Monday, March 28, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor's younger man

was also her last husband. Larry Fortensky, poof-haired, side-burned, cleft-chinned, ever-silent, twenty years her junior when 59-year-old Liz married him in 1991. They divorced five years later.

Looking for his public comment on Taylor’s death? You won’t find it. He doesn’t talk about her, nor does he seek the camera. When the glamourous Hollywood icon married her younger teamster in 1991, People magazine reported that he never made public comments about his wife. They divorced five years later, and still, he had nothing to say. Now he’s 59, traveling around the country in a trailer, according to a tabloid’s interview with his sister. And though the website Third Age put Elizabeth Taylor in its Cougar Hall of Fame for her marriage to him, he’s never turned his five years of mega-fame as Mr. Elizabeth Taylor into a gig on Survivor or Celebrity Apprentice. Big ups to you, Larry.

But that doesn’t stop the tabloids and gossip websites from speculating about their relationship even now. Did she buy his silence? Did she help him out with house payments? Did she instruct her manager to shield her from his calls?

My problem with the tabloids and their speculations is that their imaginations are so limited. I don’t care if she bought Larry’s silence. I’d rather imagine what he said the last time they spoke. I’d like to know where he was sitting when he learned that she had died, the light by which he read it, on a computer or in the newspaper. Did he notice her name on a Fox News crawler while drinking coffee at a truckstop in New Mexico? Did one of her children call him? Or send a text? When he heard, what did he remember first? The time he first walked into a room at the Betty Ford clinic and saw her, how he tried not to stare? Or how he did stare because what else was there for him to do? When he learned about her death, did he fork another bite of spaghetti, or light a cigarette, because, what else was there to do? Did he want to tell the waitress that the way she carried herself reminded him of someone he once knew?

Tell me that, National Enquirer. Answer those questions, Daily Mail.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sarah Palin as Cougar

Sarah Palin may be losing the hearts of the American people, but she has the libidos of more than a few young men all atwitter.

In a recent poll by Bloomberg News, only 28 percent of respondents in the telephone survey, taken from March 4-7, viewed the former Alaska governor favorably, at least in a political way. Sixty percent disapproved, more than half of them telling pollsters they viewed her very unfavorably.

But over at, an online dating website matching older women and younger men, 250 young men polled in January gave Palin their top ranking as cougar fantasy woman.

Men in the survey ranged from 18 to 46+, with almost half in the 20-25 range.

Palin, 47, was the top crush for young men, with almost 1 in 4 (24%) naming her their top fantasy cougar. Respondents were asked to rank 12 older women, including tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell (2%), news anchor Diane Sawyer (3%) , and Kim Cattrall from "Sex and the City" (6%).

Right behind Palin were TV cougar Courteney Cox (21 percent) and cougar legend Demi Moore (19 percent). Madonna, at age 52, got 10 percent.

What turns on a younger guy?

Half the young men in the survey said this: maturity and confidence. Palin sure has one of those. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Would you? Could you?

Picture us on our 20th anniversary of being a couple, sitting in a candle-lit Cuban restaurant, sipping sweet-tart mojitos, talking about death.

This is why: Not too long from now, we’ll make our first visit to a lawyer to prepare a will. Necessarily, we’re thinking about the thereafter for each of us. If I died, would you – could you? ­– move? Where would you live? If I died, would you – could you? – keep working? Would you – could you? – start dating?

Our waiter in the Cuban restaurant is a gentle man wearing a white shirt and a red scarf. He brings fish and pork. A couple arrive who look as if they are in their mid-20s. He wears a black shirt and a white bow tie.

If you dated, would you – could you? – ever consider again someone so not your own age?

Sheri tilts her head, stops chewing. “I didn’t look for a younger man 20 years ago,” she says. “He just showed up.”

“Well, yes.” Michael leans closer to speak more softly. “But now you could. So the question is, would you?”

“No. I’m not feeling very cougarish these days. I can’t imagine a man your age actually seeking out a woman my age. Can you?”

“It’s possible. But it’s not so easy to imagine as when you were in your 40s and I was in my 20s. I wasn’t looking for an older woman twenty years ago, either. It just happened. It could happen again, but I think I’d seek someone more my age.”

“That’s true of me, too. If a man were younger, he’d be five years or so younger, but not seventeen. Or five years older.”

“Interesting how there is such a strong impulse to seek a partner in your own age group. Yet we fell in love anyway. And it doesn’t mean it would happen again. Probably it wouldn’t.”

“It used to be, when I imagined your life after me, should I die, it was always with a younger woman, one who could bear children. Now that you’re heading toward 50, that picture is breaking up a bit.”

“That’s because she’d have to be 17 years younger.”

The gentle waiter brings us flan, and we share, dividing the final taste into ever smaller and smaller pieces. Sheri, looking over Michael’s shoulder, notices another couple. This woman keeps looking away from her date, eyeing the well-dressed man in black shirt and white bow tie. Her date is dressed in jeans and a baggy shirt, and Sheri smiles and Michael asks “What?” and she tells him. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Juan Williams moment

(…albeit, not likely to get me fired from writing for this blog.)

You remember Juan. Longtime NPR contributor and liberal foil for Fox News? Last October, he mentioned on The O’Reilly Factor that he gets nervous on airplanes when he sees other passengers dressed in garb that, as he later wrote, “identifies them first and foremost as Muslims.” Given the situation -- a shouting match with O'Reilly and a conservative writer – what Williams had to say sounded awful. Later, he seemed to want to clarify that the airplane unease he described was unreasonable and rash and no useful tool for making decisions about policy or people. If I understand him – and maybe I'm being too generous – he was describing a human phenomenon: that we all sometimes have rash impulses about people we could describe as “other” – not us, not of our tribe, not belonging to what we know as the dominant culture or following the mainstream models of behavior. We mustn’t, however, act on these impulses. We mustn't stereotype people based on what we've seen -- real or imagined -- of others like them. We must take a deep breath and think.

But you know the rest of the story. NPR fired Williams.

Now, here I am, a guy writing a blog about his longtime love affair with his 17-years-older wife. And I get an e-mail from a 27-year-old woman saying how much she loves the blog and of course, why not, because she lives with her boyfriend who is 19 years older, which makes him, coincidentally, my age.

My rash-Juan-Williams impulse?

Yup. All the wrong stereotypes.

I’m embarrassed to admit this. Shouldn’t I (of all people!) recognize the myriad and miraculous ways love unfolds? Absolutely. But I veered right into making made-for-TV-movie stereotypes out of living, breathing, loving, complicated people. What makes my reaction more troubling is that I know this woman – I worked with her a few years ago. She’s smart and savvy. Nevertheless, for a nano-second, I had a gut reaction, for which I now apologize to Smart-and-Savvy and her older beau. My rational better angel wishes you happiness and all the strange beauty that comes with love.

So, there we go. Please don’t fire me. Instead, climb inside my head and wonder along with me: How many other people have impulsive thoughts and reactions when they meet Smart-and-Savvy and her partner? How do these people react? And what do such reactions mean for this couple as they make their way through a world where it is already much too difficult for couples to find and keep love?

What impulses have people had about Sheri and me?

Thanks, all of you, for not acting on them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sir Walter Scott and Me

Michael, here. You all know me on this blog as the younger husband -- in love, often puzzled, hungry for a slice of pizza. But out in the world I’m also a writer, and today I'd like to pass on some good writing news.

A great independent publishing house in the UK has taken a liking to a manuscript of short stories that I’ve written. My manuscript, The Greatest Show, is on the shortlist with nine others competing for the The Scott Prize, named for Sir Walter (“I cannot tell how the truth may be; / I say the tale as ’t was said to me”). According to the site, up to four winning manuscripts are published by SALT. The shortlist includes amazing and exciting writers, and I’m feeling pretty lucky to have mine included.

You can read more about The Greatest Show and the circus fire that inspired it at my other blog, named (no surprise here) The Greatest Show.

Thanks! Now back to love and age ...