It seems, pushing 50, that I've turned a corner where sex has to be taken more seriously. Apparently I'm going to have to suit up, cleat up and step up my game in order to stay on the field.
Case in point. The other night I stopped my husband, Henry, in the midst of our mating ritual.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm kissing you," he replied.
"But why are you kissing me so softly?" I demanded.
"I'm being gentle," he explained.
"I want you to be gentle in life, but not in bed," I instructed.
Henry groaned exasperatedly.
This is an ongoing issue. I'm always telling Henry I want fiery passion even though he can hear everything I do in the bathroom. I can be exhausting. Be glad you're not married to me. I thought Henry might just take a rain check.
Instead he handled my request by sweeping me into some surprisingly athletic lovemaking.
Where's he been hiding that? I thought.
While most of me was in the heat of the moment, a sliver of me, probably my left cerebellum, kind of floated above us and admired his vigor and endurance. Not bad for a 53-year-old man. Actually, not bad for a man of any age.
But this is when things began to take a turn for the worse for me.
In one position my wrists began to hurt the way they do when I hold a downward dog too long in yoga. My left hip popped out of joint, then back in. My breathing escalated and my lungs began to protest.
Lungs to Me: What do you think you're doing? You sit at a desk eight hours a day and walk around the park twice a week. We're not in shape for this kind of stuff? You can't expect us to to keep up!
Me to Lungs: Just hang in there, okay. Henry's in his 50s for Godsakes, how much longer can he last?!
Lungs to Me: Who knows! You insulted his manhood and goaded him into a virtuoso performance, you asshat! Oh no, I think I sprained my bronchi.
Vagina to Lungs: Lungs, I'm almost there, don't fail me now!
Lungs to Vagina: Oh, sure, it's always about you, isn't it? You and your damned orgasms! What do we get out of this besides a potential embolism? And aren't you in menopause anyway?!
Vagina to Lungs: Exactly! Menopause makes me have to try harder, so suck it up!!
Heart to Lungs and Menopausal Vagina: Would you guys shut the f#%k up, you're giving me fibrillations!
Me to Heart: No one has heart disease in my family, you're just lazy.
Heart to Me: Well maybe if you treated me to something more taxing than paraplegic water aerobics I could handle this sudden, unfortunate uptick in your sexual exertions!
Clitoris to Everyone: Stop your yammering bitches! Our OB-Gyn told me that I'm an "average-sized" clitoris, okay? Not like Shannon's friend Caprice whose apparently massive clitoris orgasms when she sneezes. I'm just average! I have to concentrate!
Mouth to Me: Thannon, Thannon over here! I haf cotton-mouf. No saliva. Sahara dessert in here! Too much panting and breathing. I'm parched!
"Honey?" I query my masterful and apparently superiorly conditioned husband.
"I know thith might be an inconvenient thime, but do you think maybe ..."
"What do you need. Anything, just tell me!"
"Could you? ... go get me a drink of water?"
Silence in which you could hear fiery passion snuffed out like a mafia soldier who slept with an undercover Fed. Be careful what you wish for in bed at 50. You jutht might get it. Now I'm off to do 1000 squaths, before Henry tradeth me in for a newer model.
"Medications that are prescribed for stroke issues and heart issues can have devastating effects on sexual functioning," explains Dr. Janice Epp of the Institute of Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. In addition, researchers have found that a family of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) can take the winds right out of your sails. These drugs include brand names such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil.
Don't be shy -- talk to your doctor about how your prescriptions are affecting your sex drive. "There are a whole lot of new drugs that don't necessarily have those side effects, but it takes a lot of experimenting," says Dr. Epp. "Sometimes it takes three to four different tries to find the one that's best for you."
"People of both sexes can develop pain disorders as they get older, and that can have a big effect on sexuality," notes Patty Brisben, founder and chairwoman of Pure Romance, a company that specializes in selling sex toys and providing information on women's sexual health issues.
Brisben suggests re-evaluating your definition of sex. "Being intimate does not necessarily mean having sex in the traditional sense," she says. Some solutions sensual touching and massages and mutual masturbation. Dr. Epp suggests looking into new positions. "Sit on a chair, try being in different positions," she says. "Side by side actually puts the least amount of stress on your joints."
The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting seven to eight hours of shut eye a night. But with the stress of work, kids, bills and, oh yeah, your marriage, who can think about fitting in time to have sex, much less sleep?
For some couples the days of random romps may be behind them, and that's alright, says Dr. Epp. "Plan some sex dates around times that you know you feel more energetic -- it lets you look forward to it," she says. "Some people say, 'Sex should be spontaneous!' to which I say bullsh*t," she says, laughing. "You plan other things in your life and you don't complain about it. You can do the same with sex."
Waning libido and vaginal dryness are two unpleasant side effects of menopause. With increased longevity, "women can now expect to spend a third of their lives in post-menopausal years," Brisben said. "So understanding how you're being affected by those changing hormones is essential."
A dip in estrogen may lead to thinning vaginal walls and itchiness in the area. According to the Mayo Clinic, treatments can include vaginal estrogen creams such as Estrace and Premarin; a flexible estrogen ring that is inserted; or estrogen pills, patches or gels.
"I think if you're just now embracing this subject at or around age 50, you've got some catching up to do!" Brisben tells Huff/Post50. But it's never too late to start having a frank and honest conversation with your partner about what you want in bed.
"I recommend having these conversations out of the bedroom and when you have some alone time," Brisben says. "Be open, be receptive and be ready to listen." Don't be afraid to bring some playfulness to the discussion. "Shop online for intimacy products together," Brisben suggests. Or write your partner a letter: "Tell them what you'd like to introduce into your intimate relationship." Another tact: Read sexy books together and share what interests you and what doesn't. "If you find these conversations are still hard to have ... a sex therapist or counselor is trained to help," Brisben adds.
It's the one part of aging and sexuality that gets the most attention: erectile dysfunction, which is often rooted in some larger physical problem, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, according to the Mayo Clinic. Medications and drug and alcohol use can also play a role.
Ubiquitous ads promote the popular little blue pill to cure impotence, but there are other treatments as well, including vacuum pumps, implants and surgery, according to the Mayo Clinic.
According to the movies or steamy prime time television shows, passion goes from 0 to 69 with a mere glance, a bitten lip or a bad pun. But "as we age, our bodies slow down and we have less energy," Dr. Epp tells Huff/Post50. "That's naturally occurring, but it can have an affect on our sexuality."
Rethink the connection between arousal and desire. Tell your partner if you need more than the average 20 minutes spent on foreplay.
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