Having no interest in such shows, and at this point having no TV connection either (no great loss) I read this piece with some interest. I write about online dating a lot, and about relationships. My experience is tinged by the reality that I’m 67, but I’m also a serious outlier. I do epic international adventure travel, at least until I got home from Africa this past March. Prize winning author, bodybuilder for 46 years, serious athlete. And even at this age, I’m considered very attractive. When it comes to dating, what stood out for me in your piece was the very real challenge around physical connection. Couple truths here and I can only speak for myself. Please keep this in mind: I’ve been single most of my adult life, my “number” as it is euphemistically referred to is very high, and I mean VERY high, for I have been sexually active for fifty years, like men, like sex and am unapologetic about it.
Despite the fact that being able to match a fundamental value set is critically important, there is that whole issue of how Nature designs us to have preferences. While you’re absolutely right about phobias, the way I come at this is that there is also what drives what we find sexy or engaging. If someone smells wrong (and this is borne up by research) it ain’t happening. I can tell you within five seconds of kissing a man if he is going to be a massive flop in bed. For my part, that is about 95% of the time. Sorry to say, but that’s been my experience. As an athlete, I do not find flab or slop attractive. A wonderful human being he might be, but for those of us for whom exercise and physical vitality are essential values (and clearly it varies widely) a guy who doesn’t share my commitment is going to get right cranky about how much time I commit to health. In my line of work, if you don’t, you die. That simple. And, as I have written elsewhere, I’d rather French kiss a bulldog than have sex with a guy who does not take care of his health. For that particular domino is essential to all the other aspects of personal development. Without a healthy body it’s harder to spend time working on all our other parts. While there are plenty of exceptions (Stephen Hawking for one), I have found that being able to enjoy good health has fed the commitment to intellectual, emotional and other spheres. Not at the expense of, but as a part of. Important distinction.
One of my best friends last year married a man that nobody ever thought she would. She’s Black, gorgeous, bright. She married a Missouri Ozark boy with a comb-over. Who knew? She wanted to be married. They found each other on e-harmony. Those things do happen, but I think that there is a kind of internal trade-off that we make so that we get what we ultimately want. In her case: security, safety, a man who worships her, protects her, helps her feel safe and settled. She has that. He and I don’t get along but that doesn’t keep us from continuing to be very close.
The older I get, the more experience I’ve had the pickier I become. I have always dated much younger men, and these days that is largely driven by two things. They have a commitment to fitness. The best ones don’t carry the baggage of the brutish men of the Boomer generation who fire angry darts at me more often than not because I am in superb shape at this age and will not end up a someone’s wet nurse. While I would at this late juncture be quite happy not dating again, given the extraordinary paucity of emotionally mature men later in life who are vulnerable, personally responsible, in shape, happy, have their own home/life/joy etc. I haven’t given up. But here’s the piece: I have met guys, on occasion, who have a lot of that, and there is NOTHING that even hints at physical chemistry on my part. The first kiss slammed the door on any future intimacy. I am sick and tired to death of inept lovers and lousy intimacy. And I am not in the business of trying to teach a fifty year old man sensuality and how to kiss. If he can’t do it by now…kindly. We’re done here.
In our ridiculous rush to shove people together in some semblance of happily ever after, we forget that this is a deeply complex, very messy process, involving a billion factors from upbringing to the afore-mentioned -isms to personal preferences. I’ve dated across culture, age, race, religion, body type, you name it. And it has been whittled down to something very, very specific. While there are some accommodations you make as you age (I have no notions of dating Henry Cavill, for example…but I would hahahaha) there are some I wouldn’t dream of changing. As is my right. Ultimately all this has led to my preferring my own company to most, other than friends. Or my beloved animals. While to a degree that’s too bad, frankly as I home in on 70, I am these days more interested in ensuring I can still ride a very, very spicy horse than I am having an inept man try to ride me. But that’s just me.