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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

239

Interview With a Virgin: Ben

Ben is a 26-year-old in New York City who's working toward a master’s degree in public administration, and I talked to him a few days before he moved back home to Colorado.

Jia: Hey Ben. How’s your day going?

Ben: It’s been pretty good, I’m just working on a paper. Can I preface all of this by saying that I’m not great at phone interactions? Just stop me if I ramble on.

Well, I want you to ramble on! Let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from? What is your family like?  

I grew up in Colorado, in an affluent suburb of a little college town, in this area that for awhile had the highest density of post-graduate degrees in the nation. My dad’s a doctor, so I guess we fit into that. The people in my family are pretty WASPy, uptight Lutherans. We don’t talk about a lot of things.

So you didn’t get the sex talk from them?

I don’t think so. Although we were laid-back in terms of actual religious practice growing up, my family is still very reserved. Combined with my PDD, it meant that I grew up without a real sense of what other people were like and what they did.

I do remember certain formative things about sex. I lived out in a subdivision surrounded by corn fields, and I remember this shocking day when my friends and I were out there playing and found a porno magazine between two rows.

Can you talk about PDD? When were you diagnosed?

PDD stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and it encompasses a nonspecific group of disorders on the autism spectrum. What I have is characterized by “stimming” — repetitive movements — and difficulty in terms of socializing and communicating. I think I was diagnosed at age five or six, and I remember that as just being like, “So now, at this time in the day, you go to therapy.”

Actually, I remember being taken aback by some of the other kids in therapy. Relative to other people with autism, I’ve always been pretty high-functioning. Most of what I worked on was my stimming behaviors — the pacing, walking in circles. Really, I still do it, but I just sort of sublimate it now by going on long-distance runs. Another thing you’ll often find in people with PDD and Asperger’s is stereotyped interests. For me, this was a really intense interest in video games.

Socially, what my PDD comes down to is this: I’ve always had a strong difficulty in terms of interacting with people, but I’ve also always had a strong interest in fitting in. And that was tough, growing up.

Do you remember your first crush?

I do. I think I’d just hit puberty. It was in 8th grade. There was a girl in my shop class, my first class of the day. I’d come into class straight from home, right? Straight from the shower — and it was winter, and my hair would freeze, and I’d sit down next to this girl who always told me, “Watch out, you’ll get split ends.”

I got this feeling whenever I was around her, this moony feeling. I just felt good around her, and it was the first time I’d ever felt anything like that. I wanted to sustain the feeling, so I’d stand around and try to talk to her, I’d stare at her, I’d try to hang around her in the hallways. I had no idea that what I was doing was out of the ordinary or creeping her out.

Then I got her number from someone, and that’s when it went downhill. I called her and left a message, and I had a moment where I became cognizant of just how inappropriate my behavior was in reference to social norms, and so I panicked and called her back. I tried to explain myself on the second message, and it made me feel worse, and it sort of snowballed. I must’ve called six times consecutively, thinking, “I can still fix this.”

The school took it very seriously, which I think is to their credit. They got me into a room with all the counselors and told me how badly I was freaking out this girl. I was horrified. It was like one of those dreams when you suddenly realize you’re naked. I felt awful, I felt so guilty. It was the first time I realized that my PDD wasn’t just a benign quirk I had — that it had serious implications for other people, specifically women.

Oh! That is quite a first crush story.

Yeah. The worst part was that my parents reacted badly. Like I wasn’t a child anymore, but some volatile lunatic. In the conference they had this look on their face like, “What have we done wrong to raise a child like this?” I really internalized that moment. After that I felt like I was someone that needed to be contained, and all of this culminated in my first depressive episode.

But mostly I feel bad for E—, the girl. It must have been scary for her.

Were you able to talk about this with anyone? 

All my life, I think I viewed my friends more as activity partners. And, after this incident, I developed all these axiomatic beliefs about who I was — that I would never form the deep, meaningful connections that other kids seemed to make with each other so easily. I told myself that I’d fuck up and hurt people if I tried to form bonds with them.

Do you have any siblings?

I do have a sibling, a little brother eight years younger than me, but I wasn’t close to him growing up. Back then I interacted with people by following certain scripts, and I did the same with him. Like, I’d seen on TV that siblings should always be teasing each other, so I’d tease him, needle him. Only later did I wonder why I was acting that way. Plus, like all teenagers, I tended to be solipsistic and pigheaded. During adolescence, I closed myself off to everyone.

Also, although my brother hasn’t been diagnosed with PDD, he exhibited some of the same behaviors that I did. Actually, my mom used to do these things too. It’s not as severe with either of them, and neither of them has had a clinical diagnosis, but I remember being young and just trancing out and running in circles around the house when I was little — and my little brother would just follow and follow me.

So, I know your ideas of friendship began to change in college. Why was that?

I guess I just met people who really seemed to want to be around me. They sort of put me back together, and gradually I started to feel like a new person. I started questioning all these assumptions I’d made about myself. With them I started trying to see myself as a normal, happy person who was a little peculiar, but not objectionable.

Did you find yourself relying less on scripts with your college friends?

Definitely. I try not to do it so much anymore, but I still do feel like a lip reader when I’m out in the wild, i.e. around people I don’t know. I have a sense of being blind to what people are actually saying.

Still, my college friends — these people who didn’t flinch when I loved them, and actually loved me back — made me feel like I could take the next step, which was to think about tackling romantic relationships. I moved to New York, because that’s what you do when you’re 25 and you’re not sure that something is possible but you want to make a go of it anyway.

(Yes!) What was your first step?

The OKCupid thing. It was good for me, because I’d learned how to be sociable on the Internet. I’d been a part of Internet communities for twelve years, and through that, I think I got really good at moving through online spaces.

What type of online community were you a part of? Was it a video game thing?

Actually, I sort of shifted from the video game obsession after I realized it was taking over my life. I realized, “I can’t get rid of this interest, but I can change it a little bit.” Sort of like moving a bubble around in a piece of Scotch tape. So instead of video games, I became obsessed with music. It fit a lot better into a normalized life, and it’s much easier to talk to people about music than video games.

I know this is an annoying question to ask a music obsessive, but what music are you into now?

Well, I tend to focus really heavily on one band. My first musical obsession was Nine Inch Nails. And then I remember when my dad got the Trainspotting sountrack, it was the first time I’d ever heard techno or house, and it was like a revelation, like “This is the music I’ve always been waiting for.” I like repetition, synthetic sounds. I’ve always wondered if that part of my taste has anything to do with PDD.

Wait, this is really interesting. But for the sake of the theme, I should probably bring it back to OKCupid!

Sure. Well, as I was saying, I think I’d become pretty good at making myself seem interesting and dynamic online. I also think that a lot of guys don’t actually read the profiles of the women they want to date, and I always read them carefully. The thing is, I need to know what to talk about, or else I’ll be paralyzed with social anxiety. I’m afraid of someone joking or being sarcastic, but I’ll have no idea and will take them seriously. A lot of people on the spectrum experience this — you want to take people’s words at face value, but you can’t.

So even though I try to put my doubts aside and go with the flow, I still have to prepare for each date. I always make a list of things that my dates are into, things we have in common, and I put them on my phone and also memorize them. Now that I’m saying this, I guess I am still scripting, in a way.

The face value thing has to be difficult, especially since so many people — or, specifically, me — flirt so much through sarcasm, or somehow saying the opposite of what they mean.

Definitely. But I went into this endeavor understanding the challenge. And, at first, there were several awesome-seeming women who were quite pleased to meet me. Meet me once, at least. This year, I’ve dated eight women, and none of them has really worked out. And I know that first dates don’t always work out. But I still feel terrible and exhausted after leaving a date with an awkward goodbye and a handshake.

So my old fears have started to resurface a little. I’m not the best interpreter of body language, but I felt a lot of hesitation from most of the women. I could tell when they were bored, when they were going to leave intending to never see me again. And I know part of their hesitation comes from my own hesitation. I minored in women’s studies in undergrad, I’ve had a fairly extensive feminist education, and I’m so afraid to cross someone’s boundaries. The physical part of dating is just so fraught for me.

I have a female friend with Asperger’s who’s in a long-term relationship, and one day I was talking to her about it and I realized I was interrogating her like she was an astronaut who had recently come back from the moon. And my therapist has told me that the thing to do is just put my hand on the small of my date’s back, on her shoulder, to see if she’s receptive. I was like, “THAT SOUNDS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.”

I don’t think that sounds unacceptable! Does sexual physical contact unnerve you in general, or do you want it to be a part of your life?

I definitely do. I learned that I could be emotionally intimate with people in college, and I think I can be physically intimate too. It’s like Pinocchio. I just want to be a real boy, and dating and relationships are the final frontier.

At the same time, I was molested as a child by an older peer, and although I’ve gone through intensive therapy and no longer feel broken or corrupted, I’m still not sure how to deal with it. When do I bring that up? When do I bring PDD up? If I get naked with someone, am I going to take to it like a duck to water, or am I going to start crying and lock myself in the bathroom?

What you’ve already done seems pretty significant, though — pushing yourself to go on dates.

I have to. I’m pretty sure that if I’m not actively pursuing dating and sex, it just won’t happen. I don’t live in a film, right? There’s no down-to-earth woman waiting for me to cross into her orbit so that she can snatch me up.

You never know. Do you feel okay talking about what happened to you when you were a kid?

Yeah. What do you want to know?

Whatever you want to say. How you dealt with it?

Well, the background is this: strange child that I was, I wanted to fit in. I wanted people to like me. An older boy told me that he had a club I could be in, but there were things I had to do first. I was about eight.

I didn’t realize in full what had happened to me until I was a freshman in high school. I told my mom immediately, and she told my dad, but they tossed it to my therapist, and we’ve never discussed it. They’re not blasé about it; maybe it’s too hard for them to talk about it. But I did have to deal with it myself, on my own.

I know that it’s affected me. But it’s like veins in marble. I can’t tell exactly how.

How do you feel about all of this moving forward? Now that you’re leaving for Colorado in just a few days?

Well, I’m beginning to think that I’ll never be “ready” to have sex, I just need to do it. I’m thinking of it like how people talk about becoming a parent — there’s no perfect time, you just have to go for it. I don’t want to end up in the same boat twenty years from now. I know that being a virgin is a liability which will only increase over time. Women don’t want to deal with a neophyte.

I think you will not be in this boat twenty years from now.

My friends say that.

Yeah! And you’ve only been dating for a year. Can I ask what your ideal woman would be like? 

I know I need an assertive partner. I want to be with someone who’s very strong, because I don’t feel strong very often. Aside from that, I think I want to be with a woman has a job and has goals and a life and a knowledge of what she wants. I’d also love to be with someone who is just, you know, simpatico — someone who can put up with my bullshit, someone artistic, someone with a new perspective. Someone who sees life differently and more clearly than I do. Someone who loves me, or would love me. Someone who is gentle but also very independent.

Sometimes I think, why would a woman like that ever want me? But then I try to remember that for so long in my life I didn’t think of myself as someone who would ever be capable of being in a relationship.

Well, I wish you luck and success. It has been a pleasure to talk to you. 

Thanks. It was good to talk to you too.

 

Previously: The Best Things Christian Women Told Me About Sex This Year.

Jia Tolentino is a writer in Michigan. 

239 Comments / Post A Comment

Reginal T. Squirge

First crush in 8th grade! That's kind of late, right? Mine was... 2nd grade? Tell me about your first crushes!

muddgirl

@Reginal T. Squirge Gosh, my first crush/'boyfriend' was in kindergarten. My first unrequited crush was in 1st grade. I was rightly called 'boy crazy' by my parent's friends.

di
di

@Reginal T. Squirge Michael from Barney & Friends. I was probably 6? I started early.

frigwiggin

@Reginal T. Squirge My brother had a friend named Cody--I was probably in first grade, I think? He had blonde hair. I don't remember anything else about him, except that I think he moved away so I lost interest.

SarahDances

@Reginal T. Squirge Oof, I remember liking boys as early as Kindergarten, but in more of a possessive way, the same way I'd want to go play with the pretty new Barbie fresh out of her package. My first real heart-pounding, silly-making crush started in 3rd grade, and lasted at least until 5th. Which is kind of remarkable, when you think about the attention span of the average 3rd grader.

area@twitter

@Reginal T. Squirge I think it depends how you're defining crush? Like there was a guy I thought was cute in second grade, but I didn't have the full on collywobbles for someone until probably seventh or eight grade.

Reginal T. Squirge

Ha. "collywobbles"

KatieBarTheDoor

@Reginal T. Squirge Mine was a boy named Paul in my kindergarten class. My friend and I would chase him around the playground every day.

First big crush came in 4th grade, and I stayed madly in love with this boy all the way through 6th grade until, quite abruptly, I was over it. I remember in 6th grade when my classmates started "dating," and I got the boy's phone number and called (twice!) to ask him to date me. He said no, and then started dating another girl. I remember my mother playing Dolly Parton's "Jolene" in the car shortly after that, and I believed that no song could possibly describe my life better, and would quietly sing it to myself while replacing "Jolene" with the other girl's name.

Elsajeni

@Reginal T. Squirge I believe my first crush was Raphael, the Ninja Turtle.

packedsuitcase

@Reginal T. Squirge I got "married" in preschool, and before that I was in love with Elmo. My poor parents, dealing with a boy crazy daughter. I was pretty hardcore about my crushes, too.

Roxanne Rholes

@Reginal T. Squirge ...Kermit.

Reginal T. Squirge

@Elsajeni

Ha. Nice! The girl lion from Lion King was definitely one of my first.

RNL
RNL

@Reginal T. Squirge Oooh! Mine was named Ryan, and he had this little Alfalfa-style tuft of hair sticking up from his cowlick. I found diamond heart necklace in a catalogue that I thought would be the perfect way to express my feelings. Thank god I was like 8 and couldn't buy it for him.

area@twitter

@Elsajeni oh shit, I forgot about the Ninja Turtles

TheclaAndTheSeals

@Elsajeni Haaa. I was three and crushing on a cartoon character I didn't realize wasn't a real human.

Bootsandcats

@Reginal T. Squirge I was totally in high school. Math teacher! Kept modeling things in his life using algebra!

And I married a programmer/engineer. Predictive.

yrouttasight

@Reginal T. Squirge His name was Jonathan, and he was in my first grade class. He cried so hard he barfed on the floor on the first day of school.

I hear he's a professional skiier now.

katekari

@Reginal T. Squirge Ahhhh, I am a total late bloomer. :) I'd say mine was also grade 8 (as we say in Canada). And I didn't date until after university, and was a virgin until I was 20. And I am perfectly comfortable with all of that.

...Well, mostly. I wasn't ready to date in high school, and a lot of the nerdy/weird/awesome folks I hung out with also didn't date, so I fit in with my peer group, but felt a lot of pressure from popular culture to date and go steady and have crushes and all (THANKS A LOT, Sweet Valley franchise).

Moredes

@Reginal T. Squirge My first (human, non-cartoon character) crush was a little blond boy in kindergarten. My friends and I used to play a game called "kissy-girl" where we would chase him and a few other boys around the playground trying to kiss them. I was just inspired to look him up on facebook, and his profile picture is a school picture from kindergarten or around that age. I see in retrospect that I had good taste as a 4 year old; he was adorable! He's aged well but I'm no longer attracted to blonds...

whateverlolawants

@Reginal T. Squirge A friend told me about watching The Lion King in high school Spanish class (El Rey Leon!) and how a guy behind her muttered, "Dude. Nala is hot."

whateverlolawants

@Elsajeni Also, my sister had a crush on Max, one of Goofy's sons. When I get home from work I'll share the tale of my first crush. I'm sure you'll all wait on pins and needles until then.

Jennifer Culp

@Elsajeni MINE TOO. Then I threw him over for Adam West as Batman.

lora.bee

@Reginal T. Squirge I think my first crush was grade 1, but my most intense was definitely grade 5. Actually, I liked him until the end of grade 6, where at the Jellybean dance (a real thing) I saw him SLOW DANCING with some other girl. HOW COULD YOU, TIMOTHY.

I wrote a poem about it, I'm pretty sure it involved a line about "this world of sadness and pain".

raised amongst catalogs

@KatieBarTheDoor Oh, man...mine was also named Paul, also in kindergarten and it also involved chasing him around the playground with a friend.

Elsajeni

@Reginal T. Squirge Ooh, actually, it might have been Robin Hood.

(First actual human crush: 6th grade, a boy named Devon, in my Tae Kwon-Do class. That is literally all the information I ever knew about him. BUT HE WAS PERFECT.)

iceberg

@Reginal T. Squirge
first non-real-person crush - Neil from The Young Ones. I was five. I wanted to marry him. Runner up, Hawkeye from MASH.

first real-person crush that I did not understand what I was feeling - 3rd grade. Richard. Dark hair, blue eyes, pale skin. Ugh he was the beginning of the end of my tomboy phase I think.

KatieBarTheDoor

@raised amongst catalogs Twins! But alas, I know you are not my kindergarten friend because she turned out to be an absolutely horrendous human being and would in no way be a Hairpinner. (And also you obviously are not horrendous.)

Bittersweet

@Reginal T. Squirge He probably wasn't my first, but I had a huge circa-8th grade crush on Mr. Mistopheles from Cats after I went to see it during a junior high trip to NYC. His fouette turns a la seconde were amazing.

lora.bee

@Bittersweet OH. Totally had do-not-understand-these-feelings-yet for Rum Tum Tugger in the Broadway film version of CATS because a) he is a badass and b) he had a Jareth-esque bulge in those tights.

And yes, I had that VHS.

frumious bandersnatch

@Reginal T. Squirge I had a future husband in preschool (ALSO named Paul) and I remember getting into a fight with him once on the swings when I told him I wasn't going to marry him anymore. Then three boys who competed for my affections in first grade, and I have a clear memory of them each making me romantic cards in the afterschool program and me telling them "Some men have more than one wife. I'll just have three husbands!"

And then D___ moved to town in second grade and I lost my heart (and my game) and liked him through 5th grade when I moved away. Commence a series of year-longish unrequited crushes and I finally got my game back in mid-high school. Sort of.

raised amongst catalogs

@KatieBarTheDoor I'm going through a kind of sad-sacky time in my life and you have made my day by saying I am not horrendous. Bless your heart.

iceberg

@lora.bee JARETH-BULGE. Bowie tights: responsible for many a confused stirring.

whateverlolawants

@Reginal T. Squirge I didn't have my first big FEELINGS crush until 4th grade, and then I didn't have any big ones until junior high. But I had little-kid ones occasionally, which I mostly kept to myself. Perhaps this was because of my preschool experiences.

Cute, dark-eyed Daniel was trilingual: German, Spanish, and English! He was definitely the best-looking boy in my preschool class, probably in the whole neighborhood and beyond. We played together a lot. I decided I wanted to marry him. I declared this to Leslie, my ongoing frenemy, expecting a happy reaction, but instead, she snapped, "No, I'm marrying him!"

What? No!!! Daniel was mine! And definitely not Leslie's. We argued about this at the sandbox until the teacher told us that we'd figure out who to marry when we were older. (Will I?)

Leslie continued being a burr in my saddle. In an elevator on a field trip, she punched me in the stomach. "Teacher!" I cried. "Leslie struck me!"

In my Little-House-on-the-Prairie-adled mind, Leslie was my Nellie Olsen, so I spoke the way Laura might have.

As for Daniel, he moved out west after that year and I have never heard from him again. My family and I look him up online occasionally, but we never find anything. Daniel! ¿Dónde estás? Komm zurück!

Alli525

@di OH MY GOD me too!

My first "real-person"/IRL crush was the second day of kindergarten (!!), his name was Ryan Klein, and he was tall (you know, for a 5-year-old) with blond hair and blue eyes. I still cannot find him on Facebook.

Verity

@whateverlolawants Leslie continued being a burr in my saddle. In an elevator on a field trip, she punched me in the stomach. "Teacher!" I cried. "Leslie struck me!"

In my Little-House-on-the-Prairie-adled mind, Leslie was my Nellie Olsen, so I spoke the way Laura might have.

Ha, that is amazing.

Judith Slutler

@Reginal T. Squirge Levar Burton on Reading Rainbow. excellent motivator for literacy.

MarianTheLibrarian

@Reginal T. Squirge Nursery school: a boy named Robert. On the day I was in charge of putting out the trays for snack, I put the two of us at a table together, alone. He wasn't into it and all of the other boys teased him for it. It was terribly awkward. After that was Jeremy, Anthony, Sam, Steven, Justin, Andrew, and those were just the boys in my class, not the adult boys I loved, and that's only through 8th grade.

YouCan'tBuyACarWithCookies

@whateverlolawants I am so glad "Little-House-on-the-Prairie-addled mind" is A Thing and not just My Thing. Also, Nellie is *awful.*

And my first crush was late elementary school and it was on a boy who I set fires and dug giant holes in the dirt with. That's still pretty much the kind of "partner in crime" crushes I get.

stonefruit

@Elsajeni Totally Robin Hood. Then again, he was a FOX.

BA-DUM-CHING!

Misselthwaite

@frigwiggin I also had a blonde Cody, when I was about 11. He lived a few over in a townhouse block and I loitered around in my cutest top from Limited Too that tied at the navel. Once I tried to find him on Facebook.

whateverlolawants

@YouCan'tBuyACarWithCookies Phew, I'm glad it is A Thing and not just My Thing! Down with Nellie!

piekin

@Reginal T. Squirge First grade. I use to let (make?) the straps of my sundresses slip off my shoulders when I was around him, because I thought that was really sexy/alluring/adult. He gave me a rose on Valentine's Day in second grade and I nearly died. We're Facebook friends, except now he's a giant juicebox and I wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole.

teaandcakeordeath

@Reginal T. Squirge
Daniel San from the Karate Kid, when he took that girl to the fair and they went on rides and had candy floss and took funny pictures.
I was 3 and I thought it was the perfect date.
I am 28 and I still think it was the perfect date.

SongToSing

@Reginal T. Squirge My first crush started in the first grade. I'd try to sit near him at the lunchtable. I pined from afar until round about 7th or 8th grade, when he started spewing jokes about women needing to be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. He was all of 13 or so, so I don't think he really meant it. But my 13-year-old self was all sorts of indignant. We were in the same school all the way through graduation, but I never really thought about him after my grade-school crush years. He was just sorta... there.

And at our reunion, he looked a hot mess and I laughed inside.

CasualElegance

@Reginal T. Squirge My first crush was the first time I saw a boy.

littlevicious

@Reginal T. Squirge Mine was called Sean. I had only seen his name written down and not heard it said so I thought it rhymed with 'bean' not 'prawn'. He never corrected me. Then he moved to Bali. I was 5.

teaandcakeordeath

@littlevicious
I had this problem with Sean Bean when I was a kid.

LordHennyson

@Reginal T. Squirge First fictional crush was Matthew Broderick, which would have been cool if I had seen Ferris Bueller at that age, but I hadn't, I had seen the remake of the Music Man and fell in love.

First real-person crush was 4th grade, Josh, an asthmatic with a jew-fro. My tastes still haven't changed.

EpWs

@Reginal T. Squirge I had a "boyfriend" in daycare (I was maybe 5?) and then I had a mad crush on the same boy all the other girls had a crush on in middle school. I remember declaring to my mother that "I'm going to marry Brandon Lastname." She was on the phone at the time and I don't know what her reaction was, as I'm pretty sure I just made the declaration and walked away.

queenieliz

@iceberg Hawkeye from MASH! Glad I'm not the only one. Also Carl Sagen. I don't remember ever having a "crush" on a real life boy....ever. Weird. There's a few boys I remember, and I think they may have "liked" me, but I couldn't pick up the signs at the time.

Hot Doom

@Emmanuelle Cunt I still have an abiding love for LeVar in all periods of Reading Rainbow, especially the early years and mid 90s.

But my saga of young love didn't stop there. My first true love (I thought) was Robbie, who I chased around the preschool yard in my underwear. We went to different schools after preschool, but were reunited in 4th grade, but I had moved on to greener pastures by then.

In kindergarten, I rebounded from Robbie on this other boy who reminded me of Chip, of Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers, so I just started calling him 'Chip' instead of by his real name and would pray every day that he would get a cool bomber jacket like Chip had. I was totally going all Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo on him, but I switched schools before it could get out of hand.

jhonsons

This is great stuff! Thank you!!@j

pyrrhic

"Like veins in marble" - so beautiful!

Judith Slutler

@pyrrhic I think that line just about killed me. Ben, you're great.

j-i-a

@pyrrhic I KNOWWWW I had a conniption of all the feelings when he said that

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@pyrrhic Veins in a marble and a bubble in tape. Those were great.

holditgently

@pyrrhic That, and the bubble in scotch tape image, are truly amazing! Go Ben.

Reginal T. Squirge

Also, can we all just agree that the answering machine scene from Swingers is one of the most accurate portrayals of a dude totally blowing a good start in the history of the world?

BoozinSusan

@Reginal T. Squirge There was this guy on OKCupid, who I eventually met (and was cool but a little arrogant) -- anyway, before we met, after a few messages back and forth I stopped responding for a week or two, so he just sent me a YouTube video of that answering machine scene.

How to make a lady you've never met laugh AND relay a hint that she should get back to you? This.

Lily Rowan

@BoozinSusan Oh, that is a good one.

I am exactly the right age to have All The Feelings about Swingers.

Daisy Razor

@Lily Rowan Swingers came out before I'd started dating, so I just thought it was a funny movie. Then I rewatched it in my late 20s and realized it was, in fact, a documentary.

Lily Rowan

@Daisy Razor Yes indeed. My mother finally saw it to try to figure out why I was so obsessed, and was like, "Everyone in that movie is terrible! Why do you like it??" "THAT IS WHY I'M SINGLE, MOM."

Lily Rowan

@Daisy Razor (Also, I just listened to Jon Favreau on WTF, and he didn't realize he was just writing his life, as he was writing it....)

Hiroine Protagonist

@Lily Rowan (Wasn't that an excellent episode?)

Lily Rowan

@Hiroine Protagonist (Yes!)

dj pomegranate

Well this was pretty much the best.

Nicole Cliffe

I could not love this any more than I do. Thanks, Jia and Ben!

Danzig!

@Nicole Cliffe Thanks Nicole :) I am well chuffed

AmandathePanda

This was sweet, and insightful, and much appreciated. My boyfriend, who I feel is not so sweet and introspective, was recently diagnosed with very high-functioning autism (or something on the spectrum) and it explains a lot, and also made me feel a certain amount of sympathy for him and how he grew up, especially without any treatment for it. We have been doing well, and knowing helps. I think this young man will also do well, and I wish him the best!

Hamburger Hot Dog

@AmandathePanda I dated someone with Asperger's for many years, and we are still good friends. I do not know if he was ever officially diagnosed - he was the one who actually figured it out, but once he did it made so much sense. I felt like a jerk, because for years I had been pushing him to interact in a way that his brain couldn't process, but it was also such a relief to know - this is how his brain works. And knowing how he processed information made me realize what/how I needed to communicate, rather than just getting frustrated that he didn't seem to get what was important and what wasn't. I am not articulating this well, but, yeah - when you do find out, it explains so much, and you learn so much. This interview struck so many chords.

Kristen

After all the furor and backlash about Niceguysofokc, I just want to say that it is a hugely refreshing relief for me to read something from the perspective of a man who suffers from intense social difficulties and has trouble dating, and yet still manages to treat and to talk about women with enormous respect, sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Ben sounds so self-aware and thoughtful, and you could tell Jia thought so too. I am really impressed by this interview.

Nicole Cliffe

That's it, isn't it? He is a stand-up fella.

area@twitter

@Kristen Yes, seconded here. Good on ya, Ben.

City_Dater

@Kristen

Yes, exactly!
Ben sounds like a great friend, classmate and colleague, who I hope will meet that "sympatico" woman very soon.

j-i-a

@Kristen Oh man yeah, Ben seems so great and I was genuinely sad that life withheld that knowledge from him for so long. You should have seen this interview before Edith edited it--I was about one second away from gushing like "CHIN UP BRO DAWG, IF YOU WANT YOU CAN ALWAYS HAVE SEX W MEEEE"

ayo nicole

@Kristen Yes! I am so into Ben. Thanks, Jia.

Danzig!

@Kristen As I told Jia, when I go out on the net and encounter fedora people (as I call them) on Reddit or wherever I'm always acutely aware of the fact that probably the only significant difference between us is that I never felt particularly slighted when my conduct was corrected. I was always acutely aware that it didn't really matter what I intended or what I wanted when I interacted with people, the way I affected them was of paramount importance. I'm still very hard on myself when I commit a faux pas, which is often.

I remember when I worked my first job, I had a shift with a very gawky boy and a girl, and she had her shift changed because the boy was doing the whole clingy thing (I told Jia that I can smell AS disorders on boys after so many years) and he was as baffled and humiliated as I was when I was in 8th grade, and I was humiliated for him, but we boys should learn, hopefully early, that people don't exist to serve our immediate desires (or in other words, are subjects and not objects). That the lack of such learning was evident in so many boys who didn't have my Weird Brain excuse was one of the first indications I had that there was something seriously wrong in my culture.

Reddit types, I think, have much the same troubles I do, but for them it always seems to be someone else's problem, or even some conspiracy against them, which is obviously insane. I understand what it's like to feel needy and undesired but the human right to be loved and wanted (which everyone is entitled to) does not include within itself a right to be loved and wanted by any specific person, or even a type of person. This whole thing where you act like you've gone through a bitter breakup with someone you've never dated freaks me out.

TARDIStime

@j-i-a did you did this interview via skype originally? This is just the kind of thing that would be perfect as a filmed interview! I would watch the hell out of that on youtube.
@Danzig! "That the lack of such learning was evident in so many boys who didn't have my Weird Brain excuse was one of the first indications I had that there was something seriously wrong in my culture." The thing I don't get is how women don't throw themselves at you on the first date if you're saying stuff like this. You are rare and special.

Danzig!

@TARDIStime just a phone interview! The original unedited transcript is a bit bigger, and the interview itself was quite long!

(re:woman throwing) I'm not special! Really :) I just want to do right by people.

Hiroine Protagonist

@Danzig! Please start blogging immediately. Manboobz needs some backup!

Danzig!

@Hiroine Protagonist ha! I don't delve into that world enough to make a blog of it :) I don't have the constitution for it!

SarahP

Oh, man, Jia and Ben, this whole interview hit me right square in the heart. Thank you for sharing it!

Nutellaface

Your friends are right, Ben: you will not be in this boat twenty years from now. You're awesome.

werewolfbarmitzvah

Ah, this was a good one! As a woman and a non-virgin, I found all of this extreeeeemely relatable.

par_parenthese

Smart, sensitive, self-aware, and articulate as hell? I dub thee A Catch.

Another fantastic Interview With a Virgin. Thanks, Jia and Ben! :)

ponymalta

Ben! You sound awesome. Also maybe it's a comfort to know that text messages have made many, many people into the repeated-answering-machine-message-leaver: "Hey" "What's up" "What are you doing later" "Hey girl" "Hey" "Sup" [no reply]

Quinn A@twitter

Aww, Ben sounds great. I'm sure he'll find someone.

ImASadGiraffe

I love this too! Ben sounds like a great guy and to be honest, the social anxieties of dating are universal for a lot of people, I feel.

packedsuitcase

Ben sounds awesome, and I really, really love that he's so cautious with boundaries. I mean, honestly. Not enough guys think about that. Of course, the hard part is that gently, carefully, sensitively crossing those boundaries is kind of what gives you a non-verbal clue that a guy is interested. I feel for you, Ben, but I think you'll do just fine swimming in romantic waters.

packedsuitcase

@packedsuitcase those inital boundaries** (my computer hates when I try to edit and freezes). Not crossing all boundaries, but a gentle, lingering touch at the small of the back or on the arm is what lets me know when I'm being hit on from when I'm just talking to somebody.

Porn Peddler

Is it crass to say I would be honored to initiate someone like this?

Porn Peddler

@Porn Peddler yup, shit, already hate myself for saying that.

Blushingflwr

@Porn Peddler I had the same feelings (both sets)

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Porn Peddler
I think we all share the desire for a DELETE option extending weeeeeeell beyond five minutes. Oh god I know I do.

laurel

@Porn Peddler See Jia's comment above.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@laurel
Haha, time for Ben to create a commenter account and introduce himself!

Oh, squiggles

@Porn Peddler Aw, I don't think it's crass at all. I felt the same thing, because coming from the perspective of a used-to-be older virgin (I was 25) I can relate to all the feelings that go on, and would be willing to be patient. But I bet a lot of women out there would feel the same way, so I am sure Ben will meet someone good soon!

Danzig!

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll >_>

Porn Peddler

Ultimately, crass and shared by many of the pinladies. Of course this comes up on the pin after Ben moves away from NYC!

stonefruit

@Danzig! indeed.

Passion Fruit

@Danzig!

<_<

&

o_O

meetapossum

@Danzig! I actually said "aw!" out loud when I read the description because it was hinted at last week.

Porn Peddler

@meetapossum yyyyyyyep, same.

stonefruit

@meetapossum meeeeeee toooooo! <3 you, Danzig!ie.

Danzig!

@stonefruit love y'all!

RNL
RNL

Ben! As a women who at least somewhat matches your description, let me tell you what I have realized I'm looking for in a partner: someone steady and kind, who can match my assertive energy with calm and kindness, and who isn't afraid to be a bit vulnerable, because it reminds me that it's ok to be vulnerable. Someone who doesn't withhold and thereby trigger my self-defence mechanisms. Someone who will let themselves be loved, and allow me to be loving.

Basically, as an assertive, independent-minded woman, I think I need someone who will encourage me to slow down a bit and be intimate, who will be gentle and inspire gentleness back. If you can be that person (and, for bonus points, are maybe tallish and have a beard) whoo boy am I yours.

And it sounds like you could really do this for someone.

Just in case you were wondering. (Whoops maybe I'm not assertive, just solipsistic.)

Blushingflwr

Man, I wish more dudes would go through the trouble of reading profiles and remembering a girl's interests when dating on the Internet!
Also, I really wanted to just hug poor little 13-year-old Ben. I have a friend who always says that she would be considered on the spectrum if she were male or just slightly younger, and I've seen the bewilderment and hurt in her eyes when she's confronted with social rules or interactions she can't parse. Having it happen so dramatically when you're filled with roiling hormones must have been really upsetting.
It's also hard to work with the disparity between what we SAY the rules are and what they actually are. We say you shouldn't touch someone without their consent or permission, but yet many women expect that a man will touch them as a sign of interest, and so by trying to respect boundaries you can inadvertently signal a lack of interest.

Also, when I read these, I find myself thinking of The Sessions and wishing that I knew how to offer guys like this a compassionate, enjoyable first time without it being creepy/patronizing and or emotionally risky for them(cause I have definitely casually fucked some guys who were less casual about it than I was).

angermonkey

Oh man, that first crush story just BREAKS MY HEART. I've only had that moment once or twice in my life- that thing where suddenly you realize everything you are doing and saying is the exact wrong thing and is causing you to be perceived as a weirdo, or worse, a threat. Like a curtain goes up and you're realize OOOOHHH MY GOD. UGH. That is a special brand of internalized shame right there. Ben, dude, if it makes you feel any better, you did this as an 8th grader. I am a neurotypical 33 year old and the last time this happened to me was, like, 2 years ago.

wee_ramekin

@angermonkey You know what I really like about the crush story, though? The fact that he realized how freaked out the object of his affections must have been. I like that he explains how he didn't recognize the social fauxes-pas he was making, and also takes responsibility for the fact that his behavior made her feel scared.

This is the thing that makes Ben a genuinely nice guy, instead of a Nice Guy™. The Nice Guy™ would have been like "Why did that bitch get everyone else involved? I'm not neurotypical, bitch needs to suck it up! Stupid bitches, always falling for neurotypical guys who treat them like shit...".

Blushingflwr

@wee_ramekin YES! The reaction of recognizing that even if your intent was not malicious you can still do harm. As opposed to the guys who are totally oblivious to or insulted by the idea that their behavior is creepy or threatening. A Nice GuyTM would say that the girl should be flattered by the attention and get over herself.

angermonkey

@wee_ramekin Oh, I totally agree. "OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE!?" is clearly the healthy response, not "WHY DOESN'T SHE GET ME!?? IT'S NOT MY FAULT" I'm just sad for him that he had to feel that sinky-sad-shamey moment, especially since it wasn't really something he could easily control. Also, that it colored his relationships for a long time afterwards.

wee_ramekin

@angermonkey Yeah, I felt that same compassion for him. I also felt really sad for him when he talked about his parents' reaction to the incident.

FlufferNutter

Ben, I'd bring up the PDD on the first date if that's not too terrifying, especially if the date is with a girl you really like who seems receptive. I think the worst part of dating can be just trying to figure the other person out - it's so hard, even for those of us without PDD! It sounds like maybe because of your fear of being "inappropriate" you are holding back too much with these women, and that can be misinterpreted. I'd likely think, "Okay, this guy hasn't touched me or given any sign that he's into me, I'll back away and spare myself the rejection."

Converesely, if someone explained to me right off the bat that dating is new territory and they may need a little help navigating, I'd be totally down with that. Hang in there, you sound awesome!

Lily Rowan

@FlufferNutter Or even before the first date? But maybe in a slightly funny way? Like, "I have a real diagnosis that basically means I'll be awkward on our first date, but bear with me."

par_parenthese

@Lily Rowan YES THIS x10000000.

Megasus

@Lily Rowan Yeah, most girls will not run away screaming if you're upfront about stuff like that before the first date. Well, the ones who aren't assholes anyway.

wee_ramekin

@FlufferNutter Yeah, I was going to say something similar.

Ben, have you considered putting something in your OKC profile similar to what you divulged in this interview? Maybe in the 'The most private thing I'm willing to admit' section, you could write something similar to this quote of yours: "Socially, what my PDD comes down to is this: I’ve always had a strong difficulty in terms of interacting with people, but I’ve also always had a strong interest in fitting in". I hadn't heard of PPD before, and that description gave me a pretty clear idea of the way it influences your personality.

If that seems too clinical or personal to you, you might instead mention that you are incredibly cognizant of peoples' boundaries, and that you don't like to cross them without explicit invitation/discussion. Actually, mention that whether or not you mention the PPD: I can tell you right now that knowing that would be a BIG plus for some women (me, for example).

Lily Rowan

@Megano! Also, I know from experience that it's hard/awkward to figure it out ON the first date.

I'm Not Rufus

@wee_ramekin I'm not in his target gender demographic here, but just linking to this interview might be perfect. I don't know, maybe some people would shrink from that. But I think that it's a compelling read, a wonderful story, highlighting how he can be superficially weird and awkward and yet simultaneously remarkably perceptive, deep, authentic, and caring.

Maryaed

@wee_ramekin I would be wary of putting a diagnosis in a dating profile, for fear of concern trolls.

wee_ramekin

@Maryaed Hmmm, yeah. Maybe not the actual diagnosis, then, but what about lifting what @LilyRowan said above ("I have a real diagnosis that basically means I'll be awkward on our first date, but bear with me.") whole cloth? Add in a bit about needing express permission about crossing boundaries, and you've got something approachable, yet explanatory.

Faintly Macabre

Ben, you are so brave for putting yourself out there with dating even though it is scary and then also for talking about that and everything above here. I mean this 100% not condescendingly--I was in a very similar boat with online dating last year and scared of it for a lot of the same reasons, but I wasn't able to push through them and quit it pretty quickly. You are clearly a good (and nice, not Nice) guy, and I have a lot of hope for you.

j-i-a

HELLO EVERYONE thank you for being amazing and intelligent and deeply sympathetic and wonderful. There's no other website or audience that would do these lovely people justice like y'all. Open invitation to email me if you are a virgin and would like to talk about it: jia dot tolentino at gmail dot com. Sorry if I do not get back to you right away because of things like the fact that I'm in class right now

Brad Paisley

@j-i-a
WHAT IF WE JUST WANT BEN'S PHONE NUMBER

honey cowl

Shout out to Ben who is PROBABLY from the 303! Okay now to actually read the thing!

honey cowl

@honey cowl Ben, we are not at all similar, but you are awesome. Good luck out there, you will find a lady who loves you.

laurel

Ben you are doing everything riiight.

Lily Rowan

Also I was definitely in my mid-20s before I had sex a second time (the first time was in high school), so had a lot of the fear of not knowing what to do. I eventually just Did It with a guy I was dating and liked, but didn't love, which was a great call, because I'm sure I was terrible at sex and we broke up pretty soon. But I learned! And got over that hump. (And then I learned he was also bad at sex.)

I guess I'm just saying it doesn't really matter if you're bad at sex, because you probably will be the first few times, so don't let that hold you back if the time seems to be right.

Lily Rowan

@Lily Rowan BUT ALSO I have no idea how people who were sexually abused as children grow up to have normal sex lives. I guess therapy.

Danzig!

@Lily Rowan There are different schools of thought, certainly :) I mean I intimated to Jora that therapy has gotten me across the abuse bridge, but therapy's not surgery - when whatever's in you is in you, you don't set up an appointment and get it cut out of you. It's a long process, maybe a never-ending one. You learn how to deal, not how to heal. I used the "veins in marble" metaphor because it helps to elucidate how messy it's been for me - I cannot be rid of it, I find little inescapable traces of it in my bloodstream, in my heart. Not memories but feelings. I've gotten to a point with therapy where I can think of the cold facts of what was done to me and not feel like collapsing, but under the floorboards of my mind there are a lot of mean things, angers and hurts so elemental you'd think they were there before me, that I was built on top of them. Sometimes I'll catch them manifesting, usually as a particularly vicious invective toward myself.

So it comes and goes. There are times, usually late at night, in which I despair greatly. I feel like a changeling, like the neighbor boy replaced me with my shadow and that's what I've been all this time. There are times where I'd give anything to be held by someone and times where the thought of asking a good woman to even so much as look at me is terrifying. There are times where I feel supremely capable of catching a woman's attention and beginning a relationship and there are times when I read what women write about what good courtship is and it feels like I'm staring up the slopes of Everest.

I don't want it to disqualify me from the loving relationship I want (love yourself before etc), but I don't know how to address it. I'd like to think having the support of an intimate partner would help me a lot. I don't know.

But yes you're absolutely right. I plan on being monumentally terrible at sex at the ground floor, but I'll be a quick learner ;)

Lily Rowan

@Danzig! Aw, you're a good egg. And it sounds like you've made an incredible amount of progress. In short: I'm sure none of it will be easy, but I'm sure all of it will be possible.

Danzig!

@Lily Rowan thank you :)

Huh I got grandiose in that last response didn't I? Late nights and wine, man

cherrispryte

Am I the only one who thinks Ben's therapist is whack for suggesting he put his hand on the small of his date's back? I mean, maybe I just hate being touched by people I don't know well, but that's almost an intimate place to touch someone, right?

Lily Rowan

@cherrispryte If I like the guy, it's a pleasant surprise how much I don't mind it. But yeah. I'm not a touchy person.

Oh, squiggles

@cherrispryte Yeah...I think shoulder was a safer spot. Or arm or hand. But I'm wondering if he meant for that to happen after they had been getting to know one another, to see if that was the direction things were headed. I love Ben's reaction though.

BoozinSusan

@cherrispryte This may seem ridiculous to some, but I'd say hold off on the hand-on-the-small-of-your-date's-back until, say, the second date or so when you like each other enough to meet again. I would be uncomfortable with a dude doing that on the first date when I've just met him (unless it's a situation, like Lily Rowan points out, where you actually like him and are surprised how much you don't mind).

catwithglasses

@cherrispryte Eh, I thought it was a helpful clue for the therapist to give, especially if Ben isn't going to pick up on those super-subtle, almost improvisational social interactions. But I assumed the back touch was for a second date or later (or at least something where you're pretty sure the girl likes you and want to move in for a more intimate (not necessarily physically intimate) relationship.)

I think a touch on the arm or shoulder is the first "hey I like you" move. But I think hand touch would actually surprise me more--very few people touch my hand.

paper bag princess

@cherrispryte It sort of depends on the person, I guess. Probably I would suggest starting with shoulder/arm/hand, although personally if someone touched the small of my back and I was into him, I wouldn't mind at all.

The weirdest thing that happened to me on a first date was when I had both my hands in my jacket pockets, and he REACHED INTO my pocket to grab my hand, pull it out of my pocket, and hold it. I definitely do not suggest doing that.

deepomega

@cherrispryte Flirting is (as a wise person once said) about forming intimate bonds quicker than normally happens. The tough part is finding the right amount of intimacy-acceleration, and it's gonna vary from person to person (and pair to pair). If he's not comfortable with it then he should probably BECOME comfortable with it before trying it - can't think of anything more awkward than "dude touching your back because he thinks he is supposed to but he is palpably terrified of seeming inappropriate."

wee_ramekin

@cherrispryte Yeah, don't fucking touch the small of my back until we've established that we like each other. Anything else is either a) creepy/boundary-crossy, b) dickish in a paternalistic kind of way, or just plain c) presumptuous.

When done by the correct person at the correct stage in the relationship (for me, like I said, that's after we have clearly established that we like each other), lower back touching is ~*~hot~*~. Done by the incorrect person before the right moment, and it's just as creepy as when you see a couple walking down the street and the dude has his hand resting at the back of and base of a woman's neck. #shudders

Lily Rowan

@BoozinSusan I am still almost always surprised if I don't mind being touched by someone, almost regardless of how well I know them. Although I have worked and worked on this. I still sometimes have to tell someone (date or no) that I do like them, even though I flinched away from them.

laurel

@wee_ramekin I have a friend who calls out the hand-on-the-back-of-the-neck business as "steering". Ditto on the shuddering.

wee_ramekin

@all Also, I think that while it is true that lower back touching can depend a lot on how much you like the person, I think that in Ben's specific case, he should make sure NOT to do it until he and his date are explicitly in the "I like you and I like it when you touch me" stage of dating. He mentions that it's difficult for him to parse nonverbal cues; this sounds like the kind of gray area where he might go amiss if he just applies "Touch The Lower Back" on dates willy-nilly.

iceberg

@wee_ramekin spot-on. don't do something you feel that weird instincctively about doing. shoulder touch or fore-arm touch should work fine.

or awkward shoe-bumping with your shoe followed by shy eye-contact :)

RubeksCube

@Lily Rowan I do that too!! I've learned to say "oh, sorry, you startled me" in those situations (if I am okay with said touch), so they don't think I'm just freaking out for no reason.

Judith Slutler

@wee_ramekin Cool thing about this dude is that he knew that suggestion wasn't quite right for him!

Verity

@cherrispryte If I had just met someone I would not be comfortable with their hand on the small of my back. I'm with Ben.

TARDIStime

@iceberg I second the shoe-bumps/shy eye contact! Genuinely! I would melt if Mr TARDIStime pulled that one on me.

datalass

@laurel Did you read the New Yorker article about the pickpocket? Steering is exactly the word.

Hiroine Protagonist

@cherrispryte Probably best to wait for the other party to initiate contact - say 2 or 3 times, before reciprocating. Be on alert for the forearm touch.

pharmakeus

Lutherans.

/ former lutheran

Sierra

This interview is great! Ben sounds awesome and actually very socially apt. By the way, you can always just ask someone, "are you being sarcastic?"... anyway, I too would have loved to hear more about his interest in electronic music. Is he a raver? Speaking of which I find it hilarious that his waspy, doctor father bought the trainspotting soundtrack.

Danzig!

@Sierra We didn't really have raves when I was growing up! :) Not out in rural-ish Colorado where I lived, at least. It had been my understanding that, even with techno and house having hatched in African American enclaves of Detroit and Chicago, electronic music had never really caught fire stateside. Certainly not the case in the last few years, but aside from the Big Beat stuff (Fatboy Slim, Prodigy et al) it was never a pop phenomenon here. I'd always been a headphone listener, but going to New York allowed me to get a taste of the European experience. Last one I went to was an Unsound event - Nguzunguzu, Sepalcure, 2562 and Throwing Snow. I went with a feminist writer friend of mine, it was good times.

As for my dad, he's a quiet sort (I think I've become a softer version of him) and very much enamoured of his Chicago Blues like all affluent dads, but in the 70's he was into the progressive side of pop (still talks about seeing Bowie on the Diamond Dogs tour and seeing Springsteen in a tiny AZ bar), and then in the 90's he went through a very eclectic phase, going through new hip music, and I would pick up his musical leavings, so to speak.

He bought the original Loser single by Beck and I remember getting off the schoolbus one day in 5th grade and feeling like I'd been struck by lightning because its fifth track, "Fume", featured THE F WORD in its chorus! Absolute insanity. Then he had a very, very brief flirtation with electronic music through the Trainspotting soundtrack, and while the entire tracklisting is classic he also got the CD single of "Born Slippy" by Underworld so I know that's what he was specifically curious about. It didn't turn out to be to his taste but boy, it was to mine.

I liked Nine Inch Nails in high school (after being intrigued by the unnerving aesthetics of the "Closer" video) and whenever Trent Reznor releases a remix album it's always full of artists he enjoys, popular or not, and it was from those remix albums that I became acquainted with Coil and Aphex Twin, and from Coil came Throbbing Gristle and from Aphex Twin came the entire 90's IDM stable, that "Artificial Intelligence" home listening electronica that Warp Records curated in those days. Things kind of took off from there :) I started sticking to u-Ziq's Planet Mu label for new IDM and I would devour whatever else u-Ziq was into. By '06 he was releasing UK Dubstep, which was brand new at the time, and I've kind of stayed in that wheelhouse ever since - UK house and bass production, and the odd little corners of house / techno / electropop.

If you want to read about the stuff I liked this year you can check all these links: http://thehairpin.com/2013/01/friday-open-thread-50#comment-449997

:)

teaandcakeordeath

@Danzig!
I'm sorry, everyone else has all these insightful comments but I was predominantly thinking of 2 things as I read the interview:

1) You seem lovely
2) Here comes Jonny, yeeeeee-aaaah

This is what happens when you mention the trainspotting soundtrack.

Sierra

@Danzig! Sweet! Thanks for the response. Sounds like your dad actually has great taste in music lol. I'm glad that you found some good EDM shows to check out in NYC. It's true that Reznor is excellent for introducing fans to other good artists... I have the soundtrack to Lost Highway (which I haven't seen). I think he produced it, and it's got an interesting range of styles and artists. Also I just learned that he used to produce all of marilyn manson's albums, back when marilyn was really good in the 90s, so that's impressive. Aphex Twin is so amazing-- not so much rave music-- it's more music for thinking to than dancing to. If you like him then you must like Squarepusher, who I just saw recently. I haven't heard of those more obscure artists you mention but then again I'm more into drum&bass than techno. If you ever come back to the east coast though, there is definitely a huge electronic music/rave scene around here-- and once you get connected to it you find there are zillions of events and new local DJs to get into.

Danzig!

@teaandcakeordeath Ha! if you haven't already you should get the Lust For Life album, it's probably my favorite rock album of all time :) The rhythm section is just insane

@sierra hehe yeah, my dad's gone through his adventurous phase so he's now back to 90% electric blues listening, but he remains a big Radiohead fan, so that turned out well for him.

Yeah I like Squarepusher :) all the IDM guys (Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Plaid, Vibert etc) tend to be united by a love of 303 acid but Squarepusher is definitely more of a dnb than the rest. The one show I did go to in Denver was an Andy C gig, that was a fun time :)

teaandcakeordeath

@Danzig!
No but I've been listening to songs from the soundtrack and basically reliving my teenage years.
Truth: When they played Born Slippy at the Olympics opening, I kind of welled up a bit. But then cheered up quickly!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Ben! You are great. Your respect for other people, and the women you're dating, is uplifting, and your personal insight and self-awareness are so goddamn refreshing.

You might think telling a date about your PDD is an immediate deal breaker, but you've presented it here in such a thoughtful, honest way. If you do that and a girl blows you off because of it, that's on her. You're doing it right, buddy.

wee_ramekin

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

WORD UP to your whole second paragraph.

whateverlolawants

This was great and Ben is clearly awesome. Thanks for this, both of you.

karion

There is simply no other way to say this, Ben.

Your self awareness and emotional intelligence? Is ridiculously hot.

Oh, squiggles

Speaking of okc, I am going on my first date with someone from there tonight! Nervous as hell. I've never done the online dating thing before.

iceberg

@Absurd Bird ooh good luck report back!!! in the FOT perhaps?

Oh, squiggles

@iceberg Thanks! Will do :)

Threein3

I have enjoyed all of these interviews, but this one really hits home. I have a preschool son on the spectrum and I have often wondered what his adult relationships and dating experiences will be like. If he is as insightful and concerned about others as you appear to be, I will consider myself a lucky mom.

Maryaed

@Threein3 I have a spectrum daughter (elementary age) and the same wonderings.

Ben/Danzig I really enjoy your writing/thinking and am pretty sure you are going to find someone to have wonderful experiences with. Seems like you've replaced intuition with reflection which is a good trade in a relationship. Everyone has areas of incapacity and to be aware of them and open about them and open to compensating is greatness.

Danzig!

@Threein3 I'm sure you already should be :) life along the Spectrum is many-splendored, and though it's not without its bumps we turn out okay generally. Sometimes it helps direct us toward fulfillment (not to mention excellence) in things that we love - stereotyped interest is good for that. I remember in high school I was wrestling with the PDD-NOS diagnosis and feeling rather depressed,* I was offered a meetup with Temple Grandin, who taught a few towns over and even in the late 90's was renowned as a prime Aspie success story, as it were. I ended up turning it down.

I suppose you didn't really ask for it but I'd say that some of the first advice I was given re: interpersonal relationships ended up being the most important: seek out shared interests and group activities. When I was feeling isolated and socially dysfunctional this is what I'd be told but I didn't really believe in it, mostly because of an arbitrary delineation I had made between "acquaintances" (people you did things with) and "friends" (people you just hung out with all the time for no reason, like they do on TV). For awhile going out and meeting people at events and gatherings seemed pointless and taxing, but it was only because I wasn't giving myself credit (also possibly because I was a teenager too greased up on angst for anyone to get a solid grip on). Were it not for the dogged efforts of my parents I might have rested on my laurels and just played video games exclusively through my younger childhood :)

*To be quite honest, from all the "normal" kids I knew, my misery was not particularly pronounced or even special. Teenage years are tumultuous for everybody :)

Danzig!

@Maryaed I wonder if it stymies me sometimes, but I would rather be reserved and good to to the people I am fond of, than assertive and cavalier. But thank you for your words :)

datalass

@Danzig! This: "possibly because I was a teenager too greased up on angst for anyone to get a solid grip on" is one of the best descriptions I've read. Ever.

iceberg

Ben, you rock. Good luck!

Passion Fruit

Good luck, Ben! You sound awesome, I'm rooting for ya!

Danzig!

Oh hi guys (´・ω・`)

All praises to Jia, who is amazing for many reasons, the least of which was her ability to listen to me jaw for upwards of an hour without suffering some sort of fit. I'm amazed at how svelte the final draft turned out to be. And thanks to you all! How lovely :) I'm all a-fluster.

I considered making an alt but I didn't really see the point, on balance. I figured plenty of you knew my background and would sleuth it out at some point.

iceberg

@Danzig! or not at all. well good luck sir!

wee_ramekin

@Danzig! Heee! I suspected! I am like Sherlock!

Danzig!

@wee_ramekin wouldn't even think to try and put anything past y'all

Danzig!

@Danzig! Sort of unrelated - not long after our interview the DSM V revisions were announced and it turns out we (we being PDD-NOS folk) came within a hair's breadth (or an ocean's, depending on who you talk to) of getting cut out of the manual. PDD-NOS is, along with Asperger's Syndrome and good old Autism, one of the three developmental disorders officially on the Autistic Spectrum, but given how controversial Asperger's in particular has been in the last few years and how seemingly broad the diagnostic criteria can be (I mean PDD-NOS is essentially "Asperger's but not"), the APA was apparently intent on consolidating all three into a catch-all Autistic Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. It didn't happen, largely because advocacy groups were dead-set against it. Had it come to pass, I and everyone else with PDD-NOS / Asperger's would have been grandfathered out of any changes, apparently.

Were I to be evaluated under the new criterion I don't know if I would have made it into the category - I definitely stim and have stereotyped interests but the contrast between my symptoms and those of some of the kids I grew up with in therapy is really stark. I might have just made do with ADHD and some sort of anxiety disorder. But that's neither here nor there.

lasso tabasco

@Danzig! I KNEW IT!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Danzig! I DIDN'T know it, but now am glad I do! Yes, you are definitely cool and great.

Judith Slutler

@Danzig! I didn't guess at all! Spent the whole comment thread calling you things like "this guy".

meetapossum

@Danzig! As someone who has sort of...followed you (I don't know how else to phrase this) in the comments on the Hairpin, this interview added a lot to previous descriptions of your relationships with women. You're genuinely awesome, and I regret now more than ever not showing up to a Pin-Up before you went back to Colorado.

Cawendaw

@Danzig! You've heard everything I'm going to say from multiple other people already, but I'm going to say it all all again.
1. You're awesome.
2. Mad sympathy on the dating/romance anxieties, speaking as a fellow non-second-date-ever-haver.
3. You're awesome and I am optimistic about your prospects.

Daisy Razor

@Danzig! That is fascinating to me, because my husband and I both have the ADHD/anxiety combo and we were just talking about whether it would have been better for us to have an actual diagnosis and therapy as kids. I don't love the idea of kids getting a diagnosis that will stick with them for the rest of their lives? But if it's between being "that weird kid" or "that weird kid who gets to feel better in therapy," I would definitely take the latter.

(Also, my husband didn't get a second date with anyone until he was 28. Spoiler alert: it was with me.)

whateverlolawants

@Danzig! Haha, I knew it was you but I was keeping my mouth shut, seeing if you'd show up in the comments. Thanks so much for sharing. You continue to be one of my favorite Pinners (and I love all of you!)

Faintly Macabre

@Danzig! Hee, I saw what you wrote in FOT plus remembered bits of things, so I knew it was you right away! Except I feel more creepy than clever about that.

Danzig!

Going backwards!

@whateverlolawants That means a lot to me :) thank you

@Daisy Razor Personally I think it would have been harder for me without a diagnosis and the subsequent therapies that allowed me to control some of the more glaring aspects of my condition. As I alluded to in the interview with Jia, for a long time it felt like an albatross around my neck, but honestly that was more my reaction to the symptoms than the condition itself, if that makes any sense... Without it I would have been bewildered about my difficulties and possibly without the coping mechanisms to understand and mitigate them, even as long as that took me. I might even had blamed things on other people and become bitter, I don't know.

I think the important thing is, when you're weird, you have to have compassion for yrself, and try to take the long view. When I was young I knew an older, high-functioning Aspie dude, and when I would come to him castigating myself for being stiff or saying the wrong thing or letting the uncertainty of what other people thought of me corrode my insides, he would ask me "will this matter to you in 10 years?". That seemed sort of pat to me at the time but I've come around to it (even though it does seem like some of it DOES still matter). You have to let yrself be the sort of person who makes mistakes. It's been my personal experience that having a developmental disorder diagnosis helps me do that. I still fail, but less often than I used to. Maybe not having the diagnosis would have spared me some years of using it as a cudgel against myself, but who can tell? :)

And I'm glad to hear about yr husband. I try tell myself there's still time (all of the time, in fact) but it's hard! I'm pretty sure once the band-aid's been ripped off I'll look back on all this time and find myself terribly dramatic. Or maybe it'll be so great that I'll have lamented all the time I hadn't been doing it. Probably the former, perhaps both!

@Cawendaw Yrself as well :) It'll happen. It happens for most all of us and more people than we realize thought it never would.

@meetapossum Thankyou! :) And you didn't miss much, I'm juuuust a bit better at talking when I've drank a little bit but I still look like an extra from a BBC sitcom about small-town provincial life.

@Emmanuelle Cunt Ah well, I'm still just some guy :)

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose c:

@lasso tabasco http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fX-qg4b8z1M

whateverlolawants

@Danzig! Aww, you are welcome. And those are some wise words about having compassion on yourself. I should keep that in mind with my ADD brain.

plumb-bob

@Danzig! @Cawendaw There's still plenty of time! I didn't get to a second date with anyone until I hit 30 (reader, I married him). Before that though, and for a long time, I felt freakish and lonely, but I look back now with surprisingly little regret.

Miss Maszkerádi

Good article as usual, Jia, and here's to wishing Danzig!Ben all the best!

But....and this is not to sound like a petulant arse-wad, it's just because I'm having one of those insecure-about-everything days (regressing to childhood while visiting my parents NOT helping on that front) but.....are there any aged virgins out there who have neither strict religious upbringing baggage, mental/developmental differences or a history of abuse? Has there already been an article about someone who honestly just didn't meet the right person till 25 or something? All my friends have had do much sex that they're getting tired of exploring and are settling down to make babies already, and I've never even made it to third base. Because everyone I meet either scares me, bores me, is perfectly lovely but excites not the merest glimmer of attraction, or, most often, is taken. Is this remotely normal and am I doomed to lifelong virginity? I mean, I'm maybe too good at living alone (only child, kinda shy, hermit mode default) but I don't like the idea of just missing out on such a huge part of the human experience because I didn't do adolescence/college right. UGH I REALLY NEED TO STOP WRITING. Didn't mean to hijack, carry on, please forgive childish whining.

wee_ramekin

@Countess Maritza Countessie! You should write to Jia! I bet if you tell your story, then you will find that others come out of the woodwork. You wouldn't feel so alone, and you'd be doing the Public Service of getting the story of Virgin For Other Reasons out there.

Her e-mail (from her comment above) is: jia dot tolentino at gmail dot com

j-i-a

@Countess Maritza I just haven't had anyone like that email me! Let me know if you want to talk!

Miss Maszkerádi

@wee_ramekin ehhh, I'd actually really rather not be interviewed/written about. I mean, sometimes I get nervous just posting shit in the comments here - it's that sudden moment of terror when I realize "oh my god OTHER PEOPLE ARE GOING TO READ WHAT I JUST WROTE."

Also, it's not much of a story. Nerdy Girl too preoccupied with books/school/trying to keep apartment clean to bother much with boys, forgets to date during college, arrives in grad school and all attractive men suddenly married. Zzzzzz.

iceberg

@Countess Maritza seconding the wee one's advice to share your own story. so often on the Pin someone says something and so many people are like OH MY GOD I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE. but someone has to say it first.

Miss Maszkerádi

@wee_ramekin but <3 u, wee ramekin.

Verity

@Countess Maritza I have friends and a sister in their early 20s who are still virgins, often with a very small romantic history. And they're all great, and don't as far as I know have any of the issues you mentioned; it's just a case of timing. (And I thought I would be right there with them; have been with my boyfriend four years now and still am slightly surprised by it.)

Blushingflwr

@Countess Maritza Totally normal. I was 20 before I ever even kissed a guy (I have done a lot more than kissing since then). The average age at which people lose their virginity is an average, that's all. It's a bell curve, I think. I think it does get harder as you get older, because the built-in mechanisms for meeting potential sexual/romantic partners that exist in college go away when you get older, but that is why Al Gore invented the Internet.

wee_ramekin

@Countess Maritza <3 u 2, Countessie.

I dunno, that story doesn't sound so Zzzzzzzzzz to me! Additionally, I think a lot of making an interview interesting is on the interviewer, and Jia seems to have a dab hand in that respect.

I completely understand not wanting to have your name out there to be written out. I wonder if you could change your name and some of your identifying details - would that make you feel more comfortable?

I'd like to read your story! My friend was in the same position as you when she was 25, and I know she would have loved reading something from someone going through the same thing.

Angry Panda

@Countess Maritza "Nerdy Girl too preoccupied with books/school... to bother much with boys, forgets to date during college..." This is a perfect description of me. To cut a long story short, I did meet the right person when I was 25, and I hadn't even kissed anyone before. But it felt right and I didn't feel like I was missing anything before this person came along. Anyway, that relationship ended recently and now I'm wondering if it will take another 25 years for that to happen again.

Daisy Razor

@Countess Maritza Add in "didn't have a condom that one time she got drunk with a really hot Irish guy" and you have my life! I'm sure you don't want platitudes, but I can tell you that I know multiple people (of both genders) who were virgins when they graduated college, and I've attended weddings and/or baby showers for all of them at this point.

Apocalypstick

@Countess Maritza Among my peer group that's not an unusual experience at all, and it'd be really refreshing to hear about people with these kinds of lives more often in the media -you're right that the focus does tend to fall on some explanatory reason, while y'know, sometimes life just happens and it's hard to get the right time, place, & person to all line up at once.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Everybody, thanks for the commiseration/stories/reassurance, guys. I might, maybe, someday write more about my life? (Not just virginity) but I'd have to change a lottttt of identifying details and come up with a serious nom de plume, because paranoia, but maybe someday. For now it just helps to hear you lovely people chime in with similar stories - freaking love the Hairpin <3

KeepThemScrowling

@Countess Maritza Your experiences and worries sound a lot like mine, except I'm a lowercase-d dude. I considered commenting earlier, but like you, worried about thread-jacking, sounding whiny, etc. So thank you for breaking this particular patch of ice! I'm glad I checked back on comments here, and I'm considering emailing Jia. Possibly. Maybe.

Miss Maszkerádi

@KeepThemScrowling *bows elegantly* happy to oblige. For all my aforementioned shyness I do have a definite streak of "light the powder keg and run", so I usually end up thread jacking quite a lot....pleased with how this one is going :-)

Maryaed

@Countess Maritza I know two lovely intellectual good-looking men who didn't have sex till their mid-20s because, get this, they did not meet anyone worth sexing, and they're both now lovely good-looking men in their 40s, one married and one not. People are not all ready at the same time.

Danzig!

@wee_ramekin Jia and the HP crew can fudge details if the interviewee desires it and always uses pseudonyms (I considered using my real name - it is not Ben). In any case, she is good people and she will tend to yr worries should you reach out to her :)

maebytonight

@Countess Maritza I am that person too. Had a pretty normal upbringing, no trauma/abuse, no religious convictions to make me want to stay a virgin... I liked guys and went out on like maybe 2 dates until I was 25 but I was always very social and had plenty of crushes. Then I just put myself out there on OkCupid, met a nice guy, things clicked, and I eventually Did It. It bothers me that the only accounts I ever seem to see of people who were/are older virgins never seem to be people like me. It's always attributed to something like previous trauma, religion, etc. Of course those are valid experiences/reasons! But not all virgins have that story. I have plenty of peers who had the same experience I did, and I feel like we're somehow made to feel stupid about it, like we're a rarity, when we're really not.

anachronistique

@maebytonight Yeah, I'm not bothered by other people's experiences, but they're not representative of me either. (28, still a virgin, just... lazy and antisocial?) But I don't know if it makes a good interview!

wee_ramekin

@all You guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuys. It DOES make a good interview, if only because it is the experience of so many! I think at least one of you should contact Jia; it will be her job to worry about whether or not the interview is interesting. Plus, I think the comments generated from the article will be good ones (they always are...<3 u, Hairpinnie).

j-i-a

@wee_ramekin Yeah just wanted to pop back in and say that I believe that one of the great things about life is that everyone's story is interesting in some way. If my friend tells me a superficially boring story it will be interesting because he or she is human, etc. So to anyone who might be thinking about getting confessional with me--and this is a general note--you can bet both that I will assume that we are friends and thus I will find your story interesting!

Snickies

@Countess Maritza This is probably the second time I have ever commented on this site, but I finally logged in to say that I had basically the same story as you. I was raised fairly religious, but that ultimately didn't have an impact on when I lost my virginity (late 20s) because I was too busy being a book worm and hanging out with my other dorky friends to actually date. And then, yeah, I got to grad school and no way was I dating anyone in my program.
Then it just happened that it wasn't until after I finished grad school and moved back home that I met someone who I liked and who liked me back. If I had dated when I was younger and religious I probably would have felt guilty and held off, but by the time I did want to start dating that guilt was long gone. My boyfriend is also the first person whom I felt comfortable enough with to actually do anything beyond kissing. In the end, I'm glad that I (somewhat accidentally) waited.

This is my new username

@Countess Maritza This is a bit late, but I was a virgin until I was 25 for fairly similar reasons. In high school I just kind of wasn't attracted at all to high school aged boys. I was kind of shy, but an otherwise normal teenager. No abuse, or other emotional trauma in my life. I was raised Catholic, but we certainly did not attend church regularly. There was a period in my life (high school) where I thought I'd wait until marriage, but I really think that had more to do with my lack of sexual desire than actual religious conviction.

I occasionally dated a boy here and therefrom ages 18 to 25, but certainly not regularly and I didn't really feel a connection with any of them that made me feel comfortable enough with them to want to do naked things with them. There was one dude I dated who I actually did want to have sex with, but he was in a very casual dating/casual sex phase in his life and I ended up deciding that was not quite right for me.

Then I met my current dude at age 25 and it felt different and we had sex after about 6 months of dating. For me it was a combination of becoming more comfortable with myself as a person and then also meeting the right other person for me to be ready to have sex.

ladida

@Countess Maritza I started dating a guy a couple of months ago who was in the same situation. He was a 26-year-old virgin, said it wasn't because of any abuse or religious upbringing or anything else, he just hadn't met someone he really liked (who also wanted to have sex - I think his exes were both older virgins, too). Aaaand then we had sex.

valentin

@ladida There's still plenty of time! I didn't get to a second date with anyone until I hit 30 (reader, I married him). Before that though, and for a long time, I felt freakish and lonely, but I look back now with surprisingly little regret. pret ieftin

Princess Slaya

I love this goddam website.

tiptoemammal

Ben! Are you reading these comments? I have feedback for you; I hope that's welcome?

1. For someone who struggles with wanting to take words at face value, your statements in this interview are riddled with the most WONDERFUL, visual metaphors! Do you write creatively? Maybe consider doing that more, especially about your unique life experiences (as you did here, even though you didn't "write" this down). Your voice is poignant and vulnerable and relatable. And valuable.

2. I think that you will someday end up on a date with a woman who has the ability to be disarming. She will sense your discomfort and be able to make you feel okay about it (she might just say "you seem so nervous, you don't need to be!" with a genuine smile), and then you will be able to be honest and just talk about the fact that dating is hard for you, that you are afraid of alienating or offending her, that you have tried so hard to prepare in order to not do that. This level of honesty will come across as genuine (the scripted behaviors often just feel wrong to people, even if they can't point out why?). I suspect that being able to admit that you are struggling this way will allow you to move past that and actually enjoy the person you are with, enjoy the date activities you are sharing, and just relax in general. It will be fun.

3. Girls like this do exist. There are very many of them and you will run into them and the first one you encounter might not even be the last one you date!

4. You don't need to bring up the sexual abuse in your history ever; it's not something you owe to another person to tell them about. Just do that when and if you feel close enough to her to share that intimate information, if you feel the urge to do so. It's your story to do whatever you want with or nothing with. Yours.

5. On "when to bring up PPD," see #1 on this list. It will just come up naturally when you feel free to talk honestly about who and how you are with someone who is genuinely interested and comfortable with you.

6. Like others in this thread, I was so, so, so impressed by this interview. You come across as a wonderfully thoughtful, insightful, well spoken fellow. You will make a fantastic partner to someone who loves all of you, including your PPD ways.

Danzig!

@tiptoemammal Yes I am! Yes it is!

1. Why thank you :) that's an immensely kind thing to say. Jia actually asked me if I wrote. I've never felt comfortable as a creative writer - I think I wrote some stuff that was well-received by my elementary school teachers but I think I lifted most of the content from the games I played every night. A girl in my 6th grade advanced reading class told me I had the capacity to be a poet, which was one of the most deeply affecting things anyone's ever said to me, except that I think I had just recited an unattributed Lisa Simpson line to her :) You should check out some of these newfangled "Twitter poets", they are like 99% vivid imagery. @petfurniture is my favorite.

2. I hope so :) I talked with Jia a bit about how the implicit (and sometimes explicit) judgments that are endemic to online dating don't tend to serve me well. I only want to be good to people, but it takes me a bit to be comfortable with new ones. Online dating is always explicitly dating, and no matter what a person says in their profile about just meeting new people, an online date is never really a first meeting with a person you're counting on seeing again (at least, not initially), it's more like an appraisal of precious stones, or to put it more crudely, an inspection of produce or meat to find blemishes and flaws. You are being vetted as a potential person-to-date and that's harrowing, if you're like me.

So it's either something having to do with chemistry, and it will just work at some impossible-to-determine point, or it's a presentation to a prospective client that I have to nail.* Hopefully it's the former because if it's the latter, I'll never have the floor long enough to impress. I don't believe all dates are such harsh-judgment zones, just the ones that don't entail ever seeing yr date again. Dating a friend or an acquaintance I've already developed a rapport with would be ideal. There's just no incentive for a stranger to take on someone as boring as first-date me :P

3. I know :) have yet to find one interested in me, though.

4. I feel like when it comes to sex, it's sort of a minefield I'll have to warn her about, because I honestly don't know how I'll react. I think I will do my level best to ignore it but you never know when a trigger will hit you, and that's a vulnerable spot to be triggered in, you know? What if I did cry? Even I know nobody likes that.

5. Perhaps you're right. I felt like it would be a courtesy thing, like letting someone know yr allergies before they cook for you, but I'm not sure. I'm unsure if my strange qualities are glaring enough for a woman to wonder what's up with me.

6. That's very kind :) thank you. I try to be thoughtful.

*or a dive I have to pull off flawlessly! All metaphors are on sale today!

chunk lite

@Danzig! @tiptoemammal
I'm all up in your comments, because a) this interview resonated with me so deeply that it was almost a little unnerving - which is such a testament to both Jia's writing and your charisma as a speaker/story teller.

Tiptoemammal is right - you have so many perfect turns of phrase - it would be lovely to see more of your...words, I guess. I was going to say "stuff" but I think I just mean, I want to hear more of what you're thinking - whether that's twitter, blogs, or story telling. I don't think I'm alone when I say that there's something very compelling about the way you see things and experience them and I'd like to be able to hear more.

With regards to the sex stuff and in particular, "Even I know nobody likes that". I mean, probably no one that you'd want to bang would list you crying as the TOP of their list, but not because it's off putting or wrong or bad, but because we want the people that we care about to enjoy sex and to feel safe and fulfilled.

Crying happens - I don't know if my circle is more open than most or if this is the norm, but most sexually active adults I am close with have either been in a situation where they unexpectedly cried or where with someone who unexpectedly cried during/before/after sex. It's absolutely fucking tragic that I would need both hands to list all of the people I've known in my life who have had been sexually abused or assaulted in one way.

I was going to do a stupid joke or be casual about mine, but I was sexually abused for a large part of my life. I also engaged in inappropriate play with a kid a year younger than me while this was happening - I'm still trying to get past blaming 7 year old me for being an "abuser". These things take time to sort out, and my own experience is neither here nor there, really, but I guess I wanted to be clear that this is not all without some understanding of the subject matter.

The first time I had sex, most of my friends had already been having sex for a long time. I was terrified of the more run of the mill variables (doing it wrong, being bad at it, smelling/tasting bad,orgasming, not orgasming, what if my vagina feels...bad?, AIDS, Babies, etc.), plus this giant, horrifying variable of being "triggered". I had done sex STUFF (manual stimulation, primarily) without being set off in any way, but I wasn't ever sure if it was going to jump out like some sort of sex boogey man and ruin everything.

Incidentally, I was. Triggered. It was scary, and in the moment, I was pretty sure it meant that I was broken in some fundamental way or that I had scared off the guy I was with. I wasn't. It didn't.

I was a combination of very picky, and very lucky, so I was able to sleep with someone I felt would create a safe space for me, but it was still...anti-climactic isn't the word. I don't know the word for it, but that thing where everything goes as wrong as you were scared it would...but it's still fine? and not fine in a "one day, this will all be a memory and it's part of life's long journey and something something character building"-fine, but more like "Whelp! That was weird! Sorry that I lost it real hard! Will you please leave so I can watch gilmore girls and eat ice cream, because I'd like to be alone to sort this out, but I still like you a lot, and I think you still like me, and we'll give it another go soon" kinda fine.

When it happens, whenever it's right for you, I can say that for me? just knowing that it wasn't the end of the world was a big deal. I think I had spent years waiting for the other shoe to drop, or assumed that I had been walking around with a land mine between my legs, just waiting to be tripped. Yes, my past meant that sex, for me, wasn't as like, swinging and carefree as I assumed everyone else's was, but it had never been that anyway. I'd always been cautious and a bit shy and the first time I had sex without being triggered didn't change that either. That was like, 8 years ago! I'm still very cautious and a bit shy the first time I sleep with someone. I think that's pretty normal, but even if it isn't, it's normal for me, and I've gotten comfortable with that.

Anyway. I was just so deeply charmed by the interview (and I am obviously not alone you sly dog!), and I hope that you find someone kind and great who thinks your wonderful for your first time (and for all the other times, too, of course!)

Danzig!

@tiptoemammal Thank you so much! :) I might write something about Silver Linings Playbook on my tumblr in the next few days, I'll link it if / when it goes up. My twitter account (@Basic_Chunnel) is mostly me being pithy about culture and retweeting melis. I've thought of pitching something to Edith / Jane but they have no idea who I am and besides that, I'm not nearly as good as everyone else in the Awl / Hairpin house. I'm just some guy.

And thank you thank you thank you for your beautiful, eloquent and advice and for sharing your story. I feel less intimidated now :)

decantate

I love this article. Ben seems like an amazing person. I liked especially the over-thinking about physical boundaries. I get the same way! Actually I have a loooot in common with Ben (including moving to Colorado) so it's overall great to hear what he's been through. Thanks for being brave enough to share this!

Misselthwaite

Ben, I am in love with your analogies! The bubble in the tape, that was so lovely my breath caught, and the veins in a marble, god. Please write, maybe for here or somewhere, but I want to read it! You're a lovely speaker.

Danzig!

@Misselthwaite thanks :) Edith / Jane would make such mincemeat out of me, though.

TARDIStime

@Danzig! Cleaning up that mincemeat mess is what Jolie is for :-)

Noelle O'Donnell

Just deleted my profile after a long, mostly unsuccessful spell on OKC. Ran into this right afterwards and cried all the way through this interview.
My usual cynicism melted away when I read Ben's answers to Jia's questions, what an amazingly insightful, well-meaning individual and such beautiful imagery! Thank you for this.

Mark Wilson@facebook

Oh gosh. Ben, you are super charming. I know so many mid-twenty something virgins. Heck, I was one. I remember it seemed like a big deal at the time, but in retrospect, it wasn't. Social scripts are great for first interactions like first dates. You just need a flirting script. Thankfully, we have the wonders of the Internet! The SIRC Guide to Flirting has got you covered: http://www.sirc.org/publik/flirt.html ... The small of the back is a fairly bold starting move. I'd go with touch on the shoulder, touch on the hand, handholding, etc... There are lots of lovely people who don't rely on sarcasm to seem interesting. Someday you'll meet that person who is confident enough to be vulnerable and trusting instead of sarcastic.

James Walker

When it happens, whenever it's right for you, I can say that for me? just knowing that it wasn't the end of the world was a big deal. I think I had spent years waiting for the other shoe to drop, or assumed that I had been walking around with a land mine between my legs, just waiting to be tripped. Yes, my past meant that sex, for me, wasn't as like, swinging and carefree as I assumed everyone else's was, but it had never been that anyway. I'd always been cautious and a bit shy and the first time I had sex without being triggered didn't change that either. That was like, 8 years ago! I'm still very cautious and a bit shy the first time I sleep with someone. I think that's pretty normal, but even if it isn't, it's normal for me, and I've gotten comfortable with that bestessays au reviews

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