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LIVING OUT LOUD

LIVING OUT LOUD

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Published by jordan ariel
Story of a late 40something, newly single, bisexual woman trying to find her way as she explores the meaning of the word 'slut' over the course of her life.
Story of a late 40something, newly single, bisexual woman trying to find her way as she explores the meaning of the word 'slut' over the course of her life.

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Published by: jordan ariel on Nov 24, 2009
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10/16/2012

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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.
 
Later in high school, being a slut looked more attractive. The school had brokenwith tradition and elected a slut for homecoming queen. It was 1969 and sex waschanging. Everyone was thinking about it, a few were doing it and everyone talked aboutit. Not me: I wasn’t even dating. I was still on the outskirts trying to survive the ravagesof adolescent insecurity. I turned instead to writing poetry and dreaming of the perfectromance, the perfect boyfriend. My walls were filled with magazine collages of romanticinterludes. I listened endlessly to ballads of unrequited and lost love. Waiting untilcollege for the perfect boyfriend seemed appropriate.In college, the sexual revolution was in full force. There were no sluts. Virgins,like myself, kept quiet about it. It took me a full hour of heavy petting and hemming-and-hawing with the first man I really loved before I could admit I was a virgin.“My God, Anna,” Dan said, sweetly restraining laughter, “I thought maybe youwere dying of cancer, and just didn’t know how to tell me.” Dan was a Vietnam Vet, a poet, and an aspiring film critic. He now had a mission: candles surrounded the mattresson the floor of his small bedroom. Rose petals were artfully thrown over clean, whitesheets. It was a beautiful invitation. We sweetly ended my long wait into a sexual identityof sorts. I was nineteen.Dan and I split up after a few years because I wanted more. More college, a newcity, more of everything. The country moved into the glory of the women’s movementand I found it harder to find emotional peers in my men friends and sexual partners. Ifound myself attracted to women – our bodies fit, we were warm and comforting.Women’s hearts resounded with acceptance for me and our intellectual rigor took newheights in a very exciting time. I had found family, a village, my own tribe, and it feltlike home.Fast-forward twenty years: the village grew so large it was no longer a village.People left the tribe on individual quests. My ten-year marriage to a woman hadcrumbled. My adopted daughter from an earlier relationship was finishing high schooland experiencing her own struggles with her sexuality. I was living alone in a desert of solitude and still, finding strength, wisdom and freedom. The world had changed a lot inmy growing up. As I looked around, all things physical aroused me and I wasn’t afraid. I
 
was only afraid of what people would think. Or was I? And so I began my journey intomid-life slut potential.Early in the year, I attended a weeklong business seminar on a dude ranch inArizona. There was a good-looking, conflicted man in his mid-forties in the group, aRepublican with three kids. After too many tequila shots, he told me he thought he had asex addiction problem like our then-president Bill. Later, in the hot tub, I entertained being his fix for this business trip but decided against it. We saw the sun rise together andeach of us went to our own dwelling. Depth of character is easier to spot as we get older and getting to the point is faster. It turns out, Mr. Conflicted is a beautiful writer and wehave shared our own unique loneliness and search for truth over e-mail. We talk aboutsettling for the familiar pattern of our own lives. We talk about getting together when weare in the same city on business.Some months later when I was in Manhattan, again on business, I wrapped myarms around a beautiful young 27-year old man while riding behind him on hismotorcycle. We met the previous day on a plane in DC, which had been grounded for three hours during a magnificent lightning storm. As my hair and the light rain blewaround me on that glorious Spring Sunday, I could nearly taste the verdant cherry blossoms that filled Central Park. I felt profoundly alive. Our schedules never allowed usto act on a mutual physical interest, but when at home, I found myself wondering whathad actually happened. We now flirt a little on e-mail. He has a volleyball tournamenthere in the Bay Area soon, and I’m wondering if we will see each other. I am wonderingif there will be anything to say.Last week I invited a young man to my home for dinner. He is nearly thirty, wework in the same office, and we have had several sexual liaisons over the last fewmonths. Discreet at work, we e-mail on and off – sometimes several a day. Since I don’treally talk about him to anyone, I haven’t had to find the language. Lover is not accurate – we haven’t allowed ourselves that privilege. Sexual partner might work – like dance partner – but the image of getting tapped on the shoulder every few dances makes thatone unpalatable. Friend is maybe more accurate, but enduring friendship seems unlikelytoo. He is eighteen years younger and we share very few mutual interests. What he doesto me, though, can’t be explained. There is an athleticism of youth, an illicit lure, a

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