The strain of keeping up with the young
I never saw again, and never identified, the handsome girl with the cigarette. But I never forget her. I find myself at times, when I think of her, seized by a wild longing. But there recurrences of desire oblige us to reflect that if we wish to rediscover these girls with the same pleasure we must also return to the year which has since been followed by ten others in the course of which her bloom has faded. We can sometimes find a person again, but we cannot abolish time. And so on until the unforeseen day, gloomy as a winter night, when one no longer seeks that girl, or any other, when to find her would actually scare one. For one no longer feels that one has attractions enough to please, or strength enough to love. Not, of course, that one is in the strict sense of the word impotent. And as for loving, one would love more than ever. But one feels that it is too big an undertaking for the little strength one has left. Eternal rest has already interposed intervals which one can neither go out nor even speak. Setting one's foot on the right step is an achievement, like bringing off a somersault. To be seen in such a state by a girl one loves, even if one has kept the features and all the golden locks of one's youth! One can no longer face the strain of keeping up with the young. Too bad if carnal desire increases instead of languishing! One procures for it a woman whom one need make no effort to please, who will share one's couch for one night only and whom one will never see again.
(Marcel Proust, In Search Of Lost Time, (New York: The Modern Library, 1999) Vol. IV, pp. 381-2.)