Posts Tagged ‘sex in the 70s’

Good news and bad news

July 29, 2012

The good news is that my surge to finish the book and deliver the manuscript to the editor by Aug. 13 is on track. I allowed myself a bit of padding when I chose the deadline, hoping I wouldn’t panic too much (which I did anyway for a couple days).

The bad news is that I’m using up a lot of the padding with a complete rewrite of the chapter on the 70s ladies. Up until this chapter, the editing process has been a matter of reading along and feeling pretty OK about the work. I occasionally find bumps and even places where I think, “what the heck happened here?” Which means I stop and rewrite, fix the transitions and modify whatever requires it.

But the 70s chapter was the fifth chapter I wrote and I’ve realized my form changed right after that. This was the final chapter where I told the women’s stories more individually, allowing their voice to proceed more or less uninterrupted as they discussed desire throughout their lifetime. The latter chapters, which I like better, interweave the women’s observations and feature several subjects commenting on the same topic, rather than being isolated in their own life story.

I’m editing the book in order, even though I didn’t write it in order. I figure it’s imperative to read the book sequentially at least once. The fact that I made it to the 70s without any chapter screaming for a rewrite constitutes additional good news. And since the 80s chapter was included in my book proposal as “sample pages,” I know it’s going to require very little editing. The 90s chapter is short, so while it may need sprucing up, the work will be mercifully brief.

Meanwhile, I remain bogged in the 70s. The intro to the column wasn’t engaging at all; just dry statistics and overall percentages of what women told us in the general survey. So I went back and read my raw notes for the chapter and found these women imparted surprising and even shocking things about their sex lives.

One woman said she experienced so much pain with sex (right from the start) that it took two years before she and her boyfriend got all the way to full penetration. She delivered this information with no sign of how dismaying a listener might find this. Another 70s lady had several trysts with a 27-year-old lover just weeks after she was widowed and then began a tempestuous affair with a man three decades her junior. During her 48-year marriage, she took an unknown number of affairs or lovers, likely between 75-100. This information was also delivered absent dramatics; the speaker showed no expectation of her words creating surprise.

Another woman in her 70s had gone for marital counseling in her 50s and was able to speak very eloquently to the things which keep intimacy alive in a relationship when sex is no longer possible. (Her husband’s health issues are the culprit.) Yet another subject says, “I guess I got holy,” when describing how her attendance at a new church has made her disinclined to engage in the affairs of her youth. But the thrice-married woman still struggles with her sexuality: She doesn’t understand why she still has passion if she’s not supposed to do something about it. And she feels trapped by the church’s admonition against sex before marriage, since she has no desire to remarry after her third husband’s death.

Given the exceedingly rich material the 70s ladies shared with me, my chapter just didn’t do them justice. Yesterday I wrote 6 new pages of juicier stuff as a fresh introduction. Then I went through the interviews once more with my trusty colored highlighters, using them to mark comments on common topics. This afternoon it’s back to the grindstone, with the goal of more integration of the women’s stories. I’ll still let them speak at length in places, but the group as a whole needs cohesion. I can see that now.

The clunkiness of this unedited 70s chapter is reassuring in one other way: It means my skills and expertise sharpened as I worked my way further into the book, and I can now bring them to bear on my less polished work. My voice naturally became more sure as I increased my familiarity with the material and came to rely less on recitations of numbers and more on the truths I’ve found at the core of women’s desire.

This was exciting to realize—and it’s what made me sure I had to rewrite the chapter. Before I turn the manuscript over to editor Tiffany, I’m determined it will be the best I can offer.

But dang. Having to redo a whole chapter is the pits. Mumble, mumble, grumble, grumble.

And now I shall STOP procrastinating and get back to it.

Meeting our public

May 30, 2011

Earlier, I promised a report on my first public appearance with Dr. Whelihan to talk about our book. The event took place in mid-May at a private country club in a retirement community, with more than 100 men and women attending. Many in the audience had enjoyed a glass of wine before the talk began, which the Doc tells me tends to dramatically increase the fun factor. I spoke first, for 10 minutes or so, about the concept of the book, and then shared a few stories from the dozens of fascinating interviews I’ve had. And I quickly learned the Doc was right: In spots where I’d hoped for a few chuckles, the crowd erupted in prolonged laughter — something I could get used to, by the way.

And then Dr. Mo got up. Man did the retirees love her. She has a power point slide show she knows backward and forward, and it’s filled with enough humor, information and shock value to keep everyone entertained. The woman sitting in front of me kept turning to her husband throughout Mo’s talk, her face a changing canvas of delight, hilarity and shock at hearing someone say aloud the things the rest of us only think.

In fact, it was a little surprising the Doc didn’t get a standing ovation. If we’d had books to sell that night, I honestly believe every person would have taken one home.

So. That’s a good start, yes? And then, just this past Thursday, we talked with a much smaller group at The Breakers Hotel on Palm Beach. We’re honing the order of how we present things and figuring out how to make the book relevant to various audiences — all of which is sure to pay off when we have something to sell.

Speaking of something to sell, I am doing my best to stay on track with my goal of finishing a chapter a month. Last month was a difficult mark to hit, what with all the stress emanating from my deadbeat tenants in Texas, which probably shaved a few years off my life. Adding to the challenge is the fact that I found the 20s the toughest decade yet to write, what with their whole transformational subtext. But I made my deadline! And Mo liked the work, saying “if this is a bad chapter, we’re in great shape.”

Thus, I have happily turned my attention to the 70-year-olds.

We selected 6 women in this decade to interview, and I already have 5 meetings either set up or completed, which is fortunate since I want to finish the chapter early so I can go on vacation with a clear conscience. My accelerated schedule translates to 2 weeks of research, and 1 week of writing, so I can’t waste any time.

Of the two women in their 70s I’ve interviewed, I’ve already encountered both ends of the spectrum in terms of the number of partners. One has been with more partners than anyone I’ve spoken with so far (50+) and the other was a virgin when she married and has had sex with the same man for 61 years. An amazing variety right off the bat.

Complicating my ability to meet that deadline is a decided lack of cooperation from my Mazda SUV, which has decided it no longer wishes to steer. I tried to back out of my parking space last night to go to a pet sitting gig, and the vehicle won’t turn. And that nasty little undercarriage light comes on. Fortunately, I could walk to the job — it’s that close. But now it’s Memorial Day and my auto shop is closed. Sigh.

As my friend said: Cars are great — except when they aren’t.

Thank goodness I was able to reschedule the book interview I had today for Friday, and am still on course. But tomorrow morning’s hair appointment for a trim? It’s looking like I’ll have to ride my bike to that one. I wonder just how many miles away that is …..?

Meanwhile, for anyone interested, I invite you to visit the website Dr. Mo set up for our book. It’s at www.KissandTellBook.com and has a feature where you can sign up to get an email when the book comes out. Hard to believe — but it seems our dream of publishing a book may actually come true. How cool is that?

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.