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I recently got turned on (excuse the pun) to a queer Black writer, Audre Lorde, who wrote an essay in 1978, titled “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.”
She said, “When we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense.”
For Audre Lorde, the erotic doesn’t necessarily mean sex.
Maybe the erotic sounds like a banjo. Maybe the erotic tastes like cilantro. Maybe it feels like fixing the washing machine. We’ll know it, promises Lorde, by what makes us exclaim, “Yes!” to ourselves.
I want to take Ms. Lorde’s lead here and step out of the sexual arena as I invite you to explore eroticism with me.
I doubt there is a reader here who can’t relate to sexual eroticism—that wave of desire or excitement that takes you under and threatens to drown you in pleasure.
I admit, my panties moisten, and I begin to daydream a little just thinking about it. But, I want to talk about a different kind of erotic pleasure today.
I want to bring focus to all those small moments in life that bring you exquisite pleasure and that make you scream, “Yes!”
Think of the myriad advertising slogans that, in one way or another, have said, “This (fill in the blank) is better than sex.”
Life has become so cluttered and busy that we have little time to indulge in a languid afternoon, seeped in pleasuring ourselves or another. We have no time to lose ourselves in a decadent, three-hour, pleasure-inducing gourmet meal. No time for a weekend away with nothing to do but sink into the delight of doing absolutely nothing.
How do we find rapture when we’re consumed with our itemized list of things that need to get done?
I propose that there are micro pleasures, throughout our day, that fulfill our need for the erotic.
Let’s bring awareness to those and indulge ourselves in recognizing and feeling grateful for them, so here are some of mine:
1. Standing under a hot shower.
I love a hot shower! Sometimes, the best ones happen after physical exertion— going on a mountain bike ride, pulling weeds in the garden, or helping a neighbor clean out their garage. I finish my task, peel off my clothes, and position myself under that hot spray.
It envelopes me, floods me with pleasure, and makes me feel like I’m in a womb of delight.
2. Listening to NPR in the car.
NPR—National Public Radio. It has become my friend over the years.
“AirTalk,” “On Point,” “Fresh Air,” “Radiolab,” “This American Life,” “BBC Newshour,” “Science Friday,” “The Moth,” and “Snap Judgement”—I could list so many more programs I love to listen to.
My internal “Yes!” moment comes when I climb into my car to run errands and turn on the FM station. It just makes me feel so freaking good every single time.
3. Getting a new pen.
There’s something about a new pen that is erotic. Writers, am I right?
The way it fits perfectly in your hand, the way the ink flows onto the paper, the pleasure of having chosen your favorite—Fine Point? Medium Point? Black Ink? Blue Ink? Fountain Pen? Gel? Ballpoint? It’s an erotic indulgence for sure.
4. An afternoon nap.
Thinking back to the busyness of life, I must admit that an afternoon nap is a rare thing.
But on those few occasions when I can indulge, I lie down on the couch, with the afternoon sun pouring in through the slots in the window shades, and let myself go. Sinking into “nap sleep” is different than succumbing to night sleep. There is an indulgent laziness that feels wonderfully decadent. The sleep-induced narcoma is as good as any drug I’ve ever tried.
5. Listening to my favorite playlists.
There are two activities I do that beg for musical accompaniment—housework and riding my mountain bike. I don’t always listen to music when I ride my bike. Sometimes, the music of the tires on the trail and the cries of nature are perfect. Other times, I want to be motivated to just ride, ride, ride.
That’s when the perfect playlist can make me say “Yes!” Sometimes it’s Khaled, sometimes The Beatles, even old Bee Gees, or Thompson Twins have a place.
Currently, I’m loving Dua Lipa. (Who isn’t?)
6. Laughing so hard you almost pee your pants.
I enjoy life. I like to laugh. But there’s laughter, and then there’s laughter! My granddaughters (16, 22, and 29) can make me laugh so hard I lose my breath, so hard I almost pee my pants.
We’ve shared so many silly moments and compiled so many inside jokes from our shared memories. We love singing in the car, imitating whatever artist is calling to us, and doing it all as loud as we can. Sometimes just a knowing glance can send us into giggle fits that we can’t stop. I f*cking love these moments.
Yes! I say…yaaasss!
7. Watching episodes of “Call the Midwife.”
This tender show—first on PBS and now on Netflix—gives me such deep pleasure. It’s a BBC period drama series about a group of midwives and nuns working in the East end of London in the late 1950s and 1960s.
It tackles poignant, contemporary, social, cultural, and economic issues, and love is always a pivotal theme. Maternal, paternal, filial, fraternal, sisterly, romantic love or the love of friends are explored in every episode. And there is always a birth. I laugh. I cry. I feel all the feels. And I come away with a renewed faith in our human species. A huge Yes! to this one.
8. Indulging in the sounds of my back patio.
I’ve logged many hours sitting on my back patio. I’m here, right now, in fact, writing this article. Sometimes I’m here in the early morning hours, sometimes midday, or late in the evening, and there are unique sounds to each time of day. I can always hear my many windchimes creating music—sometimes loudly, sometimes in a whisper.
In the early morning, I can hear the wild burros braying in the distance. I hear honey bees swarming in blossoming trees we’ve planted for them. Mid-morning brings the frenetic flapping of hummingbird wings. There are many songbirds that pop in and out all day long. And nighttime brings the howls and yips of the coyotes.
This symphony of sounds has nurtured my erotic pleasures for many years now.
I hope I’ve stirred in you the awareness that eroticism doesn’t have to be confined to sexual pleasure. I invite you to make a list of your own and acknowledge the many moments of pleasure all around you each day.
I hope I’ve convinced you that even a small act, in the tiniest moment, can be erotic.
So tell me, what do you say yes! to?