“No. Nope. No. Sigh. Nu-ugh.” I swiped left, left, left, left, and left again, and then tossed my phone in frustration and watched it bounce on the comforter. Why this is a nightly ritual, I couldn’t say, but it’s my habit before bed, nonetheless. Dinner, shower, pjs, snuggle into bed, and then to the dating apps we go! Every night, without fail, when I’m not in a relationship.
It’s not always the same app. No, in fact, I have all the apps. If there exists an app available for dating, meeting or hookups, it lives in my phone.
Reentering the world of dating after 40 sucks donkey balls. This is an established fact, and I do not feel the need to elaborate. Zero stars. Do not recommend. But even more than the absolute dumpster fire of trying to date, what happens to sex during perimenopause (and beyond) is the kicker.
I’m not exactly looking for love in all the wrong places, but at this stage in my life, I do enjoy getting laid without feeling the need to pick out china and curtains with everyone I’m trying to date. I keep a carry-on (the “ho bag” if you ask my group chat) in my trunk with clean clothes, wipes, basic cosmetics and some other essentials. But let’s be frank. Much love to Beyonce but there’s no hot sauce in my bag.
Nestled in there with my favorite on-thego toys is a bottle of lube. It’s not there for shits and giggles. It’s a very necessary component for a spennanight after 40. Because along with the hot flashes and night sweats and mood swings that are already so very attractive, we also have to now deal with thinning vaginal tissue that may or may not lubricate itself the way it used to — and nothing crashes a party faster than painful sex and your partner thinking you’re not wet for them because things aren’t playing out in a satisfactory manner.
And that’s assuming you aren’t experiencing the common age- and hormone-related problems with your libido. One thing my particular age group of friends has in common is that none of us are in the same place with regard to how often we actually want to have sex. I have a friend who needs to be drinking first, and another one who prefers to get high to get in the right headspace. (She keeps gummies in her go bag.) One that doesn’t want it at all. Ever. One that stays horny constantly.
And then there’s me. Sometimes I might go 2-3 months and not want any at all. And then one day after a dry spell, I’ll randomly think “OH, you know what, an orgasm sounds fantastic, let’s go bang one out right quick” and remember that sometimes I like sex!
And then I can think of nothing but sex every day for weeks, or even months, until another dragging dry spell takes over when I’d rather watch paint dry than contemplate a sex night. I guess I’m lucky that I don’t have a long-term partner at the moment to have to concern myself with when I’m not in the mood. No reason to have the “it’s not you, it’s me” conversations or try to pencil in a sex appointment to keep the home fires burning. If I don’t want it, I just don’t go get it. No apologies, no excuses, no couples therapy. Just me and Netflix and mindless app swiping with an eye toward the future for when kitty might want to play later.
I would say though, in all honesty, that even factoring in the dry spells, my sex life, anemic though it may be sometimes, is still better on the other side of 40 than it was previously. It just takes some getting used to the ebb and flow. There’s a freedom in knowing what you want, what you like, what you enjoy, and having the balls to ask for it. The experiences are better and so are the orgasms. Or… they can be, once you work out for yourself what needs to happen to get you to your happy place and then taking the necessary steps to get yourself there.
For me, as with most women whose sex lives weren’t the greatest in our younger days, that started with masturbation. How can you direct your partner to do that thing you like when you don’t know for yourself what that thing even is? Is it to the left or more to the right? Should it be a little softer or is the finish line closer a little bit harder?
Was Monica right or do you go over the edge on a five instead of seven? You need to know what turns you on. So go have a little talk with the man in the rowboat and find out which way the waves need to roll.
Another helpful tip: If you’ve been vanilla all your life, your 40s are a wonderful time to learn that there are other flavors available and that your partner is probably all the way up to try something new with you at your request. Personally, I’ve always been very particular about my partners not touching my hair during sex — until one night, someone curled her fingers into the nape of my neck and pulled my hair the right way. Yes, there’s a right way. There’s a VERY right way. It took the moment from “Ow ouch!” to “Oh omg” in an instant. Because of the change in hormones, the change in muscle tone, the change in the tissue, the change in your thought processes, some things just feel different now than they used to twenty years ago. You owe it to yourself to get out of your rut and find out. There are a million tiny things you probably didn’t like (or didn’t think you’d like) from your 20s that might hit a little differently on the other side of perimenopause. Try some. Hell, try ‘em all.
And I cannot stress this enough: lube. Regardless of the gender of your partner, lube lube lube. Make it part of date night. Try different ones. Try different flavors. Try different formulas. Find the one you like. Order that shit in bulk. Put it on subscription delivery. I don’t care, just don’t forget that it’s there when you need it. Because you’ll need it.
Hailing from the backwoods of north Mississippi, MyLove Barnett spent a decade tripping up the corporate ladder as an accountant before trading in her stilettos and pencil skirts for jeans and flip flops and the privilege of working for various platforms as a writer and content manager. She lives, writes and raises hell on the outskirts of Tupelo with her kids, Dobermans and naked cat.