I’ve been a weight lifter for the better part of a quarter-century now, and have seen the inside of many a gym. I’ve always liked working out around a bunch of guys, and in times past have also found the gym an interesting place to meet men.
Once upon a time, the conversations were ostensibly about things like glutes and abs, but ultimately had the potential of leading to something, well, interesting. How times have changed.
In the past week, for instance, I had gym conversations with the guys about menopause and childbirth. They were good conversations, and Lord knows I’ve got plenty to say about both those things. But hey, you have to know it’s an odd time in your life when that’s what you’re talking about with the guys at the gym.
Let me stress at this point that I’m in a committed relationship. I’m not looking for sexy little conversations anymore. I guess I’d just never seen the day when fortysomething men and I would be standing around the gym talking about menopause and childbirth.
I can’t pin down the age when I first started noticing a change in the way men and I interacted. I think I was probably mid-40s (I’m 53 now). It first manifested as young men acting in a very friendly way toward me — not in that hey-older-lady-what-about-it? kind of way that I recalled from my late 30s, but more like you-remind-me-of-my-mom.
On the one hand, isn’t that a drag? I never was much of a cougar, having found it all just a bit predatory for my tastes. But I do have fond memories of a brief couple of years as a Mrs. Robinson-like character, and you can’t help but feel just a moment or two of regret when you realize you’ve grown old enough that the young Benjamins of this world now view you warmly as a harmless mother substitute.
On the other, it’s given me the chance to have really terrific conversations with younger guys – conversations that no longer get tangled up in all that weird man-woman energy stuff and can just be genuinely interesting and engaging. Same goes for guys my age, who no longer try to impress me with stories of their big jobs and instead just get down to the nitty-gritty, like miracle cures for their sweaty menopausal partners.
Whole books have been written on what it means to age as a woman, so I’ll leave that to others deeper than me to sort out. I figure there’s no point dwelling on the “fairness” of anything about the aging process, seeing as there’s really nothing fair about the whole business.
My experience though, is that men do look at you differently as you get older. It’s not a fun transition by any means — but then again, it’s not so bad over here on the other side. As it turns out, talking to a guy about his wife’s menopause symptoms is a heck of a lot more interesting than most passing conversations a person might have. A big high-five to aging if that’s the reason.
Unfortunately, I know all too well where this aging thing is leading. My youngest daughter and I play music in seniors’ facilities around the region, where you can’t help but realize how invisible old people eventually become in this world of ours. I don’t expect to like that stage.
But for now, my gym friends and I will feel our way to a new kind of conversation, and I’ll be happy to act as the fount of older-woman knowledge. OK, the sexy-babe years were fun, but so yesterday.