Crone Dementia

February 14, 1994|By TIM BAKER

Valentine's Day is the perfect occasion to tell you about this guy I know. He has a psycho-traumatic disorder called ''Crone Dementia.''

It strikes men like him. Late 40s or early 50s. Recently divorced. Their children are all grown and living on their own.

These men all seem perfectly healthy. Take this guy. He plays tennis. Jogs regularly. He's bright, curious, energetic. Likes to travel. Good looking. Good sense of humor. Good company.

He's been searching for someone to date. You wouldn't think he'd have any trouble. But he's got this terrible block.

He has no romantic interest in younger women!

Poor man. He's fixated on women his own age. He even thinks they're sexier than 20-year-olds. That's one of the disorder's classic symptoms. But he's got an advanced case, and it's getting worse. Lately he's even found himself fantasizing about women who are actually older than he is. One of them was 55!

And he seems like such a nice guy. You'd never guess he has this dark side. But secretly he thinks Faye Dunaway is more desirable now than when she starred in ''Bonnie and Clyde.'' To him, Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange look more intriguing every year. In the black pit of the night, the older and wiser Lee Remick torments him.

There's nothing physically wrong. Last month he went over to Hopkins for a complete medical exam. Passed it with flying colors. But the doctors shook their heads. They recognized the syndrome right away.

In the last few years they've seen more and more cases in men his age. But there's no cure. The disease is entirely psychological. They think it stems from traumatic early childhood experience. This guy, for example, remembers that he and his mother were very close. When he was little, they talked to each other. His psychiatrist says he now has a deep pathological need to communicate with a woman on an intimate basis.

Of course a perverse compulsion like that interferes with normal mid-life mating behavior. A healthy mentally-balanced 50-year-old man should be looking for a woman in her late 20s or early 30s. A female with appropriate secondary sexual characteristics. Bright clear eyes. Smooth face. Innocent expression. Hangs on his every word. And hangs on his arm at cocktail parties.

Everyone knows a mature man needs a demure young woman with whom he can immediately start a second family. That way, by the time he's 60, he'll have rebuilt for himself a haven of domestic bliss. Babies. Diapers. Orthodontists. Squabbling kids in the back seat. It won't be long before he's paying college tuition again.

RTC This kind of happiness isn't possible for the poor slobs suffering with ''Crone Dementia.'' They're doomed. The disease compels them to date and marry women who have already raised their children. Women who aren't looking for a second family. Women who actually want a real relationship with a man.

Oh, the horror of it!

Imagine having to live year after dreadful year with women like this. They're complicated. Have their own interests and their own careers. They've been around. They won't always flatter or appease you. If they don't like how you're treating them, they'll probably say so. They're independent. They have ideas of their own.

The worst of it is there's no way for a man to know in advance if he's got the disease. So there's no way to protect himself. The dementia strikes without warning.

You'll be talking to this woman. You think you're safe because she's roughly your own age. Suddenly you realize she's interesting. The two of you have a lot in common. At first, you noticed her wrinkles. But then you begin to think they add character. Her face lights up when she's excited. She's actually pretty. She smiles.

It's already too late.

The next day you find yourself thinking about her. Looking forward to seeing her again. Then Saturday night there she is across the room at some party. You go over. Start to talk together. You smell her perfume. Glance at the curve where her neck meets her shoulder. This woman's sensuous. And she takes care of herself. Probably goes to aerobics. Then you find out that she likes to bike. That she knows how to kiss.

These women aren't blushing brides anymore. They have incredible sexual energy. They know what they want, and they go after it. They're dangerous. Be careful. Psycho-chemical studies show that middle-aged men can become addicted to loving these women.

But look. If the disease has already infected you. If you're already hooked. If a perverted attraction to one of these creatures is already ruining your life. Then go ahead and date her. Marry her, if you have to. So it's abnormal. Even pathological. So what?

Look at it this way. You'll be giving yourself up for the good of the whole community. You see, if these women are left on their own, a lot of them will start to prey on younger fellows.

Some of these women are already prowling around. It's tragic. Their victims are young, inexperienced, vulnerable. They don't know how to defend themselves. In fact, clinical tests show more and more young men are susceptible to what's called ''Premature Crone Dementia.''

So it's up to you older guys to step into the breach. Make a noble sacrifice. It won't be that bad. The disease has one blessing. Its delusions appear to be permanent. Men trapped in a relationship with these women actually believe they're happy.

@4 Tim Baker's column appears on alternate Mondays.

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