In honor of the 1-year birthday of this blog (February 14), I’m going to indulge in a brief interlude of narcissism. Today’s theme: what I learned in the last year about dating, sex, and life in your 60s – and blogging.
My goal, as always, is to impart useful knowledge, make you laugh, or just be that wing woman sitting at the whine bar with you while we wonder why the hell we can’t find the one.
I’m going to write this blog post in real dating time. In other words, I’m writing this post while texting two guys simultaneously – a guy from Tinder and a Bumble match.
Given my track record lately, one will turn out to be a Russian spy who has traveled forward in time from the cold war era and the other one will actually be a married trans woman. But hope springs eternal…so I text on.
Join me in an anti-Valentine’s Day treat of creamy Gorgonzola and portobello mushroom risotto created by a wonderfully named chef called Nadia G (of Bitchin’ Kitchen fame). Just substitute vegetable broth for the chicken stock and you will eat like Nadia A.
And now I present my top 14 lessons learned in the last year about dating, sex, life in your 60s, and blogging:
*Maximizing opportunities keeps hope alive. I’m on multiple dating sites and apps. Later this month, I will try speed dating a second time (via a new speed dating meet-up) and attend a Match happy hour with live in the flesh as opposed to virtual men.
*Keep trying something new. This is related to the maximizing opportunities point above. The single life is not only about dating but also about finding ways to make new friends and to enrich your life through education, culture, or sport. I signed up for a Spanish class, multiple new meet-up groups, and went to museums, art galleries, poetry readings, and story telling events.
*Keep trying something old in a new way. Because I have CRS (Can’t Remember Shit), I have no idea what I meant when I jotted this down in my first draft of this post…. but it sounds good so I’m keeping it. Please tell me what you think I meant.
*It’s good to get out of your comfort zone. Take this in any way you want. Going to a bar happy hour by myself was a leap for this shy blogger.
*Say yes to as much as you can. Even if you’re tired. Even if you’re cranky. Go, do, enjoy.
*If a man starts to make you feel bad about yourself in any way, run to the nearest exit. Consider the source and do not believe anything he says about you.
*Similarly, if a man doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, look elsewhere.
*Get used to the roller coaster of dating. One day you’ll be messaging or talking to 3 guys – all seemingly good possibilities and by the end of the next day, one has disappeared, one is revealed as a scammer, and the other one is starting to creep you out.
*Smile to yourself when you’re out with a couple (married or otherwise) that drives each other crazy or engages in petty fighting. At this moment, say, TGIS (Thank God I’m Single.)
*If a man’s total focus is on sex – either before or after you meet – drop him even if you want sex.
*Put on your big girl panties and tell your man what you need and what you want.
*Keep a journal or write a blog to help you figure out your life. Writing an anonymous blog helped motivate me to try new things – for the good of the blog.
*Be as physically active as you can to relieve stress and to feel better about yourself.
*Be a woman who roars. Revel in your strength and independence. It feels good to add oil and transmission fluid to your car, tighten that loose toilet seat, manage a home renovation project, and book an overseas trip.
What have you learned in the last year? Let me know. If you liked this post or any past ones, sign up to get regular email delivery of this blog. To maximize your pleasure, sign up for my Twitter feed and like my Facebook page. You’ll get frequent daily updates of news and features about dating, relationships, sex, the single life, and life in your 60s.
Although I don’t advocate CIA-style interrogation of a date, sometimes the right question or two or three can illuminate a potential partner’s suitability.
It’s important to be creative when designing questions for your love interest. One option is to use The 36 Questions, but those are geared to establishing intimacy. Today I’m interested in questions designed to find out if you and Mr. XO are compatible and whether he will make you happy.
My inspiration comes in part from a recent article in Fortune magazine that reported on challenging job interview questions. The out-of-the- box questions collected by the Five O’ Clock Club run the gamut from “How much should you charge to wash all of the windows in Seattle?” to “Describe the color yellow to somebody who’s blind.”
Some basic advice: don’t ask more than 1 or 2 of these questions per date and try to weave them into the conversation so you don’t arouse suspicion. And don’t ask them while strapping your date down and dripping a cup of water onto his face.
Questions to Ask Your Love Interest:
What did you have for dinner last night?
The correct answer: Baby kale salad with roasted apples and pomegranate seeds, bouillabaisse, home baked French bread, chocolate orange soufflé for dessert.
Relationship/compatibility subtext: You need a man who can hold his own in the kitchen – even if you’re an accomplished home chef. Not only will this make cooking together a viable fun activity or competition for you both (think Throwdown with Bobby Flay), he can comfort you with a home cooked meal when you are down.
If you had enough money to outsource one household chore, what would you pick?
The correct answer: Whatever chore you hate the most.
Relationship/compatibility subtext: The correct answer will show you whether he has listened to your complaints about your most detested household duty. It is important to find a partner who really listens and takes action to help you.
You go to the pound to pick out a puppy. The person in charge tells you they have a new pilot program. You may take home a new puppy every week for life or adopt one puppy,
The correct answer: Adopt one puppy.
Relationship/compatibility subtext: You want a one-woman man.
You are on your way to work and running late to an important meeting. You encounter an adorable little puppy (O.K., I love puppies) who is obviously lost, confused, thirsty, and hungry. You know your significant other is making a presentation at work today, what do you do?
The correct answer: “I would take this puppy to work with me even if I was fired.”
Relationship/compatibility subtext: Depending on your age and life situation, Mr. XO’s answer provides clues as to whether he can sustain an egalitarian relationship. How would he juggle caring for your and his aging parents when you are both working? How might he handle parenting duties in a two-career household? What would Mr. XO do if you had a sick child, the babysitter had the plague, you were completing a crucial project at work and he had an important deadline to meet? Can this man step up to the plate and sacrifice his career if needed in support of your own?
You are stranded on an island with one other person who happens to be a woman. Thanks to a small island lake there is plenty of water but food is scarce. One afternoon, you are foraging for food by yourself when you unexpectedly encounter a plantain tree with one lone plantain on it. Do you eat it before you return or bring it back to camp to share?
The correct answer: Bring it back to share and offer the first bites to the woman.
Relationship/compatibility subtext: Mr. XO’s answer provides a clue to his generosity in the bedroom and whether he subscribes to the crucial philosophy of She Comes First.
Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a spouse or girlfriend. How was it resolved?
The correct answer: Apologize – regardless of the conflict or who is actually at fault.
Relationship/compatibility subtext: The simple act of apology demonstrates skills in conflict resolution and the reality-based truism that the woman is always right.
Why should I date you?
The correct answer: I have all the qualities you’re seeking according to your OkCupid profile and I think you are brilliant, beautiful, interesting, and everything I am looking for in a woman.
Relationship/compatibility subtext: Use your gut to determine his sincerity. Is the correct answer accompanied by gazing into your eyes? Is he a good kisser? Are you comfortable with Mr. XO and at the same time, do you have butterflies before you see him? The answer to this question must be weighed in the context of his entire package. No. Pun. Intended.
If you woke up and had 1,000 emails from matches on a dating site and could only answer 100, how would you choose which ones to respond to?
The correct answer: “Even though I could only answer 100, I would answer 5 and see what happens. If I find a good match, I don’t need to keep exploring and searching.”
Relationship/compatibility subtext: See above re: finding a one-woman man
What are 3 positive things an ex would say about you?
The correct answer: “She would say I was fun to be with, a great listener, and I was a terrific supporter of her and of women’s rights.”
Relationship/compatibility subtext: This is a perfect opportunity for your love interest to reimagine history. Most likely he will think back to a kinder, gentler time in a previous relationship and use his best spin technology to present himself in a good light. Use your woman’s intuition to determine if there’s even a shred of truth in his list of three.
You are on a road trip in unfamiliar territory and appear to be lost. The GPS is not working. What do you do?
The correct answer: Stop and ask for directions.
Relationship/compatibility subtext: Is Mr. XO a team player? Will he work with you to solve the problems of life or will he drive alone aimlessly while he runs out of gas and you run out of patience?
Can you add to my list of questions? Let me know! Until next week, happy dating or not dating.
“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.
Erika helps her clients with the world of online dating: writing a unique profile, composing emails that get answered, choosing the best photos, and planning dates. She also offers date coaching to clients.
Erika has a background in business and economics. She applied her professional and people skills to achieve great personal success with online dating. Since starting A Little Nudge, she has worked with hundreds of clients who have gone on to date confidently, marry, get engaged, or enter a relationship.
What is the best way for a 60-something woman to meet a man? Is it online?
As I tell all of my clients, there isn’t a best way to meet someone. There are many options—online dating, singles’ events, classes, groups. The important part is to put yourself out there in some capacity, online or otherwise.
Do you have any recommendations for meeting men in the wild?
Be approachable. Oftentimes, a man wants to approach a woman, but her nose is in her phone, or she has a scowl on her face. The best way to attract someone is to smile and show that you’re open to meeting new people. Men get scared, too!
What is the single biggest complaint you have about online dating from women? From men?
Bad pictures!! I recommend 3 to 5 photos—at least a clear headshot, a nice full-body shot, and a photo of you doing something interesting. In addition, make sure you’re alone in your photos because the last thing you want is for someone to compare you to your friend or family in your own profile. And NO MORE SELFIES!
Is there anything you would do differently now if you were dating (based on what you have learned from your business)?
Have a list of about five non-negotiables and beyond that, give people a chance.
Do you ever “match” your clients?
I do! I have what I call “matchmaking mixers” to get my clients together. It’s always a well-attended, fun time! I’ll be holding another one in DC in June!
What do you think about matchmaking services?
Some are great, and some are not so great. Try to get recommendations from others who have used the matchmaker to see if they were satisfied.
What are your tips for the first date? What if the first date is not spectacular? Should you see him again?
Start with just drinks or coffee (no dinner!) to see where it goes and if you have some rapport. Also, it’s important to go into a first date with no expectations. Simply having a good conversation should be considered a success.
I tell my clients if they’re on the fence about someone to give it one more date. More here:
How should one handle corresponding with 2 or 3 guys at once? How long can a woman date more than one guy?
This is a personal preference and everyone feels differently, but generally, the point of dating more than one person is to find the one who you like best. Once you do that, there’s no need to keep seeing the others. Don’t just see them as a fallback plan, because that means you’re already assuming the outcome of the one you want to pursue… and it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How can one keep from losing hope?
I do recommend taking a break if you’re feeling jaded… just as long as you get back on the horse. And, as hard as it seems sometimes, remember that it only takes one.
Is a man who has been married 2 or 3 times someone to be wary of? What about a never married man? Should a woman stay away?
Everyone has a story, and nothing is black and white, so rather than making generalizations about people based on their prior marital status, I would hear the story and then use your judgment.
Do you have clients in their 50s and 60s? Do you have any particular advice for women in this age group/stage of life?
Desperate? Not at all! What man wouldn’t be flattered when a pretty lady reaches out to him? J
What if you find out before you meet that a man lied about his age in his dating profile? Should you address it before you meet or during the first meeting?
I generally do not recommend too much “research” before you meet your date, however, I know as well as the next person that, if given enough information, people are going to do their due diligence. If you do, in fact, find that your date has lied, first decide if you’d still like to meet this person. Ask yourself if the lie was too egregious, if you think he’s lying about other things, if he had a good motive, etc. (For the record, I never recommend lying about one’s age.)
Now, if you do decide to go on the date, it’s up to you whether you want to address it or see if it comes out organically. If you think it’ll eat at you the entire time, preventing you from enjoying yourself, then bring it up. He’ll have no more right to be upset with you for bringing it up than you have to be upset with him for doing it in the first place. But ask with some tact. Rather than, “Why did you lie about your age?” which will put him on the defensive, instead perhaps say, “Since I had your info, when I looked you up, I noticed that your age differed a bit from what you posted online. It made me feel a bit uneasy, so I just wanted to address it.”
Are there any games worth playing? Is it important for a woman to play it cool, not be too available?
The long and short of it: No games! We’re all adults, and the mature ones will appreciate that you’re straightforward with your feelings.
Are the “rules” for sex any different for 60 year olds? Do you think baby boomers are having sex any earlier in a relationship?
Just as with a 20-something, 60-somethings all go at their own pace. Go at a pace that’s comfortable for you, and that will differ for every two people. But, it is extremely important to build a foundation with someone before you go too far in the bedroom because once you start having sex, it’s harder to go back to learn about this person’s ins and outs.
Should women lie about their age to compensate for the age bias that exists?
Nope. A lie about your age (even a small one) starts out a relationship on the wrong foot. And it makes your date think, “What else is she lying about?”
Thanks to Erika for providing this guidance! Until next week, happy dating or not dating.
Whenever I tell someone I write a blog about dating and relationships, the conversation often turns to this topic. I recently had an opportunity to chat with “Henry,” about his dating experiences as a 31-year-old living in Washington, D.C. What I always find interesting is that men and women of all ages are experiencing many of the same ups and downs as they live the dating life.
Let’s kick back and hear from Henry while enjoying white bean dip with raw veggies. Since it’s a holiday weekend, we’ll splurge with a skinny version of a margarita called La Paloma
I understand you cancelled all of your online dating subscriptions. How long did you try online dating and why did you cancel? What was your biggest frustration with this method?
I tried it off and on for about 4 years with some success. And I cancelled it, because I don’t want to think about dating as often as I can gain access to a website or app. Which could literally be all the time these days. Online dating didn’t frustrate me specifically. Dating frustrates me. And I realized I often don’t get fulfillment from this activity, so why should I focus my limited time and attention on it?
Really, cancelling my dating accounts was all about trying to achieve balance as a person and trying to be happy with just doing my own thing as opposed to trolling for dates 24/7. I still occasionally ask a woman out and the win-loss ratios aren’t any different if you subtract online dating from the equation. The positive in this is that I end up enjoying my own company more and delving into things that interest me. If I eventually connect with someone special, that’s great. If not, I’ve been living a pretty good life regardless.
Did you have a favorite dating site?
I tried at least 5 or 6 sites in some form or another. The ones that worked the best had the most people on them. OkCupid was a favorite.
Would you like to share some examples of rude dating behavior that you have experienced?
Well, being stood up is no fun. I wouldn’t say that it’s common, but it has happened to me several times at this point. Does it hurt my feelings? Sure. But the real insult is less about being rejected and more about someone wasting your time as you stand some place waiting for a person who will never arrive!
Do you see any changes in the dating experience over the last 10 years (advent of technology, changes in social mores, etc.)?
I wasn’t really dating 10 years ago, because I was moving around too much for work. That said, my idea of what dating was basically came from 90s sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld. But dating isn’t that anymore, even if there are similarities. The internet, social media, and smartphones have changed (and are changing) our society in general, including dating. For the better? I can’t say for sure. Better than what?
Have you ever broken up with someone by text or email or have you been on the receiving end of this behavior?
I have broken up with someone by email once, but it was an international situation and before Skype existed. I’d apologize now, but we’ve talked numerous times since then and it’s fine. Also, she’s married and doesn’t give a shit about that. Then four years ago on a holiday, I got broken up with by text. Not fun.
What are some “in the wild” ways you have met women? Any ways you plan on trying?
Those files are classified, top secret, for her eyes only… So, like for me, if I go out with an agenda and I don’t achieve my goal, I feel disappointed. Solution – I just enjoy what I’m doing and go through my regular routine. Home. Work. Gym. Perhaps a party or a bar. I might meet someone at any of those places, but I don’t focus on it.
Is it hard to approach women? How can a woman make it easier for a man to approach her?
Yes, because women don’t often look like they want to be approached. It’s not just my imagination either. Digging deeper into this, a few female co-workers have told me about how they are approached daily by strangers and it stresses them out. One woman told me she gets asked out every time she leaves the house. So, I don’t know. Generally, when women are into me it is blatantly obvious.
What is your favorite first date venue/activity?
Hmmm… depends on the woman. Gotta adapt. If it leads to making out though, then that’s great for me.
I have gotten a number of emails from younger men on dating sites and I am always suspicious of their intent but a recent exchange with a younger man prompted me to consider that not all of them are out for money or sex. Have you ever dated an older or younger woman? Do you think a significant age difference in a relationship is a good or bad idea?
I don’t know. We’re talking in generalities here. Unfortunately, maturity levels don’t automatically increase with age for some people. I’ve dated older women and younger women. I would say I’m capable of forgetting about the age difference one-on-one. But on several occasions, the women seem like they can get hung up on it like they suddenly just discovered I was five years younger or five years older than them. I’m not sure the reason why. So, being on the same maturity level or the same wavelength in life is probably a better indicator than age by itself. That said, I can see why 20 year olds and 90 year olds don’t often get together, because what would they have in common?
Do you think women have it easier than men in the dating world?
No. Not at all. They have it worse. Because initially they don’t know if a guy is the greatest man in the world or an axe-murderer. Also, they have to deal with online harassment from people they don’t respond to or crazy people or unrequested photographs of dicks. Or all of the above.
Have you figured out exactly what you are looking for in a woman?
I’m of the opinion that being overly specific is counterproductive. Then, you can’t see the forest through the trees. But to show you that I have given it some thought, I believe positive character traits and good communication are necessary foundational things. I can just write out a laundry list of physical and sexual stuff, but that’s more of a wish list than a set of requirements.
In your experience, are men from Venus and women from Mars?
They are very different. But is it nature or is it nurture? I don’t know. Obviously, I like women a lot. I will say that I’ve had several female friends who dated women for a while and they seem to come out of that experience with strong feelings about the pros and cons regarding men. Meaning, they come out of it appreciating guys more.
What do you wish women would tell you?
What they want. But in my experience, a lot of them don’t know what they want or they feel conflicted about things that I can only guess at. I prefer direct communication across the board, if I’m being honest here.
What makes a good girlfriend?
It’s like that old quote about pornography. I know it when I see it.
How would you define a good relationship? What are some good tests of a relationship?
Well, I can definitely say what makes a bad relationship. So, that’s my measuring stick for relationship tests. How does a person handle anger, disappointment, or differing opinions? Are they patient and committed? Do they follow through on things they say? How do they treat people that there’s no advantage in treating well? How do they react when life is less than perfect? I guess I see a good relationship as good communication, so any couple that doesn’t have that – I don’t know what they have and that’s their problem.
Do you like to chase a woman or have her chase you?
I don’t think this question describes the dating world anymore. If a woman is interested in me, she texts me or she texts me back. If she isn’t interested, she falls off the face of the Earth and is unresponsive. I wouldn’t call that a chase either way. I don’t know what the hell to call it to be honest. They have to invent a verb for that.
First date sex: good or bad idea?
I mean, we’re all adults here. If it feels right, it feels right. I prefer to wait a while, but that’s under the narrowest Bill Clinton definitions of sex. Then again, first date oral sex? Fingering? Imaginative activity of choice? Carpe diem. Definitely making out. Nothing is obligatory though.
Love at first sight – possible?
Maybe. I don’t know. Could just be something made up in movies though! I’m not against it by any means.
Is DC a good or bad dating city? Can you contrast with any other places you have lived?
From my observations and from what I’ve overheard, dating is just universally frustrating everywhere. I don’t know anyone off the top of my head who just looooves to date.
I’ve lived in smaller towns and cities where there are too few people for a good dating pool, so things are too small and become complicated pretty fast. I thought being in DC would change my view of dating, because there are more people. But everyone I talk to here is dissatisfied. And a few people I know who’ve dated in New York and Chicago say it’s awful. And that’s even more people to choose from (i.e. sift through).
Do you see a range of dating experiences among your friends?
Yeah. Some people can’t be alone. Some don’t seem to date at all. Some married early. Some are just now getting married. Some are divorced. There’s a variety, I would say.
What do you want a potential partner to know about you?
Personal history, true feelings. Not that I would tell them every mundane thing, but being secretive doesn’t seem healthy either. Then if there’s something they really want to know, I guess I might be open to special requests. That’s a joke, I’m open to their requests.
Do you want to get married? What scares you the most about marriage?
Maybe? Parts of it seem like they would be fun. What scares me is that I don’t want to get divorced and it’s hard to imagine marriage being a good idea realistically
Thanks to Henry for sharing his perspective. Until next week, happy dating or not dating.
I’m an experiential learner. This is not something I always knew. I came to this “epiphany” as I realized that I could take in tons of advice but couldn’t really learn from and act on it until I had experienced a particular life lesson on my own. So, lessons about relationships and love had to be – and still are – painfully (sometimes) learned.
The topic today is going slow in a new or potentially new relationship – from the perspective of an experiential learner. Slow refers to sex, personal disclosure, and involvement. Let’s have some spring vegetable stew while we’re chatting.
After a long marriage and divorce process (see About) and a good period of healing and recovery, I yearned to be in a relationship again. I also knew that I wasn’t ready to meet my soul mate because I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.
When you go into a marriage with relatively little dating experience, post-marriage dating is truly a whole new universe. Even if you married late and dated a lot before marriage, dating norms have changed. So we’re all starting over but the woman who was almost a child bride (not quite but now you can have maximum sympathy for me), has more to learn about what she wants and doesn’t want.
If I look back on my first relationship (not first date) after divorcing, I know that I was somewhat blinded by pheromones. Mr.A, a relatively recent widower, was also a newbie and excited to connect with someone. We leapt into sex rather soon after meeting, comforted by the fact that we were both post-long term relationship virgins. Ultimately we weren’t suited for each other. In hindsight, we didn’t have enough in common and were not even sexually compatible. And it was very clear that it was too soon after his wife’s death for him to be in a relationship.
But I started to learn a little about what I was looking for and truly enjoyed that excitement that came from flirting with a new man.
So, this wasn’t a slow cooker encounter… but I don’t regret it.
As I continued to date, I found that I wasn’t always discerning enough and leapt into some relationships (stir fry mode) without really evaluating whether they had the potential to go the distance. It was part of my Auntie Mame “just live” philosophy of life. I wanted to make up for lost time. After all, I had already begun the 6th decade of life. If not now, when??
So you see my reasoning. I wanted to experience men, love, sex – everything (within reason). There was no risk of pregnancy and, being careful, no risk of STDs. Unlike some younger (and older) women, I wasn’t after and didn’t have any first date sexual encounters — but neither did things progress at a slow cooker pace.
Recently, I dated a new man, Mr. Z (see The 36 Questions), and realized that we should not in fact have sex or continue our relationship (even though we had already gone on a number of long dates). Our lifestyles were just too different and I could not imagine a life with him. Fortunately, the feeling must have been mutual because things just seemed to slow down and stop.
I saw the value of a slow-cooker relationship with Mr. Z. It would have been emotionally entangling to go full speed ahead with him only to break up relatively quickly. Break-ups take a toll and it’s not always easy to “roll with it” when you are disappointed once again.
By going slow, you allow more opportunity to disclose vulnerabilities and to probe more deeply into what makes the other person tick – developing emotional intimacy as a precursor to physical intimacy. It may not be as easy to nurture that sharing once you have sex. For one thing, there’s more to lose.
So, you see I am learning. Going forward, I plan to make a list of essential attributes in my ideal man and relationship. I can use this list to help me decide whether I want to start or continue dating someone. I could not have created this list 3 years ago.
Age differences and the marital history of the men interviewed played into their viewpoints. Three men were quoted in the article by author Steve Friedman, including Alec, a 50-year-old never-married man. When asked about sleeping with a woman on the first or second date, his comment supported the slow cooker philosophy:
“In my mind, it doesn’t make a difference—as long as the woman understands that just because she slept with me, it doesn’t mean the rest of the relationship is also moving quickly. But I will say, it does sort of put pressure on the situation when you sleep together so quickly. It makes the getting-to-know-you part tougher.”
The same article quotes a 40-year-old divorced man who believes the timing of the first occurrence of sex with a woman does not indicate anything in particular for the relationship’s future. A 35-year-old never married man thinks men and women are wired differently. It’s o.k. for a man to sleep with others more quickly, he says, but for a woman it “would not bode well for the future.” I see a double standard in play for some men that regardless of how you view it, may be hard for women to escape from.
I’d love to know what you, dear readers, think of all this. Send me your comments and thoughts about slow cooking a relationship versus quickly stir frying it. In the meantime, happy dating.