Family Relationships

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Juicy Tomatoes, Women 50 and Beyond

Good morning Sandwiched Boomers! Today we are delighted to welcome Susan Swartz to our Virtual Book Tour. A talented journalist, author, public radio commentator and blogger, she has written two books about women 50 and beyond. She's here to talk about her 'Juicy Tomatoes' books so lets get started, Susan.

Nourishing Relationships: First off, who or what is a Juicy Tomato?

Susan Swartz: It’s a term I came up with for mature middle aged women to counter those over-the-hill stodgy predictable stereotypes. Juicy Tomatoes are ripe, still on the vine, a little sun-damaged but not ready for the compost bin, if you get my metaphors. Juicy to me means succulent in mind, body and spirit. Also juicy in terms of still having the juice, that is power and ability.

NR: Why did you write your book?

SS: When I waded into my 50s, which was more than a decade ago, I didn’t like the images of middle aged and older women that came up in commercials, novels, movies and the culture in general. Those images, of tired, grumpy, regretful women didn’t match the energy and intellect of women I knew. So I used my journalistic skills to seek out real women in their 50s and 60s and asked them what they liked and didn’t like about getting older. We talked about everything from face-lifts and faith to how contra dancing can cure the empty nest syndrome. The idea was to encourage women to not get stuck but push on and enjoy these years. And to set a better example for those little hard green tomatoes, including my three daughters.

NR: So getting older is all wonderful and rosy?

No, you lose parents and friends get sick and your doctor wants you to have a colonoscopy and there are weird skin things growing on your body. And you worry that you never saved for retirement and your company is downsizing and the younger staffers are nudging you towards the fire escape. But, if you’re lucky you’ve got a husband who likes to dance and friends to grab for girly-girl overnights. And maybe you’ll finally learn to kayak or write a sonnet.

NR: Who are the women in your book and how did you find them?

SS: As a long time newspaper columnist and reporter I already knew a number of women who dazzled me with their attitude and energy including business leaders, artists, folk singers, ex-pats, a house builder, inn keeper, ski instructor. Then I tapped friends and newspaper colleagues around the country for more juicy women.

NR: What did you learn from your Tomatoes?

That truth-talking girlfriends are essential. That creativity lasts. That confidence is sexy. And from a yoga teacher – you are as young as your spine.

NR: What is the difference between your first and second Juicy Tomatoes book?

SS: In the first book Juicy Tomatoes: Plain Truths, Dumb Lies and Sisterly Advice After 50 I explore the stereotypes of aging, where they come from and why there's more to us than over-the-hill black balloon birthdays and saggy breast jokes. Still, there's a lot of frank talk about menopause and some of the visible changes that we experience. As one woman said: "I showed a picture of me with my first husband to my current husband and he looked at me and said, 'Who's that?'"

The second book The Juicy Tomatoes Guide to Ripe Living After 50 is more of a girlfriend guide. Women discuss cosmetic surgery decisions, taking care of our bones, how not to be an old poop. One hint: Walk as if you're wearing high heels even if they're sneakers. Sexy women wear heels, if only in their minds.

What is your next project?

SS: I’m fooling around with a kind of memoir about what happens to my generation of women when we leave our life-long profession but don’t really retire. I tentatively call it Life After Newspapers.

We appreciate your candor and insight, Susan. For more information about Susan, her books, podcasts or articles about health and fitness, click here.

Now, readers, it's your turn. Susan is available all day to answer questions - just click on 'comments' at the bottom of this post and follow the prompts. And thanks for stopping by!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Susan, you mention some of the stereotypes for older women. Now that 60 is the new 40, do you think that's changing? Sammi

8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember years ago, my dear friend Louise Lyon, who was my mother's age, had often said she never wanted to move into a 'seniors only community. She placed great importance on spending time with people of different generations than her own. For me, she became not only a dear friend, but a cherished life mentor. She taught me so much about really living well and wisely, aging with grace, humor, and having an open ear, mind and heart. Hardly a day goes by that I am not reminded of her lasting life lessons and the beautiful friendship we shared. At age 88 she was still taking French Literature classes at UCLA. She truly was an inspiration--my personal Betty White!


8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My youngest is in college, my company was just downsized (me with it) and I've got a lot of time on my hands. I don't want to golf or go to lunch. Can you give me a sneak peek at and a few hints about the 'not really retiring' chapter of the book you're writing?

9:05 AM  
Anonymous susan said...

Yes, I do and I agree with those who now say 60 is the new 60. We are not what we used to be. We are the best of what we are now.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous susan said...

I have found a group of women, some retired, some partially retired like me, who hike, bike and kayak every week. They are my new role models and I have become more physical and outdoorsy in my 60s than I ever was. I also found a group of women who are recently out of their career jobs and meet monthly to share ideas for getting involved politically or on volunteer basis. It's the consciousness raising group for our time.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous susan said...

To Gail: One of my best role models Doris Murphy just died last week at age 101. She worked as a counselor until she was 90, published her memoir Love and Labor at age 96.
Three weeks before her death my husband and I visited. She said she was ready to go.. Then she called for some wine and we joined her and her dog on her bed.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

Which of these triads would you say is most important for women of a certain age:
1. Floss, strengthen your core, wear sunscreen
2. Smile and laugh often, be interested in other people, set a goal/challenge for each day and achieve it.
In other words, as Juicy Tomatoes, is it our physical health or mental health that is most important?

9:46 AM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

Great attitude!

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you say, we all get stuck sometimes. I'm now 63and the older I get the harder it seems to work my way through. What is the best advice you've gotten from the women you interviewed? Jerry

10:25 AM  
Blogger Joan Price said...

I agree with Susan that we're redefining aging. I say, though, that "60 is the new 60"! We need to see ourselves aging creatively and positively, rather than seeing our vibrancy in terms of youth -- which is falling into the stereotype we're fighting!

Thanks for featuring Susan. She's one of my favorite writers, and I'm lucky enough to be included as one of her Juicy Tomatoes. I hope new readers have the joy of discovering her books. I can't wait for the new memoir!

Joan Price

Author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty and the upcoming Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex.

Join us -- we're talking about ageless sexuality at

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love my man but he just doesn't know how to talk about what really matters. Aren't girlfriends great?

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are some of the things you do with your time now that you've sort of retired? Barbara

10:30 AM  
Anonymous susan said...

Such great comments. To Caitlin: if we're lucky we get to have both. strong body, quick inquisitive mind.
To Jerry: Best advice - be bold, speak up, insist on being a player.
To Barbara: With my new time I walk, bike, help organize a book festival, take care of grandkids one day a week, meet with my writing group, try to convince my husband it's time to have fun.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Susan, you have captured the enviable spirit of these ripe years! I feel fortunate to now have the time to spend doing what I want and what I didn't know I wanted. Never having wanted to be stodgy or predictable in my younger years, I strive to remain youthful, optimistic, interested & interesting. Despite knees that remind me of my real age, I am blessed with a loving husband & caring friends for whom I am seemingly ageless. Add to that the blessings of grandchildren who will unsolicited, grab my hand & fill my heart with the words,"Grammy, I love you sooooo much." These help to assuage the illness & loss that unfortunately are not infrequently a part of these years.
To Caitlin: I think a positive attitude & finding reasons to smile each day, are the best antidote for growing well, not growing old! Gail

11:58 AM  
Blogger Rudy and Lynn said...

This Juicy Tomato just wants NOT to need help getting up from playing with the grandchildren on the floor! It's a full time job as an "almost 68 tomato" to continue to be healthy and strong. Being busy mentally and physically is how to do it. Thank goodness for girlfriends and family. Love your books. Lynn from Loomis

12:01 PM  
Blogger Sophie Annan Jensen said...

Change seems to be the keyword for these later years, as it was long ago when my small children were going through their changes faster than I could keep up. Now I'm the one who's constantly changing, and not always in a good way. :-) the body changes, sleep patterns change, interests change. Fighting change is useless and exhausting; acceptance isn't always easy or fast but it seems much saner to me.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous susan said...

I have a new friend who spent last year dealing with a pretty nasty breast cancer. We met for a long lunch (one advantage of not being on the clock) and talked about her recent trip to bring medical supplies to parts of Africa, hair (hers is coming back dark and thick) and how she next wants to take tap dancing lessons. She's 69.

3:01 PM  

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