Dating an old friend
En español | You made the mistake of asking your adult daughter if that guy she went out with last night was "anything serious." She gave you a nonchalant shrug and smiled.
"Don't book the church yet, Mom — it was just a hookup!
" At first, her disclosure strikes you as too much information.
But then it gets you thinking: You're single, too — what could be so bad about a casual night in bed with someone you like but don't love?
Sixty-something sexologist Joan Price, for one, endorses "gray hookups," but with a couple of strong caveats: The people involved must be emotionally capable of handling their status as noncommitted bed partners, and they must protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases.
In a national study conducted in 2012, the Center for Sexual Health Promotion found sex partners over 50 twice as likely to use a condom when they regarded a sexual encounter as casual rather than as part of an ongoing relationship.
Further evidence of Roving Eye Syndrome came from a study of sexuality in the United States commissioned by AARP in 2009: It found that 6 percent to 8 percent of singles age 50 and up were dating more than one person at a time.
Marilyn, a 57-year-old single colleague of mine, recently reconnected with someone she had worked with many years ago. "No," Marilyn said with a laugh, "it's better than that: I'm in like with him — and that's exactly where I want to be." She further confided that they planned to make their reunions "a regular thing — if four times a year can be called 'regular.' But I think that's about all I really want." Marilyn's casual approach to maintaining a friendship with benefits typifies the mindset of older folks who have reconciled themselves to having "great fun" even if it's "just one of those things." And episodic pleasure-seeking may be more common than you think: In The Normal Bar, a book I wrote last year with Chrisanna Northrup and James Witte, we reported that 61 percent of female survey respondents who had partners fantasized about someone they had met.Is that a deplorably manipulative state of affairs?Possibly — until you stop to consider how many of us are comfortable with being unpartnered but how few of us are willing to remain untouched.For 50-plus types unwilling to walk — possibly rewalk — the path that leads to romance, rings and relocation, the prospect of a "friend with benefits" is looking less and less like a millennial indulgence.After all, it gets awfully lonely waiting around for "the one." Perhaps you've decided that what you need at this point in your life is someone to talk to and laugh with — someone with whom you can share the sheets, but not the tax refund.He also had a reputation of being a little bit of a player who was always dating a new girl. We didn't touch, kiss, or even sit on the same side of the bed.I kept a distance from him so that he wouldn't see me as just another person who adored him. When he left that night, I realized, It was annoying when I admitted that I liked him that he said he liked me, too.I cared about making sure life never felt stale, and no Friday or Saturday night was left open on my calendar. If I liked you, I was usually too shy, too proud, and too awkward to let you know.But I don't care about any of those things anymore.Many older divorced or widowed men and women are in the same boat. You're probably not desperate enough to stalk your neighbors, or to go looking for friends with benefits in all the wrong places (bars come to mind).They feel protective of their privacy and peace of mind, but they haven't become eunuchs or hermits. But offered a chance to reconnect with someone from your past — dinner with your high school steady, for example — you might just surprise yourself by winding up in bed.