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In the next few days my grandmother will be turning 80. Before she does though I managed to get an interview with her about sexuality. She speaks about sex education as a child, dating as a college student, the decision to be a wife, birth control and then unexpected parenthood that gave her the opportunity to have sex talks with her own children. Hopefully this conversation encourages you to have conversations of your own with grandparents and elders. They’re important voices in learning about sex!

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Dr. Lindsey Doe: So this is Grandma Billie, my maternal grandmother. Can I ask you about sex? 

Grandma Billie: Yes, you may ask.

Dr. Doe: Okay. *laughing* And then you'll just say no if you don't want to answer a question.

Grandma Billie: Uh yeah, right.

Dr. Doe: Do you remember your sex education?

Grandma Billie: I was not given sex education, in school, for instance.

Dr. Doe: At all? They just didn't tell you anything about puberty, menstruation?

Grandma Billie: No, my mother gave me a couple of books and my father explained things and that was it.

Dr. Doe: What did  you father say?

Grandma Billie: He said the way babies are is that there's a man and a woman come together and that's it. And my mother gave me books on menstruation and I read them.

Dr. Doe: That's pretty good.

Grandma Billie: What, that I could read? or...?

Dr. Doe: *laughing* but that your parents gave you books!

Grandma Billie: Yeah, they did.

Dr. Doe: So did they explain: penetration, genitals, menstruation?

Grandma Billie: Menstruation, mostly.

Dr. Doe: Good.

Grandma Billie: Because, I was like in the fourth or fifth grade, and that was a concern for them. I grew up fast. 

Dr. Doe: Were they afraid of you having sexual relations?

Grandma Billie: No, I don't think so.

Dr. Doe: They just wanted you to know about your body.

Grandma Billie: Right. Yeah.

Dr. Doe: When did you first realize you were a sexual being?

Grandma Billie: Probably in high school?

Dr. Doe: You had a crush?

Grandma Billie: Oh yeah! More than once. A lot of them, sure.

Dr. Doe: And you were allowed to go out with boys?

Grandma Billie: Oh yeah. yeah.

Dr. Doe: So how did you decide to get married?

Grandma Billie: Well, I wasn't very smart.

Dr. Doe: *laughing* what?

Grandma Billie: I went off to college, and I had a lot of boyfriends. I was very lucky. 

Dr. Doe: All at the same time?

Grandma Billie: When I went off to college, yes.

Dr. Doe: And so what did you do with these boys? Was it romantic? Dancing? Sexual?

Grandma Billie: No, it wasn't sexual. I did my homework with them! They were smart!

Dr. Doe: *laughing* No sex before marriage?

Grandma Billie: No sex before marriage.

Dr. Doe: And so then you decided to get married.

Grandma Billie: Yeah, well that's when I met your grandfather, your Opa. I was working at a restaurant. His parents were in Europe. He came in all the time to eat, and we dated. Then he went back to school. He went back to Boston, and I stayed. You know, went back to school and continued dating and that kind of upset him, that I was dating, because you know, the ratio was great.

Dr. Doe: *laughing*

Grandma Billie: There was a lot more guys than there were girls, and so, you know, I went out, I dated a lot of guys. It was fun!

Dr. Doe: Good!

Grandma Billie: I don't know why I stopped. He was becoming... turning... 24. He was 23, and I was 19 and he - he said he wanted to get married. He didn't want to be too old when he had a family. He wanted to get married. And he was, you know, said "let's get married" and I said "well, you know, I'm having a good time!" and finally he talked me into getting married. 

Dr. Doe: So you got married.

Grandma Billie: So we got married.

Dr. Doe: And then you got to have sex.

Grandma Billie: Yes. Yes. That very night! *laughing*

Dr. Doe: Okay! And was it everything that you had hoped for? Did you even care about it?

Grandma Billie: Oh yeah! Sure!

Dr. Doe: Oh. Okay.

Grandma Billie: It was good. Yeah.

Dr. Doe: And then you had it more, because I have a mother, and uncles.

Grandma Billie: Right. Right. Yes. It wasn't just three times.

Dr. Doe: Okay. What about birth control?

Grandma Billie: Interestingly, I ... uh... like I said, I started my periods really early, and then, when I went into high school I started having horrible cramps. They put me on pills that would stop my periods, and shortly before I got married, I stopped taking those pills. And I would just... just... have horrible cramps,  but they told me I might not be able to have children. When I got married though, I got a diaphragm and we used that, but I wasn't always using it, and I wasn't as purposeful as I probably should have been, so I had my first baby and then I got pregnant again, and so I had a second one. We called the children "unexpected", "more unexpected", and then "most unexpected." And right after Keith was born, birth control came out, pills came out.

Dr. Doe: So after your third child was born, the birth control pill was on the market.

Grandma Billie: It was on the market.

Dr. Doe: And you could get it easily?

Grandma Billie: Oh yeah. Sure.

Dr. Doe: So did you have sexual conversations with your children? My mother, and uncles?

Grandma Billie: Your mother told me she knew it all *laughing*

Dr. Doe: *laughing* That sounds like her. 

Grandma Billie: So we didn't have much

Dr. Doe: So how has your sex life been? From marriage night till now, you're about to turn 80.

Grandma Billie: Fine. I mean, you know, I went through a divorce, and then remarriage, and then another divorce and another remarriage. And it was fine.

Dr. Doe: So there was some hot times in there.

Grandma Billie: Hot times. Really.

Dr. Doe: Good. Good. That's what I want to hear! Do your friends talk openly about sex with each other and you?

Grandma Billie: Not now. We talk mostly about aches and pains now. 

Dr. Doe: But when you were younger?

Grandma Billie: Some, but not a lot.

Dr. Doe: Where was your sexual information coming from?

Grandma Billie: Probably my husband and I... and I read. I actually took courses in college on sexuality because that was part of my curriculum.

Dr. Doe: So you took a human sexuality course?

Grandma Billie: I can't remember what the name of it was. It was like "Growth and Development" and it talked a lot about changes in your body and things like that.

Dr. Doe: and any talk about pleasure?

Grandma Billie: Probably not.

Dr. Doe: So someone asked me last week, What I imagined my sex life to be at 80.

Grandma Billie: Yeah?

Dr. Doe: and I said "orgasms in the garden." That I just imagine gardening and having orgasms and it being fantastic.

Grandma Billie: *laughing*

Dr. Doe: What do you imagine your sex life is going to be like, when you're 80?

Grandma Billie: Oh.... more support, and um... support of each other, and warmth and intimacy, more with conversation.

Dr. Doe: Awww! Well, do you have one really memorable experience from your sexuality that you want to share?

Grandma Billie: Early on? Later on?

Dr. Doe: At any time! In 80 years - one of your most memorable sexual experiences?

Grandma Billy: In 80 years... oh. showering together.

Dr. Doe: So any last words you would give to them - the audience - about how to have a great sex life? Or how to go through sexuality for 80 years?

Grandma Billie: I think.... uh.... listen, find each other attractive.

Dr. Doe: I like that.

Together: Stay Curious!