Ancient person of my heart
by Mike James
OBSERVATIONS ON MARRIAGES AND RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN OLDER MEN AND YOUNG WOMEN
Ancient person for whom I
All the flattering youth defy,
Long be it ere thou grow old,
Aching, shaking, crazy, cold;
But still continue as thou art,
Ancient person of my heart.*
Are men who take up with women half their age on a rather suspect and dysfunctional, power trip? Or, are they desperately trying to regain their lost youth?
What is it that makes a young woman fall for a man who is twice her age?
Is she looking for stability and security, along with the maturity and wisdom that an older man can offer? Or, is she simply seeking a father substitute?
I must admit that these were questions I had asked myself about relationships between older men and young women. I would admit also to having felt shocked, threatened and even made to feel quite uneasy by the thought of such a union. I certainly never imagined that one day I would turn out to be one of those wrinkled Lotharios, those despoilers of innocent youth. But, here I am, a rather worn and battered fifty-two year old, married to Alison, who is a mere twenty-six.
We met and fell in love while working on a children's summer playscheme about five years ago. I think at first, we were both oblivious to the gap in our ages - even fooling ourselves that it wasn't quite as big as it turned out to be! I am an artist and musician and as such, I've never been much of an attraction on the financial security front! I was practically penniless when I met Alison. She was young, well educated and relatively affluent. Aha! I hear you say, you have shamelessly corrupted this young woman for your own personal greed and carnal lusts! Not at all. I made it clear from the very outset who and what I was. I neither lied nor embellished my situation and went to great lengths to alert Alison to the pitfalls in being involved with a twice- divorced, vasectomied, opinionated old fool. Thankfully she was not deterred. She has given me gifts that are beyond my ability ever to repay with anything other than my love for her.
So you're a father substitute? This is an interesting question. Yes, I think there is a strong element of 'father' and 'daughter' in our relationship and we are often mistaken as such. On one notable occasion, we went into a shop to buy a new bed. The assistant, assuming that I was buying a bed for my daughter, began to show us single beds. When I explained that the bed was for us both, the assistant was overcome by a mixture of embarrassment, confusion and shock. However, it has been known for us to shamelessly exploit this property of our relationship in public for our own amusement. Sometimes, in a supermarket queue for example, Alison delights in countering the confused and disapproving stares from other shoppers by giving me a hug and passionate kiss. The father/daughter thing really works both ways though, and we find that immensely enriching. It is wonderfully fulfilling to be loved and recognized as a whole man, the boy, the youth, the father and to have that complemented and reflected in the love and recognition of the girl, the woman and the mother, the whole person within the female. People can often be a little uncertain and uncomfortable when they first meet us but we find this initial reaction usually disappears very quickly. At first, a few of Alison's friends obviously found our relationship quite disconcerting but, on the whole, they were far more tolerant and understanding than many of my friends. (Having friends of all ages which helps to overcome these barriers, of course.) My family and grown-up children had no problem with our relationship but both Alison's mother (who is divorced) and her brother, were very hostile. Alison's father, who is only two years older than me (though he actually looks younger!) has become a good friend of ours and we regularly go out as a foursome with his partner.
Youth and age are, of course, not necessarily relevant to a successful relationship. I would consider myself to be still a boy in many ways, though life has thoughtfully endowed me with a fair selection of experiences, both good and bad, to give me at least the patina of maturity! Alison is, for her part, an extremely mature, intelligent and outstanding young woman. All in all, the result is complimentary and that, I believe, should be the nature of any successful union. We are normally unaware of the age gap. It's only when we see ourselves in a photograph or on video or catch a glimpse in a mirror or shop window that we realise how the outside world must see us!
In a sense, our relationship has a time span of its own. It seems to have always existed, far beyond the actual time of our lives. However, I can sometimes also feel as if I had a whole lifetime before she was even born. I have a daughter of the same age as Alison to underline the fact! We are both also aware, that in all probability, Alison will have a lifetime after my individual life is over. It is something that adds immense value and depth to our love.
I ask myself sometimes what can she possibly find attractive in me? It seems that she gives me so much more than I can ever return. People seem to applaud and wink roguishly at an older man with a younger woman as if it's a sign of his virility. It's true that an older man may be a more experienced and considerate love maker but, can this compensate for those missing years and the sheer stamina and physical fitness of a younger man? Attitudes to the younger woman are more varied. Some people think it's sad, believing that she has some kind of emotional problem or 'father fixation'. Some think she is 'after his money'. All I can say is that in our case, neither is true - especially the latter! We are just two people who met and fell in love. It's as simple and uncomplicated as that. We neither of us planned or intended it to happen. We had absolutely no control over it and it was and still is wonderful.
Before I met Alison, I had lived alone for about three years and had become accustomed to the idea that I would remain single. I never expected to fall in love or to get married again. We both believe that marriage and sex are the ultimate expressions of love between two people, one a public expression and one the private, intimate consummation of that experience that we human beings are uniquely endowed with. With this, there is the fulfillment and everyday companionship that is unlike anything either of us has ever known. We do almost everything together. We even work together. We would rather be in each other's company than anyone else's. We don't need space or time apart. Others may see this as dependence and think it wrong. How wrong they are! Our time together is precious - not just because of the years we have missed together. All time is precious. If all men and women could understand this one thing, then so many of the misunderstandings that develop within relationships might be avoided None of us know when our lives will end. If we can fill our time and our hearts with love, then we can surely know that we have truly lived.
*Poem quotation from. - 'A Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover.' by Lord Rochester
© Write First Time - Mike James
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