I’m beginning to feel like a slightly older version of Carrie Bradshaw—someone who writes about sex and the city and contemporary quandaries facing single adults. As much as I try to avoid that niche, I keep getting shoved back into it by the writing world.
A couple of months ago I took a trip to the South. It was a multi-purpose trip combining a book event, a visit to some relatives, and vacation. I crammed a lot into a few days and learned a whole bunch, most of which was unintentional. But isn’t that how the best learning occurs? I met an interesting man, played a terrific round of golf, saw snakes and lizards, enjoyed edifying conversations with my ex-brother-in-law and his wife (Mike and Nancy), and saw Charleston, Beaufort, and Savannah. So I will cover these in order of increasing importance, not in any chronological order.
I love a good snake, love to watch it slither across the deck. Lizards are nothing short of fascinating. The tree frogs provided a deafening but delightful hum to fall asleep to, and I heard “Big Al” the alligator splash his way into Mike and Nancy’s pond one morning. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to see him face to face. On the golf course we gave up a ball to a copperhead in a water hazard rather than try to retrieve the Titleist. And for a bug person like myself, the South is simply paradise.
The man I met reminded me that I could be still be entranced by a diabolical liar. I would have thought those days were over, that my experiences in romance had created a permanent DEFCON:4 state of alertness with regard to players. But this guy had a line I’d never heard before. He said he was a widower with grown kids who looked forward to grandchildren! He was charming, self-effacing, lamenting hair loss and his return to the dating world where he’d found husband hunting forty-somethings who were over-enhanced and accompanied by excessive baggage. The over-enhanced overkill should have been the giveaway.
Then I drove to Spring Island to enjoy Mike and Nancy’s hospitality for a few days. The island is breathtaking and prehistoric. Around every corner I expected to find a dinosaur egg hatching. Nancy cheered me up about the scumbag I’d met in Charleston. Mike cheer me more when he said, “You probably write out of sexual frustration.”
That had never occurred to me.
As I let the thought sink in over the next few weeks, I decided he could be correct. I also looked around me and began to see sexual frustration everywhere. My friend who is intensely political and blogs obsessively. My friend who exercises like a maniac. Pretty much everyone who works full time and writes or paints or runs marathons or does something obsessively IN ADDITION TO his or her job is probably sexually frustrated. How many of us are willing to admit it? I have friends MY AGE who say they are done with sex. It begs the question: if we started having sex, would our blog/art/writing/marathon running suffer? I have a friend who spends his time trying to find a partner on Match.com and I have often chided him for not channeling his energy into something more useful. Now I wonder—does he have it right? Or is sex—as the guy in Charleston so disingenuously declared—not worth it?
Much of the world’s interesting art and music and overall pizzazz is still being created by middle-aged folk no longer burdened by the demands of young children and the striving that accompanies life in our thirties. A lot of these people are alone. If sexual energy gets channeled into something, I suspect this is better than not channeling the energy at all. And it’s especially better than having no energy.
I guess some of us still want to have it all. The question is whether once we get it, will we let it slip away?