By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
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I recently asked my best friend who she was dating. I hadn't seen her in a while and I imagined that she was spending her free time in between jobs enjoying all sorts of sexual adventures. I was surprised when she told me that she was "taking a break" from the dating scene, but as soon as she said those words I realized that I needed to take a step back as well. I've always had at least one crushsecret or notat play and it has been too easy for me to jump from simply daydreaming about the person to obsessing over them. Before I know it, I'm madly Googling them to dig up information, and thinking about them around the clock. It's safe to say that I use the pursuit of someone new to push aside my own problems, hoping that my woes will disappear once we hook up.
I realized that my affairs of the heart were in bad shape when another friend asked about my love life. Her raised eyebrows and expectant grin told me she was waiting for some naughty or over-the-top account. Not only did I not have anything interesting to report, but I discovered that I didn't want to play the local drama queen, with constant tales of relationship ups and downs that eventually all blur together. My friend Miriam Datskovsky, who writes the Sexplorations column for the Columbia Daily Spectator, and I recently disabused a friend of the notion that being a sex columnist makes for dating nirvana. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth; we may get propositioned, but those who think we're sex goddesses who can fulfill their every fantasy are dead wrong, and only see a fraction of the bigger picture. Sex columnist or not, it's actually tough to figure out who's real and who is fake, who wants to know the real me, and who just wants whatever horny-all-the-time persona they've created in their mind. The irony is that when I'm with someone who gets me, where the admiration and attraction are mutual, I am horny most of the time.
Taking a step back from the active pursuit of a relationship doesn't mean denying my sexuality; hell, even Paris Hilton is vowing to be celibate for a year. It's just a chance for me to truly meditate on what I'm looking for in a partner and what I have to offer someone in return. This sexless journey hasn't been easy; I'm not used to saying no, and doing so provokes mixed feelings. While I still fantasize about "the guy with the perfect cock" (my nickname for my former fuck buddy), I know that sex with him can cause me to crave a deeper connection than he can provide. The other possibilities are people I'd happily date . . . if they didn't live in California. After many long-distance relationships gone wrong, I refuse to put myself through that particular scenario again. But doing the right thing doesn't always feel good; it would be infinitely easier to seek out people I know I could have fun with even though we have no future.
My sexual hiatus offers a necessary reality check. I need time away from the constant searching, the rush of excitement, and the miscommunication that dating can cause. Something had to snap me out out of my often ridiculous fantasies. All it takes is a sexy smile from someone I'm flirting with for me to envision us moving in together and living happily ever after. It's typical girlthink, and I'm not immune. My dreams don't involve elaborate white dresses, but they're pretty traditional nonetheless. And my sexual fantasies more often than not involve long, sensuous back rubs, perhaps with a happy ending thrown in, rather than nonstop fucking. Maybe this means I'm greedy, but I want the whole package: someone who'll screw me senseless, and then want to talk (and listen) all night.
Deciding to take a break is selfish on one level: it forces me to deal with what I like and don't like about myself, rather than trying to placate other people's perceptions. I've been told by people I've dated that I'm alternately "dating my writing" and being "overwhelming." While my first instinct was to even out whatever quirks I have, it's clear that I can't please everyone. I can only be myself, and yes, sometimes I get lost in my laptop and other times I act dorky and gushy, and I'll fill my lover's mailbox with cards and gifts. I've gone over these epithets countless times in my mind, trying to make them more palatable, trying to retrace my steps with these past partners to pinpoint exactly where the relationships, however casual, fell apart. Taking a pause from that pointless cycle of self-recrimination has freed me up to enjoy the people who are in my life, and really pay attention to my friends and family rather than just using them as sounding boards to help fix my issue du jour. I no longer feel as if I have to follow up on every blind-date offer or check out every single guy or girl I meet for his or her dating potential. In other words, I'm looking for someone to enhance my life, not complete it, though the difference is often a tricky one for me to discern.
Choosing to be content on my own, instead of rushing online or to the nearest bar or party to find "the one," has given me space to focus on me. I don't go to the gym to lose weight so that I can impress some stranger (or people like the reader who recently suggested my "baby fat" is the reason I'm single), but because I want to get stronger. I'm also working on things like punctuality, responsibility, being a good friend, and waking up in the morning without berating myself.
None of this means that I have everything figured out. Sometimes I long for hot sex and cuddling, especially when it's only an IM away. That used to be enough for me, but lately, I want more than just the physical. I want someone to curl up next to at night, to share secrets with, to hold hands with at the movies, to be my date at weddings so I don't have to look like a loser. I want someone who I can be myself with, no matter how dorky, needy, or kinky I may be at times. A friend of mine who proposed to his girlfriend last year told me, "When you know, you know." I'm hoping that moment comes for me sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, I'll be enjoying my time off from the drama of dating. After all the mixed signals and bitterness this year has brought me, I'm willing to hold out for something better than guesswork.
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