In the 1961 motion picture The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (from the book by Tennessee Williams), Vivien Leigh plays Karen Stone, a former great beauty, now a failed actress at age 49. Karen Stone's rich, 20 years older husband dies suddenly as they are flying to Rome on holiday. After a period of mourning the restless, sexually starved woman allows herself to be drawn into an affair with an irresistibly handsome, sultry Italian male "escort" in his early 20s, played by -- wait for it- - a young Warren Beatty. His "madam" is played by the remarkable Lotte Lenya, with an all-star cast.
Besotted by the sex, Karen Stone spends tons of lire outfitting him in custom-made silk suits, gifting him with pricey watches and other jewelry and even handing over the wads of cash he tells her needs for all kinds of transparent reasons. Despite her generosity, he soon tires of her and begins to flirt with young women right in front of her. She then tries to deny what she sees with her own eyes.
If you have not seen the movie I am not going to spoil it for you, but take it from me, the ending is so powerful you will never forget it. It haunts me yet.
So, why am I telling you this story? Am I involved with a young man who looks somewhat like Warren Beatty? Of course NOT. Does this tell you why I won't date younger men -- because it usually ends so badly? Well, perhaps not as badly as what happens to Vivien Leigh's character, but with other sad consequences? Yes, admittedly, one can become addicted to the sensuality, and when that young partner is lost, one can become bereft.
But that is not why I tell you this story. I tell it to you, dear blog reader, because this movie, which I have watched several times (there is even a 1993 remake -- look for it) made me think about aging and dating. When I was young and looked at people whose age I am now, I often wondered if their perception of themselves changed when they looked in the mirror, or if they still had the young mind in an older body. Now I know... nothing changes. I am the same Judy I was at 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60. The outside looks very different, but the inside is still the same me. A bit less naïve, but still open, trusting and brave. But no, not brave enough to date younger men.
Someone offered me an intro to a younger man recently. A cutie pie 20 years younger. A mature, grown up, grounded male human being who, I was assured, would not think anything of that 20-year difference. Sure, he won't. If you believe that, can I sell you the Brooklyn Bridge? And even if it's true, well, would it work for YOU? On what levels other than the physical -- which can truly wear thin if other things are not right?
I am getting to know a wonderful man of 75, still vital, tall and rangy, funny and smart. We have so much in common, including backgrounds, family dynamics, experiences in various decades and now -- similar attitudes and concerns about aging, since we are neck-to-neck in that marathon.
Why would I want to chance spoiling something that fits like a glove (for right now, and hopefully for longer)? Why do men do this, always? Is the young body all that matters to men? Okay yes, let's admit it, it also does matter to a significant number of women! But again, is that enough?
Go rent the movie. I think you'll see the light.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled the actor's stage and film name.