I mentioned celibacy in my last column, and since things are slowing down around here, I figured I’d take this week’s space to talk more about it. I mean, the premise alone feels strange—a sex and dating columnist takes a two-year break from physical intimacy? And two years is a long time to choose not to get down and dirty, especially when the initial goal was set at six months.
I set that goal because I knew that something needed to change in my sex life. I’d fallen into some pretty not-helpful patterns and behaviors when it came to dating, and my communication left something to be desired. I was missing signs all over the place, saying what I mean but not in ways that made sense to others, breaking hearts and getting my own heart broken while having nothing but good intentions from the start.
Last night, I hung out with a friend I hadn’t seen in months—a former local who left town and got sober. He said to me, “I don’t think I could have stopped drinking in Athens. It’s just such a drinkin’ town.” That’s exactly how I felt about Athens in terms of casual sex. We’re young, we’re slutty, we’re fun, and it’s hard to escape that Peter Pan mindset when the returns are so immediate, consenting and very disposable.
I still went on dates while celibate, and the first two weeks almost spelled disaster for me when I met two cuties that pressed all of my buttons. But then the pattern emerged again: I was receiving late-night texts after being stood up or turned down for public, daytime hanging. I’d go out just in the hopes of seeing my distractions, since they weren’t trying to spend real time with me, but the nights always ended with me turning down an offer to get laid. Then, the lightbulb moment: I’d met them both at bars while we were both intoxicated. I was 35 years old. What the hell was I doing?
Two years later, I understand why I kept with celibacy and what I am trying to achieve. I know what our local youth culture defines as intimacy, but how do I define it for myself? The prevailing attitudes around here are whimsical and magical, and we tend towards actions that make for good song lyrics, as opposed to bedfellows. Look at the way we “play house” in casual encounters. I think we’ve all gone home with someone who cuddled us all night, made coffee or breakfast in the morning, kissed us goodbye and then never spoke to us again. I’ve done it, and I’ve had it done to me. It’s just how it goes, you know? We take intimacy where we can get it, stretch those moments out as long as we can until the sun comes up, they bike home, and then we do it all over again.
That wasn’t working for me, and I needed a break. I needed to ask myself real questions about what I was looking for, what I wanted out of my interactions with people and where I saw myself in my relationships in the future. I’ve got those answers now. I am looking for a personal connection, I want real intimacy, and I want to be in a relationship. Those answers are simple and kind of obvious, but finding them wasn’t. We all think we’re special snowflakes, but I have to admit that I was doing what was expected of me by giving undeserving people access to my temple and suffering some pretty intense consequences.
I got a therapist and started a mindfulness meditation practice while I was celibate, and I still went on dates. The greatest thing I learned was the difference between friends and lovers, and the importance of keeping the two separate sometimes. I’ve decided to call it quits once I’ve officially hit the two-year mark in a month, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna go get laid once the clock strikes midnight. Whatever happens happens, and I’ll be happy.
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