My friend of the unattainable man got over him, finally, but now she is pining for a young man who is less than half her age who doesn't even live here and only visits occasionally. My cynical self would tell her that men really do care what a woman looks like (in terms of feeling attracted or not), so that she might improve her chances if she lost a little weight, put some color in her hair to hide the grey, and tried using makeup to better disguise her impending arrival at the status of senior citizenship. She did get a smart new haircut and he noticed it and complimented her, but then said his mother cuts her hair like that, possibly indicating that he equates her on some level with his mother - not a good sign!
Psychologists would probably say that she pines for unattainable men because she doesn't really want to have a relationship, but I think this explanation is simplistic and, among other things, ignores the basic human need and drive for meaningful connections with others. Moreover, no one really knows for sure what explains our attractions to other people. Our own personal psychology, hormones, upbringing, and cultural influences all play some part, but I think the explanation must also include experiences before and beyond this lifetime. If we have all been here before, we have probably had close relationships (romantic, family, friendship) with thousands of individuals over the course of our many lifetimes on earth. Also, who knows what relationships are like in the realms beyond what we know here. These aspects could explain why sometimes, when meeting someone new, you feel like you have an instant connection with them - they totally get you and you totally get them.
My friend asks why it is so hard to express attraction to persons of the opposite sex, and I have no answer. Intellectually I reason that a wish to know someone of the opposite sex does not mean that some passionate affair must necessarily follow. The two parties ought to be able to be friends - to be able to acknowledge that there is something there beyond average acquaintanceship - without feeling so uncomfortable. It seems, however, that any gesture of friendship when there is also attraction entails the risks of (1) being misunderstood (actually, understood - revelation of the wish for deeper connection) , (2) being rejected, and (3) feeling humiliated.
Longing is truly painful - I know it, I have been there - but the feeling of humiliation that results from being rejected is even more painful and lasts far longer than longing. Part of me wants to tell her to be careful and not risk rejection, especially since the odds are not in her favor in this case - he is so young, she is so much older, and there is no guarantee that she will be able to continue seeing him. Longing does subside with time, and it is even possible to distract oneself from longing by focusing on other things. Conversely, the humiliation resulting from rejection can be difficult to ever exorcise.
Having said this, though, there was a time when I chose to play it safe and I do regret that choice. The man died and he never knew how I felt and I never got to know him. Maybe he would not have rejected me, maybe we could have been good friends, and maybe we could have learned something from one another before he passed on. I will never know and I still wonder what might have been. From this perspective, I feel inclined to advise my friend to take a chance.
Beyond all of the above, I think there is potentially strong healing power in the feeling of being in love. I wonder if another approach might be to simply accept the overwhelming feelings of unconditional positive regard for the other person, immerse oneself in the feelings without hoping or wishing for reciprocation, and then in full awareness of the feelings, beam them outwards to include everyone in one's life and humanity in general. I have no experience with this approach, but it is what I would try if I were in the state of longing again.