LIVING OUT LOUD
by Jordan Ariel © 2001
With the dissolution of my marriage a few years ago, living alone at midlife takeson the pattern of a familiar song, a ditty really, that plays in my head over and over, andover again. This morning, it is a sunny, crisp and windy morning on the streets of SanFrancisco when a thought floats to the surface of my commute to the office: is there atime in every contemporary woman’s life when she wonders if she is a slut? Mycommute is a wonderful ten block, urban walk that includes million-dollar views and asense of order and clarity. Over this past year, I’ve been wearing my skirts shorter andtighter. Today I am cold and distracted.I am a woman of substance and resolve, of history and commitment, a womanwith dreams and responsibility. So I ask: who defines ‘slut’ these days? Is it personal prejudice, a matter of degree, or a matter of definition? A long-time gay male friendrecently called me a slut, and I think he meant it as a compliment. Sex and sexuality areat the heart of our everyday lives. Sexual expression can be joyous, adventurous, athletic – a primal and spiritual way to connect with your own body and those of other human beings. It is a sacred, erotic and humorous language between souls. And yet, in my lateforties, when I figure I could feel lucky to wonder about sluthood, I am also wondering if I am asking the wrong questions.I remember my mother telling me my eighth grade class photo looked slutty. Itwas the early 60s in a conservative public school in a Southern California beachcommunity. I was wearing a floral-patterned matching skirt and jacket and my necklace,with a small gold cross, hung below my bare collarbone. My shoulder-length hair wascarefully tucked behind my ears with a matching headband. I had on large, gold hoopearrings. Black eyeliner framed the adolescent stare in my eyes. I had just survived my parent’s divorce, my father was institutionalized in a mental hospital in the heartland of the country, and my younger brother had started drinking in the bushes.As I tried to navigate the rough waters of a new middle school, I saw thatconfidence came in different packages: football quarterback, cheerleader, drama queen,class president, jock and slut. Most of us that fell in-between were invisible. Being a slutseemed too high a price at the time. So I worked hard and kept to myself.