My cell phone makes a "chirpy bird" sound every morning at 6:10 a.m. This is a reminder for me to take my daily dose of a special estrogen that targets the tissues of my vagina. This jolt of hormones repairs what menopause has taken -- the elasticity, welcoming moistures, sexual readiness and accommodation that for so many years were an unquestioned part of my being a woman.
I don't have a partner in my life right now. But when this special man does show up, I won't be able to be sexually intimate without pain and days-after discomfort, unless my body is being helped along with the enhancing effects of this daily medication. You see, this sex after 50 that everyone is yammering about, isn't only about blue pills and super lube. It's not that simple. At least for me -- and as many as 75 percent of all women over 50.
My libido is still energetic and awake, and my interest in male companionship is still right here and very much alive. My hips can gyrate, my toes can curl, my arms wrap and my lips know what to do. So, you'd think I'd be ready to jump right into the freedom and experimentation of sex after 50 that is now being touted and spouted all over the place. This sounds wonderful and good, but it just isn't working for me. Why? Because I find that something very different is going on. I am an older version of myself. I've changed psychologically and my body's changed physically. And with these changes, my desires have changed as well.
A greater attention and care is now required for me to have a healthy and enriching sex life. I can no longer simply let my body take over and worry about my heart later. There's also a whole new level of exposure to being intimate with someone now. Because in opening my body, I am also opening up a larger feel for who I am -- one that I wasn't even capable of in my 20s, 30s, and 40s. I've lived longer. My knowing is wider; as is my history of pain, loss, understanding, purpose and love. My heart and mind have too many facets and avenues for me to play the "we've had a few dates, so it's time for sex" game that is so often implied or expected in the land of after-50 dating.
Sure, I've had lovers over these last nine years since my marriage ended at age 51. We've had that spark. We liked one another, we laughed in eager passion and a jumping of bones. And we managed to make things work -- his part A and my part B. We both hit our stride and made it to the finish line, but there were the age-driven difficulties of Mother Nature demanding her due. My body no longer flows into instant action when my sex drive is titillated, so my sexuality isn't the easy "bridge" to intimacy that it once was. There is also a deeply personal and unspoken "price" for sex after 50.
I can't pretend that things are always ready-set-go in the bedroom anymore. I can't pretend that going to bed is just a sassy wink and a happy bouncing of butts anymore. Without conscious consideration -- those pills every morning and some other inside-me preparation -- my older flesh can experience pain and sustain damage during sex.
As a post-menopausal woman, my vagina simply doesn't work the way it used to. The welcoming walls that have pushed children into this world are now more like tissue paper than a cushiony and stretchy glove. So, no matter how much lubricant is applied, my womanly parts don't as readily accommodate sexual activity as they once did. The confusing part is that the damage that happens during the joy of sex may not be apparent, or even felt, for as much as 18 to 36 hours after I've been with my partner.
There can be tearing and abrasion as I am panting in loving lust and accepting the beat of my partner's passion within me; and this hurt can have a two- to five-day price tag of burning, continuous need to urinate and terrible discomfort. More than a few times, I've slept on the toilet because I could not contain my urge to go and didn't want to wet the bed.
Fearing this pain and possible hurt -- the price of sex after 50 -- can cause hesitation in bed; which then leads to less readiness, more dryness and tightening, and a mental mindset that is anything but relaxed and uninhibited. I've found that these difficulties are all surmountable, but it requires medication, brave communication and very specific self-care. Having "female-friendly" prescription coverage or a wallet that can take an added hit of $250 to $400 each month is also required.
The changes in my body have slowed me down and caused me to be much more aware of what I am doing in the sex department. This isn't a bad thing at all. It's actually a powerful gift. Because my body is now asking that I consciously and self-lovingly consider what I really want and need within the physical part of my relationship with a man.
What I want now is a potent intimacy of mind and heart long before we get to folding down the sheets. Without the freedom and trust that comes from truly knowing someone, I won't feel comfortable telling my partner things and showing him things -- about me and about my body -- that are now necessary for me to experience vibrant and satisfying sex.
When I am able to reveal the intimate care and attention that my changing body demands and deserves, I invite my partner to do the same with me -- in courageous honesty, kindness, and generous love. And in doing this, a new vitality and understanding of loving and love-making is opening up for me in these surprisingly beautiful years of my life past 50.
To learn about her new book, "Soul on the Run," go to: www.SoulOnTheRun.com