* EditorÕs note: Marion is on vacation. This column first ran in a slightly different form in February 2004.
In my dream, see-through vinyl shirts Ñ completely transparent Ñ are coming into fashion. Only young people wear them because it is not much different from being naked, except that if someone reaches out to touch you, they feel stiff material instead of skin.
In my dream, I am both shocked that such a clothing item has come into being, and not surprised at all, because it seems the appropriate outcome of where we have been going lately.
Then I lose my own clothes somehow, including underwear (the dream doesnÕt explain the circumstances), and IÕm wearing just a pair of shorts and one of those vinyl shirts.
As dreams will have it, IÕm in some public place, a nightclub I think, with people much younger than I. Because IÕm lost and confused and desperate to find my way home, I forget that IÕm wearing the vinyl shirt. Then the man behind the bar, the sort of person who might notice the only older woman in the room, smiles at me and says, ÒNice breasts.Ó
My jaw drops in horror as I think, ÒHow embarrassing! Why didnÕt I keep my arms in front of them?Ó
But that thought passes quickly, to be replaced by one that lingers and feels warm, like a blush. My dream-self thinks, ÒWell, you know, heÕs right. TheyÕre small but they are good looking.Ó
I stand a little taller as I leave the nightclub to find my way home.
I awaken with the bartenderÕs compliment still floating in my head.
What do I make of a dream like this? And where did it come from?
Maybe the train of thought that led to this dream began with an old issue of Time Magazine I came across recently, which had an article about Baby Boomers and sex.
Maybe the train of thought began with a moment in my own life, last week, when an attractive man with whom I have a totally platonic relationship touched my arm when he didnÕt have to.
Maybe it began when I went to see ÒThat Takes OvariesÓ a show performed by UC Davis students that was both fun and serious, amusing and gritty. Women kissed each other on stage, and since several performers were first-time actresses, I figured that some of the romance I was seeing was real. The lack of inhibition was fine with me and as interesting as all get out.
Or maybe the dream began with Janet Jackson, although I didnÕt see the Super Bowl where she had her Òwardrobe malfunction.Ó
One thing for certain, see-through shirts on fiftysomething women are unlikely to become the rage. Most women my age shy away from revealing clothing, even a bathing suit.
That doesnÕt mean our minds arenÕt active.
In fact, inside IÕm not very different from my younger self. I am just as aware of the zing in the air around me, just as eager to look at an interesting person (male or female) as I ever was. I donÕt need to touch, but I sure like to look.
Even though IÕm happily married, IÕm still very aware of men, and I recognize that they come in two kinds: the ones who only see blonds and boobs, whose sexuality is as predictable and loud as a basketball court, and the others (I hope the majority) who are attuned to more complicated stuff, who donÕt need see-through vinyl, in order to see.
The guys who were Type 1 years ago Ñ and still are Ñ will never notice me. And the men I always liked, Type 2, still see me now, maybe not always, but some of the time.
IÕm in disguise, after all: wrinkles, graying hair, new limitations on my dance moves, because I donÕt want to seem ridiculous on the dance floor, geez, at my age.
But the man in my dream saw me. Saw right through me, as they say, and the vinyl shirt was just a metaphor. IÕm what I always was: curious, attuned, aware, available in a way that has nothing to do with actually having sex, a head thing really, like a tune running in my mind Ñ but IÕm in disguise. ItÕs my little secret.
There may be others like me; in fact, everyone may be like me. I donÕt know. Under gray hair and bobbly bodies, between retirement talk and comparing notes on our children and grandchildren, every fiftysomething person may be like me. Our ears arenÕt what they used to be, but we still hear the music, and under the table our feet are still tapping.
Ñ Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears Sundays.