Younger Man: We worked at the same newspaper, and that’s how we met, but things really took off when we agreed to meet for drinks. She wore a short skirt and black hose, and she sat at a shiny metal bar in a dark room smoking a Merit Light and drinking a shot of Jameson. She terrified me.
Older Woman: We’d been playing on the paper’s volleyball team for a while, and sharing music and stories. So I asked Michael to go for a drink after work. At the bar, he said something about his editor. “He’s the same age I am, 26,” he said. 26????? I took a gulp of Jameson and thought hard.
YM: Thought about what?
OW: Thought I was way off thinking you were 32. Wondered if you knew how old I was. Wondered if you had laid down that “26” as a subtle way to get me to tell MY age.
YM: No. It wasn’t a hint. I thought you – I thought she, that is, Sheri – was about ten years older than I. She looked like she could be 36. This great mane of blond hair. Slim. Like Candace Bergen in her Murphy Brown days. But it was the cigarettes and whiskey that scared me. I hadn’t yet learned to drink hard liquor. I didn’t smoke.
OW: I was willing to play at the edges of conventional romance. Ten years I could handle. If you were 32 to my 43, well, we could see where that led. But a 26-year-old was a whole ‘nother country. Still, you had a certain sureness about yourself, and a calm approach to the world that I admired. Plus, you could really spike a volleyball so I knew you weren’t one of those plaid-shirted, courduroy-pantsed, bearded tea-drinkers from my past. And your kindness made me know you also weren’t one of the dangerous boys I’d often found.
YM: Edges? You were willing to dive into the gorge without a bungee. Seventeen years! When I was born you were a senior in high school. When I was a high school senior, you had been married and divorced. I like to imagine the colors and shapes that quivered before your eyes when you learned my mother is four years older than you. There’s not enough whiskey in the world.
OW: Yes, and I have nephews older than you, sisters older than your mother.
YM: These days, they’d call you a Cougar. Cougars are hip now. Older women and younger men – it’s all the rage. I saw a half-hour special on Entertainment Tonight.
OW: One of my best friends told me, “Just have a fling. If it doesn’t last, so what?” That was almost 18 years ago.
YM: A fling is easy. It’s what happens in the intervening years that’s most interesting. Right now Demi Moore is, what, 46? And Ashton Kutcher maybe 30. Now, imagine them at seventy and fifty-four. Where’s that Cougar roar? Now that you are 61, I couldn’t have imagined this life. You can retire soon. I’m still building a career.
OW: Now that you’re the same age I was when we met, I’ve watched you become the man I knew you’d be. Being with a younger man, one who’s still building a career, tricks me into thinking I’m at the same place in life. Besides, I can still swim a half-mile a lot faster than you can.
YM: Yes. That’s the interesting stuff. I trick you into feeling young. Sometimes, you trick me into feeling old. There’s so much I’ve learned about what it means to live with and love an older woman. There’s so much I still don’t understand. And there are some things waiting for us that scare me. That’s why it’s good to write about it now, to take on a shared blog, a shared book. We’ve got a past to figure out, and a future worthy of wonder.
OW: Oh my god. Joan Collins is married to someone who is 32 years younger.
YM: What are you doing?
OW: I googled older women-younger men.
YM: What did you find?