Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Out with the Old

Hef with the runaway bride
Sometimes these age-gap relationships can get a little funky. Consider, for instance, the 60-year age difference between Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris, who were scheduled to wed on June 18. If you think people whisper behind their hands about other age-gap couples – sex? parents’ reactions? common interests? just a fling? – you can imagine what might be the buzz about this kind of age chasm.

Then, four days before the wedding (at the Playboy Mansion!) Crystal called it off. Even a 6-carat diamond couldn’t persuade Playboy’s December 2009 Playmate of the Month to marry the 85-year-old Hef.

My favorite part of the New York Daily News story announcing the split:

The May-December couple had been dating for more than a year, overlapping with Hefner's relationship with the Shannon twins.
The twice-married Hefner proposed Christmas Eve, putting the 6-carat engagement ring in a Disney-themed box that played music from Harris' favorite movie, "The Little Mermaid."
The Shannon twins? The Little Mermaid? Was this a marriage made in heaven, or what? Word is that Crystal ran from the altar in favor of a younger man, and that Hef has already named his new girlfriend. She’s all of 27.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Agatha Christie: An essay assignment

"An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her. "
– attributed to Agatha Christie

In your answer discuss one of the following:

1) Consider the analogy. If a husband is an archaelogist and his wife his subject, is she
a. a ruin
b. an unearthed jewel, albeit one that bears a centuries-old curse
c. a Sphinx

2) Can Christie’s argument also apply to a woman whose husband ages? If so, consider in light of the analogy as above.

3) In lieu of an archaelogist, is the next best spouse for an older or aging partner

a. an historian
b. a librarian
c. a pharmacist
d. choose another profession; be specific

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

AARP revisited

Winter 1993, Montana
The folks at the AARP magazine say they need photos of us in the early days of our relationship, having already sent someone to take photos of us in the here and now for an essay Michael wrote for an upcoming issue.

That meant I got to spend a day hauling out dusty photo albums and envelopes – our “early days” start in 1991, when photos were actual prints from real film.

Summer 1992, with Tinker the dog, at Woodstock
One of my friends, after seeing the pictures the AARP photographer took last month, was kind enough to say that we look more the same age now than we used to. “Michael is closing that 17 year gap,” she wrote. “With every passing year, as he becomes a little older, a little greyer, a little more ‘distinguished’, you seem to be getting younger and more vibrant.” (Thanks, Linda!)

So I was trying to find pictures that showed the age difference in the early days but didn’t make us look hopelessly dorky (lots of those).

Looking at those early photos, what stays with me are a couple of things. First, how much we loved each other. You can see it in the smiles, the easy way our  bodies touch. Second, how young Michael looks. Yikes!
June 19, 1993, Damascus, PA.

My favorite early photo of him is from 1992, when we visited the site of Woodstock on a summer evening. He says he looks stoned, which would have been appropriate, but he wasn’t.

How long have we been married? Long enough so that when I take pictures out of the wedding album, the plastic sheets crinkle and tear. Long enough that he’s lost the aviator glasses and some of his hair.  Long enough to think we must have been mad. Long enough to know we should have had a professional photographer at the wedding. Long enough to know we did the right thing when we said I do.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Love is not all

It doesn’t always end well. Let’s not kid ourselves.

This blog began with the presumption that love affairs between older woman and younger men can work, and I think we’ve made a good argument over the 2 ½ years we’ve been blogging. Sheri and I are coming up on our 18th wedding anniversary, so we’ll keep making that argument.

But for the sake of balance, for the sake of gratitude for what does work, it’s worth remembering that sometimes such affairs fail. And sometimes they might even ruin a person.

This month, Open Letters Monthly, a website devoted to reviews of literature, revived the discussion of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s affair with George Dillon, 14-years her junior, and how their love may have fueled his poetry and then ended it.

It was 1928. She was 36 and famous, having already become the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry; he was 22 and aspiring,
having published his first book. According to Shannon McCloskey Allain, writing at Open Letter, George introduced Edna when she gave a reading. He also became infatuated–and she with him.

She was married, but that didn’t stop her from having an affair. Her husband knew and, perhaps, approved. They were a bohemian couple willing to bend rules. Maybe that’s one reason Edna never left him for George.

Edna and George each used their passionate affair to write a sequence of sonnets inspired by the pain and glory of their love. His led to a book that won him the Pulitzer Prize at age 25. She published hers in Fatal Interview, a volume some critics have called her best work, including this famous sonnet.

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

George never seemed to get used to the idea that he had to share Edna, and perhaps Edna tired of George. Their affair ended. And George never published another book of poetry.

Much has been made of that fact. A theater company even plans to produce a play around it. Allain's essay for Open Letter suggests that answers to whether Edna ruined George for poetry can be found in his verse. Her article makes an interesting case, though I’m not convinced. There are a lot of reasons not to write. It may be overstating things to say that Edna alone put an end to his books.

What happened after? George became editor of one of the country’s most prestigious literary journals. He never married, and eventually he moved in with his parents. Now and then he and Edna met, and they even translated poems together. They may have even revived the affair for a night or two, but never as it had once been. “This love is strange that does not die,” he had written in his book, according to Allain, and seemingly it never did. He added, “A man would be nothing but that he has been a lover. He is glad for that. As for the rest, it is dead.”