It was Ernest's idea that I join the book club. He was tired of me running
around the house picking up stray socks, dusting everything I could find,
nagging him to take out the garbage or do the dishes or walk the dog.
weeks after the end of the school term, Ernest made it clear to me that
becoming a nuisance and that I needed to "get a life." Easy
for him to say;
he had been playing this retirement game for five years longer than me.
sold the little sports equipment shop that his father left him, Ernest
himself that he would never do anything unpleasant again.
"I've suffered, I've worked all my life," he would often say,
I want to sit back and collect the pay-off." At first, I just laughed
notion that massive amounts of leisure time were somehow his due for clinging
life through respiratory episodes, suspected ulcers, and countless aching
"I mean, why else would anyone bother getting old if they didn't
were going to have a party at the end? I've got over sixty years of
mind-numbing labour behind me and I think that I deserve at least another
of good old-fashioned fun."
Other than his assumption that aging actually involves choice and the
that his retail career had been gruelling work, what bothered me most
little tantrums was his references to "good old-fashioned fun."
know what I thought he meant, maybe picnics in the park or home-made ice
but what I did not expect was to come home from school every day to find
playing the same palm-sized video game that I had just taken away from
one of my
students. Initially, I joked to the other teachers at school that video
had stolen my husband, but when he put an ad in the newspaper looking
vintage Atari, I started to take the situation more seriously.
Everyday when I came home from work, often weighted with student workbooks
bags of groceries, I was greeted by the sight of Ernest sitting in his
green-striped recliner, jiggling some little wand while wild cursors flashed
across the television screen. On more than one occassion, I have had to
grocery bags down on the kitchen counter and take a
short walk before I could go back in there and unload them. Video games
stolen my husband, all right, but I didn't understand why they wouldn't
take him away already.
His body was rooted in the living room. It seemed to me that his very
turning to cushion, which might have been appealing if Ernest were one
big, teddy-bear kind of men, but he is not. He is a big man, with a hard-earned
belly, but the structure of his face is too angular for him to seem cuddly.
Ernest once told me that his parents only hugged him once. And that was
wedding day. I always tried to incorporate hugging and
touching into our casual interactions, but he never responded comfortably.
the years, we just stopped touching all together.
We would get up to the 6:30 alarm each morning and initiate a non-wavering
routine that had him showering while I made coffee and toasted
us. He would come downstairs smelling like his drugstore aftershave, adjusting
his tie as I poured him orange juice and spread cream cheese on his bagel.
he would be off to the store for the day and I would get a ride with Madeline
the school and we would live our separate lives until dinner. Dinner was
like breakfast (meaning I cooked), except we took a little more time to
each other; or try to talk to each other. Ernest was never easy to talk
liked to labour over the banal details of everyday life - how many tennis
he had in inventory, the latest stats on cross-trainers, how many years
left until retirement -, but I can't say that I think we have had a
substantial conversation in over twenty years.
For the first five years after he sold the store, I said to myself, Playstation
can have him. But when it was my turn to enter this Elysium they call
retirement, I resented not having someone with whom to share all this
free time. I've always been the kind of person who can only maintain two
three close relationships at a time. There was Madeline, but
she is several years younger than me and still busy with her teaching.
my sister Rosie, but she too is several years younger and quite preoccupied
her career; and besides, she was teaching in Japan during those first
of my retirement. Granted, I phoned her every night during this time,
always stoically refrained from telling her how miserable I was.
There's nothing I fear more than seeming like some pathetic menopausal
who's too weepy to see how good her lot really is. I wasn't about to fall
into a stereotype, so, time after time, I sucked up my tears, told my
about the redecorating I was planning to do, and then went up to my bedroom
cried until dinner.
I don't know if I knew it then, but I was profoundly lonely. Not just
in some little old lady kind of way. I wasn't sitting in a rocking chair
knitting and asking myself why the phone never rang and why no one ever
tea. This was a different kind of loneliness that didn't involve the absence
of people so much as the absence of touch.
One night, when I was indulging in my nightly ritual of extended hair
and plaiting, I realized that I was the only person to have touched my
face in over two years. I remember spending that whole night just running
fingers down my wrinkled, but still soft cheeks, across the delicate sin
eyelids and the dimple in my lower lip, trying to dissociate my reception
the feelings in my fingers. For the first time in my life, I wanted to
someone else. Well, I wanted part of me to be someone else: my hand. I
feel touch that was unattached and therefore uncompelled to love me but
me nonetheless. I tried to cup my breast inside my night gown, but it
awkward and heavy in my hand. I could barely remember when they were so
didn't even have to wear a bra. I touched my white belly that at one time
been bronzed and taut, and then examined my dimpled thighs. I looked at
and stale body in the mirror and felt the loneliness burrow deeper in
I was having so many stomach problems at this point that it became customary
me to take an antacid tablet four to five times a day. Ernest kept chastening
to relax, insisting that I was making myself sick. Finally, one Saturday
afternoon when I was scurrying around the house with a bottle of Malox
hand and a duster in the other, he just threw up his arms dramatically
me to "get a life." I told him I didn't know where they were
sold and he
told me to open a book.
"You've always loved reading," he said, "for the same reasons
love these video games, because it's good old fashioned fun. You don't
to feel guilty about having a good time now. You've earned it."
"But I want to live life, Ernest," I said exasperatedly, "I
want to be
around people. Real people. Not just characters in books or little squiggly
lines on the television set. Real people, Ernest!" And that's when
suggested I join a book club.
The first time I went to the local library's weekly book club meeting,
I was a
little apprehensive at how much younger everyone looked. The club comprised
almost entirely females, mostly young professionals or graduate students.
expected more housewives, but then I am old enough to remember when it
common for women not to work. I myself had always shunned the option of
off of Ernest's earnings; firstly, because he didn't really make that
in the first place, and, secondly, because I wanted to have something
of my own.
After I stopped working, I spent a lot of time thinking about how ambitious
used to be, how I wanted to revolutionize the education system, and I
ashamed of both my former naiveté and my present disillusionment.
at all these confident women, with their sleek blazers and their angora
their no nonsense purses and smiles, I was intimidated. I suddenly felt
and wanted to run home and lock myself in my bedroom.
I was heading toward the exit when I felt a hand on my shoulder. The hair
on the back
of my neck stood up, as if to greet these slender fingers stretched across
I turned around and saw a tiny young thing with a black pageboy and glasses
up at me with the loveliest teeth I have ever seen in my life. Her smile
yet surprisingly sincere.
"Hi, I'm Monique," she extended her hand and I gratefully grasped
it and introduced myself.
"We're always thrilled to have new members," she told me, "I'm
the chair-woman of this group,
which means that I just do the organizing and all the bureaucratic stuff,
but we decide
democratically what book we will read for each following week, so if you
have a book in mind,
don't hesitate to nominate it."
Monique ushered me into one of the plastic chairs set up in a circle in
the middle of the library
staff room. She kept her hand on my shoulder blade as we walked and then
placed it back on my
shoulder when I was sitting down. I had never liked touchy-feely people,
but Monique didn't
strike me as cloying. I could tell that she was one of those people who
seems to know everyone,
who never seems awkward, and who has never made an enemy. I used to envy
girls like Monique
when I was growing up because I always felt socially awkward.
At book club meetings, however, I felt surpisingly at ease. Monique's
warmth was positively
contagious and I quickly found that all of the other members were equally
amiable. I began to
depend on their company. I looked forward to Wednesday nights all week,
debating whether I
should bring butter tarts or nanaimo bars. I would be so wound up after
each meeting that I would
usually read next week's book that very night and then I would have to
suffer through six days of
not being able to discuss characters and plot with "the girls."
Charlie, the one male member who attended consistently, was a gay bankteller
who loved being
considered one of the girls and always became noticabley silent when another
male member did
actually show up. Usually, the meeting yielded a turn-out of between 9
to 13 people, but there
were times when only five or six of us showed up. I never missed a meeting,
nor did Monique. I
found myself becoming more and more attracted to the energy of this girl
who worked as an
editor at a small publishing firm, while still managing to attend and
make insightful comments
during every single meeting . Yes, she was peppy and tiny and firm and
adorable and all those
things that used to make me jealous in other women, but I had given up
my petty physical
jealousies at some point in the aging process. I still noticed attractive
physiques, but now I felt that
I was admiring rather than envying or scrutinizing them. I felt like an
orange to their apples and
that made it easier to appreciate the shine of their flushed skins.
Monique had the kind of body that I had always wanted, but knew I could
never have. A
gymnast's body, a dancer's body; small, lithe limbs, sculpted delicately;
small taut breasts and
slender hips that enabled her to pass for a girl of sixteen when she was
already in her late
twenties. Though she was undeniably tiny, there was no air of fragility
in her body; she looked
like she could bend but never break and I admired that.
I had always been a stocky girl. "Athletic," people would say
to make me feel good, but I was
really just stocky. Not fat, just big and muscular, and, quite unfortunately,
inept at sports. When
Ernest first approached me at a community hall singles' dance, he told
me that he could tell I was
an athlete and then he tried to pick me up by telling me he could get
me cheap equipment from his
dad's store. Being young and unforgivably insecure, I played along and
nodded my head every
time he asked me if I played a certain sport. By the end of the night,
I found myself a triathlete
who dabbled in tennis, baseball, and soccer.
When it was clear that things were getting serious between us, I decided
that I would have to try
to actualize what I had told him, so I tried to participate in community
sports events. When I
broke my collarbone playing t-ball, Ernest told me that I might be better
off just giving up on
athletics. Of course, by that time, we were already planning our wedding.
It's not that Ernest ever made me feel bad about my body, he just never
made me feel good about
it. Not one for compliments, he would usually just grunt when I asked
him if a certain blouse
looked okay or if my hair was pinned properly. When I hit menopause, I
became extremely self
conscious about the loose skin folding over the sides of my pants and
the light hair that was
starting to cluster above my upper lip. I waxed and tried to watch what
I ate and applied wrinkle
cream to my crow's feet and laugh lines, but Ernest paid no attention
to my efforts.
Sometimes, I think that the first night we met was the only night that
he ever truly looked at me.
His desire was so evident that night and I was too easily taken by his
lingering eyes and
slow-moving hands. For the first few years of our marriage, I often wondered
if I had made a
mistake by sleeping with him almost immediately. I worried that an early
surrender had set the
foot for our entire relationship, and I always despaired that I had so
easily given up such a
valuable weapon in the game of love. As the years went by, my regret about
having sex with him
too soon gave way to my anxiety that I might never have sex again.
What had started out hot and fast died a cold, slow death that lingered
on for over two decades
without any intervals of revival. Sure, in his red-blooded twenties, Ernest
would sometimes close
the store early so that he could pick me up from work and we could have
a quick romp in the car,
but by the time we reached our forties, I was turning to occasional male
acquaintances for relief.
While these short-lived affairs were never mind-blowing, they were more
satisfying than my
trysts with Ernest, when he could perform, he never lasted long enough
for me to build up any
substantional tension of my own, much less a full-throttled release.
When my doctor confirmed that I was infertile after several years of trying
to conceive, Ernest
and I pretty much ended our conjugal relations. We still slept in the
same bed, but we rarely
touched, and had only slipped into heaving petting once or twice over
the years. Intercourse was
reserved for birthdays or Valentine's day. I had given up on the idea
of a sex life before I ever
really had one. I had grown up in a society and culture that taught girls
to be discreet about their
bodily functions, to obey their husbands, and to deny the pulsing of their
own flesh. Ernest had
never seen my menstrual blood and, to this day, he has never made me come.
Since many of the books the club chose to read were novels about contemporary
of our discussions addressed frankly sexual issues. Though at first I
was hesitant to give any
input as to whether Judith Rossner had pandered to the pornographic in
Looking for Mr.
Goodbar or how Erica Jong had rendered female sexuality with such humour
in Fear of Flying,
the girls soon drew me out of my silence, forcing me to express an opinion.
After reading a novel featuring a culturally-sanctioned cliterodectomy,
Monique asked me if I had
been aware of the widespread practice of female circumcision. I admitted
I had not, and told the
girls how horrified I had been when I read the description of
procedure in the book and
pondered the implications of such a social practice. I remember feeling
so impassioned, being
swept away by my own outrage, that I actually raised my voice, something
I rarely ever do. My
face was flushed and I felt adrenalin rushing through me as I looked at
all these other women
(and Charlie) nodding and gesturing in agreement. I had always regretted
being too complacent
and cowardly to join the feminist movement when it first erupted in my
youth, but I felt like
these girls were giving me a second chance.
So, when Monique suggested that we co-chair another book club dedicated
exclusively to works
addressing female sexuality, I jumped at the chance to spend more time
out of the arcade my
house had become. I was also very flattered that Monique would ask me
to be her co-chair even
though I was still the most recent member of the club.
"The library won't give us the space, but we can have the meetings
at my place," she told me,
"and you can bring those delicious butter tarts of yours. There's
not a lot of space in my
apartment, but I think I should be able to fit everyone in."
"Well, who do you think will join?" I asked her.
"Oh, everyone will join, " she grinned, "but I'm sure only
a few of us
will actually make it to the meeting. Debra and Lara have already expressed
interest, but I can't
guarantee anyone else."
"Except me," I linked arms with her and we walked back to our
preparing for Lara, a sprightly blonde college student, to explain to
us why she thought Anaïs
Nin's Delta of Venus should be next week's selection. After a few light
arguments, the vote
finally went to a John Irving novel. Monique consoled Lara by promising
that Nin's book could be a
selection in the Friday night book club. I left that meeting brainstorming
suggestions and reminding myself to get baking ingredients.
That Thursday night, I got a phone call from Debra, one of the mouthiest
of the book club, asking me if I needed a ride to Monique's for the meeting
tomorrow. I decided to accept because it had been so long since I had
been in a
vehicle with someone else. Ernest had always hated driving and he used
me when he would make me drive places will he tilted the passenger
fully back and had a nap.
That Friday night, I made a big deal to Ernest about my girl's night out,
trying to provoke even a semblance of interest, but his eyes were glued
t.v. so I ended up grabbing my jacket and my tarts and waiting out on
steps. When Debra's beige sedan pulled up, I noticed that someone was
sitting in the passenger seat. It was Bonnie, the hairdresser who was
of the health food store Debra managed. Both women were in their early
with grey streaks proudly flashing through their dark hair. Debra had
and eyes, but was very fair; whereas Bonnie was part Hispanic with bronze
and deep chocolate eyes. I had talked to both of them regularly at meetings
almost six months, but this was the first time I'd seen them outside of
When we got out of the car at Monique's apartment, I noticed that Bonnie
not wearing her usual uniform of jeans and a navy sweatshirt; that both
and Bonnie "Oh, I look like a slob next to you girls,"
I said, as I
sheepishly looked down at my thin grey sweatpants and my untucked paisley
"You always look great," Debra smiled as the three of us got
elevator and headed up to the seventh floor.
"Now you're going to qualify that with for my age', right?"
her. Both she and Bonnie frowned and I blushed slightly, knowing I had
something politically incorrect or distinctly unfeminist. By the time
answered the door to her apartment, Debra was full-swing into one of her
monologues about patriarchal society circumscribing female sexuality and
rendering the the menopausal female a mere artifact.
"Men look at older women as mothers or grandmothers, useful for their
and their archival memories, but not for their bodies or their imaginations."
"Uh, Debra, the meeting hasn't even started yet," Monique flashed
smile of hers as she ushered us into her living room. Her apartment was
one-bedroom, suite, but she had managed to make necessary restriction
voluntary minimalism. All her furniture was Swedish assembly stuff and
she had a
wonderful CD stand made entirely of black wire. "Well, it may be
the library," Monique said to me as she flipped through her compact
"but at least here we have a sound system. Do you like jazz?"
I nodded, even though I hadn't listened to anything other than the radio
supermarket music in years. Monique started to sway her hips, which were
snugly in a black leather skirt, to the voice of Billie Holliday. There
knock on the door, and Lara came in with a tall girl whose thick brown
swept down almost to her tailbone.
"Hey everyone, this is my roommate, Alyson. Alyson, this is the girls."
"Welcome Alyson," Monique characteristically put her arm around
Alyson and I
could actually see the young girl's posture relax. Bonnie poured us each
glass of red wine as we negotiated seating for everyone in a living room
boasted only one chair and a glass coffee table.
"Let's just sit on the floor," Lara suggested, "so that
we don't fight
over the chair." I had no problem sitting on Monique's lush fuschia
which looked untreaded.
Debra saw me run my palm across the soft fibres and nudged me, "Monique
carpet junkie. She keeps all these swatches and she changes the carpet
three or four times a year."
"Well, I love this colour," I said, looking up at Monique who
was dancing to
the music again. She winked down at me and then swayed over to the coffee
to pick up my plate of tarts.
"Oh good! You brought your tarts!" Lara grabbed me by my arm,
Alyson how delicious they are and she's dying to try them." Snapping
tarts off the plate that Monique was passing around, Lara turned to Alyson
whispered something in her ear.
I heard the two girls giggling behind me, but I was too busy watching
move silkily across the room to pay attention. When Monique disappeared
kitchen, I turned back and saw Lara holding Alyson's exposed breast in
her hands. I did the kind of double-take you see in cartoons. I was afraid
I might be drunk or have food poisoning and be hallucinating. But no,
white cotton bra really was pulled beneath her smooth white breasts, and
definitely was kneading an erect red nipple between her red-nailed fingers.
Alyson's eyes were closed and she was running her tongue along the bottom
her front teeth, moaning slightly.
I must have turned scarlet; my face flushed and I looked to the other
share my shock, but I was greeted only with the sight of Bonnie kissing
Debra's neck slowly, with tongue and lips, as her hand moved rythmically
between Debra's slightly open legs. Though I was too taken aback to register
any truly coherent thoughts at the time, I remember feeling like I had
stumbled onto the set of a blue movie and that someone was going to kick
at any minute.
I felt a persistant tingling between my legs and I didn't know how to
"Don't look so shocked," Monique put a hand on my shoulder and
beside me while the two couples wriggled in my peripheral vision, "there
other ways to converse than with words, you know." A wave of pleasure
through me as she ran her forefinger along the crotch seam of my cotton
Before I could even formulate a sentence, Monique had pushed her hand
blouse and was cupping my overflowing breasts in one of her small hands.
slipped out of me and I edged away from her hand ashamedly.
"Don't you feel anything?" she leaned towards me and moistened
her lips. I
whispered yes as her mouth brushed against my neck. She hovered over me
"Where?" She whispered as she fumbled with the wasteband of
my pants and
slipped her hand right inside my underwear.
"There." I responded breathlessly, aware of clothes being tossed
sides of me. I felt momentarily ashamed of the elastic imprint on my stomach
worried about this firm girl seeing the dimples on my belly and thighs,
touch reassured me.
"Where?" Monique whispered into my collarbone, slipping a rigid
inside me. I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head; it had
long since I had been probed like that. I let out another moan, and allowed
Monique to push my head into the carpet so that I was completely horizontal.
was stretched out on her side, moving one, and then two, and then three
in and out and I felt a horrible wonderful urgent gnawing.
"Down there," I panted.
"Where?" Monique asked, as she removed her hand and started
blouse, my heavy breasts feeling light in her hands.
"There," I said almost pleadingly, instinctively moving my hand
hers. The throbbing was unbearable and I could feel my juices
"Your cunt?" Monique asked, thrusting her fingers inside my
eager hole. I
could only moan an affirmative.
"Say it," She commanded me as she tugged my pants and underwear
to my waste
in one movement and then poised herself about my patch of silver-blonde
"My cunt," I grunted as she stuffed her face between my legs
and rubbed her
nose back and forth inside my swollen lips. My damp thighs dropped open
anchored herself by gripping my hamstrings while her tongue darted around
retracted hood of my clitoris. I could feel my labia pulsing and my hips
pumping feverishly in the air. My left hand was gripping a fistful of
carpet, while my right hand rested on the back of Monique's head. I found
myself applying pressure every time she came up for air, until I was shoving
mouth forcefully into my demanding pussy. I had never felt such full-body
throbbing in my entire life, and I didn't know if I could endure it for
longer. My pink- lacquered toe nails were stretched towards the willing
I could hear low moans and slurps and breathless sighs around me, but
reached such a fevered pitch that everything was just background sound
pulsing, pulsing, pulsing of my clit. I couldn't even hear the loud moans
I knew were booming out of my throat as I writhed against Monique's
tongue and four of her relentless fingers.
When the wave started, I wasn't ready for it. I had been used to controlling
my own orgasms for pretty much my entire life so when a pulse of pleasure
through my clit and spread through my entire pelvis with such force that
my back arch, I wasn't quite sure what had happened. My legs were shaking,
my arm had tensed up as though struck with rigor mortis, keeping
Monique's face firmly pressed into my soaking slit. Just as my back
began to relax and my forearm started to loosen its grip on her neck,
pleasure pulse started throbbing in my clit and then it burst through
and ass with such intensity I lashed my body to the side, still pressing
Monique. I felt my swollen lips open and gratefully release my musky wetness
over her lovely white teeth. As I tried to catch my breath, she ran her
along the insides of both sets of my lower lips and then she dove down
final flick of her tongue. My clit exploded and I felt my body shaking
epileptically, waves of pleasure rushing through me, forcing me to bite
my wrist as I writhed to endure this
Monique then sidles up my body and laid her head in between my heavy breasts.
heart started to slow down and the evaporating sweat cooled my inner thighs,
I still felt like I had a sauna between my legs. I held Monique's tiny
against me and was pleased to find that she didn't make me feel big or
or butchy or whatever I feared I might feel if I embraced her. Instead,
real, sexual, physical, alive, exhausted, excited,
trembling, soaking through the fibres of her sweet ,soft carpet.
My drooping eyelids raised slightly when I saw a big chunk of one of my
beside me on the floor. I lifted my neck, still cradling Monique, who
stroking my soft white stomach, and I beheld Lara's panting hole dripping
brown tart filling as Alyson's tongue lapped eagerly. On my other side,
caught a glimpse of Debra on all fours, her head bent down so that her
shoulder-length hair touched the floor. Bonnie, whose naked body was covered
bits of tart, was moving a wine bottle back and forth between her legs
bucked wildly against the neck. I turned back to Monique, and stroked
looking at here for the first time since this new intimacy had begun.
blue eyes looked even larger with her glasses off, and I found myself
aback by this wide-eyed beauty with her flushed cheeks and salty mouth.
the fact that I could taste myself on her when I ran my tongue along her
I knew that I had to taste her as she had tasted me, so I pushed her skirt
above her hips and lowered my face to her already wet and waiting cunt.
kissing her velvet lips gently, I tried to ripple my tongue along her
she had done for me, eagerly probing the moist folds inside her with two
fingers. She let out these low, loud moans that sounded like a jazzy growl
that made me want to thrust my fist inside her and scream with delight.
finally begged me to, I pull my fingers out and curled then into my palm
Monique could grind against my knuckles. When she finally froze in a spasm
pleasure, she frothed over my hand, soaking me up to the fingertips and
Spent and sated, none of us bothered showering after the meeting. When
I finally had the energy
to pull my sweats back on, I quickly felt a warm rush moisten my crotch.
"This is why we wear skirts to the Friday book club meetings."
Debra patted the wet spot of my
crotch and winked at me.
After kissing Monique goodnight and hugging Lara and Alyson, I left with
Debra and Bonnie. We got coffee at a drive-through donut shop, giggling
like school girls who had just skipped class.
"So what do you think of the bookclub?" Debra asked me right
turned into my driveway.
"I have a lot to learn" I said as the car same to a stop.
"You're going to converse with everyone in the book club, right?"
turned around in the passenger seat and flashed her dark eyes at me, her
slightly parted in a smile.
With a tingle between my legs and a twinkle in her eye, I nodded and kissed
both goodnight. I sauntered into the house and followed the ghostly neon
flashing into the living room.
"How was the meeting?" Ernest asked without even looking up
from his Alien
I momentarily considered telling him, but knew that it would neither arouse
enrage him because he would probably just tune me out. I shrugged and
upstairs to brush my long grey hair, which had become unravelled and frizzy
the heat and exertion. I ran my nose along my arm and touched my fingers
lips, knowing that as long as I had the Friday night book club to look
to, Ernest could play with his joystick until the cows came home or the
destroyed the earth. I've been a member of the Friday night book club
almost two years now and I have never felt the least pang of conscience
comes to Ernest. After all, I'm just an old retired lady taking the time
have some good old fashioned fun; and I've earned it.