Disclaimer…(The following post is fictional, more of an invitation…and a collation of the narratives of many of my male clients)
When I suggested a “woman fast” to a client, I realized that I may actually be onto something. You see, a woman fast is not about sex. Its about identity and self-worth. I had been noticing for a long time how much I base my worth as a man on the affections and attentions of a woman. Many men labour under the belief that No Woman = No Worth.
As a consequence, many of us leak energy everywhere in the hopes of falling into the gaze of an attractive woman.
For example, on any given day, I might spend a solid 90 seconds loitering in the produce section fondling strange vegetables I don’t have a clue what to do with in the hopes that a pretty brown-eyed girl perusing bananas might notice me so I could feel better about myself. Add an extra five minutes spent on the leg machine at the gym after little miss juicy pants pulls up to the thigh buster beside me and I suddenly decide my leg routine isn’t finished.
And yoga class? In some cases being around women was the only reason I even did yoga. Which I guess is not so bad, either; but still, it took me forever to put on my shoes after class, or at least until the last cute yogini had left the room.
L.O.W. Syndrome (Lack Of Woman Syndrome; it’s an imaginary disease based on real life circumstances) combined with the fear of rejection is a nasty mix! This debilitating brew had me spending so much time engaging in impotent coping behaviors: urgent online dating, empty flirting, medicinal masturbation, massive chocolate consumption and more.
However, the biggest cost of imagined L.O.W.-Syndrome reveals itself in the decades I have spent in relationships that weren’t satisfying, thriving or even healthy, simply because they gave me some semblance of identity, validation and self-worth, even though I often felt like shit…or worse, empty.
Well, I finally had enough of my insanity. I was feeling ridiculous and exhausted, and I wanted my life back. I decided to try and disrupt these patterns by quitting women cold-turkey for 30 Days.
No sex, no flirting, no loitering, no number exchanges, no dating, no lingering hugs. And masturbation? Well, it’s a little known fact that men are horrified to leave their penises idling for long. We really believe if we don’t use it, we will lose it. So I went about two weeks without, which in dog-time is something like 50 years. Progress, not perfection.
So there were the basic rules: no dating, no sex, no flirting, no hugs—basically no f%#*ing hope!
Which brings me to my first discovery: I’m addicted to hope.
Hope for what? Hope that someone will finally complete me. As a young, single man, I would wander around believing I’m incomplete without a woman. Then I would bring that belief into a relationship, expecting my partner to complete me. Of course she never could, and I would eventually resent her for it. This addiction to the hope that someone else will complete us is insidious and eventually destroys all that’s good in our relationships. It wreaks havoc in our relationships.
So, 30 days.
I was shaky at first.
Sexuality is a tricky thing. It’s a natural thing. This fast was about noticing the difference between healthy expression of my sexuality and expressing it from a needy place of lack, of not feeling good about myself and trying to get someone else to fill me up.
Discovery Two: I was ashamed of my sexuality.
Which I find totally bizarre. I’m an average heterosexual man attracted to women who have vaginas that are my age. Why would I be ashamed?
As I looked closer, I saw that my culture taught me from a young age that I should be ashamed. Boys are dirty. They just want to get in girls pants. They look at dirty nudie mags and play too much with their dirty penises. Somehow girls just seemed to know they should run away from me on the playground. So like most boys, I figured I had two choices:
(1) Embrace my dirtiness openly and just try to get in their pants. You know, presumed guilty? May as well act it!
(2) Hide it and pretend I don’t feel what I feel.
Wanting to be a good boy, I chose to hide it.
I have always possessed a very healthy sex drive. I’m a single man. I’m like an unpaired electron zipping around the universe surrounded by beautiful protons! I’m ready to couple! Naturally, I want to be respectful to women, and I want to be my crackling-electric electron self! Still, the signs of shame around sexuality are rampant in the world around me.
Collectively, we are clearly ashamed of our penises and vaginas. Our mass entertainment will show heads chopped off before it shows a penis or a vagina, and heaven forbid a penis entering a vagina.
On a personal level, us men go to great lengths to hide our goods from each other, even though we’re anxious to see how we measure up to the next guy, literally speaking. I once hiked with five other men for over a week and we never once saw each other naked. In public restrooms we go to great lengths to ensure the next guy over can’t see what we’re packing. And I’ve certainly never heard of women hosting vagina-viewing parties.
Although I’ve seen my share of vaginas up close, I’ve seen so few penises that I used to think there were only two kinds: the kind like I have and the porn-star kind. Then I went to Sandy Bay. There I discovered there are as many varieties of penis as there are varieties of orchid on this planet—and just as exotic looking too! Like vaginas, penises are extraordinary! Why are we so ashamed of our genitalia?
Byron Katie said, “Just because a man has an erection, doesn’t mean he has to do anything with it.” There’s a sweet spot of living that clearly still eludes our society: simply allowing our authentic sexuality to be whatever it is without needing to either suppress or indulge it.
Here’s my Third Discovery: I’m genuinely lonely.
I miss the experience of village family. Like many of you, my family is spread across thousands of miles. I have amazing friends in many places and have lived an adventurous life, but I haven’t cultivated that rich family experience; you know, four-generations sitting at a chaotic dinner table, a routine gathering of countless wondrous people-stories interwoven like colorful threads in a sturdy tapestry that forms the legacy of one epic family. I want that. I’ve never had that. Most any woman’s attention is going to be a great momentary distraction from that epic loneliness.
But now that I clearly see that, I can work to create it with the right woman for me. To start, I figure I should at least minimize the desperate grasping behavior that likely short-circuits that bigger vision.
That was the point of this fast.
These 30 days helped deepen my awareness of who I really am, independent of external commentary, and what I really want beneath all the distracting behavior that keeps me blind and in pain.
By consciously eliminating the grasping behaviors I was using to get the outside world to make my inside world feel better, I was able to reconnect with that profound inner knowing that has always quietly assured me I’m already perfect just as I am in this moment. The mental rest I created for myself during those 30 days helped me clearly see that regardless whether any pretty woman shows up to confirm it, I am completely worthy of love. Right now. Not only am I worthy of it, I already embody it. I know it’s cliche, but this fast reminded me deeply that the love I was seeking from others is already present within me. I don’t need the world outside to give it to me.
Of course, I do want to share this love and the wonders of life with others. Tony Robbins says relationships magnify human emotion. That primal drive to take the passionate love surging inside me and pour it into a woman is alive and strong! I wouldn’t want to eliminate that for anything.
So, if you do spy me loitering in the produce section with niche vegetables in hand, just know that I’m preparing for a life of vibrant family and am honestly puzzling this one out. I’m also still an unpaired electron, so feel free to smile and offer guidance if so inspired.
I’m already whole, either way.