Marilyn, a 57-year-old single colleague of mine, recently reconnected with someone she had worked with many years ago. "No," Marilyn said with a laugh, "it's better than that: I'm in like with him — and that's exactly where I want to be." She further confided that they planned to make their reunions "a regular thing — if four times a year can be called 'regular.' But I think that's about all I really want." Marilyn's casual approach to maintaining a friendship with benefits typifies the mindset of older folks who have reconciled themselves to having "great fun" even if it's "just one of those things." And episodic pleasure-seeking may be more common than you think: In The Normal Bar, a book I wrote last year with Chrisanna Northrup and James Witte, we reported that 61 percent of female survey respondents who had partners fantasized about someone they had met.A few weeks later, she joined him for "a wonderful weekend" in his home state. (For men, the figure was 90 percent.) And should they be propositioned by someone they found attractive, 48 percent of the women (and 69 percent of the men) said they would be tempted to have sex outside the relationship.Possibly — until you stop to consider how many of us are comfortable with being unpartnered but how few of us are willing to remain untouched.Sixty-something sexologist Joan Price, for one, endorses "gray hookups," but with a couple of strong caveats: The people involved must be emotionally capable of handling their status as noncommitted bed partners, and they must protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases."Don't book the church yet, Mom — it was just a hookup!" At first, her disclosure strikes you as too much information.Like I said, for your own piece of mind it's nice to get to know someone a bit first, and be somewhat sure you feel comfortable meeting them.
Many older divorced or widowed men and women are in the same boat. You're probably not desperate enough to stalk your neighbors, or to go looking for friends with benefits in all the wrong places (bars come to mind).Many say they're getting exactly what they want and need.Is that a deplorably manipulative state of affairs?Indeed, many surrendered to that lure in actuality: 36 percent of female respondents (but, surprisingly, just 21 percent of the men) had spent a night with an old flame, typically at a class reunion.Further evidence of Roving Eye Syndrome came from a study of sexuality in the United States commissioned by AARP in 2009: It found that 6 percent to 8 percent of singles age 50 and up were dating more than one person at a time.But then it gets you thinking: You're single, too — what could be so bad about a casual night in bed with someone you like but don't love?