Yep. The 50s were fabulous

So. Despite a couple of cancellations and some rescheduling, I have now wrapped up the 10 in-depth interviews for women in their 50s.

I suppose it was completely predictable that I would feel connected to these women. They’re my contemporaries and I feel a kinship with each, sharing as we do a list of common points of reference. I find delight in talking to women of all ages, but it’s lovely to note that extra little spark that kicks in when someone identifies with all your childhood memories and markers.

As a prelude to writing, I’m compiling a cheat sheet, a helpful habit I developed four or five chapters ago. It’s a crude chart that simply includes name, age, pseudonym, number of marriages, number of kids, number of sexual partners, frequency of sex … basically just a few quick details so I can do comparisons and know at a glance what percentages I’m dealing with. It helps to jump-start the process of identifying trends within the decades.

One thing I immediately noticed this time was the effect of birth control pills. Not a single woman in her 50s married due to pregnancy, while 33 percent of the 60-something interviewees did just that. Another 33 percent of the 60s women got pregnant on their honeymoons, proving that although The Pill was technically available to that older decade of women, its cultural and practical assimilation took years.

Another difference — which may or may not be connected to the elapsed decade — is the number of women who identified themselves as bi-sexual or lesbian. When possible, we strove to include a lesbian woman in each decade’s interviewees, wanting their voices included. A gay woman in her 60s and one in her 50s were therefore part of our sampling. But two additional 50-somethings told me they were bi-sexual during our interviews.

Their stories were very different but equally fascinating: Christina dated women exclusively during her 20s, but has since returned to a heterosexual lifestyle; Alexa began having sex with women only after she and her husband entered the swinger lifestyle when she was in her late 30s.

Christina lost her virginity to her first boyfriend at age 16 and dated him for 4 years. She had another male lover as well, but then as a freshman in college, began a lesbian relationship, and dated women exclusively for a decade.

“In my 20s and into my early 30s, I considered myself bi-sexual,” she says, “but in the past decade, when I think about making love to another woman, I find it unappealing. So I would not consider myself to be bi-sexual anymore. However, when I was younger, I was open to not only sex with either gender, but a relationship.”

At age 30, Christina started dating a man.

“It wasn’t a gender issue,” she clarifies, “it was a relationship issue. I happened to be attracted to him as a person. At that time in my life, the circumstances were right. I didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I’m gonna go back to men.'”

After that relationship, Christina dated one more woman, and that was the last time. She says she stopped being interested in women around the age of 31.

“I think women have much more in common with other women,” she says. “I have a hard time understanding men, I truly do. I understand women much better, but there’s not that physical attraction any longer. There’s still an emotional attraction, but not a physical one.”

Alexa, on the other hand, is attracted to women physically, but has had no exclusive, long-term relationship with one. She considers herself bi-sexual, having engaged in multiple encounters with women in groups through the years (sometimes with one other couple, sometimes with several other couples).

Though she’s now a widow, during the 16 years when she and her husband Greg were swingers, Alexa says she looked forward to sex with the women: “Women know women’s bodies a lot better than most men, I would say.”

However, she never had sex without Greg’s presence.

“He loved to watch two women getting it on,” she recalls. “For guys, it’s like their favorite fantasy.”

There’s more to Alexa’s story (she became involved with a bi-sexual man after Greg died), but it’s all rather involved as you can imagine, so full disclosure will have to wait.

Meanwhile, have you visited the website we set up for Kiss and Tell ? If you share your email with us, we’ll notify you when the book is published.

Yes, that’s still a ways off, but it’s getting closer all the time!

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4 Responses to “Yep. The 50s were fabulous”

  1. reneestudebaker Says:

    Wow, Anne, great work! Readers are going to love it!

  2. Mike Atwater Says:

    Ann,
    You are an excellent journalist and writer. You put the data in context and connect the dots helping me grasp the many threads that come together to make the larger story.
    Thank you.

  3. Ruthanne Says:

    Well done, Ann! Your objectivity and talent shine!

  4. Maureen Whelihan MD Says:

    So, having read that entire chapter, I think it is my favorite so far….of course I say that everytime we meet! It’s true! I love all of the chapters you have written…..can’t wait to publish ;0)

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