The Queen of My Self


 Is when we celebrate love. It is an ideal time to think about loving and caring for ourselves, which is where all love and nurturing comes from. We can’t say, “I love you” unless we can say, “I”!

By Mama Donna Henes

I have pretty much always had a current love interest, a paramour, an inamorata-of-the-moment in my life. Ever since elementary school, I have been involved in a series of crushes, flirtations, romances, relationships, and marriage/partnerships of varying degree of consummation, duration, maturity, intensity, and pleasure. However, before I turned fifty, I had never felt myself to be particularly beautiful in the abstract. While I had definitely attracted my share of admirers, one by one, over the decades, it is not as though I ever had a queue of suitors waiting outside of my front door, vying for my affections. Try though I might, I never quite fit the popular, idealized, mass-market parameters of beauty or body type or demeanor. Far from being a femme fatale, with a Hollywood face or figure, I usually failed to turn heads in a crowd.

Certainly I had been told many times that I was pretty, but it was always in the dubious context of, “You really ought to lose some weight, you have such a pretty face.” Or, “Why don’t you pull your hair out of your face so that people can see you.” Those motherly suggestions didn’t exactly serve as Self-image enhancing morale-builders. Oh, I was probably pretty enough, but it was a pasted-on look. My lips were fetchingly colored, but my smile was frozen in fear. During the Maiden years of my teens and twenties, I was serious, withdrawn, self-conscious, over-sensitive, and as unsure as a tentative spring shoot caught in an inclement frost.

Completely unprepared emotionally, I was out there, and available because I was expected to be. But my heart was never in it. I was way too shy to perceive — let alone enjoy, and heaven forbid, show — myself as the sweet, loving, sensual, sexual, swan-in-waiting that I really was in my secret, tender hidden heart. Instead of being who I was, I believed and internalized everything that I had been taught: that I was not thin enough, striking enough, or vivacious enough to attract appreciative attention. And that was what life was supposed to be all about, after all, wasn’t it girls?

And then, a remarkable thing happened. This Ugly Duckling grew and changed, as if magically transformed. The more I explored the world around me, the more I learned about myself. The more I longed for experience and meaning outside of me, the more I discovered that I liked what I found inside. The more excited by life that I felt, the more attractive and exciting I, in turn, became. Because I felt more and more sure of myself, sure of my path and my purpose, I became less guarded and more open. Because I had learned how to be safe in my own care, I felt more trusting in general, less defended and much less defensive. Something in me had thawed. My withholding tension released. Without realizing it, I had been holding my breath for years, “waiting to exhale,” as Terry McMillan put it. I now had nothing to hide.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that this time of self-exploration and experimentation occurred in the 1970s era of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Things were freer then, not to mention, safer. I can’t imagine being a young single woman loose in the world today trying on her sexuality in these scary times of aids and STDs.

When I burst forth from the springtime of my Maidenhood into my summer Mother Time a quarter of a century ago, I discovered that I was a bud turned blossom. I had flowered into an adult woman, creative, productive, and nurturing, Mother of Invention, foster Mother to lost children and animals, practicing artist, spiritual adventurer, author of my Self. The power of attraction, seduction, and sex was suddenly, for the very first time, in my court.

As a Maiden, I would sometimes date people simply because they asked me out, whether I really wanted to be with them or not. I was that flattered. But as I entered my thirties and early forties my longings and lust began to come more directly out of my own desires. It took a long time and much introspective effort, but I grew to know my wants and my needs, emotionally and sexually. After a decades-long struggle, I had come to believe in my right to act upon my own desires and to expect them to be honored. And honored they were, because I had learned how to honor my Self.

By the time I was 30, I had left my brief so-called marriage and a series of serious and not-so serious boyfriends and live-in lovers. I discovered my attraction to women and began to follow my bliss. And what bliss it was. I finally experienced the sort of sex that really does cause the Earth to move! I had a grand old time exploring the wonderful world of lesbian sexuality and I savored every second of it. It was a great time of liberation for me, when I allowed myself to be completely free of commitment and totally dedicated to pleasure wherever I might find it. Finally, when I was 35, I fell in love and settled down into a 28-year and counting life partnership.

My hard-won Self-knowledge and acceptance has only grown more intense and powerful, as my once-luscious blooms have ripened into fruitful age. Now that I have entered the autumn years of my Queendom, I have become a well-seasoned woman, mature and plump and ready for the picking. Piquant, tart, sweet, succulent, and juicy, ripe with the cycle of life, I am what my Chicana friend Linda calls “Una mujer in su salsa.” A hot sauce woman. Relaxed and contracted in the Fire Queen’s sweltering heat, I’m slower now, and surer, like thick crystallized syrup. Honey made for me, the Queen Bee, from the wildflower I once was. I’m strong and steady, salty, spicy, and oh so sultry, if a little bit dusty. A little wrinkled. A little weary. A little saggy, a little worn, but infinitely stronger, steadier, and a whole lot wiser. I bear the fruits of my own labors, and I wear them well.

Now, at the age of 63, I am so happy to be me. This long longed for assurance has had a thrilling aphrodisiac effect — from the inside out. I feel more attractive and sexy than I ever have, and therefore I am. My entire Self is charged with new poise and ease of being: my head held high with pride and self-esteem; my eyes alive with what I have seen, the many sights and insights; my cheeks red from the chase — and hair to match. I am a mean, clean, spirit-driven machine, shined with spit and polish, full of gas, revved and ready to go. Radiant, I am lit from within. Now, “Who’s the fairest of them all?”

I first noticed this startling new arousing 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, grandmother, even. 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 Denzel Washington look-alike 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 sexy is that?

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


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

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