I’ve never been very good at dating. I never learned the rules and wasn’t comfortable with the process. When I was younger and lived in the Bay Area, I just seemed to wake up in relationships from time to time. But at this stage of my life and finding myself single again, I opted for peace of mind, less traffic, and beautiful beaches and moved to Monterey.
There is a nagging concern that comes up in conversations with my over-forty-and-single friends here. We’re too old to be young and too young to be old. Those rules (that I never learned) seem to have changed. For baby boomers who aren’t willing to crawl back into the cradle and pull the covers over our heads, the question remains… how do we date in this gray area? Whether we are starting over and new to the scene, single by force and divorce (and daily belting out a tear-filled version of “All by Myself” in the shower), or a well-practiced single by choice and like it that way, things are different now.
Just for grins, I looked up expiration date at Wikipedia online: Could refer to shelf life of a grocery item; See distressed inventory. Dr. Phil has it down to the number of days we have left. Thanks, Phil. My biological clock has stopped ticking, but now I think I hear the distant chime of a grandfather (or grandmother) clock. Or maybe it’s more like that incessant beeping on “24” reminding us that time is running out. Do we have an invisible date stamp? (Those beautiful beaches are feeling a lot more like quicksand and I have to admit that I do sometimes feel distressed.)
If the situation isn’t frustrating enough, in this small and sometimes socially incestuous community of Monterey County, it is inevitable that if someone asks me out, there is a very good chance that he has dated someone I know. Recycling is good for the environment, but to me this is like wearing someone else’s underwear. In the incredibly shrinking dating pool and with the limited number of venues in this area for folks our age, chances are if we’re double dipping, we’re going to get caught. (If we’re at the piano bar at “the Ranch” with one date on a Friday night, we might want to consider investing in a wig or dark glasses when we walk in with bachelor number two on Saturday. Never mind. It’s an older crowd and they probably won’t remember us anyway.)
But regardless of the challenges here, I don’t believe that we were meant to live life alone. We are physical beings created with parts that fit beautifully together and yet we don’t seem to be plug-and-play. Some of those parts don’t look so good or work so well anymore. Hair falls out where it should be and grows where it shouldn’t (this applies to both sexes). Men worry about balding and performance, and women are concerned with menopause, wrinkles, and sagging. We all forget names, appointments, and why we walked into the kitchen in the first place.
So we have a choice. We can panic, become desperate, and let our date stamp flash in neon lights. Or we can relax, enjoy, and have a sense of humor and a large dose of acceptance in the process of dating at this age. Speaking as a woman, a little reassurance that we are still beautiful will go a long way. A compliment lasts a lot longer than a vial of Botox (plus it’s cheaper and I like to smile, move my mouth when I talk, and avoid sucking my meals through a straw as long as I can). And whether a man is packing a pocket of blue pills or just happy to see us, I think we still might be in for a good time.
As the years go by and I can’t hear that clock chiming anymore, I might not be able to remember what I was looking for, what didn’t work, or even the people that I dated. If I’m still living in Monterey, maybe that’s the time I’ll consider recycling.
Stay tuned next month when we’ll talk about internet dating!
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Robyn Justo is a freelance writer who is living, breathing, and learning the new rules of dating over 40. Experienced, but by no means an expert, she shares the frustrations, triumphs, and general hysteria of single life on the Monterey Peninsula. “The Expiration Date” will address the lighter side of dating later in life. The names will be changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty). Robyn also occasionally hosts local social events for those brave-hearted single folks who actually have the courage to come out of the house.