Men are a luxury, and right now I am broke

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

Katherine Ryan tells a fabulous story, in her stand-up show Glitter Room, about the time her ex-boyfriend moved to Japan. He had to go for work, and she didn’t want to move with him, so they split up. Shortly after he arrived in the country, he rang her to express shock that she had stayed where she was, and hadn’t followed him halfway around the world. He tells her: “I thought you needed me more than that.” Katherine replies: “Oh sweetie, I didn’t need you – I liked you. I enjoy having you around, but you are a luxury item.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think I understand a bit more where I fall on the idea of ‘needing’ men (or ‘a man’). Friendships are one thing, but when it comes to sexual and romantic relationships, men are a luxury.

The depth and breadth of my desire for men is devastating. As in, it devastates me. If I spend too much time thinking about just how hard I ache for men – both specific men and the general, nebulous concept of ‘men’ as a whole – I feel dizzy and sick, like it’s vertigo. If you mapped out all my desires like an XKCD cartoon, the continent marked ‘men’ would dominate everything else. I love men. I love fucking them, stroking them, holding them, talking to them. Staring at their lovely lovely hands and swooning over their eyes and listening enraptured to even their dullest stories, because I cannot get enough of the sound of their voices. Some of the happiest times in my life have been spent wrapped fully round a man.

But I don’t need them. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that doing the things I want to do with men actively drains my energy, and sometimes it’s imperative that I spend that energy elsewhere.

Better and better

When my grandmother gave birth to my Mum, men were a necessity. Not just because women were excluded from the workforce, but because the stigma attached to being unmarried (not to mention unmarried and pregnant!) was extreme, suffocating, and sometimes deadly. When my Mum got married to my Dad, things had eased up a little, though not much. If you were a woman who wanted to have a comfortable, happy life in the late 70s/early 80s, getting a man was the thing to do. I’m not telling you this is why either of them got married, incidentally: I’m pretty sure both of them loved the men they married, when they married them.

I don’t know if the women who came before me feel the same way about men as I do. I know my Mum playfully eye-rolls about the extremely poor choices I’ve made in the past just to get a little bit more of this or that guy. She used to find my dating attitude hilarious and baffling: the idea that I would be messaging a bunch of men all at once feels alien to her, and if she knew how easily I tumbled into bed with guys on first dates, I imagine she’d roll her eyes so hard she’d be able to see her own brain. Since the break up she’s refrained from telling me that “you’ll find someone else,” but I think that’s mostly because she wants me to get back with my ex. It’s hard to work out how much of this is because she knows how much I loved him or because she herself can’t comprehend a life without settled companionship. She definitely doesn’t think men are a luxury. I think she believes that a man – specifically the love of a single one – is, if not vital, at least important if I’m trying to be happy.

Men are a luxury

The truth of it, from my currently-single perspective, is that a man – specifically a boyfriend or romantic/sexual partner – will not make my life easier. Men do not make my life easier. While I’m happy to accept that it’s possible I may meet one who does some day, in my experience being attached to somebody is a hell of a lot of work. It’s usually joyous, rewarding work, if that guy is especially awesome, but it is rarely ever easy. And before you even fall in love, first you must meet men.

And men make my life harder.

Fucking someone requires emotional and physical intimacy, which requires a calm and confident headspace. Maintaining that calm, confident headspace means constantly working on how I feel and what I’m doing – enforcing boundaries, taking risks, balancing work and social in a way that keeps me happy instead of anxious. Right now my life is a mess, and when life is a mess, bringing men into it means dumping more hard work onto my ‘to-do’ list.

Even the men with whom I’d like to have casual connections seem to need far more nurturing than I’d like. My ideal ‘casual’ connection with a guy at this exact moment in time is one with a guy I already know (so no ‘getting-to-know-you’ admin and definitely no ‘dates where he doesn’t ask me any questions and then I realise to my horror I’ve wasted a whole evening’). In the dream scenario, the guy I already know would arrange a time/day for us to meet up, one which isn’t already booked out in my calendar with all-caps ‘DO NOT CANCEL/ IMPORTANT/ DEADLINE/ YOUR LIFE IS FUCKED IF YOU DON’T COMPLETE THIS’. Then – here’s the important bit – in between now and that date, he’d leave me alone.

Instead, dudes I could potentially shag message me with random jokes or chat or ephemera when I’m twelve-feet-deep in work and life, and I can’t help but tut sometimes in annoyance when their messages pop up on my phone. What do you want? Why do you need me? Have I unwittingly signed a service agreement which says I must feed words into your inbox every other day? I want to shag these dudes, but the price I will pay for shagging them is that I’ll have to regularly press buttons to keep them entertained.

The luxury of time/energy

If you think it’s harsh of me to talk about men like they’re troublesome tamagotchis, you’re 100% right. It is harsh. And shitty. And wrong. It’s absolutely no way to treat people – especially people who will also have to work hard to maintain a calm, confident headspace and stay in the mood for hot fucking.

This is what I mean by ‘I am broke.’

When I say ‘men are a luxury’ I don’t mean ‘men are awful and annoying and I wish they’d shut up with their messages’, though if you catch me on a bad day that’s exactly what I’ll say, and hope to fuck whoever I say it to is a good enough friend that they’ll sternly tell me off. What I mean when I say ‘I am broke’ is: ‘right now, my head is not in a place where I am capable of doing even the most basic work to be respectful to the men I might fuck.’ I broke up with lovely Homebase because I didn’t have the energy for a proper relationship, so it’s not a surprise to realise, a few months and torrents of shit later, that I don’t even have the energy, time, headspace, whatever-you’d-like-to-call-it to nurture a casual ‘wanna bang?’ relationship either.

So when people ask me whether I am dating right now, or if I’ve got anyone lined up as potential fucks, my answer is that right now I don’t think I deserve them. I am so stressed out, and heartbroken, and messy, and busy, that I cannot guarantee I won’t treat men like troublesome tamagotchis. The fact that I mention the ‘work’ involved in forming and nurturing relationships with men is not a stampy-feminist way to slam you. It’s an important thing to acknowledge in my ongoing quest to be a better person. Or at least a less shitty person than I was yesterday.

Some of my past relationships would have gone better if the men I was with had known that I’m work too. Being vulnerable and intimate with someone takes effort – you have to work on yourself, to stay confident and happy, and work on the relationship, to invest in and contribute to what you’re building together. Having the time/headspace/energy to do this is not something everyone has, at every point in their lives. I think it’s worth recognising those times in our lives when we don’t – and either ask partners for support or time while we do this, or refrain from establishing new partnerships when we know we’ll not be able to do the groundwork.

I’m flat fucking broke, gang. I want to fuck men, but I am not willing or able to put the effort in to treat them kindly. I’m standing in front of the shop window at a superstore marked ‘MEN’ and jingling a pocket of small change which is nowhere near enough to rent even the most basic model. I could rob the shop and disappoint a man, or I could back the fuck off and wait till I can afford one.

The depth and breadth of my desire for men devastates me. But men are a luxury, and right now I am broke.


  • CJ Brook says:

    I dont think it’s harsh or wrong to describe men in the way you do; its important to be honest with yourself and with any potential parter of where your head is. Raised expectations, either for yourself or someone you want a relationship / shag / anything in between with is only harmful to everyone if deep down you know that they are unrealistic.

    It sounds like you’re in a good place; you know what you need to do to maintain any kind of relationship and you cant afford that mental load at the moment. It just means that when the right thing comes along, you can judge it on the proper criteria and do the best thing for you. <3

    • Girl on the net says:

      That’s a very kind way to put it, but honestly I really do think it’s harsh of me. I think the honesty comes in saying ‘I can’t handle this right now’ rather than what I usually do which is trying to stay on top of messages and be responsive, only to end up being brusque and potentially hurtful. But I think we’re saying the same thing here, it’s just that the honesty of this post is way clearer and better than the messages, for the simple fact that I have more time to write one post that covers this whole topic than to explain this to individual dudes on a case by case basis.

  • fuzzy says:

    Having written this, you can now point at it in your upcoming potential casual encounters and either they will appreciate it and get it — or they won’t. Either makes life easier on you.

    I use various “stacks” to describe my relationship to this issue. I only have so much room in a given stack; and there are times when one is artificially full or empty; corresponding to your nicely put “i am broke”. Also, I can only deal with the thing on the top of a given stack; if something is 4 levels down then it has to wait until I’ve unstacked above it.

    For myself, the longest I’ve gone without sex since 1978 was 6 months in 2002; and that was both necessary for my mental and spiritual health and a radical departure from my normal behavior, which more closely resembles a tomcat. I need someone around for sexual and companionship and i’ve made some awful and notorious decisions in order to obtain that in choice of even temporary partners at times.

    I adore Katherine Ryan, not the least for her “she can wear me like a watch” comment in one of her routines. I like people who are earthy and blunt and fun and honest and she comes across that way.

    Nice job on the writing (per usual).

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ooh yeah I like the ‘stacks’ analogy! That’s a really interesting way to put it. I once had a counsellor who used the analogy of a ‘bucket’ as well, which I think was helpful when I was running wild doing things *for people* but not doing anything for me: your energy is contained in a bucket, and everything you do (work, care, travel etc) puts a little hole in your bucket. In order to keep being able to do those things, you need something that will fill your bucket up (fun, happiness, friends, etc etc). At the moment my bucket is running dangerously low, cos there are a couple of massive holes in it. I am trying to plug those holes, and also keep my bucket filled up. In good times, shagging might help fill my bucket, but right now it would actually just put a hole in it, so instead I’m focusing on friendship to fill my bucket up (cos I have lovely friends and they’re being incredible to me), then maybe when the water stops pouring out of it I’ll be able to do the other things.

      Also… 6 months. Fuck. I don’t know how long I’ve ever gone without sex, but I reckon it might be close to that? Not 100% sure though. There was a period of time in my life where I had a lot of random/meh sex with people I didn’t know that well, and I’d probably count that as my longest dry spell cos it’s not quite satisfying in the same way as sex with people I know who I can let go with.

  • PLJ says:

    This is really liberating to read. I can’t tell you how much I have felt this from the other side of the equation. It just feels so refreshing to hear you describe how a man or “men” can fulfil you, but also how they drain you. I feel totally energised by reading this.

  • Bob Hoskins says:

    Bit harsh but it’s whatever you feel in this moment, probably make you laugh or cringe in a few years time.

    Best of luck with it all.

  • ftandhubby says:

    I appreciate your comments but assure you that there are men who would be happy to have exactly the relationship you want/need.
    We have guy friends who are pretty much on call (and happy to be). The relationships are strictly about sex. My wife has no desire to make small talk or chit chat after the event. In her case the thrill is having a horny guy show up use her for release then be on his way. She then relishes in the naughtiness of it all and I as well. Take care of yourself first but don’t deny yoursef either, just honestly demand the type of relationship you need.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ah well obviously let me first admit that I’m extremely envious – that sounds like a fabulous situation! But I want to just pick up on a few things from your comment, because (to extend the ‘broke’ analogy here for a second) it sounds a little like someone with a wallet full of fifties asking me why I don’t just go to the store and buy the cheapest model. As I say, I’m *broke*, so effort of any kind is beyond what I really have the capacity to do right now.

      ‘friends’ – I have friends, and knowing me I’ll be sure to try and shag a few of them. But they, too, require care and respect and time. I can’t just expect lovely men I already know to put up with me ignoring them 99% of the time then texting to say ‘fancy a shag?’ and expecting them to service me at the drop of a hat. If you have already established these kinds of relationships then good for you, but *establishing these relationships* is not something I have time/energy for right now. You might be able to deduce from my talk in the post of having to text/nurture men that this is the kind of thing I’ve been going for, then immediately slamming into the problem that the men I want to shag require (justifiably and fairly) a little more effort than I’m able to put in right now.

      ‘show up’ – I deduce from this that you have a home where it’s appropriate/acceptable for people to show up for sex. Getting this requires a lot of effort, and it’s the main thing I’m focusing on right now. Until I have it, though, that’s out.

      ‘we’ – this is important too. The fact that there are two of you to share the emotional load/effort means you can effectively spread the ‘cost’ of doing these things. If one of you doesn’t want to do the text admin of arranging times/making small talk before the event, you can do that. If one of you is too tired to change the bedsheets before someone comes round for a bang, the other can pick that up. If one of you doesn’t want to take time to establish relationships, the other may know friends who are up for fulfilling this role, and mutual trust means they can lean on the other for suggestions etc etc etc.

      Sorry, I probably sound a bit argumentative here, but I don’t mean to be. I just think that kind of situation – delightful and brilliant though it would undoubtedly be – really does require more effort/energy/calm/stability on my part than you might assume.

  • Mosscat says:

    Oh GOTN, you’re in sore need of some restorative luxury. Or at least the resources to have it x. Being ‘broke’ is hard enough so be gentle on yourself.

  • Pinkgilly15 says:

    What a brilliant post , I certainly agree with much of the energy requirements and the men wanting affirmation even when casual as I have seen that first hand. I’m not really using twitter so missing many posts of yours (I had to step away from twitter due to energy, time and toxic stuff, for my sanity) I am honestly better without it, but miss many of my sex bogging pals.
    I think we still live in very complex times re communication between men, women, and all other none binary genders and the unrealistic social norms placed on all of us is often the problem. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to just lay down your rules about a certain thing and have them adhered too. Then emotions get involved and it all goes even more complicated taking energy to do something that should be basic and fun.
    Much love xxx

  • Mike Griffin says:

    I read all of your work. I absorb and mull over so much of what you feel able to share because having precious insight into how someone else manages to function in this crazy place with a head full of sexual desires and a stomach full of insecurities is, in some odd way, a relief. So often, when i am in any form of relationship, i feel like im inflicting myself on the unfortunate lady im with, draining them (as opposed to draining myself into them…) and wrapping them in my troubles. For a long time ive been waiting to feel “better” or “normal”, actively avoiding female interaction until i can give as much as i require. Its a strange limbo to be in, wanting to hold and be held but fearing that very need because it leads down pathways that often seem dark and clouded with uncertainty. By now im sure youll have ascertained that i am no writer, but i felt compelled to say that i constantly feel “broke” when viewing the selection of potential partners from a safe distance and your article struck several chords, as they so often do. What id give for a full emotional wallet to take on a spending spree!

    Keep smiling.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hey Mike, thank you so much – that’s really kind of you to say. And this… “For a long time ive been waiting to feel “better” or “normal”, actively avoiding female interaction until i can give as much as i require” is a really valuable thing, I think. I would love for more people to recognise this, and I think it’s good that you’re waiting till you’re in a good place where a relationship can add things rather than drain things (on both sides!). I hope your emotional wallet is full soon!

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Well, I can definitely sympathise with this (apart from the ‘men’ part). I don’t even have time to read this blog anymore, but happened to come across this piece the other day, and understand entirely. I like the idea of being in a relationship, but there’s no way I have the time or energy or mental space for it in the near-term future. Even less so for all the dating/flirting/etc. that’s usually required to start a relationship in the first place. (How does anyone have time for that?)

    And no, no-strings-attached hookups like someone suggested above doesn’t appeal… and it’s clearly not what you’re looking for either.

    I don’t have a solution to offer; but I guess it’s to either we gradually sort out our lives until we can find the time/energy for a relationship – or wait until the widespread availability of intelligent love robots. :D

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ah yeah, I think those are the only two options really. Twenty years into the future, when robots are way more advanced, no one will have to deal with this problem. But then forty years into the future, when the robots have gained sentience, they’ll suddenly be confronted by it all over again =)

      I’m sorry to hear things are still so hectic for you – wishing you time and efficiency and the chance to get on top of things as soon as is realistic!

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