The Last Station, a biopic about Leo Tolstoy, has the great writer entering his bedroom and finding his wife waiting for him in the bed they have shared for 43 years. She is in a playful mood. He is tired and preoccupied. She embarks on a seduction; his face is a mask of tedium.
UNDAUNTED (SHE’S HELEN MIRREN, AFTER ALL)
She continues to entice. “I am still your little chicken,” she says sweetly, inspiring the tiniest glint of remembrance in the old man’s eyes, “and you are still my crowing cock-a-doodle-do.” A moment later she has him literally crowing like a rooster as he falls into her arms.
I found this scene authentic and touching, but young people may find it puzzling and even disgusting. They will think it’s about dotty old folks indulging in poultry sounds as a precursor to chaste pre-slumber embraces. This is because the young don’t know what it’s like to grow old in a marriage enriched by shared memories both serious and silly. And because they think hot sex is only for people under 30.
NAKED AT OUR AGE
Joan Price, author of Better Than I Ever Expected, takes direct aim at this misconception in her newest book, Naked At Our Age, Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex. Joan wants the world to know that senior sex is way more than affectionate snuggling. Naked is a meticulously researched compendium of stories, confessions, and inquiries by real people, along with supportive comments by experts in medicine, psychiatry, and sexuality.
To call a book “groundbreaking” is risky because the term is so often used haphazardly. But there’s a reason Joan’s work deserves the term: she’s not pontificating politely from a distance. She extols adult toys and masturbation in the first person. Further, she reveals much of what characterized sex with her beloved husband, whom she lost to cancer in 2008 and for whom she still grieves mightily.
A KAMA SUTRA FOR CODGERS?
While the book can indeed help to recharge marriages that have passed the 30 year mark, Joan goes beyond the kind of how-to you can find on myriad websites. Her mission is broader. She clearly thinks sex is a form of self expression and that its expression takes many forms. “Huge numbers of us have broken out of socially acceptable relationships and made unconventional choices,” she says, and without endorsing open marriage, swinging, bondage, and S&M, she writes compassionately of those who engage in these practices.
There are lively testaments to the power of what blogger Jesse Mendes calls the September-May connection, older women and younger men in balanced and loving (non-cougar) relationships. There is a helpful section on how to remain sexually active while dealing with illness, disabilities, and the grief of widowhood. There is support for breaking out of passive acceptance and talking frankly to a partner about what would pleasure you most. While some stories reveal difficulties related to aging, it’s inspiring to learn how non-geriatric senior sex often is. Not a few of these testifiers are in their eighties.
BRAVE NEW WORLD
I believe Joan is not only an iconoclast but a prophet. We may scoff at the recent assertion by biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey that “the person who will live to be 150 has already been born,” but the fact remains that we will be living a whole lot longer than previous generations. Sex being the life-sustaining force that it is, no one wants to spend her last 50 years without it.
The time is coming when no one says,” eeeeew” when they hear that granny is getting it on, and Joan Price will have helped to hasten that day.
Joan’s message is for everyone — for Boomers and seniors because it’s sound advice for those in the last half of life, and for pre-Boomers because it’s good to for them to learn that their sexuality can and will be vibrant as they move beyond middle age. Here is Joan’s website: http://betterthanieverexpected.blogspot.com/