Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The HimPlus roundup!

… in which your HimPlus host and hostess look around the world of older women and younger men and ask “What the–?”

Bonus points for a banana slug mixer: The Society of Single Professionals planned a “single cougars mixer” in Santa Cruz, Calif. according to a report on the San Jose Mercury-News website. Says the host, “We were having them all the time in the Bay area, but people were tired of having to drive (from Santa Cruz).” Coincidentally, Santa Cruz is also home of the college with the best mascot nickname ever, the UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs. Banana slugs are hermaphrodites that reproduce by exchanging sperm with other slugs …

They swap Jimmy Choos and jewelry, too: Having never watched “All My Children,” we missed the summer romance between Susan Lucci’s Erica Kane character and a boy toy. Erica Kane has apparently been married at least ten times, her daughter at least once. We know that about her daughter because Erica's new boyfriend used to be her son-in-law.

Pretty soon, they'll call it Cougar Nation: ABC premieres a comedy series called “Cougartown” on Sept. 23, 9:30 p.m. starring Courtney Cox. The title refers to a high school football team, but also (wink, wink) Cox's efforts to score with a younger man. Reports suggest the show was originally supposed to be about the aging process of an attractive woman, but the producers decided to add the younger man because, says producer Bill Lawrence, “it’s the zeitgeisty topic right now.” ABC advertised this show a lot during the NBA playoffs, I noticed. Timeouts were a constant barrage of Bud Light, Lexus cars, and cougars. Male fantasies every last one.

"Momma's gonna give you a little jump start": A Manhattan psychologist who sings country music, natch, has recorded a single called “Cougar Dream.” Listen here. As the man sings, "She's gonna get you."

Breakup sex: In tracking our HimPlus audience, we notice many people look at the site after Googling about that TV Land reality show The Cougar. The search strings include words such as "Stacey Anderson" and "Jimmy Heck" and "What are they doing now?" Well, we have a guess ...

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Well-Aged Affair

The younger man is getting old. There’s gray in his beard now, and stiff muscles in the morning.  On the basketball court he tries to compensate for loss of speed with more brain, more muscle.

In three months, he’ll turn 45, the same age I was when we married.

In the older-woman-younger-man narrative, the man is always young. Always the sweet-skinned lover, the fresh youth. It’s pretty to think it could last, that the potential always lies ahead, that, as on Keats’ Grecian urn, the  youth will always yearn to kiss his love, and that she will never fade.

 For this older woman, watching her young man age brings empathy, but also surprise. If he’s getting older, getting gray, getting creaky, I’m even more so. But it’s been a vindication, of sorts, to observe him heading into the middle years and see how he makes his way.

Now, sometimes, I’m the one who has to slow down and wait for him on mountain hikes. When he was in his mid 30s and I in my early 50s, he just assumed I could walk up a mountain as easily as he could. I remember thinking his time would come. Now it is.

He’s been laughing since he was 33 about becoming an adjunct AARP member. Now, he’s only five years away from getting his own card.

One of the best parts about watching him age is knowing that my hunches about him were right all those years ago. I sensed that that 26-year-old would become the man he is now. He had many dreams then, and I’ve watched him reach almost every goal he set for himself. And while it’s true that age brings a slow realization of diminished possibilities, his dreaming has kept me reaching, as well.

Here’s an unexpected thing: As he gets older, it feels as though he’s catching up to me, as though our age difference is shrinking. His sweet skin is rougher now and feels more like my own. I just finished reading The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a novel that plays with time and love, telling the story of a man who ages backward. I know I’m not really getting younger, but I do feel as though I’m not getting old as fast as I might be were I married to someone my own age.

Time and love are variables in all of life. Watching them intersect — weaving around and through each other — is one of the joys of a well-aged love affair.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Generation Gap

When Sheri declared in a HimPlus17 post last week that I belonged to the Sesame Street generation, I considered it the end of a long-running debate. Finally (imagine me doing the
Kirk Gibson fist-pump) she’s surrendered the notion that I’m a Baby Boomer!

Though many demographers – and my boomer wife – have assigned me boomer status by virtue of my birth in the last months of 1964, I’ve never identified with the “Where-were-you-when-JFK-was-shot” or “Make-Love-Not-War” crowd. Though I appreciate much of what the boomers wrought in this country, I’ve sometimes found myself resenting their omnipresence and cultural self-obsession. That’s why I prefer the generational divisions made by demographers
Neil Howe and William Strauss who assign Gen X (my generation of choice) the birth years of 1961-1981. As Sheri noted last week, she’s Woodstock; I’m Sesame Street.

There is something tribal about generational identification, with accompanying tribal loyalties and myopias. I want Sheri and me to be different generations because it’s more interesting that way – we get to challenge each other’s generational assumptions. Anyone with parents knows that generation gaps can lead to fights. Generation gaps might even be as challenging as accomodating different religions
or politics or ethnicities or national heritages. Negotiating that gap is part of the fun of a HimPlus affair. Aside from the pop culture exchanges (she wanted me to see Midnight Cowboy and Chinatown; I showed her MTV and her first glimpse of a music video), there are ways we view the world differently that might be idiosyncratic, but that might also be generational. I worry more about unemployment and inflation;
she has a JFK-esque belief that anything is possible; she likes to watch the nightly news; I have a sense that change comes slowly, requires patience and is more likely to happen locally than globally or even nationally.

I thought about this after reading a
Washington Post article about a woman who consults with Boomer and Gen X business managers who can’t figure out the Millennials they’ve hired. Millennials are so different, this consultant argues, that Boomers and Gen Xers need a guide to work with them. So I wonder: what about love? What’s different in the world views of a Gen X woman and her Millennial man? What attitudes and assumptions would come into conflict? What would the couple have to negotiate?

If you are from those generations, we’d love to hear. You’ll be each other’s consultants.

Monday, July 6, 2009

To the Moon

Woodstock. The moon landing. The secret bombing of Cambodia. All of it 40 years ago.

Other things that happened in 1969: Sheri graduated from college and started teaching junior high English in Michigan. Michael entered kindergarten in Connecticut.

That fall, Sheri picked out dishes and flatware patterns and got married. Michael took naps with his afternoon-session classmates and learned how to make puppets from paper bags. His was a tiger, which he later lost.

Some of Sheri’s 8th-graders had crushes on her. Michael did NOT have a crush on his kindergarten teacher. “She was older,” he says, without irony.

The Grammy award for best song that year went to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” Coincidence? You decide.

But look how the seeds of the new generation are contained in the old. In 1969, the same year that saw the death of 1950s icon Dwight Eisenhower and launched the Woodstock generation, “Sesame Street,” was born. If the seminal events of my baby boom generation were the Vietnam War and a concert at Max Yasgur’s farm, Michael’s generation would be shaped by Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch and the Cookie Monster on a mythical urban corner.

My generation learned to question authority, but the moon landing also taught us to dream big.

Michael’s Sesame Street generation learned — from a frog — that
it’s not easy being green. But Kermit also taught him to find beauty in the ordinary, one of Michael’s most endearing qualities.

1969. A rebellious English teacher. An earnest kindergarten kid. An impossible distance. As far apart as the moon and earth.