Several years ago a wonderful movie came out starring two of my favorite stars, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. The title of this “little” gem was “Ladies in Lavender”.
The story is about two older sisters, older – about 60 – not elderly, living together in a beautiful old home on the Cornish Coast. Their house overlooks the ocean and one morning one of the sisters, Dench, sees something washed up on the shore. She and her sister, Smith, run down and found a body of a young man, unconscious and almost dead.
With help from their friends and staff, the sisters bring the body up to their house and put him to bed in the guestroom. A doctor is summoned, played expertly by David Warner, and he examines the young man, finding him to be healthy but with a broken ankle. However, there is a problem which the doctor cannot diagnose or help with.
The young man doesn’t speak English.
Now this movie takes place between wars and there is a great deal of suspicion about him and how – why – he was in the ocean in the first place. On top of this, it is found that he does speak German, still a symbol of fear for many villagers. Through a series of broken German from Smith, plus hand motions and pantomime, it is discovered that the young man is not German, but Polish.
And so begins a beautiful tale of love.
As the story progresses we find that one of the sisters, Smith, was, as a young woman, involved with a soldier who died in the war. The other sister, Dench, appears to have never been involved or in love with any man – and now this young man starts to raise feelings in her that she doesn’t know how to handle.
One of the joys of watching this movie is the tour de force of acting between Dench and Smith. Smith tries to understand her sister’s feeling – realizing that the age difference doesn’t mean anything to Dench. She is falling in love with the boy and is jealous of anyone who comes between her and him.
Finally she comes to the realization that she has to let him go – go to his future – a future that she can always be part of, but in a different way. She has learned to love, and by loving, she has learned to let go.
And that is what this article is all about – that love doesn’t stop because of age. Young people always think they have a monopoly on love, however in reality too often what they consider to be true love turns out to be sexual attraction. Once the sex plays itself out, the love often goes out the window.
For older people, and to the young that encompasses anybody over the age of 30, true love isn’t necessarily tied to sexual desire. It generally isn’t even part of the first attraction. Older people want something more than just sex – because sex can be found almost anywhere – but friendship, companionship, deep love – the kind that doesn’t turn away because one partner becomes ill – these are things that come only when two people truly take the time to get to know one another.
Soap operas constantly perpetuate this image – the young boy or girl jumping in bed with whomever and whereever, the older man or woman not having any relationships, unless the man has a young wife or mistress. Rarely do you find the older woman involved with a younger man – that is unless she is very beautiful . . certainly not ordinary looking.
And yet, in real life, there were many women who married younger men long before the term “Cougar” was coined. Take for example – Actress Ruth Gordon (not a great beauty) marrying Playwright Garson Kanin when she was 46 and he was 30 and they were married 43 years until her death at 89; or Writer Agatha Christie (also not a great beauty) marrying Archeologist Max Mallowen when she was 40 and he was 26 and they were married 46 years until her death at the age of 86; or closer to our time period, Actress Juliet Mills marrying Actor Maxwell Caulfied when she was 39 and he was 20 and they are still married 31 years later.
Actress Joanna Lumley (she is a great beauty), 65, who has been married for 25 years to a man that is 9 years younger than she is, was quoted as saying, “Being sexy is oversold. . . .personality and a sense of adventure were (are) more important”. Further she says “I’m more concerned about becoming more interesting as a person . . . . Women don’t get sexier as they get older – (they) become wiser, funnier and more adventurous as (they) age.”
So you see, age has nothing to do with love. The heart doesn’t age – only the body does.