Shared history has immense power. I didn’t know how much until my divorce. It wasn’t only my future dreams that vanished with my husband, but the comfort of shared history that had been far more a source of strength for me than I’d realized. We were the same age, so we shared the same jargon, memories, music, flashpoints in history… I had no idea how difficult it would be to find a way to re-create that comforting commonality.
A few years after my divorce, I began to date a much younger man. I thought he was 10 years older than he was, he thought I was 10 years younger than I was. When I realized there was a near 20 year discrepancy in our ages, I panicked. I called a male friend and colleague twenty years younger than I and asked what I should do. “That’s easy,” he said enthusiastically. “If you’d consider having sex with a man that much younger I can get in the car and be there in an hour.” The ego boost made me feel I wasn’t being quite as much of a damned fool as I’d felt before the conversation. “Men sleep with women decades younger, all the time,” he added, “why shouldn’t women do the same?” That sounded somewhat sensible so…
I decided to make the leap. Maybe, I told myself, there was something intrinsically better about younger. After all, my husband, and everyone elses husband for that matter, seemed to have opted for women younger than their scotch. Maybe there was some ineffable magic beyond the perfect body parts that could only be found in someone much, much younger. So half in lust and half in curiosity, I plunged ahead.
With slightly embarrassed amusement, I have to say the sex was energetic, wild and without much finesse. I was also a bit unnerved by the fact that he kept looking in the mirror at himself and approached my body rather like an exercise machine at the gym. Actually, the gym seemed to have played a large role in his life, and to be fair, he was as gorgeous a male creature as I’ve ever seen outside of Hollywood, so perhaps I shouldn’t have begrudged him the pleasure of seeing what his time at Equinox had wrought. But I found it unseemly, somehow – despite his formidable testosterone level.
“Yes,” I replied without giving it much thought, “I guess everybody remembers exactly where he or she was when Kennedy was assassinated.”
“Really?” he sparked with interest. “I was only a baby so I don’t remember much.” After I stopped laughing, I also stopped thinking I should ever see him again and we parted company quite amiably.
So while the question of how on earth do you find love at mid-life or beyond and how is it different from before, I think I’d learned a great lesson: I’d like to add shared history into the usual mix of things to consider. Or at least an awareness and understanding of the culturally shared experiences that have defined the times you’ve lived in and grown through, should be somewhere on your list. How can you possibly explain a lifetime of experience, cultural osmosis, and emotional response to the world events around you to someone who hasn’t felt the zeitgeist of those times? Elvis’s pelvis being censored on TV? Flower Power? Civil Rights? Viet Nam? Watergate? Assassinations and political loss of innocence? How on earth could you explain how seismically we felt the shifts that rocked our decades, forging us in the process?
I watched Last Vegas on TV last night – the likable tale of four super-annuated friends “from the neighborhood” who take Las Vegas by storm in their quest for lost youth – and it reminded me of a conversation held shortly after my divorce. The 60-year-old husband of a friend explained mid-life dating to me in this way, “Men my age aren’t looking for a soul mate or an interesting woman,” he explained patiently, ” they’re looking for a 23 year old sexual turn-on to make them feel young again … arm-candy so other men their age will envy them.” The comment made me think that perhaps the real bottom line here is that the success of all intimate relationships, even the nutty ones, has a lot to do with our ability to choose partners based on what really matters most to us. So I’ve added shared history to my personal list of requisites for relationship happiness. Knowing what really matters most to you in life is one of the gifts of middle age, I think. So maybe thinking of shared awareness and understanding of life’s adventures as a rather sexy turn-on is my personal prerogative.
On the other hand, it may be why I’m still single.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2014