My friend Evelyn Hannon (of www.Journeywoman.com fame) and I have both pledged that we will grow old as we have lived life: on our own terms, in our own way, and with great joie de vivre. No growing old gracefully for us.
In my case, that has involved a return to the world of dating and an active, if somewhat sporadic, sex life just as I began to collect my Old Age Pension. And as so often happens to me, my life’s experiences end up becoming the next unfolding of my work.
My sexual reawakening and the many, many conversations I’ve had with men in all corners of the world as I’ve explored the post-modern freak show that is on-line dating have drawn me to explore the topic of sexuality and aging. I am now well into the process of writing a book on that topic. I’ve been involved in exploring conscious aging for some time now, and through developing a TV series with a colleague, became aware that the topic of sexuality and aging was one that many shied away from.
I’ve always been attracted to topics that skirt the edges of acceptability in society: whether that be about being fat, off-the-beaten-track travel, alternatives to ‘retirement’, social business, death and dying, late life divorce or other topics that make many people squirm, I quickly realized that few were discussing sexuality. Sure there is some discussion about sex and the elderly, but most of it is medically based. For me, sexuality is such a broader, more compelling topic. Sexuality is about how one feels about being a sexual entity in an aging body, whether actively having sex or not.
It has been such a delight to read books and articles on the topic, to talk with all types of people of varying ages, to see the look of delight, shock (and occasionally horror) that passes across peoples’ faces when I announce that my book will not only talk about sexuality and aging but will show photos of ordinary people nude or semi-nude in sexualized poses. I’ve discovered that it is one thing to talk about sexuality and aging, it is quite another matter to show pictures of the beauty of wrinkled, naked flesh in a sexual context. I can’t wait.
I’m still looking for stories, by the way, of people between 55 and 75 about their experiences of sexuality. I’ve got a standard questionnaire that I administer by phone or Skype, offer people complete anonymity and will provide a free copy of the e-book version of my book once it is published. Let me know if you’d like to participate. Also, if you are interested in posing for photos, let me know. We continue to search for willing life models.
My own experiences have been very heartening and life affirming. I’ve met some utterly delightful men. I’ve had some fantastic lovers and have learned so very much about myself as a woman, a sexual being, and a person continuing to deal with the fall-out of some early life traumas. I’ve also discovered that as difficult as I always thought it was for us women to deal with our sagging bodies and flagging libidos, most men are in much, much worse shape emotionally and spiritually. The big factor for most men, I’ve discovered, is that as their bodies start to fail them, they don’t have the sisterhood of friends that most of us women have. They are alone in their self-doubt and misery. Guys just don’t talk in the kind of supportive way that women do. Their sexual challenges tend to get highlighted rather than normalized through the social isolation they experience around this topic.
So while I hold my sex life as in no way disgraceful, I do know that the fact that I talk pretty openly about on-line dating, about sexuality and about the emotional and physical issues many experience as they age is considered disgraceful to many. All the more so because I am not a licensed psychologist or medical practitioner. I am just a fat old woman who loves life and is committed to living it as vibrantly as I possibly can for as long as I possibly can. Disgraceful, isn’t it?