It takes the kind of courage needed to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to live out loud. The truth is, we’re all at risk of becoming The Scarlet’s Letter's Hester Prynne. If people knew what we did behind our closed bedroom doors or in private sex clubs that exist in every state in the nation, we can be pretty sure that there’d be hell to pay. Anyone who’s been outed knows the stakes: lose a job, get booted from the PTA, and worse, publicly shamed.
I know whereof I speak on this one. I outed myself. I figured what was there to be ashamed of exactly. That I was happier? A better wife and mother when I finally unearthed my deeply buried sexuality? Yeah, well ... I penned a funny memoir of my midlife coming of sexual age for a well regarded, crunchy granola, squeaky clean publishing house. They knew exactly what I was trying to say: I am "Everywoman," with two kids, a 30-year-old marriage, money problems and my mother. That I could dive into the “sexual underground,” find out that I, a powerhouse of a CEO, really liked the freedom I found in “surrender” and l could get home in time to cook dinner and have quality family time. I found healing on my journey, and I wanted to share it with the world.
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Not everybody found my journey or my determination to tell it in my memoir Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner amusing. A lot of things most people fear will happen if they open up, happened. I lost my job. I lost some friends. I had my first anxiety attack. Some people called me names.
When a man recently asked me about the consequences of coming clean, the color drained from his face and he whispered, “It’s my worst nightmare.”
I set him straight. Yeah it was awful for a while. But I found new friends, reinvented my career, my family stayed intact and I’m content in ways I could never have imagined. I stopped hating myself. I love the sexually confident woman I’ve become. I love how that has infused everything I do with a joy I didn’t know I possessed. So there. I also told him thousands of people contacted me and called my bravery inspiring. They asked me for advice. I began to run private retreats just for women. I’ve become a how-to maven on being a fully integrated human being. “Don’t worry so much,” I told him. “There’s a giant community of like souls out there. You just have to know where to look.”
We're permitted to express fascination with Shades of Grey but not the story of a real woman who reaches for desire and fulfills it without destroying her marriage or sending her kids into long term therapy. We can't seem to get morning television to cover any real people trying to figure this out, unless of course it's a big political or Hollywood scandal.
The closest we come to real people trying to figure this out is a quasi-freak show called Strange Sex on The Learning Channel. Isn't it fascinating that a farmer and his wife in the Midwest going to a sex club is “strange sex”?
I don't see an end to our cultural compulsion to talk endlessly about the "naughty and dirty parts" of sex. Until we stop telling ourselves lies about what we desire, and that it's okay if we are lucky enough to get it. We are going to keep pointing fingers and covertly lapping up the tales of the sexual renegades, fictional or real.
Let me be unequivocal: there is nothing politically correct or expected about sexuality. There are mainstream people out there, just like me, who are living the stories that we know people devour when we call it make believe. Because if it was “real” then what?
What if we could live sexually integrated lives? What if we could have all kinds of marriages and still be good people? What if we didn't even need a partner to learn how to use sexuality in our lives as a life force energy?
I know what it is to finally become an integrated woman and live to my full potential. I want that for all people. We’ve got the science. We’ve got the social theory and the countless talking heads. We’ve got the porn, the novels and the cable television series. We’ve got everything except real live people to identify with.
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You know what I mean; people like me. A wife, mother, professional, who is a size 12 and just turned fifty. I also like to wear a lot of Eileen Fisher. I’m that woman. What about you?