Shinui / Change (Part 1 of 2)

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A180 kincks


04. SUNDAY

“Still nothing?” she says, rolling onto her elbows. “You know, we still have that lube tube lying around somewhere.”

The lube tube. Most of my married friends recommended it before the wedding, so I picked up a tube of the generic water-based stuff and left it in a side pocket of a toiletries bag. It wasn’t necessary, as it turned out, and so it lay there in that side pocket in the bag that eventually got lost under the bed, getting pushed further and further underneath, completely forgotten until we came across it months later, together with all the dust bunnies, while cleaning for Pesach[glossary]. Afterwards, it served for ornamental purposes in the back of the medicine cabinet.

I bring it in from the bathroom and hop onto the bed. “Got it,” I say, “Now lean back and prepare to be wowed by science.”

I open the tube and squeeze it out onto my finger.

The gel is cold, and it smells like water. Or maybe it smells like nothing, which is completely throwing me off. Sex shouldn’t smell like nothing.

When I touch her, she jumps at the coolness, then giggles nervously. I play around with my fingers, trying to relax her.

Now it’s just sticky, and I hate to say it but I’m losing my erection. She’s trying to help me out with her hand, but the smell of nothing and the stickiness keep distracting me. I’m sure we’ll have a sense of humor about this in a few months, but right now this is the least sexy sexual experience of my life.

“This is gross,” she mutters.

And now I’m wilted.

We try unsuccessfully for a few more minutes until we wind down, both of us stilling our hands at the same time.

“It’s funny, right?” she says. It’s a plea, not an observation. “And it’s no big deal. It happens to everyone. To everyone. Right?”

“Yeah, exactly. It’s the kind of story we’ll tell our grandchildren one day,” I quip.

That makes her laugh, for which I’m grateful. It does happen to everyone, doesn’t it? The fact that it hasn’t happened to me until now just makes me more fortunate than most.

“I can see it now. ‘Gather round the fire, [glossary]kinderlach,'” she says in an old-lady voice, “‘and your Bubby will tell you all about the lube tube.'”




05. MONDAY

We’re having meatballs for dinner, and out of nowhere, she says, “Maybe it’s the birth control.”

“Huh?”

“Maybe the hormones in the birth control are messing up my libido.”

I frown. “I thought the birth control you take while breastfeeding is low hormone.”

“Well, yeah, it only has one hormone in it, but it’s still one more than nothing.”

“Do you want to try a different kind? What else is there?” I know just about nothing when it comes to birth control; I guess Jewish day schools mostly hold by the Do Your Own Sex Ed Research school of thought.

“I don’t know if there are any better choices. There are IUDs, but those are only really for long-term use. And diaphragms, but they’re not good enough on their own. You’re supposed to use them together with spermicide.”

“Should we look into that?”

She grimaces. “Call me irrational,” she says, “but I don’t love the idea of putting anything ending with -icide in my vagina.”

“Okay.” I spear a meatball with my fork and bring it to my mouth. “So what are we left with?”

“Maybe we can get a heter to use condoms,” she says.

I stare. “A what to what?”

“I’ve heard of it. Don’t know the particulars, though. Like if you do it in a special way?”

“Putting on a condom with a shinui?” I ask.

She laughs. “Sure, if you put it on inside out, then it’s okay.”

“Or if you put it on with your left hand.”

“Or if you…” she trails off and mimes – with her left hand – something that looks less like putting on a condom and more like…well, like doing something that doesn’t exactly require a condom, if you know what I mean. “Wait a second, are you sure it’s not a two-handed activity?”

I laugh loudly, filled with a mirth that I haven’t felt in what seems like ages. It may be strange how adorable I find her when she’s being vulgar, but it just proves that we’re good for each other. Even when we’re not at our best, we can still make eachother laugh.

“Why don’t you call your doctor, see what you can find out about our choices,” I say.

If things don’t pick up soon, she says, she’ll call her doctor. In the meantime, she’s exhausted and she’s going to bed and she loves me. And can I get the dishes, please? Thanks, I’m the greatest.




06.TUESDAY

On Tuesday, I slack off at work, trying to think it all through until it makes total sense and the solution is clear.

Well, that doesn’t happen.

If it were just me, it would be okay. It wouldn’t be ideal, but if she were happy like this, decreased sex drive and all, then I would deal.

She’s not, though, I know her well enough to know that. Every time we try and fail, I see that look on her face, that disappointment that clouds her eyes. They say that parenting ruins your sex life, but “they” also say that marriage ruins your sex life and that parenting ruins your marriage. That last part can’t be true; I won’t let it be true.

Still, I might just be seeing what I want to see.

I ask her after dinner, as we’re clearing the table. “Do you think maybe we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves here? Would you rather just table the whole sex thing until you’re feeling better?”

She looks up at me in surprise. For a few long moments, she doesn’t say anything. Then, slowly, “Is that what you want?”

No, I say in my head. I want you three times tonight and again in the morning. Who cares if we’re too tired?

No, I say in my head. I’m a man and I have needs, and my needs are not being met. Who cares if we’re parents now, if we have more responsibilities than just to each other?

“I want you to be happy,” I say out loud.

I know I didn’t imagine that eye-roll.

“What?” I ask.

“That’s not an answer. Do you or don’t you want –” she shuts her mouth quickly, as if she suddenly realizes that she doesn’t want to say anything else, that she’s just decided that this is the end of the sentence, although I can’t for the life of me figure out what the original ending could be that she doesn’t want to say now.

“I’m not saying I don’t want to do it, of course I do,” I say. “But I know how tired you’ve been. I just wanted to make sure that we weren’t pushing for too much too soon.”

“Too much?” she says, slamming the refrigerator door. “We haven’t done it once since the baby was born. And you think we’re asking for too much?”

How did this conversation get turned on its head so fast? This isn’t what I meant at all.

“Can we start over?” I say.

She stares at me, then sighs and gives a single nod.

“What I meant to say is this: ‘Darling, while I would love to return to the vigorous and mutually satisfying sex life we enjoyed only a few short months ago, I understand that you are expending a lot more energy now in your daily life just being a mother, and I don’t want to impose on you if the truth is that you have no energy left to throw me some scraps.’ That’s what I meant. If you heard something else, I’m sorry, but it wasn’t me.”

I finally see a hint of a wary smile on her face. “Okay, okay. No need to get snippy.”

“Snippy?” I repeat, just to hear the word on my lips.

“Snippy,” she confirms with a grin, making scissors with her fingers and pretending to cut off my nose. I catch her fingers and bring them to my lips.

“You go to bed,” I say. “I’ll finish up in here.”

“No, you did all that yesterday,” she protests.

“And you watched the baby all day yesterday, but you did it again today. It’s fine.”

She smiles and gives me a kiss – with less tongue than I would have liked – before leaving the room.

When I join her in the bedroom, she’s wearing pajamas but she’s not in bed. She’s sitting in the chair we have set up next to the bassinet, feet tucked underneath her and her chin sitting on her shoulder. She’s gazing down at the baby, and she looks up as I come in.

“She’s just so innocent,” she says. “She doesn’t know any better. The only thing she can understand is whether or not she is loved at any given moment. It’s hard for me to remember that sometimes.”

I don’t say anything as I start to undress, pulling my shirt and tzitzis over my head.

“In my defense,” she continues, “sometimes the screaming is distracting.”

My pants are down, too, and I’m not sure whether to put on shorts or not. She doesn’t look too affected by my lack of clothes, but maybe…

She still isn’t looking. “I’ll get better with practice, I’m sure. I just have to keep in mind that she’s just a baby and she doesn’t have any better way of expressing herself.”

“Maybe she’ll be one of those crazy advanced kids who’s using full sentences by a year,” I say, having decided on the shorts, now putting them on.

“I’m serious.” She stands up and comes over to sit on the bed. “It’s kind of ridiculous that we get so frustrated when she cries. She’s a baby, what is she going to do, make a bullet list?”

I smile.

She lies down, and I climb in next to her. She yawns.

“I’m exhausted all over,” she says. “I’m sorry. That argument and everything just sucked all the energy out of me.” She gives me a weak smile. “Can I get a cuddle and a rain check?”

In response, I pull her head down to my chest. She kisses my bare shoulder on the way down and then snuggles into me. I stroke her hair for a few minutes, as her breathing becomes steady and deep. A few minutes later, we’re both asleep.


Continue Reading “Shinui / Change” Part 2 of 2 Tomorrow on Jewrotica!


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Noa believes in romance, friendship and justice. She doesn't, however, believe in the Oxford comma.
  • Ayo Oppenheimer

    This piece is very well-written. It flows beautifully, I like the point of view perspective and I appreciate the references to halacha and Orthodox culture.

    Granted, parts of this story made me wary about hitting baby season one day myself, but this was a fascinating look into a different world and – of course – our readers will have to stay tuned for more Shinui and some of the good stuff in Part II tomorrow! 🙂

    • Noa

      I’m debating whether or not to admit that when I was writing it, I thought people might criticize it as being overly optimistic.

      On second thought, I think I’ll keep that to myself. 🙂

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