The theme of “Sex and the Sickbed,” by Jennifer Glaser is takes on a unique perspective as it explores sexual desire despite a lover’s sickness which is leukemia. More surprising, though, is the continuance of that desire even after death. Few stories dwell on topics such as these but the author talks about it as if it is as simple as the physical love one has for one’s living healthy mate. She grieves and even points to the body and all the emotions connected with it as she pens, “. . . so I praised Neil’s body and all it had meant to me.
” The subject concerned is twenty-five year-old Neil. Death is usually shunned by many authors as it conveys a miserable and lonely idea. Yet, Glaser pursues the flow of the story such that readers are presented with the beauty and the apparent ugliness of death. The story confronts death in a light manner, almost a welcome manner because of the way the “sex” part is narrated together with death. The author writes with different kinds of emotions. She acknowledges that “Cancer works very hard to make life unsexy . . .
The only thing that can beat the sex drive is the specter of death. ” Glaser can be quite right as she explains that the sex drive is so intense that the only thing that can top its energy is that of generally coming face-to-face with death. This story is part of the winning essays which are products of Random House’s nationwide Best New Voices contest and edited by editorial assistants Kellogg and Quint. The story is refreshing even if it dwells on the topic of death and sickness because of the way Glaser writes her scenes.
They prove once again that each life is worth writing about and that people gain insights from those who are even younger than they are. Indeed, it is such a different kind of perspective which the author takes and as one reads it, he/she is surprised at the way the author puts both ideas side by side. The thought of death is something that must not be taken lightly. The author even equates the “coming to” of sex with the “coming to” of imminent death. The author writes, “Every kiss or touch is undermined by the images a potentially terminal disease tattoos onto the surface of your mind.
White blood cells strangulating your loved one. Cathodes distending his neck and chest like a modern-day Frankenstein. Hair loss. Emaciation. It is coming. And, well, for the time being, at least, you are not. ” Actually Glaser is brave to take this topic and narrate it in such a way as to speak of it so lightly or even to handle the topic of sex and death together. The conclusion is quite upbeat and novel and the reader is transported once again to one’s love and the lust that accompanied most of readers’ experiences.
What makes these two ideas such powerful ideas that generate powerful emotions? It is the idea that when one engages or is involved in these ideas, there is complete awareness of one’s feelings. The only requirement for happiness is to allow oneself to access faith and to keep the “pain” in its proper perspective. Both situations involve some kind of pain. If one wishes to heal himself, he has to trust that he is capable of change and then devote sufficient time for the acceptance of the ailment and the healing process to evolve.
Perhaps it is one’s fear and faulty assumptions about people, sex and death that holds one back as one reads the story. After all, the author may just have been breaking preconceptions about these issues and the belief that it is not good to combine the topic of sex with that of death.
Glaser, Jennifer. “Sex and the Sickbed,” from Kellogg, Matt. Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers. Random House. Trade. August 2006.