View from the Trenches: At Peace with Dating or Not Dating

It’s always good to hear about the dating life of other single women. If nothing else, it’s comforting to know that you are not the only one on the receiving end of some strange male dating behaviors. And when things go well, you give or receive hope from your support group.

Let’s find out about Gina Sangster’s dating experiences while we have Marcella Hazan’s classic pesto. This is my favorite pesto recipe and my go-to summertime staple.

Well, things have flat-lined – again – in my latest dating effort. Inspired by a recent ageist comment about Senior People Meet (I think it was something about denture-wearers) I re-upped my subscription. I’ll show them, huh? I had sworn off all dating sites for the past year and while not a hermit, my day to day life affords few opportunities to meet potential dating partners. That reality, and closing in on 65 which equals being invisible, irrelevant, disposable and even at times pitiable in public make my chances slim to none.

I keep forgetting that having gray hair means you can’t stand up on the Metro and while I still swoon for chivalry in a young man, it really bugs me when a woman close to my age offers me her seat. Hidden within this aging body with its head of silver curls lurks a formerly hot chick, a babe, a true blue pretty girl that even the women’s movement of the raging 70’s couldn’t squelch. So I decided to give on-line dating one more whirl.

I could stomach doing this because I stopped caring about whether or not I’ll ever meet someone, unlike when I was first sprung from my 20-year marriage just shy of 50 on the edge of the millennium when print personals were still in fashion. I met Rick, sturdy-looking, bald, divorced with a winning smile. He was wearing jeans and a nice shirt, just the pulled together casual style I like, and we made out like teenagers in front of the Library of Congress fountain with its spraying turtles, serpents and bold, muscular nudes. It seemed like we dated for years but it was only a few months. He slid right into my family, picking up my teenaged daughter from a friend’s house, sharing Thanksgiving dinner with us, showing a genuine interest in my young son’s martial arts practice. But I soon discovered he wasn’t over his last girlfriend, so he bowed out just before Valentines’ Day when I’d imagined us spending a romantic weekend at some bed n’ breakfast in the Shenandoah. Rick set the bar pretty high and in some ways my dating experience has been downhill ever since.

Not that I blame all the men. I’ve chosen to devote time and energy to relationships that were doomed from the start. How about a man calling from Saudi Arabia who even when he’s at home in the States would be about 500 miles away? I carried a torch for him for a couple of years, though we only saw each other maybe half a dozen times. Or the dapper man I dated for about 9 months who had habits you’d expect of a 15 year old: not calling when he said he would, coming up with lame excuses like he left his phone at home or fell asleep watching TV, all the while professing how much he cared for me and wanted our relationship to be meaningful. These ventures into dating boot camp help me stay grounded as a psychotherapist; though I reveal none of this to my clients, they feel my compassion as they share the disasters of their lives for which they suffer terrible guilt and shame. I’m pretty good at curing most cases of guilt and shame.

So my latest half-hearted return to on-line dating through Senior People Meet netted me a brief flurry of activity, headed up by the man who was especially excited because we’re about the same height which is less than five feet tall. I know it’s crass and superficial of me to admit that I just couldn’t cope with the prospect. Perhaps if his voice on the phone had been less grating and he hadn’t made one more joke about us “seeing eye-to-eye,” I might have considered it. Then the guys from Texas, Florida, and all over the South and Midwest who ignore the plea in my profile for contact only with men local to the DC area; and the men with little education who can’t write a complete sentence and wouldn’t know a comma or capitalization if it sat in their lap; never mind the beloved semi-colon. For me, education doesn’t have to be Ivy League; in fact, I prefer if it isn’t. The School of Hard Knocks is fine with me, as long as he’s literate. No picture? What is it about men who like a woman’s photo but post none of their own? We’re visual creatures too and while a man’s looks may not tell the whole story, how is it fair that we get to be seen but can’t see who’s watching? Oh, and the penchant for not answering a nice, inviting message? Even if the answer is no, why the silent treatment?

Here’s what I’d like: a man in a decent shirt, no tie; jeans or some other form of casual garb, photographed recently – let’s say within the last year – with no hair dye or hair piece, looking like he’s at home in his own body. No pictures of his kids or grandchildren need to be featured; that can come later. A dog or cat would be fine. If he’s snow-boarding, skiing, sky-diving, sailing around the world or clocking in under three-hour marathons, we may not be a match. Athletic is good, but not to excess; I love my weekly yoga class and long walks but I’m not going to keep up with an Iron-man competitor. Some extra poundage is fine; in fact, better than skinny in my book. Bald is okay too; Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas were stars of my formative years. I like smart and funny, curious and passionate; someone like me, only taller.

I’ll let my Senior People Meet subscription run its course and will check in when I get a “flirt” or message, but my heart isn’t in it. And there’s relief in that, to be at peace with my life as it is, with work that I love, friendships to nurture, and great relationships with my kids and grandsons. A wise woman once told me, “Well, you know, you can’t have it all.” Not something we hardcore feminists wanted to believe, but it’s true.

Gina Sangster

June 13, 2015