Barbara Lovenheim, author of Beating the Marriage Odds When You Are Smart, Single, And Over 35, asks, "Why would a tall, successful, good-looking man commute 1,000 miles to take up with an older woman when men in their fifties were looking for women who were 25?"
I can answer that. I was powerless to do otherwise. Falling in love with an older woman is the best thing I ever did. I discovered what true love was and could no longer live without it. Like an addict looking for a fix, I would go anywhere, do anything, and spend any amount to be with her.
When I met Beverly, I was an athletic, competitive, thirty-four year old foundation executive with a dream job giving away other people's money and an apartment overlooking Manhattan's Central Park. I didn't realize how lonely I was until an older woman showed me what I was missing. Bev, who lived in Seattle, was different in a way I couldn't describe; sexy, but motherly; mature, but playful; worldly, but down to earth. I was immediately attracted to her warmth, experience, and openness. Loving her was so unexpected and exciting, like falling in love for the first time.
Bev's caring love gave me one of life's greatest gifts-the freedom to say what I was really thinking and feeling instead of what I should be thinking and feeling. I discovered that a mature woman can help a man explore his inner self, decide what he wants in life, and develop as a human being. With an older friend and lover, I found it easier to accept aging and to win the battles that were killing my contemporaries.
Middle-aged men face an internal combat zone of stress and hypertension that shortens their lives. They are far more likely than women to die of heart disease, commit suicide, or be institutionalized. As one man put it, "I feel like I'm running, but I don't even know what I'm chasing any more." Men often seek younger women, but they'd do so much better with older ones. Women of a certain age have great resiliency, capacity for intimacy, and social skills. Men need these emotional strengths.
Younger men see older women differently these days because they are different. More women than men are graduating from college, entering professional careers, and starting their own businesses. Their beauty is enhanced by an inner glow of accomplishment, independence, and self-assurance. Gail Sheehy, the nation's expert on mid-life passages, notes, "Fifty is what 40 used to be; 60 is what 50 used to be."
Like most women, Bev was concerned about loving a younger man. "What about when I get older?" she asked one afternoon, "Will you still love me?
"I'll always love you," I said. "I don't love you despite your age; I love you because of it. I've been talking with couples like us, and time after time, younger men appreciate what older men don't."
"Why are younger men interested in older women?"
"For the same reason I'm interested in you. Because they're exciting and experienced. Because they..."
"Have wrinkles?" Bev interrupted, "And cellulite? Look at this," she demanded, pointing to a deep scar on her side from the kidney operation that almost killed her. "Isn't it disgusting?"
I smiled as I bent down to kiss it.
"You're not paying attention," she said, beaming.
"Younger guys already have their own youth, so they don't need to recapture it," I pointed out. "Older men attract younger women because they can. Older women will attract younger men when they believe they can."
"It's not that easy," Bev declared, "Men hold all the cards. They're still in control."
"Things are changing," I replied. "Almost a fourth of all women are marrying younger men and women marrying for the second time are seven times more likely to have younger husbands. Besides, men decline sexually faster than women. Instead of chasing sex symbols, a man with an older woman is one."
The first time we made love, it was unbelievable. "Finally," I thought, "A woman who wants me as much as I want her."
Afraid that we'd awakened the entire inn, I asked, "What if someone calls the police?"
"All right Olander, we know you're in there," Bev teased. "Come out with your hands up."
"I'll never come out alive, copper," I hissed. "You'll have to come in and get me."
Holding her tightly, I continued, "Everyone talks about how women reach their sexual peak in their '40s. You just proved it."
She caressed my face, looked into my eyes, and replied, "I've never given myself to anyone like I have to you, Chris. I'll never love anyone like I love you."
"Where have you been all my life?" I thought. "I've died and gone to heaven."
The next morning, Bev gazed at herself in the bathroom mirror and didn't like what she saw. "Wouldn't I look better with a face lift?" she asked, pulling back her cheeks. "Maybe just the eyes," she added, "Or liposuction for this," she frowned, gripping her stomach.
"Women are not for cutting," I replied. "Plastic surgery is wonderful for people who need it, but six million procedures a year is a crime. It's much more dangerous than
people think, and it's demeaning for women to think they have to wound themselves to compete."
"But everybody's doing it," Bev continued, ignoring me. "I look so old compared to you. What if someone asks if you're my son?"
"When we're out, people smile at us because we look so happy," I said. "I'm obviously not your son, but if anyone asks, try saying, 'No, I already have a son,' or "No, he's my lover," or better yet, "Why do you ask?"
"I just wish I looked younger," she said. "I wish I was younger."
"There's a double standard of beauty for men and women, but you're already gorgeous. How you look isn't the problem; how you feel about it is."
"It's not fair that men get character while I get wrinkles."
"Women have more power than they know," I replied. "They just need to change the rules."
An older woman frees a younger man to pursue his dreams. As Bev's husband, I share my life with a guide and mentor who knows her way around. Instead of a dependent, I have an assured, self-reliant partner who loves me for who I am rather than what I have. My advice to men is this: open your hearts and minds to older women. The life you save may be your own.
Despite our nine year age difference, Bev and I are dealing with many of the same life issues. Because of her, I have a better balance of work, play, learning, and love. Eventually we all measure life by how much we have left, and older women help men look forward instead of back. A man who clings to youth makes time his enemy-and time always wins.
Of course, the sultry allure of older women is nothing new. In Sentimental Education, a novel about a young man's passion for an older woman, French author Gustave Flaubert describes the August of a woman's life as "a period which combines reflection and tenderness, when the maturity which is beginning kindles a warmer flame in the eyes, when strength of heart mingles with experience of life, and when, in the fullness of its development, the whole being overflows with a wealth of harmony and beauty."
Then, there's the sex. Upon meeting Beverly, a good friend commented, "You'll always be a younger lover." He was more right than he knew. I never rolled around a golf course at 3:00 a.m. with a younger woman. I never flew across the country for a romantic afternoon with a younger woman. I never made love seven times in one weekend with a younger woman. I have with my older wife. After twenty-five years, she's still magic.
The passion of older women is primal. In contrast to men, women in their 40's and 50's are at their sexual peak. They have an aura that comes from experience, maturity, and self-confidence. When I first kissed Bev, a whole new world opened up to me. When we make love, we give off blue light.
Middle-aged men are often plagued by an internal scorekeeper who assesses their sexual performance. But there is no scorekeeper in my bed. There is only patience, intimacy and tenderness-the greatest aphrodisiac of all.
Adventuresome young men were once advised to "Go West." Today, older women are the new frontier. A man with an older woman challenges the conventional wisdom, rebels against the pattern set for him in antiquity, and discovers the joy of ageless love. He is freed, not from responsibility, but from obligation. He takes another path, and it makes all the difference.
We all need partners who help us find our way, give more than they take, and love us for who we are. Men should ask themselves the following questions: What kind of
person am I? Who do I want to become? What are my dreams? Who can help me achieve them? The answers may lead them into the arms of an older woman.
Twenty-five years ago I met the older woman who shares my life. Because of her, I have the world's cutest granddaughter. I have discovered Venice, Bellagio, and Bath. I am adored, nurtured and helped to succeed. Instead of keeping my nose to the grindstone, I have a wife and partner who shares the load. I enjoy the most equal and intense relationship a man can have with a woman.
As we mature, we seek a higher meaning and purpose in our lives. This is a road best explored with someone who knows the way. Bev frees me from the expectations of others, gives me the courage to listen to my own voice, and helps me become all I can be. She has style and grace; she is accomplished and wise. It's not just sex she gives me, it's soul.
Happiness is an older woman. In her eyes, I'm forever young.
Chris K. Olander|
Chris Olander, author of The Ageless Love trilogy, is Executive Director Emeritus of two private foundations in New York City. He lives with his wife Beverly in Cornwall on Hudson, NY, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.