I decided I wanted to write about The Vintage Treasure Box, aka “the VTB”, but I haven’t figured out where to start. There’s so much to say about her.
She’s been an ally, a friend, a supporter, a lover, she’s been everything, really. She’s been with me my entire life; I’ve never not known of her presence.
She’s always there when I needed her to help me feel better, soften the pain in my heart, manage the stress of just living. She’s been there for the good times, and the times when I was alone and I needed to feel the joy of self-love.
She’s also caused me a bit of grief. She’s finicky. She doesn’t like this chemical or that, and she tells me, loudly, painfully. If she’s not particularly fond of a particular lover’s flora and fauna, she lets me know, through burning and itching and all-around physical discomfort. The kind that makes it hard to even sit in a chair.
“It’s not the man!” she assures me. “It’s his junk!”
“I get it,” I tell her, smiling, as I pick up the phone to see if I there’s a same day appointment available at the doc’s.
Then I’m gifted some magical potion I’m committed to take for seven to ten days to set her back to rights. Only to have the same thing happen two weeks hence. She frustrates me no end. But I don’t know what I’d do without her.
Then she up and got herpes on me! I mean, I knew her well enough to know something was amiss for a very long time. But when I found out she’d contracted HSV-2, that really threw me for a loop.
I hated her for a while. I didn’t want to think about her, remember her there, always right there at the center of my everything. I didn’t touch her in a loving way. I didn’t touch her at all unless I had to.
She’d betrayed me. She'd lulled me into believing that something that felt so good couldn’t carry such a risk. She made me feel so happy, so fulfilled, I didn’t think things through, I didn’t think, period.
After a while, I stopped blaming her and started blaming myself. She’s me, she’s not separate from me. I control her. I can’t hold her accountable for the consequences of my choices. After I was done hating myself, which didn't last long thankfully, I decided to start loving her again.
It took several weeks, but I finally masturbated. And it was bittersweet. It was like making love to an old lover I hadn’t seen for a long time that had been very ill and was now very different, but all the love was still there.
I knew it would never be the same. I would never be able to love her without thinking of the bad stuff she’d brought into my life. I also knew that dynamic would fade over time. I held out that hope.
Then I had a lover for a time. And there’s a whole story there that I won’t go into here. But it’s a hell of a story, I tell ya.
Having a lover made it clear the VTB was getting older. Sex was painful. I tried a lot of things, and some helped. A magical little therapeutic toy called the barbell was quite divinely beneficial.
My primary doc told me she could get the VTB back in order with prescription estrogen cream. It seemed to work. Seeing my lover every other week didn’t give me a whole lot of evidence upon which to base the degree of improvement, but it seemed to work. During the times when it was just me and the VTB, things were better.
Once I’d done three months of estrogen cream and was at a maintenance dose, I had a period. Post-menopausal bleeding is always cause for great concern. I had a diagnostic D & C. My endometrium showed abnormal pre-cancerous cells, and the condition may not reverse.
“The estrogen cream caused changes to your endometrial lining,” my gynecologist explained at my post op. “You cannot use hormones, or you will develop cancer.”
I kind of figured that’s what he might say, I suspected it all along, but I stared at him wide-eyed anyway.
“So, I have two choices. Pain free sex or cancer?”
“Yes,” he said, nodding his head sadly.
I slumped in the chair and leaned my head against the wall behind me, looked up at the ceiling and the silent tears began.
“Isn’t there some non-hormonal treatment? Is there anything I can do?”
“Lubricant,” he responded.
I scoffed. That’s not the problem. Never has been. I make plenty girl juice all on my own.
“Let me do some research and get back to you,” he said.
On the drive home from the post-op appointment, I thought, “Maybe it’s time to just throw in the towel. Give it up. Most women give up on fun sex long before age 59 anyway.” I realized how incredibly stupid that would be. My mind is still up for passion, I’m not going to give up on my body yet.
I thought about all the magical FUCKING I did in Louisville, with all those lovely lovely lovely young men. And the promiscuity I felt so conflicted about, but deliberately chose to push through and fuck away anyway, because it was about the most FUN I’ve ever had in my LIFE.
I fucked a lot. And I’m so fucking glad I fucked and fucked and fucked. I gave myself some incredibly rich experiences of connection, sexual fulfilment, but most important of all, life affirming validation. Those are memories I will touch on which will keep me smiling for the rest of my life.
“Thank God for Louisville. Thank God for Louisville. Thank God for Louisville,” I said over and over, all the way home.
Back at my laptop, I started the Googling. From what I can gather, my diagnosis is Dyspareunia at sexual penetration at the posterior commissure of the labia minora. Which is another way of saying painful sex during initial penetration because my opening is too small and lacks elasticity.
With aging, the vaginal skin atrophies. It thins and becomes less elastic. There isn’t much that can be done about it, other than hormone therapy, which is now off the table.
My vagina has always been tight. It’s always worked to my advantage, bringing both my partner and me some fabulous fun times. Things have flipped. What was once a great benefit, over time, has turned into a major obstacle.
Right now, I’m not sure if I even have a lover. It’s tempting to just put it all off, not deal with it. But there are a couple of major flaws with that thinking.
First, the longer I wait to address the physical issue, the longer I give the aging process a chance to further worsen the condition and diminish my options.
And the second has to do with why I’ve carried condoms in my purse every single day for the last five years: You never know what’s around the next corner. No one knows the future.
There’s a surgery I’m looking into. I’m pushing for the surgery. I might have to go to Seattle to get it, which is fine. I’ll do what I need to do. I know that for certain.
I might get the VTB back in working order, I might not. Thankfully, I’ve got a cadre of other snappy moves under my belt. And I’ve still got the barbell! And the Magic Wand. I’ll have satisfying fulfilling sex when I want to, with or without a partner, for as long as I want to.
I Persevere. And life goes on.
[Original publication: 7/8/2022]