Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Groove Myth (August 2008)

I’ll admit it. Sometimes I blame my physical shape on the pregnancies. But in reality, I know my butt was this size well before I ever got knocked up. The c-section muffin top is new, but not the belly. I’ve always had a belly. I secretly loved my pregnant body because pregnancy is the only time a big belly is considered an asset. That gorgeous belly was tight, round, and ripe in those days. Bare in yoga class, peeking from maternity tank tops on the beach. It was a good look for me, and over too soon.

Now the pregnancy phase is over and I’m left with this heap of a late-30something postpartum body that’s actually only slightly looser and heavier than before. But the body image thing doesn’t concern me much. Clothes still look good on me. I can still touch my toes.

No, the big body change that’s been the hardest to accept is the complete overhaul in sexual functionality. My youngest will be two in December and I’ve yet to get my groove back – that is, I haven’t gotten it back in its pre-baby condition.

That’s not to say we’ve been celibate around here. There are numerous workarounds for my ebbing desire and patchy orgasmability, and Mr. Black has been more than game. Quantity hasn’t suffered much (considering we’ve got two little ones running around). Even quality has been perfectly cromulent. It’s just…well…this is not the sex of our twenties.

Sometimes it’s more like the sex of our teens: leaping for the brief window of opportunity when the house is ours, freezing at the slightest noise fearing all might be lost, prizing completion over leisureliness. Sometimes it’s total “business time” efficiency: scheduled beforehand, cutting into our usual Stewart/Colbert-and-snack time, sending us both to sleep before we’ve even post-cuddled. And sometimes, very rarely, the planets align and it’s blissfully reminiscent of the days when we had little else to do but lavish adoration on each other.

Or is that really what it was like in those days? Perhaps I’m romanticizing my pre-baby sex life, just like I’ve done with my pre-baby body.

Sex may have been more plentiful and energetic in those days, but when I was single it wasn’t exactly flawless either. It didn’t always function according to my expectations. It didn’t always match my partner’s enthusiasm or abilities. Even my special “skills” were more like parlor games, done less for my own enjoyment than to impress the partner. There were times when even my orgasms were more for their benefit.

I’m not going to rationalize it to the point where postpartum married sex looks like a party compared to those days. But I will say…much of the carefree-single-days sex was just as perfunctory, just as disappointing, and ended without a man in my kitchen making me gazpacho the next night. I’m just sayin’.

No, what’s missing in my life now isn’t the sex. It’s the sense of possibility. The anticipation. The yearning. The rush of pure delight when you realize you could take this cute guy home tonight! I have easily as many fond memories of flirtatious eyes across the bar as I have memories of whatever happened later that night. Some of my most sweetly remembered relationships are ones that were never consummated. Lust that could have been fulfilled but wasn’t, for whatever reason, just swims in the body through the shoulders, heart, stomach, racing like ice-water through my veins to the point where actual sex would be overstating it. You don’t see that too much in a married relationship.

Although…he is pretty damn cute feeding the cat right now. And even though our relationship has outgrown the sense mystery and yearning, there’s also a strong sense of it in our past if we bother to remember it. This is the guy who swept me off my feet at a friend’s party. This is the guy I cried on my kitchen floor for when he moved to Seattle. This is the guy who welcomed me to join him there, taking me simultaneously to new levels of adventure and commitment in my life.

The physical component of my sex-slump is temporary, I know. Once the baby is completely weaned, I’ll get my mojo back just like I did with my oldest. But this time it won’t be muddled with more attempts to conceive, miscarriages, or pregnancies. (We are definitely complete as a family of four.) Before too long, our youngest will be sleeping more soundly through the night. And if family history is any indication, I won’t have to worry about the big Change for another ten years or so. Things are looking up.

As for the intangible component…the absence of yearning? Well…we’ll always have Paris. Or Philadelphia, as the case may be. Mr. Black and I have grown and changed so much together, and this is all a part of it. We’ll never be new to each other again. We’ll never be unattainable. We’re free to take each other for granted, and sometimes we do. But we’re still in love. We’re still good friends, still deeply meaningful in each other’s lives. That’s got to count for something.

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