At the Stein Senior Center in midtown Manhattan, lunch is $2. It’s open to anyone, regardless of how senior a person considers oneself, though there is a line drawn at age 60 (under which the price goes up to $5).
I can’t speak to the quality of the tilapia at Stein, which I didn’t try because tilapia is the fish version of pigeon. But culinary promise is not what fills the dining hall every day around 11:30 A.M. (an underrated lunch hour). The people are there for the same reason that most people are anywhere, because of the other people.
I went there to talk specifically about human connection in the form of sex. In almost any other area of life—careers, academics, money—getting advice from elders is normal, expected, even. But asking a person who has had a full life’s worth of sex about said sex is usually off the table.
In advance, our video producers Nic and Jaclyn had asked the director of the center if she could let people know that we’d be around, so they wouldn’t feel surprised by a camera crew asking them about sex during lunch. But instead we got there and walked into the teeming lunch room of 60 or so people, and the center director was like, this young man has an announcement, and these good people who came to eat tilapia were not expecting anything of the sort. I looked at Nic to see if he’d take this one. He backed up and yielded the floor. The room went from raucous to silent. There must have been some good announcements in the past? No big deal, I just want to ask you about … physical intimacy.