Mention, the other day, of woman-seeks-man as the boringly repetitive storyline in movies got me thinking about age and sex. It’s a topic so abhorrent to writers (or perhaps it’s the publishers and producers who find it so offensive) that there’s hardly anything in mainstream media and literature about people older that 40 being intimate.
Oh, there was a trickle of interest a year or so ago in what some people labeled matron lit - books that were (and may still be) extensions of romance novels wherein women discussed hot flashes and other midlife issues, but were still looking for their one true love – or their second or third.
Earlier this year, Gail Sheehy took a stab at resurrecting her decades-old Passages thesis, stealing what was a shocking book title (Sex and the Single Girl) when Helen Gurley Brown thought it up 40-odd years ago and turning it into an eldersex trend with Sex and the Seasoned Woman. Media interest lasted about ten minutes.
And don’t go telling me about that movie with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton a while ago. Such films turn up about once every five years; hardly a trend. Plus, they always star actors who were hot stuff in their youth and so carry some of that allure in their later years – at least for us older folk if not 20-somethings.
But the media’s taboo against elder sex isn’t what I’m here to talk about today. There’s more than enough public sex to go around and perhaps it lends a little dignity to our later years to be excluded from the display.
What I’m really here to talk about today is elder sex itself. I have a confession to make: not only do I have no interest in sex, but when I’m occasionally moved to think about it as today, my lack of libido is one of the top five best things there are about getting older.
It hasn’t always been this way. When I was in my 20s and 30s and as recently as six or seven years ago, sex was way up there on my list of compelling interests. So high up, in fact, that I sometimes wonder in retrospect how I got anything else done.
Sex is time-consuming. First you need to find the man who pushes those buttons, although that’s hardly difficult when the horns are out. But unlike the kids who “hook up” today, there was at least the pretense of getting to know one another first – dinner, theater or a movie, maybe a late-night club drop-in before heading home for playtime. And that was just on week nights. Losing entire weekends in sexy little hideaways out of town played havoc with getting the laundry and house cleaning done. But sexual adventure always took precedence.
And don’t forget the additional prep time: an extra shower after work, redoing makeup and hair, trying on several outfits and high-heeled shoes to produce just the right effect before setting out for the night. And what for? I never met a man who, once he knew he could get you in bed, ever backed out because your hair wasn’t just so.
Sex is a powerful motivator that consumed a large part of my consciousness every day, and I never understood how thoroughly hormones controlled my behavior for so many years until they didn’t anymore. It is a welcome relief to be finished with it.
I was sad when I first noticed my waning interest in sex. I mourned the loss of that definition of myself – sexy chick – for several years, and also the loss of an activity that had given me so much pleasure. I mean, come on - sex feels terrific. But you can’t fake interest in it or, at least, I can’t.
Then I discovered that it’s not gone completely. The urge toward sex is just much more sane that it was for most of my life. It lies in wait - asleep, hardly noticeable - until there is an object of its desire. Then it bursts forth as in the past, although not with quite as much intensity. It is ignorable now, if I choose, which it wasn’t when I was younger and for that, I am grateful.
When day is done now, the last thing I want to do is primp for a man. When, some evenings, I slob around in my oldest, hole-y, oversized teeshirt while crawling around the floor to play with the cat, or when I nod off to a repeat of Law and Order, I am no sight for male fantasies. But I am a contented old woman.