Sex and the Shadow

hawaii3Shadows are where danger lurks. Shame is in the shadow of every single life. And sex includes shame for so many of us. Makes sense, then, that one of my problems as a writer has always been with sex. Open the door or keep it closed?

Those who throw the door wide and step right through would argue that sex is the primal urge in life and drives most of our actions most of our lives. Why not just admit it and stir sex into the mix?

Those who would rather not say hey there are other basic human bodily functions we don’t feel the need to write about so why should sex be any different?

I used to be firmly in the “keep the door shut” camp until I signed a contract that called for a consummation scene and my editor called me on it when I didn’t write one. I think now that part of my issue with writing sex was shame. I’ve got some of that, but then I think most people do, especially women, especially women who have had men take advantage of them sexually. We carry our scars and some of us think it might be our fault it happened. We bury all that and we certainly don’t want to stir it up by writing about it.

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But sex is why we are all here. Literally. We would not be walking this gorgeous earth, not one of us, if somebody didn’t have sex with somebody else, and yes, that would be our biological parents. Also sex is beautiful between loving couples (or whatever combination you are into). Orgasm is the closest we will ever get to completely letting go of our thinking mind and entering into a state of bliss on earth. So why the shame? Why the secrecy? Why the guilt heaped upon me by wrinkled noses, poked out tongues, and suggestions that I give out page numbers for sex scenes so they can be skipped over?

And that’s just my family. Also, yes someone did stick their tongue out at me when they saw the cover of my latest book and the inevitable question arose (ahem) and I answered that yes, this book had sex in it. It’s about a single mom. She falls in love with the man of her dreams. She’s not a virgin. She has two little humans walking around that are part of her deal and central to her identity who prove that. So, you know, sex is an important component of the love relationship. Sexual attraction is what, if you’re lucky, leads to love.

A rational single man, I have heard, will not want to marry a single mom. No way. Kids are baggage. The actual kind you can see and must feed and care for along with this woman. But sex is not rational and neither is love. Also, they go with one another. I can’t be “in love” with someone and not want to have sex with them. They go together like cookies and milk. So yeah, my novel is sorta The Brady Bunch meets Sex and the City. And I’m coming out of my shadow to say I like it like that. It’s supposed to be that way. That is the way the story goes.

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There’s more to love than sex. Of course there is. I once had an emotional affair. You know, that thing where you’re just friends and then one day there’s more? But you can’t have sex because the divorce isn’t final yet or the spouse just doesn’t understand? Only your “friend” who you now love beyond reason understands. There’s no sex there. Not yet. But if the emotional affair continues, there will be sex. And in my case, there was no sex, but only because we both knew the timing was wrong. We stayed friends, too, but it was difficult at first. Because emotion almost took me under. Sex is a healthy release of that emotion we call love, which is why it deserves to walk out of the shadow and onto the page.

I have admitted before that, for me, writing is therapeutic. I can say now that writing sex scenes helped me face my shadow and the shame I formerly, wrongly, sadly, associated with the most awesome act on earth.

Sex Tips for Life & Literature

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Al is being very nice to me lately. He has also been more interested in getting next to me. I notice these things even though I am way past menopause. When you’ve been married almost 29 years and your husband starts acting like days of yore, it makes you go hmmmm. Like a few weeks ago. “After golf…” he said. Whenever it’s “After” anything without the thing being named, the thing is sex. Later in the week, he reminded me again. “We have a date tomorrow.”

I looked at him. Really? Sex is a date? Since when? So I said “We don’t have a date, we have a booty call.”

Usually I make him laugh when I say things like that, and I really was teasing, but he got all sputtery and concerned.

“What do you mean?”

“Well. You’re golfing with (male) Golf Partner. Then you’re going out to dinner with GP. Then you’re coming home to have sex with me …”

“You girls come to dinner,” he said.

I was good with that. I didn’t mean to manipulate him in to taking me out, but hey, sometimes we do meet the guys after golf and I love being waited on. I think every ex-waitress does.

Then, a few days later, he was like “Tomorrow night …” Again with the unfinished sentence and the significant look. And I’m thinking, man this is crazy.

A few days ago, I told Al about an article I read in “Psychology Today” by Virginia Rutter, who claims that men who share in household chores have more sex. Then yesterday he cleaned the bathroom. I mean it is gleaming. But he does that every week and has since forever. He also washes windows. And grills. But then he sits at the table like a king while I bring him his dinner, his fork, his knife, his napkin. Once in awhile, I’ll forget the silverware if I have a couple of complicated dishes going and he will get himself a fork and dig in. In all the years we’ve been together, he never brings one for me. That used to really hurt my feelings, but I laugh about it now.

He cleans the bathrooms, the job I hate the most.

Contrary to Rutter’s research, our sex life has not always been this hot. Sure the first five years. Okay the first ten. But after that? Good phases and bad phases and things get really complicated with menopause. If you’re not there, you don’t want to know.

So, this dress. In the picture. My mother bought it for me. She still loves buying me dresses. I tried it on and it’s that comfy stretchy t-shirt material but a little low cut for me except as a house dress. I don’t normally do much cleavage. I have a little beachy top I put over this just to walk to the mailbox or water my plants. But it’s so comfy. And Al likes it. You might think, well, Cindy, there’s your answer. But, nope, it’s not the dress.

It’s not the weight loss either, since that’s been a gradual thing since about this time last year. And I have a ways to go before I’m the weight I was when he married me.

Not the dress, not the weight loss, not the housework. I finally had to ask my randy man what the heck was going on. “The blonde hair,” he said.

And everything clicked into place. Most often, the correct answer is the obvious answer.