From the archives…
Kicking back with my sister-friend during our little retreat last weekend, the talk turned to the sobering process of aging. And from the new sags and bags where there were none before, the lines and wrinkles in places we didn’t know could have them, and the dimples that have nothing to do with smiles or laughter, we moved on to the psychological changes that time works on women: the growing up to accept that, physically, we are on the decline and the acceptance that we have grown up mentally and emotionally, with all the surrender it implies.
When the conversation veered to men and their peccadilloes, as it invariably does, I realised – though not for the first time – that much of what we see as their failings is also linked to the process of aging. And, no, I am not talking about older men’s tendency to repeat themselves, saying the same thing two and three times in one conversation. That might be the onset of Alzheimer’s, or, as we say, their “getting fooly.” I am talking, specifically, about men’s unfaithfulness.
I never thought the day would come that I’d be saying this; but, in certain cases, I understand exactly why older men have outside relationships with younger women. Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I am not condoning these May-December romances (not that fellers need my approval); I am just saying that I understand.
Anyway, this is what my research tells me: Sex, to many older men, is more important than food, drink and shelter; but to many older women it is not important at all. I know lots of sisters who are “getting up there” in age and looking forward to their senior years for the “retirement” it will bring. They are happy to do away with “all that nonsense;” to dedicate themselves to grandchildren and church work; and to don “respectable” nighties that cover the cellulite and the varicose veins.
If they feel a roving hand in the night, they put it firmly back where it came from; if a knee tries to insinuate itself, its owner is greeted with a sharp Chuptz and an even sharper elbow. The subtlest persuasion or the most enthusiastic titillation, each is viewed equally as “troubling” or “interfering with” … .
Meanwhile, the men next to them, the ones they now think of as only bed-warmers, have other ideas altogether. You see, men do not welcome the thought of relinquishing what they see as their “manhood,” which is why Viagra and Cialis have been hailed as loudly as the Second Coming (no pun intended). To borrow from the poet Dylan Thomas, men “do not gentle into that good night; [they] rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Part of that refusal to go, that rage, is a man’s determination to hold on to his sexuality, especially when his woman seems determined to lose hers. And if that means finding another partner to keep the dying light at bay … well, so be it.
This does not mean that a man no longer has any feelings for his spouse; not at all! He still values her – as the mother of his children and the granny of his grandkids and the keeper of his home, which, incidentally, are the roles she has chosen to define herself. She is still everything to him, except lover, and so he “loves” someone else: someone who sees herself as a woman before a lady; is a contender and not a spectator; and glories in the physical dimension as much as the emotional.
But the detachment doesn’t happen overnight. When I was younger, I used to cringe to hear couples refer to each other as “Daddy” and “Mommy.” What kind of woman wants to make love to her dad, I would wonder; and what feller wants to undress his mother? To me, that kind of endearment spelt death in the bedroom. Now that I am older and, hopefully, wiser, I still think it is sexual suicide. Why a would person want to remake him/herself from the specific to the generic is what I want to know. And, after the kids are grown and have moved out of the house, what do you become to each other?
What I also see as fatal to the physical relationship is women’s tendency to switch from mothering their children to smothering their men. The feller’s blood pressure goes up a tad, and they begin treating him like an infant: “Did you take your medication today? What kind of pepperpot you eating, there? I hope it doesn’t have any salt-beef, you know.” And so on and so forth. Enfeebling the man. Making him an invalid. Taking away his sense of choice and his self-control. You begin wrapping him in swaddling clothes the minute he sneezes; stinking him up with “rub” the instant he has a pain. And that is not what he needs from you to feel better.
… Despite their graying hair, their aches, their elevated PSA’s, men still want to feel like men. They still have their feelings of desire, their attractions to women, and their anticipation of the deed … even when they can’t, at the moment, do the deed. That’s why those who can do so find themselves a young woman who makes them feel young again, who triggers their excitement, and who excites their trigger. And while their recuperative powers might be lessened, these older fellers have staying power. They also have the time, the patience, and the ability to talk, to really get into a sister’s head, heart and mind – which, face it, is often what the young whipper-snappers lack and what makes the seniors so attractive by comparison.
That’s the secret to those May-December romances. It’s all about the gifts she brings and – again, let’s face it – no older man is looking for a Norelco razor, an Armani tie, or a George Foreman grill. What he wants is to have his heart race, his blood pressure spike, his body quicken. He wants to remember what it is like to be a lad again, to be in love again. He wants to forget about aging, about sickness, about remedies, about death.
In short, he wants to live … even if it means he’ll die trying. And I understand, Sir. I understand. I’m not saying you’re right, but I understand. …