21 Grams

Gaea Dill-D’Ascoli checks out a variety of dildos at Smitten Kitten in Minneapolis. Though they do not carry the dildos mentioned in the article, Smitten Kitten does offer classes about sexuality and grieving. Led by Joan Price, the author of “Sex After Grief — Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved,” these classes take place in the fall and spring.

The weight of the soul is supposedly 21 grams. That is why a designer chose to put 21 grams of human ashes into the specialty dildo he created. It comes in a lovely wooden case that has a place to put your wedding rings, speakers for your iPod, and a scent diffuser. Everything you need for a hot date with your dead lover.

These are the kinds of things I have found out about in the two and a half years since the death of my partner. I did not go out seeking a dildo full of ashes. I learned about it from an article someone gave me. It made me laugh. It still does.

I started dating my partner when we were both 20. We spent a couple of years dating long distance while I was in college. There were a few months in the Peace Corps when we were separated. But between the ages of 20 and 31, I pretty much had sex on tap. I tried not to take it for granted, but after 12 years, it just felt like the way of the world. My relationship was stable and loving and physical. This is how it would always be.

Since his unexpected death in 2017, I haven’t had that luxury. Nor have I really wanted it.

The human sex drive is a complex thing. I did not think there was an on/off switch for it until Jason died. I still cannot speak to a simple “on” switch, but there is certainly an “off.” My off switch got flipped, and for more than a year it stayed that way.

Sometime late in my second year of widowhood,  I   remembered I had a body. I did not want to touch anyone or for anyone to touch me. I just remembered that there was a time when I enjoyed being touched, being physical, having sex. Before that, it was like my body had simply forgotten that I once had a high-sex-drive partnership. Not even masturbation was interesting. Without Jason, there was no spark. There was no reason to want anything sexual without the person I loved.

In my third year of widowhood, I am finally coming back around to the part of me that liked being physically intimate. I can imagine, in a purely hypothetical way, that I will make out with someone new in my lifetime. I can see a world in which I might lay on the couch and read books with wandering hands. I am not in that world yet, but at least I think it might exist.

I still cannot envision sex without my lifetime love involved, but at least I can picture sex again. At 34, I don’t intend to stay celibate for the rest of my life.

If it was just orgasms that I missed, then a dildo full of ashes might suffice. But I miss lazy Sunday mornings taking our time waking up next to each other. I miss the bedtime routine of sheet arranging and cuddles and talking through our days. I miss hurried showers dodging around each other for the hot water. I miss the intimacy of sitting together not talking. I miss the physical presence of my love and my lover.

21 grams in a dildo cannot capture what it is to physically not have a partner. But I am finally starting to understand why the artist created it.


Gaea Dill-D’Ascoli (she/her) is a Minnesota native with a love of writing, reading, and travel. She freelances in technical theater, carpentry, stiltwalking, photography, and writing. More of her writing on her process of grief, as well as her photography, can be found at gaeadd.com

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