I’ve been at a complete loss when it comes to ideas for posts recently, and I finally reached out to a good friend. “What should I write about?” She immediately came back with, “dating in your 50’s.” While I have a ton to say on the matter in personal emails or over a margarita, I’ve been mulling over how to throw my ideas out for general consumption and make them somewhat amusing (or at the very least amuse myself and her, which is really the goal at this point). I’m still drawing a huge blank, so I’m just going to hop in.
Dating Sucks When You’re 50
Ok, that’s a gross generalization; however, now you’re 50, you’re back on the market and well, dating can actually suck. And it makes you yearn for a more innocent time – when things were simpler or seemingly rosier. A time when you were a little girl filled with so much hope about your future. You had innocent dreams of what life would be as a grown-up. It was a world where she had a perfect family, perfect kids, perfect pets who never shed and self-walked. She had a fabulous job. She traveled the world. She lived in a Victorian mansion, a brownstone or a super sleek downtown loft. (Mine had a two to three story library with a rolling ladder and also a domed solarium.) She knew without any doubt that you would have it together – you would light the world on fire. She never imagined the grey hair (ON YOUR CHIN), boobs having succumbed to gravity, flappy mee-maw arms and those unforgiving wide hips. She couldn’t picture a world where she’d find herself casually scrolling through a dating app (ok, mostly because the internet wasn’t really a thing and had anyone mentioned “Arpanet,” she’d feel confident they were referring to a firm hold hairspray) trying to find a special someone like you pick out groceries and that her criteria (aka new low bar) would ever be “doesn’t make her throw-up in her mouth.” (Easier said than done.)
Now if you actually were the rare soul who did imagine this bleaker future you, you were a very strange and sad kid. I’m just going to call it right now. I’m full-on judging you. Oh, but props for imagining the internet. I hope you used your vision to your advantage.
You realize past you would go slack-jawed if she were brought forward to meet present you.
To make matters worse, the prospect of dating in your 50’s heralds the return of every insecurity you thought you’d outgrown before life took a gigantic dump on your lawn. You’re supposed to be settled by now. WTF? You begin doubting your appeal. Am I likable? funny? intelligent? interesting? appealing? Did I dress ok? Do I have to dress differently? Should I avoid certain topics? What if I say something ridiculous? Dribble? It crosses your mind that you’re too old to be revisiting this craziness. But that insidious self-doubt monster, who appeared mid-puberty, gently taps you on the shoulder and with a smirk says, “Hey girl! Just letting you know I’m still here keeping your ego in check. Oh yeah, in case I forget to remind you daily, you’re still an idiot. Now go on, talk to that nice man. You got this! In that outfit, how could you not succeed? <snort>”
To compound the issue and remind you how NOT in your 20’s you are: in your 50’s, everyone you know is married and all of their friends are married, so the likelihood that they’ll actually introduce you to someone suitable for dating is slim at best. Every group you join? It’s filled with married people leading married lives. Every event you attend, it’s filled with more couples. Every man that you find appealing is also married. Of course, you then reach a point where you see everyone being married as a good thing, because you understand that man is actually someone else’s problem. For example, let’s talk about my ongoing crush on the office drunk. He’s pretty as heck, love his voice, and as I mentioned, he’s also an alcoholic (not in a funny way). This is ok, because like I said, this is not a Beth problem – it’s a “his family” problem and I can admire from afar without feeling the need to rescue this person.
That brings me to the reality of actually dating someone.
Jay and I were together for about 17 years. During that time, we learned how to live together. We learned how to cohabitate peacefully. The mere idea of having someone in my house makes me twitch. I came to this realization after Jay passed away and a friend suggested I rent out one of my bedrooms. My response was, “can I put a clause in the contract that states the tenant must stay in their room whenever I’m in the house? That they can’t be in the living room? Can’t use my refrigerator? Can’t make noise?” I wasn’t kidding. As I’ve gotten older, and further away from my college and post-college years where I had many roommates, I recognize I’m kind of set in my ways. I’m persnickety.
That hints at something very important – that by 50 we have a steamer trunk filled with personal baggage. We’re no longer that carefree 20-something whose baggage looks like an adorable overnight bag filled with cuteness and maybe a smidge of some high school drama. No, by 50 you actually need a bellhop with a luggage cart because if you’re single in your 50’s there’s a story, and there’s baggage. I’m not saying it’s all bad, but life has likely had its way with you.
Then why date?
For me, I hold onto hope, because there’s so much that I miss by not being in a relationship. I miss hearing someone say I look beautiful – whether I’m going out or tying my hair up in a loose ponytail. I miss having a person who stays with me until I fall asleep, which Jay did for 17 years. I miss having someone who genuinely cares where I am each day. I miss being around someone who genuinely likes me and thinks I’m funny and interesting – a person whom I think is funny and interesting right back. I miss hugs – real hugs – the kind that draw you in close and fully envelop you. I miss shared experiences – being there for our best and worst days and pushing each other to be our best. I miss being loved.
And if I’m completely honest, I also fear dying alone – tucked away in a nursing home that wreaks of urine where no one really knows or cares that I’m there – that I exist.
So, off I go to those dating apps where I swipe left more often than not. In truth, one site tells me “you have 9 unread messages, and if you give us money again, we’ll let you read them.” I think about this – about paying – about reading these messages and believing it holds a message from “the one,” and then I find something else to do. Maybe one day I’ll go look at them. One day I’ll decide that dating isn’t a dumpster fire.
And I suppose that little girl, well she’s still there dancing, singing, spinning, and impossibly hopeful.