Five years ago I began a sexual awakening at the age of 35, just as my then 50-year-old husband was descending into a series of comforting naps. Now that I am almost divorced, with nearly two years of sexual exploration under my belt (ha!) I have to report my disturbing finding that sex is not enough. Not to discourage any woman from doing her own research, but in my experience sex does not cure insecurity, sadness or shame. It does not compensate for your childhood, nor your divorce, nor even help you get dinner on the table. Sex turns out to be a placebo for the real cure that does not involve a bottle, or a jar, or a meal, or any other person (or, in my case, people.)
For a while now, I have viewed men as jellybeans in a jar, deciding which flavor I would try next. It was so much fun trying purple, black, red, and even pink. (I know he was pink because he let me peg him.) But a part of me understood that I was doing a disservice by objectifying men, in the exact same way I had always rallied against men doing to women. As female as I am, when it comes to seeing men, I can be like a dude checking out chicks at Hooters. I am quite capable of scoping out a barefoot guy on a skateboard holding a guitar, or a lawyer, or a CEO, leveling the playing field into “ass,” “eyes,” “how those lips would kiss” “how they look at me,” and other non-specific specifics. Sometimes I think I should have had a penis, except I would never want one, even for the pink jellybeans.
The problem is that when you reduce people to the mere sum of their parts, they will do the same to you. And I was much more comfortable with that when I was twenty years old and still a fashion model, with neither kids nor laugh lines, and also with no fucking clue what life was about. Not that I long for those days, even if I could have them; I would be loathe to go back and do it all again even if I could. And I’m not sure there is anything I could or would do differently. Which either means that I have no regrets for a life well lived, or just that I’m fucking tired. (Or tired of fucking.)
Even masturbation doesn’t work anymore. It doesn’t release my stress, or ease my guilt, or do anything other than distract me for a short while, and sometimes lately I am not even motivated to start. It’s not that I’m not crazy horny (I am, believe me) it’s just that my ache for something more has become its own kind of horniness. I have a constant, unquenchable boner for my life; for the idea that I could actually be happy and satisfied and peaceful and excited, and find my place in the world, even though the fact that I don’t know what this will entail yet is a total boner killer.
I want to get up knowing life’s purpose, and I haven’t felt that way in years, which may be why I’m such a bitch in the morning. I’ve woken up with a sense of duty since my kids were born 9 and 10 years ago, but that’s not the same thing. I want to wake up with passion, not just a passion for picking up a dude wherever, and for whatever. I want more than “whatever,” and I am okay with that.
Perhaps I should be one of those pick-up artist people, giving women “tips” and “tricks” at the local Starbucks for how to flirt successfully with men they don’t know? I might make money, as there are many single women I know that have no idea how to exude femininity, after too many years of being disappointed by men. But ultimately, I would have to admit to them, as I have to myself, that all the games, the flirting, the picking up, and the hooking up, is happening with people we do not know, and that is only dangerous when we do not know ourselves.