The Last Bit of Whatever is Sweetest
Lisa Carver’s work is pretty revered here in Portland, Oregon for its honesty, intelligence, and a shamelessness you simply won’t find anywhere else. I mean that in the best way. My work is often considered shameless too, or, more generously, “brave.” There are people out there who despise me for this shamelessness. I have a straight-up stalker who hate-wrote a 25-page diatribe about me and posted it on her blog, then five years later, still furious, she updated it with an assassinating “review” of my recent memoir, which she clearly read too many times. Lisa is the kind of person who, if/when faced with this weird instability, has zero time for it. She’s just so clearly, so unabashedly her, and I find that so admirable and likable. We met through a mutual friend when her band played in Portland, and we found we tend to agree on just about everything. Including what plenty of other people probably find horrifying, or at least would never say out loud. It’s always nice to find a good pal and comrade in such matters. Read her latest I Love Art and you will love her too. — Kerry Cohen
LISA: You said you would only go to some work-related events in Portland if you could hook up some casual sex for it. Events all day can get dry, it’s true. Did anyone take you up on it?
KERRY: I never said I wouldn't go unless there was casual sex involved. I said if there *were* some casual sex it would sweeten the pot. And, no.
LISA: What? What the hell is wrong with people? Maybe no one has casual sex anymore? With age comes better judgment, I guess, which often means not doing something. Sadie's Power Hour at high school where people with good grades could do whatever they wanted got busted up because a senior and a freshman with good grades were doing it in a closet.
KERRY: See, that’s the way to live though! Why can’t we do it in a closet still? Also, Power Hour? I mean, with that name they were basically saying this is a place for you kids to do it in a closet.
LISA: Do you think you're more or less sexual in mid-age than in young age?
KERRY: Definitely more. Don’t you think? The basic understanding most people have about this is that as women get older we’re less self-conscious. That’s certainly true. I would add that I’m just way more inside my body in all ways now. I even love my body. That feels dangerous to say as a woman. Aren’t we supposed to hate ourselves? The older I get the more I think I’m awesome in *every* way. I think this might be intimidating to men. Actually, I think it’s intimidating to age appropriate men. Younger men are way more interested in me these days than age appropriate ones.
LISA: My youthful sex was taken up with managing others' desire for me. How you put it is good: I wasn't inside my body; I was in their eyes (anyone's). It wasn't probably until I hit 40 that I really wanted or was capable of a connection during sex. I've also gotten way more lazy. I just let it happen. Let the river flow to the sea. But yeah, I enjoy sex now. It wasn't that I didn't as a young person so much as it just didn't occur to me to enjoy or not enjoy it.
KERRY: That’s it exactly. It didn’t occur to me to enjoy it or not because it wasn’t about that. In Loose Girl, I purposely didn’t include anything about my own sexual arousal and desire because that was irrelevant to the story. The story was about how I had sex in the hopes of being chosen.
LISA: I'd say I'm more instructive now. I also ask what someone likes, specifically, instead of taking the time to find out by trial and error. Sex is more collaborative, less posing. We all are more aware of death approaching, and want to get in what may be the last bit of whatever is sweetest. Right?
KERRY: I love what you’re saying about sex being more collaborative and less posing. Definitely. We’re not using it anymore for some purpose that isn’t connection and enjoyment, don’t you think? Now, like you’re saying, sex is about the feeling with that person, even if it’s just a brief connection. It’s so much better.
LISA: It’s like…real now! Do you consider yourself popular?
KERRY: Yes. Proof of being popular is when there are a whole bunch of people in your community who dislike you but are super sweet to you.
LISA: Hahaha! That is true. Hahaha! You make fun of your kids and they of you. I can't imagine living with someone year after year and not being able to make fun of each other. Do people give you flack for that?
KERRY: No. There are people who don’t like me because of it, but making fun of people (and ourselves) is one of my top requirements for all of my relationships.
LISA: I thought it was pretty funny that instead of reviewing Loose Girl, Jezebel published a whole article saying you weren't slutty enough to be a slut and you weren't vomiting with withdrawal enough to be a (sex) addict. Did you have any revenge fantasies after that?
KERRY: Oh my god, so many. That was so horrible for me. I was new to being acknowledged at all as a writer, so it was the first time I’d experienced anything like that. I went through all the feelings one would expect — defensiveness, anger, hurt. About a year later there was an article, I think in New York Times Magazine, about how Jezebel had to overhaul themselves because there was so much cruelty there. Right now in our culture we’re super focused on how men hurt us -- which is great, they’re our biggest predators. But I hope someday there’s more of a revolution about how women really work hard to take other women down. I understand it’s because we’re all fighting for place in a culture that doesn’t give us enough power, but I’d love to see women move beyond this mean girl model we’ve been doing since middle school.
LISA: I want to tell you a story. I went to a Sex/Love Anonymous meeting--not for me, for my boyfriend, though he turned out to be a meth addict instead.
LISA: Another attendee was someone I'd had sex with at The Key Club in Rhode Island one time. I didn't know his name. I was going to yuk it up with him, but he ran away as soon as the meeting was over. I guess he took sex addiction more seriously than I did. Then I went to Care Pharmacy, and he was there in line ahead of me! He picked up his pills and zipped out of there like The Roadrunner! I did feel like Wile E. Coyote all day after that.
KERRY: Wait, WHAT WERE THE PILLS FOR? I hope you found out.
LISA: Alas. So…we both have a child on the spectrum and a child who is not. Which one do you find easier to get along with?
KERRY: I bet we have the same answer for this -- my autistic guy is so much nicer and sweeter than my other one. The other one is so much work in so many ways.
LISA: My autistic guy is much nicer and sweeter, too. Very complimentary and kind and innocent. The other one is easier for me though because she is silent in her bedroom with the door closed and she needs no reassurance about anything instead of about everything and she doesn't repeat herself. It's hard to repeat saying nothing at all! Except every once in a while we have arguments about feminism or politics or who's more hypocritical, her or me. It's very stimulating. Often I lose. I never argue with the boy because he obsesses about space and weather the end of the world, and what could I have to say against any of that?
KERRY: I love that you argue about who’s more hypocritical, her or you. She’s older than my non-autistic guy, so maybe those sorts of arguments will come for me too. He definitely wants very little to do with me. That part is already here.
LISA: Have your kids read any of your books?
KERRY: No. They have zero interest in what I do. Griffin rolls his eyes if I say anything about my writing, and one time he actually did air quotes around the word “books” when referring to the ones I wrote. Recently, if anything comes up about my writing he likes to tell me he’s a better writer than me.
LISA: My two didn’t even read the book that they wrote (Sadie Wolf & Friends, which was four years of me writing down things they said). How do you like being a therapist???
KERRY: I love being a therapist! Only recently have I had moments when I feel sort of tired of it. I’m very extraverted, so I don’t get exhausted by people, which means that I can really enjoy spending that much of my time having such intense conversations with them. In my experience, therapy is fun. We laugh a lot. Of course there’s tons of crying too, but there are so many good feelings in therapy, like when you and they come to a new understanding about something about them. People don’t talk about how fun therapy can be. Also, I’m so much more interested in being with people in this way, getting right with what’s true and important to them rather than staying on the surface. It’s very gratifying to have such real connection and engagement with people all the time.
LISA: I feel like we are supposed to be talking about books more? When did your last one come out, and what is your next one?
KERRY: My last book was Lush: A Memoir. That book has such bad vibes for me because of how my ex-husband basically cursed it. My next book is a psychology/self help book about sex and love addiction.
[two week pause]
LISA: I have been remiss. I went to New York to celebrate my new book (I Love Art) and other than that all I've been doing is driving to go have sex and then being lazy the next day. Triangle just reminded me about our conversation!
KERRY: I too have only been having sex and being lazy. We have so much in common. XO. With my sexy fucking handyman nonetheless!
LISA: OMG! No wonder you liked my tweet about James Taylor!
KERRY: Hahaha! It took me 30 seconds to get that. Only because we’re in the last generation that would even get the reference at all.
LISA: That’s my style—slow to get, if gettable at all!
KERRY: How far would you drive for sex?
LISA: I've always imported or exported, as generally you can tell who you'd want to be with by their music or online presence or whatever, plus I've always interviewed or get interviewed by lots of people for work, AND I've usually lived in small, uncultured towns, so it's unlikely that I'd happen upon my particular taste person--for friends or lovahs--on my block. I really don't get out much. I'm busy. Busy typing stupid jokes on social media all day. So, in answer to your question, I would drive or fly any distance for sex. I appreciate foreigners and foreign lands too. So…REALLY FAR.
KERRY: I hear you. Being people who have sex and are super lazy, though, it’s so much easier when sex just shows up at your door so you don’t have to leave your house.
LISA: Haha, your handyman. It's funny--the 20-year-old handyman I had in Maine gazed into my eyes over the body of the rat in the trap he'd laid in my kitchen and said, "So when are we gonna get it on?" The convenience, including the manner in which he approached it, was sorely tempting.
KERRY: Do you find you are more or less selective now in middle age who you have sex with? Is it the same for relationships or is that somehow different?
LISA: The same as I've always been: it's just an immediate yes or no. If it's no, that's not going to change. If they're the ones with the no, I respect that, I wouldn't try to change anyone's mind about my desirability. So...the selection is done at some base level before I'm even aware of it. For serious relationships, too. And nonsexual, even work relationships!
KERRY: Huh. The last three times I have had that wild mojo and eventual love for someone I wasn’t readily attracted to them. This only started happening since I turned 40, but since then that seems to be the only way it does. I’m starting to get a sense of the formula. I am not immediately physically attracted -- I sometimes find them a little unappealing physically even -- but their personalities are quirky and wonderful. But then it has to be more than that too. They have to have that unavailable feel that turns me on so much, and then they have to be wildly passionate about wanting me. I think that’s the full formula. I never would have known this when I was younger. And now, I am settling for nothing less in my life.
LISA: Me too, about the unavailable/super-wanting-me, except there's no "then" in between for me. I like a man to be obsessed with me but somehow blocked from acting on it often. Sadie (my daughter) says I like men who are gone a lot.
KERRY: Oh, yeah, there’s no “then” for me either. I too like men who I somehow can’t really have or who never give me all of what I claim to want. “Claim to want” because obviously I don’t want it. I want the longing of not getting it. And I get exactly that all the time.
LISA: Do you do anything supernatural? Like remember we all did Ouija board and hypnotized each other at sleepovers or cast spells? Exploring the occult keeps you fresh. Seems like no one has time for it anymore. I just saw Hilma af Klint's exhibit at the Guggenheim and I was impressed not only with the fantastic art--which was at once childlike and scientific, explosive and contained/still—but also that she kept up a self-made coven (or cabal) with four other ladies into old age.
KERRY: I am so glad you brought this up! I am basically a witch who practices witchcraft. I say basically because I know lots of witches who really live inside their witchy behaviors, whereas my practice is more found in how I think and what I believe about humans. It’s my spirituality, though. In my mind, witchcraft is just ritualizing science. But, I do indeed do rituals and spells, and I consult witches, psychics, shamans, tarot cards, etc., and I believe all of it is central to what happens in my life and who I am. What about you? I love when people tell me they’ve seen ghosts or had actual supernatural experiences. I get so excited when there’s the possibility that we really have no idea how anything works, you know?
LISA: Oh wow, this is exciting! Were you practicing witchcraft all along or did you put it on pause when you had young children? I recently went to a tarot reader and she knew all this stuff about me and Helen (the poodle in my life). My legal name that I made the appointment under is not Lisa Carver, so it wasn't possible that she googled me. She even told me don't marry my new friend, at least not yet, and the very next day he said he would propose if he didn't think it would drive me away. It was only our third date! The psychic gave me the strength to not instantly say yes. I don't see why I alone should steer the course of my life. I think to follow some pictorial directives on random cards drawn from a deck, or the iChing, or a message you divine in a cloud, will keep you out of ruts if nothing else. I'm going to Catholic church for the first time this Sunday. I want to do DMT in the mountains here in Nevada and converse with aliens. Everybody's doing it! But I can't find any DMT. I'm going to have to go to the back of Sadie's school bus and ask the bad boys and girls if they're packing. Packing DMT.
KERRY: Ha! Is that what the kids are packing these days? It’s true everyone is doing it--DMT, psilocybin, ayahuasca--to try to change their lives and blow a hole in their brains. That part isn’t even supernatural. There’s lots of research showing the benefits, and the world of psychology is starting to come back around to this as legit therapy. I did put it on pause when I had children, by the way, but only because I didn’t fully know this about myself yet. I had done a bunch of witchcraft in my twenties, and I had this amazing dream in which a raven came to me at a party and handed me a telephone. He said, “It’s for you,” and I put the phone to my ear and learned the meaning of life. I couldn’t remember what it was, of course, when I woke up, but that wasn’t the point in my mind. The point was that there was a meaning of life. I got the raven tattooed on my back, but now it’s very old and it looks like an eagle.
LISA: Fly like an eagle to the sea, Kerry.