A couple of months ago, I signed up for an online dating service. I don’t know what possessed me to ruin a perfectly good life that way. Well, I do know. A friend talked me into it. That’s what they all say, isn’t it? I was having a great summer – travel to Brazil and Seattle, afternoons spent by or in the swimming pool, tan and blond (an effort to go gray run amok) and feeling invincible. We were three of us in the pool, and the older of us was telling the other two we’d better get out there and meet people while there’s still time. Pretty dire. “Meet people” is a Boomerism, and those weren’t her exact words. I don’t think she said “catch a man,” but it’s what she meant. Now or never. Get going, girls, on the count…one…two…tackle! Oh, please.
None the less, as I said, I was invincible in those now-past warm months. I usually do take a dare. That sounds wild, try again: I respond to a challenge with a willingness to take risks. I signed up. I chose a service specifically for older people. The first few times I logged on to the site were discouraging. Everyone looked so old! The men seemed to fall into one of two categories: monosyllabic every-day Joes with their ball caps and fishing gear, and the New Age Mr. Perfects, always looking for Ms. Even-More-Perfect. Narcissus ready to attack Echo for her lack of self-esteem, and imperfect mirroring. Not to mention chipped nails. I knew they wouldn’t even answer my emails. As for the regular guys, well, I might have to suck it up.
Dear readers, I would like to say that I am doing this for you, but that wouldn’t be the case. I know you want to know what dating is like after fifty or sixty years of age, after years in a relationship and out of the dating scene. I know that I have to write about this sooner or later, and I will need some experience. Seriously, before this I was thinking I’d interview friends for my material. I am not back out on the dating scene for Boomerage. I am doing it for me. Although my last relationship must be chalked up as a total failure, there are elements that I miss: Someone to share feelings with, to tell the day’s events to a sympathetic ear; someone to laugh with. Daily hugs. Dancing at midnight in the kitchen. I have friends, near and far, mostly women. Just when I’m feeling alone, the phone rings, and there is one of my friends, eager to know the latest events in my life and wanting to share her experiences. I get to know that I’m not alone, but it ain’t the same as having a partner at home.. No way, no how.
I finally got some emails from men in my area who weren’t so damn special and weren’t bozos either. What do you know? I thought to myself, maybe this is OK after all. I went out on some dates. I got a hand-shake, followed by more e-mails. I got a kiss, followed by more dates. Lord’a mercy, it was working! I can report first hand on dating after sixty. My life is getting interesting.
First, let me say, this is something I didn’t envision for myself. I thought that by this age I would be in a lasting relationship. I’m willing to bet that other singles my age and older had the same expectations. Men and women alike, straight and gay, want a secure situation for their old age: The hug and sympathetic gaze to come home to. We don’t really want to get dressed up and go out all that often. It’s too much trouble. If we were in a long-term relationship, we could mumble complaints to our partner, remind each other to take a nap that afternoon, have someone’s help to knot the tie or zip the dress. When we are dating, we have to do this more frequently and we are on our own. Is that tie straight? Is the dress too tight? Is what we want to show, showing; and what we want to hide, hidden?
Wardrobe concerns are just the tip of the iceberg. I have to tell you, dear readers, that dating post sixty is no different from dating at any age. If anything, it is a bit more nerve-wracking. The stakes are a bit higher. More than ever, we want a stable relationship. The biological clock for pregnancy is one thing. This is the big biological clock. We are more vulnerable. More than ever, we fear a mistake. We could be abused financially. A wrong relationship could take us just beyond the age at which we seem datable and attractive. If we become ill, the person we’re with could fade out or become abusive. These concerns may not be conscious, but they loom in the background, making the usual dating angst bigger and darker.
You may remember the drill: Will he call? What if he doesn’t? What if he does? What should I say? If I’m too distant, will he give up? If I’m too forward and affectionate will I push him away? Why did she say that? Does she think I’m stupid? Is she manipulating me? And so on. I get nervous before a date, depressed afterwards. For someone who was on a very peaceful, even keel it’s like buying a ticket for an extended roller-coaster ride. I’m just not getting the “whee!” part yet. I am in the white knuckles stage. Perhaps, after a couple of times around the loop, when I’m more relaxed. On the other hand, I am getting an opportunity to see into some of my deepest hurt places. In my world, this is a good thing. I can process and resolve them.
Dating should be fun. When I was in high school, I remember it was lots of fun. People in their twenties seem to enjoy dating. As mentioned, the biological clock appears to up the ante and increase dating angst for many women in their thirties, while guys are still cruisin’. This sets up a discrepancy that men apparently continue to carry in their cellular memory – the desperate woman, trying to catch any man at any cost. A very skewed picture, far from reality, but I think it’s in the mix.
For me, I went through a divorce and was unexpectedly on the dating scene once before, in my early fifties. My experience then was very different from my present experience. I took it extremely lightly and had a ball! My thinking was that the main mistake people make in dating is to take it too seriously and fail to have a good time. I was not goal-oriented. I was just out of a marriage. I was in no hurry to do it again. I went out with men I met through a dating service, old friends, people I happened to meet socially. They say fifty is the new thirty, and, physically, I felt much the same as I did at thirty. I had already raised a family. No clock was ticking for me. Perhaps I was not serious enough, because I ended up in a dead-end relationship. On the other hand, I might have landed there anyway. At least I had fun.