Get ready for “The Wild Oats Project.” And not just the book. Get ready for “The Wild Oats Project” phenomenon — the debates, the think pieces, the imitators and probably the movie. Get ready for orgasmic meditation and the Three Rules. Get ready for “My Clitoris Deals Solely in Truth” T-shirts.
Robin Rinaldi, a magazine journalist living in San Francisco by way of Scranton, Pa., initially wasn’t sure she wanted children, but she knew that Scott, her stoic Midwestern husband, did not. Over time, Rinaldi decided a baby would add purpose to their lives, but Scott wouldn’t change his mind. “I wanted a child, but only with him,” she explains. “He didn’t want a child but wanted to keep me.” When Scott opted for a vasectomy, she demanded an open marriage.
“I refuse to go to my grave with no children and only four lovers,” she declares. “If I can’t have one, I must have the other.”
If you’re wondering why that is the relevant trade-off, stop overthinking this. “The Wild Oats Project” is the year-long tale of how a self-described “good girl” in her early 40s moves out, posts a personal ad “seeking single men age 35-50 to help me explore my sexuality,” sleeps with roughly a dozen friends and strangers, and joins a sex commune, all from Monday to Friday, only to rejoin Scott on weekends so they can, you know, work on their marriage.
The arrangement is unorthodox enough to succeed as a story, and in Rinaldi’s telling it unfolds as a sexual-awakening romp wrapped in a female-empowerment narrative, a sort of Fifty Shades of Eat, Pray, Love. “I wanted to tell him to f— me hard but I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth” is a typical Rinaldi dilemma. At the same time, she constantly searches for “feminine energy” or her “feminine core” or for a “spiritual practice guided by the feminine.”
But more than empowering or arousing, this story is depressing. Rinaldi just seems lost. Still sorting through the psychological debris of an abusive childhood, she latches on to whatever guru or beliefs she encounters, and imagines fulfillment with each new guy. She still rushes to Scott whenever things gets scary (a car accident, an angry text message), yet deliberately strains their union beyond recovery. “At any cost” are the operative words of the subtitle.