I’ve been like a kid in a candy store the last few days, watching Ted Talks. Every one I’ve watched has been amazingly good, but the one I saw this morning by Eve Ensler was a real show-stopper. She is the woman who wrote and performed the original Vagina Monologue, and I wasn’t sure quite what to expect—I was amazed.
I’ll admit I’m an emotional soft touch. I used to get choked up at TV commercials—when I watched TV—but I don’t remember the last time anything actually put tears on my cheeks. The Vagina Monologue had led her to begin a worldwide campaign against abuse of women, and it was the story is of this abuse, and triumphs against it, that moved me.
As some of you may know by listening to the Bare Brains podcasts, I was a womanizer until I got clean and sober at the age of 40. I had sought to absolve myself of any guilt in doing emotional harm to the women I was involved with by being very clear at the outset that there was no future in our relationship. I told them that if they ever found themselves with expectations of a long-term commitment, they should immediately turn and walk away. Nonetheless, when I was involved with them, I felt love for them—and communicated that—so that inevitably they developed expectations. But they didn’t walk. Sooner or later I would be attracted to someone new, and while I would still care about the one I had been most recently involved with, that caring didn’t extend to being dissuaded by their unhappiness from pursuing my new infatuation.
One of the consequences of removing the veil of drugs was that it became clear to me that it is not okay to cause someone pain, even if you warn them in advance. With this new awareness, I was faced with a choice of either giving up sex, or committing to a long-term relationship. I could not, at that point, consider giving up sex, so I managed to suppress everything I knew about myself and became convinced that I was capable of a long-term commitment. I was deluding myself, and despite my best efforts, I eventually came to the conclusion that I was too much of a hermit to live with anyone full time. In the end, the freedom of living alone came to be more important than sexual gratification, and I split. My wife and I are best friends, and she has found that her own independence is much preferable to living with a discontented husband.
I recently had a visit from an old friend who knew me in the days when sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll was my mantra. When I told him that I had not had sex with anyone but myself in 2 1/2 years, he was astonished. It took him a while to get used to my reincarnation, and I don’t think he’s yet fully convinced that I’m happier than I ever have been before. You could never have convinced me, 30 years ago, that I would ever become the person I am now and be happy, but it’s true. The joy of a clear conscience and a simple, uncomplicated life, is greater than I could ever have imagined.
I’m afraid it’s unlikely that any other guy would follow my example based on this testimonial. It seems that such drastic changes are only brought about by one’s own high impact experiences—someone else’s words would certainly not have convinced me. Nonetheless, we plant the seed, never knowing when it might find fertile ground.
I can only hope that any women reading this might be forewarned about guys like the one I was. I deeply regret that women have to be so guarded against the men of the world, but Eve Ensler’s efforts could change that world, and it could become a place where women feel safe and fearless. I look forward to that day.