From Third Wheel to Driver’s Seat

As I skipped from table to table at the bar mitzvah luncheon last weekend, I felt a novel emotion. Although I wasn’t paired up like my friends who were attending the same celebration, I lacked any sense of third wheel.

I felt no envy, no mad desire to be coupled, simply a feeling of being comfortable enough to chat with strangers who were seat companions, in the buffet line, and anyone who caught my interest.

This was a very different experience than my previous episode of singleness. After my divorce from my first husband, and before my marriage to Tommy, I relished my freedom for a bit, but then wanted desperately to be paired up. I hated being the gal left at the ballroom table to keep an eye on purses while couples danced. I yearned for a man on my arm, so I would better fit in with my married friends.

The Chicago Reader was the of its day and I found several men to date. In the auditions, I was impartial. Fellows who I would’ve ignored if I weren’t so nauseatingly needy, would get at least one date.

Of course, that was 23 years ago and I have grown up since then. And although I have, on these pages, admitted eyeing men at the gym, I just don’t have the same pathetic ache, which I attribute to several factors:

*I really enjoy the studio apartment I have chosen to replace our home. Although only 615-square feet, at my petite size, it feels like a perfect fit. There is no space for a roommate and his stuff.

·      *At bedtime, I use a pillow as a stand-in for my late husband. In spoon position, I tell him my day’s activities. While this lacks an audible response from my proxy, I can easily imagine his voice and sweet goodnight. Schmaltzy as this sounds, it totally lulls me to sleep.

           *During the luncheon I described in my opening paragraph, I witnessed several friends who were either full-blown caretakers of their spouses, or were struggling with the impending role. Their plights reminded me of the last years of Tommy’s life when I was an around-the-clock caregiver. I have to selfishly admit, I am not eager to reenlist for the job, which, at my age, is a real possibility.

·      *Except for a few long-time friends, most of my crowd is single. If I want companionship, a phone call, e-mail, or text message can usually find me a delightful sidekick. And this pal is likely to be agreeable to my choice of event or menu.

·      *Although I no longer own a car, I have learned how to travel throughout the city and suburbs via public transportation. For example, here’s how I got to the aforementioned Skokie bar mitzvah: I caught the Brown Line at the Merchandise Mart, exited at Kedzie, took the #93 Foster bus to Dempster, and then the #250 Pace bus to Central Park. Okay, it was 90 minutes door-to-door, but I had a window seat and a scenic adventure.

·      *My waking and sleeping schedule would likely deter any potential swain. And I’m reluctant to adjust my body clock just to be part of a couple. I suspect that a single man seeking a girlfriend would want his female companion to remain awake throughout a movie or play, erect on a dance floor, and conscious for a goodnight kiss.

·     * I love television. No, I mean I REALLY LOVE television. My favorite evening activity – prior to falling asleep on the couch – is to watch favored episodes on HBO, Showtime, or Netflix. This viewing is typically accompanied by feet propped on my coffee table, an ice cream dish in my paws, and a sigh of solo satisfaction. Would a guy find this alluring? Would I be forced to share my Edy’s Slow Churned Butter Pecan?

·      *I won’t change my appearance or wardrobe to hook a guy. In my earlier single stage, I wore 3-inch heels, clothing I deemed alluring, and shopped at Victoria’s Secret for the “just in case” dates. Now, I refuse to dye my grey hair, get Botox or plastic surgery, or don anything that doesn’t stretch.

Having said all of the above, if you, dear reader, were to identify a divorced or widowed male, in my age group, who still drives – better yet, at night – I might be persuaded to shift some of my reasoning. For there are times when a ride in the passenger seat, with a sweet, bright, funny guy at the wheel does sound tempting.