Lock Without a Key

“I hope you find the person with the key to your lock soon…she is bound for deep treasures…you both are…in the right time…may it be soon.” – D* in a comment to me on the first post I wrote on Hevria

I feel less depressed than I was, but still quite depressed.  I think I’m ruining my extended holiday, which is a waste, although I was mainly intending to use it for chores rather than anything fun (I have difficulty with “fun” and have had since adolescence).  Instead, I’m just feeling depressed and procrastinating.  I wish I was back at work, for the distraction.  I’m not doing anything useful, studying much Torah or enjoying myself (other than watching some Doctor Who, which I could do if I was working anyway).

Despite the Jewish belief in bashert (soul mates) I find it hard to believe there is a woman out there with a Luftmentsch-shaped hole in her life.  I was listening to Radio 4 while doing the (incredibly boring) stock take at work last week and a programme came on about polygamy, which is not something I would normally listen to, but I ended up listening and there was one woman who had been raised in a breakaway Mormon church that still practises polygamy and she was trapped in a polygamous marriage.  She ran away from the church and is now in a monogamous marriage and says her husband so great she would never share him with another woman.  And I just think, I wish someone felt like that about me.

Looking at the women who turned me down or broke up with me (those that gave a reason, anyway, or for whom I can make an educated guess at one, which may be incorrect) shows the following (question marks denote an educated guess from what they said when they didn’t give a clear reason):

  1. Not enough in common (?);
  2. Not enough in common (?); I didn’t go to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary);
  3. Already dating someone else (embarrassing);
  4. Already dating someone else (very embarrassing);
  5. Didn’t say;
  6. Didn’t feel anything for me;
  7. Didn’t say;
  8. Wanted a more physical relationship than I wanted;
  9. Not enough in common (?);
  10. Not enough in common;
  11. Didn’t want children;
  12. Couldn’t cope with my mental health issues;
  13. Didn’t want children; not enough in common (?); couldn’t cope with my low self-esteem (?).

Some of these are educated guesses and there are plenty of women who I didn’t even get the confidence to ask out, but the pattern seems to be that women can’t cope with my weird interests and my mental health (counting low self-esteem as a mental health issue).  I suppose you can also throw in the woman who I didn’t ask out who was interested in me and who I liked, but we both knew it couldn’t work because she wasn’t Jewish.  Number 5 on the list is extra odd, as I am fairly sure she was fliriting with me, from my limited experience of flirting (she repeatedly called me a “genius” and said I would have really cute children), but then turned me down and started blanking me when she saw me after I asked her out.  I really have no idea what happened there.

My weirdness and loneliness doesn’t just apply to dating and love.  There was an article on Hevria that quoted the author Jodi Picoult saying that she felt really tolerant and open-minded for having a black friend at college, but it was only years later that she realized that while she ate lunch with her friend, she never invited her to see a film or go to a party.  I read this and the stuff about race washed over me because I just thought that maybe two or three times in my three and a bit years at Oxford I got invited to the cinema or to a play.  I don’t know if I ever got invited to a party.  I maybe once got invited to hang out in the Jewish Society (JSOC) student lounge after Shabbat dinner or to a tisch.  And I never got invited out with my friends from my MA (to be fair, we were a really disparate group in age and background and probably wouldn’t have had much in common away from the university).

I’m not complaining, because I probably wouldn’t have gone if I had been asked.  I just mean to say that I’m not good at social things.  I certainly didn’t go to those things I did get invited to.  I also got invited to JSOC social events and generally didn’t go, but those felt different as it was usually people on the committee just drumming up trade generally rather than thinking, “Hey, Luftmentsch is a great guy, let’s ask him to come.”  I did go to JSOC meals, which were social, especially Shabbat meals and I did enjoy those at least until the depression and social anxiety stopped me enjoying them from my second year; I also enjoyed going to the Doctor Who Society, which I was involved in running, but again, I often prioritized work over going and enjoying myself with people and I didn’t socialize with them outside of the society (I am actually still friends with one person from there, but we became friends more through my old blog after I left Oxford).  Someone from the JSOC got really annoyed with me for not going on the committee, but he didn’t seem to wonder why I felt distanced from the society; he just seemed to assume I was anti-social and a sponge on other people’s efforts.  I don’t think he understood how shy and socially anxious I was.

The weird thing is, I’ve been blogging on and off, on different platforms, since 2006 and I seem to have the ability to reach out to people of very different backgrounds, in terms of religion and lifestyle.  I don’t know why that is.  I understand that my Doctor Who blog appealed to other fans who were mostly different to me; I suppose I find it harder to understand why people read this blog.  I suppose what I write must resonate with other people with mental health issues somehow, although mostly I write because no one else seems to be going through what I feel.  It does make me wonder how I find close friends and a wife, if the only people I can connect with have mental illness as the only common link.

On a related note, I’m going to meet up today with two women (sisters) who read my blog.  I call them my non-biological older sisters, because they’re like sisters to me, but I’ve never met them before, so I’m a bit nervous about that, but hopefully it will be good.

Shame

I watched an interesting TED talk by one of the great influences on my thought, Rabbi Lord Sacks.   Most of the talk is not relevant to this blog (although it’s definitely worth watching), but two things stood out to me.  One was where he mentions the best decision of  his life, meeting and eventually marrying a woman who was nothing like him: someone joyous and friendly when he was a self-obsessed young philosophy student.  My thought here was, “Why can’t something like that happen to me?”  I know I’d love to meet a frum woman who is joyous, friendly, gentle and kind who, for some strange reason, likes me.  I can’t imagine it happening.  I try to work on myself, to be more confident, friendly, outgoing and happy, but it doesn’t seem to help, as shown by my recent date dumping me apparently in part because I lack self-confidence.  I hope today to start work proper on the social anxiety CBT book I dug out a while back, but I’m not confident of it helping.

The other point, less wistful, is where he talks about the culture of the self and suggests replacing the self with the other, literally doing a “find and replace” in our minds and changing phrases like ‘self-worth’ and ‘self-esteem’ to ‘other-worth’ and ‘other-esteem’.  This is something I think about, because in recent years I’ve got into Jewish religious existentialist thinkers a bit and there the emphasis is on the redemption of solitude through helping the other.  The problem is that I’m very bad at this.  I try to be a good friend to my friends who are going through depression and other tough times, but there is a limit to how much I can do given that I am not a trained counsellor or therapist.  I just try to remember to email sometimes and to respond to their emails.  I’m too shy to really get involved in voluntary work or anything like that.  I wanted to get more involved in my depression support group, but because of pressure of work in my new job, I don’t have the time or energy to go very often any more and that pressure is only going to increase next term when I work four days a week.  I’d like to think I am reaching out to people and helping them with my blog, but deep down I know I do it only because I need release from all the words in my head, and maybe for the likes.

In any case, I’m not sure how sensible it is for me to replace ‘self-esteem’ with ‘other-esteem’.  I think my problem is I perhaps esteem others too much and certainly esteem myself too little.  I don’t trust my judgment on anything, but I find it hard to disagree with others, even if deep down I know they’re wrong.  I find it hard to stand out from the crowd.  As I said, I just got dumped apparently in part because my date thought I was “frightened” of her, frightened of disagreeing with her more than some abstract fear.  And she was probably right.

More than that, I feel actually ashamed of myself much of the time, at least when I’m in company.  Ashamed of my political views and perhaps occasionally of my religious views (where I am more ‘modern’ than my shul).  Ashamed of my hobbies and interests, which seem childish and a waste of time that would be better spent in prayer, Torah study and good deeds (from a religious point of view) or more cultured pursuits (from a secular one).  Ashamed of wasting what little creativity I have and also ashamed of wasting my time on it when I do devote some time to it.  That is why it’s safer to be in solitude, despite the loneliness this entails.  This is why I didn’t hang out with my peers in adolescence or at university.  This is why I can’t open up to people and make friends or find a partner.

Some Days All We Can Do Is Endure

I feel agitated and exhausted at the same time.  My Talmud shiur (class) got cancelled, so I don’t need to feel guilty about not going.

I feel lonely today, but I don’t feel particularly inclined to phone my parents, the only people who are realistically going to be around to listen to me.  I don’t know what to say, and my parents aren’t always on my wavelength anyway.  Very few people are.  It’s one reason why I can’t see myself getting married.  I can’t imagine someone who really understands me.  I suppose someone once did, but she was, by her own admission, using me, first emotionally (expecting me to be there for her, but not being around for me, again by her own admission) and then physically/sexually; don’t worry it didn’t quite go that far, but she did try to push it to that, which was when I realized I had to cut her out of my life, however painful that was at the time (and it was painful).

I wish I had more friends on my own wavelength.  Most of my friends have only one or two things in common with me, usually frumkeit (religiosity) or mental health issues.  Neither alone really lead to lasting friendships, or not for me.  I wish I could just sit and chill out with some friends.  I never did that when I was a teenager or at university.  My peers and my friends (I guess you could call them that – more than acquaintances, even if we weren’t really close) did, but I never joined in.  At this distance it’s hard to remember if I just wanted to be invited (not out of pride, but out of fear I would offend people by just turning up unasked, that they didn’t want me to be there) or if I was scared that if I hung around with people too long, they would come to be bored by me, even to hate me and would get rid of what friendship and closeness we did have.  I think it was probably a bit of both.  I guess I’m too old for just hanging out now anyway.  People my age are usually more worried about mortgages and kids and other things that don’t apply to me.  Being Peter Pan is no fun if you’re too depressed to enjoy it.

I tried to go to some onegs organized by my shul (synagogue) last year.  An oneg is basically a big chill out, a sort of Shabbat (Sabbath) party, a gathering for food, alcohol, singing, chat and the sharing of religious thoughts.  I managed to go to one, stood outside for fifteen minutes in the cold and dark because I was too shy to go in, then sort of forced myself to go in with someone else, sat mostly in silence, got upset by the guest speaker, spoke to one person (who I already knew anyway) and left after an hour.  Then a few weeks later there was another one and I didn’t even manage to get inside that one.  I just stood outside crying and eventually went home.  The guy I walked into the first oneg with saw me go.  I think he must think I’m basically nuts (he may be right).

At least I managed to get to the sheva brachos (why do I transliterate that as sheva brachos and not sheva brachot? Eh) a few weeks ago and speak to some people there and enjoy it.  That was progress.  Today I feel like however much progress I have made in the last seven or eight months has been eroded.  I’m glad I have a month to get myself together again before I go back to work, because I think I’m going to need it.

I saw something on Twitter today that really annoyed me (I hate Twitter, I don’t think you can say very much that’s original, interesting and meaningful in 140 characters). “Mental illness is so common for creatives and musicians. We need to destigmatize the conversation around it. It’s okay to not be okay.”  Which is true, but it feels rather utilitarian.  As if to say that if, like me, you are not a great creative, but merely a lowly assistant librarian, you aren’t worth rescuing from the black dog.  Sadly, the myth of the tormented genius means that mental illness is romanticized in some quarters.

Truth be told, I worry about my creativity.  I believe I probably have a tiny amount of talent for writing that I might be able to work into something better if I had the confidence to go on a writing course, to show my work to more people (or any people… of course, this would require having friends and family interested in my work and able to critique meaningfully, which I don’t have) and, above all, to keep working at it.  I don’t have the confidence or, when the depression is bad, the energy and concentration (I wanted to work on my book today, but it’s easier to churn out this drivel instead).  I think my writing is awful and I don’t work at it, except for these rambling nonsense posts that, sensibly, no one reads or takes seriously.  I’m still smarting from my Hevria.com rejection even though the people who rejected me don’t even remember doing it or why they did it.  Sigh.  David Bowie said that the worst thing God can do to you is to make you an artist, but a mediocre artist; I think I know what he meant, although being lonely is worse (I guess the two can be connected).

Watch Me Beat Myself Up About My Romantic Inadequacies (Again)

I woke up around 10.30, which wasn’t as late as I expected, but I just couldn’t get going.  Too lonely, exhausted and depressed, too plain numb to feel or do anything.  I did something almost unprecedented for me, which was watch a DVD over breakfast because I was feeling so depressed.  It didn’t help much.

About two months ago I wrote an email to the makers of a podcast I enjoyed, three frum (religious and Orthodox Jewish) and geeky women.  In the next podcast, they said that my email was “awesome” and one of them asked if I was single.  I didn’t reply, partly because I thought they were joking (I’m vague on the difference between flirting and teasing as women don’t generally flirt with me and I definitely don’t flirt with them.  And certainly no one flirts with me in public, on a podcast) and partly because I was seeing someone by that stage (the woman I broke up with yesterday).  Now I’m wondering if I should email back or if it’s too late, whether we really have anything in common (from her Twitter account, I’m not convinced we do; even within the boundaries science fiction and fantasy, we like different things and I think she might object to my politics), how long I should wait to avoid a rebound relationship, whether I could really have a long-distance relationship with someone on another continent…

As is usual when I meet someone I like, but who inevitably turns out to have very little in common with me, I wonder if we have enough there for a relationship, if it is time to “settle” as I said yesterday, to make do with someone who isn’t my dream girl (whoever that could be) and pick someone vaguely right who seems to tolerate me.  It’s usually academic, as I have yet to meet the woman desperate enough to settle for me (OK, not strictly true, my ex seemed to like me a lot, until her issues got in the way, but that’s one person in a lifetime of waiting).  I know most Jews believe in bashert (destiny, soul mates), but I do find it hard to believe that there is someone out there for me, in all my strangeness and brokeness.

I do honestly believe that God wants me to be alone forever.  Maybe as some kind of kapparah (atonement) for something, although I don’t know what.  I don’t believe in reincarnation, but many Jews do and sometimes I wonder if I was an adulterer in a past life and now I’m being punished by being alone and celibate forever.  Whatever the reason, I only hope it’s worth it.  At shul on Shabbat I overheard the assistant rabbi say to the guest speaker rabbi, “That’s Luftmentsch… he’s not married…” I have no idea what the question was that provoked that response and it was probably innocuous and not intended as some kind of moral judgment on my life, but I do feel like I have “SINGLE” carved on my heart.  Maybe it would be better if I had it on my forehead, maybe then single frum women might come up to talk to me, or someone might set me up on a date (not that that went well when I tried it).

There’s a game I play with myself sometimes where I ask myself, “If I was single, lonely and miserable for twenty years and then was happy and loved for forty years would it be worth it?”  The answer is obviously, yes.  So then I go down to thirty years of happiness, twenty, ten… I usually keep answering yes until I get to about a year.  Even one year of love and happiness would be worth it, I feel.  Less than that and I think the price is too great, although sometimes I hold out for a full decade of happiness in recompense for a lifetime of misery.  But I worry that I won’t get even that year of happiness.  I had a birthday recently and I’m now undeniably in my mid-thirties, older than anyone else in my immediate family when they got married.  The year I have just completed had a sort of totemic significance for me, as it was the age my maternal grandparents both were when they married, and the age of my uncle when he got married.  So I do feel a bit that time is running out.  I do want to have children and while I don’t have a biological clock, per se, my wife will and as I have no desire (or ability) to go cradle-snatching, that could be an issue, particularly as lately the women I have met aren’t interested in starting a family.

On the plus side, I have began to plan out my “holiday” (a chunk of which will be taken up with chores, but there we go).  I feel a bit better for having set down that to do list, even if I might not manage stick to it if the depression persists for more than a few days.  I intend to go out shopping in a minute, more to get out of the flat than because I urgently need anything.  Although it is not encouraging when half an hour after writing the to do list, I am already running twenty minutes late.

Licking My Wounds

That Thing, you’ve probably guessed by now, was a date, or a series of dates with one woman (I am not very good at keeping secrets.  George Smiley I am not).  We just broke up, if it was even a relationship.  For a while things seemed to be going well and then today they just unravelled.  I feel pretty normal for post-breakup, i.e. lonely and miserable.

The late Israeli President, Shimon Peres, was once asked if he could see a light at the end of the tunnel of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.  He replied, “I can see the light, the problem is, there’s no tunnel” which I take to mean that the final resolution of the conflict is known, but there is no clear way to get to it.  Similarly, I know the type of woman I’m looking for, I just don’t know how to find her.  I guess I’m looking for someone like me, someone in her early thirties, very frum with a Modern Orthodox outlook, quiet, intelligent, thoughtful, gentle, caring.  Someone who puts family ahead of career, is focused on personal growth and who has a strong sense of integrity.  Someone who shares a few common interests with me, preferably Doctor Who or at least science fiction.  Someone who can accept my mental health issues, probably because she’s had challenges of her own that she’s overcome, not necessarily the same as mine (I don’t think I’d have much in common with someone who had never had any issues, considering how my life has been defined by my mental health).

The problem – the missing tunnel – is that I can’t seem to meet women like this.  Most of the women I’ve dated haven’t been like this at all, and most of them have got rid of me pretty quickly.  The only one who came close to meeting a significant number of these criteria was my ex, although there was also one woman I didn’t date who met most of them, but we realized before even going out that there was a major life choice that we had different views about that would prevent a relationship.  With all the other women I dated, I was assuming that I would never meet the right woman, the woman who met most of my criteria, so I should just date women who are vaguely right in the hope that we could bridge the gap.  As my sister says, my interests are “niche”; I’m beginning to suspect my personality and values are niche too.  I mean, who lists “integrity” as something that they want in a partner?  Who says that “integrity” is their greatest virtue?  It is hardly a “sexy” virtue like kindness, compassion or generosity.

We singles, particularly in the frum world, where 26 is on the shelf and mid-thirties (where I am) is ancient, are told to “settle” which seems to mean accepting the first person who comes along who doesn’t seem to be a serial killer.  A (very frum) book I read suggested that two people should compare their values on paper before meeting; if there are no significant mismatches, they should meet and if they feel comfortable with each other, they should marry and not worry about meeting lists of criteria.  Unfortunately, trying to settle and meet someone I just feel comfortable with really hasn’t worked out for me at all and I don’t know what to do.  It seems selfish and picky to hold out for someone who meets most of my criteria, particularly at my age as the dating pool shrinks further and further, but I just know that anyone else is not going to be interested in me long-term.

Sooner or later, I will probably sign up for a professional matchmaker.  I’ve been set up on blind dates before, but never by a professional matchmaker.   Hopefully s/he can find someone on his/her database who has at least got some things in common with me.  I should probably wait a bit for the emotional aftermath of this relationship to die down before doing anything.  I’m torn between striking while the iron is hot or waiting a few months.  Currently I feel lonely which gives me the impetus to date, especially as once we get to August people will be away and then afterwards there is coping with my extended hours at work and then the autumn chaggim (festivals).  On the other hand, maybe it would be better to wait a few months until after the chaggim or at least after I have started working longer hours, to see how I am coping with that.  The problem is, I get lonely, doubly so with constant wedding talk from my sister and parents (I was hoping to have a plus one to take with, which now seems unlikely).  I want to meet someone soon and it is hard to wait after having been single and lonely for so long.

Post-dating bad habits have reasserted themselves tonight, especially as I don’t have work tomorrow, my usual bad habits when lonely and depressed.  It is late and I have not eaten yet or even made dinner.  I will probably let myself go to bed very late and watch Doctor Who – unfortunately my regimented trip through the series in order for the book I am writing has currently left me in The Time Monster, probably the silliest story of the seventies (Greek gods, Atlantis, the Master seducing the queen of Atlantis, a minotaur played by Darth Vader, UNIT being ineffective, the inevitable comic yokel, a TARDIS landing inside a TARDIS, time distortions, a pile of junk jamming complex scientific equipment, psychedelia… Doctor Who is its own crack fic).  But it beats sitting around feeling that no one could ever love me.

Anyway, if by any chance anyone reading this knows someone who meets my criteria, do let me know.  And please do post questions on my “Ask me anything” post so that I can actually have some to answer!

Here Goes… Ask Me Anything!

I’m slightly nervous about doing this, but I wanted to find a way to connect more with my readers.  I’ve seen a couple of other bloggers do this, so here goes: you can ask me anything in the comments to this post.  Then, in a few days, I’ll answer them in a new post.

You can ask me literally anything: about depression, OCD, social anxiety, Judaism, Doctor Who, librarianship, you name it!  I reserve the right not to answer anything too personal especially if it will give my real identity away or involve me in improper speech against identifiable individuals.

(Hat-tip to Chaviva and Elad for the idea.)

Plus and Minus

On the plus side, I have now finished a whole term at my new job without needing to take a single sick day!  I overslept a few times and sometimes missed most of Shacharit (morning prayers) as a result, but I think I was only late once and that was because I got lost going to the secondary campus for the first time rather than because of depression.  My new contract arrived yesterday and I am definitely doing four days a week from September, although it only counts as 0.67 of full time rather than 0.8 because I’m not employed for most of the school holidays, unlike some library staff (to be honest, I would rather have shorter holidays and earn more, if only for the structure in my day, but I’ll take what I can get given my health and the job market).

On the minus side, I was up late last night.  I had an enjoyable dinner with my family at my favourite restaurant, but when I came home I had various things I wanted to do (and, I admit, I got distracted by having some new books, espeically The Complete Far Side).  I got to bed very late, around 2.20am.  I then slept for eleven hours and got up about 1.40pm (I missed Shacharit to my annoyance).  An hour a half on and after breakfast, I am still in my pyjamas and still feel lethargic and a bit down.  Some of it may be from taking my meds very late last night (I forgot to take them when I came in from the restaurant) and this morning (because I got up late and then got distracted by the internet!).  Some of it may be crashing from a very sugary dessert last night (three layers of chocolate mousse, milk, dark and white, between layers of meringue plus chocolate sprinkles and nuts) – I hope not, as I would rather not  have to cut this stuff out totally.  Some of it is probably a bit of relief from being on holiday.

That said, I’m not sure how much of a holiday it will be, as I have a lot to do in the next four weeks, including meeting with the rabbi to change shul membership, opening a new bank account, working on my Doctor Who book (I have a substantial and growing pile of notes to write up dealing with just a few Jon Pertwee stories!), dealing with the mould in my bathroom and repainting the area by my bathroom sink that has got very water-damaged.  I want to organize my folder of work notes and maybe type up some of my handwritten notes about library procedures to make them easier to access.  And try and socialize a bit!  It’s making me a bit anxious, especially combined with That Thing which hopefully will be taking up some time too.  I need to write a plan or at least a proper to do list, maybe later today.

I would like at least to clean my flat before Shabbat today, but I’m not even sure if that will happen.  I try not to beat myself up too much when I have days like this; as Billy Joel sang, “Everyone goes south/Every now and then”, but as I said a few days ago, it’s a reminder that I’m in recovery, not recovered, with the fear of relapse that that can entail.

I guess it all shows that I’ve come a long way, but also that I have a long way still to go.

Miscellany

Sorry, I’m posting multiple times in one day again, sigh.  But I need to get my thoughts down.

I woke up very late and then couldn’t get going.  I missed Shacharit (morning prayers) completely for the first time in quite a while.  I wrote the previous post piecemeal in the two hours after waking while struggling to have breakfast and get dressed.  I had hoped that writing about my anxieties would make me feel less lonely today, but if anything it has had the opposite effect.  Sigh.  Sometimes I probably just need to be hugged.

I wanted to do various chores and cook a proper dinner today, but felt too tired and down.  I’m worried by the fact that I still feel depressed and wonder how long it will take for the higher dose of olanzapine to kick in.  I hope it kicks in soon, there are things I need to do.  My holiday starts next week and I have a lot of chores to do.  I’d like to have some fun too, given that I can’t actually go on holiday somewhere, but I worry that that is unlikely to happen much.  “Having fun” like “socializing”, “dating” and “hanging out with people” is something I never really got the hang of.

I did at least manage to go for a run, albeit only for twenty minutes due to lack of time and energy.  I did listen to music while running; apparently it’s OK to listen during the Three Weeks for exercise, although it’s better to listen to music you don’t like.  As I don’t own music I don’t like, I listened to a playlist I made of music from TV and films, as it’s more functional and less like “actual” music, although I felt bad that a couple of songs I really like came up.

I wanted to do some significant Torah study today, to look over what we did in Talmud shiur (class) yesterday and also to catch up what I missed last week when I didn’t go to shiur because I was feeling under the weather, but I wasn’t up to it.  I managed about ten minutes of Chumash (The Five Books of Moses) and that was it.  I feel bad about this too and wonder when I will be able to catch up.  Today is a day when almost everything seems to have got on top of me: loneliness, mild depression, housework, exercise, cooking. Torah study, prayer…  It’s a day when all I can do is try my best, which isn’t very much, and hope things improve soon.  I just hope it’s enough.

I don’t feel tired now, although it’s getting late, probably because I slept for over eleven hours last night and have done very little to tire me out all day.  I’m not sure whether to go to bed or to watch TV in the hope that if I relax a little I will sleep better.

XXX The Unknown

I have wanted to write something for some time about my celibacy, but I have been unsure about where to write it (here, on Hevria.com or on Geeks vs. Loneliness – each has advantages and disadvantages) or what to say.  This probably isn’t it, but maybe, depending on the reaction it gets, it will nudge me in the right direction.  I’m very worried about how people will react to it.  I know I have a few religious Jews and Christians reading who will probably ‘get’ it, but I know I also have some less religious people (including a couple who blog about sex and relationships) who might not.  Please be gentle with me.  I don’t want to offend anyone with a different lifestyle, just to be open about my feelings.

First, it might be worth looking at this Hevria post I wrote a while back about being scared of sex and also my comments on this recent Hevria post about being abused for background about my sexuality.

Tehillim/Psalms 56.9 states that “You [God] have put my tears in Your bottle”.  It’s a lovely image and a surprisingly vivid and innovative one.  I wonder if those are just tears from sadness and suffering or also from frustration.  I’m not sure whether I have ever literally cried from being single and celibate, but I would hope that my frustration is stored too.  Not that I want reward, but that I don’t want it to be wasted.  (I don’t want my tears from my depression, OCD and social anxieties to be wasted either, but it seems less likely that they would be somehow.  Like those were deliberate tests and this is just a side-effect of halakhah and my unattractiveness, as if there were something God does not consider.)

We live in a world where sexual satisfaction is seen as essential for psychological functioning and as a basic human right and that is probably correct.  At any rate, Judaism is not hostile to sex.  Sex is a mitzvah (positive commandment) and one of the physical delights that one is supposed to use to celebrate Shabbat (the Sabbath), alongside good clothes, sleep, meat and wine.  On the other hand, it’s only supposed to happen within marriage.  Which in theory I don’t have a problem with, but it’s hard when one is as unmarriable as I am.

I can see the reason for remaining celibate outside marriage.  I do believe that marriage and sex are holy, although it’s hard to describe why to anyone who isn’t religious; not only is sex seen as mundane (which is the opposite of holy), but the whole concept of holiness doesn’t really exist in the vocabulary of the Western world any more.

I also know myself.  I know I tend to fall for women easily and that while I find it hard to open up to people (I’m talking in general, not just romance/sex), when I do, I bond quickly and strongly, so the last thing I want to do is have a fling or a one night stand, hook up with someone, bond with her and then never see her again.  I know I could never have a one night stand, even if it were somehow halakhically permitted.  That would be the most painful thing for me (I’m thinking of the Billy Joel song All for Leyna about this exact topic).  Plus given the uncertainty I have about dating, the last thing I want to do with someone is flood my brain with hormones that alter how I perceive her before I’ve decided that I want to spend my life with her.  Even aside from what Judaism teaches, by this stage I’m definitely dating to find my life partner, not just to have “a good time” and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize my main goal for the sake of a night of pleasure.

What doesn’t really get talked about is how difficult this all is, living in perhaps the most sexualized culture the world has ever seen (as someone with a degree in history, I usually avoid such generalizations, but here it’s unavoidable.  Unlike some ancient pagan cultures, we don’t have sacred prostitution, but that’s about it).  It’s hard to walk down the street sometimes without being bombared by sexual images from the media.  I disapprove of Charedi Judaism’s avoidance of Western culture, but sometimes I can see their point.  It seems like sex is used to sell everything and no film or TV programme is complete without eye-candy (I hate that term).  It sometimes feels like society is trying to create a permanent sense of arousal.  But where does all that life-energy go if you don’t have an outlet for it?

It’s hard to talk about this.  In Westen society, being a prude is about the worst insult you can throw at someone.  Orthodox Judaism preaches early marriage and doesn’t really talk about what happens to those who can’t get married in their late teens or early twenties (non-Orthodox Judaism has no problem with non-marital sex so far as I can see and has basically adopted Western sexual mores).  Anyway, as I say, Judaism isn’t anti-sex, it just wants to tame it by keeping it within marriage.  I look forward to the day when I can have a meaningful emotional and physical relationship with the woman I love and to whom I have consecrated my life.  But it seems very far away.

There is, I guess, a fear of sexual inadequacy which I touched on in the Hevria article I linked to above, beyond my general fears of being unattractive physically and in terms of personality.  The fear that just getting married wouldn’t be the end of my troubles.  I worry about being able to satisfy my wife.  It seems difficult.  I’m not good at emotional stuff (borderline Asperger’s again) or, for that matter, physical stuff (I mean physical things in general, like sports), and I worry about not being good enough for her.  About being inadequate, on multiple levels.  I want her to be happy more than I want myself to be happy.   I know that losing my virginity is going to be awkward, but I wonder if it will ever get easier.  As I said, I care less for myself and more for my wife.  I get nervous about the whole thing.  A while back two Orthodox sex therapists produced this book, a sex manual aimed at Orthodox couples who would typically be virgins at their marriage.  I think it looks really good; it deals with the emotional and mundane sides of sex as well as the sexy stuff.  My therapist advised me to buy the book and read it to put to rest some of my anxieties.  I actually bought it, but Amazon didn’t despatch it and I got nervous that I was being told not to buy it before I get married so I didn’t try to buy it again.  I would like to read it with my wife, though.

There is probably more to say, but I think I’ve said enough for now, both in terms of this post being quite long and also because (a) it’s possible someone I’m dating might see this one day and (b) I’ve been writing this piecemeal since waking up to try to deal with feeling lonely and frustrated today, but I think it’s making things worse.  I’m conscious that I overslept (I woke up about 12.30, having slept for over eleven hours, but being too tired and down to get going, which was all very bad of me) and I am wary of losing the whole day to this post, so I’m hitting the publish button now.  Like I said, please be gentle with me and just as I don’t judge people with different lifestyles, please don’t judge me.  I’m just trying to do the right thing by myself, by God and especially by my future wife (if she exists),  however difficult it seems.

Better

I went back on the higher dose of olanzapine this morning.  I was a bit down when I woke up and very sluggish; ate breakfast before davening Shacharit (saying the morning prayers) and said a very truncated Shacharit at that.  I was a couple of minutes late leaving for work and missed my train, but I made up for lost time and got to work on time.

I don’t know if it was the placebo effect, but the olanzapine seemed to help and I got through the day OK.  We are doing stock taking at work, so I spent most of the day scanning books into the library management system.  Very tedious and I can’t even listen to music while I do it because of the Three Weeks.  I think I was a bit slow, but got faster as I went along.  There is still some OCD fear that I have made an unspecified and hence uncorrectable mistake.  I also felt sick again after drinking tea; I am not quite sure how to work out if it is from the water or something else (what?).

I managed to get to my Talmud shiur (class) admittedly a bit late and very tired; it was hard to concentrate.

I have had a poem accepted by Hevria.com, which will be my third post and my first poem there.  I am rather nervous as this time it is somewhat political, about antisemitism.

I am also building up a stack of notes for my Doctor Who book again; I need to integrate them into the material I already have written up.  My boss asked if I was “devastated” about the new Doctor being a woman.  I’m not devastated, but I’m not sure what to think.  I’m a bit scared to say anything at all for fear of being called misogynistic or transphobic.  I do feel that Doctor Who fandom can be an oppressive place sometimes though, or at least parts of it can; very stridently “progressive” and abusive of anyone who doesn’t share the same views (political views and views on Doctor Who).   I think I’m OK with the female Doctor, but I also think someone I know online had a point when he suggested that the Doctor is virtually the only male role model for boys who is intelligent, non-violent and who does the right thing because it’s right, not for revenge or to get the girl, so taking him away might not be such a good idea.  All that said, I’m going to wait for the episodes before rushing to judgment.  I do wonder if it has disconcerted me on some level, though; part of my childhood and my identity, my sense of masculinity and self, being challenged.  I think I was more upset at having the Doctor sexualized, though.  I hope the new Doctor goes back to being asexual, unlike every other post-1989 Doctor.  That’s a bigger part of my identity.