I was watching Love and Death (1975) the other night when Sonja (Diane Keaton) turned to Boris Grushenko (Woody Allen) and implored, "Boris, please! Sex without love is an empty experience!"
"Yes," said Boris in a classic Woody comeback, "but as empty experiences go, it's one of the best."
Oh, Woody! I thought to myself. I'm just not sure I buy that anymore. Which led me to another notion: Is sex still one of the best experiences around? Or might something else have topped it when we weren't looking?
Over breakfast the next morning with two close friends, George (57) and Carol (64), I sounded them out on the issue: "Can you come up with 10 things that are better than sex?"
"Ten?" gasped George. "I can't come up with one!"
"Only 10?" laughed Carol. "I can think of more than that just related to shopping!"
Over the next few days, I polled many other people.
By the weekend, my list of "Things Better than Sex" had grown to 50. See if you agree:
2. Watching Gene Kelly dance in Singin' in the Rain
3. Watching Paul Newman do anything
4. Sharing your scariest, innermost feelings with a very good friend — and discovering she has them, too
5. When someone else cooks you a great meal
6. And does the dishes
7. Getting that skirt you hadn't worn in two seasons over your hips
8. Buying a great blouse that goes with that skirt
9. Finding a dentist who is only very — not outrageously —expensive
10. Finding the perfect shades of yellow paint for both the living room and the kitchen
11. A long, tight hug
12. Knowing that you've made a difference, even in a small way
13. Knowing yourself
14. Having a doctor who talks with you, not at you
15. No longer being forced to play the piano for relatives
16. Making music with other people
17. Making music with other people on key
18. Reading a page-turner whose plot twists at the end make actual sense
19. Being frank
20. Listening to Frank (Sinatra)
21. Saying "I love you" to someone special
22. Hearing that special someone say it right back to you
23. Having a good laugh that's not at someone else's expense
24. You find your old 45s in the basement and — yes! — a turntable that can play them
25. Remembering the words (most of them) to the oldies on those 45s
26. Feeling more confident now than you did when you first learned them
27. When that coat you've been eyeing in the store window gets drastically marked down
28. Telling a know-it-all-relative she paid too much for her designer clothes
29. Taking an afternoon nap and waking up totally refreshed
30. Bumping into someone you haven't seen in years and hearing, "You haven't changed a bit!"
31. Knowing that in ways no one else can see, you have changed — more than a bit, and all for the better
32. Chocolate éclairs
33. Come to think of it … chocolate everything
34. Having your haircut turn out exactly like that magazine picture you showed the stylist
35. The vibrancy of colors and the clarity of words after cataract surgery
36. Seeing Michelangelo's David in the flesh — er, marble
37. The food — even the bad food — in Italy
39. Successfully returning a vicious spin shot in Ping-Pong
41. Running into the prom queen from your high school and realizing, Wow, is she a wreck!
42. Swimming 40 laps in a heated pool
43. Having a lane to yourself
45. Holding him
46. Having him smile up at you
47. Seeing what a loving parent your child has become
48. Having a friend with whom you can giggle about sex
49. Fantasizing about sex
50. Remembering the best sex you ever had
Do you have something to add to the list? Tell us by leaving a comment below.