Reclaiming your sexual self after cancer sucks. It’s like falling off of a shiny new Gary Fisher and then being given a unicycle with a flat tire and a rusty chain. It takes effort where effort wasn’t previously required and it forces the issue of how to be in a foreign body in front of someone else. None of my body parts work right, none of them look right and none of them are that interested in being touched most of the time.
When I first thought I was ready for sex, I seriously considered how to go about it. Pre-cancer, men fell into my orbit. Some of it was physical attraction some of it was had to do with me not giving any fucks and the other piece, well I’ve never figured that out really. I don’t think I’m overly attractive. Maybe men are just attracted to assholes or women they can’t pin down. I have no idea. However, during cancer, I fell out of that orbit. Add to that a little post-cancer depression and self-esteem issues and bam, woman of your dreams.
Thinking about sex, I had to consider how everything after cancer is different but kind of the same. Some things are sharper, some blurrier, but overall, everything is harder to define. I know I’m not the same person. I don’t feel the same. I don’t look the same. I don’t think the same. Actually, when I can carry a thought through, I probably still think same which is to say I still think about shit no one else is interested in all day long. Like how my children, who I love with all of my heart, run curious parallels to terrorists. Or how I spend my whole day walking through something I can’t see. So what does this new person want from a sexual partner? I don’t know—after sex I still don’t know—but I knew that the first person had to be chosen carefully and with great intention. I knew that if I reignited my sexual self with the wrong person or the wrong situation, I would be in therapy forever and thirty years is long enough.
Treading lightly, I started with the easy stuff, but masturbation was weird for numerous reasons. One, I’m almost afraid to touch my body. I’m afraid that if I do something incorrectly, move in a certain way, or direct any negative feedback to my body, I’ll get cancer again. Then there’s the issue of being on a drug that induces menopause. It’s really hard to get into a fantasy when it’s constantly being disrupted by Tamoxifen induced hot flashes. And to that my attention span, which went from hawk to hummingbird in the blink of an eye. Cancer is how I learned that you use a lot more of your brain than you think you do during self-pleasure. So Avenue Self Pleasure left much to be desired.
Next, I turned to a few trusted male friends including one who I’ve fallen into bed with off and on for, I don’t know, twenty-three years? Yeah, we should marry. We both say this, but are more attracted to renewing the chaos in our lives than we are to stability so we keep bumping the nuptials up by decades here and there. Generally, even though I’m physically attracted to each of these guys, when each was physically close to me, I balked. If I had num-chuks and knew how to use them, each would have hit the ground the second he moved into my personal circle. So, after trying all three of those guys, I thought, “fuck it” and dropped all hopes of sex until I was invited to be three.
I randomly met a couple.
The guy and I started chatting…
The conversation wasn’t creepy or over the line or about sex at all really…
So we decided to meet in a public place…
After he and I met, she joined us…
After some time passed, we changed locations and…one, two three.
Those are the facts. The emotions are that before we met, I had a looooong heart-to-heart with myself. While remembering how to flirt (seriously, it’s like riding a bike) I wrote a list of pros and cons for having a threesome. Thank you, Type A.
The pros went like this:
- No risk of any attachment or romantic relationship. Five star rating for me on this one
- I don’t trust myself with men. Three includes another female. Female = safe space
- I can see others’ reactions to my body before I’m fully ready to intimately invite someone into it (Note here: I view sex and intimacy as distant cousins. More on this in a future blog)
I couldn’t think of cons other than judgement from others. That, and what if the couple was creepy as fuck? On judgement, fuck it. Hiding from myself and others is how I ended up in chemo. To address the creeper issue, I developed a satisfactory exit strategy that included 007 code words and a best friend who has happily nested in a Jetsonian land of gay men and small dogs.
Weighing the outcome of that list is how I dove threesome first back into the dating pool. It’s how I found myself sending said best friend selfies one Thursday evening after yoga. According to my planner, I had exactly 2.5 hours between yoga and the penciled in threesome. I mean, what does one wear to a trio? The first ensemble got a “Mormon” rating, but the black silk and lace got an immediate thumbs up so I entered the situation feeling a little Driving Miss Daisy, a little Mary-Louise Parker circa Weeds and a little girl playing dress up.
You’d think with my loose sexual morals and cadre of husbands that I might have joined a trio many moons ago, but you’re wrong friends. The ‘ol trio has been offered by many people at many different junctures in my life but it’s never come to pass. In part, opportunities have been missed because I’m always in a relationship and those relationships always sustain with people who are sexually more conservative than I. Those partners wanted salt, I wanted paprika, cardamom and chili powder. The compromise was salt. The other piece of it is that, while I truly and deeply love women, I enjoy having sex with men.
Still, I finally took a couple up on the offer to be the third wheel and it couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. Everything went smoothly aside from the presentation of an anatomical challenge unlike any I’ve ever witnessed. It was so ridiculous in fact, that I burst out laughing. “There’s no fucking way.” So there was that and the shock and awe management of that. But where there is a will there is always a way. I willed easing back into sex in a kind, loving, non-committal accepting environment and that’s what came my way.
While I don’t know where sexual desire will lead for me—my libido remains unnervingly low—I don’t feel ashamed about my body or what I have to offer in that department. And, when the whole store has a blowout sale, you rebuild department by department even if it means taking a second look at items that have previously passed you by.