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A Critical (But Highly Sympathetic) Reading of New Yorkers’ Sexual Habits and Anxieties

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10:30 p.m. He has not called me back, I’m frustrated. Though we broke up a year ago, we usually see each other quite often; however it’s not clear if he is my boyfriend once again. I’m still in love with him. ... Don’t want to pressure him, because it’s the reason we broke up in the first place. I begin to think, What do I do to keep him interested and wanting only me?

Maintaining enough distance to permit a decisive break now requires more discipline than many people can muster, and a familiar category of relationship has become more widespread: those that one can never wholly embrace, but never finally refuse. This is wireless co-dependency, and the recovery movement potent enough to cure it (without insisting that its members unplug from the grid) has yet to come into being.

10. The anxiety of being unable to love.
And yet perhaps the most surprising psychological attribute of the Diarists, despite weeks upon weeks of guarding their vulnerabilities from the brutality of the marketplace, is their romanticism. True love! Who could say these words in public without acute embarrassment? It is nonetheless something that the Diarists keep referencing, despite the impression they convey that it is an ever-receding ideal. It’s an odd, negative sort of tribute—a vague longing for something all but lost, but perhaps worth clinging to nonetheless.

10 p.m. I want to love her. And I should. I just, well, don’t. She’s the best girlfriend anyone could ever hope to have. I wish that were enough to love her.

Reading the Sex Diaries all in one enormous gulp, as I have, caused me to surf on the edge of a terrible vertigo as I thought of the many wounds I had myself endured and inflicted during my brief career as a person with a New York City sex life. I had a thought analogous to the one I often have about cars: How is it that we hurtle around the country in these enormous steel boxes and ever survive? And yet people do, sometimes even in the Sex Diaries.

You would have to have read 800 printed pages of them to feel about the following Diary the same way that I did. There was nothing special about it—just an ordinary young man earnestly seeking a happy ending—and it is surely because I endured so much of the heartbreak written into this sprawling document that I make no apologies for the pleasure I took in it, or in disclosing that the somewhat sappy narrative climax contained therein brought me—in my own high esteem, as disenchanted a reader as any alive today—to tears in the reading room of the New York Public Library:

DAY SEVEN
11:15 a.m. Co-worker makes comment that I am glowing. I smile, knowing it’s because of new boyfriend. 3 p.m. I write note to Ex explaining how I thought he should know that I am really happy and dating an amazing guy. It finally feels like some closure. 7 p.m. My head is in the clouds, and I forget to bring my sneakers to my dodgeball game. Still we are able to win one game. I catch game-winning ball! 9:35 p.m. Guy from league hits on me. I happily deny him: “Sorry, I just met an amazing guy, and I think I’m in love!” I smile, feeling really good about telling anyone and everybody about how happy I am and how wonderful he is. I cannot wait for our date tomorrow!


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