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Alone Again, Naturally

By Mink Stole | Posted 8/15/2001

For the first time in four years, I am a single woman. Previously, I bounced from jerk to jerk, having boyfriends within two months of one another. Then, when I finally meet the best male ever, I ruined the relationship. Needless to say, I'm a little apprehensive about dating right now. However, I do enjoy the single life. I don't need sex (thank heaven for plastic!) and I love the freedom that comes with solitude. There's just one problem: I'm still lonely. I don't want anything serious, just a warm body in the bed for holding. How on earth do I go about asking someone for this, without having to worry about sex or dating? I don't want a friend to do the job, but I don't want a lover either.

Cold Feet at Night

Dear Cold Feet:
I am so tired of listening to every vote-grabbing politician in this country talk about the family. Family, family, family. Sure, kids and families--of all kinds--are vital, but living alone doesn't make the rest of us irrelevant. Not every person living alone is a big loser in life's great mating game; some of us even prefer it. I didn't plan it this way, but I've been living by myself for more than 20 years, with the exception of the failed and nearly fatal experiment of living with my brother for a year, and it suits me. Occasional loneliness is a price I'm willing to pay for being in charge of my own life. And, God knows, the world is full of desperately lonely and unhappy married people.

What you're looking for may not exist in human form. It's pretty much impossible to keep someone at a distance sexually if you've got your body draped around his all night. If you can have animals, treat yourself to a couple of kittens. (Two is much better than one because you won't feel as guilty leaving them home together, and unless you plan to curl up every night with a good book and your plastic play pal, you should be spending some time out with friends.) Cats are not only affectionate and responsive, they require minimal maintenance (compared to a lover), rarely pick fights, and adore an all-night cuddle. If you can't have cats, maybe one of those body-sized pillows would do. You can maneuver it into whatever position you want, your arm won't fall asleep under it, it has no rib-bruising elbows, and it won't snore or steal the covers. If you need more warmth, try wrapping it in an electric blanket. What you really want is to feel comforted, and this will trigger the same safe feeling your favorite childhood teddy bear did.

I'm not suggesting that you prepare to spend the rest of your life in solitary confinement, or that cats or a pillow should be permanent substitutes for a mate and/or children, but a large part of contentment is learning to enjoy your own company. And if not now, when? This would also be a good time to get some therapy or counseling so that when you meet the next best male ever you won't be so likely to screw it up.

I agree with your response to the "who pays?" question (Think Mink, Aug. 1), but I aspire to chivalry. Here's what I came up with, and it's worked every time. When money time comes, I (gently) put my hand on the check (or take my money out to pay the ticket-seller, or whatever), and before I actually pay, I turn to my date, look her in the eye, and ask, "Would you mind if I got this?" I purposely avoid the word "pay" because I don't want to set off any reflexes to the verbiage. One hundred percent of the time, the woman has turned to me, thought a moment, and then said, "Yes, sure, thanks." And that's that. She is involved in the process--I'm not power-tripping by assuming her choice or foisting a "you owe me" on her by paying right away before she can offer, etc. She is given power in having the last say as to whether I pay or not. A couple of times women have said, "Thanks! How about I get the tip?" and that's worked well. Since coming up with this, I have yet to see a woman react uncomfortably to the "who pays?" situation.

Greg of Charles Village
Dear Greg:
I like it. It's graceful, it's tactful, it makes you look like Cary Grant. Few people can resist someone else's willingness to treat, but this way it sounds they're doing you a favor by letting you pick up the check. You have to be careful when looking her in the eye, though. It may feel right to you, but it might come across as too practiced a maneuver, just a bit too silky-suave; it could even seem sort of challenging. Make it more of a glance, with a smile, and it's just about perfect. Imagine saying it to your mom. In fact, take Mom out and say it to her. You'll see what I mean.

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