FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What is the Wild Oats Project?
It's what I half-jokingly called the year I had an open marriage while living in San Francisco. I spent weekdays in a studio apartment and weekends at home with my husband. During the week we were both free to sleep with others; on weekends we were monogamous. The catalyst for the project was my husband's decision to get a vasectomy and keep the marriage childless. Afterwards, I realized I couldn't go to my deathbed with no children and only four lovers total. That's when I proposed an open marriage.
2. What does being childless have to do with sowing your wild oats?
Not everyone will see it this way, but to my mind motherhood and sexual adventure seemed the two most powerful expressions of womanhood I could pursue. I found little else in my busy, workaday life that promised such a deeply feminine experience. When it became clear I'd never have the former, I felt the need to rush toward the latter. Plus, with no child on the horizon, I was free to pursue a riskier, less conventional path.
3. If you wanted a kid, why not just become a single mother via adoption/sperm bank, or find another guy?
I was 43 at the time of the vasectomy. I had seen my best friend go the single motherhood route via sperm bank, and while I admired her, I knew I didn't have it in me. And it seemed a little late to find and get to know a new guy. In the book, I explore the gray areas of desire, not just the question "Do you want X?" but a more interesting one: "How badly do you want it?" I was able to take a bold, unconventional approach to sexual adventure because sex involved only consenting adults. But motherhood involved a defenseless child, so I approached my motherhood options with much more caution than my sexual goals.
4. What made you think a period of non-monogamy would save your marriage?
The project's main goal was not to save the marriage; it was to save something in my own soul while hopefully preserving the marriage.
5. Why didn't you and your husband agree about kids before you married?
We discussed it long and hard in premarital counseling. He'd never wanted kids, but agreed to keep the conversation open. I wasn't sure if I wanted them. Given his apparent flexibility and my own ambivalence, we hoped at some point our desires would merge.
6. Did you plan to write a book while you were carrying out the open marriage?
No. It wasn't until the project was over that a friend, himself an author, suggested I write about it. I resisted the idea for quite some time and didn't begin working on the book until more than two years later.
7. What are some techniques you tried during the project that I might research with my partner or for myself?
I learned so many new things, most of them in an attempt to reignite the marriage. I took really helpful classes at Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts in Manhattan, where Regena Thomashauer teaches women how to make pleasure their first priority, whatever their situation. I took pole-dancing lessons at Sheila Kelley's S Factor. It's a cliché now, the middle-aged woman taking pole-dance classes, but it's tons more fun than the gym and a great workout. I began studying the work of David Deida, a teacher who focuses on increasing a couple's natural attraction—which he calls polarity—by showing men how to fully inhabit their masculine energy and women how to inhabit their feminine. I also spent a lot of time at OneTaste, an organization that teaches a practice called orgasmic meditation. OneTaste's founder, Nicole Daedone, has written a great book about female sexuality called Slow Sex. Two other books I found useful for their insight into our contradictory needs for security and passion are Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel and Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch. Lastly, I found a woman's circle that changed my life. These kinds of circles are beginning to crop up, but if you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, the one I attended can be found here.
8. Are you and your husband still together? How did he feel about you writing this book?
(Spoiler alert): No. We're amicably divorced. We both have new partners and we remain friends. Amends have been made and lessons have been learned. When the idea of a book first came up, my ex encouraged me to write it. I showed him the full manuscript before sending it off to the publisher, and incorporated edits he suggested.
9. Do you advocate open marriage for others?
I don't advocate either monogamy or non-monogamy. I'm not a therapist or an expert. I'm a writer, a journalist who turned the lens on myself and tried to be as honest as possible about my midlife crisis. I am happily monogamous again, and I happen to know a few non-monogamous married couples who seem extremely fulfilled and well-adjusted. In an age when the very legal definition of marriage is evolving, couples are free to construct or adjust a marriage in any way they see fit as two consenting adults.
10. What's the takeaway or lesson from your book?
That depends on the reader. Some readers will find a simple armchair adventure. Others will heed the story as a cautionary tale. I've heard from wives telling me the book has empowered them to share their deepest desires with their husbands, from husbands telling me it has helped them process a divorce, from young women saying it's helped them clarify what they want going forward as they build their lives. But it isn't a self-help book. It's a memoir, my own paean to the feminine yearning for passion, intimacy, and life itself.