Our contributor Abby Spector, who is majoring in Feminine/Gender/Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University, has a confession to make:
Twenty-first century men are stuck between the macho and the metrosexual. They are told to be tough yet sensitive, strong yet vulnerable, careless yet compassionate. The manifestations of this straight man’s limbo differ depending on the group. Hipsters wear tight-fitting pants. Jocks cry during legendary sports matches. Frat bros sleep with one another. However, the breed I am most familiar with is the New-Ager who uses Eastern philosophy to avoid commitment.
Kindness, serenity, an open mind, freedom from suffering — the basic ideas of Buddhism are undeniably appealing. Combine this with an attractive guy and it seems like a match made in heaven, or rather, Nirvana. But don’t be fooled. There are plenty of “Buddhist” dudes who treat their religion less like a way of life and more like an accessory, one designed to attract a mate (or should I say mates?). After all, Buddhism has become cool. Between their muscle-building yoga classes and whiskey-enhanced soy lattes, these twenty-something liberal yuppies have figured out a way to turn selfish casual sex into a hoity-toity spiritual journey.
Jonah was the first in a long line of meditating misogynists. His poetry, praised by his literature professors, lured me in. He had a poem about being a roasted almond and a daffodil. “It shows how we are all one and yet all nothing, the secret of Buddhism.” He said this with such confidence that I agreed, despite having no idea how an almond and a daffodil were related. We eventually had sex on his yoga mat.
This went on for a few months. Over time, his confidence turned into patronizing arrogance. He didn’t want to be exclusive and was always late. “Stop stressing, babe. Live in the moment.” Bullshit. His version of living in the moment was calling me when he was horny. I remember looking up in a post-coital daze and seeing my red lace, Victoria’s Secret bra hanging from a copy of The Laozi, another ancient Eastern philosophy emphasizing simplicity. He clearly left it out to seem deep, and this relationship was anything but — irony at its finest. I laughed. Jonah, however, saw this as disrespectful. Turns out my laughter was too “in the moment” for him. We broke up a week later, a difficult task considering that we were never officially together.
After Jonah came Andrew. Then Bobby. Then Isaac. Then Skylar. Hey, Liberal Arts colleges are infested with these Kerouac wannabes — it’s hard to avoid them! Of course, after enough exposure, you start to see the tell-tale signs. They all avoid commitment, claiming that labels are pointless social constructs. They prefer nature over cities, tea over coffee, and their opinion over yours. A guitar sits in their bedroom. (Whether or not they play it is a different story.) Most of all, they all identify with Buddhism. They weren’t raised this way, just picked it up once they decided to be part of the alternative in crowd.
You would think that the sex would be good, or at least interesting, with someone so invested in spiritual awakening. Wrong. Their ego makes it impossible for them to let loose. Doing it becomes very serious. You end up feeling like your approach to sex is stupid or illegitimate since it isn’t underpinned by some greater, metaphysical force.
Ten months ago I would’ve ended this confession with an incredibly judgmental, half-assed vow to stay away from Buddhists and their ilk. That was before I fell in love with one.
From afar, my current partner, Nate, seems like the kind of guy I am chastising. He lives in a Buddhist dorm. He studies music. He values simplicity and is mind-bogglingly intelligent. However, unlike the others, he doesn’t use these qualities as tools in his game. Buddhism is not a way to get into some elite social circle or into my pants. His beliefs are sincere. Our relationship often benefits from his Buddhist-based philosophies. I have learned from his spontaneousness, kind-heartedness and peacefulness — a trifecta of traits I appreciate and admire, yet have difficulty possessing myself. Oh, and the sex is incredible. Nate’s passionate and communicative approach makes me feel comfortable being myself…sometimes three times in one night.
There is a Buddhist saying that goes, “Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone.” So I’m letting go of those past flings. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go consider doing my boyfriend.