I feel comfortable in my aloneness, it suits me, at least for now. But the end goal — and maybe only because this is what everything in our culture says is a happy ending — is to find a great partner and experience the world through that relationship. To this end, there’s a great quote from the poet Warsan Shire about finding a partner when there’s no sense of urgency:
My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude.
It sucks that there’s kind of a war between men and women at this point. Nobody wins when this happens. Winning would be a healthy partnership that benefits both people, they gain more from it than they have just by themselves. Their partner is sweeter than their solitude. But when we’re judging the other gender and they’re falling short of our expectations, we feel disappointed by their presence, instead of grateful.
Here’s a very scary illustration of what I’m talking about. A 59-year-old woman writes about her 55-year-old boyfriend telling her, essentially, I like everything about you but I can’t get turned on by your old body:
On Monday evening over the phone, I asked this man who had shared my bed for three nights running why we had not made love. “Your body is too wrinkly,” he said without a pause. “I have spoiled myself over the years with young woman. I just can’t get excited with you. I love your energy and your laughter. I like your head and your heart. But, I just can’t deal with your body.”
I was stunned. The hurt would come later. I asked him slowly and carefully if he found my body hard to look at. He said yes. “So, this means seeing me naked was troublesome to you?” I asked. He told me he had just looked away. And when the lights were out, he pretended my body was younger — that I was younger. My breath came deep and full as I processed this information. My face blazed as I felt embarrassed and shamed by memories of my easy nakedness with him in days just passed.
We talked for some time more, my head reeling at the content of the conversation. He spoke of special stockings and clothing that would “hide” my years. He blithely told me he loved “little black dresses” and strappy shoes. He said my hair was not long and flowing as he preferred, but that was okay because it was “cool looking.” I felt like a Barbie Doll on acid as I listened to this man. He was totally oblivious to the viciousness of his words. He had turned me into an object to be dressed and positioned to provide satisfaction for his ideas of what female sexual perfection should be.
He explained that now that I knew what was required, we could have a great time in the bedroom. I told him no. I would not hide from my own body. I would not wear outfits to make my body more “tolerable.” I would not undress in the dark or shower with the bathroom door closed. I would not diminish myself for him — or for anyone. My body is beautiful and it goes along with my mind and my heart.
What scares the most about men is this scenario, that you could love someone your age but not be at peace with it. That by your fifties you still don’t grow into a person that can figure out how to fall in love with a person instead of a fantasy.
As an impartial observer of many marriages, the ones that work require an effort from both parties to do whatever they need to do to continue finding their partner to be interesting and attractive, and to try to be interesting and attractive themselves. And this includes possibly the female equivalent of this horror story, assuming that because you are a vagina-possessor you must be attractive no matter what your actually personality is like or whether you spend time on your appearence. But when your body ages, you can’t hide it, and you shouldn’t. And it’s not a bad thing, it’s a human body and I believe that all the signs of age also show signs of how much you’ve grown and experienced. I would never want to be 21 again, I’ve put too much into the person I’ve become in the years since then.
What I’m not saying is that physical attraction in relationships is unimportant. I’m voicing a fear that healthy, normal bodies will never be enough to fulfill the fantasies men seem to need. That all the meat and bones of life isn’t as important as how much your body looks like a porn actresses.
If the choice is to not be able to please someone with all the work you’ve put into having a full life and a healthy body and it’s very far from “enough” is that anxiety of trying and inevitably failing to please him better than you’re aloneness? Is the relationship a noise that improves or takes away from the silence? It has to be the latter, and I don’t know how to reconcile this with my own hope for a relationship, or anyone else’s, for that matter. I don’t want dating to be a zero sum game where women win and men lose — or vice versa. I want us to figure it out. I want symbiosis, where we can all be happy, where we can all improve our solitude.