Thoughts with Richard Bleil
There is a connection between me and the movie “The Four Seasons”. The movie, featuring Alan Alda and Carol Burnett, follows three sets of wealthy middle-aged friends as they vacation in each of the four seasons. The “winter” season was filmed in a small Vermont ski town called “Stowe”, famous for having the Von Trapp ski lodge. Yes, Von Trapp, from the Sound of Music, was a real family after whom the movie was based, and they settled in the US, but there are several ski lodges in Stowe, Vermont including the Stowehoff Inn. This is where my friend Eve and I stayed when we went skiing there over on Thanksgiving weekend. Because of a last minute cancellation, they were generous enough to allow us to stay in one of their two twin flagship rooms. This was the lodge where the cast stayed as the movie’s “winter” season was being filmed. No doubt, our room had been previously occupied by either Alan or Carol.
It has been several years since I’ve watched this movie and have only gotten about halfway through it. In the first part of the movie, the three couples were all together and toasting each other for still being married, but one of the men confided in the other while they were alone of struggles with his marriage. By the second part of the movie, his wife was gone and he brought his then girlfriend with him on the group vacation. Being wealthy, of course his girlfriend was very young and very pretty, which made me ponder the nature of the human male and the attraction of youth even into the age where I currently find myself.
For the brief time that I was married, my wife was significantly younger than I (maybe fifteen years or so). And by societal standards, yes, she was physically attractive. She came with four boys from her first marriage, but she was blonde and petite and, well, young. Not teenager young (she was in her early thirties), but still young. It was not uncommon for men to be hitting on her, often very inappropriately, while we were out, and in my presence. I cannot imagine how many men did so in my absence. I didn’t particularly worry about it, because regardless of their intentions, I trusted her, a trust that I must admit was misplaced, hindsight being what it is.
I am wondering what the appeal of young women is to older men like me. There are women my age, or even older, that are very attractive, but somehow youth has its own appeal, at least to the male eye. As we slow down sexually, they are still there, slinky and active. I truly believe that a large part of this is simple procreation, which is the politically correct way of saying animalistic. Men can remain sexually active, virile and fertile well into our nineties. Our sex drive does decline through the years, but the ability to play our part in reproduction remains, while women begin facing more medical dangers in pregnancy and are no longer capable of reproducing after menopause which, at my age, is most of the women my age (but not necessarily all). In a nutshell, I’m suggesting that in some ways men have simply not evolved beyond the animals we once were procreating in the jungle.
But women remain attractive throughout their lives, even after menopause. Some of the women my age that I know are simply breathtaking, beautiful by any standard of the word. While men may be trapped in our prehistoric emotions, society has grown up around us. There is a cost to being involved with somebody significantly younger than us. Even in my marriage, I felt it. She was charming and intelligent, but often had no idea what I was talking about. She put up with my music as I listened to Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin, but then she would throw on garbage like Backstreet Boys and Better than Ezra. I grew up with the internet and watched its development, while she never knew an age without her cell phone connected to the web.
In their song “Hey, Nineteen”, Dire Straights described the problem perfectly in the lyrics, “There goes Aretha Franklin, she don’t remember the queen of soul.” I remember reading that it had been proven that men are much more visually stimulated than women, which is what young pretty women bring to the table. It’s visually pleasing to have a young visually pleasing thing bouncing around the house, but at the same time, it lacks the depth. It’s the difference between watching dancing on the television versus going out to dance. It’s a picture on the screen instead of the art in a museum. Everything is there, but without a similar background to draw on, the relationship is very two-dimensional. Yes, some young women are deeper than others, but you can’t expect someone significantly younger to be able to discuss her emotions when the Berlin wall fell. Certainly she is gathering her own history and background as she grows, but by the time she’s old enough to sit back and think about the Afghanistan war with younger people, well, I’ll already be drooling into a rag in a retirement home.