“My head knows moving on is best, but….”
“My love for my husband was so great that I am having a very difficult time considering another man,” Jean, age 74, wrote to me. “My head knows moving on is best, but my heart puts up a very good fight. Yes, it gets very lonely at times and then, at other times, I appreciate the solitude. I do believe that at this age, finding someone with whom you are compatible from a distance is best. His and her homes with visitations rights, perks, and genuinely being there for one another sounds like a plan to me! Easy to say and difficult to find!”
Jean’s email came at exactly the moment that I was trying to make sense of similar feelings. I had a “date” with a man with whom I had shared an intensely sensual relationship 27 years ago, when I was 40 and he (get ready) was 23. We had enjoyed each other immensely, then both of us had gone on to other relationships, and he had moved many states away.
Suddenly we discovered that we would be in the same city last Saturday. With anticipation and fantasies abounding, we made arrangements to meet.
How lovely, I daydreamed. Here’s a smart, gentle, witty man from my past, who gloried in giving me pleasure, and we were always able to talk candidly. Surely the 27 years apart could be wiped out for an evening of sensual nostalgia, couldn’t it? I needed to rise from grief and rediscover my sensuality with a live person rather than with sex toys. This sweet man could be the one to take my hand and lead me there.
We met, we hugged, we talked excitedly about where our lives and loves had taken us in the past decades. But then… when the time came to kiss and discover… I couldn’t. I felt myself sinking into sadness. His kiss wasn’t Robert’s. His body type wasn’t Robert’s. I pulled away.
“I really hoped I would respond sexually to you,” I told him, “but I’m not.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, cradling my head against his chest.
“I even packed condoms and lubricant, and chose my underwear with care,” I added. He laughed with me at that last revelation. “But it’s just not happening. I still miss Robert so much.”
“Tell me about him,” he said, maybe the sweetest comment he could have made.
I am grateful to my friend for his understanding, although I didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe when I read “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be” on his Facebook page early the next day. I decided to laugh and post the comment, “Here’s to nostalgia.”
So when Jean wrote to me just after my friend and I parted, I had to agree with her sentiment, “My head knows moving on is best, but my heart puts up a very good fight.”
What a thoughtful response to a heavy topic, Joan. So heartfelt and honest.
Maybe the timing is just not right for either of you. Time will tell. I am sure one day it will happen for both of you.
I love the idea of living in separate homes, with benefits for ALL couples! LOL. The divorce rate would be much lower.
This wistful piece made me think of my mother, who after a number of years of widowhood, finally chose to go out on a date with some man. She dated once and never again. She told me about it and said, "I don't need all of this."
I understood. She was still with my dad and remained so the rest of her life. She lived to 88, 19 years after my dad's death. She married as a virgin at 31, and never had another sexual partner.
Without anything pejorative intended, my immediate thought about this post was, "That's the price of serial, sexual exclusivity." My partner says, "The best way to get over a man is to get under another one." She is alluding to being a part of a community of sexual friends where, though her emotional rewards are not as they were with me, her primary partner, it would permit her continued contact with people she cared for and were safe for sexual outlet.
Then again, sex means so many different things to so many individuals.
A few months ago a 70yo widow "found" me on the Internet. I am 66. After getting to know each other on line and by phone she drove seven hours to visit me during the week. I had to work but we had the evenings. First thing we were making love. She was recently widowed and also just had a mastectomy. The lovemaking was wonderful. It was my first experience with a single breasted woman. I liked it – allowed me to focus and not switch back and forth. She was a wonderful lover but when I came home from work for lunch the next day she was gone. Left a note saying she had a bladder infection from our lovemaking. A few days later a man was moving in with her. I'm guessing I was sort of a test run before being romantic with a man she knew better. I'm grateful for the experience. No sure how to say this gracefully, but the feeling of her girl parts was that of my memories of young women in my youth. Very pleasing. My experience dating widows has been as the original post – much reluctance to become sexual particularly in "her" home where there are often shrines to the the late husband.
Your honesty – to yourself and to us – is a special form of magic, Joan. Thanks for your ability and willingness to be so naked in print, giving your grateful readers insight into the intersection of grief and sexuality.