"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sexual Pull-By Dates, And The Libido Of The American Male

God’s cruelest irony was that he enabled male sexual potency, watched its sad and inevitable decline, but assured that men would nevertheless think of women all the time – in their dotage, in their wheelchairs, in the nursing home, and on their deathbeds.  

Bob Larkin like most men had been obsessed with sex since adolescence.  In his case well before, although when precocious Nancy Brierley had held his hand, walked with him into the woods behind the Country Club, and pulled his shorts down, he had no idea what was what, what to do, or what was up; and just stood there listening to the mocking birds and blue jays and wondering whether or not a ball hit off the fifth tee could make it this far into the pines.
Nancy Brierley was  his first lover, if you can count the fumbling and groping that she initiated in the dry leaves; but despite his surprise, his innocence, and his wonder, he never forgot it or her.

When he turned forty, he first began to think of age, longevity and sexual potency. “How many more years do I have?”, he asked himself before women would cease being attracted to him, when he would become background or wallpaper.  At the end of each decade he asked himself the same question – even though as he turned fifty he had an Angolan lover; and in his mid-sixties was still very sexually active.

Yet inevitably and assuredly by the time he had reached his seventieth birthday, he found himself alone, without sexual companionship, and with little likelihood of promise.  Although he had not lost interest in women, they had somehow lost interest in him.  Although all he could think of when he sat at the bar alongside the twenty-, thirty-, forty-, and even fifty-somethings sipping their margaritas, martinis and Scotch sours was sex, they never even noticed him, let alone acknowledged his presence.

He had finally passed the threshold he had dreaded all his life – the point of no sexual return, the abyss of sexual nothingness, the final and irrevocable passage.

“Are you sexually active?”, asked Bob’s physician during his annual physical.

“Depends”, answered Bob, now well into his seventies.

“Erection, libido?”, pursued the doctor.

“Both”, replied Bob. “Overboard, incessant, painful”.

Bob Larkin was one of tens of millions of men who whose sexual pull-by date in physical terms was far from past, but de facto – i.e. potential mates attracted to him – it was long overdue.

“Perhaps your wife could arrange a concubine”, the doctor said, a still virile and sexually attractive man whose bedside manner, calm, reassuring demeanor, and Old World Brooklyn menscheit, led many patients to his bed.  There was an irresistible draw to this Orthodox Jew who had long ago put secular ethics aside and went were the will of God took him.   Sex, particularly for the older man, was never to be a matter of geriatric longing,, but an existential necessity.

“If you are potent, and your libido is fine, then why should you stop here?”

‘Here’, Dr. Schwartz meant, was Bob’s wife, Helen, a woman of rectitude, right behavior, and propriety  who had rescued Bob, saved him from drug abuse, philandering, and irresponsibility,; but who, after two children and three grandchildren was in no mood or physical desire to be a complaisant lover to Bob’s nouveau adolescence.  She in her late middle-aged maturity had long ago given up any sexual intentions.  She had aged well, but had given up sexual interest let alone sexual allure decades ago – no Tina Turner, Helen Mirren, or Sigourney Weaver she.

Image result for images older helen mirren

Bob, never hidebound or slavish to his early moralistic upbringing, found easy solace and satisfaction in the arms of 30-something lovers who were attracted to his success, his confidence, his sexual allure and his promise of a better life.  While Betty from Accounting might not have been his romantic ideal, she was an anodyne to age, offering sexually curing waters which salved and staved off advancing age.

In other words, he kept his sexual fires burning, sometimes banked but always ready to flame.  There was Sally, a fellow consultant in the time of the Angola famine, married but under no compunction to be faithful.  Icelandic fire and unquenchable appetites. Or Lisa, the seeker, the itinerant, who said she  longed for the solitude of the high Himalaya, but only wanted comfort; and spent many happy nights with Bob in Lhasa.  Or Mary Beth, the feminist queen from New Orleans, an octoroon, proud of her heritage bur dismissive of the new identity politics which demanded that she take sides.

Yet time and tide wait not for no one's emotional completion let alone satisfaction, and before he knew it, Bob Larkin found himself approaching his sexual pull-by date – not the date after which he ceased his interest in women; but the date when women ceased being interested in him.

The problem was that he never planned ahead. Had he solved the quadratic equations that described sexual desire as a function of age, he would have earned more, banked more, exhibited more.  Arm candy is possible at any age provided the price is right. Disappointingly, he overvalued his youth, his physical attractiveness, and his sexuality.   Greco-Roman features, washboard abs, and a lithe, athletic body hold little interest for the woman over forty, divorced or despairingly single.  She wants promise, promotion, and a better life.

Image result for images quadratic equations

Bob played all of these sexual dynamics perfectly.  He was attuned to women and their ambitions and understood that sexual attentiveness, respect, and promise went a long way; but he was no ignoramus when it came to the dynamics of age. There was indeed such a thing as a pull-by date although it was financially mediated.  Really old alte kockers could still attract sweet young things well into their late 80s because of money. Not a few kewpie 30-somethings were willing to put up with a few minutes of withered, half-masted sex per week in exchange  for yachts, resorts, ski lodges, and fast cars.

Bob Larkin, however, had no such limitless resources.  His carefully-curated wealth was well-invested in mutual funds and trusts; and although he had the money to spend liberally, he didn’t reek of easy money and therefore was never a target for the young and hungry. So, if he couldn’t attract the young nor find the right opportunity to buy them, he was stuck within his cohort – late middle-aged women looking for companionship in their later years, but only partners for the retirement community and not a late-life paramour.

So after Lisa from Human Resources there had been no one.  As ashamed as Bob was to admit to his physician that he was sexually potent but with no partners, it was the bloody truth.

“You’re not inventive enough”, said a close friend.  “Women are, by and large, unhappy with their sex lives”.

There was Raisa, a desperately unhappy fortyish Russian émigré, married to a layabout, faux intellectual lover of Tolstoy and Pushkin, who was too lazy to look for work and whose indolence transformed whatever sexual allure he might have had into duty. “Thursday nights”, Raisa told Bob. “That’s when we do it.”.

Image result for images pushkin

Yet that confession never seemed enough to get him off the mark.  The almost forty year difference in age was one thing, but the idea of this delightful young, soft, smooth, warm thing next to his slack, spent body - as much as he desired it – was somehow unseemly.

Resting on one’s laurels – few men of Bob’s age had had or even dreamed of such wildly sexual May-December relationships as he had had – was not enough.  No matter how he thrived in his sixties, his seventies were a lean period indeed; and no romantic stories of love in the Graham Greene Suite of the Oloffson, the Comoros, Bucharest, or Rawalpindi could compensate for the dry period he was enduring – the soudure, the dry, infertile season.

The point was what, exactly? Start early and put as many sexual adventures as possible in the bank? Hardly. There is no drawing down on that type of accumulated wealth.  Moving on? Dealing with advanced age and death? Ugh, never, not as long as there were hard-ons in the morning, and wet dreams at night.  Acceptance? Buddhist resolve? Joy at Jesus’ Second Coming?

What’s done is done; although Bob did actually consider his doctor’s suggestion about concubines.  He could no sooner go to his prim Miss Mary for such an arrangement than the man in the moon; but high-class hookers at the Mayflower?  Why not?  If the former Governor of New York could spend a few thousand for a few hours with DC’s best prostitutes, why shouldn’t he?

A non-starter.  It wasn’t sex he was after, although he had to admit that alignment with the soft, lithe, young body of a young woman was appealing.  It was emotional engagement; and this no tart could provide.

So he went home from the doctor’s feeling depressed.  The internist had hit the nail on the head but unlike his professional advice about heart and prostate health,  he could not even begin to resolve Bob’s existential crisis. 

D.H. Lawrence understood that sexual intercourse was the existential event of human life.  If a couple was lucky, they would have a mutually climactic psycho-physical moment – a spiritual union which was the perfect expression of human nature.  Everyone looked for this experience and few would find it; and yet the romantic idealism of the age and those following persisted; and Bob Larkin felt its legacy.  He must, even at his late age, find his true sexual partner.

A vain hope, alas.  Bob spent his last years like most men his age – reclining, accommodating, relaxing.  The end of life should be reflective, never anxious.

He often thought of what he would inscribe on his tombstone, but always fell short.  In the scope of things he might had had more adventures than most, and more fun.  He had not built bridges or monuments; had never been published; and was never of public renown or repute.  A good father, a passable husband, a good but irresponsible lover, a traveler, a polyglot and connoisseur of food and wines? Yes, but so what? The existential had failed him – or he had failed to to find it.  He would die alone, unrecognized, with little to show.

So how was he to live out his years?  He hesitated before dialing the escort service, but not for long.

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