FICTION: My Etceteras

I’m ninety-four years old and people often ask me how it feels to be my age. What they are really asking is how does it feel to be ancient. Well, luckily I have all my faculties and so I can still think for myself and I’m still in charge of my body so I can tie my own shoes if I need to. Of course I get around more slowly and I do a lot less than I used to, but in our crazy bustling world, is that really so bad?

People assume that because I’m so old I no longer have sexual feelings. Many women my age who are friends of mine don’t. The juices dry up and the desire goes away. This is not so for me. I still think about sex. You might be thinking that what I really want is to have my hand held or to be hugged. You’re wrong. What I think about is sexual intercourse. And I think about someone going down on me and me going down on them. I don’t have the energy or the inspiration to find someone to do this with anymore, but my point here is that I haven’t forgotten, that I’m still human, and that I still have needs on the physical realm. I hope this never goes away.

My husband died decades ago. We had a bad sex life. I didn’t feel cared for or listened to regarding sex, or much else to tell you the truth. There were two of us in the bed, but we occupied separate worlds. What I needed was for him to ask me what I wanted and to do his best to please me. I wanted to be treasured but he assumed that what was good for him was good for me. He assumed that what he liked I liked. You might be asking me why I didn’t speak up, why I didn’t make my needs known. I did, but it didn’t change anything. I suppose all of this is rather vague. Let me be more specific and tell you exactly what I’m talking about.

But first, you need to know I was a virgin when I got married. I was twenty-two years old. Women were courted by men and expected to be virgins on their wedding day. Men were expected to have experience so they could teach their wives about sex. But they didn’t go to school to lean about a woman’s body. They didn’t know about the clitoris any more than we women did. I had no idea I had anything down there but a tube the pee came out of and a rectum for the other stuff. Where did babies come from? I’d never really thought about it. Maybe I assumed they came out of the urethra. Or maybe I didn’t think about it at all.

My husband was not the right man for me. We had little to talk about besides the children. We were sexually incompatible. He liked missionary-style intercourse and that was it. Once he ejaculated, be fell asleep. In minutes, he’d be snoring. I would lay awake next to him, unfulfilled and resentful. I liked him being inside of me, but it didn’t bring me to a climax. When I would ask him to touch me, once in awhile he would, but only through my underwear. He didn’t, of course, like oral sex. I started hating my body, thinking there was something wrong with me. I was ugly. I was undesirable. Isn’t it interesting how we women do this to ourselves?

After awhile, I realized that our sex life was written in stone. It would never change. If I was going to find satisfaction, I would have to look outside of my marriage. Now, we are all used to hearing about men having extramarital affairs, but little is spoken about women who seek comfort outside of their holy union, other than the standard joke that she does it with the milkman. By the way, for those of you too young to know, the milkman was someone who delivered milk to your home. This practice stopped a long time ago.

Anyway, it’s a big lie that women didn’t have affairs. Think about all those hours women spent at home alone with the children off at school, and these stay-at-home women did more than housework, making beds and sorting laundry, doing the dishes and dusting knick knacks. Oh yes, and I was one of them.

My first affair was with a man named Don who went to the same church as me and my husband. At first I was so afraid that sleeping with Don would be a re-run of my present sex life, that all men were the same. Then where would I be? Except this didn’t happen. I felt no love for Don but he was a good man and a good lover. It was important to him that the sexual experience was pleasurable for both of us. Yes, I was thirty years old when I had my first orgasm, and it was with him. I didn’t come during intercourse, and in the future I never came that way. Don would go down on me, and he was quite talented with his tongue. He called my vagina his juicy peach and he liked my body overall. He loved oral sex, both getting it and giving it. He taught me what he liked, how to hold his shaft while giving him a blow job. And I found it exciting and fun. Don and I got together in my home during the afternoons once a week. We had sex in my marriage bed. This went on for several weeks until I became so fearful of someone finding out that I put an end to it.

After I had my first affair, it made it easier to have the next one. And the next. Etcetera. No longer did I bring these men to my marriage bed, not because it felt morally wrong because my resentment toward my husband ran deep, but because it raised the stakes of me getting caught. Divorce was unthinkable in these days of the 1950s – it wouldn’t become acceptable until the late 60s and throughout the 70s, and if I was doomed to stay in my unhappy marriage, well then I didn’t want to make the home front worse, having my husband hating me. By now, my husband and I were no longer having sex relations, much less talking to one another other than for the simple things like did you buy the coffee. We just never had much to talk about. Very rarely would he try to be physical with me, and when he did, I always had an excuse handy.

My etceteras. So many beautiful etceteras. Once I met Don and got over my fear that all men would sexually be like my husband, I gained confidence in myself and saw that hating my body was a waste of time. The men after Don? We met in motel rooms and hotels rooms around the sprawling city where I live. How did I meet them? At church, through friends, even at the hardware store. These were the days before personal ads became the vogue, and people met online. There was no Craig’s List or dating websites like Ok Cupid that my daughter told me about, a place where years ago she met her husband.

My etceteras were a group of men, some tall and thin, some short and fat, some smooth and some hairy, who cupped my breasts, kissed my stomach, plunged into me while telling me I was beautiful. They were my sexual awakening and my sexual life, my sexual history. My bad times with my husband faded into oblivion. These men opened up to me and I opened up to them. They taught me what they liked and I cherished pleasing them because we were on the same sexual continent. They cared about my pleasure, and me about theirs. They ravaged my body and if they didn’t, I never saw them again.

What I most want you to know about me – this is why I’m repeating it – is that at 94 I have sexual feelings, even if I don’t act upon them. It’s my fantasies that keep me company now. Little scenarios pass through my mind throughout the day and at night when I get into bed alone – and my fantasies comfort me to where I can almost feel my fantasy men are here with me, pleasing me, and me pleasing them. The affairs of my past, those men of my past, once set me free from the chains of my marriage. They allowed me to take and give and finally be free. Just because I am ancient doesn’t mean I am no longer sexual. I hold these men dear to my heart and imagine them loving me to this day.

Eliza Mimski's work has been published by Entropy, Poets Reading the News, Queen Mob's Tea House and other publications.

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