07/15/2013 07:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Love Potion Number 90


When I was younger, guys with cute dogs, hot cars and buff bodies were the ones with all the women. Today, average-looking men over 40 (without hot cars) need only say they're pained from a bad relationship, and it's as if a magic spell has been cast -- women come out of the woodwork.

I've got a friend -- let's call him Charlie. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, once a woman learns Charlie's in an unhappy marriage, it becomes her goal to make him happy. Or happier, which includes offers of sex, because it seems his admission has love potion written all over it, making her hungry to do the deed. When he declines, she pursues him. By any means possible. And Charlie's not alone. It's a story I've heard more times than I have fingers and toes.

So who are these women? Not who you might think. They are smart, accomplished and married. Did I mention married? They are women you know. They may even be you.

Is it the thrill of the dare? The bond of loneliness? Or a woman's desire to nurture and a man's desire to be nurtured? I'm not a scientist or a therapist, but I'm guessing it's a mix of all three.

Since half of all marriages now end in divorce and up to 72 percent of husbands and 52 percent of wives admit to having affairs, science has taken an interest in the topic -- or a version of it anyway, recently testing a love potion at the University of Oxford.


A photo of the author's grandparents. (Shultz Family Archives)

Researchers there wondered if they could give couples a nasal spray to use (yes, nasal spray) with oxytocin in it -- the hormone we release naturally during childbirth, and nursing, and (wait for it) orgasms. Even hugging someone for 20 seconds or more can supposedly release this warm, fuzzy feeling. It makes us feel closer to one another... or whomever is there at the time. Which sounds a lot like those scenes in movies where someone casts a spell and the person it was cast upon ends up falling in love with the first person they see -- like that Sandra Bullock comedy Love Potion Number 9. Anyway, back to the research: in a nutshell, they developed a spray, tested it, and the results were mixed.

Either way, it won't affect Charlie. He's doing just fine without it. I'm guessing guys in fast cars may still do fine without it too, and that the same line works for women. I just always thought the goal was to be in a happy long-term relationship as we age, and to achieve it naturally -- with hard work. But maybe not. Seems humans may not be suited for long-term monogamous relationships. Maybe it's always been this way and I just haven't been privy to these stories until recently. It's not as if my grandparents sat around telling stories about what they really did or saw when they were younger.

Now that I think about it, my grandmother did once tell me about a neighbor in her retirement home. He had several women "chasing" after him even though he had a longtime companion, and even though he was legally blind and nearly 90. It was on account of "how well he danced," she said. And by "danced" I trust she really meant danced, not something else... but maybe not. Anyway, his longtime companion was supposed to be out of town and came home early and found him in bed with another woman from the retirement home, and he fell out of bed, and had to go to the hospital "because things were broken."

I guess he broke something when he was dancing.

Yes, on second thought, maybe nothing has changed, except I'm older, and people tell me stuff. That, and the nasal spray. I wonder if it works with food? Like brussel sprouts or liver. Maybe they'll taste more like chocolate. Now that would be news.

Join me next Monday for another installment of The Pre-Empt Chronicles, as I transition from full house to empty nest.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Married Couples: Then And Now