“It makes me feel so fine, it’s such a rush
Helps to relieve the mind, and it’s good for us.” —Marvin Gaye
Right around the time that Marvin Gaye came out with his song, “Sexual Healing,” I had a change of heart about marriage. I was old before I could finally say the word “marry” without angst, because I was convinced that I wasn’t the marrying kind. I had always been the one to need my freedom and was very busy with that mission all through my twenties.
As Marvin’s song rose to the top of the charts, my view of myself dying an old maid started to fade. I was spending most of my time with a guy who was not only crazy about me; I was equally crazy about him. That Marvin Gaye sure knew what he was singing about. Sexual healing was making sense to me, so when I was 34 years old, I knew that I wanted to marry my best friend, Reade.
I had an idea for a wedding dress. It would be white cotton with hundreds and hundreds of colored polka-dots, the size of those little silver ball cake decorations. Of course, I’d have to make such a dress. I wanted to wear a colored polka-dot for each of the times we’d made love before our wedding.
I never did wear the dream polka-dotted wedding gown. I was too busy to ever make one. Reade and I had a struggling publishing business to run (one that would grow to include this magazine) with constant deadlines to meet and each of us working over 100 hours a week. There was barely enough time to get to the laundromat to wash clothes, let alone make a wedding gown. As much as I wanted my dream dress, I settled on buying a simple cream-colored mid-length one for my new husband to unzip.
With no time to overthink things, I threw together a wedding for our families and friends. There were no theme colors or wedding dishes or flatware to fuss over. There was one bridesmaid and two red roses for flowers. Then our September wedding plans were completely thrown off-course by a dangerous hurricane that was roaring through our coastal town. It prevented a quarter of our guests from attending and we had to cancel our rehearsal dinner altogether.
Our wedding rings might qualify as the world’s cheapest. Reade made them out of silver quarters, like the sailors and hippies used to make. He banged the ridges off the edges of the coins with a spoon until they were flat and wide. Then he drilled a hole in the middle the size of our fingers. We wore these on our right hands for a few years before realizing that we wanted to commit to each other and get married. The rings had to do for wedding bands, because they were all we could afford. Our plan was to switch them onto our left fingers at our wedding in front of our families.
And our honeymoon? We had to take it six months before we officially tied the knot. With our fledgling business on the rise, it was impossible to squeeze in a honeymoon any other way. It was the perfect way for us to get married.
“Sometimes when we see a young dark-haired woman somewhere, Reade will sweetly say to me: ‘That was you—and that’s what I remember.’”
When Marvin Gaye’s song was new, Reade’s and my bodies were flawless, un-freckled, and smooth-skinned. Reade’s was tan, dark, and solid. Mine had perfect breasts, curvy arms and a real waist. Our bodies were reliable and strong. Not an ounce of hamburgers, fries, or fast food was packed under the skin of our bellies or bums.
Our bodies were magnets for each other. Even when coming home exhausted from 20-hour work shifts at our business, we would still flop on our narrow little single bed and roll in each other’s arms, grasping and reaching for one another, for that Marvin Gaye cure. It was our escape from the overwhelming bills and enormous expenses of our business that we had to keep afloat. All night long, our skin would touch somewhere on the other, with a foot or an arm, and sometimes Reade would grab hold of me.
When we fought, we worked it out because neither of us had anywhere to go. Long into the night, we would argue until we were exhausted. It was our bodies that lured us back to our senses, calling to us for healing in the most sensible, but wordless, way possible for us.
Our exhaustion from work canceled out our desires to keep score in arguments. Our bodies pulled at us and spoke to us in our deep secret language of fleshy closeness, smoothing any wrinkles left from squabbles that happened in another world, another dimension. When we were too tired to continue a tiff, the heated moments morphed into heated moments of another kind. Marvin Gaye’s cure got us through, bringing us back to our senses, and calling to us for healing in the most down-to-earth way possible.
When “all things family” started to come about—children, setting up the house, and eking out a living—we were spread so thin that lying together for Marvin’s cure was our finest comfort.
With the first pregnancy, my beautiful body doubled in size, and its mass was stretched into unbelievable proportions. After the birth, just when I thought my body had shrunk back to somewhat of its original shape, another baby came and again I’d lose my grip on having a firm form. The softness turned sloppy. Folds that I’d never expected came on me. I became floppy and sagging, until my beach bikini body was unrecognizable to me.
After the birth of our second child, I knew my body had changed for good. It hadn’t wanted to let go of the baby boy inside of me. They violently grabbed him out of me. The doctor, with his foot up against the table, yanked and almost pulled my tiny boy’s head off. My baby came out bathed in my blood, and it was horrible. Reade cried in the fragile, trembling way of a frightened father. My form went through a violent change, tearing the parts in me that had always given me joy. In the months afterward, I went into our bedroom and cried by myself because something was gone from my body. I felt ashamed of the change for a long time. I cried because the force of pulling out our baby tore the parts of me that gave me joy.
A final baby came along, and having three babies within four years had me too busy to ever recover my lost, beautiful frame. But my sweet husband remembered who I was to him. He remembered the feel of me—my skin, the original me, the youthful me—each time that he crawled, exhausted, into our bed for the Marvin Gaye cure.
Bodies change with life circumstances and challenges. Our bodies certainly did. Reade’s changed from long work hours, bad eating habits and stress. Mine changed not only from giving birth, but also from getting slammed with ovarian cancer in my mid-40s, while our kids were still young. Years of surgeries have disfigured my body. When I look in the mirror, it’s no longer one that gives me pride, let alone a body that I recognize. But Reade and I still fall under the spell of Marvin Gaye’s cure. We still call to each other in a deep irrational conversation that doesn’t keep a tally in disagreements. Our bodies speak in a tongue made of promises and vows that almost always put an end to a spat.
In the many years since we first ran our hands over one another’s warm skin, I’ve endured 62 inches of scars, bull-whipped by childbirth and cancer. All of my parts are gone now, even my real breasts, but he still reaches for me with hands that remember my beautiful body, and I take care of him without words, as I remember his firm form, with its tan, smooth skin. Sometimes when we see a young dark-haired woman somewhere, Reade will sweetly say to me: “That was you—and that’s what I remember.”
We never age when we fumble in the dark like blind people who know the familiar softness of each other’s skin and the warmth of our tongues. Time never passes in the dark when we fit into each other’s curves just like we have these 36 years. Our beautiful bodies are still there inside, while our hands wander over warm skin in the dark of our blankets.
I’ve counted it up—and now there have been thousands and thousands of times that we’ve reached to each other for the Marvin Gaye cure.
Martha McSweeney Brower holds a BFA and a Master of Science in Art Education from Massachusetts College of Art, and an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast/University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Guideposts magazine, Blunder Women Audio Productions and the Courier Publications as Dear Diamond advice columnist. She’s an avid hiker, ran a marathon at age 56 and walked across Spain. Martha has three sons and lives in Camden with her husband, Reade.