It’s a Sunday night. A bunch of our friends are over, we’ve just finished dinner, and we’re about to play a game of Rummikub with my two kids, when my twenty-four-year old boyfriend turns to me and says, “I think we should go to Coachella.”
“I’m too old to go to Coachella!” I laugh, mostly because I think he’s joking, but from the look on his face, he’s dead serious. It’s one of those moments between us that I dread, mostly because it is a glaring reminder of our seventeen-year age difference.
I play it cool though, and ask everyone in attendance what they think.
“You can totally go to Coachella,” is the general response.
I nod my head and smile politely but the fact remains I am way too old to go to Coachella, especially with him!
My boyfriend is a soccer specific strength and conditioning specialist from England. We met when he was working in the States for a brief stint and he ended up becoming a family friend. After my divorce we stayed in touch exchanging emails on a pretty regular basis. Our epistolary friendship was something stable in a world of post-divorce confusion, and we ended up becoming very close. Eventually, we started dating. It was long distance and sort of nerve-wracking mostly because no one took it seriously. I was just a number to his friends. He was just a fling to mine. But after a year of that, he found work in the United States, and we moved in together. It took another year for our friends and family to get used to the idea of ‘us’ but they did.
We’ve lived together for the past two and a half years now. He helps me raise my two kids, and together we’ve acquired two Saint Bernards and two cats. Our life is very normal. There are regular Sunday dinners for friends and family (he cooks). On Fridays we have date nights, either alone or with other couples. In between there’s work, homework, laundry, dishes, school lunches and lots of driving of children to various practices.
Since I look younger (or so I am told), and he looks older the age thing doesn’t really come up all that often when we are with people. In fact, people will make fun of the Dec./May thing without realizing that we are in fact one of those couples. When they learn of our age difference they’ll usually backpedal, they’ll say things like ‘It’s different with you guys’, ‘You look so young’ or ‘He’s an old soul’. I always imagine they are really thinking, “Jesus, she’s so old!” or worse, “Who knew Kristen was a cougar?”
I recoiled when Newsweek declared 2009 to be ‘The Year of the Cougar”. I hate that term. I don’t prey on younger men, nor am I part of some media driven fad. I just happen to love someone who is younger than me. Historically speaking, I’m not exactly alone. George Elliot (aka Mary Ann Evans), Georgia O’Keeffe, Tina Turner, Eleanore of Acquitaine , Lucille Ball, Isadora Duncan, Queen Elizabeth the 1st, Terry McMillian, Candace Bushnell, Chrissie Hynde, Katie Couric, Susan Sarandon, and everyone’s current favorite Demi Moore, are all women who love or have loved someone younger than them. And not all of their younger partners were gold diggers or pool boys. I’m guessing most of them were confident, strong, kind men who happened (to paraphrase William Butler Yeats) to love the sorrows of their older woman’s changing face.
Despite society’s issues, the truth is our age difference isn’t something I really think about during the course of the day. Occasionally, I will think about whether or not we are going to have kids, and how if we are, we sort of need to get on that sooner rather than later. I also worry about wrinkles, grey hair, or hitting the proverbial wall that men are always talking about. When that happens, I remind myself that every relationship has its obstacles, and for us it’s age. As my friend Nina says, “No relationship is perfect.”
Still, and I say this with a large dose of humility, most of the time ours comes pretty close.
So, in the spirit of our near perfect partnership, I check out the Coachella website after the kids go to bed. It’s artfully designed, with hand-drawn, millennium friendly black fonts juxtaposed against a soothing light green background, suggesting a triangulation of Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream, Woodstock and that Mr. Blue Sky Volkswagen commercial. But I’m not fooled. I came of age in the 80s, and know when I’m being marketed to. I want the facts. I head over to Wikipedia and learn that it is in fact a three-day ‘music and arts’ festival in Indio, California. That sounds so much more palatable. I key into the specific words ‘sculptural art’. Now we are talking! I love sculpture! In fact I spent hours exploring the Brancusi workshop when I was in Paris last month. I click on the ‘sculptural’ images from prior Coachella years. Unfortunately it’s mostly crap, sort of like a poor man’s Burning Man. I realize that I’m being a snob, and decide to check out some forums to see what former attendees have to say.
I’ve had some great fucks at Coachella every year.
Okay, people will be having sex with strangers. If I lose my boyfriend in the crowd do I need to worry that he will be pulled into some sort of bacchanalian orgy?
I will currently be testing the churros for their ability to help me sustain and survive Coachella 2009.
Based on the four hundred responses to this post, churros are a large source of nourishment for Coachella goers. I have never eaten a churro. In fact, I don’t even allow my kids to eat churros. They are not good for you.
It gets CRAZY!!! and I’ve seen some crazy things in my life, I would recommend you go with a friend, preferably a guy, you’ll see everyone drunk and high off weed!!
I haven’t smoked weed in twenty years and if I did, I’d probably be reduced to fetal position (which is maybe the idea). As for the getting drunk part, I can only drink about two beers before I feel seriously full and hard liquor makes me maudlin. Also, booze, coupled with heat makes me bloat. I wonder if there will be a wine bar?
I continue to click on topics until I find… a video! This will give me a better sense. I click on it and see a naked man getting tasered by a police officer. There are miles of comments on this. People are shocked, but I’m left wondering why the guy didn’t just put his clothes back on like the policeman asked. Do these people not remember Kent State? Actually I don’t remember Kent state, but I do remember people older than me wearing shirts that said ‘remember Kent State’ so perhaps they need to reissue those t-shirts with an accompanying explanation like Lisn2daPoPo4Sir10.
I’m getting nowhere on Google, so I email my friend Stephanie. She’s a writer, she’s smart, I trust her. She’ll have an opinion. She tells me that her younger sister is a big Coachella fan. This is the same girl who got drunk, fell down and lost all her front teeth.
I decide to stop getting opinions and instead focus on the cost. It’s not cheap; five hundred bucks for the two of us to get tickets, then there’s the fifty dollar fee for the car, and the accompanying ‘tent’ area. I have never slept in a tent, and I was hoping to keep that a perfect record (kind of like how I’ve never been stung by a bee). Then I consider the parking. It took us two hours to get out of the grassy parking area at the Rose Bowl after the Galaxy v. Barca match, this will be ten times worse. On the plus side, they have plenty of bathrooms, running water, and showers, though my boyfriend is quick to point out, “No one will use the showers, they’re disgusting.”
Okay, I will not be bathing for the weekend. What if I have my period? What if it’s super hot? Combined with the all-churro diet, I shudder to think of the consequences.
I check out who’s playing, this is after all the point, right? There are about forty bands lined up per day. I like most of the headliners, or at least I like the idea of them. Jay-Z is one of them. He seems like he’s very nice to Beyonce, and she has cellulite.
If I make an effort, to listen each day (during morning drives to school – the kid will love it) I’m sure I can familiarize myself with the rest of the groups. Still, it’s a lot of music. Like eighteen hours per day. I suddenly remember a music festival in Philadelphia circa 1984 (the year before my boyfriend was born) where I saw the Police, Joan Jett, Madness and about a hundred other bands. I screamed for hours and was nearly crushed when everyone rushed the stage. It was brilliant. I can’t scream for hours anymore though. As my children will attest, I am a big fan of the ‘inside voice’. I also can’t think of anything I’d like to do for 18 hours straight. In fact, the last time I did something for 18 hours straight I was in labor! I take a breath. Okay, I’ll bring a jump rope (I will have to check to see if that’s allowed as there are stringent rules), a few books, and my running shoes. Although without a shower is exercising in the desert really a good idea? New plan: I will listen to a few bands each day, then catch up on my reading in the car, while I worry that my boyfriend is being accosted by naked amazons.
But there’s more. It will cost three hundred bucks to board the Saint Bernards. The cats can fend for themselves, but the kids will have to spend the weekend with their dad. They’ll be fine with that, as it’s video games and TV galore over there (vs. the gulag that is my house), but I hate not having them for a weekend. We will also need sleeping bags and a tent. Cost wise, we are well over a grand at this point. I think of the nice pair of shoes I could buy instead.
I click again and find some Flickr photo sets. All I see are young girls behaving badly. Why do they do this? Don’t they realize that heavy drinking will age them? Don’t they see that the economy is in the crapper and now more than ever, they need to focus and work hard because it’s really difficult to ‘have it all’ these days. I feel the uncontrollable urge to give career advice. I see myself at Coachella pulling girls away from drunk, lecherous young men while yelling, “She’s somebody’s daughter!”
I am now sweating, but still determined somehow. My boyfriend is bemused by my self-induced hysteria, “We don’t have to go, Buckley,” he says.
I know we don’t have to go, but he wants to go and we’re a partnership. We do things for one another. We make sacrifices (he moved five thousand miles to be with me) and step outside our comfort zones every now and again. Okay, so my comfort zone is an 8 o’clock reservation at Osteria Mozza. In my defense, I am a daring foodie. I don’t fear offal, or cow brains. In fact, I love marrow! How many naked pot smoking twenty-somethings say that?
A few clicks later and the tickets are purchased. Holy, crap… we’re going to Coachella. But the larger question remains. Can my boyfriend and I bridge this cultural-generational gap? More than that can I survive a weekend without a shower?
I guess there’s only one way to find out.