23rd June 2022 Before you throw your hands up in horror after reading the title of this blog, please do not worry. I do not intend giving you a blow-by-blow (pardon the pun) detailed essay about my love life. Nor do I mean to discuss the whys and wherefores of people’s strange sexual proclivities. No, that’s not my intention at all. In all my sixty-four years, I’ve been around the block more than a few times. It’s not something I’m proud of, but neither am I ashamed. In the words of the sainted Gloria Gaynor, ‘I am what I am, I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity’.
There are many reasons for having sex – the purest of which is the physical expression of the deep emotional bond between two people who love each other. In the eyes of the medieval Catholic Church, the one and only reason for sexual intercourse was to procreate – for any other reason it was a venial sin. The definition of a venial sin is ‘a lesser sin that does not result in a complete separation from God and eternal damnation in Hell as would an unrepented mortal sin.’ Good to know, huh? In fact, the medieval church had so many rules about sex that would be unthinkable nowadays; thank God indeed for the march of progress.
Back in those days, sex was forbidden even for married couples, (much like eating meat) during Lent which could last from 47 to 62 days; before Christmas for up to 35 days; on Sundays (the Lord’s Day); and on Thursdays and Fridays (in order to prepare for Communion); around the feast of Pentecost (between 40 to 60 days), and many Feast days for Saints. Considering the number of Saints venerated at the time, it’s a wonder the species survived! Bear in mind also following menopause, strictly speaking, since there was no chance of procreation any more. I suppose since life expectancy was so much shorter in those days, that didn’t affect a great many people. For a religion founded on the premise ‘God is Love’ and ‘Love thy Neighbour,’ folk weren’t given that much opportunity to practice what was preached. Then again, since it was a religion enforced by (supposedly) celibate men, I suppose the rules aren’t that surprising. I say supposedly because it was also commonplace for clergy, even at the highest levels, to have secret concubines and hordes of illegitimate children, one example being the notorious Borgias – the family of Pope Alexander IV, formerly Rodrigo Borgia.
Thankfully, in Western civilisation at least, for most people those rules no longer apply. Since the ‘Free Love’ era of the 1960s we are less bound by rules or shame regarding sex, whether marital or otherwise. It is no longer scandalous – in fact these days it tends to be the norm – that people will live together and have children before getting married, if they do so at all. Marriage these days tends to be just for the party – and would it be cynical to say – the gifts? But even in my lifetime, that wasn’t the case not that many years ago.
My contemporaries found it shocking back in the day that I lost my virginity on my 16th birthday. Yes, 4th April, 1974 was the day my ‘flower’ was plucked. If I’m honest, it was not the most romantic of events – far from it. Like most young girls in those days, I dreamed of ‘white lace and promises’ in the words of the Carpenters’ song ‘We’ve Only Just Begun,’ going to the marriage bed for the first time in a cloud of innocence and naivete. No, young Elizabeth lost her innocence in the back of a white Robin Reliant van – the chariot of my first love. It occurs to me that perhaps some of you reading this might not be of an age to know what a Robin Reliant looked like. Suffice to say it was a 3-wheeled vehicle the same as that made famous by the Trotter brothers in Only Fools and Horses – the height of sophistication it was not! However, it WAS a status to be envied to have a boyfriend who had transport other than a pushbike in those days, so all was not completely lost!
And at least he had the good grace to wait until it was legal! I can’t actually remember very much about it, but I was the first (I think) of my peers to do it, and was so infatuated with him that I proudly broadcast the fact at school the next day. Sadly, we broke up not long afterwards, although several months later, when I had started seeing my soon-to-be first husband, my first beau called me, told me he loved me and asked me to marry him. I declined, since I was still only 16 and at school, and no way would my parents have allowed it. Nonetheless, we remained very good friends until his untimely death a while ago. Looking back on the disaster of my actual first marriage, I sometimes wonder what might have happened if I’d accepted him, all those years ago…
In those days teenage sex was exciting and adventurous, if not very satisfying. Not good – but it at least had those qualities. For most youngsters it was quick clumsy fumbles in the dark of the cinema or walking home from a night out – the risk of discovery made it thrilling, if nothing else. We were lucky in that when at my house, we didn’t have to sit with my family when Soon-To-Be-First-Hubby was allowed to visit (no more than three evenings per week and he had to leave by 9pm). Our house in Brighton Street had a front sitting room, a ‘middle room’ and a kitchen/dining room on the ground floor. I had staked my claim on the middle room as my haven; the place I could sit to read quietly or listen to my music, away from the distractions of the sitting room where the family gathered to watch TV every evening. It wasn’t exactly private, in that I didn’t have sole occupation, but I did spend most of my leisure hours in there, usually alone. So naturally, once I started ‘courting’ (yes, we still called it that, even in the 70s!), it was obvious that I would take ‘STBFH’ in there on the days I was allowed to see him. There was still the danger though, that at any moment any member of my family could just walk in (without knocking, obviously, children had no ‘rights’ in our house). Fortunately, the door was made of small panes of frosted glass so we could see if anyone was about to enter, giving us precious seconds to straighten clothing and resume innocent positions on the furniture. And at his house, his mum was lovely and welcoming and saw nothing wrong with us spending time in his bedroom – listening to music, obviously. She must have known what was going on up there – his bed creaked loudly whenever anyone moved a muscle – but she never made comment.
Once we were married and our baby arrived, our sex-life dwindled, the same as I expect it does for most new parents, although our daughter was a good baby and after the first couple of weeks slept through the night. After a couple of years though, the marriage was in trouble, and after we broke up, I later found out he had been having an affair with a barmaid every Sunday evening when he supposedly went out with his ‘best friend’ on Walney.
I confess, I was a mess at that time. My wonderful mother-in-law continued to look after my daughter every weekend which gave me lots of time for a social life – I was only 21 at the time, after all. So, I went out, drank too much, got involved with some not all that nice people and slept around more or less with anyone who gave me some attention – trying to prove to myself that I was still attractive, that someone might again one day love me and want me. Again, I’m not proud of this – but I freely admit I was promiscuous, the very definition of a ‘good-time girl’ and I had a whale of a time. Nowadays I’m wise enough to see the mistakes I made. I had so little self-esteem, after living with an emotionally distant parent and being betrayed by my husband; I thought myself unworthy, unlovable, and in those days, there was not so much help on hand to combat those feelings. This was long, long before the Internet, and the continual motivational memes we see on Facebook today, which remind us all that we ARE worthy, we are special, we too are deserving of love in whatever form it takes. It took more or less another 25 years before I learned that lesson.
My circumstances changed; I left Barrow and moved to the South, started working at the Ostrich and started a new life. The promiscuity continued to an extent – but now with at least a better class of one-night-stand. These were now businessman, professionals, some of them even wealthy and upper middle class! Which made me feel even more unworthy – what on earth would one of these smooth operators find in me to love enough to form a proper relationship? Nevertheless, it was still a very happy time in my life – it was when I discovered how the other half live. But sex meant nothing to me – it was a like bodily function, or a pastime – another lover was just another lover, like another pizza, or another glass of wine. Nice at the time, but not at all memorable.
I’m not saying that everyone considered sex in the same way I did. But it was the 80s – before the advent of aids; it was the era of the yuppie when, in the words of Gordon Gekko in the movie ‘Wall Street’, “Greed is Good” and everyone was greedy for the good things in life, whether it was money, sex, drugs or whatever the particular fancy was. Romance was not high on my list, but a good time definitely was.
Having said that, I was fully immersed in the whole fairy-tale romance between HRH Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, especially on their wedding day when it was declared a public holiday and everyone truly hoped it would be a case of living happily ever after. But sex was the problem there, too. If it hadn’t been ruled that the heir to the throne must wed a virgin bride, Charles might have been able to marry his real, true, enduring love, Camilla. But because she was ‘soiled goods’ she was off the list – and we’ve all been witness to the resulting heartbreak affecting so many people.
I married for a second time, and thank goodness, sex became meaningful again – at first. Second hubby was a good man, and we spent 16 mostly happy years together; at the time, I firmly believed we would grow old together. But, real life has a way of changing things, and in the end we had grown apart and wanted different things. He was a shopfitter, and worked all over the country on various contracts, only coming home every other weekend, but that suited my independent streak and I enjoyed being mostly alone (a throwback to my childhood). Perhaps I enjoyed it a bit too much – eventually it got to the stage that when he was home at the weekend he literally wanted to be at home. He wanted to stay in and watch TV mostly. I can understand that if you’re continually living in lodgings, when you come back home that’s where you want to be. The trouble was, he expected me to also be with him there for every minute, as if we were joined at the hip. It got to the point where I started to hate those Fridays when I knew he was on his way home. I knew the first thing he would want was to go to bed, no matter what time of day it was and I started to resent it. I got that I had to fake it every time he touched me, which wasn’t fair on either of us. Our marriage disintegrated, and once again I was unattached.
I guess I’m a weak sort of character – I still held myself too cheaply, and the promiscuity started again for a while. Then, happily, I met the real love of my life – my best beloved Glyn.
There was a 23-year age gap between us – he was 68 and I was 45 when we met. When we started our relationship, I lived in Lancaster and he lived here, in Sowerby Bridge where I still live. We began spending long Bank Holiday weekends together which were affectionate, but in no way sexual. We slept in separate rooms and there was no mention of anything remotely physical. When we decided to live together, we discussed the situation and he admitted that he had erectile dysfunction and was unable to maintain an erection. I told him it was not a problem for me – if anything it was a relief to know that I could go to bed simply to rest and not have to be a practitioner of the Kama Sutra to keep his interest in me. And so it was.
In the eight years we spent together, we started off every evening in the same bed, cuddling, but then once I drifted off to sleep, he would go to the other bedroom so that we could both get a full restful night’s sleep. The problem is that as well as snoring like a steam train, I toss and turn all night, and have restless leg syndrome, so sleeping with me was practically impossible. It didn’t affect our relationship at all that there was no sex. There was plenty of affection – we kissed, cuddled and held hands like any other couple but I never once felt anything was missing. And – here’s where I might be revealing too much information – if I ever did feel the need for sexual release, I know I can rely on BOB. Who?? I can hear you asking. Who on earth is Bob and why haven’t I mentioned him before? I’ll tell you – Bob is my Battery-Operated Boyfriend! I apologise now if I’ve shocked or offended you.
I can safely reveal that I have been celibate now for 19 years and I don’t miss sex one single bit. And many of my friends are in the same boat – it seems there is a trend for older ladies who are no longer desperate to replace the men they have been with for decades, for whatever reason they are no longer around, be it death, divorce or something else. Nowadays a single older lady can make the choices she may not have had in her youth, and do pretty much whatever she wants, which is a great position to be in.
After Glyn died in 2011 people asked if I would ever consider another relationship since I was only 53 at the time. I’ve considered it, and have sometimes thought it might be nice to have someone with whom to share my life – but I think I’ve been alone for so long now that I’m too selfish. I no longer feel the need to share my home, my life or my bed with anyone other than Toni, my cat – and at 22 years old she’s definitely an old lady, much like myself these days. And neither of us are party animals any more.
I’d love to hear your views, on this topic or any other. Or maybe there are questions you’d like to ask, or suggestions for future blog topics. Just post a comment in the box below if you’re reading this on my website, or send me an email.
Until next week,