Let’s just get this out of the way now: everybody masturbates. Women masturbate. Men masturbate. Old people masturbate. Sexually mature twelve year-olds masturbate. Kindergarten teachers masturbate, doctors masturbate, and you bet your ass that when the Ice Queen’s not putting out, Obama masturbates.
For how much time is spent choking the chicken—in aggregate, Americans spend over one million hours a day jerking off—the subject is still largely taboo. Maybe it’s religious zealotry. Or maybe it’s overbearing parents. But I have a theory: it’s jealousy. As a society, men refuse to concede their phallic inferiority to a gigantic, buzzing dick, and women are bitter that their handjobs are always worse than the ones men can give themselves.
By now, it should come as no surprise that I too masturbate. Regularly. It’s not a fact that I particularly care to advertise—let alone discuss for 2,000 words—but it’s true. And goshdarnit, I like masturbating.
Initially, I deemed a “no masturbation” month impossible. A decade’s worth of sexual maturity had ingrained the act to more than just a habit—it was a natural part of living. So for the entire year, I vacillated on December’s move of self-deprivation. I considered no gluten (too trendy and boring). Then I considered no negativity (too abstract).
But then I reflected on the year. Where I had come since January. All the roadblocks and speed bumps—the triumphs and defeats. And it was clear that there was only one way to end this. The final boss awaited.
So on the last day of November, I unceremoniously rubbed one out in the shower and watched my last hope of any self-inflicted ecstasy swirl down the drain.
December started off easy. For 99% of the day, not masturbating was a nonissue. It’s not like I had the sudden impulse to pull up PornHub and go to town in the middle of a client meeting. Days one and two passed without incident.
But like anything, night was when the sirens sang and the demons danced.
For years, I’ve engaged in some quick hand-to-gland combat before bed. It’s my nightly routine. Masturbating is a legitimate sleep aid—the act releases a sleepytime cocktail of dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins—and I fucking take advantage of science. I’ll follow up the dirty by watching a TV show, and within minutes, I conk out.
Night three, however, did not follow the script.
I had just gotten used to my new nightly routine: in bed by 11 with a book, read for 20 minutes, and then an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Usually, I’ll fall asleep in minutes to the sweet sounds of Danny DeVito’s slurred grumbles. But after a 22-minute episode, my eyes hadn’t drooped a millimeter. I rolled over and started another.
Twenty-two minutes later: nothing. It was already past midnight. My frustration swelled. I closed my laptop, hoping to find solace in silence.
I spent the next 90 minutes devising useless mental lists, shifting side to side, and trying to think about anything not related to sex and women. Especially not boobs. Definitely nothing to do with boobs—boobs complemented with a slender hourglass figure, round ass, coy smile, devious eyes, and luscious, supple boobs.
Goddammit, stop thinking about boobs!
I prayed for sleep’s sweet release. Willed for it with every fiber of my being. But my dick had ruthlessly hijacked my brain and was not letting up on the controls.
I checked the time. 2:00am. I had to be awake in five hours.
Is this actually happening? Did my best friend just become my worst enemy?
That epic, age-old struggle between dick and brain played out in real-time beneath my cool bed sheets. But my brain had been pinned, left gasping for air and clawing desperately to avoid the knockout punch from his primitive foe. And then finally…
I whipped out my laptop, a box of tissues, and four minutes later, the deed was done. Fittingly, another five minutes after that, I was sound asleep.
I didn’t have time to reflect on the humiliating defeat until next morning. Three days. Three fucking days!
It wasn’t like this was some unconscious blunder—like my hand just accidentally brushed against my dick several dozen times—it was a conscious acknowledgement of defeat. It was humiliating—the arguable low point in the entire Alex Gives Up experiment.
But I wasn’t ready to completely throw in the towel on December. I had to pick myself up the mat and go another round. I just needed a strategy.
That strategy? Women.
I’ve never been particularly awesome with women—usually my subconscious gets the best of me, and I rationalize my way out of making any sort of move. But this time around was different. My back was against the wall—there was no hand waiting to greet me if I struck out. I had one choice to make sexual gratification a reality: lower my standards, hit on as many girls as possible, and hope one was gullible enough to come home with me.
The first weekend, however, did not go according to plan. A wave of nervousness accompanied each female approach. There were stakes! If I didn’t succeed, then prayers for wet dreams were my best and only hope.
My only success was making out with a mildly terrifying Zimbabwean girl 6 years my senior, who promptly rejected my super smooth line of “so… you wanna get out of here?”
On Sunday morning, I took stock of my “strategy” and realized that it sucked. Or rather, I sucked. I spent the next few days texting 14-months’ worth of one-night stands and irregular hook-ups trying desperately to get something going. Most ignored me (and rightfully so) but one, whom we’ll call “Jennifer,” took the bait.
Even though Jennifer was a nice enough girl and kinda cute, we had zero chemistry. But hey, I had gone six days without jerking off. Cupid’s arrow had struck me right in the dick.
I invited her over for dinner, and proceeded to wow her taste buds with a delicious lamb shank oso bucco and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, which we cooked in tandem. My usual brand of sheepish charm and self-deprecating wit was firing on all cylinders, and we followed up dinner with Modern Family and a dessert of fruity Dum Dum lollipops.
The time to make a move was upon me. I took a long look at her mango lollipop, reflected on my choice of strawberry, and proceeded to use possibly the least suave line in the history of courtship:
“So… I wonder how strawberry and mango would taste (wait for it… wait for it…) together?”
She laughed. I leaned in. She leaned in. The game was on.
We wasted no time moving the fruit-melded kissing from the living room to the bedroom. Shirts came off. Bra came off. After a few more minutes of kissing and heavy petting, her lips left mine and slowly moved down to my, ahem, nether regions.
My mind raced. This was it! I had done it! I had found December’s loophole!
She started in, and it felt amazing. Twenty seconds later:
Oh shit. This feels a little too amazing.
I tried to hold back, but a week of neglect led to a magmatic explosion.
Thirty seconds. I had lasted thirty seconds.
Jennifer was visibly confused. I wasn’t sure whether to apologize, explain the scenario, or thank her for her service. Instead, I settled on just saying nothing.
She left shortly thereafter.
Under any other circumstance, this would have been horribly embarrassing. Well, it was horribly embarrassing, but more importantly, my penis was happy. And thus, so was I.
That should have been the end of the Jennifer Saga. But for reasons which continue to baffle me, she agreed to a second date the following week.
We went out for a post-work drink. When she casually mentioned that she had never seen Ratatouille—my favorite movie—I reacted with incredulity and invited her back to my place to watch Pixar’s finest.
After another scoreless week, I was in dire need of an easy basket. And figuring that since she had agreed to see me even after the half-minute in heaven, I thought I had a lay-up.
Right after Remy met Linguini, I made another suave suggestion, “Hey, I don’t want to bug my roommate—do you think we could watch this on my laptop in my room?” She agreed. I was back in business.
But when we settled on the bed, a funny thing happened: she assumed the spooning position, as I watched the movie from over her shoulder. I wanted to make a move, but I was stumped.
Do I just start kissing her neck? Can I grab her boob? Is that weird? Yeah… that seems a little rape-y.
I decided that sex could wait—Ratatouille took priority.
Before I knew it, I was fully engrossed. Not wanting to miss Anton Ego’s epic closing monologue, I waited a full two hours until the credits rolled before initiating. And then, just as things were heating up she pulled back and dropped a bomb: “Hey, it’s already 11. I have to be at work by 6 tomorrow… I should probably go.”
I cajoled. I pleaded. But after several polite turn-downs, I swallowed the bitter truth:
I had just been blue-balled by Ratatouille.
The door barely slammed shut before I broke down for the second time. And that would be the end of the Jennifer Saga.
Luckily, there were other women.
In late December, I met a hot girl at a grocery store. We chit chatted at the fresh food aisle, and when she flashed a coy smile, I knew I was in. I’m not exactly sure what I said to win her over, but before I knew it, we were back at my place. Kissing ensued, clothes came off, and sex was a tangible possibility.
And then I woke up.
Face down on my mattress, saliva pooling on the pillow. I tried in vain to fall back asleep in search of the literal girl of my dreams. For the first time since Junior High, I hoped that dream would be wet. But sleep would not come. And neither would I.
December sucked. There’s no other way to put it. It just fucking sucked. I noticed the absence biologically. Masturbation is more than just a habit—it’s an animalistic urge. I thought about it constantly. The pressure climbed with each passing day. It was the only experiment that got harder as the month went on (obligatory “that’s what she said”).
New Years’ Eve was in sight, however. And all things considered, only two fuck ups, especially on a month I initially declared “impossible” was pretty damn good. I was on an upswing, twelve months of self-inflicted, borderline-psychotic experimentation in my rearview mirror. Sweet relief was near. It looked like I would finish strong.
If only it was that simple.
Because with 3 days left in 2012, I bid the U.S. adieu and punched a one way ticket to Paris.