By Barbara Morris
A 75 year-old man had been married 40+ years. His wife cooked and cleaned, took care of the kids who are now on their own, and he provided income. They had sex once in a while and took each other for granted. He was content, she was sort of happy and then she died, and now, OMG! he’s on his own. As mundane as his marriage was, he sure misses sex. After he settles into his new do-it-yourself lifestyle, and is going crazy with loneliness, he joins a dating site.
He writes ( or has someone do it for him) a sizzling profile he hopes will attract a younger, sexy woman, unlike the conventional wife he recently lost. He finds some photos of himself when he was young and vital. What a handsome guy he was! He posts those undated photos, plus others of his cute dogs, the huge fish he caught, his RV, and restored Mustang convertible. He also posts more recent unsmiling, lifeless photos that show he has aged considerably, but he sure has an inviting profile. What a potentially sexy guy!
Yes, he’s sexy — but only in his mind. Reality is a different story. He possibly never knew how to interact with a woman — how to flirt or how to be attractive to a woman. No flowers, no special gifts. Social graces? Romance? What are those? He didn’t need them while married. His wife opened her own doors and he thought only young kids want or need romance.
Health issues aside, he’s no longer physically attractive. He doesn’t think (or can’t afford) to get his nasty looking teeth fixed or his bacteria-laden bleeding gums cleared up, and no one has told him to trim his errant eyebrows that are growing all over the place, or to shave off his facial hair that ages him by at least 10 years. But that doesn’t matter. He thinks he’s attractive enough and is holding out for the younger, beautiful woman.
After many years of constant agitation by the “women’s movement” his brain has become addled. He doesn’t understand what it means to be a contemporary “today” man. Online he meets a potentially sexy lady and they start an exchange of emails. God forbid that he calls a woman he has yet to meet, “dear” or “sweetheart”. Doesn’t he know how condescending that is? No, he doesn’t know and when told it is unacceptable, he apologetically retreats with “Sorry, I didn’t know”.
Yes, times have changed.
Damn! Why is this so hard?
It’s so hard for one main reason. He accepted the “script” for retirees developed over the years and he settled into the traditional decline oriented retirement lifestyle at age 65. Everybody does it, so he did it too.
He did all the “right” things retirees are supposed to do and here he is, alone and lonely and doesn’t understand why he can’t find an attractive younger woman to replace his wife. He is totally oblivious to how he has aged and how unattractive he is to a younger woman.
He says he loves to travel but decline has left him unable to drive or he doesn’t want to drive any considerable distance. He can’t think reasonably quickly and doesn’t know how to have an interesting conversation. He’s no longer AWARE. He’s breathing, but he’s not alive.
He is “old” but his “oldness” has nothing to do with his chronological age. He just followed the established “retirees script” for his life, without realizing that following the script would lead to a comfortable life but rapid decline. The old saying,” use it or lose it” should redefine the word “retirement” which Ernest Hemingway called the most depressing word in the English language, and he was right.
Instead of accepting the “predetermined aging script” at age 65 that says it’s time to slow down, sit down, join the segregated group oriented established senior culture, and enjoy what’s left of life, he should have (and could have) thought for HIMSELF and decided he was really going to make the most of his remaining years and probably live a longer, healthier, useful and even an exciting lifestyle that would appeal to a younger, sexy woman.
It’s too late for action after the horses are let out of the barn. They are gone.
The message: Keep what you have as long as possible, but it takes effort. Unfortunately the human mind and body prefer leisure over effort and it takes ongoing effort that most of us don’t want to do or know how to do. And after all, the purpose of “retirement” is to “retire”.
Youth is free but a short-term loan. If you don’t make the effort to retain basic youthful qualities, the result is premature mental and physical decline. Barring unforeseen mental or physical illnesses, for the most part, avoidance of getting “old” mentally and physically is as simple as trashing the predetermined “old age script” and making the effort to stay vital, mentally and physically. Chronological age itself does not automatically result in decline.