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This body that was given to you, started out full of promise. It held secrets to be uncovered slowly, when the timing was right - those budding breasts, your first period. That first clang and clamor of sexual desire set off sparks from somewhere inside your brain, turning your entire body, not just the space between your legs into a vibrating instrument of joy.

Maybe you held that feeling capture for a long time until you found someone to share it with. You allowed yourself the pleasure of your own hand helping it to escape.

That feeling became an entity on its own, but it was also heightening by love. It was made vibrant and pure by your wedding vows. Then that love gradually diminished, or it was blotted out in the same way you stop a fire. 

Your body laid claim to these feelings and it took them and buried them under hurt, disappointment or depression. You live some more and you bounce back. The clock ticks on. Yes, your body holds more surprises. Your breasts become less perky and so does your smile. Your ovaries retire, your uterus closes shop and your vagina gets a little pissed off. That feeling spreads to your urethra, which decides to piss you off by dribbling when you cough or laugh too hard. So you stop laughing. Some things hurt and others just get tired. Your body is on fire, but it’s isn’t with longing. The desire to rip off your clothes comes from the hot flashes that turn your body into a little oven.

Maybe you embraced the changes of menopause. You felt calmer and more in control, and you didn’t miss that whirlwind of sexual desire, or the ups and downs of your monthly cycle. 

When you are in your twenties, thirties or even forties, you can’t imagine that one day you will look in the mirror and a 60-year-old woman will be looking back. Of course it happens gradually, but all of a sudden you will notice changes - a wrinkle where there had previously been smooth skin. Gravity will not be denied and unless you plan to spend the rest of your life on your head, that’s that.

Inside you still feel young, you have the same desire, but you really want a less challenging kind of love. 

Does a man’s touch still make you feel weak in the knees? That’s good isn’t it? Or has that feeling been masked by other factors?  It’s still there and you can get it back.

Some of the effects of aging are unstoppable, and we can’t reverse them no matter how hard we try. All the Botox, hair dye and anti-aging creams in the world can’t stop time from taking its toll on the inside. There are drugs or chemicals, such as estrogen, but not all of us can or want to take it.

My body betrays me. Some changes I don’t mind. I like my gray hair. I don’t mind the wrinkles or the fact I have to wear a bra when I didn’t wear one for many years. What I do mind is when something hinders one of my physical pleasures. As you age you don’t have the same sense of smell or taste. Your eyes don’t see the same crisp detail.

I’ve always had a very high sex drive and when something causes it to be stifled, I work hard to get it back. Because I am very open about sex, I’ve learned that some people feel it’s unseemly for a 60-year-old women to have such strong desires. It’s as if that part of life is only for the young and the beautiful. Those are the people we want to see making love on the screen and us horny old dames are pushed off in the corner. I’m not just talking about regular people; my female doctors seem to hold the same point of view.

My former physician put me on antidepressants for fibromyalgia. The drug she gave me destroys your sex drive. When I complained, she said, “What do you need a sex drive for at your age? You don’t have a husband.”

I told her that I wasn’t dead yet and I didn’t want to feel as if I was. What if I met a man?  Besides, I missed that part of me, even if it’s only for my pleasure.

My other female doctor is a urogynecological surgeon. She performed an operation on me because I had pelvic floor prolapse. Not a sexy thing to have, trust me, but a lot of women suffer from this condition brought on by the strain of childbirth. Menopause makes it worse. 

Imagine meeting a new man and before you even think about having sex you have to tell him, well, just a warning, but that transvaginal mesh they put in me might poke into your penis if you go at it too hard. (It happens! That’s one reason that there are class action lawsuits against the mesh manufacturers.) That’s some great foreplay talk, I’ll tell you. But we do what we have to. Without the operation, it would be more than my breasts that were sagging. Yes, there are so many lovely surprises hidden in our bodies.

I’m not sure how old my surgeon is, but she is probably in her forties. When I first went to see her about the operation she told me that if I was in my eighties, or just decided I never wanted to have sex again, she would do a vaginal obliteration. In other words, just sew the damn thing shut so nothing can fall out, and nothing can get in. I wonder how many women opt for that surgery? 

Whenever I ask her about sex, she seems uncomfortable. The last time I went to see her, I asked if my vagina was all dried and shrivelled up like a raisin or if it was still a viable passageway for the penis. Her answer was that my vagina looked atrophied. Not the answer I was looking for. That sounds like a medical term for raisin-like. At least this can be fixed. She gave me some estrogen cream to make it better, but she said it takes three months to work. If something happens and I meet a man in the next few months, I’ll just have to bide my time until my vagina no longer feels like sandpaper.

Women who get divorced during or after menopause often have to struggle with reduced sex drive. Maybe my doctors are right. Maybe we should just let our sex drive shrivel up like my vagina, or obliterate it completely, but we would be losing a wonderful part of ourselves. Sometimes, women are too accepting of the things life throws at us. We don’t fight hard enough. Oh, well, I don’t feel like having sex anymore, I’ll just take up knitting.

Men value their sexual urges, it is uber important to them. When the time comes that they can’t have an erection, or they don’t feel the same urge, they do something about it. They take pills for erectile dysfunction. They take matters into their own hands. We’ve all met men who we thought were over the hill and they were still coming on to us. We may call that 80-year-old who still has urges a “dirty old man”, but he still values his pleasure. 

The French call orgasm “la petit mort” or the little death. Menopause doesn’t have to mean the death of desire. You know that old cliché - if you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s true. We let life get in the way, we let time drag us down and we let our bodies dictate our sexual pleasure, but sex originates in a part of the body that can’t be seen through a speculum or on an x-ray. It’s in our mind and in our soul and we can keep it strong and vibrant if we really want to. 

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  • Comment Link bepositive Thursday, 30 April 2015 17:17 posted by bepositive

    I'm in the process of divorce. I went to visit a new gynecologist who is close to my age. When she mentioned some methods to help my somewhat atrophied vagina, I told her I didn't need them since my husband has someone new. She had the nerve to laugh at me and tell me that part of my life wasn't over and to get back in there when I had a new man and was ready. My family doctor told me the same thing. I really recommend going to a female physician near your age!

  • Comment Link Rose Friday, 06 September 2013 16:32 posted by Rose

    Hi First Wive's World

    Thank you for this amazing article. And I'm sorry that awful doctor said that to you. Don't just shrivel up! Live. You've inspired me this morning. We need to reclaim our sexuality. Menopause is not "the little death" of passion! I so needed to read this- thank you.