Every month in Sex at Our Age, award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds! To send your questions directly to Joan, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m 64 and divorced since the breakup of a long marriage that had become lifeless and sexless. It turned out my “not tonight, hard day at work” husband had been having an affair with a woman 15 years younger and 40 pounds lighter than I am. Good riddance, I realize now, but his rejection of me sexually left me feeling undesirable. Looking at myself in the naked these days doesn’t make it any better.
Since our divorce, I’ve gotten a new hairstyle, joined a gym (I can’t say I go regularly, but I joined), and signed up for a couple of online dating sites. Although I feel better about myself in many ways, I still look at myself and can’t imagine showing a man this old, saggy body. Who would want it? Besides, the idea of revealing what’s under my clothes to someone new feels humiliating.
I’ve had dates, and some of these seemed like they might lead somewhere — we got to flirting, kissing, hands starting to explore. But I always get so nervous about the idea of some new guy seeing me naked that I end up making excuses to get out of the relationship when it feels like the next step is sex.
Deep inside, I’m really hungry for sex, and I’m not afraid of intimate contact. But I’m scared. I don’t want a relationship without sex (been there, done that), but I don’t know how to get over this inhibition.
Do I apologize to a new man about my body before he learns the truth? Do I let him know that I do want to have sex but with the room totally dark? Help! —Scared
Getting naked with a new person is scary. I get why it’s especially hard for you after your husband left you for someone younger, slimmer, and — in your mind — more desirable. Will this new partner see only the sags and bags and run for the hills? Will his first view of your naked body deflate his passion? It’s tough, especially for women, because most of us have internalized society’s message that only firm young bodies are desirable. Maybe we can’t change society’s attitude (at least not quickly), but let’s work on changing our own.
Here’s the real deal: When we feel sexy and desirable, we are sexy and desirable — whether we’re 20 or 70. Juicy is an attitude. Here are some tips for feeling better about yourself:
- Use that gym you joined, or find other kinds of exercise that you enjoy. It’s not even about weight loss: regular exercise helps you get in touch with your physicality and the power of your body, and that’s a sexy feeling.
- Get a new style. Your hair was a great start. You might also update your clothing (outerwear and underwear!) so that you feel like an attractive “new” you.
- Accentuate your best assets. What parts of your body do you consider your best features? Are there ways you can dress that make the most of these features? Feeling better about the way you look dressed is a first step to feeling better about how you look naked.
- Try something new, sexy, and daring: Have you ever taken a class in pole dancing or burlesque? I hear from women of all ages and shapes and sizes who find that their body image completely changes when they take a few classes like these.
- Realize that once you start to shed the belief that your body isn’t sexy, you’ll also be shedding the negative messages that your ex (and our ageist culture) instilled in you. Let that motivate you!
Once you start to get sexual with a new person, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing right away. Men of our age are not as likely to pressure us for quick sex — they’re no longer ruled by their hormones. So do what you’re comfortable doing – you’ve said that you enjoy kissing and cuddling, and you might want to keep that stage going until you feel comfortable enough to take it to the next step rather than run away as you have in the past. Figure out what pace keeps you feeling comfortable and excited, rather than so nervous that you have to bail, and remember that whether or not a partner wants to proceed quickly, you are in charge of deciding when to get naked. You can be honest with your partner about not feeling sure of yourself — that shows trust and vulnerability, and an understanding partner will treat you kindly and be patient. But no, do not apologize for your body. You have nothing to apologize for.
I wouldn’t advise you to have sex in complete darkness, because most men are turned on visually. Depriving a partner of the pleasure of seeing your body in all its lusciousness would be unkind and would do more to cool his ardor than seeing any of your perceived “flaws.” He chose you, he wants you, he’s turned on by you. Let that help to fuel your self-acceptance.
That said, candles can be reassuring as well as romantic. They reveal, yet with a subtle glow that makes us look our best. But the bottom line is still that we need to work on our own self-acceptance so that we can abandon ourselves to the moment without fretting about a partner getting a close-up view of our dimpled thighs. If a new partner is aroused by you, believe him. If you’re aroused by him, go for it.
If we can lose the old idea of what our bodies need to look like, we’ll enjoy them much more — and so will our partners. Our bodies are capable of giving great delight to ourselves and to our partners. Accept your body, celebrate it, and enjoy it. —Joan
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Joan Price is the author of the new “Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life”; the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex”; and the sexy memoir, “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Visit Joan’s blog, “Naked at Our Age,” and her Facebook page.