As a result of bowel-related surgery and recovery, I have been single (and lonely) to the point of not having kissed a guy in almost four years. I have gotten used to it, but it is still hard. I don’t feel comfortable letting anyone significant into my life right now, aside from my family and friends. My health is fine but I am still dealing with the results of the surgery, which are less than sexy. What should I do?—Sheena
A short-term sexual détente is probably a good idea for a single person wanting to focus on his or her health, but four years without even kissing sounds like a sadder version of those rhesus monkey social isolation experiments.
Still, this seems like something you have mostly chosen for yourself—if not in the daydreamy “someday” abstract, then in your reality—and are mostly choosing to perpetuate. Going through what you’ve been through can knock you over in all kinds of ways—financially, professionally, and socially—but finding and being in love does not require an ideal state of humanness. If you need some proof, cruise around a big-box parking lot on a Saturday afternoon to experience the theatre of angry, dead-eyed, unattractive coupledom. Sasha Cagen, the author of Quirkyalone, the 2004 book that grew into a bona fide single-and-cool-with-it lifestyle movement, agrees with me. She says, “You do not need to be a perfect person or a perfectly healthy person to let someone into your life. People fall in love with people who are disabled. People fall in love with people who are in jail!” Not to conflate disability with criminality, but the point is that you are you, already and forever, and you in whatever way or form are allowed, deserve, and should have love if you want it.
First, you have to “love yourself, as quaint as that sounds,” says Cagen. “You must really, truly, deeply love that part of you that is vulnerable, the part that is lonely, the part that has gone through surgery.” Locating and forgiving what you currently hate—maybe it’s the unsexy medical stuff; probably it’s some other stuff, too—will result in a singular kind of personal revolution. The second thing is to appreciate life as it is. Cagen says, “I understand the specific loneliness and yearning that goes along with not kissing a man for four years, but…you are already in a relationship with your friends and family.” Are you spending enough fun hangout time with your friends, your fam, or other people in the same medical and post-surgical situation as you? (If you’re not in a support group or on a message board already, you’re not even trying.)
“Once you really have a feeling within yourself that you are worthy as a single person,” Cagen says, “you will be in a position where you can start to do things that you enjoy, and from that place of enjoyment attract a man into your life.” It’s going to feel different than it did before your surgery and sexual sabbatical, so take it way, way slow. Go on some internet dates, and, if it feels easier and more right, tell your suitors the unsexy news early. (Men can be superficial, but they can also be the most forgiving, and the most “I don’t care that you are wearing your ugliest soft pants/are mad at me/have unusual scars—let’s do it!”) Remember: So many people have HPV, almost everyone has weird body stuff, everyone is fractured or damaged in some significant way, and still, every Saturday night, the city lights up with the neon heat of possibility and newness and other people, which includes you.
I am in love with a very good friend of mine. We’ve had sex a few times since we met. We had “the conversation” and he is not into me, but we had sex another few times after that. I think he loves me but doesn’t know yet. Is there anything I could do that would make him want me?—Jane
Haaaaaaaaaa! Are you for real? A cartoon? An excellent example of how a special house blend of denial and wishful thinking poisons everyone at some point in their 20s, where the most perfect skin and tightest asses are paid for in general romantic terribleness? Probably that last one. There is nothing else to say here, other than “No,” because you have your answer and are choosing not to listen to what he said, or respect yourself, or care that by sleeping with you when he knew how you felt is like second- or third-degree emotional abuse. Go on vacation and eff someone hotter than him immediately. Or, turn 30. Either way, you’ll be better off.
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