When are you too old to…

My wife and I are fans of Tulsa King, the new series by Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan. I wrote about it in my previous blog post, “The Anti-Hero Rises.” The short-form series (10 episodes or less per season) premiered on the Paramount+ streaming service in November. Almost immediately, a second season was confirmed. Sylvester Stallone being the lead actor almost guaranteed that, but the show proved it’s deserving of another season, even throwing a cliff-hanger at us in the season 1 finale.

I described the show’s premise in my previous post, so we don’t need to go over that. However, something that occurred in the opening episode caught my attention in particular. (Minor spoiler alert here.)

“Go West, Old Man” introduces us to Dwight “The General” Manfredi (Stallone), released from prison after 25 years. He’s kept his mouth shut for a quarter-century, refusing all entreaties to rat out his associates in the Mafia family for which he’d worked since his teen years. Expecting a reward from the family when he’s finally released (we learn the details behind his crime several episodes later), he’s instead told he must go to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to set up a branch of the family business there.

Stallone’s “swaggering charm,” as described by one reviewer, empowers Dwight with an ability to win friends and influence people so easily that within 24 hours of arriving in town, he’s already earning serious money.

On his second night in town, Dwight revisits a cowboy bar where he’d stopped the night before. He immediately connects with the bar owner, an ex-con like himself, and also makes the acquaintance of Stacy (Andrea Savage), a 40ish woman who is acting as mother hen to a group of young women who are apparently in the midst of a bachelorette party. Dwight agrees to accompany the women to a nearby strip club, where he easily dispatches a drunken cowboy who tries to force his attentions on one of the young gals. Impressed, Stacy comes on to Dwight, who is more than happy to take her back to his hotel room at the end of the evening.

Watching Dwight in action with the women is to see a master at work: charming, polite, and exuding a powerful sense of masculinity without even trying. It’s no wonder Stacy wants to get horizontal with him.

The actors are playing characters who are virtually their real ages: Stallone is 76, and Savage 49. From the strip club, we next see Stallone’s hotel room, after the couple has enjoyed each other’s company. It’s now that Stacy learns Dwight’s real age, and it turns out she assumed him to be about 20 years younger (a safe assumption, considering Stallone’s looks and build, no longer Rockyesque but still impressive). She is shocked to learn that she has just had sex with a man old enough to be her father, and she quickly excuses herself, gets dressed and leaves.

Later, we will learn Stacy’s vocation: she’s an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and like Dwight, she has a somewhat checkered past. In succeeding episodes, she decides to continue her relationship with Dwight, despite the age difference, but there are some twists and turns as her job brings her into conflict, understandably, with a man who is dancing on the edge of the law.

Stacy’s discovery of Dwight’s background introduces a serious twist to their relationship, to say the least.

Sue and I talked about the episode afterwards, and I was particularly interested in finding out why Stacy would react the way she did when discovering Dwight’s age. Why, I asked, would sex with a man that much older than her be so alarming? The conversation we had, as you might expect, was quite interesting.

How old is “too old to…you know?

Sue seemed to think that Stacy’s reaction was completely understandable. Now, of course not every woman would feel that way; we are always hearing of younger women carrying on with much older men. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, 93, just got married to a woman 30 years his junior. But apparently some women are hesitant to get intimate with men who are considerably older than they are. Who knew?

I suppose it depends on the respective ages of the people involved. Let’s keep the 25-year age difference between Dwight and Stacy and apply it to other ages. What if the woman is 25 and the man 50? Somehow that doesn’t seem to be as severe as what Stacy felt about Dwight’s age…or is it? How about 20 for her and 45 for him?

Better yet, let’s turn it around, as I proposed to Sue. Suppose a single woman of 65 goes to a party and meets a guy who’s clearly a lot younger than her, say early 40s. They hit it off; he’s obviously interested in her and the feeling is mutual. He’s in his physical prime, good-looking and fit, and certainly experienced in how to treat a woman in the boudoir. Things are moving along nicely, and she’s thinking that spending the night with him sounds like an increasingly exciting idea. Then the subject of age is approached in an oblique way, like comparing favorite bands. He realizes that her admiration for Rod Stewart doesn’t exactly jibe with his fondness for Nickelback. So he says, “You know, I’d guess you to be about…52. Am I close?” And she says with a smile, “Add 13 and you’re there.”

His eyes go a bit wide, and his smile tightens. Suddenly uncomfortable, he clears his throat, fidgets, then says, “Uh…well, you’re old enough to be my mother, and that’s a little…old for what I had in mind. Please excuse me.” And he stands up and leaves. How would she feel? I’m betting she wouldn’t feel good about it at all.

Having said that, I can’t imagine a man in his 40s being in his right mind if he were to decline a romantic evening with a woman like, say, any of these:

Jane Seymour, 72 in a couple weeks.
Christie Brinkley, 69 this week.
Mary Steenburgen, 70 next week.

Sue saw my point after I posed that example. Now, being a happily married couple (with neither of us planning to make the other a widow anytime soon), we don’t have to worry about the possibility of sexual rejection by anyone, much less someone a lot younger. But still…

Never too old to get the job done.

On my daily radio show I have a quiz called “Connect the Dots of History,” and on January 18th I noted the anniversary of the death of John Tyler, our 10th president. Tyler died in 1862, a couple months away from his 72nd birthday. He was the first vice president to be elevated to the presidency upon the death of his predecessor, when William Henry Harrison expired only a month into his term in 1841. Tyler served out the remainder of that term, arranged for the annexation of Texas (leaving his successor, James K. Polk, with the task of fighting the ensuing war with Mexico) and in his twilight years was elected to the Confederate Congress, although he died before taking his seat. His plantation home in Virginia still stands, and one of his grandchildren, amazingly enough, is still alive, now in his mid-90s.

How could this be? Tyler was born during the first term of George Washington, and his grandson has seen the inauguration of Joe Biden, 233 years later. It turns out Tyler, while not a very prolific president in terms of accomplishments, was very good at producing progeny. His first wife, Letitia, was the same age as her husband and bore him nine children (seven surviving infancy) before she died in 1842 at 51. She’d been disabled by a stroke since 1839 and a second stroke took her life; she was the first First Lady to die while her husband was in office. Less than two years later, Tyler married Julia Gardiner, who was 30 years his junior and produced seven more Tyler children. The four youngest were all sired when Tyler was in his 60s; the last, Margaret Pearl, was born in 1860, the year her father turned 70.

President John Tyler was 54 when he married his second wife, Julia.
Only 24 at the time of her White House wedding, Julia Gardiner evidently didn’t have the same fear of much older men that the fictional Stacy in Tulsa King would display nearly two centuries later.

Tyler was a mighty man indeed, especially considering those days were long before anybody knew how to treat what we discreetly call “ED” today. Whatever his condition, John and Julia evidently had a robust sex life. Whatever he had that enabled him to keep carrying on in the bedroom, Tyler passed it along to his kids. His son Lyon, born in 1853, was his fifth child with Julia. Lyon lived to 82, enjoying a long career as an historian and educator; he was president of the College of William and Mary from 1888-1919. Like his father, Lyon married twice; his first wife delivered three children before she died in 1921, and his second, Sue Ruffin, was 35 years younger than her husband. They had three children, the third of whom died in infancy, but the oldest, Lyon Jr., died in 2020 at 95. His younger brother, Harrison, is still alive at 94. When his two boys were born, Lyon Tyler Sr., son of the 10th president, was in his 70s.

Lyon Tyler Sr. didn’t follow his father’s footsteps into politics…
…but he did when it came to finding a second wife.

Women of previous centuries evidently weren’t as skittish as 21st century women seem to be about cavorting with much older men. But I suppose we shouldn’t consider the fictional Stacy’s example as indicative of what her real-life peers really think about the subject. If I really cared, it might be worth some additional research, although I would confine it to online activities, rather than interviewing subjects in the field, which Sue would undoubtedly appreciate.

During the run of Tulsa King’s first season, Dwight’s relationship with Stacy took some twists and turns, as one might expect, but he also attracted the interest of a slightly older woman, Margaret Devereaux, owner of a horse ranch. Played by Dana Delany, Margaret is initially skeptical of Dwight’s interest in horses, but comes around when he buys a rather unique horse to save it from being put down, and asks to board the animal on her ranch. Delany, who was 66 during the filming of the series, plays Margaret as a woman who is not at all squeamish about being with an older man, although of course Dwight isn’t that much older than she is. Still, her attitude about the age difference seems to be a lot healthier than Stacy’s.

She doesn’t care for Dwight at first, but like just about everyone else in the show, especially the women, Margaret is attracted by his irresistible charm.

I won’t give away the ending to Season 1, but Sue and I are looking forward to the next one. Dwight seems to have gotten himself into a real fix, one in which Stacy played a key role, but as I said to Sue the other day, “I can’t believe he didn’t anticipate something like this. He’s been one step ahead of everybody all the way. He’ll get out of it.” The only bad thing about it is that we’ll have to wait till this fall to find out how he does it.

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