A phone call inbound tonight from a young friend at Savannah. She called to ask me for literary advice, though there was something of the interview in it as well. Imagine, she said, that you were out on a date with someone my age. What drink would you order for them? That's not hard to answer. Jameson's on ice on a first date. But if the girl was someone I found truly compelling, then a good single-malt Scotch. There was bright laughter on the other end of the phone. Thought you'd say that, she said. That's always a thing older lovers do, isn't it: teach girls like me about Scotch. I had to laugh at that, though it is true. It is something I do. Something gentlemen of a certain age do.
I need to know that, she said. I'm writing about someone like you. I need to know what goes into being an older lover. I could imagine her sitting cross-legged on her bed with her new MacBook Air and her iPhone, glasses pushed up onto her forehead. It's complicated, isn't it, being an older lover?
She's probably right about that. That's something that does bear thinking about. There across a table, I'm the one who's the target of the gaze. I'm the one who's performing, the one with the established role. The young companion is the one reading me, determining what I am. I know what I'm looking for when I see a lovely girl. But there's always the mystery of what my young companion sees there on a first night.
That's a question I'll have to pose to young companions. It has to be separated from vanity; I think that's a clear thing to be wary of. But the gaze runs both ways. I want to read my lovely interlocutor's story when she's done with it. And I'd like very much to know how she reads the character of the older lover she's put into her story. I will be thinking about that, and probably writing about it here: what do I look like, what are my codes and semiotics from the other side of the table...?