I like reading the weekend newspaper. I work on the NY Times crossword that runs only in the weekend edition. I enjoy the letters, the editorials, the comment pages and perusing the classified ads. I recently came across a slice of life in the singles column of the Classifieds.
The singles section in my regional paper is located near the euphemistically titled “adult entertainment” ads which are followed by the escort ads. I don’t know why adult entertainment and escort services need different headings because as far as I can tell they seem like the same things. For those who can’t find “Twoo Wuv” I suppose it’s convenient to have the services that replicate the mechanics of said relationship for pay advertised nearby. This gent seems to be trying to cover all bases-wide age range, possible marriage (based on a 2 hour a week get to know you time schedule) and cash for…well…“stuff”. I’m guessing he’s not shelling out $500 a month for 8 hours of holding hands at the movies. I have no idea what the hell is going on here but there is no denying that his hope, or something else, springs eternal. Whether it’s for love or a cash transaction only is uncertain. Will it be wedding bells or is this a senior ready to “mingle”? There is no doubt that age has no bearing on desire. I’m no expert but I’ve had my own little run in, rather unfortunately, with that truth.
I worked as a museum manager for almost 5 years. As a not for profit organization funding was always an issue. I was the only employee (with the exception of summer students). It would have been difficult to operate the site without volunteers. During my tenure I came into contact with a number of seniors. I unintentionally managed to secure the “affection” of a married man more than 45 years my elder. Unbeknownst to me he had a reputation in the community for womanizing. If I had known that, when I got to the end of the line of seniors I was giving a quick hug and a peck on the cheek to after an event, I would never have included him.
An explanation might be in order as it may seem strange that a professional would engage in such behaviour. The individual who had held the position before me had complained about visits, from volunteers and members of the society that established the museum, hampering his administration. When I was hired it was made very clear to me that it was a part of the job and as such took priority over other administrative tasks. I was to have an open door policy and work to establish strong ties with any local individuals who chose to visit or participate on site. It led to a very interesting dynamic developing with a number of senior members who were involved with the organization. The closest term I might use to define that relationship would be “familial”.
I once had a senior volunteer end a phone call with “I love you” to which I responded to without a moment of hesitation with a “Me too. See you tomorrow”. For months I spent several hours each week visiting with a gentleman (not the not-so-secret admirer) whose wife was confined to a care facility as the result of a stroke. He would stop by my office and bring samples of his wood work as well as photos of his former property and harness racing horses he had raised. As the manager of a historical site with a mandate to preserve local history people would come by to share stories of family histories, traditions and of course gossip. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy sharing a bit of gossip whether it happened last week or a hundred years ago. Living and working in a small rural community, as well as the nature of my job, meant that the lines between my work and personal life were at times nonexistent. It wouldn’t be unusual to have someone drop by my house on my days off to talk about something work related or to drop by my work to talk about something personal. So hugs and pecks on the cheek for pseudo grandparent figures were not out of line.
It wasn’t even a week after the event that I realized I had unintentionally created a problem for myself. That small gesture of affection had fanned the flames of a desire and I found myself the subject of some very unwanted attention. Suddenly I noticed that my not-so-secret admirer was around more often. He would make excuses to speak to me (not that he had to, it was my job after all) but he didn’t really have anything to say. I began to hear about him asking for me when I wasn’t on site, wanting to know when I would be back. He would take any opportunity he could to come into contact with me. At one point he took my hand and wouldn’t let it go. I can tell you it is very awkward trying to disengage your hand from an 88-year-old man’s grasp without hurting him when he’s determined not to let go. At that point I was embarrassed and I felt a bit sorry for him as well as his wife. I blamed myself because you know maybe I shouldn’t have hugged him (even though it had never been a problem with any of my other seniors). I had no idea this was a regular thing for him. If I had, I would have faced it head on. He wasn’t making any attempt to hide his interest. I began to make sure I was never alone with him. That wasn’t so hard during the summer when there were students working through the busy season. The slow season began in September. The students would be heading back to school and I was going to be alone on site. So of course you know that’s when it came to a head.
It was just a normal weekday when he showed up. I was sitting at my desk doing some administrative work on the computer. I kept working as he came in hoping he would see I was busy and leave. He stood behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. Well I tell you I was at a loss. I began to explain what I was working with on the screen. I looked up at him and he said “You look sad” and then he bent down AND KISSED ME ON THE MOUTH and said “Does that make you feel better?”. HOLY-CRAP-IN-A-HAND-BASKET. I was stunned. Just then out of the corner of my eye I saw the gas lady walking across the lawn to check the meter. “Oh it’s the gas lady” I exclaimed and I almost ran out of the room. He followed me. Now this man was in his late 80s at the time. He then had and still does have a Tweedledee Tweedledum physique. I wasn’t afraid of him. I’m pretty sure I could take him in a fair fight. But I was extremely uncomfortable and angry. I was angry at him. I was angry on his wife’s behalf and I was angry at myself for waiting and just hoping the whole thing would go away. I turned to him, making no attempt to hide my anger and asked “Does your wife know you go around kissing other woman?” My tone of voice made it clear it was both a question and a threat. I walked away to talk to the gas lady and my not-so-secret admirer left.
I wish I could say that was the end of it but of course it wasn’t. A year later he showed up for a site event. He tried to speak to me and I walked by him without acknowledging his presence. Later that day I had a chat with one of the organization’s board members and related the whole thing to him. It was agreed that this man would be “discouraged” from participating on site. I don’t work at the museum anymore. I made sure to warn my replacement during her orientation. Sometime later I mentioned to a friend who had grown up in the area that I’d had a problem with a senior volunteer being inappropriate. I didn’t even have to mention his name. She knew who it was right away. Then someone else mentioned another incident they’d heard of. With all the gossip I had been privy to while running the museum there’d not been a whisper of his womanizing. On reflection I realized the majority of those talks on site had been mostly with older women. It seems that younger women had borne the brunt of his attention. Don’t get me wrong I’m not one of those people who believe love is only for the young or that May-December romances are wrong. I do believe if you’re married, YOU’RE MARRIED. And if you want to carry on like you’re not, then you shouldn’t be anymore. I also think that a healthy dose of reality should temper every ego. If the person who placed the ad I pasted above is single and ready to mingle by all means he should go for it. I hope he finds someone who is looking for what he has to offer. All things being equal both of them should meet on common ground regardless of age but equal in availability and desire.
I still have strong ties to many of the people I met while I worked at the site. I’ve heard my not-so-secret admirer still stops by to ask about me. There’s that hope (in his case that can be translated into an amoral and misguided ego/libido) springing eternal I suppose. Obviously I’m no longer contractually obligated to talk to any and everyone but when I hear that he’s been asking about me I like to imagine I might allow a very brief discussion with the desired effect on my part of further crushing that hope like a nasty bug beneath my heel. The reality of course is that hope is indestructible.
Songs for this post
What a Fool Believes by the Doobie Brothers because delusion played a serious role in my unfortunate incident. His for thinking he had even a smidgen of a chance or mine for hoping it would just go away-pick whichever you’d like.
Backdoor Man by the Doors. Not because my not-so-secret admirer believed he had that Jim Morrison thing going for him. Rather he was hoping to sneak around with someone, anyone, as long as she was decades younger than him and not his own wife.