MADELEINE AND HER TWO FRIENDS had barely pulled up to the bar when one of them began chatting with a cute guy — “in his 30s,” Madeleine remembers. They were on a girls’ weekend at the beach and looking forward to some sun and fun. A few hours and some drinks later, the girls piled into the guy’s car and headed back to their condo. “We are going skinny-dipping!” one of them yelled.
The next morning, there were no regrets. “We had a blast,” Madeleine says. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the smartest move to get into a stranger’s car, “but there were three of us, and, I mean, we had our cellphones.”
Madeleine and her friends may sound like teenagers on spring break, and indeed that’s what they often feel like. But they met decades ago — they were “ice-skating moms” to daughters on the competitive circuit — and are now in their late 50s, divorced mothers of grown children and having, in many ways, the time of their lives. “You’ll be out at a bar and see some guys you think are cute,” says Madeleine. “Until you realize they’re in their 20s. But you forget! You forget how old you are!” (Madeleine, like other singles in this story, didn’t want to include her full name when talking about her sex life.)
There are nearly 80 million Americans who came of age in the revolutionary free love ’60s and ’70s, when rebelling against your parents’ conservative views of adolescence, premarital sex, and drugs was just something you did. About a third of these erstwhile crazy kids are now single — divorced, widowed, or never married in the first place — and while the drugs and rock ’n’ roll of their past may have stayed there, to hear this group tell it, sex and desire certainly did not. Match.com reports that 50-plus is the site’s fastest-growing demographic. And according to a survey on its sister site for older daters, OurTime.com, 87 percent of 50- to 70-year-old single users say that physical attraction is a “must have” for a potential partner.
While the Internet has made connecting with others easier, regardless of age, what’s happening also reflects a cultural attitude shift. Nowadays, “there is much more permission to have more than one relationship” in a lifetime, says Cambridge sex therapist Gina Ogden, PhD and author of The Return of Desire. “You no longer see the 55-year-old in a brown cardigan and sensible shoes mourning the fact that he or she would never have a relationship again.” People are experimenting and they’re exploring. Megan Andelloux, founder of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, says that many boomers stopping into the center come asking about sexual orientation, like the widower and father of three who “knew he was going to die soon,” Andelloux remembers, “but had always known that he wanted to be with another man.” He wanted to learn how to put on a condom correctly, because he had never been taught. “People tend to realize in their late 40s that they aren’t having the type of sex they want,” Andelloux says, “and so they reach out to the center to make that happen.”
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