Sunday, May 22, 2011

Our AARP photo shoot

good photos by Bill Miles

I did not want our photo shoot to be on Wednesday.

Kaimin, the dog, had a surgery appointment, and my 5:30 p.m. class in longform nonfiction narrative required me to carefully read six LONG student papers. I didn’t even know what was going on in Sheri’s life; she was out of town.

“Any day after Wednesday,” is what I told the assistant photo editor at the famous national magazine. “Any day but Wednesday.”

So, of course, we decided on Wednesday. When AARP The Magazine wants your picture – like, now – it’s hard to say no.

Please wear dark washed jeans, the photo assistant instructed us. Warm tones. No logos or hats or sunglasses.

Why did AARP want our picture? I’ve written an essay for the magazine, scheduled to appear in the coming September/October issue. The essay isn’t about Sheri and me, but our age difference plays a big part. Therefore: a photo shoot.

I knew that the photog would take a few hours out of our Wednesday. What I didn’t know is how he’d change Tuesday. When the nation’s largest circulation magazine sends a photographer to take a picture inside your wife’s house, well, you’ve just made her life a whole lot busier.

Sheri suddenly became Martha Stewart’s neater twin – on meth. She cleaned, she straightened, she eliminated the clutter of our everyday lives. Business cards on the fridge? In the drawer! The dog food containers? Banished to the basement! That bowl of coupons? Ha! We aren’t the sort of people who use coupons.

Bill with the shirt Sheri vetoed.
 Photo by Michael
She even got a haircut, all while I was at school for the last day of classes. When I came home, the house was beautiful but also, in its way, naked. I found a place to hide my keys, then grabbed the vacuum cleaner and added to the spic and the span. Later we picked out our dark, washed jeans and our warm tones. Sheri vetoed the comfy old shirt I chose. “I think that nice blue one is neater,” she said. Herself, she tried on three tops before choosing the one. Sagely, I approved of all three.

The next day, Bill the Photog arrived. He brought an assistant named David, a Jeep full of photo equipment, and a perfect smile. We gave him the run of the house, and soon he’d picked out the settings for our shoot: backyard, bed, big green chair in living room. He’d also judged my shirt to be too something and asked whether I had anything else. I showed him my closet. He picked out the shirt Sheri had vetoed.

I gloated. Though maybe it’s not so good to have a better AARP fashion sense than your older wife’s.

Bill and David were fun to have around. They were efficient and pleasant. Bill has shot for some big companies, including Lexus, Land’s End, and the drug company Pfizer. He’s got the commercial photographer’s exquisite sense of how to create in one photograph a world where everything is easy with joy. He got us to laugh with each other, even after a day of manic house cleaning.

Ask your doctor.
And when he used tape to get a window blind drawstring out of the background of a shot, I knew Sheri was right to have insisted we clean up our clutter. In the world of ease and light, where we lived for a few minutes on Wednesday, the only strings allowed are the ones that make you dance.


  1. That's awesome!! You guys still look great, and many more happy years together!

    Former student of one, and colleague of the other,

    Tim Thompson.

  2. Lovely photos and can't wait to see the article!

  3. I love the shirt "tale"! I can just picture Sheri running all over, frantically straightening things up. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I'm looking forward (maybe for the first time) to an issue of the magazine!

  4. You mean you've got to clean the house to be famous?? I think I'll just remain incognito.

  5. Thanks for all the kind words, gang. Much love to y'all. And Ed, the Roscoe, Texas paparazzi won't care whether your house is clean. Given your renown, they're outside your door right now. Take a look ...

  6. This is great!

  7. Gerrie (him plus 21)May 23, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    I hope I find a copy at our PO. Most of the people who don't want their mags leave them on the counter for others to browse through. I stopped my subscription to AARP a couple yrs. ago. I'm married to a younger man, i can't possibly be old.

  8. Ha! Great tale (and great photos of you two).

  9. The shirt tale is classic. Bastard! What does he
    know anyway. Fashion sense aside, the man knows how to take a picture. I have a husband who doesn't understand the "Martha on meth" scenario. My philosophy is as long as you don't take a hit everyday, there's nothing wrong with it!

    Sue P

  10. Dear Sheri and Michael,
    Read your AARP article with great interest since I am in the opposite boat.
    I am 57 while my husband of 37 years is 73. Here is my two cents.
    For Sheri, make lists, force yourself to remember things yourself, and get off the mortality train. Who's this broad, and how dare she!, you both must be thinking. Right thought, and here's my answer.
    At 25 I was given a death sentence of Malignant Melanoma. I told my Oncologist to do the surgery for I was going no where having just spent $3,000 grand on clothes that no one would wear, but I. Coasted till 40 when I got Breast Cancer, and at 44 Graves Disease was one of the first Auto Immune Diseases to rear their head. Following that, Rheumatoid Arthritis. Then at 49, Thyroid Cancer.
    You know the saying, We make plans, and God laughs?
    All through this I kept my humor, fought with doctors, and took care of our lives. Then my husband was diagnosed with Diabetes 2, (no he is not overweight) followed my various a-fibs all leading up to a Heart attack, and Single By-Pass surgery. Don't get me wrong there are days,
    but on the whole my motto continues to be the same-
    Life is not about having and getting, but about being and becoming.
    Yes, be prepared. The both of you. But as Sheri said, "Twice more around" and you countered, "Then let's rest." Sound advice.
    Live long and prosper, as Spock and I would say! Best to you both, Loretta

  11. to anonymous: ive seen this scenario in my path, where the older spouse had the far better health. your article has nothing to do about age, rather successful living. glad you have found love and healing. youre a trooper. from an older wifeminus23. thanks, please share more.

  12. Loretta and Wifeminus 23 (great name!),
    Wow. Loretta. You've endured, gone around far more than twice! "Being and becoming" is the goal. I can only echo Wifeminus23: I'm glad for your success against such struggles. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  13. Wow, what a wonderful article and such nice comments above. Loretta's life certainly gives us all something to think about. Thanks so much for sharing your lives.

  14. I often wondered why younger men would be attracted to me; some are 12-17 years younger.
    After reading about you two and your relationship, things are very clear for me.
    The age thing used to bother me - not anymore!
    Thanks for the enlightenment and sharing your
    beautiful relationship with us!

  15. I'm a 48 yr old woman and I'm trying to understand why it is that my successful relationships(friendships & a marriage) have been with those at least 10 - 13 years older than myself. I feel as if I was born a generation late. My 59 year old husband recently passed and I'm hoping to find someone in the future closer to my age but going by my past and present relationships I don't know if that'll be possible. The only reason why I'm hoping to find someone closer to my age is just for longevity.

    Thanks for reading.

  16. My friends (she is a single woman doing all the feature writing for two weekly papers) with your exact but very new marriage just got this link. I loved reading it yesterday in my new AARP...And I only hope that the other dear friends who are not on line take time to read the article..but they are probably too busy to even see it until winter! I need to take your writing class because your blog is just the best.

    Your crocheted bedspread matches mine that my invalidded great grandmother worked on for 10 years in the thirties...Does yours have a story too?

  17. Thank you for a wonderful affirmation of what marriage is really all about...which is creating context from two different lives. I have passed it on to two couples that have the exact same age/sex differences but are in new marriages, and know that if I enjoyed your story so much they will even more!

    BTW...your crocheted spread/coverlet matches the very heavy one here that was created by my great grandmother for ten years while bedridden with cancer. Does "you all's" have a story? They are pretty spectacular and fit the photo shoots' theme beautifully!

  18. I was intrigued when I saw the AARP article. My husband and I are exactly 17 years apart. I am the older. I always have felt so "odd". It was great to see that you have the same situation. I look forward to getting your perspective. My emotions have ranged from excited to be living life all over again with a younger being embarassed to be in this situation. I love him and we have been together for more than 20 years!

  19. Thank you for your AARP article. Timing could not have been better. My husband is 19 years younger and we have been married for 14 years, together for 21. Together we made the decision that I would retire this year at 64. This morning he returned to university teaching, a profession we passionately share. This is the first fall I have not returned to a teaching environment in over 40 years.
    We were up late last night talking about how dramatically our roles will be changing. We have never been very traditional about anything and have worked carefully to share all domestic and professional responsibilities. We are entering uncharted waters, but decided open, honest communication will be our saving grace as we navigate this new transition.
    It was so affirming to read your article - a real gift this morning. I especially appreciated the part about the iPod - just yesterday I couldn't remember my PIN number.
    I have the article propped up on the dining room table for him to read when he gets home tonight - after we both complete our exercise classes. His is dead lift training, mine is "Baby Boomers Class". Ha! Forward ho....

  20. I saw the article and had to look up your blog and add it to my own blog list. My husband is 12 years younger. I'm in my late sixties now, have an autoimmune illness that took me to the mat and out of our active life together when I was 47. Being younger I thought he might move on.He didn't and has stuck with me through the worst.

    Now aging is part of the picture. My injuries no longer heal quickly. My friends and old loves are dropping like flies already. He's not come into that much loss yet in his life. I wonder how he'll feel when he's in his sixties and I'm rolling into 80. For so many years, because I looked young for my age, people thought I was only a few years older than he is. Now he's actually grayer than I am, so the difference externally isn't terribly obvious, but the clock ticks. Only time will tell how we handle the upcoming years but I do believe he'll be here.

  21. GOD Bless you both...I had a younger man in my life who loved myself and my children and until the day he died 6 yrs. ago. We never married I was to afraid that he would not be able to handle a marriage to a woman 8 yrs. older than him with a house full of children, I now know what I missed out on. Not a day goes by that he is not in our thoughts. He also told me he would love me until the day he died...and he did. So anyone out their in love with an older or younger person...GO FOR IT! My regret is what could have been...

  22. i am a child of older parents. my mother was 44
    when i was born my dad was 58. this was 73 years ago but i've always felt more at ease around older people. at 73 it's getting a little hard finding someone older--ha. my dad passed away at 73 but my mother lived to 90. the 14 years difference was ok until my dad turned 68 or so. any comments?

  23. Sheri and Michael,

    What fun! I happened upon your blog in my Bookmarks, took a look, and have spent nearly an hour reading - and then found you in my unread AARP and read some more! So many smiles and memories tonight because of you two. Thank you, thank you! Nancy and Gene

  24. I just read your story in my AARP magazine and thought, wow, we have them beat! My husband is 26 years my junior. My children (in the same age group of my husband) were sure our marriage wouldn't last. We have been delightfully married for 13 years. Our motto when folks question our age difference is, "Inside we are the same age." We understand completely your relationship and congratulate you for getting married in a society that still can't quite understand how it can work. We are proof that it can.

  25. Hello, Marilyn and Brian, and welcome to the blog. Glad to hear that you're even more proof that these mixed-age affairs can work. I do wonder, though, when you tell people that "inside we are the same age," which age is that? Marilyn's, Brian's, or some other? Interesting to think about...