Summer Issue 2010

Popular culture is full of stereotypes about women of a certain age, and we all know them. We spot them in every magazine – headlines from the country’s top covers always marvel with big bold fonts: So and so actress looks so great at 40! As if she were a wonder drug that long survived its expiration date.  At her age, the implication always floats above the text, she was actually expected to lose frontal teeth and walk with canes. Hollywood comedies make searing fun of women of a certain age who try too hard to look young, dress young or to get pregnant, or married, or score a vicious divorce settlement.  Yet at the same time, they portray slobs and lunatics with endless sympathy and perpetuate the myth that all the shades of Woody Allen and Jack Nicholson- type male characters are perennially seductive. Despite or because all their imperfections and quirks -  and their advanced age, But many women dare in secret to think differently about this. There is a scarcity of open jokes and a polite silence about men of a certain age that runs deep. And we are about to break it.  

         Most men over a certain age are like peaceful COWS, many are like scared RABBITS, a few are like unlikely PEACOCKS and only one in a million are still pure bred MUSTANGS….

            Meet the COW man. The cow man is in his late forties to late sixties, divorced, sturdy to a bit overweight – in any event there is a little or a big gut – and looks  well-past his prime. But the COW man has milk, which is a nice little income or dowry. But not necessarily. A worn-out couch and an addictive routine may qualify him too. The COW man is usually just over a relationship where the last woman fired him because he didn’t want to commit. Because after his divorce, he moved to his new apartment, dated her for six months to a year, met her 2-3 times a week, had nice dinners and conversation, a couple of trips to the Caribbean Islands, ak.a. the Ikea of tourism,  and had good sex.  His girlfriend was a great cook, and cared for him while he was sick. But, still it was not enough. And even if there was a small light at first, or even a flame, he methodically extinguished it. “We are very pragmatic" the COW man usually strategically discloses. “We don’t buy this romantic, passionate, mumbo jumbo…” and leaves the sentenced unfinished and stares at you as if wanting to say…"who knows if you stick with ME (the COW man) long enough, we may crumple, or get lazy or just throw in the towel and marry you after all excuses, exit clauses, and alternative possibilities will be exhausted.”  Which is your cue to send an empty stare that says…”You lucky COW, you had a woman who was pretty, good in bed and nice who was ready and crazy enough to want to sincerely make you the LAST one! And instead of feeling happy and honored, you preferred to wait for a better or a worse one, just a whatever next  one.” And then you stare again and try to fathom if, enough time, alcohol or other recreational drugs or even worse weapons of mass distraction – like deadly boredom and solitude or PMS – would make you want to sleep with the COW man once. Only once. Not six months, not for the rest of your life… and as much as you try to reach the desired answer you can’t get it right.   You try again and smile softly your eyes tangled at his gut or fat legs, or double chin, or comfy bland shorts and orange moccasins that clash with the nicety of the place where you’re dining or having your drink.  There’s a fleeting mention of his dowry again– the apartment, the views, the art collection, whatever, the illusion of safety or ending the quest and the loneliness if not for a brief timeout – and another sip of wine and another empty stare which is now the one into your potential future life with him. And you run.

      Meet the RABBIT MAN. The Rabbit men are not so easily to spot like the COW men. They are more gracious. Some are slender and charming, other seem masculine and handsome, like dark, smoky, strong horses galloping towards you in full romantic mode to save you from the big bad world. So at first you may mistake them for a MUSTANG. But the Rabbit men are like Russian dolls…you see the big doll and you are smitten and drunken with hope and desire and a cocktail of sweet illusions. Then you unwrap a smaller one and then a smaller one until you get to the tiny rabbit. Poor rabbit is scared. Scared of the women he doesn’t understand. Scared of the people he can’t control. Scared of the multitude of life changing decisions he can’t make. Scared to fall in love. Scared to fall out of love. Scared to get married. Scared to divorce. Scared to strike it on his own when the going is tough. Scared he might be exposed, scared he might always live unexposed. Scared to do the right thing, the right way, whenever the right thing happens to be inconvenient. Scared to take the leap, scared to chose and miss on life’s endless bounties he heard that exist. The Rabbit men are also a touch stingy. And have frail egos. They are high on vanity, and low on anything that could challenge their game and their fears. Unlike the COW men, who often stay complacent in comfortable relationships that don't lead anywhere, many Rabbit men spend lots of time alone, or in incomplete relationships where they always keep the woman at arm's lenght. Because of unrealist high hopes and expectations, and their inability to give love fully, to risk, and to give themselves to someone else.

      One day I was at a restaurant on the Upper East Side waiting for a RABBITT friend at an outdoor table, and saw a severely obese man at the next table waiting for someone with a huge hopeful smile, red rose in hand. 

      “Is it you? You look like the girl in the picture...”

      “Is it a blind date?" I ask. 

      "Yes, and she looked just like you in the photos, lovely.”

      “Oh, it’s not me," I say, and I know that even if the girl did come, lured by a photo taken 20 years ago, she must have walked right past him trying to go unnoticed. The fat man was dressed in a dark expensive suit, had little hair and small squinting eyes with which he greets every young, beautiful, tall woman coming his way.

      Meet the unlikely PEACOCK.  He sees himself as a peacock because of his accomplishments in the business world and, in turn, feels entitled to any woman, regardless how much younger, prettier, wittier than him and fresh like a peach.  The peacock doesn’t see himself the way he really is. Rather the way he'd like to be, or the way he was  20 years ago. When he dates on line, he sends photos taken many years ago, when he looked like a different person. Or doesn't send one at all and says instead he looks like a famous actor. He aims much, much higher than what he is right now, and he wants everything for nothing. The peacock doesn’t quite get it that likes attracts like.  The peacock just feels entitled to the best of the best because he can afford to pay for dinner and a trip to Bahamas and an OK hotel room or even the cheapest Tiffany necklace.  In his mind, pretty women are next to fancy Italian shoes he can get at Bloomingales or even better at Daffy’s. Why?  Because, well, he is an accomplished professional – one of those vague attributes that many men love to lavish upon themselves. The unlikely PEACOCK can also be the broke writer who lives in a 3x7 apt in the village and published ONE short story in an obscure magazine and lets all the women know what an amazing CREATOR he is.  Or the celebrity passed the yummy age that still treats every cute woman like a groupie who must jump in his bed right away.

      All men passed a certain age who are either COWS, RABBITS or unlikely PEACOCKS have some things in common. They feel entitled to much younger, fresh, smart, accomplished beautiful, terrific, quality women, as a past time recreational hobby. They have a built in advantage because for them, this is socially acceptable; unlike for the women past a certain age, who, in turn, face the bleary future of dating and fucking mostly less yummy, much older, and often decrepit and Viagara-dependent  COWS, RABBITS and UNLKELY PEACOCKS. Many of these men watch lots of porn in lonely hotel rooms after business meetings or in the solitude of their homes which they share with no one real. And of course, they gingerly expect those real women they date to indulge them with all the decadent, enthusiastic sex that mass porn videos propagates as consumer fun for everyone. Lovers, tenderness, and the old French pudeur are gone, meet the dinner with benefits, friends with benefits, sex and reality-porn consumers. 

      Only until one hundred years ago, women were still prone to marry for social reasons these men who didn’t make their hearts race; then ‘do it for England’, missionary style or so, once a month. But today, this grace is over. Women of all ages and inclinations are expected to be enthusiastic dream porn stars 24/7 to these unappealing Romeos. Have you ever noticed some of these men of a certain age receiving a pedicure next to you at the beauty parlor? Now, try to imagine something else. You know what. How much repulsive would be to…oh, well, and men think it’s easy. Or worse, fun...They don’t understand women’s repulsion, because the bodies of most of the women they engage with are PRETTY and YOUNGER.  But the truth is, all the sexual treats that only pure breeds could spontaneously inspire without repulsion in the heat of passion, are hard sad labor with COWS, RABBITS and unlikely PEACOCKS. The women who can do it – well, it's the hardest profession in the world. 

      Each woman regardless of age, dreams to meet, marry, love and be loved by the PURE BREED MUSTANGS. They are tall, handsome, graceful, manly, balanced, just the right everything: class, emotional openness, kindness, honesty, courage, spirit, leadership, loyalty and animal magnetism.  They float somewhat larger than life and their memory lingers. You see them in the boardrooms or running in the park or at artistic events smiling at you or at the world at large. There are many shades of Mustangs. Even if they are few and far in between. They are the real men all of us cherish who make a woman’s life worthwhile.   Mustang men are the ones women want to father their babies.  The ones that any quality woman with self respect should date and try to keep.  

      They are the best. But they are so rare.  This is why so many women past a certain age don’t want to get married in an era when they can support themselves financially, perpetrating the myth that is hard to get married. Others lower their expectations, silence their dreams, mute their physical or moral repulsion, and embrace the compromise of digging and finding farm soul mates: cow domestic partners and husbands, unlikely peacocks sugar daddies and benefactors, rabbit dates and predatory one night stands, or whatever works. In all the wrong places, for all the wrong reasons, for the never glorious but obsessively safe happy endings.
                                                                                                        Alexandra Ares is a novelist and screenwriter living in New York City, publisher of Manhattan Chronicles