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Just to be clear, lest there be any doubt, the saying is, “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” not, “abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.” But if you’re at all like me, history won’t let you forget that the second version is patently false.

Abstinence is the voluntary forfeiting of something that you might otherwise normally indulge in.

The dictionary that I’m using for this project, The New Penguin English Dictionary (1986), claims that abstinence refers primarily to restraining oneself when under the influence of an appetite or refraining from eating certain foods or intoxicating drinks.

I’ll agree with them that refraining from partaking in the demon alcohol might be somewhat a common usage of abstinence at one time in history. In the prohibition era there was a lot of talk about the virtues of abstinence of this type. Nevertheless, despite all of the talk and the laws against selling alcohol, see where that got them.

But who the hell is the dictionary they kidding? When people use the word abstinence they are usually referring to sex or, rather, the lack thereof.

Televangelists, along with other evangelists who haven’t yet found stardom on TV,  will often fervently shriek at the top of their lungs about how abstinence before marriage is the only righteous way to go or, rather, to not go. They usually holler equally loudly about how married people should practice abstinence when faced with opportunities for adulterous sex.

They continue to preach these platitudes loudly and forcefully until they are caught in bed with an underage person, of the opposite or same sex, who is not their spouse. After that, their preaching is generally more in the “do as I say, not as I do, yada, yada, yada” vein.

You will probably have realized from what I said above that I don’t completely buy into the abstinence is a virtue theory. I believe that one should keep one’s word, so unless it is made clear before commitments are made that a marriage is going to be an open one, I think adultery is morally wrong. But, other than that, I think that doing what comes naturally is a virtue as long as it is consensual and doesn’t harm anyone else.

That having been said, I will embarrassingly admit that I have practiced way more abstinence in my life than I would have liked and way more than I think is healthy. That’s not so much a choice as it results from being a horribly neurotic person with no self-confidence. That and I’m an introvert.

Consequently, I only rarely get out long enough to find a woman crazy enough to want to spend any time with me, let alone time in bed, or wherever she wants to do it.

In addition, on the rare occasions when I do get out I’m occasionally reminded of the old Woody Allen joke from when he was doing stand-up comedy in clubs: ‘I was involved in an extremely good example of oral contraception two weeks ago. I asked a girl to go to bed with me, she said “no.” ‘

Thus, in my case, abstinence is rarely a choice. It’s just what happens all too frequently. If any women out there want to help me with this problem, I’m quite easy to find on the internet. However, please first send a thorough health report that, among other things, confirms that you are not carrying any sexually transmitted diseases. Did I mention that I’m horribly neurotic?

Now, that was awkward, not to mention damned embarrassing. I had no intention of getting that personal. Please forget what I just said. Pretend you never read it.

Next word, please!

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