Do people have sex at 60? I certainly hope so. Sixty is coming and it has me thinking. I don’t “hurt in the places I used to play,” as Leonard Cohen sang, not yet anyway, but I can relate.
I can see sex at 60 much like it is today — fun and intimate. It works. We hope it keeps working, though I imagine at 60 — the new 40, my ass — one might consider worrying about it. As the big hand ticks toward that milestone, you worry about lots of things, like will you get to 61. But the compulsion, the fascination, the gratification, the desire to touch and be touched remains a constant companion. So far.
Sex at 60? Appetite might be dwindling. Has it really been five days since?
I guess it has. Been busy. Tired. Need to make time. Did we have to make time 20 years ago? Thirty years ago? It seems there was barely time for anything else. But that might well be the telescope of time, making everything back then boil with more turbulence.
On TV and in the movies people at 60 don’t seem to do it anymore. If they do, it’s cute. On the screens, sex at 60 is more like an old cracked leather jacket kept in the back corner of a closet. Or propelled by pills that promise 36 hours of readiness. “C’mon dear, wake up. I got 22 hours left.” It would seem that popular culture, outside of pharmaceutical ads, of course, worships sex, but only until a certain age. Say 35. After that, “OMG, ick, please!”
A friend and I, partnered up, monogamous most of our lives, can’t help but admire, stealing glances at the wonders of young women. It’s been a lifelong hobby, we admit, though now we take it all in through the subtle distortion of bifocals. We work out, swim, bike, duel furiously with sag and swell — sag and swell is winning — but we also have time for the curves in spandex and Lycra and little shorts at the Y. It’s appreciation, we like to think — no lecherous leer for us. And yes, we know only too well that no one is looking back. And if a pretty woman crossing a street or passing by smiles at me, it makes my day. “Lift those shoulders, suck in the gut, keep your head up” — the aging ego doing what it can to merit even an innocent acknowledgment.
From what I can see, most men my age are still in the ring, punching their weight with their regular sparring partner, all the while still wondering about the mysteries of the other — a woman in the gym, a cashier at the pharmacy, a teller at the bank, a girl in the park. All mysterious, all desirable, all out of reach, a banquet, albeit only for the eyes. This appreciation of the flesh and the clothing it’s housed in, the colours, the fabrics, the cling, remain instants of unimpeachable “that’s what I’m living for.” Desire and women, in all their guises, all their ages, are life.
I’ve conferred with my male counterparts, and yes, even at this advanced age of degeneration, the lifelong curiosity over breasts remains feverish with no sign of abatement. Women bent over their bicycles, at the dinner table, sliding my beer across the bar, in bikinis at the pool, the pleasure a reaffirmation that we were manufactured this way, hardwired, as a friend says. We feel, therefore we are. Beauty, we reckon, is now life-affirming rather than motivating. Wistful as opposed to wishful. There will probably be no other partners, and if there should ever be it is doubtful it will be the 25-year-old on the treadmill at the gym. At 60, that seems OK. Almost.
Sex at 60 remains what it was at 18, without the blinding urgency. Today, it’s more “Now or later?” as opposed to yesterday’s “Now!” “Now!” “Now!” Sex at 60 doesn’t often wake you in the middle of the night, not the way it might’ve not too long ago. It lets you sleep, per chance to snore.
Sex at 60 is comfort. I’ve been here before. The bed, the sofa, are familiar terrain, pleasantly so, the experience no longer fraught with anxiety. I know my way around. I can laugh about it. I can talk about it. I can ask for things. I can take instruction.
The act can be ambitious and spontaneous and vigorous, just as it was any number of years ago, except today you might need to swallow Advil the next morning for the tender back or the calf that suddenly went into spasm and has you merrily limping. But it’s all good. As the late Robert B. Parker wrote, even bad sex is good.
And yes, the clarion call of my naked spouse, as familiar as all those curves might be, still entices, though the clamouring for attention by various aches, strains and sprains competes loudly with the inspired libido.
At 60, you don’t need the trappings of wine and candles, lobster and music, just time and energy, maybe a warm bath and a good mattress. It’s so much easier and less complicated. By now we’ve accepted ourselves as sexual beasts. And if we’re lucky, the person on the other side of the bed can be similarly atavistic.
We’ve accepted the pleasures as well as the imponderables, the exultation as well as the occasional disappointments. Tomorrow is another day. If you’re lucky.
And if you’re lucky, you appreciate the joy of sex without the attendant library of manuals and instruction books, and view the dancing couples in the erectile dysfunction ads as quaint new millennium marketing.
I’m not 60 yet, but if I’m lucky it will soon be here. It is not 40, new or otherwise. It is frankly 60. I have the summer to brace for it, and to stock up on Advil.
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