Excerpt from Prime
Dear Dr. Pepper,
I am a single woman, divorced after 23 years of marriage, with my kids off to college. Ideally, I would like to have a serious relationship, but if that isn't around the corner, I still want sex and companionship. I find myself in a world of chat-room hookups, cyber-matchmaking, and coconut-flavored glow-in-the-dark condoms. I feel as sexually alive as I did when I was 25, but the number and availability of men for me has changed. How do I look for a life partner and enjoy sexual adventures along the way? Oh, yes, and did I mention that I really enjoy sex?
A Single Sexologist in Seattle
After three decades of answering people's questions about their emotional, sexual, and romantic lives, after writing numerous books on sex and relationships, after thirty-five years as a professor of sociology at the University of Washington, you would think I could come up with an easy answer to my own question. The situation was at least humorous and in no small part ironic.
I had plenty of good advice for women in my situation based on solid scientific research. But I had not always followed what I knew to be the best course since my own divorce. Still, I am five years older than when I left my husband, and I think a wiser person than the woman who reentered the singles scene after almost a quarter of a century as a married woman.
Here I am on a teak lounge chair, west of Kuta Beach on Bali, which is one of the most romantic islands on earth. I am thinking about what I want out of my life and from men. Bali is my muse for this reverie and she never ceases to inspire me. This is an island that celebrates the senses. Hospitality and massage are honed to fine arts. Perhaps most important, the island is enduringly attractive and easy to live on, at least in part because it's a place where a single woman can feel safe strolling the beaches and villages. I can even banter and flirt with local men of all ages and not worry that anything unwanted is going to happen.
On this island, if my last two trips here were any indication, I will soon find myself in a place I rarely get to spend much my time—the reflective, contemplative present. I'm usually speeding through life, juggling appointments, putting out fires, and scheduling for the near and far future. The prospect of trimming away all of that for a while is exciting.
My friend interrupts my soul-searching.
"Enjoying the guide book?" asks the tall, trim man with salt-and-pepper hair.
Dom has returned from his postlunch stroll down the beach. He is a welcome break from my what am I doing with my life? train of thought. Dominic is in the top tier of my favorite traveling companions. When I told him I needed support for the book I was writing, he suggested that he was the man for the job. I agreed and he signed up to accompany me to Bali for two weeks while I finished it. My first thought as I look at him striding toward me is that he has come to get me to take a walk with him. That's usually fun since we are quite the sight together: He is about six-foot-four and I don't quite reach five feet. But Dom is worried that I have been rushing around too much and he is on a program to slow me down.
"It's so good to finally be here at the same time," Dom says. He looks rested and tan, and I can see that his week on Bali prior to my arrival has been calming and rejuvenating.
"I'm going to get us some cold water. I'll be right back," Dom says. "I want you to enjoy this peaceful afternoon and just unwind after your long flight. By tomorrow you'll feel fantastic."
"Relaxing is going to be easy," I say. "I think counting waves would be a fine activity for today. I've had my head down, eyes on the finish line for this book for a little too long. It's got to be done by September, but I can see the end and I'm less nervous now."
"Well, it looks like you have the perfect afternoon. Just remember you have your appointment for the four-hand massage at Antique Spa at four thirty. And I want a full report on what those two men actually do."
I laugh at Dom's alternate mothering and voyeurism. "Hey, Dom, if I ever forget I have an appointment for two guys to work on my body, just shoot me right then! Anyhow, I promise to reveal all over our sunset drink."
Dom turns to me, sporting a mischievous grin. "And Pepper, please promise me you will tuck away your laptop, cell phone, and Blackberry and just unwind for a few hours, okay?"
I smile. Dom knows me well.
My tall friend heads up to the vendor stands. The sun is high in the sky and I return to my Bali guidebook, shifting my chair a bit so I catch some shade. I turn to a page Dom has bookmarked for me about typical travelers' dos and don'ts. A special warning for women catches my eye. The guidebook cautions "female tourists in the beach town of Kuta (Koo-tah)" need to be on the alert for a special breed of gigolo called a "Kuta cowboy." I laugh. I find it humorous that the author is worried about…
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