The other night, toward the end of a lovely dinner party at our dear friend’s house, Sig Other turned to me and said, “Come on, woman, let’s go home. It’s sexy time. “ Awkward giggles led to howling laughter which led to frank confession about how we, the middle-aged, the married and mature communicate about sex – how we give our sexual cues.
When we were younger, sexual cues were easy to read. They were the cues of early adulthood – sexy lingerie, a lit candle, a suggestive rub or a simple “I really want to fuck you” would do the trick. But as we’ve grown older, the cues that once seemed sexy, now just seem silly. Sig Other has little interest in lingerie (and by “little” what I really mean is “none”), a lit candle just means we’re having company and a rub is reserved for aching muscles and headaches. So we had to come up with new cues. For a time, this led to a lull in our sex life. Sig Other chalked it up to a radical change in my middle-aged libido. I worried that I was depressed or hormonally imbalanced. So we went to go see a couple’s therapist. The therapist was smart and direct and came highly recommended. She was also sexy. Which was a little weird since we’d gone to her to talk about our sex life. She had a propensity to wear shortish red dresses without underwear. So let’s call her The Flasher. It was sort of like going to Sharon Stone for relationship advice. Except for one thing – Flasher was spot on.
The Flasher nailed us (you’ll pardon the pun) after one session. She was impressed with how quickly we got to the point. We’re not people who have time to waste. And our waning sex life had nothing to do with what she expected – we were not withholding sex because of repressed anger or lingering resentments. We simply had a miscommunication about sexual cues. After listening to both of us describe our sex lives past and present, she looked at me and said, “oh, you’re used to having porn sex and you,” she said looking at Sig Other, “don’t relate to porn sex.” Porn sex. In one session, in one sentence, she’d summed up the problem. My orientation to sex was largely about objectification, adoration and control. In my Germanic household, we never talked about sex. I was a Jewish immaculate conception. So I learned about sex the way every normal suburban teenage product of the 70s did – from reading Judy Blume books and watching 9 ½ Weeks over and over again. To that end, it made sense to me that a sexy little bustier would be the smoke signal advertising that I was open for business. But to Sig Other, the bustier was just a piece of clothing standing between him and his object of desire. He wanted to be close – intimacy is what was sexy to him. So the bustier wasn’t sexy at all. It was just silly. And when he found it silly I felt rejected. And so it became a bad cycle. I tried out my porn cues. He either didn’t read them or found them silly. I felt rejected. Bad cycle. But the truth is, as long as he feels close, as long as he feels loved and loves, Sig Other desires me. All the time. Middle-aged exhaustion and busy schedules notwithstanding, Sig Other is perfectly happy to have sex at a moment’s notice without much preamble. In fact, it turns out, his preamble goes like this: “Its sexy time.”
The first time Sig Other said, “Its sexy time” I thought he was kidding. “That’s it?” I asked, “That’s how you’re going to come on to me?” “Yep,” he said with a smile, “Its sexy time.” And oddly enough, it was. It turns out that was enough. Sig Other declaring an intention and following through was about all the foreplay either of us required. And so it was that our sex life was reborn. It probably isn’t a sex life worthy of a Pam & Tommy-style video release. It’s a grown up sex life. Its intimate. And fun. And sometimes exciting. It’s sometimes brief and sometimes leisurely and passionate. It’s sometimes surprising. And always satisfying. Because it exists. And its clear. It’s funny how something so unsexy has become sexy in its own way. “Sexy Time” is silly, it’s anti-porn, and it goes against everything we learn in the movies, in romance novels, on TV. But it works. And it turns out, a lot of middle-aged couples have their own version of “sexy time.”
So now we go back to the dinner table the other night. After the giggles died down, disbelief turned to confession. Because all of us at the table were well into our 40s, some couples married 15 years, some longer, the stigma around sex has worn down a bit. Its still there and the topic of frequency remains taboo or at least reserved for quiet conversation among the closest of friends. But frequency notwithstanding, there is still the issue of language – the language we use to communicate desire to our partners, the language we use to say Its Sexy Time. One husband of a long-married couple admitted to the phrase, “Come on, baby, do you want me to give it to you?” There were variations on this, including a simple “let’s do it.” But my favorite of the night was “Honey, should I move the pug?”, the pug being the snoring family dog who hunkers down nightly between husband and wife and needs to be removed from the bed to make room for a conjugal visit. This last broke us all up and led to Sig Other standing, grabbing my hand and saying in his best John Wayne, “Come on, girly. Let’s go home and move us a pug.”