A twice-married granny dishes the details of a lifetime of sex and love with grounded, unconventional advice.
From her first kiss to the last time she had sex, this great-grandmother living in Berlin has learned much from a lifetime of intimate relationships. At 78, Rahel Mann gives advice gleaned from two marriages and two kids. She might be done with her sex life now but her love and appetite for life is stronger than ever. As she looks back, the wisdom shines through with grounded, unconventional advice.
Sex does not equal love
My kids taught me that you can have fantastic sex without being in love. I had problems with that. I never slept with anyone who I didn't love. My daughter was great at that, my son less so. It took me a while to realize that a satisfying sex life doesn't need to have anything to do with love. It can of course, but it doesn't have to.
I once spoke to a young woman who sells sex and uses the money to make a living for her daughter and herself. And she doesn't even see it as physical desire, for her it's just another way to earn money. No problem, that's also how you can do it.
To me, the word sex means pure lust. If you're just looking for physical pleasure - and I'm not saying anything against that, it's just too one-sided for me personally - you'll often hear that people like to be free from psychological commitments and enjoy the orgasm. If everyone knows what they're doing, that's perfectly fine, but if you're pretending there's more to the two of you than physical lust, that's vicious. If you're honest and say, "I'm looking for sex and I want you," that's great if the other person has the same views. If not, you've got to find somebody else.
Listen to your gut feeling
Sometimes you may feel like, "Oh, I'd love to have sex with that person," but maybe there are reasons why you shouldn't. I would never switch my head off entirely, and never recommend that anyone do that. If someone doesn't seem tidy and clean enough, or doesn't smell fresh, you might not like them much anymore. There was a guy I went to uni with, he didn't really wear clean underwear, for example! I pushed him into the bathtub. There was a lot of banter, but that was important to me. It never turned into anything serious but I'm quite picky when it comes to aesthetics. If you feel a bit of hesitation, don't second guess yourself. If your nose or anything else would be insulted, let these things stop you.
My second husband had this thing where, when we had a night out at the opera or went out for dinner, he always wanted sex as a dessert. At the beginning I didn't think too much about that but then realized that I didn't actually want it. Having sex with a full belly isn't that much fun, really! When I told him and asked, "Could we do it tomorrow?" he said, "Really? Do we have to?" But then we postponed it and - guess what - it worked out just as well.
One night stands and finding "The One"
How to know if someone is "The One"? If that person had not been the one, at least in the moment when you started something with them, then you wouldn't be asking that question. So you let them further into your life. The least you are going to get out of it is that you will get to know yourself a little better in that process. For anything on top of that: Observe how they treat you. It can be an absolute blessing for both of you to split up after a year or two. But make sure to immerse yourself 100 percent, knowing that you may change your mind eventually. Or say no right from the beginning.
These are the little steps that mean you receive something that is rewarding but also allows you to give a lot back. It doesn't need to last for 60 years, not even for 30. The more variety there is, the more fruitful those exchanges between people will be. Making it last at any cost shouldn't be the top priority. Continuance can be a good thing, but it doesn't have to be.
Trust that nature is doing everything right and is bringing the right people together. It's a highly natural process whether we're attracted to each other or not. The more you get to know yourself, the better you are at choosing who you will fit with. And then you cannot hand that responsibility over to fate, God, your parents or anything else. You either say, "yes" wholeheartedly or "no", equally wholeheartedly. You can only find that out if you let go without thinking twice, without the if's and but's and no matter for how long.
This fear of commitment everyone is talking about is just an imitation of the bonds they know from their families or acquaintances, and they know they don't want that. It's a certain "I don't want anything serious because I've seen how things can go [wrong], and I don't want to be part of that," if you like. In that case, you need to see whether you're more suited to an open relationship. Or maybe you're so scared of life that marriage would actually give you a minimum of security to keep on living.
On morals and nonsense like that
I would never say, "take a shot at everything", because you can't take a shot at life. You either do something fully or you don't. I'm not so fussed about the question of morality, but that's because generally I differentiate between morals and ethics. Churches and governments have introduced me to certain morals but when I think about my children, or any young person, knowing they have an ethical inner sense that's just right for them matters far more for me - one that is detached from governments and so on. Everyone should question: "Is this right for me?" When they first move away from their parents...people need to learn that, especially if you weren't allowed to for 20 years. I wouldn't make use of any moral laws.
On linking marriage to sex
A friend of mine recently asked if you can only have good sex in marriage - my answer was a clear, "No." You can give the most when there's no security and when you at the same time trust that this particular moment and this connection is the exact right thing. But you need to have that within you, it cannot be dependent on how others feel. And then you're as open and faithful as you can be - or you aren't. Marriage brings a lot of stability but that can sometimes be damaging because of the order and structure it imposes. I understand when people get divorced after a couple of years. That order restricted the vibrancy of the relationship. And that's a shame!
I know a lot of couples who aren't married and just live together. That's a good solution because it leaves out restraints and pressures. Everybody can decide what their life looks like. As soon as you're married, everything's set. Routine sets in and there's no, or very little, arousal. Then all too often, men can't get an erection because they get bored. If you're not married, you need to decide everything anew, whether you want to get pregnant or not, whether one wants to work outside the city or not. These are all new decisions and processes that two people have to work out. And this struggle creates a unity that nobody can ruin.
It's a lot healthier not to be married that long, to get into new relationships and to always check: "Does this suit me?" That's what I tell everyone in difficult situations: find out what works for you and then act accordingly. And stand your ground! Then you'll end up just right - no matter what or who happens to you.
How it all started… and not lasted forever
When a boy kissed me at 16, I slapped him in the face - not because of the actual kiss, but because he forced me into it. Later, there was a colleague in his early 20s and I wouldn't have minded if he had kissed me. But he was engaged and his fiancee watched him keenly and never let him out of sight!
My [first] husband was as much of a virgin as I was. We got to know ourselves through each other. He was heartbroken when I left after 13 years. He had a harder time dealing with that because we promised to stay together "till death do us part."
I then said, "until the death of love do us part", but I realized that my love was never gone. Later on, I found that I had chosen three men who suited me perfectly, but only for a certain amount of time. I wouldn't have wanted to grow old with any of them. Sometimes when I ask young people: "Do you want to get old with your boyfriend?", they start thinking and say they don't.
At least that's honest! Don't automatically respond, "Yes of course!" Just because people think it's supposed to be that way. And that's the core of the problem. You don't have to think that way at all.
Mistakes are as crucial as trust
Even in my early days, I was always open and curious. It taught me a lot about myself. I was never scared. I think I had a certain basic trust that mistakes are crucial and no big deal, that I can learn from them and move on, and that things are always okay the way they are. The sex I had at 50 was longer - more lasting and playful than at 20, but I didn't become more confident. I think being too confident stops you from being creative and imaginative.
Now, I just don't find sex aesthetically pleasing and it's okay that I'm beyond my appetite for sex. I had three incredible relationships but with spots on my skin and wrinkles, it's past time to be done with sex. Instead of an appetite for sex, I have an appetite for life and it's insatiable.