I’m curious about you dear readers. Aside from the comments on specific posts, the only information I get about you is the search terms you use to get to this blog. Don’t worry about privacy – I can’t tell who Googled what. I consider these search terms a window into your lives as they connect to the issues of dating, sex, and life in your 60s.
So, let’s kick back on this holiday weekend and have a splurge of white truffle egg salad while peeking at your quest for knowledge and help.
It is no surprise that the most common search is for information on dating in your 60s. I hear your frustration when you ask “Why is it so difficult to have a new relationship in your 60s?” I wish I had a simple answer to that question. I think we’re all dealing with an imbalance of supply and demand, the particular demographics of where we live, and the difficulties of online partner assessment. Just to name a few issues.
Sex is also of interest. Specific sex-related topics, with my comments, include:
*Rude sex (It happens.)
*Office interracial lunch sex (The sandwich alternative.)
*Is it normal to not be interested in sex in your 60s? (There are lots of reasons for this.)
*Rude sex profile pictures (An almost daily occurrence.)
*Amore sexual networking site (I have no idea who is using my name to run a business.)
*Talking about sex (It’s a problem if you can’t talk about sex with your partner. I hope this person read: http://bit.ly/1Iz2EWp)
*Dating, sex, and friendship (Not sure of the intent here, but don’t sleep with your friend’s significant other.)
*Do single widow 60s (sic) like oral sex? (Women are free to like or not like anything.)
Readers also search for information on intimacy and falling in love:
*36 dating questions
*The 4-minute intimacy experiment
*I have been dating a guy for 7 months and the sex is great. I see him 1 time a week per my request and he is so passionate when we have sex. So why am I afraid of falling more deeply for him?
(I don’t think my blog can assist but you might want to address this issue with a therapist who can help you work through these feelings.)
*Love in one’s 60s
*Falling in love in your 60s (My personal goal.)
Many search for dating tips:
*Fantastic dating profile
*What can I write for my online dating profile? I’m a 60-year-old woman.
*How to end a relationship in your 60s (This is tough at any age.)
*Breaking up in your 60s
*Flirt dating (My pet peeve: flirting that doesn’t lead to dating.)
*What is a dating dry spell? (I wish I didn’t know what this is.)
And then we have the offbeat and off-color:
*Dating site for denture wearers (I guess this might be helpful.)
*Hot male with big d_ _ _ with 300 photos (NSFW and not available on this blog.)
*Let’s just f_ _ _ on your lunch break (You may need that sexual networking site that someone else searched for.)
*Beef niche girls’ sex (This blog does not eat meat.)
Beef niche aside, I hope I helped most of you find what you needed. In fact, this blog addressed almost all of the topics mentioned above at some point.
So, keep on searching for information about dating, love, and sex. Let me know if you find what you are looking for here — and in life.
“It’s so funny,” my daughter says when she tells me she is baking her father a vanilla cake for his birthday.
“What?” I ask. I’m driving home from a nice evening at Bohemian Caverns, an iconic DC jazz club I had managed to miss in all of my years in Washington.
Thanks to a jazz and blues Meetup group, I finally experienced the truly cavern-like atmosphere of the dark, mood-lit club. It’s so dark you could indeed surreptitiously stroke a lover’s leg, a fantasy suggested by a first date crush I encountered awhile back.
“You and Dad say the same things a lot of the time,” my daughter says.
“Oh, you mean because I wanted a vanilla cake for my birthday too?” I ask.
“Yes. And a lot of things are the same,” she says.
“What do you mean?” I’m starting to get curious.
“Like when I look in his frig, he has a lot of the same foods.”
“Really? That’s surprising since he doesn’t cook,” I assert.
I remember her telling me how he didn’t have much food in his refrigerator when he first moved out of our marital home to what was apparently a small, depressing apartment. Just desserts I had always thought — though, inexplicably, I felt sorry for him too.
“Oh, he cooks,” she says. “It’s more that he has some of the same stuff. You know – lots of vegetables.”
“Well,” I say, not feeling as sensitive as I normally would given my nice evening, “we did live together for a long time.”
I thought about our respective states for a moment. “And we seem to have some of the same medical issues,” I offered. “Like our bad knees.”
“What else?” I ask. I’m getting really curious now. I hadn’t thought of how we grew together and became more similar in quite some time.
“I can’t think of anything else,” she says, “but it happens a lot. And it makes me smile.”
And then I remember how, like many long-time couples, we grew more similar in dozens of little — and some big — ways from liking the same foods to seeking a similar lifestyle in retirement.
And, like many long-married couples (today would have been our 40th wedding anniversary), we also grew apart in big ways.
I am reminded once again of the oddities of life and how love is forever until it’s not.
I’m not the same person he came to not love. I’m stronger, better, more confident and centered, full of creativity, and much less vanilla.
And so we can’t really be the same inany of the big ways any more – even if we both still like vanilla cake.
“I write about sex because often it feels like the most important thing in the world.” Jeanette Winterston
When I think about the sex ed classes I had in junior high and high school, the focus was on DANGER: from sexually transmitted diseases to unwanted pregnancy to the dreaded menstrual cycle a young girl feared in advance of puberty. As I grew up and entered adulthood, there was no Part 2 class other than experience. What was missing was a scientifically-based exploration of the pleasures of sex and sexual physiology that wasn’t just focused on reproduction, and a look at the range of sexual experiences.
Now I’m not advocating a no-holds barred discussion of all things sexual in junior high sex education classes, but at some point and in some venue (maybe one’s home), there should be the beginnings of a better discussion about sex. And it shouldn’t begin and end when one is a teen or young adult. It should continue throughout life.
For don’t we all have questions about sex, sexuality, and our sexual relationships at different stages of life?
But people don’t talk about sex for the most part – unless it’s a joke or a complaint: “I’m not getting any,” for example. They learn from sexy books and magazines and watch sexy movies. And some may have an intimate discussion with a friend or relative. Women likely do a better job than men of talking to their good friends and close relatives about sexual response and enjoyment but an explicit discussion is likely not that common.
And talking to your partner about sex is not always easy or productive. So people may not fully realize the intricacies of sexual enjoyment and passion and how they can live a sexual life to the fullest – and help their partner do the same.
All this goes to say that Ian Kerner’s work as a sexologist, sex therapist, writer, and media personality is never done.
His books combine scientific research, clinical experience, and interviews with non-patients. His writing style is witty and humorous. He’s also very open about his own past challenges with premature ejaculation and he explains how this issue prompted him to first learn the value of pleasuring a woman orally.
I said in a previous post about my Ten Favorite Things that every man you’re in a relationship with should read She Comes First – after you peruse it of course.
So read on to learn what Kerner says about cliteracy, raunchy lovemaking, spontaneous and responsive desire, and how to talk to your partner about sex. Kerner’s comments have been minimally edited for clarity and brevity.
N: What do you think the take home message is from both She Comes First and Passionista?
I: One of the main reasons I wrote She Comes First is because as a sex therapist one of the most common complaints I heard was, ‘I’m not experiencing an orgasm during intercourse, what is wrong with me?’
And I really wanted to share the message to women and men that nothing is wrong with you — intercourse is not the most consistent way of helping a woman to achieve orgasm.
I wanted to subvert what I call the intercourse discourse and to get men especially to have a realistic understanding of female sexuality and to create mutually pleasurable experiences.
So the take home message for She Comes First was that really the clitoris is the powerhouse of the female orgasm in response to persistent stimulation and that intercourse is not really the best way to provide that. It was a book that was promoting the concept of sexual cliteracy as opposed to ill cliteracy.
With Passionista, just as I tried to give men a realistic understanding of female sexuality, I wanted to give women a better understanding of male sexuality based on research and science. Men experience low libido for example; men don’t just switch on and off in terms of their sexuality. I wanted to provide women with a more nuanced view on male sexuality.
With both books, it was important that I’m not just philosophizing but offering tips and techniques and sex scripts that are implementable. I think one of the big problems with literature and sexuality and self-help literature at large is that there is often a big message but there isn’t always a clear way to translate that message into action.
N: Did you find that your target audience read the books when prompted by their partner rather than seeking it out on their own? In other words, did men go out and read She Comes First or did women give it to them?
I: Well SheComes First was an interesting book in that it was a crossover book. It’s been out for more than 10 years and remains the best selling sex book of the last decade. And part of the reason it has been so popular is that not just men buy it but women buy it as well– both for themselves to understand their own sexuality as well as to give to their friends and to give to their partners and in some cases to even give to their children. I’ve heard from at this point scores of men and fathers and mothers who have given the book to their sons when their sons entered early adulthood.
So I think She Comes First’s success is because it was a crossover book — to be able to fluidly move between different types of consumers. Certainly I’ve also heard from women who say, ‘I’ve read your book or I have your book or I heard about your book, how do I get my guy to read it? He thinks he knows everything, he already thinks he’s an expert.’ Those situations present more of a problem.
N: How would you advise that woman to encourage her partner to read it?
I: In some cases, I say get both She Comes First and Passionista and make it sort of a neutral present in pleasuring each other. Sometimes I say you can package it with another book or a sex toy or make it part of a desire to just have a fun, sexy experience with your partner.
Sexual Concerns in the Boomer Years
N: What do you find is the biggest sexual concern for women in the boomer years –from the age of early 50s on up?
I: I hear about a number of concerns from women age 50 and up when it comes to sex. First of all, I want to say in some cases I talk to women and men in their 50s and 60s and they’re having the best sex they’ve ever had.
Finally the kids are out of the house, they have more time, they have more disposable income and they have more chance to connect. Many boomers are enjoying the best sex of their lives.
That said, I also hear a number of complaints. From women, sometimes it can be about a loss of libido or a loss of interest in sex. It can be about self-esteem during sex.
In some cases, women in their 50s aren’t always partnered. Either they’re divorced or they’ve lost their partners and they’re concerned about how to reinvent their sex life and to start over again with their sex life. And of course there are postmenopausal issues related to hormonal changes — vaginal atrophy and drying of tissue and difficulties lubricating. So that would be a handful of the issues that I hear from boomer women. But again, many who I hear from are really enjoying the best sex of their lives — whether they are single or in a relationship.
N: What are the concerns that men have in that age group?
I: Certainly in the 50 plus age group you have a lot of men who are starting to experience erectile impairment for the first time in their lives and that can be extremely unsettling for a lot of men. Their libido isn’t what it used to be so they’re experiencing low desire.
A lot of men in their 50s are going through bigger life transitions and may be depressed or anxious so that’s also affecting how they relate to their partners and how they feel about themselves and ultimately their sexuality. Sometimes the issues are related to back pain and having sex.
But again, on an up note, I often hear from men in their 50s who are single or partnered and are really enjoying their sex lives and they’re taking care of themselves and leading the sorts of healthy lifestyles that lend themselves to healthy sex.
The Value of a Healthy Lifestyle
N: Do you think that’s one of the most important things that people can do – leading a healthy lifestyle – for sexuality?
I: Absolutely. And a healthy lifestyle includes obviously what you eat and managing your weight. It’s also about exercise and staying fit and staying elastic and stretching. It also has to do with how you manage stress and anxiety and depression.
It also has to do with how you relate to your partner in being able to keep things interesting, fresh, positive, and optimistic. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that promotes healthy sex really covers a spectrum of different dimensions.
Sex, Myths, and Types of Desire
N: What do you think is the most common misconception about sex from both a male and female perspective?
I: I think first of all that male and female sexuality shares certain similarities but also certain differences. Male desire tends to be considered spontaneous and men can generate desire almost out of nowhere. So when we talk about male desire, we often talk about spontaneous desire. When we talk about female desire, we often talk about responsive desire.
Women don’t respond as clearly to a single sexual cue. They respond to multiple sexual cues. Many women are less apt to have an interest in sex spontaneously but more apt to be interested in sex once it’s initiated and they’re responding. So that creates confusion because a lot of men wonder, ‘Well why am I always initiating? Why am I always the only one who always has to step up to bat and potentially strike out? Why doesn’t she initiate? Why isn’t she more like me? Or does it mean she’s not interested in sex?’
And then a lot of women wonder as well, ‘What’s wrong with me? Am I broken? Why am I not experiencing spontaneous desire like I see in the movies or maybe like I experienced in the first days of infatuation?’
And so a lot of women under the spontaneous desire paradigm feel like they’re either defective or broken. And that’s why we have drugs right now that are getting approved to potentially treat female desire.
I’m not really personally a fan of medicalizing sexuality and medicalizing desire but you know the dominant model for how we think about sexuality and desire is really around spontaneous desire. Again it’s like the movies – both men and women should want to tear off each other’s clothes. But when you look at the reality and, again, female desire tends to be more responsive then spontaneous, I think we need to develop a better understanding of the differences in how men and women experience sexuality.
The other misconception I think is that sex is something that should just happen and that sex tends to be largely a physical act. But when you really think about sexual arousal, it’s as much if not more mental than it is physical. Sure you can touch your genitals or touch someone’s genitals and after a long enough period of time something’s going to happen and hopefully it’s going to feel good. But we are also able to get sexually excited through thinking and reading and seeing and smelling and tasting and all of the senses. And so I think too often couples just rely on sort of a physical script to get them through a sexual experience. And I think they don’t really integrate enough of a mental experience into the act.
Spontaneous versus Responsive Desire
N: I’d like to go back to spontaneous desire because I was reading Emily Nagoski’s book and she seemed to be saying that in fact some women do feel spontaneous desire. Do you think it’s just a smaller percentage?
I: Yes, it’s a smaller percentage. There are plenty of men who also experience responsive desire as opposed to spontaneous desire. I think it’s a big generalization but it’s just that. It’s a generalization. But at a high level; it’s one that holds up. I think generally men tend to experience spontaneous desire and women tend to experience responsive desire. Do you agree or disagree with that?
N: Yes I think it works both ways. I do. I found that very interesting because I had never heard of that concept.
I: Also, I work a lot with gay couples – both men and women.
In gay male couples there’s quite a bit of promiscuity; there’s quite a bit of high libido; there’s a lot of shared sexuality; there’s a lot of non-monogamy. And I think that’s often what you get as a result of two men experiencing spontaneous desire. There’s going to be a lot of sex and a lot of interest in sex. With gay female couples it’s often the opposite – not always but a lot of the time. And I think that’s the result of two people experiencing responsive desire.
Taking the Lead
N: You mentioned something about the man saying, ‘Well why isn’t she initiating?’ Do you feel that men would prefer equal initiation or do some men feel threatened and they find that inhibits them? From your practice, what do you see?
I: From my practice, I find that many men are frustrated because they would like their partners to initiate more. They feel like the burden of initiating sex often is upon them. Now that is not to say I don’t encounter a lot of men who are experiencing low male desire, but for those men who have a healthy level of desire, a lot of them feel like it would be nice to be the one who’s being courted or pursued or it would be nice to have her initiate or for her to take the dominant role.
I rarely encounter men who would be threatened by that…I mean it may be a generational thing as well – that more traditionally gendered role of guys pursue and women get courted. But today you have so many egalitarian couples who are sharing responsibilities and sharing their lives in interesting ways that I think a lot of men would like a more egalitarian approach to sex and initiation.
N: I’m not sure if in your practice, you see many single people but let’s say someone is in a new relationship, do you find that if a woman is more assertive sexually, it would be less desirable to her partner than if she was in a long term relationship? Or don’t you see it as being a factor?
I: It doesn’t really come up and I work with a lot of single people. In general most of them are interested in getting partnered and in developing a secure, safe attachment with a person that includes a strong intimate, erotic component but I don’t really hear too often that one way or the other who’s initiating – it doesn’t really come up.
What do People Know about Sex?
N: How would you describe the degree of education that men have about women’s sexual anatomy and physiology? Do you think they’re in general not well informed?
I: Certainly a lot of men get a lot of their ideas from both their friends and what they hear or learn from porn. I think in both those cases – with friends and porn — there can be some good information and some good truths. You can learn something by talking to a friend and you can learn something by watching porn. But there are also a lot of untruths as well and sometimes a lot of pressure or a lot of expectations.
The other way a man can learn about sex is from a partner but a lot of people get very tongue tied when it comes to talking about sex. Or they feel shy or that it’s inappropriate or that you shouldn’t have to talk about sex. You know there are still a lot of women who would opt to fake orgasm rather than communicate to their partner about what they want.
So a lot of men are growing up in an age of porn and with partners who aren’t always communicative and they don’t know how to communicate. So I would say a lot of men are misinformed about female sexuality.
N: And what about women? Do you think they are more informed?
I: No, I would say that women are sort of equally ill informed. Women also get a lot of their ideas about sex from friends. One friend may really value penis size. Another friend may not. Women also get a lot of their ideas about sex from porn or from Hollywood movies. And I think what you want to be doing is getting your sexual information and feedback hopefully from a loving, trusting connected partner. That’s the best way to get your information – is through having sex and being able to talk about it in a loving, constructive, erotic, interesting, and sexy way.
It would also be great if we had better sex education in this country and if talk shows talked about sex in a deeper, more interesting way. You said that you read Emily Nagoski’s book. She’s a good friend and a colleague of mine. You’re not likely to get too much about the differences between spontaneous and responsive desire in a two- minute talk show segment. So there isn’t always access to the cutting edge, accurate information.
How to Talk to your Partner about Sex
N: I’d like to go back to what you mentioned before about being able to talk to your partner. How would you help a couple who had a hard time talking to each other about sex or how would you help an individual who wanted some way to be comfortable in a conversation about sex? What can people do?
I: Talking about sex doesn’t have to be heavy handed. It doesn’t have to be clinical. It doesn’t have to be a bummer. It doesn’t have to be aggressive, offensive, non-constructive, which is often what it turns out to be. I think talking about sex, first of all, can be sexy.
I have an exercise that I use with my patients. A woman comes in and looks sad because her partner doesn’t spend enough time on foreplay or her partner’s oral sex technique is lacking or he doesn’t give the way he likes to receive per se. And there’s a lot of anger and resentment. And so one way of dealing with it is to go and bring it up and argue back or have an angry conversation.
But I often say, ‘Well, what is the solution first of all? What do you want?’ ‘Well I want more connection. I want more kissing. I want more foreplay. I want more oral sex. I want more frequency’ – whatever it is. And I say, ‘Well, how could you express that to your partner in the form of a fantasy? Or as a sexy desire?’
And now you’ve moved from a place of negativity where you’re focused on what you’re not getting to a place of positivity where you’re reframing what you’d like to be getting in a really positive sexy way. So now you can go to your partner and say, ‘hey, you know I’m having these sexy thoughts and these sexy fantasies about you and let me tell you what’s going on in my head.’ And that’s a much more friendly and inviting and sexy way that’s more likely to lead to the sex that you’d actually like to be having.
N: And then maybe the partner would also do the same thing in conversation?
Are People Happy with their Sex Life?
N: Do you think most people are happy with their sex life? I guess you’re seeing a different population and it’s hard to tell.
I: Well, I generally see people who are unhappy but I certainly hear from plenty of people who have read my books and have said they’ve been helped them to improve their sex or continue to expand their sexual horizons.
You know it’s interesting — I’m part of a website called goodinbed.com and we did a survey not too long back on the topic of boredom. I think close to 70% of people – couples – were bored in their relationships. And more than just sexual boredom — but sexual boredom was definitely high among the types of boredom that people were experiencing.
So that was a little disheartening – about 70 percent were bored in their relationship — but well over that percentage of people said they were very open to a sexy suggestion from their partner to try something new and different. So while I found the overall levels of boredom disheartening I found the interest and the potential for changing that boredom into something sexy and adventurous was optimistic. So going from boredom to interested could be as simple as making a sexy suggestion to your partner.
When a Couple is not Getting Any
N: What are some of the reasons leading to a lack of sex in a relationship? When you hear from people who say, ‘We’re not having sex any more,’ what are some of the common triggers of that?
I: I think certainly it can be a number of life factors from having kids to working to being busy to feeling overwhelmed to being stressed out to being depressed to feeling not so great in your body. I think all of those are factors especially in this digital age where you’re always connected and there’s always some kind of stimulation that’s a click away…whether it’s a text, an email, a blog entry, something to read.
You know there are more demands on our time but I find what a lot of people are actually saying is, ‘I want to want sex, I just sort of don’t really want it. In theory, I like sex. In theory, I like my partner. In theory, I’m interested in all these things. I don’t know…It’s just not happening.’
We were talking about spontaneous desire and responsive desire before and especially for women, there’s a stage before desire. That stage some people call willingness. Some people talk about an arousal that can lead to desire but desire doesn’t come out of nowhere. So if you’re not doing anything to create a context for desire, you’re not going to experience it.
I think the main thing is that couples are not really putting themselves through the motions. Sometimes you have to put your body through the motion and trust that your mind will follow. And I think a lot of couples just aren’t putting themselves through the motions and so desire isn’t really manifesting. And that’s when a month goes by and you haven’t had sex and now, statistically, you’re in a sex rut.
N: What is your philosophy of sex?
I: My philosophy of sex I would say is raunchy lovemaking. And by that I mean it’s very important I think to have a partner you care about and to whom you’re attached.
I’m not saying that casual sex isn’t a whole lot of fun. And for some couples non-monogamy can be great. But I think in general we are sort of wired to pursue a secure attachment with a partner who we love and who we’re attracted to. And I think it’s important to find that secure, safe attachment.
But that attachment on its own is not enough to generate a high quality sex life. You need more than attachment. You need the ability to fantasize, the ability to be raunchy, to be naughty, to be filthy, whatever it is you want to be. You need to have that base of attachment but then really be able to layer a level of risk on top of it with your partner.
In a frenzy of positivity, I discovered 10 things that I am enjoying – actually loving – and learning from. These include a TV show, several podcasts, a short animated film, and well-written prose with a purpose from both a sex educator and a relationship/sex therapist.
Grace and Frankie
I binge-watched the first season of this new Netflix series starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as Grace and Frankie, two women whose long-time husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) leave them for each other. Jane and Lily shine as the two polar-opposite women who go from barely tolerating each other to kinship and friendship.
I loved Jane’s initial foray into online dating (so relatable) and the honesty of Lily’s character, Frankie, as she purveys her homemade organic lube and gives Grace ongoing reality checks.
Everyone needs a friend like Frankie for an order of honest, hold-the-brutality advice. To my delight, the show was just picked up for a 2nd season. See: Grace and Frankie.
Women of Uncertain Age
This weekly podcast is brought to you by Karen and Philippa, two single, divorced forty-something friends who chat about dating, friendship, relationships, marriage and divorce. The show’s signature line, “We’re talkin’ and you’re eavesdropping” captures the relaxed intimacy and humor the two hosts bring to the computer waves.
Karen and Philippa (I feel like I know them already) share their stories in a mellow conversational style and sometimes have guests who provide their perspectives and insights. I like to eavesdrop as an alternative to bedtime reading. See: Women of Uncertain Age.
Kathy Bernard and Barbara Kline, hosts of the syndicated 2BoomerBabes show, tackle a broad range of topics of interest to the nearly 80 million baby boomers. The “babes’” guests are experts on everything from relationships to healthcare.
Recent shows covered caregiving, tinkering, transforming your sex life, modern divorce, and train travel. Listen in and you’ll likely learn something. See: 2BoomerBabes.
Sex Love Chat podcast.
They would be great band names but Dirty in Public and Single Dating Diva are the “brands” and blogs of Marrie and Suzie who also collaborate on a weekly podcast called the Sex Love Chat. According to the show’s description, “Our podcast is a sexy little place in cyberspace where we romance listeners with topics sufficiently naughty, a little nice, and always pleasing to the ear.”
As an online date investigator, I enjoyed the recent podcast on searching men’s profiles on social media sites, a practice known as “creeping.” Guilty as charged. See: Sex Love Chat podcast
Huffington Post Love and Sex radio show
I first learned of the Huffington Post Love and Sex radio show when I saw a tweet about their podcast on What is Sex Like After 70? The show – and this episode – has an anthropological perspective so I found it interesting as well as hopeful.
With a disclaimer, “This episode contains explicit material, please proceed with caution,” who wouldn’t be curious? Each show answers a single question (unless it’s a grab-bag of reader’s questions). Past episodes have covered the future of sex, the power of the clitoris, and the reality behind Fifty Shades of Grey.
Described as a “hip sex therapist,” Ian Kerner, Ph.D. has taken on the charge of demystifying sex and educating both sexes. His books, She Comes First and Passionista, The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man (previously published as He Comes Next), combine scientific research, clinical experience, and interviews with non-patients. As he describes it, Kerner offers his readers a vision — a way of thinking about sex and being.
With wit and humor and an engaging writing style, Kerner’s books present a how to but also a why to understanding and obtaining sexual fulfillment.
Every man you’re in a relationship with should read She Comes First – after you read it of course.
I first heard of Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., when she was interviewed on the 2BoomerBabes show (see above) about her new book, Come as you are: the Surprising New Science that will Transform Your Sex Life.
Nagoski, who is director of Wellness Education at Smith College where she teaches Women’s Sexuality, is an esteemed sex educator. Her book, which I’m still reading, is fascinating and she describes the premise in the Introduction: “No matter where you are in your sexual journey right now, whether you have an awesome sex life and want to expand the awesomeness, or you’re struggling with and want to find solutions, you will learn something that will improve your sex life and transform the way you understand what it means to be a sexual being.”
The great thing about Nagoski and Kerner (see above) is the scientific core of their work, the accessibility of their writing, and similar philosophies that serve to enlighten, educate, and instill confidence in the average person.
Essays written by readers cover the joy and pain that go hand in hand with love. Men and women, young and not so young, share their experiences and insights. It’s quite brave to write about such things under your own name. The writing is often beautiful and I find many of the pieces hopeful and inspiring.
One essay published in 2009 by Laura Munson, Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear, has great meaning for me. When I read it, a year after publication, I was newly separated and wondering if my then-husband who wanted to end the marriage was suffering from temporary insanity. I was comforted by Munson’s words: “This isn’t the divorce story you think it is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to believe him. And what can happen as a result.“ I won’t give away any more because you should read it, but it gave me hope for a time, which I needed to put one foot in front of the other after the end of a very long marriage.
Outlander, the first of an 8-book series by Diana Gabaldon, combines historical fiction, time travel, and romance in a “can’t put down” read. The story begins in 1945 when Claire Randall, a former combat nurse on her honeymoon in the Scottish highlands, walks through a standing stone and into the war torn Scotland of 1743. She meets James Fraser, a young Scots warrior, and begins an epic romance.
The books are long (600 pages for volume 1) and immensely satisfying. A friend of mine called them “the bad Mommy books” because whenever she read one, she ignored her children. I have read all but the most recent one (waiting to savor it). The new TV show on Starz based on the Outlander series is one of those rare book-to-television adaptations with the look and feel of the books – just the way you imagined them. I recommend both the books and the TV show for good old- fashioned escapism.
I have a special treat for you on Mother’s Day – a guest post from my friend and Renaissance woman Donna A. Lewis. Donna has way more experience with men than I do and I thought she would be a great resource for all of us dating re-entrants!
Donna lives in Washington, DC where she dabbles obsessively in law, writing and art. She is the creator of Reply All comic strip and Reply All Lite cartoon, both of which are syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group.
I have the perfect lunch for us while we sit back and read Donna’s post. Let’s enjoy spaghetti al pomodoro (http://tinyurl.com/m9d37f9), Audrey Hepburn’s favorite recipe, recreated by food blogger Tori Avey.
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Donna A. Lewis
For five or so decades, my mother has been talking to me about men. She considers herself an expert on men because she’s been married to one man for a really long time. In fact, she’s been married to that one man for as long as I’ve known her.
It’s hard for me to explain to my mother in a respectful, discreet way that what she actually knows is a lot about one man.
“Yeah, mom, you know about men. You know about one man named Joe.”
For the record, Joe isn’t my father’s real name. I changed the name to protect my father’s identity.
“Yeah, mom, you know a lot about ‘Joe’…. but I know somewhere between a little and a lot about hundreds of men.”
See? I told you. There’s not really an easy way to respectfully and discreetly say that the reason you know a lot about men is because you have actually known a lot of men.
But I do. I do know my fair share about men.
Now maybe I don’t personally know a lot about hundreds of men, but I do know about a large enough number of men to provide a scientific sampling upon which we can base supportable conclusions.
And maybe I don’t know a lot about staying with one man forever, but nobody I know really has that as their top priority these days anyway since forever is different from the forever we grew up with.
What I do know about is how to meet men. And I know how to have a really good time with them. And I know how to get rid of them.
Now THAT, my friends, is valuable information for the modern woman.
To be honest, I didn’t realize how valuable that information was until so many of my married friends became unmarried. All of a sudden, I had some information they needed and didn’t have.
But before I tell you my 50 all-time favorite ways to leave lovers, let me tell you how to actually get a lover. Or two. Or ten.
Want a lover.
Sounds simple and kind of obvious, but do you really want a lover or do you just think you should want a lover? And if you actually want a lover, are you sure you want a lover now? Are you lover-ready, emotionally and otherwise?
The gist of this tip is really ‘don’t look for a lover before you’re ready for a lover.’ If you look for a lover too soon or at the seriously wrong time, all you’ll do is cripple your self-esteem with rejection resulting from bad timing.
Don’t go there until you’re ready to be there.
Look good. Feel good. Be intentional about being in the best condition to attract a lover. You don’t need to be a perfect hourglass size zero with double D boobs, high slit skirts and perpetually tanned skin. And hopefully you’re not, since that’s…well…you know.
But you need to generally look like you want to be attractive to those you wish to attract.
If you’re not sure whether you look like you want a lover, ask one of your most honest friends. An honest friend will tell you whether you look like you’re thinking about loving a lover or thinking about eating double stuffed pizza while learning to make your own curtains.
Go where the men are.
If you want to go where the men are, join a few local meetup (or other) free social groups and look at the male to female ratio before attending. If the group boasts one man for every twenty women, then you won’t be going home with a lover.
And don’t spend too much time hanging out where the men aren’t. Most men are generally not painting pottery or attending Pilates. They’re not usually at Sunday brunch or the shopping mall.
And if you’re thinking it’s a shame that your interests don’t include men, then prepare for a lot of time spent without men. Or find a few new interests.
Go where there are more men than women.
Go to a local dive bar that has televisions playing sports. Ask the men silly questions about sports and let them talk. Go to a local Comic Con, gaming outlet, car show or gun show. Hang out at Home Depot in the area where they sell wood. Ask the men at Home Depot silly questions about wood – the kind of wood they sell at Home Depot.
If you hang around places where men tend to be, the odds of meeting a man increase significantly and naturally.
Consider everything practice.
Remember when you were in the sixth grade and you had to present a book report to the class? Remember how well you did at home with your mom watching you and cheering you on? Remember how you then got to school and felt like throwing up when you realized you forgot what the notes on your index cards meant?
The same thing happens when you’re looking for a man to love you. You feel great when you’re safely at home being all cute and funny online with men who want to chat. Then you leave the safety of your house and remember that you have cellulite, a crooked tooth, and a top on top of your muffin.
When you leave your house, instead of thinking in terms of success or failure, think of everything you do as practice. Go on practice dates or practice trips to Home Depot. Ask practice men your practice questions. Don’t consider any activity the ‘real thing’ and you’ll be more relaxed. More importantly, you’ll be better prepared to accept whatever happens. …since it’s just practice.
Have fun no matter what.
Enjoy whatever you’re doing. Laugh at whatever is happening, even if the joke is on you. If you can have fun no matter what, more things will be more fun.
And people who have fun attract people who like having fun.
Talk to people.
Remember that people are shy, including men. And remember that other people are waiting for you to make a move, create an opening or give a sign.
So just say hi. And be really friendly. And make a stupid joke about something simple that makes them laugh and realize you’re one of those people who are easy to talk to.
And then be easy to talk to.
Leave the unsexy topics at home.
Talking about your ex, your divorce, your custody problems, your toe fungus, that weird bump that might be cancer but might just be a bump….none of these are part of foreplay.
And talking is foreplay if you talk about the stuff that turns people on.
If you’re not sure what turns people on, talk about delicious food, your favorite music or hot cars. Don’t talk about food issues, music you hate or the car problems you can’t afford to fix. Stick with the stuff that makes people feel good. When the listener feels good, the listener is more likely to like you.
Touch others appropriately.
If you’ve been talking to someone for more than five minutes and it’s going well, try an appropriate, light, gentle touch on their forearm or shoulder. Start making contact.
Practice by touching their sleeve or watch or ring and saying you like it and asking where they got it. Combine flattery with a gentle touch and you’re closer to getting a lover than you were before.
Be proud of rejection.
Rejection means you tried. Rejection means you’re out there. Rejection means you’re human and that you’re interacting with humans.
If you’re not getting rejected, you’re not out there enough.
There’s ten tips to get you started!
And please, let me know how it goes! I need material for my future posts!
You may have read a recent New York Times essay that described a real life application of a scientific study on closeness, certainly a precursor to falling in love. In the study, pairs of strangers asked each other 36 questions. There were 3 sets of questions and each set contained increasingly personal questions designed to provoke self-disclosure and intimacy. After the Q and A portion, the study participants stared into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes.
The combination of these two activities was supposed to jumpstart a connection that would lead to a temporary feeling of closeness. The result: after the experiment, participants reported high ratings of closeness and at least one pair married. This research generated a firestorm of public interest and publicity, including commercial applications such as The Love Game and a number of apps.
Ever since I read about this study, I wanted to try the 36 questions with a romantic interest. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to do this on a first date. After all, you wouldn’t want to engage in this activity unless you liked the other person enough to entertain the possibility of a love relationship. And that would require at least one date and possibly more. When I read the original study by Dr. Arthur Aron, State University of New York at Stony Brook, I realized that my plan was in fact in line with his methodology since study participants were matched so they did not disagree about issues of importance to them.
We agreed to proceed with the questions one recent evening after a glass of wine. Technically it was our 4th date. It probably would have been a good idea to start the Q and A at an earlier time since the process can take several hours but the moment seemed right at the time.
I had printed out the list of 36 questions from a follow-up New York Times article. Question number 1 was the only question I had peeked at prior to our evening. I thought it would be closer to the real experiment to not figure out my answers beforehand. Mr. Z hadn’t looked at the questions either.
As we made our way through the first set of 12 questions, I observed some interesting things about our responses. In some cases, our answers were less revealing than they might have been given the particular question. In other cases – such as answering what would constitute a perfect day – we had very similar responses (being outdoors – at the beach if possible – with someone special). And some of Mr. Z’s responses were touchingly revealing.
We easily named three things we thought we had in common and we listed a couple of the same characteristics. The most stressful question for me was trying to tell Mr. Z my life story in 4 minutes. I ended up elaborating on things that “came out of the blue” from my childhood, leaving less time for more significant events that occurred in adulthood.
Given the time constraints of this exercise, I provided a resume of my life with occasional emotional components thrown in. Before beginning this 4-minute monologue, I set a timer on my phone and Mr. Z gave me updates on how much time was left, which I found stressful. I had a flashback to when I took the SAT test (a long, long time ago in another galaxy) and started to feel anxious because I felt that my biography was skewed and incomplete.
It was getting later and question #12 about magically having a quality or ability was quickly dealt with. I wondered if Mr. Z was taking the quiz seriously. Of course we managed to intersperse questions with kissing (probably invalidating the experimental procedure).
Mr. Z had to leave and so we stopped the Q and A at the end of the first set. I have been under the weather and not able to get together with Mr. Z since that evening. I’m interested in seeing whether we continue with Set 2 of the questions. I’m game but I want to be sure he is.
My conclusions about the 36 questions as a vehicle for fostering intimacy (to be updated when/if the experiment is completed):
Wait until you’re sure you like someone enough to entertain the possibility of falling in love with this person – unless your goal is to strictly get to know the person better. This could even be an exercise at a family gathering or at a party.
Try to schedule the session in the early evening or afternoon so you can complete the entire list.
Observe reactions and responses to the process – sometimes this can be as revealing as the answers.
Take notes later to remind yourself of your partner’s answers. With so many questions, you might want a cheat sheet to help you remember what was shared.
After the experiment – or instead of – develop your own questions. Questions I have used with previous dates:
What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Have you ever had an epiphany about your life and as a result changed course or direction going forward?
I wanted this blog to take the reader through a natural progression of life and love issues after divorce. I’m going to diverge a bit today because blog posts — just like life — do not necessarily follow a nice, neat, chronological order.
Today’s subject is hope – why it’s so important and how you get it back when you seem to have misplaced it. For our conversation, we need breakfast comfort food for lunch: blueberry pancakes.
Hope is the thing that keeps me going when slogging through bad dating profiles. It’s the thing that helps me bounce back after finding out a promising man is America’s Most Wanted Romance Scammer. And it is the lifeline I hold onto after an awkward first date that begs for termination after 10 minutes.
Sometimes life happens — to revisit a cliché — and I lose my optimism. Loss of hope can be triggered by matters of the heart, medical concerns, financial worries, or an unexpected reminder of my defunct marriage. And when all four happen at once — watch out!
Fortunately, with the passing of time, I’ve been able to shorten “hopeless” interludes and jumpstart myself back to a hopeful place.
Here are some things that I think about to make me feel better and some actions that I’ve found to be helpful. I’d love to know what works for you.
Points to Ponder to Revive Hope:
Given mathematical probability, percentages based on direct e-mail marketing, and random karma, it is just a matter of time before that guy who likes me is actually someone I like.
A lot of men want a relationship too – just read the profiles.
Anything can happen at any time. But most of it won’t happen inside your house or apartment. Get out!
Things to Do:
Think about the universal need to connect with other people and realize it will help you. On Oscar night, a man on POF (Plenty of Fish) emailed me to ask if I was watching the Oscar’s or Downtown Abbey.
We ended up “watching the Oscar’s together,” commenting on who we wanted to win and the quality of the performances. We both loved Lady Gaga’s tribute to The Sound of Music. Will I ever meet this guy? Hard to know. We have continued to exchange emails and just yesterday he suggested a phone call. Even if we never meet, we carried on a nice “virtual conversation” for an evening. That’s worth something.
Keep a lot of irons in the fire. At any one time, I am on three dating sites to maximize opportunities (opportunities = hope).
Consider an occasional email exchange with young and/or out-of-town men just to kvetch about the often-frustrating online dating process. Creating solidarity helps me feel better. I know I am not alone in the quest to not be alone.
Do something that empowers you – whether it is proactively contacting a potential match or initiating a fun activity such as PaintNite for you and your friends.
Plan a vacation or day trip. Having something to look forward to does wonders for increasing your hope quotient.
Exercise really does help. I have found boxing with a trainer to be amazingly therapeutic.
I wanted to write this post because I began the week in a less hopeful place. I feel better now. Just thinking about these truths and putting them down on paper — or rather the computer — helped.
As one of my favorite writers Anne Lamott says about writing and life in Bird by Bird, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”