For better or worse, I’m of the opinion that post-coital snuggling is what creates a real connection with a lover. We’ve performed this frenetic, loud, and physically demanding act out of raw attraction to each other. Our brains have been flooded with endorphins and oxytocin, our body’s are sweaty, and regardless of whatever I’ve done today, this week or this month, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I sink into the bed, wrap my arm around the still naked body of my partner, and guide their head into the soft nook just under my collarbone so we can rest. This period of time is typically relaxing to a nearly unbelievable degree. We may whisper sweet nothings to each other, perhaps even recount the highlights of the session we’ve just had. It’s as if our skin-to-skin contact is melding us together, keeping us as one unit since “the unit” can no longer maintain its shape to do that.
On this night, I don’t feel quite so relaxed and I’m struggling to figure out why. My mind keeps going back to her age - she’s 20 years my senior, the oldest woman I’ve been with by far - but that feels like an invalid excuse. She’s settled, confident in her extremely sexy body, seemingly unfazed by what’s happened to her and what she’s yet to face. I’m not used to such stability. I’m used to the chaos of a fellow 20-something, unsure of their direction, working some low wage job doing bullshit for a wealthy asshole, constantly wondering when the environment and/or society will collapse and force them into a life similar to the ones our Stone Age ancestors lived. My partner tonight seems like she could fashion an efficient weapon out of a human femur without a second thought if she needed to.
I want to inquire with her about this post-coital uneasiness, but I’m not sure where to start. Based on what we’ve we just done, I can’t help but think she’s had sex about 800 billion times more than I have. Every movement, everything she said felt so natural, yet somewhat rehearsed, as if she was a Broadway actress executing her favorite song on the last night of the show’s run. I decide I’ll compliment her about something and go from there, but as I mentally flip through each moment of our evening like photographs, I feel a question shoot up through my throat, to the back of my lips, and suddenly out of my mouth.
“What’s your body count?” I ask.
She giggles. “I don’t like calling it that. Makes sex sounds like murder.”
“Sorry,” I quip, still confused as to how I blurted out such a juvenile, personal question.
“It’s alright, but unfortunately for you, I don’t know what it is,” she says.
“What do you mean?”
“I lost count in my 20s. I’d imagine it’s in the triple digits somewhere.”
“Oh,” I say, slightly taken aback. “I gotcha.”
“Mhm. What’s yours?”
Nervously, I say, “10. So, you’re my 11th partner.” I’m not sure why I didn’t lie when I could’ve. I should’ve doubled it and said 20, or even 40. Hell, I should’ve just said I was in the triple digits as well.
“Mmm, I like that I’m number 11,” she says. “Were they all casual encounters like ours?”
“No, actually. I've had a couple girlfriends. A couple ‘situationships’ after that and some other women from all over. South America. South Africa. South Side.”
“You don’t like being held down, huh?”
“Uh… I guess you could say that. I don’t see myself ever getting to triple digits though.”
“Do you think that makes me a slut?”
“Not at all. You’re gorgeous and have been sexually active much longer than I have, so it makes sense. And you’re pansexual to boot!”
“Well, thank you,” she chuckles. “I was just teasing. Even if you thought I was a slut, I wouldn’t care.”
“Touché,” I say. “It is mind-boggling to me, though.”
“What makes it mind-boggling? Just the sheer volume?”
“I’m not quite sure.” After a pause, “It’s like, I don’t exactly have women throwing themselves at me, you know? Never have, never will, and that’s fine. Probably for the best, really, otherwise my ego would get too big. Plus, I’m introverted, so I’m not often throwing myself at women either. So, for me at least, every time I have a new partner, even if it is a casual encounter, it feels special. I’d imagine that novelty factor kind of wears off after, what, 50 people?”
She starts twisting the gold chain I’m wearing around her index finger. “In a way it does, yeah,” she says.
“I don’t know. It just feels like I should, in a way, thank them all somehow, but it’s not like I even talk to all of them anymore. It’s not like I’m going to get a tattoo of all their names or some shit.”
“Please don’t get a tattoo of any of their names, including mine,” she says as we both laugh. “It’s sweet that you feel that way.”
“I suppose,” I say with a sigh.
“One of my longtime friends - she’s a fucking wildcard, let me tell you. She ended up getting into tantric yoga awhile back.”
“Mhm, and she’s still into it. She doesn’t talk about it much, but she did tell me about this one particular practice they do. See, they believe - and I’m probably missing some nuance, mind you - that the Hindu deities Shiva and Shakti represent all the masculine and feminine energies in the universe, respectively. So in this practice, each partner visualizes the other as either Shiva or Shakti as they’re making love.”
“That’s a trip.”
“Oh, definitely. Now, when she does the practice, she’s doing it with another yogi. That way, both of them are engaging in sex not for pleasure, but to transcend this reality and become whole with the Ultimate Reality. The sex, quite literally, makes the two yogis one, and they’re consciously doing it to merge with the One. So from her perspective, each of the women you’ve been with is just another form of Shakti. Another version of the goddess.”
“And, honestly, based on what we just did, I feel like they all should be thanking you.”
I get a goofy smile on my face that I’m glad she can’t see from where she’s laying. I manage to squeak out, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Now, don’t go co-opting that practice without talking to my friend first. I feel like something bad will happen if you misuse it, like your dick will fall off.”
The goofy smile busts into a big laugh. “I won’t, but I do really like that perspective.”
“So do I. I remember she read me part of the text that describes Shakti. Oh, what did it say…”
I begin stroking her wavy red hair as she tries to remember.
“Um… oh yeah,” she says. “The line that really struck me was ‘Her body is the ultimate essence of gracefulness.’”
“It’s so beautiful, right?”
“Yeah. Thanks for sharing that.”
We allow silence to wash over us again. She continues playing with my chain as my hand goes from her hair to her back, running my fingers up her spine. The spine of the goddess, according to said goddess’ wildcard yogi friend.
She breaks the silence with, “You also did something that… pff, I don’t know, only a handful of guys have ever done before.”
Proud and intrigued, I ask, “Oh, really? What’s that?”
“You asked me what I wanted.”
“You stopped kissing me at some point after our clothes came off and asked ‘What do you want?’”
“No, I remember that, but only a few of the, uh, however many guys you’ve been with have asked that?”
“Yep. Guys usually tell me what they want, or… just do what they want.”
“My gender fucking sucks, dude.”
“Most men suck, I agree, but at least you don’t.”
“I can’t say that makes me feel much better.”
“Don’t shoulder more than your fair share of guilt, though.”
I ponder this and say, “Sex just isn’t a one-way street no matter what.”
“That one-way street is called masturbation and it’s not nearly as fun.”
“I’m curious, what made you start asking that question?”
“Well, I grew up with an older sister. When we were younger, when she was probably 10 and I was 8, my mom saw her get touched inappropriately by a boy at the park. Not long after that, she sat us down and said she had a story for us. Have you ever heard of ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, how it goes is there’s a knight who’s convicted of rape, and the queen says she will spare his capital punishment if he figures out what women most desire. He goes out and asks every woman he meets what they want. They’re all giving him different answers, of course, but then he comes across this really ugly old woman in the woods. He asks her and she says he’ll give him the answer if he agrees to marry her. Dude’s kind of at the end of his rope by this point, so he agrees. She tells him that what women most desire is sovereignty. He goes to the queen, tells her that answer, and sure as shit, he’s freed from his punishment but still has to marry the old woman. He reluctantly does the wedding and when it’s time to consummate the marriage, he’s uh… he’s not happy about it.”
We laugh before I continue, “So the lady asks him if he’d rather have an ugly, but loyal wife, or a beautiful, potentially disloyal wife. He tells her to choose what she thinks is best for the both of them. Sure enough, as tales like this go, she chooses to become beautiful since she recognizes he now knows that women are the rightful authority over their own bodies, not men.”
“And they lived happily ever after?”
“Something like that.”
“I could tell how upset my mom was when she first read that to us. It wasn’t a fun bedtime story, it was like ‘listen up, you little shits, I’m teaching you an important life lesson.’ She explained what it meant and that neither of us should ever let anyone touch us in a way we didn’t want to be touched. That combined with all the horror stories I’ve heard from different women since then just cemented the truth that all women desire - and frankly deserve - sovereignty. Historically speaking, women haven’t had much of that.”
“Historically speaking? What about currently?”
“Let’s not go there. It’ll just harsh the vibe.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
A weighty silence, then I say, “Fuck Clarence Thomas.”
“Fuck Ginni, too. How long ago was that tale written anyway?”
“Oh, I’m not sure, maybe 600 years ago?”
“And here we are centuries later still begging men for our sovereignty.”
“Progress takes time, I guess. Time moves slow.”
“Too slow.” She looks up at me and asks, “You’re fairly wise for your age, you know that?”
I look back at her and say, “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. You know that.”
She smiles and our lips lock. Then her lips move to my cheek, down to my neck and lower and lower and lower. Just as she reaches my pelvis, she stops to beam her blue eyes at me and pose a question: “What do you want?”