Dear ones, congratulations on surviving what felt like 30 days of Halloween (if I never have to wipe face-paint off of a tiny face while it whines at me, dayenu) and Happy November! Yup, that’s right. You heard me. NOVEMBER. My mood board for the month is mostly sarcasm (I feel that sarcasm is purple, no?), so if you’re with me, read on!
Also, pitching rejection almost decimated me last month, but I did get to publish a piece in the lovely Romper online yesterday on parenting, projection, and the complications involved in not wanting my daughter to be a “basic bitch.” Check it out.
How to Keep Your Romance Alive When the World is Dying
Friends and Instagram Ads have been asking me lately how my sex life is weathering these crazy times. Though I’m always a bit nervous to tell people this, it’s never been better! Lots of couples are struggling to keep the mystery alive after two-plus years of an existence that can only be described as like being the kid in the movie Room but without those cool paper-tower-roll toys or any plausible escape fantasy, and the room is the very structure of modern society. Hell, even the singles I follow on TikTok are having a hard time rallying their libidos against a steadily increasing sense of hopelessness. But I’m here to tell you, just because your life is one series of crises on top of another, doesn’t mean you have to neglect your inner horn dog. Where there is a legally intact sex organ, there is a way.
First, let’s talk about location. A secluded beach in the Bahamas isn’t the only place to have great sex! In fact, it might even be overkill, which is what my husband said to comfort me when our anniversary trip to the Bahamas was cancelled because his mother, who was supposed to watch our children, got covid for the fourth time. Intimacy isn’t a location — it’s a state of mind. That’s why my mind is able to get turned on in the bathroom, with the fan on, while my husband yells “there is no fucking way your audiobook is done yet, Grayson! Go back to your room!” in the direction of the door. Or when I am conducting a quick google search for “tom brady ron desantis beer commercial” and glance out the window to see my husband doing one of his “Yoga for Rage” videos in the backyard in his good shorts and think, “probably the neighbors are too depressed to have their shades open today…”
And it’s not just about where and when we can do it, but how we keep our head in the game when we’re not actually having sex. Famed psychologist and sexy thought leader Esther Perel reminds us that the “erotic space” extends far beyond the bedroom, and that we should go about our days gathering fuel for our sexy fires by having thrilling experiences, such as dancing with a stranger (in a fun way, not the Sam Smith way). Just because all of the nightclubs in your town have gone out of business in the last two years and your old stand-by bar is usually shuttered with a post-it note on the door that says “quiet quitting today,” this does not mean that you can’t find your daily thrills. Small, spontaneous encounters can be discovered everywhere. For instance, my neighbor Ken came by last Tuesday to return a package of rapid tests I’d purchased for $82 from a Ukrainian vitamin supply company, which had accidentally been delivered to him by a very tired, non-unionized Amazon worker. When he stood at my gate in his N95, smiling what I could tell from his eye region was a very warm smile, and said “I’m just gonna set it down here,” a tiny spark was lit deep within me. I carried that spark with me, and two Wednesdays later, when my daughter’s preschool re-opened after a bout of croup took down the one teacher who is willing to still work for the egregiously poor pay, and my son was taking a “sad nap,” you bet your ass I released it.
If, like me, you’ve been with the same person for what was 10 years in 2019 and 37 years in 2022, it’s important to spice things up from time to time. Try reading some dramatic material, like your local school district’s daily additions to their budget cuts, or Kamala Harris’ “our democracy is being stripped away and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do about it seriously what the fuck” speech from a recent voting rights rally out loud to one another, in a sexy voice.
If you don’t have access to titillating content, make your own with a role play! In our favorite one, I play a struggling independent bookstore owner who just got hit when she was already down, and my husband is the small business loan officer that shows her no mercy. Getting out of our regular old personalities (especially for my husband, who was recently diagnosed with “flailing personality disorder”) is hot. If that’s not your idea of a sexy time, don’t worry, you’ll find your thing. If it is, perhaps you should actually worry. It’s hard to know what’s “normal” these days, but who needs normal, anyway??? I mean, I don’t really remember what normal was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as sexy as the orthopedic “indoor shoes” I’ve taken to wearing since our state passed a recent law that bans health insurance from covering therapies that start with a “P.” In “normal” times, my husband never cared much about women’s issues, which was kind of a turn off. Now, when he finally closes his laptop at 11:30pm, turns to me and says, “you know, the religious right effectively stripped away abortion access for most Americans long before the overturning of Roe v Wade,” I am READY. TO. GO.
Finally, it’s not the quantity of sexual encounters you have, but the quality. Even if you only have intercourse once every pandemic surge or every absolutely horrifying election cycle, you can make it count. I try to treat every tryst like it might be my last, which is very easy to imagine, since I have a pre-existing condition and work in a warehouse that has just reduced it’s mandatory covid quarantine period to “whenever you feel like you’re good.” Whether you have a lot of sex or a little, the point is to enjoy it. Life is short, after all. Thank god for that.
So, apparently I have difficulty getting things done when said things are not fun, easy, quick, or tolerant of my speaking in a terrible British accent for kicks. But last week, I finally took my brother’s recommendation and tried Focusmate. It’s pretty simple, which I like (see above description of preferred tasks). The premise is that you sign up for a 25 or 50-minute time slot, and they pair you with a random person somewhere in the world who also has to get something annoying and tedious done at that time.
Then when it’s time you pop on a video with them and BRIEFLY say hi and state your goals for the session. When it’s done, a way-too-loud chime sounds and you say how you did. Then you leave, and you might never see them again. Which is so, so lovely. No small talk. No worrying if they like you (okay a TINY bit of worrying, but you can’t ever really shake that one off). I have had some intense curiosity about what David G. means when he says he has “a lot data to extract” or why Karen S. has a giant faux-leaf wreath seeming to frame her face and only wants to communicate over chat, but after a few sessions I learned to ignore it. You’re not supposed to leave the session, use your phone, etc. The clear rules and the presence of what another ADHDer referred to as a “body double” really really works for me. Anyhoo, check it out if your interest was piqued, but if you get paired with me, don’t let me launch into a 20-minute story about the new no-heat hair curler I purchased, it’s a misdirection!
Also, also this:
I was a Helicopter Parent for Halloween. I tried my best to stay in character, directing traffic in the crosswalk and reminding everyone that candy has sugar and research absolutely shows that sugar makes kids crazy, and I know because my husband’s friend is a very successful food researcher at Yale. When I explained the costume to my 6yo son he paused and said, “but mom, you ARE a helicopter parent!”
This is the best thing I have read recently.
Five stars, would read again, Kamala Harris being tired as fuck is my love language