Good books make us think. Even better books have lots of dirty sex scenes.
Robin Rinaldi's new memoir The Wild Oats Project: One Woman's Midlife Quest for Passion at Any Cost poses a lot of questions and dilemmas and its lighthearted title really betrays its deep content. Though I read this book in two days, it has really stuck with me because of the strength of the writing and because this woman's absolute honesty about her feelings and experiences really resonated in some very important way for me.
I started hearing about this book all over social media last week and every time someone would post anything about it (a memoir about a woman who admits to having actual carnal desires) well, the general public seemed to freak the fuck out about it. Naturally, I knew what I was going to read next. I almost felt like, as a memoirist myself, I had to read it so I could defend Rinaldi against the troll armies who were, predictably, showing up to call her a slut and a threat to all that is pure in America. Oh my God, these people. Dear Robin Rinaldi, never read the comments about your book.
The premise of the book is that after a long marriage, Rinaldi, who wants a child and is in her early 40s, demands an open marriage after her husband won't succumb to parenthood and gets a vasectomy to prevent it. What follows is a year where Rinaldi spends the weekdays in her own apartment doing what she wants in her quest for passion - bodily, spiritual and intellectual. On the weekends she goes home to her husband. I know this sounds weird, but so what? Is this what I would do? Definitely not, because my ego is way too fragile, I am too insecure and every time I've had sex with a stranger it has somehow ended in disaster. Like seriously. If I were writing this book it would have been a slapstick comedy. But I don't need a writer's life to parallel mine and I don't need to agree with or even love a writer in order to find profound meaning in a book. I actually enjoy reading about people whose lives and worldviews are drastically different from my own, and that, I think, is the greatest value of The Wild Oats Project. Rinaldi did something that most people truly couldn't even imagine and she was able to write about it in a way that is insightful, vulnerable, courageous and totally troll baiting, but who cares about the haters? And yes, there are lots of hot, detailed sex scenes. Yay. I cannot write sex scenes to save my life, so I appreciate someone who can.
I loved Rinaldi's sense of adventure and the way she was introspective enough to find meaning in what she did that year. I admired her restraint and discipline and her ability to understand her own flaws. There were some twists and surprises in the book as well. What I liked least, and which isn't that big of a deal, is that in certain parts the narrative gets a little abstract when she discusses her feelings and it occasionally veers off into New Age woo woo land, but this is tempered and the memoir never reads like a self-help book. I also have to add that I was so pleased that she wrote the book in the past tense. I am so over arty, present tense writing. I wish writers would use that more sparingly.
So look, read this book, even if you feel resistance to its premise. As a woman, you'll probably recognize yourself somewhere in her words and as a man, you'll come to understand what women really fucking want a lot better. Apparently a lot of us want you to throw us against a wall, pull our hair a little and then take us to a fancy dinner and buy us flowers. That actually sounds like a good night to me.
Every so often the spirit moves me to create discussion questions for the books I've read. This book has done that so...Discussion questions coming soon!