This is one of several essays from my private cancer journal. It is not intended as anything than a record of my states of mind as I struggled with the disease and the effects of the treatment.
February 5, 2000
By early January 2000, I was getting used to the idea of impotency. I didn't like it but it wasn't ripping me apart or sending into a black hole. It appeared the worst was over and now I just had to learn how to live with it.
The month before, my good friend Kelli arrived in Cincinnati for the first of three business visits. I had known Kelli for perhaps six years, starting back in Southern California. We had first met via some Internet social group and when we found we lived only a few miles from each other, we had lunch and the friendship started.
On the surface, Kelli and I were worlds apart. She was 30 years my junior, bisexual, sometimes into S&M (she had even worked as a dominatrix in a "dungeon") and had a sexual history that was far beyond mine. I was as straight as they came. But it was never the sexual part that linked us. In fact, over six years, there was never any sex between us. We simply hit it off and loved to trade emails and sometimes a lunch where we traded exasperations and frustrations with life and relationships as well as our successes and insights. It produced a degree of comfortable honesty as we followed each other through life.
She emailed me in December that her company had sent her to Cincinnati so we got to meet then and during another visit a few weeks later. The third visit was towards the end of January (about 10 days prior to this writing) when the impotency issue had taken a new turn for me. Kelli wanted to get together for dinner but I was too depressed to be out with people. She suggested dinner in her hotel room, which sounded fine except I had no appetite. I told her to order hers and we could talk while she ate.
I conveniently arrived a few minutes after her meal. I plopped on a chair while she sat on the bed cross-legged and assaulted her dinner. After the usual catch-up conversation, it turned to what was bothering me.
I told her that I had been planning to move to the West Coast and had some thoughts about living as a single man in a new city, so dating crossed my mind. It would be enjoyable to meet a nice woman for some evenings or weekends out. But then I realized I had omitted one crucial point: I was impotent. What would happen if the relationship became "serious"? It frightened me. As I told Kelli, it was an inversion of being a virgin. How and when do I tell a woman that I'm impotent and that I'm not interested in any form of sexual relationship?
You'd be amazed at how many women would love to have a non-sexual relationship with a man, she said as she took a bite of steak.
C'mon, I said, really?
Yes, she said. For a lot of women, they have the problem of how to tell a man they enjoy that they don't want the relationship to be sexual. They just want a man to cuddle up with.
Cuddle up with?
Most definitely, she said. Women love to cuddle and the idea of having a man who will cuddle and not expect sex is sought by more women than you might imagine.
Why, I asked. Why don't they want sex?
Any number of reasons, Kelli said as she waved a fork. Maybe they're tired of sex. Maybe they have a boyfriend who doesn't like to cuddle and so they are cuddle-hungry. Maybe they just don't like sex. Some women, for example, suffer from vaginas that are so contracted and tight that sex is too painful so they live without sex but would love to sleep with a man purely for the companionship. The point is, she said, there are many reasons and a lot of women who would love to find a man who can't have sex and if he isn't the cuddle type, maybe he'd just be a great date and friend.
I had no idea, I said.
Why do you suppose so many women enjoy gay men as friends, she said with a wide grin.
I had heard of it but had never put it in those terms.
Okay, I said, how does one find such women?
Not easy, she said as a piece of broccoli disappeared. In fact in some ways it is harder to find them than women who expect or want sex because they tend to be more withdrawn from the social scene. They get tired of fending off the sexual advances and they don't disclose what they really want.
Okay, but how does one find them, I said, repeating my question.
An ad might be a good start, she said.
Where, I asked. I knew Kelli had gone that route in her love life to meet new people in her varied lifestyles but it had never been an option for me.
An alternative paper is a good place, she said as she pushed the tray away and leaned against the headboard.
And say what, that I'm impotent because of cancer treatment?
Wouldn't hurt, she said. That way a woman would know you're serious, rather than just using it as a line.
I fell silent and thought about it. The idea of advertising my impotency was so foreign that I had trouble digesting the thought. Our conversation looped back through the subject as I tried to get my wits around the idea that there really were women who would welcome an impotent man. She was insistent that there really were such women. They just had to be found.
It's the same as any dating, she said with a smile. You have to look.
I nodded. Okay, I said, I believe you. Are you going to eat that roll?
A few minutes later, our conversation ended and I went back to Caren's, chewing on the idea. I definitely felt better than I had before seeing Kelli. Maybe I could get enough courage to write such an ad but it was still a strange concept. I had to think about it but at least it gave an option to a man in my condition.
My optimism lasted only a couple of days before the bottom fell out.