It wasn’t meant to be like this.
It was meant to be candlelight and a perfectly curated playlist and rose petals on the bed and me opening the front door to you in nothing but a silk dressing gown; yet here we are, on a rainy Tuesday night, and I can hear the neighbour’s radio while the smell of the weekly batch of chilli wafts in from the kitchen and I’m having sex wearing a scarf; and not a sexy scarf, I might add. It’s the type of chunky-knit woollen scarf that one’s grandmother makes them because our tiny, messy flat, in the depth of British winter, is so cold that there’s no way I’m going in without protection.
When I moved in with my long-term boyfriend this year, I thought our love life would stay fresh as ever. Hey, we’re young, we’re still super attracted to each other, we both like to make the all-the-trimmings effort when it comes to cooking each other brunch, so now that we were free from the constraints of trying to make it work in a single bed or while avoiding the innocent ears of various flatmates, I didn’t think we’d submit to the cultural cliché of having sex when I’ve still got spot cream on or only banging once in a blue moon.
It’s no secret that millennials are having less sex than generations before us but somehow the pressure to have good, perfect, sexy sex seems higher than ever. Is it the age of dating apps and their consequent casual hook-ups that makes us feel like we aren’t doing it right? Is it everyone’s ‘perfect’ relationship filling up our Instagram feeds? I don’t know, but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that people in long-term relationships feel the pressure to keep up and to keep their sex life varied in ways that don’t involve swiping left or right.
And so we attempt, in vain in my case, to keep it all singing, all dancing, all tassels and all ‘take me here, right now, in the middle of our perfectly furnished apartment’ as one strips down to a chemise and is thrown onto satin sheets. Whereas really, it’s something that starts on our IKEA sofa and escalates to a mad dash into the bedroom lest our neighbours be subject to a view of my bare arse first thing on a Sunday morning.
And whilst it hasn’t got to the well-trodden media trope of me having a perpetual headache, I’ve found that a lot of the time sex in a long-term, living together relationship is actually distinctly unsexy. It’s sex when you’re both hungover; when you haven’t washed your hair in four days; when they’ve still got a smudge of peanut butter at the corner of their mouth; when you’ve still got a sports bra on; when the bed’s covered in piles of folded laundry; when you’re so full of spaghetti you think you might explode; when you definitely, absolutely don’t have time before work.
So whilst maybe that means that yes, you’ve become that couple that primarily wear tracksuits in the house, isn’t there still a certain beauty to it? Isn’t the redeeming factor of unsexy sex that you feel so comfortable with this person, or that you feel so compelled to engage in the act, that in the face of actually succumbing to your clichéd long-term relationship fate or the fact that you do look really good in matching underwear, you look past the gym kit, or the morning breath or the fact that it’s already 11.03pm and you swore you’d be asleep by 10.30pm, and tell that person, or at least infer, that you want them exactly as they are.
It shows that is doesn’t always have to be like the movie style throes of passion to be meaningful. It shows that your connection goes further than a fancy dinner, Marvin Gaye gracing the speakers and a clean flat: the passion surpasses that.
I’m not saying that it’s not authentic if you do always commit to full-on, lingerie-clad, sexy sex, I’m just saying that I think there’s something special about squeaky bedframe, un-showered, woollen-scarf-wearing unsexy sex too.