The Third Third

Sex in the City, 2008

My sister has offered to write the sex scenes in the novel(s) I have been trying to write for a few years. Younger and yet more “experienced” than I, she doubts I have the know-how to create anything sufficiently steamy or salacious. She’s probably right. Yet from what I hear, today’s scenes have now even gone beyond her brief fling with being single and sexy – in fact way, way beyond all but the very most fertile imagination. I’m told there are “dance clubs” advertising great bands where just about the only thing covered is the cost of getting in. That is, you pay your money, you order your drink, you take a seat, your eyes adjust to the darkness, and you begin to look around only to realize that the bumping and grinding taking place on the dance floor is for real. Everyone’s having sex. This is true. Really. My source is reliable. A strange, silly thought crosses your mind: Is this the new rhythm method? A respectably married professional couple who came to practice new steps you learned in dance classes, you are stunned. Your mouths are hanging open in shock and disbelief. This is happening, right here, in the next town over, 5, maybe 10 miles from your home? Legally? You can’t look away, but you can’t believe what you’re seeing: couples are coupling everywhere. You know those short little baby doll frocks that at first glance look like blouses or skirts only they’re dresses? That’s what the girls are wearing. With *nothing* underneath. Talk about Available. And the guys, well, they seem to be, ah, unbuckled. You gulp your drinks. You leave, your faces flushed. You’re embarrassed. You had no idea what the ad meant when it said the band was great; you’re terrified you’ll run into someone who knows you; you realize it could, after all, be your children out there giving new meaning to the term “dirty dancing.” Oh my. Oh my. And I thought we had all come a long way with our seemingly careless understanding and generous acceptance of the fact that all our kids would probably live together before they got married. After that, we (OK, some of us) came to terms with “hooking up,” or dating-with-sex-without-obligation – or at least we knew it was going on at every college we had ever heard of, which probably meant the ones our kids went to, too. We adjusted, those of us whose pre-birth-control-pill fears of pregnancy (and father’s shotguns) kept us chaste. Now, we realized, Sex had moved to the top of the To-Do List in any new relationship –a newly divorced friend’s, a 20-something child’s, even an 80-year-old parent’s. And we were cool with it. Sort of. I tried, anyway. Yet somewhere in the crevices of my mind and heart, I wonder. Fear of Pregnancy did not constitute a healthy attitude toward sex; I do know that. But I sense the pendulum has swung way too far when ballroom dancing equates with balling anything in sight (forgive me for being crude – but this *is* crude); when not only love, but intimacy has also been eliminated; when making love seems no more consequential than working out. I worry, of course, about disease. (That lecture took, the one that said if you have sex with a guy you’re having sex with all of his former partners, too, all of them. Yuck.) Anyway, mostly my concern is about the relationships that will -- or will not – develop when sex is such a dominant factor. What about love and intimacy and commitment and passion and patience and understanding and gentleness and being there in hard times as well as good? What about it? It still happens, I’m told. Our kids would say (though let me state emphatically that I am not quoting any of mine because they would disown me if I did and might disown me for writing about sex anyway) that getting sex “out of the way” makes space and time for all the other elements important to a relationship, that it’s no longer blown out of proportion as it was for those who were so rigidly celibate, and that I shouldn’t be so hung up on it, because no one else is anymore. They’re probably right. But I can’t help myself. I keep trying to get my arms around contemporary mores, if there is such a thing. The same kid who won’t use her sister’s toothbrush in an emergency will sleep with the next guy she meets in a bar or flirts with at work? And the one after that as well? And all these very sexually active folks will settle down, once they’re married, and be satisfied with monogamy? There’s something that feels not quite right about this and I almost choked on that word “right.” It sounds so prudish and judgmental, so wrong and out-dated. And that’s the rub. We were there, we third-third-ers, at the beginning of the sexual revolution. With birth control pills and abortion rights, we gave birth to it. Could it be that it has now passed me by, over-run my innate sensitivities and made them – and me – culturally obsolete? Does it matter that what I used to think mattered doesn’t matter at all anymore? Which leads me, of course, to wonder what does. That’s the answer I really need to work on – and I’m not sure of it yet. I doubt, however, that those dancers at the “club” have any idea.
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