My unexpected refuge

This is the view from what might be my truest home, one to which I’ve been returning — lovingly welcomed in good times and bad, whether I was lonely-and-single, freshly-divorced or happily-remarried — for more than 20 years.

It’s in Toronto, the home of a friend I met when I was just starting out in journalism, a woman 11 years my senior, a witty, fun, worldly publicist.

Through our work, and with her, I had some of my best adventures, both personal and professional, like one of my first-ever visits to New York where I (yes) performed eight shows of The Sleeping Beauty with the National Ballet of Canada (as an extra.) She took me to see “Sweeney Todd” on Broadway and loaned me money when mine was stolen.

As I spent my 20s in Toronto, forever single but professionally doing well, she saw me through some mighty tempestuous affairs, one with a local legend, an eccentric/talented guy we still talk about and recall with some fondness. My own parents never met or even heard of some of  my ex-es, even the Big Deals, but she remembers them all.

Like me, she’s had plenty of dishy beaux and never had kids. Living alone suits her.

What she so generously offers, to me and many others, is a place of refuge.

I once stayed with her for three weeks as I recovered from being victimized by a con artist in New York in 1998, an experience that left me so terrified and traumatized I seriously considered — for the first time since leaving Canada in 1988 — returning to Toronto for good. I needed time and a safe place to heal far, far away from the fear and, even worse, my local police and DA who dismissed his six felonies, and my experience, with a laugh.

In all my subsequent visits over the years, M and I rarely hang out or have long heart-to-hearts. She’s always super-busy, but gives me a key and we bump into one another in the kitchen for a few minutes or chat as she’s getting ready to go out to another meeting or event. But the full-to-bursting fridge is mine to raid, the teetering stacks of newspapers and magazines everywhere there for the pillaging.

Most important of all, though, her home is a place I feel safe and loved. Here, she helped me throw a birthday party for my 50th, inviting 10 of my oldest friends. Here, she helped me throw a birthday party for my husband’s 50th as well, only a few months later.

She is, it has taken me a long time to fully understand, true family.

I left my father’s house for good when I was 19. He sold it weeks later and went to Europe to live on a boat for a few years. My mother was traveling the world alone. My home, then, was a tiny studio apartment. I had no aunts or uncles or cousins nearby, no siblings and no family support.

My parents never told me it was OK to come home again, not after my divorce, not after losing a few jobs and trying to weather the recession. My troubled mother lived a six-hour flight away and my father had a new family with little tolerance for me hanging around.

M’s house — I finally, gratefully realized after all these years as I sat alone one morning this week with a cup of tea in the darkened kitchen — really is home, if home is the place you are always greeted with love and kindness.

I finally told her that this week, even though both of us are uncomfortable expressing so much emotion. (We WASPs just don’t do feelings!) 

Do you have an unexpected refuge?

Or have you offered one?

Should 'Cougars' Be Leashed?

Cougar ready to pounce
The other kind...Image by Harlequeen via Flickr

I hate “Cougar Town”, perhaps the most self-loathing (lots to choose from) show on network television. The risible idea of an older woman — shriek! — dating or sleeping with or chasing a younger man, actually having sexual desires, has become a cultural trope.


Here’s the predictably outraged Andrea Peyser in the New York Post:

Susan Winter’s relationship at 40 with a 19-year-old led her to write “Older Women, Younger Men: New Options for Love and Romance” (Horizon Press). And she understands the “ick” factor.

“What’s empowering about a middle-age woman coming on to a younger guy at a bar and taking him home?” asked Winter, now 55. “Do you really want to wear leopard-skin pants, crop top and muffin fat hanging over?

“Being with someone younger expands our choices. What we find unattractive is the idea of a predator.”

Carolyn, 44, works in the music industry and dates younger guys. But she knows some men get turned off — or on, for the wrong reasons.

“I’m dating people, they have to know how old I am,” she said. “I’m the one who’s uncomfortable.”

It was inevitable that society would turn against women’s gray hair, crow’s feet and belly fat. But I won’t be the butt of jokes.

Act your age, ladies. And lay off the boys.

This matters…because?

Because if you head into any New York (substitute any major city name here) bar, you’ll find some fat old guy with a comb-over and healthy self-esteem working hard to pick up lithe, pretty girls half his age. Yet when women play the man’s game, the wrist-slapping, pursed-lips crowd remind us it’s not seemly for a woman over…35? to have a sexual appetite, let alone want to enjoy it with a younger guy.

I think they’re all really jealous.

Many older women are in great shape. Those gray hairs? Feh. We treasure our colorists. We earn our own incomes, own our own homes and, best of all for some younger men, have our own clearly formed identities without the social validation of a husband.

After my divorce, my first boyfriend was six years younger, his successor eight years younger. For most of my older single life, (before settling down with someone four months my junior), I dated guys much younger than myself, mostly because they were a lot more fun. They had more energy and optimism.

Available older guys were too often embittered sad sacks — broke from divorce/child support/alimony; worn out from endless fighting with their ex-wife(ves); broken by the forces of middle age, whether the loss of their hair or their job.

The ones my age who were in decent shape? Too busy chasing college-age kiddies to even glance in my direction.

Cougars are using the basic laws of supply and demand to their advantage — older guys (i.e. men their age, 40+) won’t even consider dating most of them. New York City women over 35, even the ropy-armed crowd lean as whippets, freshly manicured/pedicured/highlighted/Botoxed, wearing their best designer dresses, are a dime a dozen. They know it, men know it. Oversupply.

Younger men — 10 or 12 or 15 years younger — even five or six years younger, offer an appealing alternative. I used to call them Kit Kat boys, like the candy bar, a nice, light snack. They probably won’t marry you or nurse you through your hip replacement(s), but they have their own charms. They dance well, know cool music, are up for adventure. One of them told me, appreciatively, how much he valued our age difference. Women his age, he said, were an amorphous, identity-seeking mess, too often focused on Getting The Ring.

I’d just lost a lousy husband and was in no rush to make that mistake twice.

I did hit bottom the night I met a lovely young —- oooooohhhh, so young — man in one of my favorite Manhattan bars. We dated a few times but it wasn’t working out too well. Not because he lived in Queens (where I’d never even been before) and I north of the city. But because he kept talking about college. Because he’d just graduated.

I could barely remember college.

There are limits to how low one can go. But it’s up to the man, and the woman, to make that decision.

Not the finger-wagging crowd.

Have you ever dated someone much younger (or older)? How did it turn out? Would you (never) consider it?

He's Five Feet Away — And Hot! Grindr Finds Sex Fast, But Only For Gay Men. Where's BoyBasket?

The default Home screen of the iPhone shows mo...
Image via Wikipedia

Here’s another way to find sex fast — Grindr — a new iPhone app that shows gay men who’s nearby and eager to hook up. Writes Clark Harding in The Daily Beast:

My iPhone was snatched from my hands and the Grindr app downloaded by committee. I stumbled home that night, my pants already buzzing with new messages. In just those few minutes I was swept up in the undertow of what Grindr founder and CEO Joel Simkhai calls online’s “third wave.”

“The Grindr iPhone application,” Joel explained to me, “is all about location. It uses GPS technology to determine your exact coordinates and instantly shows you photos of the guys around you.” Or as I first saw it, Grindr tells me which guys in my immediate vicinity might be looking to hook up. I look at my iPhone, and sure enough, Joel is 1.2 miles away. He is a slight, Israeli with a warm smile. We’ve never met in person, though—I found him on Grindr, which is where I decided to conduct our interview.

“It’s great when you know what a person looks like or whatever, but that information is not valuable unless you factor in proximity,” he said. “Now can we talk in person cuz I hate typing on my phone.”

Grindr is a remarkably simple experience. You have a screen name, one picture, and a few personal statistics to accompany it, followed by the obligatory short blurb about what it is you’re looking for (all of which you can choose to not publish if you’re uncomfortable.) The rest happens through texting. You can choose to put up your face picture, which most men do. Or, like me, you can publish your headless torso so your exes or, say, men who live across the street can’t tell you’re cruising the airwaves for something other than them. “It’s all about how you present yourself,” says Joel, “That is what dictates the experience.”

So, when’s the female-focused version of Grindr going to show up? Would it work?

Think of all the time and hassle it could save women — no more sitting around in bars looking alluring, slowly sipping that $12 merlot, no more speed-dating or flirting in the produce section. Guys, all around you, ready to go, literally at your fingertips for the choosing.

I like the efficiency of it, even though I’m not in the market. Having survived the tedious slog of on-line dating (liars, liars, more liars), anything that shortens the time between interest and contact argues in its favor. And women like to choose, not wait to be chosen. What’s our version — GuyShopper? BoyBasket?

But…Do women want or need something more than a body part on a screen to make a split-second decision? Are we less sexually voracious? Or just less comfortable showing it?

Lock Up Your Man, Ladies — Poachers Are Circling!

The Hunter album cover
Image via Wikipedia

Lock up your man! Single women poach.

A recent study has found that women, told a guy is already in a committed relationship, suddenly considered him a whole lot juicier target than a single guy — 90 percent of women surveyed said, hell yeah, they’d poach someone else’s catch versus 59 percent who find a singleton appealing.

As someone whose husband of less than two years, (seven years together), was poached — having left friends, family and a thriving career behind in Canada for him, tolerated 18 months of boring/sexist/no jobs rural New Hampshire for him and dealing with his broke-exhausted-never-home ass during his medical residency — (moi, bitter?) I’ve got a little expertise in this area. His second wife locked onto him at his first full-time job as a doctor, where he was finally making lots of money, feeling his oats and relishing the hard-won fruits of his labors. Poaching at work, honestly, is for amateurs — men always look, smell and sound their most appealing there. Three years after attending my first wedding, she had her third wedding — to him. Nice work, babe!

So why exactly are attached guys so alluring?

1) You know they can commit because they already have. Who knows what it took to get that ring on his finger or move his boxes into your closet? But there he is, a man who’s proved through action, not words, that he loves a woman enough to relinquish some of his independence. Hey, if he can love her, he can love you!

2) What a challenge! You can stab another chick through the heart — really, how much powerful (in a 1950’s kind of way), can you get? Depriving some undeserving gal of a man you’re persuaded she undervalues shows a decisiveness and dedication that makes a stalking lion look shy. I knew my marital days were numbered, even before we took vows, when J, with my man already fixed firmly in her sights, cooed her warning: “You just don’t appreciate what you have.” Indeed.

3) If you’re maybe just a teeny, tiny bit shaky in your self-confidence, and you can poach a guy away from a woman who’s actually thinner and prettier than you — baboom! Direct hit!

4) He’s relaxed. He’s getting lucky, sighed over, being fully appreciated. That tends to bring out the calm, happy best in all of us. He is not, as the worst single guys are, being creepily predatory or sloppily desperate or playing hard-to-get. He’s not even playing. Damn!

5) Some other woman has probably already smoothed your trajectory, having done most of the heavy lifting of domesticating him. Bargain! An attached guy already knows the meaning and importance of a honey-do list and probably has a bunch of stuff on his. He knows how and where to buy tampons, clean the bathroom, change a diaper and/or suck up to his woman’s insanely annoying friends, co-workers and relatives.

Admit it, dating a single guy ups the wearying odds of having to face — again — a black leather sofa, a 60-inch flat-screen tuned to the NBA/NFL/Golf Channel, a nagging addiction to online porn and the insane fantasies it fosters, cuffed pleat-front khakis, argyle socks and tasseled loafers, a lone scratched frying pan and a fridge filled with pizza boxes and Blue Ribbon. Not to mention chronic or terminal ambivalence, which is one good reason why he’s single. Anyone who poaches my current sweetie gets a guy who was pretty wonderful when we met a decade ago, and today is an even better cook, does laundry (happily), took me to Paris and buys extremely good jewelry.

Don’t even think about it…

Thanks to fellow T/S’er PJ Tobia, for sending me this link! (Don’t swoon over those gorgeous blue eyes. He’s attached.)