Boomer Sex: Getting Naked Again

A favourite line from a girlfriend who went for decades – by choice – without engaging in relations went something like: “They sealed me shut with Polyfilla sometime around the turn of the century.”

Let’s just go straight to where the rubber hits the pay dirt. After a dry spell, we start to throw up both emotional and physical roadblocks to intimacy. Getting jiggy with someone new is never easy, even for 22-year-old Victoria’s Secret models (and yes, I have actually posed that question of a real live goddess of underwear, thanks for asking). We all harbour fears of how we will be received. Are we too lumpy and banged up? The best pep talk I can offer is a YouTube-sized fix of a starkers Diane Keaton dropping Jack Nicholson’s jaw in Something’s Gotta Give (literally Google pages-worth of fans have posted that golden snippet): naked at 57 at the time, she shows wit and confidence and she banishes the clichés and that is what is sexy. Because, hey, rippled abs won’t warm the cockles of your brain: we all know that that is where sex really takes place, squarely between your ears.

There is no excuse in the ‘modern world for being lonely; we can all dial up eager coffee companionship at the flick of a mouse. But taking off your clothes after a serious long-term partnership that ends in the tears of death or divorce (or even just grinds to a rusty halt in a cloud of Polyfilla dust) is daunting. Has the world changed? Look at the cornucopia of Internet porn that has warped our furtive communal subconscious: I mean, do folks really bend like that, and does that chick with the broad smile really desire that he put that thing there? And if politicians and teachers and truck drivers are all sexting bits of themselves out for approbation and enticement, then where does the second-time novice even begin?

I asked a very thoughtful human about this. Alastair did not become a middle-aged expert in dating by choice. Now 55, he has been a widower for half a dozen years. He and his late wife were college sweethearts and parents who had all gone through many excruciating years fighting her losing battle to cancer together.

“Look,” he says. “When you are finally ready to be with another person, you are not thinking about anything but how happy you are to be
in there!”

And because he is so moving and inspires such darned hope in me, let’s let him go on: “For me, the most poignant moments are, say, returning home after the first date and having doubts about whether any sort of betrayal has gone on and most poignantly taking your ring off, which was by far the most emotional act for me mostly because it is both symbolic and incredibly final. My marriage didn’t really end until the day I took my wedding ring off. Even for divorced types that must be incredibly powerful – especially for the one who may not be choosing to end the marriage. Sleeping alone after sleeping with someone for so long was much more powerful emotionally for me than sleeping with someone for the first time.”

And then: “Certainly in my case, it was two and a half years before I even looked at a woman. By the time you get to sleeping with another woman, it is new, exciting and full of life.”

The flip side of betrayal fear is emotional damage: we all carry junk in our psychic trunks, the residue of (real or perceived) criticism from previous lovers. I have alternately gone from feeling booby to flat and back to booby, tall to tiny to slender, and that is a sufficient number of lovers to enumerate here to elucidate the number of eyes I have reflected myself in.

The fact is being newly single is a fantastic opportunity to drop all your bags at the door and reinvent yourself. Alastair continues on this theme: “Middle-aged and plus people are more mindful, conscious and aware with a better idea of what they can offer someone and what they
want. They are often more confident and paradoxically more risk-taking. I think the physical intimacy can be more profound at middle age because of the maturity the two partners bring to things. Plus there are none of the deep ruts that can get built up over the course of a long relationship
where people are afraid or unable to change their behaviour or the nature of their relationship simply because it has been going on for so long in a certain way.”

Tabula rasa is a great concept but especially important when it comes to one’s Sealy Posturpedic: you need unfettered room to stretch out, honey. Keep the population in the bed down to two consenting adults – unless you have a thing for three, but that is for another column.


Leanne Delap is a freelance journalist who writes about fashion and lifestyle.