Miss Information

I'm attracted to someone younger — like, decades younger — and I don't know what I should do.

By Cait Robinson

Dear Miss Information,

I'm a sixty-five-year-old man. Last summer I had a twenty-year-old woman, Lola, as a houseguest. She's a college student who lives in a dorm during the school year. Her dad is a friend I stay in touch with but don't see often. He mentioned that Lola didn't have a good place to stay when her small college shut down for the summer. I live alone in a place with more than enough room; I had met Lola a few times when she was a teenager and knew her to be a polite, pleasant person. I said she could stay with me. Her dad was delighted and grateful.

I'm in a very satisfying (sexually and emotionally) relationship with a woman my own age. I checked with her first to see if she was comfortable with Lola staying with me and, of course, she was. Why wouldn't she have been?

I don't have a thing for young women. I didn't expect to have any sexual attraction to Lola. And I didn't — not at first. Lola didn't know anyone in town, and the usual ways of meeting people her own age — school, work, bars — weren't available to her. We started spending a lot of time together. We had great conversations. A lot of the subjects were topics I'd pondered in depth in my own youth and had come to think of as sophomoric. But in revisiting them, I realized that a lot of them were still worth exploring. She challenged my ingrained way of looking at the world.

My sexual attraction to Lola developed slowly as I got to know her better and admire her intelligence. And I suppose I felt flattered that my age didn't seem to matter to her. Old people in good health don't feel old and it's easy for us to forget that we are old. Lola didn't treat me like I was an old man and I didn't treat her like she was a child, and I guess that's how the sexual attraction started. But (at least I can be proud of this part) as I became aware of it, I was especially careful not to reveal it. There were no "joking" references to sex, there was no casual touching, and there was no checking out her body when I thought she wouldn't notice. As far as I can tell, I did nothing to make her uncomfortable and we had a wonderful summer. Even the fact that I was in a near-constant state of sexual frustration was, though not enjoyable, at least interesting, in that it had been a long time since I'd had such "youthful" physical feelings.

I don't think I'm a bad person for having had "lust in my heart" for a twenty-year-old. But I'm not proud of it. A forty-year-old with a twenty-year-old is suspect; a sixty-five-year-old with a twenty-year-old is just plain creepy. (But I don't know why it's creepy — any ideas?) Lola may ask if she can stay with me again this summer. If I say yes, it will be an enjoyable summer in one sense because she's a delightful, intelligent young person. It will be mildly sexually frustrating, but that's something people deal with all the time. More difficult will be maintaining the constant facade of having no interest in her as a sexual being.

Should I just suck it up, work on overcoming my obsession, and provide a deserving young person with a place to stay? Or should I not subject myself to the stress, not subject my girlfriend to the emotional unfaithfulness, and not subject Lola to the risk that my facade might crack and seriously creep her out? And if I say no to letting her stay here again, what reason do I give?

— There's No Fool Like An Old Fool

Dear Old Fool,

The other night I went out to dinner at an trendy restaurant with my silver-fox-like dad, and I felt uncomfortable glances from nearby tables. ("Look at her shoes. Clearly that girl can't afford dinner on her own." Touché, y'all!) It may have all been in my head, but I decided to clear the air by loudly crowing things like, "Hey remember that time I puked in your car when I was ten, Dad?" or "Hey, did the family dog stop licking that weird sore on his arm?" I am a delightful dinner companion. I spilled nothing on my shirt.

The point is that "older man/PYT" is well-worn enough territory that it follows many of us around even when we least expect it. It has a rich, storied history as a quasi-exploitative, sadness-drenched pit of ick. But I commend you for your apparently level head and solid grasp on your lust and emotions. Wisdom: one of the many perks of age.

There's nothing wrong with a sixty-five-year-old having a close friendship with a twenty-year-old. Your young spirit may have found a match in her old one, and that's great. Mutually fascinating, stimulating relationships are hard enough to find in this world without the schoolmarms among us slapping their wrists with rulers.

I do, though, think your impulse to establish some distance here is a good one. As a friend, Lola sounds like a tremendous asset to your life. If she becomes a source of guilt, though, the relationship would lose its charm. Keep your girlfriend: she sounds like a gem. Keep Lola as a friend. Keep your spare bedroom spare. In the interest of your own sanity, make up some excuse as to why Lola can't stay with you. (Might I suggest filling your house with model trains?) Do you have any friends, neighbors, or colleagues who might be able to put her up? That way, you and Lola could see each other regularly without any blurred lines or ambiguity.

As the senior in your relationship, you get to set the course. Take a long look at Hugh Hefner and his attendants. A stone-cold bummer. Keep it PG and you'll be so much better off.

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