Ask the Celibate

From the CitC eMailbag:
I recently read your post "Here's An Idea: Ask the Celibate" and have decided that is the course of action I would like to take.

I work with this girl. We both work at UPS. She was hired in about 8 months ago and I've been there nearly 5 years. I'm 23 and she's 19. Ever since she was hired to work there, I have had an urge to get to know her better and that's what I did. We talked a lot, about everything and it was always fun being able to bounce whatever stupid idea may have come in my head off of her. She would relate her stories about guys that already had tried to ask her out at UPS and we would both laugh about it.

After a while I realized that I really started to like her, and would try to "accidently" bump into her at the end of the day so that we could walk out to our cars together. Eventually it become common practice for me to walk with her and I didn't need to find an accidental reason to bump into her at the end of the day. One day I even mustered up the courage to ask her out to a hockey game and dinner, which she sounded only too enthusiastic to accept.

So we went out and had a fantastic time. I bought her flowers and had them delivered the next day to her house. She called me later that day to thank me and said that she was very impressed as was her whole family. So it went great. In fact, it was probably one of the better dates I've ever had.

For the next 5 days I racked my brain about whether or not next Friday was too early to ask her out again. I talked to everybody about it. Finally I decided, you know what, screw thinking about it, I'm just going to go with my gut and ask her out for Friday. So I did, and she said yes again. This time it was dinner and a movie. On the way to the movie I told her about how nuts I'd driven myself. When we left the car and headed into the theater she responded by making eye contact and thanking me for asking her out. Then she pulled my hand out of my pocket and held it the rest of the night.

Another great date. Another one of the best dates I've been on. Ok, so fast forward to this past weekend. Since the second date, we had two more. The third date we had a brief time in which she seemed so distant and sad. Saying things like, "I don't know why you'd want to date someone like me," but towards the end of the night we were laughing and smiling and holding hands again. Then the following Monday after that date she called me up and asked me out for the following Friday. Then, Friday morning after we got out of work we went to breakfast and she told me that she thought that this wasn't working. However, I wasn't ready to give up yet and talked her into continuing with our plans later that night. I thought that if I could just give her a really great evening that she would forget about the things she said and change her mind.

The date went great. Great conversation, great dinner, never was there a moment in which I thought we were heading towards a break-up. Until we were driving to the movie theater. She looked over at me and asked if I'd thought about what she said that morning. I said I had but I wasn't going to bring it up. She said that she had too and wanted to. She said that she was ready to throw in the towel. As we drove in silence toward the theater she finally broke out and asked if I wanted to talk about this. I did, so we parked.

I asked her what happened, what I did to change her attitude towards our dating. She said nothing, you did everything perfect. Later she said that she just didn't feel a spark. She said we'd be better off as friends. At this point I knew there was nothing I could say to change her mind. The sinking feeling that I keep getting is, what's wrong with me?? What is it with me that I could do everything perfect and yet there is no spark. Is what she told me just an excuse? Did she find someone else that suited her better? Does she have too many emotional problems and this was just the easiest one to fix?

I need a different kind of perspective. Vocalizing what I'm feeling works to an extent, but not quite what I need. If you could just tell me what you think about this, that would be great. I just don't understand what happened. Why didn't she know there was no spark after the first date instead of after the fourth? I'm just really confused by this whole thing.

Thanks, Confused

Dear Confused,

It sounds to me like a situation where the girl likes your personality, likes your friendship and company...but she's not attracted to you. [I am only guessing here.] Women don't like to say 'No', especially to nice guys. Women are very different from men in that we don't rule them in or out right away based on their attractiveness, sometimes we do, but not generally. Most guys fall into a 'regular guy cute' category, which means you don't take her breath away but if the dude plays his cards right she could be interested. Within that category are degrees: like 'he's cute', 'he's ok', 'maybe'. The phenomenon of being attracted to a guy when you were not initially is confusing. Because of her age, she has not likely had a lot of experience with this.

I'd guess she said 'yes' the first time because she wasn't sure you meant it to be a date-date and/or she wanted to give you a chance because she likes you. After you sent her the flowers there was no mistaking your intentions. The flowers may have caused her to feel obligated to go out with you again. The comment she made about her family being impressed with the flowers suggests they could have influenced her decision.

By the time she was holding your hand, she probably decided to give romance with you a chance, expecting the attraction would come. That's why she would agree to the next date. I have done that myself. I had a boyfriend for 5 months for whom I felt no physical attraction. But because he was the first man who treated me well, I thought I should try. I learned my lesson, I grew to despise him and he repulsed me.

Anyway. When she told you she didn't think it was going to work out she probably realized the attraction wasn't there and it was cruel to lead you on. That likely made her sad because she wanted to be attracted to you. She sounds like a nice girl. Chin up, confused! It's not you. Well, nothing personal anyway. You should be flattered that she liked you so much that she wanted to try going out with you despite not feeling sparks. People can't force it, as much as many of us have tried.

All hope is not lost, however. The way to win a woman's heart is with time. Be her friend. Be a good friend. Love her and show her kindness and talk to her and be there for her and given enough time, she will grow to love you as a friend too. Then, MAYBE, her love of your insides will spread to her love and desire of your outsides. Good luck and don't despair my friend. (Although, you might want to re-think sending flowers after one date. That's pretty intense and could scare some women away. I'd suggest bringing one flower to the second date instead.)

Her comment about not believing you would 'like someone like her' does suggest emotional problems in the self-esteem area. If she is severely damaged then she could feel that you are too nice or too good for her. And if that is the case, there is nothing you can do about dating her. But you can still be a good friend by helping her feel better about herself and maybe help her get into some therapy.

Love, the Celibate
[Take this advice with a shaker of salt.]

Do you have a love conundrum? Ask the Celibate!



Like a sea anemone pulled into itself, I curl up. My mind doesn't want to write, to give. It wants silence where the introspection lives. Ideas for things to say here pass through the windows of consciousness then I let them drift away again. I think for the time being I must live on autopilot in order to get these things done.

It snows again this evening. Probably the reason I'm typing. This time there is enough snow to make the street beautiful. At least for the night. Everything is frosted white, the cars make wet sounds with their tires, sounds that remind me of living in more southerly and rainy climes. The swirl patterns hypnotize. I turned the lights off in my room so I could open the curtains to shamelessly peer out the windows onto the street. One candle burns. My old cat is stretched across the computer desk slowly swishing her tail down onto my hands on the keyboard, she wheezes but is restful. I hope this week to see the vet. Poor thing. She rests her chin on her paws and looks out the window watching the snow too.

Everything glows orange reflecting the street lights, it looks like the world was filmed with an amber lens. Something haunting and appropriate plays on the classical radio station. The station in NY is good, they don't talk much and they don't chop musical works into 3 minute unsatisfactory and teasing bites, unlike most in my experience. I don't know what piece this is: single vocal, monophonic, sounds like it was written in one of the church modes, maybe a baroque piece written to imitate medieval chant?, accompanied by a string quartet.... she just announced it, all I caught is that it was a Motet by Baldassari.

I have been planning to write a post 'the ghettoland diaries' but then they found the dismembered legs and arm in a plastic bag. Someone put them on the subway tracks near my station. The thought that only a few nights ago some murderer carried the limbs of a nineteen year old boy down my street and down those stairs to dump them on the dark tracks is quite scary. It squelches all my desire to dwell on these surroundings.

Tomorrow I go to Central Park to walk the trails and see 'The Gates' by Christo and Jean-Claude. I had hoped it might snow so I could see them then--lucky me-- I think it will be more impressive in a white park. When I was growing up in Miami, my dentist had a large framed photo of an island that Christo wrapped in pink. I remember being fascinated by the picture. I couldn't believe that anyone would do such a thing and I tried to imagine what it looked like in real life. Here is a link to some photos of 'Wrapped Islands' and the story of that work. Thanks to Lynn for the link.

Like sands in the hourglass... another week of life went by.
(P.S. here's a link with a little peak at and some more links of The Gates. Or, visit the artists' own website. (Thanks Lynn)


Mad World

All around me are familiar faces...Worn out faces...

Going nowhere, Going nowhere...
Four different men have asked me out in the last two days. I have two voicemails, an email and the pizza guy, not one is even remotely interesting. One actually said, "One bad date on a sweltering day when I said some thoughtless things and did some thoughtless things is not a good reason not to go out again." Oh yeah? On what planet is that not a good reason? When it's only the second date and I can't wait to get away from you, that's reason enough never to see you again.

I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
On my way home this evening, after we said goodbye, a woman stopped me on 34th Street. "Excuse me. Hello?" I stopped and looked at her quizzically. She apologized for stopping me. Then she said, "I'm a psychic and I can see something in your aura." I said 'What'? She said, "I see something. . ." Then she rushed out the words 'You have a lot of positive changes coming in your life', like it was the obligatory psychic handshake before she could get to the real stuff. "But right now you have something on your mind. You are confused about love." I laughed out loud.

I find it hard to tell you, 'Cos I find it hard to take
She asked me if I'd ever had a reading before. I told her I had not and that I didn't have any money. She said, "Oh, no. I'm just talking to you. Normally, you'd be coming to Astoria to see me. I wish I had one of my cards on me but I don't." I said, "Oh." Then she started walking away and said, "Maybe I'll see you again." And that was it. She was dressed in nice clothes with a Burberry scarf and just looked like a New York woman going out at night.

No one knew me...

Look right through me, look right through me

Valentine's Day is stupid. I don't care about it, I don't expect anything from anyone and I don't want anything from anyone. But even so, it's cruel. It took me an hour to get home on the train tonight and I was surrounded by lovers. And lots of people holding presents, pink bags, flowers, women dressed up with glowing faces. College kids standing at the pole kissing. The teen punks next to me discussing what the boy was going to get for the girl. She wants new black nail polish. It was almost a relief to have the beggar who fakes that he's deaf come into the car. He was followed by Mr.I have HIV I'm hungry anything you can spare but I've got on my RocaWear gear.

Children waiting for the day they feel good...
I wanted to rent a bunch of slasher pics for the weekend. BUT THERE IS NO VIDEO STORE IN MY HOOD--except the damn Kung fu porn place. On my way home, I stopped in the midtown Duane Reade to check out their new dvd rental vending machines, but you have to return the disks in 6 hours. I wasn't trekking back from Brooklyn just for some bad horror movies. If I had remembered, I could have gone by Central Park last night to see The Gates. That would have been cool to see at night, and a nice dessert to top off my deli dinner quiche. But I didn't think to do that.

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday
My old cat is losing weight so I'm worried now that she might be sick. She's always been obese but the last month she's slimmed way down and become weirdly affectionate. She can't be sick. I can't deal with losing her right now. 9 years she's been my comfort. Take away everything else--but please, please leave her with me.

The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.

Quotes from Tears for Fears "Mad World"


OB/Gee bad news

The obscenity is the money. When the nurse practitioner told me what she found I started to cry because all I could think was that this sounded expensive and my uninsured self does not have the money. But it explains the hell that has been my body the last few months. WARNING: Discussion of female bodily functions follows. Not for the feint of stomach or squeamish men. I apologize now for the ickiness of this post. But this is life. And this is all that's on my mind today.

Since December, my already unusually short menstrual cycle of 17 days suddenly dropped to 10 days. That is 10 days between my periods, with PMS starting about 3-4 days prior to onset. Which means I have about 5 days of feeling like a normal human until the whole thing starts again.

Why did I wait two months to see someone about this? At first I thought it was some kind of fluctuation that would go away. But it didn't. And I can't afford to go to a doctor so I'm left with the nurse practitioner at the school clinic. I have nothing against nurse practitioners. But this woman told me to stop drinking caffeine last year when I went to see her about an ear infection.

Lacking other options I made an appointment and had to wait a week. I went in yesterday. Told her the problem. She said she'd have to give me a pap before she'd give me a scrip for birth control pills. FUN. So I stripped and got stirruped up. An intern was there with us for training which made everything take longer so the nurse could explain what she was doing with me.

The woman was not gentle AT ALL. I squirmed in pain. I told her she was hurting me and she said, "I know." Poke, poke, poke, pinch, pinch...went the cold steel sharp objects that nature never intended to go inside women. "I can't see the cervix. There it is. Come take a look at this. See how it's over there?" "Oh yeah."

"I'm really uncomfortable." I interrupted them as a cold sweat worked its way out of my forehead. She said "Yes." Secretly I wondered if they could see my hymen, though I don't even know if I still have one. It's stupid but I'm always afraid when I go for an exam that the doctor will shout in surprise: What's this? Are you a virgin? HOW old are you? Well now I've seen everything."

Finally she pulled the speculum out and started the bimanual exam. That didn't hurt but she found something. She says I have at least one fibroid. She told me this and all I could think was: What the hell is that? Is that cancer? Whatever it is this is going to cost me a lot of money. "I'm going to give you a rectal exam now." "A what?" Yuck. She started that exam while I considered this fibroid thing. I'd heard of these before. Usually benign. But would they have to operate or laser it or something?

Not only was I half nude and in the most ignoble position, tears started dripping out of my eyes, which triple embarrassed me. She said I might have another fibroid but she wasn't sure, I need to get a sonogram. "I can't pay for that." She went on about why I needed it. Then the intern took my blood, two vials full to test my hormone levels. Which I can expect a bill for next week. The nurse called someone to get a price on the sonogram.

The nurse wouldn't even give me a prescription for the pill because she said I needed to have the sonogram first just to see what's going on. That made no sense to me. I was in shock so I let it go. Damn. This broke student life is getting really, really old. My aging body can't seem to keep up with this anymore. And I am aging. Here is irrefutable proof. I left the building to find a pizza place where I could go cry. Then I went home.

Today my PMS symptoms are in full swing. I think they must have started yesterday with all the crying, but today I am completely fatigued. Someone please put my body out of its misery! If I were a horse, it'd be time to put me down. Right now, that's what I'd prefer.


The Sweet Single Life

As a follow up to my last post, I'd like to discuss the finer things of single life. I have it good. I have it easy. Some things suck rotten eggs. Some things don't.
Here's a happy list of non-sucking things in my life that presumably I will miss if I ever get married: (In no particular order)

1. I answer to no one. I do whatever I want whenever I want.
2. I stay up late and wake up late.
3. If I'm too depressed or tired to change my sheets, that's my problem and I don't have to do it.
4. Saturday mornings, (on the rare occasions I wake up) are for eating Lucky Charms or Count Chocula AND chocolate covered donuts while watching cartoons. My favorite is X-Men. Yu-Gi-Oh actually grew on me though I despised it at first. I've learned to appreciate it's wonderful badness.
5. I can travel at a moment's notice without inconveniencing anyone.
6. Body hair is my own private business and what I do or don't do with it is no one else's concern. [Someone told me that women looking for boyfriends don't share my attitude. I scoffed at this person since he had just been kissing me.]
7. No stress regarding other people. I only have my own problems to worry about.
8. No contention in my home life. [Sometimes the cats need a scolding but they rarely shout back.]
9. My money is my money.[or lack thereof, no guilt for making other people live on stale bagels, eggs and beans.]
10. The remote control is ALL mine, pity the man who ever tries to take it from me.
11. I don't have to listen to someone else's bad music.
12. If I skip church, low guilt factor, I'm not preventing other souls the inspiration or enlightenment that church should provide.
13. I can spend at will. If it happens to be the case that I need new shoes more than groceries and an unlimited metrocard, then that's what I get.
14. Complete unpredictability of my life. Anything can happen at anytime. I can't even say where I'll be in 6 months or what I'll be doing. I love that.
15. Time to devote to my friends. If one of them is in crisis, I can drop everything to rush to their aid or support without worrying about other responsibilities.
16. Sometimes when those 3 flights of stairs to the kitchen get too long after a day of running around the city, I can have a can of pringles for dinner instead of bothering with a real meal.
17. There's no one here that can be disappointed in me.
18. I can leave my clean clothes out for a week, putting away one class of item per day (Today it was underthings, tomorrow I may do socks or shirts.)
19. Total professional freedom. If I got a job in London then I could go to London.
20. There's no man here saying things like "Is it that time of the month?" just because he doesn't like what I'm doing or saying.
21. I don't have to do other people's laundry in addition to my own.
22. No one gets mad when I shove clothes into the drawer making them get all wrinkled.
23. Food experiments in tupperwear that got left out in my bedroom are allowed to blossom and grow of their own volition.
24. My family is the only family I have to deal with, no in laws or other such scary things.
25. Me and my students are the only people who get mad when I forget things.
26. No man pee on the bathroom floor or around the seat (except when some people have guests over but that's not often enough to be a problem.)
27. I don't get big callings at church, I can disappear into the walls if I so choose.
28. I can go to sleep with music on.
29. No sharing my closet.
30. Never having to wonder if I could have done better or if I made the worst mistake of my life or if this other person will ultimately betray me and destroy my life.
31. Maybe I snore and maybe I don't. But no one else is snoring in my bed.
32. I'm the only one losing my things.
33. If I hate my life then I can change everything tomorrow.
34. No kids/babies/mortgages/career sacrificing.
35. There's no end to the drama and excitement
36. My depression only hurts me.
37. No one complains if I spend the entire weekend in my pajamas eating pizza and watching tv or playing video games.

That's the end of this list for today. Some of these things also belong on the things that do suck list, but that's for another day.


The Omnipresent hunger

There is no escape from this. I wanted to try to make this not-a-dating blog. But too much happens. Encounters of the romantic kind are always out of the ordinary, always eventful. The smallest thing can mean everything. One person smiles to himself when he thinks you aren't looking, and it makes your fear goes away. The simple touch of a hand can be the most thrilling thing in the world. One little word, a plain old "yes" can change your whole life. So this is why I give in. Once again I bring you tales from the dark side, I mean my love life.

Something surprising happened this afternoon. Not a big deal or anything. Nothing life changing for sure. But, it gave me a smile. Someone took a risk which we should take a moment to admire.

My school email account becomes inaccessible to me regularly throughout the year. Our passwords expire after a few months. If we don't change them in the two weeks before the expiration then we get locked out. This happened over Christmas break. I didn't bother to fix it because I was on vacation. Today I grit my teeth to face the wrath of bitter students and the emails I knew awaited me. In order to gain access to our emails we have to go to campus (contained within an urban highrise) down to the basement where the Help Desk and its minions reside. I went down to the lab and had my password reset. Thinking it best to deal with the emails right away, I sat down to read and respond to the angry messages I expected to have received.

There weren't too many of them. Some people need to schedule a make up exam, and there was some confusion with some incomplete grades. My favorites were the emails from the smart obnoxious kids who made teaching hell for me last year. They wanted to know why they didn't get the A's they expected. I guess they forgot to notice on the syllabus that 25% of their grade is participation. Then I read this:

Just wanted to extend you my wishes for a happy New Year, and it was a pleasure to be your tutee.
[Part of email withheld from publishing.]

<>Anyhow, I'd like to meet with you again sometime, if the opportunity presented itself. My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx if you'd like to get together sometime.... ;-)

When I first read it I got annoyed. I was trying to formulate my standard response giving my office hours and telling the dissatisfied student to come see me if he/she needs me to explain his grade. But I couldn't tell what this student's problem was and why he wanted to make an appointment with me. I was about to send a reply asking what the student needed to discuss but then I read it again.

Wait a minute, he doesn't seem to have a problem with his grade. Why does he need to see me? Huh. It sounds like he just wants to see me for me no reason. Why? Could he be asking me out? Ohhhhhhh... yeah there goes the winking emoticon at the end. The little flirt! He is asking me out. This guy always sat in the front row of my night class: nice student who participated, good attendance, did an extra credit presentation and was friendly to me after class. I think I remember him winking at me once. But one time he told us some long story about his girlfriend whose family is in the Mafia and how they drove her uncle's tinted caddy down to West Virginia and got harassed by the local bubba cops....

Girlfriends aren't permanent. He's not jailbait at least, unlike this student. Whom I ran into last November one night on the way to class. I was so embarrassed to see him that I blushed fiercely when he started talking to me. Lucky for me it was night and dark enough that he shouldn't have seen that. (He filled out since the previous year.) He said he knew I didn't still remember his name but I surprised him and got his name right. Though I'm sure I stumbled the words. Good thing he didn't have his glasses on or I probably couldn't have talked at all.

That's the end of this little story. Nothing major. I had a small yet pleasant afternoon shock. This guy stuck his neck out in a cute and polite way. I'm not sure how to respond yet.

Why did my weak resolve break down on something so insignificant? Because it wasn't insignificant to him. I imagine he spent some time working out the words or wondering when he should send the email. Maybe he was nervous. I've done the email asking out myself and it's not as easy as you might think. And how bold is that to ask out your professor? While the grades are still wet no less. Good for him.

As a youngish single female whose stir-crazy hormones punish my body daily, (I'm actually going to the doctor tomorrow about that), a major part of my life belongs to the romantic vein. The single person carries the burden of a desire to be with another person and that desire colors everything around her. Every encounter may present a new opportunity. Every outing holds the possibility for love; whether to parties, the grocery store, the laundromat, church, class, the subway, walking on the sidewalk... each corner we turn offers a tiny sliver of hope--that on the other side is someone for you. And the phone. Everytime it rings, a small part of you thrills at the possibility that someone is calling for you. When the phone remains silent, we secretly sulk.

Even when you tell yourself you don't care and you aren't looking, that's a lie. You can subdue the desire and hope, you can ignore it, you can direct your attention elsewhere but it doesn't go away. No matter how busy, how happy, how fulfilling your single life may be, the nagging 'little' need never goes away. So you never really shut down the search engines. You're forever looking for something that will tell you who or how or when the need will be fulfilled.

I had to learn that the hard way. In my earlier years I decided marriage wasn't important to me because I had other things to do. So dating was a recreational sport I didn't take seriously nor bother much about. I thought that I'd be just fine living solo for the rest of my life thank you very much. And I worked on that and lived with that belief. Until my 25th year, my first time teaching. I had no roommate at the time so I lived alone. For the first time I had a kind of professional validation, gained from teaching. It was a sign that I was on the way to being successful and achieving my goals. I expected to feel some contentment or satisfaction. But I did not. I came home night after night to the empty apartment. I had no one to call. No one to talk to. No one asked about my day. And I realized how meaningless it was. My success seemed no success at all. At the end of the day it didn't matter what I accomplished because there was no one else who cared. I had a crisis over this. I had to re-adjust my life goals and priorities. I had to accept that I had been wrong. Accept that I really didn't want to be alone and that this wasn't ok. For someone as stubborn as myself, this was hard.

Now, four years later I still struggle with this. Because you can't dwell on it. You can't afford to focus all your energy or time on the hunt for love because that's not healthy. Nor do I like dwelling on it which is why my boredom surfaced. I'm working really hard at the moment to return to functional human being mode, which means re-adopting my life coping skills, such as trying not to care too much about the love life.

Alas, here is the cruelest joke of all. The most basic and essential need of the human soul, the want of love from another soul, must be subdued in order to be fulfilled. The desperate person is unhealthy and unattractive. The obsessive person is scary. The harder you look, the less you find. Singletons must get on with life anyway. We work to fulfill our lesser needs. But the truth is we live each day with the omnipresent hunger gnawing at our souls. Yet we go on. And on. And on . . .