Renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer is hardly your average grandmother. Best known for her self-help books and talk radio show, where she doles out tips on everything from disease prevention to the perks of sex in the morning, "Dr. Ruth" is one of America's favorite advice-givers.
Recently a new side of Westheimer has emerged. One of her newest books, "Grandparenthood," co-authored by Steven Kaplan and newly released in paperback (Routledge, $14.95), has turned America's favorite sex expert into America's favorite grandmother. A combination of serious advice, fun facts and autobiographical information, "Grandparenthood" has all her trademark wit and sound advice.
While her style of tackling the ins and outs of grandparenting makes for a carefree read, the writing itself was a bittersweet experience for Westheimer, who is 72. Her own grandparents, along with her parents, were killed in Nazi Germany after sending her to safety in Switzerland at the age of 10. This book is as much a memorial to her grandparents as a celebration of her own three grandchildren (a 10 1/2 -year-old boy and 2 girls, ages 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 ).
We caught up with Dr. Ruth Westheimer to find out what being a grandparent means to her.
Q. As well as being a "how to" book, this is a very personal book about your life. What did writing it mean to you?
A. I wanted in this one to make it clear why this [being a grandparent] is so important to me. It is like setting a gravestone for my parents and grandparents, who don't have one. I wanted to give my inimitable advice in a fun way, which I usually try to do, as well as in a serious way.
Q. Do you have a favorite story or funny anecdote about being a grandparent?
A. There are so many. The anecdote that does come to mind is walking in the Alps very fast with my grandson so that they [his parents] wouldn't catch up and we could be alone. Also when I get hugged and kissed and when they include me in their games.
For my 72nd birthday a friend bought me a racing scooter, which I love because I had one in my childhood. But she didn't know I had just bought one for my 10-year-old, so now we go together on the scooters. He is impressed that I can go with one foot up.
Q. What does being a grandparent mean to you?
A. Whatever I do, I take full advantage of it with my whole soul. I am impatient. Maybe by becoming a grandparent that sense of urgency is heightened. To know that, like I said in the book, Hitler did not succeed. He didn't want me to live, and he certainly didn't want me to have grandchildren.
Q. What was the hardest part about writing the book?
A. Writing about my family because it made me sad, but exhilarated at the same time.
Q. Do you think that your public image has changed from sex expert to grandparent?
A: What has changed is that there is more awareness that I have a doctorate from Columbia University in the Interdisciplinary Study of Family. [It isn't only sex]. In that way my image may have broadened.
Q. Which is more fun, being a celebrity or being a grandparent?
A. Both are tremendous fun. However, when I go to a mall or Central Park and [people come up to me], I smile and say, "Today I'm only a grandmother." I never do [publicity] with my children or grandchildren. It's funny, my 4 1/2 -year-old does say, "Omi ['Grammy' in German], everybody knows you."