At some point in my anthropology and folklore studies I encountered this story about the grandmother of us all.
When she was an old crone, she went down to the water and shed her old skin, and left it hanging on a bush. She walked back up to the village: svelte, smooth lithe, gleaming, naturally attracting quite a bit of attention from her sons and grandsons, who crowded around her expressing sexual invitations.
“Boys, it’s ME, grandma!” she chuckles.
“AAAACK!! GRANDMA!?!? What are you DOING, looking like…that?” sez the men’s chorus.
“I got tired of my old skin, so I shed it”, she explains. “Well, PUT IT BACK!” cry the gents. “We nearly shagged our own grandmother! Sheesh!”
“Okay”, she sez. “But if I do, then all people, from now on, will be stuck with their old skins, nobody will ever be able to shed them for new ones like I just did.”
“What EVS!” wail the gents, covering their eyes with their hands. “Just GO, DO it!”
Back to the riverbank, where she shrugs back into her loose old pelt that she had left hanging on the bush. And lo, she spoke true.
So about sexuality in old age: well, nobody WANTS an old woman to be sexy. They don’t really want you to look good, men do not want, they’d be ashamed, to feel any attraction for an older woman. It’s a real tabu, and jokes about how repulsive they—we—are are still tolerated, even though other kinds of “sexism” are now anathema. And the way little old ladies are expected to dress is, if anything, infantile again. Unless you’re a pedophilic man, those fussy furbelows are a definite turnoff, I would imagine. I said in my previous post that they still dress like women, but actually, they dress-again- like little girls!
The folk tale is of those types which “explain” mortality and senescence with reference to the incest tabu. But why is it The Grandmother” rather than “The Grandfather” who shucks the old pelt? Actually the thought of him sneaking back to camp as a young buck and sticking it to his female descendants is…just….not as shocking, is it? I dky. Maybe for the same reason that, although we DO hear old-age jokes about men, they’re usually based on the comedic possibilities of weakness or incapacity, rather than on the frisson of repulsion which is behind the ones about seeing an old WOMAN naked, or actually making love with her.