The cry of single women in their 40s and 50s, from New York to Los Angeles to Milan is that there are no available men to be found. No good available men. I wouldn’t know. As sofagirl likes to point out, I haven’t dated in over 20 years. In fact, I never dated at all – the full meaning of that word in the pantheon of the English language was always fuzzy, maybe because there is no accurate translation in Italian.
In my mind (and in my life) girl met boy, they liked each other and would start doing things together, fairly quickly followed by sex. Sometimes it worked, most times it didn’t. My girlfriends and I never received advice on the three dates rule, when to return phone calls and the right clothes to wear. It seemed easier. It’s all become so complicated that I have no idea what I would do if I were suddenly single again – paralyzed by it all, most likely nothing.
But I get to hear the plights of my single girlfriends, I watch the mugs and read the profiles of the men they meet online and I find myself hard-pressed to express an opinion on Bob or Frank. Then I get to hear the post-meet up stories: he was 5” shorter than he claimed; he didn’t look anything like the pictures he posted; he was soooo boring and on and on. It sounds exhausting. Added to that, very many of the men who are looking to find a partner online really just want a hookup.
But is it true there are no available men out there? If I look around at my circle of friends, only one, really looking for a relationship with a woman in his age bracket, comes to mind. And, post divorce, he was snapped up really quickly. The other single men I know are also newly or not so newly divorced, some have children, and, as small as my personal sample may be, they are not looking to settle down again in a hurry. If ever. It seems that men who married early in life are now enjoying a freedom they are not willing to give up. As to those who never married in the first place, well – maybe they didn’t want permanent ties to begin with and never will. And in cities like LA and New York and many other business capitals around the world, men of financial means have the awkward expectation of deserving much younger women.
But on the other side of the dating fence, my single male friends complain that, as soon as they meet a woman, they feel being evaluated for possible long-term relationship material or, worse, can see the noose of “till death do us part” creep up in the space of a few months. “What is it with women who want to be taken care of and need to settle down?” they complain. Or “we had been seeing each other for three months and she wanted to meet my children. No f***ing way.” I listen, make all the right noises and don’t dream of an introduction to any of my single girls.
Once again, we might be talking different languages. The women I know, intelligent, independent and (mostly) employed are not looking for someone to take care of them – they are looking beyond casual hookups for something more permanent, for companionship, for Saturday nights spent on the couch watching bad movies. And yes, maybe even for someone who can fix the sink when the need arises. We also start worrying about the aging process earlier and it might be the idea of the sunset years spent in solitude is a bleaker prospect for us. But I believe men want the same thing too – even if, conversely, they express their fear for old age by seeking youth and impermanence. The point must come, though, when this freedom stops making sense.
Any which way I look at it, though, it seems to me that dating in our 50s cannot be as carefree as it was when a series of possible partners still stretched ahead of us. In defense of girls, it’s not easy to shed expectations after five decades on this planet and maybe a few regrets – that they are willing to believe in love again is commendable. And in defense of guys, I have indeed heard some women mention the M word very early in the dating game – I will justify some basic expectations but is it really necessary to enter any relationship with “till death do us part” prominently displayed on the little black dress?
As sofagirl would say: “I couldn’t be assed”. I do love being in a relationship, even the drudgery of it, the predictable fights can be of comfort. But I can’t stop thinking that love as we think of it, as an insulated couple, is only a piece of the puzzle of life. Is it really worth the agony of endless bad dates? Of putting oneself out there, open to scrutiny and judgment? Thinking of it as an achievement? Speaking from the comfort of my coupledom perch, I might not be the most impartial judge. Any thoughts?