We young people tend to believe that love and sex is the domain of the young. Let’s face it, most love poetry and popular love songs have been written about the young, and often by the young. We are inclined to believe that post-forties love affairs must be rum and ludicrous and are often disturbed with disquieting reminders of sexual activity between our parents.
What so many of us don’t understand is that love, sex, and even lust defies age and time. Desire can become more prominent as time passes. Yet most women turning fifty experience it as a watershed, a wasteland of self-loathing, with a refusal to acknowledge who they really are and what they have become. There are those who deny their desire, who have forgotten their authentic passion for red nail polish, fabulous earrings and sleeping in the nude, and who turn quickly to twinsets, tea and scones on Sunday afternoons and looking after the grandchildren. It works, they go straight from forty-nine to fifty-one; and they do not go quietly, – they do not go at all.
And there are those who embrace that desire. A woman at fifty does not want to waste any more of her time waiting for that second, third or fourth chance at ravishing life. They have experienced all the pain, angst, unfocused anger and jealousy of youth, got through it, conquered it and found that an entirely new life of possibility has opened up for them. Erica Jong in her book Fear of Fifty, tells us “At fifty the mad woman in the attic breaks loose, stomps down the stairs, and sets fire to the house. She won’t be imprisoned anymore.”
The mistake that so many older women seem to make, however, is that they focus on the search for external youth rather than the perpetuation of their own internal youth. They avoid social conversation with men over the age of thirty-eight. They throw out all their cotton underwear and invest in enough Italian silk lingerie to last several lifetimes. They learn to walk again in high heels, practice the art of regular waxing, start wearing stockings and garters and capri pants. They have trendy haircuts, begin to work out or give the latest diet fad a test run. They are rejecting any attempts to strap them down, refusing to swallow the birthday cake. If it’s their party, they feel they don’t have to show up. This way, when the extremely rude and crude inquire about their chronology, they can honestly say, ‘Well, I’ve not celebrated my whatever yet.’
And all of this is certainly not to maintain their health. It’s to look good and to feel desirable to the opposite sex. Their search for eternal youth takes the form of the search for eternal beauty, with the focus on the outside not the inside. Looking good creates a confidence in friendship, in work, in love. It’s important to be sexy, to want to appear beautiful. Beauty is one of the great gifts of nature; but old Mother Nature is cruel, abandoning women as soon as their reproductive life is over by withdrawing the hormones that kept them looking young.
And let’s face it, literature and mythology refers to women at these stages of life as ‘crones.” Granted there may be a few factors or circumstances that contribute to life’s agitation, such as a broken marriage, loss of partner, termination of employment, but it’s the word ‘crone’ that can throw you into a loop. And what an ugly word to describe such a creative chapter in a woman’s story! Surely invoking the image of a crone as a figure to emulate diminishes a woman’s sense of well being. The French call feminine act-two players ‘women of a certain age’, and that describes a lot of women very succinctly; we become more certain of ourselves as authenticity emerges. When it comes to a choice between the sexy chuckle of songstress Lena Horne and the gleeful cackle of sorceress Madam Mim, I’m much more inspired by the lady and her music than I am with the lady and her magic spells.
So what is the key to success, how do we women our desirability? Is there a clue in the crone myth, however ugly the word might sound?
At a recent concert in Dublin’s Point Depot I watched women scream, sweat and shake as the world’s greatest rock and roll legends set foot on stage. At the age of sixty plus the Rolling Stones still manage to maintain their sex appeal, still manage to put their audiences into a state of awe with their presence. What is it that makes these veterans of the stage the most wanted men on earth? Surely it can’t be their looks! The many years of life on the road, constant parties and mindless drug abuse have taken their toll on the faces of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards et al. The bodies of the Stones are a far throw from those of today’s strapping pop idols. Yet there was something mesmerising about them, something sexy about the way they moved, they sang, they jammed together. They had energy about them. It was as if they were aware that they were living for the last time, the only time. Knowing life holds no guarantees for them, they were not promised a tomorrow, they were living for today, embracing the moment, their time on stage. They were alive. There was something in them that is deep in all of us, – the non-stop, die-hard fire for life. No wonder over the years they had received the attention and adoration that had shot them to uber-celebrity status. They truly were life icons. It wasn’t their aesthetic beauty that made women want them, it was their power and thrust that made them desirable.
We all know about the Rolling Stones reputation. Mick Jagger has bedded some of the world’s sexiest women. These include wives Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall, lovers Marianne Faithful, Luciana Morad and Sophie Dahl, as well as a lengthy string of others. Yet Jagger has admitted that his lovers often can’t get no satisfaction – despite his reputation between the sheets. He recently told Swiss newspaper Blick: “It’s a fact that this adventure playground behind the zip of my trousers has myth status on the groupie scene,” and confessed that he finds it hard living up to his “sex god” image. “When you are said to be the f*** of the century it’s a matter of course that every woman is disappointed after the first night with you”.
So in the knowledge that Mick, on his own admittance, is no superman in the bedroom, that his face is far from beautiful, and his scrawny bod could do with a bit of a build-up, how come the ladies are not deterred from chasing him? The answer was in watching and listening to him perform. What we women, young and old, desire in him is his passion. Though Mick also confessed, due to his unfaithfulness, that he was at fault for his marriage break ups, it doesn’t seem like he’s a lonely man. He has other fulfilment in his life, – his music. “All my friends at school grew up and settled down.” said Mick, ‘Then they mortgaged up their lives… They just got married coz there was nothing else to do’. Mick had something else to do – he played rock and roll coz he liked it. He stuck at what was authentically him.
We don’t all have to be world renowned super stars like Mick, but we can all attain that same something that he has by just capturing the spark inside ourselves and nurturing it, so that one day it’ll burn as brightly as a bonfire, emulating the warmth, light and energy that came from the stage that night. The music resonated throughout the Point. Young and old, it got us all rocking in the first second of drum roll and guitar twang. It touched each and every one of us, thudding through our loins, rock and rolling us into our past, reminding us of who we really were and how we feel. It was empowering. It was obvious the Stones love doing what they do, creating music and rocking audiences throughout the world. It’s what has kept them going all these years, what kept the Rolling Stone legend alive, what made them desirable.
Everyone joined in with an unbelievable depth of emotion to ‘you can’t always get what you want’ determined in their chorus of – ‘ but if you try some time, you might just get what you need’. Those Rolling Stones were singing about our lives, about our striving. They were singing to help us realise what life is all about. And I was thankful there and then that in this world we do have culture, we do have various wonderful art forms that caption our emotions, trials and tribulations in living. Art is a comfort; it expresses us individually, makes us feel worthy of being. Every song reminds us of a time, an event, a moment in our lives when something mattered, when there was action, when there was feeling, when we not only existed but when we lived. Their encore of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ with falling rose petals, billowing smoke and background lightworks thudded into my soul, into everyone’s soul I guess, reminding me of my inner strength and reinforcing my belief that the only way was forward, erect and positive.
The performance came to an end and the final beat was sounded but the buzz of the night lived on. I walked back to the familiarity of the O2 Point Club, the newest edition to the ever-expanding Point Depot. It seems now the essence of rock and roll can be experienced in surroundings a far cry from the muddied fields of Slane or the cold winds of Lansdowne. No more car queues, – the O2 Point Club has it’s own VIP parking. No more limited choice of alcohol, the club has it’s own fully stocked bar and champagne was flowing all evening. No more burgers and chips – every table was supplied with first class goodies to eat.
For those of you that think that this means losing the essence of live performances, I beg to differ. The whole experience of attending a concert was suddenly a lot more enjoyable. Inside the bar were familiar faces all sharing in the ecstasy of the night, still hot and trembling. Everyone still out of breathe and slightly clammy from the show. The massive room was filled with the same energy just witnessed on stage moments before. Each one as energised as the person they were conversing with. Each still experiencing their own inner power that the music had stirred up. All busily talking about the music, the sound, the beat, and all intent on keeping this ‘rock’ feeling within them rolling on throughout the night.
Some women proclaimed that the whole experience made them feel sexy and horny. Sure every woman there must have felt like the honky-tonk woman. But I think that what they were referring to was much closer to their own essence of passion than any clandestine bodice ripping cliché. For my part, not only had I been blessed with seeing the music industry’s biggest and best, I had also been shown something I didn’t think I’d see. No matter who, where or what you are, you can have it all because you already have it inside. Age doesn’t stop you from being you, from being sexy, beautiful, and desirable. Nothing does, only yourself. Coco Chanel reminds us that “Nature gives you the face you have when you are twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But it is up to you to earn the face you have at fifty.” That face should be authentic, It should reflect the great passionate life we have lived. Then others will desire to be with you for the warmth of your fire inside.
So that’s what rocking and rolling means for me. Sure, I might find myself hanging out backstage some times, but it won’t be with my “crone-ies”