A comment on my last post prompted me to write this one. Yes ... by all means, go and hug your husband. You do not want to be out there in the singles' scene at any age ... but after sixty ... you really do not want to be out there trying to find a partner.
The sad reality of being single and lonely when you are older is that it is not too likely that you will find someone you really want to live with even if you haunt every singles site on or off line.
I wrote about the man making his 91st attempt in the last few weeks, but he is not unique. He may be lonelier and more persistent than most of us, but he is not alone in his failure to find a compatible mate after sixty.
At the singles meet-up I attended last week, most of the people there were very old friends ... some dating back twenty or more years. Any attempts to get together now would be almost incestuous.
Perhaps even worse was the recent experience of a friend of mine. She joined a singles group ... and discovered that the entire membership was female.
The saddest thing about it all is that single people who are still looking for love are not allowed to age naturally. I think I was the only woman at that meet-up last week whose hair was greying naturally. One woman sported a head of beautifully coiffed brilliant red hair and didn't have a single wrinkle or sag. She was attractive but she didn't look quite real. The concerns of the men were a little different, but some of them too were struggling with aging. If they had been in relationships that had survived over the years or even ones that were still relatively new but established, would these men and women be forced to hang onto youth so fiercely? Would it still matter whether they were still highly sexed?
Jokes about erectile dysfunction and Viagra and Cialis abound in our world. But I wonder how it feels to be one of the butts of those jokes ... no pun intended.
Not too long ago I had a conversation with someone about this, and realized that it is really is no laughing matter. A man loses his sense of who he is when he loses his desire for, or ability to perform, the sexual act. And he doesn't have to be someone who defines himself by his sexual prowess to feel that way. It is simply something that has always been part of him, and he misses it in the same way that people miss limbs when they lose them. No different from how women feel when they lose a breast to cancer, I suspect. But it is really closer to what a woman would feel if she were forced to undergo genital mutilation.
Erectile dysfunction can destroy marriages. Even women who say unequivocally that penetrative sex is the least important part of lovemaking have to be affected when they cannot arouse their partners, or when their partners no longer have any interest in initiating sex. The most generous and loving men may be able to preserve that part of their marriages for a while, but eventually it will become somehow unnatural. And when sex is no longer part of the relationship, an important lubricant is lost; an important glue disappears. I suspect a great many marriages have been saved by the ability to kiss and make up.
But it is even worse for singles over sixty.
They find it much harder to establish a romantic bond if sex is non-existent. Of course they can establish friendships, but to be honest, friendship is easier with someone of the same sex. That whole thing about Mars and Venus doesn't simply disappear when a man loses his ability to get or maintain an erection; it is a psychological difference between men and women, one that has been nurtured from infancy ... especially in people over sixty. Without any of the excitement of sexual tension, why would most people search out friends of the opposite sex?
Until I began to explore this subject a bit I thought ED was as no more serious, just as fixable as vaginal aridity in women. It isn't. Vaginal lubricants are easy to use. There is no stigma attached to them. And they are relatively cheap. Viagra is priced by the dosage and can cost as much as $100 a pill. Because Viagra and Cialis are drugs taken internally, there are additional problems with possible drug interactions and use must be carefully monitored to get the dosages right. They will only work if the right conditions are met.
Remember the old days when women had to get everything right in order to use diaphrams? Remember our medical concerns about the birth control pills?
Well Viagra and Cialis operate something like blood thinners.
Many of the men who need help are also suffering from other health problems like diabetes, heart disease and prostate cancer. If they take these aids for erectile dysfunction, they are creating a potent drug cocktail.
I guess the saddest thing I learned in all this is that no one really gives a damn.
If a woman complains of dry vaginal tissues that tear, most people are sympathetic. She can get help, even prescription help that is covered by her medical plan. She can talk to other women and learn from their experience. Younger people may not empathize with aging but they understand vaginal pain, especially if they have borne children. There are jokes about mood swings in menopause ... but no jokes about painful vaginal sex.
But if a man complains about erectile dysfunction, he is laughed at, avoided or even treated with disdain. By all kinds of people. The drugs are not covered. Men who have not suffered the loss themselves are not usually sympathetic. In fact, since men tend to relate in a competitive way, there may even be a sense of one-up-man-ship.
So ... Most men simply hide the problem.
Until they meet a woman they might want to have a relationship with. Then what?
I wonder if the complete absence of men in the singles group my friend just joined has anything to do with all this.