Saturday, 8 February 2014

Why falling in love is impossible over 50

When I got divorced four years ago I entered a minefield of dating. Love in middle age is a quagmire of disappointment, disillusion and forced hope. Why 'forced'? Because one always hopes for the best knowing fully well that the 'best' is nothing more than compromise and jaded acceptance.

I write as a middle -aged woman and one who is quite delighted to be on the cusp of fading away into the sunset. Once the menopause has passed we feel a pang of sadness at the lost opportunity to ever have kids but we look back with clear lenses instead of rose-tinted ones. The ability to see things as they really are is a distinct advantage of getting older. We can spot extraneous bullshit a mile away. We can also separate the bullshitters from the genuine ones in less than five seconds flat. Even better, we recognise that nothing is ever what it seems.

Take men for example. If you're a middle-aged woman with a pleasing demeanour (i.e. still have hair and teeth) and preferably live alone and are not too impoverished, men see you as an ideal 'adventure'- a chance to cheat on their wives with someone who is sufficiently independent and not potentially deranged enough to boil the pet rabbit. This scenario is ideal for 99.9% of men who hanker for passion and affection, as they all seemingly do. Cue to the 'mistress-in-waiting' who then has to choose whether the lifestyle choice of keeping the house spick and span and champagne on ice is what she wants.

Men sadly, will sleep with anything. The mistress-in-waiting should therefore be fully aware that it ain't really her mind that's irresistible. I don't wish to sound like the Pope but I don't care to be a plaything. I am far too vain. The point however that I do wish to make is that one should never lose one's zest for life or love. Yes, men can be arseholes who are motivated by what's south of their navels but at the same time, it is vital to maintain the wanting-to-falling-in-love aspect of our personalities. Otherwise the alternative is that cliche: the embittered, miserable divorcee who hates all men, stops shaving her legs and doesn't keep her facial (post menopausal) hair in check.

Hope is as inevitable as death. The human condition is one of waiting in anticipation for the best to burst forth from our fellow homo sapiens. When others disappoint us, we feel badly let down and hard done by. Many a romance-gone-sour has ruined lives. I recently found myself really, really liking someone only to discover that he wasn't really, really worthy of my affection. I did like the way though that I felt all happy, warm and fuzzy albeit only for a short moment in time and even my friends thought I looked like I was in love. But I decided it would be a better option for me to be true to myself rather than chase a fantasy. You see, middle-aged men don't change and too many are nursing hefty alimony payments and children who will not want an usurper to deprive them of their inheritance. There's also another type of man: the one who is still legally married although living apart from his wife. He speaks to her every day and still supports her financially. He doesn't have the balls to divorce her because he knows fully well that as he gets old and decrepit she is the only one who will want him around not so much out of love but only because it is sometimes better to tolerate the devil one has grown used to.

Why do men cheat? A fear of death. The sense that time is slipping rapidly away. The posturing, the strutting around, the cheating, the scheming, the lying, all lead back to the same place: that until we we actually like ourselves, we're just frauds.

Detail of "The Kiss", oil on canvas, photo and painting copyright SvD.

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