Oldness and sex

Some colleagues and I were just out having dinner and out-olding one another. One woman said she was glad to finally be old enough that our college students look like tiny soft little babies who could not possibly be sexually attractive to anyone. I responded that I feel so old I see them as being at the height of their sexual desirability for one another, and may God bless them in all their endeavors, because when they get to be my age, none of that shit is fun anymore. Satan in the Garden, that’s me.

This weekend, I was out of town for a conference, and while at the hotel bar with friends, a guy about my age strikes up a conversation with me, having overheard me discussing seventeenth-century economics. I assume he’s One Of Us until he informs me that he’s just a guy in town on business who happens to have a casual interest in the birth of the modern era and the rise of global capitalism. “See, you can pretty much look at the way consumer markets work now in comparison to what was going on with the sugar and tobacco trades, only now it’s computers and bottled water. You got to look back that far, at least, to understand what’s going on now. Advertising, labor, investment—the whole thing.” I’m like, dude, that’s my line. That’s what I’m teaching right now.

My friend in the group points out, as the fellow goes to the restroom, that the gentleman in question is in possession of a singularly searing beauty. What Ever, I respond, because I am twelve in my old age. But the friend has a point, especially with respect to a pair of celadon eyes and early-salting thick black hair. And it turns out he grew up speaking precisely the obscure dialect of Spanish that I grew up learning from a friend in high school. He’s really nice, funny, a bit nervous, and impressively intelligent.

The thing that is nagging at me is that I have to give a presentation at 8am, and I haven’t slept in days, and the thing hasn’t even been edited properly. I’m enjoying meeting a person, which is weird because I almost never enjoy meeting a person, but all I can think about is trying to scrape together a full night’s sleep and doing a good job. The guy is suggesting all kinds of things we should do—go out to a bar down the street, walk around, get a bottle of something and stay up all night. “We will be like Baudelaire! We’ll write and drink and talk and fuck! And then you’ll go give your presentation and I’ll go give my presentation, and we’ll be great because of how we did it!” Even my friend, whose panel is the reason I’m there, is telling me to go. “Please, please do this. I need you to tell me about it. You’ll be my hero.”

But I don’t. I say, look, I’m not 25. I can’t pull shit like that off anymore. I want to do my job well. I don’t want to be the bedraggled specter of conference decadence, groaning my miserable way through a rambling paper and then blinking off all questions. I want to be taken seriously, not as a passionate young artist of life, but as a boring obnoxious old dyspeptic professor of literature. I can’t. I rush off before I can change my mind.

What I don’t tell him is that I don’t like strangers anymore. But if there ever was a stranger I would wish I’d said yes to, it would be him.

The next day I felt horrible regret, the young-person kind—the what-if kind. I can’t even tell what’s special, or who is special, and I certainly don’t know what to do about it, or what a normal person would do about it. I go down to the hotel bar again, my presentation and all my obligations well behind me, but he isn’t there.

16 responses to “Oldness and sex”

  1. FPS says:

    our college students look like tiny soft little babies who could not possibly be sexually attractive to anyone.

    I don’t have students of course but I’m relieved to find this same thing about people of that age. I mean, sure, some of them are hot, but a lot of them look too much like kids. It may be a self-preserving instinct since the only circumstance under which they would be knocking on my door this far past my gay expiration date would be some self-concept-wrecking scenario involving a line like “oh I’ve always liked older guys” or possibly terms of familial endearment, though I’m not really tall enough to pull that one off.

  2. FPS says:

    I question the relative importance of being taken seriously, btw, but on the other hand I have this hunch if you rushed off, you maybe didn’t really want to do it–you just wanted to want to do it! As one would. It’s nuts not to want to stay up all night with some glamorous stranger…only, past the age of 25ish, who cares? You’ve gotten laid before and you’ll get laid again. You’ve had adventures before and will again.

  3. A White Bear says:

    It’s funny; when I was in college, I didn’t see college-aged people as fuckable. Then they looked like tiny little babies, and I was always fantasizing about my 30-something German TA or my 50-something writing prof. It’s hilarious to me to think now how young I must have looked to my much-older boyfriends when I was 19, 23, etc. What were they thinking?

    But now I think some of the uncanny horror of college-aged youth has faded. I’m glad for these kids, that they’re growing up in a slightly freer world. It’s slightly more OK for guys not to be macho pigs, slightly more OK for chicks to openly express consent. I know they’ve still got problems, but I’m glad they don’t, collectively, seem to have a giant case of The Big Fucked-Up.

  4. A White Bear says:

    No, FPS, I feel like I might never have adventures again! It’s very scary and sad! Where are my priorities? Of course I wanted to fuck the beautiful stranger. OF COURSE. But I couldn’t imagine myself actually doing it until I gave my paper and had 18 hours to think it over. Where are my instincts? This was like the kind of guy I fantasized might exist someday when I was a moony 15-year-old. I am an idiot might be the problem.

  5. FPS says:

    But see what I’m saying isn’t that you’re old and mature and oh who has time to fuck beautiful strangers; rather, that it isn’t vital that you fucked this particular stranger, though it probably would have been fun. If beautiful strangers are propositioning you at age(oh let’s say) 31 and two months, it is not unlikely to happen at age 31 and seven months and maybe right at that moment you won’t have a big important thing the next day and a sleep deficit. (This is threatening to devolve into a dissolute verse of “Some enchanted evening” so I’ll shut up.)

  6. A White Bear says:

    Hm. I guess it’s less that I’m afraid no one will want to fuck me again; I know very well that, for some reason, human beings will continue to think I’d be fun in bed. What I’m afraid of is me? That I’m incapable of going with it?

  7. Tim says:

    AWB, I hazard to guess that your current position in the academic hierarchy — non-tenure track, on the job market — had much more to do with your superego’s victory over your id than age did. You wanted more to be taken seriously by the audience the next day than you wanted to get it on with a hot stranger. Give it a few years; when you’re tenured with a book or two out, you’ll be schtupping casually at conferences and not giving a shit about how the paper turns out in the morning.

  8. AWB says:

    Tim, that’s very kind. I hope you’re right!

  9. FPS says:

    Ah, sorry! I substituted my own fears for yours. (I’m not concerned I won’t be easily tempted as I get older–I’m delighted. But I do have plenty of fears about not being considered a worthy object of it.)

  10. AWB says:

    I don’t have regular-style prettiness going for me, but I’m obviously a pervert, which raises a certain kind of antenna. It’s not always the antenna I want, but I can’t complain that I’m universally unappealing.

  11. swells says:

    Hooray for AWB writing about real sexuality in real life. I always appreciate the candor. And I think Tim’s assessment has to have some relevance to where you are, psychically. Not that it’s not fine to also come to the realization that maybe you just feel done with all that, or that it’s no longer the biggest priority, or that you HAVE to be reassured that it will come back–but it’s hard to overlook what a precarious position your ego and identity are made to teeter atop when you’re on the academic job market, especially for a dragged-out period. And yes, I know I ended my clause with a preposition, but you ended your night with a proposition. Isn’t that the part you want to reassure yourself can still happen, whether or not you accept it?

  12. AWB says:

    No, I suppose it isn’t. Oddly, I really don’t feel like I won’t have opportunities to fuck strangers. I just won’t have the effort or goodwill available to do so. I earnestly hope that it’s just a job-market lull in my energies. I just hate saying no when the universe offers good things.

  13. swells says:

    Okay, I guess you did clarify that, reading back over the comments more carefully. Maybe that’s just not the kind of good thing you consider a good thing and that’s fine too. You know, like if you offer me something everyone else loves, like bacon or coffee, it’s just not that good of a thing to me. I don’t mind saying no. I have my own good things to say yes to. As do you, like having an exchange interesting enough to post about. Or that long night of delicious sleep you chose instead. That’s a pretty good thing.

  14. josh k-sky says:

    And yes, I know I ended my clause with a preposition, but you ended your night with a proposition.


  15. Dave says:

    Just schedule things for weekends, or sex camp, or whatever. I am discovering that a big part of being a grownup is just being willing and able to keep a calendar.

  16. trixie says:

    I love this post, and I love the conversation that follows just as much.

    I am not mad at you all for not watching all the videos in that Literacy post any more now. Thank you.

    Also, fwiw, I agree with Tim’s read on this scenario 100%.