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Author: Arlene Heyman
Arlene Heyman’s journey into literary recognition has been a little unusual. At 74 years of age, Scary Old Sex—a collection of short stories, is her first publication. Heyman is a practicing psychiatrist in New York City, and has spent the last 50 years writing in her spare time and has had stories published in literary journals to much acclaim. But, it’s not until this year that her talent is seeing the full light of day.
The title serves as a double entendre, addressing both the stories about old people having sex, and the nature of sex as something to fear and to not talk about. In the opening story, “The Loves of Her Life”, a 65 year old woman and her 70 year old husband navigate the intricacies of sex in later life—Viagra, unattractive bodies, lubricant, and the memory of a first husband. “In Love With Murray” details the affair between a young art student and a famous, married painter. “Dancing” tells the story of a man with leukemia, his wife, and their teenage son, set against the backdrop of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Coupling (haha) her psychiatrist’s eye with plenty of warmth, Heyman boldly writes of pleasure, love, and loss.
I’ll be honest: reading about old people having sex was a strange, rather confronting experience. It turns out that wrinkly bodies are somewhat missing from my reading habits, although this wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice. It’s just never occurred to me to be curious about the practical facets of life at the other end. Heyman’s stories have certainly updated that outlook, and I’m glad that I decided to pick up this bold and enlightening collection.