In search of mature love (but finding only immature lovers)

A detour along my road to romance

5 minute read
Tambor, Clayburgh: Welcome to my real world.
Tambor, Clayburgh: Welcome to my real world.
My favorite movie ever is Eric Schaeffer's 2001 film, Never Again, an earthy midlife boy-meets-girl-for-grownups, wherein two mature adults past 50 have both sworn off falling in love again forever and meet by chance in a gay bar to hilarious and often disastrous consequences, since they're both incurable heterosexuals thoroughly out of their element.

The late Jill Clayburgh plays Grace, a newly empty-nested mom whose daughter just left for college. She's lovely but inadvertently celibate for more than a decade, so she lets her friends browbeat her into trying to meet men again. The cerebrally hunky Jeffrey Tambor plays Christopher, an exterminator by day, jazz pianist by night.

Naturally, since they are in a gay bar, Christopher mistakes Grace for a transsexual and compliments her on her nice rack. Grace, meanwhile, assumes Christopher's gay or possibly bi, because, well, he's there at a gay bar. (He's actually there because he's wondering himself if he really might be gay, since he keeps dating totally inappropriate chicks 20 years his junior and suddenly can't get it up.)

Banishing tenderness

After they each affirm "Never again" for romance, Grace and Christopher begin a wacky sexual relationship in earnest, amped up by Grace's popup fake penis, his addled mom, his prophetic best friend, a moving violation involving a galloping white horse, a knight of indeterminate gender, and a creaky suit of armor.

What transpires is an outrageous carnival of misunderstandings. Their dogged efforts to banish mutual tenderness fail. If you suspend all judgments of taste and decency, you will definitely pee yourself with laughter.

I must confess that Never Again ruined me for life. Just as former English majors are said to be hopelessly warped by the strenuously influential romantic novels— or movies— of great love, I spent decades searching for D.H. Lawrence's sensuous gardener from Lady Chatterley's Lover, to no avail. Then, after seeing Never Again, my obsessive focus switched to exterminators.

Which brings me to Jared.

21 and smitten

Jared Callopolis (not his real name) worked the deli counter at the supermarket in New Jersey where I spent my high school and college summers as a cashier. He was then a pre-law student at the state university. He was totally hip, did honors history and kept a live monkey in his bathtub. We were both 21 and I was smitten.

So I'd wash his windows at the end of my shift, and in return he'd give me a ride home. We necked in front of my house, nothing serious. Soon enough he got a real girl friend, a wealthy air conditioning princess, like some suburban cliché from a Philip Roth short story in Goodbye Columbus. My heart was bruised if not broken.

Internet reunion

Years later, out of curiosity, I tracked Jared down via the Internet. By this time, he was on his umpteenth wife and still living in Bruce Springsteen country near the Jersey shore. And— get this— he was working as an exterminator!

For some mysterious reason he was no longer a lawyer, but he seemed to be doing well— Florida in the winter, fishing expeditions, sailing. He urged me to meet up with him. Since he was nominally married, I demurred.

Nevertheless, we periodically reconnected via email. Eventually Jared retired from extermination work and moved to Florida's east coast: a house with a swimming pool in fashionable Stuart.

A casual lunch

A few years later, on an impulse, Jared and his wife moved to Puerto Rico— another house with a pool, this time on the side of a mountain. Then, suddenly he's separated from his third or fourth wife and living in an apartment in San Juan with his chubby little dog, a former stray. Yet, Jared's Facebook page was genuinely crush-worthy, portraying someone who took joy in organic gardening, animal rescue, holistic health and reading books via Kindle.

Against my better judgment, I was intrigued.

Last month, when Jared said he was coming back East for his daughter's graduation, and could we have lunch, I said sure. Why not? My cat had just died and I was at emotional loose ends.

But more than that, I was curious about Puerto Rico— what would it be like living there? The life of an expatriate struck me as vaguely appealing. That is, except for the large insects and rampant power outages.

Selling drugs to judges

For lunch Jared and I had Malaysian food. He paid.

Forgive me, I have to say, Jared looked like a street person: baggy clothes, shaven head, facial stubble, protruding ears, voluminous wattle. Pacemaker. Diabetic. But he still had that same caramel-rich voice, smooth and self-righteous.

He bad-mouthed his estranged wife and said he'd already dumped yet another girlfriend— a drinker. His disbarment from his former legal profession, he claimed, occurred because he sold drugs to judges and attorneys. (According to public documents, he had embezzled an escrow fund from an old lady.) And although he was now close to 70, Jared told me that he could really clean up by selling drugs on the islands.

I shuddered. This time when I said goodbye, I meant it.

My mother's advice

Sometimes the Universe protects us from ourselves. Like when you reach mid-life and beyond, thinking if only you'd attended your 40th high school reunion, you'd reconnect with your teenage sweetheart and your life would therefore suddenly take a magical and dramatic turn.

Yes, in college, I was an English major wannabe, and I always believed that I'd definitely meet my Lifelong Lasting True Love after I turned 50. But guess what? I'm still waiting. As Yetta, my late and loudly lamented mother, warned me, "Don't hold your breath!"

Well, if I ever had a moment of doubt that my life would have been improved by pursuing relationships with any of my "missed opportunities," it's time for me to move forward, secure in the knowledge I am exactly where I should be: awaiting the arrival of my next... cat.♦

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