Under Myron’s supervision, the friends apply to their life insurance company’s grant program, explaining that they want to make an educational film that will give advice especially to the great number of the retired living alone–the fourteen million widows, widowers and those who are separated–on how to establish new relationships, including dating again. The four friends tell themselves that the film also will demonstrate their own vitality.
They’re letting themselves become enthusiastic–with Bob still not completely convinced–and are meeting this afternoon at a diner, which, they believe, this week gives seniors a fifty percent discount. Except Myron, who told them about the discount, didn’t hear the radio commercial say it was only for dinner.
They unsuccessfully protest to the waitress that the ad wasn’t clear, their Danish and coffee should be covered, with Myron first removing his hearing aid so the waitress can’t accuse him of faulty hearing. The victorious waitress leaves, and they’re silent–
Bob resumes his worries about the film, even though the proposal has been submitted to the insurance company. “I know I’m repeating myself. But the biggest grant we can get is $30,000. I’ve told you, that’s far too little. I see us–if we get the money–ending up with a film that everyone expects from the retired: plain and dull. And I’ll be the director. I still have a mirror that tries to get me to look into it. And it’s not like handsome Kenny’s. I don’t want to make it even harder for me to look into it.”
He smiles at Kenny, who speaks, without looking at Bob, “When I taught literature in high school, I consulted on educational films, which were low budget but still came out interesting And a big reason was that the teachers were the actors, and they were believable. It’ll be the same with us.”
“Kenny, we’re not talking about a film to teach how to read great books,” Bob replies, “but how to successfully bring together real people, including the when, where and how of sleeping with each other.”
“Advertising made you cynical,” argues Kenny. “You need to try new clothes.”
Bob’s face shifts again into its smile: “Kenny, if we do the film, are you thinking you’ll be the main actor, because of your acting experience? You’ll be the one who’ll show how to correctly meet and romance a woman who’s in her sixties or seventies? And then Hollywood will finally notice you for a romantic lead?”
Kenny touches his thick, just slightly gray hair that crowns his still good-looking face, though recently he’s gotten thin—“not on purpose, not because I’m thinking I can still get a small TV or movie role,” he tells people.
Kenny now says, “Bob, why do you still wear your work shirts from your directing days? I say you really want to direct a film, but you don’t want to admit it. Sort of protection in case our dating film flops. You never really wanted to do it. But Bob, our little movie will be great. I feel it.”
But Bob’s smile continues: “Imagine a scene in the film of a retired man and woman, who’ve just met and are wondering what’ll happen in bed and whether they first should reveal any performance problems they might have. This is sensitive, it has to be right. They’ve entered a bedroom. Kenny, you’re our male actor for this scene. We’ve all seen your skills as an amateur actor with clothes on. But now you’re undressing, just partially, but our viewers–if anyone ever buys the film–see your little sagging stomach and rear. Can we make this a tense scene that’ll hold viewers or do they look away from the not very appetizing bodies?” Bob continues to smile–
Steven replies, “Retired people aren’t expected to have everything about them still in attractive proportion.”
The others have nicknamed Steven, The Social Work Defender, and he continues, “Bob, you’ve complained so often about the phoniness of the commercials you used to shoot. Being without job pressures now, we’re free to make the most truthful movie. Our aging bodies are the truth, right? Our film can be attractive in its own, honest way.”
Bob stays quiet.
“Bob, keep an open mind,” adds Myron. “I’ve started collecting information about the retired who live alone, so we can use real data to shape the film if we receive the grant. It’s the actuary still in me. Listen: The retired closely watch their dollars. But many are confused about whether they should spend more freely when they first meet someone to prove that money worries don’t control them. Our film can offer important advice in this uncertain area, a lot of areas—if, of course, we can agree on the answers.
“I found surveys saying that seniors can be sexually active into their eighties. But what if one or the other is physically unable to do it? When do they admit this? Bob, we’re not talking about you directing a short commercial under sponsor pressure. But a film that can help a lot of people change, give them the confidence to enjoy life more.”
Bob waits. “My doctor likes to tell me not to read long books, that I should switch to short stories. That’s his joke for older patients. Should I now tell him I may make a film, if we get the grant, that’ll show seniors living alone how to live happier and better? Except I’m starting without any idea how long our group of amateur friends will need to make the movie. After I leave his office, will my short-story doctor laugh?”
(Chapter 3 under “Categories” to the top, right of page)