Welcome to The Baffler’s agony corner, YOUR SORRY ASS, where Amber A’Lee Frost dispenses bossy, judgmental advice on how to live your life fairly, kindly, and with good humor. Send us your rants and pleas, please: email@example.com.
Dear Your Sorry Ass,
I don’t really know how to describe my situation, other than to say I FEEL so inadequate right now.
Like, I’m a senior in college, a month away from graduating magna cum laude with a dual BA on time in four years, about to present research I’m doing in two kinda prestigious/good situations, yet I still feel like what I’ve done so far isn’t good enough.
I have decent enough relations with the women I’ve met in life so far, I guess.
The thing has to be that I’m socially awkward and a virgin. It’s like the only explanation for why I can feel this way. I have decent enough relations with the women I’ve met in life so far, I guess (how do I even know what’s fine or OK in this regard?), yet I’ve never gone “the next step” with one and had sex, and it’s tearing at my soul. Like, even if I feel like something could be a situation that progresses further, I shittily friendzone myself because I don’t know how to do different. I’m fairly confident I’m not gay or anything other than cisgender, yet having sex is, for some goddamn reason or another, the mental block in my world I haven’t been able to overcome.
I know on a mental level that this is OK, yet I’m months away from being unmoored from the guide/leash I’ve been on my entire life. Aside from drunkenly typing this out to you on my phone at a party that’s winding down—I only came because I tagged along with one of my younger, less awkward roommates—I just don’t know what to do. I have no job lined up for after I graduate, and, despite an enviable experience interning abroad (and other stuff that ought to make me, like, “feel better” about my situation), I am months away from seemingly totally and completely falling apart. It’s like I’ve done so much yet also nowhere near enough for someone in my situation.
I don’t know what I’m doing after I graduate, and I am drowning in the final semester I have before graduating. And, finally, because I’m incredibly aware of how privileged I’ve been (cis white male, no student loans, no need to work while in school—I can just focus on my studies as my “job”), being without the conception of the future I’ve usually overused as a crutch to push off figuring shit out, I don’t know what comes next, and I am totally fucking terrified of what will happen as a result.
I don’t even really know what I’m trying to accomplish in asking you for advice in this. How to (ethically) get a woman to have sex with me? Reassure me that this is fine and things will turn out OK for me? I just don’t know right now.
On the Precipice of Falling Off the Rails
Dear On the Precipice,
I am not a medical professional, nor should you take my advice as a diagnosis, but you appear to be suffering from a tragically common and absolutely excruciating condition known as “Being 22.” There is no known cure, but nearly everyone recovers over time. This is not to diminish your pain, I just want you to know that you’re in good company, and that the legitimate anguish you’re feeling will most likely (slowly) melt away on its own, at least to the level of something more manageable.
The job insecurity, I’m sorry to say, is just one of those things that you just have to slog through. Nearly no one has a job lined up after graduation anymore, and that’s fine. It might take a while—much longer than you intended—but it’s unrealistic to assume that employment will drop from the sky. Not unreasonable, mind you—you did the work, and we all deserve meaningful employment—but that’s not the world we live in, and it’s no reflection on you. And the first job you get probably won’t be your dream job. Just remember these things happen in phases. Take it all one step at a time, try new things, pay attention to what you’re good at, and follow what you enjoy. Careers aren’t born, they crawl out of a primordial ooze, and they adapt and evolve to the environment.
As long as we’re on the subject of primordial ooze, you could stand to go a little easier on yourself regarding sex.
And as long as we’re on the subject of primordial ooze, you could stand to go a little easier on yourself regarding sex and relationships, too. Just like a job, sex is not a milestone. There’s no deadline, and you can’t beat yourself up over a late start date.
You mention the “friendzone.” Let’s be clear about what that is and isn’t. It breaks with a feminist shibboleth to say this, but the friendzone is real . . . sort of. It’s a construct, but as I judge by your adept use of words like “privilege” and “cis,” you’re aware that constructs have very real effects on our daily lives.
As friend and Twitter bard Brandy Jensen says, “[H]ere’s the thing about the friend zone: it’s an absolutely 100% bullshit made[-]up place, but also I’ve made it my zip code before[.]”
You have women friends, but haven’t made the leap? It’s possible you’re not giving off an “I will pleasure you sexually” kind of vibe. There is a delicate balance here, so may I recommend some supplemental reading? I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but Tucker Max’s Mate is . . . not bad?
Marking a major brand pivot from his I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell days, Max abandoned his fratty misogyny voice to give some pretty good elementary advice on how to appeal to women who are attracted to men (forget his weird digressions into evolutionary psychology). It seems basic, but a lot of the “trick” is just being a well-rounded person who can flirt and joke and smell OK. And of course, always be kind and honest. If you’re going to enjoy another person’s body, you’re obligated to treat them with dignity and respect.
Again, though, try not to make such a huge deal out of it. A lot of sexual chemistry is subjective and varies from person to person, and it doesn’t necessarily require any special skills or intelligence. (You know this because stupid people are often very good at it.)
Whether in a relationship or merely for a fun time, sex is supposed to be enjoyed. It’s literally the most popular recreational activity on earth, which is why we continue to do it so much, despite the risk of such afflictions as disease, pregnancy, and/or love. So be kind, and enjoy.
Want some Sorry Ass advice from The Baffler? Send your gripes and conundrums to Amber Frost at firstname.lastname@example.org.