Once you write the words down, they no longer belong to you, a newspaper editor told me. Once I create a piece of writing, it’s out of my hands. I should not be surprised, therefore, by what happened to my erotic memoir, Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair, a few days ago.
The book is a candid and passionate portrayal of my love affair with Jim, which began when Jim was 67 and I was 58. Free Fall celebrates adult sexuality and encourages change, especially when we find ourselves in untenable situations. Jim and I had plenty of life under our belts when we met, including four grown children.
Recently, we sat at a restaurant with Jim’s daughter and a group of her friends. The friends took turns reading aloud the graphic sexual passages to Jim’s daughter. There were plenty of snickers and loud guffaws. The book was about senior sex, and young people consider that fair game for ridicule—even when their friend’s cherished father and his new lover are the butt of their jokes.
Jim was amused and unbothered by what his daughter’s friends did. It’s something men do to each other all the time, he said. They jam you up, test your mettle, play a form of psychological chicken.
As a woman and the author, my take is different. There are numerous short but graphic erotic scenes in Free Fall. A group of young men and women taking turns reading these sex scenes aloud in a public place feels akin to a verbal assault. We all knew that Jim’s daughter had no interest in reading about her father’s sexual prowess.
When I asked my daughter what she thought, the first thing she said was, “This is how it is with books. Once you write it and publish it, it’s no longer yours. It’s like a book burning, only mockery.”
Fortunately, my daughter, who happens to be a librarian, and her friends treated my book very differently. They bought and read the book and posted reviews on Web sites like GoodReads. They wrote both of us, sending along congratulations and rave reviews. I was invited to her library to read to patrons. It was one of the best nights of my life: my daughter, Jim, my daughter’s good friend, and a group of interested and open-minded patrons together sharing stories.
In Free Fall, I write a lot about letting go, staying open, not holding on so tight to what I think I know. Once again I find there is no such thing as a lesson learned for keeps. You learn a lesson in the moment and relearn it, when the need arises.
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