At a New Year’s Day party, about five years ago, there was a karaoke machine providing entertainment and I asked my daughter to sing a particular song for me. Well, she rendered the song, a classic, to a melody I had never heard before; and when, afterward, I asked why she hadn’t done the Diana Ross version, the girl looked at me in perplexity and asked: “Who’s Diana Ross?”
That is when you know you are – if not quite old – definitely middle-aged, Sisters: when your generation’s heroes and sheroes – the men who made you close your eyes, the better to hear them croon, and the women whom, in front of your mirror, you pretended to be – are not even “names” to the ones coming right after you. That is why I often wonder about the viability of those relationships in which the girl (can hardly call her “woman”) is in the age group of her feller’s own kids. And it is what came to mind a couple nights ago when a young man not yet 40 articulated his interest in me … by WhatsApp.
You see the problem already, right? Here I am, from an era in which a man actually spoke to a woman – over the course of weeks, mark you – and took her out at least a couple of times before telling her, in actual words, of his romantic interest. How, then, do I reconcile myself to being courted by a feller from a generation that texts things, like, “U hot! Wd like to c more of u,” and rounds it off with an emoticon of a face with a drooling tongue?
Now, don’t get me wrong: I appreciate technology and short-hand as much as the next busy woman; but not in my love life. I want a feller to think enough of me, and of me often enough, that he doesn’t need his smart phone or tablet to beep and remind him that we have a date. I want a man who knows my phone number by heart, because it is tattooed on his heart, and who doesn’t have to scroll through his “contacts” in order to call me on my land line. Matter of fact, I want a man with a land line. I like the stability, the maturity, the sense of establishment it implies in this day and age.
I am also at the point in my life – or should I say the point in my spine’s life – where even the sight of a low-slung car causes me to reach for the Ibuprofen. It would take me a good five minutes to fold and lower my body into a vehicle that is eight inches above the road and, at the end of the journey, at least another 10 minutes to un-cramp my pelvis and struggle out of it. So the idea of us going out together in my young man’s vehicle is already out of the question. And speaking of going out, I have to ask myself if I am really up for dressing a feller who is not my great-nephew. Again, at my age, and after years of being in the classroom, I do not trust myself not to ask my young boo to either haul his trousers up to his waist or, very sarcastically, inquire, “Is where you going in them tight-tight clothes?” And, trust me: Unless we are going to play tennis, which is quite unlikely with these knees, where would he be going with me in sneakers?
Ok, I agree, I agree: Not all young men suffer from these shortcomings, including my aspiring lover. Many of them are quite presentable, going-somewhere, articulate and informed fellers. And precisely because of these qualities, not only am I not going anywhere near them, because I don’t want any confrontation with their hovering mothers, who are looking for grandchildren any day now, but I don’t want any buss-up with the young women who want to be those grandchildren’s mothers, either. They are not going to bump me, on purpose, with their grocery carts and then say, with a smirk on their face as they toss their weave over their shoulder: “Oh, sorry. I didn’t see you….” No way! Because this middle-aged lady neither hits first nor takes last lick, you understand.
But you know what: I am just deeply suspicious when a fine young man starts to throw lyrics at me. I might be vain, but I’m not stupid: I know there’s hardly a presentable feller in these 108 square miles who doesn’t have four-five young hopefuls lining up to hand him their resume or awaiting their designated night of the week. So, what really does he want from me: Practice? An allowance? Or bragging rights? There’s also a deeply rooted culture that tells a man that young and firm and fresh and tight is always better, more desirable, more beautiful in a woman than character, achievement, or experience. So, I tend to want to squint (and not just because I don’t see well without glasses) when one of them comes up in my face (or, as they might say, in my grille) to talk of love and sexual attraction. “What is it you want to learn?” I’m tempted to ask, “and why don’t you just Google it?”
Still and all, I have to tell you, Sisters, that I like a younger man just fine! I refuse to conform to the societal strictures that say a man can have a woman who is decades his junior, but a woman must “respect her age” and “retire gracefully” when the time comes. (You know it’s a man who made up those rules, right? And you know that he ain’t making no rules for me, ain’t it?) But I have my standards and my parameters, and if there’s more than a seven-year gap between us, then I wouldn’t encourage a feller to even look in my direction.
But that is about practicality only; not respect. See, I want a man who isn’t hidebound by his own traditions and preferences and positions and who hasn’t turned into his father, as yet. A guy with enthusiasm and energy who still is able to hike a trail or walk an 18-hole golf course without needing the following two days to recuperate. A date who, when we go dancing, we dance! A man who would rather trade wits and words with me than find companionship in a bottle. And, above all, a feller who is looking forward to our tomorrows and not regaling me with the same stories, over and over, of his yesterdays. I also want a partner whose speech is my language and whose musical, social and cultural touchstones are my touchstones; a man to whom I don’t have to “explain what you mean” and who “gets it” the first time.
And, by the way: Older men always claim that they choose young women because those their own age are no longer interested in sex. Well, I believe that many older women are not interested simply because sex with men their age is not interesting. So that’s another inducement, right there, for a sister to look at a man who is her junior; a man who, very likely, is not constrained by medical issues or short-taken by prescription pills, and who doesn’t think that all there is to know about sex was invented in the 1960s.
…At the heart of the issue, however, is a woman’s own comfort level with this kind of non-traditional relationship. And what I would advise, in this instance, is that you go with your own feelings, Sisters: not with how it’s going to look and what people are going to say. So if your gut tells you it’s all right, then take your girdle off, Girl, and just go for it!