If I had to pick, I'd say April was my favorite month this year. April was Mark Ruffalo month. Though May comes in a close second. Vince Vaughn was Mr. May. And how could I forget Mr. September? Ed Harris. Oh, Ed, you had me in The Right Stuff. I could gaze at your balding chiseledness until well next month, where Peter Krause, aka Nate on Six Feet Under, waits for me with cocktail in hand on the Men I Love calendar hanging in my office.
The spiral-bound, professionally printed fantasy-date-keeper was a Christmas gift from my friend April, custom designed with sexy photos of my obsessions of the moment, an homage to all that is boy-toy worthy, a shameless regression to eighth grade, when it was customary to have the cast of The Outsiders enshrined in tear sheets from Tiger Beat on your bedroom door.
"Is that the guy from The Notebook?" asks a woman from accounting who is squinting up at my bulletin board.
"Isn't he sooo hot?" I don't quite ask but announce as I yank out the pushpin and present the Men Who Rattle My Pelvic Bones calendar for closer inspection. "It's Ryan Gosling," I remind her, giving us both a moment to take in Mr. August before I flip back to January and then page through, month by month, with narration. "I know you'll agree that Josh Hartnett (Mr. March) was the only thing worth seeing in Pearl Harbor" The accountant grins uneasily, as if she'd looked down to discover I was wearing leg warmers and a sweatshirt silk-screened with frankie says relax.
I know what April will say. No, this isn't weird, Vicki. Even though you're 36 years old. Even though you have two small children who leave little time for lusting after movie stars. Even if such lusting tends to take place after their bedtime and mostly by watching new releases On Demand. Even though you have a loving husband (Mr. December, it should be noted), who actually kind of likes all this 30-something mania, since after said on-demand flicks you occasionally feel frisky.
But it is weird. I didn't feel this way in my 20s. Thirty came and went without much more than a fleeting thought that Matt Lauer might be good in bed. And then, without warning, I was sitting in the movie theater in the fall of my 31st year, eating Raisinets, watching Sweet Home Alabama, when Reese Witherspoon, upon returning to her native Alabama to divorce her husband so she could marry someone else (Mr. November: Patrick Dempsey), comes face to face with a man -- messy blond hair, blue eyes, dressed in a be-still-my-aging-heart flannel -- who actually makes my butt elevate off the seat (Mr. January: Josh Lucas). And ever since, this attraction to spicy movie stars has grown to the point where I now prowl around HBO listings like a cougar in heat.
Could it be that it has finally arrived? That I have stepped, however ungracefully, into my sexual prime?
At last! I've been telling Mr. December for years that we were almost there. "Just wait! I'm heading into my mid-30s. And you know what that means. My sexual peak! It will be like the Playboy Mansion has moved to our backyard! Every night will be like the drainpipe scene in Nine 1/2 Weeks!"
All in My Head
"Sexual prime is a total myth," says Pepper Schwartz, sociology professor at the University of Washington, author of Prime, and parade-rainer-oner.
Huh? How do you explain that time during Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! when I growled so audibly at the moment Mr. July (Josh Duhamel) appeared at the Piggly Wiggly that people actually turned around?
"There is no physiological peak," Schwartz assures. No spike in hormones. No changes in the endocrine system. The whole notion is, she says, "an artifact of the time."
The time Schwartz is talking about is the late '40s, early '50s, when Alfred Kinsey published his sex studies after getting people to come clean about their activities between the sheets. He found that more women had orgasms in their 30s than at any other age. Hence, the concept of the sexual prime was born. And, hence, I've been expecting it since sex ed in ninth grade with Ms. Paprocky.
"Actually, in your late 30s, testosterone is low enough to work against other gains," says Laura Berman, Ph.D., director of the Berman Center in Chicago and host of Showtime's Sexual Healing. Women's ovaries and adrenal glands help produce that kinky little hormone, one of several that stimulate the desire - triggering part of the brain. Between ages 30 and 50, the body slows its testosterone operation as we head toward the supposedly sexless years of menopause. (As one testosterone researcher tenderly told the Washington Post last year, "In every other species, females die when their reproductive ability goes away.") If anything, the 30s are the start of the sexual rock bottom, at least hormonally. When I explain this to Mr. December, he makes a face that can only be described as "dead puppy," then trudges to the basement to play, alone, with his Xbox.
I, on the other hand, am confused. A life without a bona fide sexual prime doesn't make sense. How then do we psychoanalyze The Graduate? How do we justify in-her-prime Demi and in-his-prime Ashton (who, incidentally, has made my short list for next year's Men Who Can Stop by Anytime calendar)? How do we explain uncontrollable growling? I was so not growling at cute boys in movies in my teens, when testosterone was supposedly coursing through my veins.
"A lot of women don't develop sexual self-awareness until later in life," says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a sex therapist in New York. Berman calls it the "emotional" sexual prime. As she puts it, "You're socially secure. You're clear about who you are. You're more confident sexually, more assertive, less inhibited." That certainly explains Kinsey's findings, especially since those poor gals were living in an era when good girls weren't supposed to have sex, much less like it. I guess feeling comfortable enough with who you are that you hang photos of hot movie stars in your office is what being in your prime is all about.
Works for me. As Schwartz would say, I'm just "hitting my stride."
Which is why I e-mail April. Subject: Two more. She fears we might have too many, especially since Mr. December is set for a guest appearance on next year's Who Needs Testosterone Anyway? calendar.