2014-12-18 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

Growing older means more options for love

While I was in France this summer, I had lunch one afternoon at a local restaurant I’ve been going to for years, a place where the owner knows me and feels comfortable enough to make offcolor remarks (although, maybe that’s just France). On his way by my table he asked, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

I laughed and said I had several. The owner nodded his head approvingly.

“That’s good,” he said. “You’ll want to take advantage of that now. Because when you get older … ” He cast a significant glance in the direction of the middle-aged waitress, “You have to take what you can get,” he continued. “There aren’t as many options.”

I think it was meant as a compliment — although, who knows? — but I took it as a sad fact of life.

What he said made sense to me, that our pool of available romantic options should shrink as we age until, late in life, there’s almost no one to choose from. Sad but truthful logic, I thought.

Until recently.

Last week, in a conversation with an older gentleman, I started to think maybe it’s just the opposite. Perhaps we actually have more options as we age.

The gentleman explained to me how he wound up with his current wife, a second marriage for both of them. She was the one-time wife of his brotherin law, he explained to me, meaning she wasn’t related by blood, not even by title, really, but enough that they saw each other at holidays and family gatherings. When this man’s wife passed away and then, a short time later, his brother-in-law died, my gentleman friend stepped in to court the widow. Today they’re married, and from the way he glowed when he spoke about their relationship, I’d say it’s a delight.

I think perhaps my French restaurateur got it wrong.

As we move through life, we add layers of experience and also relationships. We cross paths with many potential loves, men and women who, for one reason or another, we can’t be with at a particular moment in time. We move on, we stay in touch — and then life with its infinite surprises brings us around to them again.

What’s loveliest about these relationships, I think, is the way they carry an echo of earlier times, so that superimposed on our current images — our lined faces, our weather-worn skin — are impressions of another, younger life.

I have a good friend (married) who has pined after his wife’s sister (also married) for the last 20 years. Now, my friend is getting divorced. And his sister-in-law? Who knows? But life is funny, always circling us around to the thing we want most, daring us to deny it a second time.

So why be glum about growing older? Our possibilities for romance expand as we age, opening up and widening, reaching back into our past and forward into the future. There are people out there whom we have missed, whom we have passed over, whom we have long wondered about. As we move through this lifetime they come back again, giving us more chances and another shot at a happy ending. ¦

— Artis Henderson is the author of “Unremarried rd Widow” published by Simon and Schuster. .

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