Write Stuff 4/19/13


Cheering on Sisters to Defy Conventions

By Robin Pierson


Sam Dawson
Sam Dawson

Sam Dawson did not enter her 60s gracefully.

The love of her life, her second husband, the man who called her his dream girl and “kid,” died leaving her to face the “over-the-hill” decade alone, not a kid and no one’s girl. And while she still had the intention and the energy to work on making the world a better place, she could see her own end pretty clearly on the horizon. Plus, she expected to do her good works ”looking cute.” Her body, however, had ideas of its own.

Her ankles wrinkled when she did Downward Dog in yoga. Her salt-and-pepper hair was losing it’s pepper and no matter how much she exercised, there was always those nagging 10 extra pounds lurking, ready to pounce on her petite frame. And then there were her hands….

Unwilling to endure the special hell our society reserves for aging women alone, the Laguna Beach resident sought company, figuring that other maturing women probably had a lot to say about getting older. It took her eight years to summon the chutzpah to turn her idea about interviewing women about aging into a book. The result, “Broad Appeal…Wit and Wisdom from Women Ages Sixty to Ninety,” is a compilation of quotes from more than 70 women on everything from what surprises them about aging, what’s great about it, along with their truths about sex, money, physical changes and health.

Besides being a philanthropist, activist and retired publicist, Dawson is an actor who loves the limelight and who can work a room and get it roaring. To see Dawson in her element, Laguna Beach Books is hosting a book signing this Sunday, April 21, from 4 – 6 p.m. at the store located at 1200 S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.

Dawson found that “regardless what the damn mirror reflects” most of her subjects don’t feel old and that “these women who burned their bras in the 1960s are not rocking chair grannies” but are instead “revolutionizing old age” discovering that life after 60 is “a new and exciting frontier.”

Like many of her contributors, Dawson, now 73, has discovered a sense of spaciousness and authenticity around aging.  She and many of the women she spoke with have found the freedom to say what they feel, do what they want, not to care about what others think of them and to finally let go of trying to control things. Said one, “I am free of the chains of what other people think I should do, say or believe.”

“Broad Appeal” is a fun, fast read but not all “happy talk” validating the adage that  “getting old isn’t for sissies.”  Besides witnessing all too vividly their bodies’ inability to defy gravity, the women talk candidly about their challenges. Since conducting the interviews, two of the women have died and two have lost their husbands. One woman explains, “Live each day to the fullest. I woke up one morning married, and that night I was a widow.”

Sprinkled with “Sam Speak,” Dawson cheers on her sisters with “atta girls” when they discover that “No” is a complete sentence or when they eliminate “toxic” people from their lives. She encourages readers to pay attention when her subjects advise women to “be the master of your own finances.” And Dawson urges those stuck in less than perfect situations to face their fear of the future and take a risk.

Dawson took her own risk writing this book. According to one of her daughters, “it’s like you let everyone look under your skirt.” She credits her contributors’ unabashed honesty with helping propel her into her own new frontier.

Four years ago Dawson made good on her aspiration to give back by helping found Impact Giving, a woman’s collective giving organization that has granted nearly $350,000 to local and global nonprofit organizations. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of “Broad Appeal” will be donated to Impact Giving.

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