Saturday, April 29, 2006

Shocked by Reactions

I was at the Palm Springs Book Festival a week ago, speaking on a panel about life and love after 50 and selling my books. I had thought this would be a perfect venue because of the age of most Palm Springs residents. I was right about the age, but I was shocked by the reactions I got! At every other event before this one, I had heard only enthuastic comments, like "It's about time!" and "Oooooh, I want to read that!" or even, "You should have interviewed me!"

But this time, most people kept their distance when they saw the topic and never opened the book to take a look. Here are some of the comments I heard:

"If I brought this book into the house, my wife would divorce me."

"No-oo-o, I'm done with sex."

"I don't care for men any more and I'm not a lesbian,
so no thanks."

And from one person who promised to come back later:

"I'll slip you the money, but I know a lot of people here and I don't want them to see me buying this book."

I'd love to hear your comments. Do these reactions surprise you?

Fortunately, there were a few brave souls who broke the mold. A group of three women laughed and they all bought copies. (I asked if it was for their book club!)

One man bought the book for his wife, then returned, worried. "What's the worst that can happen when my wife reads this?" he asked.

"She might keep you up all night!" I replied.

2 comments:

  1. I'm not surprised by the comments from people in this retirement community.

    When my mother-in-law (now deceased) was widowed at age 80+, Ed, a 90+ widower who was a long-time family friend "came calling." They both lived in a south Florida retirement community, where gossip was one of the top leisure-time activities--as it probably is in Palm Springs. In fact, Mom was the "tsk-tsk" leader of her circle of friends. So whenever "Ed" came by for morning coffee or with a dinner date invitation, she made sure to keep her front door open and often protested to friends that "I tolerate him because he was such a good friend to my husband."

    But actually, they became affectionate companions, often spending long evening hours together (doors and window shades closed!) playing cards, word games, and much more, I'm sure.

    Every now and then, we'd tease her about Ed and she'd act terribly annoyed and insulted: "He's NOT my boyfriend. He's old enough to be my father!" But we--and probably all her friends--saw through that.

    This attitude could explain the negative comments you received in Palm Springs. In retirement communities where gossip rules, most of the hot thoughts and activities take place in secret. Embarrassment and old-fashioned modesty reinforce the "Don't ask, don't tell" rule.

    But just sit in on a seniors' coffee clatch and try not to be shocked at all the very explicit sex jokes! The 80+ and 90+ crowd may not admit it, and they'd fear to buy books about it, but though sex is out of sight, it's definitely not out of mind in these communities.

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  2. Toni, what a perceptive comment! Thank you. I couldn't make sense of the reactions of the Palm Springs retirees, but you've given me a valuable insight.

    -- Joan

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