Keeping the Passion Alive: Sex, Aging and Menopause
Photo: Dean Mitchell/Getty Images
I encourage those of you who are still happily in the throes of their youth and think a dry vagina is a million years away to read this article anyway because, like it or not, we all end up there one day. I encourage you to continue reading because, trust me, I too was that girl who felt like “the change” that would take the pleasure and joy out of being ready to make love at the drop of a hat were way, way, way down the road.
And then it just happened.
Before I knew it, I was here. Here is on the other side. I have crossed that magical 12 months since the last time the painters were in. I’m a free bitch now, ladies. I never have to pack a tampon, pad, count the days or sleep with a towel under me ever again. It is glorious!
But in fairness and with full disclosure, I crossed over with an army of qualified doctors at the helm, which means I didn’t understand what all the Debbie Downer talk was about. What’s so bad about no longer having to deal with a period? I didn’t get it at all. Not getting a period!? What’s so bad about that?! These are the best days of my life! In fact, I’ve been known to say to any one of my three daughters when they share stories of brutal cramps or leaking, “Oh wow, really … ha ha, that doesn’t happen to me anymore!” followed by dancing in the kitchen.
My dancing in the kitchen. Alone. Because if you’re assuming that this is met with less than enthusiastic mutual celebration, you’d be 1,000 per cent correct. They don’t find it funny or supportive. But I do because, hey, I got my first cycle at 11, and being done with it all before I turn 50, suits me just fine. There is one caveat to it all for me – and that’s the sex bit. I wish I had the same hunger for sex that I had in my teens; hell, I’d settle for my early 40s at this point. But other than that, it all seemed easy enough to navigate.
And then it happened.
The what, I can say here in the company of friends, was my first psychotic break: me jumping out of a (albeit slow, very slow, like side street in the snow rate of speed) moving car while in a fight with my entire family. Then came the night sweats, the insomnia, the depression and then my sex drive vanished into thin air. I was starting to “get it.” I didn’t even like my husband anymore, never mind having sex with him. So, what did I do to get my sex mojo back?
I got more help. I read more books. I invested wholly in bio-identical hormone therapy to save my sanity and my sex life. If you find yourself in the same boat that I was in, then the articles I’m linking to this column should help you cross over to the other side. These are not “sex” specific articles since aging, hormone imbalances and reduced sex drive are all linked.
So, what to do, if like me or you’re on the other side of menopause and think about sex less than you think about puppies (or is that just me?).
Since I’m no doctor, I can only share with you what worked for me personally, and since we’re all different, I’m going to strongly encourage you to do some research of your own. I suggest you read and follow Dr. Jen Gunter because she is hilarious, bold and intelligent in all things related to your nether regions. Her blog is chockablock with helpful tips, wisdom, advice and laughs to help you reclaim your sexual appetite and energy. I like to read her on days when it all just seems too much.
If aging and menopause has got you feeling overwhelmed, angry or even at times—let’s be honest—murderous, how sexy or cool are you going to find your partner if secretly just the way he breathes makes you think about punching him? I read a lot of stuff on menopause because sometimes when I think murder wouldn’t be such a bad idea during a random inexplainable bout of rage, I have to be reassured that (1) this too shall pass because orange is the new black is not something I need to live out in the flesh; and (2) I am not alone, and that there is no shame in admitting and talking about the massive shifts happening to me, not just physically but mentally also.
If you think you’re alone with these feelings of anxiety, depression or rage, read this article. It talks about how during the big change, it can literally take a village and a multitude of activities to help you balance yourself from the inside out and find the desire for sex again.
After all, there are countless side effects to aging that cause us to lose confidence in our sexiness. I mean how sexy does one feel when your hair is thinning and your skin is losing elasticity to the point that your chin gets to your husband’s lips while you get on top before your mouth does? And then, if you’re unfortunate enough to have the vaginal dryness that can come with aging, tell me how quick are you going to disrobe to get intimate if you’re anxious about the Sahara desert that has taken up residency between your legs? The answer is you’re not going to be running to have sex any time soon, and that’s sad, and it’s too bad because like I’ve told my three girls their entire lives: when the shit hits the fan in life, if you’re with a partner you’re lucky enough to have hot sex with, that will always be the one constant that can make the world a better place at any given time.
So, what happens when that all goes away? When it’s lost to aging, because I mean it’s not brutal enough that we lose our hair, our breasts look down more than they do out anymore, but our sex drive too? Not okay, and it doesn’t have to go this way.
Back in the day, I owned the Toronto TaeBo Centre, and 90 per cent of my clients were women of all shapes, sizes and ages. Many were in the thick of perimenopause and menopause, and they discussed at length the dangers of HRT, also known as Hormone Replacement Therapy. It gives you cancer. No, it doesn’t. Yes, it does. No. Yes. On and on the debate raged until they finally pulled the practice of it all together. I didn’t give much thought to it back then. I was 34, and menopause (I didn’t even know there was such a thing as perimenopause until I entered it a decade later) seemed like something my mom was dealing with and a long, long way off for me.
By the time it came my way, bio-identical hormones had made a big splash on the medical stage, and I was the fortunate recipient of being the right age in the right country with a solid health insurance plan to cover the cost of treatment. And I can say for certain that the protocol saved my life, my sanity, my marriage and my sex life. (If you’re still on the fence about the safety of it all, find out more here.)
There is so much new information on menopause and maintaining a healthy sex life. If the things that used to get you in the mood for sex are no longer working, if your toy chest has gathered dust, like mine had, if your lacy lingerie has been replaced by sports bras and full briefs, I urge you to read more about it, to remind you that you’re not alone and there is so much available to you now to make the transition smoother.
And since none of us are created equal, I realize some of you may notice a spike in sex drive; lucky you. I had to fight to get mine back. Thank God I have a patient partner. Others will be dripping in sweat and walking around the house in a bikini due to hot flashes and body temperature fluctuations, whereas for me, so far, so good, the hot flashes have completely dissipated.
However your body does the menopause dance, the most important thing to remember is that the health of your sex life is fully in your hands, either through medical care, support groups, exercise, meditation or whatever supports you and makes you feel good and whole.
Personally for me, I have a new foreplay, surefire turn-on that can get me from 0-60 in no time flat, and that is when my husband says, “Let me do that for you.”
So, take it from a girl who’s in the thick of all of it right now, sex doesn’t have to suck as we age. In fact, sex should become more frequent, more spontaneous and much more free because, hey, there’s no risk of pregnancy!
So, ladies, pop the champagne.