Coronavirus Prevention - Crabby Old Lady is So Confused

From Sex to Old Age, From Ram Dass

My library of books on ageing, death and dying numbers in the hundreds, most of them collected over the past 25 years. I've never cleaned out the detritus so quite a few that were not worth the effort to read still hang around on shelves.

Even so, no matter what interests me at a given moment in regard to those subjects, there is always someone within all those pages of the worthy books who knows more than I do or can say it so much better than I or who is wiser than I could hope to be.

Now and then, I pull out a book at random. Earlier this week, it was Still Here – Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying by Ram Dass, a man I had first encountered when he still called himself Richard Alpert and, with Timothy Leary, studied the therapeutic effects of psychedelic drugs at Harvard.

(You remember LSD, “Tune in, Turn on and Drop Out,” etc. from the 1960s, don't you? If not, you'll find a brief overview of Ram Dass's life at Wikipedia.)

He first attracted my attention with the psychedelic work and I never stopped reading him thereafter.

Flipping through the book this week, I stopped at a chapter about how our roles in life change as we grow older. He opens one section on dwindling interest in sex with a wonderfully funny frog story that is so good it would be enough by itself for today's blog post. And so I'll tell it to you verbatim:

”An older man is walking down the street one afternoon when he hears a voice saying, 'Pssst – could ya help me out?' He looks around but there's nobody there.

“He starts to walk on, and again he hears, 'Pssst – could ya help me out?' Once again he stops and looks around, and again, there's nobody to been seen. But this time he looks more carefully, and happens to glance down at the sidewalk, where he sees a huge frog.

“Though he's a little embarrassed to be talking to a frog, he asks: 'Did you speak to me?'

“Much to the man's surprise, the frog answers. 'Yes, indeed. Could ya help me out?'

“The man is intrigued and asks, 'Well, what do you want?'

“The frog replies, 'Well, I'm under a curse. If you would kiss me, I would be freed of the curse and I would turn into a beautiful woman who would love you and serve you. I would care for you, warm your bed, and make you so happy!'

“The man stands there for a moment, reflecting, and then picks up the frog, puts it into his pocket, and walks on. After a few minutes the frog says, 'Hey! You forgot to kiss me.'

“And the man says, 'You know, at my age, I think it might be more interesting to have a talking frog.'”

Isn't that fun twist on the old kiss-a-frog story? I must have read it when the book was published in 2000 - I know because the story is highlighted in yellow – but it was as fresh this time as if it were brand new to me. (So much for my memory.)

Ram Dass takes off from there to discuss how we feel our diminishing sexual passions as a loss and wonder, perhaps, who or what we are without those feelings.

”Well into my 50s,” writes Ram Dass, “I spent a great deal of energy on my sexual appetites, and on appearing sexually attractive to those around me. The older I became, however, the less power that sexual currency seemed to wield.

“People seemed to treat me differently – they treated me with less desire but more respect, and at first this shift around ambivalent feelings...

“These regrets lasted for a number of years before I was able to settle down and relinquish the self-pity of the past.

“When this finally happened, I was amazed by how much more time and attention I had for other things in my life when the trumpets of sexual desire quieted down.”

That happened to me too, exactly so, and to other women Ram Dass spoke with who, he writes,

” confusion, if not distress, over how the culture views them once their roles – as sex object, wife, or mother – are taken away. As one woman said to me, 'I'll walk down the street, and nobody even sees me. I feel like I don't exist anymore.'”

I went through a long period – years – feeling just like that woman; I have even used the same words to describe it. Gradually, I came to accept and enjoy my place as an older and then old woman. (Writing a blog about what it's like to grow old for many years certainly helped.)

But that is a personal accomplishment, not a cultural one. Ram Dass notes that given the state of American society, younger people are not going to spontaneously ask for our insight and wisdom. It was 20 years ago he wrote that and not much has changed since then.

However, as I've discovered over many years of reading him, Ram Dass often has another answer:

“Aging consciously, we will naturally begin to manifest those qualities that our society needs in order to survive – qualities like sustainability, justice, patience, and reflection.

These are qualities that can only come from the space of dispassionate perceptual Awareness which age invites us to explore.”

“Awareness which age invites us to explore.”

At the risk of breaking an arm trying to pat myself on the back, I think this is what I have been doing, or trying to do especially since my cancer diagnosis, and it has been three years of the most productive and satisfying of my (inner) life.

Does any of this strike a chord with you?


OK, where did that guy find that talking frog . . . ?

Ram Dass has long been a cherished teacher and I am happy he is that for you. In "Still Here", he writes about the quieting of the ego that comes with age, if we allow it. I've long thought that women's dismay at "being invisible" is the yowl of the ego. I read a recent interview with Gloria Steinem in which she too said it was a relief to find that in her 80s, she was to be free from the insistence of her libido.

I absolutely love that frog story! Now, I'm off to Amazon to check out his books.

Yes, this definitely strikes a chord with me. I remember feeling sad when, in my 50s and 60s I perceived that invisible regard. Eventually I embraced it as an aid to stealthy observation. And the old sexual drive, once leading me around by my -uh- nose, is pretty much kaput. The payoff is that I now focus attentions on how others really are inside. As my circle of friends has diminished of recent years, I find I truly value the relationships I still have. And my remaining time to express myself. That's one of the reasons I have cherished your blog. I see it as an artful expression of one of my friends.

In a way I regret the years that were driven by perceived sexual power. Since we need to put a lid on population expansion, aside from it being fun and physically fulfilling, all that sexual energy can be such a distraction from real work, inner and outer. Oh well, I guess it's not too late to use my newfound awareness and enjoy each day paying attention. Thank you Ronni.

Finally, I enjoyed one of your blogs.

From a very, very 95+ year ole guy .

Thank you for reminding me about Ram Dass. Please pull down more books at random, who else have I forgotten?

Yes! And another part of the journey toward wisdom we refuse to talk about...

Going to find that book and reread it!

Sex? I seem to remember something about it. I think I liked it

I remember well the stares, comments and whistles I received as a woman 40 years ago while working in NYC. I recall one was supposed to, for the most part, pretend not to notice the attention (wanted or unwanted) for fear of being called a tease or flirt or accused of "asking for it."

Today at age 60 I am thoroughly invisible in public. This affords me the freedom to smile broadly and/or initiate an innocuous conversation with a stranger in the supermarket without suspicions of my motives. I can relax and say, "Good morning" or "I wonder if antibacterial wipes will ever return to the shelves" without concern.

Admittedly I miss the attention I used get, even if it was only validation of my physical appearance. Now I'm older, fatter and have lost so much hair on my head that I wear a wide headband that makes me look like a chemo patient. Today I enjoy more the ability to bring a smile and maybe a little cheer to others. I've learned if I greet a cashier, guy at the pizza counter, bus driver or mailman with a happy smile, they almost always smile back and I know they know I'm not trying to "pick them up."

Yes, at 72, the last few months of solitude have given me an opportunity to examine my life and it has been most welcome. I am greatful for the perspective of old age. I appreciate the life I lived without worrying about all of the mistakes, or at least that's what I am hoping for.

Your blog and its wisdom have been most helpful.

To answer your question, Ronni ... yes, just about everything strikes a chord, rings true, speaks to me - as usual.
I, like Marilyn, believe in the power of smiles and that's one of the things I miss most these days ... exchanging smiles. Yes, your eyes can smile but even with bad teeth (mine) I like the real thing. And I was reflecting on this this morning as I left the pharmacy to make space for a young couple with an absolutely beautiful tiny baby (facing forward from the baby carrier on his father's chest) and I smiled at him and, yes, he could tell because he tried to smile back ... but I began wondering about the lack of facial input, so important to babies, that young ones today are getting now. And I realized how much I miss smiles, too.
So thank you for Ram Dass's frog story and the smile it gave me this afternoon.

I met Timothy Leary et al in the sixties. Quite the time! If I had devoted more time to business than sex I would have done much better. Yes, the male drive for sex is much greater when young. As I aged, my desires and needs dropped in priority. I've read that an older male does not fantasize like a younger one, so doesn't assign the same priority to sex. My libido is much decreased but still there as my wife is 11 years younger. Having a partner makes a great difference. After 32 years, our love is not pressured and much more open. Sex now is like a finer wine, to be savored and enjoyed as one of the great gifts of life. Probably since we aged together, we still enjoy each other's bodies ----- but not as often. We never had children together, but I enjoy those people 20 years or more younger than I. One of my good friends is in his mid thirties. The internet has opened a whole new vista. B

Yeah but for reason I keep getting requests to “friend” on Facebook from all of these handsome, retired military men who by coincidence are ALL WIDOWED! Guess they can’t resist my gray hair and glasses!! And the fact that my “About” profile very clearly states that I am married!

So I’ve still got it, right? BLOCK

Love the frog story. Would love a cuddle or a hug now and then, but that's affection, not sex. I like where I am now, more peaceful, thoughtful, grateful.

I'm with Salinda. That's what I miss with social distancing. And just the extra heartbeats nearby.

Like you I have the Ram Dass book on the shelves but just read excerpts and had not seen the frog story. It’s a great story. That book is next to his “Be Here Now” from 1971 and some others.

I had been thinking about going to Hawaii to one of his retreats but they were pricey and too far away. Then Baba Ram Dass died last December, on 22, 2019. I still receive regular news from the Ram Dass Love Serve Remember Foundation; they will have more retreats after the virus problems get better (next one scheduled is for December at the Napili Kai Beach Resort on Maui, in case anyone is interested.) I did not, and do not regret the attention I received when younger and am never quite sure about smiles because brought up in Paris, we just don’t smile that much. I find it a bit artificial, or superficial? As when I was unloading my car with a small, but heavy bookcase – many younger people walked by me and said “don’t hurt yourself” and did smile, but none asked if I could use a hand – total cheerful smiling indifference. I tuned in a long time ago, and now am just trying to age consciously and with awareness, and to look forward to what’s next.

Yes, I remember Ram Dass. I almost remember sex. I can't quite remember when I was the object of attention just by walking by. LIke several of your readers, I am not sad to see those days go. I am attracted to peace and serenity and I rememberer those days as being much too dramatic.

I do miss smiles, since we are all covered up now. And how I miss hugs! Nothing to do with sex—just miss the warmth of human touch.

LOVED the frog story. Yep, I had forgotten that, too.

What you say in the last paragraph definitely makes sense,most of us when we are young live at the surface just indulging and seeking pleasures.
Later on when life hands us a lot of pain,we are left to our own resources and no one really gives us a second look,we become more self aware,go deeper within ourselves and begin to live each moment.
Best to you

I am not a touchy feely person, I grew up in a family where hugs and kisses were not de rigueur, and the pandemic suits me in that I no longer feel socially compelled to hug everybody. I don't miss sex either, it was a relief to come out from under the hormonal fog of desire and compulsion. That surprised me, I thought I was consigned to live a lonely old age and it turns out I am living a happily solitary old age.

Oh yes! I'm 71 and while I always enjoyed sex, sought it out, it's such a relief not to be concerned about being "desirable" anymore. It took up so much energy. And I don't even mind not being seen. When I'm in a dialogue with people, whether men or women, they pay more attention to what I'm saying, they're not "checking me out." I'm no longer seen as either a potential partner, or a threat. It's actually quite liberating, although I wouldn't have thought so in my younger years. That was the power it once had over me.

All of the above!

I'm surprised no elderly person has written to say their sexual urge is still strong and satisfying. That is sometimes true. Maybe it is taking its place in a well-rounded life, not demanding so much thinking and attention, but extremely welcome and delightful when it visits.

I LOVE SEX! I'll be 70 in December and my libido is that of my 30s, unfortunately my opportunities are much diminished. Only about 25% of the population at my age is even interested in sexual pleasure. COVID isolation hasn't helped this widow's dating chances either. I run a discussion group called Sex, Sexuality, Consent and Aging on the Stitch companionship member site. It's an open and frank discussion that, not remarkably, has almost 10 times the number of reads as comments, which shows a strong interest in the topic. Sexual desire and expression change as we age but need not go completely away for those who are still interested.

When I reached that turning point, whenever that was—50? 60?—I remember thinking, "We spend the first half of our lives thinking about sex, and the second half thinking about death." The two great biological givens, still driving us from deep beneath all the evolution of our neocortex and all the trimmings of being human.

But then . . .

I was a caregiver for a declining spouse for 10 years, 5 of them intensively. That was a libido quencher; I had neither time nor energy to ask myself if I had any left. Then I was just solitary and helped out my parents in their 90s (and am still helping out my 96-year-old mom from afar). To my surprise, sexuality revived in my early 70s. For a brief time I dated a man in his 60s who was attracted to women, not just to young women. He was not repulsed by my shriveled skin. He was a wonderful lover and I was astonished to discover that in many ways my body still works. That didn't work out emotionally (though a year later we're still in touch and I still harbor hopes, aware as I am that it's a waste of energy I should be devoting to age-appropriate things like Wisdom), and I think it was rare. I'm picky and pretty sure the odds are against my finding that again, but they're not zero.

It was not the physical pleasure per se but the taste of intimacy and of feeling cherished that was so amazing. Nothing breaks down the barriers between people and creates primary bonds quite like sex. Sigh.

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