Benign Sexuality

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I am probably addicted to If you can see any harm to that, please let me know. I’m actually pretty comfortable with it. I mean, yeah, it’s nerdy. But trust me, it beats some of the other potential addictions I keep zipped up tight. If repression begets chewed fingernails, too much peanut butter, and an inordinate number of visits to an academic Web site, I’m doing just fine.   

Which leads me to my title, unfortunately, as I will now be eyed suspiciously in the grocery store. This term, benign sexuality, flooded my head the other day after a cute session of verbal banter with a male other than my husband. In the past, these encounters usually leave me with a nice spring in my step. But this time, I felt deflated. Old. No, more than old … benign. I’ve used this word in other contexts, so to confirm the use in this case, I looked it up on my new favorite web site. Benign: having little or no detrimental effect; harmless. And then, sexuality: sexual character or potency. Yep, there was how I felt in an e-nutshell. 

Upon further ridiculous analysis of this encounter and resulting deflation, I admitted to myself that I’m more uncomfortable with aging than I realized. FINE … I’ll swallow that horse pill. But gosh darn it! There are certain generally flirtatious people out there who are just plain dangerous to those of us with fragile egos. 

Thank gawd I live in Richmond. My in-laws live in Atlanta, often referred to as Hotlanta. During our last visit, I picked up a copy of Atlanta magazine and started paging through. I think I discovered the real meaning behind the nickname. Every other advertisement was for plastic surgery! If all those women’s vaginas have been youthfully rejuvenated, there’s a really good chance Atlanta is burning to the ground for the second time. Here in Richmond, the only public place we can say the word vagina is in the doctor’s office, and even then, you’d better be at your Ob/Gyn. Most of the time that decorum feels limiting, but in this case, halleluiah! Because if pressure to perfect was that blatant, I’d be the first marketing victim in line at the plastic surgeon’s office. My children would grow up to tell stories to their shocked therapists about their mother spending all their college funds in order to surgically hike her buttocks up to her expensive hair extensions.

But back to those idiots with a wink and a smile for everyone they meet. These people have learned the art of flattery. Nine times out of ten, they aren’t trying to run the bases with you. They are being nice. They are being friendly. (That is unless you look like Jennifer Aniston does at forty. If that’s the case, then stop reading this now and frankly, you can kiss my proverbial grits. Because those of us who’ve been flirted with like a little old lady in her finest Easter wear are in too much pain to play nice.)

I know I’m not hitting a chord with everyone. There are women out there who are comfortable with aging and don’t have a vain bone in their body. Balanced, satisfied women do exist, and I admire them greatly. I’m just not one of them. I’m turning forty this year, and although I’ve heard forty is the new thirty … my leg veins aren’t getting the message. Feeling foxy would take a miracle in the form of George Clooney pinching my ass. But even then … sigh. I’d imagine my husband would be waiting right around the corner to slip him some cash. I get it. There are all sorts of lasers and surgeries to aid a sad sort like me into Grandmahood, but I’m determined to suffer first. I’m quite proud to say I feel philosophically torn. I want to alter my brain, not my boobs! I want to evolve into someone whose beauty comes from inner peace, not frequent visits to a dermatologist. Blah, blah, blah. Here’s the deal. I suffer from a horrible condition called Insecure Extroversion Syndrome, (IES), and it’s just a matter of time before my ego sends me crashing through the rational walls my soul keeps trying to form. Sound familiar? I give you full permission to use it with your loved ones. “Honey, you know I suffer from IES …” Maybe the confused sympathy they feel will buy you more time to belabor your every social encounter. I mean, if it’s a condition, then you deserve flowers or something.

So as I do the dance of doubt each night after my battered bladder wakes me from my colorful life as a Conquering Seductress, you flirtatious fools take heed. Leave those of us teetering on the emotional high wire of our middle years alone to concentrate on trying to age with grace. We don’t need that kind of charity. Either keep your generally flirtatious nature to yourselves, or better yet, contribute to our plastic surgery funds. That might keep us happy for awhile …


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