Sex & the Married Girl

Sex & the Married Girl

by Mandi Norwood

The marriage revolution is at hand-it's going on right now, led by straight-shooting, brutally honest gloves-off contemporary Married Girls. With her fifteen years of experience at top women's magazines, Mandi Norwood speaks to this new generation of married women who crave independence and adventure just as much as they crave commitment.

Like a great girls'

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The marriage revolution is at hand-it's going on right now, led by straight-shooting, brutally honest gloves-off contemporary Married Girls. With her fifteen years of experience at top women's magazines, Mandi Norwood speaks to this new generation of married women who crave independence and adventure just as much as they crave commitment.

Like a great girls' night out, this smart, sexy, candid guide reveals married girls most intimate confessions from over one hundred in-depth interviews. So what makes today's Married Girls's marriage different from her mother's marriage?

Sometimes hilarious, often tender, and always empowering, Mandi Norwood delivers from-the-heart, savvy, and practical advice about every aspect of modern marriage from power, controlling money, omigod-the-mother-in-law, to brazen behavior in bed.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Because the "dynamics of modern marriage are so different from our mothers' marriages," women's magazine vet Norwood suggests it's high time for "a new, bespoke approach to advice." The happily married author-who grew up believing that marriage was a "painful waste of time" because it would lead, inevitably, to divorce-portrays here a contemporary institution filled with challenges, but comprising two equals in a "flexible environment from which to grow and learn about themselves, about love and the world." Geared to the 25-35 year-old set, and exploring every aspect of wedlock from finding a financial advisor to infidelity, the book skillfully balances girly magazine sauciness (tips on giving and receiving oral sex, and the pros and cons of various sexual positions) and brainy insightfulness (effects of feminism on our generation). Norwood maintains a fresh, high-spirited tone throughout, as she discusses divvying up household chores, making time for yourself and embracing intimacy ("During orgasm, your metabolism increases momentarily and helps you burn calories and shift sudden fat.... and temporarily improves your complexion). The title is a nod to Helen Gurley Brown's seminal 1962 Sex and the Single Girl, as well as to marketing-there's a lot in here that has nothing to do with the bedroom. Filled with surprisingly candid real-life interviews, men's opinions, statistics, and strategies for success, this marriage primer is a perfect gift for the newly married girl or bride-to-be. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Few are in as good a position to write about the modern woman's needs and desires as Norwood, former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan UK and Mademoiselle magazines. Three-quarters of her first book is made up of one-on-one interviews with women age 25 to 45 who talk about sex, finance, power, and identity; these are wrapped around a personal rant, albeit a forward-looking one-Norwood is less interested in where women's relationships have been than in where they are going-which seems to be in the direction of diversity and self-fulfillment. Her research is far from scientific, and throughout she makes sweeping generalizations about women's relationships. To boot, most of her interviewees are clearly professional women, leaving the majority of homemakers and low-paid working women unrepresented. Nevertheless, Norwood reveals a lot of truth here, and no matter how often readers find themselves agreeing one minute and disagreeing the next, she totally engages and will provoke important discussion. This work has the makings of an anthem for a large segment of the population and is worthy of inclusion in general collections for that reason alone.-David Leonhardt, Chesterville, Ont. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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St. Martin's Press
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5.70(w) x 8.62(h) x 1.14(d)

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Sex & the Married Girl

From Clicking to Climaxing-the Complete Truth About Modern Marriage
By Mandi Norwood

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2003 Mandi Norwood
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-312-31213-X

Chapter One

Although the word "selfish" connotes negative behavior, I don't think it is. It's a good thing to be selfish, although I prefer to use the phrase "watching out for yourself and taking care of yourself." When you take care of yourself, you're better in your marriage, you're more fulfilled....

that a woman could think about herself, be selfish, put I before He, especially within marriage. Giving, devoting, sacrificing ... these are the actions of a good wife, no? No. These are the actions of a drudge, a sucker, a sap. These are the actions of a woman who sits meekly at a dinner party and feels worthy only of discussing the accomplishments of her husband, while quietly despairing over society's disinterest in her. These are the actions of an intelligent, once-vibrant woman who held so much promise, yet will come to be known as Whassername when her former classmates see her at their reunion. These, too, are the actions of a woman who will find herself struggling with her own self-worth and identity issues, fearful for her future, when she discovers the husband, to whom she has sacrificed herself, is having an affair with his dynamic, self-possessed coworker. (How devastating to discover an e-mail from him to his vivacious lover, stating "My wife is such a bore.")

Women have historically been the caretakers of their marriages and husbands, running themselves ragged to appease the moods of a petulant spouse, looking out for his needs, squishing their own identities and putting on hold their own aspirations and dreams to allow their partners to pursue theirs. Our mothers were brought up to believe a "good wife" is an ATM of selfless deeds, no deposits required. As a result, when the marriage breaks down, it won't just be her financial well-being that's seriously depleted. What remains of her self-worth will likely be destroyed, too.

It all began even before she floated down the aisle on a wave of dreams. Should she have received a good education and scored academically, her family's expectations for her will doubtless have stretched little further than a husband who would provide for her and their brood of children. She'd take a job to supplement her husband's income until the first baby bounced along, maybe. But it was generally understood that her career would be short-lived, since a woman's defining role was that of nurturer, caregiver, selfless saint whose fulfillment and joy would be derived from the accomplishments and well-being of others. Perhaps she'd be able to resume work-as if looking after a family wasn't work-once her chicks finally flew the nest? A nice little job to get her out of the house, provide a bit of what my grandmother used to call "pin money" ... you know, pennies she could spend on little treats for herself. Ooooh, like, pretty brooches and stockings? Yes, and, if she saves her pennies up, vats of alcohol with which to drown her pain and fill the sheer rotten emptiness of her soul.

Of course, some of our mothers, Baby Boomer women, did continue to work, even while their children were young. Whether their reasons were rebelliousness, dogged determination to give their education meaning, financial necessity or-gasp-pure pleasure, there was always, always, the implicit understanding that husband and family came first since her identity was primarily that of wife and mother. After all, did she not relinquish her own identity when she took her husband's name and vowed to forsake all others, which we know then included herself? Especially herself. This was not to be questioned. Hell's bells, it was to be celebrated!

For the vast majority of our mothers, her wedding day was her family's proudest moment. Forget that she was trilingual/athletic/ artistic/literary/psychic/academic. It was small potatoes that she was on the way to discovering another life form/cure for cancer/alternative energy source. That she was getting married, had secured a husband, that was the accomplishment for which no expense would be spared. Huzzaaah! And aside from vowing to capitulate to her husband forever, her greatest gift to the world at that point was to throw her bouquet to the nearest single female in the hope that another woman would have the great fortune to lose herself to a husband. And soon.

See, even the identity of Mother paled into insignificance against that of Wife. In fact, having a child without also having a husband wasn't just stupid, it was shameful, stigmatized and the only reason to be ostracized by family, friends and society. No, a woman's only true, meaningful identity was that of Wife, even if it meant a life of slavery, submission and suppression. Perhaps because it meant slavery, submission and suppression?

But that's enough soapbox ranting. There are plenty of authors who have furiously filled books with historical home truths, rhetoric and self-pity. And although well-meaning and justified, they can be exhausting and dreary to read and, as such, uninspiring. Yes, yes, we know women have had it rough. Yes, yes, we know many women continue to suffer. But what's the whole story now? What lessons have Married Girls learned? How do we regard our role today? And how are we preserving our identities in the midst of an institution we uphold, but which continues to challenge our sense of self?

My generation is marrying much later. And one of the benefits of getting married later is that we've had time to try things on our own, make our own friends, have our own successes and failures," states thirty-year-old Lena, who's been married to Andrew for two years. "Once you feel grounded in who you are-once you like yourself-and understand your own goals, values and dreams, only then are you prepared to share them with someone else. The only way a woman can keep her identity when she's married is if she has forged an identity before she got married. A lot of people think that finding a life partner is about finding someone to complete them. You have to be complete on your own and look for someone who complements you instead."

The average Western woman today marries (for the first time) at the age of twenty-eight (source: One Plus One). She will generally be five years older than her mother and three years older than her father was when they (first) skipped down the aisle. But there's been very little shuffling miserably on the infamous singles' shelf for Married Girl. If the shelf is groaning under the weight of unmarried women, it is because the shelf is considered a good place to be today. Contrary to Sylvia Ann Hewlett's panic-mongering book, Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children, every woman I interviewed believed the so-called shelf to be a viewing station for all the options before her, somewhere she can take stock and experiment with life choices. (And as Emily, thirty-three, says, "Having so much choice can make it hard to choose!") From here, she can dip her toe in the workplace waters before either plunging in headfirst or drying off until she decides to try something new. From here, she has the time to ponder who she is, what she wants and whether these would be complemented or compromised by marriage. And deciding they could be complemented, the shelf is also an exciting as well as comfortable (if not downright luxurious) place from where she can view candidates and make her final selection.

Who's writing those volumes about fraught single women, panic-stricken at the age of twenty-five that they'll never get married? Pontificating over the elusiveness of a smart, generous, progressive male maybe. But that's simply part of the joy and pain of today's selection process, and no more sinister than the discussions we have over the shortage of well-cut, perfectly tailored black pants. It may make us miffed, but it doesn't make us desperate or pathetic. In fact, it simply prolongs the time we have to relish in the search for a partner. And ourselves. For many, that time isn't long enough. The growing and forming of identity during those single years is taken so seriously today that when the ideal man makes himself known, it's perceived as too soon even at the age of thirty.

Thirty-two-year-old Pia, who's been married one year to Michael, says, "I loved being single and had a lot of reservations about giving it up, which is why our engagement was long. My reservations weren't about Michael, but at thirty, I felt very young and I was still in the realm of growth and possibility. I think of life as split into stages of being and becoming. I always enjoy the becoming stages rather than the being stages because I'm just not interested in status quo. I'm interested in passion and excitement and I felt nervous about giving that up and having something solid. I enjoy longing and desire and the feeling that anything is around the corner, so I never had the urge to settle down, have a husband and kids and a diamond ring. It wasn't in my field of desire."

Terri, thirty-five, says she felt the same when she met her husband five years ago. "My father's African-American and a southern patriarch in that he is one of these iron-fisted men who likes to dominate. It had a profound effect on me. I spent many years working through the effects of my childhood and I felt I didn't need the validation of marriage. So when I met Chad and he said, 'Hey, let's get married!' I said, 'Hey, let's not!' I was so nervous that I'd lose what I'd fought for."

And Rachel, twenty-eight, remembers meeting her husband at the age of twenty-four. "I was so young. I wasn't planning to get married. I'd only known Patrick for four months and he was telling me how much in love with me he was and I'd say, 'No, no, no ...' I was going away for the summer to work in a boys' camp so there'd be lots of wonderful men there, too. Right before I left, I said to my mother, 'Mom, I'm falling in love with Patrick and it's so inconvenient.' I just didn't want to be settled. I wanted to be young and free and great."

Few women today immediately step out of their graduation cloaks and into their bridal carriage. But we're not whiling away the years between school and marriage just thinking about what we want from life. We're working, playing, evaluating, experimenting, reconsidering and fine-tuning. From our moral values to the direction we wish our lives to take, from the challenges we face alone to our ever-evolving modes of conduct, we rely on our single-years experiences to form and celebrate our identity. Once established (though never fully complete, we know, until the day we die), it's only then that we wholeheartedly embrace marriage.

I couldn't even entertain the idea of getting married until I had edited my own magazine. My life plan was pretty much this: junior writer, features editor, global travel, buy own home, become an editor-in-chief, get married and have kids. Incidentally, I was prepared to take or leave the final two and, if they happened, I didn't much care about the order of arrival. No question, I'm thrilled to pieces that I did get married and have children, but the point is, they were last on my list of priorities. Top of my list: me.

It's for that very reason that thirty-three-year-old Jo retracted her decision to marry Aaron when he first proposed just three months into their relationship. "He was the kind of guy who, when we'd be walking through Washington Square Park, would literally sweep me off my feet, swing me around and kiss me. I became swept up in this incredible romance, so when we were on line for sushi in the East Village and he turned around and spontaneously said, 'Will you marry me?' I said yes! Then we went and got drunk on saki. But the whole mood shifted when I woke up the next morning. I realized I just couldn't do it. I was in a job I hated and I wanted to leave that job to pursue my own thing. I felt like I needed to do that before I got married. I wanted to get married when I was wildly confident in my own life. Yes, I was wildly confident about this man in my life, but I wanted to be as confident with my own direction. So I told him, 'Listen, I think I've made a big mistake. I do love you and I want to be with you for the rest of my life, but I don't want to get married yet.' He didn't talk to me for three days."

Says thirty-two-year-old Gabrielle, married for two years to Murray, "I came into my marriage having traveled, I'd earned my own money, I'd been through crises and got myself through them. I'd been left and betrayed and I'd betrayed others. I'd had the experience of knowing that I wouldn't die if someone stopped loving me and those things enabled me to go into my marriage feeling whole and good and complete and that I didn't need Murray to complete me."

Stacey, thirty, is one of an increasing number of women who enter their first marriage as a mother already. Fear of losing her identity was the main reason she didn't marry the father of her child. Fiercely independent, Stacey never felt the need to have a husband, either to make her complete or to secure the well-being of herself and her child. "Although we had a baby, I just didn't see myself going down that path with him. He wanted me to be someone I'm not. And he was controlling. If I wanted to go out, he'd say, 'Why should I baby-sit?' Whereas if he went out, I'd have to stay at home and look after our son. So it would be termed 'baby-sitting' for him, but for me, it would be doing my motherly duty. My worst scenario would be to wake up at forty years old and realize that the last twenty years of my life had not been what I wanted, married to somebody just because I had a child with him. I'm selfish like that."

Having forged a career, single-handedly bought and furnished a home and established her sense of self (as well as that of her son, Harry, for ten years, with whom she also took a trip around the world), Stacey is more protective of her identity than ever. "I am my own person and I certainly didn't need to compromise who I was for the sake of companionship. I could get what I needed from Harry." Now married to Ben for two years, Stacey says, "I don't see myself just as Ben's wife. I'm very much me and it was important that Ben understood that. I love Ben and feel lucky to have him, but he's also very lucky to have me."

Hel-o-oh? Are these women speaking? It's a stereotypically male attitude toward marriage that has emerged, though why men could ever have held these attitudes is anyone's guess. For Pete's sake, proof that marriage is good for men doesn't get more positive than this: married men live longer than single men, even if their marriage is well below par.


Excerpted from Sex & the Married Girl by Mandi Norwood Copyright ©2003 by Mandi Norwood. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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