One of the most frustrating things about humanity is our inability to be who we’ve become without having been who we were. These are the kind of arbitrarily deep thoughts I find myself thinking these days. A year without sex will do that to a woman. Part of me can’t help but be annoyed at my new found psuedo-depth. It annoys me that I wasn’t born with the kind of clarity I have now. I’m annoyed at myself for having been so naïve, so trusting, so blinded by a desire for companionship that I’d neglected myself so thoroughly. It annoys me that I’m so cliché, that I had to “learn to love myself” before I’d ever be in a position to accept the relationship I was hoping for. I’d heard all the Mary J joints long before I moved to New York; back in Ohio I used to sing them at the top of my lungs as if I knew her pain. It annoyed me that after living here for four years, I really did know her pain. But, like I said, you can’t be who you are without having been who you were, and as annoyingly trite as that sounds, my life here had shown me that it’s absolutely true.
My annoyance is felt only in fleeting, momentary spurts however–and it pales in comparison to the appreciation I feel for how far I’ve come. I never thought I’d be the kind of woman who got so lost in her love life that I’d need to take a temporary vow of celibacy–I even remember telling an old college friend once that celibacy was for losers–but when you find yourself fucking a pimp, you probably need to take some time off to reevaluate some things. It’s not just about cutting out the sex, sex is important, but the bigger deal for me has been re-prioritizing my desire for male companionship. I spent so much time pining for the closeness, attention and intimacy that comes with being with someone that I’d not allowed myself to grow and fit into this new environment. That’s what I’ve done this past year.
I’ve spent a great deal of time focusing on my career and where I want that to go. Since coming here the career has been a bit of a struggle. For a long while I was unemployed or underemployed and searching for the dream job. When that didn’t come along, I took the best job I could find–my current job. And while my current job meets my immediate needs I know it’s not the place I see myself working long term. Strangely enough, it was my current boss, Dave, who helped me come to this realization.
I’d thought Dave was attractive when he interviewed me for my current position. I still remember how, during my interview, my attraction to him, and the desire to be impressive that attraction inspired, gave me the extra motivation I needed to knock the interview out the park. It was one of those interviews where you leave certain you’ll get the job offer. By the time we actually began working together I was completely enthralled in my dalliance with the butcher, so my attention shifted from Dave. This was a good thing, not because of how things worked out with the butcher, obviously, but because work place relationships are usually a bad idea. My attraction aside, I was able to focus on doing a good job and making a great impression those first few weeks here.
Then came the disaster that was the end of my relationship with Derrick. The morning he kept calling, I was nervous about how Dave would perceive the conversation we were having, as I knew he could hear every single word. After I’d hung up the phone that last time I stood up at my desk:
“Dave?” I asked.
“Hey, what’s up Sam, everything kosher?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, not really, but I will be. I just want to apologize for that. I’m a little embarrassed.”
“I understand, but don’t be … you know I feel the same way whenever one of my babies mothers calls.” My eyes furrowed inquisitively. I’d never known he had kids.
“Sam, I’m kidding, I ain’t got no kids!”
“Oh … ha. You’re funny. I’m sorry I thought you were serious.”
“Nah, man. Long ways away from that.”
There was a pause, he smiled and looked back at his computer screen, I took that as my cue to sit back down before it got awkward.
I stood back up.
“Dave, you said if I ever needed any advice or anything I could ask right?”
“Yeah Sam, not a problem,” he said, still typing.
“You think we could grab lunch today? I’ve got a situation I could use a man’s perspective on.”
He stopped typing and looked up at me with a new found seriousness that was gone before I really noticed it.
“Oh Yeah, not a problem … that works. Sounds good.”
That day, before I met up with Derrick after work, Dave and I went to lunch and I explained to him the situation, in its entirety. I hadn’t planned on giving him all of the details, but he was so understanding, and so non-judgmental about it all that once I started talking, I couldn’t stop. I told him everything that had happened with Derrick up to that point. His suggestion was that I not jump to conclusions about the money, that it could be from anything and that I should give Derrick the opportunity to explain himself. The next day at work, Dave asked how things had gone and I was too embarrassed then to tell him Derrick’s truth. Instead, I just told him that I was right about him and that we wouldn’t be seeing each other again.
By that point, I’d decided I was through with men, for a while at least. At the time, I hadn’t really set any parameters or goals around my little hiatus, I’d just gotten to the point where I was so thoroughly disgusted with the entire male species and their propensity for aint-shit-ness that I just checked out completely. I couldn’t even bring myself to be attracted to Dave–despite how nice he’d been. He was always there. We’d take lunch together at least once a week and the bulk of our conversations were about work and career goals. It was during that time that I realized how far away from my dreams I’d strayed. It was through those conversations with Dave, seeing his ambition and the tunnel vision he had about who he wanted to be, that I began to remember why I’d moved to New York City. It was like reacquainting myself with myself. I shared with him dreams I hadn’t mentioned since being here.
I was surprised to find that he was only a year or so older than me. He’d always carried himself with the kind of stoic, business first kind of attitude I expected from someone much older. Gradually he began to open up and share more about who he was and what he’d come from. He was a first generation American, the son of strict West-Indian parents who’d instilled in him a work-ethic stronger than any they’d ever adhered to. He had three full siblings and was unsure of how many half siblings–his father being a bit of a rolling stone. He’d been in a few relationships, a couple semi-serious, but none serious enough to cause any real damage when they ended up not working out. Beyond the nice-ness, he had a bit of an asshole-ish quality that I enjoyed and that kept me on my toes. He didn’t let me slide on any of my poor decisions, but he never judged.
But more than enjoying getting to know each other’s history and who we are, more than getting to know our future plans or goals, the best part of my relationship with Dave during my year of celibacy was the complete lack of ulterior motive for either of us. He was so focused on success and I was so over men that we were actually able to build a friendship, one that I valued immensely. It never occurred to me that he might be a worthwhile love interest. And it never occurred to me that I might, for him, be a potential mate. It seemed, for a long while, that we both just had too much going on to ever really be interested in each other–not to mention the fact that he was my boss.
But all that changed a few weeks ago. It was Super Bowl Sunday and I was leaving Dave’s house. He’d hosted a party (he’s a huge Giants fan) but I’d left at halftime. I’d taken the Monday off but wanted to get home early to get some rest and prepare for the second round of interviews at what seemed to be the best job opportunity I’d come across since moving to the city. Dave had been coaching me and helping me prepare since I’d first shown him the job spec three weeks prior.
I walked into my apartment, kicked off my shoes and plopped my purse down on the coach. As soon as I sat my phone buzzed. A text message:
Hey, just making sure you got in safe. Really glad you came, wish you could have stayed longer… Don’t forget, lunch tomorrow after the interview. I wanna hear all about it.
Awww, yeah, just sitting on the couch. Thanks for checking in and thanks for inviting me. Had a great time, you’re friends are all really cool! Please tell them all I’m sorry I had to go. See you tomorrow after the interview. Rosa Mexicana 3:00pm! Go Giants!
Will do. And I’ll pass the message … and yeah, they all liked you too.
I began to type, but before I could get the next message out, another one came in.
And so do I …
I sat staring at the phone, trying desperately to extract every bit of romanticism from the essence of my being so that I might read this text as platonically as I was sure he’d probably meant it. But I could not. Though over the past year I’d worked extremely hard and been very successful in changing my attitude and properly prioritizing my desire for men, and though I’d turned down at least a half dozen quality offers during that time, something about that text touched my soul. I couldn’t stop staring and I knew I needed to respond.
So do you?
Yeah Sam. I really like you.
Like me? Like … how?
I sent it too fast. I slapped myself in the forehead for being so thirsty. I read my last two texts over and over, and cringed more and more realizing that I’ve completely lost my cool. I thought about all the lessons I’d learned these past four years. I thought about all the ways the universe had told me no. Had I not learned anything over this past year? Should all those lessons go out the window? I thought about all the reasons why he wouldn’t and shouldn’t be interested. At this point, he knew everything about me, from my poor choices in men, to my perpetual naivete, to my stumbling career. I even thought about all the times he’d had to correct silly mistakes I’d made at work. I started to type again, trying to figure out something I could say to deflect attention away from how clearly eager I must have seemed.
But then I stopped. I stopped myself dead in my tracks. Suddenly everything became clear. The lessons learned in all the relationships I’d been in were clear, the lessons learned through my year of celibacy became clear, and what I wanted became clear. I am who I am. I’m not heartless, I’m not emotionless. I’m not someone who doesn’t want to love or be loved. There, sitting on the couch, staring at a few text messages, the obviousness of my greatest failure became so clear I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I want to be loved. It’s that simple. I’d been fighting against this truth my entire time here. I’d been trying to convince myself that I wanted less, or more, or something different when the truth is and was, I wanted to be loved. It’s only through accepting that desire without shame, and believing that I deserve it and am worthy of it that I’ll ever truly get the chance to experience it. Might it be Dave? Who knows. But I wouldn’t mind if it were, and I don’t care if he knows. If it’s not Dave, I’m fine with that to. I know it’s what I want, and knowing that it’s what I want makes it a lot easier to wait for it.
I flipped on the TV to see confetti falling as Eli Manning and Justin Tuck raised the Lombardi trophy. The Giants had won and I was crying. I don’t know why I was crying. I’m not necessarily a Giants fan, but there was something so special about seeing someone reach a goal they’d set their mind to and fought tirelessly toward. The couch vibrated as my phone buzzed next to me. Another text was coming in, but I didn’t need to look. I instead just sat for awhile, enjoying my moment.
The next day, stepping out of the company’s headquarters into the heart of midtown, I loosened another button on the white dress shirt that sat beneath the gray blazer I’d recently bought. The interview couldn’t have gone better and I was trying to contain my excitement. They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, but what they don’t say is that this is a city filled with “nos.” The first answer to every question asked in New York is always “no.”
“Can I swap the American for feta?”
“Does this come in extra-small?”
“Is that position still open?”
“Can you just be an honest, upfront, nice guy who’s at least a little handsome, not too corny, taller than 5’5”, and doesn’t have any kids?
“Do ladies get in free?”
You get used to being told “no” in New York. It’s a part of life. But the other thing about New York–the thing all us outsiders and transplants have to learn on our own– is that the first answer is never the final answer; and the difference between those who make it here and those who get gobbled up by this city’s unforgiving concrete is not talent, or luck or even who you know. It’s faith. People who make it here believe in themselves and who they are–with every fiber of their being. We believe that all it takes is one “yes” and that our “yes” is always just beyond yesterday’s “no” rising with tomorrow’s sun.
I looked down at last night’s last text from Dave:
Like … more than a friend Sam. Good luck tomorrow.
I pushed through the doors of Rosa Mexicana, and could see him, already seated, waiting for me.
All it takes is one I thought to myself. All it takes is one.
Annnnd that’s it. As you can tell by the Super Bowl reference, we’ve come to the end of Sam’s journey thus far. I’d love to write more but she’s gotta live a little bit more first. But what are your thoughts thus far? Where do you see things going with her boss? Should she avoid the relationship because of their work relationship or just go for it? And what of celibacy? Have any of you decided to not only abstain from sex, but also abstain from the opposite sex altogether for a time? Did it provide any clarity you might not have gained otherwise? Is celibacy for losers as Sam once said? Fire away.