Smartphones, tablets, texting, apps — life in the fast lane has made it hard for us to remember the joy of doing things slowly, deliberately and free of deadlines. We overstuff vacations with activities. We multitask even during a romantic dinner. And when it comes to sex, we often take the quickest route to orgasm, ignoring the sensual pleasures available along the way.
Now that we are older, however, both our bodies and our brains savor a slower approach. Sensuality — which is really nothing more than the full employment of our senses — makes sense. To slow things down and get back in touch with your sensual side, try these six strategies:
1. Soak it up
The Romans were obsessed with hot water. They scoured the ancient world in search of that rarity — a hot spring bubbling up from the ground — and built a steam bath for Roman aristocrats wherever they found one.
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We take our hot water for granted these days, often forgetting its romantic potential. Don't let that happen to you and your honey! Spend some time together soaking in hot water laden with aromatic salts, letting the scent of eucalyptus, rose or lavender flood your sense of smell. You can also burn incense by the tub's edge. Smell is the quickest sense to reach the brain, so it can affect our thoughts and feelings almost immediately.
If your bathtub at home is big enough for only one aristocrat, find a hotel or public bathhouse that offers a larger soaking tub. I can't say enough about how the two of you will feel as tendrils of perfume entwine you: "Detoxed, renewed and seduced" almost begins to cover it!
2. Get — or give — happy feet
A favorite sensual strategy is to home in on one part of the body and pamper it like crazy. Our feet — those seemingly pedestrian body parts so often stood up or downtrodden — may be the most deserving of such attention. And if you observe the proper ritual, taking care of each other's feet can be a rewardingly sensual experience.
Believe it or not, you can buy a kit for this and follow its steps. They usually go something like this:
a. Soak your partner's feet in warm water.
b. Scrub them with a loofah, a mildly abrasive cloth or a pumice stone. Yes, you're removing old skin, but it should feel good.
c. Slowly and sensually apply lotion to her/his feet, massaging the toes, instep and heel. If you want to go over the top, paint her toes (rent Bull Durham to understand why this can be so sexy) or give him a bit of a pedicure. If this is too metrosexual for you, stop at the foot massage — but I guarantee that will be enough to feel a sensual connection.
Now that we are older, however, both our bodies and our brains savor a slower approach. Sensuality — which is really nothing more than the full employment of our senses — makes sense
3. Learn a new kind of necking
Ever had a proper neck massage? It's one of the sexiest things you can get — or give!
Pay slow, focused attention to the top of your partner's neck, where the hairline ends; the base of the neck where it connects to the shoulders; and even the temples and jawline. You will have to guide each other to deliver maximum pleasure; done well, however, moaning should ensue as the sensual benefits of this kind of touch hit home.
If this appeals to you but you doubt your talent for it, take a massage class. Knowing whether to use your thumbs, for example, or learning the perfect amount of pressure to apply to the temples can spell the difference between grace and groping. Just be prepared for your partner's slavish devotion if you perfect the art of neck massage!
4. Lights + camera = action
To make an experience more sensual, think like a set director — that is, arrange the lighting in your home to its most flattering effect. In winter this may mean cuddling (or more!) in front of the fireplace; in summer you can create a similar effect using a campfire or fire pit.
In the bedroom, you have three options to create a more visually sensual environment:
a. Use a dimmer.
b. Change the color of the ambient light; try peach, blue or even red for a more highly charged atmosphere.
c. Rather than lighting just one candle, try setting 10 or 15 votives around the room.
In short, never underestimate the romantic impact of underlighting a scene!
5. We all love in a material world
Touch is intimate — we can bank on an immediate physical response when someone we love touches us — but what about other kinds of touch? Consider the super-sensual feeling of satiny sheets, or the luxurious sensation created by other materials such as a cashmere scarf, a merino-wool robe or a pair of silk pajamas.
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One sure ingredient to include in any sensual recipe is high thread-count sheets: These are practically guaranteed to make you feel splendid in bed, with or without someone else present.
6. Have your partner eating from the palm of your hand
It can be a turnoff to witness another couple feeding each other in public. Done in the privacy or your own kitchen or bedroom, however, being fed feels downright nurturing. And when the foodstuff in question is specially prepared hors d'oeuvres or bite-sized desserts, the effect can be incredibly sensual.
To heighten the sensation, you might consider having the person who is being fed also be blindfolded (restricting one sense intensifies others). With or without the sense of sight, being fed chocolate-covered chilled strawberries, or small spoonfuls of chocolate mousse, or a ripe slice of peach or mango verges on foreplay. Take your time … savor each bite … and it all adds up to a deliciously sensual experience.
Pepper Schwartz is AARP's love and relationships ambassador.