Motherhood, career, money, debt, drugs, miscarriage, abortion, rape, frequenting gay clubs in the hope of meeting “the one”, I’ve written a book about womanhood in all its messy, chaotic glory. Spending several months writing my first (and last) no-holds-barred memoir in bed, it’s jam-packed with brilliant advice, even if I do say so myself. There’s Dolly Alderton on friendship, Anita Bhagwandas on beauty, Julia Samuel on grief, Sam Baker on starting again… and all anyone wants to interview me about is my clitoris.
Divorced, at the grand old age of 49, I’m now in perimenopause and three years ago I started taking HRT. Unrelated, but around the same age, I found a therapist to deal with childhood trauma. Perhaps not so unrelated, around this time my libido increased. Scientific evidence suggests the perimenopause can sometimes increase a woman’s libido. So, pair that with a clearer mind, and it’s safe to say I’m enjoying the best sex of my life.
Thanks to being older, I also possess zero body shame and on my 46th birthday metaphorically burned all long floral dresses in my wardrobe to make room for sexier tailoring. So yes, I’m a middle-aged woman with a penchant for miniskirts having a lot of sex with — hold the front page, lads — a lover 13 years my junior.
The fact that attention on my book is solely focused on my old lady sexual awakening is utterly bemusing
A woman’s midlife sexual awakening makes for a great headline, but there’s so much more to my book than the adventures of a lonely, middle-aged divorcée shagging a younger man met via a website called Toyboy Warehouse. Toyboy Warehouse BTW does exactly what it says on the tin. As a much younger woman, I didn’t know myself so I couldn’t possibly know what I wanted from sex, from relationships, from a career et cetera, and nor did I know how to ask for it. Despite possessing a crinkle-free tummy, taut upper arms and having hair that fell flat in the mornings (these days my hair stands on end giving me the look of Ken Dodd roughed up in a blizzard), I found sex to be a bit meh. This shocking midlife sex romp newsflash brought to you last week (my book came out last Thursday) made headline news because? Because we’re British.
Unlike our friends over on the continent, whose differences in culture ranges from the oddity of eating cheese and ham off wooden boards for breakfast, to not drinking cups of tea with their dinner at 5pm with the telly blaring (“shocking,” I can hear my Mancunian grandad pipe up from the dead), British society fetishises youth. In the UK, women over the age of, let’s say for argument’s sake 45, no longer fertile and therefore “unf***able”, we disappear. No longer fertile OR f***able, what’s the point in our existence? Many more middle-aged women than men leave the workplace. Anyway, back to sex.
Dedicated to sex in midlife, I’m one article away from recording a song. Imagine Kings of Leon, right, singing “this sex is on fire”, well my version — sung just as loudly, especially on the Underground, or outside the school gates waiting to collect the kids — would go something along the lines of, “whoooooa oh oh, my clit is on fire”. The fact that attention on the book, a book that covers many subjects in gritty detail, seems solely focused on my old lady sexual awakening and the younger lover is utterly bemusing. It also proves ageism is alive and well in this country.
Having enjoyed a long career in fashion, I’ve spent a lot of time in France and Italy, countries where women work well into their sixties and beyond. Remaining relevant in an industry obsessed with newness has little to do with their gender, it’s not just women but the attitude to older people in general. Appreciated in ways we can’t get our heads around in the UK, at the HQs of Prada, Armani and ETRO to name but a few, I’ve worked with women two decades or so older than myself. You’ll find older women in restaurants and bars, mingling, laughing, living dressed in whatever they feel like, hair as long as they wish to wear it.
Even on the island of Menorca, where I own a small townhouse, I never feel self-conscious when out late. Could it be down to the fact I’m never the oldest woman in the room? Maybe. As for London, where do all the older women go, are they at home knitting or learning how to play bridge? They’re not at Chiltern Firehouse, that much I know.
Stacey Duguid is the author of In Pursuit of Happiness (out now, published by Piatkus)