How to Keep Romance Alive When Your News Feed Feels Like the 2017 Libido Ice Bucket Challenge

by ParentCo. December 22, 2017

Ice bucket with red heart

It’s the time of year for toasts, and I would like to make one. First, I want to take a moment to commend those of you who have chosen not to disconnect from society and/or move to Canada this year… To those of you who take a deep, steadying breath before reading the headlines and then read them anyway, understanding the risk… To those of you who are doing everything you can to be upstanding citizens and model parents and thoughtful neighbors, even when those roles are starting to feel like quaint, old-timey Norman Rockwell sorts of things to be… And especially to those of you who still have it in you to be tender and loving, even flirtatious, with your partners despite the withering assault of aggravated sexual misconduct allegations at all levels of society… Hats off to you! You people are amazing. Because nothing douses the nuptial fire like stress and fatigue, and nothing is more stressful and fatiguing than a news feed that feels like the 2017 Libido Ice Bucket Challenge. Despite the sobering fact that your health care, your taxes, your state’s educational funding, your sense of right and wrong, the stability of your job and, by extension, your life with your family as you know it, are in total flux, you prevail. Even your private nostalgia for old TV shows and movies (“Annie Hall,” “The Cosby Show,” SNL, every picture Harvey Weinstein ever made) is seriously threatened or perhaps already demolished, and yet there you are, humming along to “Here Comes Santa Claus” while buying something tasteful for your mother-in-law. How do you do it? Your kids will be all set in the resilience department because all they’ll need to do is watch you in action, being hopeful in the face of so much ruinous bullshit. In an effort to model such resilience myself, I’m taking inspiration from people like you who seem to have it together. After an informal yet extensive poll of friends, family, work associates, yoga students and instructors, health care providers, clerks, baristas, postal workers, neighboring Wi-Fi freeloaders, buskers, kindergartners, acupuncturists, and pets – plus the odd amiable-looking stranger on the street – I have come to the following conclusion about resilience in the face of ruinous bullshit: People prevail because they have to. It’s what they were taught. They keep on doing what they know how to do because it’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative: giving up. Why do you think (brace yourself for super sexy literary analogy) the Old Man from Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” held onto that fishing line until his hands blistered and bled and delirium set in? Because it felt good? No. Because he was hungry? No. Because he wanted to bring home the biggest fish that little Cuban fishing village had ever seen? No. He did it because he was a fisherman. My brother keeps teaching music theory to high school students because he is a music teacher. My neighbor keeps delivering babies because she is a doula. I keep writing because I’m a writer. If we expect to find it within ourselves to keep loving, we need to be lovers. And respectable ones at that. Writing about sex and love is an odd thing to do when you’re someone who’s been considerably inelegant at both. But it’s like with yoga – you don’t practice because you are the picture of health and calm. You practice because you need to, because it heals your hurt in some way. The Buddha, after all, didn’t sit in mediation under a Ficus religiosa tree without moving for seven days because he was already enlightened. So: How do we recover from the Great Libido Ice Bucket Challenge that has been the Year 2017? My theories are still being tested, so don’t get your holiday knickers in a twist if they don’t work for you. That said, if you haven’t had sex since your kids started arguing over whose turn it was to open the advent calendar, I suggest you take notes.

Tell your news feed to take a holiday

Fairly obvious, but hard to do when a) you’re a news junky, b) you can’t resist the siren song bleeps and dings of your iPhone, or c) you feel some moral obligation to be up on current events so you can pitch in an insightful-slash-searing comment or two at your neighborhood Solstice party. Forget it. Plan to smile knowingly, play the I’ve-chosen-to-reserve-comment card, and block your RSS feed pronto. Salvage what remnants of joie de vivre and joies du sexe that still remain post-hellish-year-of-indiscriminate-soul-crippling-social-degradation by checking the fuck out for a while.

Take a holiday yourself

Also fairly obvious, but how often do parents actually do this? Be honest. Not so much. Holidays are defined as days “of festivity or recreation when no work is done,” which, I think, should include opportunities for actual intimacy with the person you sleep next to every night. Figure out what “holiday” means to you and your partner (weekend without the kids, sleeping in until after 7 a.m. for more than two consecutive mornings, S&M, glacier camping, whatever) and find a way to take it.

Avoid family drama

Tough around the holidays, I know. But take a moment to consider the importance of your marriage…. Good job! Now take a moment to weigh that importance against how second-cousin Shirley may or may not feel should you skip the spiked eggnog tradition over at her place.

Never underestimate experiential giving

Ask yourself how you feel inside when opening a box containing a pair of quality socks reinforced at the toe and heel. Now, ask yourself how you feel inside after an orgasm. Pick one.

Quick, put your kids to bed early before the days start getting longer again

This might be the darkest time of the year, but it’s also the time when you can fool your kids into thinking it’s waaaaaay past their bedtime even though it’s only 6:45 p.m. Sleeping children plus well-rested adults multiplied by time for some bona fide foreplay equals more action in the sack. (Don’t make the rookie mistake of forgetting to disable all legible clocks, especially digital alarm clocks right next to your kids’ beds.)

Take advantage of the cold weather

Think back to those 85-degree nights in July and how yucky it felt to lie within two feet of another hot-blooded creature. These refreshing zero-degree nights make it close to impossible not to wedge your freezing fingers into your partner’s toasty armpits. Hint: Other fun human puzzle arrangements are only a few under-the-cover adjustments away.

Imbibe a little

Know that hazy, rosy, glow effect you can add to your Tiny Prints holiday card? You can also do that in real life with my baller recipe for Hot Buttered Rum. Your spouse will look 15 years younger in 15 minutes or less, I swear. PM me for details.


The kids get to believe in Santa. Why can’t parents believe in something, too? Like 20-something abs or a bottomless sex drive? Mind over matter, people. It comes in handy. Also, if you took my advice from earlier, the world is at least digitally silenced for a while, which helps achieve allusions of all kinds. Holiday time is known for its warmth, richness, complexity, and excess. Don’t spoil it for yourself by caring at all about what happens in the eleventh hour of the legislative session. There are more important things to attend to! There are spouses who need your full attention! And if your full attention is required in the closet where you both happen to be naked because you haven’t figured out what to wear yet, l’chaim! Like Santiago, the old man who spent three days and three nights in a 16-foot skiff trying to catch an 18-foot marlin with a single hook and a line, we need to be married like it’s our job. Sure, there was nothing left of the fish by the time he got to shore thanks to a bunch of ravenous sharks, but Santiago had restored his faith in himself, and he had earned the respect he deserved. Good luck, friends! It’s time to ring in 2018 like we didn’t just spend 12 months wading through a stinking pile of poop. Against all the odds and in spite of the sharks, let’s love as if our lives depended on it. Because they do, actually.



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