Dateland: I’ll Take the Soup

Ira turned 80 this year. As a birthday gift, his friends at the retirement home hired him a prostitute. The prostitute went to his room, knocked on the door and when he answered said, “Ira, I’m here to give you super sex.”Ira thought a moment, shrugged, and said, “I’ll take the soup.”Like most jokes, this is funnier when told aloud, and after you’ve had a few cocktails. But, giggling or not, you get the point.  At some point in all of our lives, soup becomes more important than sex.

I was reminded of this joke after spending time with a few long-term couples—some gay; some straight. Some with kids; some without. The one thing they had in common was their casual disinterest in marital sex. And their compulsion to discuss their sexual malaise loudly and surprisingly merrily over breakfast in a diner.

There’s something about breakfast that prompts talk of sexual death. Maybe it’s because greasy diner breakfasts are so comforting and satisfying. It’s the food these couples ate in their early days after spending the night mauling each other in bed. Instead of making them feel melancholy for their old randy ways, some sophisticated middle-aged coping mechanism makes them believe that sex was always only a means to an end.

I live in a lake cottage in a charming resort town. Part of your responsibility in living in a vacation destination is playing host to your friends hoping to escape their suburban nightmare existence for a couple days. So, I built a small guest cottage in my backyard because I did not want to hear the guttural lovemaking noises sure to result from a couple seeing each other for the first time in months without the headache of screaming babies or work-induced strain.

However, my guests almost never want to sleep in the guest cottage. Instead, they want to stay in the main house with me, fretting obsessively about where our next meal will come from.

Last weekend, a happily married couple came for a visit. At dinner, they were already discussing breakfast. I suggested we sleep in the following morning and that I cook brunch. They looked at me as if I’d suggested I skin one of them and roast them on a spit.

“We want to go to one of those cute diners for breakfast. And you know how these places fill up,” said the husband. “We need to get there first thing in the morning.”

“Yeah, but you’re on vacation. Don’t you want to have sex in the morning?” I said. (I’m happy to report that I still like sex! But now, in middle age, I like to have it in the morning almost exclusively. That way I can focus on important stuff the rest of the day, like finding and sharing cute animal videos on Facebook.)

“Oh, don’t be silly,” the wife said. “If we tried to have sex in the morning, we’d just be fantasizing about breakfast the whole time.”

Her husband heartily agreed. “Why not cut out the middleman and skip straight to breakfast.”

“Don’t you remember when sex was the most important thing in your relationship? Don’t you miss it?” I asked.

They looked a bit misty for a moment, remembering their early days of pawing each other sloppily in the back seat of cars. This couple regularly went to one of those sleezy fantasy hotels before they married! And they took pictures of themselves romping in the room as if they were in Disneyland! And then they showed me the pictures! (I’ve never forgiven them for that.)

“We still like sex,” the husband said, “but we’ve already done everything there is to do sexually. Or at least all she’ll let me do. But we’ve yet to find the perfect place for eggs Benedict.”

“And what an exciting day that will be when we do!” the wife said. They crinkled their eyes at each other in marital bliss.

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