“Either my libido is dead for good... or I'm a lesbian and I still don't know it.”
The conversation with myself had been ongoing for a couple of days. It was my attempt to find a logical explanation for the fact that I had been celibate now for a year and a half and the thought of having sex with a man did not turn me on and instead was vaguely unpleasant.
Maybe having sex was like eating food. Yes, you have to eat food to survive; it doesn't have to taste good – and God knows, though I didn't know yet back then, sex for me in the past had been anything but tasty. But maybe, just like what happens when somebody is deprived from food for too long, the hunger eventually goes away.
When a patient is severely deprived of calories, he or she enters “starvation mode.” Once the body realizes it is not going to be fed, a miraculous set of enzymatic reactions happen. Metabolism slows down dramatically, storage sources are tapped into, and the patient no longer has an appetite – That's how anorexic patients and malnourished, marasmic kids can survive beyond cadaveric thin status.
I was now in sex starvation mode. I had lost my appetite completely.
Again. Maybe I was a lesbian. Maybe I didn't really like men and my previous crushes had been fueled by society's pressure. I hoped not. It wasn't even that I judged lesbians, but I did see the idea of potentially being one as rather inconvenient. I was barely getting used to explaining to my conservative family that I had given up on my marriage of over a decade and signed up for the “morally questionable life” of being a single woman in her thirties. Now on top of that, theoretically having to explain that I could be a lesbian would really push me another nudge out of my comfort zone. Especially considering that there were a few homophobic people in my life. No, that would not sit well.
Yet, nothing would have surprised me at that point. After all, never in my life would I have imagined I was going to end up as “A Divorced Woman”. That mythical, quasi-demonic being – a threat to society and marriages everywhere – that people in my Catholic family whispered about with fear when I was growing up. Compared to the horror of being a divorced woman, being a lesbian was barely a notch above.
I was still musing over those theories that morning when I arrived at the hospital to see my first consult of the day. I sat in front of a work station computer in one of the super uncomfortable office chairs with the weird back angle – the hospital wants to make sure you don't hug a seat for too long – and read over the electronic records, putting myself up-to-date with the history.
Thirty-three-year-old man with no previous medical history presents with an upper extremity venous thrombosis (a blood clot in an arm vein) apparently associated with excessive weight lifting. I immediately remembered a lesson from medical school: sometimes a picture like that could be caused by an anatomical variant where the seventh cervical vertebra is wider than typical, causing a compression of the neck and arm veins when weightlifting. Interesting. Worth ordering an x-ray, just to check.
Armed with this piece of information, I knocked on the patient's room door, announced myself and, without waiting for an answer as usual, walked it.
And my jaw hit the floor.
The patient, the body builder, was sitting in bed – shirtless.
The way the memory comes to my mind is the image of my eyes bulging out of their orbits and then springing out three feet away, like in a cartoon.
He was the most perfect male anatomy specimen I'd seen live in my life. Bulky pectoral muscles, bursting deltoids and biceps, wide shoulders tapering down to a narrow muscular waist, carved with muscle ridges. The popular term for his abdomen would have been “a six-pack.” I knew better than that. I could have taught an anatomy lesson showing the different fascia bands of the abdominal recti muscles – grooved in the middle by the “linea alba” – and the turn around of the abdominal transverse muscles causing that V in the upper hip.
He was breathtakingly beautiful. A Greek marble statue in the flesh. An underwear model having jumped out of the ad...BUT STRAIGHT! YES! I could tell he was straight! By that time I'd finally managed to peel my eyes up from his torso to his good-looking, tanned face and met a pair of honey colored eyes gazing at me approvingly.
I knew that look. It was the look I got every day from male patients, from middle aged to octogenarian. A mixture of “I would definitely bang that” with “Shit! Is that really the doctor? I better behave.”
A part of me that had been deeply asleep – nearly comatose – suddenly jerked and jumped off an imaginary napping cot.
The way I think about it now is of someone wearing scrubs standing in front of my so-called dead libido, holding the plates of an electrical defibrillator and yelling “Clear!” Then shooting an electric discharge into my libido's heart, making it convulse in the bed. And then the monitor showing the EKG tracing of the heart spike again. And then the code-team cheering, “We did it! The libido has a pulse! It's alive! IT'S ALIVE!!!”
I heard a symphonic chorus sing in the background. Tenor and soprano angels were singing a harmonic song, and the lyrics were “Yes! I AM NOT A LESBIAN!!! I DO LIKE MEN!”
My mouthwatering, brain-mushing, leg-weakening, womb-tightening mesmerizing feeling lasted a glorious forty-five seconds.
Then he opened his mouth.
And he spoke – or so he thought.
Even before the first sentence was completed, I already knew it: he was just as brainless as he was beautiful.
In the words my mother would have said: “He was as dumb as a wart on the leg of an Ox.”
The magic disappeared instantly.
Besides reaffirming my sexual preference, that day I learned something about myself: No matter how gloriously gorgeous-looking a man was, I couldn't be turned on by him if his brain was mostly composed of motor neurons. I needed a man intelligent enough to be able to sustain a conversation. It was that simple.
I finished my evaluation, recommended three months of blood thinners and then a repeat arm ultrasound, and never saw him again.
I walked out of the room feeling more triumphant than disappointed. I had a new piece of information about myself that I'd always known in theory but now knew in practice. I cared more about brains than about looks.
Mister Ox-leg-wart, your Royal Hotness. Wherever you are – and I doubt you're reading this because I'm not even sure you can read – I want to send a heart-felt Thank you. I 'll forever be in your debt. I have no doubt you were sent into my life that day as part of a plot being manufactured in heaven to put me in the path of self-discovery in order to find love. Thank you for confirming to me that excess beauty can never compensate for a lack of substance.
Thank you for moving me one step farther from the stigma of being the woman who was all theory and no practice.
Before the end of that year I had found the love of my life. The man who did to my brain and my heart what Mister Ox-leg-wart, his Royal Hotness did to my eyes. Oh, and who, by the way – thank God – also looks pretty good with his shirt off. I'm now happily married to him.
How was I so lucky to find him?
Well, that's another story.
Stay tuned for more.