Something happens to the human body in a dry spell. You get grumpy. You have a harder time letting go of things. Your spirit shrivels up a bit. A dear friend once told me, “I just get really mean if I don’t have sex for a couple of weeks. I start lashing out at waiters.”
But, dry spells happen, and you need coping mechanisms (other than high-school levels of masturbation).
You also need to recognize that there’s usually something else happening during a dry spell, too. But what is it? And is there anything to be redeemed about a dry spell?
In matters of desire my mind wanders to the words of the Buddha, who wrote “A man who is greedy for […] women, relatives, many sensual pleasures, is overpowered with weakness and trampled by trouble.” He nailed it. Suffering defines the human condition and it’s based in unfulfilled desire. But, perhaps a dry spell can lend us perspective. Can we slake our thirst without drowning in the ocean of despair?
And yet, Pablo Neruda, that great poet of desire, reminds us that when our body wants something so badly, it’s hard not to be consumed by it:
There was thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit. There were grief and ruins, and you were the miracle.
The skeptic in me suspects a dry spell has more to do with your own outlook than with a complete unavailability of sexual partners (unless you are living complete rural isolation… in which case, I feel you.) Not all of us are as principled as the Buddha, nor as alluring as Neruda. So, if sex is unavailable to you, try to see it as an opportunity to rediscover the erotic in your life in the absence of a partner.
Here are my suggestions:
1. Change your surroundings. Get out of town and go somewhere beautiful. Watch toads have sex. Watch European tourists make out in a park. Watch bees throw themselves at flowers. Remember that there’s sex happening everywhere, all the time. Get some of it.
On a sidenote, different cities, countries, and cultures find different things attractive. (Maybe you’re hot in Japan.)
2. Remember You’re Going to Die. Wanting sex can be a way of remembering that you are in fact alive—that you’re body is materially present and fragile. There is nothing like the knowledge of your own mortality to impel you to fuck.
3. Hang out with old people.
They’ll remind you of all things in life that have nothing to do with sex. But then you’ll suddenly remember sex again, and they’ll also remind you that life is long and lots of sex will happen at some point.
Plus, they’ll tell you how attractive you are.
4. Have sex. Okay, so this is a trick tip, but I’m pretty sure that after these first three steps you’ll be running some seriously sexy game.
If you’re not yet, just try flirting with, like, two more people, and maybe they’ll have sex with you. If they won’t, try again with somebody else. (There’s an app for this.) (I’m also available for hire as a match-maker.) (If things go there, there’s also Craigslist.)
Your dry spell probably has to do with you being too picky, looking for the perfect person who you can have exactly the right-kind-of sex with instead of taking chances. But during a dry spell, what matters is changing your attitude to sex. Allow yourself to say yes to sex with someone whom you’ve previous ruled out or never before considered. Don’t be so precious.
And if that doesn’t work…
5. Don’t have Sex. If you tried the previous steps you may realize that just “getting some” is not really the issue. If so, actively choose not to have sex; then, your dry spell is no longer a dry spell but rather a monk-like retreat from sensual and earthly desire. (You are not horny; you’re just spiritual.) Wait to have sex till you find a person that you’re actually attracted to. Then ditch the Buddha thing and go all Neruda on them.
6. Remember: Everybody is Beautiful. Find beauty in the people you meet and interact with daily. Fall in love with the way your roommate makes his coffee, the way your neighbor walks her dog, the way the woman on the subway chews her gum. If you see beauty, beauty will see you. And maybe sleep with you too.
7. Remember: Everybody is Ugly. Not having sex can make you feel like you are no longer attractive. In these moments, I always like to remember that generally everybody ends up ugly. You’re way hotter alive than dead, and you won’t have that body forever. Enjoy it now.
8. Read Dirty. Spend less time reading and analyzing text messages from people who may or may not want to have sex with you. Get back in the game by learning from the pros. I recommend Roland Barthes’ A Lovers Discourse, Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” and of course, Neruda’s “Love Sonnet XI.” No better way to remember that you and your dryspell are in good company.
9. Eat or Exercise. Or both. It’s a great substitute for sex. And usually people who eat well and exercise are more attractive to other people. Downside: working out can make you horny, which sucks if you’re already in a dry spot. Upside: Yogurt could make you more virile.
10. Spend time with people who make you feel goodlookin’. Family, friends, whatever. Spending time with people who think you’re great will remind you there is nothing wrong with you for not having sex.
11. Stop being so dramatic. Complaining about a dry-spell won’t make it rain.
12. When all else fails: Fake it till you make it. Dress like you’re on a date. Dance like you know you’re a tiger in the sack. Talk confidently and with purpose about the people, places, and ideas that matter to you.
13. Remember: Nobody else is having as much sex as they let on.
Just the Tips is Playboy.com’s weekly advice column, with professional matchmaker Katherine Cooper. Have a question for Katherine about sex, love or dating? Shoot her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.