I found myself in my mid-forties, separated after 18 years of marriage, and had no idea how to jump into the dating scene. All my friends were married; I did not know anyone who was dating whom I could ask for advice. My marriage had been dead emotionally for years, I wanted to meet someone, I wanted connection. But how does one go about this whole dating thing?
Yes of course it is all centered online now. Folks our age are all spread out, we have kids, we have hectic, busy lives. Online dating helps overcome that, I see. My co-worker, also hanging late at the office one evening, discovers Plenty of Fish is free to setup an account and threatens to create a profile for me if I do not. So I do, and I open a Match.com account as well since I thought maybe a paid site might be better yet.
Profile done, I start window shopping. My ex had a new boyfriend almost immediately. He was a guy she had known from work for over 10 years. She said he was coincidentally getting a divorce too, and so they naturally gravitated towards each other. Did it start before or after we separated? Don’t know, don’t care – I had not been sleeping with her for a long time, so I didn’t really care who was. And it worked out well for me – he was a known quantity – much better than having strange guys around my sons. Anyway, my ex had a boyfriend almost immediately, and my sons were ok with that, but they seemed very opposed to the idea of me dating.
It took awhile to figure out why my sons were against me dating. I thought at first it was just because kids always hope for reconciliation, and if I started dating too, then the chances of such became even slimmer. But get this – it turned out to be Disney princess movies were to blame. Because of all the evil step mothers. They had recently seen Cinderella and similar movies, and the thought of an evil step mother was scary indeed. Ok, so once I assured them that any stepmom was a long way off, and that I would only date _nice_ women, they became more comfortable with the idea of me dating.
Ok, so how to pick out a _nice_ girl? My sons love video games, and I do not. Sitting on the couch with them, being ignored while they are engrossed in a game, I am window shopping profiles on my phone. Just to be an annoying dad, in retaliation for being ignored, I periodically interrupt their game by showing them a woman’s picture and saying what do you think, you think she’s _nice_? And they snap back no. What about this one? No. This one? No, yuck. Finally I showed them one of this woman with her Weimaraner dog on a couch. And my youngest son, Nate, quips back – Dad, you should date that dog! Cuz, after all, dogs are nice and cool and who’d want to date a stinky girl anyway, was Nate’s logic.
I point out that if I want to date the dog it is probably a package deal, but ok. So that was the first woman I contacted. The redhead with the Weimaraner. I never did get to meet the Weimaraner, but the redhead agreed to meet me. She lived in the UA area, and worked at UA, like me. Only she was a night nurse working at the hospital with very sick kids. She seemed very nice indeed. She liked to ride her bike a lot, so we agreed to meet somewhere in the UA area, that she could bike to. At UA, I work on the other side of Speedway from the main campus, in the Bio5 building. I had been to 1702, a craft beer and pizza joint, with coworkers several times, and it was always quiet and seemed like a good place to eat and chat, so I suggested that, and we agreed to meet there after work one Friday night.
I was very very nervous. First date in 20 years. Really, first date ever. I had one girlfriend pretty much through high school. And she and I didn’t technically ever go out on a date, like in the sense that I had to ask her out and go somewhere. I met her when I moved to Indonesia right after 8th grade – my father was a chemical engineer, and had gotten a job working for a company that was running a liquified natural gas plant on the coast of Borneo. I showed up, new kid in town, and she kind of claimed me, and before I knew it I was discovering that girls had a lot of very nice attributes. Then in undergrad I was shy, experiencing culture shock back living in the states, so I didn’t really date. I grew out of my introversion in grad school but then essentially met the woman I married and spent 20 years with. And we didn’t ever date, we met at school in the same lab, and it sort of just happened. That relationship had been dead in the last few years – we didn’t even kiss – did I still know how to kiss even? Omg, what if I’m really a terrible kisser? So, yes, it was going to be my first date ever, and I was mortified.
The big day comes and I head over to 1702. I get there and the place is packed – crowded and noisy. Oh no! Not the plan at all – it was supposed to be quiet. I head to the only seat left in the place, at the bar. I notice that the two professors I am working with currently are there, having an afternoon meet and eat out of the office. I am working with them regularly, that is what I do – I help investigators on campus with technology projects – I cannot just pass them by, so I stop and say hi and explain why I am there by myself. The one professor was older, very accomplished, and he teased he wished he could try online dating, but his wife would not let him. The other was younger, an assistant professor in her mid-30’s, but also married, so neither could really relate – but heh, they laughed and wished me the best.
So the place is packed, I am very nervous, and now on top of all that, I have an audience. And she’s late. She texts me that she is running 20 minutes late. Well, at least she texted me. Now I can just sit here at the bar by myself while everyone else is engrossed in conversations and have my colleagues sit and wonder where is my date, am I getting stood up? Not looking good.
She shows up and it all gets better. She is very nervous too, which helped me immensely. I lost my nervousness because I concentrated on helping her get over hers. We ended up talking there for hours. We went out a couple more times and I discovered that kissing is like riding a bike, you never really forget how. Then I went on a long camping trip with my boys, and when I got back, she announced she had met someone else, the love of her life. So it turned out to be a sweet and gentle introduction to the dating world for me. I did not have the be the breaker upper, she let me down gently, and given it would of been pretty unexpected that the very first woman I met would be the one, I counted myself extremely blessed it went down as it did.
A pretty good first date ever, in the final analysis. (-: I was lucky, and blessed. (-:
There was a sad part to it though, with some happy hope, so I should share the rest of the story about her.
I mentioned living overseas in high school. My parents and three younger sisters were in Indonesia the whole time. But I spent most of my time in Singapore. The company provided school up to 8th grade in Indonesia, but all the high school aged students there went to the American school in Singapore, where the company provided a large three story house, with girls on the top floor, boys on the bottom floor, and house parents in the middle. There was a girl who was in the hostel who I never really got to know well in high school – but when Facebook started up we all reconnected. On Facebook I noticed she was a very open person, as am I, and my ex was not – my ex was the opposite. I felt some shame because of that; sometimes I wondered if she was embarrassed by me. It was almost like she was the stereotypical male in our relationship, sort of, and I am just speaking of stereotypes, so please don’t think me sexist. Just I would be the one wanting more touch (not sexual necessarily, just plain old touch), and I would sometimes want to be the one to talk about the relationship, and so on, things stereotypically attributed to the woman perhaps. Whereas she wanted none of that and seemed to think me weak for it – almost made me feel effeminate; yet I know I am not. I was a stay home dad for 8 years, so maybe in touch with my nurturing side, but most definitely not effeminate. Anyway, the woman from high school was very open, lived in Vancouver with two kids and was mostly happily married, and we became Facebook pen pals and really good friends.
I mention this aside because when I started dating the friend from Vancouver said something very striking to me. She said be careful out there because all women over 40 have been abused. Wat??? That seemed really extreme to me. I could see that all women who’ve lived long enough have for sure had a guy be a jerk to them. But abused? I took her advice with a grain of salt, but did tread lightly, and am thankful I have.
The sad part of this whole story is that this first woman I met had been abused. Not physically per se. But her ex had beat up on her self esteem so much that she had tried to commit suicide a year earlier. It was pretty heavy to deal with for me because I realize now I have led a fairly sheltered life. I have never had to deal with the difficult things many others have. Another woman I dated had been raped when she was 13. On top of that, after I was dating her, she lost her oldest son to a motorcycle accident. ): Many of the woman I have dated have had difficult times, maybe not as bad as these two examples, but still a much harder life than I have experienced so far.
The hopeful, more positive part of this story is that the Weimaraner woman was recovering well. I did see her once in a blue moon again when I would run into her at UMC – I often go to the cafeteria there for lunch. And she seemed to continue to do well.
So here is to hope. Hope that the world gets to be a better place, hope for our children, friends and everyone really, hope that we each find our ones, hope that maybe just maybe our ones might even be each other. Ya never know, right?