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Deborah Gaines Headshot

One-Night Stands in Midlife: Just Desserts

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COUPLE
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My friend Eric recently told me about the stream of women--average age 55--who have been sharing his bed since his divorce. "I've never had so many one-night stands in my life," he said wonderingly.

For someone who came of age in the seventies, that's a big statement. I've been thinking about why (other than his irresistable mojo) so many people are jumping in the sack with Eric.

More magazine would attribute it to the knows-what-she-wants/doesn't-care-what-you-think attitude women acquire as they take control of their lives, usually in the second half. There's a lot of truth to this. Just as I no longer worry about female friends stealing my man--having long ago weeded out anyone toxic enough to consider it--I've got a better handle on my own needs, and have learned to allow them to carry weight in the decision-making process.

There's also a logistics element; it's easier to stay out all night after the kids leave home.

On the other side of the ledger, I've noticed some interesting changes to my body since the flings of my youth. Not to put too fine a point on it, I have skin tags. Age spots. More chin hair than Karl Marx.

My muffin top has risen into a soufflé. Sometimes I look in the mirror and completely understand why so many women stay in miserable marriages--it's easier than taking off your clothes with someone new.

And yet, like Eric, I'm not averse to casual sex. If I meet a decent guy with a good heart and a witty turn of phrase, I think "Why not?"

Perhaps it's because, at this point in my life, lovemaking isn't so fraught with subtext. It's not about procreation or self-validation. It's simply dessert.

The men I know have mastered a kind of lighthearted flirtatiousness that makes no demands, but lets me know sex with them will be more fun than an order of crème brulèe. One life lesson I've fully absorbed is never to skip crème brulèe. Who knows when something that delicious will be on offer again?