Sex and The Single Mom

a woman laying down holding her shirt up to show her stomach

I’m A Newly Single Mom. How Do I Get Over My Body Worries?

“No one but my ex-husband has seen me naked in 15 years, and I’m terrified that it will disgust someone I might really like.”

I’m newly 40, queer, single, and ready to start dating again. I’m also in a very different body than I was last time I was meeting and getting naked with new people. No one but my ex-husband has seen me naked in 15 years, and I’m terrified I won’t know what to do with this new body or it will disgust someone I might really like. I feel like a traitor to my seemingly evolved feminist self by even typing these words but it’s the truth! So... how do I chill TF out and not obsess over my new-old body?

Ah, the body. Equal parts temple and doom. Let’s discuss.

Full disclosure, I am a fierce proponent of self-love, but I am also somewhat critical of the body positivity (or any “positivity”!) movement. I feel that is very OK not to love our bodies even if/when they are absolute wonderlands, which they most certainly are.

It’s just that… I find our need to constantly draw attention to bodies sort of boring. Yeah, a body is cool, but everything else is what makes a person sexy to me. I spent way too much time obsessing over a faux-feminist need to love myself, and I have come to realize that, simply put, you don’t have to love all of yourself to love yourself.

Faking it till you make it doesn’t work. Loving your body until you actually love your body isn’t a thing. And I find it extremely refreshing that you’re willing to be honest with yourself (and me!) about that. So let’s start there.

Step 1: Honesty is hot.

Seriously, I’m turned on. It has become very clear to me in recent years that honesty and vulnerability are not only my kinks, but many other people’s kinks as well. So let’s go ahead and lean in to that because I would venture to guess that the majority of people coming out of long-term relationships are feeling the same way.

Being open and vulnerable about this is going to turn the right people on and the wrong people off, which is absolutely the point of dating. To f*ck around and find out, as they say. Besides, it takes a certain level of confidence to openly discuss insecurities. So go ahead and go there. For real.

I feel that is very OK not to love our bodies even if/when they are absolute wonderlands, which they most certainly are.

This is not to say you should write an essay about being physically self-conscious in your dating profile, but talking about your hesitations as well as your desires — if and when you meet someone you think you might want to get naked with — will be as empowering for you as it is foundational for whatever may come next. There is nothing sexier than a woman who knows what she wants and feels vulnerable about what that means. That is beautiful.

Step 2: Remember that you are in good company!

Every single body is an aging body; none of us look like we did at 25, and no one is expecting you to. Scars, stretch marks, breasts that now resemble vegetables instead of fruit — guess what? It’s all. hot. It’s hot because it’s you, and the people who deserve to be with you will be hot for all of that action. Your body is going to turn people on because it is yours.

If it takes you a minute to warm up to that, take your minute. You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel good to you. Get naked when you want to. It took me two years to take my bra off in front of another person after breast reduction surgery. And for years I still felt like I needed to explain my scars to people. Now? I don’t say anything. Because what is there to say? This is me. Just remember: Your new-old body, the one that you have right now, the body you do not have to love all the time, deserves to feel seen and touched if that’s what you want.

Our need to feel perceived as ideal specimens instead of the mess we actually are is not only detrimental to our relationships but to our experiences.

Whomever you end up naked with is just a visitor; your body doesn’t belong to anyone but you. I feel like so many of us attach our worth to people who are merely passing through, not just sexually but in general. Our need to feel perceived as ideal specimens instead of the mess we actually are is not only detrimental to our relationships but to our experiences. You don’t have to love your body to have a sexy experience with your body. You only have to know what you want and ease yourself into getting it, in whatever way feels comfortable to you.

I want to answer any and all questions you all have about the exhilarating, terrifying, and wonderful experience of dating and having sex with new people after becoming a parent. Send me your questions at rebeccawoolf@gmail.com.

Rebecca Woolf writes Romper’s Sex & the Single Mom series. She has worked as a writer for more than two decades and is the author of two books, Rockabye: From Wild to Child, and the forthcoming All of This: A Memoir of Death and Desire. She lives in Los Angeles with her four children.