“Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love… No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated as a raunchy secret… But I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach… Nothing is easy at this age, and first meetings for old lovers can be a high-risk venture. Reticence and awkwardness slip into the room. Also happiness.”
- Roger Angell, “This Old Man: Life in the Nineties,” The New Yorker, February 17, 2014
I long some day for my “warmth of a hip” to in some way meet with a man what Roger Angell terms our “unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love.”
I wonder now, though, what good my touch with its rippling edginess just under the surface can bring to another’s skin?
As a child, with my father driving, my mother the front seat passenger, and my sister to my left in the backseat of our 1957 Chevrolet station wagon, I perceived my job to be to make everyone feel comfortable in their skins or to make them feel comfortable with mine.
I have this sense that, right now, in my 55 year-old skin, I am outside and walking around that station wagon. The glass windows are rolled up and thick. I see my father seated in his black suit and narrow tie, my mother in her wool coat and fashionable hat. My sister and I are wearing coats over our dresses. I see my vigilant, tense little self not looking out the window but at the backs of the heads of my mother and father, eyeing the tiny movements of their necks and shoulders. What is my mother thinking? What is my father thinking? How is my sister doing? What will be said next that I will have to handle to ease everyone back into comfort?
All that energy and focus I felt emanated from me – Good, brave try! I want to say to my small self. But their comfort was beyond my power to create or maintain. Whether I perceived it rightly or wrongly, might that child’s job be now done?
Is my adult job to get comfortable in my skin? To use my mind and heart on my comfort? To ease that underlying buzzing enough to laugh alone in my own house in readiness to laugh with someone else, to be within reach again when “reticence and awkwardness slip into the room”?!
What a vista outside the station wagon!