Pop Culture

‘Viagra Diaries’ explores dating among 60+ set

A torrid affair in their 70s? It happens in “The Viagra Diaries,” a novel by Barbara Rose Brooker that shows love is altogether possible in the Viagra generation. Here is an excerpt.

I smooth the black fishnet stockings over my legs and slip into the Joan Crawford-style platform shoes. They’re black, with thin ankle straps.

Anyway, my name is Anny Applebaum. I’m 70, and I’m a writer. For the past couple of years, I’ve been writing “The Viagra Diaries,” a weekly column about 60-plus boomers looking for love. I post ads on the Internet singles sites asking to meet men over 60. A nightmare. Either they’re dragging around pictures of their dead wives in bikinis, or they’re so cheap they make you walk 10 miles to park their cars.

So anyway, tonight I’m getting ready to meet Marv Rothstein, a 75-year-old diamond dealer I met on JDate.com. He sounds smooth, sexy — different from the others.

I blow-dry my hair. It’s still brown, but I had gold highlights put in to blend with the gray. It hangs loose, past my shoulders. My 41-year-old daughter Emily is always harping that I’m too old to wear long hair, but I love it. The older I get, the longer it gets.

OK, I’m ready. Who knows? This Marv might be a good story. Most of the men I meet end up in my column, but I’m looking for controversy, something to make my column really get noticed. Eventually I hope to put the columns into a book. All my life I wanted to be a famous writer, but it’s been nothing but ups and downs.

I put on my black leather jacket and smooth my black skirt. Finally, I add my shoulder-length silver earrings, my Tibetan silver collar, and my amber rings. I love silver craft jewelry; I buy it at craft fairs.

I hurry down the two flights of stairs.The restaurant is so close I can walk.

It’s a cold January night; the moon is bright yellow, and the fog blows like silk. San Francisco is quiet except for the foghorns and the rustle of the wind. I walk along Van Ness Avenue, avoiding the potholes, telling myself not to fall. All I need is a broken hip. My poor friend Dusty tripped on a pothole and broke her hip. Now she’s in a convalescent home, and she’s really ill.

Meeting Marv
Inside the restaurant, I hesitate for a minute, blinking and getting my bearings. I have glaucoma and a depth perception problem. I make my way into the cocktail lounge and sit in the corner facing the door. The place is really nice — one of those swank bars where the bartenders wear bow ties and use cocktail shakers to shake up the drinks and a combo plays smooth jazz. I’m 15 minutes early, so I order my favorite drink: Stoli over ice with three green olives. Now I’m feeling a glow — my debts and career worries behind me. This writing business is enough to put you in the grave.

Twenty years I spent writing a novel about the first husband, who dumped me on my wedding night. I was 19, and a virgin. I was devastated. Blamed. I was sure that once my novel was published, I’d have revenge and redemption. After the novel sold, I had high hopes that it would be a bestseller. But everything went wrong — good reviews, but poor sales. After that, I wrote fluff pieces for newspapers and other books that never made it.

Exactly at 6:30, this tall, slightly stooped, very slender man with slicked-back, silver, silky hair accentuating aRomanesque nose and a moody Semitic face walks toward me. He walks like he owns the room — this aura, this arrogance on his fixed smile, quick glance. He’s elegantly dressed in a dark pinstripe suit, pale blue shirt, and dark tie.

“Anny?”

“Marv, hello,” I say, extending my hand, thinking he’s more handsome than his picture — a cross between a Jewish Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford.

He sits at the table and impatiently glances toward a waiter. He snaps a thin finger and orders a round of drinks. His face is somber, and I feel his dark, appraising eyes watching, checking me out. When our drinks come, he clicks his glass on mine. The dance begins. I ask about his diamond business. He perks up. He tells me that he worked himself up the ladder, sells diamonds all over the world.

“So are diamonds really a girl’s best friend?” I ask.

“They are for most women.”

“Guess you think my artsy-craftsy jewelry is corny,” I say, my bracelets clinking.

“It suits you.”

“So why did you answer my ad?” I ask after a long silence.

He shrugs. “I’ve never dated a writer. I thought you sounded interesting. I’m impressed. I saw on Google that you published a novel.” He pauses, looking intently at me. “I’ve read your column. It’s funny.”

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll end up in it? Men in my life are material.”

He smiles. When he smiles, his teeth don’t show. “Your ad said you’re 70. You look good for 70,” he says after a long moment. “I’ve never dated a woman your age.”

“Whoopty-doo. Haven’t you heard? Seventy is the new 40.”

He laughs, his eyes half-closed, as if he’s surprised to laugh. “In your ad you call yourself a hottie. Are you a hottie?”

“That’s for you to find out.”

“Do you like sports?” he asks.

“I hate sports.”

He looks amused. “I love all sports. I ski all over the world. My first wife was a champion French skier. She ran off with her trainer and died in a ski accident.”

“I’m sorry.”

He opens the menu. Carefully, he orders dinner, making sure what I want.

By now, we’re easily talking.I tell him that I’ve been divorced for 30 years and about my daughter Emily — that she lives in Berkeley with her partner Harry, a 50-year-old architect — that neither has been married. While I’m talking, he has an irritating way of listening but not commenting, as if sorting out what he wants to talk about. He confides that he’s been married twice, has a son and a granddaughter. That last year, he went on a JDate cruise to Istanbul and had a great time. “I met a woman I liked, but she’s 50. Too young,” he says, wistfully. “She lives in New Orleans.”

Singing along with SinatraFor a moment, we’re quiet. I feel this chemistry between us. This rarely happens to me. Our dinner is served. We concentrate on eating. He eats neatly, slowly, his table manners impeccable — his hand on his lap.

“How did you get into the diamond business?” I ask after a long silence.

He pauses, as if not sure he wants to reveal himself. Then he tells me that at 14, he worked in his Uncle Ted’s jewelry store in Toledo. “I had to work to get things. It’s all I ever wanted to do. Except maybe sing.”

Over coffee, we talk about films; he loves films. He also loves jazz and contemporary art.

“I paint,” I tell him. “A year from March, I’m having a gallery show of my paintings. I’m working on women inside boxes.”

He looks at me as if he’s making up his mind about something. Then he glances at his gold Rolex watch and says, “Let’s go to my place. I’ll show you my art.”

“Well, I have an early deadline in the morning, but maybe for a while,” I say, thinking that I want to get to know him better. After all, he’s material.

I stand, wobbling slightly. My knee is stiff. Sometimes I lose my balance. He takes my hand, like a decision has been made, and we go outside, where the valet drives up his black Mercedes convertible.

In the car, he turns on his Frank Sinatra tapes and sings along in a smoky voice, like he’s on stage. I lean back, watching the moon blow up into a baroque pearl, and the night is suddenly warm, like maybethere’s going to be an earthquake.

Excerpted with permission from “The Viagra Diaries” by Barbara Rose Brooker (Llumina Press, 2009).

TOP