I'm a straight man at that age where the general public still considers me young. Although I've attended many weddings, I have no interest in marrying or even being in a relationship. I never have.
I'm not asexual. I've had and enjoyed sex. I just don't feel the need to be with anyone. As long as I've got music and friends, I'm satisfied. Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one. My parents want grandkids. My friends want to set me up. My television set only ever shows people in or pursuing relationships. My government wants me to father and raise future dead soldiers. I try not to internalize these views, but sometimes I wonder what's going to happen if I change my mind somewhere down the road. What the hell's wrong with me? Or not wrong with me? What do I tell people who insist that something's wrong or that I'll change my mind? And what should I do if I actually do change my mind?
I Don't Give A Fuck
Honestly, yours is one of those letters that I have a hard time giving much of a fuck about. Don't get me wrong: You sound like a nice guy, articulate and pithy, and I typically like people who know what they do and don't want.
But cowards annoy me.
Forgive me for working my own sexuality into this, but I have to say: When I was at that age the general public unanimously considers young – still a teenager – I walked into my mother's bedroom and informed her that I was a faggot. (Begging my parents for tickets to the national tour of A Chorus Line for my 13th birthday somehow didn't do the job; five years later, I had to come out to them all over again.) If I could work up the nerve to come out to my very Catholic parents about putting dicks in my mouth – at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, at that – you can find the courage to come out to your parents and friends as not asexual, not unhappy and not planning to date, cohabit, wed or reproduce.
But while I'm not sympathetic to your plight, IDGAF, I found someone who is.
"Few young adults say they're not interested in sex or relationships, but IDGAF's preference for going solo is hardly unique," says Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology at New York University and author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. "Today, an unprecedented number of people are opting to live alone. One-person households represent 28 percent of all households in the U.S., and in cities the numbers are higher."
Your coupled-up friends and grandchild-starved parents might have an easier time accepting your lifestyle choices if they knew just how common they are.
"In recent decades," Klinenberg says, "young adults have been the fastest growing group of American singletons. They're delaying marriage and spending more years single. Moreover, they increasingly recognize the fact that over their long lives, they're likely to cycle in and out of different situations: alone, together; together, alone."
And despite the negative stereotypes that slosh around about single people – they're antisocial, unhappy, isolated – Klinenberg's research shows that those who live alone do just fine in the friends and social-life departments.
"People who live alone tend to be more social than people who are married," Klinenberg says. "They're more likely to spend time with friends and neighbors; more likely to spend time and money in bars, cafes and restaurants; and even more likely to volunteer in civic organizations. So much for the myth of selfish singles!"
So what should you tell your nagging friends and family?
"How about letting them know that going solo is what works best for him right now," Klinenberg says, "but that he's hardly made a vow to stay single forever. Or, if he's feeling feisty, he can remind them that, no matter how they've arranged their lives at the moment, someday they might find themselves opting out of sex and relationships, too."
What should you do if you change your mind someday? You should date, you should marry. Don't describe your current choices as superior – even if it does mean a better social life – and you won't have to eat crow if you change your mind.
"We've come a long way in our attitudes about sex and relationships," Klinenberg says. "Now that living alone is more common than living with a spouse and two children, isn't it time we learned to respect the choice to go solo, too?"
Indeed it is. And the sooner you demand a little respect from your parents and friends for your choices, the sooner you'll get it.
Single and partnered people alike should follow Eric Klinenberg on Twitter: @EricKlinenberg. To find out more about Klinenberg's books and his research, go to ericklinenberg.com.
What's the etiquette around (nonpenetrative) sex toys after a breakup? I bought restraints, a blindfold, etc. for my ex, and she left them behind. It seems a waste to throw them away. Is it a bit squicky for a guy to bust out an arsenal of old toys when a new gal comes along?
Alone With Accessories She Had
Jonathan Schroder, general manager of Mr. S Leather in San Francisco (mr-s-leather.com), suggests that you get rid of your bondage gear. Schroder is in the business of selling sex toys – Mr. S is famous for its high-quality bondage gear – but his advice isn't about his desire to move merchandise. It's about your desire for gals, AWASH.
"Personally, I think some of the best gear you can get is hand-me-down gear," Schroder says. "And there's a great tradition in the gay leather community about passing gear from older folks to younger folks. But my gut tells me that a new girlfriend might wig out about used bondage gear. We have a lot of customers and couples that have a strong preference for cleanliness. But straight women in particular prefer that things be wiped down, well-cleaned and shiny. So a woman who opens a dresser drawer and finds restraints with signs of wear and tear – and signs of someone else's sweat or fluids on them – is probably going to be turned off."
So get rid of your old gear, Schroder advises, but don't throw it away.
"Find someone who wants and can't afford bondage gear, and give it to them," Schroder says. "Gear is expensive, and there are people out there who can't afford it. Help 'em out."
If all people are naturally nonmonogamous – a point I've made about 10 million times – then from my perspective, polyamory and monogamy are relationship models, not sexual orientations. (And if poly and monogamy are sexual orientations, Lily, wouldn't going solo have to be considered one, too?) That was my point. Poly can be central to someone's sexual self-conception, and it can be hugely important, but I don't think it's an orientation in the same way that gay, straight or bisexual are orientations. People can and do, of course, identify as poly. But is poly something anyone can do or something some people are? I come down on the "do" side. Lily clearly disagrees.
But as @GetItBigGurl said on Twitter, where Lily and I engaged about my comments in last week's column, "Openly pondering difference between orientation vs. lifestyle isn't bigotry, legislating against polyamory is."
No one is legislating against polyamory here. Just thinkin' about things.