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.)

 

 

Unmasked Reading at Tecolote This Wednesday!

 Marcia and co-editor Kathleen Barry

Marcia and co-editor Kathleen Barry

Come join us Wednesday, Nov. 29, from 5-7 p.m. at Tecolote Books in Montecito! Several of the women who contributed to Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty will be reading, and I hope some of you can come out to enjoy some titillating poetry and essays, as well as refreshments, of course. Kathleen Barry and I will be reading, as will Maya Shaw Gale, Perie Longo, Lori White and perhaps one or two other special guests.

We look forward to seeing you!

Unmasked Launched; Rabbi Mysteries Unveiled; Yuko Ready to Fly

  Unmasked  contributors, from left, Renata Golden, editor Marcia Meier, Tania Pryputniewicz, Lisa Rizzo, and Barbara Rockman.

Unmasked contributors, from left, Renata Golden, editor Marcia Meier, Tania Pryputniewicz, Lisa Rizzo, and Barbara Rockman.

 Marcia and Kathleen at Carr Winery.

Marcia and Kathleen at Carr Winery.

So much has happened in the month or so since I returned from Greece, both personally and professionally. Kathleen Barry and I launched our new anthology, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, at two events in October: A reading and signing at San Diego Writers, Ink, with four of the contributors to the book, and a reading and signing at Carr Winery in Santa Barbara. We had a wonderful turnout at both, and look forward to another reading at Tecolote Books in Montecito on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 5 p.m. Also in the works are readings in Venice at Beyond Baroque (8 p.m. January 28), and an early February performance at Center Stage Theater of "Unmasked LIVE, Women Read About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty." Stay tuned for more details. 

 Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer signs a book for a fan.

Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer signs a book for a fan.

A week ago, more than 60 people came out to Chaucer's Books in Santa Barbara to celebrate the publication of Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer's second mystery novel, The Rabbi Wore a Fedora, and the reprinting of his first, The Rabbi Wore Moccasins

Next Saturday, Nov. 11, at 3 p.m., Tecolote Books will help us bring out Dick Jorgensen's second memoir, Yuko, Friendship Between Nations, about his world tour as he traveled back to the States from Japan in 1957, and his subsequent work with The Asia Foundation in San Francisco, promoting improved ties between the two former World War II enemies. Come join us!

Keep all these Weeping Willow Books in mind as you make your holiday lists for the bookworms in your life!

A Poem for the New Year

Liberty

 

buttermilk scones, hot and dry

fruit compote of raspberry

and peach

 

NPR’s soft jazz sings

me through dawn’s edge

 

at the kitchen table I look out to the orchard

that bears

the breath of sweetness

 

out onto the grasses beyond

where moles till the ground

in spring

 

when it seems the days

will never

grow short and dark

 

when my company will be more

than imagined

homecomings

 

with hot scones, warm jam,

and Darjeeling

you sent from India

A Trip to France Begins with a Shock

 My sister Molly and my niece in happier times.

My sister Molly and my niece in happier times.

Those persons then, who have passed from the world

are not non-existent, but they are absorbed in the attributes of God,

even as the star disappears in the presence of the sun. -- Rumi

 

Rob and I are just back from a two-week trip to Paris and the south of France. I had intended to blog during our travels, and also to post additional excerpts of my memoir, Face. But we got news upon touching down at Charles De Gaulle that my younger sister had died overnight.

It was a shock, and though we decided to continue with our trip, I felt an overshadowing of grief throughout. I said it was a shock, but it was not entirely unexpected. Molly had struggled with chronic pain and pain medication addiction for more than 20 years. She was rear-ended all those years ago while working as a rural route carrier for the Postal Service. Neck surgery to repair the damage actually caused more injury—and the chronic pain she battled for the rest of her life. The doctors had recently been trying to wean her off of the pain meds. It appears she died of a withdrawal-induced seizure. She was only 55.

I have to say we didn’t have an easy relationship. Her life was drama-filled, and I (unfairly) judged her. We had hardly spoken the past few years, though I always loved her dearly.

Two days before she died she sent me a Facebook message—one of those ubiquitous memes about admiring someone in your life, and if you agree could you send it to 10 (or 12 or 15) people in YOUR life whom you admire? I remember being a little surprised, and sent it back to her with a clipped “back at you, darlin’.” In retrospect, I wish I had said more, and I’m also glad at least I said what I did.

Since we’ve been home from our trip, her death has hit me harder. I’m so sad for the struggles she had, and particularly grief-stricken for my niece and nephew, who lost their dad 17 years ago.

My niece, Jayna, who lives in Nashville, flew back to California and my other sister and her husband drove down from Oregon to help make arrangements. My heart goes out to Jayna, who with her younger brother must now pick up the pieces of Molly’s shattered life.

She was such a beautiful young woman, bright and sprightly in the best sense of the word. Loved horses and her pets, and was beloved by her friends. Despite the hardships, she always had a ready smile and a willingness to help others. I only wish she could have helped herself.

As I think about this loss, and remember other losses—my mom and dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles—I consider how fleeting our time is upon this earth. The plane of existence may or may not be the only one we’ll know, but I’m reminded, once again, to let go of judgments and intolerances, and to try to embrace loving kindness—toward myself and all beings.

We are all worthy—we just have to remember it.

(The mortuary in San Luis Obispo has put up a web page with Molly’s obituary, for those of you who knew her. A memorial service will be held sometime in coming months.)

Remembering My Dad...

 With my dad and my daughter, Kendall, just two weeks before he died in May 2000.

With my dad and my daughter, Kendall, just two weeks before he died in May 2000.

My dad’s birthday is today. He would have been 90 if cancer had not taken him. In my memoir, Face (see excerpts here), I write that I had a hard time bringing who he was, and what he meant to me, to the page. It was a struggle, and I still don’t feel I did it very successfully. 

Memory is a fluid thing. It moves and undulates and morphs with time. I knew him so well, knew that he loved jelly beans and golf, that his Catholic faith formed him and sustained him, that he loved my mother. That he loved me. That his love is perhaps the reason I was able to overcome the trauma I experienced throughout my childhood. But in the writing, I struggled to explain how very much he meant to me. Recounting the memories I have of him, it felt soon as if I were just reciting a long list, without really bringing him to life.

Perhaps my memory—my psyche—doesn’t want to go there. It’s too painful, just like all the hospitalizations and surgeries.  I couldn’t have determined which hospitalization happened on which date without the notes from my surgeon. Which time was I made to lie naked in a hospital crib under a large oxygen tent? Which time did I awake and believe I was somewhere other than the hospital, which frightened me to the point the nurses had to get permission to lift a corner of one of the bandages on my eyes so I could see? Which time(s) was I made to lie for hours, my arms strapped to the bed, as plasma dripped into my veins?

We strive to create a narrative of our lives that makes sense, and when events don’t make sense, or fall along the story line, we make things up. I am sure I am guilty of that. But the individual events I write about in my memoir are as concrete and vivid as if I were living them today. The memories just as jagged and piercing, just as white-hot with emotion, as if my insides were searing with grief.

I wonder sometimes how long trauma lingers. I spent many years stuffing it into a very deep place, thinking if I did it would no longer hurt me. How wrong I was. Excavating that past has been devastating. Also clarifying, opening—my chest feels cracked open; I am breathing again, but damn it’s painful.

How I miss my dad, and wish he could be here to see his daughter step into her life, finally, authentically. Terrifyingly.