For one thing, people used to stay married; they weren’t out in the jungle, searching for romance.Besides, these women just looked so ancient – permed hair, beige cardis.They’d long ago hung up their spurs and mutated into pensioners.
That’s what I thought, anyway, in my snobby and blinkered youth. Because time sped by and suddenly I’d joined them – without the perm and cardi because nobody has them now – but 60 all the same.I’d had a longish marriage and then a 10-year love affair with a man much older than I – the cartoonist Mel Calman.When he died I fell in love with somebody 15 years younger than I was – a Hungarian artist – and lived with him for seven years.So I hadn’t really come to grips with my age at all; it had ricocheted up and down, reflecting the person I was with.In my mid-fifties, however, I found myself single again, and remained so until well into my sixties. Anyway, I went out with some of them and found that dating when one’s older brings various challenges.
The first thing I discovered was the chronic shortage of available men. I can understand this – nice firm body, the rejuvenating prospect of starting over again, maybe more kids. In a long marriage you age together; in a weird way your spouse remains that young person you first knew, you hardly notice the wrinkles and the thickening waist. When I meet a man he mirrors back to me my own mortality. For instance, there was the tooth business, or the lack of them.Like the London sparrows, they had simply disappeared. I myself would find it rather lonely to go to bed with somebody who hasn’t heard of Cliff Michelmore but there you are; it doesn’t seem to bother them. One man asked me out for a walk on Hampstead Heath but cancelled because one of his teeth had fallen out.The bald fact is that a man in his sixties or seventies is far more likely to pull than a woman. Then there was a date with a man who took me to a Chinese restaurant.However drooling, alcoholic, boring, self-obsessed he is, he’s sure to find a woman who wants to have sex with him. As we sat down he removed his teeth and put them in a handkerchief.He then proceeded to work his way through a bowl of shiitake mushroom soup, not the best choice for a man with only gums to grind. Shall I straighten my hair because nowadays the tousled look makes me look like a witch?Shiitake mushrooms are small, rubbery things, and soon he gave up and removed them from his mouth, one by one, and put them into his hanky to join the dentures. All the uncertainties and insecurities are still there, horribly near the surface. I do believe that we baby-boomers are reinventing ageing as we enter it.