Dear John, I Love Jane — isn’t the title perfect? — is a 2011 anthology edited by Candace Walsh and Laura André (who happen to be a couple) and written by women who left their straight life/ relationships/ husbands because they fell in love with women.
Some always knew they were attracted to women, but bowed to society’s norm and married men anyway. Others had no idea they could or would fall in love with a woman.
The stories are engrossing, well-crafted, intimate, and dramatic. I felt I was sitting in a room hearing these women’s personal stories — their conflicts, thrills, misgivings (sometimes), and declarations.
When Seal Press offered me this book to review, I emailed back, “I hope some of the stories highlight women over 50.” I was surprised and pleased to learn that several of these authors are over 50, and in case you want to read their stories first–as I did–here are their names: Leigh Stuart, Sheila Smith, Susan Grier, Meredith Maran, Kami Day, Micki Grimland, and Katherine Briccetti.
I loved many of the stories, including “Memoirs of a Wanton Prude” by Sheila Smith, who first fell in love with a woman at age 69. As a teen, she was taught that gays and lesbians were “Sick! Immoral! Perverted!” and she fought back her feelings until age 50. Still, she stayed with her husband, “reading lesbian books and [keeping] my feelings about women under wraps. A divorce and a few years of solitude readied her to meet Diana, who taught her that “Lesbians are about intimacy”: “It wasn’t so much she wanted to go to bed with me; it was that she wanted to wake up with me.”
One of the most moving stories to me was “The Right Fit” by Kami Day (also over 50), who was raised Mormon and was taught that “Heavenly Father had made one man whose penis would fit just perfectly inside my vagina,” and that perfect fit would be revealed on her wedding night. It wasn’t. But 15 years later, the perfect fit arrived: Michele. And 15 after that, they are still together, “using only about half the mattress in our double bed.”
The writing is terrific — often lyrical, sometimes funny, and full of surprises. For example:
- “I have always been far more turned on by our magical, slippery little orchid than by their — what is that? A puppet? Some sort of sea creature?” (Veronica Masen)
- “My body has a need that’s burning a hole through the mattress. My brain is hanging on for dear life to what remains of my heterosexuality.” (Meredith Maran)
- “I had never imagined kissing another woman, but now I did, wanting to know the gentleness of soft skin, the taste of female, this female.” (Susan Grier)
- “I had recurrent dreams of making out with Ellen DeGeneres in a rustic Spanish house in Santa Barbara.” (Leigh Stuart)
Dear John, I Love Jane is an important book. It is more than a lesbian anthology — it’s about women making choices at first that go counter to what they really want or need (and isn’t that especially true of our age group?), then facing and accepting — and being thrilled by! — their true natures. It shows women’s sexual fluidity in a way we seldom see or acknowledge.
When I was writing Naked at Our Age, several women over 50 sent me their stories about marrying men (some quite contently, others battling their nature) and in later life discovering love with another woman — or wanting to experience sex with another woman and not yet putting it into action. If this book had been out then, I would have recommended it. I recommend it now!
Purchase the Dear John, I Love Jane on Amazon or order from your independent bookseller.
As always, I welcome your comments.