I stumbled across an article the other day in the New York Times about sex and the older woman. I was eager, relieved, looking forward to a good read that would restore my faith and annihilate my creeping insecurity in this realm. By the third paragraph, I’d learned that the “older” woman was… 32. Her lover was 17. Therefore, she was “older.”
My hopes dashed, I didn’t even finish the article, so I don’t know if it contained any gems for me. All I know is that I suddenly find myself an “older” woman, which is hilarious since I feel like the same person I’ve always been.
I have noticed, however, that I’m beginning to cast a second look at dresses I was still throwing on glibly just a couple to a few years ago. Suddenly, 49 feels very different from, say, 46. How can three years change so much? Is it all in my head? I don’t know.
I just know that if I don’t stretch in the morning now, my back bothers me all day. My legs that used to be so pretty are still good — I can’t complain. But, they’re beginning to look ever so slightly ropy. They’re strong, yes, and smooth when shaved. But somehow it’s like a special puffy layer that separated muscle and skin is thinning… they are not sweet, tender, and inviting in quite the same way.
And it’s sad, no doubt about it.
I know I’m supposed to age gracefully and all that. I know I have much to be grateful for. I know it’s all a matter of perspective.
But, I must confess I’m mourning. I’m mourning the way I enjoyed for years the gaze of men. A couple of weeks ago, I entered a cafe. With my practiced radar, I immediately identified a man — the kind of man that always used to look at me. The kind of man that looks at and assesses women. Not in a bad way. In an appreciative way. The kind of man I’ve always appreciated in kind.
I fully expected him to notice me.
When I walked by him with my coffee, I might as well have been the breeze passing by. He made no move, no effort to acknowledge my presence. Not as a woman. Not as a human. Not as anything. I was invisible.
I’m beginning to feel invisible like that. A little bit. Or, more than a little bit.
Of course, I’m gracious about it. Of course I understand it’s the natural way of things. And I’m seriously elated, as if injected with a powerful stimulant, when I notice my beautiful tall daughter with waist-length hair being appreciated. It’s her turn. I am ever so happy for her. And delighted by it.
At lunch today, I was sort of slouched in my seat, I must admit. Until a man walked in alone and sat at the table next to me. I didn’t have my glasses on and couldn’t see his face, but something told me he was young — enough. Virile, in other words.
Without even thinking about it, my body responded. Long years of practice made me sit up, straighten my back, relax my shoulders, elongate my neck.
I noticed what I had done and why and laughed, ruefully. It is funny, actually. I find multiple occasions every day to laugh about this stuff.
But I’m also sad.
I’m sad because I’m single. I haven’t dated seriously since returning from Argentina where I’d taken the kids for a year’s adventure. We returned three years ago.
I believe I want a real partner; I know I do. But I’m not willing to put in the time right now. This is because I’m acutely aware of how little time I have left with the kids. I don’t want to waste it on dating. Dating is time-consuming. Most potential dates, as soon as they think they might want to try with you, demand more time than I’m willing to give.
They want to meet the kids, get embedded.
I’m not embedding anyone into my family unless I’m 100 percent sure I’m going to marry them.
And I can’t find that out without trying a relationship.
Which means I’m in a classic and very frustrating Catch-22.
So, I think to myself, I just need a lover.
But that doesn’t seem to work very well, does it?
First of all, when I have a lover, I tend to get attached. If I have a lover, I’m not going to be looking for a husband. That radar shuts down. So, I don’t take a lover willy nilly because I feel bad about myself when I’m supposed to be getting intoxicated by my lover, and I’m perusing ads on OKCupid. That won’t work. It feels wrong, dishonest, confusing.
I can’t have a married lover because that feels even worse. I can’t depend on that person. We can’t grow anything. I’d have to be careful not to get attached.
Non-attached sex, as my son once said, is “just gross.” What’s the point?
In fact, I know this is true for me — I tried it last year. I searched out a former boyfriend I knew still had a thing for me and seduced him. He knew the score. He knew we were just “playing.” But, knowing I had no hope in a future with him made the intimacy feel bad.
Because, there’s the rub. It wasn’t intimacy. It wasn’t anything. It was mechanical and horrible. It didn’t work for me. I couldn’t turn on. It’s not physical. For me and for many other humans, the head and the heart must get caught up, it’s they that fuel the passion in the body. It’s a trifecta. The body can’t respond alone.
I once saw a porn video of a beautiful young European girl riding this contraption that was supposed to get her off, like, mightily.
She kind of broke my heart.
I could see she was game, especially in the beginning. She was trying. She was surprised herself that her body wouldn’t, couldn’t respond. She looked confused, frightened, determined. Then she tried to fake it. I knew she was faking it. I don’t know if the photographer did.
I felt for her.
That’s how it felt for me when I hit up my old lover. It was so bad. I was embarrassed. I extricated myself and beat it like a bat out of hell. That’s what I was. A bat out of a self-constructed hell that was hurting me — that was, frankly, beneath my dignity.
Sometimes, though, I ask myself, is this “real,” what I’m feeling? Or old Catholic tapes?
I don’t know the answer.
I want a mate. I want a boyfriend. But, I’m basically tabling that for the next three or four years.
Must I shelve my sexuality for the next three or four years too?
What’s the ethical way to proceed?
And why can’t I just be like some famous European lover and love men, as often and whomever I wish, with no fear for the consequences, no fear of entanglements? As a male friend said just yesterday, “I only asked you to dinner.”
I spun an entire world — a fantasy really — out of that invitation and then declined it. Is it fear? Yes, I suppose so. Or is it wisdom? Perhaps it’s both.
One thing it’s not, though, is living in the present.