File: Love after fifty
Just a few years ago, this file would have been unimaginable. Those who had crossed the threshold of fifty had to keep their love and affection hidden, especially if they had just fallen in love. Even sociological and scientific studies only dealt with the topic of love and sexuality before this age.
Today, thanks to medical advancements enabling longer lives, certain studies have started to delve into the subject of love after fifty. These studies explore the effects of menopause on women's sexual lives and even present statistics suggesting that one in two men encounters issues with erectile function after reaching the age of fifty. In this file, we will recount diverse experiences and examine the sociological perspective on how the landscape of love has changed between the past and the present, along with other aspects that convey the intricacies of love beyond the age of fifty.
Three women in love after fifty
Marise, Jana, and Jumana – three Lebanese women who are embracing love beyond the age of fifty, each in her own distinctive way. These remarkable women have candidly shared their personal journeys and desires for love with us, without reservation.
Marise's heart longed to find a partner with whom she could share her life as a spouse and a parent to the three children she had always dreamed of. However, fate did not grant her this wish. While she often swayed to the tunes of the song "Badna Netjawaz Al Eid" by Nohad Tarabay at gatherings and wedding nights, she never agreed to resort to a "marriage of convenience", as arranged marriages were called in her twenties. As she passed thirty and then forty, and her love stories remained incomplete, as she says. She began searching online for that elusive partner, hoping to finally meet him, fall in love, and marry.
Marise, Jana, and Jumana – three Lebanese women who are embracing love beyond the age of fifty, each in her own distinctive way. These remarkable women have candidly shared with us their personal journeys and deepest desires for love without reservation
She loved deeply, one and a half times, as she often tells her friends. The "half-love" happened when she was twenty-three. She fell for Jean the hairdresser. Those close to her, especially her mother, rallied against this relationship and were able to help her conquer her heart and resistance. Then in her thirties, she fell in love once more, this time with Robert, a civil engineer just one year her senior. Everyone celebrated this relationship and gave their blessing, but her father's illness and subsequent passing prevented them from marrying and traveling together to work at a company in Ghana. Marise made the choice to not leave her mother alone and, thus, life went on. Her mother passed away two years ago, when Marise was fifty-one. Yet, Marise refused to embrace solitude, and embarked on a quest to find a companion who she could share pleasant memories with, and if they got married, all the better.
Marise reflects, "I only realized I had grown up and aged when I started navigating the pages of the internet and ventured into the world of online dating, in pursuit of my elusive partner. It's remarkable how many young men in their twenties reached out to me with the aim of spending one night with a mature woman. They've all said the same thing, and here I was, unaware that I had 'matured' this much."
Marise wasn't seeking fleeting adventures or some casual relationship. Instead, she was on a quest for an intimate companion and best friend possessing the qualities of a potential partner. How many cups of coffee had she drunk at the nearby "Najjar" café with men she had met through the web? Ten? Or more? She no longer bothered to keep a tally of these meetings or the number of men. Her focus was solely on gauging the warmth of the person before her, his spontaneity, cultural depth, and sincerity.
Two men, in particular, managed to capture her attention. The first was a man of her own age, cheerful, charming, and seemingly gentle with an air of affection. However, after three coffee dates, she discovered he was not divorced as his profile stated. He was married and quite happily so, and was even boldly informed that he still had sex with his wife. When Marise asked him, "Then why did you bother to register on dating websites?"
He replied, "To break the monotony and routine of everyday life."
"And what made you choose to reveal your play to me so quickly?" Marise pressed.
"You appeared to be kind-hearted, and it was evident that your experience with men was limited, compared to your age. I didn't want you to get attached to me. We can be close, 'intimate' friends, meet at your place from time to time, but nothing more."
It ended up being neither more nor less, not a friendship or any form of intimacy. Marise didn't know how to distance herself from this man fast enough, fearing that if she doesn't, their connection might grow further and she would spend her days waiting for him to drop by every 'once in a blue moon'.
The second man she liked had entered her life several months ago. His graying hair lent him a distinguished air, and he carried himself with elegance and charisma that resonated with her perfectly. He was 10 years her senior, as he claims, though he seems older to her. Yet, all of this was immaterial if he proved to be the right person. He was single, having been widowed for three years, and Marise admired the way he spoke about his late wife.
"This is a loyal man," Marise thought to herself. "He suits me really well." Nowadays, they meet two or three times a week, embarking on trips to explore various corners of Lebanon together and go to cafés together. She invited him over twice for lunch at her home, bringing out her cherished porcelain china and savoring the buffalo chicken salad she had learned to make from a restaurant bearing the same name. He has made two attempts to invite her to dinner at his place, but Marise has hesitated to accept the invitation, heeding a friend's advice not to rush things. She held hope that this time around, she would find both a partner and a friend to traverse the later years of life and grow old with.
Jana: From the lap of luxury to new beginnings
Jana, a lady of high society, is now at the age of fifty-one. She had spent twenty-six years of her life with her husband Fadi, seemingly "without a care in the world". She became well-acquainted with luxury and extravagance in her family and through her marriage, but she only discovered the challenges when her esteemed businessman husband decided to abruptly separate without any prior warning. Fadi apparently had fallen for a woman twenty-seven years his junior. He wanted to marry a woman half his age, but he didn't admit this to Jana. She had learned about it from her uncle, who had been asked to intervene between them for reconciliation.
Jana met a man 6 years her junior, a cultured but broke man, a man who adored the scent and touch of the elegant women of high society. He charmed her with discussions about Emil Cioran, and tales of renowned feminist Simone de Beauvoir and all her lovers
Jana fell from the bliss of a luxurious life filled with parties and friends into the abyss of a nervous breakdown. She couldn't accept the dissolution of the happiness she had proudly boasted about within her family. She hadn't left a single picture of her, Fadi, and their children, Sarah and Omar, that she didn't post on Instagram, in their travels, at home, during parties and celebrations. How could she live without such pictures and all this bliss?
Jana spent a long time crying over the ruins of her life with Fadi. Most of her family friends abandoned her, and hardly anyone asked about her well-being, especially after a year and a half since her divorce, after she had isolated herself and surrendered to her grief. Only her sister, who lived as a single woman in Montreal, Canada, was able to help her. She traveled to Beirut after giving up on trying to convince her to visit. She stayed with her for many days, convincing her that life doesn't end with Fadi and that she needed to be strong for her own physical and emotional well-being and for the sake of her children.
What caught Jana off guard was the fact that men would want to enter into relationships with her. "How could this be when I'm in my fifties?" she wondered. "What kind of man would accept me, a 90-year-old? Look at Fadi; look at the age of the young woman he chose!"
However, her sister, who was two and a half years her senior, refused to give in. She began recounting her own adventures with men to Jana, never imagining that she'd one day discuss her intimate life with her sister. Jana had always been traditional, disapproving of relationships outside the confines of marriage. She started listening to her sister's tales and even accompanied her on some outings, although she hadn't left her room for nearly a year, or so it seemed.
Gradually, she returned to life little by little, and began listening to her children, Sarah and Omar, and their problems, as long as they did not discuss her ex-husband and his new bride in her presence. After her sister departed, Jana contemplated her future, and suddenly decided to live and love again.
"I've come to realize that I have the right to love, whether I've crossed the fifty or even sixty threshold," she said. She remained devoted to her children and began to regain her vibrancy. She hadn't known another man before Fadi, and although their marriage had been traditional, she had grown to love his companionship and grown attached to him. She would forget him and pluck men like ripe red apples from the tree. And so she did: she met a man six years her junior, cultured yet broke, a man who adored the scent and touch of the elegant women of high society. He charmed her with discussions about Emil Cioran, his daily need to scream for 15 minutes to balance himself, and his tales of the renowned feminist Simone de Beauvoir and her relationship with Sartre, her lovers and her paramours. He read to her from the poetry of Rimbaud and Rilke. In their first romantic evening, Jana wept for a long time. She couldn't stop crying. What was she doing here? Where was Fadi? Where had the years of her life gone?
Jana wept, yet she remained with that man for three months. She didn;t want to continue with him for fear he might suddenly leave her, just as Fadi had done. She refrained from disclosing the names of the men she encountered after Fadi. Instead, she described them by their traits. After the cultured broke man, she crossed paths with a man bearing a resemblance to the former president, Camille Chamoun. He was strikingly handsome and very attractive, but she didn't love him; she merely loved looking at him. She couldn't fathom how, in her fifties, she could attract a man with such remarkable beauty. Fadi's abandonment had caused her to forget that she too was beautiful and attractive. After Chamoun's lookalike, an art expert entered her life. It became clear to her after a while that he had been attracted by the paintings adorning her walls, and he attempted to persuade her to sell them, so she got rid of him instead on his second attempt.
Today, Jana is preparing for her daughter Sarah's wedding. She has put her emotional life on hold, as she puts it. However, in her eyes, there are many words and many expectations from the upcoming meetings with her ex-husband to arrange the details of their daughter's wedding.
Jamana: In search of a fourth
In her husband's small shop, Jamana, now fifty-eight, with her sun-kissed complexion and prematurely aged by life, recounts her tale, or rather tales. She was married before she reached twenty, and her husband was thirty-three at the time of their union. He had proposed to her in his shop, where she would frequent to buy what her mother had instructed her to. Standing before the counter, she accepted. "We wed without fanfare," she says. "In the first seven years, we bore six children: two girls and four boys. I drowned under a mountain of laundry, cooking, and children's tears. My weight increased twenty kilograms, and I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. If I were to meet myself by chance, I wouldn't recognize her. I had my tubes tied after my sixth child so that I would not have a seventh."
For 15 years, we shared a bed as siblings, each on his own side. I never knew another man aside from him and the actors on screen whose kisses I envied. I didn't awaken to my physical needs until my fifties, and I could no longer accept this situation
"My husband was once affectionate, eagerly seeking intimacy. During the time when I didn't have to take care of our children, I met his needs, and I enjoyed it. I only felt my femininity when I was in his arms. This continued for about sixteen years of our marriage. Afterward, my husband's vigor diminished. Initially, I didn't complain; I made excuses, given our financial situation was deteriorating. I told myself that once our circumstances improved, his desire would return. But this absence of desire persisted, and my yearning for intimacy grew. I began watching Arabic romantic films and often imitated Suad Husni's role as Nahed in the film 'Bir Al-Herman' (The Well of Deprivation) to rekindle his desires, but in vain. In my scarce moments of free time, I would watch romantic shows and sigh with every kiss, with every embrace."
"For almost fifteen years, we shared a bed as siblings, each on his own side. I never thought of another man aside from him. The only men in my life were the actors whose kisses on screen I envied. I didn't awaken to my physical needs until I noticed my menstrual cycle had started to stop, and I could no longer accept this situation. I explicitly asked my husband for intimacy for the first time ever, and he declined. I couldn't fathom why. Perhaps he was ill. I subtly suggested he consult a doctor, and he replied, 'You've borne six children with me. What more do you want?'"
"I was silent, yet I felt something boiling within me. It was my right to live. I married off four of my children. I deserved to enjoy a little after all these years. I decided not to avert my gaze from any man entering my husband's shop. Yes, I resolved to observe them and select a decent, quiet man who could keep the secret of a woman merely longing for love."
"This is how I've come to know three men to this day. I live unforgettable moments with each one, all the things I yearned for over many years, I passionately experience them in my meetings with them. Not one of them mocks my age or the sagging of my breasts. All three of them enjoy my company, even to the point of intoxication. Why three at once? Because they're all married, and each of them has an appointment with me once a week. Who knows, I might be also looking for a fourth one for the fourth day of the week?"
The women who I've spoken to about love after reaching the age of fifty may not constitute the majority among women of their generation, but they most certainly aren't a rare few. Many of them decide to embrace life and respond to the call of their heart, and it appears that the heart doesn't recognize or acknowledge age.