sex with the life vest: a thank you

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I generally kinda hate gratitude posts. They bore me. Not so much writing them out of the blue, just reading them on other blogs, or writing them thinking people are just waiting for one. As if I began a post following the one about Phil’s health with anything but a big hamburger hut heap of thanks it would make me an asshole. Heaven forbid I post about handbags or getting drunk at a bar when my husband’s health is an issue. Your life doesn’t stop even when the world around you does.

I guess I hate the idea that any gratitude I could convey here can be seen as insincere, as "supposed to," as "should," as that forced thank you note your mother made you write for the itchy sweater. So I won’t say thanks. I’ll say, to an extraordinary group of strangers, you are a comfort to me. I feel less alone in dealing. I believe that positive energy helps. Just look at Lucas and all he’s come out of. I honestly believe it was in some way linked to all the positive thoughts, to all the hope, and yes, the prayers. I don’t know the percentages, how science nets out over faith, but I know how powerful the brain is, how you can visualize away cancer. So I have to believe that a hoard of thoughts thrown out there help too. And it’s a comfort.

The doctor told Phil to take the life vest off when he bathes, when he works out, if he were to go swimming. Common sense. When the representative was leaving our house, after hooking Phil up (literally), I chased after him, and almost in a whisper asked, "What do we do when we have sex? No, no, I know what we do. I mean, should he wear it during sex?"

"Common question, Ma’am. As a representative, I can’t tell you to remove it, but… well, I’d remove it."

Last night we had sex. The vest is a complicated contraption, not exactly some cute DVF design cut on the bias. It’s not just a vest with paddles that electrocute you built in. It has a very large "remote control" component, that’s the size of your DSL modem. The "remote" is so large (weighing 1.8 lbs.) that it sits in its own… man bag. Murse. Fanny pack. It looks like he’s carrying around a set of binoculars… attached to a wire, that attaches to the vest. Unbuttoning the vest, adjusting straps– it would’ve been like stopping things in the heat of the moment to unlace a corset. So we unplugged the sucker. Well, actually, no, we didn’t unplug it. Phil removed the battery from the contraption that beeps and in a very loud electronic voice says, "BYSTANDERS, STEP AWAY." Jesus.

"Are you sure it can’t shock us?"
"The battery is out, Stephanie. It’s fine."
"Yeah, but this is very Something’s Gotta Give of us." He cocks his head. "You know, the blood pressure scene. To make sure he’s up to it."
"I’m supposed to work out and strengthen my heart as much as possible."
"So this sweet ass of mine is your medicine? Score you."

Afterward, I cried. Sobbed. Like loud girl heave into pillow sobs. "Put it back on now. Hurry. Will you lie down? What if you get lightheaded? Can you please!"
"All right Miss Bossy."
"Thank you."

2 YEARS AGO: Breakups and Breakthroughs
3 YEARS AGO: Stream of Self-Consciousness



  1. Um, maybe it would be a good idea to go to a wine bar and get drunk. Especially with the shit that's been thrown your way. Phil can enjoy a drink still, right? Or would that be a no no? If not, he can drive:)

    This was sweet and funny and OH MY GOD I must get that vest. It says 'Bystanders, back away?' in a please-tell-me-it sounds-like Kit-from-Night Rider voice? Oh, that makes me giddy. I could use that thing at a few packed shows at SXSW.
    Of course I'm making light of it but I know how serious this all is for you both. Love and good stuff to your family. He's your man and he's not going anywhere.

  2. I can sense by the tone of this post that Phil's health condition is having a positive effect on your relationship–charging you with new intimacy, strengthening communication, and sparking things up with humor.

    Phil gets a big hand for keeping his eye on the humorous side of things. Most people would fall apart, at first, given these challenges, but he lightens the mood of everybody around him. Not an easy task. His courage and selflessness are inspiring. And he still performs in the sack! There's only one word for a guy like this and that word is "mensch."

  3. Also, just to clarify, did Phil say in a (fake) electronic voice, "Bystanders, step away," or did the actual device say that?

    Sorry, I'm completely clueless when it comes to medical equipment.

  4. aw, stephanie. i'm trying to come up with the right tone of tender and irreverent, the one you hit just about perfectly in your post, to put in my comment here. don't quite have your knack, but i just want to say, thanks for sharing. and i will be thinking good happy thoughts about phil and his man-vest.

  5. I've been wondering that for the past few days.. "What are you supposed to post directly after a bad-health post?" This made me laugh and warmed my heart. For all the times I've come to this blog and took comfort in reading what's in my own heart through your words, I'm glad we can offer you some comfort in return.

  6. thanks for sharing. no one is going anywhere, not after having to experience what you both have. my best to you all.

  7. I can't even begin to imagine the fear you must feel. My husband is donating a kidney to his dad next week. The doctor's say it's next to nothing, but I too worry. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Phil, and the sprouts! Take care, Stephanie.

    I'm just saying…

  8. I think you are so awesome. So incredibly cool and talented and awesome. Mom, writer, photographer, wife, blogger, and BRAVE lady. Thanks for sharing and all that you do. You are one special lady, and you and Phil are so lucky to have found each other.

  9. And this post is why we love you!!! Perfectly perfect in tone and what most of feel. Know we are all thinking good thoughts for Phil, the tots & you.

    And the thing talking to you? Priceless!!!

  10. Why so hard to say Thank YOU? Crimey, something I over use admittedly but really, Thank You so beautiful to those who know they deserve it..

    So sorry to hear of Phil's condition. It would freak the hell out of me. But then again we are all walking time bombs aren't we? I am so glad he KNOWS of his condition and has doctors and devices to watch out for him. This is an advantage to be appreciated. Think of those with similar conditions who have NO idea.

    All of you stay healthy and happy,


  11. Stephanie, you drive me nuts, but this post is so sweet and so touching. Here's to one more voice in a sea of positive thoughts for you, Phil, and the beans.

  12. I knew you were going to talk about Something's Gotta Give while reading the post – felt it coming – I mean. Zap! Tough situation for you guys and your writing always portrays the emotions and comedy beautifully.

  13. You are the strongest person. You are my superhero for sharing all the highs and lows, and more for handling them. I am 31 and learning all the health problems and freak things that can happen, to me, to loved ones. I think we have to turn our minds to other things when total crap happens – it is the best survival skills. That is why we need to cultivate our careers, hobbies, friendships, relationships, selves and how we care for ourselves. Good for you for doing what you need to do – you're a great example – don't let that pressure you, but just know by doing what is best for yourself and sharing it, it encourages and touches your readers.

  14. I just searched “sex with a lifevest” on Google, and this was the first result, and I read it and cried and wanted to reach through the computer and hug you. I’m searching because my 26-year old husband, after various heart surgeries and complications, has just been fitted with one of these unwieldy contraptions and I was too much of a chicken to ask his doctor. Thanks for the laugh, and thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone.

  15. I am a home health aide caring for a lifevest recipient. She hates wearing it and is pressing the doctor to implant a pace maker so she never has to wear the “damn thing” again. There is a 90 day wait and shes age 83. She just stays in bed all day and considering she had two bloodclots in her lungs is bedrest a good idea?
    Looking for feedback

  16. I stumbled on this post when I searched for “lifevest during sex,” and I’m glad I did. Hubby has had his for almost 2 months and nobody has told us to remove it during sex. The damn thing goes off so many times while we are in the moment and he’s fumbling around pushing buttons so it doesn’t shock the hell out of him. And I was paranoid about him taking it off during sex because I know someone who died during sex. Ugh this is a mess. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this post.

      1. Thanks for sharing the answer I was wondering about. I haven’t had the nerve to ask.

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