Today I am imitating a sage, so, bear with me.
Since I have removed myself from the dating world (not that I was ever really in it since widowhood), I find it is easier to think about. It is akin to trying to think about grocery shopping while eating I suppose.
It has come to mind that dating when one is older, more matured (Gawd, how I despise that word), is so vastly different than when one is young. When we are young, our dating expectations are like kindergarten drawings hung on the fridge door. A bit of grass at the bottom, the barely grasped concept that the sun is above us and is yellow, blue skies, puffy clouds, and sometimes stick people thrown in for good measure. In other words, we are pretty much a blank canvas, willing to take on things we don’t even have words for yet. Forming a life partnership with someone is pretty easy. They have got some bits stuck on their mostly blank canvas, as do we, and lots of white space to fill up with shared bridges built into the seemingly far-away, mystical ‘future’. It is easy to join those mostly blank canvases without overwriting one or the other.
Not so much when one has lived half a life already, give or take a decade. Many of us come to the dating buffet toting some kind of film noir advert presentation. We tote the damn things everywhere too, no matter how awkward or ill-fitting the activity is, bumping others elbows, spilling their wine, getting some slurry bits on them every time we haul them out on another adventure
You see, our canvases have real, concrete things on them already. They are more like mosaics than gentle crayon art with lots of open, inviting areas. Some are glass shards, blood-red grouting holding those pieces in place, and they are glued down tightly buddy – not going a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e. Oh, and by the way? Don’t you dare suggest that someone should re-arrange those blasted tiles, or, that maybe some of those motifs are a bit tired, worn; outdated even. As for the stick people? We have ex-husbands or wives, deceased partners, ex-in-laws, kids, grand-kids, step-kids, and all sorts of little sticker people lined up around this mosaic collage that represent our lives. Most of us would need a second rear-window to allow for all of the people we bring into the mix.
Our real-life hieroglyphics co-exist beside the dreamy, pieced-together bits which we call our ‘ideal’ mate who lives in our brain. Some of us even glean from those whom we admire new bits to put into the dream mate framework; things we didn’t know existed before bumping into them, for they are not in our life experiences. Pretty soon we’ve built this ‘burning man’ (or woman) to whom we will swear our allegiance when they appear unexpectedly at our heart door. Except, well, they aren’t REAL. I ask you, how many of you singletons have gotten to the nitty gritty imagination with this dream love? Imagined them puking with a 24-hour-whatever. Envisioned how they will handle getting fired from a job because they’ve become an insurance liability, and they can be replaced with two twenty-something’s for less cost. Pictured them frail, unable to move due to bad knees, worn out backs, slack ankles or, even, late onset of a debilitating illness. You haven’t done that? Didn’t think so. No, we picture them on wonderful dates, grilling out, hiking through the woods, late-night dancing, writing poetry for us and singing with perfect pitch. Shifting perspective includes investing time, time to really get to know someone.
So the real people, with scars, some wrinkles, maybe lacking hair (or, hair sprouting where not wanted), a bit less liveliness in their gait – they whiz right on by our ‘partnerdar’. You see, we still see ourselves at the age of our minds, not our bodies. And that is what is missing from partnering over fifty. There is no longer the ephemeral veil of youth and first love draped over us in the mind’s eye, that beauty or virility that we once had when young, that shields the vision of our partner. Face it, when we partner when older, all we’re gonna do is get older. And current culture abhors aging. It finds not much value in anyone over sixty unless they’ve held on to youth by virtue of plastic surgery, killer exercise videos or fantastic genes and life-long discipline. We’re sold youth extension in every squalid form you can think of, most at great cost and some with great pain.
Sure, I’d love a partner that still hikes with me, if I remain able. Someone to garden with in the early morning light before sun makes us scurry inside. Someone who can still lift things that I never could, and open those jars lids that defy me. But when I decide to get back out there again, coming out of the convent of creativity, I’ll be looking for something different. Someone with whom I can also envision rocking gently on the porch with and still love the tenor of his voice and the lively thoughts in his mind. Someone who maybe needs the same strength of reading glasses that I do. Someone whose character shines with the patina of wisdom and gentleness. Someone I’d want beside me at my last breath, and I’d be honored to do the same. That special someone who can imagine me young and beautiful, without ever having had that benefit, because they love my insides, not my outsides. Not because I’m some old hag, but because I know that even what beauty I have at all today will eventually fade, and all that will be left is who I am.
For you youngsters that read my blog, take heed. Frame that young woman or man in the field of vision of forever. Forever is a long time today. Some of us have forever interruptus, or, serial forevers. No matter. Think of them, or you, at the worst. Think of their inner beauty, the warmth of their thoughts and the depth of their heart. Then decide.
Youth is like the cocoon stage of a butterfly life, short and fragile, but transformative. Embrace it, enjoy it! But think past it in love. Some of the least likely and attractive shells on the beach, when their underside is seen, reflect the most beautiful, prismatic coloring, reflecting the intensity of another’s light. Learn to turn things over, and not be caught up by either the outward beauty, or lack thereof.
And for anyone coming to the realization that they have not done such, be gentle on you. Look at your partner with different eyes. Re-remember what drew you two together. Instead of looking for what it is you think you deserve, ask yourself the question, are you giving them what they think they deserve? Is that even valid and realistic now on their or your part? And there is nothing wrong with admitting it is over, can’t be resurrected, or was a mistake. Every day is one in which we can make a decision to change things.