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Archive for May, 2009

MadonnaA woman at my gym was kvetching about how men don’t want to go out with her because of her strong personality.  Apparently, she’d embarrassed a new guy by contradicting him in front of his boss, and consequently got the ax. 

“Don’t I have the right to an opinion?”  The woman asked her friend.  “Men just can’t handle strong women.” 

She was one of those loud, pretty blondes who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ much and thus spends life bending the world to her whims. 

In the time it took to fill my water bottle, I learned she’d been educated at UPenn and was now raking in the cash at Citibank.  On top of being foxy as a prom queen, she had one of those frighteningly fit bodies made up of chiseled angles, rippling muscle and not an ounce of body fat.  You could’ve grated cheese on her abs. 

Of course, I thought, men are afraid of you.  A feisty, successful female who ain’t hard on the eyes.  A woman with a robust sense of self, who demands what she wants.  Suitors should be kneeling at your feet, you corporate Athena, but alas, you may end up alone.  Will life’s injustices never cease? 

The blonde was taking part in the kickboxing class I was there to attend, and as it was my first time, I stood behind her to follow her moves.  The female instructor was hardcore, so enthralled by the imaginary can of whoop ass she was about to open she couldn’t even make eye contact with her students.  She led us through an invigorating warm up, but once the real kickboxing began I was fairly certain I was having a massive coronary. 

“How are you going to get anywhere in life with a weak punch like that?”  The instructor shouted as she sprinted through the room.  “Think of all the jerks in your lives.  Now’s the chance, ladies.  Kick ‘im where it counts.”    

The blonde was pumped.  The sweat dribbling from her forehead to her lips, she seemed to savor like champagne.  Meanwhile, I was clutching my chest like Redd Foxx in Sanford & Son.  The instructor evidently didn’t care. 

“Kick the guy,” she shouted.  “Knee the guy, punch the guy.” 

Just as I jabbed my fist at my pretend boyfriend’s chin, I noticed another woman stretching outside the room.  Back arched and arm raised in the air, she moved like a ballerina.  The look on her face was serene.  She seemed content in her body that was firm yet womanly.  As she glided across the room I couldn’t help but admire her grace.  And her strength.  

“Cover your face,” the instructor shouted back on Planet Kickbox.  “Never let down your guard.  What are you, a bunch of girls?” 

Actually, I thought, yes.  I’m a girl.  With curves, with soft spots, with a bit of a belly.  I don’t want to look like an amateur body builder, I don’t want to kick anyone and I certainly don’t want to get yelled at while at a hundred-bucks-a-month gym.     

And there was the blonde, still kicking and punching.  I thought of all the wimpy men who wouldn’t approach her because they didn’t have the guts.  I also thought of the solid men who wouldn’t approach her because they’d never find a way past the steely exterior.  Maybe she didn’t need a man to pay her rent, but she obviously wanted one to love her.  But did she realize love requires generosity?  Could she ever drop those defenses long enough to let that rockin’ bod and kickin’ soul get down and dirty and naked?    

As for me, I suddenly felt the need to decide what kind of “strong” I wanted to be.  I could either be like the benevolent monarch who leads with kindness and resolve, or the ass-kicking tyrant who’s off with everyone’s head. 

I walked out of kickboxing class and went to the pool for a swim.  I considered telling Cheese Grater Abs to come with me.  But she was too busy never letting down her guard.

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Something odd happened when I hit thirty.  The men in my life got younger.  Every year, I get one year older while the men who approach me seem to get one year younger.  By the time I hit fifty, I’ll have to date a fetus.

Many of these guys in their twenties want to play “there’s no way you’re older than me,” then get all keyed up once they discover I’ve passed the thirty mark.  The latest was an adorable artist who bought me drinks a few months ago to talk about the existential crisis he’s suffering.  None of the poor guy’s dreams have come to fruition and here he is, staring down the barrel of twenty-four.  I was considering calling him to distract myself from my recent heartbreak until my friend Dave gave me the chilling news: call the kid and you’re a cougar.

I hate Dave.

This Cougar stuff is the worst thing to happen to women since the crimping iron.  It’s an offensive, freakish aberration that doesn’t look good on anybody.  I say we chuck it along with MILFs.

Years back, I had a brief “thing” with a 22-year old.  Mark was waiting to move into a new apartment, so I rented him a room at mine.  We spent a couple weeks drinking wine and staying up until dawn talking about God and sex and Vonnegut.  Mark was as interesting, as creative, as wily as a man twice his age, but he was young so everything about him was on the surface and raw.  He hadn’t been around long enough to censor himself and stop feeling.  Hadn’t yet polished his ideas, so listening to him was like meeting Hunter Thompson in a dream.

Mark and I never consummated our attraction which is probably why we remain friends today.  A long-term relationship was probably not in the cards for us, as Mark’s life was ascending while mine was just coming in for a landing.  But we liked each other.  I was no predator and he was no prey.

The “Mark thing” made me feel like Isabelle Huppert, this great French actress who gets to play seductively remote older women in movies.  In one film, she has a mutually obsessive affair with a young wonderstud.  The film is about lust, passion and the turmoil both can provoke.  It’s not about some old biddy pathetically chasing young tail, only to be reminded that she’s gross and should no longer be having sex.  A Spanish film I watched had two men fighting over a beauty in her forties, much to the dismay of the twenty-five year old babe who couldn’t keep anyone’s attention no matter how insistently she strutted around in a bikini.

Then there was a scene in a French film with sixtysomething Catherine Deneuve nude in a bathtub, epitomizing the complex beauty and sensuality that can come with age and experience.  Seeing it made me want to be Catherine Deneuve when I’m sixty.  Hell, I want to be Catherine Deneuve now.

Seems the beautiful, lustful older woman isn’t an ogre in other cultures.  Like fine wine, she gets better with age.  And being a decade or two older than her lover only adds another layer of eroticism to the exchange.

All this to say, I’m totally moving to Europe when I retire.

There is no “Cougar Phenomenon,” don’t let ‘em tell you otherwise.  Occasionally seeking out no-strings situations, especially after being entangled for too long, is not something only men do.  Wanting to couple up with hard-bodied hotties at their physical prime is human.  And though age may make our options dwindle, it never stops us from wanting connection and passion in our lives.

Instead of distracting myself with a cute twenty-four year old, I’m going to nurse my heavy heart and wait for something real.  But should I find myself alone in my fifties and a similar opportunity comes along, I won’t feel guilty about considering it.  Whether he’s 24, 34 or 54, any man’s a catch as long as he’s solid and his soul is alive.  As a wise woman once said, “it’s not the men in my life, it’s the life in my men.”

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Stella Got GrooveLast year, love for me was a series of spectacular hits that became grossly off-target misses.  Every attempt I made at relationship was tossed into the crapper long before I even had a chance to lift the lid.  Though it’s been swell to have an “active” romantic life, the yo-yo effect of gaining and losing love every couple of months began to take its toll. 

When the crush I’ve been nursing since this past February recently started to tank, it brought my mojo down with it.  The first viable option I’d had in ages, this crush was the last straw.  There was only one thing to do: play Stella and get my groove back.

Sunshine, seashells, shirtless men running the beaches like prize stallions – nothing facilitates mojo retrieval like a trip to the Caribbean.  On vacation over the past ten days, I danced until my thighs were sore and downed umbrella-topped daiquiris like it was my job.  I got massaged, got tan and got hit on by hunky Caribbean barmen who made me believe I was the most comely creature ever to have walked the earth.  Really, I had the time of my life.  There was only one problem.  My groove was still MIA.

A little R&R is always supposed to cure what ails you.  But if there’s anything I’ve learned while traveling it’s that you can never get away from your shit.  It sneaks into your suitcase, catches a lift in the cargo section of your airplane then meets up with you at the hotel. 

“Now, that’s a gorgeous sunset,” your shit says as you sit on a beach chair by the pool.  “Though wouldn’t you prefer to be gazing at it with a special someone?”

“What a handsome young man,” says your shit.  “Doesn’t he look a lot like that guy who dumped you back in ’07?” 

Don’t get me wrong.  If I have to reflect upon what bugs me about my world, I’d rather do it while getting my hair braided in the tropics.  When I’m an old woman looking back, I’ll remember this vacation as one of the most ass-kicking things I’d ever done.

But walking along the beach it was hard not to think, ‘please don’t let my crush back home tank.’  At dinner, it was difficult not to imagine my crush there.  As Americans, we seem to believe folks should overcome sadness quickly.  Get over it, you pansy.  Move on.  And certainly, women who whine about being alone are just wimps.

In truth, I’ve always been too proud to admit when I’m down, so high-tailing it to another country has always made sense.  Not anymore.  It’s okay to want love.  It’s okay to be sad. 

Now, after being home a few days, my tan is peeling, my body is in detox and my crush has officially tanked.  I’ve got to find a way to recover.  One option is to find another Caribbean island on which to roam and wiggle my hips. 

Another option is to sob uncontrollably into my pillow.  To listen loudly to sappy love songs until my ear drums ring.  To let the sadness pour out of me until there’s nothing left but the sweet rhythm of my own healed soul.  I’ll know it’s back because it’s a sound only I know, the one that keeps me on beat with this whimsical dance of love.  It’s called my groove.

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