Thursday, June 28, 2012

Winter of Our Discontent

“I can’t get a date,” my single male friends often complain over dinner, staring at me mournfully, “Nobody will go out with me.”  It doesn’t take high-level interrogation skills to find out that they subscribe to the Tom Cruise Dating Eligibility Profile and that “nobody” is anybody who is twenty years younger.

Let’s leave out the fact that they’re having dinner with me, which, while not a date, is definitely spending time in female company.  We’re leaving that out because I wouldn’t date them; I know precisely how they feel.  I subscribe to the Joan Collins Dating Eligibility Profile myself, which, if my shaky math skills haven’t failed me, only places on one’s radar screen men who are thirty years younger.

It’s a difficult position to maintain if you also cling to any form of romantic illusion or a sense of the ludicrous.  It’s a cruel joke that the human species of any gender is hardwired to find attractive at sixty the same physical types who attracted us at twenty. It’s one thing to lust after your children’s friends but your grandchildren’s friends?  At a certain point, even the redoubtable Ms. Collins would have to rethink her dating strategy.

I’ve always dated younger men and have chalked it up to a deep-seated immaturity on my part.  Recently I’ve reencountered some of the men I used to know in the Biblical sense, who are all between five and ten years younger than I, and have discovered that they’re too old for me.  The fact that they seem to have made the same discovery about me fails to bring much comfort.  The difference between us is that they are quite hopeful about eventually finding someone who is young enough for them and I know all too well what happened when I did.

I’ve dated men who fit the Joan Collins Eligibility Profile and in one case it was a relationship of some duration. It was fun, the sex was great, we’re still close friends, and during our affair I never felt older in my life.

There’s an endorphin rush at the beginning of any relationship that’s as hot and as exhilarating as anything felt at eighteen.  It’s fabulous and all encompassing and it lasts for about a week, maybe two if you’re lucky.  When I stopped floating, it was still good.  Then one evening we were listening to music together and I realized with a horrible clarity that when I first heard the song that we were both hearing now, the person who was hearing it with me wasn’t even born yet.

Other things continued to sharpen my epiphany, a birthday, a casual conversation in which the age of one of my children was mentioned, and finally I couldn’t look at the man I was dating without seeing him as he must have been when he was two and I was twenty-six.  At that point there’s only one thing to do and I’m proud to say that I did it, and we still enjoy an enduring friendship.

It might have been different with a rent boy, and there are those who would be cruel enough to point out that at the heart of the matter this is exactly the solution that Joan Collins has found.  I, who was almost driven to suicide after watching The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, doubt that gigolos are an option for me.

 Perhaps hypnosis is the answer.  Perhaps I could be made to believe that sagging jowls and flabby bellies and acres of white chest hair are sexy.  Perhaps I could get over my aversion to middle-aged male pontificating and my fear of becoming a nurse to some man in his twilight years.  Maybe…

In the meantime, I’m too busy with my job, my friends, my traveling, and my surly little cat to give the matter a huge amount of thought. Then once again an aging male friend tenderly confides his dating dilemmas and I look at him with a mixture of compassion and boredom.  “Get over it,” I’m learning to say, “and either find a girl who will make you feel very, very, old or dredge up another topic of dinner table conversation.”

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