Let me state the givens first, to get them out of the way.
Yes, Sheri and I – like many married couples – share a bed, and in bed we sometimes do a variety of those things consenting adults sometimes do which we will place under a general heading called, in this case, sex. Yes, sexual satisfaction is a measure of happiness in our marriage, but not the sole measurement. Yes, Sheri’s body is different in obvious and subtle ways from the body she had when I married her and from the bodies of many younger women. Likewise, my body is different in obvious and subtle ways from the body I had when we married and, though my role in this love affair is that of “the younger man,” my body isn’t a young man’s body anymore. Yes, like many happy people who also have sex, we realize sex is not only about the body but also about intimacy and imagination and love and fun and Gato Barbieri playing "Europa."
I’m writing about this because last week we received a comment from an “Anonymous” who tells us, basically, that younger men (meaning, Mr. Anonymous) don’t want to make love to a wrinkled old woman with a flabby stomach. He has learned about sex with older women through personal experience, he tells us; his wife is 41. And he would like for this ancient woman to set him free so he can have sex with younger women. This assumes, of course, that younger women will want to have sex with him.
Because the comment was directed to Sheri on a post she authored, she answered – in her typical no-nonsense way. But I want to answer, too. Anonymous’ views about younger men – and in particular his assumptions about me and my sex life – aren’t singular. Likeminded attitudes accompany comments on other younger men/older women blogs or on news stories about the latest HimPlus celebrity match. Clearly, some younger men get weirded out over the idea of sex with an older woman. Usually, they refer to flabby-this and wrinkled-that in their comments.
O Youth and Beauty!
That’s the title of a John Cheever short story in which a fellow tries to pretend he is not old by leaping furniture during a dinner party. It’s a silly exercise –- hurdling couches –- one that denies the obvious, and Cheever’s hero pays for it.
Here is what was obvious to me when Sheri and I married: She was older, therefore our hows and whys and whens of sex would be different. We’d have to be able to talk about those things, and we have. Also, on the verge of marriage, I asked myself a question, which, in paraphrase was something like “If sex weren’t part of your life with Sheri, would you still want her in your house, in your home, in your bed, til death do you part?” And the answer was “yes.” With Sheri in my life, the world felt more certain, I became a better person than I had any right to be, and it seemed to me that with her I could jump couches as long as I might like. Anonymous might not have asked himself that question.
Here is what’s now obvious to me: my wife is sexiest when she’s happy, and that is in moments like this one from last week, when at a beach on the Atlantic Ocean, as the tide came crashing in, she stood tall on an old piece of tree stump affixed into the sand, and from that perch she watched seawater and foam swirl around her feet. That’s the woman with whom I share a bed.