Q: I am so embarrassed to ask this question. It kind of makes me wonder what else may be going on with me. I cannot imagine that twenty years ago I would have had the same question, or maybe I would have?
I am a single woman who has a pretty successful life. I am modestly financially independent. I am active physically and sexually. I work as a marketing consultant, I enjoy my family, and I am a dedicated fencer, competing as often as I can. I have been widowed twice, but I enjoy the several flirtations that I have had over the last ten years. I like to think of myself as a liberal and independent thinker. I also happen to think I'm "hot" and I think most people around me would agree. By the way, I am seventy years old.
The last six months however have been difficult. I have lost two friends and another one is quite ill. I have had some minor issues with my children -they're simply not acting their age - but mostly that's been resolved. I have been flirting with an old boyfriend via e-mail, but he is living with a woman and I really don't think he will leave her for me. All of these minor setbacks and problems have taken me by surprise, and yet I do believe I have handled them well by accepting the inevitable. What these little bumps have done, however, is reduce my sexual libido. I haven't been with anyone for six months.
But at my last fencing match I met a man. At these events, one is obviously focused on one's own game but when I competed against this particular man, I had a hard time keeping my concentrations. I don't think he did such a good job, either. I won the match.
This man and I found ourselves spending our time after our own match with one another. We pretended to watch other matches, until we finally just decided to leave. We decided to have a light supper in the neighborhood. Mostly, we connected but when it came to politics, we were miles apart. He supports the war in Iraq and I am vehemently opposed -not just to it, but to the Bush administration as well.
I found myself easily able to talk with this guy and attracted to him as well. But when he started talking about his politics, I wanted to walk out of the restaurant. How could I be attracted to a conservative? Nevertheless, I still invited him to come to my place the next night and to share a special bottle of wine that I have been saving. I think we both knew what that meant.
But, I cancelled. I got nervous. I worried: Is this something I should be doing? How could I think of a relationship with someone who is so opposed to everything I believe in? When I called, I told him I had forgotten about a previous engagement, but I said I would call him as soon as I knew my plans for the next week or so. Since then he has called me, so I do not believe he thinks I blew him off. Do I want to reschedule? What should I do?
A: I think we really need to strip off your defenses a little bit and expose what is actually happening with you. It's not exactly what you say -or think - is happening. This may sting you a bit, but coming to grips with the truth is necessary so you can make more realistic decisions.
You are analyzing your situation with only half of your feelings. But from what you say, I think you have the emotional strength to see the full picture. You think that by having an affair with a conservative, you'll be seen as either weak or hypocritical -or both. I, on the other hand, think your hesitation has nothing at all to do with ideology and everything to do with a loss of personal and sexual confidence.
Let us review the last six months. Previously, you were quite secure in your relationships with friends, with men, with your family, and comfortable with your age. However, your kids had some problems. You don't make much of that but I believe you're unconsciously questioning your parenting skills and wondering if you actually did such a good job. An old boyfriend did not choose you over someone else and that probably caused you to wonder if your sexual/romantic triumphs were now relegated to the past. Were you losing your attractiveness? Your friends are dying and getting sick. Does that mean that sickness and death are around the corner for you, too? Whereas usually you have the energy and the independence to do almost anything, now you are not even sure if you want to have casual sex.
I believe that it is not politics that holds you back from a wine-tasting date. I believe it is a fear of rejection. If age is settling in on you, if men are going to reject you, then perhaps undressing in front of someone new is taking an awful chance. If he rejects you, as did the old boyfriend, then that will only confirm that you are getting old. Getting old is no walk in the woods.
From what you described as your previous open-mindedness and your status as someone "hot," I would assume that that you did not cancel the date because there is a possibility that this assignation would not become a relationship. I believe you canceled to avoid embarrassment or any more pain.
Yes, you should call the guy. And yes, you should enjoy an evening with him without thinking of the future. In the meantime, though, you have to start accepting your next stage of your life. You're getting older. No ifs, ands or buts. People your age often engage in taking inventory: what did they do? What didn't they do? Hence, your sudden insecurity about the success of your parenting. Aging also means losing some energy, some attractiveness and with that comes a fear of engaging with a new sexual partner.
So, entailed in accepting this stage of life, you need to discard the way we usually analyze situations. In your case, the "happy face" or the certainty that all is successful and that the crisis is over because you have "handled it well," may not be true. You may not be through the crisis. You may need to review again what has been going on the last six months and how it has affected you. It's okay to be angry about getting older. It's okay to be angry about running out of time - time to start down new paths or fix up old mistakes.
You may also want to take a moment to question whether you have been as open and as liberal as you always thought you were. To be worried that this new liaison may not lead to a relationship, sounds to me like recreational sex has not been your cup of tea. What you always wanted was a relationship and not, as you might think, some fun in the sack - and who cares about tomorrow. Do you worry about not being a good girl? Do you hear a little voice in your head --Is that you, mamma?-- who needs to be reassured that with you sex is limited to a relationship?
So, analyze realistically your present stage in life and accept your anger. But, you, for sure, can be thrilled that you possess much more energy than many other 70 year olds. You can also take deep satisfaction in your memories of husbands, children, and other successes. And you can be thrilled with the prospect of new adventures as a vibrant 70 year old who doesn't have to forge new paths, work on relationships, or build careers. Call the guy. Open that bottle of wine -and trust your instincts.
ENJOY THE NIGHT!!!!