Archive for the ‘Love’ Category


Love’s Flaming Mattress

January 20, 2013

Love's Flaming Mattress

(Originally published by the late lamented dear departed, February 14, 2007)

No, this isn’t about a desperately trapped person who sets fire to a sleeping spouse. Quite the opposite. It’s about the heat generated in the bedroom, the fire that lights and warms the whole house.

And, I’ve always wanted an excuse to use that title.

The focus here is on being with somebody you have no wish to depart from and every intention of staying with. When a couple is bothered by sex problems, therapists agree that there is usually something else going on. The deterioration starts in some other part of their relationship and then spreads to where it is most unwelcome, namely their sex life. What happens in the daytime affects what happens at night, for sure, and here we have some ideas on how to increase the harmony. But there is a paradox involved, because it’s also useful to separate daily togetherness and amorous encounters even further. First, make the day as good as possible. Then, forget the day.

Commitment is sexy

A brief encounter may be very satisfying for one of the participants, or neither of them, but rarely is it satisfying to both. The main argument against promiscuity is: Great sex takes practice. There’s a reason why dance has so often been a metaphor for sex in fiction, on stage, and in song. It needs conscious teamwork between the two people involved. Like Nureyev and Fonteyn dancing a classical ballet, it takes a lot of practice together to do that beautiful stuff

For instance: as a serial boinker, you have to explain over and over: “If something hurts, I’ll tell you with words. Otherwise, any sound effects can be considered positive.” With a regular partner, you only need to say it once.

Best of all, if you hang out with somebody long enough for the test results to come back, and then stay monogamous, you can ditch the rubbers.

A Degree of Separation

“They sleep in separate rooms” is a cliché code phrase for “They’re not having sex”. Why is that? Why is it taken for granted that a couple must share a bed all night? Many of us can’t wait to grow up, so we can have our own room. Then we get married and find out we still can’t have our own room.

More couples would be a lot happier if they had separate bedrooms and only visited each other to fool around. Each one’s room can be as neat or as messy as they like. If one prefers to read or watch TV, and the other doesn’t, there’s no conflict. If one wants to turn in early, the other one won’t disturb them coming to bed later. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder when you don’t have to hear your partner’s teeth grinding all night. And, as we get older, we don’t look our best in the morning. Some of us would like a chance to pull ourselves together before making an appearance.

It’s Okay to Plan

Whether married or cohabiting, especially if you have kids, forget about that spontaneity crap. Spontaneity is overrated, and sometimes the right time never seems to roll around. So make a date. Arranged sex is not such an outrageous idea. When you were dating, you anticipated getting laid, somewhere between midnight and dawn on Saturday night, right?

Sure, when an opportunity shows up, you can still do the spur-of-the-moment thing. But a date is something to get cleaned up for and look forward to. There’s nothing wrong with that. Scheduled sex is better than none.

Here are a few hints for keeping things good throughout the day.

Live up to Your Campaign Promises

If you advertised yourself as an easy-going, low-maintenance type, that’s what you need to be. In the early stages of this romance, what did you lead your partner to believe would happen, if the two of you got together? What did you say you would do, or not do? If you’ve already screwed up, how did you promise things would be different? What potential difficulties were discussed and taken on? If your togetherness started out with some major issue at its source, and you swore that you could handle it – you need to handle it.

Third Parties

Think twice before taking advice. Your Mom might have told you a person arriving home from work needs a big kiss. Not necessarily. Some people, when they come home from work, need decompression time before they can relate.

One school of thought holds that, for a woman, the secret of a happy marriage is to have a circle of girlfriends. But all too often, the main thing the circle does is sit around and badmouth their men. Once you get caught up in that kind of conversation, it’s difficult to hold back from taking part.

Don’t dis your partner to anybody. You don’t necessarily have to praise the guy – “Woman be wise, keep your mouth shut, don’t advertise your man.” But you certainly don’t have to disparage him to your friends. You don’t call him a pencil-dick, and you don’t proclaim “He’s a two-minute brother.” That’s the ugliest sort of betrayal. When you have a partner, he or she gets your first loyalty and all of it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

And don’t listen to anyone’s opinion about whether your squeeze really loves you. If your friend tells you to divorce the guy because he’s never once brought you flowers – get a different friend. You’re thinking, “Keep the flowers. He gives me foot massages.” But not saying it. Next thing you know, she’ll be trying to break you up for real, so she can have him.

Bring it all back home

Being a nice, helpful guy is swell, but before you do the Mr. Fixit thing all over the block, consider the possibility that it might bother your woman as much as her kissing another man would bother you. When you do some little chore for the neighbor lady, you’re giving your love away. You need to be giving your own lady an awful lot of love before she feels secure in letting some of it go outside. If you like helping others, first make sure everything is fixed up, tuned up, and patched up at home, before looking around for good deeds to do.

Make Up

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is one of the most famous quotations of the past millennium, and one of the most ridiculous. If you did a bad thing, remorse is totally appropriate, but some people are constitutionally incapable of saying “I’m sorry.” (Probably from fear of a scathing riposte, like “You certainly are.”)

So say it a different way. “I know you’re pissed off, but if we could rewind and erase the last hour, I’d appreciate it.” If your partner accepts this as an apology, you’ve just discovered a new meme for your secret language. So tomorrow or next week, when your sweetheart says to you, “I don’t know where my head was at. Can we rewind and erase?” you’ll graciously accept the apologetic spirit behind the words.

After an upset, any gesture toward getting things back on track, even if the problems aren’t resolved, is a repair attempt. It may sound grouchy – “Don’t think I’m giving in. I’m not ready to do it your way. But I shouldn’t have yelled.” That’s a definite repair attempt. Ignore it at your peril.

An apology doesn’t have to be corny, and you don’t have to grovel. Depending on your personal style, you can try something like, “Okay, so I’m an asshole. But I’m YOUR asshole.”

Making-up sex can be sweet – but starting some mess, in order to spark a fight, so you can have reconciliation sex? That’s relationship suicide. Creating discord in the hope that it will lead to making-up sex is an incredibly stupid ploy. And remember, apologies get old pretty quick. No matter how cunningly phrased, they can only take you so far.

The Velvet Drapes

Anyone can be a fabulous lover, without surgery, or potions, or workout sessions, or even monetary expense. It just needs imagination and a slight attitude adjustment. Get a clue from the executive who invented this stress-reliever: at quitting time he exits the office, turns back toward the door, makes a push-away gesture and, to the problems that try to follow him home, issues the command: “Stay.” In the same way, we need to keep the mundane concerns out of our love life.

When you and your lover share amorous quality time, shut the world out. Start with the obvious things: the door is locked against kids, pets, and housemates. The phone will not be heard. And if by chance it is heard, it definitely won’t be answered. But the most important technique for making the world go away originates with the mind.

Envision a particular piece of furniture, one we’ve seen in movies and museums: the old-fashioned four-poster bed with a roof, enclosed by its own curtains. When you lie down with your honey, imagine it’s that kind of bed. Pull those heavy drapes all around so nothing from the world intrudes, and while you’re at it, make them soundproof.

Outside the curtains, you leave the day’s problems, the grudges, the bad attitude, the ideas about what’s masculine and feminine, the hostility, and the past. Inside, the mood might be serious, funny, ritualistic, ribald, or whatever – but the important thing is, everything and everybody else is excluded. Banish negativity, and be paid in electricity!

Shielded by those imaginary curtains, the space within is a sovereign kingdom with two monarchs who make the rules, and no other rules apply. You have nothing to do now except cause each other ecstasy. Put your arms around that one you love. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let it out real slow. You’re with the most important person in your world. Outside the force-field generated by your combined auras, nothing else matters.

This person honors you by granting access to a living, sensate body for the purpose of mutual pleasure. You’re going to part with secrets and share secret parts. That’s enough to fill a universe. Nothing else is welcome. Certainly not the echoes of whatever hassles you had during the day. In bed is not the place to extract payback for domestic quarrels. You can always start fighting again tomorrow.

When you embrace, the world goes away. If this is not your experience, it’s time to learn how to be here now. The art of being fully present in the moment is a rare gift, but it can be cultivated, and even caught from someone else. Get naked and shut up. Let your bodies do the talking, and let them only say nice things.

Love’s Hard Lessons

When two people are together for a long time, some things are inevitable. One or both of you might be prone to intimacy overdose. After a shatteringly wonderful night, your partner may need to draw back and be cool and distant for a few days. It’s just a rhythm, like the tide going in and out. Everything in the universe travels in waves, so ride it out.

What Kind of Love Is This?

Another hard lesson is: love can be difficult to recognize, because we all stubbornly hold on to our opinions about how it’s supposed to be. Like Stewart Emery says, “We have somehow been conditioned to believe that a relationship should look a certain way…..” So we put all our energy into trying to make our thing match up to some blueprint, rather than let it express and support the two unique people we are.

Don’t get some notion in your mind about “If she loved me, she would….” A person will rarely show love in the exact way that you’ve been programmed to want it shown. But if you watch for the ways she shows it in her own “language”, you’ll see plenty.

There’s more to communication than talk. You can tell when a guy is doing something to please you. You can tell when he’s refraining from an action to please you. If he spits tobacco juice into a tin can, rather than on the floor as usual, that’s a gesture of caring. Sometimes, you just have to take them where you find them.

If he says you cook better than his Mom, he’s giving you something more precious than an Academy Award or a Heisman Trophy. When such an accolade comes along, recognize it for what it is – the very highest form of tribute he knows – and appreciate it.

Then if you’re lucky, you can graduate to the bigtime. That’s when you both ask yourself, “Am I loving this person the way I want to be loved, or the way this person wants to be loved? Am I loving this person the way I want to do it, or the way he or she needs it done?”

Magic Simple and Strong

The famous society hostess Elsa Maxwell charmed and delighted everyone who knew her with just three words. When guests showed up, she uttered a heartfelt, “At last.” When they made motions toward leaving, she protested, “Already?” Your partner should feel at least as welcome at your place, or in your mutual home, as Ms. Maxwell’s guests were made to feel.

One expert says a great relationship is characterized by the proportion of 5:1. The five is for positive, nice, nurturing, and pleasant encounters. The one is for negative interactions, fights, etc. As long as there are five pluses to every minus, all systems are go. Positive is anything that shows your affection, sense of humor, appreciation, or respect for your honey. Plus kisses and hugs of course. And foot massages. That ratio extends to your night moves. The sex may not be fantastic every time, but when there’s no more than one “not good” for every five “goods,” you’ll probably be okay.

In one of Pat Brady’s “Rose is Rose” comic strips, the husband kisses the wife “for putting those new pretty pounds on your bottom.” In turn, she exclaims that his “cute little bald spot is getting bigger.” They embrace and think, “When you go with the flow, the current gets stronger.” Or as Werner Erhard put it, the best way to get what you want is to want what you get. If your sweetheart can do that, you are blessed. And never try to argue him or her out of liking something about your body. Take the compliment and zip the lip.

If you can find a way to want what you get, you’re on the path to holding the powers of a shaman. And here’s one last item for the toolkit: treat your loved one as if he or she already is everything you want him or her to be. Figure out how to do that, and love’s mattress will stay aflame for years.


Okay, I’ll Say It: Cougar. Now can we get serious?

December 18, 2009

by Anne Alexander

This “cougar” word is not my favorite contemporary expression, but we seem to be stuck with it. New word, old concept. There have always been older women-younger men pairings. At least one society has specialized in age-mixing, and I can’t even remember what part of the world these folks inhabit, but all the young girls go to old men, and the old women make it with the young boys, teaching them a thing or two. Later, when a youth has earned some status and fortune, he can get a wife closer to his own age. Candidates are abundant, because eventually the old men die off and free up the younger women – who have by then grown to the approximate age of the upcoming men who have acquired enough of what it takes to be entitled to wives.

As if “cougaring” weren’t bad enough, a young man who fools around with an older woman is said to be “tadpoling.” A tadpole is, of course, a developing amphibian, not even a frog yet. My thoughts return to a place they don’t often visit, a certain night in the late 1960s. Tadpoling. Who knew?

Magazine surveys are notoriously unreliable, good for starting conversations and not much else. But in 2003, an article stated that 34% of women between ages 40 and 69, were dating younger men. Of course there are a lot of questions you want to ask. Like, how much younger, on average? Are we talking about Americans only? Or Americans and Canadians? Europeans? What?

In 2004, reported on attitudes toward a large age gap between partners. Apparently they used a 15-year difference as the definition of “large.” Anyway, they supposedly found more men who were willing to date a woman 15 years older, than women willing to date a man 15 years younger.

Naturally, someone arbitrarily made up a formula to determine the acceptable societal norm – the “half-your-age-plus-seven rule.” In other words, for a 30-year-old woman, 15 plus 7 is 22 – so your male friend should not be any younger. For a 50-year-old woman, the lowest acceptable male age would be 25 plus 7, or 32.  Of course, if two age-disparate people stay together for a long time, that would mess up the math. It’s all nonsense anyway. The person who invented this standard – who died and made him God?

When Ben Franklin was 39, he wrote a letter to a friend, offering advice about choosing a mistress: find an older woman. Franklin listed 8 reasons, which are briefly paraphrased here:
Intelligence and better conversation.
They treat you good, because they don’t have beauty to offer.
They don’t get pregnant.
They keep their mouth shut about your liaison.
Since they age from the top down, there’s no difference below the waist.
It’s less sinful than deflowering a virgin.
A young girl can be made miserable by your attentions, but an older woman will be made happy.
He winds up with “8th and lastly. They are so grateful!!!”

More recently, Franklin’s advice has been streamlined into the smart-ass slogan, “They don’t yell, they don’t tell, they don’t swell, and they’re grateful as hell.” Accompanied by a snigger.

Actually, it’s nothing to snigger about. Gratitude is always appropriate, on both sides, and at any age, whenever two people meet to express affection and/or exchange bodily fluids. I’m quoting a man on this – Orson Bean, who wrote about his own journey of liberation. He says a healthy man “is filled with tenderness and caring and concern for his partner at the height of the sex act… and afterwards the feeling is one of love and tenderness and deep gratitude.”

Making love with a compatible partner is something to be grateful for, always, each and every time. It’s a wonderful, positive, perfectly gorgeous thing to do. Or should be. And why on earth would a person ever want to share such an experience with a partner who is anything less than grateful – and gratified?

Just like any other kind of pairing, the main thing to consider is this. To find someone you really vibe with is so rare, it’s stupid to create artificial barriers of any kind.


Cougar Quotations

December 18, 2009

The older man/younger woman dynamic reinforces patriarchal conventions; the older woman/younger man dynamic subverts them.
Hugo Schwyzer

It’s not exactly what you’d call a May-December romance. We’re more like summer and fall. His family would rather see him with some sweet young thing. But there is an important difference between me and the sweet young things: I know how special he is.
Robbie Campbell

“You know, if you were forty years younger…”
Glorianna O’Toole curled her upper lip disdainfully. “Don’t flatter yourself too far,” she said. “If I were forty years younger I wouldn’t look at a kid like you twice!”
Norman Spinrad in Little Heroes

I have finally figured out the rudiments of how to love somebody, too late. There are no men my age, and if there are, they want twenty-two-year-olds to bear their children. Will I ever be able to practice this loving?
Cynthia Heimel

I think men get a HUGE pass on this kind of stuff (just one pass of many that we dames don’t get)…go to a shopping mall, and see some young chick with a guy 20 years her senior, nobody bats an eye, but the reverse? The trouble is, nobody calls a guy a “dirty old man” unless he’s maybe 40 years older than the woman…or girl…With us, 10 years qualifies us as being cougars.
Angelina Orduno

My hubby is 14 years younger than I am….I just happen to enjoy still putting toys on layaway at KMart.
Debbie Shearer Aures

Anybody who wants to screw a sixty-three-year-old woman I wouldn’t wanna screw anyway! Okay? Because they have big problems.
Grace Slick

Women may eroticize youth and vigor in younger men, but they rarely are turned on by displays of ignorance or uncertainty; high-brow Western literature and low-brow pornography are filled with countless examples of men being aroused by much younger women who either “play dumb” — or are the genuine article.
Hugo Schwyzer

“Actually, he’s my boyfriend. My son is slightly older.”
(ad for anti-aging moisturizer treatment)

Most men grow up believing in sex as a favor they have been granted — sex as strategy or currency or power. Therefore, the act itself is full of threat. The older woman typically is indifferent to being dominated or getting something in return. …She is interested not in power but in pleasure.
Paul Theroux


Cougar-themed Movies and Books

November 12, 2009

Cougar Movies
This list comes from Paul Theroux’s 2003 essay, “And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson”

Sunset Boulevard
This Sporting Life
Nothing But The Best
Sweet Bird of Youth
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
A Cold Wind in August
The Last Picture Show
Room at the Top
Fear Eats the Soul
The Gypsy Moths
The Graduate
White Palace
Harold and Maude

Cougar Novels

Prodigal Summer
by Barbara Kingsolver
Three intertwined stories. In “Predators,” Deanna is a 47-year-old forest service worker who has been hiding out from people, including lovers, for a couple of years. The man she gets together with is 28. A 19 year age difference is a considerable gap by most people’s reckoning. In addition, she’s half a head taller. But they have a lovely idyll. “Moth Love” also has a cougar relationship. Lusa gets way too close to letting herself commit an indiscretion with her 17-year-old nephew-in-law. Their discussion of the possibility is beautiful. It’s the kind of talk that’s sexier than a lot of what passes for sex. There’s a third love story too, “Old Chestnuts,” but the man and woman in that one are both elderly, so it’s interesting in a different kind of way.

Palazzo d’oro by Paul Theroux – a really bizarre tale about a young man and a woman he doesn’t realize is so much older.

Babes in the Wood by Ruth Rendall – a violent, predatory, pedophilic cougar woman. Yikes!


painting – Ancient Dream

July 27, 2009

painting by Pat Hartman

Ancient Dream

Ancient Dream

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Long Distance

June 3, 2009

When you know somebody in person, there are a thousand ways to relate. You may smile when they come into the room, remember not to slam the door when they’re sleeping, scratch their back or brush their hair, make their favorite salad dressing, go along to their aunt’s boring birthday party, take turns doing the dishes, bring in the first violets to put on their desk. Maybe you watch the TV show they like, instead of the one you like. If they spill something, you get a rag and help clean it up. You show up on time. You introduce them to a stranger in a way that indicates your pride in being attached to them. You send each other conspiratorial glances about the asshole in the room. You scrape the ice off their windshield. You make love, and remember why all the little aggravations of the day don’t matter. You pretend not to notice when they look like hell first thing in the morning. You take them to the doctor, bring food if they can’t get to the store, and skim the pool so they can have a nice swim. You stand up to the bullies on their behalf. You help them clean their apartment so they can get the deposit back, pick them up when their car breaks down, tell them their fly is unzipped.

On the other hand….. When it’s long distance and the only vehicle to convey anything is talk, words have to carry the whole burden of whatever is going on. Any togetherness, connection, affection, caring, respect, concern there is, the words have to do all the work. There’s a temptation to go way overboard with the words, because there isn’t anything else.

If the words are deceptive and duplicitous, then what’s actually there is nothing. If one person is open and the other is closed, there’s nothing. What’s the point of such a farce? That’s why somebody invented Second Life, and all those other realms where people pretend to be someone else, and everybody knows that they’re all pretending. You invent yourself an avatar, a character who does imaginary things, and relates to the other imaginary characters, and everybody knows it’s all make-believe.

With all those opportunities to play with people who enjoy that kind of thing, why play against those who didn’t sign up for it?

Dedicated to Senor el Tecolote Loco


Love Scene from Steps to Beach #3

April 11, 2009

by Felice Jordan

Still nervous and with a jacket wrapped around her like a cape, Norah paced as freely as Jesse’s small room would allow. He lit a joint and offered it.

“Not now. I’m too paranoid. At the least provocation, I’ll be ready to check into Camarillo. It’s not that I don’t like weaving pot holders, but…”

“Remember,” Jesse interrupted, “crisis equals danger plus opportunity.”

“Opportunity to what? Get my ass shot off? What happened to that woman at the pier, it was meant to happen to me. That innocent bystander who is laid out on a gurney in the emergency room with a slug in her, was supposed to be me. I know I didn’t want a normal nine to five job, but this has gone way beyond the limits of sanity.”

Jesse was on the cot, hoping things might mellow out. He said, “Everything is gonna be all right. We’ll find the kid, you’ll get your twenty grand or whatever. You can retire and start a gourd farm.”

“Or I could join a cult.”

“Funny you should mention that. Did you know I’m starting a cult? One of the requirements is, every day you have to eat a lot of hot fudge sundaes.”

There was no reaction from Norah, who continued to pace. Finally she said, “I suppose it could be worse.”

“Yeah. It could be me.” This didn’t get a laugh either. In search of some distraction, he took up an art book and opened it at random. “Hey, look what I got at the library. How do you like this? She’s a princess of the Este family, by Pisanello. ‘Thought to be Sigismondo’s first wife, Ginevra d’Este, who died in 1440 at the age of twenty-two, quite possibly murdered by Sigismondo.’ I don’t wonder.”

Norah started to cry, and Jesse was sorry he brought it up. Best not to dwell on the subject of murder, he supposed. Quickly, he moved on. “Here’s a nugget of art history for you. When Michelangelo was taking too long on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Pope climbed up there and whacked him with a cane.”

Norah stopped pacing. Jesse got up and went over to her. “Maybe that would help you feel better, a little aggression. You want to hit me? Go ahead. Sorry I don’t have a cane.”

“Oh Jess, don’t be ridiculous. I don’t want to hurt anybody. And I don’t want to get hurt, either. I feel like such a coward.”

“Nothing wrong with that. Seeking pain is stupid. It’s counter-evolutionary. Even an amoeba knows to avoid pain.”

“It’s just all getting to be too much. Next I’ll be finding plutonium in my cold cuts.”

Jesse leered and waggled his crotch at her obscenely. “I got your cold cuts, baby, right here.”

Norah giggled through her tears. He pressed his advantage and put his arms around her.

She balked. “I’m too nervous.”

He persisted in kissing and hugging her, incrementally replacing foolishness with carnal intent, and she began to calm down. Starting at the waist, he ran a finger down the back seam of her jeans. He undid her zipper and slipped his fingers inside the waistband and ran them around to the small of her back where he traced small circles, barely ruffling the little hairs that grew there. Inside Norah, an outrageous amount of heat flared. Jesse moved her to the cot and stripped the jeans and panties from her. He all but ripped his own clothes off and made as if to drastically impale her.

She resisted. “Wait a minute, Speedy. First you got to pre-heat, then you can cook.”

Jesse obligingly changed his pace. Much more gently, he helped her out of her shirt and bra. He coaxed her knees apart and went down on her. It wasn’t something he did often, and Norah figured it was in honor of a special occasion, namely, her having been shot at. She soon realized that what she really wanted was to be totally filled up with Jesse.

“Get inside me. Please.”

Jesse adored being said “please” to in that tone of voice. He brought his cock and set it in place. It moved into her by stages, consideringly, almost reflectively. It reminded her of a cat exploring a new apartment for the first time. Interested yet cautious, eager go on to the next new vista but content to absorb all the details of the present surroundings first. For Norah, the intense full-body firestorm went back into action. Jesse picked up some momentum and got a rhythm going, then another. He experimented around in there, fine-tuning the responses, getting exactly the right color onto the palette. After a while, he slowed into a holding pattern, a kind of intermission.

Norah said, “Do you think you could get off to it, if I moved, and you held still for a while?”

“Could I! All my life I been waiting for a girl who moves.” Jesse stayed where he was, stabilized his limbs, and let Norah grind against him. He could tell when she really got caught up in it, because that was when she slowed down. Her movements against him grew not only slower but lighter, almost insubstantial touches. Then all at once there was an explosion of frenzy. Norah’s head arched way back and she ground her crotch against him with pulverizing force and made a sound half way between a groan and “Ahhhhhh.” He plunged immediately into the abyss. When eventually he stopped moving, they stayed linked. Norah squeezed with her cunt muscles and sent a roaring aftershock through him. Each time she did it, the sensation diminished, and he fell asleep to the continuing rhythm. When he started to snore, Norah rolled him off her and held on with one arm and went to sleep too.


Steps to Beach is an unpublished novel