Posts Tagged ‘sex in the 40s’

The lap of luxury

November 25, 2012

Through no accomplishment of my own, I am spending tonight at the PGA National Resort and Spa free of charge.

I’ve just completed a sunset walk around the pool and club house area and strolled over to the spa area, which I decided to locate since I’ll be heading over at 10 in the morning for a “neck and shoulder massage; $90 gratuity included.”

Should you be wondering how in the world I got so unbelievably lucky, let me answer by saying that people are SO NICE.

I was slated to dog sit for a one-night gig so that the owners of a sweet little chihuahua could use their soon-to-expire coupon for a complimentary night at PGA (yes, home to the Honda Classic.) The client called the day before and announced she had good news and bad news. The bad news was that 14-year-old Tabby had a cough, and though she seemed OK, Tabby had just started taking medication and Mom didn’t feel right leaving her when she wasn’t feeling perky. The good news was that if I chose, I was welcome to use the certificate!

Well, I am on a mad deadline to deliver Kiss and Tell‘s revised manuscript to our book designer by Dec. 5, but I figured, ‘Hey, I can work in serene, posh surroundings just as easily as I can beside the construction zone that Southern Boulevard (30 yards from my front door) has turned into lately. Why not?’

Brief digression to point out that dog people are THE BEST. My dog sitting clients are so kind, so welcoming, so sweet and so treasured by me. And then to receive a generous offer like this confirms it once again.

So this morning as I’m packing up to drive the 6 or 7 miles over here, I email book partner Maureen about something else and I happen to mention my plans. “Hold on,” she replies. “When are you going? I have a gift card for spa services there that’s about to expire. You could use it.”

That much good karma coming together at one time is astonishing, let’s face it. Over the top, right? But it all worked out. Maureen donned her motorcycle gear and rode her Harley (yes) over to my condo this morning to hand off said gift card. She headed across the bridge for a beautiful ride on Palm Beach; I finished loading my car and arrived here at PGA by 12:15.

Everyone on staff here is super nice, and even though check-in isn’t till 4, if rooms are ready they are happy to assign you one. I was settled in and headed to the pool in no time—but not before I called the spa to check out their services and decide which exotic treatment I was going to use my gift card for!

After just a few short hours, I feel like a different person. The quiet, the green of the golf course and this evening’s cheerful twinkling Christmas lights out front—combined with the sun absorbed poolside this afternoon—have combined to lull me out of the noisy, chaotic jumble I’d accumulated in my head.

I’ve been ridiculously stressed about this upcoming deadline, alternating between a deer-in-headlights inability to decide what to do next and panicked stabs at completing the revisions that the three “fat” chapters are desperately crying for. One of my beta readers provided so much amazing, insightful input that it’s taken me days to go through her notes chapter by chapter and clarify areas she found confusing, add sources, rethink construction, etc, etc. With that phase complete, I’m heading back into those fat chapters (the very long 40s, 50s and 60s decades) for judicious trimming and more.

Something had been niggling about me about those chapters, and my astute beta reader helped me identify what it was. Because there are more women included and because I gave them free rein to share their stories, readers can get lost in the wilderness so to speak. My friend suggested I make more frequent use of my narrator’s voice to paraphrase and then assist the reader to know what’s important about these decades, what the take-away is. It’s a matter of guiding my readers and helping them stay on the path through these more complicated chapters.

Which is hard work. Anyone who writes knows how difficult it is to make sweeping changes when you’re too close to the material, and I’m definitely close to this material after more than 2 years of steady research and writing. But I realized if I just go day by day, and concentrate on each chapter separately until I am satisfied with it, I can maybe, just maybe, hit the deadline.

I was supposed to have everything to our designer by this Friday, but THAT wasn’t going to fly, so I pushed it back, to my chagrin. Even so, I know it won’t be perfect. I console myself with the knowledge that if I worked on it for another month, or even another year, Kiss and Tell wouldn’t be perfect.

Instead it’s going to be the best book I can write right now.

It’s still early and I’m feeling refreshed, so guess what I’m going to do now that I’ve posted a blog?

Yep. I’m going to go back to writing about sex!

Plus, I promise to blog again in a couple days about the process of honing the book’s subtitle, which required massive polling, much democratic input and then a final executive flourish of a decision.

It’s all good.


Longest. Chapter. Ever.

October 31, 2011

While summer’s woes kept me from finding a productive writing routine for my 30something women, a challenge of a different sort emerged as I leafed through the 47 pages of notes I collected while interviewing ladies in their 40s about their sexual desire. Every single sheet held such relevant, riveting content that the trick was deciding what I could leave out.

Not knowing what else to do, I just set sail on the chapter in the same fashion as I have for all the others. The process of coming at the decades from both ends (i.e. I started with the gals in their 90s, then went to the teens, then back to the 80s, then the 20s etc.), means I have left the most well-represented decades for last. I call the 40s and 50s our “fat decades,” because 300 women in their 40s filled out our survey and 290 50somethings. Compare that to 11 women in their 90s and just 27 teenagers and you can see why my moniker fits. (Since our surveys come from gynecological patients, it’s hardly surprising that women this age are heavily represented.)

Anyway, early this month, I began writing this chapter like all the others, thinking I’d finish in a week if I maintained my usual pace. At two to six hours a day (with six being amazing for me, admittedly), I can generally see the light at the end of the tunnel before too many days have passed.

Wrong. Deeply wrong.

After five days, I’m still just scraping the best stuff off the surface of my notes. At 10 days, I’m into the meat of things, but nowhere near the end. At 12 days, I experience a bit of panic because I still can’t see how the chapter will end.

Fortunately, I had breakfast the next day with a helpful friend. When I  poured out my problem, she suggested a solution that — while not ultimately workable — pushed me to think about the problem in a whole different way, thereby enabling me to see how I wanted to close the chapter.

I went home from our breakfast and worked all afternoon. The next day was a Saturday. I wrote for 4 hours. Ditto Sunday. Ditto Monday.

Still the chapter was not complete. I felt like I was in some weird circle of hell and no matter how much I wrote, I would never, never find the end of my chapter.

It’s not that I was unhappy with what I was writing. The material was fascinating and I kept finding new commonalities. And I wasn’t engaging in excessive procrastination: I was working daily. And yet — the chapter was like the Energizer Bunny; it kept going and going …

Toward the end of the month, I took two days off for a short trip with my Mom, who had arrived in the midst of my angst for a week’s visit. (She happily read books on my sun porch while I struggled to write my own in the front room.) Finally, with a last burst of energy fueled by those relaxing days, I was able to finish the chapter by month’s end. It clocks in at 32 pages, a full 10 pages longer than its closest competitor.

Even though it took so long to finish, I didn’t lose faith in the material or my process. And I reminded myself that women in their 40s are a huge part of the market for this book; I don’t think they will grow weary of reading their contemporaries’ stories and insights about what creates and sustains desire, especially in long-term relationships. That’s the heart of the book, and I wanted to stretch out and treat it as such.

No way to know if I’ve succeeded on a grand scale, of course, but Dr. Mo read it yesterday and proclaimed it chock-full of amazing stories and insights. (Tidbit: It turns out that four of the eight women who gave in-depth interviews for this decade had participated in a threesome. For the 40s decade, that’s a pretty significant number. So of course, an entire section is dedicated to those stories.)

Though I would love nothing better than to rest on my laurels and celebrate finishing the Longest Chapter Ever — which unfortunately followed the Slowest Chapter Ever — I cannot. It is time to throw myself into the 60s. With 193 women surveyed in this decade, I’m aiming again for eight in-depth interviews, though I bet I’d settle for seven.

And now I have to wonder … will I be able to write the 60s in a week, or will their stories once again force me into overtime?

The data entry phase

July 29, 2010

This blog is aptly titled: It labels the present phase of my book project. Yes, as tedious as it sounds, I’m entering data—painstakingly—into a spread sheet.

Surprise, surprise! I’m actually enjoying it tremendously. My book partner (a sex specialist and gynecologist) is using her practice as our survey group, and we agreed that when we collected 1,300 surveys, we could call our sample complete. Well, we hit 1,300 two weeks ago!

That’s the number of respondents (ages 15 to 97) who answered our six questions on sexual desire. We’re collecting data on the ephemeral nature of sexual desire in women and how it fluctuates throughout their lifetime. Women’s desire is influenced by many factors—environment, hormones, stress, children, financial circumstances, etc. Whereas testosterone tends to keep a man’s desire fairly steady throughout the years, women are up and down on the libido meter. And no one’s done a study like this!

So as I’m entering all this data from their surveys, I’m becoming acquainted with  ‘my women,’ as I call them. You could say they’re the characters in my book—and I find I’m enjoying our time together. I started with midlife women (my faves, natch). First I did the 40 to 44-year-olds, then 45 to 49, 50 to 54, etc. Now I’m spending my days with the 70-something respondents to our survey, and naturally the answers are very different from women in their 40s. When I get to the end, I’ll go back and start forward with the teenagers. I’m sure I’ll find some interesting things there, but my initial examination of the 21-and-under responses left me a little bored. For instance, in answer to “What stimulates your desire?” they’ll write, “Seeing my boyfriend.” OK, then. Good to know. Next.

In the older age groups, questions such as “What’s in your head during sex, i.e. What are you thinking about?” and “What is the one thing you wish your partner would NOT do in regards to sex?” draw fascinating responses from our survey takers. We also ask women to describe their best sexual encounter ever, which brings out their storytelling abilities. I find as I’m typing their responses I’m alternately identifying with their answers (I’m with YOU, girl), shocked (Really??), puzzled (Wonder why she doesn’t like French kissing?), sad (you don’t know what you’re missing), mad (your spouse must be brain dead), and any other number of emotions. And I love seeing the trends emerge, because I know they’ll make the book that much more interesting.

So. You can see I’m making progress. I’m about halfway done with entering the surveys and will likely spend another month on this phase. Then it’s back to interviews and chapter writing, based on the outline I drafted before my previous post. I wish I was doing all this faster, but after a lifetime of deadlines, it’s pretty great to not have anyone breathing over my shoulder. No publisher is standing by with a whip, and since I’m living pretty frugally, I can continue on this path for a while.

I’m sure soon enough the day will come that I’ll be back in deadline mode. Meanwhile, it’s a sweet summer I’m having here in Florida.