Dear U Up, Should I Explore This Attraction?

mister softee
Photo courtesy of Love Boat Insanity

Q. Dazed and Confused: Every time I swear off relationships for personal and/or professional reasons, I meet a really attractive, intelligent, sweet person who shows strong interest in me. Am I compromising my goals by pursuing something with this person? Or was I being too stringent in the first place? Is there a ‘right’ thing to do in this situation? Ahhh!!!

A: My inclination is to say hell yes, just go for it and here’s why: I used to believe in this idea that I couldn’t take on something new in my life until I felt fully clear-eyed, prepared and had pretty strong confidence that I knew how a situation would turn out. The problem with this approach is that I don’t think one ever reaches a point of sustained complete self-assuredness about a course of action. It’s hardly ever the case that we are imbued with enough  intuition to absolutely know our gut that we should do this thing at this moment. I can’t speak for everyone on this, but unfortunately the heavens have never once opened up to me to give me a discernible sign that “It’s time! Whatever you’re thinking about doing is bound to succeed!”. Waiting for this to happen results in a thousand little lost opportunities.

These days I’m much more of a proponent of the dive-in-and-try-your-best-to-rise-to-the-occassion approach. Try something, evaluate how it made you feel and plan next set of actions accordingly. The only way you will build up the confidence to do intimidating things is to do intimidating things, survive them, and come out feeling stronger and more capable of handling uncertainty.

You mentioned that you were hesitant to pursue this relationship in part due to personal reasons. I would like to try and dispel the notion that one needs to place themselves in a hermetically sealed vacuum to figure out their shit all alone and then return saint-like back to civilization once they’ve done so, or that it’s wrong to get close to someone knowing that you have unresolved personal issues. We will always carry damage. The space that people we feel connected to hold for us and the insight they provide is often the only way that we’re able to feel safe and willing to work on ourselves. And in the end isn’t that the work we should get paid to do? Just kidding.

The above advice is assuming that these personal reasons are of sort of existential in nature. If your personal reasons are something more like “I can’t date right now because I need to focus on applying to grad school” or “I absolutely need to devout a ton of time in the next couple of months learning how to read a dead language” or some other activity that requires a ton of quiet alone time, then I might pump the breaks a little bit. I would keep the person at an arm’s length distance as a close friend. That way you can still be free to get to know them and enjoy their company but not get so totally invested in the delightful but disorienting gaieties of a new relationship. If you still want to take things further after making comfortable progress on your goal, then you can do so knowing that this person isn’t compromising your plans for yourself and that there’s a strong enough connection between you two to warrant more emotional investment.

“U Up?” is a bi-weekly love and relationship advice column by Liz Zarka. Submit anonymous inquiries here

Dear U Up, Am I addicted to sex?

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Photo courtesy of partial boner

U Up is back from summer sabbatical to talk about sex addiction.

Q. Double Stuffed Oreo: What is the difference between a sex addiction and a really high libido?

A: Sex addiction is another tricky one. Some people use the label to condemn sexual fantasies and practices that are different from their own. Some people use it as a scapegoat when they are caught engaging in an affair. Psychologists, sex experts, and addiction therapists themselves are torn not only on the definitions and criteria that classify a sex addiction, but whether or not it exists at all. On the one hand, considering sex an addictive behavior seems reasonable. Sex affects the pleasure centers in the brain similar to how a drug does. On the other, we can’t ignore the fundamental and obvious differences between sex and addictive substances and behaviors like drugs or binge eating. Sex and the desire for it is natural and offers mental and physical health benefits. The pathologizing of sexual behaviors can come off as stuck-up puritanical judgement by prudes who think that anything more bendy than missionary is impolite.

So what to say about sex addiction?

My partner’s favorite movie is Shame directed and written by Steve McQueen starring Irish art-boy and hottie Michael Fassbender. In the movie, Fassbender plays a sex addict named Brandon who cannot control his promiscuity and exhibitionism even when they threaten his relationships and his job. Great movie. Someday I would love to see Fassbender get the recognition he deserves from the Academy. He really is one of my personal heroes. 

Homing in on the title of this movie is actually quite helpful answering Double Stuffed’s question. Maybe what separates a healthy desire for sex and one that is compulsory and doing more harm than good lies in your gut sense of how you feel after the act. Do you feel empowered? Connected? Fulfilled? Tickled? Aligned with your principles and sense of self identity? Or toning it down a bit–was it at least fun and worth your time?

Staring into the abyss and tuning into your inner speaker while you’re wiping cum off of your leg might not sound like the sexiest way to spend your time post-organism, but it could be really helpful in gauging your feelings toward your sexual habits. If you feel drained, defeated, or ashamed, entertain the idea that you might be treating sex as a salve for or distraction from something else. Maybe it’s not the sex in itself that is addicting, but the running away from an unpleasant thing that is.

Perhaps you feel like sex (or masturbation) is taking over your life. You plan your day around it. It has put you in danger, or financial trouble, or you sacrificed close personal relationships to get it. Or maybe it’s something less dramatic, like every time you exit the post-sex haze, you consistently feel that you would have rather spent the time that you were fapping or fucking composing a song on GarageBand or responding to your pen pal instead, if only your better judgement wasn’t defeated by compulsion. If these descriptors resonate with you, it might be time to consider that sex could be a self-soothing behavior for something that runs deeper, like loneliness, boredom, depression or anxiety.

“U Up?” is a bi-weekly love and relationship advice column by Liz Zarka. Submit anonymous inquiries here

Dear U Up, Who Will Take Care of Childless Millennials?

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Read what U Up had to say about your burning relationship questions this month

Q. Geriatric 24 y/o: What is going to happen to millennials who didn’t have kids when they get older? Who will take care of them?

A: Frankly, they’ll probably thrive and look and feel awesome. They will have lived an entire life unfettered by the pressures of parenting. They wont have to stress out about their kid hanging out with the neighborhood weirdo, whether vaccinations will make said kid good at math, or deciding between that sick fender they’ve always wanted or a mediocre trip to Disneyland. No Dinonugget lunches or wondering, as they digest an entire leftover Peppa Pig birthday cake, what could have happened if their college band “The Classic Fold” stayed together after graduation and Marissa never took that internship in Copenhagen. Just good credit, a flat stomach and Marissa.

But even still, these millennials will wake up one day and be 80. This is a very unsexy answer for a column partially devoted to talking about sex, but at that point, hired elderly care services will probably come in handy. Due to a longer average life expectancy and the aging of a large Baby Boomer population, the home health aid industry is the fastest growing in the United States according to this source, this source and this source. I can see the trend likely following suit for the millennial generation. Alternative answers: your Roomba, your childhood best friend Shawnie, you will no longer have a body thanks to Elon Musk.

Q. Love virgin: I’ve never been in love with anyone and was wondering if you could tell me what it’s like. Do you love someone in the same way I love the Taco Bell Double Decker Crunchwrap Supreme? 

A. I can. But first, an overture:

 Imagine an apple. A bright, fat, juicy green apple. It’s resting atop a sarcophagus adorned with inscriptions belonging to some strange, intelligent civilization. Sitting cross-legged around the tomb is everyone you’ve once held in your arms. You pick up the apple, and bite into it, the flesh giving way to the sweetest elixir that’s ever kissed your lips. You pass the apple around in silence to your cadre of lovers—present, past and future—with the tacit understanding that it would be a sin to keep any human being from experiencing its life-affirming graces. You patiently await the return of the enigmatic fruit, knowing, but not fearing, that this is an impossibility. You pass the time by gazing contentedly at the lovers merrily dancing, smiling and clapping without abandon and—wait, what is that, nay, WHO is that figure emerging from the forest, shrouded in a fog. Could it be? It is. World famous Emmy-award-winning actor and two-time-shortlister for Essence Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive award, Idris Elba. He stands on the far side of the clearing, the tear drops of cherubs refracting beams of sunlight off of his muscular frame. The clearing is now filled with the Platonic ideal of every color: red, yellow, orange, green, blue, violet…every imaginable color, and even some shades that cannot be adequately described within the limits of human language. “God must have been a painter” is all you can manage to whisper as you hold back tears of your own.

You run to him and he to you. He catches you effortlessly with one arm as you leap into the warm caverns of his barrel chest. You inhale. Just as you expected: Downy. He is a fabric softener kind of guy. With his other arm, he reaches up and removes his face, revealing an overwhelmingly bright blue light radiating underneath, a portal to another dimension. The fog immediately lifts and evaporates into a blue and cloudless sky. The lovers fall to the ground and giggle as they make snow angles out of the rose petals that now cushion the entire field. Everyone enters a period of intense orgy—based lovemaking. The forest trees reverberate with the sound of uninhibited pleasure. You climax several times in ways heretofore unfathomable. A sunflower opens in your stomach. You disintegrate and return to oneness with MotherEarth. She is pregnant for the fourth time with cosmic potentiality. You enter infinite time-space. The cry of a baby snaps you back into the present moment. You are the baby! But for a brief moment, before you exit the birth canal and start life anew you are filled with a lucid understanding of infinite wisdom and the tender affection of millennia of lovers. Entire civilizations rise and fall as you chuckle inwardly at the deceptive illusions of “time” and “individual bodies.” You smirk at the unbearable lightness of existence. Everything was love all along. Just love.

A big round of applause if you’re still reading. I’ve been smoking too much weed and watching too many Lynch movies this weekend and needed that release. This is also a really tough question to answer and that was my really elaborate and roundabout way of procrastinating.

The feeling of being in love with someone is an entirely subjective experience that changes based on the phase of your relationship, external factors affecting both of your lives, and how hungry you are when someone asks you.

Taking all of that into account, the feeling of being in love I am presently experiencing tonight is pretty freaking awesome. Even if you are physically alone, you never really feel alone. When you think of that person, you have an intuition—that can’t really be intellectualized but I’ll try —that despite everything else that might be wrong or feel wrong in your life, despite whether you feel behind, or not good enough, or fearful, or regretful, or in the wrong city with the wrong career, when it comes to this person, you are right where you should be. It feels like home. It feels like what home felt like when you were a kid—comforting, honest, safe— a place to be yourself, and play, and talk in funny voices, and say wacky things and dream big wacky dreams out loud without the fear of being stupid, or shameful, or not being enough. And then you get to be that home for that person. And it feels like a fucking honor.

This can all look kind of grotesque, though. Hypothetically speaking, here are some snapshots of what it might be like to be in love—the good, the bad and the ugly:

  • Shushing and petting each other’s muscle twitches like they are wild stallions
  • Making fart-pods out of each other’s beds after you cook and share a delicious and nutritious legume-based dinner
  • Listening to each other’s objectively boring dreams but nodding periodically to let the other know you’re still listening even though nobody is fucking, you aren’t in it, and you’d rather be screaming into a pillow
  • Driving your partner to the hospital at 6 a.m. when they’ve been up all night agonizing while reading WebMD, convinced that they have mouth, nose and throat cancer but it’s actually just a blueberry skin stuck to the side of their cheek
  • Functioning as each other’s furniture (person as human gravity blanket, person as human reading chair, person’s stomach as Mooshi pillow etc.)
  • Wondering “oh my god is this the only person I’m going to fuck for the rest of my life?” as you watch your partner use their pubes as a loofa in the shower
  • Smushing a soft-serve McDonald’s ice cream cone in ritual combat in the face of someone who is online-bullying your loved one on NBA-related Reddit forums
  • Going to both Thanksgivings and keeping your cool when a weird uncle who is an ex-cop starts yelling about the dangers of butt chugging and the infinite grace of God
  • Getting in a yelling fight about the kid’s initials from “There Will Be Blood” and both being wrong
  • Looking at each other and understanding/sharing the overwhelming desire to eat a really dear dear dear loved one
  • Nodding in supportive approval when your partner brags about a really nicely worded work email they just sent to Kath in HR
  • Day dreaming about the next step in your lives together, and how to express your love for them in a more sophisticated way than smothering them with your entire body at any given chance

Q. Funky junk: How many testicles is too many?

A. Testicles are a social construct. But three.

“U Up?” is a bi-weekly (but sometimes more like bi-monthly) love and relationship advice column by Liz Zarka. Submit anonymous inquiries here

U Up?

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Man Ray,  Meret Oppenheim nude, 1930′s

Ladies and gentlemen, you didn’t ask for it, but here it is anyways, a new love advice column called “U Up?”. The alternatives were “Liz the Love Wiz” or “Zarka for the Heartka” so put it all into perspective.

As a person who has: dated a Creationist; thought she had oral herpes but it was actually just adult acne; ceremonially married a dentist at a Berlin night club; made out with a pro hand farter before he was famous; had her breasts likened to persimmons by a person with an eyebrow piercing that was never not infected*, and reads the DSM-IV for sport, I feel that I am uniquely qualified for this position.  

That’s right, like anyone who dabbled in college theater, I’ve been to the rodeo, gotten lost at the rodeo, and asked for directions at the rodeo more than once. The rodeo was supposed to be a metaphor for sex and sexual identity, but I’m not sure it’s working. What i’m trying to say is that I have had sex at least once, and know some very adventurous and silly people who have ALSO had it. 

But even cowgirls get the blues. This sleepy betty is ready to hang up her spurs, settle down, and try her luck at tackling the tough subjects–the anything and everything around relationships, love and sex. Things like:

  • pregnancy scares
  • hooking up with a friend
  • thruples
  • vagina smells
  • sex work
  • being married to a dentist
  • getting aroused by a particularly voluptuous tomato
  • having a crush on your cousin
  • STDs
  • you know, normal stuff! 

Feel free to post your inquiries here, anonymously or otherwise, or send them to elizabethzarka@gmail.com. I’ll be answering them weekly, bi-weekly, or something like that. Tune in later to see what unfolds!

*On the record, my boobs are normal boob shape. Ask anyone with a Snapchat. 

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