a publication of the sexuality and aging consortium at widener university

Chance Encounter on Sex and Aging

By Bill Taverner, MA

Tonight I was working at a Starbucks café in Barnes and Noble. As I began to wrap up for the evening, I overheard two college-aged students at the next table. One said, “How do you spell genius?” The two began trying to figure it out, first with “j-i-n…” then eventually landing on “g-e-n-i-o-u-s”. Privately amused by the irony of the spelling attempts by two less-than-geniuses, I finally offered, “It’s actually g-e-n-i-u-s.” They thanked me good-naturedly, and I began to feel guilty, realizing I had probably embarrassed them. So I tried to make them feel better by suggesting it was a commonly misspelled word. I said, “It’s ok. I only know that because I’m an editor.”

One replied, “Really? I’m a writer. Well, I’m trying to write my first novel. What do you edit?”  I replied, “the American Journal of Sexuality Education.”  Then the man at the next table chimed in, “What did you say you edit?”

I braced myself, thinking, “Here we go…an anti sex ed guy who is going to start ranting at me…”  I repeat the name of the journal, and he said, “What a coincidence! I wrote a book about sexuality!”

“Really?” I asked. “What book?”

“Sexuality and Aging: An Annotated Bibliography,” he replied. Yes, I was standing there talking with George F. Wharton, author of the 1981 reference book. And he was at Starbucks working on a revision of that book. He reached over to my laptop and Googled himself and his book.

I said, “That is a coincidence. I worked on a book about sexuality and aging that was published not too long ago. It’s called Older, Wiser, Sexually Smarter.”

“Yes!” Dr. Wharton replied, “I have that book. Blue-green cover, paperback, right? The bibliography is not very academic…though I suppose it was intended to be more user-friendly than academic.”

“Yes,” I replied, pondering how this amazingly coincidental introduction could only be topped by his critique of my editorial work. He recovered and said, “But it’s a great book!”

I told him about the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University, and I talked about Consortium President Peggy Brick and the recent training on sex ed for long-term care facilities. We exchanged e-mails and were not terribly surprised to learn that we both live in the same city. And thus concludes the weirdest chance meeting I have ever experienced.


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