“Are you still sexually active?” repeated the gynecologist, peering up and around my legs.
Why? I worried silently. Was she finding something ‘down there’ to indicate I wasn’t or shouldn’t be?
“Of course, I am,” I replied sharply, snapping my legs together to signal an end to that embarrassing and frankly insulting line of questioning.
“My God,” I thought as I stomped out of the doctor’s office. “I’m only 62. I’m not Methuselah or Medusa or even Grandma Moses, although imagine the line of questioning there. ‘Are you still getting’ any, Grannie?’”
“What did you say?” asked my husband, interrupting my reverie. “What did you say to the doctor when she asked that?”
“Why was he asking?” I wondered. “Doesn’t he know if I’m sexually active? Doesn’t he remember? It hasn’t been that long ago, has it? Ha-rump!”
Two weeks later I was back at the gynecologist for a follow-up appointment. She repeated the exam. The presenting problem was resolved. Then she asked again.
“Are you still sexually active?”
This time I wasn’t embarrassed or shocked. I was mad. I was ready to answer a la Trump.
“Am I sexually active? You betcha. I am so sexually active it would make your head spin. I’m so sexually active that …,” but before I could finish my clever reply, the doctor’s beeper went off. The appointment was over. I paid at the door.
All in all, being asked if you’re “still” sexually active is a lot worse than when you go in for your college health exam and your lifelong pediatrician, the guy who took your tonsils out, asks if you are sexually active.
And the truth is it is a lot worse than being asked about how much physical activity you engage in each week. I mean there you can lie, I mean, stretch the truth. (In fact, stretching the truth should count as a form of exercise. I do it regularly.) Anyway in response to questions about physical activity, I include schlepping to the supermarket two or three times a week as both aerobic and anaerobic exercise; ditto hauling the laundry up and down the stairs. And dragging groceries into and out of the car has got to be good — make that great for upper body conditioning. I often cook dishes that require stirring, so that’s good for the upper arms, too. So, ha, doc. I am physically active!
And why is it that nobody ever asks if you have an active imagination? Isn’t that a good thing to question?
Anyway, I digress. A few days after the “are you still sexually active?” emotional assault, I had to schedule an appointment for a bone density scan.
“Will you be needing any special assistance when you come in?” asked the scheduling secretary.
“Will the wait be long? If so, a latte would be nice,” I replied sweetly.
“I mean like a wheelchair,” she replied tartly.
On week later I showed up for the bone scan, ambulating I might add on my own two feet without a hesitation or the slightest indication of a limp or balance impairment.
Then I started filling out the questionnaire for the test. It made the “are you still sexually active” question seem benign. Any broken bones? What medication are you taking for bone loss? Did your mother suffer from osteoporosis? On and on went the questions … a litany of the perils of old age especially for women. By the end of the form, I felt – but for pride – in emotional need of assistance in getting back to the room where the test was to be conducted.
“Oh, your birthday is just five days after Fred Astaire’s,” commented the sweet young thing prepping me for the scan.
“What?” I snapped, fearing this was some sort of ageist comment.
“Oh, Fred Astaire is my idol,” she replied airily. “I take all sorts of dance lessons because I’m so inspired by him.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” I said weakly.
The test didn’t take much time and faster than you can sign the lyrics “hip bone connected to the back bone. Back bone connected to the shoulder bone,” the test was over. The technician said I’d get the results in about a week. I left wondering if my bones would prove to be as brittle as my ego.
I returned home. The sun was setting, literally and metaphorically. I was feeling old and decrepit. Uber unsexy to boot.
There was a text from my husband. “Home in 30.” I’d show them all. I wasn’t old. I still had “it.” I sprang to action. I grabbed some wilting roses from a vase and scattered the petals from the front door to the bedroom. I hunted around for a few, non-emergency-looking candles, and lit them. I chilled a bottle of champagne, cut up some cheese and threw some crackers on a plate. I jumped into a scented bubble bath and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. The bubbles dissipated. The water turned chilly. Undeterred, I towel-dried off and put on a sexy nightgown. I was shivering, actually shaking like Nanook of the North, and dived under the covers. And waited.
I looked at my phone. There was another text message. “Problem on BART. Stopped in Oakland. Don’t know how long.”
So, I waited some more. Thankfully I was warming up. I snuggled down a little lower into the covers, and, of course, before you knew it, I fell asleep.
Three hours later I woke up to the sound of the TV downstairs. Jon was comfortably ensconced in his beloved relax-a-back chair, munching on the last of the cheese and crackers, drinking a beer.
“I really love this new cheese, honey. Thanks for getting it.”
I sighed, kissed him and headed upstairs to put on something more appropriate for watching Die Hard for the 35th time.
“Why didn’t you wake me when you came in?” I asked.
“I dunno. I figured you must have been exhausted. The house was a mess. There were dead flowers all over the floor.”
Later during a commercial, Jon thanked me for watching his favorite action flick yet again. “You’re a great wife,” he murmured, reaching over to the couch and squeezing my hand, the one not holding my needlepoint project.
“See,” I thought to myself. “We are still sexually active. It’s just these days it’s more isometric than aerobic.”
— Karen Galatz
Karen Galatz is an award-winning journalist and human rights advocate. Like most of us, she has seen her share of joys and sadness and finds the best response to it all is humor. Now at work on a collection of personal essays, she’s also busy chronicling the perils and pleasures of life at a certain age on her blog, Muddling Through Middle Age. You can find her at http://muddling.me and Facebook.com/MuddlingMe.