere in upstate NY with her newest fiance (and his kids, and her usual flock of cats and a large dog) and seems to be happy despite having to face more challenges to both her mental and physical health. We don’t talk online as much as we used to or I’d like to, and not for lack of trying. She usually doesn’t respond to private messages beyond a brief greeting, even though we interact via statuses and shared links almost daily. The last few times she’s sought me out that way, it was usually in hopes that I could wire her some money for some crisis or another; I never was able and she’s never held it against me, likely because I’d been willing to give her money (never more than $20-$30 at a time, and not that often) when I could if things were that dire in the past.

Sonia’s been slow to realize it, but she’s stronger than she realizes. She’s come from a lot of abuse, which sadly has not only taken a toll on her mental and physical health, but sometimes seems to be like bait for the wrong kind of men. These problems, as well as the difficulty she has settling in any home setting (either with family or a lover) for longer than a couple of years makes continuing her education or keeping a steady job difficult. Despite all this she is at heart an upbeat person, and tries to acknowledge her bouts with depression head on. She’s very beautiful, although she’s always been waxing and waning between struggling with her weight and being proud of her curves. If someone asked her what kind of friend I was, she’d probably offer a laundry list of compliments; meanwhile, I wish I could do more. We’ve grown up from teenagers to being in our 30’s and shared a lot of emotions together, her more than me. My vow to be the one guy in her life who was willing to do right by her without wanting something romantic in return hasn’t been easy, but maybe integrity never is. I’ve never shared my feelings in the past with her, and at times Sonia has wanted to help me move on with my own love life – she once offered to set up an OKCupid account for me or critique my current profile (which I barely touch). Sonia isn’t the only “female friend” I’ve had for over a decade, but she’s the only one in which my own personal feelings shifted beyond being platonic for moments here and there.

Whatever romantic love is, I wonder if I got close at times regarding some of my feelings for Sonia. While I have tried to avoid waiting for “the one” in terms of dating, there have been moments over the years where I wondered if Sonia was my “only chance”. At least one of my friends tried to talk me into making a move with her over the years. At a BBQ several years ago, my pal M*** (another reoccurring figure in these posts) seemed to have been inspired by being at a bar and seeing us interact when Sonia came by for one of her sporadic visits. The two of us were leaning against a fence and M*** and he was convinced that she had feelings for me and said in no uncertain terms something to the effect of, “If you don’t make a move, maybe I will”. He wasn’t the only friend to make that suggestion regarding her, and my answer was always, “That ship sailed”. Sonia seemed to always be in the midst of a relationship when we’ve interacted, and her relationships have been getting longer as she has matured and sought to settle down. She deserves far more than to be the first stepping stone to anyone’s romantic voyage and she also deserves someone who has far more to offer than I can, especially in practical terms such as having a car and a larger place to move into. There were times I was in turmoil over stifling my own feelings, and even envious of some of the men who were dating her during my 20’s. Fortunately, I overcame those feelings without dumping my baggage onto her and without mangling our friendship.

I suppose this could be an extended case of how timing can really be everything. Maybe had I hung around her more when both of us were teenagers, and maybe if “something” had happened then, things could have been different. I certainly wouldn’t be the Dateless-Man. Yet on the other hand, maybe all of the teenage hormones and drama wouldn’t have done either of us any good. Maybe things could have gone wrong and we’d not have been friends for as long. As some recent Disney films are seeking to ingrain into kids, not all kinds of love are romantic. The love between friends can be just as important, at times more so, than romantic love. I merely wonder about things, rather than have any regrets, in this matter.

And this is it. In terms of substantial flashbacks regarding the women in my life who weren’t family, this is really the last one I can think of. Naturally I don’t have total recall of every interaction I have ever had with someone of the opposite sex from birth until now, but this is the last of the series of flashbacks which I felt had any weight or shaped my outlook on things in any way. Overall I see this as a success, although not exactly the way some would expect. Sonia’s life has been full of tragedy, and I am glad to have been part of an element that wasn’t. And in a way, she’s been there many times for me as well; simply by being a woman who is willing to talk to me or who considered me a worthy individual for even a moment puts her in very rare territory in my life. She really is the total package despite any “flaws” and I am glad she is closer to seeing that in herself now than when we first met. It simply is a shame that I couldn’t have met even one or two other women who offered at least half of what she did in all of these years. Maybe then I could have been a normal person and not, well…the Dateless-Man. But, if this narrative proves anything, it is that for good or ill, life is rarely what you plan for it to be. Perhaps had I not suffered and been alone for all these years, I wouldn’t appreciate the suffering and loneliness in others.

Not surprisingly, this has also been the longest post I recall doing, covering many years of time. There’ll be at least one more entry coming; either a recap of the comic con speed dating in a couple of weeks, or a recap of why I flaked out on it. After that…who knows. It has been quite a journey and quite a lot of typing. It’s been good to read and reread these entries as well as the wonderful replies I’ve gotten from them and evaluate things. I can’t say I have reached the level of zen that I’ve hoped for yet, to be absolutely free of all emotional romantic desire, nor have I decided to take more swings at futility on a regular basis. There is more to life and more to do in it than being angst ridden over my lack of romantic success.

To date, she’s been the only person who wasn’t family who I have ever shed tears about. As a man, even admitting something like that in text feels like a weakness. No matter what happens, she’ll always have a special place in my heart.