*** Warning: This post contains some adult content. ***
|Photo courtesy of stockfreeimages.com|
I met my husband almost nine years ago, before law school (and well before law school debt). At the beginning of our relationship, I was at the tail end of my college career and didn’t really have a care in the world.
Sex was easy. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights were spent out at the bars with friends, and then we’d stumble home after post-bar time pizza or burgers (“hangover sponges” as we called them). Even drunk and full of greasy, toxic waste, we’d still find a way to get it on. I recall one time, after an all day pub crawl, I was freezing cold when my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I got home, so I jumped into the shower with my clothes on. The water warmed me up and – possibly feeling inspired by a foreign film I’d recently seen at the independent cinema near campus (was it the bathtub scene in The Dreamers?) – I jumped into bed, wet clothes still on, and we proceeded to have one of the hottest sexual encounters I can remember. I recall different positions, scattered bottles of lube, and waking up wearing his tee-shirt and my high heels from the night before.
A couple years later when I started law school, our freewheelin’ sex life slowed down as I became more concerned about grades, summer internships, and the parol evidence rule. My taste in movies and books changed, too. During undergrad, I was into foreign films and I gobbled up anything from the Everyman’s Library. In law school, on the other hand, the stack of books on my nightstand collected dust and I didn’t even blink when I walked past the independent cinema on my way to the library to study Evidence instead. I rationalized these changes in my life as the natural transition from the “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” years of a liberal arts education, to the “get a haircut and find a real job” philosophy of professional school. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to graduate so life would be less stressful and I could get back to being the real me, a person who loved art, literature and politics. Oh, and plenty of sex.
I thought the persona I had to put on in law school was just temporary. Sort of a bandage I wore while growing a thicker skin underneath in preparation for the challenges of a litigation career. I promised my then-fiancéthat once I got a job and had a more regular schedule, the old, sexy me would surely return. We could go back to watching dirty movies on a (somewhat) regular basis and jokingly contemplating a potential threesome in Vegas someday. The frigid woman staring back at me in the mirror who dressed like a penguin during her summer internships (black suit, white shirt) would someday be a distant memory.
But that woman didn’t go away. Instead, her colorless wardrobe only expanded. I remember going shopping with one of my non-lawyer girlfriends one day to buy shoes. I put on a pair of shiny red pumps and posed in front of a full-length mirror.
“Wow, you look hot!” My girlfriend marveled. “You need to get those.”
“Mmmm…” I replied, studying my reflection while my heart grew heavy. I could never buy them. Who would take me seriously wearing shoes like that? I bought some sensible, thick-heeled, black clods instead.
I also gained seven pounds, which didn’t exactly make me feel sexy. I tried going to the gym as often as I did pre-law career, but I didn’t have the strength to log as many hours on the treadmill as I used to. I also ate lunch at my desk, which consisted of a lot of sandwiches. Too many carbs and not enough movement equaled extra poundage that made me feel bloated and old. I longed for my college days, when I could eat a bag of chocolate chip cookies for lunch and then go run ten miles to make up for it. ‘Twas a simpler time indeed.
The frequency of sex with my husband dwindled to about once a month, and I resigned myself to the ostensible realities of life in the “real world.” Less sex, bigger clothes, and no art in sight. Sex, health, and creative expression had become aspirational, and I only had time for the practical (deadlines, clients, and keeping the partners happy during a shaky economy).
The nadir of my sexless anxiety/depression phase came on a weekend when I was to travel a couple hundred miles for a friend’s baby shower. That Friday afternoon, a sentencing hearing went rather badly, and I needed to just veg for a while when I got home. My husband and I drank wine and watched a movie called Two Lovers. I watched Gwyneth Paltrow’s character dance, have sex, and seduce Joaquin Phoenix, while heaviness gripped my heart again like that day in the shoe store with my girlfriend. It wasn’t that I admired the actions of Gwyneth Paltrow’s character. I admired the fact that she still got to make mistakes, a luxury most attorneys feel they cannot afford. Like the red shoes, sex and fun were distractions that had no place in my life as a lawyer.
Early Saturday morning, I drove to my girlfriend’s shower and was greeted by her parents. I’ve known them since I was a kid, and I consider them to be the mom and dad I never had. Her father asked me how I was doing.
“Ok, I guess. I had kind of a rough week.” I looked down and took a sip of the beer I’d been handed shortly after walking in the door.
“A rough week? Isn’t that what you said the last time I saw you?” His brow furrowed in concern.
“Did I?” God, my misery was actually getting repetitive. “I guess that’s the life of a lawyer.” I laughed and tried to think of something more positive to say about my life, but I couldn’t. Instead, I gushed about how great the nursery was looking.
After I quit law, I thought I’d immediately bounce back and reclaim my sexuality once again, but it didn’t happen right away. At first, I felt lost and depressed, and missed having an impressive job title to shield me from having to explain the emptiness of my existence to the people in my life. I began thinking defeatist thoughts, too. The fact was, I was starting to look like a middle-aged mom, although I was only 32 and had no children. Maybe I was just doomed to becoming overweight and sexless. Maybe each year, I’d put on five or ten pounds. Maybe eventually I’d become a shapeless blob who looked the other way when her husband frequented strip clubs and internet chat rooms in a desperate attempt to hold onto sex in whatever limited form he could.
And then eventually, I began to think more about what I wanted for my future. I realized that since I had very little to be anxious about anymore (no more deadlines looming over my head, no more clients and partners demanding the impossible), I now had everything to be anxious about. After all, we only have so much time on this earth. I’d already wasted six years of it in law. I couldn’t waste anymore.
So I started reading again, and exercising. My body started looking more like its pre-law condition, and I decided to make sex more of a priority. I could finally afford to, since most of my days ended by six o’clock and I could leave work at work. I found that when you don’t have a job title that gives you an entire identity, you start to cultivate an actual personality, and you care more about maintaining important relationships.
I also started thinking about all the dreams I had when I was a naïve undergrad. Maybe I’ll never realize all of them, but wouldn’t it be silly not to try? Maybe I’ll never become a real writer. Maybe my husband and I will never be as care-free as we once were. Maybe rock star sex is a thing of the past. But dammit, why go gently into that good night? Why not write a book, even if it is terrible? Why not stay out late on Saturday night and make a few memories? Why not try new things sexually, even if it’s no longer effortless?
I ordered a copy of The Dreamers the other day. I know it wasn’t in the budget, but it was fairly cheap, and I think it will ultimately be good for me. It’s possible that I’ll watch it again and wonder what I ever saw in it. Or maybe the theme of the movie - the inevitable loss of youth and idealism that happens to all of us – will make me sad. But it’s also possible that I’ll watch it and wake up the next morning wearing nothing but my husband’s tee-shirt and a pair of shiny red heels.
There’s only one way to find out.
*** Warning: This video, and the movie itself, are wildly inappropriate for anyone, but especially those under 18.***