Just came across this beautifully written piece from the New York Times Modern Love column, A Measure of Desire, in which the author relates her story of being a young mom who becomes increasingly anxious about her marriage when her newly sober husband stops having sex with her.
Because that’s what sex had always been for me: a measure of my desirability. If I was no longer desirable then it was only a matter of time before I would be left standing alone like my mother.
As a married woman and a feminist, I’d argue that sex was not a “measure of . . . desirability” for this writer. Rather, it was a measure of her self worth, and she’s lacking more than a little personal awareness in not recognizing this. And I’m further troubled by the author’s contention that there is no fate worse than being like her divorced mother, who is elsewhere described as “beautiful” and seems to be pretty brave and ballsy when she decides to move cross country to live in NYC, the prospect of which frightens me (I mean, have you ever been on a subway???) and I’m probably half her mom’s age and grew up just outside of New York and have lived and worked in metropolitan Philadelphia for the past decade or so. So from my objective viewpoint, being like this writer’s mother doesn’t seem so freaking bad, and being “alone” doesn’t mean what the writer seems to fear: life as a pathetic divorcee, living with her elderly mother and (probably) a houseful of incontinent cats mewling and swarming all over broken down furniture.
Still, the author writes very poignantly of the pain and longing she feels in a sexless marriage, and it got me thinking about my own marriage which, while not sexless, after eight anniversaries, certainly lacks the, um, vim and vigor of those heady early years together. I’m not at the point this writer eventually came to, where she’s imagining every marginally attractive woman she encounters over the cantaloupe display in the produce aisle as Replacement Wife for her husband, but I’ll admit to occasional (ok, if I’m really honest, frequent) pangs of jealousy and anxiety.
And it got me thinking about sex and marriage and if I could have one without the other and, not for the first time, wondering if the primary motivator in my decision to marry wasn’t sex, and isn’t it always? I mean, we have sex with someone, and all those oxytocin-like endorphins get released, and our brains are inundated with those chemicals, and, under the influence, we call it “love.”