CONFESSIONS OF AN ATHEIST NUN
People in their 20s love to talk about their sex lives. The good parts, the bad parts, the downright gross parts–all of it is up for discussion. I know more about my friends’ kinks, hang-ups, and pubic hair configurations than I could have ever imagined.
But in a brave new world built on over-sharing, there was always one part of my sex life that I was embarrassed to talk about, even with my closest friends:
My self-imposed three years without a sex life.
That’s right, I spent the latter part of my 20s, for all intents and purposes, celibate.
It wasn’t for religious reasons–I don’t have any religion to speak of. Nor was it for lack of options–I could have hooked up with any number of guys who hit on me at bars, or made a move on people within my circle if I’d so chosen.
It’s just that I simply didn’t want sex.
After losing Nathan and having my mother diagnosed with lung cancer shortly thereafter I was exhausted, depressed, and left with zero libido.
During my mother’s illness, I traveled back and forth between my home in New York and her home in Virginia constantly. I found myself overwhelmed and drained of energy. I had panic attacks. Showering and putting on makeup sometimes felt like more than I could handle in terms of self-care. And the thought of having to drag another person into my very messy personal life was a concept beyond comprehension.
So I didn’t. I didn’t date. I didn’t kiss anyone. I didn’t even feel the need for sexual release. And that, dear reader, was perhaps one of the most isolating parts of my experience with caretaking and grieving of all. Because while most people in their 20s can’t necessarily relate to losing their parents or friends at such a young age, they can understand the enormity of it. Not wanting to get off, though? That’s a thing most people my age couldn’t even imagine.
For me, though, it was the right decision. It allowed me to focus my limited energy on what was really important at the time–taking care of my loved ones, and getting to know myself better. Because I knew that after my mother died, I’d have no choice but to need to be able to take care of myself. Staying single and not entering into the types of codependent or otherwise unhealthy relationships that I know I would have gotten myself into had I tried allowed me to learn how to do just that.
Looking back now, I wouldn’t say that being celibate was a choice so much as a side effect of grief. I think I would have rather been engaging in a healthy sex life like those of my peers, but my body simply wasn’t into it. That said, it did eventually come back, strangely enough, within a week of my mother’s passing. I think this had to do with the stress of anticipatory grief being lifted, but let me tell you, if you think that not having a libido is confusing for a 29 year old, imagine how it feels to regain it… because your mother died.