No Sex In The City: Dating Through My Midlife Crisis
He bent his knees, bolted into the air, and planted his feet on a riser nearly four feet off the floor. Oh to be young again, I mused. The only bolting I do these days are the locks on my loft door and I save the planting for my makeshift indoor herb garden.
It’s 7 a.m. and, if I make good time, I can file my column, attend the daily editorial meeting, and scramble uptown to a radio studio for an hour-long interview. It would be my second of the day, thanks to a 5 o’clock cable news show, and I’ve been out of bed since 3 a.m.
“Hey, I saw you jump onto that thing,” I said approvingly, as I headed toward the gym showers.
“Yeah, I was going to teach you the same thing later,” he said with a mischievous grin.
I allowed myself a smile. “Don’t play like that,” I said with a small chuckle. “Somebody could get hurt.”
At 47, I am young enough to be thrilled with a man’s attention, yet old enough to know better.
The young fitness trainer had to be right around my son’s age—all of maybe 25 and young enough to send my grown children into (another) uproar.
Every once in a while, I can still catch myself thinking about the thirtysomething brother who temporarily swept me off my feet a little over a year ago. Mr. Right Now was decidedly less bookish than what I had been accustomed to—preferring Timberland boots, sagging pants, and 2 a.m. phone calls from the West Coast. For a few enjoyable weeks, I suppose I was caught up in the way he kept me steady and grounded. After a little coaxing, I got a tattoo on our first date.
It proved to be a much-needed stopover.
If I am being honest, dating has fallen somewhere behind getting adjusted to living in Brooklyn, a never-ending search for the perfect pair of jeans, and FaceTiming with my granddaughter. Frankly, I’ve been more concerned with the broken icemaker in the 9th floor snack room than the heat of a kiss.
This ain’t exactly an episode of Sex in the City and, while I adore a pair of Christian Louboutin stilettoes, neither Mr. Big nor Mr. Right are anywhere in sight. Tweeting under the hashtag #WakingUpInBrooklyn, I often chronicle my travels (or travails, as they were) and most often I am alone. A bookstore, a new restaurant, a fresh blanket of snow…
It’s been several (better than decent) years since I walked out of an eight-year relationship that lasted seven years, 11 months, and 29 days longer than it should have. I openly admit that I was bitter at first—and rightly so, given how things unfolded. But the unpleasant feelings didn’t last beyond the sunrise.
Emotional maturity means taking responsibility for one’s own choices, embracing both the wonders of love and the frailty of the people who commit to such folly.
I could tell you the story, but that’s not the good part.
Sometime around the holidays, I realized that I would be spending them by myself again. My closest girlfriends are both (mostly) happily married and I am typically the fifth wheel at our annual Thanksgiving dinner. I have figured out how to enjoy going to the movies and traveling alone, but I have yet to crack the code on Christmas morning.
Admittedly, I am out of practice. I am a writer, so I spend most of my time in a dimly-lit coffee house working on my next great adventure. Since I don’t go to nightclubs—out of fear of bumping into my kids or their friends—and derive most of my excitement from trips to Chelsea Market, meeting new people hasn’t been easy. The remote control is exactly where I left it and I decide when it’s time to empty the trash.
Both sides of the bed belong to me.
“Honey, if I meet a great guy, it’ll be because he ran up on me in the vegetable aisle,” I told a girlfriend, over a half-empty bottle of champagne. “I’m living vicariously through Mary Jane Paul,” I said, referring to the lead character on BET’s Being Mary Jane.
So when I realized that my half-brother Terry, a 52-year-old retired Naval officer, married an incredible woman he met on a dating website, I yelled “Yahtzee!”
The day after Thanksgiving, I renewed my subscription to Match.com and signed on to Tinder for the first time. (Full disclosure: Both companies are owned by the parent company of The Daily Beast.) I even found my way to something called Soul Swipe. Scrolling through the profiles has been like fishing through the bargain bin at TJMaxx in search of a pair of last year’s Prada sling-backs. You know he’s not in there, but you keep looking anyway—just in case somebody returned a gently used pair of duck boots to get you through the wintertime.
Routinely, I’d pour a glass of wine and assess the “options.” I immediately discovered that there were a lot of lonely people in the world and some who were simply looking to get their numbers up.
“You are positively perfect, except for one flaw,” one guy wrote. “Your lips are not attached to mine.”
I rolled my eyes, took a gulp of wine, and hit the block button. If I wanted to play games, I’d go down to the VFW Hall for a round of bingo.
Within a few months time, I amassed an email folder filled with dozens of profiles and messages from men in various parts of the country. I winnowed the number down to four or five and decided to accept a few date invitations.
There was “Brett”, a businessman in D.C.—erudite and cantankerous, but charming all the same. Then there was “Johan,” a family law attorney in Atlanta, and “Derrick,” a suburban New York police officer. There was “Michael,” a single dad in Arkansas, and “Simon” who, like me, enjoys a nice glass of whiskey and an occasional cigar. They seemed nice enough. But, one by one, I found a reason to disqualify them all.
One was “too short” and another “too tall.” One was “too laid back” and another too “hard-charging.” I tended to swipe “left” if a man said he was looking for his “queen.”
If too little information was provided, I’d do a quick Google image search using his profile photos. I like my catfish fried, laying between two pieces of white bread and doused in hot sauce—not on the Internet. By the way, there is never anything good behind an anonymous photo. He’s either married, wanted by law enforcement, or missing eight front teeth.
Thankfully, after raising a brood of children on my own, I’ve managed to keep a healthy sense of humor. My “nest” is empty, so I have come to enjoy my personal space and embrace the value self-care. Without apology, I have steadfastly refused to age and I can still rock a string bikini.
I am not exactly a hopeless romantic nor am I a cynic, but love is hard work. I remember what it was like to be wonderfully and mutually vulnerable, as well as the searing pain of watching it all fall down.
Even as I begin the two-year countdown to my 50th birthday, I still believe in love—both in spirit and in practice. Though, sometimes I wonder if I have left any room for someone else—in my bed or in my heart.