7 January 2013
(Note: the following comments discuss the realities and particularities of sex in the spirit of just sayin’, not whining.)
This morning I woke from a dream in which my landlord (similar phenotype to Hugh Bonneville–Lord Grantham–if the latter sported a neatly-trimmed, thick, salt-and-pepper soup-strainer) and I were having wild, clandestine sex, using some rather unusual, if dubiously effective, positions. Odd, since there is absolutely no basis for this in real life: there is a total absence of sexual tension between us, and contact is limited. But, there you have it: a freebie.
Mid-day, while working in the kitchen, I listen to philosopher Allain de Botton* on Virginia Prescott’s Word of Mouth (NHPR ) counter evolutionary biologists’ thesis that the sex drive emanates from the innate need to perpetuate the species. de Botton says they’re missing the whole point of pleasure an overarching basis. “It is the interruption of loneliness,” he says, adding that we live in a society in which, as adults, we are not allowed to touch people or be touched. In that vein, he says that oral sex is the extreme confirmation of our acceptance, since our dirtiest (his word) parts are blessed by our partners in that act.
I would suggest that girls in early puberty often cling to their best friends out of a skin hunger that began once cuddling with parents waned; boys generally attain their physical contact beating the shit out of one another in various aggressive sports. When adolescents can no longer ignore the blaring alarms of sex hormones and find new love, that need to cling becomes even more pronounced, as is so vividly portrayed in the cartoon, Zits.
The mail arrived not long after the Word of Mouth broadcast. And, wouldn’t you know it, the AARP tabloid arrives, with its puff pieces on this and that. I flip a few pages and lo and behold, listed among the many tired suggestions for maintaining health and happiness, such as drink caffeine, exercise, take naps, volunteer, eat dark chocolate, throw parties, is–and I am not kidding: Have sex. I can just see it now, senior citizens and long-time partners, Mable and Harry, or Mable and Mary, or Harry and Phil, look at one another, slap their heads and say, “Damn! Why didn’t we think about that?”
I mean, seriously.
Sure, it’s a great idea; I’m all over it. But–and it’s a huge but–what of the legions of non-partnered of all ages? The widows/widowers, divorced, separated, never-married, just plain not-chosen; what about those who are so physically disabled due to paralysis, or married to such a person? What about the mentally and physically challenged, who are mostly kept away from such opportunities? The incarcerated, those in the military? Hell, astronauts? What about us? Certainly, there is always sex for one, although it would take quite a contortionist to “achieve that extreme confirmation of our acceptance.” Still, that in no way interrupts the loneliness of which de Botton speaks.
What does one do then?
I remember the last time I got laid, as it were: it was early September of 1995. I can honestly say it was the most satisfying and tender lovemaking experience I’ve ever had. As it turned out, the next day, my boyfriend called off the relationship (of three months), which was to my benefit in the long run. That relationship came about after a ten-year period of celibacy, when my previous three-year live-in relationship ended; and that three years ended an earlier ten-year dry spell. I love sex, and it bemuses–not amuses–me that the divinities saw fit to endow me with desire and no way to fill it. Now pushing seventy, my days of chasing after it are decades in the distance.
And what of loneliness? I’m certain de Botton was talking about the existential loneliness of the human condition, not the run-away-from-the-self, want-others-to-fill-the-gaping-hole kind in which people obsessively avoid being with themselves, instead becoming addicted to substances, shallow, meaningless Twinkie® sex, or other behaviors that provide an immediate high, but are ultimately self-destructive.
I’m quite familiar with the particular loneliness of which de Botton speaks; it has nothing to do with wanting someone to fill my life, give me an identity, or save me from myself. (Although, that was me back in my early twenties, I have to admit) I love solitude and genuinely enjoy my own company; I have passions that provide deep meaning in my life: visual art and writing, cooking, gardening, caring for my furries. Yet, I have a profound skin hunger. Case in point: back when I was the society photographer for the Times-Picayune, I took then Governor Bobby Roemer’s photo. Afterward we spoke a few moments, and he lightly touched my bare forearm in a gesture of warmth. I want you to know that his touch set my limbic system spinning, and, as unrealistic as it was–being part of the endless corruption of Louisiana politics was not on my bucket list–I was caught in a torrent of sexual fantasies about him that lasted for weeks. I shake my head at that memory.
So, AARP tabloid folks, be a little more sensitive when you recommend sex for maintaining health and happiness. Some of us–in fact, legions living in a kind of quiet desperation–do not have the means to fill that prescription, Medicare Part D, notwithstanding. In the meantime, we’ll have to rely on our dreams, our freebies that take us by surprise and carry us off to the land of pleasure.
*How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. Links: