This is a vulnerable post, as they seem to be more and more for me as of late. I feel that we need to share our vulnerabilities and connect with each other, validate each other’s experiences – particularly those that may be more difficult to share for whatever reason…..to realize that we are not alone. To realize that this journey of aging is a complex one….a road with many twists and turns.
I am referring today to the feelings of attraction and desire….the passion that we so easily attribute and validate for youth, but not so easily for those of us who may be older. Yet, I am discovering, the feelings and desires and passions are still so very much there…..however deep inside they may be buried at one time or another for each of us.
I attended a dear friend’s 75th birthday party yesterday. We worked together years ago, and have maintained contact and connection, for which I am so very grateful. She, not too long ago, lost someone that she was involved with and grieves him still. And she has this friend, this dear friend that she has known since second grade, who clearly loves her. I can see the depth of the connection….. I can see the love. I wonder, can others see it? Can they feel the strength of this?
This part of us, I come to realize more and more, does not go quietly into the night.
I have had a recent experience with this myself. I had a man reach out to me on one of the social media sites that I belong to …not one that I would normally expect this from. I notice that I find his photo extremely appealing (and find that I am somewhat embarrassed to even admit this here. As if I should not feel this way…..as if I should somehow be “past” this.) He is younger than I…. I can tell from the photo. I respond to his greeting, and kindly inform him of my age (people tell me that I don’t look my age, and I want someone to know upfront so that it does not come as any surprise. I thank him for his attention and for giving me a smile that day…thus giving him permission to stop communicating gracefully – an easy out).
I wonder, and get suspicious ( I have been warned by friends that when younger men approach older women, that these men may be looking for “a nurse or a purse”.) He is 14 years my junior, I discover, during an online chat. I express my concern about the age difference, and he responds that age does not matter when it comes to the heart. (Such a smooth line, my cynical part responds inside me).
And yet, I know that age can indeed matter. People of different ages are in different stages of their lives, have different goals, may have different energy levels, different visions of the future, indeed different perceptions of how long that future may be. He has taken in his nephew (after the death of his sister) and I greatly admire that about him. He is raising this child (age 7 at this time) – This is no easy task, being a single parent. But this child will be a huge part of any relationship that he will enter into, of course. And someone has to be prepared for this and all that it involves. I have never had children, and am not too sure that I would be able to handle having a young child (and everything that this involves) be part of my life…..maybe if I was younger. At this age, I think about where to live for whatever time I may have left, how to finally express my own Voice (having focused on others to the exclusion of myself, even without having had children). I want to write, to paint, to enjoy life now that I have retired. To fully inhabit my life. Finally.
And yet, I am surprised to discover the depth of my attraction, that I still have desire that I had thought had finally quieted down. It distracts me, and I find myself embarrassed about that. But, here it is, still inside me. Very much alive…..very much present and not quiet at all. I find it humbling. And I am also struck by the tenderness that I feel for this sweet child that this man is raising, this young boy having lost his mother at such a young age.
I have not spoken of this to many friends. I fear that they would think me silly, foolish, and vulnerable to being taken advantage of. I appreciate the place where their concern comes from, as there is much to be concerned about out there.
And yet, can we hear all that this situation can bring up for someone even while expressing our concern for them? Can we witness the shy emergence of feelings not deemed as acceptable for older people in our society? How many tv commercials and jokes have we all seen and heard about with regards to sex and older people? That this is somehow laughable…pitiable…to be patted on the head about with a “there, there, isn’t that cute?” attitude. I can assure you, what I feel inside is anything but cute or to be pitied. In fact, it has marinated for many years to become the rich ripe wine that it is….that I still am, even if only known to myself and others my age who may relate and be brave enough to speak about this.
It doesn’t matter what actions may or may not be taken….What matters is that we are able, even if only to ourselves, to be able to validate and cherish these feelings that are still so very much alive inside of us. To appreciate them. To enjoy their presence, persistence, richness and complexity. We are still very much here, still very much alive. Don’t write us off quite yet. Hear and see all that we have been and still are. We are not dead yet……not by a long shot.