Divorcist recently read Sex and the Single Woman, an anthology of essays from single women of all walks of life. Check out our review here [link]. One of our favorite pieces was by Kate Crawford, a lone “woman of a certain age” in a sea of younger contributors. She writes of reclaiming her “sexy sixties” and so we just had to talk to her. Here’s what Beth had to ask and what Kate had to say:
Divorcist: You’re one of the older contributors in SEX AND THE SINGLE WOMAN which I think makes your piece one of the most valuable. I turned 40 this year and am finding every year as a single woman is more freeing and satisfying than the year before because I’m caring less what people think of me and more about what I think of me. I love it. You’re a bit ahead of me on the path. What does being single at 65 (when you wrote the piece) and 75 (at present) look like?
Kate: Good for you on caring about yourself first!
I like being single and always have. I also like being in relationships. I try to play the cards I’m dealt. At 65 I was battling grief by trying to have a sexy sixties. It was a difficult, wild, and crazy time.
At 75 I’m wicked excited to be doing my first NYC book launch next week. It’s also difficult, wild, and crazy.
Having a passion has been critical to my happiness. I found writing when I was 50. It was and still is like working on a ginormous puzzle. I have friends who are artists. We spent the last two pandemic years being grateful we had our passions to turn to. And here’s the secret: You don’t have to be good at it. You just have to enjoy it. If you want to get better, stick with it. Just start fussing around now with things that interests you, at least getting a list together of what you want to try.
And the passion doesn’t have to be “important.” My father used to tell me of a man who for the last 2O years of his life planted daffodils along the interstate’s shoulder. When he died, he left a long daffodil patch. It’s still there delighting eighty years later!
D: What advice would you give to women of a certain age who are trying to get back into the world of sex and dating but haven’t been in that world for decades (or maybe ever)?
K: What worked for me was a multi-prong campaign that focused more on making me feel sexy than on men. I found the sexier I felt, the more men were attracted to me, and the more I flirted.
This included new sexy undies and jeans, a new haircut—of course–and new sheets. Then I focused on self-pleasure to get me back in the right space and to get to know how my body responded at 65. That included a new vibrator, trying out different lubes, then seeing what all I could do for myself.
I needed more strength so I found a trainer who understood my myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and aging. For endurance and to get my groove back, I learned flamenco. And to get my psyche ready, I wrote fantasies. They helped me imagine what things could be like which made it easier for me to fall into those things when the time came. Caution! Do not write fantasies about men you know. Your psyche will confuse reality with fantasy and get you in trouble—or at least it did me.
I’m a vanilla sex woman, so these weren’t exactly wild fantasies, but they were fun.
D: You write frankly–and hilariously–of buying new lingerie and a new vibrator. Any advice for the more timid among us for making these purchases?
K: Hey, that’s why the universe created the internet. All packages of this type come in plain brown wrapping. Your neighbors won’t know, but you can bet the post-people do. There’s also getting your braver friends to do it for you.
D: Follow up to the above question: When you have all of the accouterments, do you really need a partner?
A: Well, maybe not to come which is decidedly good for you, but check out Why Good Sex Matters by Nan Wise, PhD: You can’t cuddle or laugh or play kissy face with a vibrator. They don’t have great new moves and never take you out to dinner.
D: As we age (and especially as women) we’re forced to deal with a lot of circumstances that can leave us drained and feeling far from our physical/sexual selves, like you experienced with helping your mother pass away. Is it possible to maintain a sense of self and sexuality even when dealing with these big, enduring responsibilities? Or is it more like there’s a season for helping with family and a season for you?
K: Yes, we are forced to put on our big girl pants way more than we would like. And yes, I think there are times when responsibilities, grief, and illness leave us too drained to even consider sex. I didn’t have any from the time I got ME/CFS until after Mom died. Nearly 30 years! I was quite sick and was fighting to retain a sense of self outside the illness.
After Mom (by then my best friend, my cheerleader, and my editor), I was terrified of falling into the abyss of grief I couldn’t climb out. I didn’t know it then, but going for a sexy sixties (which became something of an obsession) was my way of dispersing my grief over time so I could manage it. It worked for me.
The best grief recovery advice I got is that grief doesn’t go away, but if you keep building your life, the grief becomes less front and center. And that goes for grief from any loss: a death, a break-up, an illness.
D: If you could go back and tell your younger self anything, would you? And what would you tell her?
K: You do only have one body—take care of it. But here’s the thing: I’m sure I would have ignored me.
D: You declare, in the piece, that you’re “resurrecting your sexy sixties campaign.” Tell us: how did it end up? A successful campaign? I hope so!
K: Oh yes, quite successful, a four-year affair with a kind and sexy man! And it was a twofer—it also led to my memoir.
Q: Anything I missed? Any other final thoughts or advice?
A: Don’t forget to give some thought to where and you want to live when you and your driving get shaky. I live in co-housing with other seniors and love it. There’s also near family, another kind of community or gathered around friends. But it is much better to get into place for the long haul before you get too old to settle in. Getting a house built at 65 was challenging to say the least, but then I still have ME/CFS—hoping for a cure before I’m too senile to notice.
Sex and the Single Woman comes out this week.
Kate Crawford’s work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Best Travel Writing 2012. Her memoir-in-progress is tentatively called Delightful Derrière: Seven Seasons for a Sexy Sixties.