Thursday, July 28, 2011

talkin bout the old folks too

69-year-old DJ Ruth Flowers starts her set with O FORTUNA. How sick is that??? Someone please invite this fierce beast to Transformus to camp with us at IHOP.

When the phrase "the last taboo" caught my eye in an internet article recently, my interest was piqued. In this ever-changing world in which we live in*, what could possibly qualify as the last taboo? Incest? Torture? Stirrup pants?

No. It's sex among the elderly. This according to Dr. Virginia Sadock, professor of psychiatry and director of the Program of Human Sexuality at New York University.

Pfft. "That," I thought, "is the least scandalous scandal ever." Shouldn't we all be so lucky to remain sexually active into our twilight years? How could something like geriatric sexology take the crown for a dubious distinction like "the last taboo?"

So I decided to engage in some hard-hitting journalism and go straight to a reliable first-hand account. It seems that a dear friend of mine, who is octogenarian and FABULOUS, has had the very same subject on her mind recently. She gave me the following account of living the last taboo:

Ten years ago I found my last sweetheart in the old folks exercise class at the "Y." I was 69 and he was 71, and we started a hot sex life that has endured for 10 years. The only problem is we aged as we reached 80 and 82, which has put a crimp in our hot sex. We figured it was all over at first. However, we still have desire and keep our once-a-week date which we both look forward to. We cuddle and kiss a lot until we head for the bed and continue kissing and caressing and manually pleasing each other. There's no penetration but we both feel satisfaction and lots of affection. And we've discovered "back scratching" is sort of an aphrodisiac and a wonderful aperitif after making love. (The gorillas obviously were onto the "back scratching" too.) Then we have coffee and watch "Family Guy." And laugh a lot....[Her boyfriend] and I still can't keep our hands off each other after 10 years! The taboo is all in our heads.

Admit it. You're clutching your pearls.

But why?? Why are we so squicky about the idea of older people remaining sexually active? Is it a vestige of our Judeo-Christian notion that non-procreative sex is verboten? Or is it just a symptom of the rampant ageism in our culture?

When I have big squishy questions like this about sex and religion and the Western tradition, I turn to my dear friend and fellow Nashvillian Julia, who is working on a PhD in theology and women, gender and sexuality (aka Sex and God) at Harvard. And we gchat about it have a Platonic dialogue.

Julia: i think generally speaking sex is structurally normative, as in: there are powerful political, cultural, social, etc. forces that structure the sexual and sexualized body as heteronormative, meaning: YOUNG, straight, able-bodied, etc. many of our prejudices about what an able body is, in fact, have to do with its sexual capabilities.
me: WHOA so true
Julia: what is an "impotent" body?
me: if someone is disabled, one of the first questions that arises in the brain: can they still have sex?
we have very similar prejudices about the aged body

So it seems that it's both--that our ageism is wrapped up in our idea of the heteronormative sexualized body. WHOA. Leave it to a Harvardian to blow your mind.

So what does this all mean? Sure, geriatric sex is a taboo. What does it matter?

Here's how it matters. 26% of the American population belongs to the aging Baby Boomers generation. Among them, 87% of married men and 89% of married women in the 60-64 age range are sexually active. Among Americans over 80, 29% of men and 25% of women still engage in sexual activity. That means we're looking at millions and millions of sexually active elderly folks in the coming years.

That part isn't the problem. The problem is that our cultural taboo related to geriatric sex creates an inability to acknowledge the phenomenon in any meaningful way. Sexual support and sexual health care for the elderly is severely lacking. STD rates among the elderly are out of control. Just like abstinence-only education for teens leads to skyrocketing teen pregnancy rates, lack of sexual support among the elderly can lead to the spread of STDs and other public health issues. And, according to another of my many Nashvillian friends pursuing higher education with an emphasis in sexuality:

"When you combine lack of knowledge with lack of resources, you get gonorhyphallis."
--Lanier B., sex educator extraordinaire

And nobody wants that.

So what can we do to avoid this public health crisis? Start here: don't be afraid to talk to the elderly folks in your life about sexual health. You're bound to learn something interesting from them, and maybe they'll learn something important from you. I mean, Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was in her 70s. It's never too late to learn new tricks.

*apologies to Sir Paul McCartney

Discussion Question:
Talk about how awesome you will be when you hit your golden years. Will you rock DJ sets with Ruth Flowers in Paris, or simply enjoy postcoital viewings of Family Guy with your hot boyfriend/girlfriend?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

where everybody knows your name

When it gets to "Wouldn't you like to get away?" I totally lose it

I grew up watching Cheers with my dad on what seemed like a nightly basis. Despite the fact that I was, say, 24 months old and had very little in common with a cast of New England barflies, I loved Cheers. I still think it's one of the great sitcoms of all time.

I think it's my lifelong love of Cheers that's kept me searching for a place where everybody knows my name.

I went home to Tennessee recently to visit my family, and I made more than one trip to my favorite watering hole, The Pond. The Pond is a fine drinking establishment in Franklin, owned by the wonderful Eddie Martin and his son Justin, fellow Grassland General and Franklin Rebel. It opened nearly a decade ago, and just in the nick of time for my friends and me to start turning 21. Everyone used to hang out at Waffle House in high school, but you can't smoke there anymore and they don't warm up your coffee after you've been there awhile, so everyone started convening at The Pond instead.

One particular day, I settled down belly up to the bar with my bff Emily and a big ol Shock Top to listen to one of Eddie's signature stories. Eddie can weave a story like you can't believe. Dewar's and cigars, snakes and warm concrete, and even a cameo from the good people at Grumpy's Bail Bonds (believe me, that link is worth clicking). Everyone was spellbound--when they weren't cackling.

Amid the laughter, patrons started to file in one by one. At least a dozen people. By the time each one got to the bar from the door, their favorite drink was already waiting on the bar for them before they'd said a word. Eddie never missed a single beat of his story.

That's the beauty of a small town: recognition.

It's hard to get used to living in a big, impersonal city. There's a constant desire just to be recognized.

But I've found one little place to call my own here in Cambridge: Andy's Diner.

My dear Julia introduced me to Andy's, which sits just between my office and my apartment. There's nothing too fancy about Andy's. But the food is fantastic, and the vibe is utterly unpretentious, which is pretty uncommon in these parts. Julia and I started going for lunch on Fridays when I first started my job. We'd share a plate of fries and suck giant Diet Cokes and rattle the windows with our peals of laughter.

It wasn't long before I invited JSJ, who invited Sarah, and then...

it kind of became a thing. PANCAKE FRIDAY.

We mob the place every Friday afternoon, and Kelly and Carol, with the patience of saints, bring us pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches and excellent stories and sometimes Carol puts her cold hands on my neck to make me squeal.

l to r: Carol, me, Kelly

So here's to Eddie, Carol, Kelly, and all of the customer service people in this world who go above and beyond in their jobs to shine a little bit of light into the darkness.

Discussion question:
Do you ever just wanna go where everybody knows your name?