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Sex Invisible


In the age of pixels and videos, airbrushed ads and billboards, sex sells, but only
glamourous sex, only the sex of youth and beauty. Let’s be honest, we live in a world where no one wants to see ‘mature sex.’ In fact, in our visually oriented lives, sex and age are not words that compliment each other. Sex between people over forty is something best kept out of sight, out of mind. When viewing scantily clothed people, we want them to be attractive. When reading a sexy novel, the characters we see in our imaginations are fit, lean and beautiful when they sweat and writhe and frolic with one another. Bottom line – visible sex is for the thirty and under crowd. For anyone much older than that, invisible sex is the standard.

 

Sexual invisibility definitely applies for anyone over forty, especially women. And that’s not necessarily bad. While sexually invisible, we might be, if anything, we have more sexual freedom and fewer inhibitions than those who are younger. A great deal of the more relaxed attitude we have toward sex is because of that invisibility. Sex and youth and the biology that drives us are meant to preen and flaunt, attract and arouse. The survival of the species depends on it. Even though these days it’s less about procreation and more about recreation than it was for our cave dwelling ancestors, the biology is still there. And the truth is that after a certain age, our sexuality becomes irrelevant. If we’re planning to do our part in guaranteeing the next generation, we’ve already done the deed. Tick that box and move on. At that point, our sexuality becomes whatever we’re willing to make of it.

 

In a share group about female sexuality I sat in on once, several things became very evident. For younger women there was far more stress around having sex, far more pressure to be having it often and far more pressure to be seen as sexual and attractive. Among those of us over forty, there was a quiet confidence. There was a sense of adventure that had less to do with the need to be thought of as ‘doing it right’ than just the need to enjoy the hard-earned freedom that comes from our experiences. While for the younger crowd, attraction is a key ingredient, whether it’s the upkeep of the ‘lady garden’ or the best way to display the package, for the older, been-there-done-that-crowd, it was more about creative sex and the sexual self at the centre of our own journeys.  There was less to stress about, there was a subdued sense of anticipation.

 

I can only speak from my own experiences and observations. If I’m honest, it’s possible that some of my comments may come from a tiny bit of sour grapes at wondering why the age of young and beautiful sex passed me by so quickly. But speaking for myself, whether visible and beautiful or invisible and raunchy, sex is a far deeper component of who I am that I ever could have imagined when I was twenty and the world was new to me. The many layers of sexuality have become more obvious and more important now that I’m well past forty. The stunning connection between sex and creativity, between sex and the timeless wild woman who lives at the core of me is a brave new world to be explored without the stress of finding a partner and being sexual eye candy. The discovery of just how far beneath the skin my sexuality actually goes is an endless adventure, explored as much through the avenue of my writing as through the physical act. In fact one deepens the other. Even the sexual explorations with a partner become less about looks and more about something that goes core deep, something a lot freer, something we feel far less of a need to control. In many ways, it’s our naughty little secret that people who are past the age of beautiful sex can be horny and filthy and fuck like rabbits. Who knew? And in truth, no one really wants to know unless they’re over forty. And then that naughty little secret becomes a much-needed lifeline to something powerful enough to move us past the loss of youth and beauty into the exciting new world beyond.

 

Perhaps the very best thing about sex invisible is that the pressure is off. What we do or don’t do in bed is all right by us. Fewer things embarrass us, fewer things frighten us, fewer things worry us. That alone can’t help but improve ones sex life.

 

In some ways I think my writing reflects my own sexual journey. Most of my characters are at the sexually beautiful age because that’s the kind of story that sells. But the stories I write have moved from the skin to skin of the physical act to the whole body, three dimensional experience of the sensual act, the mental and emotional act the personal act that all add up to the total package of our sexuality. I suppose a big part of that has to do with my endless fascination with what actually makes sex so damn magical? Why is it the thing that intrigues us most about being human, while at the same time the thing that frightens us most?

How deep our sexuality goes into our human nature becomes more visible with
experience, and experience comes with age. While it’s the air brushed, waxed well coiffed and fit sex, the visible sex of youth and beauty we want to see and read about and imagine, it’s a far bigger picture of the Self we reach when our sexuality is allowed to guide us through middle age and beyond. While we may pine for youth and beauty, we’d never want to give up the depth of sexual experience, of life experience that leads us to sex invisible and the secret smiles that maybe don’t drive story and don’t sell perfume, but sure as hell make life sizzle long past middle age.

 

 

Instant Replay

When I lived in Croatia a hundred years ago, I spent three weeks every summer camping on the Adriatic near Pula. At the campsite where I stayed, there was a small store and a restaurant that had live music every night. There were several buildings with showers and toilets. That was the extent of the place.

 

One of the shower blocks not far, from where I set up my tent, was a narrow concrete pre-fab with a row of cubicles, each containing a shower, each with a door leading right out onto the main path through the camp. One year one of the six cubicles was missing a door. That meant more congestion for the remaining shower units, which were in high demand in August. There was almost always a queue.

 

Early one evening on my way back from the grocery store, I noticed two very fit German blokes I’d seen wind surfing earlier in the day queuing for the shower, but they got tired of waiting, so they stripped off their Speedos and waltzed right on in to the cubicle without the door.

 

I happened to be with a friend who was a bit more prudish than I, and she averted her eyes and dragged me away in a huff, me nearly breaking my neck for one last glance over my shoulder at naked, wet maleness. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. What I saw was fleeting. But what I imagined – over and over and over again – was most definitely not!

 

Sometimes it takes nothing more than an image to capture our imaginations, to inspire us. An image can inspire us because once we’ve seen it, processed it – especially if it’s a little scenario like mine with the shower and the naked wind surfers, our glorious, super-high-tech instant replay brains take over. Not only can we replay that image over and over again, but we can change it simply by imaging what might have happened IF … It’s were our fantasies come from, it’s where a writer’s story ideas come from, it’s built-in entertainment.

 

My voyeuristic encounter at the showers stands out to me as outrageously erotic, and yet nothing happened. Two blokes got tired of waiting in queue for the shower, probably anxious to get to dinner and a cold beer, so they chose to shower in full view of hundreds of people they didn’t know, hundreds of people who would never see them again. BUT, they were wrong, I’ve seen them countless times in my imagination – sometimes sun bleached and golden in the late afternoon light, sometimes dark, tattooed and dangerous just before dusk, beckoning me to come join them, speaking softly to me in German — words I don’t understand, though I completely get their meaning. I know exactly what those boys want, as they leer at me and I leer right back. Well, in my imagination at least.

 

In some of those instant replays, I meet them on the beach at midnight to share a bottle of wine and a naked swim in the warm moonlit waters. In some of those instant replays, I shoo my prudish friend back to her tent, then strip off shamelessly and join them, letting them soap me and rinse me and protect me with their naked, glistening bodies from gaping onlookers. In other versions, they come to the shower late at night when everyone else is asleep, and only I’m there to watch them lather and bathe each other, thorough in their efforts to get clean, more thorough in their efforts to relieve the tensions of the day.

 

Our delicious instant replay allows us to rewind, slo-mo, enhance, zoom in on any part of any experience or image that catches their fancy, and then enjoy it a second or even a 50th time around. We can take that experience and totally change it if we choose. We do it all the time; in our heads, we rewrite the ending of an interview that didn’t go so well or an argument with a lover so that we can take back what we wish we hadn’t said. Sometimes we imagine what would have happened next if things had been allowed to unfold to the end, if I had been allowed to linger a little longer in front of the showers. In fact, we can be really neurotic about it, playing the same scenes over and over and obsessing on them, for good or for ill.

 

Writers are especially adept at using this instant replay to inspire, to arouse, to tease out and focus on details we might otherwise have missed, details that might have totally intrigued us the first time around, even details that weren’t really there. Then we write those details into whole new scenarios, sometimes even whole novels.

I know, I know! It’s all a part of memory. Anyone can hit the ole instant replay button at any time and experience the

past all over again. We all do that. But there’s nothing ordinary about the ability to relive our experiences and imagine ourselves in a different life – perhaps even as different people who make a different decision; perhaps the decision to strip off and shower with the German wind-surfers. The creative process of a writer quite often depends on the exploitation of that instant replay button. I can’t think of anything I’ve written that isn’t grounded in some way, no matter how miniscule, in my recalling of an experience, my reimagining of a moment, or my reworking of an image that intrigues me. In a very real sense, we are what we write as we wind back the video in the editing room of our brain and hit replay, then hit slo-mo, then zoom in real nice and tight-like so that we can enhance and recreate every detail to tell a brand new story.

 

Procrastination for Fun and Order

I sat in a coffee shop for over an hour yesterday, and I wasn’t writing. I was reading a novel and eating raspberry lemon
drizzle cake. I had only two items to pick up at the supermarket, but I wandered up and down every isle. I took a long walk in the crisp November sunshine. We don’t get a lot of sunshine in the UK in November. I vacuumed the living room carpet … I mean really vacuumed the living room carpet — you know what I mean – even behind the furniture. I dusted too. I lingered in a decadent bubbly bath until I was I was waterlogged and wrinkled. I drank more coffee and read more novel. The one thing I didn’t do yesterday was anything writing related.

 

The whole drawn-out process of not doing what I’m supposed to be doing got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, there are times when not doing what I should is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. There are times when I feel overwhelmed by the weight of what needs to be done. I woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago feeling that sense of panic, tossing and turning with my heart racing. And then it hit me, a Eureka moment. While all those things may need to be done – writing related and otherwise – I’m not going to get any of them done at two o’clock in the morning lying in bed angsting over them.

 

There’s no magic formula to ordering our world, though there certainly are enough books, websites, Facebook and Pinterest pages that would lead us to believe otherwise. While it is possible I might be just saying that because my life is messy and not well ordered, the truth is that all I have, all any of us has is this moment. And I would be the last person to say planning isn’t important, Believe me, I’m majorly anal about a lot of things. But I am slowly and painfully coming to the conclusion that what happens in the moment, what that moment leads to, where it might take me is far more important than a well-ordered world. I know, I know … spoken like a person whose world isn’t in any kind of order, right?

 

In the roller coaster ride that’s been my writing career so far, I’ve noticed something very important, though it certainly took me awhile. The times I’ve been most controlling, most tunnel-visioned about my work, the times when deadlines have kept me tossing and turning at night, the times when the need to produce has kept me from seeing the November sunshine right outside my window, are far less productive than the grinding joyless amount of effort I put into them would suggest. I don’t get those moments back – ever. Creativity should never be mistaken for productivity, and productivity is so very often a misnomer. Can I really call work accomplished “being productive” if it’s cheerless, drudgery?

 

It seems to me that if I am to be both productive and creative, if I am to sleep soundly at night and avoid those two am panic attacks, then I’ve got to find balance. Sometimes that balance involves doing nothing in particular. Sometimes that balance involves just being. And guess what I’ve discovered? Stuff gets done, even when I’m procrastinating. Stuff gets done. My living room looks great! And time for reading, well that’s always a treasure. Today I write. Today my head is clear and my inside world feels very well ordered indeed. All because of a little procrastination.

 

Writing Retreat

It’s hard to believe that my first novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly, has been out seven years. I remember well that first
decent royalty check and the decision I made to celebrate with my own private writer’s retreat. I did the research, decided I didn’t want to travel too far or spend too much, and I didn’t want to go to a place like the Lake District, where I would rather walk than write. I chose the lovely Portland Cottage in Lyme Regis down on the Jurassic Coast. For those of you who don’t know, the place has a rich literary history, being the setting for John Fowles’ book, and the film, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures, and others.

 

The flat at Portland Cottage had gorgeous views and room for me to spread out, write, read, sprawl, pace and oh yes, the best part, a lovely tub for inspirational bubble baths. And the town itself was a total delight. I could walk on the beach, explore the village and let my Muse guide me until late afternoon, then it was back to Portland Cottage to write until I got too sleepy to continue. I’d sleep in a room with a sea view and listen to the tawny owls call, then wake up to the sun rising over Golden Cap, and start all over again.

 

I managed 35,000 words that first year, and even more important, I learned that a writer’s retreat – a private one — not one where it’s more about workshopping and socializing, but one with just me and space to write and think, was an invaluable tool worth every single pound I spent.

For the next six years, I made that yearly pilgrimage in late September or early October to Lyme Regis and Portland Cottage, and every year I managed massive word counts, fantastic walks, glorious inspiration, and came back home feeling refreshed. The lion share of seven of my novels has been written at my writer’s retreats, and they have become a non-negotiable part of my writing year.

 

I’m writing this before I leave for my 2017 writer’s retreat, because I will have my head down writing hard by the time you read this. Sadly I won’t be doing it at Portland Cottage this year. The flat has been sold on as a private residence. Happily, I’m doing it from a lovely flat in Zagreb Croatia just off Maksimir Park. You’ll hear all about that when I get back home.

 

For me going to Zagreb for my sacrosanct writing week is not only a new beginning, but a reclaiming of a place I lived in long ago, a place I loved. The story of why it has taken me so long to reclaim this wonderful place is one for another time, but let’s just say even though I write this before I’m actually there, I fully expect to accomplish a lot and to be totally inspired. I have a sneaking suspicion I might meet old friend there and maybe make some new ones too.

 

For me, it’s a time of new beginnings, and as difficult as it is to let go of the old familiar, as frightening as it can be to
move forward, it’s essential for growth. Certainly it’s crucial for creativity. As I write this post, I’m anticipating what this next week will bring. As you read this post, I will be embracing another new beginning and moving forward in my own creative journey. I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get back home.

 

P.S. Be sure to check Facebook. I might just pop a few piccies on from time to time.

 

Permission to Write Badly

 

(From the Archives)

I’ve done NaNoWriMo often enough now and finished it that I know the value of giving myself permission to write badly. Permission to write badly is permission to FINISH a project and not get bogged down in the first four chapters. Right now I’m working on the rewrite of Piloting Fury, last November’s NaNoWriMo project, and my first ever scifi. I don’t mind saying I’m rather proud of it, but I wouldn’t have finished the first draft if I hadn’t given myself permission to just loosen my collar and let the words flow. Below is a post I wrote several years ago that seems very relevant every time I begin a final draft. Permission to write badly is always the reason I have a final draft to finish.

 

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of writing lately and what makes it work. Why is it that sometimes it flows and other times it just doesn’t? The first time I realised I might be able to exert some control over that flow, that I might be able to do more than sit in front of a keyboard and hope the Muse would take pity on me, was when I read Natalie Goldberg’s classic book, Writing Down the Bones. There I discovered the timed writing. It’s simple really. You write non-stop for a given amount of time. You write against the clock, and you don’t stop writing until time runs out. No matter what! You write whatever comes without fretting over whether it’ll be good. And when you’re done, some of the end result – even a good bit of the end result – might be crap. But mixed in with that crap might just be the seeds of something wonderful.

At the time I felt like I’d been asked to write with my left hand. Even writing for five minutes seemed like a daunting task when I made my first attempts. But Natalie Goldberg knew what she was talking about. I was amazed at what came out of the abyss between my ears! It was only after I read Writing Down the Bones that I began to write real stories. So why did one book make such a difference?

I finally had something I lacked in the past, something very important. I had permission to write badly. Every writer needs permission to write badly. Later Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist Way, called those off-the-cuff, devil-may-care writings morning pages, and she prescribed three morning pages every day – written without forethought; written in haste. From a fiction writer’s perspective, she didn’t give them the weight that Natalie Goldberg did. They were only a part of a plan to open the reader to the artist within. To her, they were more about venting, sort of a daily house-cleaning for the brain. In addition to morning pages, Cameron insisted that every creative person should give themselves what she called an artist date once a week. An artist date was a date with oneself away from writing.

I can’t count the number of times I stood myself up for my artist dates. I would have broken up with me long ago if I were actually dating me. But then I realised that an artist date didn’t have to be dinner and dancing or shopping or even visiting a museum. An artist date was a change of pace. It could even be ironing or weeding the garden. In fact the whole point of the artist date was to create space in which I could disengage the internal editor and give myself permission to write badly.

 

 

So many of us are under the impression that every word we write must be precious and worth its weight in gold. What I’ve learned since I discovered the pleasure of writing badly is that on the first draft, every word is most definitely not precious. On the first draft, every word is a crazy frivolous experiment. Every word is a chance to test the waters, to play in the mud, to let my hair loose and run dancing and screaming through the literary streets. Every word is a game and an adventure. Every word is eating ice cream with sprinkles for the main course. Every word is shit; every word is compost, and every word is the ground out of which the next draft will grow. I never know what’ll work until I try it. I never know what my unconscious will come up with while I’m writing like a wild crazy person, grabbing words and cramming them in and rushing on to the next ones – just after I’ve pulled the weeds in the garden. Without that bold and daring first draft, without opening the floodgates and letting the words spill onto the page, there’s nothing to work with when the next draft comes. And when the next draft comes, the words do get precious. Every single one becomes weighty and irritable and reluctant to fit anywhere but the place it belongs, the place where I feel it just below my sternum like the point of an accusing finger.

But by the time I get to the second draft, by the time I get to that place where every word has to be perfect, I’m up for it. I’m ready to slow down and feel what every word means. I’m ready to find all the nuance and all the cracks and crevices of meaning in between the words. I’m ready for it because I’ve been playing up until now, and I’ve been allowing the words to play. And now, recess is over!

The longer I write, the more I realise what else, besides Natalie Goldberg’s timed writings and Julia Cameron’s reluctant artist dates, get me there. And what gets me there is often totally being somewhere else, somewhere other than writing. Sometimes it’s playing the piano badly, or sweating at the gym, or weeding the veg patch. Sometimes it’s walking through the woodland not thinking about anything, Sometimes it’s reading something frivolous. Sometimes it’s reading something profound. All the space that taking time not to write opens up inside me makes room for that wild ride of the first draft. And when that first draft is finished, I have what I need to pick and choose, to sort through and sift, to change and rearrange until I find the best way to tell my tale. But up until then, it’s child’s play. It’s dancing naked. It’s shameless abandon and multiple verbal orgasms.

Writing badly? Permission granted.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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