Love in later life: we’re more teenagers than Terry and June

Love in later life column by Joe McGann on Silver Magazine

Joe McGann sings the praises of finding new love after 60…

Can we find love in later life? Do we find love? Does it find us? Do we need to love and feel loved, or are we just conditioned to believe so?

I’d felt lonelier INSIDE relationships than I did on my own

We know that humans, like our primate cousins, are social creatures, but does it follow that being alone can’t or shouldn’t be our natural state? And when we are realistically past the stage of becoming parents, do loving relationships become less important or even redundant?

Why do I ask? I’ll tell you. Two years ago, I was 60; a couple of years on from (another) divorce, bumbling along in one of the most peaceful and contented phases of my life. I was happy with my choice to remain single, sharing my bed exclusively with Minnie the dachshund. Horrified at suggestions that I should ‘get back in the saddle’ (euw!) and join some seniors’ dating websites. I’d felt lonelier INSIDE relationships than I did on my own and could happily have stayed single for the rest of my life.

I was ‘self-partnered’, as Emma Watson and Gwyneth Paltrow say, and as smug about it as they were too. Cut to the present and I’ve set up home with Frances, a wonderful woman, and now I genuinely can’t imagine a future without her.

Embracing togetherness

We’ve spent lockdowns together – the first two with my mother. We’ve moved houses twice in three months, yet we haven’t exchanged any cross words. It’s fair to say that neither of us saw this coming, nor were we actively seeking a partner, yet we seem to have found a happiness and stability that we’d both been missing all our lives.

“The way we gaze at each other can be gag-inducing. Some might say we should act our age, whatever that means…”

There’s delicious intimacy, passion, deep respect, and joyful affection alongside the more prosaic and obvious benefits of companionship and mutual support. Surprisingly, perhaps, there’s plenty of the oxytocin-fuelled giggling, hand-holding and private joking we usually associate with young love. The way we gaze at each other can be gag-inducing. Some might say we should act our age, whatever that means…

It’s true of course that at our age – even though Frances is yet to reach my Railcard status – we would be very unlucky not to have experienced something like this before. This is not our first rodeo. In fact, I believe that if we were even 10 years younger, this baggage could cause issues of trust or insecurity.

Yet here, now, our previous experiences are our strength. This is probably because we’re both old and wise enough to have been honest with each other about our pasts. And scrupulously truthful about our parts in them, warts and all, which let us build honest pictures of each other.

This requires work and isn’t always easy, but the older heart recognises the good sense in it, and once dealt with, if there’s total honesty, the past stays in the past and won’t booby-trap the future. And it’s a lot cheaper than therapy, so it’s a win-win.

What must we look like, eh? ‘Darby and Joan’ was the go-to cliché even 20 years ago, conjuring up pictures of a devoted older couple gazing fondly over a port and lemon and a half of mild down the social club, of pipe and slippers, knitting and man sheds, bingo and bunions. Are we Terry and June? Fuck that.

Growing older is new territory – and not just for us.

In our brave new postmodern/Boomer world, the images have shifted noticeably. The ads twinkle at us – motorhomes, cruises, Machu Picchu rather than Bridlington, Ayahuasca over Sanatogen, yoga and facelifts in Turkey. Winters in India, where the pension goes further.

The times are indeed a-changin’

Look at the great bands of our teenage years still selling teenage anthems into their seventies – into our seventies, for God’s sake! Mick and Keef, Stevie Nicks, Pete and Roger still sing of love, but do they mean us? Van Morrison and Bob Dylan sing of new love – for God. Which looks suspiciously more like hedging their bets before their rapidly hastening demise.

“I have fresh blood dancing through my veins, and I want to burn as bright as I can alongside the woman I love.”

I don’t see any of them knocking out tunes about knee replacements or menopause. So are they saying my new love is not rock’n’roll enough? Bollocks! They’re Spandex/Spanx-clad, hair-dyed nostalgia merchants, still preaching at the altar of youth. Great tunes, but anachronisms, like Acker Bilk and Val Doonican in the pop charts of the ‘70s.

This is not a re-run

I’m not going to pretend that I’m now grown up and like opera any more than I appreciate Goa trance or drill – they’re not for me, any more than stamp collecting or colonic irrigation is. I want cultural engagement now, not All Our Yesterdays or repeats of Tales of The Unexpected.

My love feels new, modern, and now. I have fresh blood dancing through my veins, and I want to burn as bright as I can alongside the woman I love. There are still new places to visit, new tastes to explore. New music to dance to and there’s nothing left to prove. I’m secure and liberated by my love, my soul mate, and focus is fixed firmly forward.

There’s no instruction booklet for the next 20 years, so our life from here can be truly bespoke. To get to this age and see and be seen by a woman like Fran feels like a reward for time served. I’m celebrating this life with her as vividly as possible. We’ve nothing left to prove; to ourselves or each other. Our kids have lives of their own, and we’re lucky enough to have a house and enough to get by.

This is not about consolidation, about winding down, not for a second. If neither of us saw this great joy coming, if we believed all this had passed us by, then what other joys await us a little further up the road? What other delicious possibilities are there for us to explore together?

It’s a new love, not like any of the previous loves, so the old rules don’t apply. There’s freedom right there, alongside the experience to be able to appreciate it. How cool is that?

Read all about it

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About Joe McGann
Actor, broadcaster, writer, teacher. Partner, father, dog dad. Denim head, music lover, foodie, cook. Reader, walker, crossword buff. Impatient for revolution since 1970s . YNWA.

1 Comment

  1. Wonderful article… I feel the same 2 years into a relationship in my mid 50s….love isn’t just for the youngsters ☺

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