“Girls’ hair should lie flat, and if it couldn’t, at least stay where it was put. Hers responded to every slight breath of wind or stirring of the air, billowed and streamed, so that around her splendid face was endless motion.”
~ Lynn Sharon Schwartz “The Sunfish and the Mermaid” from the collection Acquainted with the Night
What I notice as I browse short story collections for this month’s theme:
- Most of my collections by a single author are 20 - 30 years old.
- Most of these are awash with love, sex, rejection, desire (ad nauseum).
- I’m no longer interested in their subject matter.
I don’t like TV sex either, and that’s not a non sequitur. Maybe it’s my age: Who cares about all that drama when young people fall in love? And is the media still pushing the idea that lust = love? So one night in the sack and they’re calling each other Darling. I think my judgments on this subject are pretty funny, since my relationship with Hug started with hugs and then I asked her to move in. Really. Pretty much. I’m OK with that—for myself and for anyone else who knows what she knows and acts on it. What I really don’t like is TV sex with naked bodies and lots of slurping noises and moaning and well, you know.
A few years ago, I was at the house of friend whose grown-up and old-enough-to-know-better daughter was assuring me that she had nothing against lesbians (oh, golly! I am so relieved!), but she shuddered about gay men.
Her: I mean, when you think about what they do in bed! [More shudders]
Me: Why would you think about that?
Her: Well, you know—it’s gross!
Me: Seriously, why would you even think about it. Do you think about straight couples having sex?
Her: [silent for a moment] Good point.
She finds something to do in another room and I go on with my conversation with her mother.
The bottom line is this: in the light of day, who wants to think about anyone having sex? Or see it? OK, maybe some people, especially male teens, but most of us have better things to occupy our already under-used brain cells. And I notice this about TV sex: the cameras close up on only the young and beautiful. So I’m streaming NYPD Blue again, loving the stories, and in season 1, David Caruso gets way too much air time, especially his butt. It’s a nice butt, as male butts go, but I don’t need to see it to know he’s ready to get in the shower, and I especially don’t need to see it when he’s making whoopee with the young and beautiful woman, Amy Brenneman. Have you noticed that when Andy Sipowitz finally gets into bed with the middle-aged and beautiful DA, we aren’t assaulted with views of his butt? Why? Because someone on the show deems his butt not-ready-for-prime-time. Or Dennis Franz did the sensible thing and said no.
Reading these dated short stories this month has reminded me of how our interests and relationships with each other and with our books change as we get older. Or at least mine have. Maybe for me it’s a been-there-done-that thing. I am much more interested in how human beings relate to each other, and I love a good book that carries me beyond the known, that opens up mystery and makes me wonder. I love stories that challenge me to consider something new, different, outside my previous realm of understanding. And I don't need a sex scene to do that.
And TV? Same thing: I like a good story that explores human connection. And I’m really glad that David Caruso only lasted one season. I think his butt was the best thing about his acting. Now when Hug and I watch NYPD Blue and we see the lust building, I yell, “TV sex!” and close my eyes until Hug tells me it’s safe to watch again.