Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

It’s Your Turn Dear

Posted By on July 1, 2009

It’s Your Turn, Dear
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Sex is important to me. Despite coming out in the heyday of lesbian feminist politics when many women identified as "political lesbians” and being a political activist myself, I was always very clear that I was a lesbian for only one reason. I really like having sex with women.

My desire for women has been no small thing in this life, and has taken me down some very interesting paths. I have left long term relationships because the sex wasn’t good, wasn’t frequent, or simply wasn’t. Intimacy with my partner, sexual intimacy, has been a sacred expression of my love, and even as lesbians have gained so much social acceptance in these past decades, I have never lost sight of the fact that my sexual passion for women makes me a dangerous woman in this world. Yet, it is something I would not compromise, not for my career, not for my family, and not even for my lovers.

Then I had babies. I swore when I had my first son — I was at the time a single lesbian –that I would not give up my sexuality for parenting. When my son was just a few weeks old, I was dating women I met through a personal ad — women who mostly ran in the other direction when they heard I had a newborn. Or maybe it was the spit-up on my skirt that turned them off; it’s hard to know for sure.

When my son was six months old, I fell madly and passionately in love with a woman –the butch of my dreams, who might prefer that I find a more neutral term than woman. After years of chasing hir, perhaps something about witnessing my maternal side made me safer to move closer to. Our entire relationship has developed woven around the fabric of diapers, bottles, temper tantrums and babysitters.

Early in our relationship, when having sex for hours at end was an indispensable priority, our son was very cooperative, sleeping long hours while we explored the depths of each other. We lived on very little sleep, and were startled unexpectedly — sigh, often at very bad moments — by the sudden cry of a baby demanding a bottle, or a cuddle, or a soggy diaper change. There were few illusions in our growing romance since part of our courtship involved wiping poop off of each other hands and soaking spit-up out of both lingerie and dress clothes.

I remember preparing for a hot date once, having a few moments of quiet in my house. I prepared a bath with bubbles and aromatherapy and planned on soaking and lathering my body with lotion, and doing all those girl things that I love. As I sunk back into the bathtub, breathing a sigh of relief and relaxation, I felt a sudden piercing in the small of my back, as the rubber ducky jabbed into my kidney. I got used to the rhythm of our lives with one child, struggling to find time to our intimacy, but committed to it.

When we adopted a second child, also a son (surely a topic for another column, how my women’s centered world has become a training academy for young boys), this one was not as cooperative as the first child, being a high needs child who always wanted to be cuddled, held, fed, and spent hours screaming. We learned to live our lives with a child strapped to our bodies ("It’s your turn, dear") and to have conversations with wailing as the backdrop.

Sex is still important to me — theoretically. I mean I still like sex, and we still have great sex — when we can get there. It is hard to find time to get there with Rugrats blasting on the tube, the dog whining to go out, and a baby screaming for another bottle. My honey looks at me over the children’s heads and smiles a smile that tells me, sigh, yes it would be nice to roll around for a while wouldn’t it. The truth is that by the time we get to the kids to bed, the lunches packed, the laundry moved from washer to dryer, and dog walked, we will be too tired to do anything besides fall into bed — baby between us — and, sigh, sleep.

We had plans for Mother’s Day. My mother-in-law came to babysit; we made expensive dinner plans at a restaurant a block away from our house and went out on a lovely date. Sitting across from hir I remember romance and desire, though we both have to keep reminding each other to not talk about the baby’s intestinal problems, or the political problems in my older son’s school.

We head home and upstairs. We light candles and incense, and move towards each other, just in time for our four year old to wake up screaming. He has developed some night terrors — normal everyone tells me — and screams for 15 minutes before he finally falls into a deep sleep.

I come back to bed, and reach out to hir, just in time for the baby to start his frantic grunts that inevitably lead to another bottle, burping, farting, diaper changing, spitting up, clothes changing before falling into another fitful sleep. We get up and feed, and burp, and clean up, cuddling in bed, talking about how lucky we are to have such sweetness in our life, and looking at each other with hunger in our eyes … but I notice she is starting to yawn.

The baby is finally asleep, and as we roll over to each other, the sky crashes with thunder and lightening, and our 12-year old, 75 pound dog jumps suddenly on the bed, on top of both of us, whining with fear. Shaking our heads, we fall asleep, reminiscing about the passion we have known, savoring its taste and smell in our centers. We know that soon our little one will sleep through the night, and all too soon they will not want to cuddle in bed with us, or share their night terrors. And we know that our bodies will still be here for each other, older, perhaps a bit fatter and hairier, longing in desire for one another.