After much ado, the book trailer for my memoir, No End Of The Bed, is now live! The concept is based around parallels between the church and the sex-positive movement. Enjoy!
After watching the excellent film The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, I had no choice but to pick up Dalma Heyn’s book, The Erotic Silence of the American Wife.
In the film, Pippa marries a wealthy man thirty years her senior when she is a young runaway living on the edge. She mutates from being an expressive human being with problems into the stilted and empty role of being the Perfect Wife. But underneath all of her prim lines, you sense the real Pippa lurking underneath. She begins sleepwalking, ending up at the min-mart where she buys cigarettes. And then, out to lunch with her neurotic friend, Pippa begins to combust:
“You could be married to anybody, if that’s what you’re worried about. Marriage is an act of will. I mean, I adore Herb, but our marriage functions because we will it to. If you leave love to hold everything together, you can forget it. Love comes and goes with the breeze, minute by minute.”
When Dalma Heyn set out to write her book comprised of years worth of interviews with wives who committed adultery, she began with an armload of clichés, stereotypes, and societal views that had nothing to do with the feelings of actual women, their marriages, and their experiences. The problem that all of these women shared, was that they bought into the ideal of the Perfect Wife – she is selfless, giving, able to predict the needs of everyone else, without ever meeting her own needs. When these women don’t measure up to this idea of goodness (and no one ever does or should), they constantly feel bad – they are a failure, there is something wrong with them. In the process, they disconnect completely from themselves and go numb. They can no longer experience a fulfilling sex life either. They’ve become what they thought was their husband’s fantasy, but it has nothing to do with them. They are looking at themselves from the outside in.
“They spoke of a profound awareness that they were somehow no longer themselves, that they weren’t in a relationship but playing a role in one (Heyn, 103)…”
They wonder what became of the sexual outlaw they were before marriage. Some of the women had not even had premarital sex. Regardless, women from their twenties to their seventies, and all walks of life, experience adultery as a rebirth of self. They don’t experience shame or guilt – they experience life, total joy and an uninhibited place to reclaim their authenticity. They seek out men that have none of the prerequisites that they look for in a husband or even a boyfriend. They might not even be in love with these men, it doesn’t matter; the experience of total freedom is the same.
The women often have no desire to leave their husbands. But through the experience of adultery, they understand that they need to change the shape of their marriages, so that at last, their needs can factor into the relationship. There is no going back to the Perfect Wife. Some of the women never tell their husbands and fare well, while a large percentage of the women who do tell end up in divorce. But every marriage is different with different outcomes.
I never thought that I would get married because I loved being single so much. My sexuality was the ultimate adventure for me. So sometimes, I wonder, how did I end up married to a man whose sexuality is so vanilla. He’s turning fifty this year, and though he thinks of having sex all the time, it’s often the last priority. When it doesn’t feel like a routine, when he isn’t being too sensitive and careful, sex between us is wonderful, but rarely ever dark, or seductive, or unbridled. Can these things exist in a marriage? I always thought they could.
When we were dating he struggled to keep up with me. He stayed up late with me till the early morning hours and we had sex everyday. He was working three jobs and started to feel the pressure.
Around the same time, I decided to give him a fashion show. I went into my closet and put on all my old fetish gear – vinyl, thigh-high fishnets, towering platforms. When I paraded out, he was not aroused by it at all. He said I was playing the part of someone else. Maybe it was who I was before he met me, maybe I never was that role to begin with. It just wasn’t for him. He wanted me to put on a sleek and elegant dress instead. I’d never encountered a man who didn’t go crazy over artifice. For a week after that, he struggled sexually, and then unbeknownst to me, Viagra saved the day.
For him, the two events were unrelated, but after that week, I stopped taking risks. I started feeling nervous about making him uncomfortable. I left my kinks behind. He loves my strength in all facets of our life together. But he has a puritan side, a clumsy embarrassment over anything out of the ordinary.
The other issue is that he’s not the string bean-types that I used to date. He’s like one of those massive warriors that you see in movies like 300. Built like a rock, solid, stocky, with huge hands that don’t know their own strength. When I told him that I like to be choked, he gave it a try and almost broke my neck. When he sleeps with his arm across my chest, my ribs begin to feel like they’re crushing under the pressure and I panic, trying desperately to wake myself. I’m still learning how to live with our differences.
But life is also easier, happier, more content with him. We can’t get enough of being together – we work together, go out all the time, talk openly about everything, and share our passions. It’s always fun, even when we’re fighting. We don’t buy into the term “settling down” like many couples do. I play the role of the Perfect Wife more for my parents than my husband. When they show up, everything is clean and dinner is delicious. When they’re not here, our lives are chaotic and slightly out of control.
I don’t idealize our relationship. I didn’t marry a man for his status or money. I married a fellow outlaw, who lives by his own rules, and makes me laugh. I’m well aware that the future is uncertain. I’ll be surprised if our marriage survives for the rest of our lives, and I very much hope that it does. And does that only mean the rest of his life, since I’m so much younger? I make jokes about being a wealthy old widow, living like a gypsy and on the prowl. But really, it’s just to make myself feel better about the unknown.
I went through some confusing changes in the process of our growing closer. Like a rubber band snapping back and forth. I was caught up in the whirlwind, in the romance in the beginning. Then after our engagement I rebelled and fought and wanted to leave. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing. But on our wedding day, it all made sense.
For a short while, I turned into an old lady, had no real friends, started to compensate for my husband’s reckless, accident-prone nature by being extremely anxious, nervous, overly careful. At times, the pressure of being a wife overwhelms me. I’ve often wanted to run back to when my life was more straightforward and simple – when I could just work, do my art, and have sex with random people every now and then.
Sex was self-discovery, mutual-discovery, empathic-discovery. Married sex is something completely different that I don’t quite understand. It’s like we need to learn to speak each other’s languages, and haven’t quite gotten there yet.
There is a strange role-reversal where in our relationship I am supposed to be more like the man and he is more like the woman. He wants to cuddle and be close, and I just want to get laid. He wants to work up to it for long periods of time, while I get bored waiting. He wants me to initiate, while I just want to feel wanted. And yet, he is enormously giving, patient, and selfless – which makes me feel like an impatient, selfish, taker.
No couple is perfect, and somehow our differences balance things out. My husband is the first man I was ever in a committed relationship with. I guess I got bored with everything else. Before we met, I had become an evil heartbreaker. The ego trip felt nice, but it didn’t feel right to hurt people and feel nothing. My husband didn’t buy all that crap. He saw right through it (though he admits to being scared of me at first). It was good to be seen at last. Really seen. It still is.
When I think of other men sexually, I wonder what would be the point, when there’s only one man who lets me be who I really am. Maybe not the dominatrix side, but every other side. Everyone else pales in comparison. Everyone else seems like they’re missing something. With everyone I dated before, I was never really myself, and was never accepted to begin with.
I am the subject of my husband’s life. He says that I give his life meaning. He even took my last name.
Yesterday was our 2nd Anniversary. I hemmed my wedding dress and surprised him by wearing it on our dinner date, along with my birdcage veil, and my grandmother’s jade necklace. We talked about our plans for building our future together. We talked openly and honestly about how we really feel about all of it. We raved over Sea Urchin, Veal Sweetbreads, Cavatelli with Morels, Chocolate Truffle Cake with Black Cherries. We even talked about this post, and how our memories are different, and yet the same.
This is the first openly honest thing I’ve ever written about my husband, stripped of all the idealistic tripe. I’m breaking my erotic silence.
The question we all have as human beings is “what lies beyond our limit?” We just watched the film Another Earth where humans are faced with the perplexing realization that there is another earth mirroring our own, even another self completely synchronized with us.
In reality, when we come into contact with other people, their inner being transcends us. They might let us into a few thoughts, but other than that, we will never fully know them.
But to find another replicated self – would we recognize ourselves? Would that other self transcend us as well, as though we are looking at a stranger? Would you feel competitive of your other self? Would you find your other self ugly? Would you be annoyed by your other self? Would you love your other self? Would you tell your other self to get over all their hang-ups and get on with life?
Just as we will never meet our other self, we will never meet our idea of God. In Gordon D. Kaufman’s book, God The Problem, he states, “If there were no experiences within the world which brought us in this way up against the Limit of our world – if there were no point at which man sensed his finitude – then there would be no justification whatsoever for the use of God-language (Kaufman, 49).”
To embrace what lies beyond the limit, we talk of God in ways that we can understand from our experience of human relationships.
“…God is spoken of as lord, father, judge, king, and he is said to love and hate, to make covenants with his people, to perform “mighty acts,” to be characterized by mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, patience, wisdom, and the like – all terms drawn from the linguistic region of interpersonal discourse (Kaufman, 62).”
In the Webster’s Dictionary, the word God is defined as “1 cap : the supreme reality; esp : the Being worshiped as the creator of the universe.”
When I say that I do not believe in the existence of God, I am saying that the belief of a creator and a ruler do not measure up in our current state of reality, or even within the context of the past and ancient history. He was the explanation that existed before we had a scientific explanation, used as a way to interpret people’s experiences. People desire to make sense of things, but the problem is, God does not make sense.
I am in awe of our cosmic universe, so much so, that I find it impossible for our existence to be so limited by this idea of God. To me, we are looking too far out into the distance, when the answers all lie within us, within and beyond our massive and destructive home on earth.
“Indeed, we have learned, that it is precisely by excluding reference to such a transcendent agent that we gain genuine knowledge of the order that obtains in nature, are enabled to predict in certain respects the natural course of events, and thus gain a measure of control over it (Kaufman, 120).”
So there is no direct encounter and never will be – no way to interpret God outside of our own imaginings – in which case, God is actually a mirror of our own humanity – full of insecurities, the need for affirmation and praise, the desire to be close to these humans who are always so distant and cold, the desire to have their obedience, to incite dominance, to be in charge, to have control. Why does God mirror the fickle childishness of a human being? And if God is the creator, then who created him? The answer seems obvious – human beings created him.
“When feeling is given a dominant place in shaping the interpretation of reality or the world, a religious world-view results (Kaufman, 214).”
Lately, every time we see my parents, my mother has to make a comment about God’s existence. God is woven deeply within the fabric of my family. He is given praise for all the good things. The universe is over-simplified through Bible stories taken literally. My mom celebrates the day that she will “go to be with Jesus.” It’s not by my father’s intelligence and diligence in over forty years of hard work that brought them financial security. No, it’s God.
The last time I wrote about religion, I was extremely angry for being raised without a choice. Writing is good therapy, and I’ve come to a new place of peace and acceptance. I feel released through my own realizations and views on life. But I’ve also chosen to keep those views separate from my family life. They have an idea of what I think. The problem is, no matter how much I bring it up, they will forget it, or write it off by tomorrow. My mom especially, has selective memory. She blocks out the things that she can’t handle. Especially since, according to their belief, I am “lost” – whatever that means.
When I am with my family, I do my utmost to respect them. You cannot argue with a mind-set, culture, history, or the entire fabric of someone’s life. They will do anything to shut out conflicting views, to keep the cognitive dissonance at bay.
Family is extremely important to me. So I hold hands with them when they pray, I smile and say nothing over the Jesus comments, I listen to my nieces simplify the world by stating the Bible as fact. In the meantime, I hope that as my nieces grow older, they begin to see that life isn’t so cut and dry.
Coming from children, religion makes sense. But from adults, I expect more. Sigmund Freud said, “The roots of the need for religion are in the parental complex; the almighty and just God, and kindly Nature, appear to us as grand sublimations of father and mother, or rather, as revivals and restorations of the young child’s idea of them… when at a later date he perceives how truly forlorn and weak he is when confronted with the great forces of life, he feels his condition as he did in childhood, and attempts to deny his own despondency by a regressive revival of the forces which protected his infancy.”
A universe that circulates around our own egos – that sounds like a man-made myth if ever I heard one. We are all in the struggle of existence whether we like it or not. We will all one day fall prey to death. We have no real control.
“May it not be the case, moreover, that the very act of believing in God is in itself morally dubious? May this not be largely an attempt to avoid taking full responsibility for ourselves and our lives by creating in fantasy a “heavenly father” into whose care we can place ourselves when the facts of life become too unpleasant (Kaufman, 14)?”
I find this over and over in people who dedicate their lives to God. Life is just too much for them. They would like to whitewash all the realities that are too painful for them to take. It’s a coward’s way out.
The older Christians in my life all believe that I will come back around. They were “wanderers” in their twenties and thirties, and are convinced that by forty or fifty, I will realize that my demise is nearing. There are too many things I cannot control. My body will start failing me, or friends will start dying off. I’ll be faced with the futility of my existence. I don’t think they understand, that I have already experienced all of those things.
It seems to me, when people leave faith behind, they fail to search beyond faith. They avoid the question of spirituality altogether. Then eventually, they inevitably end up going back to what feels comfortable, to what they knew in their youth.
My dad told me, “Never stop searching,” with his hands clasped tightly around my shoulders in a desperate attempt to get through to me.
I replied, “I never will.” I wish I could please him, and be what he wants me to be, but I have to be myself. I will never go back to where I came from. I will move forward and live to the utmost before my body turns to dust. And believe it or not, I’m okay with that.
For more on this topic:
I once had a friend who was a famous child star. I will protect her identity out of respect and call her Amy. We both worked at a restaurant, and every now and then, super fans would appear to gush and beg her to sign an old lunch box or record.
Amy had retained the cheeriness of a child star though she was now in her mid-thirties. She had a haircut that was more fit for a ten year old in the 1980’s. I kept trying to help her brush up her image, and wanted her physical looks to match her dynamic personality.
Being Catholic she wanted to save herself for marriage, but it stunted her sexual maturity to a great extent. She avoided it by only being physical with her gay costars from Broadway shows, and had a hopeless crush on a married actor.
I realized to a great extent, Amy retained age ten because she peaked at age ten. She could never let go of the hope that she would eventually find success as an adult, but the problem was, she just wasn’t believable as an adult.
Sometimes she’d score a part in a show and be out of town for a month or two. But more often than not, there were endless auditions, and the self-sabotage of drinking too much the night before and losing her voice. She had a condo she could barely afford because she’d purchased it in a more successful moment. The life of a creative person is extremely difficult with constant ups and downs, drama and rejections.
For a long time Amy was my closest friend. We had all sorts of adventures and got into plenty of mischief. But then I introduced her to straight men – a bunch of raucous musicians to be exact. Amy wanted to make a husband out of the first one that slept with her. I tried to protect her from the obsession, and warned her that he was seeing other people and wouldn’t change. But Amy told me I was a horrible friend for saying so, and that she picked the wrong guy (as in, she should have picked the guy I hooked up with every now and then).
I was hanging out with her love obsession one day at the bar, waiting for her to show up from another dive with my every now and then guy. Love obsession turned to me and said, “I have this feeling that right now the two of them are stabbing us both in the back.”
He was right. I couldn’t believe it. Amy and I never talked again. Well, except for one night when I was too drunk and left her a nasty message at 3am. For months I felt an immense pain in my gut. I’d expected that sort of thing from the guy, but not from her. I still regret that we never got over it. Who doesn’t go crazy for a minute when they lose their virginity at 34? But if we really want to dig into what was going on – I think she couldn’t handle that she wasn’t the star of the show.
When we first met I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. And then somehow I passed her up along the way. She was so charismatic, and chipper and extremely social. But in certain circles, I took the lead and she accepted the supporting role. Competition destroyed our friendship. And on an astrological side-note, being an Aries, I have noticed my friendships with Cancers always follow the same pattern – intense and combustible.
This week I read Fame Junkies – The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction by Jake Halpern. In three sections he covers aspiring child celebrities, celebrity entourage, and celebrity worship.
Increasingly, children want to become famous for fame itself. They don’t see the importance of having a talent or something to give through fame. They feel that fame will fix everything that is wrong in their lives.
“In fact, one could argue that the desire to be famous is simply the desire to alleviate pain – the pain of being bullied, the pain of feeling like a nobody, the pain of not getting the dates you want, and the misery of being below the people who inflicted the pain on you (Halpern, 34).”
Who isn’t more driven towards fame than the lonely child who wants to prove to everyone that they are worthy of the love they never received. This child is more apt to watch five hours of TV a day and become absorbed in the celebrities that appear to be receiving the adoration they so long for. Here Halpern sums up the research of psychologist, David Elkind:
“… teenagers are prone to believe they are destined to live exceptional, celebrity-like lives… by their very nature, adolescents are unable to grasp what other people are thinking or feeling, so they exist in a sort of egocentric daze, assuming that everyone else is as obsessed with their lives as they are (Halpern, 16).”
If this is true, then celebritydom is the ultimate extension of the adolescent mind. Promising an entourage and fans that buzz around you like peons, non-entities that meet your every whim and serve up admiration on a platter. Halpern reflects on Dennis Hoppers Personal Assistant at the time:
“And yet even when she emulated a friend or a family member, it wasn’t exactly a realistic scenario because on principle, she was refusing to talk about herself or even to recognize her own emotions. The result was a pseudo-friendship, in which one person did all the talking and feeling, while the other deftly maneuvered to stay out of the way (Halpern, 95).”
As taxing as the job is, and though she and other personal assistants are unable to have personal lives due to the constant beck and call of the job, she loved being within the inner reaches of the famous. If she could be a part of their lives, she didn’t need to have her own. But many assistants eventually wake up to the fact that their lives have passed them by with nothing to show for it.
“Some research psychologists have come to believe that the need to belong is every bit as urgent as the need for food and shelter (Halpern, 112).”
It’s an ancient survival tactic to emulate the alpha to gain success in the group. In return the alpha can teach skills to the protégé and gain power through numbers. But what are the returns for celebrity worship, especially when people become famous for nothing. It’s a large-scale machine, completely distant and remote from real life.
“Celebrities are probably of less interest to people who live exciting, fulfilling lives – people who are involved with their family and community. But how many people do you know who live exciting, fulfilling lives (Halpern, 144)?”
Every year, thousands of children join scam agencies, where parents fork out thousands of dollars for the miniscule chance that their kid will be discovered. They often put more stock in a chance at fame than in a college education.
Before my prefrontal cortex had fully developed logic, I myself was gullible enough to go into credit card debt for classes and a modeling portfolio at a fake agency. I thought I could make some extra fast cash. But the owner and her assistant took all the real jobs and tried to get us to work for free.
Amy said that she wasn’t sure she would have been an actor if her strong willed mother hadn’t pushed her into it. It struck me as insane. Most people don’t come to conclusions about what they will do for a living until they are in college, or even sometime after. But here she had been told that she was an actress before she had even fully become a self.