There is a scene in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun that every lover of that movie remembers well. It has been a very long dry spell for Frances since her divorce. Now living in Italy, Frances has just returned from a tryst with Marcello, an Italian man she has just met. She is in her bedroom, on her knees on her bed, kissing the picture of the Virgin Mary on her headboard, doing a little hip-gyrating dance on the bed and exclaiming, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” With confidence, she later tells herself that she knew she still had it in her.
That was precisely how I felt after my assignation with Derek. Frances could not have imagined just how long a dry spell can be. It had been years for me.
While it is rarely spoken of even in hushed tones, I knew that a postmenopausal woman’s vaginal tissues could atrophy thanks to the loss of estrogen and lack of use. To say that the result is unpleasant is like saying that losing a leg to leprosy is merely unfortunate. Because of vaginal dryness, thinning and shortening of the vaginal walls, bleeding caused by tiny tears to the vaginal walls, inflammation and burning, and the sex act becoming a painful experience (any or all of these), some women just abandon sex instead of managing the problem or seeking treatment. Regular sexual activity is said to be helpful because it improves blood circulation to the area and helps keep the tissues healthier. But my only sexual partner had been me for a very long time. I had been concerned about atrophy.
And that didn’t even address the issue of the condom: insist on it or forego it. I knew that the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases had increased sharply among those over the age of fifty, probably in part due to the rise of online dating among those over fifty and the availability of drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. But was anyone talking about the choice a woman has to make about them if she has or fears she has vaginal atrophy? I certainly hadn’t heard it addressed. Could even a lubricated condom be a problem?
Until the post-fifty woman who has been in the Sahara Desert of sexual activity has actually found an oasis, she really has no way to know if she might have her own Under the Tuscan Sun experience or, instead, an experience right out of a horror movie.
I was happy to report to anyone interested that my equipment still worked. Thank all the gods in all the heavens esteemed by all the religions on Earth! It needed a bit of gentle treatment and a little ramp up time, like a vintage engine that hasn’t been started in a long while, but once engaged, my body’s cellular memory took over.
My guess is that a young, nervous virgin rarely has the ecstatic first time experience that a reclaimed virgin has once the long dry spell has been broken. I enjoyed coupling as a young woman. I loved it even. But I was now reminded that it is a miracle of orchestration between mind, body, spirit, and emotions that has the ability to catapult the participant into an experience of the sacred and numinous unifying with the earthy and earthly creature in us. I was in awe of it.
The next opportunity for awe came the following Tuesday when Derek came to the house for lunch. It was unplanned, spontaneous, and somewhat time-limited, making it all the more salacious but no less transcendent. Fortunately, I even managed to feed him a little food other than me in the encounter.
I did not want our lunch meetings to spiral down into nothing more than the kind of lascivious liaisons lacking in real heart connection that are commonly known as hookups. But I could not deny that the occasional noontime tryst might be a welcome injection of heat to fuel all of our other activities, both as a couple and individually.
I wondered if we would metamorphose into a couple comprised of two independent, fully self-sufficient people who were even more potent together than as individuals. Would we develop into a couple at all, or would the period of mutual fixation and developing affection languish and eventually disintegrate? It was too soon to tell. My vote was for the former. And the next time I had the opportunity to make love with the man, I wanted it to be a long, leisurely, sensual session during which I had plenty of time to revel in his body and maybe even merge with his soul.
And the opportunity was likely to present itself in just a few days.
Note: The name Derek is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved.
Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall