DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am a gay 27-year-old male and I was raised in a very conservative household: coming out when I first realised I was gay (15) was completely out of question. I kept it well hidden for about five years because, really, I had no choice. When I was in my early 20’s I fell head over heels for a boy. To me, he was perfect, and he also liked me. This happened only weeks after I came out for the first time to a friend. It seemed like a sign… except it wasn’t. Some time passed without seeing him after I first met him. We saw each other again a year later. We began seeing each other from time to time (nothing romantic), but I slowly began to get in my head… because I was a virgin (I have read everything you have written about being a virgin and all the troubles it brings, but I always find a way to see myself as an exception to all of it), and he, although he was younger than I was, wasn’t. He was your typical gay “slut”. I liked him (more on that later), but I thought I could never be enough for him. It was the first time I felt anything like this and I did not know what to do. I felt inferior to him: he had experience; I didn’t. He had lived his life and had no regrets; I had nothing but regrets. I could never be good for him because he had done all the things I wanted to do and he had done. The mistakes you can’t make are the ones that hurt the most.
It did not go well. I began to get in my head for two reasons: one, I liked him, I REALLY liked him and being what I was was keeping me away from him. Second, I began to realise that I was trailing behind virtually ALL OF HUMANITY -not just him- in a fundamental part of life: sex. Every younger person that I met knew what it was like, and I didn’t. I had been carrying a bad depression ever since I realised I was gay, but this took it to an extreme. Had I had the option not to hide as a teenager, like everyone else my age (and younger), I could have been living my life all those years, and I could have been with him, because I wouldn’t have gotten in my head the way I did. I could have said that I lived my life to the fullest. But I couldn’t. And I can’t. I will never know what it is like to be a teenager and it is something that haunts me every day and will do so all my life.
I eventually I did ask him, explicitly, if he could help me with my issue. He said “no”, that it was “too much responsibility”. He knew about it when we first met (I told him) and he didn’t seem to have a problem with it back then. I asked him two years later and, by then, I had gotten in my head for too long and it was obvious to him. Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that I was the one who turned it into “too much responsibility”, but that would not have happened had I had my time to develop like a normal human being. There is a fundamental part of my life (some would say the MOST important part of my life) that was stolen from me. Without having tried it, I have developed a genuine fear towards sex. I can’t go a day without crying my eyes out. I feel trapped by the past I couldn’t have.
After many years, I realise that I was not (only) physically attracted to him: I felt admiration towards him. That admiration eventually turned into jealousy and obsession. Not a day goes by in which I don’t think of him and the perfect life he has: how he was able to be a teenager (he lost his virginity at 15), how he can have a normal, heathy sex life and how I can’t, how he doesn’t have to deal with a depression that is, quite literally, destroying every aspect of my life (I can barely write this). I WANT TO BE HIM. But I can’t: he was a teenager and I never will be, even if I suddenly started acting like him, which isn’t possible, because I’m too much responsibility at this point. He sleeps around with everyone and has no problem with it. I can’t do that after all that has happened: sex has gained such a negative meaning for me. I am disgusted that everyone else knows what it is like to be a teenager and I never will, I am disgusted that I could be too much responsibility for someone who is willing to sleep with everyone. No matter what I do, I will always be inferior, to him and to everyone else. No matter what I do, he will always be there being better than me in every way possible. I have lost too much time and I have missed too many moments and experiences life has to offer. Getting into a relationship won’t fix anything either: that’s for adults. I genuinely feel you can’t be an adult without being a teenager first; it’s like going from 1 to 3 without going through 2. Not possible. Also, I feel by this point I’m too tormented by the frustration and impotence to be with anyone. I would make them miserable.
I have been to therapy, I am on medication and I have read everything there is to read on similar subjects (many things by you). I’m fighting the fact that there’s no turning back time and I am losing it. Again, I can’t accept that a fundamental part of my life has been stolen from me while everyone else had a chance to live it. Any advice you can give me will be useful. I don’t know what to do anymore.
Thank you so much.
Man Without a Life
DEAR MAN WITHOUT A LIFE: OK MWaL, here’s what I want you to do: I want you to repeat to yourself “There is nothing wrong with me.” Make this your mantra. Repeat it every morning when you get up. Tattoo it backwards onto your forehead so you can see it in the mirror. Shave your head if you need the room.
Because – and stop me if you’ve heard this before: there is nothing wrong with you. You’re a virgin. You’re not broken. You’re not defective. You are not a failure. You’re not trailing behind anyone because you’re not in a race with anyone.
Here’s a truth: you’re going through what a lot of young LGBTQ people have gone through: you’re wrestling with your social development now because, quite frankly, you weren’t able to go through it when straight kids did. You have been in a place in your life where you couldn’t be your true self because it was dangerous for you. Now that you’ve been in a decent place for a few years, you are in the position of having to go through the struggle and drama most of us go through in our teens. You couldn’t work this crap out then because you weren’t safe. Now you’re in a better place.
Here’s another truth: your journey is your journey. I know that there’s a lot of pressure for men – gay or straight – to be hypersexual, to lose your virginity as early as possible. But thing is? That’s bulls
t. It’s part and parcel of the same toxic ideas around male behavior that encourages us to treat sex like the end-all, be-all of life, regardless of what it may do to you.
Your crush lost his virginity at 15. That doesn’t necessarily mean he was – or you would have been – ready for it. A lot of guys I know who lost their virginity when they were younger will posture and brag about it in public… but in private, once they’ve had a few beers in them, the truth comes out: they weren’t ready, it was a confusing, complicated mess and it took them a long damn time to sort things out.
Here is a third truth: comparison is the thief of joy. Your life will never be like your crush because you are not him. The more that you try to measure yourself by somebody else’s metrics, the worse you will feel because you are not them. They didn’t have the life you did. You didn’t have the life they did. Beating yourself up because your life isn’t like theirs is like a dog beating itself up because it can’t fly like a condor.
Your life is uniquely your own. Your challenges are uniquely yours. Nobody else is going to have your story, just as nobody else will have your crush’s. Nor will anyone else have mine. Trying to live someone else’s story is only going to make things worse because you’re not them.
Here is a final truth: it is never too late. You haven’t missed “your time” because your time is NOW. These are your teenage years; you are just dealing with them now because you had to put your life on hold until it was safe to live it. Society may fetishize the life of teens, it may make being a teenager the pinnacle of your life… but that’s just marketing. They do this because it’s easier to sell high-school drama to the 12-19 year old set. You may be learning more about you, your life and your social mores now, but you’re doing so at a time when you have the age and maturity to handle things in ways that your peers, gay or straight, didn’t.
It is not too late for you. It will never be too late.
Now here’s what you need to do. You need to get yourself to a therapist. It’s good that you’re on medication, but as someone who deals with depression himself, medication alone doesn’t do the trick. Having a therapist, especially one who’s familiar with LGBTQ issues, is going to be incredibly important. They will be able to help hold your hand and guide you through these rough times. They will be better able than a loudmouth with a blog to remind you that there is nothing wrong with you.
Just as importantly: don’t forget that not all antidepressants work for all people. It takes time to figure out the correct medication and to find the correct dosage. If one isn’t working after a period – could be weeks, could be months – then be willing to advocate for yourself and tell your doctor that they’re not helping.
And as important as the therapy, as important as the medication: find your community. Find your Team You. Not the people you want to sleep with, not the people you think have perfect lives (trust me: they don’t), but the people who love and care for you. You want the people who will help you up when you’ve fallen down, who will have your back and who will call you on your bulls
t when you need it. Because having your team in your corner is going to be important. You are strong. You had to be to survive until now. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use the love and support of your friends and family.
And most of all, as you work with your therapist, as you connect with your Team You, remember: there is nothing wrong with you.
You’re going to be ok. I promise.
All will be well.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m female, single, in my 30s, and I’ve never been romantically attracted to anyone. Ever.
Sure, I’ve dated, but I’ve never gotten beyond half-a-dozen or so dates before … well, I just don’t want to take it any further. I don’t want to hold hands, I don’t want to kiss, I don’t want to officially be their “girlfriend.” So I end up having to give the “let’s just be friends” talk and … that’s that.
I hate it because these men have done nothing wrong. Some of them were really great guys. And yet every time I have to be the “bad guy” and break it off for seemingly no reason. (And I know you don’t need any reason other than “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore” to end a relationship, but it doesn’t stop it from feeling pretty awful.)
(I’ve been asked if I’m gay before – mostly from friends or family with whom I’ve discussed this and they’ve tried to look at my situation with an objective eye – but I don’t think that’s it because I’ve never felt attracted – romantically or otherwise – to women, either. But at this point, can I even say I know what romantic attraction feels like?)
A glimpse into my mindset: I’ve always found it strange that people can jump into romantic or sexual relationships with people they’ve only known for a few weeks or months. I can’t imagine having that kind of closeness with someone without having been friends for literally years beforehand. But there’s no way I’m going to tell that to a guy – “hey, let’s be friends for a real long time, and then maybe, maaaybe I’ll be open to dating you in a few years, but no promises!” – because that’s just ridiculous and mean.
And yet every several months (the frequency has gotten lower as I’ve gotten older and this has happened more and more) my family or friends will set me up on a date with someone they think I’ll like, and I’ll acquiesce due to a combination of “everyone thinks I’m weird and need help, I better at least give it a try” and “… maybe this time will be different?”
But it never is.
Luckily, at this point in my life, I am quite happy being single. No, really – I promise you it’s not a case of “she doth protest too much” (like my mother suspects). But will I always feel this way? Will I regret not finding someone when I’m much older and alone? (And I’m allergic to cats, so I can’t even be a crazy cat lady!)
So, my question is: should I keep trying? Is it really just that I haven’t found “the one” yet (as so many of my older relatives keep telling me – “oh, you’ll feel differently when you find the right person!”)? Do I have intimacy issues I need to work through? Or is this really just who I am?
Thanks for any advice you can provide.
Not Sure if Romantically Broken
DEAR NOT SURE IF ROMANTICALLY BROKEN: First of all, no, you’re not broken. Remember that. Nor are you alone in this. There’s actually a name for people like you: aromantic. It means that you – like many others – just don’t feel romantic attraction to others. It’s not common, but it’s also not unheard of; in fact, it’s often folded in under the asexual umbrella. It can be hard for people to realize that not everyone needs to be part of a couple or in a relationship to be fulfilled. A lot of our culture is based around the idea that coupling up is the end-goal of life and so it can be difficult to feel ok with being ok about being single and not wanting a partner.
Will you be like this all of your life? Hell if I know. You may be watching TV one day and realize that you’re fantasizing about your dream wedding to Rhianna. Or Zack Efron. Or both. Or you may never want a romantic partner in your life.
My question to you is: are you happy? Do you have friends, family (biological or by choice), a community? Do you feel connected to others? Do you have things in your life that bring you satisfaction?
If the answer is yes… well to hell with worrying about it. You’ve got a good thing going. Why stress about stuff that you clearly aren’t interested in?
Meanwhile, check out the Aromantic FAQ over at Asexuality.org and the associated forums. This may give you more insight into people like you and the vocabulary to describe it to others.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)