Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘sex’

Back Pain, Sex Books, and Responsibility

blog54         I did something bad, really painful to my back yesterday in yoga class. The muscles in my lower back seized tight like I had been digging graves or planting bulbs, you pick, for a few days. By 5 pm, I could barely sit at my desk, but walking helped, so I enlisted a friend, and we walked around Barnes & Noble bookstore for a good hour.

Giggling, I walked around the store, limping the gauntlet of back pain, circling literary fiction, then teen picks, over to poetry, and past the enormous display of 50 Shades of Mediocre Writing, More Mediocrity, and finally, The End of Mediocrity (until the author does some actual research into consensual sexuality versus stalking and rape). My friend was standing in the sex section.

You know.

The section of the bookstore that we want to peruse. But are frightened or plain embarrassed to be seen having interest, prurient interest in a topic that has been part of the NC legislature’s tussle over the last year.

Grow up folks; even the pearl-wearing and the seersucker-suited government is talking about sexual issues.

My friend looked pretty comfortable. We picked out books by their cover to be disappointed with the lack of pictures and the downright clinical tone of the books. When did sex become so dull? Well, I am living in NC, and it is a national chain of bookstores.

It wasn’t always that way. Ten years ago I took a similar jaunt to B&N to pick up some books for clients (counseling knows no shame thankfully). It was the middle of an afternoon in the middle of the week. I walked over to the shelves marked SEXUALITY, pulled a few books, tucked my skirt under me, and sat down with the books on the floor.

Within a ten minutes, a few people had walked by, walked by again, and then walked up to me.

“What you looking at?” asked a man.

“Books,” I said.

“Books about what?”

“Books about sex.”

“Oh.”

A few people skittered away. Fast feet and heads down. A few souls stayed.

“What do you think about this book?”

They sat down on the floor blocking the aisle. We started comparing covers. Yes, the cover of a book is crucial. (I like the hot pink and yellow book titled, ‘Hot Sex: How to do it.’)

In thirty minutes, we were a circle of people, different genders, different ages, different skin colors. And we were having a thoughtful conversation about what we look for in a sex book. Pictures, some humor, explicit information and directions, more humor, and permission to explore this important part of our lives.

“It’s great Barnes & Nobel has employees like you,” a woman said.

“Yeah, I’ve never felt so comfortable talking about sex.”

“Um, I don’t work here,” I said.

“Well, you should.”

“Who are you then?”

“Just a reader like you. Interested in sex.”

We unashamedly laughed, giggled, and snorted. Under the bright lights of the bookstore, we talked about the meaning of sex in our lives, how we wanted books that reflected that interest and employees that were knowledgeable and unafraid.

So what has happened in the last ten years? How did we end up with HB2? Why are we mute as our reproductive rights are being legislated away and programs are being defunded? We do not blink an eye as art, in its different forms, is rigidly censored. Art, the conscience of the culture, meant to confuse and inform and disturb us but we settle for sofa art – some image asking nothing of us.

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I think we are fucked, and not in a good way. What are you going to do about this?

Weird Times

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I’m at this really weird time in my life – mid 50s where I am working as hard as possible but seeing opportunities land elsewhere. In younger people’s laps.

My friends are talking about retiring, counting down the days, and planning their last great adventure. About five years ago, I realized I would be working until I died. Through a couple of lousy turns of the luck and some bad planning on my part, I will never be able to retire. Not ever.

Being unable to see a retirement in my future has impacted most areas of my life freaking me out. How did this happen? How did I not notice? Maybe it is a combination of my friends being 5 to 10 years older and in the last of the pensioned jobs. Maybe it has to do with being single or the two major downturns, more like plummets, of the stock market. Maybe it is a realization of the probability of being single when I die. Most likely the realization became embedded with fright after last year’s string of surgeries.

My friends are settling into their last homes and having what they consider safe adventures – cruises. Paying deposits for communities that allow you to move through ever increasing levels of care. I look at my townhouse and wonder how I will get up those steps in 15 years when my knees and hips give out. But who will give a mortgage to some one nearing retirement … So I have been told to plan for my infirmity. Like a good old codger, I have. Replacing the HVAC system. Replumbing. Changing out appliances. Getting stuff out of the attic and into easily accessible storage. Definitely must upgrade my refrigerator.

My 30-year yoga practice has changed. I said good-bye to the Level 2/3 classes, taking and teaching them. In class, it seems quite pig-headed to keep attempting something apt to hurt myself to appease my ego. But on interviews for yoga teaching jobs, employers do one of two things. They assume I want the gentle and restorative classes or I get pressured into those jobs.

I’m having to hunt down new doctors – my current doctors are retiring. I understand that my new doctors will be younger than me with little empathy for aging’s undeniable march. For example, my forty-year old orthopedist said, “You will never dance again.” I will dance tango again, even Lindy. Just watch me. “Wear sneakers 24/7.” Not bloody likely. I may lower my shoes’ heels from a 4” to 3” height but I will wear the handmade leather shoes from Italy with a tight skirt and fishnets.

I am the patient doctors keep badgering to schedule a colonoscopy, a skin cancer exam, but no one asks me about birth control or safe sex anymore. Maybe they think I’m too old to still be having sex.

Then there’s the men and dating.

No, I don’t want to go antiquing – never liked it so why should I like it now?

Yes, I do want to go for a hike at a decent pace.

No, I don’t want to have dinner at 5pm and go to sleep at 8pm.

Yes, I like to nap but I have liked to nap since I was 4.

No, I don’t want a sexless relationship. Sometimes it feels as if I have aged out of the sexually active category. I could stand naked by a motel with a sign reading, “The room is already paid for” and no one would take me up on the proposition.

Then there are the well-meaning people sending me articles to settle, for a man, any man who is breathing. No thank you. I deserve love as much as someone in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

I am under pressure to go on that last great vacation. One doctor told me to do everything on my bucket list before 50 because after that I would need really, really good trip insurance. “All kinds of medical things happen.” Wow, groovy, I still plan to go to Argentina.

Maybe, quite possibly, I should replace the word ‘weird’ with ‘irritable.’ I am at this really irritable time in my life.

NSFW – Mild or Robust Sexuality?

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I am in a slump. I am all written out. My brain is mush.

So I decided to play with Andrew’s photographs for our collaboration “69 Scheimpflug Street.” I am not sure he was amused – he sent me an article on how to crop and present images. Okay dokey. The article is on my desk somewhere. Surely.

I put the cropped images up on Twitter (TrudiYTaylor) and Tumblr (Cranky Writer in adult oriented category) with little captions. No one seems to mind. They get favorited, liked, etc.

The photographs are lovely. Erotic. Playful. My stories are sexy in unexpected ways (at least to my way of thinking and from the comments of our preliminary viewers).

And we are out of money for the series. Models cost. Locations can cost. Printing papers and final prints on aluminum cost. Our time costs. Yep like so many artists we eat that cost. So many costs – so little money.

So we looked into a Kickstarter funding process. They get good results. Participants have vouched for their veracity. But Kickstarter is not too keen on sexuality or nudity. They use the terms “slight” and “mild.” I understand their not wanting to promote pornography. Neither do we.

Here’s the dilemma – the exhibit is about moving sexuality and nudity from a slight and mild fuzziness into a more robust and integrated focus (think Scheimpflug Principle). We are sick of the all-or-nothing thinking this country has around sexuality. We must be hypersexual or asexual. What?

I am going to send in one uncompromised series of stories and photographs about a couple choosing to expand their sexual repertoire. The photographs contain full frontal nudity of a man and a woman. The stories are explicit.

I don’t hold out much hope …

Taking a different tack, Andrew found a site where we can sign up for patrons (yes, really, patrons). Another dilemma – we have to make videos to attract patrons. Now I do not have a problem asking for money for my services – got over that in graduate school for counseling. If you can’t ask for money, you do not value your product (whether it is counseling, widgets, or art). The dilemma is that I look like a mangy, cross-eyed cat in videos and sound like Julia Childs. Not an enticing combo when every one else on the site looks a sleepy 26 and adorable.

So what do you think? Is there a need or want for images and stories exploring, even pushing an integrated sexuality in our lives?

Would you rather support us with a monthly gift or with one monetary gift?

Send me your comments. Below are some preliminary images with my attempts at cropping.

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Passionate Fifties

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Aren’t these beautiful people? Isn’t it lovely to have models that are not in their teens or twenties? Or even thirties or forties? Aren’t they sexy?

Being mid fifties myself, I wanted this image to reflect the passion and tenderness of a couple in their 50s. The fifties. When you like a teenager, not one thing or another, not young or old but in the place where things, bodies, ideas, and values are changing.

The fifties, an age where sexuality and love have different meanings, different entanglements, and different responsibilities. We’ve lost by this point – more than a few ideals, some vitality, some abilities, and some innocence. We’ve lost people we love by choice or by death.

But what we’ve gained. We are learning to really love – our lives, our bodies, and connections to each other. The wrinkles and cellulite can’t overshadow what we gain from a loving life.

A week ago, I was talking on the phone with a friend about his phrase, “right now.” I got a tad cranky and flustered thinking, “right now, what’s this right now shit? Are you crossing out the future?”

With uncharacteristic tact, I gently probed. He was talking about staying in the present as a way he didn’t get ahead of himself; overwhelm the potential of a situation. Well that made sense.

Last weekend, I was talking to a girlfriend and bemoaning our physical changes. We laughed acknowledging our insight. Finally we were learning patience, just as we were moving closer to the endpoint of our lives than to the beginning. Life is full of ironies – they smack you in the face screaming, “Wake up.”

Last year, I thought that I had made peace with the idea that my love life was probably finished. Seeing an image like this one reminds me of everything I have to give to a lover – bound up in my wrinkled, dissembling, and experienced self. Looking at their joyous lust, I see their compassion for each other and themselves. At last.

So I am waking up with an urge to create the tender love, compassion, and lust of this image. A big thanks to the models for reminding me of this value.

(Image is from a collaboration of stories and photographs with Andre Giovina titled “69 Scheimpflug Street”)

Mumu’s Away

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One day when I was 45, wearing an expensive equivalent of a Mumu (a linen sack minus the pineapples and war canoes), I went back to therapy.

I said, “Help me make a graceful transition into middle age.” (Okay, so I was running a little late.)

He looked at me like I had grown a third eye right there in his office.

“No really. I’ve watched too many of my friends have difficulty with this change.”

He continued to smile benignly at me. “Why do you think you’ll have a difficulty with it?”

I looked at him like he sprouted a third arm. “Ah, society is not very accepting of middle age. They have two options – become invisible or act like a hypersexual 20 year old.” Internally, I was wondering if we lived in the same culture. Guess it is different for men.

We sat there for a minutes. Me with my third eye. Him with his third arm.

At last the font of wisdom spoke. “Why do you say that?”

“Well, I’m invisible. I don’t feel invisible but I am to men. And women seem to expect me to move into this matronly grandmother role. I don’t have kids.”

“Yeah. I guess that could be confusing,” he said. “I don’t think you’re invisible.”

“You have to say that. You’re my therapist.”

Really? No one else has asked for help around aging? Really?

We worked on the changing role and self-identity for maybe 2 years. I learned some love of my changing body. I discussed Botox with him. I told him about my changing intimacy needs along with the lack of available men. I expressed my frustration with the culture.

“I tell you I could stand naked by a Motel 66 with a sign reading, ‘The room is already paid for’ and no one would notice, not even slow down their car,’ I said.

“I find that hard to believe,” he said looking uncomfortable.

(I love when I can make my therapist uncomfortable – means I’ve struck a cord. He’ll probably go for supervision – a chain of therapists providing for each other’s retirement. Yay!)

“You still look good,” he said.

“What the hell does that mean?”

“You have nice skin and are sexy.”

(Eeoough. Sex with your therapist is a no-no, the big F for Felony.) I knew he wasn’t hitting on me but it was time to end therapy.

So, I went to yoga class to work on my aging but not decrepit body. My yoga practice had changed. No way was I practicing like I would have done in my 30s. That’s disrespectful to myself. And dangerous. I guess I did learn some stuff in therapy …

In this yoga studio, most of the students and teachers are in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s. By this time I was moving towards 50, yes 50 years of middle age. I plopped in wearing the de rigueur yoga leggings and some kind of spaghetti strapped top. The teacher said, “Fix your top.”

Another student said, “You may as well be naked.”

I thought, “Why? Other people in here are wearing a little sports bra and something that might pass for shorts on a preteen.” (Oops, there goes my judgmental self.)

I bounced over to a friend’s mat. She said, “You just exude sex.”

I walked back to my mat. Was I putting out the sexy vibe? My skin wasn’t over exposed. I hadn’t even looked at the men in the class.

Then I realized women over 50 who are confident in themselves, with an integrated sexuality, are a threat. We know things. Things other people want to do. With them. We know how to use words to ask for what we want, to clarify, and to connect. We have developed a proper place for sex in our lives. Sex being only one thing among many things that define us.

Two years ago, well into my 50s, waiting for a friend at a restaurant, I overheard two people from my decade. He said, “There’s nothing like young skin. There’s nothing like youth.” She started to cry.

I wanted to go over and hold their hands saying, “Yes that’s the truth of it. Each age has a particular beauty. Look for it in every one you come in contact with but don’t negate your own loveliness.”

A photographer friend asked me, “What is it about women in their 50s that makes them so attractive?”

“We have worked to become comfortable with ourselves.” Ha!

The therapy worked. I no longer wear Mumus. Mostly I am comfortable in my own skin – that’s my beauty in middle age.

Elegant Feet: A Story for You

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“I have been told that I have elegant feet,” he said picking her up for their third date.

She had swallowed, tantalized, thinking about those feet. The imagined feet plagued her through the entire night – while he was driving the car, scrounging through the CD store, eating at the upscale restaurant, while playing word games at dinner, and on the drive home to her house. She plotted. “How do I see his feet without actually having sex with him?”

During the drive from her house, he had talked about growing up in Detroit. “The mosquitoes grow big enough to carry away small children.” She had searched the statement for hidden meanings. “Detroit is too dangerous and I left it for Kansas.”

“Oh,” she said dumb with desire for his feet.

“Now political speechwriting keeps me busy. It’s unexpectedly lucrative,” he said parking the car.

She watched him get out of the car – an older man than she usually dated. He had a fastidiously trimmed mustache. Arched eyebrows were neat and all of a length. His spare but well kept hair was gray sliced with youth’s gold.

“Depending on whom I am writing for, I grow, shave, and grow back the mustache,” he said.

He watched her watching him. Mustache, eyebrows and hair suggested light lashes but they were a thick, dark shade framing blue eyes. Startling but still …

They had walked down the street crowded with perfect twenty year olds.

“I was very skinny as a teenager and into my twenties,” he said. “Clothes were a trial.”

Inwardly she smiled at the cleverly chosen clothes covering his tidy body. He wore a comfortably rumpled linen shirt, beige jeans with a handsome leather belt, and a dark fitted blazer. But the clincher for her was the navy blue cloth sneaker with the brown leather stripe mostly hidden in the shoe’s tongue. She was unable to name the color of his thick, ribbed socks. The nondescript color of his socks united the beige jeans and navy sneakers. She concluded that his clothes were well coordinated and deliberately planned to mask the thickening of his body with age. He carried them off with an attractive nonchalance.

Her attention returned to his feet making her silent.

“Your head must get heavy with all that thinking,” he said. When he smiled, the slight padding of fat on his fine English bones made him look a decade younger than his age.

“Yes. Sometimes my hair hurts,” she said with a giggle.

As they continued their stroll, she had been curious about the type and color of his underwear. On the first date, she had taken him for a tightey-whitey kind of guy. Now she wasn’t sure. She thought he might be a hybrid, the type of man who wore the boxer-brief style but in a safe color such as gray or black. Would he be hairy on his stomach, back and groin or would he have the sparse tufts often found on blondes? Would he have freckles? Or moles? What would it matter?

“You may have elegant feet,” she said. “But you have beautiful hands.” Initially, his hands had enthralled her. They were the reason she went out with him the first time. Their hands were the same size. The skin on his hands lay flat and taut lacking the muscular depth of her hands.

“I had wanted to play the piano. Now it is too late to learn.”
“You love music?” she said.
“Yes. I have this good speaker system at home.”
“Oh. What do you listen to?”
“I love to sit between the speakers and listen to the romanticism of Schubert’s songs.”
“Why between the speakers?”
“I don’t know. Maybe better sound quality. The music asks me to sit quietly, very still as the waves of notes pour out. Do you like music?”
“Yes. I grew up in a family of musicians but I was the dancer. My feet always hurt.” She looked away. “I have bad feet.”
“They look perfectly fine to me. They seem to work. We’re walking.”

She fought an urge to cry. “What’s the difference between classical and romantic music?” she asked.
She nodded in attentive silence during his explanation. In awe over his extensive knowledge of music, she was still fixated on his footwear.

“I hear with my cerebral processes,” he said.
“What about your body?”
“It’s superfluous. When I’ve been drinking, I can tap my foot. I don’t dance,” he said.
“Do you think we have the same size feet?” she asked.
“No. I think mine are bigger,” he said with that same smile. She wondered if he would have short Freddy Flintstone toes or if they’d be long and prehensile.

“What do you do with the rest of your body while your mind and head is so active?”
“My body’s useful. It carries around my head,” he said.

She had smiled at the witticism but she was a little confused by the disconnection between his mind and body. It doesn’t make sense, she thought. He is touched to his core by music but his body stays still. She knew she moved her whole body in response to music. Each dancing teacher had said the same thing. “We have to work on your technique, especially your feet, but you’re an unusually lyrical and musically expressive dancer.”

At the CD store, he had gone looking for a vinyl copy of a CD she had played for him on their first date. She left him to wander in search of the more formally structured music she loved. She was struck by the selection of new and used CDs watched over by a young pimply girl in her late teens. The pimples covered her face, neck, chest, back, and upper arms. The scattering of wounds did not appear to upset her in the least. Clad in flip-flops, her feet were flawless – pale skinned, soft, and smooth. The young girl’s disregard for her wounds and her beauty shifted the focus to other factors, such as the proliferation and diversity of music in the store. She watched her date walk up and down the aisles of pressed discs. His feet did a fine job of moving through ankle, arch, and toes.

At the restaurant, he ordered a non-alcoholic beer. She had a lovely Portuguese white wine. “Do you mind me having a glass of wine?”

“No. I’m just tired after raking my yard all day. I don’t want to risk sleepiness driving home after a drink,” he said clicking his non-alcohol to her alcohol.

She fretted over his plans for the evening. She didn’t think he had plans to show her his feet.

Sitting at an outside table, they had shared a Caesar salad that he gallantly dished onto her plate. She move moved a toast point onto his plate after he knocked one off serving her a portion of the salad. Talk was easy and light. His feet remained tucked under the table. She sprawled on her chair. Her naked toes peeked out from under her jeans. Sandals left her feet chilly in the rapidly cooling fall air. His feet stayed under the table. She was sure they were thoughtfully arranged.

When their main course came, she had laughed with delight. Her shrimp were a fragrant pink on their woodland bed of onions, mushrooms, and grits. His tuna was seared brown with a rare red middle. She wiggled her toes in her sandals glancing over at him. He was eating away with a gusto she hoped would be available for other activities. At the dark table, their lone candle created a fuzzy halo for their meal. Arms, mouths, and faces moved towards the food and each other. The bottom halves of their bodies were quietly waiting.

They had walked back to his car, warm with food and talk, carried by their two sets of feet.
“I have something to tell you,” he said.
Looking into his serious face, she held her breath.
“I have peripheral artery disease. I don’t feel much below my knees.”
“And your feet?” she said.
“Not much feeling,” he said shaking his head. “But it has other implications in my life. I want you to understand what you might be choosing in a relationship with me,” he said.

They had stopped walking to turn towards each other. She laughed with recognition and relief. He looked hurt.

“What’s so funny?”

She smiled at him as she told him a story.“I have a friend who was a Buddhist monk. Now he sells used cars. He said, ‘After a while, all cars have issues. So I keep a mechanic on staff and don’t sweat the small stuff.’”

“Small stuff like feet?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said.
“Do you know any mechanics?”
“No but I know someone who might,” she said laying her head on his shoulder.

They had continued their walk back to the car, fingers intertwined, and their feet in concert.
That night, with much laughter, they showed each other their boo-boos.

“I’ll rub your elegant feet,” she said.
“I’ll brush your heavy hair,” he said.

It was these acts of kindness that started their love. Some days he limps and other days she gets fixated on ideas. In this life, you never know where feet and head will take you.

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