The term is inelegant, maybe, but it will have to do for now: morning wood. For most guys my age, it's something reassuring, a signal that the equipment isn't quite ready for the scrap heap just yet. For me, it's something mournful, evoking memories of things that used to be and likely never will be again.

How on earth did I get myself into such a state? I'm not quite sure. One thing I do know is that I seem utterly to lack a sense of entitlement. My birthright, so far as I know, is to draw a finite number of breaths, and that's the end of it; anything else that happens during the interim is a matter of chance. I need hardly point out that this sort of stance gets in the way of planning, and not just of one's love life. It is true, however, that the one characteristic that is shared by almost every sexual act I have ever had is the element of surprise: I never expect anything like this to happen. You could count the number of times I've been the initiator and never run out of fingers. And what's worse, this situation did not change during the period in which I was married, which no doubt hastened the end of the marriage.

There are a couple of contributing factors here. For one thing, I don't read sexual signals well at all. This seems surprising to me, since I am at least reasonably competent at discerning subtext in other realms, but in matters of the heart (or related points lower) I have demonstrated a blind spot the size of a bus. What's more, I work diligently to produce a veneer of competence, to the extent that if I can't do something well, I'd just as soon not do it at all — and for various reasons, I have little reason to think I'm any good at this sort of thing. Feedback over the years has been, to be charitable, mixed. Not to say meager.

The byproducts seem just as counterproductive as the attitudes themselves. Most of my fleeting fantasies, while they lack for nothing in the way of diversity — I've been able to come up with daydreams about both Shirley Manson and Cokie Roberts, which you must admit is one hell of a range — wind up mostly as annoyances, cropping up when I need them the least. And in the Real World, I tend to fixate upon those who are completely unavailable, which has the dubious benefit of preempting the usual rejection responses; I reason that geography or prior commitments or other such obstacles won't hurt quite so much as "Well, I just don't want you."

And maybe that's the bottom line. I look at myself, at the mess I tend to make of things, and I have to wonder: "Why in the world would anyone want me in the first place?" At this level of insecurity, it's impossible for someone to be reassuring; given my track record up to now, I can think of no good reason why anyone should even want to try. Unconditional love of this sort is a remote concept at best, as implausible to me as the vaunted 100-mpg carburetor.

You might think from all this that I regret everything this side of my, um, deflowering. Not so. To those few hardy souls who have taken me into their arms, their beds, perhaps even their hearts, I will be eternally grateful. It's a gift that far exceeds anything I could be unwrapping on a day like today. And should I never see it again, as I expect I will not, how much worse might my life have been had I never seen it at all?

The Vent

25 December 2001

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 Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill