The elderly have sex. Not only that, they have healthier, more open attitudes toward their own gratification. Keeping this secret on lockdown is that oppressive but strangely nebulous enemy “society,” which conditions us to believe that everything great about existing as a sexual being occurs before the age of 35. Before we address this awful lie, let’s run through the life and death of a sexual organism, as we are taught to understand it:
Boys turn twelve and every waking moment is devoted to tons of urgent, clandestine masturbation before hitting age eighteen whereby they have an erection literally every minute of the day for two years. Throughout their twenties, they have whatever amount of sex they please with however many partners they choose and nobody judges them and they can’t get cervical cancer. When they hit 35, men find a nice girl (less than 10 sexual partners) and then spend the rest of their lives watching progressively filthier internet porn.
Female sexuality is a little more complicated and mired in moral prejudices, but the gist of it is we go into adulthood expecting endless nights of candlelit missionary position sex with Ryan Phillipe’s character in Cruel Intentions. Then we’re hit with the crushing disappointments of actual men… but, women are resilient! Once we finally develop a realistic comprehension of sex through experience, we simultaneously come to terms with our bodies, discover our own sexual needs, and learn ways to articulate those needs… only—surprise!—you’re almost forty and your eggs are shit.
My point is, in a lot of ways, that’s what we expect, what we’re convinced, or a sad, disappointing amalgam of the two. We soldier through adulthood with increasing dread for the golden years and the desolate loneliness we suspect they’ll bring. But what I have learned recently is that the shitty pointless years of sex occur before old age strikes, not after. That’s right: sex doesn’t get awesome until you’re old. Sure, your body and brain will have been ravaged by time, sun exposure, alcohol and shitty food, but being a senior citizen allows a unique sexual autonomy, and frankness about your enjoyment of it.
First of all, nursing homes are hotbeds of ass. Room after totally private room of willing ass. You know how I know? My grandmother was recently caught by security guards at her nursing home in the bedroom of a strapping salt’n pepper gentleman. They escorted her back to her own room only to find her in a different man’s bed the following week. My family attributed this behavior to her “Alzheimer’s” but I knew better: nursing rooms are just like college dormitories, right down to the rampant, risky sex with people you won’t recognize the next day.
Think about it: you’re mature, you’re alone (not being cruel; everyone dies alone), you’re shacked up with dozens of equally lonely people in the same age group and you’ve thoroughly sized up all their packages thanks to thrice-weekly low-impact water aerobics. And just like hunger is the best spice, nearness to death is the best aphrodisiac. The only other people who don’t care about dying (for different reasons) are in their late teens and early twenties, and they fuck like jackrabbits. Why should old people have it any different? It’s liberating to be sixty plus and sexually active. You don’t owe anybody anything, much less an apology because you have orgasms. You’ve lived a rich full life, you’ve paid your dues, shat out some kids, and now it’s time to be selfish.
Which brings me to the moment I learned this lesson: I was invited to dinner at the home of a friend a few weeks ago. His grandmother was there and she was a very charming, bright, cool old lady who had lived a lot of life and didn’t seem to regret much of it. We sat down to dinner and everything was going really nice, until my friend’s grandmother abruptly puts down her wine glass and stands. “Well, it was a pleasure to meet you, Elizabeth,” she says, “But I’ve got to go play with the little man in the boat.” And with that, she left.
At first I was stunned. After a moment of just sitting there, blinking, I realized that’s the prize, that’s what it’s all moving toward: no artifice, no explanations, no pretending not to masturbate in mixed company. In essence, the elderly have enough life experience to know what they want and demand it, and they’re so haunted by their own demise that they don’t have to give a fuck. Getting old is about having lots of unapologetic orgasms and if people don’t like it, they’re insensitive fuckers who don’t yet understand the burden of mortality. I can’t wait.