It was 11 o’clock on a spring morning 13 years ago. I sat in a daze sipping a warm cappuccino and waiting for my wife in the plush surroundings of the Harvey Nicks Café on Five thinking about the weeks leading up to my departure, and trying to decide how to spend the rest of my life, when I was rudely interrupted by a tap on the shoulder. I looked up to see an old ‘friend’ with whom I had shared a flat in London. I never really liked the guy as, amongst other things, he was always a bigger hit with the ladies than I (and too often for it to be a coincidence, usually the same ladies I had my eye on).
“I heard you sold up Larry, congratulations!” He said. I nodded and tried to look disinterested. “So what does it feel like to be retired?”
That got my attention.
“I haven’t actually retired,” I snapped, picturing myself as a withered old man, clambering around for my dentures in the morning.
I was ill-prepared for retirement
The froth on the coffee had gone flat, and so had my mood. No-one ever says: “Oh, you know John? He’s recently retired, isn’t he dynamic? Isn’t he sexy?” And now I had joined their ranks, bewildered and ill-prepared.
That was the state I worked myself into by the time my wife returned. “Michele, am I sexy?” I asked.
“Have some more coffee Larry, your cappuccino’s lost its froth.”
“Seriously, if you didn’t know me and we were introduced at a dinner party, would you still find me attractive?”
“Of course,” she replied, scanning the menu.
Am I more or less sexy….
“Michele… do you think I am more sexy or less sexy than…”
“Than who Larry?”
“Than before… before I sold the business.”
She paused for a moment; clearly trying to come up with an answer that fell in that delicate gulf between brutal honesty and blatant lying.
“Well, you have seemed a bit preoccupied recently, but, yes, of course you’re sexy, don’t be ridiculous!”
Was I preoccupied? I’ve always been preoccupied with something or other, and I must have been reasonably sexy at some point?
What had I done? What had I given up? Do other people feel the same way when they enter retirement? Was I just being melodramatic?
“What about sex?” I said, “I’ve still got it haven’t I?”
“Where’s all this come from Larry? You can’t expect that things in that department to stay the same. Everything’s fine, it just becomes more intimate as you age.”
During the next few days I asked myself the same questions again and again; every time I passed a shop window I held in my stomach to look more youthful – it didn’t work; at night I tried to be a considerate lover, but I was preoccupied. As well as worrying about my ever-expanding midriff, the word ‘retirement’ made me think of pill trays and sanitized nursing homes. I had to snap out of it.
About the author:
Larry Gould is a high-profile British serial entrepreneur and the holder of an Honorary Doctorate from Leeds Metropolitan University. . Having built up two multi million dollar businesses with a spell of retirement in between, he knows more than most about the impact that working – and not working – can have on all of us.
Knowing that retirement may come along again one day, Larry has spent the past two years researching its impact. His aim has been to find out how people can deal with the loss of the structure that work brings and how they can retain their confidence and self-esteem in family and personal relationships. The result of his research is in his book: Great Retirement- Great Sex: How to retire and still have a great sex life: 1