Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
So this past weekend, I had one of those long girly dinners where you go out to eat, drink wine till you’re giggling obnoxiously, and talk about men. The topic turned to what happens to us when we as the girl in a relationship are the ones who get rejected, as in turned down for sex. The stereotype is that men always want it and women never do, but we all shared stories about times in a relationship when we were the ones left awake as he went to sleep.
It seems men are more practiced at getting turned down for sex. They don’t seem to take it as personally. Perhaps men expect to be turned every once in awhile - maybe society reinforces the idea that there are plenty of good reasons women might not want sex such as emotional disconnectivity, hormonal fluctuations, menstruation, not to mention the underlying presumption that men are wired physiologically to want sex at a higher frequency than women.
But women don’t usually think about reasons men might not want sex. We generally assume they all want it, all the time. All this is it say, that when a woman is turned down for sex, we’re very shocked, can’t understand why and take it very personally. We’re not used to it and are completely unprepared when it does happen. And thus, on those rare occasions when it occurs, we blame ourselves.
As we went around the table at dinner, it seemed there were very legitimate reasons why such an event had occurred in a relationship. He had drank so much he was on the verge of passing out, he had been up for two days straight traveling and just wanted to sleep, he was too high to perform, he thought it was too early in the relationship. These are legitimate reasons not to have sex and if a woman on rare occasion said as much to her boyfriend, I doubt he’d take it as a reflection of his own self worth. But when it happens to a woman, it’s rejecting. You start asking what’s wrong with me? Am I over-sexed? Am I slut? You feel dirty and like there was something unsavory about you even asking for it. You feel that the problem is yours for asking for sex in the first place.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Clearly the vestiges of our puritanical society remain and we still attribute some element of shame to a woman who wants sex too much, too often, or with too many people. The problem is, it’s no longer men who are reinforcing these stereotypes, women are perpetuating it all themselves. When my girlfriends and I were talking, not one of us could offer up an example of a man actually saying you’re oversexed, or why can’t you control your libido or some such variation that would imply that the problem was with the woman for asking. The men were offering up excuses for themselves because the reasons for turning us down resided solely with them and yet, we still felt we were impure for having asked.
The other problem with this self-imposed guilt is that it really isn’t fair to men. We make them creatures without feelings who should want sex all the time regardless of their feelings. When a man has a legitimate reason for not wanting sex, the woman should respect that just as we expect them to respect our decision to decline when the situation is reversed. Men aren’t walking libidos and to be so reductive does exactly to them what we don’t want done to us. So with Valentine’s Day coming up, girls ask away. And feel no shame, whether the answer is yes or no. Women have long demanded the sexual freedoms that men enjoy. Now that we are able to ask for sex the way men do, we must accept that this means that every once in a while, we’re going to get turned down the way men do.
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February 8, 2011 | 7:29 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I went on a great date recently. I was someone’s guest for a fundraising gala and had a really fun time. I get a lot of emails from people who say that I only concentrate on what men do wrong. Much to my dismay, I realized perhaps this true but it is not a good representation of my opinion of men at all - the bad ones are just funnier and easier to write about. But in any case, I thought I’d tell you about someone who did everything right instead.
Of course, it should go without saying that he was a gentleman at all times. He didn’t pressure me to get a third drink when I declined at the after-hours celebration nor did he balk when I started the evening with Scotch. He never checked his phone in front of me – not once during the whole evening and it was a long night (Dinner started at 6 and we went out after the fundraiser was over!)! He never put his hands on me in a too familiar way but he politely offered his arm when my platform heels graced the steps outside the hotel. He even filled a card out to donate (generously – yes I peeked when he wasn’t there) and was discreet enough to close the card and not flaunt his donation in front of me. When the evening came to an end, he asked very firmly for my phone number. He didn’t hang around, muttering, awkwardly trying to work up the courage to say something. He knew he wanted it and asked – or at least he acted like that. He was even respectful during the long presentation that is de rigeur for such events. He was attentive and never got drunk. All in all a great time.
However, I’m pretty sure I’ll never see him again. Maybe I’m crazy or setting myself up for failure, but I can’t help but believe that when I meet him, I’ll just know, and this wasn’t it. I know I’m not being rational or fair, but something in me still wants to believe that the universe and fate is involved with whom I fall in love with. In this day and age is that as crazy as saying I believe in magic?
When I was seventeen, I was an intern in a Congressman’s office and I worked for a great guy, Jay, who was in his thirties and sweet and attractive. Everyone was always talking about how he was the ideal all around good-guy and gossiping about the string of toothsome girls he had dated over the years. And no, this is not an affair-with-an-intern story. Anyway, so Jay had been dating the latest girl for over a year and she seemed to be the favorite for attaining long term status. She was very pretty and and I could tell he liked her a lot; eventually I felt close enough to ask him if he was going to marry her. He told me he was waiting for a sign...something from God or a higher being that revealed to him that she was the one. I felt so bad for the girl. How long was she supposed to wait in a relationship for some voodoo sign to reveal itself? And if it never came, what then? Miss out on the possibly best thing that ever happened to him?
Eventually, I went off to college, and lost track of Jay and I still don’t know what happened to him. But I think about him often. How did it work out for him? Did a giant flock of seagulls fly over his house one morning and lead him to a billboard with a picture of a ring on it? Or did she get sick of waiting and break up with him and leave him to become bachelor now in his forties wondering if he’ll ever have kids.
I don’t think I’m waiting for a sign. But I know I’m waiting for something big – something that rocks my world – some sort of dare I say otherworldly love. But the scary thing about that is I’ve been in love before. And both times I thought the earth was shaking under me. And they both would have resulted in disasters if I had stayed in the relationship. So how can I ever trust myself? How will I know when I’m in love with the right person?
I like to think Jay did see the sign after all and got married to that girl. And maybe it wasn’t a sign from God. Maybe it was just something that anyone else would have overlooked but he told himself was a sign because he knew deep inside she was the one - like a heart made out of cheerios appearing in his cereal when he’s eating breakfast. I’m perfectly content to think that what I’m waiting for is something I’ll have to trick myself into believing. It’s easier than accepting that there was nothing meant to be at all. I just hope I’m able to recognize it when I see it. I guess I’ll just have to stay alert during breakfast from now on…
February 1, 2011 | 11:00 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I hate having to reject someone I’ve already rejected. Rejecting someone is so uncomfortable already. Whether or not you’re trying to gently let down someone you actually care about or you’re telling this weirdo to his face, that every time he leans in closer, your skin involuntarily shudders, it’s not fun.
So when you think you’ve already done the job once, there’s nothing more irritating then having to do it a second time. Maybe you’ll want to blame me for the lame excuse I gave him, the first time. But if he understood it well enough to stay away the first time, why does he randomly text or call to ask again a few months later. The answer is still no. If it’s not, I’ll call you. I know I said I was too busy last month to get together, and this is a different month, but in addition to seeing I was too busy, I added that I would get in touch with you when things ease up. And guess what? I haven’t gotten in touch with you for a reason. Why are you back asking how I am? And that after my non-response did you really need to inquire as to how I was celebrating Martin Luther King Day?
There was this one guy I met at a First Fridays on Abbot Kinney who was just the worst – he literally tried to argue me into saying yes to a date. He thought because he was Jewish and I was Jewish we had some special connection. His breath reeked, and he had food on his shirt, and he was a close talker - he was so offensively creepy that every time he brought his face closer, he made my spine tingle. My girlfriends and I had just ordered a bottle of wine. He asked if he could join us and I gave the most reluctant I guess so I could. His socially-challenged questions were immediately off putting and we gave one word questions hoping he’d leave. He didn’t. He helped himself to a glass of our wine. HE DIDN’T OFFER TO PAY! And then he followed us out as we left trying to ask more questions.
During this time he had asked for my number and I had acquiesced and gave it to him – just out of pure desperation that he might leave us alone if I did. We finally shook him by saying we were going to a private party where strangers weren’t allowed. Anyway, this is all to say that when I returned his voicemail by texting him to say I was too busy to get together in the foreseeable future, I thought that would be the end of it. Wrong!
He called again, left messages, texted almost daily. There was no civility left in me. After saying no three different ways, I stopped responding. He continued to call – from different numbers which was a clear attempt to trick me into answering. Anyway, after weeks of this harassment, he finally stopped contacting me. I erased his do not answer number from my phone and forgot about it.
Then about a month later, he called and unfortunately I didn’t recognize the number and I answered. Although he recited his name for me twice, I had forgotten about him and had no idea whom it was, so I carried on a brief conversation until I could finally place him.
I immediately realized who he was when he informed me he was calling to invite me to some black tie Holocaust Fundraising Gala (how fun!). I was in the car on my way to a concert so I was really distracted, caught off guard, and without a surefire excuse on the ready. I was racking my brain, but nothing came out but the lamest excuse in everyone’s excuse repertoire – too busy.
No I can’t go with you to this gala cause I’m busy but thank you for offering to buy me a dress (and assuming I would need you to buy me one).
Well, what about next weekend then? Or during the week?
No, things won’t ease up for me for a long long time. Actually, things will probably never ease up for me.
I can come to you for coffee? Or breakfast? Oh, do you have Skype?
Look, I’m not interested in you. I don’t ever want to talk to you again!
I cringed as I said it. I felt bad for him, but I didn’t regret it. I should have just said, I’m seeing someone instead, but I guess he had harassed me to the point of forgetting my manners. He was shocked. Truly shocked and said something like well it’s your loss.
Yes! I said. Yes it is, my loss! He finally gets it, I think to myself. No. He tells me it’s not possible for me to be uninterested in him, because I don’t know anything about him yet. He is sure that if I give him one date, I will see how much we have in common. He tells me he felt a special connection with me.
NO! No you didn’t, I tell him. He goes on, explaining that I’ll be missing out on possibly the best thing to ever happen to me. And then he goes further than anyone should ever go. He says I would be denying what God wanted for us. He says people like me will end up alone.
I’m ok with that, I tell him.
This is your loss, he repeats and finally hangs up the phone. The experience was so unnerving, I find myself going over what he just said to me - his threat that I will end up alone.
But if not being alone means ending up with someone like him, I can’t tell you how good alone is looking.