Tortoises have got it all over us. The Giant Galapagos variety can live for about 150 years, and they don’t look that much different at 150 than they do at 50, that’s a hundred virtually wrinkle-free years. Most women would happily settle for ten (let’s say those between 30 and 40).
They sleep 16 hours a day, which must contribute considerably to their life expectancy, and which in and of itself is enough to make me want to change places. Two of their waking eight hours are spent basking in the sun – that’s right, they get to sunbathe and still don’t get extra wrinkles.
But I think the thing that really gives them the advantage over us is the way that they approach their love lives: tortoises take it slowly.
For starters, they don’t even get started for at least 25 years and those are the ones in captivity. Wild tortoises may not reach sexual maturity until they are 40. Now, just think about that. Think about those teenage and early 20s years and the time wasted obsessing about various members of the opposite sex. I feel certain that if I hadn’t “matured” until I was 40, I would have an advanced degree, a best-selling novel and a Pulitzer Prize.
The giant tortoises engage in a mating dance (I can’t remember the last time a guy took me dancing). The male stretches out his neck and nips the female on the legs. They might even slam dance a little bit, at which point the female retreats into her shell. She expresses her willingness to mate with him by not leaving, and then they spend the next several hours together. Several hours.
One thing we have in common is that during their time together, the male communicates with his partner by grunting loudly. That sounds familiar, but I can’t help but think that maybe the tortoise grunts are slightly more meaningful than those to which I’m accustomed.
Here’s the best part: after copulation, the female can opt to reserve the sperm and lay fertile eggs as much as a year later. No hurry, she can just wait around and see how she feels about it. You never know, she might change her mind about the guy.
There’s a lot to be said for going slowly. As we learned from the fable of the tortoise and the hare, “slow and steady wins the race”. I don’t know how well that usually works for people – but I think I wouldn’t mind finding out.