“Do you mind me asking you something?”
“No. Go ahead.”
“Do you have sex?”
The woman asking me was about 45 years old, a friend of my younger daughter, who was standing right there. My daughter had just told her that I was a newlywed, at 66.
“Of course!” I didn’t want to be cute about this, especially in front of my daughter, who will also be 66 one day. “Granting permission,” as they say in psychological circles, was my prerogative in response to this question. I wanted to grant both of them unbridled permission to view sex as a permanent part of being alive.
“Well, I just wondered, because, you know, it seems just so much trouble,” she said of herself. “I’m divorced, and I’m thinking about whether I really want it again, though I’m going down to Cuba on vacation next week, and I plan to have sex all week long.”
We all laughed.
“I hope you do.”
The German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote in one of his poems:
You have not grown old, and it is not too late
To dive into your increasing depths
Where life calmly gives out its own secrets.
Of all the mysteries of life – of all the confusing, frustrating, maddening, sometimes crippling, mysteries of life – sex is the most powerful. To me, it is even more powerful than the bewildering capriciousness of death and disease. It drives us to do unreasonable and destructive things which we would never do if we were not in the clutches of an instinct deeper than we can control.
Finally, at 66, I am no longer in its clutches in quite the same way. I can’t get pregnant, I have suffered enough from my bad decisions to stop making them. Life is calmly giving out its own secrets to me.
Why, at this serene point, would I give up one of life’s greatest pleasures? Why, when it is finally tamed to the point where it can be enjoyed without angst, would I give up sex? At this serene stage of life, I could even live without sex if disability overtook me or my husband, without the interference of humiliation, or anger, or despair.
Sex takes time and attention, that’s true. It is “so much trouble,” as my daughter’s friend said. Deciding to ignore it, however, puts us in a shallow vacuum, without connection to the magma of life.
There are all kinds of sex. Find your own. It is closely allied to life itself.