Last Thursday, California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay at home order, directing California’s 40 million residents to not depart their houses, aside from important journey. But days earlier than that order, Californians like me—that’s, people 65 and older—had been ordered to remain at residence, as a result of we’re among the most weak to the consequences of COVID-19.
I’m—drumroll, please—68 years younger. I’ll admit it has been very powerful to remain cooped up inside. But I’ve books, and I’ve some closets to reorganize. (In reality, I’m recording my a part of the podcasts from inside a kind of closets.) My husband is right here with me, too—so you recognize, there are all types of issues we are able to do collectively throughout this time of social distancing.
So…should you’re in search of a e book to learn whereas cooped up, look no additional than It’s Not All Downhill From Here, the newest novel from Terry McMillan. She’s the writer of the classics Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back—wildly well-liked books about black ladies that additionally turned wildly well-liked motion pictures. Her new novel follows the primary character, Loretha Curry, and her crew of very shut associates. These ladies are all coping with totally different points: loss, well being issues and fights with family members. But there’s additionally romance blended in; the characters are getting old, however they’re nonetheless dwelling their lives to the fullest.
The e book comes out on March 31, and it has all the things: friendship, household, intercourse and race. So I referred to as up Terry McMillan, whom I’ve recognized for years, to speak about all of it—and, after all, what it means to become old, particularly in these unsure occasions.
This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.
Karen Grigsby Bates: For people who find themselves not acquainted with the e book, give us an elevator recap of what is taking place between the covers of It’s Not All Downhill From Here.
Matthew Jordan Smith/Courtesy of Penguin Random House
Terry McMillan: Loretha is the primary character, however she has a number of associates. They’re all of their 60s and went to highschool collectively. She has a tragic loss, and he or she has to determine dwell the remainder of her life. And together with her associates, all people’s going by one thing; in some circumstances, it is well being points. But for essentially the most half, they’re getting old, and they don’t seem to be occupied with dying anytime quickly. Loretha, who might be the pinnacle honcho, owns a magnificence provide [shop]. She decides that we have to do one thing actually to pump up the quantity, as a result of this isn’t all downhill from right here.
It’s how we principally can determine and discover ways to take higher care of ourselves, and to not really feel such as you’re simply dwelling to die. You can dwell up till the final minute.
Bates: It’s Not All Downhill facilities round a gaggle of girls who’re as shut as sisters. [The women] each worsen and maintain one another, like actual sisters. You typically work throughout the framework of black sisterhood. Why is that essential to you?
McMillan: I’ve three sisters, one in every of whom has handed away just lately. I’ll put it this manner. I’ve associates who I’ve recognized since faculty, and we deal with one another like sisters. Back then, we have been faculty college students, and we have been looking for our means. Everybody was looking for their means, and most of my associates have.
Bates: Loretha and her associates make it a degree or attempt to make it a degree to have dinner collectively as soon as a month, however it’s not simply concerning the meals. What are they doing?
McMillan: They’re communing. They’re making an attempt to elevate one another up as they are going by one thing. This is their approach to let one another know: “I’m not feeling so hot. I’m scared. I’m worried. I’m nervous. I’m lonely. I miss my husband.” It’s their approach to speak in confidence to one another, hopefully with out being judged, though they do choose one another. But they’re on the level now the place they do not thoughts, as a result of they know there’s love within it. It’s the place they will really be themselves. They do not should placed on any airs.
Bates: Just as your pal group in Waiting to Exhale made a sure form of black girl seen to Hollywood, do you suppose Loretha and her associates would possibly do the identical factor for ladies of their 60s? That age group continues to be pretty invisible for lots of causes.
McMillan: I do not suppose that I used to be writing to show something about how legitimate our lives nonetheless are at this age. That’s hopefully what folks get out of it. I imply, I do not really feel like I’ve one foot in a grave, and I do not actually really feel prefer it’s all downhill from right here. I’m having a reasonably rattling good time, and I’ll do no matter I can do to attempt to care for myself.
Bates: Does it shock you to understand what your age is now? I’ve a pal who says, “I don’t think of myself as 69 until I look in the mirror. I always think I’m like 28 or 29. And then when I’m shaving, I realized, oh, dude, you’re a whole lot older than that.” But on the within, he does not really feel that outdated. Do you are feeling that means, too?
McMillan: I really feel fairly good, and I like the way in which I take a look at my age. I’m not making an attempt to look 50. I simply wish to really feel good. I haven’t got any issues with wrinkles. I’m not getting any cosmetic surgery, no lipo, none of that stuff. I’m not doing any of this. I’ll slide into residence the way in which I’m purported to.
Bates: I’ve an aunt who simply celebrated her 100th birthday, and he or she has all the time had individuals who have been associates of various ages when she was youthful. She was associates with folks older than she is, in addition to individuals who have been youthful. And I see now that she’s you recognize, she’s 100 and lots of the individuals who come to hang around together with her are my age or youthful. She says, “Oh, yes, darling, you have to do that, because this will make you still interested in life.”
McMillan: One of the issues that I’ve began to understand is that I’m the one who in all probability talks extra about my age than the folks that I affiliate with who’re youthful. They do not journey on it. They do not give it some thought. And as a matter of reality, when watching a Lakers sport the opposite day, [my friend] stated, “Terry. Shut up, would you? You’re not old. You’re 68.” And I’ve liked that. I do not stroll round feeling like I’m outdated, however, you recognize, I say it virtually as a joke. I do not care. You know, nonetheless you wish to roll with it.
Grisgby Bates: So is 68 the brand new 38?
McMillan: I do not know. I stroll three and a half miles by the Rose Bowl. I do no matter I wish to do, and I do not care what age is related to it. I do not care. Some of those youngsters, I’ve to inform them, you recognize what, you do not essentially have all of it discovered at 30 or 25. Life generally is a stroll. It generally is a curler case coaster journey. It might be uphill, downhill. But the underside line is that you may roll with it. You do not should have all the things discovered by 25, 30 or 35. I revealed my first e book once I was 36. I had my first and solely child once I was 32.
One of the issues that I used to be occupied with [writing It’s Not All Downhill From Here] was I needed to have totally different ladies who’ve various things happening of their lives. Not all people has been to varsity [or is] a giant success. But they’re nonetheless associates, they usually love one another.
Bates: There’s a preferred notion that I hear rather a lot, and that I additionally hear denied rather a lot: that older folks aren’t occupied with or haven’t got intercourse.
McMillan: Well that is bullsh*t. I do not know who made these things up. I keep in mind once I was youthful, and I heard my mom and father. I assumed they have been preventing, And then I discovered they weren’t, as a result of I went and knocked on the door. My mom stated, “What do you want?” I stated, “Is daddy hitting you?” She stated, “No, he’s not hitting me.” And then I stated to myself, Well, what the hell might they be doing in there? And then it dawned on me. The thought that they have been outdated and doing these things made me wish to throw up.
Bates: This pops up a couple of occasions within the e book, when persons are both wishing for a sexual accomplice in the event that they did not have one, or pondering, man, it has been some time. Why was it essential to proceed to incorporate this?
McMillan: People suppose if you become old, you develop into asexual. And I do not purchase it. You nonetheless have the identical sorts of needs and also you need intimacy. And who does not need a kiss and hug, amongst different issues? That’s some 1960s stuff. We do not should apologize for this. You know, we’re sexual beings at 60, 68 and I hope 80.
Bates: Your books are infused with household and friendship, but some critics have dismissed them as “chick lit” as a result of they’re about ladies.
McMillan: I’ve been so previous the entire chick lit factor. I inform tales the way in which I wish to inform tales about folks whose lives imply rather a lot to me. Sometimes they’re ladies. Sometimes they’re youngsters, boys, grandparents and older folks.
I’ve watched ladies through the years—my mom, my aunts, my associates and teenage ladies—and all of the stuff that we undergo. Our lives are laborious. We have to govern and second-guess people, and we nonetheless wish to be blissful, and be sexual beings, and good and educated. We’re not chicks. We’re ladies and ladies.