Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dating 101


How long has it been since you were on a date? A real, honest-to-goodness, Do-I or don't-I, does-he or doesn't-he. . . will-we or won't-we DATE?

Being thrown back into the "dating pool" at this stage of life was a real eye-opener. Not, however, the refresher course in Romance that I had hoped it would be. Dating at 45 (Okay, 50!) was pretty much the same as it was at 18-- until I learned to relax and be myself-- all over again. The big difference here is that at 50, all of the guys are losers. That is, if they're dating again it's because they've lost someone. . . whether due to divorce or to death. Interestingly, so had I. You'd think that would put us on an even footing and somewhat on the same page, relationship-wise.

Not so. It seems that everybody handles loss and the changes it brings in a different way. Some men carry around a huge gaping wound and are more than happy to share it and how they got it at the lightest hint of sympathy. Some embrace the freedom that being spouseless brings and go buy a Harley and some leathers and live out their alternative dream-- expecting that this will make them seem virile and dangerous and "cool" at last. Some settle into fusty middle age and indulge way too much in food and drink, drowning their sorrows and waiting to be rescued by a "good" woman. Some make finding a new relationship a project, sort of like remodeling the basement; make a plan, screen applicants, put in the required time and effort, and voila-- relationship. Some read a whole book and become relationship experts: start administering personality tests and testing truthfulness by whether you look to the left or the right when answering a question. Some just use the "new car" approach: "hey, that baby looks fast-- I'll take 'er!"

But almost all of them have one thing in common with the "new car" guys: they want a "test drive" ASAP. And if the test drive is successful, they're done; they've found the next "One." Instant relationship. All comfy once again.

If all that sounds vaguely like the guys in high school, it's probably because these ARE the guys from high school. . . with a few miles and a few pounds and a lot less hair. Oh, and varying amounts of baggage. Imagine Motorhead Bob or Stretch Kelly from the 11th grade. . . grown up and with 35 years of marriage and kids and bills and at least one big disappointment. . .

For a person with an earnestly compassionate side, it's not easy sorting through all the needs, wants and desires and hopes and negotiating all the pitfalls of second(or third)-time around love. You have to learn to say "no". . . sometimes graciously, sometimes not. You have to think about what is good for you, what meets your needs, and not be too tempted to rescue men from their own idiocy.

Interestingly, there are some real jewels out there, too. Men who have taken the time to put their losses and triumphs in perspective, men who have taken time to understand themselves and know their needs and their desires aren't necessarily the same thing, men who don't feel the need to retrieve or re-live a youth-that-never-was, men who have mature and compassionate natures and think about the world at large. Men who know how to laugh and how to cry and how to hold you as you do both.

You might have already guessed: I'm not very good at dating. Never have been. The whole "choosing" and "rejecting" thing just hurts me, no matter which end of it I'm on. But I'm pretty good at relationships. . . and getting better all the time. . . more honest, more open, more lucid and realistic. And part of that learning and growing comes from finding someone I really do "fit" with, flaws and all. My suspicion is that at this age and stage, it's all about finding someone whose flaws and faults you can live with. . . as much as finding someone whose strengths and character compliment yours. And I have to say, finding the right person to compliment your life and your heart gives Romance an entirely different glow at this age. Has it affected my writing? Undoubtedly.

No, I'm not going to tell the story of the Harley guys or the "new car" guys or the bleeding-heart guys. . . well, at least not in this post. Someday at a conference. . . in a bar. . . after a couple of margaritas, maybe. . .

What about you? Does the prospect of dating "mid-life" give you the willies? Care to share your worst date-- then or now? Want to give your opinion of middle aged men on Harleys? LOL!

29 comments:

Michele Hauf said...

Great post, Betina!
There's not a day that goes by I'm not thankful to have a happy (most of the time), healthy (working on that), loving hubby. I couldn't imagine being suddenly plunged into the dating scene agian. I think I'd have to become a nun. And right now I currently have a teenage boy whose discovered girls and dating, so I'm getting a refresher course on just how insane the dating male can be.

As for middle-aged men on Harleys? Oh heck. My dad is a bit beyond middle age, but he does Sturgis every year (the big motorcycle rally in SD). This year he sent me pictures. Oy. Half of them were of very half naked women flaunting their ta-tas all over town. I didn't want to imagine my dad standing there taking those pics, nor did I want to actually SEE the pics. But there you go. Some men just never grow up. And I'm just glad my dad's 'old lady' puts up with it. :-)

Dev said...

I haven't been on an honest-to-goodness date in over 8 years. I don't date well. I'm not casual ! I can't just go out with someone to get to know them; I have to know them first. I'm happy to go out as a group; but as far one-on-one ~ I need to know them first.

lois greiman said...

I'm emailing a friend, Betina, to make sure she reads your post cuz it's chock full of wisdom. She's getting back into the dating groove, and it's been so interesting watching the process through older eyes. I'm not sure how any of us survived the first go round, but I'm sure you'll do better than most just because you're you.

Betina Krahn said...

Michele-- geez, did I go out with your dad? LOL! Whatever makes his engine rev and keeps his interest in life going. . . I'm all for it!

Dev, I know just what you mean. I'd much prefer a group thing to start, but that's harder and harder to find.

Lois, I'm not sure how much help my experience would be to someone else, but sharing never hurts. I think at this age, we just have to be more realistic and more pragmatic about what works and what doesn't. And less influenced by the material stuff and whether he's got great pecs or not. Yeah, I'm still workin' on that. :)

Debra Dixon said...

Blogger is eating my comments lately!

I was chiming in to say my 80 year old f-i-l followed the "Done!" pattern of test driving for three weeks and proposing marriage.

We're getting ready for a wedding next month.

Betina Krahn said...

Wow! He's not wasting any time! Good for him! But would I be correct in thinking that the "fast track" approach might have some family members in a tizzy? (Unless, of course, he's known the gal for some time or the family knows her)

Betina Krahn said...

Oh, and my dad was a major masher after my mom died. He kissed hands (and on up the arms!!!) of every woman he met. . . doctor's office nurses to supermarket checkout clerks to the wait staff at our local breakfast restaurant. We cringed. He thought he was being charming. The women were all good natured about it-- possibly because we were along and they thought he was harmless.

I can tell you, though, he was dead serious. For a short while, he was the biggest "mac-daddy" around. . . guitar serenades, dance steps, flowers, and all!

Playground Monitor said...

Thankfully my hubby is still around, but the thought of ever having to dip my toe in the dating pool absolutely mortifies me. I never had a date til I went away to college, then met the DH my sophomore year. So even at age 56 I'm still not real "dating experienced."

As for middle aged men on Harleys... well, the DH bought a Harley last November. It's his 3rd bike in 3 years and I believe motorcycling was about mid-life crisis #4. The tattoo was #5 or #6. But as long as there's not a red convertible and a twenty-something blonde involved, I'm okay.

Marilyn

Betina Krahn said...

Interesting, Playground! And do you ride with him? I think you've got the right attitude. . . as long as he's faithful and havin' fun. . . more power to 'im! So, if he got Harleys, what did YOU get?

Christie Ridgway said...

I love your post, Betina! Insightful and wise.

My life feels pretty harried at the moment, so I'm at that place where when I think about finding myself alone, I really want to =be= alone! My good friend and I have a little saying when we feel to frenzied for words...our little code. "I'm thinking about my cottage with cats." That's how we tell each other the kids and the husbands are making us crazy.

I could have books and eat salads for every meal and no one would ask me what happened to all the clean socks...

woodtick said...

You were right Lo ~ this is chock full of wisdom and so much truth! Anyone dating again should read this! After being single again for the last 7 years, and hitting 40, this dating thing is a totally different ball game. I've definitely been out with my share of needy, desperate, clingy, scared to be alone, mid-life crisis type men. You know the kinds who call 8 times in one hour when you’re out with your girlfriends. And because you didn’t return their call right away, they leave a voice mail every time. The first one starts out with “Hi, thinking of ya, wanted you to know” and by the time the 8th message comes round, you’re hearing things like “Don’t you like me anymore? Did I do something to upset you? Is there someone else? Why won’t you return my call, it’s been 50 minutes!” Good grief!! I have a life!! And yes, sometimes we are tempted to rescue men from their own idiocy. Then, we add our kids to the mix. When do they meet the kids? What if the kids get attached and then it doesn’t work? But what if it does work, I need to know they’ll get along with my kids. There are so many new dynamics. Fortunately, I believe I may have found my jewel. He’s been through the fire, learned from his mistakes, has a healthy perspective on life and isn’t looking for someone to complete him, or looking for someone perfect. (Lucky for me!) He’s romantic, playful and yet serious. And it doesn’t hurt that he sent me two dozen red roses at work today!

Betina Krahn said...

LOL, Christie, love your shorthand-- a cottage and cats! There are days that looks better and better!

Woodtick-- welcome! You're so right about the calls. Having kids often brings us quicker to the sanity point. When we have to think about a needy guy (or gal's) potential impact on our kids. Unfortunately some women don't do a good job of reaching that point and acting on it soon enough.

Here's to all the great guys out there. . . the kind who send you red roses at work, know how to laugh, and don't mind playing "pool boy" occasionally.
;)

Kaitlin said...

I'm only 31, but I have to say it still sucks to try to find the "one" even now.

I did want to comment on the worst date EVER! This was back around 20 or so. I went on a blind date with a guy. It was totally casual & that's what I wanted. We met up and went to a nickel arcade (yes, I'm a cheap date). He excused himself to go to the rest room and after 15 minutes I decided to go looking for him.

Turns out he'd ditched me. It was bad enough he'd done that, BUT it was miles from home, I didn't have my bus pass and my mom couldn't pick me up because her car wasn't working. *sigh*

Let me just say that I learned a major lesson that night. I will never have someone pick me up, I will always have extra funds just in case, and blind dates suck a big fat one. *sigh*

Betina Krahn said...

Kaitlin, you're in good company, lol!
In college, I went to a party with a guy who got plastered and decided to sleep it off in one of the apartment's bedrooms. I was left trying to find a ride back to campus. I learned a big lesson that night, too. And I probably had more blind dates my freshman year of college than any female on the planet! Everybody had a roommate or a friend from high school who was coming into town.
Got old FAST.

But my strangest 50+ date couldn't hold a candle to the stuff I endured in college. I guess experience really does count for something!

Susan Kay Law said...

I don't think I've been on a date since I was seventeen. Didn't like it much then, either.

Good incentive to keep my husband healthy . . . I better go stuff him full of vegetables.

On the other hand, I find my son's dating endlessly entertaining.

Susie

Debra Dixon said...

Betina--

Oh, yes. There are some family members who have adjustment issues. (g)

Betina Krahn said...

Deb, I suspected as much. My boys--God Love 'em-- would probably have been a lot happier if I'd just settled sweetly into widowhood and never disturbed the family dynamics with a new love. Fortunately, it's not up to them. And truth be told, they're happy that they don't have to "worry" about me being alone and feel guilty that I'm lonely.

Like everything else in life, it's a matter of balance.

Thanks everybody for chiming in with thoughts and experiences and chuckles for the day!

Playground Monitor said...

Yep I ride with him sometimes. We like to just ride the backroads and stop in little country cafes for lunch. I have a black leather jacket (for safety reasons), a couple Harley t-shirts and a pair of Harley jeans, but as God is my witness, I will not wear a do-rag on my head or get a tattoo. I know that "classy biker babe" is an oxymoron, but that's my goal. Jeans, jacket, helmet, gloves, boots, helmet hair -- it's tough to look good, but I have all my teeth and I do splash on a little makeup before we go. :grin:

He got the Harley and well... I figure I can get pretty much whatever I want now. :evil grin: I just take it in dribs and drabs -- RWA conference in Dallas this year, RWA conference in SF next year, a cruise with my sister next month.

Marilyn

Betina Krahn said...

Marilyn, you're a gal after my own heart. . . going with your guy and having a blast.

Actually, there are a lot of "bike couples" down here in Florida. . . lots who don't go all "biker" or "hell's angel." They have clubs and rallies and have a blast. You should see them out for a Sunday drive together!

And you get props for the courage to climb aboard. Me-- I'm too chicken.

Anonymous said...

Mid-Life "Harley" crisis is how I ended up alone at 42 and considering dating for the first time since I was 17.

My ex hit 40 and decided that our life with the kids and dance an lawns and stuff "just wasn't working out for him" and he traded me in for a chick that had her own Harley.

I'm not sure which is more terrifying - the thought of being alone forever, or the thought of dating. I really wasn't very good at it as a teen. Now, I'm older and heavier, and have two kids in elementary school.

I might just hold out for the cottage and the cats.

Marcia in OK

Kathleen Eagle said...

Wonderful post, Betina! Midlife ain't for sissies.

My dad died at 48. Mama was "strong" for about 2 years, just as her almost-grown children expected her to be. (I was newly married with a new baby.) After 2 years of that, she crashed and went to counseling. Then she started dating. She began to enjoy her independence and never remarried. Her "gentleman friend" at the time of her death was a wonderful fellow who had lost his wife to cancer and cared for my mother to the end. He was with her when she died.

One thing that taught me was that the meaning of Romance changes from one stage of life to the next. Needs change. With experience you can learn to relate to each other in deeper ways than you did when you were 18--or not. I know that my relationship with Clyde has changed over the course of 37 years. If it hadn't, we probably wouldn't be together. Needs change. "Knowing each other" goes from just the Biblical sense to...maybe a real spiritual sense?

Up and down as it is, ain't life grand?

flip said...

If getting a Harley makes a man feel vibrant and full of life, I am for it. We, baby boomers, are middle aged now, but we have a lot of years ahead of us. It is no time to retire from life. So I don't have a problem with a middle age guy with a Harley or a middle age woman who gets breast implants. (Yes, I know someone who had a breast implant at age 45, she loves her new breast.)It may not be my thing, but who am I to judge.

Can't imagine dating. Actually, if I am not with the right guy, I would rather be alone.

Betina Krahn said...

Yeah, Flip-- I'm with you. I'd rather be alone than be with someone who's not good for me or only causes turmoil in my life. Still, when you're alone a lot. . . you do begin to want companionship.

Kathy, the meaning of love and romance does definitely change with the years. . . whether you're with the same guy or not. I definitely want different things from a man at this age than I did in my 20's and 30's and had partnership for child-rearing in mind.

And Marcia. . . our hearts are collecting around yours in support. That's a tough road. Hang in there and keep your options open. . . you never know when something wonderful is about to happen. A cottage and cats will be there if you still want them.

Kate said...

I've seen lots of marriages break up around me for all sorts of reasons and it's really sad after you've spent all those years in a relationship to just toss it away. It's especially sad when a father walks away from his children. I even knew one couple where the wife walked away when the kids were in high school and said she didn't want to be married any more. The husband was devastated. He got the kids and the house and the wife got to go to work for the first time in her life.

I don't mean to sound callous to Marcia's situation, but if he hadn't left you for a Harley babe, he'd have left you for a woman with a shotgun or a woman who drove a convertible. He was going to leave and used that as his pitiful excuse. I pray life treats you well and that you can find happiness.

If my DH dies before me, I'm definitely going for the cottage and the cats. I'm sick of having the lid up, socks in the corner, a mess left in the sink and a man who walks in whenever he can drag himself away from work and says "Isn't dinner ready?" He has no clue that it doesn't just cook itself. Somewhere along the way, I either skipped some training lessons or he was asleep in class. And add to it that he was raised by a martyr mother who called him "son" because the universe revolved around him and you have a very spoiled, selfish 50-something man. But he's MY spoiled, selfish 50-something man til death do us part.

Kate

Anonymous said...

I have known my Dh for 21 years, exactly half of my life. I can't imagine living w/o him! I can't imagine DATING again.

I love the way you made the catagories for the single middle-aged men. I hope you get some good material from it for a book. LOL

Our next-door-neighbor is divorced, middle-aged, and has the red sports car, hair plugs, and a string of "lady friends" whose cars are in the driveway when I let the dogs out a 6 am. Some of his relationships last as long as 6 months, but most are what my DH and I refer to as "the blond of the week" types. Is funny and sad at the same time.

Betina Krahn said...

I have to say, I would never have wished for my life to turn out this way. . . to have lost my husband after only 23 years. But it happened and I've made peace with it. I've grown a great deal and learned a lot about me and about the world that I would never have known if things hadn't happened the way they did.

I guess the secret is to learn to live fully through all that life throws at us. . . good, bad, and everything in between. And I can tell you that love is every bit as precious the second time around. . . just different. Don't be afraid of whatever life sends you. You're stronger than you know.

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