I remember when I was in my early teens, my mother had surgery and was home recuperating. She asked me to run upstairs and get something from her dresser. In performing the errand, I saw a note she had lying next to the item I was to retrieve. It was a list of questions for her doctor, one of which stated “OK to resume relations?”
It took me several seconds to figure out what that meant – and then I was horrified. My mother? Having sex? With my father? Oh please, God, let it not be so.
Now my understanding of “relations” was all theoretical at the time, mind you. I had had the talk with my mother and read the pamphlet she gave me, but all gathered information was rather scientific. My friends and I had talked all about this, of course, and we surmised there was some heat and contorting and possible perspiration involved – things which I could never imagine my dignified mother engaging in. I mean she was in her 40s already and surely couldn’t be interested in all that any more.
Fast forward several decades and there I am sitting in a booth in a restaurant in downtown Spokane with my husband and our two grown sons, young men who live on different continents. It’s rare that the four of us are in the same place at the same time, so it was a particularly festive occasion. We were enjoying ourselves thoroughly, and the lads fell into telling remember-when stories, many of which seemed to have their mother as the fall guy. Seems they think I’m a little odd, but in a funny way.
Well, that’s OK. There are worse things, but I noticed my husband was enjoying these stories just a little bit too much. So, in a mock threatening tone, I leaned in to him and said something to the effect of, “Keep it up, bucko, and see how you enjoy a life of celibacy.”
And then I saw the look on our sons’ faces. It was a grown-up guy version of the look I surely had that long-ago day standing by my mother’s dresser. My younger son, the one prone toward the dramatic, threw his hands over his ears and began chanting, “la-la-la-la-la-la.”
So with great feigned seriousness, I told our sons, who suddenly seemed like little boys needing reassuring, that their father and I had been intimate only three times in our lives. Once was on our wedding night, to see if we liked it, which we most certainly did not – and two other times, in order to conceive them. Other than that, their Dad and I have just been pals.
Everybody laughed, and we all moved on to other topics. Quickly.
It’s funny how we think about this subject in general, our parents having sex, especially our mothers. When we’re young, sexual activity is only imaginable among the firm-of-flesh and handsome of face. Any other considerations bring out the “eeuww” response. Okay, maybe some older men (hunky mature actors or randy politicians), but that’s kind of it. Certainly no older (however you define older) women. As time goes by, our parameters widen to include ourselves, at whatever age we happen to be at the moment. But still, not Mom.
I concede that dwelling too long on our own mothers’ sexuality would be a little, well, creepy, but we’re OK granting her all other forms of passion and expression, just not that primal one. She can fight hard for truth, justice and the American way or run marathons or paint great landscapes or crusade for her grandchildren or be totally devoted to children’s causes in general. She just can’t like sex.
But she does. Searching the Internet for statistics (I skipped information on the middle aged) on sexual activity and the elderly can lead one to some unintended sites, but treading carefully, I did find some surveys out there showing that 87 to 89 percent of married folks ages 60 to 64 report still being sexually active. Another survey notes that 53 percent of people 65 to 74 years old also fess up to active sex lives. Okay, not like when they were 18 and all limber and everything, but still having personal, physical, intimate communication with another human being.
We’re all human, and we all – well, most of us, I think – cherish that intimacy. Now that I am officially old (I’ve got paperwork from the government that proves it), I look back at that younger me and at my sons in the restaurant and I am amused, but sweetly so.
Why can’t we embrace the concept that all ranges of “older” people, especially women, including moms, have libidos? Maybe you need to get up here in the higher age brackets before it’s acceptable to consider that, but I hope not.
Truly, Aphrodite lives in all women. And there’s no la-la-la-la-la-la about it.