I certainly enjoy being “seen as a woman“ and “appreciated as feminine and attractive.”
A few months ago, a girlfriend and I were discussing men when I asked her, “What do we want a man for?”
If we asked ourselves that same question when we were in our 20s or 30s, our answer would be clear — as hetero single women, we wanted a husband who would also be a good father for the children we knew we wanted. But she had just turned 70 and I had just turned 65; our children are now young adults so our answer was quite different.
Both of us live rich, full lives. We have great girlfriends (beside each other)— women we travel with; make dinner with and for; go to events with; share, support and confide in, and are affectionate toward. Women we deeply love — “love you” is how we end phone calls, texts, time together. We are each other’s companions — not just the single women, but also the married ones (albeit they are not as available as the single gals)
Yet as much as we love our gal pals, there are two things we don’t want to share with them — sex and cuddling.
“What do we want men for?” Well, for those two things. Not as husbands, not necessarily even as live-in partners — I’m a big believer in live apart together relationships as are many women around my age — and not as someone to support me (as Cher famously told her mother after she suggested the singer “settle down and marry a rich man,” “Mom, I am a rich man.” Gotta love that answer.). I’m not rich and yes, it would be nice to share the costs of living, but I could always get a roommate and not complicate a financial decision with a sexual and romantic decision.
This is not to say that I don’t love men — I do and I would really like to have a romantic and sexual partner. Some older women don’t , they’re done. Others don’t care about sex , they’re just interested in having a male companion to have fun with. According to one small study of single women ages 64 to 77, they date as a way to enhance their life and not dominate it — “if it happens, that would be nice; if it does not, life is nice as it already is.” Few date for marriage.
“These women acknowledged that they live in a couple-oriented world and by dating, they could participate in couple activities like dancing, which many of them enjoyed. Dating, for most of these women, was to have fun — to have someone with whom to go out to dinner, to go to the movies, to dress up for, and to talk to. Dating was viewed as a different experience than doing things with other women. Dating meant being seen as a woman — not a widow or a grandmother, but to be appreciated as feminine and attractive. Dating also had the potential for different types of conversation, talking about things that typically other women might not talk about, such as computers. Even if engaged in similar activities, dating meant a different type of experience when participating in an activity with a man as opposed to another woman.”
I get that. I certainly enjoy being “seen as a woman“ and “appreciated as feminine and attractive.” That is generally not how older women are seen in society, and a group of older women enjoying themselves at a live music venue or restaurant is not likely to offer them the same validation.
But does that matter? Do we really need to be seen with a man to be appreciated as an attractive, feminine woman? Who is judging us — other men or other women?
What do I want a man for? Sex and cuddling. Not for validation of being a woman. That I can do on my own. So can every woman.
Vicki Larson is a longtime award-winning journalist; the lifestyles editor, columnist, and writer at a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper, author of Not Too Old for That: How Women are Changing the Story of Aging (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022) and co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, (Seal Press, 2014), named a Best Book of 2014 by PopSugar. A resident of Marin County, California, her writing can be found in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Aeon, WHYY, and numerous other publications, including Quartz, HuffPost, and Medium, where this article was originally published.
Interested in writing for our blog, The Reveler?
Email [email protected] with your idea.