On dating when widowed young, but being old for dating
First of all, I am Captain Oblivious. I rarely know when a man’s interest has been piqued, and I am pretty friendly, so I get in long conversations and have always spent time with men I didn’t think I was dating.
In my sophomore year of college, I came home from some club I was in one Friday afternoon to find a young man waiting at my locked door for my roommate, Sif. He had plans to take Sif to the coffeehouse but she wasn’t in the dorm. And I didn’t know where she was or when she’d be back. And it started in 20 minutes.
“Oh, I’ll go; I love coffeehouses!” I said. And we had a great time.
Several days later I remembered that Sif hated folk music.
It was a set up.
I have gotten in a lot of romantic trouble for my obliviousness. My senior year of college, there were three men who thought we were about to make wedding plans and I had no idea. This is a terribly embarrassing situation that didn’t get better as I got older; I once complained to a guy friend, one that I KNOW was/is not interested in me, “I am so clueless I never know a man is interested in me until he buys me jewelry, and then it’s too late!”
My friend said, “Do you KEEP the jewelry?”
Six weeks to the day after my husband’s death, four men asked me out. I very much wish I were joking but I am not. It was weird.
But my widowed social life is nothing like my college dating years, or even what I expected 6 weeks after his death.
At the moment (by “moment” please read “since my husband’s death”) I do not have a partner. And I would like one; I am a more productive and happier person when I have someone to share life’s experiences with. It’s a good question why I am not in a relationship if I want to be in one. As I have said to some of my female friends, “I am pretty sure I know people way jerkier than I am who are married.”
My (single, not interested in me) friend Aeolus pointed out with some regret, “These days women don’t have to settle. I mean, they are independent, have their own money and interests, and no one HAS to get married.”
Feminism killed romance by making us less dependent? Ah, maybe. My own grandmother, whose marriage was blissful, didn’t get married until she was in her thirties because she didn’t want to give up her career as a nurse. And that was in 1940, so I am not going to lay the blame on Gloria Steinem.
One feeling that I get is that familiar Jr. High thing of no one I am interested in is interested in me. This perplexes me, while I am standing at a party having a conversation with an environmentalist, arts-loving, educated man: what the hell is YOUR problem that you don’t ask me out?
My aggression, of course, may be the problem. I have reduced greatly my incidences of asking men out, though, tired of rejection. Also, I was born in 1965 so there is an extent to which I expect to be asked.
My serious relationships have mostly been with men who are tall and blond. I attribute that to 1965, too, because tall blond men are the ones who tend to ask me on dates. It isn’t really that I prefer them as much as they prefer me.
I do prefer baritones. I dislike the sound of the tenor voice intensely. (Except for the voice of Nicolai Gedda and that of Balder, my voice teacher. But that’s music, not dating.)
And I cannot abide political conservatives. I ended a date once before the entrée had been delivered because the (funny, smart, handsome) man voted for Romney. I should have figured out the way he leant politically and just NOT gone. But he was in a helping profession, so I didn’t see it.
In contrast to my college years, when I accepted a date with anyone who seemed pleasant, I have to be so careful with whom I go out, now. I have to not let my young daughter even meet men who won’t stick around, because her father died when she was five and having men in and out of her life would be so hard on her.
A childhood friend, now also alone with a single child, was dating someone who “wasn’t a good fit for Linus.” So that was the end of her relationship, the guy was not a good fit for her son. It is difficult enough to find a person to match YOU; when you are a single parent, the match must also fit your progeny. History is full of the sad stories that result when you don’t observe that rule, and money/power do not smooth the way, as the ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots would be sure to tell you.
So I am sneaking around. When I go on a date, I have to come up with a cover story for my 9 year old. After a suitable time she might get to meet the guy.
It’s so much work that this week, anyway, I don’t care to do it.
That could be why I am single. I am not motivated to do the work.
You may well wonder why I am that concerned with whether I am dating. This is a chicken/egg problem.
As I mentioned, I have noticed is that when I am in a healthy relationship I am a much more productive and nicer person. Not everyone is like this. Some people are truly happy alone and independent. Some, on the other hand, need a relationship enough that a bad relationship is better than none. I respect that some people are like that. I’m in the middle there; I don’t need a relationship but a good one is better than a bad one or none.
Recently a friend of a friend was at my house. I’ll call him Caerus. He was only supposed to stay for a few minutes, but we enjoyed talking to one another—I think—and he was there for three hours and a meal, hit it off great with my daughter, smelled good . . .
And the next day I received one of those you-are-nice-and-I-hope-i-didn’t-give-you-the-wrong-idea e-mails.
But, as I said, he was there for hours, in one of those easy, non-embarrassing conversations, where you feel you KNOW the person. Or at least I did. I was so at ease.
When Caerus left, a funny thing happened: a pilot light went out on my stove. (My stove is from the 1950’s. I love it. But it has pilot lights.) I lit it, unconcerned, and it went out again. Immediately I tried to think of people I could call for help if I could not re light it, people who could help me shut off the main gas or make sure I did it right.
I longed for that kind of friend that both lives nearby and that you can call any time of day or night. With the ease the conversation with Caerus had, I thought that he might have grown into that type of friend. But he wasn’t/isn’t that type of friend.
Marriage/partnership is more—as anyone knows who has done it—than falling in love and gazing into one another’s eyes. It’s knowing you can say, “I can’t light the pilot,” and the person helping you without question or judgment.
I felt more alone looking at that damned stove than I had in years. No Friday night, no Valentine’s Day, no birthday alone ever made me feel as isolated as that pilot light.
And after I got that (*&^ thing lit, I remained sad, realizing that for years, whatever the problem is, either I have had figure it out myself or pay someone to do it.
It seems that the most intriguing thing about me, lately, is whether I am dating someone. People ask how I am. I tell what I am doing at work and how my daughter is doing and what our plans are and they keep asking How Are You? And after a while I say I am not dating anyone.
This has happened a lot, so after the second “How ARE you?” I just say I am not seeing anyone, and more often than not, the person blushes or stammer and admits that was the real question.
I did use some dating services, and that subject is so rich it gets its own blog post. Next week.