Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our lives in Bollywood

Him+17 turned a year old this January. Thanks for all the cards and gifts! That package of string cheese and aged gouda? So clever … And the boxed DVD set of Season 1 of Cougartown? We’ll watch right after we get through our Netflix queue.

Speaking of movies …

We started this blog to get famous(!) or to get a book contract (!!) or to start thinking about material we could use in essays and eventually publish in literary journals in exchange for two contributor’s copies.

So far, we have not received two contributor’s copies of anything. Nor do we have a book contract. And if we are famous, it is only in India where, Vishnu willing, we are characters in a Bollywood film. Sheri is played by Raakhee. Michael, because no Bollywood actor wears glasses, will have to settle for the lightly-bearded Abhishek Bachchan.

It’s a leap to think of us that way, I know. But we have our reasons to suspect that somewhere in New Dehli, someone is working to put our life story on film …

Over the last year we’ve monitored our site using Google Analytics, which makes us feel a bit like Santa Claus or Dick Cheney because the app lets you spy on visitors to your Web site. We know, for example, that 1,500 visitors stopped by during our first year, and six of ten returned to look again. Most people who found us used a search string involving Stacey Anderson and Jimmy Heck, the cougar and her prey from the reality TV show that ran last year. We could even infer the timing of The Cougar’s concluding episodes in other countries because we saw international visitor spikes using those search words (we’re looking at you Cougar fans in South Africa and Sweden!).

The closest day we had to going viral was Oct. 16 when we had 129 visitors. Sheri had posted a link to our blog in a comment on a New York Times story about older women loving younger men. Lift off! And we also know that visitors from Canada read us longer than people from any other country. We love Canada.

Outside the 3,300 visits we’ve received from the United States, the country that has sent most visitors is India. This is no surprise given that India has the world’s second largest population (China is No. 1, but government authorities must have censored us – we’ve only received two visits from the PRC).

Now we explain the Bollywood connection.

Of our 102 visits from India, 82 came via search terms involving some version of “hollywood movies with affair between older woman and younger man” or “older woman younger boy movies.”

In our fantasy, these Googlers are aspiring Bollywood screen writers looking for a story. Maybe they want to adapt a film we’ve mentioned (The Reader, Harold and Maude, Cheri), but we’d prefer to think they see in our story something new. They peruse our posts, scribble notes or just copy and paste. “Brilliant writing!” one says.

“Yes, an ice skating scene …”

“Ah, the struggles of the woman meeting the future mother-in-law!”

“Dream messages from the dead boyfriend. How poignant.”

“Oh, ho! What if the boy toy meets the ex-boyfriend!” (That’s where the gunplay comes in).

Our imaginary Bollywood writer decides on a tale of a May-December office romance that must be kept hidden even though co-workers are experts in rooting out secrets – they’re all newspaper reporters. Even as our heroes struggle to keep their older-woman/younger-man love affair alive, the writer gets to work in the tension of a dying profession. The younger man becomes a, a, a blogger! And the older woman is an award-winning investigative reporter! Ooops! That’s already a Russell Crowe flick.

We’re serious. Next time you’re in Mumbai, check the marquee.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Dream

Michael asked me today what it was like to tell other people about our relationship way back in the early days — when we looked as we do in these photos. Were you ashamed? Proud? Did you strut it? How did you tell your mom? Your sister?

The truth is that I was embarrassed at first and didn’t want to tell anyone. That was partly because I thought it couldn’t last, partly because my inner voices mocked me for not being able to snag someone my own age. After an active dating life as a divorcĂ©e in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, my options had dwindled. When Newsweek reported in 1986 that a 40-year-old single woman was "more likely to be killed by a terrorist" than to marry, I scoffed but also noted that I would turn 40 the next year with few prospects in sight.

All of that might have driven me away from him and under the covers of my empty bed except for a dream I had early one January morning. Michael and I were barely into the talking stage; we had met on a committee at work, watched each other play volleyball, sent a few electronic messages that were friendly but cagey. And then I had a dream about him.

In the dream, we were in a familiar place, and we kissed. Still in the mists of half-sleep, I said his name to myself. But the person who appeared in my mind was not Michael. Instead, it was a boyfriend from my college days. We’ll call him Thom.

Thom had haunted me for years: the good man whose marriage proposal I had rejected in favor of the exciting man. By the time the exciting man and I divorced, it was too late. I never saw Thom again, and later heard that he had died in a car accident.

Now, here he was in my dream in place of Michael. The message could not have been clearer: Michael was my do-over, another shot at the right choice, an opening to make good on that one large regret in my life.

After that I still had trouble telling people. I blushed and stammered and got tongue-tied. But now I carried with me the certainty of that dream — the absolute knowing that I should go forward, the gratitude for a second chance.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Unripe grapes and Old Crow

They sat in silence for a while, then he put his hand on hers. Their table was in the farthest corner of the garden. At the opposite end, some kids from the college program were having beers. She thought there was probably some obvious course of action she was supposed to take here, some profoundly adult way of defusing the situation.

“I’ve had a big crush on you since I was five.”

“That’s ridiculous. You know that, right?”

“I used to look through my mom’s photo albums with her. I thought you were what a Beatles song would look like if it could walk around.”

“And that doesn’t even make sense.”

He stroked her arm and she closed her eyes.

The “she” in this case, is a 40-year-old on vacation with her best friend in Greece, recreating a visit they’d taken decades ago. But this time, Laura is full of "a sense of squandered time" because she’s just learned that her longtime boyfriend still loves his ex-wife. The “he” is her best friend’s son who is old enough to have great pecs though not yet in college. They live in a short story called “Santorini” from a book called Black Elvis, written by a friend and colleague, Geoffrey Becker. It’s a moving story in a funny-sad book, which was published this fall after winning the Flannery O’Connor Award.

Most characters in Black Elvis are living in between. In between jobs, love affairs, permanent addresses. Two of the twelve stories feature affairs between younger men and older women. “Black Days” involves a 30-year-old blues-guitar playing adjunct college professor and a singer named Desire. She’s in her fifties.

Becker ramps up the drama inherent in a younger man/older woman affair. Laura’s friend, Flo, has no idea what’s transpiring between her best friend and son. In “Black Days,” the couple’s bickering is less about age than education: he’s got a Phd., she makes up words. “You think I’m stupid,” she accuses.

It’s fun to unravel the stories, to notice how Becker makes every detail work. When Laura and the boy are getting tipsy in the garden on Santorini, they’re surrounded by “unripe grapes.” The bourbon he pours for her is “Old Crow.” Days later, after Laura orders drinks for Flo and Harrison, Flo complains, “You’re going to corrupt him … Imagine if either of our parents had come along with us last time.” Answers Laura: “Let’s not.”

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Notes from Him-plus Land

This blog has been ignoring the news that Susan Sarandon (63) and Tim Robbins (51) have split after 23 years together. That’s probably because I hadn’t gotten myself to believe it, despite the obvious evidence.

When I first met Michael, I had on my apartment wall a poster from “Bull Durham” with Kevin Costner’s “I Believe In…” speech. Of course I had rooted for Susan Sarandon’s Annie Savoy to fall for Costner’s Crash Davis, and not the goofy kid Nuke LaLoosh, played by Robbins.

But in real life she did fall for Robbins. And the two of them, with their 12-year age difference, were a sort of guiding star for Michael and me. And now, well… dang it. My first thought when I heard the news? Age difference! He wants a younger woman. But the recent rumor mill busts that stereotype, suggesting it’s Sarandon who’s taking up with a younger mate. What to make of this?

Just when I’m trying to get my head around that, along comes this story about true love in today’s Washington Post. She: 65, a dance instructor. He: 32, one of her students. They met when he was 23; they married a year ago, on New Year’s Eve. “It’s almost like she’s oxygen to me,” he says.

Here’s what I take away from all of this: That love can start and love can end in surprising ways. That a 33-year age difference makes our 17-year gap seem paltry. That I should live every day believing that Michael and I will outlast Annie and Nuke.