Even though I have taken a break, RSVP still sends emails with pictures of men I who could tempt me back in: This morning eight thumbnail size pictures and eight possibilities. Some are faces I have seen before and a few are new. ‘V’ looks nice and out of curiosity I click on the link to view his profile.
I am sixty, newly divorced, and I have had my profile on dating websites on and off with minor changes and updates since I left an 18-year relationship two years ago.
‘V’ looks nice. His description of himself is grammatically correct absent of clichés – sunset walks on the beach, red wine by a fire snuggled on the couch –and eloquently written. He has a sustainable rural lifestyle and lives not too far away. His children are grown-up (but they still live at home) he is a fraction older than me and has tertiary qualifications. He is six centimetres shorter than me and this immediately disqualifies him. Would I, could I, have overlooked this had I met him professionally or at dinner? I am not sure. It is a shame, as he passed most of my criteria.
I ask myself, ‘Why do you do this?’ Excuse the clichés, but I still long to be held. There is nothing so deliciously irreplaceable as falling asleep and waking up in a man’s arms, not having to worry about vinaigrette on your chin, sharing a hanky or a toothbrush, keeping the loo door open and having a chat whilst you piss. On your own, intimacy ceases to exist. A vibrator is no substitute for skin and hair and weight and the sweat and smell of sex.
Initially I posted a profile out of curiosity. After enduring difficult final years of a long relationship, I felt budding wings when I left and set out again on my own. Yet I wanted to see what was ‘out there’. Could I still find a relationship with a man: One that would sustain and satisfy my need to be loved, to be challenged intellectually, to be appreciated for my good points and pulled up for my foibles. A relationship that allowed me the freedom I craved yet held me close. I reasoned that if all else failed, perhaps it could be fun.
My first suitor, ‘A’, was 10 years my junior. I questioned him on this immediately. ‘Are you sure?’ He replied that age did not really matter to him and that 10 years was nothing. We exchanged messages. He was almost divorced, had two children, both living with his ex, he lived in the same town and we had a common professional interest in food. When we met, my hair was newly styled into a short curly bob and died very red. In my photographs it was long and tidy. I feared it would overwhelm him. But he was more than 10 kilos heavier than his photos suggested, his divorce and settlement were messy and his children came first. At the same time I met ‘C’ who also lived locally. In email he was witty but on the phone he moaned about his back pain, his job, his work colleagues, the town we both lived in but still we arranged to meet. He told me I should wear a dress and so I wore pants. He told me he hated the way women always wore black and so I wore black. He bought me a drink and I listened to him complain about his bad back. We walked back to his car after suffering a terrible hour together and he muttered something about meeting again. It never happened. He disliked me as much as I did he.
There were men out there galore. ‘P’ was a writer and hated explanation marks as much as I hated the misused apostrophe. We exchanged carefully constructed witty messages about points of grammar and finally met over tea one afternoon. We clicked, but as friends click, and we still chat, catch up and gossip about our latest dates. And then I met ‘M’. M and I dated from October through to January. Three months after we split up, he committed suicide. The more serious side of on line dating struck me hard.
At our age, excluding ‘A’ on age but not on experience, we are all damaged, hurt and hurting. ‘M’ often forgot that he was in the present and would talk with such enormous love and longing about the garden his wife had made, the meals they shared, and how he nursed her back to good health after breast cancer. What ever went through his mind in those moments before he suicided, I knew that I was in that mix of madness and disappointments. Only days before we finished he sat opposite me at dinner and said, ‘you are always asking what this is … I guess,’ he said, ‘we are in a relationship’. I can still picture us there and those words haunt me. After ‘M’ I took my profile down. The tempting thumbnails with a promise of something continued to arrive in my in box. I edited my profile and changed my pictures.
I believe strongly that the thing that will bring a relationship down is there and stated in the first instance of meeting. With my husband of 18 years I recalled that in our first days he seemed to be always looking back over his shoulder at what he had lost. His ex-wife haunted us for the duration of our marriage. They never let each other go. She even came to the auction of our house, the occasion where we publicly declared that we had failed.
Then ‘D’ kissed me. For almost three months we emailed and finally we made plans to meet for lunch. With ‘D’ the first words he uttered at our first meeting were, ‘we have to cut this lunch short as I have double booked and I have to meet my son in an hour’. At the time, flushed with first meeting excitement and nerves, I accepted this and even thought it a good thing. Containing a meeting made sense, especially if we didn’t have much to discuss. Months later I drove to his home, some two hours away, expecting left-overs, and red wine snuggled in front of the fire after a long hard week of work and meetings, only to be met by him slaving over a lavish dinner for his son (and me). I was told it would be inappropriate for me to sleep over since it was the first time I had met his son and his son would be staying the night. I ate his dinner, and covered my anger with feigned interest then drove two hours home through dark kangaroo forest roads. The end came soon after and once again I took my profile down.
With spring and summer approaching, I put my toe back into the cold water. D2 made contact then dropped away, R met me for brunch wearing a wedding band, D3 told me I could call him at home but his deceased wife’s message was still on his phone and R begged me to fly interstate and meet him then told me he wasn’t sure if the dates would work. I met ‘J’ for coffee and not one question did he ask about my life, yet I could reel back a detailed biography of his.
In my sixtieth year, I have just submitted my PhD thesis and my daughter has just announced that at last I am to be a grandmother. My best friend tells me I should stop this nonsense. ‘You have this wonderful gift of time’, she says, ‘stop wasting it and fill it with what you have always wanted to do. Write for heavens sake’. And so I am writing and in amongst all of the disappointments and the possibilities I have found something … pretty special and I have once again taken down my profile.