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Dating in NYC: Sexless and the City

Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan (Photo credit: penguinbush)

Critics scrutinized the popular HBO series Sex and the City for the unrealistic extravagant lifestyles of its female protagonists.   My biggest complaint with the series, and the myth it still perpetuates, is that I don’t know many single women who have that much sex.  I have lived in New York now for nearly 12 years.  Single for over three years, my existence has been mostly a solitary one.  I only bring up SATC because despite the fact that it went off the air several years ago, it still casts a shadow of the archetype for urban living.  In Lena Dunham‘s dreadful (I don’t care how many awards it wins) Girls one character is completely obsessed with Carrie Bradshaw‘s dream of designer labels, expensive shoes, ridiculously expensive addresses, multiple cocktail brunches and a bevy of sexual partners.   The CW is currently in production of Candance Bushnell’s prequel to SATC The Carrie Diaries.   No matter how fantastical or mythical, this twisted metropolitan fairy tale won’t die.

Other than my low-income, I am close to the living embodiment of the characters on SATC.  I don’t aspire to trendy addresses or designer labels, but shouldn’t I at least have a complicated and active sex life?  Don’t men of all socioeconomic classes need to get their groove on?  Where are all the single straight guys?  Where are all the single gal brunches filled with sordid tales of the size male genitalia, unusual sexual requests and liaisons with wealthy business men who tip us after the fact.

The last time I had brunch with a friend we found ourselves surrounded by families with small children.  No eavesdropping parent would be concerned, as instead of swapping X-rated stories, we both kvetched about how difficult it was to date in this city.  I don’t understand why it is so difficult for me, or any of my friends.  Most of the single women I know are gorgeous, talented, accomplished and fiercely intelligent.  We aren’t searching for Mr. Perfect, but we also don’t like putting up with terrible behavior.    I cannot write from a man’s perspective, but I know many woman have gone through the following:

  • Have a date stand them up or cancel at the last second
  • Have a man lie about being single
  • A date will expect sex only on his terms when he wants it.
  • Never follow through on a date but try to keep us strung along via email or text msg.
  • Flip out and have a breakdown on second or third date
  • Become obsessed with ripping on or tearing apart an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife
  • Become sexually dysfunctional due to a porn addiction
  • Dates with men who are so socially awkward, any conversation is difficult if not impossible
  • Expect sex immediately after meeting you

I haven’t lived all of these examples but I have heard so many stories from female friends it is stunning when any date works out.  I have learned to no longer think beyond the first date or any date. No matter how well I think it went, I may never hear from the man again for reasons that I will never know or understand.

I have completely thrown out the rule book and lowered all of my expectations as I now joke this has been my de-evolution in the dating world.  I started out quite ambitious, when I first left my husband I thought I might actually want to get married again but I quickly changed my tune.  I have gone from the following

  • Fall in Love, get married, start a family or become step-parent to children from a previous relationship
  • Fall in Love, be in a long-term committed relationship if children are part of it great, if not then OK
  • Be in a long-term relationship, not necessarily with a huge commitment
  • Date the same person for an extended period of time
  • Go on more than two or three dates with the same person

I dropped “Fall in Love” quickly into my search.  I am not kidding or joking that I have been in the last category now for nearly three years.  Something happens fairly early on in each budding relationship to muck everything up.   Most of the time it is clear after the first date that it just isn’t a good match.  I have also found a lot of men in my age group, extremely damaged from a past breakup.  Then there are the life-long bachelors, the man-children, the commitment phobic Lotharios.  I honestly wouldn’t mind these men much if they were just more honest about their intentions.  Too often they blur the lines of playing the part of the would-be boyfriend while never really wanting to commit.   When I try to play the casual dating game, I usually screw everything up.  I am simply not used to the rules.   I get told a lot that I am “too nice”.  Some incorrectly think I want some huge major commitment right off the bat.  Coldness seems counter-intuitive towards someone I am trying to get to know better, yet my effusiveness comes across as clingy and desperate.

My friends who seem to have the most active sex lives are polyamorous. That is, people who openly have relationships with more than one partner.  Their lifestyle is a puzzle to me, and I don’t quite understand it, but it seems to work for them.   I guess New York is an all or nothing town.   How did we get here?  And what happened to normal dating?  I refuse to be treated like a doormat by anyone, and I don’t wish to have multiple partners.  I don’t say this necessarily for moral reasons, I simply don’t have the time or inclination to juggle more than one person.

So instead of high priced cocktails and wild affairs, I’ll drink my coffee and go home to my cat.  Maybe I’ll watch the fairy tales about $1600 shoes and a new boyfriend every night.  That is fantasy land, and my life is something all together different.

Dating in New York: A Reformed Man Whore

42-17843858

42-17843858 (Photo credit: kedai-lelaki)

A good friend of mine recently confided in me his frustration with his man whore lifestyle.  It seems he was now back with his on and off again girlfriend of several years.  I don’t want to reveal his identity so I will leave out a lot of specifics.  After a little back and forth he basically said,  “I really have to get over being a man-whore, I am trying to work things out.”

To which I replied, “Look you aren’t 25 years old, there is only so long you are going to be able to pull off the man whore thing.  You don’t make a ton of money, you aren’t drop dead gorgeous and even if you were, your looks will fade anyway.  Don’t be an idiot.  Try to make this work.  You don’t know until you have lived without it, how painful it is to live without love.  You guys obviously care for each other or you wouldn’t end up back together all the time.  For me it has been over three years, and it feels like I am slowly dying.”

Sex is easy.  Love is hard.  Part of the reason I don’t really get into the hook-up culture is that for most women having casual sexual affairs is like shooting fish in a barrel.  It is simply too easy.  If I want no-strings attached sex from a man I can get it, any night of the week.  The sex might be dull, and the partners unexceptional, but if I just want sex, it is never a problem.  Sexual dynamics have never been equal for men and women.  There are some rare men that are so physically beautiful, charming or wealthy that they have a high success rate with the opposite sex but for the vast majority of men, the hook-up game is much more difficult.

But even when getting sex is easy, it doesn’t always work out.  My last hook-up was a total comedy routine.  It should have been fine.  The man aggressively pursued me at a bar.  He was much younger, didn’t live in New York City and once I relented we both had clear cut expectations.  But he also didn’t realize he was allergic to cats…and since I live with two gorgeous felines…it was all over before it really began.  So much for my New York wild single life.  I tried to warn him before we got here…anyway.

Every time I try these scenarios, I am left wanting more.  It feels kind of like eating a cookie when I am really famished for a meal.  The decadent treat might temporarily satisfy but it does nothing for my deeper hunger.  Plus none of us can survive on a diet of just sweets.   As I tried to point out to my friend, his man whore lifestyle is only sustainable for so many years.  An aging millionaire rock star can still get a 25-year-old when he is in his sixties, a wealthy banker might have a trophy wife and a bevy of mistresses on the side.  For most of us, we get old, we don’t look as hot and we don’t have the economic resources to attract as many partners.  Before we know it we are at the age where we might end up permanently alone.  As I told my friend in my usual overly blunt way,

“Look dude do you want to end up with the kind of woman who would date a poor musician who screwed around for most of his life?  Or do you want to be a man and work at a relationship with a woman who you love, and who loves you.  She doesn’t care that you are don’t make a lot of money, she loves you anyway as you are now…don’t be an idiot.”

Fear of being alone shouldn’t be the primary factor in any relationship, but like I pointed out these two actually do have a strong emotional connection.   My friend is just being neurotic that somehow he might be happier if he is chasing every woman in New York City.  He knows it isn’t true, but being self-destructive leaves him torn between what is good for him, and what feels good in the moment.

I have had to condition myself to live without a partner in my life, and it has been extremely difficult for me.  Even before my marriage I was always a serial monogamist.   Casually dating multiple partners feels like another game entirely and one that I am not very good at playing.  I have dreadful dating skills.  I am nervous, insecure, blather on and reveal way too much.  Avoiding discussing my divorce is especially difficult since my marriage was such a huge part of my adult life.  I simply don’t have the skill set, I was just half of a couple for too long.   I can live by myself and be perfectly happy, but I don’t want to live like this forever.

I honestly hope my would be reformed man whore heeds my advice.  From my perspective he is incredibly lucky to have a woman who will keep trying to make something work with him.  Chasing the next best thing could lead him down a dead-end path with no way out.

Slut-Shaming: To What End?

gone wild

gone wild (Photo credit: istolethetv)

Lately I have found myself frustrated with other feminists over the cry of “Slut-shaming“.  Although I agree that women have been unfairly judged for their sexual appetites and behavior for hundreds of years, I also think that some sexual behavior actually hurts the cause of feminism.  We shouldn’t return to the days of corsets, ankle length skirts when the very mention of female sexuality was taboo.  Yet we should also not champion obvious degrading and detrimental sexual behavior in the name of feminism.

For instance, is a drug addicted, physically abused, low paid prostitute dominated by a male pimp anything to celebrate?  Is a young woman with low self-esteem who performs sexual acts in public to gain personal validation off-limits to criticism?  Is a sex-worker who doesn’t hide or shield her children from her occupation really making a bold step forward for female empowerment?  When do the issues of narcissism and self-destructive behavior enter the dialog?  Are all forms of female nudity and sexuality empowering?  When does it become exploitative?

It is not such much specific behavior as it is the context.  Expressions of female sexuality and nudity can be empowering, politically brazen and extremely pro-woman but they can also be degrading and demeaning.   If a woman is playing into the victim complex or treating herself as an object not worthy of respect she is part of the problem, not the solution.  Are we supposed to champion a drunken college student who decides to flash her breasts in a Girls Gone Wild video?  Should the woman who recently decided to have her anus publicly tattooed on camera be held up as some sort of example of female sexual liberty?  Or is she just a woman who has made some extremely poor decisions?  The porn industry has become so saturated with women willing to have sex on camera that wages and celebrity status have plummeted in the industry.  What was once something that only the desperate or the truly sexually liberated would do has become almost mundane.  At the same time there are prostitutes that have complete control over their income, working conditions and clientele who aren’t drug addicts, aren’t being abused and have turned the tables on the power structure in the industry.  No single sexual act or occupation can be singled out as “feminist” or “anti-feminist” if the behavior is coming from a place of pride and self-worth it is entirely different than if the source is self-loathing, fear and need of approval.  Not every sex worker or sexual exhibitionist is a victim, nor are they necessarily being exploited.

Yet during these changing times regarding female sexuality, misogyny is at an all time high.  The anti-feminist forces have gone from empty rhetoric to promoting legislation challenging our reproductive rights and even basic health care.   They want to do away with laws that might protect us from having to pay twice as much for our health insurance based on our gender, make many forms of birth control illegal, and make abortion a criminal act.  Many legislators voted against the Violence Against Women Act and the Lilly Ledbetter act, which were ultimately passed but in June the senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act which would have helped woman sue for equal pay.

I am not here to blame the victim, but it does discourage me when I meet so many young women who don’t seem to even know a political struggle is happening and then treat themselves with such low regard.  They are only giving fuel to the critics who would claim that all pre-marital sex is an abomination and that a sexualized female is something to fear.  I can’t help but see parallels in the civil rights movement.  Many in the African American community cry out against crime and violence, gangster rap and the thug culture that actually discourages achievement.  Of course racism is very insidious and still a huge problem, but if no one inside the community calls out the self-defeating behavior…it just makes everything more of a uphill battle.

I thought feminism was about being in control of our lives, having a right to speak our minds, and having the same opportunities as men have in the bedroom, in the workplace and in our government.  I didn’t think it was about declaring all sexual behavior as an empowering statement against patriarchy.  When I see a young woman disrespect herself my heart sinks.  When I see a woman desperately cling to some man doing anything and everything sexually in the hopes that he will stick around it saddens me.  When I see a bright intelligent woman with multiple options for her future resort to sex work it depresses me.  Although I understand its appeal, as sex work is one of the few high paying options available to young women.  The only non-sex based profession where women make considerably more money than men is the modeling industry and the largest scholarship program for women in the world is still the Miss America pageant organization.  I want every young girl to see the entire universe available to them, to know that they are more than their looks or genitalia.   It is a fine line we tread between celebrating our sexuality and allowing others to exploit it.

I do not propose that I have any answers to these ethical quandaries but I am not going to pretend that women treating themselves with disrespect and playing into negative stereotypes is a good thing.  A woman cannot treat herself poorly and then try to defend it by crying “slut-shaming” when she is the one shaming herself.  Some would argue that there is no sexual behavior that is negative or exploitative no matter what the situation.  But when a woman flashes her breasts for a Girls Gone Wild video or a woman engages in prostitution to pay for her drug habit, that is not a step forward but a step back.  To achieve real equality with men we need to respect ourselves in all aspects of our lives including our sexuality.

 

On being a Straight Spouse – Broken Memories

Bride

I am normally a comedian, but anyone who knows comedians know we tend to be a little morose from time to time.  And for some reason it seems to help me get past some of these dark moods when I write them down and put them on my blog.  Don’t worry regular readers there are some things I wouldn’t never put on this blog, they are just too personal or might unintentionally hurt someone, so they stay on paper never to make it to cyberspace.

The other day a relatively new person in my life wanted to know the specifics of my ex-husband‘s realization he was gay.  Most people assume at some point in our marriage, my ex simply found the courage to finally be honest with himself and with me.  I wish that were the case, but I was not given that consideration.  Like many straight spouses, instead of the truth being revealed to me,  I had years of lies, excuses and finally betrayal.  It wasn’t until I found hard evidence of his true sexual orientation that I could finally move on.  Even with this proof right in front of his face, all pretense removed he still tried to deny reality.  In the weeks that passed he finally admitted his inner-deception.  I was then faced with the harsh realization that on some level my entire marriage was a fraud.   The depths of deep sorrow are hard to describe really, and the confusion of others towards me never really ends.  Many cannot contemplate how insidious the wound of being a straight spouse, cuts right through a person.  Meaning well they will flippantly try to reassure me with lines such as…

Well at least he didn’t cheat on you with a woman
 

All I can think is, well if he cheated on me with a woman at least I could understand that.  Infidelity is common in many marriages and some even survive the trauma.  If he had cheated on me with a woman we might still be together.   Depending on the specific circumstances I might have been able to forgive him and move on.   Marriage is a lifetime commitment and a lifetime leaves plenty of chances to make some fairly big mistakes.   As it stands I have to live with the knowledge that he never really wanted me.  That realization is horrifically painful.

You know he really loved you he couldn’t help he was gay

I guess but, if he really loved me he wouldn’t have used me in this way.  He knew what he was doing to me, he knew his was keeping secrets, he knew he was lying.  I don’t quite understand the concept of “The Closet” as he has admitted he has known since he was a child, and then in the same breath tried to reconcile his relationship with me.  So which was it?  I can’t help but think he was just suppressing what he knew was there all along and I was his collateral damage.  And what damage, nine years of a life, years of sacrifice and compromise, and romance that wasn’t real.

The suicide rate for straight spouses is three times higher than those in a traditional divorce.  A straight spouse has to deal with a lot: damaged sexuality, loss of trust, social stigma, and wounded self-esteem.  To make matters worse, a straight spouse cannot even look back to happier memories, as even they become tainted.  My happy memories, broken like crumpled photographs that cannot be flattened properly no matter what method I try.   As if the photographic images have scratches ground into them permanently across smiling faces.  The first time I met my ex, our first kiss, and of course my entire nine years of sex with a man who didn’t really want to be there.  Our first apartment, our first Christmas, every memory is now clouded and defamed.   And I wonder what are these memories like to him?  I can’t imagine and I don’t really care.  My feelings for him have changed so much, he was once so important so central to my being and now he is just someone who knows me so well but I really never knew at all.

My entire wedding haunts me now, as one big farce.  I had an absolutely beautiful ceremony, perfect weather, supportive families, and a wonderful, gorgeous celebration.  I look back at it now and want to erase it from my brain.  I am not angry anymore as I gave up on the anger a while ago.  The rage was doing no more than grinding me down, so I released it.  But I still feel a deep sadness that will flare up from time to time at times completely unexpectedly.  I will find myself staring off thinking about one aspect of it, and others around me will comment that I look sad or lost.  I don’t realize I am doing this, it is as if my mind just takes over for a few minutes and I sink back into the sorrow if only for a moment.  And the trust issues are tantamount, I can’t fathom being married again, it is just so foreign a concept after what I went through.

I could have chosen to keep it hidden, continued the secret to protect him and protect myself from judgment and labels but since “The Closet” nearly destroyed me I would rather leave its door in charred splinters and not continue the pretense one more day.

And now I live with the shame and the invasive questions along the lines of…

How did you not know?

As if there is something wrong with me, as if I somehow brought this upon myself with some type of shortcoming or character flaw.  Not that I was just prey for a self-serving person who needed, a partner to hide his secret life.  I know there are some that laugh at me and mock my situation.  They aren’t surprised that this happened to me, as if it is a joke, or I am not worthy of a normal relationship.  Or that my fiercely feminist bent lead me to a gay emasculated husband.  Even though my ex is an extremely strong personality that dominated our relationship and marriage.  He was hardly a push-over or hen-pecked wimp.  He didn’t mince about or act effeminate, he didn’t lisp or act in a flamboyant manner.  He was just a man who acted if anything somewhat asexual rather than overtly gay.  We had a sex life that was normal, but it slowly become dysfunctional.  And a decreased sex life is not unheard of in traditional marriages.  I begged my husband to seek treatment for what he claimed was erectile dysfunction, and the more I pushed the worse things got.

So I look for solace, calm, and peace and I am beginning to find it.  But in order to move on I have to wipe out whole sections of my past.  Every memory is now clouded and opaque.  I have to instead focus on how much stronger I have become after nearly being destroyed.  How I have gained compassion and empathy towards others and courage I didn’t know I had in me.  And learn to forgive myself for all the damage that I wrought in the aftermath of the fall.   If anything this personal hell has taught me that no one has it easy in life, even those who seem to have everything they want.  Their loved ones die for no real reason, they suffer loss, disappointment and tragedy.  We can choose to wallow in the muck or pull ourselves up out of it.  I strive every day now, to move forward.   As painful as it is for me to write some of these blog posts, I know it is helping other people.  For whatever reason when I throw these demons into cyberspace they grow quieter in my head.

One thing that has helped me in my recovery are the many straight spouses that read this blog and have shared their stories with me.  No one really understands this torture except someone who has gone through it.  And we will survive it, it just takes time, patience and a world of strength.  Solidarity to anyone who found this blog who is going through the same thing.  It will get better.  🙂

For more help a wonderful resource – Straight Spouse Network – Chat rooms, discussions, stories and you can even find local support groups in your area.  I am a semi-regular member of the NY city chapter.  You will rarely find people that truly understand our unique situation.  I can’t say enough good things about this organization.

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City of Sluts the Aftermath

So this whole thing has been insane. If you haven’t yet read the original blog post here is the link.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/juliet-jeske/dating-after-divorce-in-a_b_944133.html#comments

I had been writing this blog for a while and it was slowly but surely becoming more and more popular. On the advice of a friend, I decided to take my most popular post and submit it to the divorce section of the Huffington Post. I had been published numerous times in the comedy section but always in the form of satire videos. This was my first attempt at getting anything I had written published online or elsewhere.

I had no idea of the insane amount of popularity the post would generate. I didn’t know the editor beforehand, and she took a couple of days to get back to me. She thought the article was well written and she liked my voice, so she decided to run it as the lead story for labor day weekend. I don’t think either one of us had any idea that it would cause such a fervor.

Most of the feedback that I have gotten has been positive, and my twitter account went from about 260 followers to over 650 in a matter of a couple of days and is still climbing. The article got picked up by a number of news sources on the internet and the readers kept rising. Right now the story has been favorited almost 5,000 times on Facebook and has over a thousand comments. I have received personal email, subscribers to this blog, fans added to my youtube account, and fans added to my facebook account.

The criticism has been so diverse I have to break it down in sections. I find it stunning that so many people had such different reactions to the piece.

  • I hate men
  • I hate women
  • I hate sex
  • I am misrepresenting polyamorous people – I honestly don’t know much about the lifestyle but I really don’t have a problem with people who are openly polyamorous 
  • I should move to another city
  • Several people have told me they have the exact same problem in their city
  • I am somehow Christian or pro-Christian – I am staunchly non-religious and identify as agnostic
  • I am fat or unattractive – I am 5’7″ and a size 4, I am nowhere near fat, unattractive is in the eye of the beholder I guess but I am not even close to being overweight.
  • I should have stayed married – Well my husband was gay so that wasn’t going to happen
  • I was somehow spoiled by my ex-husband and now I am bitter – that is so far off the mark it isn’t funny.
  • I am whiny and negative – Well I guess but if it was an article that just stated how happy I was I doubt anyone would have read it.
  • I have had numerous people give me dating advice – some good, some crazy
  • I need to lower my standards and date older men, younger men, or less attractive men
  • I have also had several men ask me out, or want to start a correspondence with me online
  • I should love myself more
  • I am attracting the wrong kind of men because of something I am doing
  • I deserve to be alone because I am a bitch
  • But I have gotten a tremendous amount of people saying they are going through the exact same thing, and that they completely agree with me!!!!!!!

I obviously struck a nerve or it wouldn’t have caused so many people to respond.  My general response to anyone who gets seriously worked up over this article or anything else that I write is this…

Write your own blog and try to submit it somewhere and see what happens.

I only glance through the comment section as there is no way I could or would want to read all of them, so it is honestly wasted energy on anyone making a comment.  But I do find it hysterical how people literally project their own agenda on to a fairly straight forward article.

I basically say, I don’t like feeling pressured to have sex with  a virtual stranger, and that if people like that behavior and it works for them then great!  I also point out that both men and women and people of all sexual orientations engage in promiscuous behavior.   I never say my way is better than another choice, nor do I tell people how to live.  But that doesn’t stop the comments.

So thank you to all of the people who have supported the article, and to my detractors well there is no such thing as bad publicity so keep it up!  HA!!! 🙂  Oh and if anyone knows of any PAID writing assignments send them my way!  HA!!!  I am an unpaid blogger for the Huffington Post, I am not a reporter, I am not a published author.  I make very little money as a performer, but I do perform all over New York city.  Since leaving my husband my income has been devastated as I used to work with him, so I am just looking for a place to land.  Will write for food!  HA! 🙂