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How to Date Without Drinking

Emily Flake answers your questions about jealousy, perfumes that smell like Mom and getting adventurous in the bedroom

Woman drinking out of a mason jar
Jasmin Sander/plainpicture

I recently quit drinking, and it’s made my life so much better — except when it comes to dating. It’s hard enough being single in your 40s, but without the liquid courage of booze, I’m not sure how to meet new people. How do sober people hook up?
—Drew, Grand Rapids, Michigan

One of the truly hard lessons to learn as we get older is that booze is a false wingman (and a crappy best friend, and a less-than-adequate parent). You’ve taken the important step of recognizing that sad fact.

Here’s some good news: Millennials and Gen Zers basically don’t drink, and they’re the whole reason most bars have at least a few fun mocktails on the menu. You could use all that money you would’ve blown on liquor and spend it on other interests, which will make you a more well-rounded and thus more interesting person. It can also lead to opportunities to meet new people in environments where booze isn’t the main social lubricant, like taking an improv class, if you want to exclusively date dorks.

Of course, if the main thing here is less what to do and more ginning (ha!) up the courage to do it, let the fact that you had the wherewithal to quit give you confidence and strength. Be patient. Getting to know yourself as a sober person takes time. And if all else fails, you could always get a dog. Not to date, just to have a reason to hang out in the dog park and wait for a rom-com to happen to you.

My partner gets jealous when somebody else so much as smiles at me. He even gets weird if a waiter seems to be flirting. How do I assure him that I’m not going anywhere, and flirting isn’t the same as cheating?
—Bryan, Durham, NC

Sounds to me like deflection. What is he hiding, Bryan? Kidding. I’m not trying to sow discontent here, but I do think this level of jealousy is indicative of a deeper problem. Perhaps framing this as a situation where you truly want to get to the heart of why he feels he can’t trust you might be helpful. Was he cheated on in the past? Does he feel insecure in the relationship? Whatever the reason, best to get to the heart of it before a suggestive eyebrow waggle from a hot young thing wielding a pepper grinder throws your whole romance out of whack.

My girlfriend started wearing a new perfume, and I swear it’s the same perfume my mom wore when I was growing up. Should I ask her to stop or change perfumes? Or is my stupid Oedipal anxiety all in my head?
—Chad, Brooklyn, New York

It’s totally OK if you don’t want to sleep in the same bed with someone who smells like your mom. If my husband told me a perfume I was wearing reminded him of his mother, I would not only stop wearing it; I would do everything in my power to have that scent discontinued. But you don’t have to make it weird. Just tell her that the perfume is triggering an allergy for you, or buy her a bottle of a scent that has never graced your mother’s wrists.

The wife and I want to try something adventurous in the bedroom. We’re in our early 50s, so please don’t suggest anything crazy. We’re not having sex on a plane or trying positions that seem like Cirque du Soleil tricks. We’re not freaks, just bored with business as usual.
—Jeff, Albany, New York

The author, Emily Flake
Generation Sex: Emily Flake answers your burning questions about love, marriage, and midlife sex. Send your queries to aarparrow@aarp.org.
/ Matt Salacuse

I applaud you for knowing the limits of the human body, especially as it settles into middle age. Cirque du Soleil-style sex acrobatics are best left to the professionals. (Note to self: Find out if Cirque has an OnlyFans.) So the thing to ask yourself is this: What’s your baseline for adventure?

If you’re on the vanilla end of the spectrum, anything beyond good ol’ missionary style might count as adventure, no? But I think the crux of things here is that you need a way to be a little mysterious to one another — no easy task in a long marriage, I know. People in relationships tend to develop a bedroom “script” over time: We do this, we do that, orgasms are achieved, we watch some Seinfeld reruns, and then we sleep. I suggest taking a look at that script and seeing where you might make edits. It’s OK to start small. Just switching sides of the bed could make a difference, or moving the main event into another room, one without a bed.

And hey, don’t be too quick to dismiss your inner freak, even if he’s no longer limber enough to join the mile-high club. Truly, who is — besides the sex maniacs in Cirque du Soleil?

Follow Article Topics: Sex-&-Relationships