It’s remarkable how conversations with near strangers can take the most interesting twists. The Dominican woman I was amiably chatting with started our exchange with tales of her country, beauty advice her mother used to give her (which must have worked, since this proclaimed 53-year-old didn’t look a day over 42) and, suddenly, veered towards men.
“I recently broke off my engagement”
“Oh, I am sorry” not quite sure what the proper response might be.
“He is a very nice man, 40 years old, but the problem was sex”
That last remark piqued my curiosity and, despite my break being over, I made no move to go anywhere.
“You see, he wanted sex a couple of times a week and I was beginning to dread his coming over to my apartment. My son thinks I am crazy, he is very fond of this man but I had to be honest. I am not that interested in sex anymore and I don’t want to have to pretend. I figured that, with him being much younger, he had another 10 years of wanting regular sex and my libido is not very active right now.”
Now, sofagirl at this point would have run for the hills, thinking this was a perfect example of over sharing. Me, I was fascinated.
“Are you going through menopause?” I asked
“Yes, and sometimes I feel like having sex but most of the time I don’t. My fiance can’t wrap his head around my reason for breaking up, but he can’t see this would have become a wedge between us so I thought it was better to weed out the problem before it was too late.”
At this point, I made some polite noises, told her I understood even if I could have come up with different solutions, but this woman was not my friend and she wasn’t looking for my advice. I went back to work but the story stayed with me.
On one hand, I did understand. The hormonal roller coaster, that can include hot flushes, raging moods, the deepest blues, and enough weight gain to destabilize one’s self-esteem, is familiar to anyone going through menopause. Sexual desire being a by-product of hormones, women knee-deep in what can turn into the year from hell, are well aware that we can go from wanting sex all the time to “don’t touch me with a ten foot pole”, depending on which peaks or valleys our testosterone happens to be on any given day.
But that is not quite what intrigued me. Rather, it was the fact that a 53-year-old woman was in a committed relationship with a 40-year-old man. This was not a cougar, not someone looking to have some fun through Ashley Madison or some other hook-up site. This woman had accepted a marriage proposal. When I stopped to think about it, I realized I knew quite a few women who were in serious relationships with much younger men, with varying degrees of happiness. I never gave any of them a second thought because age difference in couples is now fairly commonplace and, in my family, there is a long tradition of women marrying quite younger men.
Suddenly, I was interested in knowing what the upside of being with a much younger man were, probably because it has never been my preference. And the downsides. In my very informal poll of four friends who willingly and graciously submitted to my probing questions, a few patterns began to emerge (all women are between the ages of 47 and 56 and are in relationships with men between 10 and 15 years younger).
- All those silly cultural references such as children’s tv programs, the soundtrack to our teenage years that make for conspiratorial moments within a couple? Non existent. All four women pointed out to a lack of synch when reminiscing on their youth.
- All four men had a tendency towards seriousness early in their lives, in other words they were not immature youths trapped in grown men’ s bodies.
- Starting a family can be a sore point: while the man is still busy plotting his career and financial security, the older woman is trying to hold on to her fertility.
- In matters of work, it can happen that when the older partner is able and willing to start winding down her work life, the younger man has no intention of slowing down yet to smell the roses.
- Reaching the mid-life point out of synch appears to be a big plus: while the woman starts obsessing over the future, the last stretch of life, or just her appearance, the younger, less burdened man can be a cheerleader, steering her back towards a more carefree path.
I realize that a poll of four does not a reliable study make – hence, I am turning it over to you. Any experience in the matter? Whatever our preferences, female equality has come a long way in this department too (and that includes young men marrying older women for pure financial gain).
In the interest of full disclosure, I did mention to the Dominican lady the “female libido” pill that has just hit the market. She wasn’t interested. A life of solitude, with her cats, her son and her work was more appealing to her. And that women can easily make this choice is something to celebrate.