Dating at Fortysomething

I used to not have a problem putting myself out there,” my friend Randi said. “I’d go out, date guys, no problem. But then I got in to the more geeky side of things and when I’d flirt with guys they’d get this deer in the headlights look and I’d get self-conscious and now it’s been a while since I’ve been out on a date. I guess I’ve just forgotten how to flirt.

I’ve had conversations like this with many of my friends in their forties and fifties. They used to date, they want to date, but somehow they just stopped dating. And they aren’t sure why or if they are really ready to do something about it.

“Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?” I recently asked my friend Dave. “Do you picture yourself with someone? Or do you see yourself alone? What would make you happy?”

It depends,” he confessed. “Some days I see it one way, other times I see it the other.

I’ve never pictured myself alone. I’m not afraid to be alone; I would just prefer not to be. Yet the older we get, the more often I see my friends operating on a solo flight through life. Some choose that path; others just accept it as their fate. Like many things, I think the opportunities to find that someone change as we get older. In high school or college you had parties and activities and a seemingly endless pool of candidates. As an adult, you have smaller pools with more complicated consequences – you don’t want to date where you work, make things awkward amongst your friends, run in to them at your favorite hangouts, or be the creepy person in the grocery store trolling the produce aisle for melons and a phone number.

Plus, there is the rejection. There is always someone prettier, younger, richer, more successful, thinner. We feel broken compared to them. And then there is the fear: why does this person like me? What’s wrong with them? Why are they still single? They must be broken, too.

We are all broken,” Rocker points out to me a lot. “When you get to be our age, you are going to have a few nicks and dings and cracks. What you have to see is if both your broken bits work together or just make each of you worse.”

I kind of like that. In my head, I picture a wheel of four hands, each one holding together the broken bits of the other person’s spoke. I’ll have strength to cover you here, you have strength to cover me there. Together, holding hands, we’ll get through this journey.

I fail a lot. I look back at the past year and the men I’ve dated and the reasons why things didn’t work out. I’ve been lied to, cheated on, stolen from, and sugar momma’ed (is that a word?). I’ve flirted with men who patted me on the head and walked away. I’ve had others not even respond. But I’ve also made some great friends, had some fond memories, and told some funny stories. I’m not a natural at this dating thing – I’m sometimes worse than a noob. But I keep trying.

It’s worth it, y’know. Putting yourself out there. I know I’m in a good place right now, so it’s easier for me to say that. But this blog proves I’ve been in bad places too. You have to keep trying – working at it – failing at it – and trying again. May we all find someone else to hold hands with.

On Dating: Going Organic

I know I had mentioned having someone new and special in my life, but that was fairly short-lived.  In reality, I think of him now as my shock absorber.  He was newly in my life when I found out about my ex’s engagement, and his presence certainly cushioned the blow. 

In hindsight (which is always 20/20) – there were definitely some red flags (maybe pink flags? Orange flags?  Flags of a different color?) which I saw but thought I could decide on later.  Maybe I was just tired of searching.

Whatever the case, he left my life as suddenly as he came in, just like the tide I talked about.  And that’s just fine. 

When are you going to stop looking online and realize that everyone on there (except you of course) is single for a reason – because they are broken?”

Rocker said this to me as we were driving to lunch one day.  I didn’t point out to him that we had, in fact, met online.   It didn’t seem appropriate somehow.

Radio had a different idea.  He’s now in a relationship with a girl he met on OKCupid.

I decided to just chuck out all my pre-conceived notions of what makes a good match for me and just go for it.  There was a girl who had sent me a 1-sentence message, and I had previously ignored her because I’m big on communication.  But I decided to answer back one day and found out that she actually talks a lot.

I read through my online profiles again, and thought about revamping them – but I feel like they still hold true and so I just left them as they were. I still proactively message someone if I’m interested, but nothing major has occurred. 

So, I’ve decided to go a bit organic for a while.  This is hard for me.  I was never much for waiting around for a guy to ask me out.  I’m still not.  But the con season is fast approaching, and it is really the first con season I’ve been through where I’m single vs. attending solo but being in a relationship.  So we’ll see what happens.  Go all zen and stuff.

Don’t be so laid back that people don’t think you are interested,” Radio warned me. 

Aargh.  That’s my quandary.  I can either shut off my brain and say, “I’m not looking at all” which institutes the Whoosh Factor that I’ve already discussed.  If someone hits on me when I’m in that mode – I just don’t see it.  Or, I can become the huntress on the prowl and seek out my prey like an Amazon on a mission.  Cause that’s not intimidating.  Nope not at all.  Plus, it tends to attract guys who like to be pursued and dominated, which isn’t really what I’m looking for either.

So how does one go organic and still show that you are available and interested?  I have no clue.  But I’ll try to figure it out and get back to you.

What Might Have Been

I try not to think about
What might have been
‘Cause that was then
And we have taken different roads
We can’t go back again
There’s no use giving in
And there’s no way to know
What might have been

(What Might Have Been, as sung by Little Texas)

This song has been going through my head a lot lately, and I finally broke down and bought it from iTunes.  It’s already been played several times. Okay, a lot of times.

With my birthday a few days away, and a lot of meaningful dates floating on either side of them (anniversaries, birthdays, milestones, etc.) it’s easy to reflect about people in your past and how the roles have changed from then to now.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had several encounters with ex-boyfriends and even my ex-husband. I’ve learned about changes in their lives and experienced some of my own. 

When I became single again last fall, I was able to find comfort in the arms of my friend Rocker.  Five years ago, he and I had dated briefly but it soon became clear that we were in different places in our lives.  When I moved on to other dating opportunities, he understood and wished me well. Our friendship continued, but he always flattered me by telling me that under different circumstances, he would have never let me go. 

This time, he was there at a time when I really needed a friend, and helped repair my bruised heart. But once again, time and distance played against us and I found myself moving on.  He understood and wished me well.

I met a new friend – Radio – and upon first meeting I knew he was not yet ready for a relationship with someone like me. We walked in to our friendship with wide-open eyes.  Radio was newly out of a marriage and it was easy for us to talk openly and candidly about things.  I felt like, in many ways, I could help repair his bruised soul much the way that Rocker had healed mine.

After several enjoyable weeks, I could feel myself on the cusp – either moving forward, or moving on.  Dating stinks, and not having to date and yet still having the comforts of a Platonic Plus relationship (aka FWB) was an attractive distraction.  But I also knew that there were a lot of things that still didn’t work, and the fact that I was willing to ignore them and move forward was not healthy.

I forced myself back to POF and OKCupid, and stumbled across a photo of a man that immediately caught my eye.  I waited to contact him, suddenly shy, but Hiram responded back and after several days of great conversation, we met and it has now blossomed in to something with great potential.

As soon as Hiram and I had started chatting, I let Radio know that I was going to have to downgrade our relationship to just friends – and he took it somewhat in stride.  I knew he was struggling through his own personal issues, and I knew the timing was not ideal.  But because we had been open from the beginning, he respected my wishes.

Radio and I still chat – and I hate all that he is going through.  Knowing that he has to deal with so much alone, while I am moving in a more positive direction, makes me feel guilty.  I know I don’t need to feel guilty, it’s just a side effect of who I am. 

And that’s what has happened.  I’ve looked back at past loves, past relationships, and thought about what might have been.  Most are in better places, some are in worse, but all have moved in different directions.  And I wish them all well.

In these days of no regrets
I keep mine to myself
And all the things we never said
I can say for someone else
And nothing last forever but we always try
And I just can’t help but wonder why
We let it pass us by
When I see you now I wonder how
I could’ve watched you walk away
If I let you down please forgive me now
For that beautiful goodbye

(Beautiful Goodbye, as sung by Amanda Marshall)

Romance vs. 7-11

I once dated a taxicab driver for about 5 months.  I worked days, he worked nights and weekends. We would meet for lunch and/or dinner at my place, sometimes bounce some springs, and then he’d head off in to the night. 

I broke it off when I started to feel like his personal 7-11:  a place where he could get a quick bite, a few laughs, and some general affection (quick or otherwise). We never went out to eat – because going out to eat meant 2 more hours of him driving cab to replace the money spent.  He chipped in for the weekly groceries – and when we broke up he made sure to take half of the groceries with him.

I longed for romance, and I realized it just wasn’t part of his genetic make-up.  I don’t believe in yelling and arguing about these things, but we did have two rather serious conversations about it during the 5 months.  And then I realized it was better just to break it off as friends. I didn’t want to resent him for something that just wasn’t part of who he was, and I didn’t want him to resent me for trying to make him change.

Define romance,” said Rocker last night, after I told him this story. “Because if you ask 10 women to define romance, you will get 11 different answers.”

I thought about this for a bit before answering.

For me, romance is when someone shows you they care about you in a non-practical way.

It’s a noted effort to do something special for someone out of love and affection, rather than simply out of habit or obligation. 

When I did my internet radio show, I would often provide a list of 10 budget-friendly romantic gestures. Because romance doesn’t have to have a price tag attached to it.

I know one of my friends would find it romantic if her boyfriend would just ask her if she wanted a drink when he got himself one.  I was touched the first time a former boyfriend picked me up a pair of windshield wipers for my car when he was picking up some for himself.

But for me, romance is a silly card on my bedside table, a flower picked for me, a love note stuck in my jacket pocket.   A serenade in the middle of the grocery store, a slow dance barefoot in the kitchen.

And yes, there are ones that cost money too – and those should happen, even if only once or twice a year. An occasional reason to get dressed up for dinner or the local theater.  A surprise weekend getaway.  A gift certificate for a spa day or a mani/pedi.  Flowers at work. Chocolate. And yes, sometimes, jewelry.

But it doesn’t matter how much it costs if the sentiment behind it is not one of love. It’s not just what you do, it’s why you are doing it.  And your attitude towards doing it.  If you are doing it because you feel you have to – and I know it – then it all becomes bittersweet.

The poets most certainly say it better, but that’s my explanation for today.