Monday, June 1, 2009

Solving for X

Trying on my wife’s dilemma is easier now that I’m almost 45. That’s how old she was when we got married.

A year or so ago I said to her, “I’m the age you were when we met,” and I confessed that I’d been imagining a point-of-view switch, trying to understand how she felt introducing me to friends, meeting me for a drink, going dancing with me, by considering how that would work for me, now, with a woman 17 years younger.

Reader, stop that smirking! You’re saying, “That’s a pretty elaborate rationale for a middle-aged guy to fantasize about younger women.” Not so, dear reader, not so. Especially because when I tried on Sheri’s point of view, it felt – um, yucky.

I imagined myself with particular young women, ones Sheri and I both knew, in situations Sheri and I had shared in our first years. In each case – whether imagining myself meeting one young woman’s dad, or dancing at night clubs with another, or even going grocery shopping – in each case I felt old and silly: instant anachronism. I said to Sheri, “They’re girls. Kids. How did you do it?”

She mentioned one young woman I hadn’t considered. Then she mentioned a second. I said, “Oh.” And I said, “Ah.”

The young women she had in mind had a quality that set them apart, a quality that explains why I hadn’t considered them in the first place. They weren’t, to me, “young” women. They were who they were, fully, and age wasn’t a part of the equation that defined them. Their equations were complicated, advanced calculus, with values that included intelligence and maturity, but other things, too, variables that resist easy description. Sheri said, “You were like them.”

Whatever it adds up to has something to do, I think, with how a person exists in the world, about people’s level of confusion and clarity. Age and all the differences it creates become irrelevent when people share a similar comfort level with life. Older and younger doesn't matter. Sheri might have understood some things that still confounded me, and vice versa, but on a spectrum of confusion and clarity reaching from Lindsey Lohan to a bodhisattva, Sheri and I found ourselves occupying the same spot.

So we went dancing in clubs. Met each others’ parents. Seventeen years later, we still buy groceries.

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