Parting is such sweet sorrw

By Ginger Manley | Posted: Tuesday September 8, 2015

Dear Readers,

This will be my final column of Assisted Loving – at least for a while, and maybe for good.

It has been great fun and a wonderful experience to be a part of your lives and the life of Mature Lifestyles these past six years. When ML’s former publisher, Norma Bixler, invited me to begin this column in the March 2009 edition, I had no idea of the adventure ahead of me.

We began with trepidation – would the largely conservative readership be open to receiving information and advice from a sex therapist? How much could I say? What if folks were offended? What if no one even read the column or asked questions?

It didn’t take long to find out that there were sensitive toes, as a few readers protested loudly that the content was filthy and inappropriate and the column should be withdrawn. Norma acted to preserve the paper, withheld the next month’s copy and asked me to tone things down a bit. I replied that I could not do that and at the same time tell the truth, and I thought I was done as a contributing columnist. Then Norma backtracked and responded out of her First Amendment values, writing a one-page editorial defending my right to say what needed to be said and her right to publish as she saw fit. In the meantime, readership increased, and I wrote another year’s columns, then someone else protested that the content was offensive and asked the doctor’s office where the paper was on display to stop being a distribution location. Norma was notified and said she would keep me on, and I had free rein to say whatever I needed to say. Again, readership increased.

In about 2011, new owners took over, and I wondered if I would get the ax, but Brian Harville, my new editor and publisher, told me to keep writing and to say whatever needed to be said in response to the questions asked. Over the next four years, I covered topics ranging from how to start a new relationship in older life, to issues around gay and lesbian family members and to a variety of topics dealing with the sexual aspects of many illnesses. There were quirky topics – do conservative older men have lesser or better sex lives than liberal older men? – and heartwarming topics – women and men finding new loves or first loves when they are well past 60 and 70.

Along the way, I was invited to teach two courses on aging and sexuality for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt. Each course had capacity enrollment and provided me the opportunity to speak face-to-face with people just like you readers. I compiled the first 50 of my columns in a book, Assisted Loving: The Journey through Sexuality and Aging, and people worldwide could order the book in print and e-book styles. I was invited to give Grand Rounds presentations on sexuality and aging to two medical schools in the area – Vanderbilt and Meharry, and through those venues I shared with doctors at all ages of training the importance of treating sexuality and sexual concerns of older adults with the same respect that all other issues are given.

During my contributorship, Mature Lifestyles expanded its distribution into seven counties in Middle Tennessee, reaching a potential readership of several hundred thousand in the print editions. As ML evolved its Facebook and Internet presence, unknown numbers of readers could now download each issue and read at their own pace and interest. For me personally, I could barely wait to receive my copy of Mature Lifestyles each month, because the newsmagazine is full of so many interesting stories, and I am honored to have shared pages with some great writers.

Over the past few months, there has been a dwindling in questions sent to me. For three months, I have pulled topics from the news while hoping some more questions would come my way, but alas, none have arrived. Maybe I have said all that needs to be said, or maybe there are other reasons why questions have tapered off. I may never know.

During the fall and winter of 2014-15, I have completed writing two books that have been inside me for a while. Disarmed: An Exceptional Journey is a memoir of my 48-year marriage to my husband, a service-related arm amputee. Being married to an amputee means there are three entities in the marriage – me, him and that “damn artificial arm” as many of his friends refer to his prosthetic limb. This is a book of courage, inspiration and especially humor. As the saying goes, you just can’t make up some of the messes his arm has gotten him (and me) in.

The second book, Proud Flesh, is a novel about sex, God and dancing and the mother/sister/friendship issues that wrap around these topics. The protagonist is a California sex therapist who meets two Middle Tennessee ladies on an airplane trip, and the lives of all three women are changed forever. There is a wonderfully poignant twist at the end to which almost every woman of a certain age can relate.

I am eager for these books to be available in bookstores and through online retailers by about May. If you have enjoyed my writing in Assisted Loving, I think you will enjoy either or both of these books – and you may see some overlap from AL. You can follow me on my website, Trixie, one of the Middle Tennessee ladies from Proud Flesh, has a blog where she occasionally pronounces on all sorts of topics pertaining to current events in this and other parts of the world. You can read and subscribe at

It is with a mixture of sadness and joy that I take leave of Mature Lifestyles. It has been such a great experience to have written for this paper, and who knows? Maybe one day I will ask if I can make another visit. Thanks so much to all of you who have read my words, who have asked questions and supported my work. I hope you will continue with your Happy Homework!


Editor’s Note: Mature Lifestyles considers itself beyond fortunate to have featured Ginger Manley’s incomparable expertise over the past several years. With eloquence and grace, she has performed a great service for our community of readers, shining the spotlight on an important topic that is far too often avoided entirely or simply reduced to a punchline. For that, we are forever grateful. We wish our very best to Ginger in all of her future endeavors. She is truly one-of-a-kind.


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