So the first thing that you should know is that sometimes others assert that I have poor filters and am a little too honest. This is one context when that quality might pose risks for the reader. You have been warned!
I’m going to start in 2010, a little before turning 60, because that is when my marriage fell apart. You can’t date other people while you’re married! (Unless, that is, you’re in France or French, but we’ll get to that later.) And the Friday after I moved out, here I am driving an attractive young woman from the bar where we’d been drinking with a group of friends back to the condo I had moved into the week before.
I couldn’t believe it! I knew her, of course – we worked in the same coworking space (NextSpace Santa Cruz) – and I had flirted with her a little, as I often do, but that never goes very far, which is part of the fun. In short, I would never have dreamed that that she might have any interest in going home with me. She lived with her boyfriend, was her own boss in an interesting field, and was much younger!
And as soon as I sat down next to her in the car that evening, well maybe a minute or two later, feeling rather than watching her smoothing down her skirt as she settled into the passenger seat, I was primed and ready for action!
I should pause here to explain that this quick reaction was a source of some relief. During the later years of the marriage, intimacy had become notable only for its rarity. We ended up in separate beds, hers of course a queen in the master bedroom and me first downstairs on a sofa and then on a single bed in a bedroom then used for storage. None of this was very conducive to intimacy. During the last 16 months, we had shared one miserable encounter, with more tears (literally) than pleasure, and that was it.
Doubts had begun to creep in over those waning years – I knew I was getting older – but they pretty much flew out of the car window on the short drive back to the condo. We had a lot of fun that night, and maybe one more evening about a week later, and that’s all the detail you’re going to get, you voyeur you!
Except for one thing: she took several showers during the night, which did strike me as a bit odd. I took one in the morning, but she was in and out of bed like a jack in the box. I surmised that maybe this generation was even more obsessed with cleanliness than mine, and let it drop. Until a nasty boil developed on my shin. When it stuck around, I thought that it was perhaps a spider bite, and finally took it to the doctor. He told me that it was a staph infection, and gave me serious antibiotics, which he “hoped” would work. Well they did, but where had this come from?
“Normally sexual contact,” he explained patiently, “at least, significant skin contact.”
“Well, there hasn’t been a lot of that,” I grinned in response, calculating that intimacy with my ex already was at least six months in the past, and then I remembered those showers that night. I had noticed some sort of infection on her lovely back, which I had studiously avoided touching and she had studiously avoided leaving uncovered, but what about the showers? “Could I have gotten it off a towel used by someone with a similar infection?”
* * *
It took over two years before I managed another date. Rather than a reaction to the infection, this was more the normal course. It takes me a while to get over any break-up, and this break-up was of a relationship lasting about 18 years, in one way or another.
Fergus introduced me to my first real post-marital girlfriend, in the fall of 2012. Thank you Ferg! I’ll call her Anna, as in A, the first letter of the dating alphabet. We hit it off right away, and she was seriously hot, I mean seriously. The kid who called her daddy longlegs in middle school must have lived to seriously rue his error!
A couple of lovely dates, wine, good meals and good conversation, and I was soon starting to get hooked. She felt it, of course, maybe she even felt it too at first, and to prove it one evening she sent me a tantalizing selfie, right out of the blue. I mean, I never even asked for it!
How technology enriches our lives! The first time that I remember hearing about anyone sending a photo by cell phone was when the great Parisian tech entrepreneur Philippe Kahn, based here in Santa Cruz, sent his friends a photo of his newborn in 1997 using tech he jerry-rigged on his cell phone.
But I have to say that his very cute early picture was likely not the highest best use of the technology. For that, you should check out Anna’s selfie 15 years later! Unfortunately, at my age discretion has become the better part of valor, and I had second thoughts about using any of her several sexy selfies here, even with her face hidden. So you can’t actually check them out. But trust me, they definitely heated up the phone!
That’s one of the key changes in dating since I was young, the entry of photos and videos into the game. It’s so easy to pull out your phone and take photos in even the most intimate moments. Not that I do that often – it often feels disruptive- but the possibility is there, as are the risks. I include no identifiable photos here of those I have dated, precisely so as not to invade their privacy.
Anna and I were hot and heavy for a few months there, and even celebrated my 60th birthday at Disneyland together with assorted family members and friends. Very nice it was too!
But somehow things got worse too quickly. The good bit had not lasted very long. Soon everything I did was wrong, and I was obliged to acknowledge it or be pounded on again and again. Then came the divorce judgment, which I showed Anna and which had me paying $7600+ a month to my ex-wife, way more than my income could realistically support.
Not long after, Anna explained that she wanted a child, because she had never had one, and because at her age she couldn’t wait much longer. I did not want another child, being already blessed in the domain and already 60. Sadly, she announced that would have to look for one somewhere else. And that is all I know..
* * *
I went back to my work, a comforting emotional safety net. After a Franco-American networking event, a woman I met there – I’ll call her Babs here, as in the second letter of the dating alphabet – called to suggest a lunch to see if we had potential synergies. Well, we did. Babs was Parisian, married, with children and a demanding career, and she was a wild woman: in short, pretty much a dream for a lonely bachelor!
I didn’t find the last part out all at once, but was interested in how it would feel to be on the winning side of a married woman who cheated. So we had first one lunch to talk about business development, and then another. By the end of the second, which featured good wine and seafood in a restaurant overlooking San Francisco Bay, her smiles and our long shared looks did suggest something other than professional exchanges. I pulled over after driving a couple of miles from the restaurant and kissed her, and she was fine with that. I was stroking her thigh the rest of the way home. She seemed to be becoming a little agitated as we drove through her neighborhood, and I reassured her that no-one could see what I was doing. “I can see it!” she blurted out.
We spent a lot of time in cars that first couple of months, like teenagers with nowhere to go. Remember how exciting that was during adolescence, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” as Meat Loaf put it? Well it doesn’t go stale over the years, although an older body does have a little more difficulty fitting itself into the cramped spaces that cars are full of. We had a great time whenever we saw each other. Which was not often, of course, because she had multiple commitments and freed herself up with difficulty.
“Le salaud m’a sauté dans sa bagnole!” Babs told her best friend about me. I took it as a compliment.
Underneath this teenage lightness was something deeper and more painful. As we graduated from my cramped car to welcoming hotel rooms or expensive clubs, evenings would often start with booze and tears, mostly from her, the story of a life which she felt that she had somehow gotten wrong, or lived incorrectly. It wasn’t just her husband, although her dissatisfaction with him would come up often: it was her whole life, her career choices, her education, moving to the US, you name it. Her adoration for her children was about the only exception to this rule of self doubt.
One evening out started with a lovely dinner in a new French restaurant; logically enough, Babs was great at discovering French restaurants. Over dinner, she had been asking herself, at times quite bitterly, why as a younger woman she had said “no” so consistently, to sex, of course, but not just to sex: here, sex was a proxy. She was in a way imagining each of the several different lives that she could have lived had she said yes on one of these occasions, and wept over dessert.
We continued the evening at a bacchanalian club, and then hours later she let it be known that she would like me to drive her home. As I was dropping her off near her house, she asked me to park and come with her. It was a relatively spacious house, and in a big closet in a quiet corner she had laid out an inflatable mattress with blankets and pillows. She undressed and let me know that I was invited to stay. “But what about your husband?” I asked.
“He’s asleep,” she breathed confidently in my ear, pulling me down next to her. All night long we clung to each other, bouncing on the mattress when either moved or rolled over. Not wanting to push our luck, and guessing that perhaps Babs did, I set my phone alarm early and shuffled out of the quiet house at dawn.
The inherent instability in our relationship reared its head early on, and then got worse. I was jealous of her husband, even though as she put it there was not a lot to be jealous of, and of her other lovers. My fantasy was of a wild woman, but the reality was hard to bear.
First she started delaying or cancelling our occasional rendez-vous, and eventually she stopped returning my calls.
* * *
I had already moved on, at least in part! Things were getting more normal, which I took to be an indication that I was getting adjusted again to the dating game. Candy – as in the third letter of the dating alphabet – was just that, sweet and good to taste, and pleasantly normal.
She was also very fond of classic rock in general, and the Beatles in particular. One evening she took me to see a great Beatles cover band on the Peninsula, and a month or so later she found us tickets through a friend of hers to the ultimate Beatles cover band, the one featuring Paul McCartney!
The last Beatlemania concert had been at Candlestick Park in 1966, and when Macca found out that the aging stadium was going to be demolished he asked to play a last gig there. Because this is Northern California and because he was a Beatle, they delayed the demolition and he got his wish.
And we all got ours. Imagine singing along on Hey Jude, the whole thing, 50,000 strong, with the guy who wrote it singing lead! I blubbered like a fool: what a night!
Dating is the great excuse to have fun, the best there is when the children have reached the age when they prefer to have fun with their own peeps. There’s great music still to be found, San Francisco is still a pleasant drive away for an evening of bright lights, big city, and weekends are made for exploring. Here I was revisiting the favorite haunts of my college years, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, Mendocino and Big Sur, and this time I wasn’t obliged to sleep in my car!
* * *
Of course, there was the occasional boondoggle: it would not be dating if there was not! I flew up to visit an interesting woman in Seattle whom I had met and “chatted” with on Facebook, but never met in person.
Obviously, this was a bit of a risk, but Dana – fourth letter of the dating alphabet – seemed worth it, and our first hours together were very promising. She showed me the parts of Seattle which mattered to her growing up, and bought me fish at the Pike Place Fish market, thrown to her by the woman behind the counter.
We drank a few shots during and after dinner, and the next thing I know she’s inviting herself back to my hotel room for a nightcap. I felt like Woody Allen in “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex,” when the woman he was dining with mentioned that she had graduated from NYU: “yes! go for it! score!”
Back in my lovely, crisp hotel room, after a long, languid nightcap (or two) in each other’s arms, she putters around here and there while I climb into bed and wait quietly for her. After a while, I decided to do some relaxation exercises because, well, you know how guys are, and I wanted to be cool for her, not too stressed or worked up, when she finally came to join me.
I fell asleep! Next thing I know, it’s the next morning, and she is very unhappy. I guess that she felt let down, treated disrespectfully, but she didn’t say so: she didn’t say anything. Instead of spending the next day together until my flight back that night, as we had planned, she left first thing in the morning. I explored Seattle alone on foot until it was time to go to the airport, and gave the Prosecco that I had brought for her to a homeless person.
Why didn’t she just wake me up?
I have moved on a couple of times since the debacle in Seattle, through the fifth and sixth letters in the dating alphabet. The seven years since the marriage have seen their ups and downs: win a few, lose a few, as dad used to say. Nick, my oldest, has had one girlfriend, Charlotte, during that entire time: have we swapped generations or what?!
And I have encouraging news for fellow aging bachelors: women in their fifties are HOT! Forget about what you heard about women in their twenties or thirties: the fifties is THE decade. Women are more open, aware and on top of things than they were when they were younger. They know what they want, and are better at getting it.
All this despite us men!