“It’s like this, Jack: Guys up to 30 will generally attract women under 25, which is what most men of all ages are attracted to. Guys from 30 to 45 will generally attract women no more than 5 years younger than they are, and they’ll accept that, since the women under 25 are out of reach to them. Once guys reach 45 there is no hope for them — the women they are interested in are too young to be interested in them, unless they are wealthy and the guy’s willing to accept the relatively few younger women looking specifically for wealthy guys. And it’s worse than that. Women generally want a guy who’s taller and darker in complexion than they are. And vice versa — the tall, dark guys are looking for shorter, lighter-complexion women. And the more attractive a woman, the more likely she is to seek a more attractive man. So we’re 47 — 48 — average height, light complexion, average income, average attractiveness. We’re completely SOL, man. Like all the other guys our age, we’re interested in pretty 19-year-old blondes with great bods. Not going to happen. Not in a million years. Get used to it, cause we’re going to be looking after ourselves for the rest of our lives. And even if you were rich you’d just be one more pathetic fat, wrinkly bald guy with a young trophy wife who everyone knows bought his way into her panties.”
Jack and Dan were sitting at the noisy bar called The Stable. Jack was newly divorced. Dan had never married. They’d gone to high school together in the late 70s, and had run into each other last year by accident, having not seen each other in over 20 years. Since then they’d been meeting up in the bar near Jack’s work every second Friday, after his shift at FedEx ended. Dan was a freelance sports reporter and part-time deejay, and he had taken to re-educating his old friend on the dating scene. They were talking loudly, over the din of the crowd filling the place to overflowing.
Jack looked glum. “Geez, Dan, any more encouraging words? What you say defies Darwin’s Law. All those guys over 45, and all those women over 40, all sidelined forever? Doesn’t sound like the best formula for survival of the species.”
“Nature doesn’t want geezers reproducing. The genetic odds for the baby aren’t good, and they won’t be healthy enough to look after the little monsters until they leave home. This is nature’s way of letting all the young, pretty, healthy bodies have all the fun, and then all the consequences.”
“Then why does ‘nature’ have us lusting after those bods long after we can’t ‘compete’?” Jack inhaled sharply as two stunning girls in short skirts and goth adornments squeezed by them. “Christ, they can’t possibly be old enough to drink.”
“They’re just enjoying their power. Don’t begrudge it. We’ve fucked up the world they’re going to inherit so much they might as well have fun while they can. We lust after them because it makes us feel more alive, happier, not because nature wants or expects us to sate that lust. Nature wants us to want to live. Their beauty is like a great work of art or music. We can appreciate it, even though we’ll never own it. Or make anything comparable to it ourselves.” He laughed.
Jack finished his wine and checked his watch. His friend was probably right, but it wasn’t what he wanted to hear. The apartment he’d rented after the divorce was lonely, empty. He had no idea what to do with himself. Dan had invited him to a Junior A hockey game that Dan was covering for the community newspaper, but Jack had never been much of a sports enthusiast.
“Well, my friend, I’m seriously thinking of trying one of those dating services. Unless you have some better advice.”
“My advice would be — don’t. You’ll get entangled with women older than you want to fuck, with lots of issues, and quite possibly kids in tow they won’t tell you about, or will tell you about and then get all defensive about. What you really need is a hobby to take your mind off your dick, and your loneliness. Which for guys our age are the same thing. Find something you like doing besides fucking teenagers.”
“You’re such a romantic, Dan. Just because you’ve never been in love doesn’t mean no one else has.”
“Oh, it’s love you want, huh? Love is that chemical rush that fills your head with mush and makes you silly and short-sighted. Then one day you wake up and the rush is over and all you have left is the responsibility, and the desire to fall in love with someone else to take your mind off your misery. And the sense of guilt telling the unfortunate victim of your waning passion that it’s over. Unless she tells you first, which just makes it worse. If we had any sense we’d have signs that said ‘Caution — addicted to love, will need a new fix every four months’. It never lasts. And every woman wants it to. If you can’t take the withdrawal you shouldn’t take the drug. I’ve been addicted for twenty years, and I just warn each woman who’s even vaguely attracted to me that I don’t do commitment, I’m incapable of being faithful, or being reformed, and if they’re still interested in a fling I’m game. But it still always ends up badly, and quickly, for her or for me, every time. It’s more trouble than it’s worth.”
“Then why are there so many people still looking for it, men and women, of all ages?”
“Because they can’t help themselves. They’re idiots. They won’t learn. They let their emotions and hormones tell them what to do.” He paused for a moment, ordered more wine for both of them. “Or maybe they’re just bored, and looking for some fun. Is that what you’re looking for, Jack? And if it comes in the form of a woman who’s smarter than you, more self-sufficient than you, and way more cynical than you, which it usually does, are you still interested? For a guy who lugs parcels all day, you don’t know much about baggage.”
“No one’s more cynical than you, Dan. There’s all kinds of guys our age, happily married, content, even spoiled. I think I could settle for that.”
“You’re such a hopeless romantic, man. No one our age is happily married. The guys our age keep the porn industry in business, and their wives keep the romance novel industry in business. Their marriages are boring and sexless. They stay married out of habit not out of love. They live the same lives we do, except they have to go home every day after work. They live in their dreams.”
Jack was staring at the two young goth girls, talking with each other, one of them also talking on a cell phone, giggling, trying to look oblivious to the men furtively sneaking glances at them. “I’d like to live in that dream”, he said to himself.
“So buy them a round, see where it gets you”, Dan said.
Two minutes later the bartender gave him the bill for two cocktails. Jack looked over at them. They smiled and raised their glasses, and one of them gave a mock curtsy. Then they turned away, returned to their conversation.
“On the red-eye flight back from the conference in Rome I ended up sitting beside this girl who was so attractive, so perfectly dressed, that I ended up staying up for the whole flight just watching her sleep. Watched the rise and fall of her breasts under her sweater. Listened to her sighs. She had the most delicious eyelashes, and this tiny perfect nose. I’d talked with her for five minutes — she was on midterm break from university — before I ran out of things to say. I just lay there in a stupor with a hard-on for five hours. It wasn’t that bad, really. Most fun I’ve had in months.”
“You’re a sad case, Jack. You used to draw really well in high school. You could take it up again. Draw her, with and without the sweater. Draw yourself with her. It’s the closest you’ll ever get.”
Dan turned towards the goth girls and started long-distance flirting with them. He figured he could get them to think it was he who’d bought the round, not Jack. He was gesturing to the two of them, and then to himself and Jack, and then shrugged and smiled. They laughed, and one of them wagged a forefinger back and forth in a joking rebuttal. Dan made a mock pout, then raised a finger (“aha!) and began acting out great eating gestures, then pointed at them, at Jack and himself again, and then at an empty table in the corner of the bar, and shrugged again. He put on his most harmless face.
The girls considered the offer among themselves, and then one of them shrugged back and nodded. “We’re in”, Dan said to Jack. “It’ll cost you the price of a dinner, and it will probably only get you a nice fantasy to keep you warm for awhile when the image of the eyelash girl fades from memory. But you need the practice.” He ushered his friend towards the empty table, and gestured to the two girls to go ahead of them.
(To be continued)
Artwork “In Deep Conversation” by Irish artist Pam O’Connell
Category: Short Stories