Monday, 14 January 2013

Dry Spells and The Damage of Missing Good Times

There was as yet something un-touched in all this, and this whole rambling meditation was not going to be complete until I found it and dealt with it. 

I found it in this harrowing post which brought back the ridiculous pain, emptiness, bitterness, anger and sourness I felt from the periods of extended celibacy in my teens and twenties. Some of us guys have hormones that won't let us sleep in sustained celibate peace - at least when we are younger. Personally, I think we are in a minority, and that the majority of men are quite capable of living for extended periods without the slightest human touch (or maybe that's the real reason to play team sports?). The majority of women certainly seem to be so capable (by Seven Dials' Observation, there will be women who can't go a week without sex, and men who can go a decade). Many men feel nothing from extended celibacy, but for those of us who do, it changes our hormonal and emotional balance permanently.

For whatever reason, some of us guys leave childhood with an unfulfilled need for emotional reassurance, validation, or whatever other word you might want to use. Or maybe we have a messed-up hormone cocktail that makes being physically alone painful. It kinda doesn't matter what causes it, what matters are all those Sunday mornings we wake up alone and hurting, depressed, angry and in pain. We feel there is a cure for this, which is sex, waking up with a woman in the bed, but we can't get the medicine. There's some magic word or gesture or something we need that we don't know. There's a place we need to go to find girls, but no-one knows where it is. And when we do find some girls, they are charging a price, and some of those prices are way too high - marriage, commitment, relationships - while some feel like come-ons with no promise of delivery - a weekend away, an evening's entertainment. Worst are the girls who want us to be someone else. We start to think the whole thing is a game, a trick, and all the players are lying. 

For me, this started when I was sixteen and went on until my early thirties, with the very, very occasional one-night stand. Going six or nine months without sex was standard, and the worst dry period was over two years of postgraduate study. Hell, I didn't even lose my virginity until I was twenty, and I knew good-looking straight guys who got through university without popping their cherry.

Bad times cause two harms: the first is the bad time you have, and the second is the good time you missed. Think of it like having a sports injury. While you are off in pain and recovering, everyone else is training, getting better and getting more confidence. A guy who has a serious dry spell early in his life has a bunch of pain and resentment baked into his view of the world, and even if that subsides, he has to compete with other guys who have had positive experiences and gained confidence in the game of life. Now imagine how he looks at the world. It's a place that says NO to him, where he feels  lonely, frustrated and sour, and where all the good stuff is out of reach, but not out of sight. It's a place that makes no sense - as witness the phrase that became a Joe Jackson song "Is she really going out with him?" - and which is full of false promises, liars, teases, and worst of all, people who apparently simply cannot see him. It is not a place he expects to succeed in, at anything. It's a place where everyone pretends, and gets drunk to live with the realities they never really talk about. It's a place where no-one he knows has any useful advice, where there is no-one to turn to for help.

It does not matter why he is having this dry spell, or if there was anything he could have done about it. It only matters that he has it. Because once he does, he is changed forever. Gradually he makes himself smaller and smaller: he loses ambition; his contacts with people become polite, formal, stylised and shallow; he learns to manage his whole life himself. If he's smart, he will occupy his brain with theatre, art movies, science, history, novels, modern dance, music, programming, and a hundred other diversions, and of course he will lean on booze, or drugs, or pornography. All that simply separates him further from the rest of the world. And the worse it gets, the more important the cure that's in the sole gift of women becomes, and the more he resents them and what he sees as their games and lies. Which does not make him an attractive prospect, which further tightens the loop.

Manosphere advice says "hit the gym". That's only partly because by now our young man is in poor shape. It's also because weight training works. He does the work, his body shape changes, he looks better, feels better. It may be the first taste of success he has had for ten years. He works with a trainer to get him started. This may well be the first positive experience of other people and his own efforts he has had for ten years. 

That's how bad a long dry spell is. It is not something a man "gets over", or "moves on" from or "recovers from". It is permanent damage, ten years of lost good times he cannot get back, and ten years of head start that other people have on him.

It is almost impossible to explain how much damage the missing good times do. Here are some of the things you believe: that there is something that bonds a man and a woman and enriches both their lives for it; that there is a feeling called "joy"; that it is possible to be satisfied even for a moment; that it is possible to feel safe; that other people can be a source of help and useful advice; that it is possible to rest and relax; that it is possible to walk into a room full of people and feel welcomed; that your needs will get met. I think that these are illusions, delusions and generalised crocks.

Here are some things I believe: that I should edit myself all the time; that "belonging" is a one-sided delusion; that when I leave people's sight, I leave their minds; that other people are being polite when they spend time with me, and would rather be somewhere else; that I have nothing in common with anybody enough to last more than a ten-minute conversation about the weather; that I am invisible; that other people want me to be what they imagine me to be; that outside work I have nothing to offer anyone.

Because I'm in late middle age and the hormones are different, I don't feel the pain of all that stuff often. One day at a time, which is how I live, it's okay. There's a vague nagging feeling that I'm missing something, but most of the time I can busy it out. In my was late-twenties, this stuff hurt like a motherfucker.

This is what I needed to get in touch with.

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