April 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
One of my devoted fans, after reading Sunday’s entry, asked for one of my sexual memories. It’s a fair request. I took a walk yesterday afternoon and thought about it.
The park in the rain was a soft green, almost empty of people, so different from the frothy party of the weekend when there was a man playing a piano in one corner, a trio with a saxophone in the other, college students on the grass, children and dogs, couples strolling, mimes and dancers.
The emptiness made the spring leaves and blossoms more poignant: what happens as it must, whether you join in or not. What will happen in 1000 years (though possibly further north).
When I lived in Berkeley, in my 20s, one night Charles was out playing music, as he was nearly seven days a week, and I went to a bar. I did that not every night or week, but on some sort of emotional schedule. I had several drinks and went home with a good-looking boy named Randy. Randy was 5’10 or ’11 with tousled sandy hair and a big grin. He drank like a pro.
He was very taken with my breasts. Once he had me naked, he squeezed and stroked and kissed—I lay back, lazy as a cat—and then he said, overcome with enthusiasm, “I have to do more!”
“I don’t know.” He thought for a while. His big, pale body was mostly hairless above his genitals. He was well-built and fit in the way men are before they have to work at it. “I’ll chain them up. Is that okay?”
This was pre-Internet. He got his ideas from magazines.
I laughed. “Whatever you want.” I was drowsy by then. I liked being touched. I liked being touched by different men, especially strangers. Charles knew this and minded, but not so much that he tried to make me stop. I was ashamed of hurting him, but I did it anyway.
Randy got a bicycle chain, brand-new and clean, and wrapped it around my breasts so they were forced together, imprisoned chubby sisters. “I like that,” he said.
“What are you going to do now?” I had a tiny (very tiny) fear that he’d want to actually tie me up, hands behind my back, etc, which I didn’t want. Nor did I want to argue or struggle. I remember that night because it was innocent in its sensuality in a way that I no longer was, but still thought I could return to.
“Nothing,” he said. “I just want to look. You’re amazing.”
I don’t know whether he said “amazing.” I want to put the word “awesome” in his mouth, but it was before that coinage. But he was genuinely awestruck, which is something that also seems vintage. I was a pretty & busty young woman, but he was no mutt. The young men nowadays…or so I’m told….
He spent some time just walking around me, smoking a joint and admiring what he had wrought. (Charles loves this part of the story. He makes me invent details.) Yes, we went on to have intercourse, like everyone else. I hardly remember that part.
I can still feel the chain: the cold metal; the pressure; the feeling of being bound in a way that didn’t constrain my movements; and the dreamy, stoned smile on his face.
“Raspberry-colored nipples,” somebody else used to say. He liked to say the same things over and over, like applying layers of paint.
My girlfriend, when I confided this, responded in the time-honored way of girlfriends. I was changing clothes in her room. “Your nipples aren’t raspberry-colored.” Her tone was mildly indignant.
“Not now, they aren’t.”
“I think he’s wearing rose-colored glasses.”
“We tend to dally in the rosy evening light.”
“Or you put lipstick on them.”
“I tried that once. Charles took pictures.”
“Charles would,” she said.
But that was another decade altogether.
Lighthead’s Guide to the Galaxy
Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state,
I am here because I could never get the hang of Time.
This hour, for example, would be like all the others
were it not for the rain falling through the roof.
I’d better not be too explicit. My night is careless
with itself, troublesome as a woman wearing no bra
in winter. I believe everything is a metaphor for sex.
Lovemaking mimics the act of departure, moonlight
drips from the leaves. You can spend your whole life
doing no more than preparing for life and thinking.
“Is this all there is?” Thus, I am here where poets come
to drink a dark strong poison with tiny shards of ice,
something to loosen my primate tongue and its syllables
of debris. I know all words come from preexisting words
and divide until our pronouncements develop selves.
The small dog barking at the darkness has something to say
about the way we live. I’d rather have what my daddy calls
“skrimp.” He says “discrete” and means the street
just out of sight. Not what you see, but what you perceive:
that’s poetry. Not the noise, but its rhythm; an arrangement
of derangements; I’ll eat you to live: that’s poetry.
I wish I glowed like a brown-skinned pregnant woman.
I wish I could weep the way my teacher did as he read us
Molly Bloom’s soliloquy of yes. When I kiss my wife,
sometimes I taste her caution. But let’s not talk about that.
Maybe Art’s only purpose is to preserve the Self.
Sometimes I play a game in which my primitive craft fires
upon an alien ship whose intention is the destruction
of the earth. Other times I fall in love with a word
like somberness. Or moonlight juicing naked branches.
All species have a notion of emptiness, and yet
the flowers don’t quit opening. I am carrying the whimper
you can hear when the mouth is collapsed, the wisdom
of monkeys. Ask a glass of water why it pities
the rain. Ask the lunatic yard dog why it tolerates the leash.
Brothers and sisters, when you spend your nights
out on a limb, there’s a chance you’ll fall in your sleep.
September 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
Last night, in the aftermath of emotional storms, I was getting ready for bed when Lola, Charles’ cat, tried to join us in the bedroom. Mouchette, perched on the dresser by the door, shooed her away with that full-bore, dry-ice hiss that always impresses me. I comforted Mouchette then went to talk to Lola, letting her know that she’s welcome in my home even if she can’t join us in bed. All that did was entice her back to the bedroom where Mouchette ramped up her hiss and growl, delivering it with a ferocity and at a volume I’ve never heard from her before.
We were all stunned with the menace emerging from that feathery little throat. Charles wanted to record it. Fitzroy wanted to go out in the hall.
The bedroom is her sanctuary; my bed her safe place to sleep upside down or on my back, while I work or while I sleep; to sit on my chest when I’m crying, her little owl face watching, demanding that I remember the world outside myself, the tumbling world with its fever-tide of beings. In Argentina, wild cats saved a one-year-old homeless boy from dying of exposure. They covered him with their bodies all night.
Mouchette keeps my antidepressants warm, nesting on the bag I keep them in as if they will someday hatch into tiny golden buddhas. No, she doesn’t think that. It just seems like a good idea to me.
My mother says, referring to my previous blog entry, that my life is not a ruin.
“I don’t think you understand how many people love you.”
“I do,” I said.
“No, I don’t think so.”
I don’t think she gets that the essence of depression is that I know but don’t care. And yet, of course I care. But the caring is way back in the closet, behind years of old coats and broken hangers, Christmas wrap, crutches and weights, my skinny clothes and my witch shoes. If I attempt to wade in, my cache of dirty books falls on my head.
Yes, there’s a book muttering inside me, with dirty bits. Sex and tears, ridiculous antics and even more ridiculous emotions. But! A book! I get to be the decider! I can remember kisses or I can flay people—feed them feet first to demons—have them pulled from bed by an iron hook that shoulders in through their bedroom window, then carries them over miles and flings them into the sea, the deep, cold sea with its toothy children.
A memoir of adult love—will I be swamped in erotic feeling, beaten all night?
I would like to be beaten all night. I understand why people desire to be murdered by their lovers. Agreed, this is an uncommon desire. And I wouldn’t really care for it…anyway, the man I’m thinking of, he likes to stay in his comfort zone; he’d botch it.
Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.
What does it mean if I say this years later?
Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, “No pets! No pets!”
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.
I want to dig you up and say, look,
it’s like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.
See what you miss by being dead?
July 16, 2009 § Leave a comment
June 28, 2009 § Leave a comment
WHICH OF THESE COUPLES WOULD YOU RATHER BE LIKE?
The Gay Pride parade is going on outside my window now. I’m not fond of parades, however important the cause, since I live so close to the park where they commence. This one has good energy, and the joy is infectious, which would make the noise easier to bear if the cats weren’t so disturbed.
They’re avoiding the windowsills, which are their usual daytime spots. They prowl and stare, wide-eyed, as the speeches and cries of the crowd wash over us. Fitzroy is asking for reassurance every two minutes. He’s inserted himself behind my laptop right now.
No, he’s heading for the window and the noise, then retreating and meowing. Mouchette sits quietly in the doorway, watching him, and then follows him to the bureau where they pause, looking around, on high alert.
In the Times Book Review today, there’s a review of Masters of Sex, by Thomas Maier, about Masters and Johnson. My friend Philip knows Maier from his college days; he also knows someone writing a play about Masters and Johnson. Statistically, it follows that there must be more literature in the works. I don’t believe the universe is steering them all towards Philip for some future destined event. I sure hope not.
It surprises me anyone is still interested in the duo. They were pioneers once, and they debunked the vaginal orgasm nonsense, but they also promoted the idea that women are naturally multi-orgasmic, which works well in soft-core porn romance novels, but has made a lot of us feel deprived. I can remember more than one man telling me he was going to make me come over and over, and I’d think good luck, buddy and feel sour. Not what you want in your mind while you’re taking your bra off.
Johnson is quoted as saying, “I had an active interest in sex, but never particularly to the men I was involved with.”
The way I hear this is probably not as it was intended: I never got to fuck the ones who turned me on. She and Masters married to promote their brand. It was titillating to America that a male and female scientist worked together on this risqué stuff, but it was their marriage that made it a satisfying story.
Apparently, they rarely had sex after marriage. But then, who does? (excuse-moi, dear husband. I know we did. Too often outdoors, in my opinion.)
Johnson said she considered the word ‘love’ to be “imprecise and inappropriate.” It’s not clear from the review if she was talking only about her own marriage or about all sexual relations. In any case, someone who has never experienced loving passion seems to me to be missing a big chunk of the subject. Sex without love is part of the human story and important to understand, but love is not a sentiment divorced from biological events. It certainly affects the way my body responds.
And what about mice? The New York Times says male mice sing to the ladies. When researchers played the recorded mouse mating song for female mice, the girls came to check it out—but only once. A song without a singer doesn’t appeal to the animal soul. They’re not likely to sit alone, drinking Gallo Hearty Burgundy and listening to Janis Joplin, stoking themselves with romantic self-pity because it just feels so bad.
Does that mean they don’t yearn? Who can say? Chimps may be the missing link. I know they get crushes (the females on male grad students especially). But I digress.
M&J wanted to be famous and were; they deserve their place in the history of their era. But what’s going on outside my window is much more interesting. Gay culture has given us infinitely more information about sex, thanks to their penchant for experimenting and the fact that for the last few decades they won’t shut up.
More gays go into the arts. Their voices are amplified, and always have been, even when it was in code. It seems to me there is a lot more that could be written about that—not the obvious (who was gay and what that song/movie/novel was really about) but how much the rest of us have learned and assimilated.
I did a quick google search to see what has been written, and didn’t find what I was looking for, maybe because there are still too many deconstructionists in the universities. It’s all about discourse and how naming creates reality. I’m more interested in how reality creates reality. As they say in medical school, “see one, do one, teach one.” Oh, there are so many things I wish I’d seen and done.
Then I’d teach you. Promise.
Sung by the people of Faery over Diarmuid and Grania, in their bridal sleep under a Cromlech. We who are old, old and gay, O so old! Thousands of years, thousands of years, If all were told: Give to these children, new from the world, Silence and love; And the long dew-dropping hours of the night, And the stars above: Give to these children, new from the world, Rest far from men. Is anything better, anything better? Tell us it then: Us who are old, old and gay, O so old! Thousands of years, thousands of years, If all were told. ~William Butler Yeats
April 13, 2009 § Leave a comment
People are frequently interested in my romantic situation (husband in Florida, boyfriend in over his head). It is peculiar and not without advantages, though the good stuff tends to add up while the bad multiplies, but the oddest thing that’s happened, and this concerns me as a writer, is that I’ve wrung so much drama from the past 9 years (or it’s wrung me; I haven’t always been the prime mover of the theatrics), that sex, love and romance, while still powerful in my life, are no longer the heavyweights in my imagination. I’m far less curious about what other people are up to, about the ‘mystery’ of someone’s marriage or arrangement. I don’t think I know everything—I just think I know everything that matters to me.
And having said such a vainglorious thing, I’m not sure if I want to be right or wrong about this. It’s nice to think the future holds surprises (she said tepidly, sitting in a hardback chair on the stage, hands folded in her lap, as abysses yawn and monsters stalk), but then surprises aren’t always nice, are they?
From one of my favorite science blogs—this is about flies—
“The influence of crowds can even sway a female’s decision based on completely arbitrary factors. To show this, Mery dusted two groups of males with either green or pink powder, creating bodies that no female would ever come across in the wild. She placed a voyeur female in a glass tube, and in an adjoining tube, she put a coloured male and a second virgin female. Inevitably, the two flies mated, providing a sex show for the lone female to study. Later, the couple were replaced with another pair – a male of the other colour, and a female that had recently mated and wasn’t up for it.
After all this voyeurism, Mery gave the solitary female a choice between pink or green males. She found that the female was twice as likely to mate with males from the colour that she had seen having sex before. If she watched green males getting lucky, she favoured green males; if pink seemed to be the colour-of-choice for other females, she went with pink. If the partition between the two tubes was opaque, so she couldn’t see the neighbouring shenanigans, she didn’t have any preferences for either colour.”*
Fashion always wins. The other woman knows something you don’t. We’re all confused about what we’re supposed to find attractive. Choose your lesson.
It’s interesting how science, which would never have advanced so far so fast without our hyper-rational, individualist civilization, is quickly tearing down the intellectual foundations of same. The human brain, not much more advanced than the fly brain, is impulse-driven, fast and sloppy, and expert at making up justifications after the fact. This is the rule, not the exception. Economists have just learned this; it’s a big eureka moment for them. No wonder the market doesn’t work! People are nuts!
Reason and considered choice are on the way out as the trusted foundation for human behavior. We can handle this for now. Scientists can genially say they don’t believe in free will, in the self, or even in consciousness, yet have no problem using those sturdy constructs to function and thrive. Apples and oranges, they say. My work, my life.
Because they are scientists, and not writers or artists, this isn’t hard for them; they tend not to have spent so much time hanging around with their demons. They haven’t given them names and histories, or ceded them territory; haven’t created symbiotic relationships to coax a win from a lose; they haven’t, in short, fooled themselves that they’ve corralled their irrational side into a binding agreement (renegotiated every one to three years).
Once those of us with the big crazies stop believing in progress of the emotional kind, in incremental acquisition of control, once we realize we’ll always like the guy with the pink dandruff if the other females do, and no power in heaven or on earth cares, or thinks it’s fate, or is saving us jewels of happiness for later—then I think we’ll storm the laboratories, grill the scientists for dinner along with their experimental animals, and erect temples to Asmodeus (lechery), Beelzebub (gluttony), Leviathan (envy), and Belphegor (sloth).
And the whole thing will start again in several hundred years.
* Ed Yong, flies get the buzz on sexy mates from each other
March 15, 2009 § 1 Comment
I expect that by now many of you have read the New York Times article, “The Pleasure Principle,” about a center in San Francisco called One Taste Urban Retreat Center*, which is dedicated to the art and practice of female orgasm. Men and women live together at the center, learning yoga and mindfulness, but the main event happens at 7 a.m. each day, when “about a dozen women, naked from the waist down, lie with eyes closed in a velvet-curtained room, while clothed men huddle over them, stroking them in a ritual known as orgasmic meditation…”
7 a.m.? Don’t they know that female desire peaks in the mid-afternoon? Men are the ones who wake up with hard-ons, and women have to bat them away in order to get coffee. If I had an orgasm in the morning, why would I bother writing?
At the One Taste Center, the men and women avoid eye contact during the orgasm-meditation. It’s not about romance, or interpersonal communication. The men don’t get to climax. Part of me thinks this would be a good place for women who’ ve never had orgasms, even while masturbating, or who’ ve never masturbated, or who can’t have orgasms during sex because of shame about their body. The female body is beautiful and holy and deserves to be serviced in hushed and velvety circumstances. I can go for that (right now would be nice). But another part of me thinks—what is this preparing you for? Sex with eunuchs?
Women need to know how to achieve orgasm and how to ask for the right stimulation, and men need to learn the techniques and be willing to employ them. Plenty of women also have things to learn about male sexuality, which is a curious and fascinating field of study. I think sex workshops are a great resource for all genders. There ought to be more of them. Maybe in high school, right after the workshop in financial management. But a live-in retreat and a focus on orgasm as ‘meditation’ takes you away from ordinary life, which is, face it, where the best sex is to be found.
I would be happy if men all responded to the clitoris the way I respond to the penis of the man I love and desire: something that turns me on to look at, touch, lick, etc. I can write glorious emails about its beauty. (I’ve tried poems but that just gets embarrassing.) If men worshipped the clitoris the way they worship breasts, all would be well. But they don’t, and I doubt we can change that without intensive genetic manipulation, which is a task best left to future generations.
Even so, I’ve had plenty of nights of sex without orgasm that I wouldn’t want to have missed. The crazy heat, the tease, the turn-on of precipitous action is quite lovely. Having one’s breasts worshipped isn’t bad either. And in general I’ll take a man I love, a man I think is sexy, a man whose cock I worship (except when he’s being, excuse me, a prick) over an Olympic gold-medal cunnilinguist any day.
In my experience the best way to motivate a man to make love better is to a) arouse him, b) make sure he cares about you, or at least wants you to stick around, and c) appeal to his competitive instincts. If you let him know your last boyfriend was a virtuoso with his tongue and hands, he’ll apply himself with vigor. If you sigh and moan when he gets it right, he’ll keep it up.
Men are funny that way. Sort of like women, except with women you have to be more indirect.
On else, you could offer this incentive (from the Times article): “a baby-faced 50-year-old Silicon Valley engineer…said that the practice of manually fixing his attention on a tiny spot of a woman’s body improves his concentration at work.”
You see? I’d prefer a man who joined the Center because he wanted access to all those naked lower bodies and then went mad with desire and had to be restrained by brawny bouncers, chained in the cellar until the wild lust had worn itself out…
I guess I’m not the meditative type.
* I’m not going to make any jokes about the name of the One Taste Urban Retreat Center. That’s what comments are for.
February 24, 2009 § 6 Comments
I’d like to meet the man who invented sex and see what he’s working on now.
~ Author Unknown
My sex life has waned along with the economy. The correlation is obvious. Of all the turn-ons I’ve ever heard of, financial anxiety isn’t one of them. Escaping from anxiety is, of course, a classic motive for mindless fucking, but my lover and I seem to have worn out the escapist thing for the time being. “It is what it is,” he keeps saying. What he means is, “I’m finally ready to face what it is, even though the ‘is’ is a lot worse than a few years ago when I couldn’t.”
It’s okay to take a break. We have stuff to do. But just because my sex life is on pause, sex doesn’t go away; others are doing it; I have to stop and think why I’m not, and what’s left to want. I need to write about it to remind myself not to worry. Too much of my worrying happens when I’m not looking.
It’s a truism that people use sex to get lots of different needs met, and my greatest need when I was young was to know. Specifically, the longing to know about men was intense and overpowering. My father died when I was 10, a suicide who was scarcely more available when he was living. I wanted to experience the full range of men, to gather and categorize their glamour, and also, eventually, to dispel the excess. As the shrinks say, I needed to learn to self-regulate.
The laconic boys of my teenage years were such utter mysteries that every morsel of knowledge gained was a treasure. I regarded them with awe. Even the ones I deemed unattractive were more attractive than I wanted to admit. Many other girls had it easier—knew more boys, chatted and joked with more confidence because they didn’t see the opposite sex as beings of light and terror—but I also thought they didn’t know anything.
My first lesson was that sex (on the first, not-necessarily-date) zooms you past male defenses. It did so especially then, in the 1970’s. It surprised boys into intimacy in a way that being a ‘girlfriend’ wouldn’t have. For whatever reason, my willingness didn’t slot me into the category of slut, or not most of the time. Sex was my gift—offered freely, for my own pleasure and to see what would happen—and gifts evoke a whole different response than structured exchange.
In my 20’s, I had to deal with all the usual things sexual wanderlust brings—shame; the need to create a philosophical rationale for my behavior; and jealousy, mine and others’. It was exhilarating and then it was boring. I can understand how for some, tilting against or fitting oneself into social norms can be a source of lifetime intellectual fascination. But I was interested in special cases: as in, everybody is one.
I wanted to know secrets. Among women, that’s not usually too hard: sit patiently, ask questions, offer cake, withhold judgment and most will tell you the good stuff. Men are more of a problem. Often, they don’t know what the good stuff is and/or think it’s dangerous, so you have to fuck them silly.
But whatever you learn, there’s so much more beneath. And if you learn that, there’s twice as much. I suspected this about people in general from a young age but preferred not to dwell on it except when I was writing fiction, when it was a technical problem. But in matters of love, it’s the thing that pulls you under.
We want love to be difficult. There’s no possibility of romance if every door swings open. What do you do when it’s too difficult; how do you decide if you’ve reached that point? What scares me about myself is that though I’m a woman with many interests and identities—writer, friend, daughter, sister, stepmother, aunt—sexual or ‘partner’ love is my ground, my true north, the heat I would seek if I were a heat-seeking missile. And the men I love are not easy. Being in a many-partnered situation (adultery, polyamory, whatever—I hate all the words) insures that new levels of weirdness will appear. You wake up in the morning and there are seven extra floors in your brain, inhabited by invisible women and argument; and you have to take it in stride, make the coffee, get your work done. To do otherwise would be saying, all those passionate promises were nothing but sexual hysteria. Actually I can’t handle anything. Take your reality and shove it.
Life is hard now. There are uncertainties I can’t write about here, except to say they involve others’ pain and desperation, and cause me a different kind of desperation, and then there’s my financial loss, which, although I’ve been writing about it for months, I have yet to fully absorb. But I still value desire, still imagine it as the secret path away from the horrible and towards the true, as if the true were never horrible. The truth often is horrible, but desire is like water. When it evaporates, the seemingly vanished is in every breath you take. When it freezes, watch your step. And when spring comes, there no escaping it.
There is no remedy for love but to love more.
~Henry David Thoreau
O lyric Love, half angel and half bird, And all a wonder and a wild desire.