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— Publishers Weekly
— Black Issues Book Review
"Smart, explicit, and sidesplittingly funny."
— Library Journal
"Sexual Healing is smart and sexy, funny and fabulous, jazzy and justified! Sister Jill isn't just a foot soldier in what passes for war between the sexes. She's our commander in chief and follow we must!"
— Pearl Cleage, author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day and I Wish I Had a Red Dress
I was just sitting around catching some rays with my best friend Acey on a Sunday afternoon. We always got together on Sundays, because just about the time Acey got home from church and changed her clothes, I'd have dragged myself up out of bed, thrown something on, and made myself ready to spend some time laughing and laying around with my best friend. We were sprawled out on the deck of her house in Oakland drinking Taittinger, and-since we were alone-not having to worry about spreading thighs or looking cute.
We're in our early 40s, still fly, and while we're not yet ready to call ourselves middle aged, we're old enough to know it's gaining on us, although so far we've manage to keep a few yards ahead. Acey's my best friend since forever, a semisweet chocolate-brown sister who's a perpetual size six and always clean. Me, Lydia, I'm anywhere from a size eight to a fourteen, depending on what's going on in my life and if I'm able to eat just one bowl of Häagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream a day. What'd be funny if it weren't so annoying is that just when you get to that age where you start getting your head together, realizing that most of the stuff that used to make you crazy isn't worth it, and that the really important battles are few and far between, your body starts to turn on you. But me and Acey were putting up a fierce resistance, which wasn't so hard since Acey owns and runs a small spa in downtown Oakland. The massages and facials were the easy part-the hard thing was forcing ourselves to go to the gym a few times a week. The radio was playing softly in the background, and we were talking in that lazy, few-words-needed, secret-code language that old friends have, when the conversation, inevitably, came around to men.
Mostly Acey was doing the talking, giving me her post-Saturday night date debriefing. I've been in date recovery for six months, after being married to one of those men with "potential" for the ten years it took me to learn his would probably be permanently unrealized, and that if I stuck with him what was left of mine would erode. It didn't help that during the last two years we were together, both Lorenzo and sex had become as scarce as water in the Gobi Desert. I'd dated for awhile right after we separated, but soon got tired of all the work dating requires for the usually low returns. It doesn't help that I'm now in the middle of a nasty divorce suit-Lorenzo's suing me for alimony, if you can believe that!-and right through here a real relationship, the kind that requires work, commitment, and trust, is the farthest thing from my mind.
The truth is that when it comes to men, the only relating I'm interested in right now is sexual, and even that's not as easy to find as it used to be, what with AIDS, STDs, a plethora of closet switch-hitters, and that good old-fashioned male ego. I mean, damn, a lot has changed since I was last out there and single way back in my late twenties, but one thing that hasn't is men's need to feel they're the hunter and you're the game. Right now, I simply don't have the patience for it. So I'm on hiatus, although I do keep a friendly vibrator and an extra pack of C batteries in my bedside table.
Acey has been dating the same guy for a little over a year. Her father was a big muckety-muck in the Baptist church, and she was raised with a firm belief in God and family, if not country. (Since her dad had served in the segregated army during World War II and spent most of his time scrubbing the latrines of Caucasian soldiers, he wasn't strong on preaching patriotism.) The guy she's dating, Matthew, is a lawyer who's rich, intelligent, and profoundly self-important. Acey thinks he's distinguished looking, but to my mind he bears a distinct resemblance around the head to Homer Simpson. But she's hanging in there, hoping something will become of them, I'm not exactly sure what. Sometimes I think in the back of her mind she's praying she'll kiss him goodnight one evening and when she wakes up the next morning he won't be a middle-aged toad but will have miraculously morphed into an Afrocentric Prince Charming. Me, I'd rather have LL Cool J.
Anyway, last night Acey had planned a romantic evening with Matthew. She grilled red snapper, mashed potatoes with garlic and basil, spent an hour fixing haricot verts sautéed with mushrooms. She'd even stood me up for lunch in order to find a gorgeous black late teddy at Victoria's Secret, and served raw oysters because she'd heard they were an aphrodisiac. So after dinner they went into the bedroom, where she'd lit a few pounds of mango-scented candles.
"We were kissing and that was nice, Matthew has those big pretty lips," Acey says. "I was really into it, because you know how these workaholic, successful men ate, between the job and golf you're lucky to make love once a week, and my day of the week is Saturday night. Plus, ever since his triple bypass Matthew's been afraid to make love, even though his doctor told him it's not only medically sale but good for him. After a while I can feel him relax and I'm getting turned on, so I start trying to get him out of his clothes, which isn't easy, you know, he is a big man-"
"Kind of like undressing Godzilla, huh?" I interrupt with a snicker. Acey ignores me.
"I finally get his clothes off. We're lying front to front, getting that full body contact, you know that wonderful, warm, romantic feeling, still kissing, when he suddenly rolls on top of me. And I mean he's hard, but you know, not really hard-hard. It's as if he just wants to get it over with."
"Besides which, where is the foreplay? Excuse me," I say, squinching up my face and rolling my eyes. "Kissing is just not enough, there are many other uses for mouths, and this man is over fifty, he should know these things, am I right?" Acey doesn't respond but just continues her story.
"So I say, `Honey, how about some oral loving?'" And really, I want to bust out laughing when she uses that quaint-ass phrase for what is more commonly know as head, but that's Acey. The sister can definitely be counted on to walk that walk, but most of the time she's way too ladylike to talk the talk, even with me, her best friend for more than thirty years.
"Well, Matthew gives one of those put-upon snorts like I've asked him to fix the water heater-which actually I did a week ago and he still hasn't, I'm stuck on lukewarm-and then he kind a scooches down my chest and belly and-"
"Eats that pie!" I yell.
Acey's perfectly shaped eyebrows furrow into a pained expression, then she tosses her hair. Or I should say her weave, all twelve inches of it, tosses her. Ever since we met in second grade, Acey has been hair obsessed, changing the style, length, color, even the texture, as casually, and maybe more frequently, as I change my bed linen. I used to wonder if this was because she was insecure, didn't give a damn, or had a great sense of humor. I've decided it's all the above.
"Not exactly," she continues. "Remember that show we saw on the Discovery Channel, the one about how they find truffles in France?" I guess I look blank, because Acey says, "Come on, Lyds, you remember, it was amazing. They take these enormous pigs into the forest, let them loose, and they just sense where the truffles are growing under the earth and go right to that spot ..." Even though I want to scream, `Forget the pigs and truffles, what about Matthew?' I don't. Instead I gently prompt, "And this story concerns Matthew in what way?" I ignore Acey when she rolls her eyes at me as if I'm an impatient child, which I sometimes am, only full grown.
"My point is that Matthew reminded me of that documentary. I mean, he slides down and snuffles and snorts around between my legs as if he's one of those truffle-hunting French porcines. Except, unlike them, he isn't finding my precious nugget of fungi! He is so far off the button, he might as well be on another continent," Acey sighs. I'm tempted to make that motion with both my hands that means speed it up, but manage to restrain myself. "So there I am, squirming around, trying to contort my pelvis in such a way that he'll accidentally hit the right spot. He's swinging his mouth back and forth so fast I'm afraid he's gonna give me razor burn with his five o'clock shadow, but he still isn't hitting it. I'm getting frustrated, so I take my hand and try and guide his head to my love spot, but he won't let me. You know how-"
"-men think when you're trying to show them how to eat you that you're trying to push them away because it's too good for you?" I interrupt sarcastically. I would toss my hair, but I've been wearing a short natural since 1985. The most loathsome position in the world to me is both hands above my head trying to extract a coiffure, so I don't have anything to throw. I don't even own a comb or brush. When my hair gets long enough to use either, I get it cut.
"Exactly," Acey nods. "I'm trying to show him, he's trying to tell me, and the next thing I know he's looking me in the face, full-lipped, panting, and fumbling around trying to stuff his semi-hard penis in. I want to scream, `I'm not ready!' But it's too late. He's half in, half-hard, and, forgive me Lord, half-assed. Pounding away for all of two minutes like it's the greatest lay he's ever had-which it might have been-but the feeling is definitely not mutual. The next thing I know he grunts, howls, and falls on top of me. Girl, I swear, when I saw him coming, I wanted to holler, "Timber!" and run for cover. It took me hours to finally fall asleep, between being unsatisfied and his snoring ..." Acey's voice fades away. She sounds disappointed, but me, I'm horrified at the thought of big tall Matthew crashing down on my five-foot-four homegirl, and relieved the only damage she suffered was compounded sexual frustration.
"You should cut his ass loose."
"Lyds, you're too hard," Acey says, shaking her head. "Matthew's a good man. He's hardworking, intelligent. He's not threatened by me. And the sex was good, before the bypass. He just needs a little work in the love-making department."
"A little work? Please. That's like being a little pregnant. Stories like that, my friend, are why I'm the founding and sole member of Dater's Anonymous, trying to avoid spending the next ten years dealing with too many Matthews," I say, and suck my teeth. "Plus recover from a decade of unholy matrimony with Lorenzo the Insane."
"Now, Matthew's not that bad," she says defensively.
"That's true. We've both had worse. But wouldn't it be nice to have better? I just don't have the energy to put into getting fly, going out, and not meeting anyone. Or meeting a marginal loser and hoping he'll magically turn into something. Girl, I've kissed so many toads my lips are slimy, and still no Prince Charming. Been there, done that. I'd rather stay home alone, eat cookies in my bathrobe, and break out Mr. V. if I'm desperate."
"My vibrator, girl." Acey manages to looks both disgusted and curious simultaneously.
"You named your vibrator?"
"Hell yeah. I gotta call someone's name when I'm coming. And better `Mr. V' than that bullshit Lorenzo insisted on." Acey giggles.
"He was kinda strange, wasn't he? What was it he wanted you to say? Oh yeah, `Take Daddy to the bank, take Daddy to the bank,' wasn't it?"
"Don't remind me, especially since that was the only bank that no-count Negro ever got close to on his own steam. Yuck. Ace, right through here it's me and Mr. V. I've been telling you to try it, but you're afraid you might like it."
"I'm not afraid, but I'd like a little romance, some tenderness, and I can't see how I'm gonna get that from six inches of plastic."
"You are twisted, Lydia," Acey laughs and takes a sip of champagne.
"Anyway, about Matthew ..."
"He's not all that bad, and besides, what's the alternative? I want sex, but I also want a gentle, loving man I can depend upon along with it. A relationship," Acey says wistfully. She holds up five fingers, the better to admire her nails (freshly painted in whatever the most popular shade of MAC red is at the moment) and avoid acknowledging the skeptical expression on my face, which is just as well. "Say what you will, but with a little tweaking, Matthew would be, well, not perfect, but-remember that Grace Jones song?-perfect for me."
"What Matthew needs is more like a major overhaul," I mutter, gnawing at an annoying hangnail. It's been so long since my nails have seen polish, they'd probably have an allergic reaction if I even walked too close to a salon.
"Now, you know you're exaggerating. All he needs is a little work, some TLC, a little training," Acey admonishes. Acey's spa is one of those places women go for a day of pampering: massage, wrap, facial, nails, hair, the works. She's a firm believer that anyone can be improved with the right amount of attention and money, and that if you look good, you feel good. Let's face it, beauty may only be skin deep, but most people really are superficial.
"What he needs is a training bra, and you know it," I tease. "His breasts are almost as big as yours, his hips are wider than mine, and he's got one of those big, squishy asses. If there's one thing I cannot tolerate, it's a man with a soft butt."
"It's not all that big," Acey protests, and even though we both know his ass is way wide, we also understand she has to protest. After all, Acey's been alone for almost twelve years, ever since Earl, who she married her first year in college, went sailboarding in San Francisco Bay one afternoon and never came back. Last we saw him he was skimming over the waves toward Alcatraz and waving back at us proudly. By the time they found his body two weeks later a closed casket funeral was mandatory. Acey'd used Earl's life insurance to buy this house and start the spa, and refused to date at all for seven years. I finally convinced her to start going out again with the argument that there were a few good men out there besides Earl, but they sure as hell weren't going to walk up to her door and ring the bell. Even so, she'd spent the last five years trying to recapture the past in every man she met, beginning again with where she was as opposed to where she is.
So I'm not surprised she's trying to talk herself into believing Matthew is Him, whoever He is. You know, The One each of us is waiting for. Me, I'd been there, done that, and don't want to be there again.
Excerpted from SEXUAL HEALING by JILL NELSON Copyright © 2003 by Jill Nelson
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted September 14, 2004
This book made my sides hurt at times. And other times I couldn't believe what I was reading. Every spare moment I had my face was in this book (I hate reading). The characters in this novel are funny! My wife has been joking me for days. Jill Nelson is awesome! My wife is going to read it when I am done. I think Jill just might get a letter from my wife asking her to really open this brothel for women!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 1, 2004
ok, i almost put this book down but had to remind myself that this is a comedy. Look at it as a movie and you wont take it so seriously. Im glad i finished it, it was funny, true, and refreshing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 31, 2004
'Sexual Healing' was great ... it's entertaining, funny and sexy with a message for all women beneath it all: Never lose sight of your goals, get in touch with your spiritual being and enjoy life! This book was so good, I wanted to get online halfway through the book and write a review, but I didn't want to put it down. I began reading this book at noon, took a nap and finished at 4am because I didn't want to go to bed without reaching the conclusion. It was wonderful. Jill Nelson is a fascinating writer, but I really do hope she writes another novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 23, 2003
I read this book in a day. I put it down only to laugh out loud and to call girlfriends telling them to get a copy. It was a great read -- definitely a stocking stuffer this Christmas.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 7, 2003
This book was excellent. It was funny, steamy, and a page-turner. I could not put this book down. The characters were excellent. I strongly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 13, 2003
In this book Nelson uses humor to make a serious commentary on the state of African American social structure and sexual activity. The fact that the U.S. seems to be obsessed with two things Sex and War raises the import of this book. And besides all of this it is a fun read for any professional woman who is single.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 6, 2003
I couldn't put this book down! The characters are funny, business savvy and have a great love of men. It made me laugh and want to trade places with the women in the book. I immediately shared passages with all my closest friends. The author took an interesting approach, and wrote about every woman's fantasy. I wholeheartedly applaud her vision.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 9, 2003
Posted June 27, 2003
I heard about this book on a radio talk show and went right out to buy it. This book describes the perfect 'full service spa' for women. The characters in this book are some of the luckiest sista's in the world! Please note: if anyone should open 'A Sista's Spa' please let me know!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.