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Menopause, Sex and Valentine's Day: Dr. Pat's Notebook

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February is such a dreary month in much of the U.S., filled with cold, rainy and slushy days, punctuated by the usual prediction, made by a groundhog, that spring will return earlier than expected. The only redeeming features of this month are that it has the fewest days of any in the calendar, and that it allows us to celebrate Valentine's Day.

We often regard this as silly holiday, flacked by companies to sell products. But we can choose to make February a great month, where we focus on what we can do to make our lives sensual, sexual, libidinal and romantic. As women in or approaching menopause, we shouldn't forget that romance is always possible, and that being a sensual person is always a choice.

Valentine's Day month is a great opportunity to try some new tricks to jump start a libido that might be on life support, or to make better use of the juice we know we have.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start every day in a sensual way. Just for this one month, do your hair, apply a bit of make-up, wear a signature fragrance and choose clothes every day that make you feel sexy. If the heavy snow boots are a non-negotiable, focus on lingerie. Sexy lingerie is your secret weapon all day long. Whenever you want to feel powerful, just remember that little black-lace-and-hot-pink number you have on, just for you. We lie about it, but sex is power.
  • Next order of business for February's 28 days: Flirting 101. Some women were born flirting with the obstetrician who delivered them. Others were always serious and chose to believe that flirting was degrading and politically incorrect. At this time of life, do we really have to be so judgmental? As the days left to us become fewer, how about doing some new things just for fun, just for the experience and to see how it feels? Remember, this flirting thing is for only 28 days. How much trouble could that cause you? Well, that is for you to find out!
  • Flirting is seduction lite, most often done without serious intent. It does require self-awareness, self-confidence, and a spirit of adventure. Flirting is best done with a sense that you don't have much to lose except an opportunity to have fun while making a connection with another person. Make eye contact. Tell a story that has more to come, with no time left at the moment for the punch line. This kept Scheherazade's head on her shoulders for 1,001 nights before her conquest of the Persian king made her his queen.
  • I know many women in their 60s and 70s who make men half their age swoon. They know how to make each man they choose to flirt with feel so intelligent, so well-informed, so courtly. And often the men out-perform because these seductive women bring out the best in them. This is the most exciting part of having a conversation, after all: each of you bringing out the best in the other.
  • Flirt with cab drivers. You are less likely to be killed or cursed at. Flirt with doormen. The service is always better. Flirt with the barrista at Starbucks -- this, you might even enjoy. Flirt with salesmen and they'll always remember your name. This is not meant to be an occupation or a preoccupation, just an amusing way of passing the time and reminding us that we are interested in that fizz between men and women. Or women and women, if you're so inclined. Choose your own tricks for flirting and gently try them out every day. It's 28 days to a new way of interacting with one special person in your life -- or with everyone you meet.
  • There is a belief that if you try to break a habit and are successful at it for 28 days, the behavior change will be permanent. Wouldn't this be terrific? To begin each day feeling feline -- purring just a bit -- and knowing that you are lookin' fine? A new way of behaving in menopause during Valentine's Day month. Starting with that sexy underwear.

Women's Voices for Change is taking Dr. Pat's 28-day challenge, too. For the entire month of February, we'll turn the spotlight on love, love, love: the sensual, the sexual, the libidinal, the romantic. Love of family, love of pets, love of music -- whatever stirs body and soul. We look forward to your company on this monthlong adventure.