So he thinks I’m passionate, because I throw back my head when we’re screwing. I’m just trying to keep my face on my skull. The other day, I’m voguing in the mirror, and I try one of those bend-over, peek-under poses, and I realize my face is dripping off. I’m melting like the Wicked Witch of the West. My chin is wattles; my former money bones have depreciated into jowls. So if I toss my head back, maybe gravity will be on my side.
I remember this Mademoiselle article from my teens, and the column had this test to see whether you should wear a bra or not. You slide a pencil under your breast and, if it stays there, you need one. So I take the pencil, and I ask myself, where do you put it? I could balance it on my nipple, maybe, like some trained seal, but there’s no way I can hold that pencil beneath my breast. Today I could probably put a stranglehold on that #2 with my saggy butt. Pencil, heck, I could clutch a file cabinet and squeeze it in a half-Nelson until it screamed. Office equipment and the law of gravity opposing the law of vanity. That’s love at forty.
My dog died last year, and, as I carried him to the vet’s, I nearly lost my grip with the realization that Scruffy was my longest relationship. And most successful. Thirteen years, he put up with me. Okay, he wasn’t ideal; he drank. He drank out of the toilet, but he didn’t forget to put the seat down. He was always tail-waggingly happy to see me when I came home. He’d eat anything I put in front of him and a few things I didn’t. He had dog breath, but he slept on the floor. He shed, but I didn’t have to listen to panic attacks about Rogaine and the Hair Club for Curs. He whimpered in his sleep, but he didn’t snore. He never yapped about commitment. He didn’t hound-dog; HE was a one-bitch canine.
Bitch, yes, I admit it. You don’t make it unmarried to forty without credentials. It’s my American Finesse; I don’t leave home without it. In my songbook, a petty churl is like a melody I earned my sharp edges; the habits of lovers erode you, hone your caustic wit, grind down your good-natured reserves. I confess; I’m a gem.
So vive la indifference! When I was sixteen, I used to go parking at Look Out Point. I thought the name connoted scenery. Now I know it was a caution. “Look out!” Let other lemming lovers take the leap. I have enough cares already. The main problem with bed-hopping is the abyss between the mattresses. I recoil from posture-pedic coils. I’ve fallen between the sheets before and doctored many a bruise. At twenty, abscess makes the heart grow fonder. At forty, you don’t need to suffer to prove you can love. You worry less about fonder hearts and more about foundering hearts. You forgo emotional acrobatics and pray that your arhythmic heart isn’t a railroad semaphore dropping a hint — retrain that lifestyle, honey, or derail. Passengers will please refrain from lusting after unknown men while deferring masturbation till the flat.
Face it: a hand is still a girl’s best friend, so give us a hand. All hands on deck. Even a sitting round of applause is more plausible than finding a stand-up guy. A hard man is good to find when you’re searching for needles in haystacks. But, revising Balzac and the Bible, it is easier for a thirsty camel to pass through the eye of a distaff needle than it is for a middle-aged woman to hold still for a frayed thread.
If the dichotomous American ethos of the nineties is: sucks, cool, then let’s chill, Bill. Men are just too messy. If you thaw at all, if you melt enough, just enough to trickle his fancy, the next thing you know your brain’s invaded by a Bimbo who is trying to will the phone to ring by staring at it.
The safest course for love at forty: studied indifference. The catch: men find indifference sexy. Don’t ask me why. Why do they wear their baseball caps backward? Their loafers without socks? Why do twenty-seven men hit on the single prettiest woman in any given bar when probability suggests that only one (if any) of the pack will follow her home? Meanwhile thirty-nine women, just a notch below Bambi on the beauty scale and 1,001 probable notches higher on the IQ scale, languish in boredom at the bar, listening to their girlfriends natter on about subjects of no interest—the language of disassociation in Ann Beattie’s early work, the comparable performance of various mutual funds, the latest scientifically measured and inexplicable shifts in the positions of the galaxies. What do they really want to talk about?
Men. Despite their total indifference, women, even at forty, yearn to giggle and chitter about men, the same men they are totally indifferent to. Who could understand us? How can you understand someone who wears shoes which make walking, a relatively innate action, more of a challenge? How to take measure of someone whose love interest is a minor appliance? Who likes her men like she likes her java, weak and warm, Alan Alda cast as Mr. Coffee?…Return to Table of Contents