One of the themes of BLISS is self-acceptance. In my experience, so much of our passion as women is stifled by what we “should” want, what’s appropriate, what won’t get us ridiculed. Eating cupcakes is something we should apologize for. Having a healthy sexual appetite is encouraged—but not too much.
I can remember one time when, as a teenager, a boy I had a crush on gave me a Sweet Sixteen present. I was so excited to tear into it at my party—even more so because he and his friends had wrapped it in about thirty feet of aluminum foil! Everyone was staring, whispering. What could it be? I wondered. A bouquet of—probably now smushed—flowers? A bottle of perfume? Candy? I unwrapped and unwrapped, reams of tinfoil crinkling to my feet as my friends looked on.
Nope. Not candy. Not perfume. Not an “I HEART Hilary” necklace.
My cheeks flamed as the boys laughed. It was huge, studded with “pleasure nubs” that looked like some kind of hideous venereal disease. And it was the first sex toy I’d ever seen up close and personal.
I threw it across the room in disgust, shrieking, “Ew, you guys! Not funny!” even though I was secretly intrigued. It would have been seen as evidence that I was not a “nice girl” if I’d done as my character Serafina does in one scene—rock out with her cock out!
That damn dildo followed me all the way to college. The boy I’d liked ended up attending the same school I did, and he never stopped trying to make me blush. One day, I even opened my campus mailbox, and found the dong lying atop my mail! The thought of the inter-campus mail kids—kids in my class—“inserting it into my box” had the desired effect. I blushed so deep a crimson I had to go put a wet washcloth on my cheeks.
There was much merriment to be had, but of course it was always embarrassed, scandalized laughter. And even after college, when I was in my wild, experimental phase, dancing atop bars in tight corsets and short skirts for attention, I still couldn’t look at a sex toy without checking around furtively to see if anyone noticed my interest. A sex shop was something to enter, giggling, with one’s friends, snickering at edible undies and giving the vibrating plugs a serious case of side-eye. I would never have dreamed of being open about my interest in pleasure enhancements, as my character Pauline so blithely is.
Now, in my later thirties, I get tired of being told what to enjoy, and what’s embarrassing or even slutty. That’s why I created Pauline Wilde, who couldn’t give a flying f*#k about what other people think. And I created her niece, Serafina, to give voice to my own hang-ups, my hesitation and fears. For my own sake, I wanted to let my heroine explore the things that have held her back, and watch her flower into a woman like her aunt; someone who owns her sexuality and her place in this world, who goes for what she wants and doesn’t apologize for it.
So much for the sex toys. Why the sweets in BLISS?
Simple. I really, really love to bake. And eat. Which is another thing women often have to hide, choking down abstemious salads and murmuring “oh, I’m watching my figure” while we turn away the dessert cart when we’re eating out at a restaurant.
Dude. I like cupcakes. I like cookies. I like cheesecake, chocolate, and just about everything else sweet. Probably too much. But there it is. And I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone here.
Food and sexual fulfillment are two of the greatest passions there are, and the ones we as women are often expected to deny ourselves, simply to seem proper in this world. I’m not immune to this expectation. I’ve been on more diets than I care to admit, and I wouldn’t exactly call myself comfortable with my body. That’s why I created characters in BLISS who could explore the issues—and have the fun!—for me.
Serafina gets to be everything I aspire to: talented, surrounded by friends, loved by a wonderful man. She revels in sweets and sex—my two favorite things.
If you’ve ever found yourself too timid or embarrassed to go for what you want, take a page from Serafina’s aunt and let your freak flag fly. Maybe you’ll find your BLISS too!