Friday, March 26, 2010

In Praise of Older Women II

You want to see a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1? Check out Esquire magazine’s March Madness Sexiest Woman Alive bracket and vote for the 64-year-old.

"CINDERELLA HELEN MIRREN TALKS MEGAN FOX UPSET" says the headline suggesting that it's an upset when men prefer a 64-year-old to the star (human) bod of the Transformers franchise. In Esquire’s bracket, Mirren is a No. 16 to Fox’s No. 1 seed. In the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament, a sixteen has never beaten a one. But Dame Mirren has been kicking Megan’s tattooed 22-year-old backside.

Said Dame Mirren to Esquire when she heard the news: “I am gobsmacked.”

“Personally,” Esquire quotes her as saying, “I think Ms. Fox is one of the smartest, coolest, and sexiest creatures in the Western Hemisphere.”

I’m not sure when Mirren can be declared the winner and move onto the second round. Esquire first reported the upset days ago, but said Fox was closing the gap. At that point, it was Mirren, 61 to 39 percent. The last time I voted (for Mirren, naturally – read my old post about my boyhood crush), the gap had closed to 54-46. Maybe that’s because Fox mentioned the voting on her Twitter feed. Does Helen Mirren even have a Twitter feed?

I don’t know what explains Helen Mirren standing tall in a sexiest-woman-alive-death-match with one of the reigning teenage-boy poster girls. But I’m glad for it. Let’s face it: The world is lousy with Megan Foxes, and next week there will be dozens more and we’ll have forgotten a thousand others, but there has really been only one Helen Mirren. She’s smart, talented, witty, and, as Esquire notes, a bombshell. She’s also proving that when a woman enjoys a bounty of the virtues that combine to describe sexy, one of them need not be youth.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In Praise of Older Women

The recent gaga about older women-younger man relationships is much focused on the sex lives of celebrities (42-year-old Sam Taylor-Wood having baby with 19-year-old! Demi and Ashton still married! Madonna still with younger man!).

But most of us Himplus couples don’t attend star-studded parties or walk red carpets. We teach. We commute. We walk our dogs. We plant a peach tree in the spring. We wrestle with taxes, insurance, monthly bills.

I was reminded of the divide between my life and those celebrity Himplus couples when I read recently that Stephen Vizinczey’s “In Praise of Older Women,’’ initially published in 1965, is being re-released as a Penguin Classic.

Set against the backdrop of war, the semi-autobiographical book details the sexual education of the narrator through a series of relationships with older women, starting when he was 12. While the narrator discovers erotic pleasure, he also learns about life.

Vizinczey is more interested in the metaphysics of sex than the mechanics; it is, for him, a means to forge a deep connection with another person, a way to liberate the soul,” writes William Skidelsky in The Observer.

In another recent interview in the Telegraph, Hungarian-born writer Vizinczey, now 76, says his fascination with older women was as much about the brain as the body.

“The most attractive thing about a woman is her intelligence. The older women in the book were intelligent enough to learn from experience. An older woman who is an idiot is clearly inferior to an intelligent 20-year-old but the intelligent 20-year-old will be even more interesting and exciting when she's 40 or 60."

He talks, too, more about relationships than about coupling. "Most relationships don't last,” he told the interviewer. “Enduring relationships depend not only on the ages of the couples but whether they are on the same wavelength.”

Still, there’s this too: "To be a young man and have a grown woman as your partner is not just attractive, it is paradise.”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Of Guitar Heroes and unmade beds

The older woman is out of town visiting a sister. That means I’ve reverted to my fifteen- year-old self.

When Sheri is here I wear cardigans and make lists of errands and chores and then do them. At night, I choose piano jazz for our dinner sound track. Some evenings I pour wine, and we talk about our days as grown-ups do. Or we read or finish work from the office. Sometimes we go out. The other night, we treated ourselves to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. I wore a sport coat and felt every bit of age forty-five.

But now, with Sheri gone, I’m tempted to order up last summer’s teen-boy spectacle, Star Trek, on my cable TV. I’ve eaten chocolate ice cream from the container. I’ve wrassled the dogs on the living room rug until we barked at each other. I haven’t made the bed; if I did I’d have to move the basketball. If the neighbors are lucky, I’m shaking the windows with Pearl Jam. If they’re unlucky, it’s Rush.

I know other guys who morph into adolescents when their wives leave town. There’s one fellow who could be a 24-7 Guitar Hero if his wife skedaddled for a week. Another drinks more beer. Texas Hold 'em anyone?

My conclusion: Despite what birth certificates suggest, all husbands are younger men. All wives are older women.