It is no accident that every woman mentioned here has comic as well as carnal appeal, and entices with the promise of lust with laughs. No generation of American women has entered its forties as frank about sex, and so no generation of American women has been as attuned to—or forgiving of—the absurd theater of men trying to get into their pants. They have had so much going their way for such a long time that their superiority to their male counterparts has become part of the grain of American life, especially in movies and on television; indeed, it may be said that the best thing that forty-two-year-old American men have going for them is forty-two-year-old American women.
Of course, they have to work for their advantage; they have armored themselves with yoga and Pilates even as they joke about the spectacle. Still, what has made them figures of fantasy is not that they have redefined the ideals of female strength but rather their own vulnerabilities. Go to a party: There is simply no one as unclothed as a forty-two-year-old woman in a summer dress. For all her toughness, and humor, and smarts, you know exactly what she looks like, without the advantage of knowing who she is. "You're trying to seduce me, aren't you?" Benjamin Braddock asked Mrs. Robinson a long time ago. The question, back then, was all that mattered. Now we wait for the answer.