Monday, October 25, 2010
(Sea) Salt and (Sichuan) Pepper
"Let's talk about sex, baby..." Salt-N-Peppa, 1990
I have been talking with women friends, both with kids and without, and the absence of sex drive. My friend and I were speaking of the absence of desire itself. We both have handsome, loving husbands. It is not an issue of trust, love or looks. It is more fundamental, more physiological. To hold the initial days, years, of sexual desire and activity level as some sort of relational gold standard is not useful. We are different, new people today. We have a family, we have work, we travel, we are older, and we know each other a lot better. And the things we’ve been through. Trust has been broken and repaired, we have made impossible decisions together, we have stayed together.
Thinking about the desire conversations, I realized there are a lot of things I love that I initially do not want to do. Every time I am getting ready for a dance class, considering a morning walk, or getting ready for a riding lesson, there is a consistent wavering and I think about skipping out. Facing making dinner, having friends over, getting out of the house for a movie; there are many moments of an initial feeling of resistance to things that I really love, this window of feeling like it is all too much bother. I feel like I can do it later, that there will be a more perfect, inspired moment.
Sex and dance class, I am not comparing the activities, but rather the similar feelings of resistance and relief and joy around them both. When I do say yes to sex with my partner, I am always, always glad that I have, that we have connected. But, since having two children together, I would almost always rather do something else, something that requires less of me to show up. Like clean the house, mark things off my to do list, read, take a nap. It is not that I do not want to be with him, it is that most of the time it feels like all the other places in life that need work are more urgent. Of the two needs, the dishes or my partner, why are the dishes more important? Dishes are not more urgent or important; they are easier.
Now, to show up for this person, it is a deeper place. It is not the coy, hopeful seduction of the early days. It is not fantasy and best foot forward. It is not the merging, the becoming one of falling in love. It is not the sublime aphrodisiac of making babies. Now I see the man I have come to know. He is no longer a fantasy person who can do no wrong. It is not that sexual desire is gone, it is that the whole game has changed.
Now we both want to merge with each other, to live united and in love, and we both want to simultaneously find ourselves, explore the terrains of our psychology, our spiritual paths, and our creative lives. Oh, yes, and there are also those kids to love and raise, to clothe and feed and nurture.
I love my partner and I love it when we connect. Just like I love dance class and the euphoric feeling of freedom and endorphin rush I find there too. But I resist because I am not a ball of energy and there are multiple layers of demand in any moment. Now, I have to go deep to gear up my concentration. Arousal and desire take work, effort and concentration.
And once the work is underway, that initial step of committing to the moment, comes the awe of the reward. The spiritual depth of being held and holding another, your beloved partner. The physical hum of nerve endings tantalized by touch. The gleeful triumph of having made the time to indulge in each other, just for you. It is a luxury! How easy this is to forget. That to live with love and the promise of connection is a precious gift.
We do not have forever, that is a fact. Let us savor, even if at first we don’t want to, let us savor the person in front of us, and follow the promise of being together, for the moment.
And a little aphrodisiac to help:
Mousse Au Moka Et Poivre from Raquel Carena
1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp ground coffee beans
4 oz 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 large egg whites
1 Tbsp sugar
Grind peppercorns with mortar and pestle. Bring coffee and cream and pepper to a simmer in a small pan. Remove from heat and let steep, covered, 30 minutes. Strain cream through fine mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids. Melt chocolate in a large bowl. Stir in cream. Cool slightly. Beat egg whites with sugar until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold into chocolate mixture gently but thoroughly. Spoon mousse into glasses and chill at least 3 hours.
Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.