Author: Dr. Trina Read (Trina Read)
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“The boldest and most fortunate people will begin preparing for their new journey in their forties, but most women won’t take the time to think about reawakening to the possibilities for their own new life until they have lunched their last child. Many others will need the upheaval of menopause to give them a push.”
Gail Sheehy, Sex and the Seasoned Woman

When I grow up, I want to be a sexy seasoned woman. Gail Sheehy, who wrote Sex and the Seasoned Woman: Pursuing the Passionate Life, will be my guide and role model.

Easier said than done when, “…most women are still socialized not to expect much after 45 or 50—nothing much except dulling hair, corrugated skin, brittling bones, shriveling sex organs….”

Bravo to Sheehy for taking on the old social myth that sex after 50 does not exist and turning it on its head by advocating sex after your prime.

For her book, Sheehy candidly interviewed 400 seasoned women from diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. On a hunch, she decided to create a forum for women to express themselves on a taboo topic and was surprised when the proverbial floodgates opened. Women went out of their way to share their experiences with relationships, sex and passion frankly.

Sheehy writes, “One major goal of this book is to open a window on the full second half of the female life cycle, which rarely is depicted in popular entertainment as it is actually lived today.”

I am not so certain about that. Newsweek magazine made Sex & The Single Boomer: The New World of Midlife Romance front page news and wrote, “The 77,702,865 Americans born between 1946 and 1964 came of age in the era of sex, drugs and rock and roll…sex and relationships remain front and center as the oldest boomers turn 60 this year. That’s largely because more boomers are single than any previous cohort….”

US Census reported 28.6% of adults 45 to 59 single in 2003, translating to approximately 22,223,019 Baby Boomers looking for love and revving up their sex engines. Giddy up, grandmas!

Big business has already done the math and is desperately trying to cash in. Trouble is, their focus thus far has been on sexual dysfunction—do we need to dredge up once more the mind-boggling success of Viagra? Going to a bookstore or searching on the Internet will produce shockingly little information about being over 50 and leading not only a healthy but (gasp) juicy sex life.

That leaves a whole lot of seasoned women stuck. These women who are happy and fit have little to no guidance on how to take their sexuality through to the next stage of their life. I have met many of these women and they ooze frustration because their once healthy sexuality has been stopped in its tracks.

And then Gail Sheehy comes along and writes this fabulous book declaring, “At 50, one stands on the mountaintop of the life span with a thrilling 360-degree view in all directions. The surge of potential power can be overwhelming.”

Powerful indeed when Sheehy says, “An estimated 50 million American women are somewhere in the menopausal transition or postmenopausal…Most American women transit the menopausal passage somewhere between the ages of 40 and 58, with a median age of 52.” Many of the menopausal women Sheehy interviewed were very clear they wanted to have plenty of sex…and many years of it.

Thanks to advances in medicine, great sex after menopause is more than just a pipe dream. In fact post-menopausal sex can be the best yet, “A great many women are finding ‘middlesex’ more enjoyable than married life ever was in their thirties and forties, when juggling jobs, motherhood, and what’s-for-dinner guilt made for mostly exhausted sex.”

For me, Sex and The Seasoned Woman is a book of hope and of how women’s sexuality is making headway. I almost cried when I read, “…back in the 1970s ‘midlife’ for women could begin in the mid-thirties. The years between 35 and 45 were the passage to middle age, when a woman had to pick up on any deferred dreams to settle for the bed she had made.” Say it isn’t so.

Today, the opportunity for women to be sexual and sensual can increase instead of wither as she ages. It is her choice to be, “marinated by life experience,” as Sheehy describes, and be like a complex wine where she can be alternately sweet, tart, sparkling, mellow and committed to living fully and passionately. Freedom 55 never rang so true.

If I had one teensy criticism, it would be the book is mostly anecdotal (I am an academic—go figure). It is a book of stories of real women and their struggles with only a smattering of research sprinkled throughout to give the book substance. Nonetheless, Sheehy’s gift is transcribing women’s lives and their sexual identities into beautiful easy-to-read prose.

If you are a healthy woman over 50 and want a positive road map for your aging sexuality, run to the bookstore and pick up Sheehy’s book. It truly is a breath of fresh, sexy air.

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