The Queen of My Self

When I began this journey toward my Self, I was an innocent in many respects. Responsible beyond my years, yet repressed, compressed, regressed, like the tightest pussy willow — the one with the hardest shell — protection for my fuzzy, fertile possibility. Eventually, the storms of change and loss that I faced during my tumultuous maternal years had weathered my once-sumptuous bloom. Like many women of a certain age, I had gradually, imperceptibly almost, let myself go, like an overblown rose clinging inside out to the vine in the fall, my petals ratty, and my rose hips growing ever rounder. Of all that we stand to lose in the aging process, the waning our sexual attraction and appeal is perhaps for many of us, the scariest prospect of all.

But this assumption goes against all evidence of the actual midlife experiences of many women, my own included. “It’s funny,” my fifty-three-year old friend Judith confided to me over coffee. “I am making peace with my appearance these days and I find that I don’t really care about what people might think or say about the way I look. I am confident of myself for the first time in my life. Sometimes I catch myself making eye contact — even flirting — with men, something I would never have done when I was younger. Men often look at me with appreciation, too, when I least expect it. I know I feel good in myself and I have fun and flaunt it. I guess I must look fine too, but in a different way.”

According to sexuality experts, women in our forties are just coming into the ascendancy of our sexual powers, with decades of pleasures to look forward to. In a recent survey conducted by Living Fit magazine, fifty percent of women declared that menopause increased their sexual desire and thirty-five percent were pleased to announce that their orgasms had become more intense. “All I have to say,” gushed Luz, a high school teacher, in one of my Queen workshops, “is that it just gets better and better for me. I am forty-four-years old and I feel like I am just getting going.” The noted sexuality educator Betty Dodson agrees. “I’ve been postmenopausal for two decades and I’m having spectacular orgasms alone and with a partner,” she writes.

After five decades of rather modest, but satisfyingly enjoyable sex appeal ratings, I found that when I reached my fifties, I was suddenly turning heads wherever I went. The Queen that I had become began to attract super-charged affection and lustful admiration from friends and strangers alike. Like bees to a hive, an electric attention buzzed around me, tickling my Self-perceived image, stroking my Sex Goddess ego.

Lush with lust, supreme in my creative powers of seduction and fulfillment, I identified with the great lineage of Love and Fertility Goddesses who have been revered throughout time and culture. Their power, raw and electric, was their Self-knowledge, their exquisite access to ecstasy. Their generative heat, their sex, the seat of their strength. The vitality, the powerful intensity of their sheer desire, their boundless energy, was potent enough to produce generations, poetry, agriculture, science, art, and craft. The same fire, the same hot love that ignites to spark the beginning of babies, also kindles the creation of culture. Their primal hunger was the force that fashioned all life, and their love, the fuel that maintained it.

Their sexuality was imbued with spiritual significance. Sex, especially the female experience of it, has been all but universally invoked in myth and ritual as symbolic of the primary force, the fiery source of life. For the Goddesses of Love and Life, unabashed and bold, sex was an authentic religious expression. Sex as energy. Sex as celebration. Sex as creation. Sex as abundance. Sex as unification. Sex as divine spirit. Sex as sympathetic magic. In my newly recovered sensuality, I was the Queen Bee, Aphrodite, Nefertiti, Cleopatra, the beautiful black Queen of Sheba. Honey, I was the Queen of Hearts.

My vulva, the horn.
The Boat of Heaven
Is full of eagerness like the moon
My untilled land lies fallow
As for me, Inanna,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will plow my high field?
Who will plow my wet ground?

-Inscription on a Sumerian clay tablet
2000 BC

I first noticed this startling new effect when I began to get wolf whistles from construction crews and guys in passing cars. Each time it happened, it shocked me deeply. What in the world? I am old enough to be these guys’ mother. I thought that those kinds of experiences were long over for me. “Wow!” I would secretly marvel, “I never thought I would hear that again.” Whereas in the past, I would react with the rage of a scorned Amazon at such macho street behavior, I suddenly found it to be flattering. I felt terrifically gratified in a totally guilt-ridden unfeminist sort of way.

One night I was in my car, stopped at a traffic light on my way home from an evening with friends. It had been a wonderful occasion and I was bathed in mellow pleasure. When I happened to turn my head to the left, I saw that the extremely handsome thirty-something-year old man in the car next to me was trying to get my eye. He flirted with me in a rather sophisticated and urbane Cary Grantish style, and I burst out laughing at the absurdity. He laughed then. And for that moment we made a real connection, direct and human, person-to-person, soul-to-soul, across the artificial barriers of age, gender, and race. Attraction is simply energy sent and received. Good energy is the spice of life.

How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.
-Zora Neale Hurston, American writer and folklorist

Many women now entering midlife have always been pleasure seekers. Our generation created and experienced the Sexual Revolution, after all. And we are not likely to stop now, thank you very much. The time for loving has never been better. By midlife, those of us who have had kids are liberated from the constraints of child rearing and can now afford the uninterrupted time and energy to attend unabashedly to our sex lives. Heterosexual sex, finally divorced from any worries or pressures of pregnancy, free of the rigors of birth control, is now simply for its own sake, pleasure rather than procreation at its source. We are free to indulge ourselves in the joys of seduction, intimacy, sensuality, passion, and satisfaction. As Virginia Wolfe observed, “The older one grows the more one likes indecency.”

“I feel sexier than ever,” confided Margie, a fifty-one-year old financial consultant, to the other women in a recent Queen workshop. “But even though I have been having more opportunities than usual, I am not looking for a partner. I just feel hot and happy all over with the excitement of starting a new phase of my life. And the weird thing is that it’s better than sex. You know?” “Ooh, yeah, I know just what you mean,” piped in Laurie, a painter who is fifty-eight. “Being alone in my studio, creating work that consumes me, is such a turn on. I masturbate all the time these days. It is fantastic. I haven’t been at it like this since I was in my teens and just discovering the pleasure. But it is so much more powerful now. Such a charge.” When the Queen takes responsibility for Her life, She controls Her own sexual experience whether it is solo, with another woman, or a man. We are the Queens of Fire, after all. Our fervor is reaching the boiling point and our inhibitions are melting away in the heat of our rekindled passion for life. We are asizzle with ourselves.

A positive attitude is a Self-fulfilling prophecy cycle. When we look good, we feel good and when we feel good, we look great. The brain, the mind, is said to be our most sensitive sexual organ. Time after time, I have seen that being in possession of a vivacious, fully engaged, energized personality is much more enticing and erotic than having an outwardly pretty face or perfectly honed physique. It seems to me that the popular misperception that midlife marks the end of a woman’s sexuality, her attention and appeal, has less to do with her losing her looks than her losing her way, her sense of adventure, her enthusiasm, her spirit, her relationship with her Self. Allure is visceral and shines from within.

Our emotional maturity and depth of character make women in our middle years extraordinarily and vitally attractive. We are substantial and robust, heady with the flavor of all that we have seen and done so far. We are pungent with profound experience, with pain and loss, exploration and transformation, glory and joy. The myriad lessons learned from lives intensely lived are reflected in our palate, which has become sophisticated, subtle, firm, and complex. Like fine wine and good cheese, women ripen and improve with age. Our essence becomes stronger, clearer, and infinitely more powerful. What could be more sexy?

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

1. Most of our life is spent chasing false goals and worshipping false ideals. The day you realise that is the day you really start to live.

2. You really, truly cannot please all of the people all of the time. Please yourself first and your loved ones second, everyone else is busy pleasing themselves anyway, trust me.

3. Fighting the ageing process is like trying to catch the wind. Go with it, enjoy it. Your body is changing, but it always has been. Don’t waste time trying to reverse that, instead change your mindset to see the beauty in the new.

4. Nobody is perfect and nobody is truly happy with their lot. When that sinks in you are free of comparison and free of judgment. It’s truly liberating.

5. No one really sees what you do right, everyone sees what you do wrong. When that becomes clear to you, you will start doing things for the right reason and you will start having so much more fun.

6. You will regret the years you spent berating your looks, the sooner you can make peace with the vessel your soul lives in, the better. Your body is amazing and important but it does not define you.

7. Your health is obviously important but stress, fear and worry are far more damaging than any delicious food or drink you may deny yourself. Happiness and peace are the best medicine.

8. Who will remember you and for what, become important factors as you age. Your love and your wisdom will live on far longer than any material thing you can pass down. Tell your stories, they can travel farther than you can imagine.

9. We are not here for long but if you are living against the wind it can feel like a life-sentence. Life should not feel like a chore, it should feel like an adventure.

10. Always, always, drink the good champagne and use the things you keep for ‘best’. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. Today is a gift that’s why we call it the present. Eat, Drink & Be Merry.


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

By Anna Moore, London Daily Mail

…continued from Wednesday….


  1. Hold it up to the light. Really examine your feelings to accurately identify their source. Which area (or areas) are leaving you dissatisfied? What thoughts and fears are making you anxious?
  2. Examine your options. Once you’re certain of the areas you’d like to change, think creatively. You may not be able to walk out of your job, but could you negotiate one day a week working from home so that you can begin to plan other things in your life?
  1. Make SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound. ‘I want to lose lots of weight’ or, ‘I want fun back in my marriage’ are too vague. ‘I want to lost two stone by the end of the year’ or, ‘I want to go on two date nights a month with my husband’ are much more achievable.
  2. Pick up old passions. What did you used to enjoy that you’ve let drift? The midlife crisis carries a strong sense of loss for the person you once were. Building pleasure back into your days can lighten the mood.
  1. Share with others. Be as honest as possible and explain the reasons behind any plans to the people who will be impacted. It often helps to speak to an older friend who may have come out the other side of a potential midlife crisis, too.
  1. Take responsibility. Blaming others, burying feelings with destructive behavior or telling yourself it’s too late will add to your hopelessness. Accept responsibility for where you are now and start chipping away with small changes.

Likewise, when it comes to a long-term ‘middle-aged marriage’, beware of blaming your partner for all your problems. ‘It feels easier to blame the nearest person than to look internally,’ says Marshall. Invest time in identifying relationship problems and repairing them: ‘Be curious about your partner, make them a priority and acknowledge the good things in your relationship.’

Popular forums such as Mumsnet can also provide valuable advice. On one thread, a user approaching 40 and ‘so very bored with myself’ appeals for help. Others immediately identify. ‘I’m nearly 40 and feel that life is a cycle of cleaning, working, watching TV, etc,’ writes another mum. ‘I feel I want an adventure. I would like to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in America but husband wouldn’t come – in fact, I think he might divorce me. But with my daughter leaving home soon, I keep looking at maps and Googling lightweight tents!’

This leads to streams of advice from others who’ve ‘been there’. ‘I got involved in political activism,’ writes one. ‘You have to find something you care about.’ One is launching her own business; someone else has signed up for a late-life degree, while another tells how she has taken up running. ‘Four years later and I am doing my first Ironman triathlon. The sense of achievement I get from being strong and fit is amazing. It has definitely chased away the midlife crisis!’

Miranda also took up running and found it a powerful tonic. She signed up for new challenges that utilised her strengths and wisdom. She joined a lobby group, the boards of various art galleries and became a school governor. She stopped drinking – ‘you crash too much’ – and went to live events as they give her pleasure. ‘One good thing about having a crisis in middle age is that by then you know your strengths and you’re confident enough to drop things you’re not bothered by,’ she says.

You also have the ticking clock to spur you on. Caroline Kendall, 57, was running a restaurant with her husband when she began to feel the need for something more. ‘I’d dropped out of university and built up a great business, but when I turned 40 I started to wonder, “Is this it?”’ she says. ‘The work wasn’t challenging; I wasn’t using my brain and I had a feeling that I hadn’t finished what I’d started at university.’

At 50, with her husband’s support, Caroline enrolled on a part-time degree with the Open University. It took her six years to complete (‘from October to June, every weekend was taken up with study’) and Caroline now has a new career working for a charity in volunteer management. ‘It would have been easy to keep going with my old life; it takes courage to change. But the achievement when I got my degree was overwhelming. It has empowered and changed me in so many ways,’ she says.

And it’s not over. ‘I’d like to do an MA,’ says Caroline. ‘I’m on a journey and it’s not finished yet.’


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

By Anna Moore, London Daily Mail

…continued from Monday….

It’s easy to sneer, but according to experts, it’s quite natural to take stock at ‘half-time’. ‘It’s when your focus shifts from your CV – status, job, house, possessions – to your eulogy: who you really are and what gives your life meaning,’ says therapist Andrew G Marshall, author of It’s Not a Midlife Crisis, It’s an Opportunity. For most of us, it isn’t really about toyboys, tattoos or motorbikes – those are just common shortcuts we take to soothe our unease and avoid the bigger questions.

For journalist Miranda Sawyer, 49, the crisis hit when she was 43, and it lasted five years. ‘It felt traumatic,’ she says. ‘You wake up in the middle of your life and think, “I’ve been doing it all wrong.” Midlife puts your choices under the spotlight, and mine seemed rubbish.’

Miranda’s unease grew in the gap between what she’d expected from life as a younger woman and what now looked likely to unfold. ‘We all have dreams, and many of them are hard to fulfil,’ says Miranda, who is married to the actor Michael Smiley and has two children.

‘Then you reach a point when you realise those dreams are beyond you – you’re never going to write that great novel or play for Manchester United. Maybe you expected to be madly in love with your partner, look amazing at 49, have a fantastic house and children who are doing well. Women are susceptible to setting themselves impossible standards.

‘Mine started with wanting something quite basic – a garden – and realising we couldn’t afford one in the area we live and where our children go to school. That started me obsessing over all the things I’d done wrong in my life, and what I should have done differently.’

An Oxford graduate with a successful career, Miranda was gripped by an unfamiliar panic. She felt hopeless, bored and sad. ‘At the same time, I was restricted in what I could do,’ she says. ‘I didn’t want to leave my family, and my days were full with work and the children. My midlife crisis happened at night. I would regularly wake gripped with panic and despair.’

Miranda’s decision to write a book, Out of Time, exploring her experience, was possibly a life-saver, because the best way through a midlife crisis, says Marshall, is to turn and face it.

Happiness – according to research – is ‘U-shaped’. We tend to start on a high, but in middle age happiness dives as we build a life, struggle to provide and have little time left for fun. (One piece of research found that happiness hits lowest levels between 40 and 42.) A midlife crisis may strike at this moment, but if we listen and learn from it, the second half of our life can raise happiness levels again.

For this to happen, though, we must avoid common mistakes. The first is to ignore unhappiness or drown it in drink. ‘If you do this you risk drifting into depression, and you may become bitter and closed off,’ says Marshall.

The second is to seize on hits of instant gratification. ‘Throwing yourself into an affair may feel good in the moment, but does it answer your questions? Will the same feelings return a few years later, when you are struggling to maintain relationships with an angry ex and estranged children, while juggling commitments and finances?

‘The answer is to take the time to listen to your feelings,’ says Marshall. ‘You need to ask yourself three questions: “Who am I?”, “What gives my life meaning?” and “What are my values?”’ Pause and take stock before you do anything hasty and irreversible (which might hurt others), such as selling your home or declaring time on your marriage.

Exploring passions that you may have put on the back burner and looking at activities that nourished you in the past is key. Have you allowed important friendships to fall away? Finding ways to build meaning and pleasure into your life – whether it’s a career change, education or a hobby – takes time.

To be continued on Friday….


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to