Bilkish Vahed

Rebellion & Romance

Page 2 of 10

The Prosaic & the Wild

Loving is easy. In my day-to-day exchanges with strangers and people I don’t know well, often I feel a clear, warm feeling coursing through me. My heart swells as I listen to their stories, or simple comments, observations about this or that. Our common humanity sparks my love which pours forth with no effort. It’s simple and I’m gratified.

Relationships, even though anchored in love, are different.  Repositories of so much stuff – of the individuals and the partnership – accumulated over time, make a relationship a complex animal, full of moodiness, varying flavours, intense whirling swoops and dark heavy dips. But in this very tactility lies its preciousness. 

Egon Schiele, ‘Self Portrait in Jerkin with Right Elbow Raised’ 1914
Egon Schiele, ‘Seated Semi Nude with Hat and Purple Stockings’ 1910

Romantic relationship is much like performance art that requires the other. Only in this edgy relational playing field can one let the subtle bubbles of the deep erotic self rise to the surface. Egon Schiele had an uncanny way of penetrating this self. His art asks: Is there space in the relationship to express the diverse aspects of the self, even those less acceptable, not conventionally pretty parts that are none the less urgently real? Is there space to perform our hidden under the skin desires?

Whilst we crave the anchoring sense of loving “home” with a romantic partner, still our internal antennae are in revolt at the first hint of stifling constraint. In revolt when we find ourselves having to suppress our desires. Cherishing the other is at the heart of relating, but safeguarding our erotic vivacity is paramount, as we grapple to make space for both the prosaic and the wild. 

Lycra & the Body

I don’t like the tautness of lycra on my skin, but for yoga class I follow the fashion, I wear lycra tights with sports bra and top. It makes sense, you don’t want pieces of clothing flapping around you as you move, that’s a distraction.

In the midst of stretching an arm and opening a hip the other day, it occurred to me that the figure-hugging outfit actually inadvertently achieved something deeper – it put me IN my body, made me feel my whole form, its contours, its individual shape, its length and breath. I had a fuller awareness of my body than being naked affords. 

Felling IN the body is priceless.

How we loose this sense as we trudge around in our day to day, modern lives. Being IN the body is feeling switched on, feeling the sensuality of the wind on your skin, the rush of just moving your limbs with awareness, being open to the knowledge that seeps into consciousness only through the body. Lycra has its uses!

Attraction

Attraction is really weird. It flares in the eye of a stranger, stirs the senses and feels like a stretchy elastic band is enclosing you with this person across the room. It just happens. Is there, a tactile heat that warms in a cursory moment. Should you reach out to touch it, you wonder?

Amedeo Modigliani – Portrait de Jeanne,his girlffriend, painted in 1918, two years before his death and her suicide.

Risky business, I say! Risky, risky, I smile. You see, in the act of bridging the distance, in actually approaching to speak, or dance, or communicate in some way, the attraction is unveiled, moved into the glaring light.

In the starkness of the glare, that spontaneous chemistry that beckoned may dissolve into flat nothingness. Or, or be the beginning of something delicious. No way to know in advance. So don’t hold back, risky be damned!

Attraction is a gift – reach for it with soft, tender hands.

A Pulsing Something

It took shape not during the first dance, nor the second, probably the third or fourth. An ordinary man, dancing with an ordinary woman, amongst ordinary couples circling the dance floor. There it was suddenly, palpable in the space between us, this unseen, deeply felt, subtly pulsing something.

Time slowed down. We slipped into a portal it seemed, our senses becoming acutely attuned. The music played on, amidst a deep stillness. The connection of our moving bodies, keenly refined by mutual listening so clear, I was awe struck.

Here was intimacy. Not sexual intimacy. 

What was arresting, had seemingly little to do with the actual touching of bodies, cheek to cheek, palm to palm, arms wrapped around shoulders and necks. The magic was located elsewhere, in a kind of ethereal waveform that had spontaneously arisen between us. 

What was this exactly, I try to grasp this morning?

Celibate in Paris

BOOK – THE ART OF SLEEPING ALONE

Imagine being at a party, people milling around drinks in hand, conversation is interesting then momentarily tedious, when someone suddenly says quietly: 

“For a long while, and I really don’t wish to say when it was or how many years it lasted, I chose to live in what was perhaps the worst insubordination of our times: I had no sex life.”  

This is Sophie Fontanel’s opening admission in her memoir The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex (2013).

It’s true that I’ve had intimate unasked for details of sexual exploits foist upon me, by a tipsy bragging man or woman at a party, but talk of no sex life? Not that, which makes Fontanel’s opening claim surprising and even shocking.

Spontaneously I flicked to the back jacket cover, and was greeted by a smiling, radiant, attractive woman, who has been an editor at French Elle for more than a decade, I read. What had prompted this decision, I wanted to know? Fontanel did not apparently find herself simply going through a dry period where no lover materialised to flame her desire; hers was, she tells us, a determination, a choice to be celibate – why? 

For a few months Fontanel’s friends tolerated her solitude and state of abstinence with curiosity. Curiosity soon gave way to harassment – had she met someone yet? Why was she not dressed properly – showing more leg, more cleavage and where in heavens name were the high heels?  They urged her, shoved her towards a man, any available man, but she was having none of it.

“I’d had it with being taken and rattled around. I’d had it with handing myself over. I’d said yes too much.”

In breezy prose and loosely connected vignettes, the narrative goes on to tell about the sexual lives of Fontanel’s friends. The guy who had been a star but who now is alone and melancholy and lives with his Monet; Henrietta who “bound herself to a man” through love, because she figured that “without anything, one has nothing”; the woman from Basel who extolls the wonderful sex that she has with her industrialist husband, though she still hankers for other men and her husband fantasises about a threesome; the neighbour who has been suffering for five years because his wife won’t let him touch her, as she finds the male body repulsive. 

Dissatisfied, compromised, sad lives – what did they tell me, if anything, about what sat at the heart of Fontanel’s story?

‘If you force yourself to make love, if your sex life isn’t as good as the one you dreamt of or expected, if you don’t feel respected, can you just stop? 

‘The answer is yes. And the fact that women can make love when and how they want is sexual liberation. But sexual liberation is also to not do it, if you don’t want to.’

Fontanel talking to the Telegraph

Could the key lie in the experience of the young girl who at thirteen looked sixteen? The precocious teenager who followed her lust into a hotel room with a handsome tourist from Mexico, twenty years her senior, a stranger who took what she had unconsciously offered, irreversibly. Did that first sexual experience shape everything that followed? 

At twenty her first serious boyfriend had his way with her. He woke her in the middle of the night but she was never grumpy. In bed, he tugged her head this way and that but she didn’t bat an eyelid. He strode around the apartment imperiously. She remained impassive and mysterious but something else lurked within.

One day her boyfriend was in bed watching a television show about dog handlers. Contrary to what the public think, a colonel explained, the dangerous dogs are not those that bark and carry on, appearing fearsome, for those dogs give someone a chance to actually plan an approach and form a relationship with them. The dog that appears placid, on the other hand, that allows you to approach, doesn’t growl, welcomes your pat, then suddenly whips around to tear off your cheek because you have unknowingly touched her on “some nondescript place” – that’s the tricky dog. A picture of a female Dalmatian appeared on the screen. Fontanel chillingly realised – she was that tricky Dalmatian.

Ours is a culture where to admit to having no sex life is to open oneself to ridicule. Someone who is not doing it  – frequency is crucial – can feel like a pariah condemned to silence. Fontanel’s slim volume goes a way to lifting the veil of silence, but more needs to be written with sensitivity and intelligence about the unravelling complexities of desire.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2019 Bilkish Vahed

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑