Even as a young woman, I dreaded growing older with every year. I spent my thirtieth birthday (and every subsequent natal celebration that ended in a zero) alone in bed with the covers over my head and the drapes drawn. It's not that I'm shallow, but living the high life in Hollywood's celebrity society is a constant Iron Woman race against Time, with glamour nipping at your heels like a pit bull with a taste for Stuart Weitzman mules. Being pretty-or even beautiful-could never be good enough. One had to be on the cutting edge of fashion, have an encyclopedic knowledge of who was who, who was hot and, most importantly, who was on the way out.
It was stressful in a superficial sort of way, but I thrived on it because I had perfected being the celebrity wife. My clothes were outstanding yet not overstated; my dinners were well thought out and flawlessly executed, whether for two or twenty. Believe me, it's work to keep a dinner conversation going among twelve people who only want to talk about themselves.
I don't want to sound bitter, because we had some good times along the way, but there were other times I sat in the bathtub for hours, running more and more water, not to create more foam with the Giorgio bath gel, but trying to drown my unhappiness. I think the pain was sharpest when I realized that what I was feeling was loneliness.
And that was when I was still married to my husband, David Steinberg, before he dumped me for a fortyish casting agent who wrote a book called How I Survived My Boyfriend's Divorce. After that, my life became about surviving my husband's girlfriend's book and learning to live life on the skids of sidelined celebrity. I was dropped like a hot potato by all except a few old friends who were amazed that it lasted twenty-four years.
Then came the drama of entering the singles scene later in life. What a cruel awakening!
It was not the scene I had left behind at thirty. I felt like a fish out of water, flopping about and gasping for oxygen. It was not an experience for the faint of heart.
One bleak afternoon as I wallowed in the deep, dark abyss of menopause, I caught Cybill Shepherd on The Oprah Winfrey Show discussing her menopausal experience. She said something I found quite inspiring that changed my whole outlook (with a little help from hormone replacement). She said that any woman over fifty who has a body part that still looks good should be flaunting it every day. Her attitude made such an impression on me! She seemed so free and unencumbered, so alluring and sexy-what a dynamic presentation!
Around that time my husband and I were working with a female divorce mediator, which turned out to be fortuitous. Most of the meetings took place at my house, and she told me she was quite enamored of my decorating style. She decided to make it her mission to turn me into a professional interior decorator. With her relentless support and encouragement, I started my own business.
Slowly, I started to regain my bearings and equilibrium. As I began to work with clients and fulfill their expectations, I also began to realize my own goals. I had a renewed self-esteem and confidence, and soon a new hair color. Not long after, there was the occasional date. Within months, my business was flourishing and I was going out nearly every night.
To my surprise, I realized I was happier than I'd been in a long time. I had risen up like the phoenix, but little did I know I was about to be struck down again.
I had just turned sixty, even though I knew I didn't look it, when I wandered into a street fair in the upscale southern California neighborhood of Brentwood. As I strolled through the array of kiosks and booths a woman began frantically waving her arms in my direction.
"You! Come here!" she shouted.
Curious, I strolled toward her.
"Are you married?" she asked excitedly. I shook my head and she shoved a piece of paper under my nose. "I have got so many men," she cooed, "that would die to go out with you!" Now I realized she was running a booth for a dating service. "You're absolutely gorgeous! I'll have you married by the end of the year, I promise."
I was so pumped up by her pitch that I was already planning what designer would do my wedding gown.
"Let's get going," she squealed, pressing a pencil into my hand. "Wait 'til you see how many wealthy bachelors I have for you!" I was mentally choosing my bridesmaids when she said, "By the way, how old are you?"
Batting my baby blues, I said, "Sixty."
The enthusiasm drained from her face, and she snatched the paper from my hand as if taking matches from a toddler.
"I can't help you," she said icily, taking back her pencil as well. "You're too old."
My self-esteem deflated like leaky balloon. Dazed, I wandered through the crowd with her words echoing in my head so loudly I was sure everyone else could hear them, too-"You're too old, you're too old, too old, old, old, old. . . ."
By the time I reached my car I was fighting back tears. I felt obsolete and invisible, as if I didn't deserve love or even happiness. Too old, old, old . . .
Then I got mad. Wait a minute, I thought, I haven't even peaked yet! And how many other women have been made to feel this way-even by members of their own sex? I knew then that I would make certain that this second part of my life would be just as fabulous-if not more so-as the first part.
This is no longer the world that Helen Gurley Brown described to us in her 1962 book, Sex and the Single Girl. We believed the little mouseburger when she told us that being single was bliss. Perhaps so, but these days it's quite a bit more complicated and sometimes it's downright frightening. The world has changed and so has a woman's role in society. Women know a lot more now, but we need every iota of that knowledge to survive, and we need to share what we've learned.
If there's one thing I've learned, it's that once you're over the hill it's time to start picking up speed. You needn't give up everything that you once considered fun (including sex) just because you've hit another age marker. I realized that while life might not exactly begin at fifty, it most certainly doesn't come to a screeching halt-unless you let it. The sixty-year-old woman is still a viable force in today's world. She works, she dates, she is sexual, she is chic, and she is dynamic. It's not about being "beautiful" in the classic sense. Although it sounds like a cliché, it's about being beautiful inside. And that's all about being comfortable and confident in your own skin, being clear about who you are and what you want.
I made up my mind to share my wisdom and experience with other single women who have fallen victim to age discrimination in the most personal and devastating ways. I decided to write this book, and I knew the perfect collaborator. I first met Raechel Donahue in 1969. She was the embodiment of the woman of the times, a perfect combination of elegance and funk. Widowed in 1975, Raechel remained successfully single, gracefully breezing through romances and media careers. She was still a sexy dynamo in her fifties and I couldn't think of a better writing partner. We pooled our forty years of single life so that we could make yours more fun.
So kick off those practical shoes and get ready for what could easily become the best time of your life. You don't need a rocking chair. You just need to rock!
This book is to help you do just that. Older women need to know that they can still be glamorous, sensational, and sexy. They just need to know The Ropes.
The art of dating younger men
I'd rather be a babysitter than a nurse.
Instead of kissing a lot of frogs, mature women may prefer "tadpoles" (younger men). Don't call it cradle robbing --tadpoling is much cuter. Becky Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle calls it "babysitting with perks". A group of spunky women in that forward-thinking city by the bay even declared National Tadpole Week, and they're lobbying to get this new definition of tadpole into the latest edition of Webster's dictionary. The verb "tadpole" would be the practice of women dating men who are ten or more years younger; the noun "tadpole" is that delightful creature, a man who is at least ten years his lover's junior.
So, are you tired of dating men your age who will take you to a fabulous dinner but then nod off during the sex scene in the movies? There's no harm in having the best of both worlds.
Get your expensive jewelry from the geezer and gorilla sex from the young stud muffin. Experience is highly overrated when it comes to lovemaking--enthusiasm and frequency make up for a lot!
When we are in our twenties and thirties, we design the man of our dreams and make a mental list of desirable attributes: We want him to be handsome, stylish, hard bodied, and successful. Our fantasy man must appreciate the finer things in life, like taking us to dinner and giving us jewelry. Oh, and he definitely has to be an imaginative, romantic lover.
But let's face facts. As the years go by, the list of requirements shrinks until we start thinking the best we can hope for in a man is that he's still breathing and doesn't miss the toilet when he pees. This, my darlings, might be the perfect time to consider the sport of tadpoling.
Here's to you, Ms. Robinson
Don't go thinking that this is a treat reserved for the rich, famous or beautiful. There's a tadpole out there for every woman if only she would open her eyes and her mind. It's not that you should be trolling the nurseries or daycare facilities, but be receptive to the idea that you needn't limit your dating pool to the nearest rest home and that you very well could be considered attractive and sexy to a younger man. It's just possible that when that handsome young waiter (hoping to become an actor) complimented you on your legs he wasn't just angling for a bigger tip. He may have been trying to break the ice just as a man your own age would do.
Men have traditionally had to deal with the stigma of rejection, and it's no less a bummer to be shut down by someone older than by a twenty-something babe. Often the problem for the younger man is that he is unsure of how to approach an older woman. If he's tried it once or twice, he may have been shut down, particularly if he used one of those lame pickup lines that we heard in our twenties. If he gets chucked under the chin or called "sonny" or some such motherly endearment, he's not going to pursue it further. More likely he'll be embarrassed and retreat to his den (depending upon his age, that might be his messy one-bedroom apartment).
Back in the seventies, Burt Reynolds shocked the entertainment world when he appeared naked in Cosmopolitan magazine, his package discreetly tucked between his legs. Dinah Shore was pushing sixty when she took up with her thirty-something hunk and they flung themselves wholeheartedly into the scandalous love affair (oh, how easy it was to outrage people in those innocent days). I was sitting near them at a dinner party after they first got together and I overheard her say to him, "Eat your vegetables, darling."
"I don't WANT to eat my vegetables", he replied petulantly.
Poor Dinah was on the cutting edge of the tadpole game and had apparently not yet learned to reign in her maternal instincts.
What, you may be asking, is the value of having a relationship with a younger man rather than an older one? There's really not that much difference when you consider that men never really mature anyway. So the question should be instead, "What's the harm in it?"
To remodel an old joke:
A sixty-year old woman tells her friend about the wild sex she's having with her thirty-year old tadpole lover.
"My dear", asked her friend, "aren't you afraid that all that exertion might cause a heart attack?"
After a moment's consideration, the woman replies, "Well, if he dies, he dies!"
The mature woman may have trouble adjusting at first. After all, we are used to thinking the man should be at least a little older than the woman. That's old hat, darlings, and heaven
knows we want the height of fashion in any hat, and the younger man is definitely in fashion. It's all over the gossip columns and magazine articles.
Take a trip to Paris if you really want to see older women holding the reins. There, long-in-the-tooth lasses are prized for their glamour and their experience, in both life and the bedroom. They don't seem to be trying to hang on to their youth but rather to flaunt their maturity. Where else could an actress like Jean Moreau, with a face lined by years of living, prance around in a slip in her sixties and still be considered sexy? Heck, if she can do it, why can't we?
There's a prince for you
It doesn't matter what you look like. Somewhere out there is a young man who finds you beautiful for all the right reasons. There's no need for you to dress provocatively or behave like a siren. A good tadpole appreciates the older woman's wisdom, confidence, and mature view of life. He knows she understands that life doesn't have to be taken seriously all of the time and that a good laugh is preferable to high drama. (Oh, and a sense of humor doesn't mean you tell him jokes. It means you laugh at his.)
With any luck you'll be at your most financially stable, have the most free time to spend making yourself look and feel fabulous, and have the confidence and flair that many younger (and older) men find compelling. It's up to you to use those assets to your best advantage.