What good is middle age? When our fertility expires, we are biologically irrelevant. Not pliant or impressionable, we are culturally marginal. Why don’t we find a corner to molder in, or take a long cruise on a short ice floe?
Because, I’ve found, for women (and perhaps for men) this is a great time of life, maybe the best of all. Reproductive decisions are over. Families have been launched, leaving mothers with a tremendous sense of competence, pride (and often relief). Now there is no NEED for a mate—romantic decisions are not time-sensitive or means-tested. There is professional achievement, and even “free time.” The result is a population of self-reliant, contented, and, not coincidentally, sexually adventurous women.
Being in their company is magical.
A hundred years ago, the median life span was 47—you mated, you reared, and a decade or two later you retired and died. There was no reason conventions guiding conduct, especially romantic conduct, should develop. In the last century median life span leaped 30 years, an unparalleled revolution in the human condition. That these extra years have so quickly become a time of freedom and pleasure—rather than consternation and disorientation—is magical.
In midlife, men, who are also liberated from child rearing and supporting, want women who are confident, self-reliant, and sexually adventurous. Such women are all over the place; and because of the male propensity to drop dead young, the women far outnumber the men. Yet many men despair that they cannot find an appropriate sweetheart. Why? They see right through their female peers, as if they were made of vapor. It is magical.
There are evolutionary/biological reasons why men’s eyes focus on youth. Like every other living thing we are designed to reproduce. But in midlife, the last thing most men want is to raise (more) children. If they procure a young woman, they are missing out on their ideal companions, and signing on for their worst nightmare. These ideal companions too often find themselves involuntarily alone.
That is the ultimate magic of our time. It is black magic.
I’ve spent nine years researching the ways middle-aged women (single ones, who have chosen, or were forced, to start anew) conduct the sexual and romantic lives. Some, frustrated and disgusted, hop off what they feel is the bus to Romance Palooka-ville. Some soldier on, expecting little, and getting it.
But others triumph. How? Some realize they are happy with a smaller (though passionate) male footprint in their lives. Some make startling discoveries about themselves, and find liberation in revolutionary changes in lifestyle—including sexual relationships and behaviors that would have horrified them earlier in life.
Confounding, infuriating, thrilling. It is the subject of my new book, which will be out in March: The Magic of Middle-Aged Women.
I plan to roll out many of my findings here. I’m eager to hear recommendations about other issues, especially practical ones, that should be addressed in the furtherance of Midlife Love.