I have to concede that age is the great equaliser. I only have to glance down at my own spare tyre and cellulite to realise that I don’t really have the luxury of being judgemental where looks are concerned. How different then to when we are in the flush of youth and looks are everything. I can remember rejecting would-be suitors for the most trivial of reasons such as big ears, bad hair-dos and glasses. The irony being, I’m now so blind I have to constantly carry two pairs of glasses around with me - distance and near. One friend, who was found that love is better the second, third or even fourth time round, is living proof of this theory as she recently moved in with a man she rejected thirty years ago. When I pointed out her shallowness had cost her thirty years of loved up bliss, she refuted the idea, stating her romance was of its time.
Strangely, she could be right if we consider that the two peak times for divorce are when children leave the nest and when couples retire. Maybe relationships are of their time and once they’ve served their purpose it’s time to move on. The man, for example, you may choose to father your children might not be the man you want to spend middle age with. The qualities that make a great dad might not be the qualities you need once your child rearing days are behind you.
Likewise with retirement, the qualities that have kept you together may not hold fast once you’re looking at the final chapter of your life. Without work, couples are thrust together for longer periods of time and, the hard-working man who has had your respect for forty odd years, might suddenly seem a tad set in his ways or, maybe his steadiness is no longer quite so appealing, when you don’t have an infinite amount of time left for adventure in front of you.
I’m guessing a big appeal of the autumn romance is the fact that there is less pressure than with a romance at any other time. After all, all the big questions such as do you want children, how are you going to afford a mortgage etc are pretty much irrelevant. Surely, more than at any other time of life, it’s just about spending time together and enjoying shared interests. One of my mum’s friends, a widow in her early seventies, has just embarked upon a romance, much to my mother’s scandalised horror. However, the said woman has never seemed happier. I’m assuming the relationship is more about companionship than anything physical but, just this year she’s been on several cruises, learnt how to dance and is generally having a whale of a time.
My mother is one of an army of widows who wear their loss lack a badge of honour. The reason they are so appalled by their friend’s desertion to the ranks of coupledom is because they see it as a slight to her beloved husband. All of these women enjoyed good marriages and use this as justification to cut themselves off from the chance of new romance. Just maybe, if they threw themselves back into the fray, they’d have the chance of another twenty years with a fun companion, like the one my mum’s friend has managed to bag herself.
I suppose now might be a good time to confess that I’m resolutely single myself but, to be honest, I’m starting to wonder if an autumn romance isn’t the way to go. All of the reasons that put me off coupledom will no longer matter once I’m an OAP. For instance, there’d be little point in moving in together and I’m guessing most older couples keep their respective places. After all, you’ve both probably accumulated a lifetime of tat that would never fit into one house and, given that moving house is in the list of top five stressful experiences, setting up home together could very well induce a stroke.
Another plus would be senility, as this would guarantee your partner could never irritate you because you’d have no memory of what they did to get on your nerves the day before. There’d also be no chance of criticising their appearance when you could barely make out anything at all beyond the blur of their silhouette. My eyesight is bad enough now so in another twenty years any vision will no doubt be a bonus. And shared interests? Let’s face it, as you get older, life becomes more sedate so there are bound to be less pastimes to choose from. I’m actually looking forward to playing bingo and dominos.
Bizarrely, in one of those weird and spooky ways, the other day, just as I was contemplating the prospect of a future autumn romance, I received an unsolicited email from the dating site eHarmony. It said Wayne, 50, was waiting for me with his love of fishing, walking and cycling. All I can say is that Wayne sounds far too sprightly but, if he’s willing to wait another 20 years...