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October 19, 2013

Many of you know that almost a year ago my mother died, and I spent most of the eight months before that with her in the various hospital and rehab settings in which she spent her last months. For the two and a half years before she got sick, I was focused largely on my work as an officer in my faculty union, and so it has been a long time since I’ve blogged with any regularity.

Consider this a rebirth, then. I’m just beginning a new project that will have me blogging more regularly. The new project tells the story of my mother’s sexual re-awakening in her late 50s and 60s, the years just before her death. It focuses on my relationship with her, and how my position as a sociologist and sex blogger (and a lot of alcoholism-related codependence) allowed her to share much of that sexual exploration with me. I’m returning to blogging as a way to move forward in that project. As I draft chapters I may share parts of them here. As I think about sexuality and aging, or sexuality and health care, or mothers and daughters, I will share some of those thoughts here.

I look forward to comments and feedback on all of the above. I’ve always found a great deal of community in this online world, and the community that forms around Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance feels particularly like home to me. I’m excited to share this with all of you.

To give you a sense of the project, whose working title is My Mother’s Cross, here’s a snippet from a chapter I’m working on now. It’s called “Maternity Leave”:

The cross stood right in the center of her craft room, a room otherwise cluttered with paints and polymer clay, with trays and trays of beads and wire, with ashtrays and dirty glasses. It was a large, black, wooden X, standing on a shallow platform, canted backward at a very slight angle, lined up and down with eye bolts, and draped with Dollar Store scarves. There was no mistaking its purpose. It was so large, and the room so small, that one could almost miss the wall racks behind it (one of which was actually a dish strainer) from which hung an astonishing array of masks, cuffs, collars, canes, floggers and, of course, more scarves.

The cross was supposed to be collapsible, for discreet storage, but like many other pieces of my mother’s life, it was too heavy and complicated for her to manage on her own. And besides, putting things away was simply not her style. A walk through her apartment revealed every interest and hobby she had entertained over several decades. My mother did not compartmentalize.

I first saw my mother’s cross when I arrived at her apartment after a very anxious trip from New York City to Philadelphia. She was in the hospital again, delusional from outrageously high blood sugar, probably related to the cancer that was metastasizing in her body. I marveled at the fact that the owner of this cross, who no doubt had strung men up, bound them to those eye bolts, and flogged them with that assortment of tools hanging from the dish strainer, was now lying in this hospital bed, looking weak and bewildered. Bondage and medical play wove itself into her hospital delusions. She told me that she suspected that there were other Mistresses in the hospital with her and that there was secret research being conducted on them. She was afraid that nobody would believe her if she tried to object. She told me she had overheard conversations between the nurses. She was very honestly afraid and there was little I could do to reassure her. Delusions are delusional, after all.


To view the other posts in this series, click here: 

Elderly Women


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