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Middle aged sexting

A while ago an American writer friend, Jeremy Adam Smith and I were talking about the shaming of sexting and how misrepresented the practice was in the media. He told me I should write an article about my mothers’ group sexting.. and eventually I did. (It was this article). He also decided to finally tackle the topic himself and wrote two articles on it, one, with his partner.

So, Jeremy’s articles…”Can sexting increase relationship satisfaction?” in Greater Good and “Teens need sext education” in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Of course there are buckets of mindless, consequence-free violence available to our children, in the form of video games where the only real goal is to do as much shooting, punching or murdering as possible. If slaughter is not for you, you might like to build walls in Minecraft, or collect benign, animated creatures in Pokemon Go. But what about play that provides a sophisticated metaphor for the real world, in all its complicated harshness?

I watch my son, and now also my daughter, playing D&D with their dad. My daughter, AKA Sarah Grindbone, nearly loses her life. My son, AKA Sword Slasher, has to decide whether to risk his own life to save her. It’s agonising, because this isn’t like video games, where you instantly “respawn” if you die, without weight or consequence. In D&D, if you die, you die.

It’s a game that’s set in a dark, scary place. It’s not peaceful or cute, but it is creative. It takes teamwork, imagination, and concentration. It’s a place of nuance. And yes, there are devils lurking. A lot like real life.

A lovely, layered article by my friend, Monica Dux in The Age, “Stranger Things lures a new generation into a nuanced world of Dungeons and Dragons”.

This is very supple writing from Kiese Laymon on symbolism very structural solutions with racism. It’s a wonderful use of observational diary writing (the tension in some of them!) and… football to draw you in.”How they do in Oxford” in ESPN.

Right now, I’m eating the best squash casserole I’ve eaten in my life at a restaurant called Ajax Diner. Ajax is on the Courthouse Square, the economic and cultural center in Oxford. There are lots of white folk in the restaurant, and a number of illustrations of Ray Charles and other black bluesmen on the wall. Twice I’ve heard, “We good, but we got to get a running game.”

I keep hearing the names Nkemdiche and Laremy and Laquon and Fadol.

I’m a long way from Jackson, but the taste, the smell and the rhythm of the names uttered in Ajax remind me of home. I have lived, taught and written at a college in upstate New York for the past 14 years. In those 14 years, I’ve never heard a white man say, “Collards pretty good tonight, ain’t they?”

That’s exactly what the white man at the table next to me keeps saying. I love that his color commentary is absent any linking verbs. I feel prideful that these Oxford white folk are eating our food and talking like us, even if they don’t know it.

A few black folk who work in the kitchen come out before I leave. We nod. I don’t feel as good about them eating our food anymore.

This is a really compelling discussion of aging as a feminist issue. For years a very good friend of mine has been talking about life cycle feminism – the various stages you almost inevitably pass through as a woman and how they shape your feminism – and I think this article is really establishing that idea very well.

“Aging while female is not your worst nightmare” by Lori Day (who I once co-wrote an article with, the only time I’ve ever seen a joint article plan with me actually come to fruition) in Feminist Current. 

For me, aging as a woman in America is less about injustices done to me than it is about a subtle undermining of my place within this society and a not-so-subtle disrespect that pops up more with each passing year. For example, if I condemn pornography as systemically damaging to women, it is my age that provokes my labeling as a prude and a pearl-clutcher. It cannot be that I base my opinion on studies and statistics and the understanding that feminism is a movement—one that supports the liberation of all women, not to be confused with individual women who choose to reduce their identities to the sexual uses and abuses of their bodies, calling that empowerment. My age sets me up for a kind of disdain only partially experienced by younger women with the same views. The wisdom that comes with age has little value to anyone but those possessing it, because wisdom is another word for old, and old is what no one wants to be.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you what it isn’t, at least for me. It isn’t to try to look or act younger. It isn’t to write blog posts about how hot/thin/beautiful/sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but wasting my written voice on championing shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is expected of women in a patriarchal society does not feel productive. It is an insidious capitulation. It entices women my age to trade away opportunities to weigh in on important matters for a chance to be among the “seen” again. I won’t play a game I despise, and that I did not create and cannot win.

To be an aging woman in America is to be constantly bombarded by imagery and media that distance your younger feminist sisters from you, because the idea of no longer resembling those youthful images of femininity and becoming invisible terrifies them. I look like a typical 51-year-old, and it is just bizarre realizing that my appearance is something many young women dread.

On the intimacy of home

As with any personal essay or memoir written by Rachel Cusk, this is wonderfully thought-provoking and insightful. “Making House: Notes on domesticity” in The New York Times. 

We moved house often, and each time it appeared that it was the perfecting of our environment that was causing us to leave it, as though living there had been a process of construction that was now complete. In much the same way as an artist’s deepest moments of intimacy with a canvas half-consciously generate the need or desire to rid himself of it, my mother perhaps felt a gathering frenzy as she bequeathed her domestic vision to us, for the sight of us starting to make ourselves comfortable there was surely the proof that the picture was finished. The summons of the unknown generally overrides sentiment; possibly, it feeds off it. To continue creating, a person perhaps has to maintain an essential discomfort in the world. The kitchen, where my mother spent most of her time, was often the smallest and dowdiest room in the houses we lived in; and I, too, have found myself working over the years in cramped bedrooms or at the kitchen table, even when a degree of prosperity would have permitted me to claim the much-vaunted room of my own.

In Italy once, I was given a private tour of a beautiful castle, led by the owner through room after impeccably furnished room, only to glimpse at the end through a half-open door a tiny, cavelike space crammed with all the evidence — a gas stove, a television, a tatty sofa — of daily life: This was clearly where the family spent their time. I have often looked at photographs of writers in their elegant book-lined studies and marveled at what seems to me a mirage of sorts, the near-perfect alignment of seeming with being, the convincing illusion of mental processes on public display, as though writing a book were not the work of someone capable of all the shame and deviousness and coldheartedness in the world.

This is gorgeous.

 

Quick hi from me to say I will be reading an extract from my article in defence of sexting, that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, on ABC’s Radio National on Monday Wednesday morning.

Hear my voice, trying to speak slower.

UPDATE: Here it is – me on Radio National defending sexting.