By E.J. Gordon
I don’t know where we get the idea that spontaneity is a positive thing. Maybe the seeds are planted when we are 22 and doing our poverty-jet setting Europe tour, and someone says, “Dude, let’s hop on a train and go to Prague!” When we’re re-telling the story, we remember the awesome Canadians we met on the stopover in the Paris train station, and the crazy New Zealander who tried to sell us pot on the train, and the Welsh guy we met in the Czech hostel whose English was unintelligible. We laugh at our memories, and we shake our heads at how we survived without a hot shower, “bathing” with a rag and a sink. We smile and think about the “Good Old Days” when we could just hop on a train with nowhere to be and no one to report to.
What we forget though, is waiting for 10 hours in a dirty train station because we didn’t realize that the last train to Prague left two hours before we arrived. We forget tossing and turning on the grass, because sleeping in a park when all the hostels are at capacity sounds more romantic than it is. We forget all of the headaches that our spontaneity brought us.
And now that we’re parents with obligations and plans after plans after plans, spontaneity sounds like this wonderful old friend who we miss so much and never get to see.
But just like in the case of most old friends, we’re ONLY remembering the good parts.
Sometimes, when our husbands are trying to be romantic (aka, trying to get laid), they try to employ the Old Spontaneity Move. They think to themselves: “When we first started dating, a kiss in the hallway turned into sex on the floor. Maybe if I surprise her, it will be magical, just like the floor sex was 15 years ago.”
Case in point:
Last Saturday, my husband decided to take our children to the park for a bit, so I took my free time to work out. When I was done with my run, the house was still quiet, so I did a nice, long stretch routine, watching my shows while in Pigeon Pose, enjoying every second. Still loving every minute of my rare, quiet house, I got in the shower and even took the time to deep condition and shave my legs. (With little kids, it’s all about these little moments of freedom.) I then got out of the shower and was so pleased that no one was bugging me, that I prolonged my post-shower routine, rubbing anti-fungal cream on this or that spot, and since my 40-year-old body was aching from my workout, I grabbed my Tiger Balm and rubbed the tingly camphor cream all over my hip and all over my shoulder. Suddenly I heard a phone vibrating. I whipped my head around … and there was my husband lying naked on our bed.
I said, “OMG, I had no idea you were here!”
He said, “I know, I wanted to surprise you!”
I said, “I wish I knew you were here …” and I thought to myself, if I had known he were home, I would have hurried up, I would have started shifting gears in my head to get into “sex mode” and out of “home alone and happily in my head” mode, and I would definitely not have rubbed Old Lady cream all over my body. But, and this is the important part, I didn’t want to let him down. He went through all of this work to get the kids covered and surprise me so we could have the coveted afternoon delight before we go out on a Saturday night so that we could just fall asleep watching TV and not feel guilty later.
The last thing I was going to do, especially while he was so clearly waiting and ready, was turn him down … so I rallied.
We were mid-session when all of the sudden the camphor that was on my hip became relocated to a place where one should never put camphor. I was literally on fire! I jumped up and ran to the bathroom to try and wash it all away. We then continued, but by the end of it, the Tiger Balm that was on my shoulder ended up all over his face and then all over mine, and we both wound up with stinging eyes.
The entire episode was ruined and put in the “Bad Sex” file (alongside a bunch of very pathetic fertility sex episodes.)
And I turned to my visibly disappointed husband and said, “I really wish you had told me that you were here. That would have gone way better.”
Now clearly, the camphor really messed things up, but it wasn’t just about that.
It was about those rare (precious) moments when I’m completely alone. I’m either up in my head planning stuff or completely relaxing and enjoying a book or a show, and the very LAST thing I want is to be surprised out of it.
When were were first dating and not living together, when we spent time together, we lived in the moment, because it was all about the moment.
Now that our whole lives are intertwined, when I’m in my own space, I want to be there alone. Because I’m so very rarely alone.
I know it’s not just me. My friend the other day was telling me that after a long day at work, all she wanted to do was to come home, get out of her heels and work clothes, put on her PJs and read her magazines. She said, “I wanted to kiss my kids goodnight and chill out. But, surprise! My romantic husband met me at work to sweep me off to a Date Night.”
I responded, “UGH! What did you do??”
“What could I do? He was so sweet and planned this whole night, I had to rally. And we did end up having a great night. I just wish I would have known because it took me a while to adjust.”
Again, he was trying to do this wonderful thing for her, and instead of being happy immediately about it, she had to shift her mental gears and revamp her whole night. If he had just included her in on his plans, she could have been looking forward to it, rather than mourning her deleted vision of sweats and tabloids. And if she had dared refused him when he showed up all excited, she would have been labeled “mega-bitch” or “spoiled” or “ungrateful” of his romantic gestures.
Another friend of mine was celebrating a milestone birthday, and she and her husband planned to celebrate with a party at a bar inside a hotel. The afternoon of her birthday, her husband “surprised” her by telling her that he had gotten them a hotel room for the night. “On paper” one would think she’d be excited. But all of a sudden she was overwhelmed with getting instructions for an overnight sitter ready, packing a bag with the right hair and makeup gear, and leaving the house several hours earlier than she had planned. She told me, “It was so sweet of him, but UGH, you know? Why didn’t he just tell me earlier in the week?”
So there’s a pattern here:
1) Man wants to do something thoughtful and wonderful for his wife.
2) Man plans a “surprise” for his wife.
3) Woman is annoyed because the life that she plans not only for herself but also for all of her children is completely disrupted.
4) Woman feels horrible about disappointing her husband, so she fakes it.
5) Woman woefully wishes he just would have told her.
6) A plan that was meant to make his wife happy has the complete OPPOSITE effect.
So I asked my husband, “Why do guys do this when they know their wives’ lives are so complicated? And he told me, “It’s because sometimes we don’t want to give you the opportunity to say no.”
Now, I get that, because often our instinct is to say no, and then we’re put in this position where we can’t, so we agree to go along with it, and then we’re so glad we did. Like my friend whose husband surprised her with their post-work Date Night … the next day, she admitted that she’d had a fantastic night with him. So sometimes, this method works.
Sometimes it IS worth it for us women to let go of all of our complications and live in the moment. And we should count ourselves lucky that our husbands are still working at making us happy and planning special surprises.
And we should be thankful that they’re still hoping that when they kiss us in the hallway, we’ll have sex with them on the floor.
But we all know that eroticism in an aging marriage is very, very different from the early passion in a relationship. That doesn’t mean it can’t exist, but we have to accept that we need to access it differently.
Sex for a woman is so much more about what’s going on in her head than what’s going on physically.
If her kids are downstairs, and she can hear them whining or fighting, simply locking the bedroom door and putting on the moves just won’t work for her because mentally she’s still in Mom Mode. The key to finding that place is to create a space and time when she can be mentally engaged.
That’s why wine helps — it helps her let go. And that’s why vacation sex is so much better, because we’re outside of our obligations. Obviously, we’re not going to save sex for vacations, but what we can do is create that space, which is what the men in the above stories tried to do. HOWEVER, the essential tool to do that is to INCLUDE her in on your plans so she can mentally meet you there. And you’ll be happier that she did because you can avoid getting camphor in your eyes.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.