Sunday, July 31, 2011

Old Friends Not Always on Facebook

I finally joined Facebook a week ago, a momentous event in our household. Michael has been on for a while, but I’ve never been much of a joiner, and so I held back until last Monday. A frenzy of fervid friending followed – former workmates and classmates, new friends, old friends, former students, neighbors, nieces and nephews.

I looked up old boyfriends. (Admit it: you’ve done this too.) Some I really don’t want to find, but others came into my life at a time when I needed something they had. Maybe they helped me find confidence, or introduced me to new ways of thinking, or helped me understand something about myself and the universe. SergĂ© was one of those people – a generous man who taught me to value myself, a free spirit who helped me break out of tight boundaries without harm. He wasn’t on Facebook, so I tried Google. What I found was an obituary from two months ago.

That made me sad in an odd, distant sort of way. This is part of getting older. My ex-husband died five years ago. Old boyfriends have passed on.  When Michael and I talked about that sadness, we remembered another difference between us and other couples, a result of our older woman-younger man pairing.

It’s this: I had more significant relationships before we met than he did. Divorced for almost two decades when we met, I had more time to date. He had less, and therefore fewer significant others in his life. If that means something, I’m not sure what; it’s just a fact we recognize.

But as the actuarial tables start to catch up with my age group and Facebook shrinks distances, I might find I feel that odd sadness more often.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Adam didn't leave Paradise for an older woman, did he?

I’m hearing rumors about a protest in Orange County, the start of a movement in New Jersey. A lot of digit-ation on the blogosphere. People are worried about this older women and younger men thing. They say it wouldn’t be bad if we didn’t flaunt ourselves. But with all the TV shows and magazine covers, Cougar this and that, blogs, voters are feeling threatened. Some are circulating petitions. Soon, we might well have a constitutional amendment.

They’ve got their arguments.

God made Adam first, they say. Eve came later, so she was younger. Clearly that means the Almighty intends for men to wed and bed only younger women. Right?

And why, they wonder, should older women and their younger husbands receive the same legal privileges as normal-aged couples? The lower insurance rates, the marriage deduction–all these are intended to promote the growth of families. But when the woman is older, the odds of biological children is small if not impossible. Maybe they have a point. Sheri and I couldn’t have kids. So why do we get the tax break? Why do we get to add each other to our employers’ insurance policies?


Also, they believe there is something unnatural about us. Someone told me recently that only about 2 percent of married couples involve a significant age gap between an older woman and a younger man. Statistically, there is something wrong with us. It follows that we might be a bad example for kids (that’s what they say). What would happen if all young men started falling in love with older women?

Pandemonium. Bedlam. Social disorder.

In fact, why is Sheri even allowed to teach college students? Is her college wrong to trust her around younger men? Cougars are predators, after all.

We’re grateful this movement hasn’t yet caught the national media’s attention, because once they get a hold of it, whoa! Then, our only hope if the amendments start passing will be that we might be grandfathered. After all, eighteen years ago, we did what the law allowed. We got the blood test in Pennsylvania, paid for our license, had a justice of the peace to do the deed and sign the paperwork. The government in PA says we’re married, that it sanctions our union, and in every other state where we’ve lived, the government there has agreed.

We feel fortunate to have snuck in before the backlash, because for some people it’s not so easy. We’ve got neighbors who will leave our state next month to get married, and then they’ll come back and be our neighbors again, two women who have somehow managed to love each other in a committed, mature fashion, even though one graduated from Michigan and the other from Ohio State. The legislature where we live says they can’t do that and also get married.

Some people in our legislature say that if the state or federal government allows our neighbors to get married it will cheapen the institution of marriage. But marriage isn’t like crude oil. Its value doesn’t rise with its rarity. It’s more like, oh, democracy. The more people who get to vote, the richer it becomes.

So, given that Sheri and I were able to get married despite our outlier status, I want our legislature to let our neighbors and others like them get married right here at home.

Like Dr. King said, injustice across the fence is a threat to justice everywhere.

Lead on, New York.