There by the check-out line in the local King Soopers was a Cosmopolitan Magazine with the big white words on the lavender cover, “Find your erogenous zones.” Well, it was the 70s and love was free, “Strangers in the Night,” kind of thing. It was kind of a kinky King Soopers (Kroger) in what my boyfriend, Peter, called the “gay ghetto of Denver.” It was such an interesting King Soopers that LONG before I knew Peter, friends and I would hang out there to “watch the freak show,” which is to say, some pretty outrageously decked out transvestites on a Saturday night.

Erogenous zones and similar libidinous mapping were a big deal back then. It’s fun to watch movies from those times. My favorite is Shampoo with Julie Christie and Warren Beatty, but Woody Allen’s, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask is a hilarious send up of that histrionic I mean historical moment.

The “sexual revolution” coincided with the Women’s Liberation Movement. Magaziines carried articles explaining that sex was something that women could enjoy TOO and that’s where the erogenous zones came (ha ha) in. I guess someone had to teach the men, but first someone had to teach the women.

I don’t know how it was for my peers reading this blog, but in my case it all started at age 9 (terrified my mom). The moment was met by a lot of stuff but no fanfare or congratulations as happens today. Ultimately, my mom handed me a little book from Metropolitan Life called “Your First Period.” She sent me to my room to read it saying, “Don’t come out until you’ve read it.” I read it. It was some bland anatomical graphics in the favorite colors of 1961 — turquoise and tangerine, maybe? It explained how babies were made but said nothing about sex. For my mom, that was all I needed to know EVER. She was a typically repressed WASP woman about this stuff. My dad was afraid I’d grow up like that and put his OWN book on the subject lower on his bookshelf a few years later when he decided I was old enough to care. He inscribed the book in his barely legible MS hand, “I pray you never need it, but if you do this book will help you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your beloved…” and some other lovely words that I don’t remember. It was a very dry, very detailed, textbook-like volume on, yes, you guessed it…erogenous zones. The key (as my dad clearly understood) was “…talking to your beloved.” Even Cosmo got that.

My friends were similarly clueless. I remember walking to high school with my best friend at the time. She had a date with a zoomie (Air Force Academy Cadet) and she was worried they would kiss and stuff. “What’s a French kiss, Martha?” she asked me.

“Well, you put your lips together, and then you stick your tongues in each others mouths.”


“No, it’s nice.”

“But HOW?” So I demonstrated by making a “mouth” (circle) with my thumb and forefinger and “kissing” it.

“No way I’m doing that.”

Yeah, right. She clearly didn’t know about erogenous zones.

I guess I ultimately figured this out in the way of animal species throughout time. HIV-AIDS put the kibosh on free love and sexual liberation. My international students sang a grim little melody in the early 90s, “Strangers in the night; AIDS in the morning.” I’ve never thought about this until now, but that DID bring the erogenous zones down from the supermarket checkout line.

Tigers. It can happen that in the moment of coitus a male tiger can (accidentally) kill his mate. Some species of anglerfish females absorb (permanently) their mate’s body into theirs. Sandhill Cranes have to go off alone in couples to do the wild thing and hatch their eggs. We all know about black widows and mantids. Many animals have a one off with a mate they never see again, the females go have the cubs and once the young are born, their father is a big danger to their future lives. The coot kills most of its young and raises only one or two. Many animals only “nurture” their young so long and then it’s “Sorry, Sweet Cheeks, I know you’re young and vulnerable, but I’m done.” The whole “mate for life” thing that people get sappy about is often more about the nest than about the mate.

It’s a jungle out there.

P.S. Cosmo is still writing on the topic of erogenous zones. As I “Googled” looking for a good cover photo, I found a recent article… Well, at 69 I’m sticking with my early assessment. Sex is weird. Good, but weird. I’m not speaking for myself in particular but all the time I’ve spent watching animals and learning about their sex lives…


“What if I shaved it off?”

“Your moustache?”


“It’s your moustache.” She shrugged, pulled her turtleneck over her head then pawed around the bed to find her glasses.

“I’m going to do it.”

Marcy went to the kitchen and made coffee. This was one hell of a hangover. Saturday nights were wildly fun, but this was a pretty high price to pay. It wasn’t long before the coffee was ready. She filled a cup for her and a cup for Paul.

“Marcy?” Paul called out from the bathroom.


“Come and see. I want to know what you think.”

She took both cups to the bathroom. “I made you coffee.”

He was turned away from the door, facing the shower wall.

“Paul?” He turned around slowly.


Marcy set down her coffee and looked thoughtfully at Paul. He was — had always been — one of the handsomest men she’d ever seen. Lapis eyes, brown hair, warm and friendly smile, strong chin. Until this moment, he’d also, always, in her life, anyway, worn the heavy moustache of their time in history. Without it?

He looked at her as if he were a child looking for approval. She wanted to cradle him in her arms, tell him everything would be all-right forever, erase all his doubts with a certainty that existed no where on earth.


“It looks good, Paul.”

“You hate it.”

“No, no, not at all. I like it. It’s good.”

“What does ‘good’ mean?”

Marcy sighed. “Paul, if you don’t like it, you can grow it back.”

“See? You hate it.”

Marcy understood then that HE hated it.

She went home. She was dehydrated from drinking and dancing the night before, exhausted and psychologically worn. This whole day would be given over to recovering enough to go to work on Monday. A shower helped clear her brain and she thought…

This is NOT the Sexy Part of Colorado

In my 20s, I hung out in the sexy parts of Colorado fairly often. I would say that Aspen is the sexiest of the sexy. I had a good friend who’s parents owned a condo at the bottom of Little Nell (a ski lift). These excursions were usually in the summer when, back in the 70s, the population was less glamorous than during ski season. It was nothing for us to drive up there from Denver for the weekend. I spent a lot of time with them. The sexiest parts were getting dolled up (“Take off your glasses Martha!” “But Bess, if I do that I can’t see!” “You don’t have to see. You have to be SEEN!!!”)  to dance and drink at the Red Onion.

People don’t think of it this way, but Aspen is surrounded by legit Colorado and on those summer nights, if I took I took my Jack Daniels outside the Red Onion for a little fresh air and break from the noise and sat down at one of the tables set up on the sidewalk, I was likely to share the space with a cowboy and his beer.

I spent some winter times there, too, skiing at Snowmass with my boyfriend’s parents and watching women in restaurants drop their fur jackets on the floor beside their chairs. There were also lines of cocaine (it was the 70s, and I was young) that left me wondering if I’d ever sleep again and why anyone found that fun at all (I didn’t). In the swirling 70s mystique cocaine in Aspen was part of the sexiness. I even happened to be at my friend’s apartment when a scary dealer showed up with a bag of uncut coke. My friend — a young, talented Aspen architect — bought it, we snorted some. I was “up” for three miserable nights and days, hating every minute of it, and that was the end of that social experiment, for me, anyway. My friend died a few years later at 35. Nothing sexy about that, nothing sexy about a wasted life.

I spent time — and skied some hills — in less sexy parts of Colorado, too. My favorite not-all-that-sexy ski mountain was Arapahoe Basin. Still, it was sexy in its way, too, sexy in the “I’m the highest ski mountain anywhere” kind of sexy. It was sexy in the “Only extremely cool real Coloradans who are able to drive over Loveland Pass come here.” I was there every weekend one winter. I do not know if there is a pass anywhere that my VW Bug wasn’t ready to take on.

So here I am in South Central Colorado in a flat, mysterious, ancient valley ringed by mountains, a hard-working valley where potatoes are cultivated and giant trucks carry them off to points north, south, east and west. The other night, a visiting friend and I drove across Heaven’s fields — potatoes, alfalfa, hops, barley — and she said, “This is the Colorado people don’t know. It’s not the sexy part.”

A small herd of cattle was running across a pasture for reasons only they knew.

I said, “Yeah, but you know, last time I drove out of this valley to go to Colorado Springs all I could think was ‘every other place is bullshit’.” My friend agreed. She lives in proximity to a somewhat sexy part of the state (Durango and Telluride) but her town might be smaller than mine.

I pointed to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, about to be hit with late afternoon light and I said, “See those? Those are MY mountains. And these fields here? They’re mine. And that immense changing sky? That’s mine, too. There’s a river over there. It’s one of the perqs of living here. It’s my river.” I said “my” but in fact, I belong to them, heart and soul.

She’s the friend who acted as my real estate agent when I wanted to move here. She said, “I was so worried when you said you wanted to live here. I couldn’t imagine you not hating it.”

“I knew I wouldn’t hate it.” My heart filled as it often does here in Heaven. “It’s the best thing I ever did, move here. But no, it’s not sexy. It’s legit.”

Today I went to visit the dogs (since I still can’t walk well enough to bring them home) and take a drive through the legit part of Colorado where I live, past the neat, rich Amish farms, the small herds of sheep, the cattle on the distant fields, the two beautiful mules near the kennel. Summer birds swooped and hunted. The behind the San Juans made them silhouettes. Fields that had been irrigated were filled with wild iris.

Not in the least sexy.

Imagination, Smagination…

Compared to reality, imagination is nothing. This hit me one rainy Denver night while I was sitting on a kitchen chair in my then boyfriend’s apartment. We had just been to the grocery store. Innocuous enough, right? But grocery stores are not JUST grocery stores, and that particular night, Peter had exchanged some meaningful glances with the cute boy who had been tasked with stacking oranges.

I was trying (again!) to wrap my head around our love relationship. That was impossible. How could two people love each other as deeply as we did and STILL have no chance at all ever? None of the stories I’d read up to that point had prepared me for THIS reality.

“I could never make this up,” I thought as my former cat — Agate — wandered back and forth from where Peter lay on the bed and I sat by the table. I’m sure she could feel everything in that room, the sadness, the anger, the love, the yearning, the “way-things-are” against which Peter and I had consistently pushed for the previous four years. We had, so far, not turned back, just went in another direction to find a breach in the wall, a weak spot. We broke up, met up, tried again.

“You think I chose this?” he asked from the bedroom. “Who would choose this? You’re the only thing that matters to me. Talk to me!!!” But I couldn’t talk to him. I got up, put on my jacket, and went home.

I didn’t think he’d chosen to be gay. I was sure about his choices; his choice was me, but… That night I knew that it was I who had to choose, not Peter. I COULD choose. I could choose this exquisite, literary suffering or I could choose something else. I had that power, something Peter had understood all along though I hadn’t.

I wrote about it, but I hadn’t lived enough life to make characters (finite, neat, believable) out of those two lovers, Peter and me. Though the end was in sight, we kept loving each other and I kept writing.

Above my work table is a photocopy of one of his last letters to me. It was written after we had physically split up (he was in Chicago, I remained in Denver) but were still psychically together. At some point, I sent him the story. He was a writer, had a PhD in Creative Writing. I wondered how the story would read to him, the prototype for the not-all-that-fictional male protagonist. “Yes, I like the story. It moves fast and smoothly,” he says, “Keep Writing!! Love, Peter.”



Ragtag Daily Prompt

RDP #3: Imagination

RDP #3: Imagination

Love or Lust?

Oh how sophisticated we all were in our late 20s and early 30s looking at each other and saying, “That’s very interesting, but is it love or lust?” Of course, it was the 70s and the bill some people would pay for wild, random sex hadn’t come in yet.

“I mean, he’s gorgeous, but, Martha, he’s gay.”

“I know that.”

“Well? You can never have him.”

“I don’t want to ‘have’ anyone. But as for that, I think we have each other as much as any two people can. We know each other inside out. We love each other and we’re friends.”

“He’s gay.”

“That’s not all he is.”

“Gay” is a rather impersonal term when it comes down to it. It doesn’t describe anything other than the general idea that a person prefers sex with people of his own sex. There is a, uh, there is a whole RAINBOW of possibilities in that word and, ultimately, we love people — a person, an individual.

But the gay scene in the late 70s was a temple of lust. I found it refreshing. A bunch of guys going out looking for a guy to hook up with — not forever, no white dress, wide-brimmed hat and bouquet, but just that. Desire. I decided then — and I still believe — lust gets a bum wrap.

In the hetero world to which I belong, in those days, people straddled the fence of encouplement and free love. If you watch movies from the time you’ll see the dilemma. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is a good one to watch. It was the days of “wife swapping” and “open relationships.” People weren’t sure about NOT being in committed love relationships; they were afraid they were missing out but…

Things didn’t work out between the guy and me. They couldn’t, but we were a couple for five years. People continued to say, “It must drive you crazy! He’s so good-looking!”

“What drives me crazy?”

“You know. He’s gay.”

I learned to shrug. In the vast shag rug of love one of the filaments is lust. Our moments of tenderness in bed, our heart-to-heart conversations, our hours of laughter, our fights? OUR moments. No one else’s. Not the subject for debate or dialectic.

“I just want to know, Martha, if everything falls apart, you’ll still be here.”