It has been many decades since I went through menopause. At the time, I regretted the concurrent invisibility, when men stopped noticing me on the street. The funniest moment happened in Italy, where, as a young student, I had grown accustomed to walking down the street in a mist of commentary: “Bellina, bella.”
Later, visiting Florence in midlife, I heard two boys on a motor scooter cry out behind me, “Bellina! Bellissima!” And then, as they passed: “Ah, scusa, Signora.”
I broke out laughing.
Over time, I grew to appreciate the freedom of not having to wear stilettos, attract anyone or struggle for the exquisite body I once had. I moved into what is now termed the aging process. And I wondered: What does it mean to age?
As a teenager, I read a book by H. Rider Haggard called “She.” In my memory of the story, a white adventurer in Africa comes across the most beautiful woman he has ever met and they fall in love.
It turns out she is immortal, having walked through the flames of eternity, which are found deep in underground caverns. She wants him to become immortal as well and to live with her, but he is too fearful of the fire to enter.
She tells him she’ll show him the way and steps into the flames, only this time she turns into a withered hag and burns up. He staggers back, surrendering to aging and mortality.
It’s the sort of story that makes an impression. I’m an old woman now, although blessed with the accident of health. I feel youthful for my age — active, playful, energetic, lighthearted. I’m told I’m attractive, but I don’t believe it, of course, because how could I be? I’m old.
And if I occasionally forget, the high numerals of my years rush back into my brainpan, as big as Burning Man, to remind me that I should be practicing a shuffling stoop, hunching my back, sitting heavily, taking naps.
The other day, however, I was brought up short. A younger man I know came knocking on the door. We sat on the deck behind my house to talk about what I expected would be the death of his father, or the girlfriend he had broken up with recently. I’m accustomed to being a kind of mother figure, the wise older woman who provides empathy and advice. Instead, this man 30 years younger than I screwed up his courage to blurt that he felt attracted to me.
I was stunned. Embarrassed.
Yes, Emmanuel Macron, president of France, is married to a woman 25 years older than he, and I have friends who have had affairs with men 18 or 20 years younger, but that was when they were 40!
Yes, the writer Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, who married the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, took up after his death with a young writer, Ned Field, nearly 40 years younger and wild about her when she was in her 70s (which 100 years ago was the equivalent of today’s 80 or 90). She was, he wrote, the only woman in the world worth dying for.
After her death he married her daughter, only 20 years older than he, and who knows how she felt about not being the only woman worth dying for.
On the morning of our conversation, I was swept by a confusion of emotions, including the embarrassment of not having thought of the younger man in that way. I thanked him for the compliment. I probably blushed. “You made my day,” I said.
I didn’t tell him how embarrassed I felt, with wrinkles on my face and liver spots on my hands, so ashamed by my visible signs of aging that I no longer like to look in the mirror. Or how my heart lifted with pleasure at his compliment, at the same time that somewhere in the back of my mind I became a scolded child again, curling like a cooked oyster before my mother’s disdain: “Shame on you! Who do you think you are?”
I no longer remember what she was scolding me for, but I know that voice well, that of my inner judge thundering up the basement steps to flog me for my hubris.
After my admirer left that day, it took me a good hour to quiet my inner judge and send him hulking back down the cellar steps of my consciousness to prowl grumbling and mumbling. (I might add that one of the pleasures of getting older is knowing how to deal with the inner judge before he becomes the torturer, to pet and calm him like a good animal trainer, a horse whisperer. When I was young, these harsh judgments could send me spiraling into depression for days.)
My admirer, if I can call him that, is not the only younger (or older) man to express affection for me, but I assume those men have meant it the way someone may say, “I love tomatoes.” They appreciate my openness, my playfulness, my sense of wonder and joy.
But this man left me shaken. I have no desire to take him up on his sweet confession, but he has made me stop and think — about myself, about age, about life.
O.K., I admit it. I suffer from ageism. I find myself buying into our cultural concept of age, which says I’m ugly now, a hag. I’m a product of my culture and of the advertising that swirls around us, presenting beauty as a 19- or even 16-year-old, perhaps, in Victoria’s Secret lace or a Calvin Klein string thong, with her bee-stung lips and sulky face. And look, she is beautiful. She is breathtaking. But why is it that a man can be desirable his whole life long and a woman can’t?
And then there’s the study about online dating from last summer that claimed men’s sexual desirability peaks at age 50 while women’s is highest at 18 (and falls from there). So what can it possibly mean for a woman like me, in her early 80s, to be told I am still feminine and attractive? Or to admit that I still find men attractive? That I like to flirt, to play?
What does it mean to be a woman? What is it that attracts?
When I was 20, flooded by hormones and unable to keep my eyes and quivering senses from every boy, I thought it was about physical beauty, or sensuality, and I thought it proper to heighten the interest of others by wearing miniskirts and floating fabrics. It was all about sex, nature’s way of propagating the species.
Later, men took second place in the currents of my life to interests and family and career, but they’ve always held a high place in my consciousness. Sex and power were linked for me, and the freedom of my sensuality was an expression of my own confidence and love of life.
I think I never felt more sexually alive than in my 50s and 60s, and yes, even 70s, free from the dangers of childbirth but with sensuality aflame. For women of my generation, who grew up without birth control pills or much sex education, a lot about sex was fraught.
And later, sex in long-term relationships can become routine. But life brings unexpected changes. Marriages end. And I have found that love later in life has been every bit as enthralling as when I was young.
As we age, we can gain a comfort level with ourselves that lets us pursue whatever we wish, without shame. Even my mother’s reproving voice died down long ago (mostly), and I have felt myself free to choose whom I wanted — or not — and to act from my core.
I like men. I like to look at men. I like their company. And just as I find a youthful girl’s body lovely to look at, I find my eyes also tracking a fit male jogger on the street, shirtless, his body glistening.
So what is it to be a woman at 82? What does femininity mean at this age? Beauty? Sensuality?
I should say that I have never been happier than in these later years, never more filled with wonder and delight. I think sometimes I’m back to being a 9-year-old (only with a creakier body), filled with joy at being alive and with none of the damage that the raging rivers of hormones later inflict.
So what do I want to tell women of tomorrow about the brilliant decades that lie ahead? I want to tell them about how good they can be. I want to tell them about joy.
Sophy Burnham lives in Washington, D.C. Her latest novel is “Love, Alba.”
Modern Love can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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跑狗图2018年第093期ome【真】【不】【知】【道】【雍】【正】【这】【到】【底】【整】【的】【什】【么】【幺】【蛾】【子】，【锦】【茗】【心】【里】【说】【不】【出】【是】【害】【怕】【还】【是】【怎】【么】【的】，【总】【之】【怪】【怪】【的】，【不】【舒】【服】【就】【对】【了】。 【毕】【竟】【锦】【茗】【和】【雍】【正】【的】【关】【系】【是】【叔】【伯】【和】【弟】【妹】【的】【关】【系】，【雍】【正】【就】【这】【样】【让】【自】【己】【的】【弟】【妹】【住】【在】【养】【心】【殿】，【他】【的】【寝】【宫】【里】，【这】【让】【锦】【茗】【觉】【得】【惊】【悚】，【换】【了】【别】【人】【大】【概】【会】【想】【歪】【家】【惊】【恐】【吧】。 “【呵】【呵】”【雍】【正】【笑】【了】【笑】，【这】【是】【锦】【茗】【第】【一】【次】【见】【雍】【正】【笑】
【冷】【哼】【一】【声】，【靳】【辰】【渊】【咬】【了】【咬】【牙】，【把】【这】【笔】【帐】【给】【记】【下】【来】【了】，【牵】【着】【靳】【向】【暖】【转】【身】【就】【进】【了】【屋】。 “【我】【让】【厨】【房】【给】【你】【准】【备】【了】【你】【喜】【欢】【吃】【的】【饭】【菜】，【你】【先】【去】【好】【好】【的】【洗】【个】【热】【水】【澡】，【然】【后】【换】【身】【干】【净】【衣】【服】【下】【来】【用】【餐】【知】【道】【吗】？” 【靳】【向】【暖】【点】【了】【点】【头】，【又】【抱】【着】【靳】【辰】【渊】【撒】【了】【下】【娇】，“【哥】【哥】，【我】【最】【爱】【你】【了】。” 【靳】【辰】【渊】【嗯】【了】【一】【声】，【拍】【了】【拍】【她】【的】【小】【脑】【袋】，“【你】
【如】【果】【人】【生】【是】【一】【场】【游】【戏】，【桐】【人】【的】【人】【生】【就】【算】【不】【是】《【黑】【暗】【之】【魂】》，【也】【不】【会】【差】【太】【多】。 【别】【看】【他】【现】【在】【风】【风】【光】【光】，【妥】【妥】【人】【生】【赢】【家】【的】【样】【子】，【其】【实】【这】【全】【是】【他】【拿】【命】【换】【来】【的】——【没】【有】【开】【玩】【笑】，【真】【是】【拿】【命】【去】【换】，【开】【挂】【玩】【家】？NONONO——【真】【要】【说】【是】【氪】【命】【玩】【家】【才】【对】。 【从】14【岁】【进】【入】SAO【开】【始】，【他】【在】【生】【死】【边】【缘】【反】【复】【横】【跳】【的】【次】【数】【绝】【对】【超】【过】【两】跑狗图2018年第093期ome【林】【克】【拖】【回】【来】【的】【两】【只】【大】【型】【食】【人】【鳄】【在】【商】【社】【换】【了】【二】【十】【九】【个】【小】【金】【币】。【这】【个】【世】【界】【上】【的】【币】【值】，【一】【个】【价】【值】【一】【百】【银】【币】【的】【大】【金】【币】【等】【于】【五】【个】【小】【金】【币】。 【看】【似】【不】【少】，【可】【是】【对】【这】【个】【世】【界】【上】【的】【武】【者】【来】【看】【其】【实】【也】【花】【不】【了】【多】【久】，【这】【个】【世】【界】【上】【的】【猪】【肉】【牛】【肉】【价】【格】【都】【很】【高】【的】，【作】【为】【武】【者】【顿】【顿】【吃】【肉】【的】【成】【本】【就】【居】【高】【不】【下】。【一】【个】【小】【金】【币】【三】【五】【天】【就】【花】【光】【了】。 【而】【作】【为】【珍】
【金】【秋】【送】【爽】，【转】【眼】【又】【是】【一】【年】【一】【度】【的】【开】【学】【季】。 【作】【为】【全】【市】【最】【好】【的】【高】【中】，【一】【中】【的】【校】【门】【很】【是】【气】【派】，【门】【口】【的】【公】【告】【栏】【中】【展】【示】【着】【一】【排】【排】【的】【照】【片】，【全】【都】【是】【各】【届】【的】【杰】【出】【校】【友】。 “【快】【看】【这】【个】，【这】【个】【学】【长】【好】【帅】【啊】。”【有】【刚】【入】【学】【的】【新】【生】【站】【在】【公】【告】【栏】【前】【指】【指】【点】【点】，【让】【我】【看】【看】，“【啊】，【是】【花】【滑】【运】【动】【员】【诶】！” “【林】【展】【涵】【你】【都】【没】【有】【听】【说】【过】？”【另】【一】
【灵】【星】【看】【他】【一】【眼】，【语】【气】【淡】【淡】，“【干】【什】【么】。” 【华】【延】【激】【动】【的】【道】：“【你】【猜】【我】【刚】【才】【看】【见】【了】【谁】！【我】【刚】【才】【看】【见】【花】【裳】【了】！” 【灵】【星】【操】【控】【机】【器】【的】【手】【一】【顿】，【扭】【头】【看】【向】【华】【延】，“【在】【哪】？” 【华】【延】【赶】【紧】【把】【位】【置】【指】【给】【灵】【星】。 【灵】【星】【不】【缓】【不】【慢】【的】【走】【过】【去】，【双】【手】【插】【兜】【站】【在】【那】【里】【一】【动】【不】【动】。 【灵】【星】【的】【举】【动】【让】【站】【在】【不】【远】【处】【的】【玫】【瑰】【看】【的】【一】【头】【雾】【水】。