What’s this about a “Libido” Book Launch in Santa Barbara?

Yup, sex and publishing has come to fruition “in my book!”

Unmasked: Women Write about Sex and Intimacy After Fifty is out and my work’s in it.

And what’s this about Santa Barbara?

I’ll be out there on Wednesday for the Anthology launch at Carr Vineyards and Winery to read my essay to a crowd of women hungry for advice on rediscovering their sex drive.

My signing pen is ready!

C’mon, ladies, how relevant is this topic?

Women over fifty are “the invisible woman” in American culture. In a society that reveres youth – and particularly young, sexy women – women over fifty fade into the shadows. Yet, for many women at mid-life, this is a time of flowering and coming into one’s own, sexually and otherwise. Many older women love sex and crave the intimacy it provides. For every story of a harried mother who turns her husband away at night, or the older woman who long ago lost her libido, there are legions of others whose sex drives match those of men.

A recent study found that sixty percent of women fifty to fifty-nine were sexually active, that almost fifty percent of women in their sixties were sexually active, and nearly thirty percent of those over seventy were sexually active. So, why is so little attention paid to sex and intimacy among women in later life? Other than a smattering of magazine articles and some academic books, very little has been written about women, sex and intimacy. Oh, there are plenty of how-tos: advice on vaginal dryness and pain during sex and erectile dysfunction. But there is a dearth of work written by women about their sexual experiences after fifty.

This collection of essays and poetry is meant to bring sex after fifty for women into the open, to proclaim that it is important, it is natural and healthy and, for some women, it is absolutely necessary. Unmasked will surprise, inform, and–it is hoped–encourage all women of a certain age to (re)discover their sexuality.

I am so proud to be a contributor to this Anthology. Join me and some other randy women in Santa Barbara for a signed copy of the book and a celebratory glass of wine!

Advertisements
Sometimes I just want to roar!

The Kickass Formula that Restored My Libido

Through the closed lids of my eyes, I feel the morning sunlight streaming in.

Hey, it’s the weekend.

I take inventory of my brain for traces of a hangover.

We’re in the clear.

And then I check for any activity that might be stirring in the netherworld between my legs which has, of late, been about as playful as a schoolmarm.

Nothing.

I can hear Chris breathing beside me. Sweet beautiful man, and yet for weeks now no amount of touching or stroking or licking on his part can bring back the phenomenon of rapture, nothing eases our hearty pursuit of it. Chris has tried, I’ve grimaced.

Sex-wise, everything was going great until I hit 50. Because it had been so easy before, I couldn’t understand why climaxing had become like trudging up Mount Washington with a dead body strapped to my back.

A quick Google search advised me to: “Get a pedicure, touch up your roots, spritz on your favorite perfume, get some exercise, schedule your sex, add a toy or two, try porn…”

Nothing.

But lately I’ve wondered if this was about something that KY Jelly can’t fix.

Hidden in my bedside drawer are sweet almond and rose oil and some ylang ylang I got at the organic food store. These oils are aphrodisiacs, but they are also antidepressants, hypotensives, nervines, and sedatives, and while I want that man sleeping beside me to slip inside and have a go, there’s also a reason I want the regular, easy cures to work.

I don’t want to acknowledge the changes going on in my 50-year-old body, the fact that I am no longer wet at the drop of a man’s hand feels like a failure somehow.

And, because I feel like a failure, I’ve been avoiding my body and therefore my self-Reiki practice. Reiki, a wild healing energy we can apply to ourselves, seeks out what’s maligned and out of whack in the body — blocks to creativity, depression, grief. It’s a catalyst to deepening spirituality that can offer glimpses of the divine.

On this Saturday morning with the aromatherapy hidden in my bedside table, I think: And isn’t sex divine?

With self-Reiki, you put your hands on yourself (absolutely anywhere, it really doesn’t matter… your arm, your belly) and bring your life force through your hands and into the body.

So, on this light-filled Saturday morning, because I am dying (literally) to be with the guy I used to crave, because last night during a scotch-induced haze I fell asleep while he was saying, “How about this?” and I was saying, “Nothing,” I put my hands on my abdomen and start.

My hands get warm, and I feel a deep sense of relaxation, not sleep but something wider, more alive.

That energy, whatever it is, doesn’t care whether you can have sex or not, how old you are, if you are getting a pudge around your middle, how many wrinkles have settled around your eyes.

Time slips away, I slip away, all that remains is blissed-out peace. Like drinking a martini — without the edge.

When I finish, I eyeball Chris. His eyes are half-mast, he’s styling an alfalfa hairdo, an imprint from a crease in his pillowcase runs across the right side of his face.

Not exactly a turn-on, but I don’t care. “Let’s give it a go,” I say.

Being a man in love (if he’s not too far under the influence of scotch), Chris is always ready to give it a go.

With a blind hand, I pull the end table drawer open and fumble for oil I concocted from the health food store.

Forget the sticky KY goop, this stuff glides like heaven.

Chris gets his hands on the love rub, goes about the business of inducing the hopeful rapture amid my numb equipment.

I anticipate the onslaught of banter that has ensued for the past few months like doc to patient:

“Here?”

“No.”

“How about here?”

“Nothing.”

Those myriad times when I can no longer tell if his are the hands of a green gynecologist or a prospective cow buyer at auction.

But today something whispers: Hang in, be still.

Be still?

Stop trying so hard; relax. Look, there, out into the horizon.

That little voice sounds suspiciously like my intuition. I don’t hear it very often, mostly because I’m too busy listening to the voices saying I’m not supple enough, pretty enough, I’m past my prime…

The horizon? I ask it.

Behind your eyes.

There’s a horizon in my head?

Just close your eyes.

The atmosphere changes.

And the change is charged.

“Here?” asks Chris.

Humidity — wet blanket type — sweeps in.

“Lisa?”

The storm hits.

The rapture fills me — a delicious swell that comes from the bottom of the ocean, too big to be experienced but a moment or two.

The wave recedes, leaving me pie-eyed, legs in rigor, fists clenched tight.

I look to Chris, who is hovering over me, his expression one of delight, the crease from the pillowcase stretched thin against the smiling muscles of his cheek. Given that he has a technical mind and has a limited repertoire of reactions, it’s rather comical.

“The self-Reiki,” I say, “the essential oils.” I catch wind of my torso. It’s charred in places and emits wisps of smoke.

We may have a formula to bring about a bit of the ol’ spark.

As the blood begins to seep back into my flesh, I let out a laugh — ribald, raucous. Besides having a great partner who will push and prod without feeling like a jackass, and will let you get as woo-woo as you want in the sack, I no longer feel old. Sex can last until 90. We just need to nurture ourselves in order to feel sparked about anything, including our libido.

And, in order to feel the wonders of the Universe, we need to let go and let god, whatever the hell your definition of god is, to be a part of it.

This essay appears in the anthology, Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty

Why Not Having Children Was My Perfect Path

We’re seated by the gate at Logan, held captive by the airline’s whim, watching a steady stream of half dressed, overdressed passengers walk, toddle and run by, but the place remains stale and lifeless somehow.

Until a little princess, right out of a storybook, walks into the seating area of our gate. She is unhurried, functions in her own dimension, immune to the chaos, the germfest, the push to get to point A to B.

Her presence casts a tiny spell on me. My book collapses into my lap. I’m drinking her sweetness in: a beautiful, clean-faced, bright-eyed little girl—a gene pool homerun.

What would my path have looked like with children in it?

Rarely do I question my decision to forgo becoming a vessel of reproduction. My goal in life was to become CEO of a wildly growing company, not wiping little beasties’ noses. I even left my husband when he wanted them. But as sometimes happens, this delightful girl seems to be showcasing my poor decision. She looks like what I imagine my little girl would have looked like had I not married my sandy-haired husband of 5’7” and 27-inch waistline, but Bob Redford.

Not to mention that I never did become the CEO of wildly growing company, and the jobs I have had have been sort of wildly unsatisfying.

I watch her, feeling that regret wash over me. She stands on sea legs between her mother’s thighs, crunching Cape Cod potato chips with less than perfect execution, savoring what makes it into her mouth. She babbles, a form of self-engagement, and randomly feeds “Kit-Tee,” a wide-eyed cat peering out from a crate on the floor.

Women of all ages watch her, heads cocked, wearing expressions of maternal yearning, remembrances, maybe regret, like my own.

I bet she still has that baby smell thing going on, you know, like puppies.

I surmise, too, that Zoe’s recently graduated from applesauce and whipped franks to adult food. And now, I think, and a disgruntled flatline my mother used to wear when I was in high school settles on my lips, her parents are giving her junk food, creating an unhealthy palate and a rhythmic type of oral indulgence.

I elbow Dennis. “If that sweetness were mine, I’d give her a hard cooked egg and fruit to eat, not crap food.”

He eyeballs Zoe for a nanosecond, nods and returns his gaze to his handheld.

I think of the other things I’d feed Zoe: Greek yogurt, kale crisps (much softer than potato chips), hummus, non-GMO whole grain crackers, organically grown vegetarian stuff.

And then, Zoe begins to choke.

When adults get something caught in their throat, we place a napkin to our mouth, cough, grumble it away. If that doesn’t work? We set into panic. We choke like hell to obtain clear passage. We don’t care how much attention we draw doing it. We want to live and we fight like hell to continue doing so.

Zoe, on the other hand, doesn’t understand death. Maternal instincts, ingrained in women’s DNA, alert three to their feet. Those not wearing headphones or enthralled with an electronic device, register a disturbance.

Zoe has one hand on her mother’s knee, stabilizing her squat before Kit-Tee’s crate. She brings herself upright and faces me. Her blue eyes have teared up, no sound comes from her windpipe. The fragments of crap food are lodged in her throat. She is the little girl I never had and wish was mine and she can’t breathe.

Someone, do something.

The book slides off my lap and crashes to the floor, and then Zoe’s mother scoops her up and lays her across her knees.

The little girl lies there flat as an ironing board.

Zoe?

Three deft pats on her back and Cape Cods chips in a variety of shapes project from Zoe’s mouth. Saliva slips over her lips. Oxygen returns to her lungs. She cries.

The maternal patrons lean in, ask if Zoe is okay. Her mother waves them off. “Yes, thank you,” she says.

My dream child is back on her feet; the waterworks have subsided. Her father strokes her cheeks dry. Her mood changes back to the state of pre-choking as if by a flick of a switch.

She’s perfect again.

She asks for another chip.

This makes a number of bystanders chuckle.

I listen, curious to learn if good ole mom is going to give her toddler just off Gerber Stage Four another chip.

“You can have some Goldfish,” she says.

Goldfish?!

In a Mickey Mouse sort of voice, I say onto the open pages, “How ‘bout some yogurt?”

Dennis elbows me, a prompt to behave.

Over the P.A., a flight attendant announces the initial stages of boarding.

We gather our things. I impart a secret smile to Zoe, which she catches. Means nothing to her.

When we’re settling into our seats, an emaciated gray-haired woman with a Tom Petty overbite slides in. Her thighs are the same width as my forearms, and Zoe appears in the aisle. She’s screaming like a banshee. Ear piercing stuff. I barely get a glimpse of her because she passes by so swiftly—her father carries her like a surfboard. This must be a common position for her—flat and rigid.

Zoe’s mother follows behind, toting a handbag crammed with baby survival equipment and the crate containing Kit-Tee. She wears an expression indicative of the relief she’s feeling that her husband has finally stepped up to the plate, but also of deep embarrassment about her imperfect daughter.

Emaciated Woman and I snap together our respective seatbelts. By the sounds of it, Zoe has been strapped into a seat four or so rows behind us. Amid the chaos of the 737’s boarding, she has stopped crying and is sweetly introducing Kit-Tee to neighbors.

And now again, I wish she were mine, mine, mine.

The cabin is packed. There’s tight clearance, cramming of luggage in overhead bins. Last minute phone calls are made. The air is stale. Actually there is no air. Tim is giving emergency landing instruction, his props old and yellowed. The teenager across the way is licking the remnants of a BK cheeseburger from his thumbs. Zoe’s voice pierces through all this clear as a bell. She has dismissed her affections for Kit-Tee and is dead set against keeping her seatbelt fastened.

“No, no, no, Mama!”

My dazzling opinion of this little girl, wanting to drown in the pools of her aquamarine eyes, having envisioned birthing her through my own womb and canal, flickers like a film noir played on an old projector. I don’t want it to. I want her to remain fresh, magical, novel, her presence filling me with regret about what I could have had.

The flight gets underway. The minutes slip into hours, it’s horrendous. Not because of turbulence, the crew, Emaciated Woman, or lack of turkey, sprouts and avocado sandwiches. It’s because Zoe’s steady stream of “no!” is now followed by parental correction with an edge and curmudgeon-type shushing. My iPod is packed away in cargo below; I have no way of tuning out the racket, which would have kept Zoe magical to me.  Instead, I watch the display that shows the plane’s elevation, speed, and the long ass Midwest state we’re hovering over. We’re practically standing still at 500 MPH.

Dennis types away on his laptop, the time flies by for him. I listen to little Zoe carry on; tearing apart her magicalness. She was so perfect before.

When descent at last begins from 40,000 feet, cabin air pressure intensifies. Zoe begins wailing with a set of lungs worthy of crossing the English Channel.

I know this: if I stayed married, I couldn’t have had all the daring affairs with executives my father’s age. I wouldn’t have experienced the freedom of telling off Gloria Steinem and discovering the rugged beauty of the West, proving myself and doing “boys’ chores” where my leg “got broke.”

So what’s the seduction of remorse, regret?

Even if we are self-actualized, accomplished people who have had good lives, why do we actually sort of like that deep longing for what we could have had? And that’s when I discover something really genius about not doing things.

It makes us heroes in our own minds. It buoys us up. We can’t do everything, there will always be paths we could have taken. And the brilliance of that is we get to imagine doing it all and being perfect at it. I know I know we’re supposed to stay in the moment, but most of us don’t because the moment can be as boring as a…well, a long plane ride.

So, thinking of all those unlived lives can be a way to boost self-confidence for one happy soaring moment.

Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty

If we’d written the novel, we would have written a bestseller. Not going to Hollywood to audition for all those bit parts and staying back east, we get to imagine our lives as movies stars. Not going to law school means we can tell ourselves we would have been kick-ass prosecutors, killing it in the courtroom. People tell us not to regret what could have been, but actually it’s sort of fun. Not becoming a mother is so much better than actually becoming a mother because I can imagine I would have had the perfect child. Never mind the choking, the quick-switch moods, the screaming like a banshee. I would have nourished my daughter perfectly, and she would have been absolutely flawless.

Zoe snaps me out of my reverie. She’s back to her ear-piercing scream. Somewhere around 15,000 feet the display shows the aircraft has overshot SFO. The plane’s nose is sticking into the Pacific.

I see around me that people are glimpsing in Zoe’s direction—even Emaciated Woman—and shrugging their shoulders in a way that suggests they wish they could envelope their ears with them.

Land is drawing ever closer out Emaciated Woman’s window, but we’re back on track, the pilot tells us the 737’s nose is destined for the runway. We drop elevation in big chunks until at last the wheels skid. Only minutes remain before we get off this tin bus and little Zoe will disappear from my life forever.

When she and her parents file out before us, I catch those beautiful aquamarines, her body is horizontal and at waist-height again. In my mind I make peace with her, thank her for giving me the chance to be a perfect mother to a perfect child.

She has returned to lightheartedness and answering the saint-of-a-lady behind her about what color Kit-Tee is.

“He’s pink and purple,” she says.

 

Not Having Children Was My Perfect Path was published in Huffpost and Fiftiness.