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The dating game, five decades in

Posted in Life & Love, and Relationships

Penguins

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.

A card I received from sofagirl sometime in our single life
A card I received from sofagirl sometime in our single life

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?

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10 Comments

  1. The card is a hoot. And true!

    November 5, 2014
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I kept it for all these years because it always brings a smile to my face…

      November 5, 2014
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  2. Funnily enough, my gay friends are expressing the same comments as your girlfriends. My husband’s single straight friends are looking for the right one too and wondering where to find them. Makes you wonder: why can’t everybody just get along?!
    I’ve seen it in action, in gay men and straight girls: the desperation sets in as 30s are coming to an end, people worry about the second half of their life, are not spontaneously and thoughtlessly tumbling from one relationship to the next like they used to in their 20s, many of their friends are already settled down, family members are asking pointed questions and it’s a maelstrom of tension in their heads, a fear of what is to become of them. Men who walk into this sense it and run for the hills!

    I love that she says “I can’t be assed.” So expressive and I’ve had to remove it from my song list. I can’t get away with it. I’d receive too many puzzled stares that the enjoyment of the phrase would wear off it.

    November 5, 2014
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      …the desperation sets in. I never quite understood the feeling of having to settle. Why? Maybe because conventions still dictate that we mate and procreate.

      November 5, 2014
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  3. In Los Angeles, dating was HORRIBLE. The expectations men have regarding what kind of women they believe they “deserve” is out of touch with reality.

    Imagine my surprise when I moved overseas. I thought it was a wrap for me and it’s not.

    In Rome, I actually date (Italian style, not American style) and it’s great. I had no idea dating could be fun instead of feeling like your on endless job interviews!

    November 4, 2014
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      In Italy, we don’t create the same expectations out of a nice evening out. If it works, fine – if it doesn’t, no big deal. It seems like in the US dating has been transformed into a business, like everything else…

      November 4, 2014
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  4. It seems to me that a fair number of men aren’t just looking for the occasional hookup, they’re also looking for a mommy to take care of them as well. My recent online experience was so dreadful I called the host and said in no uncertain terms take my profile off the web IMMEDIATELY and never darken my inbox with these mentally crippled, dishonest whack jobs again. Not that I have any strong opinions on the subject, mind you. 🙂 Spending time with my dog has been more fulfilling and I guess if there’s anything to glean from this is just that you can’t plan for that special chemistry, it’ll hit you when you least expect it and it very easily could be divine.

    November 4, 2014
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I so agree with you. Although I do know some dating stories that ended up long term, they seem to be the minority. Meeting somebody through common friends or interests, or just chance, has always been my preferred methods. Good luck anyway – but you are in excellent company right now!

      November 4, 2014
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      • NancyS
        NancyS

        I know this is a late reply, but I feel compelled to comment. “Meeting somebody through common friends or interests, or just chance” is EVERYBODY’S preferred method. But after a certain age, that happens so rarely. I don’t know a single woman over 50 who has gone on a date from those methods in years, sigh. As flawed as the online sites are, they are often the only game in town.

        November 24, 2014
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        • camparigirl
          camparigirl

          Late or not, we are glad you commented. And, as a friend to many single women in their 50s, especially in the United States, you are absolutely right. A friend of mine recently remarked the number of men vs women is much smaller. I am not sure this is true but I know the choices are indeed limited and meeting someone on line is a better bet. But it seems such a chore! For some of my friends it looks, from the outside, like a part-time job!

          November 24, 2014
          |Reply

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