I am impotent. I don’t have a penis — but that is irrelevant. I don’t need a penis because I myself am a spectacularly disappointing, flopped-over, flaccid phallus. In my work — my senior essay, if we’re speaking frankly — I am not merely coming up short … I am not coming up at all.
It’s like I’ve had a raging hard-on for the past four years and just as the finish line is in sight, I’ve gone completely limp. Here I am, all jonesin’ up in the orifice of my college experience and I find I’m softer than an overripe banana. I had such aspirations to finish with a sort of tantric release of graduation ecstasy — a multiorgasmic, month-long crescendo of erotic pleasure beginning with the completion of my two senior essays and concluding in a sort of out-of-body climax experience at commencement. I envisioned waltzing across the Saybrook courtyard to get my diploma, leaving behind a trail of sticky, sweet lady love. But no. That is just not going to happen. Better for everyone, I suppose, because it would have been a mess to clean up.
As I sit here, like so many seniors, with my pants around my ankles, laying prostrate over a laptop, adding pages of aldjfkasjfalksdjhflkasdjffffffffffffffffffffffffff to a senior essay that is more likely to be bound postmortem than it is to be bound in the next two weeks, I wonder where it all went wrong. I spent my whole life being told that, just like the boys, I could do and be anything. And here I am, just like the boys: limp-dicked. Completely and utterly intellectually limp-dicked.
“What do you want to be when you grow up, Jana?”
“Well gosh,” my imagined childhood self considers, “I guess I’d really like to be a slack, cruller-like mound of dead nerves and supple flesh. You know. An unerect penis — in the figurative sense.”
“Well Jana, your big moment will come, and if you want it badly enough, you’ll limp-dick it, I just know you will.”
It’s always inspiring when educators truly see your potential and encourage you to dream.
I don’t think it is a question of desire. The desire is there. I want so badly to be hot for my senior essay again. To rekindle the glorious times of our youth — when we were nothing more than a notion, the germ of a brilliant idea — before a first draft suddenly became a third draft and deadlines began to loom. There is nothing worse than spending hours alone together shooting blanks. Hour after excruciating hour starting and false starting and just incapable of bringing it home. In the end it has nothing to do with my senior essay; it’s about me. This is about my inability to perform.
It is not for lack of trying. Pulling out every trick in the book, I have essentially rubbed my intellectual member raw in an attempt to revive, resuscitate and simply wrap things up. Some friends urge me to relax. Stress, anxiety and fear of failure apparently exacerbate the condition. And so I try to be gentle with myself. I put on Pure Moods, light a couple of candles and sit cross-legged in my desk chair clearing my mind and trying to let it just happen — but still my malleable member lays lifeless over the keyboard. Other, more no-nonsense friends stick to the hard line of “just plough through to the end. That pain you feel is just fear leaving the body.” These people tend to be speaking from a place of vaginalessness. Because anybody with a hetero-normative vagina knows that pushing through to the end is simply not possible when you’re working with a wet noodle.
In the end, I take solace in the fact that I know I am not the only one feeling so … unable. I am not alone. All across campus, students of a certain age are sitting in darkened rooms, staring at their computer screens only to find themselves uninspired, unaroused and ultimately incapable of just doing it, just finishing it, just sealing the deal. I half expect YTV to run some sort of public service announcement starring a veritable who’s-who of Yale professorial celebrities all coming forth with personal, harrowing tales of their own battle with intellectual E.D. Then again, the one professor I knew who candidly spoke to her limp-dick days of dissertation writing opted out of Yale academia entirely — so there you go. Awkward.
Part of me just wants to pull out. Call it an unfortunate encounter, a poor performance on my part, and just pack up and peace out. Obviously I am apologetic and embarrassed. I feel compelled to explain that this has never happened before. I try to convince myself that “no, really. I’m good. I don’t need to finish.”
But Yale is a tender lover and knows me better than that. Why set a precedent of limp-dickdom when I still have so much of my life ahead of me? I figure those of us still sitting here with our hand down our pants, desperately clinging to our shriveled thimble-sized nubbin, ought to keep hope alive. Supposedly it happens to everyone from time to time. Remember you do not need to finish in some firework finale — about 300 history majors handed their senior essays in Monday, and I didn’t hear of anyone throwing in the old Seinfeld-counterclockwise-swirl — we just need to get off and get out.
Best of luck getting it up.
Jana Sikdar is amassing a dictionary of euphemisms.