it's like waking up to the same nightmare every single day
December 11, 2014 8:49 AM   Subscribe

what it's like to be a 58-year-old virgin

(the interviewee has extensive replies in the comments section as well.)
posted by and they trembled before her fury (44 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite


 
FYI - child abuse trigger warning.
posted by exhilaration at 8:55 AM on December 11, 2014


I would think that his horrific childhood would cause him more nightmares than just being a virgin.
posted by Melismata at 8:56 AM on December 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Good lord, that interview reminded me of Face!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:01 AM on December 11, 2014


...jesus
posted by obfuscation at 9:01 AM on December 11, 2014


The last question:
Q. What’s the hardest part about being a 58-year-old-virgin?

A. Laying alone at night, falling asleep and then getting up in the morning and remembering you’re alone. It’s like waking up to the same nightmare every single day.
....I lost my virginity over over 20 years ago and this is currently my own lot in life. Virginity and singlehood are two different things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 AM on December 11, 2014 [82 favorites]


...jesus
No, he didn't live to 58.
posted by aw_yiss at 9:04 AM on December 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


The horrifying frankness with which he answers these questions is maybe the most disquieting part. My god this is so sad.
posted by lattiboy at 9:06 AM on December 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


I would think that his horrific childhood would cause him more nightmares than just being a virgin.

Yes, this. The part about his dad basically killing his infant brother was just awful. It's too bad that the writer lived before the era of mandated reporters and in a time when child abuse wasn't taken seriously.

I'm also wondering if he ever sought therapy - if ever anyone needed therapy, this man does. It sounds like his father's abuse left him in a state of learned helplessness in all areas of his life (note that he can't work, hasn't ever really worked, and spends most of his days just sitting around). It's one of the more heartbreaking things I've read on here, and not because of the virginity issue either.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:15 AM on December 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


This is very sad. It seems that it is really about having no friends/companionship.
posted by boilermonster at 9:19 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yea it seems like he could have benefited from therapy and lots more practice with dating, so he could try to figure out that middle ground between "too little" and "too much" which I can totally understand can be hard for guys to figure out.

But all that stuff from his childhood, yeah, definitely therapy needed.
posted by zutalors! at 9:25 AM on December 11, 2014


Wow, yeah, the article's title isn't great -- this is about way more than just virginity. I hope this guy's lot in life improves. It does indeed sound like he could use some friends and companionship.

What is it, I wonder, that causes men who haven't had the experiences they've wanted with women to either retreat into self-reflection like this man ("Back then I didn’t realize how lacking I am in the skills it takes to make a partner happy"), or to go flat-out killing spree like Eliot Rogers?
posted by nicodine at 9:30 AM on December 11, 2014


There but for the grace of god go.....
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:51 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nicodine - if you make it past adolescence without having a suitable skillset, the opportunities to improve are limited and the cost of trying escalates usuriously.
posted by wotsac at 9:52 AM on December 11, 2014 [19 favorites]


Well, in Rogers's case he seemed to have had some kind of mental illness.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:53 AM on December 11, 2014


He needs more metafilter in his life. seriously, he could just go to ask mefi, spend a year interacting here and it would add so much positivity to his life. Poor guy :-(
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:54 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Jesus, that was bleak.
posted by skybluepink at 10:24 AM on December 11, 2014


He needs more metafilter in his life. seriously, he could just go to ask mefi, spend a year interacting here and it would add so much positivity to his life.

I actually wonder if mathowie could contact the reporter and gift this guy an account.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:55 AM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I binge-read several years of AskMe relationship questions this summer and all of this man's concerns about relatioships and sex were addressed in various questions, full of support and you're-not-alone anecdotes.

If he can find a support system like AskMe I hope he can find the strength in himself to defeat some of his demons.
posted by bendy at 11:00 AM on December 11, 2014


Actually looking at the comments, the guy does explain that he's in therapy and talks about his background and all his religious beliefs as contributing factors to his virginity. It's actually pretty interesting. He seems to have a pretty strong understanding of himself, especially for someone who's been through so much.
posted by zutalors! at 11:04 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd rather he be on mefi than on 8chan, though he wouldn't get the cool title "Wizard" here like he would on 8chan.
posted by symbioid at 11:24 AM on December 11, 2014


Also, he didn't know the term "friendzone" was insulting, and when that was explained in the comments he corrected himself and vowed not to use the word again. He might be too good for Metafilter even.
posted by zutalors! at 11:27 AM on December 11, 2014 [21 favorites]


This hurt to read, and I think the virginity angle is extremely strange, given what the interview subject suffered as a child. I hope the best for him, and I hope New York Magazine makes a series of this kind of interview, if they can. A while back, The Hairpin did a series of interviews with virgins. I thought it was pretty good.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:35 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I got a clickbaity feeling out of this. His narrative is really not about being a virgin. The fact that this guy is a virgin is one of probably dozens of issues he has related to the abuse he endured when he was a child. It's awful that his story is being told through the virginity lens when it's so unimportant given the horrors he's faced (wtf is that story with his younger brother?)
posted by gertzedek at 11:51 AM on December 11, 2014 [16 favorites]


It is what it is. It's diversity - everyone's life unfolds differently. Inaction breeds inaction, and shame solidifies it over the years. Not dating through your 20's becomes like that year and a half of unemployment on a resume. It becomes insurmountable, if not in all other people's responses then in your own mind. In shyness groups I've attended I've known guys into their 50's who haven't dated much if at all. They're just guys, like anyone else, who just maybe hung around the house too much, because that was the easiest path. In those same groups I hear younger men say, thinking they're unique, "I'm 25 and never been on a date," and they're perfectly alright fellas, in their own modest unremarkable way, but I don't know how to shake them and have them step up out of their diminished self-image before they become we miserable old sods.

I had what I thought was a good couple last years of my 40s two or three years ago, when through those Meetup groups I found some people to hang around with. I liked having women friends. Not for anything romantic, because being a lonely guy for so long takes its toll and I made choices that I figured put a nail in that coffin about a decade before, but it just feels better being out and about with some company that isn't another dodgy older man. Worst thing I find about being alone at an older age without having a lot of familiarity with relationships or any solid foundation in society is that you can begin to feel like other people's default view of 'creep'. And that just keeps you stuck in your cave.

Anyway, moved away from the big city. The economics were difficult there for someone who struggles with the simple things and back home my dad was wanting someone around after my mother died. I have a nice view of the water here, and maybe I'm meeting some purpose watching after him, but I've fallen back into isolation. Know what this guy means about that early morning feeling.

I don't know if belonging to Metafilter is the answer for this man or others in his boat. (Reads like he's already found his own Internet distractions.) I've been here a long time. I've been to Meetups. I like the people I've met there, but oh man, so many people with such strong opinions about everything. Can be overwhelming to the quiet person.
posted by TimTypeZed at 12:13 PM on December 11, 2014 [42 favorites]


really not about being a virgin.

Well, I think this is a common way that some people frame their problems, based on conversation with others and extrapolating from some of my own past insecurities. It's odd, but things like having a partner, or being a virgin, can magnify and become stand-ins for everything else that's wrong - it can mean that you just see yourself as so fundamentally flawed, and the virginity/lack of partner/etc is proof that those flaws are real and unimaginably horrible. Those are the markers of life normalcy that you are failing at, and potential partners' lack of interest in you can seem like objective verification of your inadequacy, the thing that puts you beyond the pale forever. For those people who have no trouble getting into relationships with others, it does seem odd, because once you have access to these kinds of relationships they tend to shrink in terms of relative importance to your sense of self-worth, but if you don't have any relationships like that and never have had, the issue obviously becomes emotionally much larger. Of course it's really the underlying psychological issues that are causing a personal divorce from the world, but that doesn't make it easy to just get over it and have a relationship already.
posted by Miko at 12:25 PM on December 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


It's very sad, too - it shows how incredibly pernicious childhood abuse is - that it can actually cause internalized beliefs that render you functionally challenged for the rest of your adult life long after those who hurt you are gone.
posted by Miko at 12:29 PM on December 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


I empathize all too much with this guy. Parts of it sound like an interview with me.

People don't understand how much childhood abuse disables you. It erases any baseline of self-esteem, so that you have to overcome a great amount of self hatred. It instills a fear of biology within you- I often wonder, based upon reading his prose, of whether HPL was abused as a child. And lastly, you get a two for one anxiety- your anxiety of becoming the predator, which paralyzes your ability to act in the pursuit of romance; and your need to be the object of desire. You stop because you don't want to be a predator, and you also stop because you're never thin enough, rich enough, successful enough. You're not somebody that anybody would want to date until you lose weight/get a better job/ get the degree/ publish the book/ etc. etc/

I look at this article and see less 'what it's like to be a 58 year old virgin' and more 'what it's like to have extremely mild spectrum autistic tendencies with an abusive childhood and lack of education in dynamics of human socialization.

And that, sadly, is far, far too common.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 12:38 PM on December 11, 2014 [20 favorites]


This reads like sadness porn.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:57 PM on December 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I live a fairly drab life in a little trailer in a place called Paradise, California.
That's some pretty world-class irony right there.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:05 PM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is about the saddest thing I've ever read so I simply hope it turns out to be fake.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:20 PM on December 11, 2014


I don't think it's fake, but even if this one were, there are plenty of people feeling stuck like that. A reminder to live as kindly as possible.
posted by Miko at 4:26 PM on December 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


I have never suffered the way this man has suffered, but yesterday I went through a mental crisis in which I foresaw a future for myself much like his present condition of irremediable loneliness and poverty. I admire his strength of character and fear that I could become a much worse person than he is before I die.

I live at home with my mother; I can't bring myself to look for better work; I've never made any close friendships. I've never so much as held a woman's hand as we walked along, and I find it hard to imagine anyone waking up next to me and feeling happy, or even pleased. My body is weak and unappealing.

I see a lot of myself in the 25-year-old men of TimTypeZed's comment. For fear of losing their company, I don't talk about troubles this personal to the few people I count as friends. I try not to demand, even implicitly, their time or their attention, and so for fear of losing distant friendships I make no effort to make them into close ones. But it's not as though I would know how to go about that in the first place.

The only good thing about yesterday's crisis was that I recognized that my virginity was only a convenient, culturally loaded synecdoche for all my other problems, an easy symbol for my life's stagnation and my lack of social experience. But that recognition doesn't make me less ashamed of it. It only makes it so that I understand what a large problem it is that I have to solve, and I still don't know what to do.
posted by The Man Who Wore the Sock at 4:46 PM on December 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


Yeah, the virginity thing seems like an odd hook for the article, though I doubt many people would have clicked on it if it was just, "Man horribly abused by father now sad, lonely adult coping with fallout from horrible abuse."

Still, the virginity thing seems like describing beheading as a bad haircut.
posted by klangklangston at 5:01 PM on December 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


My mom once told me I never have original thoughts at the age of 13 and that kind of fucked me up for a long time and to some extent helped me justify being a dead end pushover for a long time. Just to throw in the weakest possible example at one side of the spectrum.

Like Miko said...it's a stand in. Like that movie "The 40 year old virgin." We're supposed to be taken aback. Everybody has their struggle but some struggle harder than others just to be a part of something slightly bigger than themselves. It's super sad especially when the internet enables and prolongs and intensifies suffering. Not the internet's fault but it makes it easier to lose a piece of yourself every day. A piece you maybe didn't even have yet but could've gotten tomorrow. I've been laid out for years due to depression or a breakup in the past and there but for the grace of chaos theory go I
posted by aydeejones at 5:29 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh and I read metafilter relentlessly during all of my troubles and it did help in the long run but was intimidating as shit. I learned a lot lurking for years. And I managed to keep a job that even if I felt miserable I knew I'd be worse off without it. Lucky.
posted by aydeejones at 5:32 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


In those same groups I hear younger men say, thinking they're unique, "I'm 25 and never been on a date," and they're perfectly alright fellas, in their own modest unremarkable way, but I don't know how to shake them and have them step up out of their diminished self-image before they become we miserable old sods.

When I was 21, I believed that the worst thing that could happen to me was that I would reach old age exactly as I was then: a lonely, miserable wreck. I swore that should I reach 30 without managing to change a single aspect of my circumstances, then I would end it. This life has clearly failed, no need to persist and drain more resources.

It's heartening to read such testimonies from men more than twice my age, along with comments like the above, along with The Man Who Wore the Sock (hah!). Practically everything they wrote could be said about me. The difference is, that I wasn't abused. As terrible as my childhood was, it can't compare to what the man in the article has gone through.

I thank whatever Demiurge decided that I was to be given the gift of introspection, even at the cost of major depression. A self-aware mind is resistant to the kind of toxic narcissim that seems to drive so many angry young men these days, including the aforementioned Eliot Rogers. I'm no feminist, but it's clear to me that the reason I never date isn't the fault of women - even the ones that rejected me in the past. They are as human as I am, with their own individual desires and preferences, and do not exist for my sake. I am alone because I live alone, mostly avoiding or ignoring others.

But I try! I try to engage with humanity, just a bit, every single day. Even if it's just by greeting a neighbour or posting a single, unread comment here, I make the effort. It's the least I can do for myself.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 10:55 PM on December 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is not meant as a takedown, or even really a criticism of him personally. Just something that stood out to me as illustrative of one of the many problems our culture has with sexism, and the way it can affect us all. At one point he says: "Everyone was enjoying spending time with women..." And maybe there is no deeper meaning to that phrase, but the separation of "everyone" and "women" into different categories certainly seems to stand out as important when so many of his responses reference his inability to talk to women, his mind going blank, etc.
posted by Nothing at 4:58 AM on December 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


I agree, Nothing, it's symptomatic of a larger issue. That's something the lack of familiarity, lack of a history of interacting with women as complete beings, can create.

Based on observations others around me have made, I've been spending more time thinking about things like what we call 'racism' and 'sexism' and other social biases having their roots in, essentially, PTSD/past trauma.
posted by Miko at 6:10 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


and [further thought] it's interesting that when some folks frame their issue as being a "virgin," not having a girlfriend, the attention is fixed on the female companion as though that is supposed to be life's saving grace; you can be totally cut off from all other society, but if you get sex and have a female partner, then she will supply all the love the world otherwise isn't giving you, and you will be okay as a result.

It is a huge burden to place on the very idea of companionship that it can do that, but more to the point, I think because of the general patriarchal structure of our society, people like the interviewee may be focusing all of their need and want on this one [fantasy] female role, rather than establishing stronger ties with the entire social world around them. I'm not articulating this well, but it seems in a way like idealizing a female companion as a connection to society and a source of well-being is a way of externalizing the problems surrounding a lack of connection with most other people. In other words, the central issue is one of being able to have reciprocal relationships with all people - it really has nothing to do with women. Women as partners are just idealized as the obvious or likeliest solution. (Perhaps because of all the claptrap in our culture about women as nurturers and prizes, and also because of our general romanticism of partner bonds)
posted by Miko at 6:21 AM on December 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't know. People who have plenty of experience with relationships, who are in relationships, still expend a lot of energy, both in action and in fantasy, exploring past, present and future possibilities. So much of songs, movies, writing finds inspiration in the dynamics of falling in and out of relationships. There are things seen as markers of our progress - a degree, a 'good' job, a house, family. For most people entering into relationships and then sexual experience comes early in the climb. It's a high school or early college thing. Why wouldn't people who haven't had sexual experience focus sometimes on it, without it being a sign of some skewed thinking shaped by patriarchy? It's not like other people aren't also giving space in the front of their brains to their successes and failures in romance and sex.

I just reread the interview. I think it's clear that he recognizes absences in other aspects of his life. And I don't see much evidence that he sees female companionship as any miracle answer to the sadness of his life. Just the opposite, by my reading. Maybe I'm misreading the attempts at big picture Metafilter analysis in the last few posts, but I'd be wary of trying to find the seed of what's wrong with men in some befuddled dudes moping at the limit of the spectrum. You risk othering these people, as I think does this article by attempting to find explanation for his situation in the horrorshow retelling of his childhood at the start. Sometimes people end up in particular states and situations just because. Environment, upbringing, appearance, personality, attitude, economics meets chance, inertia and learned behaviours. In any measure, someone has to be at the extremes.
posted by TimTypeZed at 8:51 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Women feel it, too. I am thinking more of the sort of obssessive identification of "girlfriend" as the lacking factor in an extremely isolated man's life when I say that. Of course, that doesn't describe everyone who would like a partner. I think this article's headline does it a disservice by making it seem like it's that guy's central issue, when you're right, he sees the bigger picture as well.
posted by Miko at 9:20 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd be wary of trying to find the seed of what's wrong with men in some befuddled dudes moping at the limit of the spectrum.

I think that gets it the wrong way around: It's more that what's wrong with men (more precisely, what's wrong with conventional masculinity) is perceptible at all points along the spectrum. These comments are just observing the ways patriarchy can act at the spectrum's gray, desaturated end. Certain ways of dwelling on one's sexual inexperience are skewed, just as certain ways of dwelling on successes and failures in relationships are skewed.

You risk othering these people, as I think does this article by attempting to find explanation for his situation in the horrorshow retelling of his childhood at the start. Sometimes people end up in particular states and situations just because. Environment, upbringing, appearance, personality, attitude, economics meets chance, inertia and learned behaviours. In any measure, someone has to be at the extremes.

I take your point, but sometimes that risk is worth running, and I don't think you're necessarily going to other the sexually inexperienced by relating certain observable behaviors and patterns of thought among them to ideas about patriarchy. You just have to be careful.

I suspect the reporter pitched the article as "New York Magazine interviews an old virgin" before they had found an old virgin to interview, and they and their editors decided to stick to that angle despite the interview subject's horrible abuse, which reads as an explanation for his virginity only because they kept his virginity as the interview's focus. This was, in my opinion, the wrong editorial decision. I think it would have been a better interview if the reporter had pulled their focus away from the man's sex life, which the subject himself describes as only one problem among many.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Then again, obsessing over a single, proximate cause as if it were the ultimate cause of all one's problems is exactly the type of distorted thinking that people at the extremes tend to engage in. People even avoid treatment because they believe that if they fix this *one* thing (which they will definitely start on this week, no doubt) that will completely fix their life. So who knows, perhaps framing it this way might actually help it to reach other similarly suffering people looking for solutions online. If this article can at least put the thought into such a person's head that his frame of mind might not be entirely grounded in reason, then I think it is a net good.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 4:56 PM on December 12, 2014


I have an extreme phobia of coming in contact with body fluids so that I can't even kiss without getting completely grossed out. I'm OK with it and have no desire for sex.
posted by mike3k at 10:46 PM on December 12, 2014


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