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.)

 

 

Poem—Ice Water

Photo by borchee/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by borchee/iStock / Getty Images

I grew up in Michigan, and wrote this poem remembering the cold winters and walking on Lake Michigan icebergs.

Ice Water

Walking on Lake Michigan icebergs

water flowing through fissures beneath our feet

Tenuous footfalls on ice that heaves,

cracks, then holds as your arms flail

My grandmother clucking from the shoreline,

bundled into woolen hat and coat,

her gloved hands fluttering

as my brother and I step onto

the ice, tempting God, or fate

or the universe

falling through, boots filling

with the shock of ice water

snowsuit ballooning, sucking

us down, arms reaching to pull us free

And my grandmother pacing, weaving

consternation on shore, a frustrated hen

Like that first step into another’s space

entering hopeful, knowing the well

will be deep

and perhaps a little murky

Cyprus, Home of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love

We leave tomorrow after five nights on the island of Cyprus, the third-largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia. It remains divided between the Turkish territory in the northern third and the Greek Republic of Cyprus in the south, which is the only officially recognized state. We visited Larnaca, the largest city on the island, with beautiful beaches, and Paphos on the western coast, where there are many ancient ruins sites. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and romance, is said to have born in the sea near Paphos. We visited her famed Baths of Aphrodite and the Temple ruins that were devoted to her before the Roman era and Christianity. 

Paphos has a lovely harbor, where numerous restaurants and tavernas and souvenir shops vie for tourists' attention. We swam in the gorgeous aquamarine Mediterranean several times, and it was clear and warm. Here are some of my photos from our time here. 

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The view of the Mediterranean from our hotel in Larnaca. 

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A traditional Cypriot meze, with sausages, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, ham, fried halloumi (a delicious cheese), and tzatziki (yogurt dip). And, of course Cypriot beer--Leon.  

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Rob at the ruins at Kourion, near Lemessos.  

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Inlaid mosaic at Kourion.   

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Crete's Chania and Red Beach Near Matala

Rob and I spent five nights on Crete, the largest of the Greek islands. We flew into Heraklion, then rented a car to drive to the charming harbor town of Chania. Our hotel, Domus Renier, was exquisite and the owner, Litsa Paraskevaki, was warm and welcoming. She spent three years renovating a very old building, and it is beautiful with attention to every detail.  

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The harbor at Chania.  

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Domus Renier is the building with the green and brown exterior.

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Yup.  

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A BIG beer.  

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Chania lighthouse.  

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A detail--exposed original wall at Domus Renier.  

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Rob with Litsa, the owner of Domus Renier.  

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Original details were retained or re-created.  

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Red Beach, near Matala in southern Crete.  

Sea Ranch—Our Annual Writing Retreat

Here again at beautiful Sea Ranch, near Mendocino in Northern California, writing, reading, walking on the bluffs, hanging with the sea lions and sharing work with my sweet sisters from AROHO.

We met six years ago at the biannual women's writing workshop at A Room of Her Own Foundation in New Mexico, and have traveled from all over the country (Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and various parts of California, to be together once a year since.

This year I have been madly working on finishing the final revision of my memoir, and it's almost there (cheers and clapping). It has been a wonderful and relaxing week, as well, and I have relished the time I've had to walk with friends, read, and contemplate this beautiful stretch of coastline. Nature abounds. See for yourself...

 Sea lions rookery—how many can you count?

Sea lions rookery—how many can you count?

 The view from our house.

The view from our house.

 Native grasses.

Native grasses.

 Yellow lupine.

Yellow lupine.

"The Journey is the Destination"—a Life Lived Out Loud

Our good friends Eva and Yoel Haller invited Rob and me to a special Santa Barbara International Film Festival luncheon last week to celebrate a new film about an extraordinary young man named Dan Eldon. "The Journey is the Destination" tells the compelling story of how Dan, in his brief lifetime, inspired people to work for peace and social justice in parts of the world where both are in short supply.

Dan was born in London in 1970, and the family moved to Kenya in 1977, where his British father headed the east Africa division of a European computer company and his American mother, Kathy Eldon, was a freelance journalist. He attended the International School of Kenya, where he met students from around the world and developed his insatiable appetite for travel and adventure. While Kenya remained his home, he traveled widely, and, following in his mother's footsteps, became a journalist.

From an early age, Dan worked to help others. When he was 14, he raised money to pay for open-heart surgery for a young Kenyan girl. At 15, he helped support a Maasai family by buying their hand-made jewelry and selling it to fellow students and friends.

After graduating high school in 1988, Dan attended college in California and Iowa, but ultimately returned to Africa to pursue a career as a freelance photographer. His work caught the attention of Reuters' editors, and Dan was hired as a staff photographer covering Somalia's terrible famine in the early 1990s. As the situation worsened, violence drew American intercession and the attention of the international community. Despite the danger, Dan continued to work in Mogadishu, hoping his images would bring attention to the unfolding tragedy in Somalia. In July 1993, American forces mistakenly bombed what they thought was a meeting of warlords, and many innocent civilians were killed. Dan and three of his Reuters colleagues were killed when a gathering mob turned on them. He was 23.

Dan's mom, Kathy, founded a nonprofit organization—Creative Visions—to honor Dan's legacy. "The Journey is the Destination" is the realization of Kathy's long-held dream of telling Dan's story. A book of the same name features the drawings and artwork he jotted in his journal.

We met Kathy at the luncheon last week, as well as Maria Bello, the actor who portrayed Kathy in the film. It is a deeply moving and ultimately uplifting film, which also screened at the Toronto Film Fest and opened the DC Independent Film Festival this week.

Creative Visions continues to honor Dan's memory, supporting individual artists working to effect positive social change. You can find out more about Creative Visions here, and read more about Dan's story here. Kathy has also written several books about her own journey, which is just as inspiring. See her story here.

Dan's extraordinary life reminds us that all of us, each of us, has the power to bring about positive change in our world. If you have a chance, see the film. And support Creative Visions.