My father died in January, 1966 at the age of 66. My family were Christian Scientists and were praying and arranging their thinking to "overcome" the "belief" or "manifestation" of disease and death, and they didn't let me know he was ill until he was in his last days. I was on a kibbutz in Israel, awakened at 3:00am by my brother's call telling me that they didn't know if he would last through the night. The next day I took a flight home from Tel Aviv; the plane was full so the stewardess gave me her seat. I tried to process Daddy's illness during the flight home, but had so little information it was difficult to formulate the proper feelings. When I arrived, my aunt said I'd be staying at her house, and would I like to clean up and get a good night's sleep before I saw Daddy. She meant well, but I chose otherwise. " They say they don't know if he'll last the night! I have to go there right away." He was skeletal and weak but brightened when I walked in. I took his hand and he looked at my mother standing at the end of the bed and said, "Isn't she beautiful!" I'm so glad I got home in time to hear that -- he'd never said anything remotely like that before. It was almost like "I love you." I went on about my life -- he and I had kindred spirits but didn't share any daily routines or projects so there wasn't so much to remind me of him. Now, almost 50 years later, I find myself thinking about him more and more. I knew so little about him that I have to dig, but that kindred spirit is hovering ever closer in a way that other such spirits don't. I am writing about him in my next book, and find that we had much more fun than I gave him credit for, and I am staring daily at his influence on me. He was a cavalry officer in the First World War, a publisher's representative until the Depression knocked him out of that, an officer in the Civil Conservation Corps, a Major in the Armored Corps in the Second World War, then had his own business, again as a publisher's representative. He also made dioramas of moments in history -- tiny replicas of people, clothes, weaponry, houses, tools, and landscapes. One is in the museum on Trenton, NJ. Then his main client told him, just after his 65th birthday, that they were going to find someone younger. And four months later he was dead. I know about deductive and inductive reasoning -- he might have died anyway. Now I'm 7 years over 66. If I had died when he did, I wouldn't have met my granddaughter. He never met his grandchildren. I remember you, Dad. You had a hard life, full of disappointments, but you did your best by us. You're the stuff of story, and I'm writing about you now.
Book Review: The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain – or Regain – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life
The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50 is full of information, suggestions, stories, and wisdom. It is written from a healthy point of view which the author Joan Price states on page 145, “If we could all just enjoy what we enjoy without moralizing about what other people enjoy, what a wonderful world it would be.” Embracing this blunt, well-informed, and tolerant viewpoint makes it possible to learn without feeling embarrassed or guilty. People do a wide variety of things in their bedrooms, and how does it help us to be ignorant about those things? If you have read this book, you are prepared for anything: a change in your partner’s pattern of desire, illness, loss, physical limitation, old age, and more good sex than you had imagined possible. I won’t deny that reading about dozens of sexual kinks and variations is erotic, but the eroticism is balanced with deep intelligence as Price never dwells too long on any particular situation or variation, but moves forward to make her point. If nothing else, you will realize by the end of the book that you’re allowed to empower the most resilient and unrelenting sex organ – your brain. It’s going to turn to sex anyway, whether or not you allow it to, so you might as well enjoy the ride. Price never loses sight of the fact that the most precious gift of all is a reliable loving relationship. In its absence, there are myriad ways to remain a sexual being until your very last day on earth.
Women have only been out of the box for about 50 years, and it is not surprising that a lot remains to be accomplished. Morality, religion, and power structures resist change. The biggest change over these last 50 years has been the ascendancy of the single woman, untethered to a man for her identity. Even married women present themselves as single entities by not taking their husband's name. The sky didn't fall. Until the 18th or 19th century women (except aristocrats) were part of the same business and daily routine as their husbands. They managed farms or blacksmith forges together. There was a separation of labor, but children were around both parents as they worked, and both parents were part of the same community. When men left home to work women sank out of the commercial loop and didn’t know the people and issues which were occupying their husbands’ days; they languished. (My brother just told me about a luncheon he had a few decades ago with some male business colleagues. All the men, except him, gave their wives an allowance and paid all the bills. I well remember hearing stories in my childhood about recently widowed women who had never written a check or paid a bill.) Our enemy is still the Victorian ideal of fragile womanhood. I think that if I had been regarded as the “angel of the household,” I might have become a hysteric too. My only alternative would have been to become an "old maid," or that equally disparaging word, "spinster." When women and men ran farms together, before the Victorian Age, it would have been difficult to consider them "fragile." I grew up in the 1950s when, for middle class white women like myself, marriage was the one and only goal. But “They changed the rules on us midstream,” said one of my high school classmates. Suddenly, we had to declare a career! Our male counterparts did not know how to do laundry, cook, iron, take care of babies, or entertain, so we continued doing those things too. We were working two jobs. Women were forced to change; for men, it was optional. Today's young men change diapers and cook dinner without a second thought. It's one of the logical solutions, but still leaves both working parents stressed and fatigued, which affects relationships and health. It has taken time for society, religion, and morality to catch up with the Pandora’s Box that was Women’s Liberation. The steps backward, like some recent judicial rulings, are frustrating, but the critical mass has been reached. We are never going backward. I wish I could be here 50 years from today, when no generation will remember the Old Days, when we will have transformed our societies to deal more wisely with the energy that was unleashed when we set our women free.
I am a Halloween grinch. My husband and I retreat to watch television, keeping the sound low so that children coming to our apartment door won’t know that we are at home. Last night though, I opened the door by mistake, thinking it was the mailman. Three screeching children were running around in circles shrieking “Trick or treat!” “Trick or treat” and as soon as I gave them a cookie, they ran away. A frowning mother, backed up by three other frowning, distracted adults, shouted, “Did you say thank you? Did you say thank you,” but the children were already tearing down the corridor toward the next apartment. They weren’t communicating with anybody by either listening or speaking – not each other, not me, not their parents. Halloween is a spectacle gussied up by two-dollar costumes which brings not joy but mania and is as empty of meaning as a ritual could possibly be. I noticed last night that not much had changed since the years when I lived in a big house, turned on the light, prepared treats, and even occasionally wore a costume myself. About ten years ago, the ritual of Halloween changed. I’d open the door to three or four children fighting each other to be first in line to grab the treat, no eye contact with me, no thank you, and usually not even a “trick or treat” or even a “hi.” Parents stood at the bottom of the driveway staring at me mirthlessly, gauging whether I looked like the sort of person who put arsenic or a razor blade in the apples. This felt demeaning and I finally turned off the lights and retreated to the television room. Just so you know, this is how we did it when I was a kid. We borrowed something from our parents, took something out of the costume trunk upstairs, or otherwise cobbled together a costume. It was amazing how much we could do with such limited stocks. Our parents had nothing to do with the costume creation. I figured it out with my brothers or my friends. When we were very young, my friends and I went through only the immediate neighborhood, unchaperoned, since my parents were at their own door handing out treats. As we grew older, we could go farther afield until, when I was a teenager, we started out in my neighborhood and went all the way to Upper Mountain Avenue, walking from 5:00 in the afternoon until about 9:30. We must have covered three miles, stopping at each house on both sides of the street. My brothers had their own set of Halloween friends and followed separate routes. I’d put my bag of candy in the closet and took out one piece at a time. Once it lasted until Easter. Though my childhood Halloweens had already lost any deeper religious or historical meaning, they at least bathed us in something I would call fun rather than mania, and the people providing us treats were granted a moment of laughter and conversation so they, too, could enjoy it. At least Halloween is followed by the lovely authenticity of Thanksgiving.