Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new weekly feature, Love & Life on The Edge, a column that will explore those perplexing personal dilemmas that we all experience and are troubled by but are often too shy to admit to.
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Dear Editor, Love Desk,
Comics like Amy Schumer have me wondering about my history with relationships. I’ve never considered myself to be “loose” but this word and others get thrown around so freely in our culture and so I guess I’m asking you, how many men is too many?
Loveworn in the Berkshires
I have been of our gender long enough to know your question has you on the slow “DOWN” escalator into the bowels of your dark punishing places. The next word out of your mouth is “whore,” right?
Let me stop you. There is a difference, first of all, between sex and love-making. I will answer with the assumption you were taking precautions against sexually transmitted diseases. Hopefully those waters were sailed without incident. I will also assume you are old enough to have been with all these men over a period of time.
So here you are, presumably on safe shores, Loveworn, asking, how many men is too many? That depends on the deeper impulse for your foray into the sheets, or (hide your small children) down on that turf at the 40-yard line of your darkened high school stadium long after the game ended, your team having won. That cute boy couldn’t believe his luck, and this memory is a like a happy thread from Dumbledore’s pensieve that sustains him now as he weaves through fluorescently lit middle-aged days, taunted by overgrown lawns and transmission hassles.
Consider this: At least one grownup girl would spin that table around. “Oh, I wish I had had more dalliances! What would it be like to do it in waterfall mist in Belize, inside an Anasazi ruin in northern Arizona, or in a tent somewhere at 13,000 feet as hail and lightening threaten to mingle death with orgasm, making le petit mort a grand one?”
How would you answer her, Loveworn?
Think back: Were you the one who, from your grappling teenage days to your gripping 20-something adventures, wanted to experience those otherworldly ecstasies and give pleasure to another? Is there something wrong with giving pleasure to another and having it yourself? Did you then move into the tired torpid routine of marital regularity (or rarity), and beyond into the experimental delights of uninhibited 40s lovemaking? Or were you one of the ones who, in those earlier days couldn’t enjoy it, unable to make the advances or say how you wanted it simply because you were raised in the era where “good girls” were only advanced upon? Or because your breasts were slightly lopsided, your hips too this or your belly too that?
Dive deep with these questions, Loveworn, because God (or Whatever) made it all this way. We can’t avoid mistakes and pain in the love realm — especially not in the lovemaking realm. We start young, moving through boyfriends, lovers and husbands, with a sexual trauma or two thrown in. It’s a karmic dance that takes us wherever we are eventually going; the Love Desk believes we come from somewhere yonder and are eventually going back.
As long as you were reasonably good to yourself during those years –– meaning, when heart sparks flashed you threw fuel on them –– it means you were doing what humans are supposed to do: Love, screw, screw up.
A scientist says sex makes new brain cells. So it appears you and your squeezes were getting smarter! For all you know, you may have helped someone invent the cure to a disease, or ace algorithms at his future hedge fund firm, only to make millions he would use to build homeless shelters or rescue hundreds of Greyhounds. And all that sex made you smart enough to know how to excavate your garbage now and toss it.
You are not alone with this garbage, Loveworn. Remember you are a soul. Plus, you have a heart. Some researchers say the heart is it’s own kind of brain; there’s evidence that it works like one. So don’t flay yourself for using it, even if one of those past amours turned out to be a pri––
We look back and get gloomy, we look forward and freak out, and in the meantime we’re missing the roses around our heads or in our skulls like the ones on all those Grateful Dead album covers. Why do you think they put them there? Roses symbolize love and strength and sexuality and passion — and their physical nature does operate and give the appearance of, uh — never mind. And tell me, when have the Grateful Dead ever been wrong?
You’re not the first woman to feel the thorns and miss the roses.
On another cultural note, we are sexed up to the max in America — the ads, every flavor of porn available to anyone with an Internet connection, the cut of clothing marketed to girls. I could go on and on. But God forbid you, Loveworn, should be a sexual being!
I’ve a hunch you were born and raised mid-century. Odds are if you are American, you went to a giant public high school laden with “Madonna/Whore Complex” confusion. Look at today’s sex-tinged selfie obsession among teenaged girls and young women — we don’t think of them as “whores” anymore, do we? They are more empowered and knowledgeable about sex and their bodies than previous generations of women. If one waits long enough, attitudes change. Our Supreme Court just legalized gay marriage, for one.
Roll with it, Loveworn, and please, use the word “worn” only to describe your socks, or that sofa destroyed by your cats. Every time you make love, you renew yourself, you blossom, just as the rose does, year after year.
The Love Desk comes to you each Friday, when The Editor of the Love Desk will attempt to answer any and all questions about love –– and life –– since you can’t have one without the other.
Send your questions to: lovedesk@ theberkshireedge.com