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Jul-16-2013 16:36printcomments

Experimental Essay on Sex, Gender and Fantasy; the Realm

There appears to be a distinct melancholy that accompanies the aging process.


(PORTLAND, OR) - As we age, men and women, having survived what can be numerous failed relationships or marriages often find themselves wondering if the personal hunger for romantic love can remain infallible to them or eventually wither and die altogether.

Does it fade to the inner realm of an unknown fantasy life that we conceal from family, friends or even ourselves? And if so, is there anything wrong with the loss of that desire for human connectedness? Does this hunger for idealized perfection (or something close to it) linger in the form of daily or nightly images and dialogue, passing through our minds like the most hidden of shameful criminal confessions?

As American’s, we are fed an alluring diet of archetypes for both genders. For women, the common available archetype is the super man. As opposed to Nietzsche's dated assertion, the ‘Superman’ tends to be portrayed (according to popular culture across the globe) as American rather than German. He is often seen in cinema and literature and is depicted as superior to women in intellect and also with regard to the control of his emotions and the manner that they are expressed.

He is physically ideal. The jaw line fits the grid for masculine beauty perfectly. His teeth are lovely; his shoulders strong, his legs go all the way up. His intellect is impressive and his words chosen carefully, never hastily, reflective of the university education he worked hard for; no silver spoon in his mouth. The tone of his voice is baritone, thoughtful, possessing that undeniably masculine nuance of calm confidence in his own capabilities, his own unspoken superiority. Because he is after all, a Man.

So what happens when the passage of time creates lines on our faces, and silver in our once abundant hair? When we age and react with surprise at what we see in the reflection of the looking glass? What happens when marriages fail and we find ourselves alone? Is it possible to find any manner of deep satisfaction within ourselves when we cannot find it mirrored in the form of another person? And which is preferable, more enjoyable?

To be alone, chasing ambition like a narcotic, protecting one’s inner sanctuary of self or to share simple human pleasures with another person with whom you feel that undeniable click of chemistry that make relationships that much more rewarding?

There appears to be a distinct melancholy that accompanies the aging process. We look at photos of our former selves, the slender limbs, the springy flesh, or once pert breasts and then see in just what manner time has altered things.

Time; the original betrayer can betray the body in what seems like the blink of an eye and apologizes to no one for the unwelcome gift it bestows. The future appears shabby-chic and unchanging; we know what small treasures it may extend in our direction, while the past glistens with the nostalgic glamour of previous victories and the lost exhilaration of youth that refuses to recede from memory.

I know for myself that fantasy often sustains me. Fantasy in the form of idealized images of the opposite sex, while sad in its way has a way of giving me a feeling of faint hope. My hope for personal happiness does not die a total death when I have my fantasies to sustain me, providing me with food for speculative thought on my journey to The Land of What Could Be. Maybe one day, I tell myself, I will meet someone worthy of me in this world of fragile, imperfect human beings.

The idea of what I hope to find in the ideal man is something I recognize as wishful thinking, perhaps even immature longing for the father I never connected with, yet it still creates and nourishes in me a perception of what I believe to be a noble vision of what men can be. It was not something I saw in my father, nor in either of my husbands, though my second husband came very close to it.

The notion of masculine nobility however, is something that is incredibly alluring and appealing to a woman who can admit she is in love with the idea of men but doesn’t quite understand the reasons why and probably never will.

No one will ever find me reading magazines on how to win a man. I am not a Cosmo girl. No one will find me attempting to change my appearance, color my hair, experiment with lipstick colors or try a different perfume from Macy’s department store, in the hope of attracting a man.

My interior fantasy life is not something I talk about with family, friends, my mother, three sisters or my teen aged daughter. The constant I can count on in my daily and nightly life is the steady stream of images and dialogue with one particular kind of man. You could say he is my Dream Man because I do dream of him. Why his image, why those words? I’ll never be able to say.

Lack of fulfillment I suppose, loneliness also, but that realization doesn’t change the reality of what I experience. It is changeless; this particular procession of images and dialogue and seems to have begun its unwelcome occurrence a couple of years ago, when I must have unconsciously realized that the separation from my 2nd husband would likely not remain a temporary one.

It’s been five years now and some odd months with no end in sight and the night’s parade of images has become a constant that I still don’t adequately comprehend.

We separated because he and our teen daughter could not co-habitate peacefully. It was neither one’s fault really and with an exhausted resignation I accepted that separating from my husband was the only solution. Now, the idea of reuniting is terrifying. I cannot sacrifice the freedom and peace of mind that I have enjoyed during the past five years. Perhaps we have also, to a degree, fallen out of love or at least had our love transformed into something sad where once sadness did not exist.

The mutual desire was, for a time, still occasionally present; the knowledge that satisfaction could be achieved but it was a desire that became inherently melancholy. It refused to be completely extinguished but lost its former innocence and joy.

Coming to terms with living alone, with being alone and essentially an Island unto ourselves is the one task in life that proves to be the most difficult to reconcile without struggle. This fear of aloneness is why we unite ourselves with drink, with drugs, with sex, pornography, fetishes, self-harm; anything to push away that feeling of being cut off from the pulse of life, from the desired sensations that say, ‘yes, you exist; you are valid.’ Perhaps this is the real core of my dilemma, a garden variety fear of death and nothing more or less complex than that.

Still, when I lie down and close my eyes in my bedroom, dim with evening shadows; a room that has both blinds and dark red draperies, I can count on the man coming to my mind. After my nightly bath with scented oils and salts, I prepare for the blissful light to go out with the man in tow.

My vision adjusts to the dark room; I lay on my antique bed and 'The Man' comes to my consciousness. He is like a character from a David Goodis novel; he is everything that I would want in a man. Remote, sexual, silently appealing. He is all that my handsome and tall 2nd husband is not, though I do love my husband, my fantasy man is complete, whereas my husband is not.

I fall asleep quickly. The Man follows behind. His leather Wing tips click on tiled floor. His legs are long, pelvis narrow, thighs buoyant with heavy muscle, chest and developed arms powerful. Large expressive hands are lined and coarse, as my father’s once were. The watchful keen eyes are blue, like mine only in color. He has a thick neck like a young horse and wears an inexpensive suit.

The beige jacket is carelessly thrown over the back of a chair as he stands in his scene posing, watching me as I watch him, though clearly the gaze is mine. His tie is slightly loose over a white shirt, with sleeves rolled up to the elbow. The calm veneer of a gentleman conceals the threat of potential emotion. A desire to control things and people perhaps a bit too strongly is evident in his demeanor yet tolerated because he’s a man and I’m a woman and that’s the way things are. You accept it’s a man’s world and always will be. You feel no animosity, no anger, just acceptance at the truth of reality. It exists and resents no one, truth. Like math, truth is impersonal and holds no grudges. 

You see; this man is a real man, not some comical example of masculine aggression to be laughed at in secret, with your hand held over your mouth, but something multi-faceted, something valid, expansive and complex.

He is someone you can count on to get you out of a dicey situation and also hand you that tedious Dostoevsky novel you misplaced two weeks ago, asking you what you think of the protagonist and how ‘fleshed out’ his character appears to be.

When you stroll through the downtown red light district after seeing a film, he walks down the street with you walking on the inside of the avenue, not the outside. He thinks of those things. He opens doors casually, waiting for you to enter, not making a big deal of it. He pulls out chairs, guides you as you cross a busy street. He laughs quietly when you forget your wallet, non-judgmental, non-critical, good natured. He is the man who will protect you and make you feel safe. But more than that, he is the man who will validate, excite, question, flatter, and quietly manage you because you cannot manage yourself and you know it and have known it a long while now.

His heart is kind, but he’s strong, with a passionate nature that requires all the observational skills you currently possess but it’s a passion with no proclivity to abuse of you. He won’t turn on you with a closed fist.

Your trust in him is genuine but you revere him also. He always retains that unknown edge, that spike of distance he chooses to keep, to kindly keep, which leaves you just a little on the outside. As a result, submerging for either of you won’t become a danger and you appreciate that about him. He has the caution of an older man.

You’re a little older now too; submersion and the resentment it creates is something you are well aware of. You have your own interests and time; you can walk away coolly and give nothing away; it’s a skill you learned over decades. You have the confidence to call a bluff and disappear for hours if tension becomes an issue.

The typical scenarios are envisioned with your fantasy man; Saturday night drives, because he knows how much you enjoy watching him drive, feeling that positive charge of going forward and essentially nowhere at the same time.

He is expert behind the wheel. His hands glide over the steering wheel effortlessly and you feel proud that he can do anything, because he has so many other talents, including his work and the research that he does on the side.

As he continues to drive, with only his left hand resting lightly on the steering wheel, he glances over and smiles suddenly, grateful, to see you're watching him quietly. The city lights and moving shadows play across your face and the wind from the open window ruffles his hair and there is no place else you'd rather be than right there, caught in that moment.

Now you’re making dinner for him, his favorite, whatever that happens to be. But a safe gamble is a medium to well-done Rib Eye streak, baked potato and bright red slices of Roma tomato covered in Tarragon vinegar and olive oil, with yellow bread and butter, beside a chilled glass of red wine. The perfect dinner, for anyone of course.

Then there are the images of the delicious slow sex that follow. The slow involved love making that New Age folks call "spiritual sex" because it’s so good; so attuned to a spiritual union between the two of you that nothing else exists but the precious moment caught in the eternal now. A now that seems infused with the precious goodness of God in every passing moment.

And of course naturally your man is impressively well endowed in just that way that makes you feel completely feminine. You want to yield, you long to surrender and you will. He’s old enough; mature enough to know exactly what to do. He knows exactly how to move, with just what force and rhythm it will take to make you come and he won’t rush. He’ll take his time. Because he wants to be the one in charge; he wants to feel the control only he can feel when he makes you come. As a result, and out of genuine gratitude, you want nothing more than to worship him. Though in public you’re as cool as a bored brother and sister eating afternoon lunch, you can’t wait to enter the perfumed bedroom, dark with undulating shadow and sit at his feet, on your naked knees and worship.

You need to worship, you hunger to worship, him. The days of your girlhood are forever done and over with, but he makes you feel like a girl again. That new, that uncertain. He tells you the silver streaks in your dark brunette hair are beautiful. He calls you Baby Doll and Little Girl. This is what you want to feel; with him and no other.

The problem is that Superman does not exist. The Man does not exist. He is a shadow in your bedroom and will never come to you. He is an undulating tease, a shimmering lie, a pretty phantom man and yet you go back to him night after night, because he is what you want. He is that collective of sensations you hunger to experience and never will.

He is the word desire and desire is absolute.

Theresa Griffin-Kennedy~

Theresa Griffin Kennedy is a writer and social activist, completing a masters degree at Portland State University in Adult Education. Her goal upon completing the degree will be to teach incarcerated offenders creative writing.

With a focus on the middle east and human rights, Ms Kennedy has written articles on the human rights of women in the middle east, the homeless and the mentally ill.

Poetry and the art of the personal essay are also strong focal points and continue to be explored in her writing. Ms Kennedy continues to write, submit her writing and be published.

Any comments, questions or remarks, regarding this work of creative non-fiction can be emailed to

Ms. Theresa Kennedy-DuPay~ - Feel free to peruse my personal website, click the active link down below and enjoy.



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Barbara H. Horter July 19, 2013 3:43 pm (Pacific time)

You term your essay experimental...but what you have written is what many other women have lived. myself included...I especially was taken by the description of watching your love's forearms as he drove and worked with the steering wheel in his individual manner...I always told my husbands (I had two, both of whom died) that I loved to sit in the car and watch their beautiful arms and hands...I am 72 years old and am just as passionate about love making as I was at seventeen...I use all manner of wonderful things in life, in addition, to fantasizing about a man, to provide ecstasy for myself....I can become rapturous listening to a I dream about physical love with a man...I write erotic poetry,, back and forth, with a male poet friend and he tells me I provide marvelous climaxes for him....we speak on the phone also, (he is married and fifteen years younger than I.) fantasy is a marvelous realm....but I would truly love to love this man physically before I leave this earth and he desires the same....

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