“If, you know, millions of women are taking these drugs, we have to wonder what it means from a social and personal perspective if millions of women’s libidos are dampened or eradicated. What does that have to do with a rising divorce rate?”
This is the question Lauren Slater asked during a recent interview on the radio program “Fresh Air.” In response to questions about her new book, Blue Dreams, which is both a scientific and personal journey through the world of depression and the ways we medicate it, Slater noted the side effects of anti-depressants on the market today and the potential for small doses of psychedelic drugs to be a better solution.
But then things took a turn for the prurient. The host, Terry Gross asked Slater about a “Modern Love” column she wrote for The New York Times a few years ago called “Deeply, Truly (but Not Physically) in Love.” In it, she explains, “I met and fell in love with my husband for his beautifully colored hair, his gentle ways, his humor. We were together many years, and so sex faded.”
The “Modern Love” column seems to specialize in the prurient and often to require writers to offer too much information about their personal relationships, so perhaps this was not surprising. But as if it were not enough to say that she had become less interested in sex, Slater goes on to explain in the piece what she prefers to sex with her husband:
For me, sex does not even come close to the thrill of scoring gorgeous glass for a window I will use, of hearing the grit as the grains separate and the cut comes clean and perfect. Sex cannot compete with the massive yet slender body of granite I excavated last week, six feet long, this stone, packed with time and stories if only it could speak.
When Gross asked how she feels about the piece now that she and her husband have divorced, Slater was brutally honest: “The first thing I think about is I feel terrible about writing that.” She acknowledged that she didn’t tell her husband she had written the article because she thought it was only going to be published in an obscure anthology. And now she said, “It’s one of many things that led to the demise of the marriage. He took it—how else is he going to take it—incredibly personally.”
Slater is hardly the first and won’t be the last author to pen a chronicle of her life struggles that also subject her family to emotional exposure and pain. Daphne Merkin’s memoir, which was published last year, is probably more typical in its complaints about her long-dead parents. There is no examination of inner turmoil without an examination of one’s upbringing.
But laying out the problems in one’s marriage—as part of an exercise in explaining mental illness—is no longer off limits, even if the authors, like Slater, have school-age children. This did not stop Ayelet Waldman either, who published a book last year on her experiment taking small doses of LSD called A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. In an interview about the book, she explained,
I had blown up my marriage. I would have left Michael to punish myself. And that’s so crazy. All he ever did was love me, and try, but when you love someone who is mentally ill, you’re just pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it. It can be exhausting. I think the micro-dosing actually sealed the hole. Now it’s a smaller hole, but we all have to keep on pouring water.
Perhaps this is not as embarrassing for Waldman’s husband, Michael Chabon, but it is rarely good for a marriage to have all of its challenges open to public view.
In fact, what’s amazing about Slater’s experience is that she continues to expose her intimate relationships to this day. Speaking about her new female partner, she told “Fresh Air” that while her libido initially improved, “now we live together and we’ve been together for like two years. … And I don’t feel desire.” Perhaps it’s too much to imagine that an editor would steer her away from such admissions for her own good. Our confessional culture demands not only that authors leave themselves overexposed but also that they drag their families along with them.
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and a columnist for the New York Post. Her latest book is Be the Parent, Please: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat (Templeton Press).
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the Institute for Family Studies.