"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

All My Lovers Were There With Me / All My Past And Future

As a followup to my Californication post below, I'd like to try and shed a more positive light on things. Clearly that kind of writing elicits a reaction -- hey, sex still sells, and it's some of the more honest blogging I've done of late -- but I think I may have given some people the wrong idea. Not that I don't appreciate all the ego-boosting, but I can't help but feel a little bit guilty, like when as a kid you'd fake or exaggerate an injury for attention.

So yes. Let's get down to brass tacks. In our last installment, I concluded that there was some serious Fear going on, and this was why my sex life was more or less dead. And yeah, the more I sit with that the more accurate it feels.

That's not particularly great in and of itself, but the first step to happy living is figuring out what you want. Then you have to get it, and that's another mountain to climb, but just getting some direction is a vital and necessary first start. I honestly feel better already.

When I survey the past couple years -- relatively sexless and workaholic -- they seem a cocoon. On the one hand maybe I've been gestating, and am preparing to emerge chrysalis-like in new glory. On the other hand, maybe I've been in hiding, retreating into the woods to bury my shame under a thousand layers of self-made silk. Or something.

Maybe it's both. More than anything else, I get the feeling I've been keeping myself under wraps, off the scene. It's not a new revelation, but every time it comes up it's with ring of truth. I think I've got a stronger way to say it, one that comes to mind with an anecdote:

So, I was at this wedding after-party and a tall chesty and very drunk girl decided to catch my eye, much though I may have been ducking hers. She wanted to know what I was made of. "What is your _story?_" she kept asking me with narrowed eyelids, high-heel-stumbling in place, slumping tits-first into my shoulder and then threatening to tip over backwards. "You're one of those _nice guys_, aren't you."

It was phrased as an accusation, and maybe that's why the question got through my normal social filter, because, in the way she meant it, I had to answer deep down that no -- no, I'm really not. I'm not one of those nice guys. I am in fact a pretty bad guy, the way you mean; bad in the way you're probably hoping for right now. But I'm in retirement. So, sorry babe.

She didn't quite get me, so I told her I didn't want to make out with her, after which she left me alone.

This exchange was definitely on my mind when I wrote my previous post. It was an authentic unrehearsed moment, and turning it over in my mind there's a feeling of something true in there.

Much as I exhibit many of the qualities of the nice guy -- first and foremost that I am nice, and also a guy -- my nature is... something else. And for whatever reason I have been trying to shoehorn myself into this somewhat plastic "nice guy" mold for the past couple years. I won't waste too much time speculating as to my subconscious (heartbreaker's guilt, playing it safe) motives, but as a diagnosis this feels like a Real Thing. And again, the point is to move onward, not wallow in the past.

Now. Let me be absolutely clear. It does not follow logically that because I believe I am not a "nice guy," that I am a not-nice (mean, bad, loathsome) person. Just like any other guy pushing thirty who's lived a few interesting days in his life, I've got a shabby pile of self-loathing lying around. We've all got dirty laundry, but this isn't a pity party. I realize I am a wonderful person, capable of great love, and with all the things to offer you'd expect from the 99th percentile. Indeed, I revel in this.

Moreover, and not to get too post-modern on y'all, but I fully realize that this shoehorning, much as it may be ostensibly motivated out of the desire to quote "do the right thing" -- to do right by the women I welcome into my life -- is deeply and terrifically counter-productive at achieving this end. Going through the motions is simply an awful way to behave, romantically. You will either:

  1. Be unmasked as inauthentic or condescending, and hurt the poor girl's feelings.
  2. Simply lose interest because your heart's not in it, and hurt the poor girls feelings.
  3. End up stuck going through the motions until finally you have to break things off, and hurt the poor girls feelings.

The moral of the story is that our protagonist ("poor girl," for those of you keeping score at home) doesn't have a chance as long as I'm faking it. It's just as inadvisable for me to behave this way as it is for her to fake orgasms. So why have I been doing this?

A lack of confidence feels about right. Without the gall and spine to carry off a love life under my own terms, I've degenerated back (role confusion) to the lowest socially-acceptable common denominator. To paraphrase a great film, there's that fear-talk we talked about.

Und zo, as I said before, I feel a thrill at finally getting my hands around the problem. Coming to grips, it seems imminently solvable: I just have to man-up and master the fractal enigma that is my own authentic romantic persona, and that sounds like an exciting endeavor. It feels damn liberating.

Maybe it's just my recent-haircut attitude talking -- less tangles, more angles -- but it feels like I'm entering the prime of my life. I'm fit, smart, witty, and I do pretty amazing things with myself, even if they do keep me at the office until a lot later than I'd like sometimes.

Hopefully this sense will grow. There's a lot of positive momentum right now.