ARTWORK: "BEING A WIFE AND MOTHER" BY ELIZABETH KELNER POZEN
Close your eyes in the beginning, while you stroke him, and imagine he initiated this time. Touch yourself where you seek touching most longingly. Pretend you are a stronger woman than you actually are, that you do not need something as petty as reciprocity. Do not initiate more than once every two weeks, so that you will not feel as shamed afterwards as you would have if you had restrained yourself to the twice a week that blogs recommend. Say “O.K.” in front of the bathroom mirror after you have applied your Vitamin C serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, blush, concealer, eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara, and lipstick. Say it loud, with authority. “O.K.”
Make sure you have somewhere to go after the intercourse, like a party. If you’ve made children or adopted, bring them along. They will help you convince yourself that your obsession with said partner is not entirely fruitless.
Morning-time, on a Saturday or Sunday, a few minutes after nine a.m. is the best time to initiate because afterwards, it will be almost eleven a.m., time for brunch. Shower and dress your children nicely, yourself nicely too, in all of your most flattering clothes. Head out. Fill the day with young, attractive, vibrant people and if partner is available to join, be happy and enthusiastic for him to come. This way you can trick yourself into feeling like you have an interested partner, or, at least, that others believe this. Meet other couples for brunch, with children of their own to distract them from passing judgment at the jabs he mumbles to you. It also helps if the couples’ English isn’t so good. Even better if their children are all under the age of 3. They won’t notice anything.
Partner, it’s a funny word. The word comes from Partionem which means, in Latin, a partition or division. Part—ner. Remember, you are objectively attractive. You have years left in your prime.
If you cannot wait until morning for sex, wait at least until eleven p.m. so that it is so dark and so late at night that you can seem wicked and aggressive initiating, instead of desperate and depraved. Drink port or sherry or grappa before you sit on his lap to rub his chest and at the end of the act, swallow his fluid to help yourself pretend this relationship you’re in is wholly love.
After the sex, in order to fall asleep next to your partner, who is already snoring, reminisce about when you first met, how he pursued you with ferocity, how he refused to let you leave each time he made fun of your choices in life, how he apologized and kissed your lips and held your face in his hands and breathed in your ear that he was sorry. Close your eyes on the soft, down pillow, listening to the snoring, and list all of the things you will do the rest of the week. Keep listing more and more and more until you begin to lift up and off to sleep.
Live in a city. Go to museums regularly and stare at colorful paintings, and whisper to the art. If you insist on some pity, sit in a park and write in a journal about your loneliness, but please, pretend it is fiction. Give your protagonist purple hair.
And then shop. For black jeans with holes in them, and kitchen appliances, and red felt tip pens, jams in kitschy glass jars. Eat apples walking around neighborhoods with flowers professionally planted and coffee shops independently owned.
Make a mistake every fourth or fifth day of your life. For example, forget to make his morning coffee or burn the nightly espresso. When you take clothes out of the dryer, accidently drop one of his socks onto the laundry room floor—absent-minded you—say, Oh! I didn’t see it. Prepare a sour dinner: olives, yogurt, tomatoes, grapefruit, capers, pickles, beet soup. Tapas, say. These go together, no? Run out of toothpaste or mouthwash or floss. Love should go both ways.
And take advantage of free natural things like sunlight and rain. Go for walks with the jogging stroller if you have one and push your kids to the grocery store for kale and spaghetti squash and brown sugar and different kinds of breads. Swing the little people high at the playground, taking pictures. Always document joy. Ignore couples that came together. Buy an umbrella with artwork on it, preferably stars or rainbows, and stand in the rain raising the umbrella high like a torch. Where puddles gather, search for your reflection, and ask your children in an extra cheery voice, “Can you smell the rain?”