Because therapy is expensive: an interview with A.J. Ditty

For Decent Company February: LUST, A.J. Ditty will be telling the story of the time that he lost his virginity to an air pump. A.J. sat down with Decent Company producing director Josh Boerman to talk about the continuing scarring effect that it has had on his psyche. Among other things.

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JOSH BOERMAN: What prompted you to tell the story that you’re going to tell? Because obviously, you start the show by saying, “I said I would never tell this story to anyone.” But you’re telling it.

A.J. DITTY: I am. It was kind of a whim. The pitch was “lust,” and I’m not exactly a lustful guy. I don’t really consider myself particularly, like, machismo incarnate. So I thought, “What do I have? What’s special to me about lust that no one else has?” And I had almost forgotten about this story, and then it kinda came rushing back, like a gust of wind against my penis.

I think the way that I grew up with sex, also, I really kinda wanted to cover the whole gamut because I think the story of how I learned about sex for the first time led into this story. We were talking about earlier how every one man show I consider sort of an exorcism. I feel like when you talk about something, you are able to look at it in a petri dish and dissect it. And it becomes less of a burden. That it becomes a thing you can quantify and destroy.

JB: That’s interesting to me, the idea of exorcising or destroying demons that are in there for you. Do you feel like there are still things that you carry around with you that you wish you didn’t, or that you wish you could destroy, when it comes to lust and sex and how you approach those things? 

AD: Oh yeah. I mean, if I could take away the sheer panic of, like, thinking every time I have sex, the girl’s gonna get pregnant, in a heartbeat I would. That was Catholic school. And that was actually, even more so than Catholic school, and surprisingly enough, elementary school was the biggest time, in public school education, when they were just like— you know, it’s the Mean Girls joke. It’s Tina Fey, “If you will have sex, you will get pregnant and die.”

JB:“And die.” Right.

AD: And that was really reinforced to me. And so I remember for a long time, even years into relationships, I would freak out. Like, that time of month, every month, I’d come in and be like, “Hey, how ya doin’? You doin’ okay?” Every time one of my exes would get nauseous, I’d be like, “It’s time. It’s coming.”

JB: You just have this, like, sense. This inbred sense that no matter what happens, it’s going to end up in an unwanted pregnancy. (LAUGHS)

AD: Well, exactly. ‘Cause, I mean, I remember this very distinctly in my sophomore year of high school. The first girl I ever fooled around with, we didn’t even have sex, but I was thoroughly convinced that I had impregnated her. And I remember standing on a beach and having the waves lap at my feet and being fifteen years old, looking out at the water, saying, (LOW-PITCHED VOICE) “I’m not ready to be a father.” (LAUGHS) And my life was OVER! And of course, she wasn’t. You know, that usually requires sex.

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JB: Usually. But, obviously sometimes–

AD: Things happen. You know, they say, like, .1% can get pregnant just by, like, touching. And then touching themselves. And I always figured I would be that .1%.

JB: I think that when you are somebody who attacks life from a somewhat neurotic perspective, as I think both of us kind of do—

AD: Yeah.

JB: Those fears, they just kind of exist, and they slowly but surely— what’s the word? Not cultivate.

AD: Metastasize?

JB: Yeah, I don’t know. And they’re just there.

You are now, obviously, came off of a pretty long-term relationship. Had a long period where the lust question maybe wasn’t off the table, but at the same time, it wasn’t actively affecting you on a day to day basis like it is now.

AD: Yeah, yeah. And that’s sort of the craziest thing, is that when I was in that relationship, it never even occurred to me that other women could be attracted to me. ‘Cause it didn’t matter, I guess. It was just, I was very much in love. And I didn’t need to worry about any of that stuff.

And then when it ended, all of a sudden, I’m like, you know— I remember, it’s actually in a journal, right after it ended. I wrote, “I hope I never date again.” Which, flashback to the 15-year-old sitting on a beach.

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JB: Yeah, that’s very—

AD: Contemplating throwing himself into the water. Well, that’s the scary thing, is after you come off a long-term relationship, I think at least for a little while, you revert back into the scared little kid you were when it started. You revert back to the person you were, because that was sort of like, you had this amazing cutaway, and then you’re just back to real life.

Out of nowhere. And you’re just back to— you know, I was 19 when that whole thing started, and I found myself doing a lot of the stuff my 19-year-old self did, because that was the last time I ever needed to use those skills. The whole dating world has changed so much. People are swiping left and right and—

JB: Oh yeah, how do you feel about that?

AD: I have not tried Tinder. I don’t plan to. I feel like it’s kind of a meat market, and that’s not really what I’m interested in, you know? Because I don’t think attraction, at least the people I’m really attracted to, aren’t the ones who have just looks going for them. They need to be able, I think, to play the game.

JB: What game?

AD: It’s so hard to explain. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. But they need to be, like— they need to get the banter down. It’s not necessarily that we’re in a cutesy romantic comedy, but it’s kinda that we’re in a cutesy romantic comedy. And it’s not that we finish each other’s sandwiches, but we— we do— we kind of are able to finish each other’s sandwiches.

And yeah, I don’t think Tinder is very good at that, is very good at judging that.

JB: Right, because you can’t have a casual banter back and forth. You can maybe a get a little bit of a sense of it from the text messaging and stuff like that. You can tell if someone has a basic modicum of wit. But it’s not the same as being able to go back and forth, carry something.

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AD: Yeah. The bobbidy-boobidy.

JB: The bobbidy-boobidy.

AD: As we call it. In the biz.

JB: We do call it that, don’t we? In the biz.

AD: In the biz. (LAUGHTER) I guess the point of all of that is that I didn’t think that I was susceptible to it anymore. That that part of me would always be stuck in that old relationship. And now I see that I am human, and it’s kinda humbling, you know? To be able to think that, I dunno, there is a certain, “Well, I don’t need to give in this, blah blah blah.” And now I realize you can’t help it.

JB: Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing?

AD: I mean, I think it can lead to good and bad decisions. So I don’t think inherently it’s anything. I think it just is. Yeah.

JB: And how have you been dealing with having that part of yourself back at the fore again? Are you relishing it?

AD: I mean, kind of. It’s weird. It’s just a weird thing. Like, I honestly didn’t know that people just had sex with each other. Like, I didn’t think that was a thing that people just did. I thought it required a lot of different levels, and just the right combination of things to come together, and magically like alchemy, you’d get gold.

But I now realize that sometimes it’s just like, “Hey.” “Hey.” Slap, slap, slap. In the interview, just write, “Slap, slap, bobbidy boobidy, bobbidy boobidy, slap slap slap.”

I don’t know. I think it’s something I’m still grappling with. And I think especially this play is a huge part of trying to grapple with that.

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JB: Something that’s interesting to me about that is that, like you said, people just do it. People don’t need an excuse to do it. They just do it. But at the same time, there is maybe less of a connection, whatever you wanna call it, like a “real connection” in air quotes, than there may have been in more traditional models of courtship.

AD: Sure. Well, I mean, it depends on what you wanna say is traditional models of courtship. I mean, arranged marriages, there’s not a lot of time for connection. And you know, Aziz Ansari has that whole thing about how that actually worked out well for his parents. That was an arranged marriage and it worked out brilliantly. So, I dunno. Modern Romance is a great read.

JB: Modern Romance?

AD: Yeah, it’s Aziz Ansari’s new book. He did, like, a whole study about whether were people were happy now that they have all the choices and stuff. But yeah, no, that is true. And I guess it just depends on what you’re looking for. You know, right now, I’m not necessarily looking for love in all the wrong places.

JB: Do you feel overwhelmed by the sheer possibility of choice?

AD: Yeah. I will say that there have been a shockingly larger number of women who wanna sleep with me than I ever thought possible. Like, that was a revelation to me.

JB: Did people who— I would imagine, people who previously you had strictly been, like, “Yeah, that’s a friend,” all of a sudden it’s like, “Wow, you are interested in me as more than a friend but were never able to do something,” kinda thing.

AD: Yeah, I think that’s a huge part of it. I mean, there was certainly that part of it. But it wasn’t just friends, you know? I mean, ’cause most of my friends aren’t— I think there’s a point of a friendship where if you just beat in your head that it is a friendship enough, then it becomes one.

It is possible to quell that. And actually, when I was a kid, I remember a lot of my friends would be like, “Oh, she doesn’t like me the way I like her.” You know, Boulevard of Broken Dreams bullshit. And I will say that all the girls that I met in middle school who at one time I had a crush on, I became friends with them because they weren’t interested in me in that way.

And they have developed, some of ’em, into some of the best life-long friendships I’ve ever had. And I would never trade that for anything. I don’t know where I was going with that. Oh well.

JB: Well, it was going back to the question of the overwhelming variety of choice that’s out there, and how many options you have, and how do you even begin. Because once you’ve been locked into one thing for so long and suddenly you have options, it’s just such a complete change in how you view things.

AD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think it’s also an interesting time to be coming out of it because, you know, the last time I was single, I was 19 years old. And now I’m 26. And at 19, I don’t necessarily think that I was what every kinda– like, there were girls who were interested in me, obviously, one stayed with me for six years. But to have, now at 26, I think I’m more what women are looking for, because they’ve had the chance to go through the jocks.

JB: “Ladies? You’ve tried the best—”

AD: “—Now try the rest.” I think that’s GOB. I think that’s an Arrested Development one.

Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t even think it’s a settling thing. But I think that people are interested in different things at different times in their lives. You know? And that’s no judgment. There are people right now who are still interested in the Adonises. But I found that it’s just nice to just have a conversation, you know? Sometimes that’s more fulfilling than the actual sex itself.

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JB: So you’re in it for the pillow talk.

AD: Kind of. (LAUGHS) But I’ve always been into the cuddly and, like, the relationship-y kind of stuff.

JB: Great. Well, we’ll just put that right at the bottom of this interview. We’ll just be like, “Ladies, need a man who’s in it for what comes afterward?” (LAUGHS)

AD: Don’t do that. Don’t do that. You’re setting up them up for disappointment, I think. I don’t know. I guess it’s hard, and it’s complicated, but it’s nice to know sometimes that you’re not fighting it alone. And that everyone out there is going through the same thing. Anyone single is kind of going through the same thing.

You know, I also think I have it a lot easier than a lot of my single lady friends, because there are a lot of scary people out there. (LAUGHS) And I don’t think I’ll ever know how hard— I don’t know how women do it. I don’t. I don’t know where that was going either. Anyway. What a lovely, tangential interview.

JB: We’re just here to talk about lots of different things. But I do think that as you get older, as you’ve had a wider variety of relationships, as you’ve talked to more people and had more experiences, you come to a deeper understanding of yourself. And that’s ultimately, at the end of the day, what people really find attractive, right? It’s that confidence. It’s that sense of knowing who you are.

AD: Yeah.

JB: And it all starts with being a scared teenager rummaging through the garage and finding an air pump, right?

AD: Yes. I think all stories begin that way. Yeah, I think that’s fair enough. Or you just do enough solo shows where all your demons have been expunged and you have nothing more to write about.

JB: There you go. Do more solo shows. That is the takeaway from this interview.

AD: That’s the tagline. The tagline of Decent Company. “Decent Company: because therapy is expensive.”

To buy tickets for Decent Company February: LUST, click here.

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