Thursday, April 30, 2009

He's History, You're Not: Interview with Erica Manfred

It was Christmas Eve, 2000, the day before her 55th birthday. Erica Manfred, clad in a flannel nightgown, asked her husband why he had been so distant lately, not wanting sex, or even conversation.

"I want to leave you," he said.

"There's someone else," he continued, naming a co-worker half Erica's age. "I'm in love with her. She's my soul mate."

After eighteen years together, Erica had to face that her marriage was abruptly, painfully, horribly over.

In the next years, Erica Manfred went on to make every mistake in the book. The good news is that "the book" has just been published -- He's History, You're Not: Surviving Divorce After 40 -- and she learned from her mistakes in time to help you avoid them.

Divorce is different for women in their forties, fifties, and sixties, and Erica Manfred addresses those special concerns head-on, from grieving to financial to dating and sex. She spills her guts, disclosing even embarrassing experiences with emotional nakedness. Her tips are invaluable, and her candor will make you feel she’s your best friend sharing her mistakes so you don’t have to make them. Through it all, she even manages to be laugh-out-loud funny!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Manfred:

JP: What are the signs that your marriage is in trouble?

EM: You can't remember the last time you had (or enjoyed) sex with your husband. You're stuck in a deadlocked relationship where you "always" do X and he "always" does Y. You have no emotional connection. You wish you could go on vacation without him.

JP: How do you start dating again when your perky parts have gone south and so has your self-image?

EM: Good question Joan. All the women I interviewed lost weight, started going to the gym or exercising like crazy, got manicures, pedicures, new hair colors, makeovers. Buying a new wardrobe helps. Aside from that, act “as if” you’re devastatingly sexy even if you don’t feel that way. Make believe you’re Susan Sarandon or Madonna even if it feels silly. It works.

JP: Give us some tips about dating at our age.

EM: Nothing has changed since high school, except now you want to get laid more than he does, but you still have to play hard to get. Depressing but true. Remember the guys you’re dating came of age in the 50s and they’re not used to getting asked out on dates. They need to do the pursuing.

JP: How soon is too soon to get involved with a new lover?

EM: I’d say give it at least a year after the breakup of a long marriage. Jumping into a new relationship too early can leave you more devastated than when your marriage ended. That said, if you’re hot to trot, experiment a little. Just don’t take it seriously until you’re ready.

JP: What did you do after your divorce that you’re embarrassed to admit now?

EM: Jumped into bed with every Tom, Dick and Harry. Literally. My first lover was Harry and he was a cutie. I was a tad too promiscuous.

JP: What do you wish more women in this situation knew?

EM: How to stop being so dependent on men. You can take care of yourself, pay the bills, get the roof fixed and even live happily alone if you have to. The bad news is there aren’t enough men to go around. The good news is you don’t need a man to be happy.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Going Gray -- win a book!

My hair is now officially natural. I stopped coloring it about six months ago (see some photos here of my "transition") and now my short hair is naturally tri-colored: about 60 percent gray (let's call it silver), with a determined back layer of brown, and a couple of little pops of almost-white. I had never seen my natural hair color since I started coloring it more than 15 years ago. I had no idea what might be happening at the root of things. I like the change.

In between trips to the mirror, I read Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters by Anne Kreamer. Kreamer decided to stop coloring her hair at age 49, after coloring it since age 25. The book is a personal exploration of her journey to gray, but even more interesting, a social, historical, and psychological commentary on how hair color, age, and self-image mesh -- or don't.

In one of the most fascinating chapters, "Dating -- My Three-City Road Test," Kreamer posts an online dating profile to test whether men seeking date matches respond differently to gray hair. She posts identical photos on identical profiles in three different cities, except that she posts first as a brunette for a few weeks, removes the profile, and then a few months later, posts a gray-haired photo. I would love to tell you how that came out, but it's such a marvelous part of the book (including the reactions of her husband as she trolled for dates!) that I'm going to encourage you to read it for yourself.

What about you? Did you meet someone after you had settled into your silver hair when romance had eluded you as a blonde? Did responses to your online dating profile go up or down after you posted a new, natural-color photo? Did you go gray and then return, screaming, to your colorist to camouflage your tresses? Did you discover that your face and skin match better now that you're no longer ebony-haired?

Tell me your story and win a book! When Hachette Book Group, the publisher of Going Gray, learned that I would be blogging about this book, they offered me five (5!) copies to give away in a contest! Interested? Here's what you do:

Email me your 2-3 paragraph story about how deciding to go gray changed your dating life, self-image, and/or sex life -- for better or worse. Include your real name, age, and address, plus a first name of your choice which will be used to identify you if I publish your story or an excerpt on my blog. Yep, you have to agree to go public using your code name and age. No other ID will be published unless you request it (if you're a writer, performer, or other person in the public eye and you want your story told with your name).

Please put "Going Gray contest" in the subject line of your email. If your story is among the first five that I love (I reserve the right to be totally subjective), you'll receive a free copy of Going Gray directly from the publisher. What a deal!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A New Lesson from Birds and Bees

When birds, bats or bugs make a turn, all they have to do is start flapping their wings normally again and they straighten right out. That came as a surprise to researchers who thought turning and stopping took more steps.

I was reading Science of flight takes a bird's eye view by Randolph E. Schmid from Associated Press and had to stop and reread this part:

...all they have to do is start flapping their wings normally again and they straighten right out.
I read this again, and again. I've been more deeply in grief this past week, thanks to an ankle sprain that rules out the usual daily dancing and walking that I count on to keep my emotional life in balance. Without this exercise and the joy it brings, my healing from grief took a nosedive and I find myself mourning Robert's loss unbearably.

Then I read this article, and I wonder how to flap my wings normally again and straighten out. I'll work on figuring this out.

How have you recovered from grief, tragedy, or even lesser setbacks by flapping your wings normally again?

Update a few hours later:
A friend encouraged me to get outside on this sunny spring day. I went to a park, hopped around on crutches for a while, then settled on a bench in view of the duck pond to read my Kindle.

Suddenly I realized I had a front-row seat to view a sex orgy: a consensual (I hoped) gang bang of six male ducks and one, apparently very sexy, female.

She took on partners, sometimes two alternating suitors bestowing favors in a threesome. Then she shook herself off and ran a bit, letting the lust-struck lads chase her until she slowed down and let herself be caught. The merry chase continued on the grass, in the water, and on the grass again, one or more males mounting her every couple of minutes .

Finally she backed up against a fence and stood with her tired (I assume) nether regions protected while the fellows returned to the water, rising up and beating their wings in what I took to be bragging.

I went back to my Kindle book, happy that I had ventured out in the sunshine, glad I hadn't missed the show!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Daily Show's "Dirty Bird Special" poops on senior sex

About three years ago, I was contacted by a producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart about appearing on a segment about the rise in STDs among sexually active seniors. The segment didn't get produced at that time because they wanted to include sexually active elders, preferably unattractive and smarmy who didn't use condoms, who were willing to let a camera and interviewer follow them on their how-to-pick-up-a-sex-partner-escapades.

I knew TDS would ridicule these elders and the whole notion of older-age dating and sex, but I wanted to be a part of the show because I thought I could bring some dignity to the topic.

After months of trying to locate their wild elders (who were likely smarter than I was and wouldn't agree to be ridiculed by The Daily Show), the producer gave up on the segment -- or so I thought.

I went on to be interviewed on the topic of unsafe senior sex by ABC Nightline, which did a fabulous, educational, and respectful segment and included a long interview with me, featuring comments from readers on this blog, in fact.

You know what happened last night if you were watching Comedy Central. On April 9, 2009, The Daily Show aired "Dirty Bird Special" about unsafe senior sex and dating, which featured an 82-year-old horndog ("lookin' for it wherever I can get it") who doesn't believe his genital warts are contagious ("warts are my penis") and hasn't used a condom in 40 years, although he's getting more "tail" now than in his youth.

Although part of the segment showed vivacious Miami elders dancing, dating, and having fun, the interviewer -- who admitted that thinking of seniors having sex produced "gagging sensations" -- was intent on making even social dancing and dating seem seedy, ridiculous, and icky. And I hate to tell you what they did with the segment about safer-sex education at a Jewish community center. You'll have to view it yourself .

I thank Sue Katz for drawing my attention to this show with her superb blog post about it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Erotica on a Kindle?

4/1/09 update of 2/12/09 post: I've had my Kindle 2 for a month now, and I love it. I'm reading more than ever because it's so easy to carry as many books as I want in one portable device, and Amazon lets me sample books before buying them. Right now I have about 50 samples on my Kindle -- novels, erotica, memoir, sexuality non-fiction, short story anthologies, grief books, and more -- along with several purchased books and a subscription to the San Francisco Chronicle.

I just ordered an Amazon Kindle 2 e-book reader for myself. I've wanted one forever (at least since Kindle 1 came out) but teased myself with anticipation of the second generation of this device. I love to read and I carry books with me everywhere, and soon I can carry just this little device and have access to all the books I could possibly want.

And yes, this is related to sex. I don't know about you, but sometimes I want to to carry a book of erotica or the latest sex book I'm reviewing for this blog into the coffee shop, the gym, or the airport, but I leave it behind because the blatent cover or title would bring me unwanted public attention.

As soon as my Kindle arrives, I can carry all sorts of books, including those that people assume a 65-year-old woman doesn't read! Of course I'll still have to be wary of people reading over my shoulder or saying, "Oh, is that a Kindle? May I look at it?"

Do you have a Kindle or other e-book reader? What sex-related books do you read on it? An Amazon search on "sex" within Kindle books lists 2,947 books, and "erotica" yields 4,882 titles. That'll keep me busy.