What to Do When a Man’s Sex Drive Flags?
Do new nonsexual things together. Take up a new hobby, try a new cuisine, ride a roller coaster.
The Wall Street Journal
As I entered the gates of Six Flags Over New England in beautiful Agawam, Massachusetts, I had no idea what surprise my wife had in store for me. She said she’d be a little late, and that I should meet her at the ticket booth to the “Doomsday Express,” which I was having a hard time processing. She’d always hated scary amusement park attractions, and would frequently send our sons links to news stories about accidents resulting in death and dismemberment on carnival rides. “See?” she’d say in the white space above the tale of a gruesome catastrophe, “Maybe mom knows best after all.” People always say they hate to say they told you so, but they say the check is in the mail too.
We’ve hit a bumpy patch lately, both of us busy with our lives, and my guess–and hope–is that she’s trying to jump-start our relationship by throwing me off guard in some way. The amusement park has got to be a diversionary tactic–a head fake. She’ll show up with a really nice picnic basket from Crate & Barrel with a crisp Vouvray and lobster salad sandwiches, and we’ll spend the afternoon poking a stick at the dying embers of our love life.
I see her approach but, instead of a picnic basket, she’s got several containers of take-out food and a large album in her hands–somewhat out of character, as she usually works on her scrapbook in front of the fireplace, so she can destroy any photos of her youthful self that she finds too unflattering to preserve.
“Hi there!” I call out and rush to help her. “What’s all this?” I say, half-feigning surprise because I knew she wouldn’t arrive empty-handed.
“I don’t want to eat amusement park food.”
“You don’t?” I say, with sincere disappointment. Some of my happiest culinary memories involve Prono-Pups, a/k/a “corn dogs”–I would devour as a boy on the grounds of the Missouri State Fair.
“No, all that salt and grease. Here–take this,” she says as she hands me the album and we sit down on a bench.
“What is this?”
“The food, or the book?”
“I don’t know,” she says, somewhat evasively. “We haven’t had a ‘conjugal visit’ for a long time, so I thought maybe philately and spicy food would put us in the mood.”
I bristle emphatically, hoping to convey to her that whatever sick sex trick she has in mind, I’m not interested. “I don’t care what your artsy friends are into,” I say, drawing myself to my full 5’10”–and shrinking!–height. “There are still sodomy laws on the books here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, even if they aren’t enforced.”
She looks at my as if I’m daft–perceptive woman–then she figures out my perplexity. “Philately isn’t some weird sex thing that was considered perverse just a few years ago but which now deserves not just your tolerance but full-fledged advocacy according to a major political party,” she says breathlessly, and I have to say I’m impressed at the amount of public policy she’s packed between those punctuation marks. “Philately is a fun hobby for both old and young that includes the collection and appreciation of postage stamps, our little mucilage-backed buddies in the upper-right hand corner of the envelopes we love to send and receive.”
“So . . . an activity that doesn’t involve licking anything?”
“Absolutely not! If you lick a stamp it loses much of its value to collectors.”
“Well, you’re the expert, I was a numismatist when I was a kid.”
“I thought you were raised Catholic.”
“No–coin collector. I still get all misty-eyed remembering the crazy conspiracy theories of my youth about the supposed Communist hammer-and-sickle symbol on the Kennedy half dollar.”
“Was that the subject of your prize-losing oration?” she asked.
“You’re conflating two speeches,” I said, using a high-falutin’ term I picked up from either The New Yorker or Grit. “One was ‘Values: American vs. Communist’ and the other was ‘Did Lee Harvey Oswald Act Alone?'”
“I thought there was something about drugs and space aliens in there too.”
“You have been paying attention!” I said with no small amount of spousal gratification. “There was also ‘UFOs–Friends or Foes?’ and ‘LSD: Insight–or Insanity?'”
“You really were a Renaissance Boy weren’t you?”
“That was my goal, but I was born six hundred years too late. So what kind of take-out did you get?”
“Freedonian? But . . . that’s a fictional country.”
“I know, but you’re always writing about it on that stupid . . . I mean on your ‘blog,’ so I found a place that actually makes it.”
I kissed her on the forehead, the way I did in 9th grade to Pam McAlister–a girl who for all I knew pulled wings off flies. It’s a way to show affection that is deeper than sexual attraction–in case you’re into that kind of thing.
“So . . . what’s the inspiration for all this ceremony?” I asked as we began to chow down on the cardamom fritters, weasel steaks and sticky eggplant buns that are so popular among Freedonians.
She lowered her eyelids in what I took to be a display of modesty, then she looked up at me through those beautiful blue contact lenses she wears. I detected a tear in her eyes–then she spoke over a lump in her throat.
“Do you . . . still love me?” she asked.
“Of course I do. Why do you ask?”
She looked down again. “Sometimes, you don’t seem . . . interested in me any more.”
I put my arms around her and hugged her tenderly, with as much heartfelt sincerity as I was capable of. Chicks dig that sort of thing. “So this crazy combination of a hobby, and weird food . . .”
“Don’t forget the roller coaster.”
“It was your idea of a way to re-kindle our love life?”
“It actually wasn’t my idea.”
“One of your girlfriends came up with this cockamie cocktail of erotic stimulation?”
“No, it was The Wall Street Journal.”
“The ‘Daily Diary of the American Dream.'”
“That’s the one.”
“But I thought you just read that for the earnings reports, and the Mansion section on Friday, and ‘Life & Arts’ in the weekend edition.”
“Apparently they’ve gone into the romantic advice business now too.”
I emitted a little snort, and became flush in the face. I remembered all those article pitches I’d sent to the Journal over the years on a wide variety of political and artistic topics–ranging in tone from serious to whimsical–only to get the same withering put-down email rejection. “I wish they’d done this years ago,” I said.
“My love life is the one thing I’m the world’s leading expert on.”