Last night I came home to one of the five or six brilliant, handsome, rugged albeit sensitive, wildly amusing, incredibly wealthy men I'm currently juggling—let's call him Boyfriend no. 3.
After drawing me a jasmine-scented bath and undressing me right down to my satin and lace La Perla lingerie, he lit 300 candles, surprised me with a simple antique emerald bracelet, and left me to unwind while he took the steamed lobsters out of their shells, put on Marvin Gaye, and sprinkled fresh rose petals over my silk sheets. Après bath he fed me pieces of lobster dipped in melted butter (he insists that I need to put on a few pounds), then carried me to bed, where we kissed for hours before getting down to the kind of soul-shattering sex generally reserved for people going off to war, those Cirque du Soleil acrobats, and Kim Cattrall.
Where did I lose you? Was it the endless kissing, the shelled lobster, or did you catch on much earlier—say, the wealth combined with humor, intellect, and looks? Okay, so here's what really happened last night: I came home, showered till I noticed the water was rust colored, threw on a Detroit Lions football jersey, tried mightily to get the super to come look at my rust-colored water, phoned a friend whose 3-year-old answered and found my request to put Mommy on the line and all subsequent requests to please just hang up absolutely hilarious, thumbed through a Newsweek from last October, paid my phone bill, ate half a cantaloupe, three slices of smoked turkey, and five green olives, worried that the smoked turkey was six days old, prepared to die a horrible death by smoked turkey, paid my Con Ed bill, got bored and hungry waiting for salmonella to overtake me, ate the other cantaloupe half, watched a little Nightline, and went to sleep.
If I'd wanted unbridled passion, it would have meant putting down the olive jar, arranging a direct payment plan for my utility bills, taping Nightline, and hitting the freedom trail. But surely there's some middle ground between transcendent, headboard-melting sex and no sex at all. Or, as my friend Karen asked when she finally noticed her 3-year-old banging the receiver against the coffee table and picked up the phone, "Is this all there is?" It's a question asked by young and old, single and married, rich and poor throughout history. No doubt Cleopatra/Martha Washington/Miss America looked up from their asp/state dinner/Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and bemoaned the lack of quality sex in their lives. So here's what I'm thinking: Good sex is up to us. It's our great good fortune that we each have this amazing built-in capacity for genuine, death-defying pleasure—and we must take charge of it.
In a perfect world men would simply show up at your front door with emerald bracelets and rose petals; in this world they don't even show up when you call them because your shower is doing something weird. Rule no. 1 is this: If you want a lover, you need to leave your apartment. Now, the beauty of my plan is that you don't have to put on your highest heels and go hang out at a sports bar, a lumberyard, or wherever it is that large groups of men tend to congregate. All you have to do is remember the words of the late, great John Lennon: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." My friend Ellen decided to take a walk one Saturday morning and ended up madly in love with someone who spent two hours helping her rescue a stray dog. She now has a great partner and a dachshund named Sherman. Form a book club, go skiing, take a wine appreciation course, a karate class, learn guitar, Italian, have dinner with friends. Join the world.
Next: It's time to take matters into your own hands
But Lisa, you ask, what if I live in Manhattan, where you can do that and more, and still go four years without a sexual encounter? Then, my friends, it's time to take matters into your own hands. Forget about the mind; I'm here to tell you, the clitoris is a terrible thing to waste. If, between the job, the kids, the parents, the houseplants, and the dry cleaner's, you don't have time to create some semblance of a sex life, I say make time. Not only will your productivity at work improve, you'll have a lot more patience for your kids, and your dry cleaner will come to think of you as his perkiest customer. If, on the other hand, the problem is that you're not acquainted with your clitoris, let me suggest you get yourself a little privacy and a smart book. The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex, by Cathy Winks and Anne Semans, contains page after page of clear-eyed wisdom, and Satisfaction, by none other than actress Kim Cattrall and her husband, Mark Levinson, is explicit without being icky. Do some reading, have a look around, and then start learning exactly what feels good. Are you partial to direct pressure, light rhythmic strokes, or some combination of the two? Is there a particular angle you respond to? Do you prefer your legs straight or bent? The point is to know your body. For one thing, you'll burn a few calories; for another, if you don't understand what it takes to bring yourself to orgasm, then you can't really expect anyone else to. By the way, if you've yet to experience an orgasm, I say forget the guitar lessons and invest in a copy of For Yourself, by sex therapist Lonnie Barbach. She teaches a number of techniques that (with practice) will help you learn to climax. If the notion of getting in touch with yourself on a regular basis seems a bit daunting, consider this: While women are busy cutting themselves off from their bodies, feeling bad about being too droopy, too flat, too gangly, too round, too curvy, too straight, too much, and not nearly enough, it's come to my attention that men are not getting together over Diet Cokes to ask, "Dude, is this outfit making my butt look big?" Evidently they haven't been trained to torture themselves with fears that their hips are too wide or their stomachs aren't perfectly taut—maybe they were too busy learning it's not okay for boys to cry during Old Yeller to develop crippling body-image issues—but rumor has it they simply allow themselves to slip into their fantasy of choice and release a few endorphins. All in all, not a bad plan.
For the record, I'll take flannel sheets over silk any day of the week, rose petals make my eyes itchy, and I consider long baths incredibly tedious. I do, however, find sex—not the slick MTV kind but the exuberant, klutzy, tender, funny, fiery, mystical, adventurous, creative kind—endlessly fascinating. I'm not sure what love's got to do with it, but I believe "like" helps a lot and lust is essential. I don't have all the answers, but there are myriad pleasure activists out there who believe there's something to be said for just asking a few questions and showing up for the big dance. Good luck, and get busy.