Maybe it’s just the ovaries talking but I think that sex has become the barometer for our place in society nowadays.
Of course if my ovaries were really talking what they’d be saying is, “Stop being vegan, bitch, we’re hungry.”
I only make this kind of wishy-washy, rhetorical statement in connection with my attempt to see if I could become a sex columnist for cash. The answer is, flatly, sex columnist FAIL. Primarily because, at least out of the people who read this blog, “sexual” problems are actually, quite clearly, individual problems on a grander scale. I think it all goes back to standards, goals, and the “snowflake” misconception.
Similar to how I thought I could take over Hollywood when I was in college for screenwriting, or how, when I was younger, I really did think I could do anything like be a milkman-ballerina-president, every child from my generation grew up thinking they were a unique and precious little gift to the world. Each of us who were lucky enough to be brought to term would dream the impossible dream, may that be to end world hunger or get an expense account with a large firm and a Land Rover.
Apparently nobody actually dreamed about solving world hunger.
The truth is, when it all comes to pass and we’re not the biggest, strongest, fastest, purdiest cheetah on the plain we start looking at all the other cheetahs and sizing up our own spots. Sex, relationships, and competition are all overlapping circles in this era of methodological solipsism.
I’ll relay another misadventure in my search for work that, in my mind, connects perfectly to the responses I got for my sex columnist Bat Signal:
Yesterday my good friend took me to an event that she thought would be a lucrative networking opportunity. It was for a company that I will keep vague because I actually sort of respect what they do and they contribute positively to my new city as a whole. But they’re involved in fitness, and their target demographic is likely entirely female and ranges in age from late twenties to mid-forties. A large portion of their revenue comes from apparel known as “activewear.”
While waiting for my (tall, blonde) pal to pick me up I sat across from Pioneer Courthouse and noted that if my partner and I can’t make rent next month that we should not become homeless squat punks in this area. I don’t know if they’re unionized or signed some sort of trade pact, but the vagrants around Pioneer Square are clustered, aggressive, and competing directly with one another. Granted, our cardboard sign would probably be designed by one of our graphic designer friends, but it would read, in charming Helvetica font, “The two of us are small. If you have room in your home we will write your childrens’ essays.” And then a tiny note, carefully penned in Sharpie, would express how much we like Eames chairs.
After ogling Portland’s well-organized young bums for a bit I was picked up by my friend and whisked to a pristine monolith of a building where, on one of the mid-level floors, a gaggle of women clustered around insincere greetings and artfully arranged fruit plates while a live band played dismal soft jazz.
In comparison, I looked like I had been picked up from among the mendicants. I shoved my fists deep into the pockets of my safety pinned pants and surveyed the scene as my unbrushed short hair, exposed black lace bra, and dirty pink-and-black Converse were sized up and immediately dismissed by these specimen of ‘Merican womanhood.
These women follow trends the way that I drool over tattoos. From my point of view I was suddenly starring in the rock opera version of Little Orphan Annie. Did I mention that my friend was wearing an Armani jacket? Yeah. I did not fit but, fortunately, I’m used to this variety of awkwardness from four years of my life known as high-school.
So I held my ground and observed the human female and all of her plumage in this controlled environment. One key thing stood out that linked perfectly to my attempt at becoming the next Dan Savage:
Women are ridiculously competitive.
The ones who had their children or husbands in tow were looked at with envy, while the younger girls largely flaunted an aggressively artificial beauty. This was the first room in Portland where I saw both fake breasts and canned tans. It was also one of the only places where I saw a woman do the curled upper-lip snarl behind another woman’s back. Scary.
Now, wherein the queer, out-of-place, and overly judgmental part of me would like nothing more than to paint women with a broad brush and say that they reduce life to one-upping one another on a very superficial, contrived level, that’s not the case. Out of the letters I received, more than two were from men in marriages where their wives appeared to no longer be interested in sex. These were not creepy, dumb men, either, at least not from their use of advanced Scrabble words as well as their skilled manner of constructing paragraphs. For the most part they all loved their wives to distraction, still found them arousing and adorable, but it seemed that their ladies were giving them the dead eyed stare in the bedroom. These gents all said they were willing to do anything — Tantra, oral, counseling — in order to relight that flame. The women, however, were dialing it in.
I repeat that this was according to the men, and I realize that, much like my sardonic assessment of yesterday’s mixing-and-mingling, I was only getting one side of the story.
In the room filled with the older version of The Heathers I studied these women who largely looked unhappy and embittered. (Of course this perception is likely heavily tinted by my own projection.) I shook hands, stumbled over my explanation for not having business cards, was introduced as a blogger. I’m not a professional blogger because I am not paid to write this shit, but I suppose that title would be the go-to excuse for the seemingly flippant disregard I had for my outfit and makeup application.
From yesterday afternoon, as well as my accomplishment of college psych prerequisites and countless viewings of Bergman films, my conclusion is that disappointment reigns supreme. Ladies have been let down. And from what I read in those letters that were sent to me, a lot of men have been let down as well. Relationships are tricky and ugly. My hopes for a long-term coupling are pretty low. I don’t see myself getting married. I imagine being a parent one day but I don‘t see the need for a mate to be involved in my child rearing. (Thank you, mom and dad, for getting divorced and still being awesome.) Perhaps it’s a product of my recent struggle to put food in my mouth, but I really don’t care to compare my life as a whole to anybody else’s. I’m happy. I’m doing what I love and hoping to get paid for it. My goals are to make rent and eat a burrito.
But I’m also having regular sex so maybe I‘m not fairly contributing to this argument, who knows.
My point is this, I think that most of us have been trained to shoot for this idyllic job-marriage-two-kids goal and once we get there, or get close to it, we realize that something’s missing. To risk sounding like an intro philosophy course at a women‘s college, usually this something is that we didn’t work towards happiness, only society‘s perception of happiness. Out of this discontent we shut down, go on autopilot, start to believe that our peers have what we don’t, and start to believe that we’ve failed ourselves. Sex suffers, our emotional well-being suffers, men get down on themselves, and women relentlessly size themselves up in comparison to the next well-coiffed cubicle mate with their husband, their kids. It’s depressing. No wonder most of the letters I received included lines about how their wives weren’t willing to talk about their issues, or the husbands weren’t able to pinpoint the problem and address it verbally. If you’ve let yourself down the last thing you want is to be blamed.
So I can’t solve anybody else’s problems because, from my point of view, we’re all equally sad and equally fucked. Not always in the good way.
In conclusion, yesterday reaffirmed that I’m still not a typical woman and I still should not work in an office. I don’t want to have to press-the-flesh or bullshit people, although I’m sure that my street-urchin/punk-orphan look allowed at least one blonde, exfoliated lady to sleep soundly knowing they were at least above me on the Ladder of Achievement. I don’t have any answers other than the few that I’ve learned in my quarter-century on this planet: be honest, be vulnerable, and look to make yourself happy first, so long as you’re not hurting one another. (And get tested regularly for STDs and STIs regardless of how forthcoming you think your husband, wife, secretary is being.)
If you aspire to just please yourself and tell convention to fuck off — regardless of what people think — you might be starving like we are but you might also wake up smiling. And that smile may or may not be because you’re receiving oral sex from someone who shares the same goal.
Lastly, to the person who inquired about girl-on-girl action: usually it does continue and often there are multiple orgasms. The downside is that usually at least one of them listens to Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, or Melissa Ferrick, and there’s almost always a drawn out discussion of emotions afterwards when all I’ve ever wanted to do was watch SportsCenter and sleep.