The Pros And Cons Of Loving Men Over Forty


Loving men over forty means no one believing you love them. It is always hearing ‘Oh dear’ from your conservative friends and a half-concerned-half-impressed ‘to each their own’ from the more liberal. It is being told that you have been manipulated by those who don’t know about the way you sought these men; encased their names in graphite hearts before they could place a name to your face; those who don’t know the somatic symptoms you adopted during your first date, hiccuping and feverish, before they knew you as a potential true love; those who could never understand the way you started to tear up in their bathrooms, noticing their used toothbrush against yours, moments before they knew you in a Biblical sense, and continued to do so for three years.

It is being told you have been manipulated.

Loving men over forty means everybody inevitably asking you, even accusing you, about the money situation, stressing the ‘situation’ aspect. You soon learn that there is no right answer to this. If they are poor, you are dating a bum. If they are rich, you are a gold digger. But incidentally, they are almost always poor, which runs correlational to their being lost and tired, which runs correlation to being your ‘type.’ Your friends who realise this (the tired divorcee, the protective older brother, the high school ex-boyfriend) have grown too weary to be wary. They can only sigh, ‘Of course he’s an artist. They’re all artists. But what’s his job?,’ maternally over telephone lines, twisting the wire into spirals of wedding rings.

It is being told you have been manipulated.

Loving men over forty means going out to restaurants and having the oblivious Swedish waitress wish you a happy Father’s Day and having the handsome Italian waiter ask for your number. It is saying no to him (twenty-three and far too young) and going back to these men’s houses, resigning yourself to their bachelor pad’s stench of soap, sweat, and body spray. On nights like those, you cling to your men so hard they joke ‘I’m not a life raft, baby,’ and when you fuck, you prop your eyes open, trying to erase the waiter’s face from your mind. You imagine him, dark-skinned and stinking from the cooking, going home to masturbate.

Those mornings after, you play house and pretend to know their mothers, mothers you have long-since realised you will never meet. Their mothers have been acclimated to their son’s lonelinesses. Learning that their son is not truly alone will only upset them. You know the way their hair will grey once they catch the smallest whiff of feminine presence on their sons overcoats, the spell of curiosity and suspicion. Those mornings, they say you cook just like their mothers did, before their hands grew arthritic and apathetic. Loving men over forty means never meeting the woman behind these hands.

Loving these men is maybe meeting the dad, depending on whether they want to show you off or not. Their dads are strong and silent, bearded like Hemingway, and nodding in approval. Either jealous and winking over greasy food, or potentially gay and sympathetic to a pretty young woman with an older man. The gay ones never noticed before how much their son looks like their first loves until they see and recognise the way you look at their grown Joey’s and Matthew’s.

After a still lunch, they whisper to you ‘I wouldn’t want a pretty girl like you, a young thing, getting hurt.’ But most of the time, there are no dads at all. Most of the time, there is no one else but you and these men, in the darkness. Spent. It is the only time you consider them truly ‘taken’ by anything but themselves. The only time they are not bachelors.

It is being told you have been manipulated.

You have since learned that age doesn’t run linearly. He is younger than you in dog years and you would both be dead if you were insects. You learn the alchemy for age differences in dating: divide the oldest persons age by two and add 7, which limits his partners to 27 and up, mathematically. But neither of you are very analytically minded. You fuck the rule and each other, respectively. You wear each other out, wear each other like loose clothes.

You learn it is mainly premonition. Their hands know where to go with their eyes closed. Their pillow talk has been scripted since their thirties, but that is neither here nor there. These men are not womanisers; they tried and failed in high school to lose their virginities, and, in response, their virginity clung to them till they turned 22 and slept with their bosses or third cousins or college sweethearts. They are jaded only in a physical way. You are still undecided about their minds.

But mostly, you realise that loving these men is easiest in third person. It is easier to hear a friend cry over their useless souls than to love one yourself and watch it escape from your hands like a half-caught bird. It is easier to lie in their sheets and repeat your two names together, as if only sounds, than to mumble the dreaded personal pronouns, the ‘you’ and the ‘I’ again. And again. And again.

You learn that it’s the third person makes these loves bearable, as you are not a ‘you’ when you are with them; they treat you like a body, and you become just a body. You treat them like they’re movie characters, and so they are. So you love them in third person, because it is easiest, because your relationship has nothing to do themselves, their ‘I’, your ‘you,’ only age and sex and silence.

They are unwavering sky scrapers and you, the sky. They just touch your beginning, are the measuring sticks the world uses to set your definitions.They reflect back and convex what you always thought was so intangible inside yourself.

Loving men over forty means being loved in a way most people let stagnant since middle school, being loved in the only way you’ve ever known, the way these men used to love the days they kissed their girlfriends in the backseats of old cars, and the way the rest of the world has forgot.

It is being told you have been manipulated.