#dating over 40
Dating After 40
A funny thing happened to me on the way to writing my latest novel, Queen Takes King, in which a 45-year-old finds herself single after her 25-year marriage disintegrates. I found myself single after my almost-17-year relationship disintegrated. And I needed to get.
I was told by other single women over 40 who’d been in the dating pool longer than I had that there were “no men out there.” And they didn’t mean “no good men”; they meant “No men. Period.”
I could have sworn I spied members of the male persuasion on L.A.’s mean streets, the Westside. That is, if you like your men hairless and sweating in yoga class, grunting through their vinyasas, dragon tattoos on their waxed calves, or perhaps speeding past in their silver BMWs, sporting Bluetooth sets, shaved heads, and glinting veneered teeth.
Somehow I managed to resist their pull.
Also, I couldn’t get them to pay attention.
Meanwhile, on the libido side, things were getting desperate. I was getting close to shopping. Like online. I had women pull me aside and, in hushed tones, tell me about “the Egyptian” a mysterious, swarthy Pan. The Egyptian was, they claimed, some kind of sensual magician. Numbers were pressed into my hand and texted from BlackBerry to iPhone. Women spoke wistfully of their dates, which weren’t so much “dates” as “appointments.”
I would have settled for a nonsensual magician at this point.
Suddenly, word got out: The Egyptian was taken. He’d found a girlfriend. The entire Westside could be heard sighing. Hip-hop yoga classes surged. Doubles tennis games became violent.
Truthfully, for me, being single was fine and probably a good idea. The last time I wasn’t half of a couple, Boy George wore eyeliner. Today I have two young boys to raise, and I’m not hot on introducing them to a new man. One evening over dinner, my older boy, Thug Number 1, asked if I’d ever get married again. I took a deep breath and said, “Maybe someday. You never know.”
“Really?” I asked. “You’d be fine if Mommy got married again?”
“Yes,” he replied. Then, with the exquisite sweetness of an eight-year-old: “If I stab someone, Mommy, do I have to go to jail?”
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My dateless period continued unabated, but again I was distracted: divorce, kids, and oh yes, why not the big C. My adored nephew Frankie, who moved in with me after my adored husband moved out, learned on his 22nd birthday that he had cancer. There’s nothing like watching your gorgeous, good-natured, snowboarding, ladies’ man nephew undergo weeks of heavy chemo to make you stop feeling sorry for your lonely self.
So I did. And then, when I wasn’t looking, there was a flurry of activity. I was inundated with setups. To avoid confusion in the midst of this sudden man bounty, I put a method to my dating madness: As 2008 was a political election year, I decided to hold my own primaries. My dates became “candi-dates,” and I designated delegates (friends) and superdelegates (family) to help me vet them. Eventually, one of the candidates would win the election, otherwise known as my heart. Lucky man.
Candi-date Number 1 was an entertainment mogul. He was sweet and funny, with an adventuresome nature; he thought up fun, original dates like a night on the Queen Mary to celebrate Mardi Gras with about 10,000 gyrating, feather-boa-wearing Brazilians.
Candi-date Number 2 was a Texas real estate entrepreneur. He insisted on opening car doors for me, pulling out my chair, and standing when I left the table; he merely kissed my cheek on our first date. He was a single father raised by a single mother, and he never complained that my two boys always came first.
Candi-date Number 3. I refused to date. When I met him at a coffee shop, I explained that I was already in my primaries and had two front-runners. My own Ron Paul (though my version was tall, dark, and handsome, with intense green eyes) was also a writer. We were the same age, both single parents, and we both consider “Yo, what’s up?” a proper greeting. We seemed to know all the same girls, the same guys, the same music, the same lines.
Meanwhile, my house was becoming headquarters for my nephew’s friends, who’d visit Frankie and monitor him closely on his shaky road back to health. I became den mother to a bunch of 22-year-old boys. Puppies, I called them. Good boys with good hearts. And great stories. They told me about the girls they’d only sleep with and the ones they’d like to take home to meet me, their mom away from mom.
As the primaries wore on and election fatigue set in, the puppies and I compared notes on dating. I learned to play games the way boys do. When I was hurt, I learned not to call, text, instant message, or e-mail. Instead, I waited like a “snake in the grass,” as Tex (a.k.a. Candi-date Number 2) would say.
I became a zen master of the koan “He who cares least wins.” One night, I sat next to a 19-year-old boy at an elegant Hollywood dinner party. We compared dating notes. He was jealous that I had the best excuse of all for avoiding emotional involvement: “I’m still married.” He wished he could use that line.
I’d come home from dates and punch up Candi-date Number 3. We’d talk on the phone for two, three hours. We’d compare, like old people, “our” music versus “their” music. We’d talk about the Jackson 5, Teddy Pendergrass, and the Whispers. We’d talk about books. We confessed that our first novels were an embarrassment. (He was lying; I wasn’t.)
He’d ask me to go out to dinner. I declined. I cherished our relationship; I didn’t want to ruin it by dating. Finally, he said, “But we’ll never get to slow dance with each other.”
My breath stopped short. I mentally flipped through my excuse cards: I have small children, I don’t want to get serious, my life’s complicated, I have a very sick kid at home.
He finally said, “You know, Gigi, I don’t want to play games anymore. I just want the barbecue.”
The Holy Grail: the barbecue. Music, kids, family, friends, margaritas, standing shoulder to shoulder with your man, arguing over how long to cook a rib eye.
I’m not going to tell you how the voting went down in the end, but eventually the other candidates fell away. The truth was, all my excuses were real. And my problems were real. In fact, they still are. My “program,” as one candidate told me, is too filled up for most men. And that’s okay with me. My Princes Charming still sleep in bunk beds.
Oh and Candi-date Number 3 and me? We continue to talk every day, sometimes for hours. On our first date, I lit up the barbecue for him and played Teddy Pendergrass. And we slow danced.
Turns out our rhythm is perfect.