Retirement Sloth
ELDER MUSIC: Classical Again – Part 1 of 3

Vintage TGB: 19 October 2004

[Each Saturday, a vintage story from the Time Goes By archive is published here. They correspond to a date of approximately five years ago – sometimes updated, sometimes not.]

Younger Lovers

Millie Garfield, over at My Mom’s Blog, recently posted a story about a letter she read in the Boston Globe from a 70-year-old widow in a happy and satisfying relationship with a 40-year old man.

I was reminded that some years ago, there was a fad among the glitterati women in New York City of dating younger men. It got a lot of gossip ink wherein the young men were referred to as “boy toys,” suggesting that it was all just silliness and that perhaps the young men were “being kept” – gigolos.

Older men, however, when they accompany gorgeous women young enough to be their daughters, get approving winks and nudges of the good-for-you-old-man variety. They have always had the privilege of dating and marrying younger women without the snickers older women get when the relative ages are reversed.

This snobbery undoubtedly relates to the fact that our obsession with the appearance of youth applies almost entirely to women. Men are allowed to age – and considered attractive - without resorting to toxins and surgery, although a few more men are doing that now.

But because men tend to die younger than women and the ratio of men to women works out poorly in our later years, it would be useful for this tired prejudice to end. There are signs that this is becoming so.

One hot summer day when I was about 41 or 42, I was slowly climbing up the subway stairs at evening rush hour, crunched up against the hundreds of others heading for the streets. Suddenly, a voice in my ear: “Would you go to the movies with me?”

When I looked back, I was surprised to see a young man of no more than 18 or 19, smiling nicely. I was flattered, but found his offer hard to believe and blurted, “I’m old enough to be your mother.” Without missing a beat, he answered, “Yeah, but I loves my mama.”

Obviously, this was a kid with a quick wit – in addition to good taste.

Some writers cite such Hollywood December/May relationships as Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Madonna and Guy Ritchie as hopeful indicators of changing cultural views and such a shift, led by actors, is certainly welcome. It’s not encouraging, however, to the rest of us when even human sexuality expert, Helen Fisher notes, “These actresses aren't just beautiful - they have money! And power!" A far cry from me, if not thee.

Carolyn Heilbrun, in her book, Writing a Woman’s Life, acknowledges the well-known invisibility that envelops most women at middle age, but she goes on in a manner I find encouraging:

“We will move invisibly for a time, to relearn seeing and to forget being seen. As we grow slowly visible, we will be heard more and seen less. Our voices will ramify, our bodies will become a house for our new spirit.”

And there are younger men who find that spirit more attractive than mere youth.

Eleven years ago at age 52, on my first day of jury duty, I went to lunch with a young man who had been seated next to me during a voir dire and joined me when we were sent back to the jury room. He was smart, funny, charming, a delight to be with, and we hung out together for the duration of our public service.

When we were dismissed on the final day, he invited me to dinner and over the next weeks, one thing led to another until we found ourselves to be a couple. Although he was 27, he had fewer qualms than I did about our 24-year age difference and in the end, it made no difference at all. Yes, I knew things he didn’t, but he was curious when they came up, and he was expert in areas where I had little or no knowledge, so it was a fair trade and our relationship lasted for nearly a year. It ended amicably for reasons that any relationship can end, having nothing to do with our ages.

Though they did not note if the number of years between the spouses was few or many, the 2000 U.S. census discovered that 12 percent of marriages then involved older women and younger men. That seems a fair percentage of the whole and suggests that December/May relationships are not as remarkable as is supposed.

Love is rare enough and we should embrace it where we find it. Age should be the least of our considerations. And as Millie notes on her blog, younger men have an advantage for older women their contemporaries lack. Encouraging the letter writer to enjoy her relationship with her 40-year-old, Millie says: “…go for it. This guy drives! Men closer to her age, if they drive, they do not drive at night!”


Had breakfast with a bunch of retired educators yesterday. One of them wore a cap, as she has cancer and is losing hair, but not all her hair.. she has soft curls all over her scalp. No bald spots, just short.

She slowly lifted her cap and everyone remarked that her hair and mine are a match. We stuck our heads together and everyone laughed.

I told the group that throughout my teaching career, inquisitive, no, nosy people said stuff like.. "why don't you let your hair grow?"

They also bugged me about my cop type shoes. Damn, in an enormous high school, you walk and climb stairs like a mountain goat.

Three flights, up and down, all day long. Just saying.

Wanna do that in spike heels?

Be my guest. Don't call me when you slip on that slice of baloney and show your muffin to a thousand guffawing teens.

I told "Baldie" she should yank her hat off immediately and go commando. "If anyone comments, tell them to go suck a lemon."

"And make a lemon face when you say it."

What does hair have to do with dating or falling for a younger man?

Everything. It's all part of doing what you choose, when you choose to do it. You are driving the bus.

If I were that bothered by what people think of my feather hair, I would have done something about it a LONG time ago, like wearing a cowboy hat or hockey helmet.

Don't bow to "what others might think or say."

When you are lucky enough to fall in love with a younger guy, forget the number.

My husband, by the way, LOVES short hair on a woman. Says it's very European.

He's also younger than I am.

Montreal has the most sexy and fashionable women, it is said, they dress how they please, short hair and all.

My 92 year old neighbor is fond of saying, "I don't want to be a nurse to an old man and I'm not rich enough for a toy boy." I'm afraid that's pretty much where it's at for most of us. We don't have the option of a younger man, but if we did we'd jump at it.

What they say in Florida is "The men are looking for a nurse with a purse."

Forget that!!

Being a male your age Ronni, I have often found your point quite curious with regard to the older man/younger woman verses the older woman/younger man acceptance factor. I use to think it was more of an overall society perspective but anymore I am not sure. I think perhaps thirty years ago that might have been so to a degree but with our society so much more open in these times, I think it has lost much of its curiosity.

I certainly think twenty years separation is much different when talking about a 20/40 year old as compared to say a 40/60 year old. I had a relationship with a 20 year old when I was forty and there is no way in hell I would do that again, given the chance at a “do-over”. That of course being contrary to your “take love where you can find it” statement.

On the other hand, I think at age 68 that a relationship with a 50 year old woman would be considerably different, given the maturity level of the two participants.

Obviously all this is fodder for debate but hey, it’s fun to talk about!

My, now 84 year-old mother said the same thing about her 30+ younger "live-in" until he left her for a sex-talk Korean illegal alien. She tried to sue for the more than $600K he took which did not include a mortgage on her home.

The question is: how much does it costing?

I just read this lately and think it fits right into our conversation today.....

"The older a woman gets, the stronger her libido gets and the older a man gets, the weaker his libido gets... which is why nature intended young guys to go out with older women and young women to go out with older men."

My son's father was 16 years younger than I. We were on-again-off-again for 10 years, from the time he was 21 and I was 37.

He danced, you see. He looked like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz when he did it, but I didn't care HOW he danced. I was just thrilled to find a man who would get up on the dance floor!

He had a wonderful long-haired country boy sense of humour, and, on the whole, the good outweighed the bad.

He is now married to a woman about his own age, and they seem to get on very well. She is a good stepmom to my son, and I can't ask for more than that. He's 43 now.

He wanted to marry me, but I'm glad I didn't. Now, as I suspected would happen at the time, I really do look old enough to be his mother!

I recall a relationship at about 23 yrs with a young man I took to be older than me. I was shocked when I later learned from him that he was only 21, but by that time the slight age difference seemed to matter little to me and not at all to him. A mere two years really wasn't worth noting, still, privately, I occasionally questioned myself about what I was doing. I'm sure my attitude was a result of then prevailing attitudes the man should be older than the woman, just as he should be taller in height which he was.

Well, another false belief went out the window and we had a wonderful year I wouldn't have wanted to miss. A few years earlier in college the height issue belief had fallen for me and other of my classmates when we witnessed the obvious compatibility of "Shorty" and his much taller female companion. They later married, a union intact to this day.

I dated ever so briefly one younger man a few years after that, but met my seven years older husband-to-be at that time and we soon were involved exclusively with each other. When in my forties and fifties I was approached by a couple younger men, but since I was married I quickly short-circuited them and gave neither serious consideration.

I don't even think about such alliances now with anyone of any age.

The comments to this entry are closed.