I'm a 30-year-old virgin

I don't know how it happened -- I just forgot to have sex!


Cary Tennis
January 31, 2011 6:01AM (UTC)

Dear Reader,

Wow, Friday's column was really long, even for me, and I am the most long-winded Internet writer out there. I've got to shorten these things. The trouble is, I read your letters, and everything in them seems interesting to me. And then everything I have to say seems interesting to me. I know that's wrong. Nothing is that interesting.

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And yet ...

I'm going to try to be more disciplined.

Speaking of being disciplined, I forgot to let you know the column will take a short break this week while I'm up at Marconi Conference Center doing our creative getaway. Sometimes I can write a few columns ahead. But not this time. The muse was not willing. The muse was messing with my head. The muse does that.  I wish I could mess with the muse's head right back.

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Maybe if I wrote shorter, that would solve the problem.

Anyway, see you when I get back.

Oh and, listen, do stay in touch. I never tire of hearing from you.

Dear Cary,

I'm an overweight, depressed, unemployed 30-old-virgin ... and I have no idea how this happened.

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Well, I guess I do. But it was an unlikely journey to this pathetic station in life. I had great, supportive parents and a great social group since middle school. I was good-looking, athletic and a B student who could've been an A student with a little effort. Despite these qualities I managed to graduate high school without having sex and it quickly became a mental issue with me. The rest of my friends were having sex and I felt completely ashamed and embarrassed ... so imagine how I feel now, 12 years later!

After graduating college a virgin I became filled with a great rage toward my parents (they were very loving and supportive but also very religious and anti-sex zealots) and anyone else (including and especially myself) who I blamed for me not getting laid. It was inexplicable how I managed to not have sex. I'm not gay, had/have a good sense of humor and easygoing attitude, was still in good shape at this point, was friends with a lot of girls, active in school, etc. It just never happened.

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For the next year I had awful, homicidal fantasies against those I deemed guilty of stunting my sexuality. I've never committed a violent act in my life, and these intrusive thoughts made me incredibly depressed. I gained a lot of weight and basically dropped out of society for that summer. Thankfully I rebounded, found a job, became socially active again and eventually went to graduate school.

However, I developed a nasty case of stage fright for public speaking, which was a major problem considering I was a TA and had to give multiple presentations in my classes. This caused me to abandon my career path of getting my Ph.D. and teaching, and made me incredibly depressed again. This was especially frustrating because until then I had been an excellent public speaker.

After graduate school I was unable to find work, partly because of the awful economy and partly because of my worsening social anxiety, which started only in public-speaking situations but eventually expanded into everyday interactions. Profuse sweating, irregular heartbeat and a quivering chin were now my permanent companions in any social setting. I sought therapy for this and got a benzo prescription, and it helped minimally but would knock me out so I would sleep all the time.

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So I might as well have been in prison the last five years. I've literally done nothing while all my peers and siblings have dominated the world -- gotten married, had kids, worked for very powerful politicians, made tons of money ... one friend even became a semi-famous film actor. So their success only highlighted my complete failure and withdrawal from society.

They've tried to help me by introducing me to people, etc., but the social anxiety is just too severe for me to make a positive impression. I've eked by, living with my parents and working menial, part-time jobs. My depression grew so deep that it was almost like time travel.

I turned 30 last week and it was literally like coming out of a coma. I could not believe it had been five years since I had done anything. So now that the numbness has subsided, I am in full panic mode over everything. I do have a master's degree (although it's not very marketable, even in a good economy). I still have close friends, and my parents are still very supportive, but I fear that my five years of stasis have permanently ruled out anything career- or relationship-wise. And the fact that I've never had any abuse and have had close friendships and valuable life experiences only adds to my despair that I am so weak and lack any resiliency. Luckily, I've emerged from these past five years with all my friendships and familial relationships intact and no drug or alcohol problems (although food has become an issue). So there's still hope. But I'm struggling to find it. How do I start over?

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30-Year-Old Virgin

Dear 30-Year-Old Virgin,

How do you start over?

You start over by recognizing that random events in the quantum universe create individual instances of extreme novelty that are not morally categorizable.

So if you want to have sex, start meditating.

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Meditating will help you focus on the phenomenological present -- if I may call it that. It will help you answer the question, What do you want in this moment? What do you want right now? Do you want sex? Do you want some ice cream? Do you want to take your shoes off? Is there any way you can get sex? Can you get barefoot? Can you get ice cream? Which do you want, sex, or ice cream, or just to be barefoot?

Meditate on that.

If sex is what you want, you can get it.

But here is a question: If you have never had sex, how do you know you want it?

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Well, sure, everybody wants sex. Who doesn't want sex? OK, but to go deeper, and we always want to go deeper in sex ... sex can be a substitute for the desire for ice cream, or to go barefoot.

As you meditate, pay attention to what other desires come up. Think about taking your shoes off. See how that feels.

You probably have desires you are not aware of.

You are a very lucky guy. You get to start over. Your friends are already enmeshed in conventional lives, which will eventually wear them down and consume them until they cannot even recognize themselves. They will be drowning in money and success and one day will wake up to realize they have no idea who they are.

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Whereas you, on the other hand, have the privilege of starting over.

So meditate. Sex will come to you, if that is what you really want.

Maybe you didn't really want to have sex before. You ever think of that? If you don't want to have sex, you don't have to. You don't have to have sex just because your friends are having sex.

Climbing the ladder of success distracts us from the more vexing problem of how to live life on life's terms, how to cope wisely with seemingly random conditions, how to confront mystery and fate with dignity. These are questions we like to avoid as long as possible. Many of us put them off until we are old and feeble.

There are ads in newspapers and on the Internet for people to have sex with. If you want to have sex, have sex today. Have sex as soon as possible. Then that will be done. Then you can move on.

Make it your goal to have some sex today. If you set your mind to it, you can do it.

Then you're on to the rest of your life.

Already I can hear your objections: It's not sex per se that I want, it's sex with the right woman, under the right conditions, preferably leading to marriage or at least a long-term caring relationship.

Well, you didn't say you were looking for the holy grail.

So which is it?

Oh, never mind. Listen, all I'm saying to you is that from this moment forward you can stop apologizing, pay attention to the minute particulars of your own consciousness, don't give a damn what others think of you, stop treating your life like it belongs to somebody else and like it's a race to some unspecified finish line, and start making trouble.

Yes, that's right. Life is short. So make some trouble.

Trouble leads to sex, and sex leads to trouble, so meditate and see where that leads you.

Darn. I wrote long again. Oh, well. Now go have sex!



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Cary Tennis

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