Guest post: by Jean Callahan (A fearless explorer shares a few of her adventures…)
The Hindus say there are three stages of life: student, householder, and spiritual seeker. According to this paradigm, people over 60 are irresistibly drawn to the devout, spending their days in meditation and the practice of good works. Needless to say, not everyone over 60 achieves this level of saintliness.
Many of us over 60, well into the third stage of life, are feeling the full effects of gravity and creaky joints, but that doesn’t mean that we take the moral high road on a daily basis. Believe it or not, there are times when even senior citizens would rather go out for dinner and a movie than visit the sick or feed the hungry. And those of us who are single, or single again, at this point in life often wish we had someone special to share the joys of our waning days. From time to time, we even think about sex. As often as not, this is wishful thinking, but hope springs eternal. That is why God created Botox.
A few months ago, I was driving into Salem, Massachusetts, carefully dressed, hair just washed, on my way to meet a man who, with the match-making assistance of a mutual friend, was cooking dinner for me. He was a widower who had been married for thirty years, my friend said, and I interpreted this as a promising sign. A better bet than a 65-year-old man who had never been married, I figured.
I spotted the street number, hopped out of the car and knocked on the door. Suddenly, I was engulfed in a pack of wild dogs; five wolfish Huskies and a Chihuahua-Terrier mix were doing their best to welcome me even as their owner, a rumpled version of David Letterman, walked away, mumbling, back into the kitchen, where he turned his gaze to a pile of raw chicken marinating in a bowl on the counter. My date was not particularly talkative but the dogs kept me busy until, hours later when dinner was ready. The leisurely pace of the evening gave me a chance to check out the house. The décor borrowed liberally from interiors I’d seen on “Game of Thrones”; gothic revival with several romanticized portraits of dogs thrown in for good measure.
The evening was awkward. Conversation did not flourish and my date seemed to be drinking an awful lot of Sauvignon Blanc. Still, despite the signs that he was kind of weird and that he was just not that into me, I drove home wondering how long I should wait before calling to invite him for dinner at my place.
The next morning, my match-making friend called. He wasn’t ready to date yet, she said. It was too soon. She was sorry. I was devastated. Excited at the idea that I might have met someone to do things with, even if that just meant walking the dogs, I had ignored my instincts and all the years of experience. Once again, I had allowed myself to get my hopes up.
It never occurred to me when I was in my 20s and 30s that I would still be interested in men later in life. I could not have imagined – and this is probably a good thing – that women in their 50s and 60s would still be talking about boyfriends because ‘man friend’ sounds creepy and a ‘partner’ is someone you play tennis with. Back then, the pheromones were flying and finding a date was easy, so you could not have convinced me that my friends would be writing Match.com profiles late into middle age. Eeew!! Internet dating?
“Let’s talk after the holidays,” the artist said. We’d gone out a few times. He was usually busy when I called. Either he had people over, or he was running out to the gym, or, once, he was just engrossed in a particularly well-plotted episode of Law and Order. So when the holidays had stretched out to include Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day, I took the hint. He was divorced, handsome, charming, and all too aware how desirable these traits made him to single women of all ages. He was that internet dating cliche, the man who wants dates but not relationships. Reluctantly, I stopped calling.
Lower your standards, became my mantra. But how low? It took only one viewing of “Millionaire Matchmaker” to convince me that I needed to focus on older men to whom I would seem appealingly young and fresh. But how old? At my age, fifteen years older is moving toward assisted living territory. Dating a man in his 80s could seem more like visiting the sick than moonlight and roses. At this point, I was confused. What did I really want?
In many ways, I suppose that dating after sixty is just like dating at any other time of life: awkward, nerve-wracking but, when it works, well worth the trouble. Of course, there are ways in which senior sex is different from all other sex. For one thing, after all these years, our baggage is more than just suitcases. We have storage units stuffed with decades of relationships and experiences and you have to wade through all that before you can make a connection.
For another thing, sex after sixty involves what my sister politely calls products. I’m always forgetting to use my Miracle Renewal toner or Age-Defying night cream, so remembering to insert a hormonal tablet twice a week is really asking a lot. And I get impatient with five-minute leave-on hair conditioner, so I anticipate that waiting for the Viagra to kick in (and then waiting for it to stop kicking in) would probably be challenging for me.
The truth is I don’t know much about hormonal inserts or Viagra. Because despite asking friends if they know anybody who would be a good match for me, there hasn’t been much dating and God knows there has been even less sex. From what my married friends tell me, there isn’t much sex in their lives either. What these couples do have – and of course this is what keeps me trying at all at this advanced age – is intimacy. Whether we are teenagers mooning around the mall, 40-year-olds sauntering through yet another cocktail party, or sweet little old ladies striking up conversations with hard-of-hearing old men, we are all looking for an honest connection with another human being.
Spiritual seekers, self-actualized do-gooders, devoted grandparents, intrepid volunteers, church ladies, Shriners, community activists – we are all engaged in what we do not just for the benefit of other sentient beings, but for the connection with them – no matter what the Hindus say. So it goes without saying, if anybody knows of a nice older man who might be interested in a good-hearted, fun-loving woman in her mid-sixties, text me.
(Image: Candida.Performa/Flickr Creative Commons)