I remember as a kid telling my mum I’d never stop reading The Beano.
“I always said that when I was your age”, she replied, “but you will.”
Of course, she was right. Soon Jackie had replaced Bunty and your reading matter becomes a journey into middle age. You have a dalliance with Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, where you learn that ‘little black dress’ will be a permanent feature in your wardrobe until the day you die; and then on to the slippery slope of Take A Break & Woman’s Own. I’m not sure at what age you settle on People’s Friend and Reader’s Digest as I’m not quite there yet.
It’s the same with sex. You hear and read about women of a certain age expressing, “I’d rather have a cup of tea.” And you laugh. Looking coquettishly up at your partner you say, “That will never happen to me.” But it does. Those evil little hormones don’t only take over your body, they also take over your mind and libido.
Intimate relations follow a similar path to changing your comics. Your sexual Beano phase, the one you think you will never give up, is when you are young and horny. Ripping each other’s clothes off at every opportunity, spending so much time in bed (or anywhere no-one is watching) you consider giving up work, living in a campervan, freeing yourself from all adult responsibility, just so you can satisfy this massive surge of sex hormones that are screaming, “Do it! Do it!” at you.
Your Jackie phase, the one where you have started to reluctantly give up on your Beano, becomes the reality check. OK, you do have to get up for work in the morning. You will lose your job if you pull another sickie. It is ok to have an early night and just cuddle. You have to convince yourself of this as there is always that niggling feeling at the back of your mind where you wonder if you’re having enough sex and the same amount of sex as other people. So you graduate to the Marie Claire & Cosmopolitan phase. This is when you ask yourself:
Does he love me enough?
Can I still turn my man on?
Am I an oddity just because sometimes I do really need to eat?
There is an interim phase of Practical Parenting & Bringing Up Baby. This is the ‘Sex, what sex?’ phase of your life.
The Take A Break & Woman’s Own phase seems to span the biggest portion of a woman’s life. Let’s fast forward to being 50+. By this time there are no rules. It’s every woman and man for themselves. The rulebook, along with the matching undies and razor, have long since been discarded. I am Wo Man, hear me roar! And roar I will. You have finally reached a point in your life when you know what you want, but you don’t want it anymore. The hormone gremlins are casting their final spell on you. According to The Office Of National Statistics, in 2013 the number of divorces was highest amongst women and men aged between 40-44. Just Saying.
Somewhere along the line we left the rollover and fart joy of sex behind us and opted out altogether. Maybe it’s not the hormones, after all, maybe it’s the men. We’re not the only ones that start sporting Amazonian style armpits and pubes. Things creep in slowly. One day you ask yourself, “when did he stop cleaning his teeth before bed?”
We laugh at the sitcoms when, during intercourse, couples start discussing the shopping list, or on staring vacantly up at the ceiling remember it really does need painting. We laugh because we recognise this scenario. Momentarily we consider spicing up our love lives, planning romantic evenings that’ll get the old juices flowing again. But then that hormone gremlin says, “Nah! Can’t be bothered. I really would rather have a cup of tea”.
Lisa Ives for Pf Magazine