DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #54: The Lusty Broad


Dear Sugar, Sugah, Sage,

I’m a spry 47-year-old feisty broad. For the past three years I’ve been deeply in love with a woman. The timing of our meeting was atrocious. Her father was dying, she was recently downsized, and we were both nurturing recent heartbreaks. But once she quoted John Donne over my naughty bits after making love, I was done for. She pushed me away over and over again, and then started inviting me more frequently into her heart.

We’ve struggled ever since. Her sex drive has vanished (we’ve done it all—doctors, therapists, reading). She cannot fully commit, and she is consumed by fear (she’s a love avoider classic).

With her I find the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We’ve broken up and reunited more times than I can count and we are currently on an absolute restriction from each other for thirty days, which we’ve never managed. We are deeply KNOWN by each other in a spiritual, sacred way I’ve never been known before. Addictive, yes. Hence the break.

I should say she loves me deeply and, in some ways, when I demanded the full break, she took it harder than me.

I believe, as a Midwestern lesbian, that I will never find this again and thus, I stay and tolerate her “rules,” her angst, her sexual anorexia despite being a lusty broad. Yes, I’ve tried taking lovers. It simply does not work for me. Though our lovemaking is rare (4-5 times per year), when we’ve made love it has been transcendent.

I’m a quirky unusual complex woman and it is hard to find a match. What the hell? What do YOU think?

Much love either way.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?


Dear Should I Stay or Should I Go Now,

What the hell, indeed. It sounds pretty crazy to me. Breaking up and getting back together more times than you can count? Sexual anorexia and “rules”? Your use of the word addiction? All those things unsettle me. But you know what unsettles me the most? This business about your lover being the only one who has “KNOWN” you in a “spiritual, sacred way,” coupled with your conviction that you will “never find this again and thus” you stay.

Find what, pray tell? A sexually and emotionally withholding lover who is terrified of commitment and intimacy? If you and I were sitting at your kitchen table composing your ad for is this what you’d ask for?

You would not. I encourage you to contemplate why you’re accepting that now, sweet pea. This relationship isn’t meeting your needs; it’s pushing your buttons. Namely, the big button that says, I’m a 47 year-old Midwestern lesbian, so I’d better take what I can get. You write about your lover’s fear, but it’s your own fear that’s messing with your head. I know it’s hard to be alone, darling. Your anxieties about finding another partner are understandable, but they can’t be the reason to stay. Desperation is unsustainable. It might have gotten you through until now, but you’re too old and awesome to fake it anymore.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you and your lover are doomed. Good couples sometimes get off to an appalling start. Perhaps the two of you will make it through, but you won’t if you continue as you are. I know your connection feels powerful and rare and incendiary. I know it seems like this woman is your own personal intimacy messiah. But you’re wrong. True intimacy isn’t a cluster fuck or a psychodrama. It isn’t the “highest highs and lowest lows.” It isn’t John Donne whispered into your crotch followed by months of not-exactly-agreed-upon celibacy. It’s a tiny bit of those things on occasion with a whole lot of everything else in between. It’s communion and mellow compatibility. It’s friendship and mutual respect. It’s not having to say we must have an “absolute restriction on each other” for thirty days.

That isn’t love, Lusty Broad. It’s a restraining order. You don’t have intimacy with this woman. You have intensity and scarcity. You have emotional turmoil and an overwrought sense of what the two of you together means.

I believe you know that. I could put most of the letters I receive into two piles: those from people who are afraid to do what they know in their hearts they need to do and those from people who have genuinely lost their way. I’d put your letter in the former pile. I think you wrote to me because you realize you need to make a change, but you’re scared of what that change will mean. I sympathize. Neither of us can know how long it will be before you find love again. But we do know that so long as you stay in a relationship that isn’t meeting your needs, you’re in a relationship that isn’t meeting your needs. It makes you miserable and it also closes you off to other, potentially more satisfying romantic relationships.

I am not a religious person. I don’t meditate or chant or pray. But lines from poems I love run through my head and they feel holy to me in a way. There’s a poem by Adrienne Rich I first read twenty years ago called “Splittings” that I thought of when I read your letter. The last two lines of the poem are: “I choose to love this time for once / with all my intelligence.” It seemed such a radical thought when I first read those lines when I was twenty-two—that love could rise from our deepest, most reasoned intentions rather than our strongest shadowy doubts. The number of times I choose to love this time for once with all my intelligence has run through my head in the past twenty years cannot be counted. There hasn’t been a day when those lines weren’t present for me in ways both conscious and unconscious. You could say I’m devoted to them, even in times when I’ve failed profoundly to live up to their aspirations.

I suggest that you devote yourself to them too, sweet pea. The question isn’t whether you should stay or go. The question is how would your life be transformed if you chose to love this time for once with all your intelligence?

I’m not talking to your crotch, sister. I’m looking you in the eye.



Sugar will be taking next week off, but will return on November 4.