Susan Sarandon, Are You Listening?

“Where is the lust?” a new reader asked recently after noticing my “Liquor, Lust, and Primer Gray Camaros Set To Music” subtitle.  Just a couple of weeks ago I received feedback that my sexual content was too strong.  Go figure.

The subtitle is actually a little inside joke dating back to my early twenties.  I was in the middle of my Henry Miller obsession, and I was telling a friend how much I admired Miller’s great titles:  Tropic Of Cancer, Sexus, Big Sur And The Oranges Of Hieronymus Bosch.  “If I ever wrote about my life I’d have to call it something stupid like Liquor, Lust, and Primer Gray Camaros,” I said.

Regardless, I wrote the check and now I have to cash it.  The liquor isn’t too hard to find.  There’s some here and here.   And the beat to death muscle cars  that rumbled across my childhood landscape — the Camaros and Novas and Torinos — show up throughout my little word doodles.  They don’t really mean much, they’re just window dressing.

Lust is very much in abundance, too, but it’s an adolescent lust.  That’s simply a chronological quirk, really.  Why It Matters in its entirety is a story, and its characters currently are teenagers.  Real people aren’t characters stuck in time, though.  At forty-five I’m not interested in teenage lust any more than I’m angry about the past.  We grow up and move on.

That was a delightful surprise, discovering that even sexually we grow up and move on.  What triggers my lust has aged along with me.  I can’t tell you who the starlet of the week is.  I’m immune to beer commercials and other “buy this product and get wildly fucked by hot hardbodies” advertisements.  I have no more interest in twenty year olds than they have in me.  Flirty young waitresses just embarrass me.

Granted, my adolescent experiences played a big role in misshaping my libido.  I have a pretty fierce voyeuristic streak, for example, and the fact that certain incidents flit through my head like home movies when I think about that is all the evidence I need that I was imprinted like a horny baby duck.  I’ve discussed some of those moments:  here’s one, and here’s another.  Why I keep trying to peek up your skirt and down your shirt might be the worst kept secret in all of Why It Matters-dom.

But that’s not what I’m talking about when I say that my triggers have aged with me.  That the slightest peek of pale skin or forbidden lace short circuits my brain is just an example of the strange psychology of erection, locked up in amber for the rest of my history.  No, what I mean is that the characteristics that trigger my lust have aged along with me.

I love the gray in your hair, not only because it’s a beautiful color but because you are comfortable enough to be yourself.  Okay, and it makes me a bit more comfortable with the gray in my beard.  Yeah, I admit it.

I love the wrinkles at the corners of your eyes and mouth.  You’ve spent a lifetime smiling, which means you might give my nerdy jokes a mercy laugh.

I love that your jaw line has softened.  You were always beautiful, but that young, angular face lacked gravitas.

I love your glasses, and not in a “Hot For Teacher” sort of way.  Well,  a little bit in a “Hot For Teacher” sort of way, but mostly because they say “I’m getting older, too” better than Stevie Nicks ever could.

I love your belly.  It’s soft and womanly and without pretense.  It’s a belly that loves life, not vanity.  Pulp Fiction’s Fabienne says, “It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.”  Seldom isn’t never.  I’ll take curves any day.

I love that you don’t care what people think about what you read, watch, or listen to.  Those facades we hauled around as younger people were exhausting.

I love that you let me adore you.  I don’t mean to complain, but it’s hard sometimes to be a man.  I’m not your boss, your competition, or your coworker.  I’m not The Man trying to keep you down or put you in your place.  I just want to open the goddamned door for you because it’s polite.  I want to pick up the check,  open the jars, hold your hand. There’s no gender politics at work.  That you realize that says everything about your character.

We age, embrace it.  Kindness, humor, confidence, and intelligence mean so much more than anti-gravity breasts, six-pack abs and a heart-shaped ass.  Don’t confuse my little writing project with some idealized notion of sexuality, or a suggestion that sex belongs to the young and the flawless.  They’re just stories of an awkward past, but you are here in the present.  And you are absolutely beautiful.

11 thoughts on “Susan Sarandon, Are You Listening?

  1. What a wonderful piece of writing. Now, if I could only tempt you past the measured contemplation at a distance, and tempt you to write something about making love to her, that would mean I’d done my job. *smirk*

    • You are like the little devil sitting on my typing shoulder. I do my best to be honest, but I’m afraid measured contemplation and distance are here for the foreseeable future.

  2. I have a friend or two whose lust is stuck in the past and it makes me sad for them.
    Susan Sarandon and our generational sisters are lucky there are men like you who lust in a generous and honest way. This is something I’d be pleased to read whenever I am missing that very young age when every woman gets a moment to feel truly beautiful.

    • Buddhist thought is that everything is impermanent, so getting attached to a given thing leads to sadness. This certainly holds true for our bodies. We can’t be nineteen forever, so why not simply enjoy who we are rather than regret who we can no longer be?

  3. James, I barely know you and yet reading this, I am left with the strong impression that this is just the tip of the iceberg for you on this subject. It feels as if you are just skimming the surface.

    The pain you and passion you share about how difficult it is some times being a man bleeds through your words; I feel you. I feel for all men who long to be a man on their own terms, to not have to apologize for “voyeuristic tendencies” or a gentle, chivalrous act.

    What really strikes me about your piece is that it seems to be saying a lot of different things at once, to several different women: women you’ve known, women you’ve imagined; women you’ve lusted over and women who’ve left you heartbroken. Your anger comes through as well. You mention Henry Miller but you don’t elaborate on what resonates with you or how it is relevant to this post. I want more.

    Lastly, your (touching) reflections on aging and “aging desire” are to be admired, to say the least. That you can see beauty in “older” shows a lovely depth of character. “Those facades we hauled around as younger people were exhausting.” — Indeed!

    Jessica

    • I’m sure you’re right — I am skimming the surface. My focus in this extended narrative is why music matters, how it’s woven into our lives. This little sidebar was published for a few reasons, the most obvious of which was to answer the question “where is the lust?”

      Henry Miller’s role in all of that was that his wonderful book titles led me to the less than wonderful parody title Liquor, Lust, and Primer Gray Camaros. That’s really the only play that he has at this moment, though I certainly could burn a lot of pixels on why he matters and I will eventually. For now I’ll simply say that in Miller I found what felt like a kindred spirit. It took me quite a while to realize that what I was responding to was his emotional honesty rather than any true similarity between us. Well, there’s the baldness and the love of bicycles — I have that going for me.

      And I’m sure you’re correct in assuming that I’m talking to many women at once. You are very perceptive, certainly more than I am. I was simply writing to an image in my mind of a lust-inspiring woman, so of course it makes sense that she would be a composite. For me, though, what is interesting is that when asked to imagine a beautiful woman that is who pops into my mind. If you asked me the same question at twenty the answer would’ve been completely different. It’s nice to realize that my libido is aging along with me.

      Anger? That surprised me. I don’t feel angry, but rereading with your comments in mind I can see it. Obviously I can’t speak for your region, but I think in the U.S. we’ve twisted ourselves into some very unnecessary knots over gender roles. I’m not quite sure how to articulate what I’m feeling, which oddly is exactly one of the twisted knots that I’m talking about. Perhaps I should leave it at “in a perfect world I would be able to dote on you without any fear that you’ll think I’m marginalizing you in some way. Yes, I’m aware that you can open your own door, etc., but it feels good to be nice and there’s nothing more to it than that.” How have we gotten to the point where opening a door is essentially a selfish act? Why does there have to be meaning behind it? I open doors for everyone, men and women alike.

      I’m rambling, but hopefully there’s enough there to tease out my point. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I truly appreciate it.

  4. Pingback: New Piece on AARP Website « Why It Matters

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