When my brainy, easy-on-the-eyes When my brainy, easy-on-the-eyes When my brainy, easy-on-the-eyes
Scandinavian cabin-mate - whose English is not quite perfect- discusses giving away her honey, my buddy and I clamp our jaws in a look that's half grimace, half insane grin. It's our vain attempt to release saltpetre into our systems. The house rules in this cabin for two that she and I share are pretty clear: keep the fire going and the woodpile stocked, no gumboots in the kitchen and no sex.
This sounds OK, especially this last one, because, really, I'm here to have a good time for the next month, not get involved in something that could get too complicated too fast and then I'm sleeping in the woodshed.
Theoretically, there's no problem. It's the existential reality that concerns me. This is a dangerously romantic place. Here, the gentle Pacific surf throbs in the near distance and the breeze whistles through the high bending pines. The cabin is rustic and cozy, and our evenings are candlelit in the darkest month of the year. We drink 20-year-old single malt with a splash of forest rainwater, eat wonderful meals and talk long into the night.
The surfer dudes from Montreal think I'm either sleeping with her or I'm gay. Booked into my room in paradise where the spectre of potential eros and maybe even (please god, spare me) the L-word looms large, my head and heart are pounding. I'll probably need a spiritual experience to get me through this.
Waiting for that to happen, I gnaw on my coho jerky and walk the beach. Three surfers in wetsuits ride the winter waves for a few giddy seconds, give it up, then swim back out on their boards for more. On land, they inform me that I'm not the only single person on North Beach who isn't having sex these days.
"In town it's referred to as Celibate Beach." (They didn't put that in the brochures!) But these guys don't provide much illumination.
"I'm picky," says one. Another says he's never had much luck in relationships so he's steering clear for the time being. The third, who's really quiet, has that gun-shy look of the recently divorced.
I need a woman to explain it to me, and I find one a few lots over - a bright and bouncy social worker who wears a thin gold ring in her nose. As soon as we start talking she gets very animated, oohing and ahing and cursing and bouncing up and down, looking very sexy talking about being horny and not getting any. As I try to imagine not sleeping with her, one phrase she utters vibrates through my daze.
"Everyone's terrified," she says, her voice dropping to a hush, "of getting involved."
These last two words fill the room. and our conversation stops. To get things back on track, I think of a couple of questions to ask - "So what's so bad about getting involved?" and "Does having sex with someone mean you have to get involved?" - but she and I know the answers already.
Is it possible for sex to be a boundaried experience, unencumbered by involvements or, to use that bleak word, entanglements? Maybe if you like sex in a park or under steam, but for most of us I think no-strings sex is rare.
Like some kind of emotional flu you get from having sex with people, "getting involved" can sometimes not be worth even the hottest mind-searing, gut-wrenching, summer-surf-riding, down-and-dirty sexual experience. "Getting involved," says the social worker, "can take me into a system beyond my control."
The beach residents here have their various reasons for keeping sexual and emotional appetites in check, but the common thread is not wanting to be too casual with life. This place may be one reason: it inspires an interactive awe. Perhaps an extraordinary landscape causes us to be a little more careful about how we connect with each other.
Other motivations for not getting involved are because someone is on a spiritual or a healing journey provoked by some kind of trauma, be it a terminated relationship, too long a stint at the mill or slogging through an unfulfilled life.
Some fear getting their hearts zinged, then broken. Others, like me, who have been in a relationship most of their lives, want to know what it's like to feel complete in a solo act.
Despite the rush of temporary divinity that sex with a new partner can bring, on some level, conscious or not, some of us recognize that sex is more rush than we can handle at the moment. Emotional energy may be better spent cultivating a new relationship to the pressures of life or inhabiting a small spot of land to find eros and the big O as we see fit.
Sounds mystical, and it could be if you're lucky, but a life without sex for however long requires a strong and loving inner life. Who's to judge that some nun isn't having a fabulous time surfing her personal ocean the way she chooses?
The soul asks for different things at different times, and sex will always be what it's always been, an opportunity to go forward with someone in beauty, whatever the consequences.
As for me, I'm biding my time shacked up here on North Beach with my Danish friend, making love of a different kind.
Gotta love that freedom to choose.