I go into the lighting store for a dining room fixture, but a black & white photograph catches my eye. It is 1969 Sonny and Cher, leaning into each other with closed eyes and large grins. Caught in this moment is the palpable affection of being a couple. Many things work better with a partner: the tango, folding bed sheets, footsie, and the flying trapeze to list a few. But I am thinking about dresses, specifically the one I tried wearing to the funeral home. After failing several times to zip it up my back, I tossed it into a garbage bag with his donation clothes, disposing of any dress which can’t be pulled over my head. My side of the closest is suddenly as bare as his.
Yes, I know Sonny & Cher divorced. But here they are, an iconic pair, frozen in time. Today should be my 25th wedding anniversary. I buy the photo because I believe in love and decide I want to find it again.
It’s been over two decades since I went on a real date. By real, I mean with someone I’m not married to. It was also the last time anyone outside a wedding reception danced the Macarena sober. I learned this dance in Mexico with the man who would later become my husband. A lot has changed between line dancing in Acapulco and this woman considering dating during a pandemic. My advisors in love, Sally (my sister) and Katie (my niece) believe I am ready. “You can get back on the horse,” says Sally. Katie swears it’s “just like riding a bike,” I understand. What they are actually saying is this: dating is a pain in the ass.
Consider relationship baggage – and it’s not just mine. Out there is a single man praying I don’t charge him for the extra weight in his overstuffed suitcase of angst. Let’s face it. Something ended for us both, leaving us among the unclaimed. We’re here in our 50’s looking at apps, creating profiles, and hoping to find someone better then good enough.
Sally cuts to the heavy lifting. “Bruce wanted you to date.” This is true. He trusted I would meet someone special and tried to make me feel better about the future. Bruce accepted death would ultimately be my match-maker. “You’ve kept yourself in pretty good shape, don’t sell yourself short.” Smart man appealing to my ego. But love is blind. My insecurity is not.
The eye of the beholder
My future man will see me naked. And this prospect gives me anxiety, although being stranded in a sexual Sahara scares me even more. Before I post a profile on Bumble, I stand assessing my 55 year old self in front of a mirror. I am wearing Target underwear. No lace, no frills. Hardly qualifying as lingerie, it is beige, the color of a band-aid.
Leaning into the mirror, I can see tiny lines around my eyes. Sure they reflect my sorrows, but smiling is responsible for the greatest etching. I really want to laugh again, even at myself.
The thigh gap still lets in light, especially if my feet don’t get too close. I can’t see the bottom of my butt from this front view. Whew! Years of running pay off but I’m not without some hail damage on the back side. Do you think the potential Mr. Wonderful will notice if I only face him one way?
Before I take my profile pictures, I consider and reject intermittent fasting, a colon cleanse, and cross fit boot camp. I’m not doing gorilla-tactic self maintenance after we meet, so why set-up false expectations? Katie assures me there is an app for that. I can be as perfect as I want. But what happens when I meet my match in person? Perfection doesn’t invite company. He will be suspicious if we only date by candlelight and, even worse, trip while navigating artfully low-lit rooms. What if he snoops in my medicine cabinet and is struck by one of the overflowing artifacts to anti-aging? No. To seduce me he needs to see the real me.
The Nurse or The Purse
My friend Kim is wise and blunt in her advice. “Date too young and you’ll be paying for his iced coconut milk mocha macchiato forever.” I didn’t want a man-bun wearing, video game playing, finding himself Bro – even a cute one. And he wouldn’t want me either. “But date too old and you’re eating dinner at 5pm, so you can watch Everybody Loves Raymond reruns before the 9pm bedtime.” Ouch. I married a man 14 years older then me and lovingly became a caregiver. But I am not yet ready to do it again.
You might find what you need.
I never got all my anxieties to fit in the overhead bin. Sure my sea of fish ended up being a smallish Koi Pond. After the advice, encouragement and warnings, there was no strategy for a love mulligan. All I could think of was the dresses I gave away.
I go to a grief support group after Bruce died. We are asked to share what brought us here. There are tearful, long stories of accidents, sudden death and long term illness. When it’s my turn I simply say, “I can’t wear zippers.”
As I re-tell this to my Mom, she advises I get a “chain thingy” to solve my problem. No, I need someone to gently slide my hair to one side exposing my neck and lightly kiss the pale nape as he slowly pulls the dress shut. A bit racy for a Methodist church basement meeting or my mother.
But not a dating app. I did put up a Bumble profile, with current pictures taken in full sunlight. I hang Sonny & Cher in my bedroom. With optimism I bought a zipper backed dress. And with happiness, I wear it now.
PS: If you’re interested in on-line dating, check out https://bumble.com/