Sex and Salt Lake City

Back to normal, or not

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After nearly a year and a half of the world being in some variation of closed, June arrived, and we got to experience Pride here in the great city of Salt Lake! Personally, I couldn’t imagine a better way to come out of the past land of Covid restrictions than dancing in the streets with hundreds of others while waving banners and flags that represent acceptance, joy, and love.

However … my reality was different than what I imagined the day would look like. Looking around, I could see I was not the only one struggling with the physical nearness and masklessness of others. I hate to admit it, but it’s almost as though I’d forgotten how to be comfortable in large social situations. Logically, I know that since I, and all those in my social circle, are vaccinated, our chances of contracting this nasty virus that’s been haunting us all these many months is highly unlikely. I’m also aware that those who are not vaccinated at this point are more than likely not vaccinated by choice.

So, despite my fears, I coaxed myself to dance the day away. But, apparently, a full day spent in a maskless crowd, shouting, singing, and dancing wasn’t enough to overwhelm me. Me being me (which means one who often believes I’m more capable of handling situations than I am), I impulsively set off that same night of Pride to a swinger party. The party, of course, was at a gorgeous, poolside location. Populated with happy, beautiful people in various stages of undress. Drinks and food were being served everywhere. Tiki torches burned. The night air was neither too warm nor cool. And … not a single mask was in sight. It’s a situation I’ve been in countless times pre covid. But yet again, I was surprised with my newly discovered personal discomfort. Once again, as though it’s some new mantra, I had to keep reminding myself I’m vaccinated.

Sporting a pocket full of condoms, I had come to play. And I was determined to do so. If for no other reason than to get over my fear. Many others had come to play. We’d all been joking that we were going to celebrate coming out of this pandemic in the spirit of a Summer of Lust and Love! I flirted and talked a good game with several different people, never quite ready to fully sexually interact with another, but feeling internal pressure from myself to just get over it and get … Back to Normal. As nice as it would’ve felt to completely rush back into “things are back to normal,” that just isn’t what happened for me. And as it turns out, for most of the others in attendance as well.

As the evening unfolded, I realized within myself that as much as I wanted to, I was not going to play that night. As it turned out, very few people got undressed completely. Most lingered around the pool. Most only physically interacted with the partner they came to the party with. And nearly everyone I spoke to shamefully stated, “I’m just not ready yet.” I get it. Not only did I get it, but I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

This past year and a half has done a real number on the social capabilities of many of us. I’m a believer in science. My partner is a medical provider, and I trust their insights regarding medicine and the risks of transmitting disease. Logically, I should be feeling safe from possible infection. But the reality is — I just don’t. Yet. And I have to remind myself that it’s okay to ease back into the way things were. There’s a chance I may never play as freely as I once did. That, too, is okay.

But all the while, these assurances to normalize my feelings do little to soften my disappointment. I am disappointed that there really isn’t a way to come out of this unscathed. We’ve all been affected on some level. Some of us have lost loved ones or watched them struggle through this virus. Some of us have been sick ourselves. Some of us have provided care for those who’ve been sick. Some of us have lost work, friends, family, and on and on. Getting “Back to Normal” isn’t as easy as a change in mindset. It’s going to take a change in how we express compassion for ourselves through patience, love, acceptance, and, yes, Pride in how we hold ourselves going forward.

So with kindness and gentleness, I’m cutting myself a break from the pressure to just Get Back To Normal.

Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook

Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook is a graduate level Clinical Sexologist, with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Doctorate Degree in Human Sexuality. As a Clinical Sexologist, she believes a large part of her job is to be a sex enabler. Through counseling, workshops, and hands on exercises, she assists others in achieving the level of sexual function they desire. She enjoys the study and research of not only what people are doing sexually, but how they feel about it. Dr. Laurie divides her time between Los Angeles California, and Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to seeing clients in either of her offices or via skype, she is President for the non-profit, Sex Positive Los Angeles inc. (SPLA) and recently began a chapter in Salt Lake City, (SP-SLC). Her non-profit offers sexual education and support programs throughout Los Angeles and Salt Lake Counties. Rounding off her work, she is an IPSA certified Surrogate Partner Therapist working with clients and therapists in a triadic model to assist in bringing clients comfortable with their sexual selves. Dr. Laurie can be found in various publications; radio, podcast, and television interviews. For individual consultations or appointments please contact her at Welcoming and affirming of all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all sexual and relationship expressions.

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