Wednesday, March 3, 2010

looking for love at any age

Niki Bruce reviews a book about a mature woman and her toyboys.

THE Daily Male by Wendy Salisbury is the author's second book about herself, her family and her merry-go-round of toyboys. Her first book, naturally enough, was called The Toyboy Diaries, based on her blog of the same name, and created a bit of a stir when it first appeared.

Salisbury is a 60-year-old single woman who has a penchant for younger men – quite a bit younger men. Her relationships embarrass her daughters, worry her friends and finally, are beginning to wear on Salisbury herself.

This isn't a heavy book, it's one woman's search for love – in all the wrong places – but what makes it interesting is that in this day and age, women are crossing the age boundaries to find someone to love.

While, admittedly, Salisbury's yen for very young men, may seem ridiculous from the outsider's perspective, it's not necessarily age that is at issue, so much as people's beliefs that older women shouldn't have romantic lives.

Salisbury is proud that at 60 she's attractive, flexible and slim. She's proud that young men want to sleep with her; and she's an unashamed flirt. What she's not so happy with is the fact that she 'falls in love' with these young men, while telling herself that it is 'just good fun'.

The author is looking for love, not just wild sex, but her concept of romantic love is tied up with her perception of herself as a sexual being. She enjoys sex, she wants good sex, and she hasn't found a 'man her age' who is able to provide what she needs.

In The Daily Male, Salisbury attempts to give up the toyboys and forces herself to date older men, but she does it unhappily. While she's trying to conform to the expectations of her family, friends and society, she finds herself becoming less and less 'Wendy'.

Salisbury's conundrum is one that is intrinsically understood by women 'of a certain age' around the world – and not just those over 60.

The women who burned their bras and fought for equal opportunity, who founded feminism and enabled millions of young girls to be able to choose to be jet pilots, doctors, lawyers and astronauts are now discovering that male partners of their own age are nowhere to be seen.

There is also a huge number of single women in their late 30s onwards who simply can't find partners; their own age or otherwise. Women are also looking, and feeling, younger than their mothers ever did and so, the rise of the Cougars in the west – spawning TV series and dedicated websites.

Concurrently there are younger men who are more understanding than their elders, more travelled, more open-minded and more sexually adventurous, who want to date older women.

But still, as Salisbury discovers, dating an older woman and marrying an older woman are two different things. As always, the age old conundrum of reproduction raises its head. While Salisbury may have had her kids – in fact, she's now a grandmother – her toyboys haven't, and eventually, they will want to.

Salisbury is glaringly open about herself and her relationships in The Daily Male – showing the world that she can be a mother, grandmother and sexual woman – yet there is an underlying strand of sadness as well. While she cheerfully says she'll 'keep on trying', you can't help but read between the lines and hope that she comes to like herself more.

Like many women, Salisbury has spent years seeing herself through the eyes of men – her father, husbands and now her lovers – but she doesn't seem to really see herself.

Her relationships with the toyboys are dogged by her tendency to 'mother' them – which to my mind defeats the purpose. If she's all about being independent and having great sex (like Samantha from Sex and the City), then why is she spending so much time cooking for these boys, or forcing herself to go to football matches?

The Daily Male, nonetheless, is an entertaining read. It's light, it's personal, and it certainly gives the reader a new perspective on the 'elderly'. I imagine, in fact, that ideals about senior citizens and what they should, or should, not be doing will be shaken up in the next few years. After all, aren't we all living with an aging population?

The Daily Male by Wendy Salisbury is published by HarperCollins and is available from all good book stores and online.

First published on The Straits Times blogs on December 04, 2009


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