Does what's happening in bed tell us what's happening in a marriage?
The sexless marriage is much maligned in our culture. Most of us, including a lot of mental health professionals, view a sexless marriage as a bad marriage. But when you think about it, things that make us want to have sex are often not the same things we want in a long-term partner. For a lot of us unpredictability, passion, spontaneity, and even conflict can be sexy. However, in a long-term partner, we seek reliability, stability, safety, and trust. Grrrr… doesn’t knowing someone will remember to take out the recycling every week just make you want to rip your clothes off? In a wonderful book called Mating in Captivity, which in my opinion should be required reading for life as a human, psychoanalyst Esther Perel argues there are good reasons why sex drops off in long-term partnerships, even good ones. In fact, these relationships are often quite stable and the partners extremely connected. Perel argues that desire and lust are borne out of distance and difference. We feel there is some space between us and another person and we long to physically unite. Feeling very connected and similar to someone doesn’t stir up that desire.
Six years ago this summer, I left the apartment where I lived by myself and walked to a train station with nothing but a large hiking backpack on my back. I would not return home for almost a month. After stepping on the commuter train to New York City, a conductor looked taken aback by my luggage. “Where you going?” he asked.
“Africa,” I said, barely even making eye contact. It never occurred to me that this might seem odd to him or anyone else. I went about my business, negotiating a variety of public transportation until I reached JFK Airport. The next night I was in Johannesburg. That was the year after my mother died. It’s a funny thing how horrific pain can lead one to freedom, and joy can sometimes feel like a prison sentence.
The book discussion will be the week of September 17. Starting Monday Sept. 17, I will post a discussion question or prompt on the blog each day, Monday through Friday. Monday, we will do general reactions, then I’ll move to more specific discussion topics. If anyone wants to send me suggestions for discussion questions or topics in advance, of course you should feel free! Please feel free to comment on any of the days to participate in the discussion. Can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of the book!
UNDERCOVER BOOK CLUB?? – I know at least a few of us are looking forward to reading this book. Thanks to Rachel J for the fantastic idea to have a virtual book club! I’m looking to find out if others are interested. Also let me know preferences for how long you need to read it, and suggestions for format of the virtual discussion. More info will be coming soon. There is a link below with a short review of the book. Looking forward to this!
This week I had an experience I’ve never had before. I guess I’ve always taken for granted that folks in political office or in the public eye represented me as a white, feminist, progressive, Italian-American, queer-(ish, before coming out) woman. I’ve certainly never sat down and thought about the fact that there’s no one out there who really represents my identity, as I’m sure many other folks have. I live in a privileged space where I can be fairly assured most aspects of my identity will be visible in culture and politics.
Thus, I would never have predicted how visceral and powerful my reaction would be when I saw this. As reported here on feministing.com, Mary Gonzalez will be the first out pansexual legistlator in the country. After her election to the Texas House of Representatives (Texas! Of all places!), Gonzalez, who had presented herself as a lesbian, explained her choice to wait until after the election to reveal her true identity.
A parent's hardest job is watching your kid struggle and not intervening.
“Wow… good for you!” our family doctor said, looking shocked. I was taken aback. I hadn’t actually done anything. My little J had been doing his usual climbling in the doctor’s office and his body was all twisted up as he tried to make his way down off a chair. My instinct was to move in and catch him before he fell. Better safe than sorry. But instead, I took a deep breath, and told myself, “He’s got this.” This simple check on myself is something I do one hundred times a day.
The doctor went on to congratulate me on not intervening with J. He told me how rare it is that he sees a parent let her child take a risk like that without stepping in. He said seeing a child in action helps him evaluate the child’s motor skills, something he used to do all the time earlier in his career, before parents began to monitor their kids’ every move. I had come to a conclusion that my kids needed the experience of mastery that comes from trying things and realizing you have a capability you didn’t know you had. I also knew my kids would fail. I figured they would need to learn their own limits, rather than assume I knew their limits, and take those on as their own. I had been down that road with my parents, and subsequently spent my twenties figuring out what I really could and couldn’t do.
A few months ago we were on the playground. J walked over to the edge of the jungle gym. I was right behind him. I had that urge to move him away from the edge, but I reminded myself that neither he nor O have ever jumped off. J proceeded to jump off. It was a good number of feet down, and he was pretty shaken up, although not hurt. I did a lot of soul-searching that day. I was standing right there. I should have stopped that from happening! But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about all the amazing things my kids had learned they could do on that playground without getting hurt. To prevent that one fall, I would have had to deny them all those experiences.
Although details about the identities of the Aurora shooting victims are slow to emerge, it is safe to say a male perpetrated unspeakable violence against a number of women, as well as other men. Sadly, male violence toward either sex is not an unusual occurrence. When it comes to guns, women are astronomically more likely to be on the receiving end of a bullet than the one pulling the trigger. While men are both more likely to murder, and to be murdered, women’s likelihood of being killed is way out of proportion with our likelihood of killing.
From 1976 to 2005, women were 23.5% of all homicide victims and 11.2% of perpetrators. In short, women are significantly more likely to be murdered than to murder, and that’s not to mention the suffering women experience as a result of male on male violence. No doubt losing a son to gun violence, incarceration or a death sentence for murder can feel like death to a mother. Why are we putting up with this?
Let’s take a closer look at Aurora for a moment. I’ve heard a lot of male voices over the past few days stating that if only one or more of the civilians had been armed, this tragedy could have been prevented or curtailed. One acquaintance argued he’s been training to use his firearm for 30 years and he would have, “taken that asshole down before he killed anyone.” These voices may be chivalrous, heroic, hot-headed, macho, coming out of fear, denial, posturing, etc. But there is one thing they are not. They are not based in fact. You don’t have to be special ops or have weapons training to know that.