Wild River Review art by Christopher McCauley


The Age of Reasonable Doubt

We, of the menopausal set, have arrived! I give a raised fist in salute. Society is finally recognizing that there can be hot sex for the mature woman. Get this! We’re totally ripe for romance. Gail Sheehy’s new book, Sex and the Seasoned Woman, shoots down the myth that older women turn into stereotypical Grannies and shrivel up.

I’m sixty, plus or minus (more plus), widowed, and have a mental age set in my late thirties. Perhaps that’s because my late thirties were a time of transformation between youth and early middle age. Now, I’m slithering through another transformative age — the last round up of life, with a renewed vitality. And every second counts.

My big worry is that I won’t find enough outlets for this enormous burst of energy. I have several passions: writing fiction, reading, serious theater, and playing tennis. With this renewed driving force, I would love to find a man. But finding a sensitive, intelligent, sexy soul mate is like going on an archeological dig in the hinterlands. While traversing the earth, swinging my lantern in search of the holy male, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

During this exploration, I’ve come face-to-face with the myth that, considering my age, I should put my sexuality to rest, and act age-appropriate. But after becoming widowed four years ago, I’ve bashed that nonsense to smithereens. I have found a hot mama lurking within, a woman ripe for sensuality. Let the games begin.

At times, I’ve entertained the fantasy of becoming a paid escort for elderly men, the kind who gives the full range of services. This is how I envision the setting.

I’d tramp (no pun intended) the streets of fifty-five plus retirement communities, dressed in a streetwalker’s sleazy postage stamp outfit and prowl the dangerous streets behind the hallowed gates. The assignations would take place between the hours of two and four p.m. so as not to interfere with the early bird special dinners. No Medicare cards accepted for payment, although some may claim that orgasms are medicinal. How hot is that? Of course, I might be subjected to conversations about cholesterol levels, blood pressure and cataracts, not to mention troublesome bowel movements. In that case, the price goes up.

In order to better understand the workings of my present-day sexuality and dating habits with mature gentlemen, I need to examine my past a bit.

Back in the seventies I lived a conventional suburban lifestyle with young children, aging parents, and demands from a traditional husband. Along came Woodstock and hippies that contrasted sharply with conventional marriages. Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem hit the ground running, sweeping aside customs once taken for granted.

I took the dawning of women’s lib seriously, straddling two diverse worlds: Suburbia USA versus worldwide unfair treatment of women. Women’s liberation went head to head with the Cosmopolitan Magazine values of never beating your mate at tennis or outshining him in math. A small percentage of men became vocal proponents of equal rights for women and sounded with it — as long as their wives didn’t take equal rights seriously. What man wants to lose a subservient wife?

In my early thirties, I returned to college to finish my undergraduate degree, majoring in art on a part-time basis with only my kids cheering me on. I became an artist and a number of years later, a writer. My husband, although a very good person, fumed when I was late for dinner. But we all accepted his work-related lateness in happy silence. After all, he was a man.

My mother insisted that going back to school as a married woman messed with the natural order between men and women especially since I had married a doctor. And my mother-in-law’s conversations revolved around the virtues of ironing a husband’s socks not to mention his underwear. To say she disapproved of my laxity in housekeeping is a huge understatement, kind of like saying you’d be a little disturbed if you got mugged on a dark, deserted street. As for the fathers, they were clueless or pretended to be.

Then my children grew up, became professionals, and moved on. Although my daughter has two beautiful sons, ages two and four, she lives across the country so I find myself relatively free of responsibility. With no worries about getting pregnant or needing to find a father for my unborn children, I have entered the confusing maze of dating.

Widowhood is a big downer, but the upside is I am afforded a rare breath of freedom. I don’t have to answer to anyone. But I have to deal with the vacuum that has occurred. I find myself entertaining lustful fantasies accompanied by a real, vigorous sexual appetite. Sexuality has become, as it did at a younger age, a big focus of attention. It includes all the insecure anxieties as well as worries about my imperfect body and my ability to please. All that’s missing are zits and enough sensitive men.

Life changes can be magical or disruptive. Some women are totally dependent on mates and don’t fare well being single. They need to be coupled at all cost to help avoid feeling like half a person, a concept society has wired into female brains. Remember, in the upper reaches of age women live longer than men. Older males are considered a rare and valuable commodity, much like salt used to be. Salt is common now. Perhaps down the line, men will be, too.

For women like me, who have exercised a modicum of independence within a marriage it’s a lot easier to rebuild and carve out a wonderful single life. There are fabulous networks of women friends to go out with as well as work-related acquaintances. I’m free to travel, date, and have sex. I sometimes enjoy being alone. I have a choice. I can hit the road or stay put.

It’s odd that society has perpetuated the belief that adding years to our lives diminishes our sex drives. Now that I’ve come to grips with myself, I find that my urges are stronger than ever. Over time, I’ve opted to content myself with an occasional sex buddy, a man who is good in bed. I have the luxury of doing that since I’m not worried about my biological clock ticking. At one time, I equated a talented lover with husband material. I don’t deceive myself now. Good in bed doesn’t necessarily make a good boyfriend. And, believe me, details of the art of sex become the object of many discussions. You should listen up to older women dissecting the fine art of making love because we do it as well as the women in Sex and the City, maybe better.

Sex is the most sizzling play arena for adults. Yet there is an epidemic sweeping this country in all age categories. We are now being defined by the amount and quality of sex we have. The media is riddled with obsessive sexuality; innuendos abound everywhere, in TV, movies, clothing and even kiddy programs. Women and men dress as though they’ll be jumping into bed at any moment.

Even cereal companies have become seductive because if we eat more cereal and lose weight we’ll have more sex and look like the woman in the ads. Little Mikey and his Life cereal are long gone. Look at all the billboards displaying four-feet high cleavaged breasts and three-foot high pubic bulges. Briefs, bras, and frilly panties are publicly displayed everywhere. Have we become obsessed with sex? Don’t know the answer, but it has helped older women like me confront the issue.

I know that for many, picturing your grandmother having sex and especially oral sex, is disgusting, but learn to live with it. It’s a fact of life. There are many cool ways for an older woman to have fun if her date has diminished capacity and less shame in experimenting with sex toys. Are we baaad? Maybe. So what. Is someone going to ground us? Send us to our rooms?

Let them send us to our boudoirs. That’s fun.

Recently, I’ve experienced more orgasms in a shorter period of time than at any other period of my life. Men in general have slowed down, and it takes longer for them to climax, giving a woman greater opportunities for foreplay.

There are similarities and differences in sexual encounters between older people and the younger set. Some men are good lovers and some are not. This is true of all age ranges, but here are some details that I’ve noticed. Premature ejaculation is diminished in older men–a decided advantage. Many older men don’t do oral sex — a definite disadvantage. Women become tighter which helps build the egos of men with less heft — an advantage to both genders.

Don’t forget that having to accommodate aging disabilities in bed can have some humorous moments. Hearing loss adds a new dimension to sex. Picture your partner asking you during foreplay, “What did you say? Put it where? In your ear?”

There is a caveat to all the fun and games. Sadly, finding a good lover/companion/soulful man has been difficult for me. Sometimes I choose to be celibate for long periods of time. Since many men of my era hold onto traditional roles for dear life, the possibilities of finding an adventurous, open-minded, curious man seems limited. I already raised two children and one husband; I refuse to raise another adult. The man of my dreams has to come all grown up.

Here’s the difficulty. A man once said to me he couldn’t date a beautiful, slim friend of mine because they were the same age, sixty-two. Another refused to date women his age who were single because they probably had had too many sexual partners.

I always ask a divorced man why he thinks his marriage broke up. Most say they don’t know — a real deal-killer for any future with me. But one arrogant lad told me his marriage crumbled when his wife got her PhD for the purpose of competing with him, the venerable professor. He said his ex-wife had the gall to think she could dare come up to his level of intelligence, and so he had to dump her.

Hopefully, this chilling attitude has changed among younger generations, but my informal research says that it has burrowed just below the surface once again, creating a Plexiglas ceiling, much harder to penetrate than glass.

Society congratulates the wrinkled, older man with a good financial statement who captures the attention of a younger woman. He might think she wants him for himself, but often his wallet is bigger and harder than his penis.

For myself, I find it a struggle to make a psychic connection. Conventional wives cushioned the lives of their spouses so that they only had to concentrate on careers, playing golf, and secreting away an occasional mistress. The woman of a bygone era feared being too assertive or too needy since there was always a younger woman hanging in the wings, ostensibly willing to give unconditional adoration. Therein lies the rub. Many men want life to go on just that way.

I have to look hard for a sliver of humor in men of my generation and usually, but not always, come up empty handed. They still don’t want you to be too smart. Sadly, not many have advanced further than teen years emotionally, despite being professionals and successful business people. Yet, I have never lost the romantic notion of a wonderful, involved, caring lover sweeping into my life and wanting just me. It’s a very seductive notion. Although a good relationship is just the icing on the cake of a very satisfactory life, I still conjure up this dynamic person.

I write graphic sex scenes in my novels. They are my ideal romantic fantasy and always encompass the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual aspects of a relationship. Sex is fine as the means to an end. I hunger for more. When it’s right, it can be a key to opening the inner realms of who we really are, an opportunity to dig into that lonely hollow buried within.

Poets wail about this longing in their narratives and songwriters touch that depth by wailing about alienation. When couples, after much emotional wrangling, finally connect in books and movies, I cry no matter how sappy the story might be. I constantly receive subliminal messages about romance that ties me into knots. It’s what we all yearn for — both men and women — a mind/body-twisting, electrifying relationship.

So, I ask you, is what I’m seeking at an older stage of life impossible? Perhaps. That’s why becoming adventurous is intriguing. I can do one-night stands without recriminations since I don’t care about my reputation like I once did. And frankly, no one is interested in nor cares about an older nymphomaniac. Still, I’m hell bent on meeting life head-on (excuse the expression) because I’m finally comfortable in my own skin.

When I was younger, I wanted to be loved for my brain and not my body. Now, I find it great to also be desired for my body — however infrequently that happens. And it’s all so cool as long as my adult children don’t get wind of it.

Hey, you older men. Let that special woman through your emotional roadblocks. Be adventurous! And especially, learn the wonders of oral sex.

That’s it for now from the sensual Grandmom.

Fran Metzman

Fran Metzman

Bio: Fran Metzman has published numerous short stories, a novel, and essays. She is fiction editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal, has led workshops and taught about working with small presses at Rosemont College on the Main Line near Philadelphia. At work on a new novel, Metzman says that while truth may be stranger than fiction, fiction unleashes the unconscious.