When I was younger and relatively inexperienced in the ways of love and good sex, I read Cosmopolitan magazine religiously. Coming of age as the internet was barely reaching its infancy, where else could I find information on effective oral sex techniques to give my man the most earth-shattering orgasm he’s ever had?

I was so well-educated on the subject of good head before I gave my first blowjob that when the time finally came, pardon the pun, I owned the confidence of a person who had done it a thousand times. Never before was first-time fellatio performed with such dexterity—artistry, if you will—although I found myself wishing that I would have read the part which explained just how quickly ejaculate could hit the back of one’s throat. The velocity certainly took me by surprise, to say the least.

I am still that same nerdy girl who reads everything before attempting anything. Two decades, nearly fifteen years of marriage and two children later, however, I find it increasingly difficult to relate to the sex and relationship advice offered in periodicals whose demographic I am no longer a part of. In days long gone, Cosmo was my bible. Now, it is little more than a frivolous way of passing time in waiting rooms.

Whatever the reason behind this paradigm shift, most of the sex advice presented in the average female-centric glossy comes across as a terrible idea after you become a parent.

Take for instance the oft-made suggestion of showering with your partner. I remember fondly the days of sexy, sexy shower time. Before we had children, my husband and I had a Sunday morning ritual of showering together. This may or may not have been the reason we conceived our eldest daughter just two months after our nuptials took place, but I digress.

It’s hard enough for one of us to enjoy a peaceful shower without the interruption of a child who needs the bathroom, who barges in with a request for the wifi password or requires an immediate parental intervention because her sister just poked her eye out with a pencil.

My husband and I cannot possibly occupy the shower stall at the same time because two parents immersed in a soaking wet, compromising position is an unconditional guarantee that all hell will break loose, somewhere in the house.

We shouldn’t fool around in the bathroom any longer, anyway. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, 95% of the 250,000 hip fractures that occur annually are a direct result of falls, such as those which may occur in the bathtub or shower. As sad as it is to say, the fact remains that none of us are getting any younger. Don’t let yourself become a statistic. Nobody ever wants to go into the emergency room admitting the reason they need medical assistance is because of a tree pose misadventure that resulted in a broken branch.

That’s exactly why I didn’t go to the hospital after a mishap with the sharp corner of a faucet during our honeymoon. I may have a scar on the small of my back from that little bathtub tryst, but my dignity is still intact.

Another popular piece of advice found in lifestyle periodicals is one that is firmly rooted in sweet romance. What better way to set a mood for hot lovin’ than the classic lighting of a thousand votive candles and the sprinkling of rose petals on every flat surface? It’s absolutely gorgeous in the movies and always leads straight to sexy times, right?

Beautiful as that idyllic setting may be, somebody’s got to clean up the mess afterwards and you know it’s going to be you.

As a parent who spends most of her days taking care of kids, cleaning up the spontaneous messes they leave behind, washing laundry covered in stains of questionable origin, cooking three-course dinners your children refuse to eat so you end up making them macaroni and cheese instead, do you really have the time and energy to do this “romantic” shit, too? Might as well take a package of saltine crackers, smash them to smithereens and toss them around the house like edible confetti. Why the fuck would any of us do that?

Exactly. We wouldn’t. It’s a completely asinine idea.

The same holds true for the oft-made suggestion of bringing edibles into the bedroom. Chocolate, whipped cream, and edible body paint all sound delicious in theory. When you were 20 and living on a shoestring budget, your 30-thread-count sheets were most likely a Kmart blue-light special bought on layaway. Your hand-me-down mattress was probably on the floor and you washed your sheets maybe once every two months, if you remembered to do it that often. Any sticky mess you left behind on those petri sheets would be happily devoured by the colonies of dust mites who lived there in symbiosis.

You’re a parent and a grown-assed adult now—one with impeccable taste; naturally you have far nicer and more expensive sheets on your ridiculously overpriced Tempur-Pedic® bed. No one in good conscience would ever willingly defile such an euphoric haven of 800-thread-count bliss. I suppose you could cover everything in plastic sheeting beforehand, but do you really want to have sex in Dexter’s Room of Murderous Vengeance?

(No judgement here if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Another magazine-borne idea that always makes me chuckle is that of shaving “come hither” lightning bolt designs into your pubic area, or blinging it out with adhesive plastic rhinestones. On a tight and toned, pre-baby, 20-something body, a glittery arrow pointing to your Canyon of Womanly Wonders is a cute and effective roadmap for your bedfellow to, well, follow. Let’s face it: guys in that age range require all the help they can get. Most of them don’t know a clit from an ant hill; of course they need a twinkling runway to point them in the right direction.

Midlife post-baby bodies shouldn’t try to rock this fashion. Look, I’ve done the whole “vajazzling” thing and let me tell you, it’s as absurd as it sounds. I admit, I took it one step farther and bedazzled my nipples and my hysterectomy scar because I figured more is more. Perhaps I should not have done that. As it turns out, my body was not so much “sexy” as it was a walking smiley face with a shimmering goatee.

If you’re in the mood for something new, most women’s glossies highlight the latest and “greatest” sex positions with which to fuck our men into oblivion. Many of these erotic maneuvers are inspired by the legendary Kama Sutra or current trends in yoga but most are better left attempted only by trained professionals. No matter how young you may feel on the inside, you are not as flexible as you once were. If you think I’m kidding, go outside in your yard right now and attempt a cartwheel; you’ll see what I mean. When you’re getting busy with your significant other, you’re there for one reason only and it should end in an orgasm, not a four-legged charley horse.

Acrobatic positions may also have an added benefit of looking really hot in the reflection of a floor-to-ceiling mirror, but there’s no way in hell you’re going to get off while you’re concentrating on not losing your balance or throwing your back out. Parents have a lot on their minds already, worrying about mortgage payments, is that sniffle the start of a cold or the swine flu, did the DVR record the latest episode of Once Upon A Time? Our minds wander to the most pressing issues at the forefront of our psyches, and if your most pressing issue is not tipping over whilst standing, bent in half and clutching your partner’s ankles as he pounds you from behind, that’s the only thing you’re going to be thinking about.

For all of its gloriously entertaining failures, however, once in awhile a women’s magazine will actually contain some useful advice for the bedroom. The best tips I’ve found always seem to focus on the importance of keeping open lines of communication with your partner—a suggestion that I wholeheartedly agree with.

Confidence grows with age, it’s typically not something we have when we’re young and still learning how to navigate our sexual relationships. Many of us were shy about our sexuality in the beginning and less likely to speak up about the things we liked in bed, if we even fully understood what they were.

That’s a critical thing to take note of: we know our bodies far better in midlife than we did at twenty. I don’t know about you, but when I set my mind to it I can get myself off in about 30 seconds. I wasn’t able to do that twenty years ago; I was still discovering what really made me tick so I certainly couldn’t have guided my partner in the right direction—I didn’t even know where it was, myself.

As adults and as parents, we are painfully aware that time is a precious commodity, and it’s one that should not ever be wasted. For this reason alone, don’t hesitate to tell your partner exactly what you like and how you like it because you absolutely deserve to have the best sex of your life, every time you engage in it.

That’s the sex advice every single one of us should be taking.


A lover of lapsang souchong tea, unnaturally-colored hair, and Oxford commas, Alison’s stories are written with a signature blend of humor and brutal honesty. She often jokes that she became a writer so she could speak to the masses without actually having to TALK to them face to face, but words are indeed her greatest strength. She revels in weaving them together to tell an entertaining story, rouse laughter, offer reassurance, provide sympathy, or just to give the world a piece of her mind.

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