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.”

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