When Bad Sex Happens to Good People

Being single and having sex in your 30’s can be weird.

On one hand, your hormones are raging and you want to have as much sex as possible. However, after a decade of bad decisions in your 20’s you’re now way more selective about who you get naked with.

As I was telling a friend of mine the other day, “Most days I want to have sex with everyone and no one, all at the same time.”

It’s confusing.

As a 30-something, it’s likely you’re way more comfortable in your own skin and what works for you in the bedroom. Added to that, it seems like every magazine article written about women in their 30’s never fails to point out that you’re in your “sexual peak” (whatever that means.) In theory, you should be having the best sex of your life thus far – right?! As I’ve discovered, this isn’t necessarily the case.

People assume that because I’m a sex & relationship blogger that I must be having the hottest, steamiest, kinkiest sex, all the time. However, when I first started to date again following the big break-up in 2011, I had a string of awkward, bumbling, just plain bad, sexual encounters. Coming from a 6.5 year relationship where my partner knew my body almost as good as his own, I knew I was spoiled. However, I was totally not prepared when my love life turned into a living, breathing (panting?) version of this e-card.

girls-hbo-lena-dunham-sex-relationships-tv-ecards-someecards

Luckily, it seems as though the curse of bad sex has been broken (woo hoo!). However, for awhile I was getting worried. Up until very recently, I’ve been avoiding all contact with the opposite sex, for the sole reason that I just can’t bear to add another item to my growing list of “bad sex” stories (situations I thought I had outgrown when I bid my twenties farewell.)

Everyone weighs the importance of sex in a relationship differently. Having dated several people over the years with whom I didn’t have the greatest sexual chemistry with (but who were good people), I’ve come to the conclusion that a strong physical connection is really, really important to me. I even wrote a column for the Toronto Sun about whether bad sex is reason enough to break up (my answer: yes, yes, a thousand times yes!)

So, what exactly qualifies as “bad sex”?

Well, that’s really different for everyone. Personally, after extensive research in the field throughout my 20’s and 30’s (and some preliminary research in high-school) I’ve come to the conclusion that what I consider “bad sex” usually falls into one (or several) of the following categories. Let me know if any of these sound familiar:

1. “The Guitar Solo” – Really great sex is like music: there’s a give & take between the different instruments, crescendos, melody and a good use of rhythm. “The Guitar Solo” basically takes all of those principles and blows them straight to hell. It’s a one person performance that usually involves spastic movements reminiscent of an energizer bunny on meth, bizarre vocalizations (“Fuck Yeah! Score! Touchdown!”) and perhaps even some rodeo-style arm movements. Yee haw! When it comes to guitar solos, the second guy I slept with was a regular Jimmy Page. FYI, in my experience, the most prolific “soloists” usually have a sex face that looks like Steven Tyler having a seizure.

2. “Let’s Not Make Eye-Contact” sex – What’s the deal with people not wanting to make eye-contact during sex?! Do women do this too? I’ve slept with a couple of guys who seemed to only want to have sex in facially obscuring positions. I don’t mind a bit of doggy-style action, but if we’re having sex and it’s been 45 minutes since I’ve seen your face, that’s a problem. What’s even worse is when you try and make eye-contact and the person dodges you, looking away. It gets to the point where it feels like you’re in the sexual equivalent of a Larry David style stare-down. Make eye-contact with me! I DARE YOU.

(And yes, there really is a Larry David gif for every life situation)

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Do More of What Makes You Awesome

In December I participated in the Stratejoy Holiday Council and loved it. One of the things I found extremely helpful about the workshop was it helped me break down my goals for the year into easy to manage pieces. I decided to set goals for two months at a time so that every 60 days I have a different theme and specific things that I’m working on. This has been my theme for March-April:

Why I chose this as a theme: I’ve realized that I’m the best version of myself when I make time to do the things I love: being creative, writing, dancing, pushing my body & getting in regular sweaty workouts, listening to my favourite music, engaging with the world and learning new things. I’ve learned that when I don’t make time for these things, I feel depressed and bogged down.

Have you ever had the feeling like you no longer recognize your own life? Where you think of the person you used to be when you were younger and think “Where did I go?”. Where you spend whole days feeling guilty and discouraged because it feels like you’re not living up to your potential? I’ve had many of these moments. Actually, I spent a huge chunk of my twenties feeling this way. These moments are sad and they’re hard, but they’re also sobering. I believe that if you can recognize something is wrong, you can change it.

When I was a child I had so many diverse interests and things I was totally nerdy about. I swam, ran track competitively, took pottery classes, competed in public speaking competitions, collected stamps, read voraciously, sketched, painted, sang in a choir, played the cello and spoke fluent French. I also danced ballet. I didn’t think so at the time but I was a classic overachiever. Although a lot of my other interests fell to the wayside (when was the last time I made pottery?!), ballet was the one that stuck. By the time I was in my pre-teens I was in the dance studio 4-5 times a week after school.

Although I loved ballet and had the right body type, I didn’t have the stomach for it: the long hours, the constant, never ending criticism, the impossible quest for perfection. Ballet is part art-form, part psychological warfare. It’s a lot to handle when you’re not a fully formed adult emotionally. At some point in my late teens, ballet  just stopped being fun. I wanted to feel like a normal teenager – go out on dates, join the drama club, have a life outside of dance – so, I cut back.

When I moved to Toronto as an 18 (soon to be 19) year old, I swapped the dance studios of my childhood for underground clubs, my pointe shoes for platforms, and piano solos for the bumping bass of house music. Compared to an hour and a half ballet class in pointe shoes, dancing all night in 5 inch heels seemed like a breeze. The upside is that I developed an abnormally high tolerance for foot pain. The downside is that I eventually reached a point in my mid 20’s, where I was working in an office job I hated, swilling vodka on the weekends and wondering “What have I become. Where did all my interests go?!”

Although I took dance classes sporadically while I lived in Toronto, I never made it a priority. Even though I missed ballet, I think I was afraid of feeling of how I used to feel when I took ballet classes as a teenager: picked on, criticized, imperfect, never good enough. Instead of facing my fears, I made excuses as to why I wasn’t taking ballet classes: work, stress, school, relationships, money etc. When I was in my late 20’s I suffered a really bad back injury. My excuse then became “I’ll go back to ballet when my back is better.” However, since being diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease and arthritis, I’ve realized that my back is never going to be fully “better” and it seems silly to not do something that I enjoy.

To really be in love with my life, I need to dance. Just like I need to write. As I was telling my Mom the other day, I’d really like to take a ballet class where nothing is on the line, where the only person I’m trying to impress is myself. So, that’s what I have decided to do! I got so excited about the prospect of dancing again, that I the other night I dug out my old pointe shoes and took them for a whirl around the kitchen…

Since I haven’t taken a ballet class in a really long time, I decided to ease back into it by taking Barre Method. The classes are a blend of yoga, pilates and ballet exercises. I love it! As I was explaining to my friend Kate, “It’s like X-treme Ballet.” We do typical ballet moves but with weights, balls and lots of reps, all set to fun music. And oh boy, do you feel it. Like actual ballet, it’s hard work but the hard is what makes it good. In case you were wondering, it also gives you glutes and abs that could crush cans.

{Photo via Barreworks, Toronto}

It feels really good to move my body in this way again. Just like when I visit Quebec or France and immerse myself in French, doing ballet exercises again makes me feel like my body is remembering a language it learned many years ago. I’m starting with Barre Method so that I’ll be ready to take an actual dance class in the summer. Who knows, after that I may even brush up on my French!

Sometimes I wonder if maybe we get it right the first time. If what we are passionate as children is a reflection of our true calling in life. I was a kid who loved dancing, telling stories and learning about the world – which, essentially describes who I am now. I don’t think our essential selves really change that much from when were children, it’s just that life piles on so much bullshit that sometimes they get buried under other people’s expectations of who we should be. I imagine if we all peeled back the layers, we’d find our beautiful, shiny, awesome cores. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do more of what makes you awesome: my new life mantra.

What makes you awesome? 

Things That Are True at 32

At 32 you do things that your 20-year old self  would have scoffed at. You spend time creating inspiration boards, setting goals, taking life coaching classes and getting excited about the book club you joined. You do these things because they make you happy. When a 25-year old Hipster calls you lame, you just laugh because they haven’t figured out that being your authentic self is way more important than being someone’s definition of “cool”

After a very brief flirtation with the couch potato lifestyle, you wake up one night – on the sofa with your hand inside a bag of rice crackers – and realize that something has to change. You’ve been athletic your whole life. As a kid you swam, ran track and danced ballet 4 times a week. Your body and mind runs best when it’s getting intense, sweaty exercise and not just of the amorous variety. When you cut out the gluten, lower your carb intake & start hitting the gym again, you feel awesome. Pushing your body and being active isn’t just something you need to do, it’s part of who you are.

You’ve always been petite and your body didn’t change much throughout your twenties. However, when you try on the size 0 cocktail dress you wore to your 28th birthday and you can no longer zip it up, you frantically run into the other room and ask your Mom:

“Is it possible that my rib cage expanded over the past year?”

Yes, yes it is.

Your body changes at 32. Your rib cage expands and your hips widen. Your bust increases, you go up 2 bra sizes and your boobs become a force to be reckoned with. You go from 105lbs to 120lbs in just over a year. Although it’s a bit weird adjusting to these new curves, for the first time in your life you no longer feel like you’re going to float away, you feel grounded. When you see one of your best friends in Toronto she says, “Are you sure you’re not pregnant? I’m not trying to be mean, it’s just that your boobs are huge and you’re positively glowing.”  You just laugh and smile.

You start understand what Audrey Hepburn meant when she said “happy girls are the prettiest.”

At 32, Divorced is the new Single. Half of your friends who got married in their twenties are now split from their original spouses and are exploring relationships with new partners who are a much better match. Some of your friends start to get married for the second time – which, you’ll admit feels a bit weird & deja-vu-ish, but also kind of awesome because you’ve never seen them this happy before.

When it comes to sex, you and your friends start to see the effect exposure to porn has had on the male population. For example:  Gents, if you want to have anal sex with a woman, do not spit on her ass-crack while having sex with her doggy-style and just hope she takes the hint. It’s likely she won’t want to have any kind of sex with you after that move. To be safe, just don’t spit on women… ever. Unless she asks you to do it. If she’s in her 30’s, she likely knows what she wants in bed and whoa, hormones be crazy at this age. Just roll with it. Unless it’s anal sex – you should always talk about that first.

At 32, if a man has a full head of hair, it’s an asset. Furthermore, you never thought you’d reach the point in your dating career where you become attracted to men with grey hair. Around 31-32 you start to appreciate a little salt and pepper action. It’s to the point where you don’t even notice the grey hair and you just think “that man is fucking hot.”

You realize the importance of pheromones – those invisible love chemicals that lead to sexual attraction. A man who smells good for no apparent reason makes you weak in the knees. It’s this very powerful sensation that leads you to have a steamy two night fling with a guy that you meet while you’re on vacation.

The chemistry is great and you just want more, more, more. However, when he drops you off in the morning, and you kiss goodbye, making vague plans to see each other again (that you both know probably won’t work out because of geography), you suddenly feel this aching sense of loss in your gut. This leads to the realization that maybe you’re not as thick skinned as you once thought. That maybe casual sex isn’t for you. That although you’d like to deny it, your heart lives in your vagina.

27 years of friendship, and your best-friend is still the person who always makes you feel better.

“I did something last night that I’m afraid to tell you about”

“Oh god, did you have an orgy?!”

“What?! No! Although I’m kind of impressed that you actually think I’m the kind of person who would do that.”

“Well, I dunno. You never know”

“I just slept with someone I barely knew and now I feel weird about it.”

She laughs and says, “Oh, Simone. That’s OK! Did you have fun?”

“Yes, very much so! But now I have all these weird feelings that I don’t know what to do with”

“It’s Ok, it’s just a shock to your system. You went from living with your mom, not dating, to being in another city and…..”

“Full out sex, drugs and rock-and-roll?”

“Pretty much.”

The ache in your gut eventually goes away, however it leads to another important realization:

You love sex but you also need to feel safe and protected. You want someone who will rip your clothes off, throw you down on the bed, say and do dirty things to you, but who will also hold you afterwards because they think you’re lovely & special. Someone who smells good, holds doors open, and loves it when you read stories you’ve written outloud because they love it when you do all of the different voices.

After a year of being happily single, of not wanting to be attached to anyone, you come to the conclusion don’t want to date and/or sleep with a bunch of different people, you just want to just spend time and sleep with one special person. Oh wait, there’s a name for this kind of person! It’s called a boyfriend. 

Does this mean…. you want to be in a relationship?! I think it does.

And at 32 1/2, you decide this isn’t such a bad thing.

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