Sunday, November 29, 2009

What She’s Learned: Sheri Venema

Married to a younger man, Baltimore; interviewed a day before her 62nd birthday, with thanks to Esquire magazine for the inspiration.

I don’t think I could love a man who thought Sarah Palin would be good for the country.

Ozark was the best dog because she loved us more than unconditionally. I don’t know if that’s possible, but she trusted us so completely. You just can’t let down a dog. I felt like Ozark sort of opened my soul.

I’ve never seduced a younger man. Not like Mrs. Robinson did.

I do not understand why my husband is so crazy about the Muppets. Just today he made me watch the Muppets singing the Bohemian Rhapsody, and I couldn’t stand it.

He showed he was young by the way he dressed. Goofy shorts. A Grateful Dead T-shirt at the office. Very unprofessional. He cooked on a hot plate.

Don’t meet the parents for the first time in the midst of all of his other relatives. We’re at a Christmas party. One of his cousins videotaped us as we came in the door. Everyone else belonged to a club I wasn’t part of yet, plus I was the older woman. The pictures of me from that day, my shoulders are drawn up toward my ears.

I’m delighted to learn why it’s not easy being green, but that’s as far as I get the Muppets.

On the other hand, my husband had never heard the song “Summertime” when I met him.

A younger man can learn to be a very good cook if you’re willing to let him in the kitchen. He’ll probably never clean the refrigerator.

My best beach in the world is Otter Creek on Lake Michigan. It has Petoskey stones, it has birch trees, it has long expanses of empty beach you can have to yourself. My idea of a good beach is not a boardwalk with sno-cones.

I’ll never be buried in the same cemetery with my parents.

Why did I attract a younger guy? Because we knew each other in Bulgaria in the 12th century. What a stupid question.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Hey Brian, who are you dating? Jessica Tandy?"

The Fox cartoon series
Family Guy has found its way into the older woman-younger man zeitgeist except in this case the younger man is also a dog.

Brian – the talking, martini-drinking, bimbo-dating family pet – meets an older woman and hijinx ensue. This episode will only be available on for a little while, so act fast.

And thanks – I think – to Maureen for the heads-up.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love and the Knife Blade

Say I'm a time traveler like in the movie. Not as good looking as some (see Eric Bana, right), but a time traveler nonetheless. And say I have a wife. And let's say that wife is the same wife I have now. We'll call her Sheri.

In real life, when we met, Sheri was 42
and I was 25. Despite our age difference, we got all weak-kneed and tingly with each other and then got married.

But forget real life for a minute. This is reel life.

So, let’s say, because I’m a time traveler my 25-year-old self pops into the chrono-pseudo-slipstream and stumbles out into 1974 to meet Sheri’s 25-year-old self, the way Eric Bana meets his wife at various stages of her life. In The Time Traveler’s Wife, he’s always the same age, and whenever he meets his wife – whether she’s a six-year-old girl or pimple-faced or a sexy twenty-something – she’s smitten with him. Like the movie copy reads, she’s loved him her entire life.

So here’s 25-year-old me popping back to 1974 and meeting 25-year-old Sheri. You know what happens? She doesn’t even see me. There’s a vibe I give off that makes me invisible, because the vibe says I’m a guy who enjoy visits with his grandparents, who likes Gordon Setters more than Dobermans, who eats too much apple pie but has never tried cocaine. I’m – oh, God – I’m … too nice.


Sheri, it turns out, spent her twenties and thirties falling for dangerous men. She craved thrills and edges; sometimes she fell from them and got hurt. There’s at least one guy who, if I ever meet him, will get hurt in turn.

Plenty of theorists have studied why women – and men, too – want the dangerous mate. There are biological theories, social theories. I don’t know much about those. I know I’m not alone in thinking that Sandy in Grease was way hotter – dangerous, powerful, and sexier – once she lost the printed
skirts and squirmed into those leather pants.

But a time came when I figured out that there are other kinds of power, other kinds of sexiness, and I outgrew that craving for love on the blade of a knife. That was when I was in my mid-twenties, about the time I met Sheri (the 42-year-old version). She evinced one of those other kinds of power, an energy more about sexuality than prowling. I can’t define it, but I think it stemmed from the advent of her realization that she didn’t need dangerous men.

As Sheri tells the story, that realization became complete when she saw me – the nice guy – spike a volleyball with a concentrated, precise violence. Maybe aggression didn’t have to be reckless and unpredictable. Maybe power could be paired with nice.

So when I say we went all weak-kneed and tingly despite our age difference, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we tingled because of it.

Or maybe a younger man is just a different kind of danger. Danger of a safer sort.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Going fast

My mother, who would turn 100 years old this week were she still alive, was not quick to bless my relationship with Michael when it started more than 18 years ago. That’s not a surprise: Michael was younger than some of her grandsons.

“Take it easy,” she told me three months after Michael and I had moved past the friends stage. “Don’t go too fast; I don’t want you to get hurt.”  I was the youngest of her five children. I was also the first to be divorced (eventually three of us would be), and she had been protective of me ever since.

What my 81-year-old widowed mother didn’t tell me at the time was that she was also falling in love again. He was an older man she had known since high school.

 And when another three months had gone by and the relationships were moving forward, we made a pact to meet in northern Michigan. “I’ll bring my boyfriend if you’ll bring yours,” I told her.  In no time,  Michael had won his way into my mother’s heart.

Mom and Claus married soon after, and Michael and I followed the next year.

It still thrills me that my mother loved and married again at 82. I thought she was so brave, traveling that road again with a man who was, by that time, 86. But I think now it was not bravery so much as just flat-out plain-and-simple true love.

Like mother, like daughter. When love visits you — the kind of love that makes you know you are blessed every day — it doesn’t matter what age you are. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Gerrie sat in a restaurant in Oregon reading a book. She was 46 years old with three adult kids. Wayne, who worked there, saw the title and couldn’t help but comment. He was 25. Three years later, they were married.

Gerrie wrote to us as one of more than one hundred new readers we picked up a couple of weekends back when The New York Times allowed us to include our Web address in a comment on their story about younger men and older women. Hey, welcome everybody! Keep coming back! We publish about once a week …

Gerrie found us via the Times, and let us know that she and Wayne have been married sixteen years. Do the math: She’s 62; her husband is 41. Yeah, that's right. Him+21.

“Wayne and I have long since forgotten our age difference,” she wrote to us in an e-mail. “My three adult kids (two of whom are older than Wayne) love and respect him as a person and as my husband.”

The part about her story that amazes me is that parenthetical aside. The punctuation reminds me of those famous two words from Nabokov’s Lolita when Humbert Humbert reports on his mother’s death and then puts the details in parentheses “(picnic, lightning)”. With Humbert, the parentheses show a horrifying callousness. With Gerrie, the punctuation is miraculous. A younger man with an older woman bucks society from the get-go, and to add any child likely makes the affair more difficult; to add children who are also older usually gets you fifteen minutes on Dr. Phil. But Gerrie’s punctuation (those little curves) indicate a dynamic that once was unusual, but is now, for Gerrie’s family, a given.

No surprise, given the title of the book Gerrie was reading the day Wayne approached her table.