When I’m out dancing I’m always aware of the age gap, and sure wish more people my age would show up. Especially my women friends — the ones who don’t have partners, who aren’t having sex, who feel invisible — because I think it would make them feel sexy and energized (and because dancing makes you happy). Not long after I’d said as much to the friend I’d come out with, this tall kid, handsome and endearingly awkward, bopped over. Leaning down, he told me that I looked like Susan Sarandon. Even as a big smile broke out on my face, his brow furrowed. “I meant it as a compliment!” he added. “I know that,” I assured him. “I’m so flattered – thank you!”
The point is not that I resemble Susan Sarandon, which I don’t. He was saying, “You look old and you look hot”—a message so apparently contradictory in this society that being compared to a woman in her 60s risked coming across as an insult. Even though she’s lovely, smart, dates younger men, and gets bonus points for superb politics. Also interesting was the fact that it’s the first outright comment about my age I’ve ever gotten in a club. Though when Bob and I went to Electric Zoo, a huge, outdoor DJ-fest over Labor Day weekend, we were plenty conspicuous. The friends we met there are in their mid-late 30s, but the median age was 20-something. Most people ignored us, a few did visible doubletakes, and a few gave us a thumbs-up or even took their pictures with us. Which was a little odd, but the intent was friendly and supportive. If we’d stayed home we’d never have tweaked these kids’ notion of who likes techno, and we’d have missed out on a very good time. Still, it takes a willingness to embrace new forms (i.e. not missing Motown), and a courage and confidence that are hard to maintain in a world where a comparison to Susan Sarandon might insult. Which is why my same-age girlfriends stay home.