The past year has seen some ups and downs for love and sex in America. Elections, wars and natural disasters have a way of tangling up priorities. The mass-publicized divorce of celebrity royalty contributes to the jading of a media-inculcated society-if the super-beautiful and super-wealthy who portray

what love is

in movies and on television can't make it work, where does it leave the rest of us? Fortunately, it leaves us in the real world and fortunately, in times of adversity, our collective culture tends to ferret out truth. Just note the

focused on the oddball, but often triumphant, fact of contemporary love. Adam McLean reminds us of the difficulty even great thinkers have

, and encourages the rest of us to go easy on ourselves.

, both for the lonely and the happily hooked-up, are bigger business and easier to access on a whim than ever.

On a national level, it's true that sex is mired in something of a political morass of misplaced propriety. When television stations in Los Angeles refuse to broadcast public health messages about STDs something is amiss; when major news programs seriously entertain guests (Genevieve Wood of the Family Research Council on CNN's


in December 2004) who maintain that pregnancy could be caused by masturbation something is wrong; when even PBS attempts to censor a cartoon starring a happy bunny who has a completely asexual conversation with unidentified lesbians, our Puritanism is poking a hole in our common sense.

But on a local level, we don't care how they do it at CNN; Santa Fe is sexed up. From

to education-based,

and a

celebrating love and sex, Santa Fe is proving that one thing it ain't is shy with its clothes off. It was reported recently that 15 percent of women send themselves flowers on Valentine's Day. Not here. On a lover's holiday in winter, Santa Feans know the best way to turn up the heat, for every palate, is to share some

with a friend. We'll take ours smothered.