When I was younger there were few things more annoying to me than being told something I was suffering with was "all in my head". Whether I was in pain or beleaguered with self-doubt, my problems were very real to me, and being told they were imaginary or within my control was maddening. As I age, however, I realize how much of my own experience really is within my control, and a lot of it has to do with the dissipation of that very self-doubt I was once afflicted with. Given the age-related changes to my body I'm now experiencing and that my younger self dreaded, I'm surprised to say this positive self-determination extends to sex.
Studies have shown* that middle-age women often enjoy sex more than they did when they were younger. In my own experience - and that of my friends - I see two big reasons for this:
- We are better at communicating with our partners.
While there's a lot of excitement, drama and big feelings involved in young love, all those fumbling first encounters of dating in my 20s were truly the worst. Once I finally settled down with the partner I'd eventually marry, we were still in sexy-dating mode for a while, where we didn't come out and talk about what we wanted in bed - we just sort of expected it to happen, like in the movies. It took us a few years to get comfortable enough with one another to talk about our bodies and show each other what works and doesn't for each of us. Now we've got each other's bodies down, but it was a process getting here. I wouldn't go back to 20s sex for anything.
- We can't stop time, so have decided to stop worrying about it.
When I was younger and had glowing skin and nary a gray hair, all I wanted was to be better at everything, but especially better looking. I was constantly comparing myself to other women and critiquing my reflection. Largely thanks to this self-scorn, I was also having terrible sex. When I look at pictures of myself at that age I can't figure out what I was so self-conscious about - I was beautiful! If my then-self could look at pictures of me now, I don't even want to know what she'd think, but I am so much more comfortable with my physicality than I was back then. When I was 25 my appearance felt within my control - I could eat less, exercise more, get a better haircut, buy new clothes, put on makeup. Now those things might still be in my control, but wrinkles and menopause symptoms are not, so I kind of don't worry about any of it, and neither does my husband. I feel sexy and confident and he also makes me feel that way, and we're having much better sex for it.
So, sorry younger self - a lot of that stuff is in your head. The good news is that middle age is not a thing to dread but to look forward to in a lot of ways. Also, you're going to regret that tattoo one day, but at least it'll scare your kids into never getting one.
* Link: link: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/sex-lives-women-middle-aged-can-be-improved-with-age-study-a7334596.html