I won't say exactly how long it's been since I've had sex. I'm too ashamed. Let's just say it's been less than a full pregnancy term and more than a college semester. One thing's clear: It's the longest dry spell of my life.
I don't understand exactly when something started to shift, but the amount of time I allow myself to go without intimacy is getting longer, the older I get. I have a few theories. Maybe I find porn performers more compelling than real-life men? (I'm excitedly waving at you, James Deen!) Maybe my standards are too high? (I want a guy with nice shoes, a creative drive, no roommates, a pinch of asshole tendencies, and a complete openness in bed.) But whatever the reason, I feel like I'm missing something. And that has led to a serious lack of feeling down below.
It's not like I'm whining about this from the couch in my yoga pants and hair scrunchy, waiting for Steve Dildarian (those eyes!) to pound on my... door. I date. A lot. At least once a week. I make it a habit, even when I'm not in the mood. I just seem to be connecting with fewer men where the vibe is mutual, and even fewer whose salad I fantasize about tossing (the top tier when I'm trying to gage my level of attraction to someone—and only in the shower, of course!).
I think I'm slowing down. Or maybe it's a form of depression? Repression? I don't know. I really don't.
I have (mostly married) friends who can go years without boning and shrug it off like they've missed a dentist appointment. Let me stress that I am not like this. My sexuality is one of my identifying features. Sex is a big part of my repertoire as a human. I am not terribly modest that way.
Rather than drop my standards and just go sit on some dong, like I'm plugging my nose to take my medicine, I'm weathering this dry spell by conditioning myself to deal with it. That's not to say it's been easy.
I'm entirely uncomfortable, ashamed, and frustrated with what's going on with me. This manifests itself in a physical form of sadness that vibrates deep down in my core, around my solar plexus. A few times, I've woken up in the middle of the night and shrieked like a psychopath while tasting my tears. Seeing affection in others puts me into a grouchy mood. It's ugly and it's consuming. Something is happening to me on a primal level and it doesn't feel good.
I decided I needed to think like a PR bitch and spin this bullshit. I want this to be an odyssey rather than a prison sentence. So I talked to a military wife, the hottest person I know, and a Buddhist monk to help make sense of this phase. Here's what I learned.
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Celine, who didn't want me using her real name, is a woman in her late 30s who lives in Quebec City. She is married to a warrant officer who travels around the world at least once a month. Though Celine and her husband have opened up their relationship up in the past, they don't anymore. Four months is the longest she's gone without sex while her husband was on a mission.
Like me, she feels "empty" when she has to abstain, since she identifies as a touchy person who constantly needs affection. Aside from her toolbox of dildos–which she says every military wife (and women in general, I should hope) relies on—she fills that non-vagina void by platonically snuggling with friends and coworkers. If she's watching a movie with a bud, you sure as hell better bet that she'll be bumping her head into you, like a kitty demanding attention.
"I'm very fortunate to have friends who are like that too," she says. "I've got someone at work who's touchy as well and she'll come see me in the middle of the day if she's emotional, just to give me a hug, to release all that. I'm really lucky to have people I can share physical contact with, not necessarily just my husband."
Next, I talked to the hottest person I know, an actress who lives in LA. This stunning lady has been in big-budget films, gets free clothing from fancy designers, and appears on the covers of magazines. Her longest dry spell was one year. Hearing someone who is way hotter than you tell you her dry spell was longer than yours makes you feel exponentially better.
When I ask her how she dealt, she loosely quotes Lady Gaga: Women have the potential to lose their creativity through their vagina.
"It was the most productive time of my life," she tells me. "It was really focused. Penetration equals complication."
It's true that I've never been quite so focused in my life. Sometimes, I'll wake up at 4:45 AM, meditate, and get to work. That regimen started in the middle of my dry spell, partially inspired by the Buddhist way of life. Which brings me to...
Finally, I spoke to a Buddhist monk, since that's the main kind of vibe I've been attempting to channel throughout this crippling stretch of non-fun times. Balangoda Ananda Manju Sri, 32, is a student currently living in Costa Rica, where he studies Peace Education at the University of Peace. He was asked to join the monkhood nearly 20 years ago in Sri Lanka, after regularly spending time in temple as a child.
He explains to me that monks choose to abstain, not just from sex but from regular daily life, as a way to focus inward. The endless cycle of normal life—family, property, work, chores—distracts you from yourself.
I asked him about techniques to help deal with any natural urges (read: horniness), since he's chosen to refrain from sex his whole life.
"We were told to meditate on the bad side of our body," he says. "When you start thinking of your body, your parts one by one... if you see it inside out, you reflect on yourself."
Then, when you start to feel desire towards someone else, you are trained to do the same toward him or her. Instead of the fixating on perky breasts, a lusty gaze, or Grecian sculptured pecs, shift that focus to the ever-expanding beer belly, the sweaty balls, the bits of toilet paper stuck in and around on the butthole.
That way, you aren't allowing desire to overcome you.
That way, there is balance again.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.