'Dear John, I Love Jane' Editors on Falling for Women Later in Life: Interview
In a climate in which high-profile celebrities including Cynthia Nixon and Wanda Sykes have talked openly about falling for women later in life, in which women often feel freer to explore various aspects of sexuality, some are finding that after years of marriage and / or dating men, that they are attracted to women, and often capable of falling in love with another woman.
Editors of Dear John, I Love Jane, Candace Walsh and Laura Andre – a couple in life – inspired by Candace’s later in life experiences, sought to compile often humorous and heartrending stories of women who came to the realization they were attracted to women after many years as unfettered straight women.
The result is a collection of 27 essays about women who fell in love with other women after they had taken it for granted they were heterosexual.
Walsh and Andre chatted about their motivation for creating the book, working together as a couple, sexual fluidity, and well, love as universal.
What was your motivation for writing this book?
Candace: I went searching for a book like Dear John, I Love Jane when I was going through my own transition from straight identified to seeking out a relationship with a woman. I found books that were somewhat helpful, but the two anthologies I could put my hands on felt dated to me. I wanted to see myself in the stories, and sometimes I did, but the world has changed so much in the last decade. I felt part of a wave of women who were discovering their truth not only post-Ellen, but with a whole new vocabulary that wasn't limited to the words gay, straight, and bi.
What does "Sexual Fluidity" mean to you, and what part does it play in this book?
Candace: To me, sexual fluidity means that a woman who identifies as straight in 1986 can also identify as gay in 2010, without being a liar in either moment. It also means, in the best of both worlds, that there would be a suspension of judgment around women who come out late (latebians), or go from being in same sex-relationships for years to deciding to partner with a man, or decide to be open to what feels alluring. I feel like in the past, we all had to check a box and then stick with it or else run the risk of getting called out for being confused, chicken, or out-and-out deceptive. Things aren't that easily defined. People change, grow, and shift.
Women's desire and sexuality has been woefully under-researched, and as a result, we've been given an identity wardrobe with ill-fitting, restrictive garments and asked to choose which one fits the best. Never mind what the garment would be if it were custom-made to suit us as individuals and as women.
Dr. Lisa Diamond, author of Sexual Fluidity and writer of our book's foreword, shares that as she did research, every five years, many in her group of women checked different boxes when it came time to pick a sexual label for themselves. They did not stay straight if they ID'd as straight. They did not stay lesbian if they once ID'd as lesbian. Some women went from choosing "straight" to choosing "unlabeled." The older women got, the more they realized that a) their desires had shifted and b) that was okay. There are many women who don't shift, and I'm not advocating that everyone should mix it up for the heck of it. But many times, life presents us with opportunities to learn more about ourselves after we have assumed that we know all there is to know.
In terms of what role sexual fluidity plays in this book, I would say that it plays a major role, because this book is not generally "I was unaware of myself and what I really wanted, or I knew I was gay and I rejected it, and finally, I came out." Sometimes it actually is. But many times, the women share how they were walloped over the head by an unexpected crush, or fell in love with another woman in sort of an osmotic way. They realized, "Hey, I'm in love with that woman. I want to drop everything and follow her to the ends of the earth. How do I square this with my life to date?" And there are so many answers to that question. The women in the book shared their true stories of how their lives changed and how they assimilated their new identities into their current lives. It's very powerful stuff.
More on next page...