Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Men of a Certain Age: art imitating life

There’s nothing funny about the TV series Men of a Certain Age, although I did expect it to be. It stars Ray Romano, after all. He poked fun at himself in Everyone Loves Raymond, and we all chortled at the scrapes he got himself into as a result of (mainly) his silly male ego, and lifted our eyebrows along with his long-suffering wife.

Men of a Certain Age is billed as a ‘comedy-drama’ but it’s mainly drama. And while it hasn’t made me laugh, it has taught me some things. Because I am a Woman of a Certain Age – a creature long denigrated in popular culture and literature for being bitter about romance, stuck in her ways and dry in her vagina.

To open this discussion, let me recount a conversation I had with a friend, a Man of a Certain Age who we shall call, oh, Harry. Harry’s wife – a bombshell we shall call, say, Gloria – divorced him some time ago and swiftly went through two more husbands before settling on a 10-years-younger playmate to brighten the days of her dotage. For his part, Harry had serial disastrous romances before snagging a woman literally young enough to be his daughter – viz, when he brought her along to visit me, she kept company with my then-17-year-old son while Harry sat around with us ‘oldies’ (his contemporaries) and drank wine and discussed food, music and Zimmer frames.

For reasons that are too boring to go into, Harry somehow ended up at the same hotel resort as Gloria, and he later told me the story of this in clipped tones. He was watching Gloria, he said, from the window of his hotel bedroom (why? you might ask; but I didn’t), which overlooked the swimming pool. She and the younger boyfriend cavorted (Harry’s word) for a while, and then, when they decided to get out, the boyfriend (who I imagine is built – Gloria is not a small gal) picked her up, carried her effortlessly around the pool and deposited her on her lounger.

(I was already both loving Gloria and hating her by this time – a mixed emotion, incidentally, I’ve had about her ever since I met her 25 years ago when we were all young and she was ridiculously pretty.)

At this point in the story, Harry laughed derisively. ‘It was pathetic,’ he said. ‘I’m sure people watching would have thought it was his mother, and that she was afflicted, and had to be helped out of the pool.’

Uh, no, Harry, not at all. I’m sure most people watching her, like me, would have thought that both Gloria (who, even at our advanced age, is still a bombshell) and the younger boyfriend were exceedingly enviable. But, to my endless credit, I didn’t say that. What I did say was, ‘Wow, Harry, isn’t that a bit hypocritical?’ (Let me press the point: Harry’s girlfriend is 23; Harry is 47.)

You’d have thought I’d caught and killed a small helpless child right in front of him. He visibly recoiled, then spat, ‘YOU’RE ONE TO TALK!’

Now, let me say this in my own defence: I am far from without reproach in the romance department, save for the fact that I’ve managed to be married only once. I won’t go into the index of indiscretions I’ve notched up over 47 years, but I will say this: if I’ve ever consorted with anyone younger than me, (a) he’s never been biologically young enough to be my son (although admittedly in one case by a matter of months), and (b) I have seldom kissed and told. So Harry’s comeback was a matter of some mystery to me.

‘I’m prepared to admit to very many character flaws,’ I said, ‘but hypocrisy?’

Harry sneered. ‘Oh, come on!’ he said.

‘Well, I’m willing to be corrected. Tell me when I’ve been hypocritical,’ I said.

Harry shot me a look that, had I caught and killed that small helpless child, would instantly have burned it to ash.

‘Staring at me like that isn’t telling me anything,’ I said. ‘Speak.’

Harry grunted, angrily.

I won’t go into the rest of the conversation, since it continued in more or less this vein – me asking for information, Harry making various animal noises and looking furious. In the end, I just said, ‘Oh, okay then, I’m a hypocrite, let’s just forget it,’ because Harry’s friendship is more important to me than winning a stupid argument about who did what when, where and why.

The conversation upset me but, in retrospect, it actually put some things into perspective for me. I’ve had a few run-ins with Men of a Certain Age (ie, around my age) over the last few years, and none has ended happily. There was the man who upped and married a mindless bimbo (and who asked what I thought of her, and all I could offer was, ‘Well, she’s enthusiastic’); the man who suddenly turned into a hormonal 16-year-old and said things like ‘nice tits’ when a woman walked past us in a bar (and who took such offence when I pointed out that this wasn’t really on – at least, please, when I was there – that he’s never spoken to me again); the man whose midlife crisis took such inexplicable form that he changed overnight from a longtime buddy into a bitter ex-friend.

So, as I say, Men of a Certain Age isn’t a comedy, it’s a drama – both in real life and on the small screen. And it’s a bit of a shame, because Women of a Certain Age are (in my experience, anyway) certainly more about having fun than proving a point.

Maybe the truth is that men and women (and boys and girls) are just always tragically out of syn. I’ve put together this comparative table to explain this (and this is just my experience – if yours differs, I’d be delighted to know how). (And, before you point it out, yes, there are always exceptions!)

Age 6
Girls: think boys are smelly and yukky
Boys: think girls are boring yet somehow also maddeningly mysterious

Age 10
Girls: think boys are smelly and yukky
Boys: want to see girls’ private parts

Age 14
Girls: think boys are smelly (and they are)
Boys: want to touch (or, even better, see) girls’ boobs

Age 16
Girls: think boys are stupid yet somehow also maddeningly desirable
Boys: want to get girls to have sex with them

Age 20
Women: wish boys would just grow up already – they’re such children!
Men: want to get women to have sex with them

Age 25
Women: wish men would get over their obsession with football/motorcycling/porn long enough to take them on just one proper romantic date, for godsake
Men: want to get women to have sex with them

Age 30
Women: want to have babies
Men: will have babies with women if that’s what it takes to get women to have sex with them

Age 35
Women: wish men would do a bit more about the house and help with the kids
Men: wish women would get out of their face so they could do more football/motorcycling/porn

Age 40
Women: having shucked the useless husband, rearing their kids alone and streaming ahead in their career, regard men as sex toys – necessary, but only now and again
Men: swear off marriage forever and start haunting clubs and trying out tired pickup lines (but only on women under 30); change their ex-wife’s name on the cellphone to ‘rancid bitch’.

Age 45
Women: if not in a more-or-less permanent relationship with a younger man, have ‘friends with benefits’ arrangements; have paid off their house and drive a nice (but not topless) car
Men: having been burnt several times by younger women, gather in bars to share war stories, but still say ‘nice tits’ to any attractive female who walks past; buy a motorbike, join a gym, have hair implants, start wearing jeans and takkies

Age 50
Women: either settled down with the pool boy or happily single and having occasional but discreet recreational sex; the kids have left home so they’re either travelling or spending money making their home gorgeous and/or buying beautiful clothes
Men: regretting not having formed proper relationship with their kids, so now scrabbling for foothold as ‘fathers’; dating their gym instructor; living in stupidly expensive rented ‘bachelor pad’

Age 55
Women: either go gay or give up men altogether (other than as friends); celebrate the stoppage of their periods; value walking as exercise; love cooking and do it well; belong to so many clubs and societies that their diaries are indecently full
Men: marry their gym instructor; buy a house they can’t afford

Age 60
Women: are excellent grandmothers; garden enthusiastically; write books.
Men: get arthritis; suffer from indigestion; go bankrupt

Age 70
Women: go to India to bliss out at an ashram
Men: die (unless the gym instructor has already killed them)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Talk about touching a raw nerve! No wonder his wife left him