Showdown At Gender Gap
January 18, 2011
Last week’s post (“Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?” which was about my attraction to younger women) received more hits, and caused more of a stir, than any of the other 58 posts I’ve written since I started this blog last March.
I was quite surprised at the reaction I got. Silly me. It seems as if I stumbled into a war zone, where the old battles of 25 and 35 years ago still rage just beneath our daily veneer of harmony and civility. In truth, men and women only look like they get along. For many (most?) of us, it seems like this is only if we have to. Beneath the veneer lay the sore wounds of war. And for some my post seems to have ripped open these festering wounds.
The feedback predictably fell (more or less) along gender lines. Besides those reactions you may have read online, my friend Eliezer, whom I had quoted in the piece, forwarded it to some old friends of his to get their thoughts. The women’s responses included…
“…Why do you guys like to lament publicly that you’re not getting laid by women who are what would be your daughter’s ages if you were parents?”
“…I now know why my fortyish friends and I feel invisible.”
At the same time, a couple of men wrote or called me, saying…
“Thanks for having the balls to say this! Some people can’t handle the truth!”
Another said, “I feel like you kind of ‘outed’ me as a man…[because] I resonate with where you’re coming from.”
A few men acknowledged the pain some women have with this issue, one saying that “women’s body image is one of the top 10 most fucked up things in society…Angie Arrien often talked about the ‘wound that was not to be spoken of’ …and…I gotta say, she seems to have a point.”
I was particularly taken to task for one sentence towards the beginning of the post. Referring to my wife Shelley, I wrote: “But she’s no spring chicken, and therein lies the problem.” I became quite embarrassed to learn that readers took this as a slight or an insult to her, as if I felt, and was complaining, that she is somehow the problem. In reality, it’s me who has, and is, the problem — i.e., yearning for something I can no longer have. Now that this has been pointed out to me, I see their point. Part of what went wrong here was that I was seduced into the intimacy that blogging invites and thrives on, saying things that, had I shared them with a friend over dinner, would have been taken differently than when said in public. Shelley herself was unfazed by my comments. But if I discussed her age clumsily, I apologize to my wife.
But she does want me to mention how she and I celebrate what we see as the advantages of age, and of ageing together: the accumulated depth; the surprisingly good sex; the nostalgia and the musical and other cultural references we share. Not to mention the sure knowledge that those young who we might envy (and who I might lust after) will soon be shocked to find wrinkles and graying and aches of their own that they will try frantically to hide. And how soon? The day after tomorrow! We who are older know how fleeting youth is, and how fast age comes, and how the young can’t see it coming.
But what strikes me the most from all the reactions to my last post is that so much remains unhealed! And it’s my generation that has borne the fulcrum of transition from the old ways to the new, and we have the scars to prove it. We’re still crazy after all these years. I myself bear some gender wounds, and I’ve inflicted a few as well. I know so many men who are life-long bachelors! Their expectations, which grew ever more unrealistic over time, were never met. And I’ve encountered so many disgusted, embittered women along the way! Their hopes and yearnings were never realized. There are so many good people whose dreams of life long happiness with another of the opposite sex were crushed under years of hurt, disappointment, rage, disdain and contempt.
One of Eliezer’s female friends wrote that she looks forward to “a world where bodies are not commodified.” Amen to that! And I feel compassion for anyone who’s in pain about being marginalized, which so many older women obviously are. They suffer from this, as do, to a lesser extent, older men.
I also look forward to a time when people, male and female, can be heard and respected when speaking to each other. So much has changed, yet we’re still stumbling along, and still not really understanding (and therefore not really listening to) each other. Until we do, the hurt will continue. This is part of what must be healed, along with all the other rifts and gaps in this tattered world, if we are to have the future we really deserve.