Older woman #2 was my Italian language professor during senior year of college, when I was 22 and she was -- well, I never found out, but a girl friend in the class said she was at least 60. Part of this was just envious slander, but she was certainly in her 50s. She was from Perugia, and like most Italian women, she aged very well: it was only after hard thought that I conceded to my friend that she was over 50.
Also like most Italian women, she had a very chic look -- a typical ensemble consisted of straight-legged black leather pants (even the girls admitted that she wore them very well), a crisp white blouse with a fluffy-textured gray, white, and black speckled sweater, and red designer eyeglasses. If you're picturing her with short punky hair based on this, no, she did not try to look younger that way -- it was like that of Jacqueline Kennedy. And like older woman #1, she was very petite, probably 4'11 and 90 lbs.
Unlike Anglo women, who aim to sharpen their wit as they age, southern European women rely more on their overall level of culture, and particularly on emphasizing as much of their femininity as is socially acceptable (too much, and they would become Anglo cougars). Also unlike Anglo women, they experience culture more naturally during their life, so it rarely appears that they are trying to broadcast how high-status they are, status-striving in females always being an instant turn-off.
I could tell she was unmarried or divorced and somewhat lonely, though not desperate, and I was the only person in the class who related to most of what she talked about. I was also far more driven than my classmates: I skipped over the first two years of Italian by teaching myself during the preceding summer to prepare for a family vacation to Rome. I also did plenty of reading and writing in Italian outside of class.
She was delighted at my level of ambition, and this emboldened me to sit close to her in our daily discussion circle. (This was also about the time when I started to become physically attractive, and you can tell when someone notices you in that way.) She had such a nonchalant air that I could have talked to her for hours. In fact, I don't remember discussing anything with my classmates or responding to their remarks -- they weren't very bright anyway, let alone in a foreign language -- but just blocking them out and drinking in professoressa's amaretto eyes.
Still, she'd probably had at least one really driven student each semester. The moment we really connected came when she was explaining the historical background of a movie we'd watched. She referred to one character as a member of "gli ex-sessantottini," and as she wrote that phrase on the blackboard, I chuckled rather loudly. She turned around, caught my eye, formed a genuine smile, and then let loose a few deep-breath chuckles herself.
To explain, the Italian phrase means "the ex-sixty-eighters," referring to the well-to-do radical protesters of 1968 who have since become bourgeois. She was preparing to have to explain all of this over the course of 15 minutes, since she was talking to undergrads, but having a knack for deciphering foreign phrases and having recently been a student radical at the time, I got the joke right away.
While my precociousness may have taken her by surprise, what really touched her must have been the fact that she didn't feel like a geezer -- anytime you have to ask, out of exasperation, "Don't they teach you kids about ____ in history class?" it must make you feel like an old crone, like your life experiences are already history.
After awhile, I decided to write her a poem in Italian, although I didn't address it to her directly; I gave it to her and asked for helpful comments. She said she really liked it, and showed it off to another Italian professor. When she spontaneously said it reminded her of John Donne -- my favorite poet -- it took all I had to keep from carrying her petite body off of the ground and onto her desk.
Eventually I told her how I felt, and she said that while I am very impressed with your work in class and hope you continue your Italian studies, I must remind you that I am your professor, and that you should let go of pursuing any other relationship outside of the student-teacher.
Hey, no worries, professoressa: it's your loss.