Saturday, September 12, 2009

Older Women: A Personal History

The one I’d marry one day steps through the newsroom to return my record album (a Congolese Mass), paying no attention to who stares, steps up to my desk and I stand to meet her: smiles, she hands me the album, we chat, comfortable, and after she walks away (leaving the air tingling with possibility’s electric hum) a colleague sidles up and says, “So Mike, who’s the blonde?”

Years earlier, senior year in political science, I’m paired with a woman with salt-and-pepper hair for after-hours study, and later we’re pals driving hours out of town to watch David Bowie in a retrospective, her teenage daughter back in the apartment they shared, and though my parents tease me about an older woman, there’s no stardust falling ’round me, and I never had the sense she expected that, either – but, you know, sometimes I read headlines and still can’t tell you the news.

Travel farther back, and she’s three or four years older, five at the most – I can’t remember – but a graduate student, and dating her that summer feels like driving fast through red lights because we keep it a secret in the small office where we work, how we undress each other, what she teaches me about sex, laughter, and the brassy joy of a woman from Chicago.

Now I’m fourteen and my friends ogle Farah Fawcett posters on their walls, but late at night I’m watching PBS and As You Like It with Rosalind played by Helen Mirren – twice my age at the time – and I am smitten, because California tans and curling-iron hair aren’t nearly as sexy as confidence and wit, and Willie Shakespeare knew that, too.

Way back, almost before memory there’s an aunt, younger than other aunts and pretty, too, with no children of her own, sweet to me, her grammar school nephew, and after a long family trip I whine about a sore back, so while others play cards or unwrap lunch, she kneads my shoulders, explaining that you massage around the knot and not the knot itself, and her fingers through my shirt raise goose bumps on my arms and a boy’s crush in my heart, and years later I’m still astonished how even an innocent touch can seduce.

Sometimes I wonder whether there’s something in me that’s different, strange, better or worse, that can explain this anomaly of love. Brain chemistry? A particular gene? Zodiac signs? A person, a time, a place? Patterns elude me because for every older woman there is one younger or the same age. These days, young men go on reality TV or to mixers intent on bedding an older woman. That’s the anomaly to me, as odd as seeking a woman of a particular zodiac sign, or income, or one who is left-handed rather than right. Stop looking. Stop wondering. One day she might be there, Sagittarius, earning a third again your salary, batting a volleyball with her right hand, pony-tail swinging. So you think, well, every day is an accident, history isn’t fate, sometimes the news is good.


  1. Great blog in concept and execution! You gotta work in Raymond and Cissy Chandler (18 year age gap there). Love stories never go out of style.

  2. Thanks, Wade. The Chandlers are a good idea for next time. I remember reading about a biography that came out about them a few years back. And I can add Robert Louis Stevenson (ten years younger than Fanny).