Lessons learned while getting into the boat

Deciding whether mid-life dating and sex is more like rock candy or gummy worms can be difficult. One is hard but crystalline beautiful and sugar sweet, the other is kind of ugly and sticks in the teeth. Some might suppose dating is rock candy in its promise of possibility to be beautiful, and sex a gummy worm in its potential clumsy awkwardness. I have found it's both/and instead of either/or.

Many things have taken on new perspectives as I approached and then have become 50. The body and the mindset change. While the body is not what it was in my 20s, the mindset doesn't really care. There's a "to hell with it" declaration of self-confidence. Or the mindset doesn't care right up to the unexpected realization that a particular date could end in a coital connection. Then comes panic remembering I have on my old Playtex bra with underarm stains and my saggy white cotton panties. The rock candy opportunity quickly becomes a gummy worm.

The immediate response to the panic is to run to a bathroom and remove said embarrassing underwear, stuff it deeply into a pocket or a purse - or the trashcan - and pretend that going commando is my common state. That solution might turn the gummy worm back to rock candy. Then clothes come off to expose the no longer perky breasts and somewhat flaccid behind. At that point, "going commando" seems more like a lapse of memory to put on underwear instead of a calculated seduction decision.

There are those women and men who have stayed amazingly fit into their 50s. I, though, am not one of them. If the date is with a man of equal age and fitness and who I know well, this revelation of "softness" is less embarrassing. Then the body’s changes don't really interfere with the rock candy potential of that encounter and the "to hell with it" attitude returns.

But the libido can be romantically na├»ve and certain that dating someone 15 years younger can restore one's own youth. This rock candy illusion might even have merit, right up until crooning Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” – in particular the verse about getting up to make love – only evokes his bewilderment instead of excitement. Then keeping hold of the “confidence is sexy” perspective crumbles under gummy worm reality.

In these situations a good sense of humor is helpful. That or one's perfected the ability to dress quickly and make excuses to leave.

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