May 28, 1993

On Being Harmless

Bob Hope, when asked what sex was like after 70, replied "it's great --especially the one in the spring".

I went back to New York City for my 50th high school reunion. While there, I struck up a conversation with a young woman on the subway. This is almost unheard of in New York where people are justifiably suspicious of strangers. In my youth, such an approach would have been greeted with an icy stare followed by her head turned away from me. I would have been treated like some creep; a beast who has made advances to a beauty. However, at my age, I am considered safe --and surprisingly, I like it. I like it because I don't believe that I am really safe at all. I am as dangerous as I was when I was a lot younger --which is to say that I am not dangerous at all. The worst that could happen to some young lady who spoke to me is that the conversation would lead nowhere. At best, who knows?

One of the nice things about getting old is that it becomes possible to appreciate an attractive woman without expecting the relationship to go any farther than the conversation itself. The woman knows this and can enjoy the moment without the usual sexual pressure that goes along with talking to a male of her own age. Some of that pressure comes from inside the mind of the woman herself.

I have always had trouble understanding what it must be like to be a female. As a young man, my life consisted mostly of being rejected by women; while a woman, particularly an attractive one, is constantly besieged by men who want to get her into bed. I once heard a very attractive woman describe her life as continually having males "sniffing at her bottom". To talk to a male who isn't doing that, can be a refreshing experience for her --particularly a man who is still interested in her as a woman.

Women are often attracted to Gay men because the sexual pressure is not there. The problem is that, should she decide that she is interested in him physically, usually nothing can come of it. With an old man, there might be some options. I doubt that many women would think that far ahead. They are satisfied with a comfortable relationship without sexual pressure.

I have heard women lament the fact that they can't simply have an uncomplicated conversation with a man, as they can with someone of their own sex. Lament as they will, that's the way that things are. The mating drive is almost always present in a man. When it seems to be missing, a woman might well question whether the man is Gay or otherwise encumbered. The actress Jean Harlow was so impressed with a gentleman who didn't hustle her, that she married him. After the marriage, she found that he had an infantile penis. The marriage ended in tragedy, when he committed suicide.

Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to a friend advising him to marry his old mistress, extolled the virtues of older women. After pointing out that a woman ages from the top down and that those parts that are the best age the last, concluded with "they are so grateful". So far as I know, no woman has similarly extolled the virtues of old men, although more young women marry old men than the other way round.

It is sometimes assumed that a young woman who marries an old man is after his money. While this may often be true, it ain't necessarily so. A woman may genuinely enjoy the lack of sexual pressure along with a more mature outlook. If he dies while she is still young, she can also enjoy a second marriage that might be even better than the first. And she can do it without guilt.

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