Love in a Later Age

Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock / Getty Images

I met my current love when I was 59 and he was 60. We both had had very long previous marriages—25 years for him and 28 years for me. After my divorce, I thought I might never find another to love. It took almost eight years. But find someone I did. And it wasn’t at all in the way I expected.

After my divorce, I waited several years—until my daughter went off to college—to begin dating. My ex had stayed in town until then, which made me feel a little weird about trying to date, as well. I hadn’t been with a man other than my husband in more than 30 years, and it felt, well, strange to consider even kissing someone new. But the really honest truth is I feared no one would want a woman who was nearly 60.

There are so many stories of older men looking only for younger women—women who were still buxom, drop-dead gorgeous, thin, blond and under 40, or whatever the latest cultural view of sexy and desirable is. Other than the thin part, none of those things describe me.

Online dating proved to be a huge disappointment, and often was the subject of hysterical stories my girlfriends and I shared about being on “the hunt.” (In fact, it was what prompted my colleague, Kathleen A. Barry, and I to embark on publishing our anthology, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty.)

Mature women are mostly invisible in our society. At 50, we begin to experience menopause (if we haven’t already), and that entails such fun things as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, not to mention aging stalwarts like unwanted lines on our faces and weight gain. My doctor once told me to expect to gain five pounds for every year over 50. Yikes! Our hair turns gray (unless we color). Even those of us who do yoga begin to lose strength and tone. Our upper arms begin to jiggle. Our thighs start to look like cottage cheese. Oh, God!

Ultimately, I met the man who is in my life today at a concert for a non-profit organization. And it happened only a month before I planned to move to Santa Fe from Santa Barbara, where I had lived for more than 30 years. You can read the entire story here.

But what I want to talk about is my experience with how men view women of a certain age. I never was one to turn heads, but after my divorce, no matter how sexily I dressed or how confident I felt, no one of the opposite sex seemed to notice. Honestly, women over 50 pretty much don’t exist.

After talking with girlfriends who were similarly single, we realized we all were invisible. Online dating seemed to emphasize this, especially match.com, where most men seemed only to be interested in younger women.

I dated two guys before I met Rob. I met one at a high school reunion; the other online. What both told me (and Rob agrees) is that they find women their own age much more compelling. We share similar backgrounds, grew up in the same eras, listened to the same music and watched the same movies, lived through the same world events.

Younger women might have fewer wrinkles and toned thighs, but they don’t have the wisdom that comes with age and experience. Frankly, we women over fifty are just more interesting. Thank goodness for the smart men who know that.

 Despite the conventional wisdom, many women and men over 50 still love sex. Research shows that men and women both remain sexually active into their 70s and 80s. Age-related declines do not necessarily translate into a decline in sexual functioning. In fact, men, who typically peak in sexual performance at age 18, tend to become better lovers, able to slow down and focus on pleasing their partners. Women come into their own sexually in their 30s and 40s and maintain that into their 60s and 70s. In short, we all come to a place of mutual pleasure and appreciation when we get to be 50 and beyond. For some couples, love-making may be less frequent, but it’s far more satisfying. For some, sex is just a hot as ever. Sexuality, after all, exists mostly in the mind.

Here's what I have discovered—there is always time for love, whether you are 25 or 65. Unmasked is a strong testament to that. Here’s to love and intimacy—at any age.

(If you’re in Santa Barbara, come to the LIVE performance of Unmasked at Center Stage Theater, the day after Valentine’s Day, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are only $23, and you can buy them here.)