It had come to this. A comprehensive video series on improving marital sex. Eight years into our relationship, I didn't think my husband Ben and I would still be having sex, let alone improving it. After seeing numerous articles with titles like "20 Ways to Tap the Keg of His Desire" and "15 Viagra-Based Casseroles," I'd assumed married men automatically lost physical interest in their wives over time. And, I admit, I looked forward to pursuing other interests, such as watching "ER" unmolested.
As a young Bacchanalian couple we'd competed numerous times in the Sealy Posturepedic Marathon. But then we had children. As each of our two daughters emerged from the womb, they carried with them great fistfuls of my libido. I figured that by association, Ben's ardor would also wane. But no. Ben trolls for sex at an alarming rate. Even our chaotic house, overflowing with children, a passive-aggressive cat and a menacing mortgage, is no deterrent.
"I don't understand why you hate sex," he'll pout as I crawl into my Dr. Denton's at 8:30 p.m., yawning theatrically. It's not that I hate sex -- and it isn't that Ben is unattractive. He's got amazing brown eyes, an inviting body and a tremendous ability to tolerate his high-maintenance spouse. But it's tough loving any activity that cuts into Mommy's already limited sleep time, and causes me to miss scenes from the next X-Files. Not to mention the pulled muscles.
"We just need to get more creative," Ben suggested, attributing my declining libido to boredom. "There's got to be new stuff we can try." Fine with me. "But if you come at me with anything fur-lined, I'm calling 911," I warned.
So we broke down and bought the tapes. I'd seen the advertisement in the back of a highbrow literary magazine -- right between the ads for Tuscan vacation homes and faux-leather delicates.
"Want to watch the tapes?" Ben asked, the day they arrived. No, I want to paint my nails and go to sleep. "Sure," I replied, mentally reviewing my wedding vows for a loophole.
What was proper Marital Aid Video-watching etiquette? Should we serve Doritos? Triscuits and bean dip? What wine does one pour while observing strangers earnestly doing the nasty? Fortunately, we opted for nothing. These films don't use models or actors but "real" people. With real cellulite.
Part I: Freeing Up Your Inhibitions -- Here we join Mel and Jean at the dining room table. Jean's always fantasized about Mel having her for dinner, so this is a real treat for the couple. By gazing deeply into each other's eyes, they are able to unselfconsciously shed their clothes, push aside the matzo ball soup and go for it. Notice how the subtle candlelight makes Mel's appendectomy scar especially bearable.
After several minutes of observing Mr. and Mrs. Middle-Age Spread writhe beside the pot roast, I felt nauseated. "Yep, we could be like them," I told Ben. "You gain 40 pounds and let your eyebrows join, and I'll contract leprosy."
"Just give it a chance, OK?" he replied as the video cut away from the romping for an obligatory synopsis from the therapist-host, a perky, middle-aged woman with dubious credentials.
Part II: Getting Creative -- Watch as frisky, fun-loving Dennis and Jamie cavort on the patio. Note their inventive use of cocktail onions. As they momentarily disengage, Dennis reaches for a can of Reddi-Whip Lite. The couple plans on switching to full-fat, but not until Jamie sheds those last 60 pounds of post-partum weight.
As Ben jotted down pointers, I put my head between my knees to stop the vertigo. "What do you think so far?" he asked. Silence.
Part III: Keeping Sex Exciting -- Together for 30 years, Stanley and Ellen have taken lovemaking to a new, more spiritual level. Content to cuddle for hours in bed, Ellen's faded stretch marks bring forth happy memories of their five children. As they caress one another, their arousal builds gradually yet feverishly to a level many younger couples never reach. While Stanley services his mate, his own pleasure noticeably grows. He says he doesn't even miss his prostate.
Mercifully, the tape ended. "You didn't like it?" Ben asked. "It's not that," I said, battling dry heaves. "But I can't really see us doing any of that stuff." I don't even let my kids drink Kool-Aid at the dining room table; I'm sure as hell not going to get naked on it.
Ben continues to look for innovative ways to fluff the stuffing on our marital bed. He keeps slipping me articles that suggest fantasizing during lovemaking, hoping I'll become a team player. Apparently I'm an 80-year-old trapped in a 27-year-old's body, because my fantasies are no racier than sleeping in on weekends and finishing the Sunday Times.
Hoping to solve our libidinous dilemma once and for all, we've decided to get out the big guns: "The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana." After all, a thousand generations of Indian horn-dogs can't be wrong. There is, however, a caveat. "You go ahead and put on your Aladdin pants," I said to Ben. "But I'm not prepared to dangle from one elbow while wearing nothing but a beauty mark."