I’ve always had a thing for older men, ever since I lost my virginity to a 31-year-old when I was 17, but there’s a difference between older, but in what feels like a reasonable range, and much, much older. At least, there has been for me. Looking back on that dalliance from the summer after I graduated high school, that relationship seems more than a little creepy. It wasn’t the 14 years per se, but the vast span in life experiences. As an adult, I can appreciate that there’s an appeal to an older man who owns his sexiness, who’s as confident as he ever was, possibly more so. Think Roger Sterling on Mad Men (sans this season’s moustache).
Two years ago, I finally figured out in a deeply personal way what the appeal is in silver foxes. A silver fox, for the uninitiated, is defined at Urban Dictionary as “An attractive older man. Generally, one that has gray hair and is often desired by younger women.” For instance: Anderson Cooper (yes, I know he’s gay, but not only is that definition heterosexist, women can be attracted to gay men, obviously).
So in 2013, I was flying to New York from London after attending Eroticon UK, tucked into a window seat, fully prepared to mind my own business and zone out with a book or sleep my way back to the Big Apple. I was grateful for the empty seat between myself and the older gentleman in the aisle. For the most part, even though I’ve edited a book of mile high club erotica, I like my me time during air travel.
But my row-mate, after about an hour, wanted to chat. “Let’s trade books,” he suggested, and, not wanting to be rude, I agreed even though his tome was something like How to Play the Sitar. I handed him my novel, whose title I also can’t recall, but I do remember I was using a postcard for my women’s erotica anthology Fast Girls, with its topless cover model staring right at the viewer, as a bookmark. “What’s this?” he asked, and I went for honesty rather than expediency, and told him, “It’s my book. I edit erotica.”
What ensued was one of the most interesting conversations with a stranger I’ve ever had. He asked if I knew of any erotica about people his age; he was 74, precisely double my age at the time, 37. As it happened, I was reading a galley of Joan Price’s Ageless Erotica, by and about people over 50, on my laptop at the time. I told him about it, while he shared tidbits about his life, including that he had a girlfriend.
We weren’t flirting, but there was an erotic undercurrent to the conversation that shocked me. When I shifted so my skirt accidentally rode up to reveal my knee, he said something about my knee being cute. Neither of us said anything untoward or over-the-top, but the energy passing between us was enough to make me rethink my possible upper age limit when it came to who I might bed. I was in a relationship and not looking to hook up with him or anyone else, but during our casual chat, I sensed that, had we met each other at, say, a bar, and each been single, perhaps we might have wound up in bed together. (We didn’t, but I did take our literary exchange and turn it into the basis of an older woman/younger man story called “Book Swap” in Rose Caraway’s anthology The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica.)
Only one other time have I been attracted to someone whose age jarred me in a similar way. I met an older man at a party called Pleasure Salon, and wound up visiting him in London. When I found out he was a grandfather, that fact, more than his chronological age, gave me pause. What did it mean? I kept asking myself.
Well, now that I’ve had a few years to consider these various incidents, I’ve decided that it simply means I recognize that age, while not irrelevant, isn’t a deterrent to my attractions. I’m far more likely to be interested in someone 10 or even 20 years older than me than I am to lust after someone 10 or 20 years my junior.
It’s one thing to give lip service to the sex lives of our elders, and another to recognize that desire, lust and sexuality don’t simply slip away when we hit 60, 70, 80 or beyond. Those hours on the plane helped me appreciate the sex appeal of the silver fox, which I hope has in turn made me a better, and more empathetic, erotica writer. I look forward to incorporating some silver foxes, and foxy silver-haired ladies, into my erotic tales.