"There can be no friendship where there is no freedom.
Friendship loves a free air, and will not be fenced up in straight and narrow enclosures."
A Definition of Friendship
Defining friendship is not an easy matter, possibly because the subject is too broad to be encompassed by a single statement. What follows is a definition that I feel comes close to capturing the essence of what is involved in such relationships.
Friendship is an extra-familiar relationship
based on mutuality, equality and freedom of choice
in which the expression of sexual and aggressive
impulses is predominately inhibited.
Like all other relationships, friendships are influenced by strong conscious and unconscious wishes and feelings. By limiting friendships to extra-familial relationships this definition rules out many significant interactions in which friendly feelings occur—such as those between lovers (heterosexual or homosexual) spouses, parents and children, and siblings. This exclusion is made because the essential nature of those interactions is determined by both the direct expression of sexual impulses (lovers and spouses) or by inequality and the absence of choice (parents and children, and siblings).
Finding Happiness in Parenthood:
The Toughest, Most Fulfilling Job Ever
Picture two nine-year-old girls twirling a jump rope together. A third girl deftly leaps into the space vacated by the revolving cord and dodges it effortlessly as it skips by. The harmonious synchronization of bodies is amplified by the repetition of a simple, rap-like verse: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Jane with a baby carriage.” Although the girls pay little attention to the meaning of their words, they’re expressing a culturally dictated plan for their future. Love! Marriage! Parenthood! Even though in today’s world, the three don’t necessarily come in that order. Create the next generation and nurture it within the loving confines of the family. And in the process, enrich yourself, the parent, in the most unimaginable ways.
Separating and Individuating
The gradual psychological separation of children from their parents begins in infancy and at that time is a rather exclusive affair between infant and parent. The process of moving away and becoming more independent continues throughout early childhood. Take, for example, the toddler whose favorite word is “no” and who insists on feeding himself or herself, smearing as much as they may eat. During the elementary school years children spend much of the day with new adults and friends, have their own ideas about everything from clothes to sports teams, and begin to compare their parents with those of their friends. And if that’s not enough, here comes adolescence! During the years from twelve to twenty the psychological and physical separation from parents becomes boisterous, or worse, as the adolescent bursts out of the confines of the nuclear family to love and be loved by others.
Ultimate Phallic Symbol
“Dad, can I have the car tonight?” said seventeen-year-old Scott, somewhat apprehensively.
“What? Wait ‘til I finish this paragraph.” When I finally looked up from the evening paper, Scott half-whispered, with just a touch of exasperation in his voice, “I said, can I have the car tonight?”
“Scott, you have your own car. What are you asking me for, out of gas again? Here’s a couple of. . .” I never got to finish the sentence. Looking very uncomfortable and shifting from foot to foot, all six feet of him looming over me, “Dad, I don’t need any money. I wondered if I could, ah, borrow the Mustang tonight?”
Time: Age fifty and in the past
My Dad never talked much about sex. He rarely gave me any indication of what he thought about the subject, let alone how he behaved sexually as an adolescent or young adult. From time to time, I’d hear suspicious sounds emanating from my parents’ bedroom. Once at a family picnic, he laughingly positioned two soft balls at his crotch but dropped them just before the photographer snapped a group photo. When I was eleven and increasingly aware of my own stirrings, I invaded his room and found three Trojan condoms (I can still picture the soldiers’ helmets)and some dirty playing cards.
But when I became pubertal and my clothes were transparent, exposing my pulsating, hairy body for all the world to see, my father still said nothing. I struggled on, in pain and pleasure, alone.
He let me bungle my way through high school, too, watching me play the fool over and over again as I fell madly in lust with a mixture of braids, braces and breasts. Even when I really fell in love and went steady, he had little to say. If he noticed that two Trojan soldiers, never actually used in battle during those years, were missing from his bureau arsenal, he never let on.
The Hunter and the Hunted
For many men hunting is a passion, a right, a way of life. For their young sons, the long-awaited first invitation to accompany Dad and his friends into the winter woods is more cherished than a bar mitzvah or a confirmation. Bagging your first buck is as important a gauge of emerging masculinity as losing your virginity. In fact, one sometimes follows the other. I remember at age thirteen listening wide-eyed to two seventeen-year-old neighbors describing their first visit to Kitty’s the local whorehouse. It happened on the way home from a hunting trip during which both boys had kidded their first deer.
Just before reaching the outskirts of town the proud fathers announced that they had a surprise—the trip would be topped off by a visit to Kitty’s.
“Quite a double header,” they laughed.
When the car turned into the Kitty’s driveway, the roof draped with its twin cargos of carrion crusted in frozen blood, silken-dressed hussies introduced the young heroes to another kind of kill.
When I was a little boy I waited for the first day of hunting season more expectantly than Christmas. I loved to watch my Dad get out his boots, sharpen the blade of his hunting knife and polish his gun until it shone and glistened. When the big day arrived I’d lie in bed, afraid to sleep for fear I’d miss the loud ring of the alarm clock at 2 a.m. We’d get up together, quietly, so as not to wake up Mom, shivering in the cold. I’d watch Dad pull on his long underwear and socks and clip on the broad, red suspenders that he only wore on this occasion. I loved the smell of the hot coffee in the cold kitchen as I begged him to let me go along.
“Maybe next year,” he always said, and then he was gone. As I stood at the door I’d hear the crunch of the tires on the gravel driveway and stand there until the taillights faded into the distance.
“Yeah, maybe next year,” I sighed.
Cougar is a slang term that refers to a woman who seeks sexual relations with considerably younger men. This book deals with the dynamics and motivations of older women who seduce younger men as portrayed in 6 classical films.
Nearly everyone is familiar with the classic film The Graduate in which Anne Bancroft, as the famous Mrs. Robinson, seduces the recent college graduate Benjamin, played by Dustin Hoffman. The film has become part of our culture and has been immortalized by the Simon and Garfunkel song that plays throughout the film.
I know what you’re thinking. Sex after forty, the best you ever had—either this guy is on something or he doesn’t know much about sex. Humor me, will you. Read on. You can always stick to your initial opinion, but the information in this book might change your mind.
Many misinformed skeptics believe that the quest for sexual intimacy after 40 is an exercise in futility. One guy in his mid-forties lamented, “My body has changed so much since I was twenty. And it’s going down hill every day. What do I have to look forward to?” Obviously, I think the answer to that question can be “Plenty! The best sex you ever had—if the biology and psychology of the middle years are understood.”
And I even thought this before Viagra was available.
My definition of intimacy isn’t grandiose either. I define intimacy as the ability to care for the partner at least as much as the self, some of the time. No impossible or unrealistic expectation there. Does that sound like you? How do you like having equal billing with your partner? Of course, sex definitely occurs without intimacy, and intimacy can occur without sex.
In this post my focus is on developing the ability to fuse the two frequently, in the face of what may appear to be daunting midlife obstacles.
The term midlife crisis has become a cliché, the subject of movies, Oprah and Geraldo television shows, back yard gossip, and dinner-table conversation. But it is also a term used by serious professionals to describe a dramatic, relatively uncommon form of midlife psychopathology experienced by certainly less than 10% of the population.
A true midlife crisis is a revolutionary event that, like a Class V hurricane, utterly destroys everything in its path, leaving behind a trail of broken marriages, shattered careers, distraught children, and bewildered friends.
A person in the midst of a true crisis acts suddenly and impulsively, throwing away relationships and careers that often took many years to build in a frantic attempt to escape what has become unbearable. Reason is abandoned and advice from spouses, relatives, friends—and therapists—to stop and think before making major decisions and burning bridges falls on deaf ears, so intense is the urge to escape from the intolerable present. One woman described her husband’s midlife crisis as “the death of our family.”
If you believe, as I do, that we continue to evolve and change throughout life, including what I reluctantly call old age—I think a better term is late adulthood—then we can expect that the experience of fatherhood (not becoming a father, although that happens, too) will be dynamic and dramatic.
Of course, we bring the past with us as we move through life, but we should not underestimate the power of the present, particularly after 50. For the purposes of our discussion, let’s define late adulthood as the years after 60 or 65. Even though at 76, I feel more like 30.
Like all relationships, fatherhood is not a static experience, nor is it easily described, since one can become a father at 13 or 83, to say nothing of the fact that biological fatherhood cannot be equated with psychological fatherhood and that fathers come into being through intercourse or adoption and may be straight or gay. I’m going to focus primarily on the developmental experience of most fathers, those who became biological parents in their twenties or thirties and became grandfathers and great-grandfathers a generation or two later.
By so doing, I hope to strip the mask from the stereotypical description of the elderly father and grandfather as passive, benign, a bit senile and inconsequential.
Playing peek-a-boo, hopscotch or baseball; listening to rock and roll, Sondheim, or Sebelius; reading romance novels or watching a Shakespearian play—what do they all have in common? All are expressions of one of the most ubiquitous and intriguing human activities—play. And you thought playing was something that kids and a few adults who never grew up did. Actually, play is not random, carefree action, free from the restraints of more mundane human pursuits. Like all other thought and behavior, play is molded by the forces of the mind and the environment into nearly endless forms that fascinate us from shortly after birth until the end of life.
Do Adults Play?The lifestyle of some adults might, at first glance, suggest a negative response to that question. So would the thinking of some philosophers and the actions of many adults. Kids play, but adults work. Nose to the grindstone. Support the family, etc. But if that’s the case, how do we explain adult activities such as chess, cards and the enormous involvement in spectator sports? In order to understand why adults play, we need to consider the motivations that prompt this universal form of human expression and discuss its characteristics in both childhood and adulthood.
In the midst of my 76th year of life my thoughts have increasingly turned to what I have learned about the human condition. I’ve wondered about the purpose of life and thought about what are the basic ingredients that lead to happiness and fulfillment. Of course, these are only one man’s views. And, in addition, I’ve lived my life, as many of you have, in the First World; and thus have not experienced significant deprivation or want of the basic necessities of life. What I have learned may have little or no relevance for billions who have spent their lives in extreme poverty or under conditions of extreme violence.
As I contemplated what is responsible for my life view two factors came to mind immediately. The first is my fifty years of exposure to psychiatric and psychoanalytic thinking, practice, writing and teaching. My life view is inextricably linked to the thousands of hours I have spent in the extended psychological and emotional intimacy with children and adults that characterizes work as a therapist. What a profound privilege, to be allowed to share the innermost thoughts, feelings, pains and joys of other human beings. I can think of no other profession that allows such access or provides such satisfaction. As I listened, decade after decade, without fully realizing how I was being transformed by the experience, I developed a deep understanding of, and love for, the human condition; of the forces from within which drive us, of the relationships that shape us and of the life long vulnerability to acts of fate which are beyond our control and have the power to shatter our stability, our very existence, at a moment’s notice.