Of Mothers and Sexuality

My 81 year old aunt took me aside at lunch one fine day, and said to me firmly, “Girl, you need to update your boudoir skills, you have been with the same bedfellow for far too long. It gets stagnant, you know?”

I opened and shut my mouth like a goldfish, for want of something to say. Bedroom advice from an octogenarian? Golly, am I such a sad case?

But she was right. I was becoming complacent, or to self-justify, ‘comfortable’. Lovemaking was still active and regular, but nonetheless comfortable. I am 46 and have had 5 children. A quick mental run through my lingerie drawer revealed sports bras, an assortment of bikinis, cotton blacks and the occasional Santa-inspired ones from Christmas crackers. Fortunately, there are no granny-pants there yet. And no boudoir wear.

Being the obedient sort of person, I decided to obey my aunt. On a recent trip to the Czech Republic, I splurged out on some naughty, classy undies made of Bohemian lace. I still have not worked out the conversion rate, but my purchases ran to four figures, and since it was not Thai or Indonesian paper money I was dealing with, I know the credit card bill will be severe. And the worse thing is, I know too that I would wreck my lavish purchases in a space of a few washes – I still have not mastered the art of laundry, and the washing machine always seems to get the better of me.

But get those frivolities I must, though they are completely out of sync with my life and who I am now.

Because those little pieces of Bohemian lace remind me of my younger self. My younger self would spend my hard-earned cash on Janet Reger and Agent Provocateur. My children’s father was perplexed why he was allowed to rip some knickers off in the heat of passion, whilst others were strictly on a see-no-touch basis. He could never figure labels out.

Oh, I remember the delicious guilt, knowing that in the little bag contained two tiny pairs of lace that cost as much as one riding class at the Hyde Park Barracks for my daughter. And of course, I remember the sensual pleasure of wearing them. It was like a naughty secret.

Like marriage, sex in a long-term relationship needs investment. In an ideal world, love will see you bound to each other for life, even if sex ceases to be exciting after a while, because after a certain age, companionship trumps over a roll in the sack. You look for the connection and the comfort, squeezed in between children’s homework and 6am football practices, and forsake the occasion and the drama. It is beautiful, deep and reassuring, but the other dimension is missing, probably lost forever.

And indeed, over the years, as I aged (and in particular, after suffering from cervical cancer), my mindset shifted towards becoming healthy and functional instead of naughty, sexual, a little irresponsible, coquettish. I am proud of my body, but it is almost in a clinical way. I glorify my taut muscles and toned skin, but I forget that once, there was a playful, sexual being within me. The teenager who seduced the man who would become the father of her children by inviting him to a party that never was, and who wore delicate French lace. In black. Oh, the fun and headiness!  Clothes, or underwear in this case, does maketh one.

It took an 81 year old to remind me of that. Thank you, Auntie.

Undies

Window display at Rigby & Peller, holder of the Royal Warrant. I wonder if the Queen wears this?
Window display at Rigby & Peller, holder of the Royal Warrant. I wonder if the Queen wears this?

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