This story is loosely excerpted from my award-winning memoir DARING TO DATE AGAIN.
IS SEX LIKE RIDING A BICYCLE?
I could lift heavy things, buy a house, repair a lamp, and send my kids to college. What did I need a man for? Living alone, I could take off for the weekend come back when I felt like it. I could play the piano in the dark, eat oatmeal for dinner, and dance around the living room to Jerry Lee Lewis without someone asking me, “What are you doing?” Both of my failed marriages had made me feel I was living in prison, and after a twelve-year break from even holding a man’s hand, I was finally feeling liberated.
But my body was invading my mind, turning me peculiar. I developed a crush on a lawyer who turned out to be a gay cocaine sniffer. I had a celebrity crush on Ariel Sharon.
To improve my mental health, I would seek sex but not marriage, pleasure but not commitment. Though I was not familiar with the term yet, I was seeking a “friend with benefits.”
So I danced with a transvestite, played an online cat-and-mouse game with a man who hinted that he’d seen me in the elevator at work, and had coffee with a boor of a traffic court judge who walked out on me mid-cup after I failed to agree that a small group of conspirators was controlling the United Nations, China, and the President.
Then an email popped up from Ken, a policeman twenty-three years younger than I, offering great food, drink, conversation, and of course great sex. What was going on here? Weren’t men supposed to like younger women?
When asked, Ken responded that making love with older women is hot because they know what they want. If your intrested we can take it from there. Ken’s writing style wasn’t polished, and he misspelled you’re and interested, but he was clear, and wasn’t his proposition exactly what I wanted?
I stared at his blurred photograph, a round-faced man with wavy brown hair, looking stunned but attractive. His profile said he was 37, 6’2”, 210 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes, and lived in a town a half hour away. His eyes held no secrets.
My work buddy Sybil dismissed him as Oedipal, but to me he seemed sure-handed, humorous, and honest.
A few days later, I wrote asking him to tell me more, and he answered:
I’m looking for a friend with benefits who wants to go out and do things, but also wants to get laid from time to time, hey everyone loves getting laid right! You don’t need to worry because I’m a cop.
I wrote back:
A cop! Wow. Never been out with a cop. I don’t know about your logic that since you’re a cop you wouldn’t hurt me. A cop could find me if I were trying to hide, shoot me with his service revolver, and at his trial his fellow cops would tell everyone what a great guy he was. I was thinking you sounded like a thoughtful guy though, a frank person who doesn’t pull his punches.
He called the next day. He had a police department pig roast that weekend, then he’d be on duty for a few days, so we made plans to meet the following Thursday. Since I would be in choir practice until 9:00, I suggested that we meet at South Park, a bar next door to my church.
I felt as unprepared as a fifteen-year-old. After my romantic failures, I knew that most instruction I’d received about sex was nonsense, but I still wasn’t sure what the truth was.
Growing up, my mother told me, “Men are animals.” But wasn’t I an animal too? The more I resisted sex, the more animal-like I became.
My father said, “Men like fast women, but they don’t marry them.” Now, it suddenly didn’t seem true that I would lose a man’s respect in the morning.
My second husband threw in a prediction when we divorced: “There’s no more chance than a snowball in hell that a woman over forty will ever marry again.” I was sixty.
That Thursday, I left the choir loft and sauntered the thirty yards to the bar. I was nervous, shaky, curious, and hopeful. Songs I had never heard boomed from inside. Women were posturing in skirts that required bikini waxing to wear. Men nursed their beers.
When I was young, we drank coffee, not beer, at the Café Figaro in Greenwich Village– or, when I was living in Athens, Greece, at the cafés on Kolonaki Square. They were open, public places, and if you waited long enough, a friend or acquaintance was bound to pass by, or you’d start up a conversation with the people next to you. Inside this bar, there was a different atmosphere – brash, sexual, dark, loud. I toyed with the opinion that going to bars has more to do with one’s personality than one’s age.
Ken arrived a few minutes late, looking just like his picture, only not stunned. His leather jacket lay appealingly on his broad shoulders. He opened the door for me, placed his hand against my back as we entered, then pleased the heck out of me by saying, “Jesus, this is loud. Let’s go to the back.”
I followed him to the last booth in the back room. The outside wall was all windows overlooking the sidewalk, leaving me visible to people passing by, including, perhaps, the other choir members on their way home. I felt like a mannequin in a department store window, but I told myself that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, so I should calm down. We slid into opposite sides of the booth.
The Goth waitress had black fingernails and lipstick, and her intricately patterned black stockings made her look like she had a terrible skin disease.
“What can I get you? Are you hungry?” Ken asked.
“No, not hungry, thanks. A beer would be great.”
“What do you drink?” amiably asked Ms. Goth.
“If you have Stella Artois on tap, that would be nice. Otherwise Heineken.”
She nodded and wrote it down. “Stella Artois.”
“I’m going to try this Stella Artois with you. Never had it.” I loved Ken’s frankness. He was no pretender—salt of the earth.
The waitress gave us a mysterious, black-lipped smile and left to get our beers.
“There was traffic on Route 46,” Ken began, with a little squirm of frustration.
“You weren’t late, maybe five minutes.”
“I felt like I was going to be late. I hate to be late.”
“I was at my church next door, so it would have been hard for me to be late.”
“Yeah? What church?”
“Are you religious?”
“I guess. I go to church every Sunday.”
“I was raised pentecostal, and I’ve had enough of that stuff.” His style was matter-of-fact, non-confrontational.
We chatted about our families and sipped beer. Though he was of a different social class, ethnicity (Polish), and education level, a person who’s nice to his mom, has a steady job, and is honest is a good person, no matter where he comes from. I wasn’t going to marry the guy.
“You got kids?” he asked.
“How old are they?” He looked at me for a second, then laughed. “I’m not trying to trap you into telling me how old you are because I already know how old you are. Sixty, right?”
“Right. What about you?”
“Nah, I don’t have any kids. Never been married.”
“Why didn’t you ever marry?”
“I never found the right person. You know how it is. I came close a couple of times. You’re not married now, are you?” That last question was delivered in a different tone, dead serious. He was a cop; he didn’t want any unsavory tussles.
“No. I was married twice. My last divorce was twelve years ago.” Ken only needed to know I had been single for a long time.
“So, now you decided to start dating again?” I loved this parrying. We were both prying to see if there were any weak spots.
“I got tired of the single life.” If I had been as blunt as his emails, I would have said, “I was dying for sex and that was making me strange.”
“I’ll bet you weren’t expecting somebody thirty-six to go out with.” He made an exaggerated STOP gesture, his palm facing me. “I’ve got a birthday in two weeks. So let’s say thirty-seven.”
“Oh goody. You’ll only be twenty-three years younger than I am.”
“So tell me again, why did you want to go out with an older woman?” If he was Oedipal, surely he would squirm.
He took a moment to compose an answer, a wise move in such a situation. “Older women aren’t silly about makeup, hair, that kind of stuff. And you guys know what you want.”
“You’ve been out with other older women?”
“Well yeah.” He softened what he was about to say with a smile and a little laugh. “But you’re way above the radar.”
I liked his candor. He liked my burst of laughter. “This is going to be an adventure,” I said.
I watched as he got up to go to the men’s room. His blue jeans wrinkled over his square, strong buns and thighs. He walked with a slight swagger, slight. On the football field, he would have been a guard or a tackle – solid, strong, tending toward overweight if he was not careful. He turned his head and smiled at me as he went around the corner. Twelve years of celibacy were about to end.
He slid back into the red banquette, took my hands in his, and looked straight at me. “We’ve gotten to know each other a little. What do you think?”
“I think ….” (This was such a big step.) “I think the next time you call, I’ll invite you to my house. I’ll open the door and we’ll see what happens.”
“Really?” He closed his lips in a smile and paused a moment. “I’m free Wednesday.”
“So am I.”
His fingers were massaging my hands. A passing choir member might have raised an eyebrow. “You know, if we go ahead with this, we will get to know each other intimately. We’ll touch each other everywhere, hold each other. You know that.”
“I understand that.”
We walked to my car in the church parking lot and I started to panic. It was 11:00 p.m., but we might run into someone coming out of a late meeting at the church. I didn’t want to blow this nicely developing evening, and dismissed my anxieties. Ken had shown that he not only knew what he wanted, he knew how to get it. I would let him handle it.
He kissed me lightly, tapped my bottom, and said, “See you Wednesday.” Perfect. It was only a hint of contact, but the evening would have felt unfinished if there had been no kiss at all. I liked him even more now.
I started to get nervous. Was sex like riding a bicycle?
Ken called on Sunday. After filling me in on the pig roast, he got right to the point. “Will you come to the door naked?”
“I don’t think so.” This was fun.
“In a bathrobe?”
“I have a nice one. Red. Silk.”
“Does it have a belt?”
“Take the belt off.”
Wednesday, he arrived at exactly 6:00 p.m. in an enormous truck that took up most of my driveway. When I opened the door, wearing only the unbelted red silk robe, he looked me over and said, “Nice. Very nice.”
I had no idea what to do next, but he seemed at ease. He walked into the living room and looked around. “Will you give me a tour of your house?”
“Sure. Would you like a beer?”
We walked through the dining room into the kitchen, where I gave him the beer; then we stopped in my office and looked at the backyard. The trees running up the mountainside were wearing their autumn colors. We detoured into the television room, and came full circle to the front stairway. He gestured with his left arm, and I started up the stairs.
Like a jerk, I showed him the storage rooms and the guest bedroom before getting to my spacious bedroom. When he drew me close and kissed me, still standing in the doorway, it felt natural and comfortable.
The twelve year drought disappeared – poof!
His scent remained on my pillows for days, and I breathed it in with pleasure and relief after years of smelling just myself and my late cat.
For the next eight months, he came over once or twice a week, with phone calls and e-mails in between. He was big, uninhibited, communicative, affectionate, humorous, receptive, spontaneous. We let our time together flow all over the house. Once we made love in the kitchen, and I worried my Mexican landscapers would show up in the backyard and see us. Usually, I heard them coming with their loud machines, but occasionally they snuck up on me. I wondered what they would think if they caught a glimpse of a thirty-seven-year-old man entangled with their sixty-year-old client.
Massaging him was like kneading a five-pound loaf of bread or playing a Rachmaninoff piece with its impossibly wide chords. No matter how I stretched my fingers, I could never encompass his biceps. His feet were more manageable. “Cops love foot massages,” he said, lying back with a sigh.
I remembered that he had written, you guys know what you want and how to ask for it. I had the green light to assert myself whenever I figured out what I wanted. This was a challenge. If I could assert my desires in bed, asserting myself elsewhere would be easy. It felt like giant steps to me, but Ken good-humoredly complied with my whims. “Do what you need to do.”
If I felt like dancing to “Maggie’s Farm,” he’d dance to “Maggie’s Farm.” I wore a variety of outfits to greet him at the door. He smiled and smiled.
We laughed over what would happen if I waltzed up to him when he was with his fellow cops. “I’m not going to take you to the Christmas party, and, you know, ‘Hey Mom! This is Ann.’” I didn’t take him to my parties either.
One day, we were at the door planning his next visit when he swept his outward palm across his chest, dipped, and slid to the right, “I can bust a move.”
I can do the Charleston, the Samba, and the Twist, but when I busted my own version of a move, he doubled over in good-natured laughter. I reminded myself that a day would come when we would have to let each other go. His music was not mine.
Our visits became less frequent after he met up with an old girlfriend—he told me all about her. When he announced their wedding date, I was sad. For a while.
He called me at 2:00a.m. on his wedding day.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“I’ve been drinking with my buddies. I’m back home.”
“Your bachelor party?”
“Yeah. Fuck! I’m so nervous. I can’t sleep. I knew I could talk to you. You’d understand how I feel.”
“Just remember how much you wanted this.”
“I guess I want it both ways.”
We never saw each other again, but we still speak on the phone a couple of times a year. He has two kids and just got promoted to sergeant.