My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I enjoyed the frank discussion of her past and her struggle with mid-life crisis. I also liked her struggle with what she felt was the cause of her youthful promiscuity. But the part I found most compelling was chapter 21 On Victimhood, where she provides a short albeit brutally honest analysis of her desires, her discomfort at being a woman, and her deep need for sex:
But there’s a deeper truth as well: I’m still freaked out (still!) simply by being a woman. I dress butch; I can barely stand to put on a skirt. It makes me feel like I’m in drag. The trappings of womanhood embarrass me utterly. At the same time I’m riven by my outsize sex drive. I hate being a woman, and yet I yearn to be fucked as a woman. I yearn to be dominated by a figure of incontestable authority, who will make me become what I never wanted to be: a woman. I don’t know how make myself a woman; you do it for me.
Dederer, Claire. Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning (p. 222). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I have by comparison had a rather tame and by modern standards a rather boring sexual life. Prior to marriage I had rare, unsatisfying, and mostly drunken sexual encounters, which I would now prefer never happened...even rare as they were. With my wife I found a deeply satisfying sexual relationship that is tightly intertwined with our love for each other like the snakes on a caduceus. We have been together for 43 years and married for almost 41 so boring or not I think we did something right. Yet I take none of this for granted. Sex is something that I contemplate a great deal about and I have often thought about this notion of the dominant male and submissive female, and as such, it is what I found so compelling in the above quote. Always fearing a lack of sexual equality, I prefer to think of this in softer terms than dominant and submissive, although good words seem to evade me. Yin and yang I think is closer to the truth. Perhaps penetrative and receptive. But my observation especially in our younger and more spry days, is that love making may have started out with me dominating her but it ended with the roles reversed where I was hanging on for dear life, having my back pounded and scratched, and often trying to keep from descending into helpless giggles over the pure fury of it. While my orgasms have always been paltry affairs, my wife's are these Wagnerian throes of gotterdammerung where the skies roar with thunder and lightening and the Earth rends and threatens to swallow us live. It is a magnificent gift from a Divine Feminine Goddess to mortal man. Boring? I don't think so.
The other aspect that I have observed, especially in long sessions of afternoon delight is that there comes a point where the borders of male and female, dominant and submissive, and even lust falls away and we become innocent genderless children involved in a very serious form of play.
So I enjoyed Dederer's thoughts and her ability to put them into meaningful words. It made me think of my own life and what sex has meant to my wife and I. All that said though, I am a bit disappointed with the book. Sex seems to be something that is removed from love for Dederer. I am sure she loves her husband and she acknowledges they have sex. But they seem to be two separate functions, or maybe I missed something. But for my wife and I, we make love, we don't fuck. It is just a matter of semantics? The sentimentality of old age? Perhaps, but while I can objectively call it sex, coitus, copulation, fucking...emotionally when I think of her and not so much of the act, no, it is love making. Sweet and perhaps a bit violent--but wonderfully so.
I also enjoyed Dederer's prelude to this book, an article she wrote in The Atlantic:
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