I was a ‘late bloomer’ when it came to the erotic side of life. I’m not alone either — there is a whole subgenre of erotic romance about women like me. But try to find out why we are as we are, and you’ll hit a brick wall.
Very little research has been done about us, which is surprising when you consider the potential market for late life aphrodisiacs. We should be sought after by every endocrinologist who wants to find the magical elixir. But so far, nothing.
There I was, arriving at the party when everybody else was packing up to leave. My marriage was over, I was 57, and there was this new thing called online dating. What liberation, compared with my mother’s generation of divorced ladies.
Some people say that dating online after 50 is like looking through a yard sale for the one dusty object you wouldn’t mind taking home. Others claim you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. No matter the metaphor, online dating takes persistence and a sense of humour.
First there was the shock of sitting across a café table from some guy with white hair. What had happened to the boys of my youth? That was easy: while I wasn’t looking, they had turned into guys with white hair.
Then there was the fellow who looked like a professor, patches at the elbows of his tweed jacket, who finished his dinner and said, “While I can’t pay for my meal, if you pay for us both, I will gladly gift you with a copy of my novel.”
Then there was the gent who insisted he was monogamous. It turned out he said that to all the ladies — even the ones in open marriages, who could not have cared less.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. I discovered so much about the passionate side of life that I had suspected existed, but never really known for sure. I had my heart broken, but I also learned a lot.
I learned that erotic bliss has no time limit. Society tries to sexualise girls way too young and then tries to unsex women before we are ready. But the reality is, passion abides.
I learned that, if you want to stay erotic, there are physical changes to manage. The main one is called GSM, or genitourinary syndrome of menopause. This involves thinning of the membranes in the vulva, with symptoms like dryness, frequent urination and discomfort during intercourse. This condition is common among women after menopause and affects more than half of women over 60. You would expect to hear about GSM, like the changes at puberty we talked about so much when we were young, but it’s is seldom discussed. Perhaps this is one reason pharmaceutical companies are able to overprice the treatment: a topical oestrogen cream that costs about the same to manufacture as toothpaste, but can retail at hundreds of dollars a tube.
I learned a lot about my own body, what brings me bliss and how that changes over time. What I enjoy in my late-60s is different than in my 50s, but the feelings are just as strong.
I learned what it’s like to be an adventurer at 60, and then over the last four years, I’ve learned what it is like to have a loving sexy life companion. Is it late to be learning that? Who cares? Plenty of people never get to have what I have now. I am also learning that most important life lesson, gratitude.
Two days before my 66th birthday, my new book was published. Aphrodite’s Pen: The Power of Writing Erotica after Midlife was a labor of love (with a touch of lust). It’s the result of several years spent writing erotica with other older women, sharing our work in writing groups, reading to audiences, and learning from each other. It is a toolkit for women past midlife to explore writing erotica. We often hear that older women are invisible in our culture and what better way to make us visible than to capture our erotic lives in story? Plus writing erotica is terrific fun.
If you are a woman in your 50s, 60s or beyond, I wish you bravery: that you will find your bliss, and when you feel creative, write about what you’ve found.