When I was a junior in college, a friend and I went to see 'The Story of O', the sadomasochistic cult film. I don't remember how we got the idea to go, but I do remember worrying that I was betraying my entire Women's Lit class as well as my mother, who had told me growing up that I'd go to hell if I had sex before I got married.
When my marriage was running on fumes, my ex-husband would send me to Victoria's Secret with instructions to pick out something to his liking. 'Red,' he would say. Or 'animal print.' Or, finally, in desperation: 'anything you want,' which at that point was nothing that might lead to sex, the sex that was between two people with wildly incompatible desires and personas.
My veins wander and traverse each other, like a road map beneath my skin. They've always been that way, to an extent. Phlebotomists love me. But as I've grown older, and my skin has thinned, the veins have gotten more prominent. My kids tell me my hands weird them out. And sometimes I look at them and they weird me out. Mostly, they remind me that I'm aging.
Last Sunday morning I laid in bed sipping hot coffee and gazing out my sun-streaked bedroom window. As I made my way to the bottom of my coffee mug, I thought about what makes some sexual experiences sexier than others. Sometimes it's the level of emotional intimacy. Sometimes it's the degree of novelty and risk. And sometimes it's just an exquisite blend of pheromones.
I really don't understand why people collude with a misogynistic cultural message. I don't know why it's threatening to see an older woman rocking a revealing outfit, or to picture an older woman having sex. Perhaps younger women don't want more competition? Perhaps men find a hot woman with life experience intimidating?
So you're a single midlife woman and you care about sex? Then say so in your online dating profile. And no, I'm not just talking about women who are looking for casual fun, although that's a perfectly acceptable choice. I'm talking about any sexually charged woman who believes that good sex is a vital component of a romantic relationship and doesn't want to settle for anything less.
There's an extra layer of shame to being told you're an old slut. A young woman's "sluttiness" can be excused in part because she hasn't lived long enough to buy into social mores, and she's too hormonal to delay gratification. But an older woman who admits that she likes erotic pleasure without all the packaging? That's not just slutty, apparently, it's freakish.
Here I was at 50, rediscovering my sexuality with new partners, and more at ease with my body than I had been when it was "perfect." I no longer have the time, money, or inclination to exercise obsessively as I once did. I have better things to lament than the situation with the underside of my arms. I look at the sloping breasts that fed two babies, the skin that hangs down slightly from my belly when I bend over, and I think, not bad for 50!