The Reader (2)

When I ended my last posting,  I felt so exhausted I thought my final moments on earth were upon me. I expected, then, that I would never write again, never see another film, never read another book, well, at least not in this earthly realm.

You may think me excessively maudlin, but I’ll explain that I’m 113, being born in 1895. There aren’t many my age and still living. I may arguably be the oldest of us bloggers, for I sense from the content of what you, my fellow bloggers, write that most of you are under thirty, although I’ve come across in the blogosphere a couple of you sixty and seventy year-olds, but certainly no older. Now you may understand how much the anomaly I feel when I post my pieces.

Being 113 I feel grateful each morning I wake up alive. I live in the moment. I’m the quintessential existentialist. I feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, luxuriate in them. When a bird sings I stop everything and listen. When I eat I savour slowly each mouthful. When I see a film I become so a part of it I forget where I am, who I am. When I read a novel I see the characters, hear their voices, see what they see, hear what they hear, think what they think, feel what they feel.

Thus, as I watched the film, “The Reader”, and its scenes of Hannah (Kate Winslet) in the bath with the young man, Michael, it was I, not Michael, who was in the bath with her. It was I, not Michael, who read aloud to Hannah as she sat opposite me in the tub. It was I, not Michael, whom she soaped down. It was I, not Michael, who soaped down Hannah. It was I, not Michael, who lay entwined with Hannah in her bed afterwards in post-coital bliss.

And as I watched “The Reader”, I thought how I would have loved it had I had a thirty five year-old woman as a lover when I was fifteen, when it was older mature women, the thirty five year-olds, whom I lusted after, not the fifteen and sixteen year-olds whom I was supposed to lust after. And these most desirable thirty five year-old women were made even more desirable because their bodies and limbs were fully covered. Remember, this was circa 1910 when the mini-skirt, the plunging decolletage, and the thonged bikini, were as unimaginable as the silicon chip. There was almost no bare womanly flesh to be seen, so my nightly erotic dreams of these most desirable older women were all the more vivid, all the more Bacchanalian.

On the other hand, had I, when fifteen, had a thirty five year-old lover like Hannah, my memories of her may have spoiled my subsequent love-affairs, as Michael’s memories of Hannah did actually spoil his subsequent love affairs, since he always compared the women he had love affairs with, with Hannah, and always found them woefully wanting. Thus his good fortune, his triumph, as a fifteen year old, contained the seeds of his later romantic disappointments, including his marriage which ended unhappily.

While my wife, Gladys, was a great disappointment to me in the conjugal sense (although she was, apart from a couple of lapses, a good and dutiful woman), I did have several love affairs with other women, some of whom I’ll never forget for the unutterable pleasure they gave me. Paradoxically they helped my marriage, since I didn’t demand of Gladys my conjugal rights nearly as often as I would have, absent these other women.

You who are reading this, may think I speak of romance exclusively in the past tense, since I’m 113, and cannot be expected ever again to have a love affair. This just isn’t true because the older I get the better lover I become. I will admit to having failed as a lover when much younger, particularly before the 1960s. But, as I said in my previous posting, I embraced the spirit of the 1960s, and this enriched my love affairs. I felt less the need always to be masterful, less the need always to act the cave-man, to admit to being vulnerable. For this, I became a better, a more sensitive, a more polymorphous lover.

Thus I expect to have future love affairs. Now, I do realize my 113 year-old body isn’t as aesthetically pleasing to the womanly eye as it was when I was twenty-five or so. But my 113 year-old body isn’t just any old 113 year-old body, for I continue to work out regularly in the gym, as I’ve done all my life. Thus my body can pass for that of a fifty or sixty year-old Baby Boomer, and Baby Boomers of this age still have love affairs. The older I become, the more women are available to me, for, as a 113 year-old, I can find women as old as seventy or eighty to be attractive.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do find thirty five year old women beautiful and desirable, as I find also their twenty-five year-old sisters beautiful and desirable. But I regard their physical beauty as I would a beautiful painting or sculpture. I drink in their beauty dispassionately. When I see a young man with a beautiful young woman, with whom he is in love, I think “good for him” and hope he and she will make beautiful and passionate love together. But I, myself, wouldn’t wish to make love with the young woman because it just wouldn’t feel right. Our enormous age difference, and that we are at totally different stages of our lives, would preclude a spiritual and intellectual communion between us – something essential for me in a love affair.

I love women more for their minds, intelligence, and emotional maturity, than for their physical beauty. I’ve known women who were quite plain-looking, but who had a warmth and intelligence which made them, for me, unutterably beautiful and desirable. This inner beauty is ageless. She who has it, and who doesn’t let it atrophy through dissipation, will always be beautiful and desirable to me, no matter her age.

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