Age and the Male Gaze

When I was younger and lived in NYC, I loved to go to bars alone. I’d bring books and notebooks and read and write and people watch. Usually, I made friends with the bartenders and regulars. Often, I became a regular.

I actually preferred going alone to going with friends. I’d sit at the bar and strike up conversations if I felt like it and kept quiet if I didn’t.

I met a fair amount of men that way, including one guy who became my boyfriend for 4 years.

Sitting at bars as a single woman kind of helped my self-esteem, because I would get hit on a lot. Men always talked to me. Having spent so many years feeling fat and ugly, it boosted my ego that anyone noticed me.

Fast forward 15 to 20 years. Last month, I got take-out at a restaurant. While waiting for my order, I sat at the bar, which was filled with guys of all ages, sitting alone.

Each looked up as I sat down. Not one looked again, let alone spoke to me. It was busy and my order took a while, so I looked around for someone to talk to, but no one looked back at me.

It hit me that nothing has changed. Nothing, but my age. I have NEVER sat at a bar without someone engaging me. Wow, I really am in my mid-50s!!!!!

Does it bother me? I am pausing. Mostly, I’ll say no. I love to sit and daydream. No one at the bar actually looked too interesting to me. AND, I am 54 – an age where heads don’t turn like they used to. It’s kind of comfortable and relaxing and pressure-free.

Still, it was fun, back in the day, to go out and flirt. You never knew who you might meet or talk to or have fun with. Each night felt like a new adventure. And that boyfriend of 4 years was a great guy who helped me through a very tough time.

Yet, here I am — older, wiser, way more stable and settled and – just fine. What did I do that night at restaurant? I made friends with the bartender, a great woman who was really an actress. I went to her play the following week – it was so good and so much fun. She’s smart and funny and reads a lot. I have been dying to make new friends.

So, I guess I did have an adventure afterall!

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