Is It Too Late For Love?

essentials totake on yourPool tripThe other day I heard a story of an elderly couple in their mid-eighties who are having an affair. In their retirement home! The reaction of the surrounding audience was “How cute, how endearing.” As if they were little infants who lie on a lambskin, lifting their heads for the photographer or a couple of pre-schoolers playing Mums ‘n Dads.

It’s never cute to start a new relationship, no matter what age we are. More so as an older person than in younger years. As we enter the sunset years of our lives, finding a new partner and starting a new relationship requires courage and a giant leap of faith. It’s not easy to put one’s history aside and start anew. It’s also an incredibly hopeful act because One is a lonely number and living as One is a hard road to travel.

When people heard the story of the couple from the retirement home, I imagine their mental picture was that of a brittle couple walking the garden paths holding their emaciated hands, planting little kisses on each other’s lips or wrinkly cheeks, and whispering terms of endearment before they forgot what they were talking about.

But NO. Three times NO. It’s not cute. It is not like admiring a couple of rare Panda bears in the zoo or on TV. It simply is the human condition. Throughout our lives, we always need another person to help us regulate our internal state, our level of arousal. A baby couldn’t be calm or go to sleep without the closeness of a calm and soothing mother. It would suffer greatly and might even die without the love and physical comfort of another person, even when fed regularly. Being close to a (caring) person is not just a good idea, it’s a biological necessity for our survival. As we grow older, our dependence on another person decreases, but it will never ever go away completely. We always function better when we are close to another person.  (For more in-depth information about this read A General Theory of Love).

Back to my story. When it transpired that Eva (let’s call my fellow oldies Eva and Adam) talked about yummy sex, people’s eyes clouded over. The Icky-effect kicked in. The idea that Adam would have his eighty-year-old hand sliding up Eva’s trembling thighs and suckle with increasing enjoyment on her nipples, quickly threw the couple out of the ‘cute-corner.’ Because, let’s be serious, Old Folks over the age of 50, are put out to pasture and best used as babysitters, for housesitting, and looking after the animals when the kids are on holiday.

It may be hard to picture our parents as sexually active—I found it hard to picture my own parents as sexually active… until I crossed over to the Old Folks’ side.

Let me tell you, as someone who is closer to my eighties than my fifties, that’s not how it works for those of us on the other side of this magical divide. The skin may wrinkle and the bones may creak, but the (metaphorical) heart and soul are ageless. Besides having accumulated more knowledge over the years and learned from experiences, my thinking has not changed much. Only when I’m invited to join in some physical activities, I have to pass. That’s the only time I ‘feel’ my age.

The need for emotional and physical intimacy, however, doesn’t stop. Erogenous zones don’t disappear with the plumpness of youthful skin. It is still arousing to be touched in those areas. There is no use-by-date of the need for love, after which life becomes a waiting game for the undertaker.

Baby boomers have heralded the sexual revolution together with many changes we take for granted nowadays. Watch this space—they/we will not sit by and allow people to cutesify (don’t adjust your spell check, I just invented the word) our lives. I say that even though knowing the obstacles we face are extraordinary.

I started writing romance novels a few years ago and my heroines are in their late fifties and older… after all, they say write about what you know. Since then I have talked with many women my age and older, and through this scientifically conducted research, I came to the conclusion that we love being held, being kissed, being stroked, being made love to, no matter our age and the number of wrinkles we have.

I have submitted my ideas and manuscripts to several well-known publishers and agents and received the feedback that there is no readership for old heroines like that. Old Heroes, maybe, but certainly not dried up old Heroines. Maybe they are right? I for one am sick and tired reading about twenty and thirty-year-old people, whether they are normal couples or shifting into some other kind of beings. Yes, I too love Sleepless in Seattle and adore Dirty Dancing, but surely there must be more stories out there like Something’s Gotta Give? Yes, yes, I hear you mention the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A great start, but only one of very few bucking the trend and depicting positive images of older age. There are interesting lives being lived from the age of fifty onwards and they are worth talking about. Recognizing oneself in stories being told might help our generation to feel less isolated and resigned.

What are we doing to ourselves if a quarter of our life is ignored in so many areas of life, including art? I say our on purpose because if you are lucky, you’ll get there as well. Sometimes it feels like we are a burden to society—except for those who own and run retirement homes. They can’t wait for us to flock to their establishments in droves and guarantee them lucrative profits.

Imagine my excitement when two large publishers (in the romance field) put a call out for manuscripts with what they coined ‘Silver Fox Heroes and Heroines’. They defined ‘Silver Foxes’ as people between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five. It took a while for me to stop rolling my eyes. Did they mean those young people who die their hair gray now because it’s a new fashion trend? The mind boggles. If you are middle-aged and love romantic novels, you might have to search amongst indie publishers for books with real silver foxes and vixens.

Ah well, the fight goes on. Ageism and discrimination of older people aren’t something new and it’ll take much more awareness and talk about these issues for things to change. At least, we have Grace and Frankie on Netflix, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. When they talk about life and sex I can see the silver lining. Like the Golden Girls of the eighties, they push the boundaries of contemporary thinking about us oldies. YEAH! Go, Girls!

For the reader of romantic suspense, my books A TUSCAN AFFAIR and A CASE FOR LOVE can be found at all major e-book outlets.

Hati Hati – Watch Out You Could Fall in Love

Hati HatiAll over Bali are signs warning you to look out for THIS and THAT. Hati Hati: Watch your heart, be careful of holes in the roads, dangerous animals, intersections, or road works. Hati, Hati! There are no signs though to warn you not to fall in love with this amazing country. And … not falling in love with Bali is, according to my experience, an impossible feat.

I’ve thought long about what it is that makes Bali so loveable to me, the Francophile, who could live exclusively on baguette, camembert, and a light bordeaux. If you are looking for those things, forget Bali. The bread?…Na!, The Cheeses?…forget about it! The wine?…Not really! Other countries have beaches, warm weather, and lush vegetation too. Other countries have rubbish piles everywhere. Maybe not as many as Bali, but I blame the tourist industry for that sorry state of affair. There should be a sign warning of tourists (me included, a blessing and a curse all in one): Hati Hati>turis!

It’s the people. People shaped by the land and shaping the land in return. People whose life centres around their spirituality. Where else do you find a temple in almost every household? Little shrines and places of worship and offering in practically every shop, every house, every drive way? People, whose daily actions are deeply entwined with thanking their Gods for the gifts they received and with protecting them from evil spirits to take hold in their lives and the lives of loved one.

Take for example the Tooth-Filing-Ceremony mesangih or mepandes. It is a more than 2000 year old tradition that predates the arrival of hindu-ism and involves the filing down of the upper front teeth. These teeth symbolise greed, anger, jealousy, in general the more savage aspects of human nature. By filing down the carnivorous canines and incisors, the person is thought to be freed and protected from these unwanted traits of human nature. The ceremony is a rite of passage into adulthood and represents a path of social and spiritual well-being.

You may say “So what?” I think it’s an amazing tradition. It is actually one of the main celebrations a Balinese person is going to have. The whole family comes together, maybe even others from the village. It involves not just the filing, but an intricate ritual, temple service, blessings, and a feast.  What I find so amazing about it is that in the consciousness of Balinese people the base nature of human beings has been recognised very early and declared as unwanted. There is a conscious effort to rid oneself of these ‘evil’ aspects and strive for honour and integrity.

I believe that this striving can be felt and experienced when we come in contact with the people from Bali! Suksma, Eka, for teaching me about this!

The Real Bali

P1020999-0I have been here in Bali for 7 days now and have seen some very beautiful places and learnt a little bit about a culture that is so excitingly different from my own. Of course I have seen the spots that most tourists are lead to. The temples, the rice fields, and the temples. Places with huge parking lots filled with busses and taxis, brimming with lightly clad tourists swinging their cameras relentlessly at everything even remotely native. I suppose everybody who comes here wants to discover ‘The Real Bali.’

I am no exception. Besides going here to the dentist, who, I have decided is half God, half Magician, I want to see the real Bali too. The one I glimpsed in “Eat, Pray, Love”. I wouldn’t mind having deep conversations with a wise elder, being shown un-lived potentials, and biking through beautiful tropical landscapes. I wouldn’t mind being scouped up by Javier Bardem ( even though he is not Patrick Swayze), to a remote little something with no walls, flowy curtains, and a promise of adventure.

Lamentably, that hasn’t happened – yet! “Shush, longing heart, there are still 7 days to go. Who knows!”

Maybe that kind of real Bali can only be detected with the help of a 30 head film crew that has oodles of time to research and create what they are looking for. The average tourist will have to content with what big international hotel chains and tour operators have in store for us. On TripAdvisor I have read people calling some of these places and malls ‘ tourists rip-offs’. What do they expect for their $5 U.S.? Antiques instead of mass produced masks? Nobody is forcing anybody to buy anything.

In the meantime I enjoy what I can glimpse and detect from what I think real Bali is. People with a deep sense of tradition and spirituality, who carve a living out of the resources this beautiful island provides. Private temples that are not just decoration but an integral part of Balinese daily life. Last but not least the non-tiring friendliness and hospitality of the Balinese.

I can already see that my next couple of teeth need attention in about two years to give me a valid excuse to come here again!

Too Late

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few days ago I read a novel and the passage “Too late, the saddest words in any language…” made me take notice and ponder on their meaning. “Too late”…especially when we get older, can cover a large number of regrets about things we did and those we didn’t do.

However, it seems to be pretty futile to agonize about all those missed opportunities now, at the sunset years of one’s life.

By going over past deeds or non-deeds that still cause an emotional sting, we have the opportunity to check: is it really too late? Or are we hiding behind outdated conventions? Is there nothing to look forward to when you are retired?

Especially being a mother, it might appear that there is not much to look forward to when we realize that we are but an observer on the sidelines of our children’s lives. When children have been the centre of our lives, and even the smallest, minute decision was weighed on whether it suited the kids, it might be hard to realize that we are no longer the centre of their lives. Their lives centre on their budding family or their blooming career, not their aging parent.

We have to re-invent our lives and find new meaning that makes it worthwhile to get up in the morning. Stretch the boundaries, dare to be daring, venture out into the unknown. Is it really too late?or are we hiding behind our fears, fears that have become trusted friends in the decades of living within self-imposed restrictions?

I don’t know about you, but I am determined to keep stepping out of Plato’s cave and into the world ‘out there’ rather than living within the restraints of that cave, perceiving the shadows as the only life there is!

Photo credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yuk1k0/6862505388/

A Natural Woman

 

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Hearing the song “A Natural Woman” performed today, made me think of the men I have met over time, beginning with my dad and my grand dad who all in their idiosyncratic way helped me to develop or unlock parts of myself I didn’t knew I had then.

With some of these ‘gifts’ I wasn’t too happy at the time, but looking back over 60 odd years, I can see that even they held a learning for me – propelled me on my way to becoming the woman I am today. So, here the lyrics – be glad that I am not singing LOL – as a tribute to the men who inspire us woman to be the best we can be!
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Wedded Bliss

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If you walk the streets of any village or city in the morning and you don’t see people scurrying home with a long stick of bread under the arm, followed by the distinct whiff of freshly baked wholesomeness, a smell that quickly captures unsuspecting passers-by, you are not in France.

Unlike us culinary savages, no decent French Femme will be caught serving for breakfast ordinary toast, baked by the thousands in sterile food plants, cut into even slices by machines, to be imprisoned in plastic bags with the label “Big Fresh” or something to that tune.
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The Artist Way

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The artist should be sitting under the Platane and create ! And let the wordly people go about their business.

How else are we mere mortals able to sample his beautiful observations once we stop from being busy doing life?