I never imagined I’d practice celibacy. Never, ever in any of my wildest I should become a Buddhist nun and crawl into a Nepalese cave forever escapist fantasies did I even consider that I would ever stop having sex. I am telling you this; never, ever did I think it.
But it happened. A long time ago. My nights spent with emotionally unavailable men and the Xanax needed to sleep near them have been bartered for novels, battery-operated devices and lavender eye pillows. And ice cream. In some communities, I think this means I’m a virgin. Again.
I know for many monks and plane crash survivors stranded on icebergs and Catholic girls with surgically attached chastity belts, a year without sex is no biggie. Countless others practice intentionally sex-free lifestyles for even longer. But for me, it is different. I have carried this dark secret like a heavy, forked iron tail through my land of milk and honey, my land of sexual liberation, of casual sex and militant polyamory. Of BDSM clubs, sex parties, sacred sexuality workshops and Tantra conventions.
Being celibate in the Bay Area may be the biggest taboo of them all.
Of course, like most paths I’ve dragged myself down, I didn’t exactly plan to move in this direction. Slimy boyfriends, one fruitless date after another, too many afternoons riding public transportation; it all wore me out. I grew tired of men treating me like some foul thing clinging to the bottom of their shoes. And so many years of choosing substandard men for myself short-circuited my intuition and clobbered what little sense of self worth I had to begin with. I stopped trusting myself. So I have closed up the girly bits shop, slipped on an invisible but highly effective magic chastity belt and dimmed my magical pelvic chakra glow until further notice.
Yes. I have other reasons.
And yes, it is possible that I’ve exhausted all of my available sexual resources in the small community I call home. I was once an enthusiastic one-woman welcome wagon, inviting men eagerly into the neighborhood of my bedroom. This, I cannot deny.
But I’m no longer a fresh spring lilac propped up all perky and sweet and luscious, covered in dew and nectar, just waiting for some stealthy and sexually ambitious bumble bee to pollinate the woman in me. It’s not perimenopause; I’m on strike. My friends in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous call it emotional anorexia. I call it exhaustion. I no longer possess the impulsive twenty-something gusto it takes to stay up all night engaging in the lengthy conversations that often lead to bad sex, regrets and cortisol imbalance. I know I’ve obviously missed the fall in love young and start a writer slash artist slash organic farm compound and keep bees together and into the sunset forever boat. I also think that maybe I don’t need that. Or that I have everything I really need with my kids and my cats and my lemon balm and my generous hens and my bike and my lovely friends. And my aforementioned battery operated devices.
Sex and love are two separate creatures, you say? I shouldn’t be so picky, you say?
While this is true, I need to be honest and state that I don’t trust my oxytocin. You know that hormone that releases when women have sex and it makes us attach ourselves like so many high quality strips of flypaper to even the most unsuitable sociopaths we roll through the sheets with? It really does do tricky things to the body and mind. I know. I’ve attached myself to all sorts of gross people. Now I have a lot of it built up. If I’m letting that shit loose, it needs reprogramming first—like a behavioral boot camp for out-of-control, slutty teenage girls. It needs life vests and how-to guides. And maybe a deserving recipient.
And that’s not all.
The biggest truth of it is, once, not long ago, I lost someone I loved. It did this thing to my insides that happens when you love someone so much that you believe he is your soul mate. And you have this child together who is so magical and beautiful that you could just tear her apart and eat her every last freckle. But he, this man you love so much, is also an addict. And against any molecule of better judgment you try to save him but you can’t. So you try to save yourself and leave him and then sleep in your car with your kids and everything is gone and then you hate this man who you felt you already spent forever with. Then he begs for you to come back and makes you mixed CDs with sad, come-back-to-me Morrissey songs on every last one and you know he loves you so much but you’re so angry and you say no, no, no. And you try to move on—sometimes with little baby steps like putting the things he left behind into boxes in the laundry room and sometimes with grand gestures like leaving the country. You still think of him every day and one day, when you stop hating him and you’ve become friends again, you say no to him one last time. And he dies; a suicide. It shoots a hundred arrows into every softest part of you. You leave the arrows there and they gather scar tissue in masses and knots and a piece of you—maybe a big piece of you—thinks you deserve all of the wounds that replace the softness you once had. And then, like a dumbass, you think that if you can only find someone else to love you, they will pull the knots out and carve the chunks of tough leathery scars away and put something good in their place.
It did that to me. It changed me in those ways. It destroyed a lot of those important soft parts, the soft parts that made me trust and love myself.
So I took the only logical next step I could take. I found some awful men and expected them to love me or have decent sex with me when they were not capable. I gasped savemesavemesaveme or punishmepunishmepunishme or lovemelovemeloveme because I thought that is what I needed to save myself.
For fuck’s sake. It was so stupid. Too many John Hughes films, I’m afraid.
So I’ve taken time to sort out my brain and now, with this new weird virginity thing, I am remembering my soft parts. The parts of me that deserve all good things. All good people. All good laughter and love and amazing bright skies and warm water and things that make me sigh big long sighs of all things good.
And the intuition that I believed was still deeply embedded in the bottom of an ex-boyfriend’s shoe is back. It is back and growing in me like an endangered poisonous creature from the Amazon River—dagger-like fins, circling and flipping and jumping in my gut when I stand too close to someone who is not right for me. I have to catch my breath, step back, sometimes run and hide and cover my mouth to keep the Devil Fish from swimming out with a great force, frothy gunk spewing from my face. It works. I no longer sleep with creeps.
Still, I think sometimes it would be quite nice—fucking fantastic, really— to find someone who will do a different thing, that thing that spring does with the cherry trees. In the least, it would be nice to find someone who doesn’t make that Amazonian Devil Fish spin around so fast in my gut. My Own Private Devil Fish-slaying Neruda. Wouldn’t it be fucking fantastic?
But I’m not so naïve these days. My soft parts remind me that the next guy I decide to play Bedroom Welcome Wagon with will have issues. All sorts of issues with varying degrees of seriousness like a gambling addiction and a mean dad and bad breath and a crazy bitch ex. There are so many crazy ex girlfriends out there! He may even have a bag of kitten heads or a collection of melted Barbie legs that he incorporates into weird Russian refugee role-play or taxidermy mice tucked into the back of his closet. Or seventeen underage girlfriends. None of it surprises me anymore.
But, the soft parts! How exciting to welcome their return. Together with the Devil Fish, I think these things will lead me to good sex. Or at least the desire to attempt sex again, which is slowly growing in me as well.
Recently, on a crisp and lovely San Francisco evening, I found myself surrounded by flowers and dinosaurs and warmth and big fancy words and a male friend leaned in to take my photograph and told me I looked nice and bought me a beer and I thought, take me with you. Anywhere. I imagined our bodies clutched together on his motorcycle—a very Prince and Appolonia fantasy, I know, except this friend is tall and blond and I am short and thirty-eight and could never pull of Appolonia’s sexy spandex body suits. I imagined the two of us riding to some sketchy barn in a remote coastal apple orchard and so many fun things happening there.
Later, we swam instead. We filled the air and the fog and the cold of the lake and mosquito ears with all good laughter and all good things. Nowhere did I see, hear or feel a Devil Fish.
And though he may not hold the key to anything more than a perfect day spent in perfect bliss, something sparked in me. It could just be the lingering hypothermia or the pesky crawdad legs tangled in my matted hair but I think this spark comes from a different place. Maybe the spark comes from my magical pelvic chakra, lighting things up for action. But I think, instead, that it comes from somewhere simple and fantastic like those sewn up soft pieces and the nearly renovated girly bit shop, reminding me that so much good is still in me and it might be time to start sharing it again.