6 Stylish Older Couples On Finding Love & Staying Together Forever
Ari Seth Cohen ‘s blog-turned-book-turned-film Advanced Style is an ode to the wardrobes, wisdom and magic of older people, and has introduced us to sartorially fabulous women like Iris Apfel and Tziporah Salamon. Now, the author and photographer has turned his lens on older couples in Advanced Love. With 40 profiles and over 200 photos, it’s a heartwarming celebration of new and old romances, brimming with advice, tales of meet-cutes and lessons in love.
“I wanted to do a project that would have an even more profound effect on the way we view ageing and to share a deeper look into the lives, insight and wisdom of my subjects,” Cohen told Refinery29. “The world can definitely use a little more love right now!” The images in the book form a diverse representation of love: there are same-sex couples, couples from opposite sides of the Earth, couples who have been together for decades (the longest for over 80 years), and couples who found love later in life (Evita Stewart was widowed in her 90s and found a new love at 94).
What did Cohen learn from the people who shared their romance with him? “The couple I most related to was
Mort and Ginny. They were really the inspiration for Advanced Love. I had just gotten into a small tiff with my partner before heading to San Francisco to photograph Mort and Ginny for my last book. Hearing how they navigated their ‘magical mystery tour’ for over 50 years, never allowing themselves to be angry for more than five minutes, and seeing how they have collaborated and supported one another’s creative expression for decades made me realise how grateful I am for my own partner. I came home with a renewed sense of commitment and wanted to share Mort and Ginny’s story with others.”
Ahead, read the love stories of six couples from Cohen’s book, all of whom can teach us something in the art of compassion, patience and compromise.
Advanced Love is published by Abrams on 24th December
Ellen & Dick
E: We met in a dance class. He had all these blondes around him, and they were big busted. I knew that he would never be interested in me. So, I would always walk into these dance venues by myself, and I’d see him surrounded by all these women and I’d go, well screw that. I would just go and stand on the dance floor, waiting for someone to ask me to dance. But he looked pretty interesting and I thought, “Well, I’ve always wanted to marry a man that matches my hair!”
What was it about Ellen that you were attracted to?
D: Boy, so many things. Her personality. Everybody loves Ellen. She’s my honey.
How long have you been together?
E: We’ve been married seventeen, but together for twenty years now. He was sixty-three when we met, and I was fifty. Now he’s eighty-three and, well, I’m still fifty!
What kind of advice would you give younger people about love?
E: Maybe get the first one out of the way. We’ve both been married before. You don’t know what you want when you’re really young, it’s when you get older…
Gai & Rhonda
G: We’ve been together forty-five years!
R: We met on a blind date, which neither one of us had done before.
G: I was so pissed because my ex-girlfriend was trying to set me up with somebody to get her off the hook for breaking my heart.
R: Well, it was my ex-girlfriend who was with your ex-girlfriend.
Was it love at first sight?
G & R: Immediately!
R: It really was. I was just enamoured with her.
G: As we were walking back to the car, I opened up my big thrift-store mouton coat, and Rhonda came into it with me. We walked down the street together like that. That was amazing!
R: I knew Gai was so special that I didn’t take her home. It was respect. This wasn’t just frivolous wonderful fun; this was something you just knew.
G: The first night that I went home with Rhonda, we woke up and she took me on her Honda motorcycle to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and it was so romantic.
What has kept you together all these years?
R: Well, Gai is tenacious and she doesn’t let go. She’s loyal and likes crazy women. It’s the real deal, that’s all.
G: What really makes it work is waking up in the morning and saying,”Who is this person?” Yes, I know so much about her, but in ways, I discover that I don’t know anything about her. It’s fantastic!
Marsha Music & David, Detroit, MI.
Marsha: Much has been written about love in the elder years, its surprising exhilaration and amorous vigour. Yet, senior love must manoeuvre through mazes of lifetime’s complexities: decades of relationships with exes, children, old friends; labyrinthine webs of property and inheritance; or dwindling resources to provide comfort in the elder years. It is love that has survived loss, with no youthful illusions of invincibility: it is also frailty and diminishment, doctors and meds, pain and suffering, even when dressed to the nines.
I met my husband, artist David Philpot, at a 2011 exhibit of his work; he had come from Chicago for a show at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, where I live, in Detroit. I wore an ethnic textile, crossed over an ankle-length black dress, and a necklace of white coral, jade, and carnelian, with Tibetan seals as pendants. I turned a corner to see Philpot’s art – six-foot-tall staffs of bas-relief carving, ornamented with jewels, shells, and Swarovski crystals. He also creates cows and furnishings embellished with watches and clocks.
I was agog and turned to the artist; he sat next to his work, plain and homespun, in too-large clothes. I later learned that he had emerged from five years of grieving widowhood, after forty-five years of beloved marriage. He had a white beard and uncut hair, and on his head, an old-fashioned Borsalino bowler. He looked like a fairy-tale woodcutter, and he leaned on an ornate cane, a mini version of his resplendent staffs. Sweetness emanated from him like cotton candy.
I was curious – what matter of man is this who looks so simple, yet conjures these splendiferous things? He stood and gazed – not at me, but at my necklace. He reached for it before he looked up at my face, as if startled, and said, “You are gorgeous! Are you married? May I kiss your hand?”
Purely Patricia & Howard, New York, NY.
Purely: When I was young, I always had a boyfriend. They came and went – sometimes at the same time. I wish I had a dime for each one who said, “No one will ever love you as much as I do!” as he was walking out the door. I once asked my therapist at the height of being crazy in love, “Why can’t this feeling last forever?” Her reply: “Because no one would ever get anything done!”
It has taken a lifetime of broken hearts, lost loves, and failed relationships to find the one person who could say to me: “No one will ever love you as much as I do!” And Howard would be right!
Scott & Mike, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Scott & Mike: On March 16 of this year, we are together eighteen years. We got married in two countries. In 2005, when same-sex marriage became legal in Canada, I asked Scott if he would marry me. We flew up to Vancouver and got married there. When it became legal in New York, we did it again, this time with forty-five people in the East Village. We met in a bar in Fort Lauderdale, each of us out with a separate group of friends. We were both intrigued by the other and started a conversation.
We had both gone to FIT in New York several years apart, as Scott is eight years younger. We had also grown up in the same area in Queens. My sister graduated high school with his brother. We were both divorced. Both of us had experienced traditional family lives and had raised children who were all grown-up at the time of our meeting. We agreed to meet for dinner two nights later. At the end of a long evening, I asked Scott what he was doing the next night. His response was, “Seeing you.” We have never been apart since that time.
Charlotte & Hylan, Los Angeles, CA.
Charlotte: Valentine’s Day 1985, I sat next to a man on an airplane headed for Los Angeles. He saw a book, The Philosopher’s Pupil by Iris Murdoch, on my lap. He said, “She’s a great friend of mine.” I shouted, “One of the great novelists of all time is your friend?” We shared a nonstop stream of favourite literary figures, many also his friends. Hylan suggested a dinner date. “My name is not Mrs. Robinson,” I said, thinking of The Graduate. He whipped out his passport to prove he was born seven years after me, in 1938.
Truth is, I came to know this stranger better in six hours than my first husband in seventeen years, or his successor in a decade. There was magic in the way our conversation moved from Nabokov to napalm, marriages and children to Muddy Waters. I hadn’t been looking for any man. Hylan was rare – not threatened by his female sensibilities – a real man, a tender man, a caring, thinking, creative human being. I agreed to dinner.
We started talking thirty-three years ago on that flight, and at eighty-six and eighty years old, that sentence hasn’t come to an end. And as my darling has taught me, having to be right is a disease.
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