Grief. Womens sexuality. Aging. Self-actualization. If you have any doubt that these are hot-button issues in todays culture, browse the womens studies and/or psychology sections of any bookstore. Pay attention to whats on the docket of so many afternoon television talk shows. Read the life section of the newspaper or of any magazine that covers contemporary society and culture, from Psychology Today to AARP The Magazine. Or, best of all, talk frankly with any widow whos as honestand as entertainingas Phyllis Gebauer, author of Hot Widow.
Phyllis began her widowhood, as she puts it, hot off the press, cast into adventures of the mind, body, and spirit for which shed had no previous training. She had to live with the painful memories of her husbands final days while bombarded by obligations and challenges. She found herself hot and bothered, flummoxed by her feelings, delving into therapy to understand her weaknesses and appreciate her strengths. One thing she found out: to men she was hot stuff. How to live with that when she had so little past experience? Perhaps she had to learn to enjoy her solitude. Perhaps, but by this time she was hot and heavy with a grief that wouldnt leave and a depression that threatened her sanity and her life. Still, she weathered the storm and has now recovered her spirit to the point that she can sayin spite of or because of all shes been throughthat she is up for life and hot to trot.
Hot Widow is a different kind of coming-of-age story. Its about a woman who married right out of college, who never had children, and who suddenlyafter forty-seven years of being treated like a princess by her adoring husbandfinds herself on her own. The story follows her first two years of widowhood, during which she changes from sheltered (aging) child to grown-up, independent woman. In the course of various sexual, therapeutic, and travel adventures she encounters major highs and crippling lows, but her courage and pluck pull her through, and by the end of the book she has finally become whole without her other half.
Phyllis Gebauer teaches fiction at UCLA Extension and leads workshops throughout Southern California on memoir writing and writing ones way through grief and loss. She is the author of the novel The Pagan Blessing (Viking Press 1979, Fithian Press 2006).