Relax, this is not a woe is me story. It’s more of a story of discovery of what it has been like to be loverless for the longest stretch in my life since I lost my virginity. (OK, I actually didn’t lose it. I know where it went.)
Not making love for so long has given me new insights about what the experience is all about.
Celibacy is more than not having sex, which is to say that not having sex is more than not engaging in sexual activity — which is to say that sexuality itself is more than mere orgasm production. It’s a cornucopia of body, mind, heart, and spirit.
SEX IS WHOLISTIC
Sex combines both physical/sensual and nonphysical ingredients. There are the words that flow before, during, and after. The tender words, the hottie words, the encouraging words, the silly words.
I dearly love my female platonic friends, but I have noticed that not being lovers limits communication to certain safe areas. Sexual relationships afford me a free pass to be more spontaneous. Being sexually uncensored appears to give me permission to be less controlled and sanitized in general. I don’t watch my words as carefully.
As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”
Many people raised in our culture of erotic cliches do not see sex as an energy exchange, but I do. I notice myself as being much more rigid, subdued, serious, and deliberate without the lover energy present. You could say I take on the persona of an English butler (too bad the domestic skill set doesn’t come with it.)
I have noted with some dismay that the removal of sex from my life has taken out a huge chunk of life’s fun. Sex frees us to be joyously undignified. We can let our emotions romp. We can soar out of the box. We do not have to be so unfucking appropriate. We can giggle, slobber, moan, coo, scream, cry, writhe, and in the most wondrous sense of the word, feel. We don’t have to be cooped up into our cages of conformity (unless that’s part of your schtick.)
I look at life as a flow of water from the spring to the river to the sea to the air. Being celibate is like the lazier section of the wide, slow-flowing river where nothing much happens. Sex is more like the grand rapids, the awesome waterfalls, even the happy babble of the nudge, nudge, wink, wink brook. I miss the wild water.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?
In our society with our social training, uninvited celibacy feels like a disease. It feels as if there must be something wrong with me. I feel abnormal. I harbor feelings of being rejected, even when I rationally know it’s not true. I feel less than complete, even broken. Part of the pain is the uncertainty about my future—is this it? Am I done?
Of course I have received friendly advice about being happy with myself, comfortable in being alone. I am my own best friend, companion, even lover. Then there is God and assorted cosmic buds. We are never truly alone, they say.
But I hate any idea that the answer to this drought is trying to find sexual opportunity, like popping aspirin for a headache. Sex to me is too precious a human experience to be downgraded as a commodity—as physical release, as it is often called.
I find a big irony here: if I just wanted to scratch an itch, it would be relatively easy to find physical release. The real full meal deal is more complex. It would require meeting a kindred spirit and a deeper conection.
SEEING WITH NEW EYES
Not having sex in so long has removed so many of the assumptions and habits of yesteryear. I have noticed within me a strange mixture of awe of sexual possibility and resignation of the passing years. Now everything seems so magical, starting with the most basic and usually taken-for-granted among sensual doings. Loving gazes seem magical. Kissing seems magical. Someone reaching for my hand seems magical. Petting seems magical.
Reminiscent of the trick parents of toddlers pull, simple erotic joys all seem hidden away in a shoebox stored on the top shelf of the closet, out of my reach. Like a little boy wondering what Santa will bring me for Christmas, I ponder and fantasize what lovemaking would be like if it ever shows up in my life again. Will I ever hear “I want you” again?
At the same time, as a social observer, I am saddened by the portrayals of sex I see in the media. It is so often mechanical, grim, rote, scarcely a shred of humanity in it. I often think, “if that’s what I am missing, I am not missing much.” I also concur with one of my favorite lines from It’s a Wonderful Life when the old guy on the front porch grumbles, “Aw, youth is wasted on the wrong people.”
Sex in the movies so often misses simpler joys such as the rapture of cuddling. (Really? Rapture? That’s my point. It sounds foreign because it doesn’t get star treatment. Cuddling is frequently dismissed as dull compared to wild woo-hoo!)
WATCH WHAT YOU WATCH
The other day I watched Hope Springs, a story of a married couple played by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. The Streep character was suffering dearly over her husband’s constant sexual neglect and denial of romantic affection. It was hard to watch as it reminded me of my own loneliness. Especially difficult is knowing that I would have treated her so much better, lavishing her with the love she craved, and yet the senior bad boy got the girl, not me. (OK, it’s just a movie. I get that. But we project ourselves into movies, and that’s what I was feeling.)
I also watched a BBC-produced documentary on grizzly bears. It had nothing to do with human love relationships. But watching these big male bears attempt to beat the crap out of each other to win mating rights (and mating rites) became an unintended reminder of my own nature. Involuntary celibacy is a stark reminder that some form of instinct and conditioning drive me into mate hunger. Watching big bears growl and swipe at each other reminds me of the competition for love, and in scenes like this they usually show the beaten male limping and bloodied in retreat. Not helpful.
The Internet opens the door to insights and dialogues with strangers, and I have seen various blogs on the theme of sexless marriages. I have seen both sides. I have seen people express their deep sorrows and feelings of failure that uninvited celibacy brings. I have also seen people in sexless marriages ridiculed and demonized as shallow, needy, and immature, like if they simply pushed the right button everything would be fine. Sexual hunger is not taken seriously. Not helpful.
Regarding my own unexpected vacation from lovemaking, I like to say that it is what it is. It has given me new awareness and appreciation for what I had, and sometimes for what I took for granted. It has restored a sense of awe and wonder over the magic of it all. It is one of God’s greatest gifts — and someday we might treat it as such.
A subsequent post continues on this theme — Sexual Dry Spells.