Dating in your 40’s is weird. Really weird. It is, as I’ve said before, as awkward and angst-laden as when you’re 14, but with higher stakes. Your hopes are higher, your expectations higher, your requirements higher, but the horizon to which you hope to ride off on the wings of love is ever so much closer. And, of course, your boobs are lower, your loins are looser and you are infinitely further away from society’s idea of perfect than when you were younger. And there’s the baggage.
No wonder we always meet for drinks.
But it’s also a lot easier, and a lot cleaner, and a lot quicker. Efficiency is hardly a sexy term, but it’s one that I keep returning to as I politely say, “you’re great, but I feel nothing for you and I wish you the best of luck.”
I went on a binge a few weeks ago. It was really a dare to myself, to just get myself out there and, if nothing else, remind myself of a few very important facts.
1. I do not have to, and absolutely should not, just accept the next warm body that comes along and is interested in me. I should see what’s out there and pick slowly, carefully.
2. Meeting other people is a great way to learn who I am.
3. Sometimes, figuring out what you don’t want is the best way to find what you do want.
4. There are plenty of men who want to have sex with me, if that’s all I want. Good to be reminded, but not at all what I want.
So my “binge” consisted of various meet and greets with a different guy pretty much every day for a week. And way too many emails, but I’m a vigilant vetter. And it was wonderful. Because, as I suspected, I learned a ton about myself.
1. I do not want to be needed. I want to be wanted. That’s it.
2. People who think they are in love with me before even meeting me in person are in love with the IDEA of me, not ME. I cannot compete with anyone’s imagination, and with that, I’m out.
3. I am not in a place where I can handle excessive baggage. Sorry. I’m fine with the run of the mill kind of baggage – marriages that fell apart and careers that didn’t do what we wished – but big baggage, I’m not up for.
4. I want stability more than anything. Who knew?
5. No, I will not get a boob job for someone, and will not go on a second date with someone who brings that up on the first date.
6. I am really attracted to divorced men with children. I think I feel like there is a lot of explaining that I will never have to do with someone else who gets it.
7. I am really turned off by bling and pretty boys, and boys who drive expensive cars (especially with vanity plates.) (I knew that, but had it confirmed, which was good.)
8. Sex matters enough that I want to know right off the bat if it’ll be good or not. If I like you, and I think there’s a chance of something, I want to test the sex out almost immediately, because if we’re not a good match, I’m not wasting my time. If we are, then we may be on to something. But I don’t want to get my hopes up otherwise. That said, only if I like you and think there’s a chance of something, otherwise, I really don’t need or want it.
But more than all that, I learned that I really like to know what I’m getting into. When I was younger, and dating, I was looking for the perfect guy. Obviously, I know that doesn’t exist now. If dating is like shopping, being “old” and dating is like shopping in the scratch and dent section. And I like that. Divorce here, co-parenting there….. It takes it’s toll, and I like it. I know that with a little elbow-grease, I may find something perfect that will brighten up a room, and be a perfect fit!
I like to be able to see what’s exposed when the paint is chipped a bit. Is it solid, or is it compressed fiber that will fall apart the moment it gets messy, or something too heavy is placed on it? Was it returned because, even though it’s pretty, it’s really uncomfortable when you get into it, and the joints are all pokey and don’t allow you to get close?
What I can’t handle are things like missing table-legs. If there is no fundamental structure and support in place, it’s not going to be standing long, and no matter how pretty it is, I don’t need to be under it when it comes crashing down. Or faulty wiring that will eventually cause an electrical fire and burn your world down? I want to know now, and frankly, I will not be buying that!
So I just ask, upfront. It’s efficient.
Truth is, I love to fix things. It’s a trait that has gotten me in trouble more than once. So I’ve learned my limits. Chipped paint is fine, I can fix that. Faulty wiring is not, I can’t.
My binge has been a blast. I was thinking it was pointless, until suddenly it wasn’t. And I found myself rather intertwined with something (someone) surprisingly wonderful in a package that I never would have expected to find it in.
So now, my hopes are high. Sort of. If I were younger, I’d be writing his name inside countless hearts on my notebooks. As it is, I texted friends and said it’s possible that I might, maybe, be in “like.” That’s grown-up speak. My eyes are open. To the good and the bad. I have found something I like, but what I’ve really found is an illustration of what I like – the person may or may not last, but what has been defined for me is very sturdy indeed.
The sexiest thing this guy has said to me (besides, “you know you can get under the covers,”) was, essentially, “I really like you, but I have to be honest that I take things very slowly.” Honesty is so hot! I know exactly where I stand.
It’s also the hardest thing in the world to hear. Because, as rational as I am about these things, some part of me still longs for the teenage insanity of mad and desperate love with no reason. Of being wanted and pursued, like the perfect find in an antique mall.
Which brings me to the last, and most important, thing that I have learned. This is my life, not anyone else’s. And I don’t have to wait for anyone to figure out what they want, whether or not it is me.
I spent two years wasting my life waiting for a future that was in someone else’s hands. Our relationship existed only in the future. Then there was Tall, Dark and Dreamy, and our awesome “thing” existed only in the present. There was no angst, no waiting, no drama, no expectation; it was perfect for the present. But it had no future. (Which, in some ways is great, because it will never be anything other than perfect, even if it is perfect in the past.)
Now it’s time for the best of both worlds. Enjoying myself without angst, waiting, drama and expectation, but doing so with en eye towards the future that I want to build with someone. Someone who will let me see their flaws, is of stable construction, open to a little refinishing, fits well in my life, is comfortable, and knows that they want me to be in their life too.
But I’m not going to wait around to be chosen. I’m not looking so much anymore, but there’s no layaway in this store. Available until purchased in earnest.
Because with a little touch-up here and there, I can really brighten up a room. And a life.
About The Author
About Dr. Jess
Dr. Jess is a sexologist, author, international speaker and television personality. She has a PhD in human sexuality and travels the globe to promote deliciously pleasurable sex. From hosting Playboy TV’s SWING to running workshops for couples’ in the Caribbean, she relishes in every moment! Check out her tour schedule here.