I've lost interest in sex -- and couldn't be happier about it
I lost interest in sex about four years ago. I didn't just go off it suddenly one day, but I remember noticing, over a period of months, that I no longer had any sexual feelings, that I no longer felt desire.
An older woman here in Naxos where I live, who was, and in some ways still is, what a friend used to describe as "une grande horizontale", as well a beauty and a terrific flirt, said I was rather young to have lost interest (I was then in my early 50s).
Perhaps I was. She clearly hasn't. Colette, too, famously, remained sexually active into later life, and so has Diana Athill.
When I was young, I knew a man who believed that nobody over 35 should have sex. On aesthetic grounds. Part of me rather agrees with him now and sometimes I think one of the reasons I have lost interest in sex is because it is rather undignified.
Sex is really a young person's game. I never used to believe that, but I do now.
Nonetheless, losing interest bothered me for a while. Sex -- or perhaps I mean romance -- had played such a major part in my life for so long that I worried what I would do without it.
It is a bit like being colour-blind or having no sense of smell. A friend, the late travel writer Gavin Young, lost all sense of taste for a while (and, as a result, a lot of weight).
If a plate of eggs and bacon tasted like cardboard and a dry Martini like water, what was the point?
Also, I had never found that sex was an effective tool or weapon; for me it led to unhappiness and anxiety, rather than fulfilment or contentment.
Even so, I wondered whether I would ever be interested again and whether it mattered.
I didn't like the idea that I would never make love again and yet I didn't like the idea of making love.
A contemporary here who hasn't had sex since her younger daughter was conceived -- some 17 years ago -- feels the same.
You are curious, but it is in an abstract, detached way, not fuelled by any passion or desire.
When I am with younger friends, I am aware that sex still motivates them and I feel a little bored or embarrassed.
Another thing, which isn't new, is that I have never really wanted or seemed to need a partner (God, I hate that word), a companion, someone to do things with.
I am just as happy, if not happier, alone.
But there are, I think, two main reasons that I lost interest.
The first is that I was and am in Naxos, where there are no men to fantasise about (or, rather, none for me -- the only one I ever fancied has become a good friend).
The second reason is that I bought a house that consumes every waking moment of my day.
It is my passion, and all the energy that I once put into my love affairs I now pour into the house.
Someone once said that gardening replaced sex as you got older. I hate gardening, but I love fiddling with the house. I am always thinking of new ways to beautify it.
My last boyfriend -- that is, the last man I slept with (in November 2005) -- sent me an email recently, after two years of silence, signed: "Love & lust".
Oh, I thought wearily, you must be joking.
I think that he meant to flatter me. I also think that men go on feeling lust far longer than most women do.
Sex is a means to an end for most women, whereas it is an end in itself for most men. And it flatters their egos.
I think a continuing interest in sex usually denotes a robust ego, which is often the flip side of the insecurity coin.
I have a gay friend in New York who will soon be 70. He's a sexaholic. For him, sex is the holy grail.
A former lover of mine, also 70, crippled from a broken hip and other medical nightmares, boasted to me recently that he still had "girlfriends".
If I hadn't already lost interest in sex, imagining that would certainly do it.