If music be the food of love, play on. – William Shakespeare
Dating Vs. Mating
When people ask me my relationship status, I generally seize up internally and begin to scan my brain for the latest and greatest excuse for why I’m not married, have no children and, in general, have been chronically single for most of my adult life.
My quick, go-to response is usually: “I’m better at dating than mating”. This is an honest response. Although I’ve experienced romantic love numerous times, I don’t have the personality of a caretaker. It’s always been more about me – my needs, my goals, my dreams. The only reason I’m not ashamed to admit this is because I’ve tried living the other way, making it about the other person. And I found, time and again, that the other person was the wrong person to be on the receiving end of this type of affection.
So here I am. But I know I’m not alone. I can jump online to any dating site and see there’s a lot of folks out there just like me…sorta. And I have quite a few single friends of a certain age, some because they want to and others who simply can’t find “The One”.
What Creates A Singleton?
As a young person, I’m sure a relationship therapist could have helped me answer this question. But I had so many other more pressing issues that a partner seemed like an afterthought. I was trying to get an education, build a career. From ages 17-23 I also experienced a couple of disasterous encounters with inappropriate partners which made me more than a little gun shy. Growing up as a minority in what was essentially an predominately white school system, I never had the childhood sweetheart or the girly prom. Instead, I was shuttled out of the suburbs to hang out with kids who lived a less privileged life, something which often led to trouble, destructive behavior and choosing the wrong playmates. In between the bad moments, however, I did meet and date some really nice, really sweet gentlemen suiters from all different backgrounds. For whatever reason, however, they evaporated into the ether and I was left wondering what my next partner would be like and how they would make my heart sing.
I learned along the way that finding friendship first is important, if not critical, in establishing any kind of romantic relationship. A serial dater in my early 20s I was once set up on fourteen consecutive blind dates. I didn’t find one keeper in the bunch but many of them eventually became friends.
Back then, youth and naivete drove my relationship choices. I didn’t value myself as much as I could have. These days I’ve learned that, while maintaining standards and self-esteem, it really helps to know your worth on the dating market. Moving to Los Angeles by way of the Bay Area, I had a rude awakening early on. Instead of being an attractive girl, unique from the suburbs, I became one of many average pretty women in a large metropolitan city. According to one rather rude dude I dated, “my stock went down” and apparently continued to do so with age. By the time I was 40, I had had only two semi-serious relationships and both were with men who would never be potential life partners and due to health issues I was unable to have children which also made me less of a catch. I used to joke that the best way to find a man not spoiled by the riches of beautiful women was to meet them when they stepped off the boat. One recent example: Not long ago, I was shopping in the market and a handsome man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, clearly new to L.A., was following the store security guard around, joking with him and gawking at all the women. He turned to me, mouth open, and turned back to his friend smiling like a puppy that was getting adopted. Initially flattered, my face fell when I overheard the security guard dismiss me, saying, I wasn’t a “10” (he resembled an aging walrus so I took that comment in stride).
When Love Knocks…Answer the Door
As silly as it sounds, I was so happy to see to see a third sequel to the Bridget Jones franchise (and no, I didn’t watch the second film). I enjoyed how the character never deliberately to set out to have a nuclear family and was content with who she had become but always wound up bedding the most attractive men. She wanted, but didn’t need, a man to complete her. And she’s getting older, as one does, so it makes her character that much more relatable.
They say you find love when you aren’t looking for it. I do cherish the healthy, happy relationships I have had and look forward to finding my next soul to mate with. That said, it’s really easy to get comfortable in the single life, especially if you enjoy your own company. You tend not to want to bring in any energy into your world that isn’t fully loving and supportive. Being single means you don’t have to work at any relationship but your own.
Still, it would be nice, if not to get married, then at least to have someone solid to hang out with. Dating over a certain age requires fortitude..and luck. I’m friends with a woman who in the fifteen years I’ve known her has had three relationships, back-to-back. She’s 55+ and never alone. No kids, prefers to stay unmarried. But finding a man is no problem for her. In fact, each time she met them differently – one online, one through her work, the last one while shopping at Target! The other day I met a woman in her 40s who told me she was sitting on the beach minding her own business a few years ago when her partner came up to her, struck up a conversation and asked her out. They haven’t been apart since. Turns out she also writes books about serendipity, so maybe that her secret.
Thankfully, I still have time to find Mr. Right. The best piece of relationship advice I ever got was this: If you want to meet a nice man, go where nice men go. Rinse and repeat. Maybe it’s time to start taking that advice. Because when love knocks, I want to be home.