Sunday, June 20, 2010
My “Free Fall” readings and especially the discussions afterward remind me of pajama parties.
A combination of things contributes to this post-reading — shall we call it ambience? — including the type of book I’ve just published, the make-up of the audience, and the wonderful way readings in local libraries and independent bookstores are warm and intimate. It almost can’t be helped. For now, though, I’m leaving my actual pajamas at home.
Case in point: the reading at Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport last Thursday night.
After reading for 15 minutes, which is about as long as people really want to sit quietly on aluminum chairs and listen attentively, I stop and grope a bit for a few remarks that reference what I’ve just read. I do this to give people time to exit their passive listening state, send a little blood to their glutes, and allow their questions to percolate up to consciousness.
On Thursday we talked about the fact that we don’t talk about this stuff (i.e. sex). Then we launched in, beginning with anecdotes — older friends and relatives who are in their 70s and 80s and enjoying burgeoning love affairs. Said one woman, “She’s so giddy, like a schoolgirl.”
Yes indeed. Good sex can be a little like speed: you can’t stop talking, your smile pulses “Hello there!” and everyone comments on your luminosity, you lose 50 pounds and your desire to complain. You drink wine, burn candles and suddenly notice the spectrum of colors in sunsets. What you need to watch out for, however, is the tendency to run on empty for days and weeks. When you emerge from this hormonally induced state, you’ll probably be exhausted. The older you are, the harder this is for your body to handle. You won’t care.
We talk a little more about passion, available to anyone at any age, and more join in. A sensitive issue comes up: What about married people for whom sex is not necessarily as exciting? Not only is the sex not new, but the two main players know what irks and what riles — death to passion, really. Are we to leave this out of the discussion? The book is about passion but the discussion leads to maintenance issues or, worse, ‘working’ at the sexual relationship. Oh please, I caution myself, never make this part ‘work.’
I point to Jim — I call him Exhibit A these days — and he smiles on cue. “We’ve been at this for three years now. We make adjustments, as well, to honor the sexual part of the relationship we discovered late in life. We’ve talked about this. We like sex and want it to last. Thank goodness for candles and martinis and date night.”
And, I think to myself, thank goodness for Jim. For here is another thing: Paying homage to your loved ones so they can hear you is essential. As Jim once said to me, “Almost nothing is as seductive as being adored.” Tell each other what you really like about him or her and make sure some of the items on your list have to do with their sexuality and the ways they turn you on.
Jabberwocky Bookshop is special. Owner Sue Little has set aside a room set for readings. It’s large enough to accommodate 50 or more people, but the chairs seem to wrap around like a circle. I like the feel of the conversation that comes to the fore here in the green room, as it’s called. People freely associate. One thought leads to another. One question prompts the next. I don’t have anything to teach here; the role I take on is that of writer with info. Because I’ve written a book that touches on gender issues, sex, career and power, mental illness, passion, creativity and more, I can at least share what I’ve learned from writing, thinking and talking about these issues with other people.
So we talked. It felt intimate, friendly, curious, open. In the same ways being a journalist allows me into other people’s lives with the probing and personal questions I sometimes have to ask, writing and publishing a book give me access. Access like this is a gift. Here, in this dedicated room, people pull up their chairs and speak. We compare notes. We share intimate thoughts. Guess what? You’re never too old for a pajama party. Books are like pajamas, I guess. They open the way to deeper conversation.