Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ask Sexpert Walker Thornton - Part 2

It starts with her beauty in my eyes, it moves...
It starts with her beauty in my eyes, it moves to her scent in my nose...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I needed to pump Walker's brain with just one more question... with variations. Click here to read Part 1.

My blog readers here are of all ages. What sexual advice would you offer your 25-year-old self - and her sisters?

At every age women need to take precautions against sexually transmitted infections—unless both parties have been tested and found free of any STIs. Don’t assume your partner will carry protection—take control of your own sexual choices and be safe.

I wish I had understood my own body and my sexual needs at age 25. Take the time to learn your body and how it responds to sexual pleasure. What feels good? What would you share with a partner about your sexual desires? You deserve to have great sex with a partner who respects you. I’d suggest you read DodsonandRoss.com—their site has wonderful videos and instructional information on self-pleasuring and the female anatomy.

I’d also tell 25-year olds, and women of all ages, to be selective in looking for sexual partners. Let your intuition guide you. Sex between two people should be about mutual pleasure. The man who rushes to ‘stick it in’ isn’t interested in satisfying you. Find someone else! You deserve it.

Allegheny College's Ford Memorial Chapel - ‘ed...
Allegheny College's Ford Memorial Chapel
(Photo credit: marsmet521)

All those changes in life, marital status, work, children, often result in a loss of self-identity. We become the mom, the wife, the volunteer, etc. Make time for yourself every now and then—sensuous indulgences are important as well as those quiet moments that help you relax. This is a great time to explore the shifts in your relationship and initiate conversation with your partner about your sexual needs. Strong communication helps build a strong sexual connection.


This may be a time for a reality check around your sex life. Are you in the pre-menopausal stage? Is it affecting your sex life? If so, address it now! Experiment to spark up a sex life that might feel a little stale. Sex goddesses come in all ages, sizes and stages of life. Think sexy and you’ll feel sexy. You are not old. You are midway through and in the prime of your life.


This is a time of transformation for many women. Fears about aging sometimes get in the way and keep us from having positive expectations. Sex can still be quite good.  (I’m a better lover than I was at any other time in my life) If you’re having issues related to menopause find a trusted friend or good doctor to talk to. Invest in a good organic lubricant and use it even if you don’t experience vaginal dryness…it enhances sexual pleasure. Work on staying sexually engaged, even when you don’t feel the urge—there are great health benefits associated with staying sexually active. If you’re single do not assume that sexually transmitted infections are for the young. STIs and HIV are rising in older populations. Buy some condoms and keep them handy.

65 & beyond? 

Sexual arousal is and always has been partly centered in the brain. If you’ve got the right mind set at 65 or 70, you can keep a healthy outlook on sex. Are there bodily changes to worry about?  You can find solutions for most concerns that arise with aging or post-menopausal issues. The ability to orgasm remains with us, it may change over time but we don’t lose our capacity for orgasm or sexual pleasure. We may simply redefine what gives us pleasure. Remember that men change as well. You can have great fun exploring the new things available to you and a partner. Age is not a barrier to sex.

Walker Thornton is a 59-year-old divorced woman on a mission to help women over 50 discover their sexuality. As a freelance writer and blogger, she specializes in women's issues. She writes a weekly sex expert column at Better After 50 (http://betterafter50.com/category/ba50-experts/walker-thornton/) and can be found at her blog,  Walker Thornton (www.walkerthornton.com) and at the Diva of Dating (http://thedivaofdating.com) You can also follow her on twitter (http://twitter.com/WalkerThornton).

Got questions?
Anything you wish someone had told you, at age XX?
(Hey, and if you find this post helpful, please share it.)
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Ask Sexpert Walker Thornton - You KNOW You Want To

Let's face it: we're all interested in sex. But despite how often we might think about it, do we get an opportunity to ask questions of a Real Life Sexpert? As an author of erotic women's fiction, I am thrilled and honored to welcome Walker Thornton to Writing in Flow, for an interview.

English: Sexual theme warning tag from Kijkwij...
English: Sexual theme warning tag from Kijkwijzer Português: Etiqueta de aviso sexual da Kijkwijzer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1) So what made you decide to become an online Sexpert, as opposed to, say, making muffins or restoring classic cars? Why are you passionate about this issue?

I had been writing blogs for a number of years and I would touch on sex occasionally but I had a real shift about 2 years ago that coincided with my work in the field of violence against women and my personal life. I began encountering women who weren't comfortable talking about sexuality and didn't know where to turn for advice or help. And, I came across so much information that wasn't informative or was judgmental and off-putting.

I like talking about sex and I feel comfortable doing so--that's something that many women can't claim.  We're often too embarrassed to admit to our feelings or be able to talk openly about what works sexually and what doesn't. I am in the process of writing a guide for women and building speaking opportunities around the topic.

As to why I'm passionate about the issue? All around us are voices saying sex isn't for older women, proclaiming the end of sexuality with the onset of menopause. And, it's just not true. We can have a passionate sex life, however we individually define it, well into our 80s. I'm not the lone speaker on this, you and others I've run into have an interest in giving a sex-positive message for older women.   I like to think my writing is clear and helpful-compelling even. [Bev here: TOTALLY agree that Walker's writing is clear, helpful and compelling.] Many women of our age don't want to read overly explicit material and they don't want to become Tantric masters, nor are they interested in content written for 20-30 somethings. My writing filling in that gap. Not that I ever want to be called practical or mainstream!

AreYouAfraidToLove1926 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2)  We grow up with many different beliefs about sex and sexuality, some of which are factually wrong (pulling out is an effective method of birth control), others which are culturally driven (masturbation is a sin, nice women don't want sex as much as men do). Which message have you seen that most often gets in the way of women enjoying a healthy sexuality, and how do we erase or write over a "tape" that may have been replaying in our heads for several decades?

To a degree all of those messages play out for women our age. But I think the most damaging message women have incorporated is that we're not supposed to want to have sex. We grew up being told to protect ourselves from men. Protect your virginity. Don't look too eager. Let him lead. Good girls don’t want sex. Remember the old story about keeping your knees tightly pressed together as a way of protecting ourselves? My mother warned me that by sleeping with my future husband I’d be like a used shoe and no other guy would want me.

Women aren't encouraged to be sexual beings—we’re reared to think of ourselves as receptacles. We are taught to please a man, without learning the tools to our own satisfaction. If we can’t own our sexuality how can we ask for the sexual touch we want and need? I think this inability contributes to a diminishing of sexual desire and a sort of acceptance. The “Oh well, it was never very good so I don’t miss sex.”

There are many women, of all ages, who enjoy sex immensely, but they're not always willing to talk about it due to the shame factor. Our society doesn't support women as sexual beings; sexual objects yes, but there's a difference.

How do we change this? The older woman has a great opportunity here. We can provide strong role models for our daughters and granddaughters as we learn to embrace and proclaim who we are. I see myself, at 59, as having little to lose by being open about my sexuality. We're not worrying about pregnancy, we are generally more responsible in choices and we have the maturity and experience to enjoy sex without the hangups and issues of our younger days.

You and I write about sex in a way that gives women permission to explore and expand their own sexuality. We help to erase the shame by showing examples of powerful women who embrace all of who they are. When we talk about delicate topics we help women normalize their sexuality. Embarrassment serves to keep women quiet, reluctant to reach out. I get emails with questions and comments that women aren't willing to share on the website. Readers often thank me for talking about sexuality--women are starved for good solid information. Getting answers and seeing someone their age putting a human face on sexuality is helpful.  I like to say that I'm leading by example. Who knew having good sex and writing about it could be so much fun? 

3) Who knew having good sex and writing about it could be so much fun?  Romance writers, that's who! (Though we cannot make assumptions about any author's sex life based on the material she or he writes, any more than we can assume an author who writes about serial killers is one.) 

A few years ago, a "family and relationships expert" came out with the provocative statement that reading romance novels was bad for women - that it would lead them to have unrealistic expectations in their own marriages. What's been your experience and research as to whether women who regularly read romantic fiction have better/healthier relationships and sex lives, or whether it hurts them?

As a writer I don't believe that any reading is bad for us. But, and, it depends on what the reader is looking for. If a woman is experiencing problems in her marriage and thinks that the romance novel structure of relationships is going to help her with her issues then it becomes problematic. If she is bored and seeking escapist fantasy then a well written romance or erotic article or book is lots of fun.

The wide success of the 50 Shades series points to the fact that women want something more--they want to read about erotic adventures and I suspect their sex lives are getting a little spicier. I don't really know if we've had enough research yet on that topic?

Fiction is just that, it's a made up story and often does not reflect the majority of women's experiences with relationships or sex. Like porn it has entertainment value but should not be used as a tool for learning 'how to.'

Walker Thornton is a 59-year-old divorced woman on a mission to help women over 50 discover their sexuality. As a freelance writer and blogger, she specializes in women's issues. She writes a weekly sex expert column at Better After 50 (http://betterafter50.com/category/ba50-experts/walker-thornton/) and can be found at her blog,  Walker Thornton (www.walkerthornton.com) and at the Diva of Dating (http://thedivaofdating.com) You can also follow her on twitter (http://twitter.com/WalkerThornton).

Tune in tomorrow as Walker's advice and wisdom continues for women of ALL ages.

Your thoughts?
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Gratitude, An Attitude Easier Said Than Felt

Dalai lama lotus
Dalai lama lotus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Does anybody else sometimes choke on the whole "attitude of gratitude" thing, which can go down drier than an overcooked turkey at Thanksgiving?

There are people who've seemingly mastered the art/skill/attitude of gratitude (Dalai Lama, I'm looking at you). For me, certain skills come naturally, and others must be cultivated, and others (Photoshop, you bitch!) are a FAIL no matter how much I study and struggle and repeat over and over again. I want to "be grateful," and sometimes I am, but I think I was born a natural sourpuss.

Kathy Gottberg over at SMARTLiving365 is awesome at it, and is running a whole series this month on Gratitude.

I've tried making lists. I've tried keeping a Gratitude Journal.

I've filled out at least the first 10-15 pages in this.
I'm grateful that I have it.... doesn't that count for something?
While my lovely Gratitude Journal has now become yet another guilt-inducing object in my home, one which, like organizing my photos, I fully intend to get back to, one of these days, I have found at least a couple of things which work for me regarding Gratitude.

1 - You Don't Always Have to Feel It

One of these days I intend to write a book, working title: 101 Surprisingly Useful Things I Learned From Being in a Religious Cult.

Anyway, one of the things my particular cult (COBU/Forever Family, for anyone who's interested) hammered on was that love was not the warm-gushy feeling you had towards another person - that, in fact, you could love someone while not "feelin' it" whatsoever. Your love was measured more by your actions toward that person, by taking a step back and seeking their higher good, rather than seeking to please the other person in the moment.

For example, as a loving parent, you got your kids their innoculations, even if that was a hassle and they cried and said they hated you.  (I know, I know, there is all kinds of controversy now about vaccination schedules, etc., but let's put that to the side for a moment.) It doesn't feel good to get your kids a shot, or to ignore a screaming tantrum in the grocery store. And yet, it is the most loving thing you can do, even if it feels like crap.

Letting go of the notion that Being Grateful = Feeling Grateful allows me to include all the life lessons that aren't particularly warm, fuzzy, or comfortable at this time.

I realize, looking back at my life, that many of my most important life lessons were pretty horrible in the moment. For instance, one of my earliest jobs was working in a home improvement store. I was a cashier; the sales people on the floor (all male) earned more money than cashiers.

I wanted more money, and knew that given the chance, I could do... most of it. I applied, and they gave it to me, with various caveats; I would still have to cashier, if and when the necessity arose, and I would get the "girl" departments: home decor, housewares, and seasonal.  "If you can't do it, of course, you can always go back to being a full-time cashier.

"And, oh, yeah. As part of your duties as part of 'seasonal,' you have to put together these gas barbecues."

The assembly directions were crappy, the illustrations confusing, the bags o' billions o' parts were terrifying, and I had grown up with a totally unmechanical father, who never did so much as check the oil or tire pressure in our car. I'm not sure I had even held a wrench or screwdriver before. I felt persecuted, totally in over my head, and set up to fail.

And yet, I managed, through toil and sweat and despair and getting a little help here and there, to take it one step at a time, and I put those suckers together. I did it; I did not let the task or The Man beat me.

Did I feel grateful for the life lesson at the time? Oh, hell no! I felt scared and inadequate and miserable. Until I completed it.

Do I feel grateful now? It has become one of the most powerful lessons of my life, but there was no way I could tell that when I was in the middle of it, surrounded by billions o' tiny unidentifiable parts and one more blood blister away from giving up. I often look back and say to myself, "Hey, if I can put together a thrice-cursed gas barbecue, I can do this thing."

2 - A Gratitude Jar Works Better for Me than a Gratitude Journal.

Sometime close to the beginning of 2013 I picked up the idea of a gratitude jar, rather than a journal, diary, or list. I just spent 30 minutes trying to track down WHO gave me the idea, but since it's gone viral, everybody has their own spin on it, so if YOU were the one... I am grateful for you.

The idea is to keep a clear jar - whatever size floats your boat, whatever decorations make you squee - and put little scraps o' paper in it, to commemorate things for which you feel grateful. Then on December 31 of each year, part of the ritual is to empty and read all the wonderful things that have been dropped into the Gratitude Jar, and start over in the New Year with a new one.

I started with a small jar, then decided I would need LOTS of room. Found this fabulous big roomy one that reminded me of I Dream of Jeannie on sale at TJ Maxx.

Early Days with my Gratitude Jar
(The background of baby pictures and various texts is my visionboard - more on that later.)

Anyway, as I've read online, some people show an almost Nazi-ish discipline... they vill put somezing into ze Gratitude Yar efry zingle day, ya?

Others put only the really significant things into their Gratitude Jar.

IMO, if it works for you and your family, there is no One Right Way. Personally, I have become a Gratitude Junkie, looking for something fabulous to drop in, as often as possible. But sometimes a couple weeks will pass and I haven't added to the jar. Other times, I will put in 2-4 slips on the same day. (Please don't rat me out to the Gratitude Nazis!)

I decided to pick up some colorful min-index cards, just cuz, and I love the way they look, all rainbow-y in the jar.

I keep the jar near the front door of my apartment, so it's easy to add something, either on my way in from the day job, or on my way out in the morning.

I take gratitude notes on a variety of things, big and small. A really gorgeous sunset. A much-enjoyed visit from an out-of-town relative. A clean report on my latest mammogram.

And I find though I have realized that gratitude is more than that in-the-moment feeling, that I do feel more gratitude every time I look at my jar. I look at all those colorful bits of paper and realize, wow, I have had an amazing year.

However you get to Gratitude, I encourage you to choose what works for you.

As we approach America's Thanksgiving, I may or may not end up spending time with my biological family - we are now pretty spread out, and there are various "things" going on with various family members. But I do feel very grateful for an extended family who are largely supportive and wonderful. (And as to those who aren't, well, they make great character material, so I'm grateful for them, too, and the lessons they have taught me.)

I'm also very grateful that Sexpert Walker Thornton will be back this upcoming Monday to chat about, yep, Sex. (Think about signing up for blog notification via email so you don't miss it.)

What 's your take on Gratitude?
Do you have a jar, journal, or technique to track your grats?
Your thoughts?

Adding this to Kathy's Gratitude BlogHop

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Burn Up Those Bookmarks, Baby!

Zombie Cows
Zombie Cows (Photo credit: rwillia532)
Am I the only one who's been drowning in bookmarks, subscriptions, emails, and other electronic clutter?

For all I knew, I had data on my 'puters that, properly sorted and collated, could cure cancer, make me a best-selling author, and help me survive the Zombie Apocalypse. Only it is/was so hopelessly dogpiled together that I could be clicking on links til the zombie cows came home. "I know I was just looking at that last week... I think it's right the... No, I bet it's...  Aaargh!"

(In passing, am I the only one surprised to find that the idea of zombie cows is actually a thing?)

Animated Firefox logo (aPNG)
Animated Firefox logo (aPNG) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One Browser To Rule Them All

At home, I was using Firefox, because... I dunno, I wanted to get pages loaded before I expired of old age, with Explorer? Because Firefox is the bastard grandchild of my beloved Netscape, and kinda sexy besides? I'm a fan of Ylvis? 

But at my day job, I began using Google Chrome, because I found out it would auto-translate pages into English, and being a typical Amurrican, my secondary language skillz are limited more to the la plume bleu de ma tante (my aunt's blue pen) variety.

I was pretty sure, when negotiating a banking page in an alternate language, that I was merely transferring funds from one account to another, but there was always this lingering fear... Did I just sign my client up to donate a kidney?

So, Google Chrome and its handy-dandy built-in translator solved that problem. And then I discovered that, like NSA Gone Wild, as long as I was signed into my Google email, Google knew what I was doing, everywhere.

On my laptop. On my home 'puter. Google knew and  it would synch my bookmarks.

Rather than giving me the creeps, I felt cherished and safe, like holding my old tattered blankie. No more would I bookmark the same damn site over and over again. Or export my bookmarks from one browser and import them into another, with about 2/3 of them reduplicated from the last time I'd done that, and yet somehow, the new bookmarks I really wanted, were left behind like Hansel and Gretel, sans breadcrumbs.

Google Chrome for all it is, then.

'THAT WAS EASY!' (Photo credit: joepopp)

YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). For all I know Firefox now has a translator, or Explorer does, or whatever you're using. Mebbe they synch, too. If you don't need the translation stuff, and you're happy with your browser, or you don't access multiple computers, use what works for you.
Johnny Depp
Cover of Johnny Depp

For you Mac-lovers... whatever. My day job requires me to use a PC, so Macs might offer more fun and excitement than a three-way with Channing Tatum and Ryan Gosling, but... Still not doable for me.

Besides, I'd rather have George Clooney and... Johnny Depp, mebbe?

Everybody's Here, Coach - Now What?

Always, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) when you can. I put six folders right on the toolbar, plus a couple of extremely vital links, like my Pinterest Pin It Button.:

  • Work Links
  • Social Media
  • Writing
  • Blogging
  • Personal
  • Other Bookmarks

Mullet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Work Links go first, my bookmark Mullet (business in the front, party in the back). Social Media is next - since I use that for both work and personal. Inside that are subfolders for FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and a couple other things. So whenever I come across a really good article 'splaining how to use one of the above, I not only bookmark it, but save it to the proper subfolder  Now I have an actual chance of finding it again, when I am stuck on something, and Lordy, do I get stuck.

And Behind Door Number Two...

I had approximately 3,462 bookmarks all about writing. Many of the sites and blog posts were writing gold (not to be confused with author +Jami Gold, whose writer tips are also a thing of beauty and a joy forever). But all jumbled together, I couldn't ever find the damn links I needed, when I needed 'em.

Here's my first pass at breaking them down into subfolders.

My thought was to make the folder specific enough that I don't have to hunt for whatever, but general enough so each holds more than a few things. For example, I didn't set up folders for First Person POV, Third Person POV, or Omniscient POV - all good bookmarks on writing Points Of View go into POV.

I contemplated combining Outlining and Plots & Scenarios, but decided, for me, there's enough of a distinction to keep them separate. For me, Outlines are more the detailed breakdown of what happens in each Chapter, possibly even deeper, into each scene. Whereas a Scenario is more the first vague idea of characters and setting (32 year old female scientist and 26 year old male cop find love while battling the Zombie Apocalypse), and Plot would be more detailed, akin to the back cover blurb.
Lipstick Kiss
Lipstick Kiss (Photo credit: Filter Forge)

I intend to create more folders as time goes on and as I dig through my Research-General Folder. I'm planning to move Pasadena elsewhere; probably I will create a Locations folder, and Pasadena and other extensively researched locations will become subfolders of that one.

Again, YYMV. Just make sure that however you choose to arrange your folder and stepfolders, you KISS.

Why Is Blogging The Red-Headed Stepchild? Shouldn't It Be Part of Social Media? Or Writing?

Of course it's part of both, but it's its own beastie, too. Inside of Blogging, I have a subfolder called Blogging-Images that contains links to all the free of royalty/license sites, like Flickr Creative Commons and Wikimedia Commons, and more, plus some posts on how to work with images. I have subfolders for Blogging Tips/Promotion posts, and for those on specific subject matter, like Sluts, for my Slut of the Month research. Writing I am choosing to keep sacred separate for posts and sites about writing actual novels, essays, and short stories.

Personal is the stuff that's, well, personal. In Other Bookmarks I am saving the stuff that I am interested in that's it's own thing; I have a Tudors subfolder, for example, even though I've already blogged about Anne Boleyn and don't have any blog or writing projects on them. I just like Tudor History, mmm'kay?

The beauty of this, now that I have taken advantage of a couple nights of insomnia and filtered everything on my home 'puter, is when next I go out for Shut Up and Write! and turn on my laptop - all changes will synch. If I'm spending a work lunch break reading blogs while I eat, and stumble upon something marvelous on my work 'puter, I can just Bookmark it there and know it'll be waiting for me when I get home.

Yay, bookmarks. But then there's...

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Filters - Not Just For Water Bottles Any More

I won't spend a lot of time on this, because Anson Alexander does it soooo much better. But I will say that I was stressing over a jillion emails hitting my inbox everyday, and just Not. Being. Able. To. Stay. Current.

Learning to use filters has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I can now sort my newsletter subscriptions into folders/labels, and "do" all my Google+ things together.

Basically, this is traditional fall housecleaning, just like my mama used to do. Only I did not actually take the salad spinner and party platters out of the cupboard and wipe off my shelves.

What tips do you have on organizing your bookmarks and email?
What folders, subfolders, or filters do you use?
Your thoughts?

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Slut of the Month: Rita Moreno

"This idea lasts through my whole life: I always play a part. For so many years, I have to be a 'smoldering sexy spitfire.' Rita Moreno - funny and bold and golden as all her statuettes. The Hispanic heroine with all four gleaming prizes - Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy - big money, hot lovers, 'perfect' forty-five-year marriage, with a gold medal hanging around my necks and shelves filled with award statuettes but still, inside, who is she? Who am I? Rosita Dolores Alverio? Or Rita Moreno? Rita or Rosita? Who am I?" from Rita Moreno, A Memoir.

Even Spitfires Start as Little Girls

Born December 11, 1931 in Humacao, Puerto Rico, raised in Juncos, Rosita Dolores was the daughter of Rosa María (Marcano) and Paco José Alverio. Wikipedia states her father was a farmer, but seamstress mother Rosa apparently felt her husband was plowing more than fields. She transplanted herself and her five year old daughter from the "ice-cream houses" of Juncos to cold, gritty and gray New York City in 1936, leaving behind a three-year old son.

After being hospitalized in New York for chicken pox and terrified by not understanding a word being spoken around her, Rosita resolved to learn inglés perfectly, and to speak it without accent.

She enjoyed dancing, and as their fortunes improved, Rosa arranged for her daughter to take Spanish dance lessons with Rita Hayworth's uncle. Rosita loved performing and appeared on Broadway at age 13 in a short-lived play called Skydrift. Upon securing an appointment with MGM head Louis B. Mayer, Rosita and her mother designed dress and makeup to mimic the appearance of her favorite movie star, sure that would impress him.

Rita Moreno
Rita Moreno (Photo credit: rocor)

It worked. The "Spanish Elizabeth Taylor" was signed to a seven year contract. Talent agent Bill Grady would rename her Rita, with Moreno being the name of her (second) stepfather (out of five she would eventually have).

Perfecting the Universal Ethnic Accent

In New York, polite people called Puerto Ricans "PR's," while others yelled "Spic!" and sometimes chased or beat them up. White in Puerto Rico, among a people whose skin tones ranged from white to true black, little Rosita Alverio was considered light-skinned, but in 1950's Hollywood, Rita Moreno was considered dark-skinned and exotic, despite her perfect, accentless English. Rarely was she offered a part that was simply a character - rather than an ethnic character, though Gene Kelley tagged her to play Zelda Zanders, the snitch and "Zip Girl" in Singin' in the Rain.

Because directors demanded an accent (and rarely supplied a dialect coach), Rita invented something she called a "Universal Ethnic Accent," and used it to play Tina (Cajun) in The Toast of New Orleans, Terru (Tahitian) in 1950's Pagan Love Song, Honey Bear (Native American) in The Yellow Tomahawk, Jara (Arabian) in El Alamein, Lola Montalvo (Hispanic) in This Rebel Breed, and many other minority parts. Memorably, she played Tuptim (the king's concubine) in The King and I. While loathing the stereotyping, the made-up accent, and the often terrible brown makeup, at the same time, at least it was work. Hollywood certainly had no qualms about slapping the same brown pancake makeup on white actors and actresses for the "ethnic" roles, should she turn them down. In her Memoir, she says:
As I look back on my Indian maiden period, I can see that the films also all had a barely veiled sexist slant: that girls should be captured, writhing, and either enjoy submitting or kick till the bitter end. The Arab maidens did the same thing. All maidens ultimately spoke in sibilant subservient whispers when they 'caved' to warrior chieftains, super cowboys, sheikhs, or white liberators of captured maidens.

Rita was also called upon, as starlets were, to go on public dates with various stars. Theatre openings. Nightclubs and parties, wearing glamorous dresses loaned by the studios, "to be eye candy, to decorate its opening events and parties like so many bright, sweetly scented flowers."

And then without warning, her MGM contract was cancelled. Time to schlep all over town for audition after audition, for the same crappy, sexist, ethnic parts. Somehow, while shooting a television pilot with Ray Bolger, she ended up on the March 1, 1954 cover of Life magazine, as Rita Moreno: An Actress's Catalog of Sex and Innocence. Now she was contracted by Universal.

Rita and Marlon and Elvis, Oh My!

Howard Hughes asked her out on some bizarre dates. She dated Geordie Hormel. Anthony Quinn.

Portrait of Marlon Brando, "Streetcar Nam...
Portrait of Marlon Brando, "Streetcar Named Desire" 1 photographic print : gelatin silver. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
But the crazylove of Rita's love was Marlon Brando, who became intrigued by that Life cover, but couldn't find that girl. Later, they met on the set of Marlon's movie Desiree. She was 23, he was 30. At the time, he was at the top of his game, handsome, and well-built.
We grew intimate quickly, and I began spending a lot of time at Marlon's house. To say that he was a great lover - sensual, generous, delightfully inventive - would be gravely understating what he did not only to my body, but for my soul. Every aspect of being with Marlon was thrilling, because he was more engaged in the world than anyone else I'd ever known.

Their affair was on-again, off-again, over the course of eight years. He got other women pregnant, married them, divorced them. She went out with Dennis Hopper, and Elvis Presley, to make Marlon jealous. She began seeing a therapist.

Rita allowed herself to become pregnant, and to her soul-wounding shock, instead of marrying her, Marlon insisted upon an abortion. Botched, she had to be hospitalized.
I must have had at least five or six breakups with Marlon, only to return to his bed after massive wooing and purring and dinners and implied promises that things would be all right once he returned. But here's the rub: Those 'morning after' drives in my car back to my house after giving in to Marlon yet again were among my sorriest, saddest experiences. I felt used and thoroughly humiliated every time. Empty, the life sucked out [of] me. And at the same time, sooo disappointed in myself, which made me feel even worse, if that was possible.
In April 1961 Rita attempted suicide In Marlon Brando's house. Not a feint, but an act of weariness, of hitting bottom, feeling worthless and rejected by the whole world, including her lover who seemed to want every other "ethnic" woman in the world to bear his babies - but not Rita.

She survived, but in order to truly thrive, she had to end the emotional roller-coaster affair with Marlon Brando - and he had to leave her be.

West Side Story Salvation

While I had been balking all my life at playing stereotyped Hispanic roles in the movies, all those Conchitas and Lolitas, I leaped at the opportunity to audition for the part of Anita. Anita was real! She was Puerto Rican, and she was fighting for her rights.... At this point, I'd never been given the opportunity to play the part of a woman who stood up for herself. Her suffering, her anger, were my suffering, my anger. Becoming Anita was a personal mission for me. I had fled down those mean streets in fear of the gangs, chased and haunted by that awful hiss: 'Spic!'
Although Chita Rivera did an excellent job in the 1957 stage play, Rita Moreno nailed Anita. (And she got to use a genuine Puerto Rican accent!)

Filmed during the tail end of Rita's tempestuous relationship with Marlon Brando, she and co-star George Chakiris (a Greek playing Hispanic Bernardo) would pick up matching Oscars for West Side Story in April 1962.

Surely after that triumph, the offers for strong, meaty, non-stereotypical roles would come pouring in?

No, not so much.

Marriage, Mami-hood, Muppets, and Morgan Freeman

Rita became more politically active, appearing and speaking at rallies for civil rights, attending the March on Washington and hearing Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech in person. She also became romantically involved with SNCC executive secretary James Forman. She turned down a photo opp to be in one of Kenneth Tynan's spanking scrapbooks.

Next, Rita took a detour from the "sexy spitfire" gang member and prostitute roles, which were all that were being offered to her, marrying New York cardiologist Leonard Gordon in 1965, and starting a family with him.

Rita adored daughter Fernanda, but also still had the drive to perform. And she wasn't dead-set against sexy roles, if they were good parts, not stereotypes. She made a film with her ex, Marlon Brando, in 1968, The Night of the Following Day, and appeared in Carnal Knowledge with Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen and Ann-Margret in 1971. She had a leading role in The Four Seasons, in 1981, with Alan Alda and Carol Burnett.

But she wasn't eighteen anymore, nor even in her twenties. Compared to men's roles, even today the film role pickings are slim for actresses of a certain age.

So, Rita did television. 780 episodes and a Grammy for The Electric Company, which also starred Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby, Judy Graubart and others. The Muppet Show (Emmy in 1977). Guest starring on various series, from The Love Boat to The Rockford Files (another Emmy). Later she'd voice Carmen Sandiego, and play a nun for 44 episodes of the critically acclaimed drama Oz.

Rita also did Broadway, earning a Tony for her role in The Ritz, and recently performed an autobiographical stage play in Berkeley, Life Without Makeup. As of this post, she has a recurring role in the TV series Happily Divorced, and parts in two movies to be released in 2013 and 2014.

Add Author to the List

In March 2013, Rita Moreno released her Memoir, from which most excerpts here are taken. She wrote about her life, her work, and her loving if imperfect marriage (which ended with the death of her husband in 2010), and speaks candidly about these things in the clip, below:

Oh yeah, she's also been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and a bunch of other shiny prizes. Somehow, despite sexism, racism, and ageism, and a life that some would call "slutty," beautiful, talented Rita Moreno continues to appeal to an audience of all ages.

Past Sluts:

Upcoming Sluts of the Month:
  • Mae West
  • Joan of Kent
  • Sandra Fluke 
  • Morgan le Fey
  • Aspasia
  • Madonna
  • Liz Taylor
  • Dorothy Parker 
  • Kassandra of Troy
  • Tullia d'Aragona
  • Josephine Baker
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Lillie Langtry
  • Eleanor Roosevelt 
  • Rhiannon
  • Shelley Winters
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • "Klondike Kate" Rockwell
  • Catherine de Medici
  • Lucrezia Borgia
  • Umrao Jaan
  • Sarah Bernhardt
  • Matilda of Tuscany
  • Cher
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine 
  • Theodora (wife of Emperor Justinian) 
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Jeanne d'Arc
  • Margaret Sanger
  • Coco Chanel 
  • Isadora Duncan
  • Sappho
  • Joan of Kent 
  • Dorothy Dandridge
  • Eva Perón
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Natalie Wood
  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Mata Hari
  • Lady Gaga
  • Malala Yousafzai

Are you as impressed as I am that Ms. Moreno is still going strong, in her eighties?
 What does it say about her that she survived 1950's Hollywood?
Your thoughts?
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