It is quality rather than quantity that matters. —Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Except when it come to sex. —Husbands everywhere
If you believe what you see and hear, marriage isn’t sexy. Somewhere between going to the chapel and the exchange of gold bands, life stops being a sensual affair and becomes a matronly one. It is as if those heavy-duty promises to love, honor, and cherish smother lust and desire with their weight. Spontaneous blow jobs cease. Can’t wait a minute longer/throw you up against the wall sex stops. If you believe what you see and hear, sex within marriage becomes a chore, a job, something to add to your to-do list; usually down near the bottom, after ironing and making an appointment for a colonoscopy. I know folks that have ‘sex’ penciled in their diaries for Wednesday nights. Admittedly, the schedule-happy, list-making, once-it’s-written-it-is law part of me finds that appealing. But the idea of giving sex the same treatment as a business meeting or a coffee morning or a doctor’s appointment seems too sterile, too clinical, too….duty like.
If a woman’s heart is a deep and mysterious place, her sexuality is surely a vine twisted, sodden, midnight-hued heart of darkness. Myths surrounding women and sexuality abound. Glossy magazine covers are dedicated to them, books and studies set out to debunk them. Gossip and girl’s nights out do little to untangle them. But the truth, like any other facet of life, is that not every woman is going to fit in one box, edges neatly aligned and collated. During my thirties, when I was supposed to be throwing caution to the wind and ambushing my husband with garters and high heels, we were trying to get pregnant. Unexplained infertility threw us for a big old loop. And let me tell you, the only thing less sexy than trying-to-have-a-baby sex is trying-to-bring-on-labor sex. Sure, the first few times you wine and dine and get romantic. Maybe you light some candles, break out the massage oil, put on a little music. But after a few months it becomes a chore, like scrubbing the toilet or food shopping. After a few more months you start to leave the television on in the background and your book open above your partner’s back. Fast forward nine months and you enter the “I have a small infant dangling from my breast 23 hours a day” phase. Stretch marks and saggy boobs and post partum bodies. By the time your kids are a little more grown up, by the time you’ve lost the baby weight, got your boobs back into your bra without spilling over the back and sides, it’s likely a lot of women have forgotten how to be sexy. I know I did. And just when you start to get your mojo back, pre-menopause wallops you around the head with its hormone laden stick of sex-death. The idea of stockings is laughable. The lingerie gets wadded up and shoved behind the Spanx.
So much goes into a woman’s idea of sexuality and sensuality. The kids must be asleep, the dog walked, the dishes done, the planets aligned. Hormones need to be balanced. The right frame of mind needs to be achieved. I don’t feel particularly amorous when I’m depressed. Or when the house is dirty. Or when I’m having a ‘fat’ day/week/month. Add all those times up and all of sudden you and your partner find yourself in a post apocalyptic world of sexual barrenness. A wasteland of desire. A dust bowl where those heels and stockings and garters are blowing by like tumbleweeds. I’m sure that is why films and programs about families usually portray marriage with kids as nothing more than the long haul that needs to be managed. What you see is all the work that goes into it. The ennui, the itches, the resentment, the complacency, the boredom, the simmering unhappiness and rage. The sameness, the monotony, the blandness which married folk in movies have to struggle uphill to overcome. The only sexy movies you see with married people are those where the married folk are having affairs. Those languishing libidos, stranded in a shallow channel, suddenly get swept up in a flood of passion. The gates open, clothes are shed, body parts kneaded and senses aroused on the way to the boudoir. I am the first one to admit that a good marriage takes work. But that work should not preclude having a healthy and happy life in the bedroom, the kitchen, or up the stairs to the jacuzzi. Whatever floats your boat through those locks.
When you are married, you have to remap erotica. When you have children and the topography has changed and borders have been adjusted, you may need to take a refresher course in cartography. When you’ve been married with children for a while, and the countries that used to be there aren’t anymore and in their place are something new, you may have to dig out your back pack and go trekking to find the familiar. It’s not easy. It’s far easier to come up with excuse after excuse after excuse. Tired, headache, more tired, pre-menopausal, the dog ate my libido.
But all these years later, I would still describe my marriage as passionate. Perhaps a softer, more blunted passion, but passionate nonetheless. No, we probably don’t have sex enough, but my enough is different than his enough is different than yours. After 16 years and two kids, fertility drugs, a few kilometers of stretch marks and undergarments that look more like granny pants than thongs, my husband still finds me sexy. Sometimes that blows my mind. Through the night sweats and the bouts with despair and the pork rage, he still finds me desirable. He is salt and pepper on the way to silver now. His hip bones aren’t as sharp and he snores a lot more, but there are so many times when I see him across the room and my breath catches at the sight of him. When I can’t believe he’s mine. He can reach me, not only physically, but deep into that mystery of my heart as well. He can map my body like only someone who has lain with me for sixteen years can. And after all these years he has started quoting William Butler Yeats to me. I like the words so much I may just get them tattooed on my body. I like them so much that I may just ambush him with garters and stockings and heels.
You never throw those things away. They are always there, you just have to dig them out.
Two very different musical views of marriage. The choice is yours 😉