October 2009

A Woman Scorned...

by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman

“Ask a toad what is beauty…he will answer that it is a female with two great round eyes coming out of her little head, a large flat mouth, a yellow belly and a brown back.”
—Voltaire (1694-1778)

I am 45 years old with three kids, and my husband left me six months ago. Since then, I’ve been out on exactly three dates—all with men in their sixties. Meanwhile, my husband has been seen all over town with twentysomething women. It’s so annoying, but here’s the last straw: He showed up at our daughter’s volleyball game with a natural beauty named Cynthia in high-heel boots, skinny jeans and no makeup. Why do all the men my age date gold-digging women in their twenties? Don’t these ladies realize it’s not about them? What can I read to help me through this unhappy time?
—Lisa D., Santa Monica

Here’s the good news: Men may date younger women, trotting them out in front of all of their friends, but most are easily bored and come to their senses after a few months (okay, or years). Here’s the bad news: Some men never come to their senses—the lure of the May-December romance is just too strong. In that case, here are a few literary suggestions that deal with this tragicomic human condition.

Lonely Hearts Book Club Picks

Tender Is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

His last completed novel gets its title from Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale.” It’s the ultimate older (married) man–younger woman novel, replete with lines like, “You’re the only girl I’ve seen for a long time that actually did look like something blooming.” Set in the French Riviera, it’s the story of 18-year-old starlet Rosemary Hoyt’s passionate affair with Dr. Dick Diver, a debonair psychiatrist twice her age. Don’t worry, honey, you’ll love the ending.

A Sentimental Education: The Story of a Young Man, by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary was Flaubert’s most famous, but this is his best. The semiautobiographical story is about a younger man prone to flights of fancy falling in love with an older woman—the elusive Madame Arnoux. “He could not see anybody else in the dazzling light which her eyes cast upon him.” Mrs. Robinson, eat your heart out.

Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann

A lonely middle-aged writer facing his own mortality travels to Venice and is hopelessly fixated on a beautiful young boy on the beach. Brimming over with obsessive love and sun-drenched eroticism, “it is the story of the voluptuousness of doom,” Mann wrote. Enough said.

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

A little extreme, as Lolita, the object of Humbert Humbert’s affection, is 12, but this is a classic if you’d like to see a man get his comeuppance. Famous opening lines: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.” Indeed, while you might find the subject unsavory, the lyrical language is transporting.

The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald

Set in late-18th-century Germany, this is, again, the saga of a man’s love affair with a 12-year-old girl. Here, the highbrow Fritz is captivated by the more plebeian Sophie. Suffice it to say, disaster ensues.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka

What to do when it's your parent who's caught in an outrageously inappropriate relationship? Two sisters try to wrest their dad from the clutches of a gold-digger. “Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blond Ukrainian divorcée. He was 84, and she was 36. She exploded into our lives as a fluffy pink grenade.” Funny...and heartbreaking.

Child of My Heart, by Alice McDermott

In this enchanting novel by the winner of the National Book Award for Charming Billy, a 15-year-old girl spends what she hopes will be an idyllic summer as a mother’s helper at a beach resort on Long Island, only to be seduced by an aging artist. With wisdom beyond her years, she reveals the secret lives of adults.

Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman & Kim Bar­nouin

It'll take your mind off your dating status. See Rory go veganista in “A New Leaf.”