Book review: Intimacy after 50

How We Love Now: Women Talk About Intimacy After 50
Suzanne Braun Levine
Plume, 260 pp

The conversation is lively whenever old friends get together.

Topic No. 1: Whatever’s going on in your lives, followed by family, work and travel. You swap feedback, share advice, gossip with impunity, sympathize and roundly agree that you can’t live without one another. You plan your next event.

But there’s one subject that never seems to surface, one thing you’re not ready to discuss and obviously, neither is anyone else. Read the book “How We Love Now: Women Talk About Intimacy after 50” by Suzanne Braun Levine, though, and you may all change your minds.

When it comes to sex, what is “normal”?

In her research for this and other books, Braun Levine discovered that many women past menopause were asking the same question, but with relative anonymity. They were curious, but abashedly “tongue-tied.”

As she dug a little deeper, Levine happily discovered that “women were having great, uninhibited, inventive sex.” The problem is, “we can’t seem to leave the good girl/bad girl baggage at the door” so we’re not discussing our sensuality. If we were, we’d see that we’re “lusting and loving as we age” and are “enjoying it more than ever.”

From roughly age 50 to 75, women experience a period of self-discovery and renewal that Levine calls a second adulthood. We’re less frantic about mating, not worried about pregnancy, and more willing to accept love from a totally unpredictable direction. Our expectations are more realistic and though we want a relationship, obsessed neediness “no longer applies.”

Once we’ve found a partner (and the search is often a lesson in adapting), we still encounter real, authentic bumps – though, in our Second Adulthood, we’re able to acknowledge that the “living, breathing body” we have “is better than the alternative.” We might hate our wrinkles, but we’re comfortable enough to ask a partner or lover for something different than what’s “not working.”

But passion in second adulthood is not just relegated to the bedroom.

After age 50, women often say they have more love for their jobs or volunteer work. We love our friends deeper and with more appreciation. We find it easier to untangle family ties. We cherish all second chances and “the opportunity to fulfill them.”

I spent an awful lot of time shrugging as I was reading How We Love Now.

That’s not to say that this is a bad book. Braun Levine’s research seems to have gone where no man has gone before – and that’s good, but I just couldn’t help but feel like I’ve heard it already. There’s lots of tasteful information here with little-to-no profanity, but that doesn’t erase the fact that this is an updated version of an older book on a topic that’s been covered elsewhere quite a bit lately.

I think that if this subject is a revelation to you, then by all means grab this book because it’s an eye-opener. If it seems to be old news, though, then “How We Love Now” is probably something you can live without.

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