Over the Edge, You Could See Them Coming

Sometimes, anger is the sane response.

Women a mystery to sex scientists

I could just fucking scream.

Researchers presenting their findings at the society’s sixth annual meeting are still trying to figure out which hormones and neurotransmitters make sexual arousal possible, where in the brain orgasm takes place, and which nerves control the genital organs. Much of their work is being done in rats.

“Now we’re sticking needles into different parts of the brain,” said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, the Boston urologist who founded the multidisciplinary group. “Whatever pharmaceuticals are proven to help … most likely will work in the central nervous system.”

Clinicians, frustrated by the slow pace of sexual science, want effective treatments for patients brave enough to seek help – a small minority.

Oh Jesus Christ, have these people never been to a frat party? And what’s the first solution springing to mind for a problem yet to be defined?

Although social scientists have been studying women’s sexuality for decades, medical science did not become interested until the advent of Viagra in the late 1990s raised the possibility that female sexual problems might be treated by medication. Viagra, which treats erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the genitals, does not appear to work in women. In fact, no drug has been approved in the U.S. for the disorder doctors call female sexual dysfunction. That may be understandable, given that experts aren’t sure what female sexual dysfunction is – or even if it exists.

A pill? A pill! Someday, we will all look back at this and change the subject. And….go!

“Science must measure,” [Dr. Stephen] Levine said, “so we measure how many times the patient said she had sexual thoughts or desired sex in the last four weeks. But we don’t know what we’re measuring.”

To some members of the society, fearing that women’s sexual complaints are being turned into medical illnesses for the convenience of doctors and the economic benefit of Big Pharma, that admission was a breath of fresh air.

“I think it’s progress that we can spend two hours in this performance-driven society admitting that maybe we don’t know what we’re talking about,” said Ellen Laan, a psychophysiologist from the University of Amsterdam.

Oh look, fifteen seconds and I was already wrong – but I have competition.

Since the 1960s, researchers have operated under a variation of the simple model proposed by William Masters and Virginia Johnson that says the human sexual response starts with desire, progresses through excitement or arousal and ends with orgasm. But experts argued that notion might reflect the experience of men more than women, many of whom don’t see orgasm as a goal.

In recent years the field has moved toward a more complicated model based on the observation that many women go into a sexual encounter without being in the mood – perhaps they’re seeking intimacy or hoping to please their partner- and may not really want sex until after they become aroused.

But it wasn’t until very recently that anyone thought to test those theories by asking women.

Look, I don’t have a Ph.D. and a lab staffed by sweaty undergraduates. I’m not a genius with a three-page list of grants. I’m nobody in New Jersey; as a person who’s dated the Eastern Seaboard, I really hate that last line. For the moment, let us gently set aside talk of people injured by violence and abuse, because those are special people who need gentle care, and people experiencing the ebbs and flows of changing hormonal balances. We’re talking here about perfectly ordinary people who think there’s something wrong with their sex lives.

Sex starts in the brain. It also stops in the brain. Should I want what I want? Should nice people want to slick themselves down with Crisco and go two out of three falls? Should good people spend all afternoon on the kitchen floor before having a late lunch? Should decent people put on cowboy boots and play Rustler RoundUp?

Yes. Yes. Yes. To quote Molly Bloom: “…I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Maybe a lot of women won’t come out and say, “Listen, porkchop, you smell like a fantastic night under the stars and our bed needs a seismometer but the one thing that sends me over the edge like a roller coaster car sailing off the tracks into screaming space is when I wrap my thighs around your neck and hold on for dear life” but why not? Lust is one of the most fabulous sensations our bodies offer us. Let’s don’t be afraid of desire. Sing out, sister! Are women afraid to ask too much? Are women afraid to ask? It’s true that lots of men won’t solicit the expert opinion. I find it helps if you’re holding the talking stick at the time the committee delivers its findings.

People who are not women: if you want to please a woman, which you must if you are any kind of lover at all, ask her what feels good. Ask her what feels great. Ask her what makes her see stars. If she’s only slept with selfish bastards, she might not know, which offers you the opportunity of a lifetime. Help her find out what makes her sing Sweet Mystery Of Life. You’re a hero! Tell her what you want. Stop thinking and making rules and should should should. Pour your whole self into the ocean that is your lover and the tide will rise.

No more of this “what do women want?” crap. Get busy with getting busy. And do it for SCIENCE!

Buy the Product And Never Use It

My friend Dom says the best thing I’ve heard in weeks.

Dom: Come to my house Wednesday night for dinner.
Tata: Oh, I don’t know. I’m tired. I probably have to work. I am randomly lame.
Dom: Dinner is at 5. If you are not here by 6, I will come to your house and kick your ass with a lamb roast, which we will then eat.

Oh, he’d do it.

Tata: Dinner it is, then. I’ll wear something stuffing-proof.

Still Dream Of Organon

I have four sisters.

Daria is sixteen months younger than me. We have both parents and one brother in common. Daria and I are as different as two exactly alike people can be. You would never guess we were blood relations until we started laughing or swearing. Daria looks just like our brother Todd, so as my cousin and hairdresser Carmello recently said, “They had milkmen back then. How do you feel about dairy?”

Anya is six years younger than me. We have no parents in common. When my mother and her father got together, Anya was very young. She doesn’t remember a time before I kept trying to make her hair curl. Anya’s politics are further left than mine; she is a driven business owner. Men fall at Anya’s feet, which amuses Anya’s husband Dan.

Corinne and Anya share parents. They have fair skin and blue eyes, and yet, they resemble different parents. Anya and Corinne finish each other’s sentences. Corinne is so funny you think you heard wrong. She and Anya own the family store with their mother and a toy store besides. I am so lucky!

Dara is fifteen and a half; Dad’s daughter by his statuesque second wife. Dara is smart and funny and so, so teenage. Last summer, we had a big old combined family weekend and the whole family took a deep breath and turned purple when Dara put on a pink bikini. A week after Dara was born, I found Anya in a bar with a picture of a baby, “It’s my sisters’ sister!”

I mention this now because I’m on the verge of drawing you the character chart I always wanted when I read Russian novelists for this reason:

February 7: Dan
February 15: Me
March 1: Anya
March 16: Corinne
April 1: Todd
April 8: Miss Sasha

Daria wants things normal. Dan is surprised when people notice he has a birthday. Anya and Corinne have always shared a celebration that included Irish music and hearing loss. Each time my terrified family has tried to celebrate my birthday, something bizarre has happened. It’s been almost two horrifying weeks. I’m fully prepared to let it go.

Dara’s birthday is in July and by then, maybe things will have returned to some kind of normal. For now, let’s skip the genoise and fall straight into industrial-strength Green Beer In A Drum.

It’s Like Thunder, Lightning

Dad’s in the hospital, which turns out to be a good thing because the women of my family cope best with bleach.

Miss Sasha: Mommy! My husband’s upset! My grandpa’s sick! My great-grandpa’s sick! Gramma’s sick! What do I do?
Tata: Pull on rubber gloves, darling, and scour something to within an inch of its life.
Miss Sasha: What? Why?
Tata: Because ours is the way of the scrub brush, and you have the mop-fu in your blood!
Miss Sasha: I am the chosen one!
Tata: The path of the clean oven is open to you. But first, you must snatch this chore boy from my closing fist!
Miss Sasha: Mom, you’re a thousand miles and a whole time zone away. If you mail me that chore boy I might clean something by Sunday.
Tata: Right. Sorry! I’ll lay off the Zatoichi films, okay?

It dawned on me the other day that three of my closest friends have lost a parent to cancer or heart attack, and Trout’s S.O. is being treated at Sloan Kettering. My sisters are frantic for a variety of reasons. Daria and Auntie InExcelsisDeo drove to Virginia this morning to clean Dad’s and Darla’s house to CDC standards. It’s hard to find people to talk with in New Jersey who haven’t lost parents or close relatives to a suspicious disease. Trying to talk this over with my friends dredges up the old memories for them. So guess what?

You could build computers in my bathroom.

Say the Words That I Can’t Say

Resolved: Cream cheese is Nature’s most perfect food.

Tata: You will never guess – not in a million years! – what sits in my fridge. Right now! As we speak!
Siobhan: Drew Barrymore?
Tata: Maybe next week…
Siobhan: What happened? Where did you go shopping?
Tata: Costco! I love their politics! And guess what’s in my fridge! GUESS!
Siobhan: A bale of crinkle cut fries?
Siobhan: You’ve gone too far! How dare you lie about something as important as dairy products?
Tata: I could never lie about cheese!
Siobhan: So it’s real? A three pound bucket of cream cheese would be a new reason to live!
Tata: Cream cheese goes with everything!
Siobhan: Fruit? Yup. Avocado? Indeed.
Tata: It makes an excellent dip…
Siobhan: I could use it in meatloaf.
Tata: And Jell-O.
Siobhan: It might be a mistake in sushi rolls but I’ve seen it on menus.
Tata: It might prove a refreshing accent to an earthy liver pate.
Siobhan: Can you think of anything you couldn’t find a way to use cream cheese with?
Tata: What? I quit thinking and paired it with a spoon.

Knowing the place in my heart held by cream cheese, you are fully prepared to imagine my horror, frustration and tingling joy when I discovered this product.

I may openly weep.

• With new PHILADELPHIA Ready-To-Eat Cheesecake Filling, you can make a delicious cheesecake dessert in just one, easy step – no baking or setting required!
• Just spread the filling into a graham cracker crust and you’ll have a wonderful family dessert, even on the busiest weeknight.

Flavors: Classic Cheesecake

Are you fucking kidding me? I can’t picture myself leaving the dairy aisle without wearing a heavy slick of this stuff down the front of me. I bet half the women I know saw the commercials, fell into a trance and picked up their car keys, which they will not remember when they wake up in rehab.

Oh, and while we’re pondering desperation, it seems my brother Todd may be trying to kill me in retalliation for using him as my personal guinea pig for the first fifteen years of his life. Hey, it was for SCIENCE. And he recovered, right? So why, Flying Spaghetti Monster, why did he send this?

Bonus points for referring to Rick James as “that boy.” To quote a very young Bill Cosby: “And the pain…was tremendous.”

And I’m Singing Once Again

Last night, in the Virtual Bar at Shakespeare’s Sister, Marked Hoosier introduced the assembled to the utter horror that is Celine Dion covering AC/DC’s You Shook Me. I responded pretty much as you might expect:




Right, so I pretended to be everyone’s pet zombie, but only if I could have a pink collar with a little bell so I don’t sneak up on birds. Any exposure to Celine Dion makes me want to kill myself but I forgot all about the tasty brains of the living until this afternoon, when I stumbled on a terrifying cable offering called Bake Decorate.

This is not food. This is what happens when you stop listening to your body whisper sweet nothings when filled with fresh fruit, vegetables and high quality proteins. This is what happens when you hunger for illusions. This is what happens when you think green beans come out of a can. Don’t eat this! It’s disgusting! And while I’m ranting, what the fuck is wrong with people that they teach their children that white flour-sugar-butter combinations are even better with sprinkles and goddamn frosting? Why not just hack open their little rib cages and spackle their arteries with yummy lard?

Some things just aren’t good for us, like Celine Dion and food with all the nutrition magically sucked out and replaced with fat and sugar. That stuff’ll kill ya. Then again, some thngs offer gritty nourishment and kickass sustenance, like Melissa Etheridge climbing out of her presumed deathbed to show us how hard you can work at being alive. It’s just a cover song. It’s real and filling and raw.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go chase some delicious birdies.

Friday Cat Blogging: Get A Grip On Yourself Edition

You’ve seen it before. You’ll see it again now! I demand it! You will be cheerful and say, “Wuzzah wuzzah wuzzah moo moo moo.” You will go about your day with an optimistic outlook because when you feel optimistic, you find things that confirm that you are, in fact, cheery. If this inspires you to seek out shelter animals, adopt them and treat them like the gifts from the kind and loving gods of your choosing, so be it!

Ladies and gentlemen: the Random Kitten Generator.

Music Suffers, Baby, The Music Business Thrives

If you’ve ever snapped a bone, split it or twisted, chances are good you have your own internal weathervane. The spot I fractured in my foot predicts precipitation fairly well, but, strangely, my sinuses are better than Doppler Radar. I can be going about my business and – whammo! – blinding, crushing pain cuts me down. Most times, if I screw my eyes shut for thirty seconds to three minutes, the pain burns off like a fog under the morning’s first rays, and I know it’s going to rain. I don’t take anything for it. Whoosh! Gone! What happened?

Sometimes, like tonight, the rain’s fallen, the clouds moved on and what Siobhan and I refer to as The Headache remains. Yesterday started out pretty well. Mom answered the phone when I called at 8:45 a.m. because the telemarketers are still annoying their own families. She was still gooey from anesthesia and Tuesday’s procedure. Her friend Erin was just walking up the steps to Mom’s bedroom with a book. Tom was off to work, Erin was staying. Mom wasn’t supposed to be alone after surgery, which she hadn’t told me. Anyway, Mom was making woozy jokes about …something… and that was good news. I waited a few hours and called Dad’s house, where his fab wife Darla answered but she was still sleeping. I promised to call back later.

When I talked to Dad after 2, he was cranky, swearing, firm in his opinions and scathing in his assessments. In other words: he sounded great. I told him if he stopped swearing I’d be really worried. We had a lovely conversation, during which I laughed a great deal. Then Darla sent out a group email stating that she’d started a blog, where you will be nice, damn it, to keep all kinds of people informed about Dad’s treatment. I was thrilled. Then I read the words “[Dad’s] life expectancy is between a couple of months and a couple of years, depending on how he tolerates, and how well he responds to, treatment.”

I didn’t take that well.

The rest of my day was pretty well screwed at that point. I lay down to nap after work and sat up straight when fear shot all through me. Later, I called my brother Todd.

Tata: You’re going to work in a few hours, right?
Todd: Hey! You remembered!
Tata: I didn’t until a little while ago. I panicked and went to the liquor store for a bottle of wine. While I was there, I asked the clerk what day it was. So that’s the only reason I know.
Todd: Don’t let go of that Slinky!
Tata: …always good advice, but what prompted it?
Todd: I was talking to my daughter, who’s got a Slinky by the end her baby brother’s not holding.
Tata: Baby brothers are science projects. You ought to know that better than most.
Todd: I’ll always treasure the memory of you putting ExLax in my Halloween candy.
Tata: I had to do it – for SCIENCE!
Todd: Remind me to send SCIENCE a bag of flaming dog poop.

Todd reminded me that Happy Hour comes but once a day, and we have but a short time on this earth. So drink up! This was excellent advice on an evening I felt like I’d stuck my hand in a socket over and over, and when I feel this shitty, I do something about it. So last night, like every night for over a week, I lit a candle and asked whoever was listening for fucking strength. Since I am completely aware that I know absolutely nothing, I don’t want to offend anyone by calling them someone else’s name, which everyone knows is terrible form –

You: Oh baby baby you really do it for me, Tory…
Pat: I’m Pat. Oh, and so outta here.
You: This here is a valuable life lesson. Shit!

– so I just ask anyone who’s listening for help, damn it! Help! I put down the candle. I sat on the couch and typed something. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. A woman who rescues stray cats called to tell me she’d found two cats together, and they could be available in mid-March, and would I mind if they were both black? I burst into tears, which has become my indoor-outdoor sport, and said yes yes yes.

There was nothing else to do but stand in the middle of my living room and say, “Thank you. Thank you.” So I did.

Know Your Part’ll Go Fine

Yesterday, I heard today’s weather with great anticipation. Since the cold snap a month or so ago, I’ve felt cooped up and penned in; neither cooping nor penning suits me. Thus, when the meteorologists promised I could lace up the Adidases and walk to work, though not in so many words, I considered writing them love letters. Then I thought, ‘No, they’re the Doppler-assisted tools of the Man! Get up, stand up! And take a leopard print umbrella.’

I got no further than thirty feet from my front door, flush with victory over mid-winter sloth, when I realized the sidewalks were frozen over in transparent, invisible sheets and if I didn’t confine myself to visibly salted sidewalks or blacktop, I was skipping work and going directly to the Emergency Room. That was exciting. A few times, I nearly landed on my head, which would ordinarily be merely hilarious but yesterday, I put in a full day at the salon and bandages would interfere with my mission to beautify America one room at a time.

Anyway: hairstyle intact, I made it to work without lascerations and I can’t wait to walk home. Tomorrow, umbrella in hand, I can prowl the quads and sidewalks to take pictures of black snow and torpid tree limbs. They’ll perk up soon. I feel better already.

In the Night Out Of Sight In the Day

Having the internet phone service pays off.

Dad: Happy Valentine’s Day. You know how I’ve been seeing doctors and couldn’t get a diagnosis? Now I have one. I have cancer.
Tata: Cancer?
Dad: I have lesions on several of my internal organs. We begin chemo on Friday.
Tata: You do?
Dad: That terrible taste in my mouth the doctors should have been able to identify? Cancer.
Tata: It was? And the fever you’ve had since before Christmas?
Dad: Yep.
Tata: Phantom debilitating pain?
Dad: Yep.
Tata: How do you feel about this?
Dad: I could be dead in a year.
Tata: You could?
Dad: It’s within the range of possibility.
Tata: I am actually relieved that you finally have a diagnosis. I didn’t believe it for a minute when the doctor said you, you know, just had a fever. For two months.
Dad: Oh. Also: Happy Birthday. What are you doing to celebrate?
Tata: I was thinking of drowning myself in the Raritan.
Dad: Don’t be ridiculous. That river’s frozen and paramedics are tougher to please than Ukranian judges.

We hang up after exhanging tender words both of us would deny under oath. I immediately call Daria, who is still sobbing. Daria calms down and tells me to call Auntie InExcelsisDeo, who is also still sobbing. To distract her, I mention the braces came off and I can’t stop doing that ridiculous Pearl Drops Tooth Polish “It’s a great feeling!” gesture with my tongue, which will eventually make me very popular in town. Then I call Daria back. Daria asks if she should call our mom, who divorced Dad in the seventies. I say yes. Daria calls me back later. We do this again and again for five days. No way could I afford this with regular phone service.

Thursday was my birthday, which is usually a very big deal in my family because it has for the last decade kicked off a long series of birthdays. We have a season. Every two weeks, we go somewhere and celebrate. All that festivity can really suck the life out of a clan, plus now Anya’s husband Dan’s birthday is a week before mine, so we’re all receipts and wreckage. In any case, I could have been perfectly content to let go of any claim to birthday-based overeating but Mom insisted on taking me out to dinner.

Tata: We’re expecting snow and ice like nobody’s business. Are you sure?
Mom: I’m sure. Where would you like to go?
Tata: There’s an excellent Thai restaurant blocks from here.
Mom: I don’t love Thai.
Tata: …Or we could go to…um…
Mom: How about the new Greek restaurant? How about 6?
Tata: Terrific. I’ll be ready at 6.

At 6:30, Mom and Tom picked me up, which I knew would happen and for which I was totally prepared. It was just dinner, and ya gotta eat. They gave me a 16-quart stock pot with a glass lid and I was content to let it go, again. We keep trying to get as much of the whole family together before the next series of birthdays and it just isn’t working because Mom’s having her Annual Harvesting of the Melanomas. Our next proposed date is Tuesday, the 27th, and the proposed get-together is at a fondue place for cheese, meat, seafood and chocolate fondue. Last night, I told Daria if the date moves again, we’ll be celebrating Anya’s and Corinne’s birthdays, too, and everyone will have to eat twice as much. We should just suck it up and fondue.

On Saturday, Siobhan took me to a spa in Livingston, where we got facials and massages. I’d spent five weeks crying my eyes out and I looked like it. I’ll write about the facial and the massage some other time because…because. Another time. Suffice it to say that after two hours of soothing smells and gentle music and charming people saying nice things, the masseur whispered many times, “Let it go, Ta” and I couldn’t. I realized I was a giant, clenched, terrified knot, which is exactly what I don’t want to be, and what I know will not help. The result: I forced myself to calm down and consider a way forward.

In less than two months, my dear pussycat was terribly ill, then I put him to sleep. My best friend nearly died. My son-in-law and by extension my daughter suffered a career trauma. My father started cancer treatment. My mother’s post-cancer treatment regimen has become a little less low-key. A friend moved away. Daria keeps saying to me, “I’m fully cognizant that I have Tyler and you’re over there in your apartment alone.”

I am fine. I have no regrets about the pussycat, the career trauma will pass, I’ll get used to the missing friend. The treatment is being aggressively pursued by a family of Type-A fighting freaks with oncologist friends. And last night, I spoke with a woman who rescues stray and abandoned cats about my desire to have two feline companions. I have appointments with the dentist to get one of my teeth fixed, and this afternoon, I will see Carmello for a new coif. I’m drinking lots of broth, miso shiro soup, juice, water.

The future arrives, whether we fear it or not. I intend to greet it with composure and a healthy mix of ferocity and acceptance. My manicure will be perfect at all times. My hand will be open.