By Earl Fowler
As one embarks upon one’s golden years, one is ever more grateful to encounter the few springs of optimism that remain.
May I recommend the personal ads in the New York Review of Books?
Not because I’m looking to “hitch my wagon to a star,” like the “Sophisticated Manhattan Lady” who placed a recent ad seeking “a Senior gentleman who knows how.”
My wagon has been hitched to a star for so long that I’m pretty sure the wheels have turned to moonbeams.
But what still thrills me to my burned-out axle stubs is the intrepid display (anonymous, yes, but still joyfully public) of the indelible hope, the breathy anticipation, the buoyant indomitability of old people looking for romance. Oh, as long as they know how to love, I know they’ll stay alive — notwithstanding the heartache and the thousand natural shocks we all are heir to in sixty, seventy, eighty revolutions around the cosmic hitching post.
Here are some examples from that same issue (Feb. 27, 2020) of looking for love in all the swan-song places. It was friskier than normal because of a contest offering free space, but I have been a subscriber for 20 years and always read the classifieds first for precisely this sort of sustenance:
SOBER JEAN RHYS seeks 60ish Dr. Zhivago, inebriated with joy. Your grandchildren are Trapp Family clones. Your prostate is on hiatus, and your dog is named Scaramouche or Scaramutt. email@example.com
F TO M: Don’t want to go gentle into that good night? How about we make a big ruckus together and startle all the heirs? NYR Box 68035.
FETCHING OLDER WOMAN. New England based, with a pocketful of valentines redeemable for an awkward first date, getting lost in foreign cities, bookstore kisses, and kitchen mayhem. What’s in your Valentine? firstname.lastname@example.org.
STRAIGHT UP WITH A TWIST, not easily shaken but may be stirred, seeks talented (SM) bartender, vintage (to mix metaphors) 1951-1961. NYR Box 68300.
READY TO RETIRE? San Miguel de Allende, the perfect place. Come visit. We get along, great. If not, great trip anyway. Good-looking, young-looking 65-yr.-old woman, bilingual, smart, funny. Write to me. NYR Box 68005.
THE SOUTHERN BELLETRIST, eighty years young seeks vibrant companion for lyrics unsung. Let’s form a new friendship of heart and mind and savor the mutual pleasures we’ll find. email@example.com
FUN FACTIVIST seeks another unabashed news junkie, a man who’s smart, open, and makes me laugh. I’m a tall, attractive, youthful-looking 60-year-old woman who’s quick-witted, creative, independent. Hamptons/NYC. NY1Factivist@gmail.com
Uno: If your email address ends with yahoo.com, you don’t have to describe yourself as older. We get it.
Dos: Most of the ads — and, almost invariably, all of the good ones — are written by women. Women tend to live longer, which might account for the first part of that equation. But I don’t think it’s because I’m a heterosexual male that I am consistently more captivated by the creativity, intelligence and playfulness the female writers bring to this exercise than by unimaginative male boilerplate. Sample:
ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE; write me a letter so dreams can come true. Los Angeles man, 76. NYR Box 68315.
I’m happy the fellow is putting himself out there and wish him well, but you can’t help but think that a sober Jean Rhys is hoping for a little more Omar Sharif and a bit less Henry Gibson.
Tres: If you’re ready to retire, amigos, I bet you’ve already Googled San Miguel de Allende. They say Juárez Park is lovely this time of year.
As for me, I’m hitching my wagon to optimism. The personal ads in the New York Review of Books and other publications that skew toward older readerships offer encouraging testimony that even as we all slump toward the Big Sleep, there can be consummations along the way devoutly to be wish’d. And if that doesn’t TURN YOUR STRESS index to zero, check out the Personal Services section. Massage by Eva. Simply1618@yahoo.com