"You should meet my daughter. You're about the same age." I told Omar on class number two of a twelve-week program on brain disorders. The course had a science-based approach but the schooling I received was much different than my expectations.
I arrived late for the initial session. Omar offered the seat next to him and helped me to find my place in the handouts. During the break we exchanged a few details about ourselves. There was gentleness as he described his reason for attending. I was moved by his lack of resentment for what would surely be a lifetime of caring for an afflicted family member. His acceptance was remarkable. He was 28 years old.
By the third class I asked if he had a girlfriend. He didn't. I gave him my 26-year-old daughter's email address and described her long list of attributes. He seemed interested yet never followed through.
A few weeks later we were driving to a holiday celebration when I received the first text message. Happy Holidays. Have a wonderful day. I was surprised and read it to my daughter as she drove.
"Maybe he didn't email me because he's interested in you," she said with a smile.
"Don't be silly, I'm old enough to be his mother."
I first watched The Graduate as a teenager on television. I had a vested interest -- I shared a last name with the main character. The movie was disturbing. I couldn't imagine what Dustin Hoffman's character, Benjamin, found appealing about that older woman. Gross! My teenage brain yelled as I imagined myself in the role of the daughter who discovered her boyfriend had slept with her mother.
As I began dating the comparisons continued. If I had a dollar for every time I heard the pick up line, "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me," I wouldn't have needed college loans.
Then there was the Simon and Garfunkel tune that was sung to me often.
"Dee--dee dee dee--dee dee--dee dee dee dee dee dee dee."
I wanted to embrace the association but was miffed to be compared to a woman with no moral compass. On a side note: my father's second wife had no such issues. She wrapped her arms around the name and squeezed. Shortly after their wedding she got vanity license plates that said, KuKuKchu; another line from that song, although her plates were often mistaken for Coochie coo, which was its own peccadillo.
I couldn't attend two classes and asked Omar to keep me updated. The tone of his texts changed. He said it wasn't the same without me -- we had several exchanges -- we were flirting. At least I thought we were, but could a 28-year-old man be attracted to a 50-year-old woman?
I remembered a conversation I'd had with my late husband. He explained it was rite of passage for a younger man to have a sexual experience with an older woman or at least fantasize about it.
Perhaps he was right as Omar's next text said, Let's get Thai food and see a movie.
Great! I replied, as fast as my fingers could type.
The next class we were subdued -- much bolder with our electronic chat -- our face-to-face felt too tangible. During the lecture I discreetly studied him and imagined the feel of his body and yet those same thoughts had me wanting to wash my brain out with soap. Did other Mrs. Robinsons feel that way too?
"I'll probably bug you this week," Omar said, as we exited.
"I hope so," I replied, with a low, sultry, Anne Bancroft tone.
What the hell are you thinking? I chastised myself as I walked to the subway feeling both perverse and sensual -- two emotions not as divergent as one might expect.
Last weekend I rented The Graduate and watched through a filter of experience -- not just the current situation, but also the natural variations that getting older brings to what was once an obstinately black and white world. Mrs. Robinson wasn't disgusting she was lonely. She was aging, longed to feel desired, and craved the comfort of physical touch or an escape from the realities of her life.
I could certainly identify with those needs.
I'm not sure what the outcome will be from meeting Omar, but I will smile knowingly if I flip through the channels late at night and see the movie playing. I'll probably sing along with that song that haunted my youth.
When the characters are dissected it is she who is most interesting and human. I see the sadness only slightly obscured by her cold veneer and it is with compassion that comes from knowing that I say to her, Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.
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