Playing the Field

Five whites, two Blacks: three Jews, four Catholics. Not the first line of a joke that ends with, "walk into a bar," but the eclectic roster of men, over the age of 70, whom suggests are my matches.

            Although I've often said I'm not eager to meet a new man -- either for companionship and especially not marriage -- it appears I lied, or changed my mind. Likely the latter, as I've been known to do that often in my roller coaster years.

             Who needs a man? I would toss at my daughters or friends who wondered/worried at my inclination to cuddle with Netflix rather than seek a male in my widowed life.

            Another excuse I have used for disdaining dating was that my second marriage to Tommy was so content, so stress-free (if you don't count the three years of caregiving before he died), that it'd likely be difficult to find someone as compatible as my dearly departed. "Low maintenance," was how I described him. And even when his aphasia and the trickling of dementia entered our union, he remained upbeat and sociable.

            But now, as I'm attempting to confront a few items in my life that I realize are fear-based; i.e. swimming and driving an unfamiliar car, it hit me that dating is numero tres on the list. Because Our Time is targeted to older singles, I thought I'd give this virtual gang another go.

            Fear of rejection certainly accompanies these searches, but fear of leaping into a relationship with the wrong guy is equally daunting. Because my two husbands sought after me, I didn't have to face rejection. My first, who I was married to for 30 years, chose me (until he didn't), and although I asked Tommy out for our firstdate, after that he wouldn't leave my side.

            In between those two marriages, during my six years of singleness, I grabbed onto guys that any clear-eyed person could've seen were absolutely wrong for me. But in my pathetic neediness, I chose to refurbish their personalities and foibles until each one shined like a matinee idol.

            I see a pattern in the romances I leapt into during that break: the men had an air of danger. Evidently, I had reverted to high school where the Tony's of my world triumphed over the Sheldon's. Ducktail haircuts, Lucky Strikes in their t-shirt pockets, ditching school; could anything have been more alluring to a good, little, Jewish girl?

            My relationship with the adult bad boy I chose in the space between wedlocks lasted for several years. He was such an antidote to my rigid, silent first marriage that I batted away warning signs as if they were foam rubber baseballs. So he drove too fast? So he smoked? So he smoked weed? So he channeled new age gurus? So his apartment was a mess? So he was a sloppy dresser? So he had intimate conversations with his harem of women friends?

            Get the picture?  Eventually, it was the last so that ended the idyll. Despite all of the cons that mounted like a child's tower of blocks, I was still attached and jealous of his bond with his bevy of gals. When challenged, he chose them rather than me. I whimpered for a bit, then realized I had dodged a bullet. (But, he often visits me in my dreams, which I consider a safer habitat than real life.)

            Now, in my current singleness, if I do receive responses from my Our Time United Nations, I'll likely reject some, and be rejected by others. There may be dates involved; evenings that include uncomfortable high heels (me), dreaded auditions and boring biographies (both) -- all while my mind is zeroing in on his comb-over, toupee, paunch, age spots, or other blots. (He is likely doing the same when it is my turn to drone. How can she be so short? Why does she tolerate those wrinkles? Hasn't she heard of hair dye?)

            I can handle those potential episodes. What I fear, I now realize, is that I haven't shucked enough neediness and am ripe for another wrong guy. Could a hunger for holding hands while strolling the river walk, or the scent of a freshly washed shirt while in a man's hug, and perhaps the chance to call someone "honey" shove me towards an unsuitable male?

            Guess I'll have to risk it to find out.