It IS normal. It's the sound of my body inordinately warm atop the cold sheets of my bed, my skin brimming with memories, my pores oozing the thoughts that travel up and down me. When I was younger, thinking was a strictly mental exercise - and one usually guaranteed to bring on a headache. In youth, ideas live in boxes, hard edged and inflexible. Without the test of experience, the practiced faith-keeping of intuition and the confidence of instinct, thinking is dry. The ideas we try to sort out hit mostly logical walls, which have no proclivity to bending or flexing whatsoever. There is a lot of confused staring.
Now that I'm older, I know every unfinished thought will eventually find its way, so I've learned to bear no ill will against the puzzles that wrack me at times. In the past, the work of this wondering was to arrive at an answer stat! And failing that, the result is hardening, even cynicism. Now, it's the skill and the crafting of the questions that occupy me. In fact, with so much pleasure. I know that if I build the right question, hone it, turn it round and round against the light, try to hear it through the pitch black of the unknown, the answers will come eventually. Even if they're not what I expected or hoped for.
And it all starts with tending a question.
I think of how Mr. X reacted to my age. He was not the first man who mistook me for younger or had the same reaction. The WHU (Well-Hung Uranian, ahem) was the first younger man I ever went out with. It took me three months to tell him, more because being Italian and so full of machismo he'd insisted he already KNEW I was older and would never let me finish the conversation, let alone the sentence. When I finally blurted it out, he actually demanded to see my ID.
Is love a bar with age restrictions in reverse then?
I used to think that youthfulness was strictly a physical phenomenon. Something that boils down to an equation of skin elasticity, pertness and muscle tone. Something one can buy from a surgeon's office. I'd do all that in a heartbeat, if I weren't so freaked about going under the knife, or possibly ending up looking like a boa constrictor who swallowed two very firm cantaloupes which never made it to my stomach. If I had all the time, and all the money, why not? Still, while age is most obvious with the visual, it definitely isn't helped by a closed and lazy mind.
I've watched women with furrowed brows, and silvered roots absolutely transform before my very eyes with riveting conversation, the lines marring a once taut forehead growing fainter when by virtue of being so alive, they bring everyone else to feast on that table. Through their vibrancy and their curiosity, there is a hint of the juicy, the seduction of their continuing hunger for the world around them. I feel this way, as if life is a lover I have yet to tenderly plunder.
I thought of this while Mr. X was busy going into shock. But at the same time, I thought of the disparity of reactions women get, when it's we who are older than our male intimates. Once I read an advice column where a mother wrote in, concerned about her son who was refusing to speak to her for the fact that her boyfriend was younger, and nearer his age. She was in her early 50's and the lover, in his late 30's.
I'm not sure why in this particular column, the commenters seemed to have been heaping vitriol on someone, who as a mother, righteously wanted to mend things with her adult son while being able to have what most of us want, a happy relationship. Was it because she was in her 50's? And had violated the more acceptable versions of Cougarism popularized today? Less MILF, more Milk?
So yes, no surprise, there's still a gender bias on May-December relationships. Never mind that Berlusconi's in his 70's and pawing the barely legal, apparently when it's two consenting adults and the woman's older, rules are being broken. And never mind that most women weather life like ripening good wine, or that we hit our sexual peak when thank the Goddess, finally we're no longer living for everyone else and have learned to keep ourselves in even better health than in our earlier years. I'd never spent this much time thinking of the age question as I have now, and I still don't consider it a problem. There are valid arguments either way.
But when it comes to coupling, and the myriad factors that come into play whether its economics, age, history, culture, religion, sexuality or character, the forgotten dark horse that wins the race is really the will of both partners to meet each other more than halfway. This isn't to say that common will alone can overcome all things, but as an advantage, it's a powerful one. I have seen couples so perfectly matched on every point who for all intents and purposes, should be married till the earth is naught but an ashen wasteland. Yet whose unions dissolve at the first hint of imperfection, whether it's a 15 lb weight gain, a pay cut or a depression driven sexual drought.
And what if in either case of the supposedly well or ill matched, it still doesn't work out? Then it's a good time to remind ourselves we can't live for guarantees that don't exist. We can only live to be in the thick of it. To occupy a time and space in the world unique to us, and to have the gifts we're blessed with meet the challenges which blight us. To say, I did that, I was that, I am that.
I ponder on all these things because I ponder on hope. Hope which drives us to wake up the next day and do everything we can to matter to someone, or to something. When I'm faced with a reaction like Mr. X's, I feel as if I'm being asked a question from a previous life, in a language I used to speak but have now since discarded. I COULD make his shock my problem, but it really isn't. I am who I am, and look how I look. What I want is no different from what anyone else wants, and it's simply to be seen in my entirety. Not be asked to explain why I defy the norm, or defend my preferences when they're just about as set as the color of my eyes.
So I embrace, rather than avoid. Confess rather than conveniently forget to mention. Because really, I'm not looking for someone bound to a number, just someone who runs the same kind of voltage I do. And who lives simply, for the love of it.