SOME THOUGHTS (IF YOU CAN CALL THEM THAT) ABOUT SEX

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With all the hard-to-miss whoop-de-do about Christian Grey (“Fifty Shades Of”) and his compliant Ana in the tittering press, in movie box offices (where multi-millions are rolling in) and even in the feminist blogosphere, it perhaps behooves me to deliver a few expurgated observations on the matter from my own demographic. (Female, hetero-, old.) I speak of course only for myself, as I have not yet discovered another woman well over eighty blogging away on WordPress or anywhere else.  (There are two who are seventy-seven and seventy-six respectively, but whatever they’re doing privately, neither “do” sex in print.)

It’s not true that women over seventy have fantasies about sex zero percent of the time. This canard was apparently reported in AARP about four years ago and then picked up to be made sport of by “Life in the Boomer Lane,” written by Renee Fisher, a mere sixty-seven herself.  I can personally vouch for the falsehood of such piggy-back hearsay, and know of at least two other non-blogging women in the demographic who would emphatically agree with me. Since I don’t know many women in the demographic anyway (most of my acquaintances are  younger), two plus me seems sufficient rebuttal on this point.  I draw a veil over why these women plus me are having fantasies instead of, or in addition to, real sex.

There’s a huge disconnect between what’s desirable (or even acceptable) in real life from a real man and what’s desirable in one’s fantasy life from a fantasy man.  I’ve read quite a bit of heated discourse in the past couple of days about how terrible it is to glorify a movie that glorifies female submission and bondage (i.e. “rape”) — this despite the fact that audiences, currently comprised of 68% women in North America, are apparently rushing to see it like lemmings to the sea. The disconnect may not be so true of the young or youngish — although I suspect that even for them if the line between what they see in movies and what they do in bed begins to blur, they can still distinguish between (a) playful bondage by a trusted loved one who lashes them to the bedposts with their own nylons while they both giggle and (b) the really painful stuff with whipcords and duct tape.

But for those of us raised in a faraway time when the proper response to going “too far” was always “No!” even when all your senses were begging “Yes!” — fantasy rape had, and may still have, a certain initial appeal.  When I first came upon Candide in college and read of pure sweet Cunegonde, Candide’s lady love, being raped by Bulgarians, my first thought wasn’t horror but “Hmmmm, what do Bulgarians look like?”  However the problem was that you’d have to decide which Bulgarians, and how many, would be allowed to have their way with you (even in a fantasy), and that didn’t seem likely (even in a fantasy).  In fact, it’s always a given in fantasy rape that you have to secretly want to be raped by that particular man — whose hunger for you (and your unavowed hunger for him) is so overpowering that it cannot be gainsaid, despite your feeble struggles.

[Note to militant feminists:  The preceding paragraph most certainly does not mean I agree with those Yale students who were suspended for marching through campus with a banner proclaiming, “No Means Yes!” Read more carefully. The Bulgarians are fantasy. Yale is real.  As a Yale parent several times over, well aware of the tuition involved in even being on that campus, I can assure you Yale is very real, and no most definitely means no.]

Admittedly, “Fifty Shades” is only “soft” porn. Even so, what’s so exciting about a former Calvin Klein male underwear model pouring wine into the belly-button of the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson while she bites her underlip apprehensively?  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen not yet in my demographic.  If your memory is long enough, you may recall those first ads (in classy magazines no less) for Calvin’s teensy-weensy BVDs with the CK logo-embossed elastic band that barely cleared the groin area.  Well, the guy in those ads was Mr. Christian Grey himself (shorn or retouched of all chest hair) — a scrap of pristine white cotton between us and his, ah, member — posed in a full frontal come-hither slouch that must have turned on at least 95% of the gay community who saw it but didn’t do much for me.  Yes, Jamie Dornan has a four-year-old daughter now and probably hopes that when at some time in the future she sees her daddy’s comely rear cheeks beautifully photographed above a naked lady who’s not mommy, she won’t ask questions.  (I know, I know, it’s my age talking.  Young Miss Dornan probably just won’t care.) But he still doesn’t do much for me, even with wisps of chest hair.

As for young Miss Johnson, I suppose what she does is her own business. But as I remember her mom in “Working Girl” before she did that ill-advised thing to make her lips fuller and they came out much too much fuller, and also recall her dad was the one in “Miami Vice” who made wearing only a white tee shirt under a jacket look really cool — seeing her naked underneath naked young Mr. Dornan would be like watching one of the neighbors’ kids put out for a vacant-faced muscled guy with impossibly huge scads of money and power, plus really gorgeous clothes (before he takes them off).  I mean, come on.   Who’re we kidding here? If we’re talking soft SMBD porn, Mickey Rourke with his ice cube in “Six Weeks” was much more like it; at least he looked the part. (Except look at him now.)

I do admit that typing the word “naked” twice just now was somewhat exciting. But that’s probably a demographic thing too.

Drinking wine out of belly buttons is not new. Trust me on this one.  Back in 1948, Charlotte P. read aloud a story in Creative Writing I  that had seventeen-year-old me writhing with jealousy, envy and lust;  it was about her previous summer on an Israeli kibbutz where it was apparently not unusual to sip wine from the mouth of another and then have the other lap more wine from one’s belly button. (I believe they kept their jeans on, though.)  Oh God! I immediately filed this away as something to try at the first opportunity. (And you see? I still remember, after all these years.) Of course, you would have had to be an innie and not an outie. I’m not sure how outies took to Charlotte P.’s story.  What would Christian G. have done if Miss Steele had turned out to be an outie when her clothes came off?  Torn up the contract?  Or improvised with some other declivity?  (That should keep you thinking for a bit.)

Since we’re talking about porn, in my demographic “hard” porn is for men.  Sometimes we ladies do sit through their kind of thing to be accommodating (or in some cases because it’s easier than working them up ourselves). Yes, we sit patiently all the way to the money shot, with mess sprayed here and there over the other party, which to me has always been the erotic equivalent of a cold shower.  But candidly, I could go on quite happily for two or three more lifetimes without seeing any more.  Men get excited by shapely female breasts (or unshapely ones, swollen monstrously by silicone), lovely rounded buttocks gently parted, spread-eagled vulvas, luscious lips slurping eagerly, close-ups of piston-like activity, the camera eye right in there like a third participant.  Why would a heterosexual woman want to look at any of that?  It’s not part of our sexual experience, even without eyes shut.  As for threesomes — apparently another real stiffener — forget it. I never did like sharing and just can’t multitask.

So what is erotic for women?  I won’t deny my demographic still appreciates a nicely built unclothed male torso (although it’s not essential for powerful attraction).  However, speaking only for me and not for the other two known members of this demographic, I far prefer the sight of work-made muscle to the barbell-crafted kind. Attractive construction workers, not gym rats.  Just to check myself (and also, of course, in the interests of thorough research), I typed “naked straight men” into Bing.  (It seems Apple is at war with Google and switched search engines when I wasn’t looking.)  Did I get brought up to date fast!

Tattoos all over the place!  I mean with no inch of skin except the face untatted!  Yuck! (Demographically speaking, of course.)  And photos of bare men of every ethnicity enjoying each other in every which way you can imagine. (Is this what Bing thinks is “straight?”)  And photos of other bare men smirking or scowling at the camera with a “Look what I have for you!” expression on their faces. (I once had a husband, now dead — although not at my hand — who actually pronounced those very words.  It did him no good whatsoever.)

And I’ve got to tell you what some of those bare men had for us couldn’t possibly have been for us at all.  It’s true my experience has been quite limited, but I know — I just know, and to hell with the demographic  — there isn’t a woman alive, of any age, who wouldn’t flee at the thought. These were appendages of such extraordinary length as must have been attached to the unfortunate straight fellow a therapist once told me about: he had to wear a very thick rubber donut before any woman would even consider — I’m looking for a nice clean word here — congress.  And then the faces of those guys on the Bing-sourced websites!  What could you talk about with them before you began? Can they talk? I know, I shouldn’t be mean. (I do think though that Apple could reconsider its position on Google.)

I might also add before leaving this possibly controversial section (in which I may have recklessly destroyed all the good will I’ve slowly built over the past year) that there’s a color photograph of a nicely built unclothed male torso, with pleasantly smiling face attached, that’s practically perfect. It’s cropped just above the pelvis so it’s also perfectly decent, and it’s right here on WordPress.  It belongs to the nephew of one of the Australian ladies who occasionally drops by this blog. I remember admiring it when she posted it and wishing I were at least sixty years younger.  But I’m not and probably you’re not either, so I’m not looking up the URL and you’ll just have to wonder forever.

Well, if not photos, then what?   I’ve actually considered that question quite a bit before embarking on this post.  What really turns on my demographic? (And maybe other female demographics too?)  I think it’s faces, voices, words. Words above all. A well turned phrase — even on the screen — and you’ve got me interested.   My demographic, and perhaps also  yours, wants a story; we want to hear things and see things that maybe promise and maybe don’t, we want hope and uncertainty, and lots of hide and seek, until it’s just about all we think about.  Imagination is a big part of it, too. (And who needs photos with a good imagination?  After a certain age, eyes shut and imagination trumps photos every time.)

One of the more erotic things I’ve read recently turned up in a first novel published about thirty years ago which I discovered at a used bookseller.  Near the end of the book the protagonist, a thirteen year old boy, and a somewhat flat-chested girl his age, who are both staying in the same house that summer weekend, play a game together that’s rather like strip poker.  Round after round, the garments very slowly come off each of them, one by one.  They look at each other. She offers to do one more thing for him since he won, but he can’t think of anything. So she goes off to bed.  Still naked, and now erect, he thinks about her and thinks about her in his own bed, and then gets up and creeps down the hall to her room. She is sleeping, in a nightdress.  He slides under her sheet from the bottom and lies there naked and erect with his head between her legs.

That made me breathe faster than the dreary plod through the three free chapters of “Fifty Shades” you can get from Amazon Kindle.

Someone I’ve never met in real life who writes extremely well recently suggested via email that there was probably a big commercial market for “elderly erotic stories” and how would it be if a woman writer and a man writer collaborated to write such stories.  That’s pretty much how he put it (very politely), together with a possible opening paragraph and the caveat that the stories be about people of at least sixty. In my view nothing about people sixty or older would be erotic reading to the elderly because the elderly are turned on by the same stimuli as the young.  That is, elderly men probably want to picture young nubile beauties in their dreams and even elderly women fantasize about firm male bodies, not old ones. I didn’t write that though, but merely objected to his opening paragraph for other reasons, and suggested another opening.  He wrote back.  And then I became uncomfortable, because of course I was the “woman writer” and he was the “man writer” we were writing about and I am twenty-three years older than he is and he’s not safely far away in Australia but about fifty-two miles from Princeton, and it was becoming exciting even though I don’t really know what he looks like. It was crossing the line from fantasy to real, at least for me if not for him. And therefore time to stop.

Words, you see.  Words do it every time.  And now that I myself have written 2,314 words on this stimulating topic it’s time to go do something else.  What that might be I leave to your imagination.

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ON CHARON’S WHARF

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[I recently met a woman who recommended I read a book called Broken Vessels, a collection of essays by Andre Dubus.  Dubus  — better known for his short stories — was raised a Catholic and continued in his faith as an adult. As I’m not Catholic, I hesitated. But this is a smart woman.  So I  took her advice.  

Well, there I was, plodding along, beginning to wonder why I’d listened to her — baseball essay, one about trains, another about bullies, a complaint about the justice system (tell me about it) — when suddenly I found myself in territory so gorgeous it took my breath away.  

I had to read it twice, and then some of it once more. It’s a piece called “On Charon’s Wharf”– and if it doesn’t move you, I’d better stop blogging and find something else to do.  I’ve chopped out a couple of pages about an Ingmar Bergman movie which I don’t think you’ll miss, but otherwise was afraid to tamper with it.  It’s about death, and love, and men and women.  Which means it’s about all of us.]

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“On Charon’s Wharf” by Andre Dubus

Since we are all terminally ill, each breath and step and day one closer to the last, I must consider those sacraments which soothe our passage. I write on a Wednesday morning in December when snow covers the earth, the sky is grey, and only the evergreens seem alive. This morning I received the sacrament I still believe in: at seven-fifteen the priest elevated the host, then the chalice, and spoke the words of the ritual, and the bread became flesh, the wine became blood, and minutes later I placed on my tongue the taste of forgiveness and of love that affirmed, perhaps celebrated, my being alive, my being mortal.  This has nothing to do with immortality, with eternity; I love the earth too much to contemplate a life apart from it, although I believe in that life. No, this has to do with mortality and the touch of flesh, and my belief in the sacrament of the Eucharist is simple: without touch, God is a monologue, an idea, a philosophy; he must touch and be touched, the tongue on flesh, and that touch is the result of the monologues, the idea, the philosophies which led to faith; but in the instant of the touch there is no place for thinking, for talking; the silent touch affirms all that and goes deeper: it affirms the mysteries of love and mortality….

So many of us fail: we divorce wives and husbands, we leave the roofs of our lovers, go once again into the lonely march, mustering our courage with work, friends, half-pleasures which are not whole because they are not shared.  Yet still I believe in love’s possibility, in its presence on the earth; as I believe I can approach the altar on any morning of any day which may be the last and receive the touch that does not, for me, say: There is no death; but does say: In this instant I recognize, with you, that you must die. And I believe I can do this in an ordinary kitchen with an ordinary woman and five eggs. I scramble them in a saucepan, as my now-dead friend taught me; they stand deeper and cook softer, he said. I take our plates, spoon eggs on them, we sit and eat. She and I in the kitchen have become extraordinary: we are not simply eating; we are pausing in the march to perform an act together; we are in love; and the meal offered and received is a sacrament which says: I know you will die; I am sharing food with you; it is all I can do, and it is everything.

As lovers we must have these sacraments, these actions which restore our focus, and therefore ourselves. For our lives are hurried and much too distracted, and one of the strangest and most dangerous of all distractions is this lethargy of self we suffer from, this part of ourselves that does not want to get out of bed and once out of bed does not want to dress and once dressed does not want to prepare breakfast and once fed does not want to work. And what does it want? Perhaps it wants nothing at all. It is a mystery, a lovely one because it is human, but it is also dangerous. Some days it does not want to love, and we yield to it, we drop into an abyss whose walls echo with strange dialogues. These dialogues are with the beloved, and at their center is a repetition of the word I and sometimes you, but neither word now is uttered with a nimbus of blessing. These are the nights when we sit in that kitchen and talk too long and too much, so that the words multiply each other, and what they express — pain, doubt, anxiousness, dread — become emotions which are not rooted in our true (or better) selves, which exist apart from those two gentle people who shared eggs at this same table which now is soiled with ashes and glass-rings.

These nights can destroy us. With words we create genies which rise on the table between us, and fearfully we watch them hurt each other; they look like us, they sound like us, but they are not us, and we want to call them back, see them disappear like shriveling clouds back into our throats, down into our hearts where they can join our other selves and be forced again into their true size: a small I among many other I‘s. We try this with more words and too often the words are the wrong ones, the genies grow, and we are approaching those hours after midnight when lovers should never quarrel, for the night has its mystery too and will not be denied, it loves to distort the way we feel and if we let it, it will.  We say: But wait a minute … But you said … But I always thought that …Well how do you think I feel, who do you think you are anyway? Just who in the hell do you think you are?

There are no answers, at least not at that table. Each day she is several women, and I am several men. We must try to know each other, understand each other, and love each other as best we can. But we cannot know and understand all of each other. This is a time in our land when lovers talk to each other, and talk to counselors about each other, and talk to counselors in front of each other. We have to do this. Many of us grew up in homes whose table and living room conversations could have been recorded in the daily newspaper without embarrassing anyone, and now we want very much to explore each other, and to be explored. We are like children in peril, though, when we believe this exploring can be done with words alone, and that the exploring must always give answers, and that the exploring is love itself rather than a way to deepen it. For then we kill our hearts with talk, we place knowing and understanding higher than love, and failing at the first two, as we sometimes must, we believe we have failed at the third. Perhaps we have not. But when you believe you no longer love, you no longer do.

I need and want to give the intimacy we achieve with words. But words are complex: at times too powerful or fragile or simply wrong; and they are affected by a tone of voice, a gesture of a hand, a light in the eyes. And words are sometimes autonomous little demons who like to form their own parade and march away, leaving us behind. Once in a good counselor’s office I realized I was not telling the truth. She was asking me questions and I was trying to answer them, and I was indeed answering them. But I left out maybe, perhaps, I wonder. … Within minutes I was telling her about emotions I had not felt. But by then I was feeling what I was telling her, and that is the explosive nitroglycerin seeping through the hearts of lovers.

So what I want and want to give, more than the intimacy of words, is shared ritual, the sacraments. I believe that, without those, all our talking, no matter how enlightened, will finally drain us, divide us into two confused and frustrated people, then destroy us as lovers. We are of the flesh, and we must turn with faith toward that truth. We need the companion on the march, the arms and lips and body against the dark of the night. It is our flesh which lives in time and will die, and it is our love which comforts the flesh. Beneath all the words we must have this daily acknowledgement from the beloved, and we must give it too or pay the lonely price of not living fully in the world: that as lovers we live on Charon’s wharf, and he’s out there somewhere in that boat of his, and today he may row in to where we sit laughing, and reach out to grasp an ankle, hers or mine.

It would be madness to try to live so intensely as lovers that every word and every gesture between us was a sacrament, a pure sign that our love exists despite and perhaps even because of our mortality. But we can do what the priest does, with his morning consecration before entering the routine of his day; what the communicant does in that instant of touch, that quick song of the flesh, before he goes to work. We can bring our human, distracted love into focus with an act that doesn’t need words, an act which dramatizes for us what we are together. The act itself can be anything: five beaten and scrambled eggs, two glasses of wine, running beside each other in rhythm with the pace and breath of the beloved. They are all parts of that loveliest of all sacraments between man and woman, that passionate harmony of flesh whose breath and dance and murmur says: We are, we are, we are

1977.

WORDS FROM THE WISE

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Because it’s good blog etiquette to repay visits, I occasionally find myself at the blog of a twenty-something.  That’s a surprise.  When I began, I thought a blog with “Getting Old” in its title would be of interest, if any, only to boomers and beyond.  Apparently not always so.

The other surprise, which comes after I make an encouraging comment during the visit, is that the reply invariably expresses gratitude that someone with so much experience and wisdom has said something favorable.

Oh my!  Living a long time does, I suppose, provide some experience of what worked, and what didn’t, in one’s own life.  Which the person who lived the life can learn from or not, as the case may be.  But “wisdom?”   [The word always makes me think of Confucius.]  It’s what you think other people have when they’re older than you.

As my father used to say, “I have news for you.”  There isn’t any such thing. The only wisdom we oldsters might possibly offer the young (if they asked, which they don’t) is, “Don’t be such a damn fool.”   But who’s to say who’s a fool?

So lacking any wisdom of my own, even after all these years — I have looked elsewhere to find it for these younger visitors who expect it of me.  Looked — to be specific — in The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women, compiled by Rosalie Maggio. (Beacon Press Boston © 1992).  I guess I sort of agree with most of the ones I’ve chosen. Well, sometimes I do.  But not always. That’s just the way it is with wisdom. Sometimes it applies, sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes, who knows?  Holler when you’ve had enough.

[On Experience]

“Experience is what you get when you’re looking for something else.”  Mary Pettibone Poole, A Glass Eye at a Keyhole (1938)

“Experience is a good teacher, but she sends in terrific bills.” Minna Thomas Antrim, Naked Truth and Veiled Allusions (1902)

“A rattlesnake that doesn’t bite teaches you nothing.” Jessamyn West, The Life I Really Lived (1979)

“Experience isn’t interesting till it begins to repeat itself — in fact, till it does that, it hardly is experience.”  Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart (1938)

“I have come to the conclusion, after many years of sometimes sad experience, that you cannot come to any conclusion at all.” Vita Sackville-West, In Your Garden Again (1953)

[On Complacency]

“Unhurt people are not much good in the world.”  Enid Starkie. In Joanna Richardson, Enid Starkie (1973)

[On Dying]

“She’d been preoccupied with death for several years; but one aspect had never before crossed her mind: dying, you don’t get to see how it all turns out.”  Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982)

[On Concealment]

“There is nothing that gives more assurance than a mask.” Colette, My Apprenticeships (1936)

[On Life]

“Life itself is a party; you join after it’s started and you leave before it’s finished.” Elsa Maxwell, How to Do It (1957)

“Life seems to be a choice between two wrong answers.” Sharyn McCrumb, If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O (1990)

“It begins in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses (1990)

“You are dipped up from the great river of consciousness, and death only pours you back.” Dorothy Canfield Fisher, The Bent Twig (1915)

“Life offstage has sometimes been a wilderness of unpredictables in an unchoreographed world.” Margot Fonteyn, Margot Fonteyn: Autobiography (1976)

“It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another — it’s one damn thing over and over.” Edna St. Vincent Millay, in Allan Ross Madougall, Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1952)

“Life is something to do when you can’t get to sleep.” Fran Lebowitz, in Observer (1979).

“That it will never come again / Is what makes life so sweet.” Emily Dickinson (c. 1864), published in Bolts of Memory (1945)

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.” Alice Walker, “Only Justice Can Stop a Curse,” In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens (1983)

[On Lovers]

“The absolute yearning of one human body for another particular one and its indifference to substitutes is one of life’s major mysteries.” Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince (1973)

“In a great romance, each person basically plays a part that the other really likes.”  Elizabeth Ashley, in San Francisco Chronicle (1982)

“Secretly, we wish anyone we love will think exactly the way we do.” Kim Chernin, in My Mother’s House (1983)

This was life, that two people, no matter how carefully chosen, could not be everything to each other.” Doris Lessing, “To Room Nineteen,” A Man and Two Women (1963)

“No partner in a love relationship [whether homo- or heterosexual] should feel that he has to give up an essential part of himself to make it viable.” May Sarton, Journal of Solitude (1973)

[On Lying]

“Never to lie is to have no lock to your door.” Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris (1935)

[On Marriage]

“The deep, deep peace of the double-bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue.” Mrs. Patrick Campbell, on her recent marriage, in Alexander Woollcott, While Rome Burns (1934)

“The very fact that we make such a to-do over golden weddings indicates our amazement at human endurance.  The celebration is more in the nature of a reward for stamina.” Ilka Chase, Free Admission (1948)

“A man in the house is worth two in the street.” Mae West, in Belle of the Nineties (1934)

[On Memory]

“Sometimes what we call ‘memory’ and what we call ‘imagination’ are not so easily distinguished.” Leslie Marmon Silko, Storyteller (1981)

“I think, myself, that one’s memories represent those moments which, insignificant as they may seem, nevertheless represent the inner self and oneself as most really oneself.” Agatha Christie, An Autobiography (1977)

[On Men]

“The only time a woman really succeeds in changing a man is when he’s a baby.” Natalie Wood, in Bob Chieger, Was It Good For You, Too? (1983)

[On Survival]

“Misfortune had made Lily supple instead off hardening her, and a pliable substance is less easy to break than a stiff one.” Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)

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That’s about it for today.  Which one did you like best?  Let us know.

Don’t ask me which I like best, though.  I vote for cats.

“Dogs come when they’re called; cats take a message and get back to you.” Missie Dizick and Mary Bly, Dogs Are Better Than Cats (1985)

 [Ed. Note: Dogs are definitely not better. Just different.]

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FOUR MEN I NEVER WENT OUT WITH

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It has been pointed out (by a male reader who lives with me) that yesterday’s piece on playing the personals contained nary a word of advice for men.

Although it often seems to women getting a bit long in the tooth that there are absolutely no available aging men, that appears to be wrong. It seems there are lonely and mostly unattached men in an appropriate age bracket who sometimes wonder if answering an ad might be the way to go.

I say “mostly” unattached, because avowed cheaters also play.  (And the unavowed?  Well, as Fats Waller used to say — one never knows, do one?)  As to what is an “appropriate” age bracket, I leave that to the ladies.  Do you really want a toy boy? How much are you willing to pay?  I also hope I have already made it perfectly clear in my last post on this subject that I have absolutely no advice for the young.  As if they’d take it if I had it.

With those caveats out of the way, let us try to level the playing field by proceeding as far as we can.  Which is not very far.  However, I do know some things:

  •   Men don’t really know what they want.  Besides hot sex.  Which they can’t ask for in a respectable publication, the only kind we will be considering today.  And which they might not be able to maintain in a long-term relationship. (Hereinafter “LTR.” If there is a “‘hereinafter” to the first date. Often there isn’t.)  Come on, guys.  Get real.  How much Viagra can you afford?
  •  Men of any age get many more responses to their ads than women do.  It therefore makes more sense, for both LTR-seekers and the other kind, that a man place an ad than answer one.  On the other hand, placement has its costs, how large depending on how many words you need to make yourself appealing.  Whereas answering is free!  No matter how many you answer! So you decide.
  • Men may not care about spelling, but most women do.  They also care about punctuation, and paragraphing, and vocabulary.  Answering an ad by e-mail is like sending in your CV for a job.  Women may be eager to give you a chance, but usually not if what you write looks as if you need to repeat third grade.  Unless you’re the reincarnation of Marlon Brando in Streetcar, and still have the torn white T-shirt, take care what you write.  Or use spell-check. Or only answer ads where you can telephone.
  • Men should not ever send out an e-mail like one of the following.  These were among the responses to an ad much like the one which ended my “Playing the Personals” post, but in which I described myself as possessing, among other desirable qualities, “warmth” and “a kind heart.”  Big mistake. (As you will see).  But did I really deserve what came back to me?  I have changed all the names, e-addresses and geographical locations, so that no public embarrassment or shame should ensue. Private embarrassment is between the authors and their maker.  I have not changed anything else.  I kid you not.

1.  From:  “devbanerjee” <booridev@frontier.net>

Dear Kind.

Although your message was for a 60+ man, I thought I might be apologized if I tried to reach you out with something that has to do with the basics of the values you carry, especially warmth and kindness.  Based on my own progression through life, I do hope that the experiences you have had in line with maturity and love will make you accept my offer of friendship based on understanding , honesty, integrity, understanding and mutuality.

I am a male, 26, currently a MBA student here in Washington, from Pakistan.  I value a friendship with someone on a higher scale of maturity and wisdom and am envisioning of our friendship building up to a height exceeding that of Mt. Everest and of our breathing in the beauty and spirituality around the unsurpassed grandeur of the natural beauty in the “hanging” valleys, “flowing” meadows, and “static” rivers and waterfalls there.

I recognize your hectic professional life; yet, something in the depth of my mind and values guide me to the waiting point until you show up at least briefly with your message.  I will more than appreciate that and will tell a lot more of myself soon afterward.

Sincerely, Dev Banerjee

At first I thought all that about Mt. Everest and the natural beauty of valleys and rivers and waterfalls — “hanging” and “flowing” and “static” — was code.  (I know, I have a dirty mind.)  But then I decided he was just lonely and got carried away.  After all, he was only 26, younger than my younger child.  Or maybe that’s the way they begin courtships in Pakistan.

2. From:  amvetserv@mindspring.com

Hi Boston.  A strange thing happened to me today I was reading The NY Review I saw your note and thought how perfect, is it possible what are the odds no way? maybe so. I had to respond so hear I am what next?  I must be the person you are looking for because you are exactly the type person I am looking for.  It is like I wrote the same add for someone like you.  It is crazy does any one really find someone like this.  I am an eternal opponents, so hear goes. I am a 48 yr. Old Ret. Major from the US Army.  I am working for a PUBLICATION as investigate reporter and travel all over.  But here is my secrete my true passion is writing, I think I may have a book or two in me. When I am not on the rode, my base is in Houston. I also like the good life and I am looking for A kind WARM leading Lady in my life to share it with.  If there is a interest drop me a note. I am looking forward to hearing from you.  Best Regards, George

You may be surprised to learn I told myself not to be a snob and answered George.  (It’s true about the kind heart.  Not a good thing to mention in an ad, though.)  George never wrote back.  Maybe his work as investigate reporter for a PUBLICATION kept him too busy. But I think it was my spelling and punctuation and paragraphing that put him off.

3.  From:  <Migueldr00@hotmail.com

A long “HELLO!”  Great-looking, kind-hearted Bostonian, Is your meaning of a “long hurrah” an exclamation of deep joy or a hint at commotion?  Is it the second tender movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth or the turbulent first of Mahler’s Sixth?  What a pleasant exciting surprise to find you!  I have to close my eyes…and believe…from what you write…that you are not only charming but smart, clever, playful and…passionate (in a controlled, witty way).  The good, passionate kind, the one with the smooth layer of chocolate mousse covering the volcanic rush of fantasy.  I want to steal your attention with inquiring looks and searching words.  Knowing a woman, for the first time, is to pin the eyes on her face and savor the honey of her smile, as she averts her face in a feminine gesture of divine shyness.  Hurrah to you, my kind-hearted darling…a long Hurrah that is a cry of joy, longer than a sigh, deeper than a tear, prettier than a kiss, as when a man meets a woman and feels the flesh quiver with the anticipated thrill of dreaming he is touching her tenderly…on her lips.

With friendly tenderness…and all the comparable qualities…and more.  Miguel in Delaware

See?  Hot sex.

 4. From: Calvin P. Kimberly <CPK4445556@isd.net

Dear Nina, my name is Cal Kimberly, I live on Gardiner’s Island and have a son in Boston named Dirk who has a son of his own.  I’m 82, though friends tell me I can pass for someone of 60.  I am married to Dirk’s mother, Penny.  She is totally quadriplegic after surviving a car crash eight years ago.  An excellent practical nurse and i provide care for her. Her condition can only be described as “complete invalidism.”  To be honest, I have written to several females who placed “personals” in TNYROB and sounded kind-hearted enough to listen to my angst.  Most were in New York, but if you know Long Island you will realize that I could easily take the ferry to Greenport on the North Fork, and then another ferry to Connecticut and come to Boston to see you.  I might also put my wife in a constant care facility and then locate in Providence which is cheaper than where you live but still only a quick journey to the larger city to the north.  I will see if I can arrange a visit to my son for some time later this month, which will give us a chance to meet and see how our chemistries mix at that point.  Cheers, Cal

****************

Men, think twice before clicking “send.”

Ladies, remember it’s a long long road.  Yes, there might be a Bill at the other end of it.

But I do have something to confess. He didn’t write.  He telephoned.  And he had such a nice voice.  I only found out later he can’t spell for beans.