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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Travails of My Penis are At Your Disposal: My "Average" Male Friends Talk Openly About Sex

I am not afraid to ask anyone, anything.

It's a blessing for me, as a writer.  And a curse for those around me, namely my husband.

 I get into conversations about coffee with the guy next to me at the gym, conversations about books with the cashier at the supermarket and often, too often for many of my cohorts, I talk with strangers/waitresses/friends about sex.  I want to know everything. As an author of human experience--both fiction and fact---I want to write from a place of truth.  I want to understand what draws people in, what makes them happy and what is really, truly real.

And I want to normalize discussion around sex, because, IS real and normal.  And it is essential to relationship success, despite the pressure we (and especially men) feel to say it isn't.  I wrote another piece on this very subject, and while most readers---men and women--seemed to agree that making time for sex, regardless of the million other priorities that can interfere, makes their marriage or relationship stronger, there was a small majority who thought I was asking for a woman to just "submit" to sex with her husband. (Read that essay here, if you want to weigh in on the issue Why You Should Say Yes to Sex Tonight).

I am not saying you should have sex if you really absolutely don't want to have sex.
I am saying that sex in a relationship is important to maintaining a connection, being happier and healthier for the long haul.

And I will keep on saying it.
But that's just my view.
So since I don't mind talking about it, and I certainly don't mind asking people about it (I understand if you run when I enter the room now), I thought I might ask my male friends---mostly men in their mid-thirties, in a variety of relationship scenarios---about it.

I would guess that most women my age feel like I do.  As a 35 year old mom, my body isn't anything like it used to be.  And let me be perfectly frank here, even "like I used to be" was pretty average.  I don't wear sexy nightgowns (unless you consider flannel and old t-shirts erotic).  I mostly don't shave my legs in the winter---a sort of homage to hibernation.
Our wooing process is fairly formulaic.

He says: Let's go upstairs and have sex.
I say: First I need to take my vitamins and brush my teeth.  And maybe eat some ice cream from the freezer and get distracted by Candy Crush.  And stare out the window at the neighbors house for a while.
Half the time when I have arrived post-routine, he is sleeping---exhausted from an 18 hour day of working and parenting and husband-ing.  Life. Is. Busy.
The other half of the time?  Well.  Fireworks.
Sometimes sparklers.  The nice ones, that make you remember that life is mostly really beautiful.
Other times? A grand display.  Big explosives, like the illegal ones you have to smuggle across the border.

But I still wonder.
Do 35 year old men want 35 year old women?  What do they think about monogamy? How do men in their mid-thirties to mid-forties feel about sex in general?
I wanted to know.

So I asked my male friends this question: 

What is one thing you know about sex, for sure?
Here is what they answered:

Trey, 37.
Profession: Linguist

"It's okay to have the same sex over and over again.  So long as you're present and in the moment, this is an indication that you've found a really great way to have sex that works for both of you.  Enjoy it; it doesn't have to be boring just because it's the same."

Jim, 35.
Profession: Hair Stylist
Single, Gay

People really focus on sex, and they want to marry someone they have great sex with, even if the person is a little bit of a douche.  I think it would be easier to find someone who is awesome but maybe not great in bed.  Isn't sex an easier thing to work on and adjust than someone's personality?

Brian, 36
Profession: Business Professional

Most men are hunters. Go in. Get it done. Shopping, for example. Men go into a store. Buy the thing they want, and leave. Women take their time. Same goes for sex. Most men just get in, and want to do the job. Women need time.

Bill, 35
Profession: Teacher

What I know about sex is that everything else in our marriage is better after we've had a thoroughly good time in the bed.

Greg, 39
Profession: Logistics

Sex in my opinion is meaningless with no connection. Making love is something special. There are connections on so many levels.

James, 37
Profession: Service Industry Manager
In a relationship

It gets better with age (to a point), is key to a strong relationship.  Maybe, if you think about it, it's really the only time we really show our true selves to another person.

Pat, 40
Profession: Government

A good kiss can really get the blood flowing and turn an average romp into something really hot. It also spices up today moments when sex can't happen but you need the person to spend all day thinking about you.  Which makes new think of another... Sex for a woman can be an all day affair. Don't just walk into the bedroom with "hey, you wanna?" Start early in the morning and set the stage for her to have to think about it all day.

I learned a lot from asking this question.  And these men answered honestly (ALL NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED) and anonymously--I felt they were being truthful.  I have many more answers, and most of them are all in a similar vein.

  But what do YOU think about these comments?
 What would happen if you asked YOUR husband/boyfriend that question?  How about asking him today?

Speaking of that conversation, I will end with one more answer to the question above.

Michael  ummm Murray, 38
Profession: Sales
My husband Married

One thing I know for sure about sex?  Hmmm.  Oh!  I know!  Boobs never get old.***

My face, when my husband gives me "quotes" for my blog

*** If I can have sex with this man after this answer, you can probably have sex with your husband.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The fuzzy math of marriage

Here is the one thing I can tell you that I know about marriage for certain: it is rarely, if ever, truly fair.

If this comes as unexpectedly bad news to you and you are unmarried, you may want to re-think any immediate plans to climb aboard that matrimonial train.  My advice?  Simple: Join a gym instead.**

If this comes as unexpectedly bad news to you and you are already married, you are screwed. Sorry, that's kind of harsh, isn't it.  Umm okay. Forget I said wrote that. My advice?  It's not as simple, but you could try this: buy as much wine as you can fit into your late model mini-van (and I know you have a mini-van, dude). Then come home and drink it. This won't solve your problem, per se.  But it will dull it and make it seem just a little more palatable. That is, until the next morning when your drunkenness is followed by both a splitting hangover and the same realization that you were wrong about marriage, just as you were wrong about everyone not laughing at your combover.  (They really are).

I am the kind of friend who will tell you that your combover looks like a beaver in the second stage of rigor mortis.  I am, in all ways, a giver.

I Do, Actually...

** The gym commitment, though nearly as difficult to sever, will not saddle you with 4 kids and a mortgage.  Plus, there are hot people there who like to get sweaty. 

And I am also the kind of friend who will tell you that marriage, in spite of what, you may have seen in Lifetime Movies, is very rarely going to be fair.

And trying to make it fair, is just going to make it fail.

This is something I have known, from being married 15 years now, albeit those are a combination of years from two different marriages. And when I read this article ( from a Psychologist who studied 1,000 successful marriages between couples who had endured and flourished through many, many decades of matrimony, I became even more convinced that the concept of "equality" in a marriage just isn't real.

And here's why:

1) You can't be married and always put yourself first

Articles in Time, CNN, even Forbes Magazine, over the last few years discuss the trend in the Millennial generation to delay marriage or reject it entirely for relationships that are less binding and more exploratory.  The concept of The Beta Marriage ( seems tongue in cheek, and yet it is rooted in the attitudes of a generation that has been taught to think for themselves, to please themselves, to seek out what makes them satisfied.  These are not bad things; they are the things I want for my own children.  But they ARE attitudes that, unless tempered, are difficult to maintain in the bond of marriage.  She wants to go bass fishing.  You want to go antiqueing. One of you is going to have to give up where you want to go, or you each go alone.  And alone, in a marriage, can be very very lonely.

And how can you say "It's all about me" and be willing to bite your tongue when your grown wife sings NKOTB songs in the shower.  Every. Single. Morning.  And alternates, with a bizarre randomness, between the melody and the harmony with each verse? You can't.
You didn't know one freaking song those no-talent ass clowns even sang before you married that woman and now you walk down the hallway in your office and now you're all like, "Listen up everybody if you wanna take a chance.  Just get on the floor to the New Kids dance." 

That's embarrassing.  Sure.
That's not about pleasing yourself. No.
That's marriage.

2) You can't keep a scorecard

At any moment, in any given day, one of you is going to need more.  He has to work late.  I have a story to finish.  The children are crying.  They shout out requests in the kitchen like hostage negotiators: I want the blue sippy cup with the green lid or I'm taking this sharpie to the couch, you got that lady?  Can you really stand there and take a moment to tally up the points?  I warmed up the corndogs last night, it's his turn to take the scissors away from the toddler? No. You both jump in, you do what you can. Or he does it, even if he did it last time, because you feel like dealing with sharp objects isn't safe for you after being home with the terrorists all day.

 Sometimes you will be the one who gets up every single night for a week when your baby is teething, because he has a big interview.  And often, he will have to watch Dancing With The Stars and try not to notice when you cross and uncross your legs when Joey McIntyre sashays across the floor. And neither of you will do yourself (or the other) very much good if you have every "favor" or effort logged as ammunition against another sacrifice.  It breeds resent, it makes every effort false.  You don't give her your hand as she steps out of the bath, only to remind her of that hand later.  You offer your hand because you are alive and meant to love her and it is your vow to care for her. Even if she forgot your dry cleaning. And she covers you up in the night when you have kicked off the blankets, because she wants you to be warm. You forgot to do the dinner dishes, but she still wants you to be warm. It doesn't add up, right?
But these things, these intangible gifts we give each other are not products of being equal.
They are products of, we do our best when we are asked to do our best.  Or try to.

You have to police yourself, you have to know when it's time to put her first or to ask him for help.  But you can't go tit for tat.  In a marriage that is meant to last a lifetime, there's no time for that.

3) It's okay not to like it

I don't think it comes easily.  I don't think we are born to suppress that mentality, that "it's my turn" voice that makes me keep lists of my sacrifices in my head and makes him forget to feed the cat. It's a struggle and a balancing act of daily proportions---I don't know if I will ever get it right. And I don't think it is possible to be happy about the things we give up---the time, the sleep, the things we think we need-- to make our partner happy. But will we be happier if we don't give them up? Truly, really, happier?

I once thought, rather idealistically, that the best equation for marital success was for both partners to strive for 100% each, to aim for 200% and end up as close as possible. That 50/50 was asking for "too little" of ourselves, that each partner could have what they needed in the package of a strong marriage, nearly all of the time.

But after a divorce and a second chance at this whole concept of "for better or for worse", I am recalibrating.  I am adding and subtracting as the days require. I work a fuzzy math in my head, attempt to make it work for us. 

So, it's all right, if sometimes I give 10% and he only gives 90%, if the next day it switches the other way.  It's okay if I give 70% for three months while he finishes that project or he gives 58.8% while I write my book.  If I smile when he makes the same toast a million times and he unwilling learns all the words to Hangin' Tough. 

In fact, I am learning that the less I worry about the way we divide up the heavy lifting of being married, the more I feel like it seems pretty fair.  And it feels like we can give and sacrifice with less effort and to take with less guilt.

At the end of our days, it probably won't be exactly even.  But I'm not sure that a "happy" (or at least not UN-happy) couple ever really ends up making 50/50 add up to an even 100.  It's a hard equation to prove, don't you think? And a dangerous result to try to strive toward.

And so, I try to just be nice him and he tries to be nice to me.  And love with the breadth of what we interpret and re-interpret love to be. And we becomes martyrs and do selfish things and hurl insults when we are wounded or tired. And I drive him crazy and he forgets to turn the dishwasher on.

But I still cover him up when he is sleeping and looks cold, there---drooling on my pillow or snoring too loudly.

These are the things that have the most value, what we give when we know that nothing might be given immediately in return.

But I feel best about the odds of happiness in my marriage when I do them.

Besides, I never was very good at math. 

May the odds be ever in our favor

Friday, October 3, 2014

Flower Your Buttocks (It's Healthy)

I'm trying to be more healthy.

There was a point in my adulthood that I would have been more specific than that.  I would have said "I'm going to lose 25 pounds" or "I'm going to be a size 6" or some other fantastical goal that would have made you both hate me for the possibility that I could potentially pull it off or laugh at me for the sheer absurdity of my own delusion.

But through the power of the interwebs, I have learned that being "thin" and "going on a diet" is not nearly as sustainable or impactful as making small, long term changes in my health.  It's about HEALTH people, not BUNS OF STEEL.  Sure, you might be all like "Welcome to gun show" every time you flex, but I am getting pumped up on my own commitment to live a long, glorious life.  And I know you can't see that, but apparently, eventually I am going to FEEL that.

So they say.

And since I like to believe everything I read online and have put myself and the entire family through many super-fun phases of Internet Related Life Changes (The Thirty Days of ALL Meals in the Crock Pot phase  is often brought up with undue anger).

I figured what's another psychological trauma on these kids?
So began what may eventually be known as The Time Mom Let Her Anus Blossom or How I Did Yoga and It Was Sort of Like a Porno.

The Night Before: 

Ever since we joined the new gym I have enjoyed checking the handy app on my phone that lists the names of the classes they offer.  Some of them have mysterious acronyms like C.R.T and F.I.T. Others offer no-frills monikers: STEP.  AQUA. Some class names are just plain scary sounding:  Slow Burn Vinyasa.  Hot Vinyasa Yoga.
Because I like to jump head first into everything with as little preparation or practice, it seemed like the most logical type of class for me to take was one that involved as much "Burn" and "Hot" as possible.
Unfortunately my child-related obligations limited my options, so I had to opt for a class called "Instructor's Choice Yoga".  Luckily my neighbor agreed to join me.

Before Class:

I went to the gym floor in advance of "Instructor's Choice" to get my juices flowing and assess the other people on the machines to see if anyone was in as bad of shape as me.  They weren't.

After 15 minutes of half-hearted elliptical and some minor wheezing, I moseyed my way to the Yoga Studio.

I found a place in the back, laid down my yoga mat and proceeded to scope out my classmates.  They were in various shapes and sizes, some heavier than I, some older.  I felt good about my chances to beat some of them at this class.

 I know what you are saying, Nicole, yoga is about finding peace within yourself---it's not a competition. And I truly support you in thinking that.  Healthy people think that.

But let's all be honest.
Losers think that too.
And I wasn't going to lose at yoga to a 75 year old grandma with bursitis.

Enter Richard:

The unamed Instructor in the Instructor's Choice, was Richard. He was in his mid-60's and couldn't physically DO yoga anymore (due to some sort of spinal issue that seemed to leave him unable to bend).  But apparently he was still qualified to teach the class by some sort of rule of yoga osmosis.  I'm feeling pretty good about my chances of surviving Instructor's Choice and smile confidently at my friend as Richard places some flameless candles throughout the room and proceeds to begin class.

And Then I Die:

Richard is a ball-buster.  He asks us to do poses that I am pretty sure he made up with some sort of sadistic glee. But apparently the rest of the class is familiar with his shenanigans because they all do them with precision.  Bursitis Grandma has no problems with Eagle Pose.
picture via of

The young girls in front of us like to make the moves just a touch harder so when Richard says "Let just your toe touch the mat", they just lift their toe up over their shoulder. Which is cool for them, but I can't even stay upright.
Richard says things that make me both physically and emotionally uncomfortable. He says things like "Reach deep into that place" and "Hug yourself, into yourself".  These are difficult things to do and even more difficult things to imagine doing with other people present.  I thought about a friend who had a yoga instructor once tell her class to "Let their anuses blossom" in one particular pose.  I wondered if that instructor was Richard.

Richard has also developed some sort of accent in the hour he has been in the Yoga Studio and everytime he says certain words I threaten to digress into a major laugh attack.  "Lay yourseeeeeeeeelllllllfffffff doooooowwwwn slooooowww." He says hunching from the front of the room.  "It's gooooood for your baaaaaaacck".  I want to ask him, why, if it is so gooooood for the back, does he seem to have some sort of spinal malfunction.  I would suggest that based on my observations, his creative poses were contributing to the problem not helping it.

But that would be mean.  And I am too tired and busy trying not to die to be mean.

Which could be a first for me.

Yoga On Our Own

In keeping with Richard's love of not following rules (a practice that I adamantly disdain in all people but myself), about two thirds of the way through class he sinks to new lows.  

"Nooooooww I uuuuurge you to practice a few minuuuuutes of yooooga on your oooown".

I glance at my friend who is grinning back at me. 

"Awkward" she says.

The studio becomes a showcase of How to Get Your Own Genitals As Close to Your Face As Possible.  I know what youre thinking, how many ways could there really be to touch your genitals to your own face?  After watching some of these girls in Instructor's Choice Yoga, I will tell you that there are LOTS.  There's this move:

And this move:

And lots of other ones that I saw in that class but are probably too dirty to show you here.  Richard's call for "Yoga on Your Own" was like a bizarre foreplay in which I was forced to watch moves that I did not think were possible to contort one's body into--and yet, there is Bursitis Grandma.
Doing them.
Really Really Uncomfortably Close to me.

And I'm Spent

By the time Instructor's Choice is over, I am sweating and feel like I need a shower and maybe a cigarette.
I have seen people do things that I thought might only be available through a paid internet subscription service to those over 18 (with a valid credit card). 

And yet, I feel a strange sensation welling in my chest.  There's pride, that I survived, yes.  But there's also something unfamiliar.  Something akin to...warmth.  It might even be...shall I venture a guess...peace?  

But it's more than peace., I think. I might not look different to those people who pass me by as I tromp down the gym stairs.  But what I've got is far better than their washboard abs or their muscular biceps.

I got health here, people.  I'm brimming with joy and inner vision. That's good stuff, even if you can't see it.

My buttocks were flowering and heart was singing in that yoga studio. 

I'm a believer. I'm coming back for more.

And my husband is going to have the best sex of his life tonight. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The last time I saw Paris

Unlike the first time, you will not always know when it is the last time.

You can remember the first time you drove a car, had sex, slept in your own apartment.  These events come with a crescendo, a soft building movement toward the culmination of something memorable.  You can think in the moment---and afterwords--and you can say, with certainty, now THAT was the first time for that.  It is exhilarating, worth marking.

Perhaps you write it down in your dairy, marking the date with two hearts and a smiley face. First time I kissed a boy.  It was magic. And even if you don't record it for posterity, there is the "firstness" of it that sticks from the start which makes it valuable. You bookmark it with your memory.

It attaches, and goes on from that point, lingering in your mind, a vague recollection and acknowledgement of the beginning.

But what about the end? What about the last time?  It often sneaks up on you and flies right past, without you knowing.  You may not know it for days, for months or years, that it was the end. You only know it is the end, when it doesn't happen anymore. And then, well.

It's awful late to make it count.

We are believers.  We take for granted our "foreverness" much like the "firstness".  If it has happened, it will happen again. It isn't that we don't appreciate it, it's that we come to know it as our truth.

We too often reflect on the importance of something, only after it is gone.

It's not the big last times that that I'm really thinking about, the ones that mark a clear boundary, like the passing of your grandfather or the end of a marriage.

 It's the small-ish ones.  The ones that fade away without fanfare or consequence. The last time you ride your two-wheeler before you give it away for riding in cars with boys.  The last time you hold your son's hand on the way to school before he decides he is too old, too cool.  The last plate of pot roast at your old spot, sitting at your mother's dining room table. The last time all 6 of your children are crushed together in your bed on a Sunday morning.

The last walk with your husband through the dusky, empty neighborhood streets before the first big snow. The last time the cashier asks for your I.D. when she rings up your Budweiser. The sound of your teenager's voice echoing through the house, the last time she calls, "mommy?".

That moment, each night, where your wife without thinking, inches her toes, slow and methodically over, in the bed until she is just barely touching your leg, before she dwindles into sleepy stillness.

We think that we are entitled to these things. Entitled to always, until always goes away.  This does not make us complacent or naive.  It means, that as a whole, we are hopeful.  But it is dangerous not to sense the fragility of all of it. Dangerous not to treasure it while it is here.

Of course, we can't live every moment like we will lose it all.  And I'm not saying we should.
But is it really that hard, to decide to remember and notice more? To appreciate the smallness and the frequentness, just as much the "firstness"?

Maybe we should hold on just a little bit longer, and tighter than we should.

We should stay for dessert.

We should take the long way home.

We should write in out diary, I kissed a boy for the 5,746th time today. And it was magic.

And if, impossibly, unimaginably, we find that it was the last time, we will be glad we did.

And if it is not, we will be more mindful of just how amazing it is, and wonderful, that we get to do it again.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On the train

My husband and I argue.  Often.

It usually begins pretty innocuously.

He might, for example (often), utter something fairly innocent that just sounds really stupid coming out of his mouth: "Do you plan to be up past 9 tonight?  I'm hoping for some action." Wink. Wink.

And I might, for example (much less often), occasionally overreact: "I don't know, do you plan on being a fuckhead?" Angry glare.

And the train just derails from there. Within a few minutes, there is carnage in the bedroom.  Boxcars of nervous, yet infuriating laughter (him) and circular logic (me) wrecked around us. There have been swear words hurled and impossible threats levied.

I am NEVER propositioning you again. 

Well you won't have an opportunity to because you will be sleeping in the gazebo. 

My mascara tube has been thrown (to be fair, I didn't aim for his head but it was lucky he ducked).  He is glaring. You are impossible. 

But as sudden as the train wrecked and the smoke filled the room, it lifts.  It is cleared. We put it back together.
He is good about knowing when it needs to end, my husband.  Better than me.
Even if he is not wrong (which is not often), he is kindly.  He will come to where I am, dramatically flung on the bed, feet dangling, face buried in the wedding quilt.  He will touch my back lightly and lay flat against me. Let's not argue, lovie. I'm sorry, let's be friends. His breath will be warm against my ear.

And though I am occasionally unreasonable, I am able to admit when I am wrong. I MAY have overreacted. I'm sorry for calling you a narcissistic neanderthal. 

And for saying you hate my face?

I think for a moment. And for saying I hate your face. I am silent again. I think you have a beautiful face.

His weight will be heavy on my back, substantial and comforting.  Why do we argue? He will ask into my neck, his lips moving right against my skin.

I think we are both passionate people, I tell him, my voice muffled by the blankets.  Intense. Emotional. 

But I think it is more than this.  As two people divorced and weary, I think we came to this marriage, this second marriage, burdened down with baggage.  We climbed on this train again, with hope that it would take us somewhere promising, somewhere lovely.  But we brought with us suitcases filled with mistakes. And broken things.

And this is why we fight: we both say what we feel.  Every. Single. Thing.

From the beginning, there was an unspoken understanding that talking it through would be the only way for us, that we could not let small problems grow and sprout into big, blooming ones.  That we would always know where the other one stands. That making a second marriage work would not be about smoothing things over and waiting it out.

It's all or nothing this time. A one way ticket. It has to be.

This, too, is a process.  Because now, we say it all.  We have not learned yet, or are trying to learn, that some things can be unsaid (You use the word 'Gotcha' too much in conversation) or said nicer (Sometimes when you are drooling on my pillow I want to pull it right out from under your stupid sleeping face).  

The honesty is easy.  The discretion is harder.

So until we learn what is better left unspoken, we speak it all.  And thus, we argue. We ride our little train, listen to the trunks and suitcases bumping in the boxcar behind us.  I wonder if they ever disappear?

We sit together, the window half down and dusty air swelling in against the rattle-trap of the wheels on the track.  We say things we mean, because we are trying. And then we say things we don't, because we are hurt.

But the clamoring luggage in the back speaks more than we can ever know how to begin to say.

I want him to know me.  I want him to understand. Rattling, clanging, my train case banging.

I want her to want me.  I want her to know how much I want her. Shake, clatter. His trunks are even heavier than mine.

I don't care if we argue, my love.  I don't care if we fight.

All I care is that you are willing to listen.

All I want is for you to always care.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Naked Pictures

nude photos  

Kate Upton took some naked selfies with her boyfriend and frankly, I'm disgusted.

I'm disgusted that her privacy was violated. Disgusted that information and images that were meant for her own use were shared with the rest of the world against her will.

But as for the idea that she took the images, that she posed in front of a mirror with her handsome beau or lay in bed with him and took a few photo shots?

Big. Fucking. Deal.

What's the problem, exactly? All the hip and beautiful people are doing it! Even the not so hip and not so beautiful people are doing it.

And honestly? Most of the rest of us are too.

News flash (and you may want to avert your eyes, people):


And we have been for years, long before Kate Upton was even in a training bra.

That's right, give mom a cellphone, a filter, the perfect light, a few props (possibly a large fern or a Japanese fan) and a few idle minutes to ourselves, and it's go time.

In fact, it is possible, may be even probable, that YOUR mom is leaning over the kitchen sink looking for just the right angle to illuminate her cleavage and minimize her stretch marks right now.  Or perhaps she's perfecting  the one leg draped out from the bedsheets look. Your dad likes that one.

It's evening actually.  So maybe she and your dad are getting the iphone and their love swing ready for...

Don't believe me?

Let me flash back to 2008.

Ringing cellphone, me answering it:  Hello?
Frantic Friend: Ohmygod Nicole?
Me: Yes, what's wrong?
Friend: Nothing.  Nothing. Hey um. Listen....did you just a get a picture on your phone from me?
Me: I don't think so---let me check---nope, nothing came through. Why?
Friend: No reason.  NO reason at all.  Listen, if my boobs come through on your phone, could you just delete them?  They were meant for my husband.  I might have accidentally sent them to you instead.
Me: I'll delete your boobs, no problem.

And that was it. It wasn't weird or disgusting or shame-worthy.  It wasn't even unusual.  I suppose I just assumed that married or monogamous people want to keep each other interested, want to entice the person they are with when they are not with them.  And I also supposed that I understood, as I understand now, that liking your body enough to photograph it is a good thing.  

Naturally, I recalled this conversation the other day when I learned about the pictures that were hacked from Upton's and other celebrities phones and released to the public.  As I scrolled through my social media, I was shocked to see how outraged so many women my age were over the concept itself.  To be clear, they were not all outraged over the violation of privacy that occurred to allow the photos to be released to the public. No. There were 35 year old women horrified that a grown woman had taken taken naked pictures on her own phone in the privacy of her own home. I read comments like "You play, you pay" and a condemnation of someone who would do such a thing as a "slut".

And I was.. confused.  I didn't understand how this was HER fault in any possible way.

How many photos on your phone would you want the world to see right now?  Let's be honest, the good photos make it to Facebook or Instagram.  The rest of them...they just...exist. Maybe none of them are of you naked, but how about the one you took of the damage to your bumper after you hit that pole? I'm guessing you'd prefer to keep it to yourself.  Because you took it with that intent.

So. When it comes to Kate Upton and her naked photos, I am disgusted and ashamed by only this: that we too often blame the victim.  That I see women condemning another woman for making a private choice about her own body and adopting a "she got what she deserved" mentality when she is violated.

And it makes no sense to me.  Because in my world, grown women, with bodies of all shapes and sizes, with bodies that are perfect and young, or those whose skin that gravity and childbirth has slackened and aged, well...they do this sort of thing.

Or might do this sort of thing.  One day. Or won't.

But they can.  If they want to.

And this does not make them a slut.  It does not make them open to or available for your judgement.
And above all, it does not mean they are to blame when a crime is perpetrated against them.

So hate the idea of it, but leave the victim alone.

And go help your mother, she wants to know how to turn the camera on her iphone around.
So she can see exactly what shes taking a picture of when she's photographing...the dog.

And whatever you do, don't scroll through her camera roll.

Monday, September 1, 2014

My Brother's Keeper

We are loading up an episode of Girls and eating homemade spaghetti when I burst into tears unexpectedly. 

I cry soundlessly at first, tears slipping down my cheek, past my chin and into my bowl.  But then, suddenly, I am sobbing loudly, grossly. My shoulders tremoring, my fingers pinching my eyes to make them stop, stop, stop.  

The television is dead frozen on the title screen. 

By the time my husband takes the spaghetti bowl from my hand and lifts me from my chair, into his arms, I am heaving guttering breaths, vulgar sounds from my chest. 

I did not know a person could make these sounds. 
Until my brother died and I made those sounds.

It wasn't just the sudden, unasked arrival of the memory of his death, just two years ago, that made me cry so suddenly. It was an unexpected, accidental inhalation of his cigarette in the upholstered arm of his chair as I sat down.

His chair, that is mine now. 

And as much as that chair is a big soft place to write, a comforting place to eat spaghetti and read Hemingway, it is a tweed harbinger of churning regrets. It is a holding space of lost things and childhood rituals, his impish blue eyes.  There are a cushion of questions and matted unanswers, seeping with cigarette smoke. Smelling like him.

It is a his-then-mine chair.

And it makes me angry, sometimes. 
It comforts me, sometimes.
And it makes me very, very sad.

Little brothers aren't supposed to die.  This is something you know as a child without someone telling you.  Old people die, great grandmothers and senile neighbors. Great Aunts die, leaving cats and doilies to be meted out among relations.  
Little brothers, the ones who are a foot taller than you and who smile with their eyes, do not die at age 30.

But heroin addicts do. 

They are the ones that stay children eternally, sweet and starving.  Their world slowly dwindling, shrinking in size just as you, the older sister, have the world opening up. They don't have things, can't give you things, aren't sure of anything.

You get married, you have a baby. You have never seen drugs, save for 1980's TV commercials.

They have spoons in their car. They get lost driving down your street. Have girlfriends with track marks and heavy eyeliner. 

You pick up your little brother to take him to the dentist. He brings all the things that matter in his world, in a plastic garbage bag: his television remote, his cellphone, a half smoked pack of cigarettes, $14 and some coins. Who is going to steal your tv remote? You ask him, gently, kidding. They might take it just to fuck with me, he answers dubiously. 

You don't ask who they are. 

One day, he shows up at your house. A weekday morning, holding a highball in his wavering hand.  Could he borrow something hard to drink, some whiskey? Just to help him get some relief? When he turns his head, you see a mangled ear and a gash, wet and seeping.  

You don't ask who did this to you?

You know, without asking, it was them. 

He is one of them, really. The ones who have nowhere else to go but dark streets in a Ford Taurus with one headlight.  The ones who give away everything they have for one last fix. 

They do not want to die. But they are dying every day, for years. 
Until they suddenly are completely gone, that last fix fixing it all, forever.

They die with the water faucet running, on Thanksgiving morning. 

And this is how I came to keep my brother's chair.

And this is how I ended up crying into my spaghetti.

Maybe I won't always keep the chair.  

Maybe I'll wake up one morning, tomorrow morning, and push it out of the family room, straight to the garage, banging walls and scuffing the floor.  And then, on garbage day, I'll push it all the way to the curb. 

Maybe I'll give it away. 

Probably, I won't.

Probably I will eat toast and jam there tomorrow morning, with the cursor of my computer screen blinking in front of my half-sleeping eyes.  

Probably I will press my nose into the worn arms of that chair when I am desperate and wanting to find my brother again.

Probably I will keep the chair forever. Because there isn't very much else that's left. 

Because like the soft and scraping pain of what I have lost and the memory of his smiling eyes, it is permanent. Mine forever, to keep.

He didn't live very long. He didn't have very much. 

But he gave these things to me.